Happy Birthday to…MY BOOK!
This means that I get to share this special event with my fellow authors over at Crimson. We’ve put together a three week long blog hop with TWO Grand Prizes of $50 gift cards, individual prizes on almost all of the 24 stops, loads of tantalizing excerpts, and an exclusive FREE SHORT STORY written by myself and six other authors.
THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED – The free short story is still available!
Without further ado, here is
Blake looked down at Storm’s outstretched hands. Where earlier there had been deep gouges and angry welts, there was smooth flesh. He frowned, re-living the moments in Storm’s kitchen. He hadn’t thought about what he was doing, had only sensed her pain – both the immediate physical pain and the other, something deeper, hidden. Something that had nothing to do with a mare caught in a fence.
Without thinking, he reached out and took her hands in his. He rubbed his thumbs over the flesh, checking to make sure the wounds were truly gone. Her skin was warm from the sun, the skin soft, resilient. He remembered the feel of the dried blood flaking away under his fingers and his grip tightened convulsively.
She was still waiting, he realized. And what was he going to answer?
Denial was the safest course, but from her tone she wasn’t going to buy it. He didn’t think he could do it anyway. He had sketched her in light — in the soft, filtered glow of sunshine on the porch. But when he touched the real Storm standing in front of him, he felt a darkness that reached out and touched his own shadows.
He had sketched her. As rough as the drawing was, it was the first thing he had created since Callie. He could see the finished painting. In his mind, it was as real as Storm standing in front of him. It was just waiting for him to bring it into this world.
“What really happened last night?” He turned aside her question with one of his own.
“I told you,” her voice was defensive. “There was a mare caught –“
“In the fence, yeah,” he interrupted. “That doesn’t explain how you wound up practically wrapped in barbed wire. The wounds were long and deep — jagged like you were struggling. You’ve lived out here all your life. If you got snagged, you would know to move as little as possible until you could work free. So, I’m asking again—what happened?”
He stared down at her, willing her to let him in, to tell him the truth. If she couldn’t be honest with him, how could he share his secrets with her?
“How do you know that?” Her voice was barely above a whisper. She shook her head. “You can’t know that. You could only see my hands.”
“I just knew, Storm.” He remembered the pain clawing at him when he walked into her house. He could feel every scratch on her skin. Over it all was the migraine, a bright demon looming behind her eyes. The migraine was nothing to do with a fence and everything to do with…what? The answer hovered, out of reach in Storm’s silence.
“The way you looked, the way you moved, I just knew, Storm.” He stroked a hand down her cheek, softly the way he stroked Ari when she was hurt or scared. But touching Storm was nothing like touching Ari.
When she looked up, he could see she felt it, too. Her lips parted slightly. For just a second she leaned into his hand, looked up at him the way a woman looks at a man. Despite all his vows, in that moment he was just a man who wanted the woman in front of him.
Then she broke eye contact and stepped away.
“We can’t,” she said.
“Why?” His heart pounded when he realized what he had said. What he hadn’t said. Why hadn’t he said no?
“If I tell you…” She still wasn’t looking at him. She shifted away from him to the edge of the porch and stared off toward the fields behind the house.
He followed her. He didn’t want to push, but he needed to be near her. He stopped just behind her. To keep from touching her, he focused on the feel of the wood beneath his feet. He had just refinished the porch. The wood was smooth with a fresh coat of paint, but if he concentrated he imagined he could still feel the grain. He stretched his senses out into planks that still held the echo of live wood, then lower to the earth underneath until he felt steady, grounded.
He didn’t touch Storm. Still, she invaded the bubble of hyper-awareness he had created. She filled it up until there was nothing else. Nothing but the flowery scent of her shampoo, the sun glinting off the highlights in her hair, the slight tang of antiseptic that clung from her work at the clinic. He let her in, let her essence invade him. He felt her fierce protectiveness for her patients, her love of her family, her connection to the home she was building. Home. A place to be safe, to heal others and herself.
She was still half turned from him when she started talking.
“You don’t want me, Blake. There’s something wrong with me. I am seriously not okay.”
“Shh. Storm.” He reached for her, but she flinched away and stared out across the yard at the barn with haunted eyes.
“I don’t know what happened last night. Do you understand? I had a panic attack and lost time. It was… Something happened to me when I was younger. I was lost for days and I don’t know which of the things I remember are real and which aren’t. Sometimes I have flashbacks or nightmares.”
She stopped. He wanted to take her in his arms, to soothe her, to take away the pain. But some wounds had to be lanced to heal. With an effort he remained silent and after a minute she continued.
“When they found me, I was a mess. My clothes and skin were ripped. It was worse, way worse than last night and I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. Sometimes when I see barbed wire….”
She finally turned to him. She was angry now, thank God, because he couldn’t stand to see her cowed, defeated. “So that’s it. I don’t know what happened, Blake. Are you happy? Because, now you know. Cheri was right, I’m bat-shit crazy.”
There were things she still wasn’t telling him, but right then he didn’t care. He reached for her and pulled her into his arms. She didn’t protest when he lowered his lips to hers or when he picked her up and carried her into the house.
Inside, he sank onto the sofa with her in his arms. He was barely aware of anything but Storm. He pulled her shirt over her head and stroked his hands down bare skin. She was so beautiful. He traced his thumbs over the faint network of lines that marred her body. It was only skin, she would say. He knew better, but he also knew she was more than that and he wanted everything. As he touched her, the scars began to glow until lightening raced across her skin. At the last second he hesitated. He would be completely open. Was he ready to risk himself again? He pulled her closer and reached for the heart of Storm.
Storm was lost.
She knew she was with Blake, on the sofa, but the idea had no relevance to what was happening to her. At some point, she had lost track of where she stopped and Blake began. Hands, arms, lips. Words with no meaning. She had been absorbed. Blake was everywhere.
Almost everywhere. She was still bound.
She reached for Blake, craved the completion of their joining, the final merge of consciousness. The barbed wire tightened, ripping spirit the way it had torn fabric and flesh.
She screamed soundlessly, retreated from the pain, spiraled back toward physical awareness.
“No!” Blake’s thought. He was back with her, closer than thought, one person. She could feel the wire closing around him as it closed around her.
She struggled to push him away, to protect him from the sharp barbs.
“No.” It was a whisper this time. “Storm, Storm, trust me.”
She did. She fell into his words and the barbed wire fell away, dust in the desert.
Then there was only Blake. Blake, and light, and pleasure.
Storm opened her eyes, surprised to find herself back in a very ordinary den. Or not so ordinary. She was wrapped safe in strong arms and green eyes smiled down at her. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt this good.
She wondered how long she had been here, lost in another world with Blake. She glanced over his shoulder at the window where the sun had disappeared beyond the horizon.
That was when she saw the lights.
Blake twisted to see what was happening. He cursed and jumped up, shoving her to the floor. He paused briefly to crouch next to her. “Stay here.”
Then he ran, buck naked, out the door toward the lights.
Pick a Chapter:
THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED – The free short story is still available!
Denyse Cohen | Amber T Smith | Peggy Bird | Pam B. Morris | Lola Karns | Becky Flade | Irene Preston | Liv Rancourt | Becky Lower | Morgan O’Neill | Lynn Cahoon | Leslie P. Garcia | Lynn Crandall | Andrea R. Cooper | Sharon Clare | Juli Page Morgan | Melinda Dozier | Nancy C. Weeks | Katie Kenyhercz | Nancy Loyan | Danica Winters | Barbara Barrett | Carol Ritten Smith | Amanda L. V. Shalaby
USE THIS RAFFLECOPTER TO REGISTER FOR THE GRAND PRIZE!
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