Anyone who follows my reading lists will probably see pretty quickly that I tend to read in series. As I do most of my reading through Audible many of the authors are pretty well established – though I have nothing but admiration for “Indie” authors few of them are available through audio books. I have… Continue reading Fool’s Gold series by Susan Mallery
Matthew Dane collected change from his pocket as the elevator settled into place on the sixth floor of the Bismarck Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. The doors slid open to a quiet hallway. Most attendees at the conference were still in sessions on the main level. He stopped in the vending area and bought a cold soda.
He felt satisfied with how his presentation—Best Practices in the Dialog between the Police and Victim Families—had gone. He thought his opening section had been too long—most at this national law-enforcement symposium had heard him speak before and didn’t need the background—but the overhead slides designed to lighten the tone had gotten spontaneous laughter from the audience. He’d made his points without beating anyone over the head with his advice. Now that his part was over, he could relax and enjoy the last two days as an attendee.
Married friends had invited him to join them for a late dinner. Inevitably, they would also invite a woman to make up the numbers. His friends were predictable that way. He’d need to spend part of the evening putting whoever she was at ease. He’d deal with the situation with some grace—he just hoped she already knew his life story so he didn’t have to tell it again over a meal. His wife Jessica had died young. He’d get married again—he knew Jessica would want him to—and he thought about it occasionally. But he’d be forty-two this year and his life already had enough open chapters.
A young woman was sitting on the floor in the hallway outside his hotel room. She didn’t rise when he drew near, just looked up at him. She looked… tired. And mildly curious. Her white shorts showed off long, tanned legs and the sandals dainty feet with painted toenails. The contrasting pink top was remarkably sedate, blousy and pretty. The look suited her and reminded him of his daughter. For that reason more than any other he simply offered a casual, “Looking for me?”
She opened an envelope, pulled out a newspaper clipping, and held it up. “Is this you?”
He accepted what she offered. The newspaper article with accompanying photo was old, well worn, and crumbling at the fold. From the Boston Globe, he thought, recognizing the photo and knowing the date it had been taken. He was holding his daughter, her head lowered under the hood of a police sweatshirt, walking with her down the police station steps. She had just turned sixteen—shy, scared, gangly and thin. The photo had been snapped late on the day of her rescue as he had been taking her home. It had been the best day of his life since her disappearance when she was eight years old. “My daughter and I,” he confirmed.
That image had captured the start for the two of them of a journey that had pushed them together into a father-daughter relationship that was to this day still hard to explain. Becky had been, in alternating waves, suicidal and angry, terrified and manic, overjoyed with freedom, so determined to rebuild her life and push away what had happened in those missing eight years and have a life back. He’d been there for his daughter, getting her through those years and beyond to something now remarkably healthy, happy, and if not whole, at least wise and wonderful and able to deal with the past in a sane way when others brought it up.
“She’s finishing her first year in college,” he mentioned, smiling as he said it, remembering Becky as she had been this last weekend, straddling a stool in the kitchen of their Boston home on a flying visit home from college to grab more clothes and different posters, munching on a carrot and arguing the fact he just had to get a haircut and please, please, please could he remember to lose the old leather jacket before he came to meet her new roommate’s family? They already thought he was a Spenser-type tough guy with credentials as a licensed private investigator. Introducing himself as a retired cop would be okay, but a PI implied he liked to snoop.
He’d laughed at her request and fed her clam chowder that night, promising to be on his best behavior when he met the roommate’s family, pleased with the fact his daughter was moving from a single room to a double and acquiring that roommate. He had in fact done a bit of snooping. He knew more about her new roommate than the girl’s parents probably did, and concluded his daughter would be safe with her. The roommate loved to party and be out and about town, but she refused to drink or do drugs and was exclusive in her choice of boyfriend. She was the extrovert to his daughter’s more reserved nature, and, Matthew thought, a very nice girl. One of the reasons he’d agreed to come speak at this Atlanta conference as a last-minute replacement was the fact his daughter truly was now settled at college, with plans to stay on campus to take summer classes.
Matthew took a final look at the article and photo, then refolded it. He wondered why this woman would have such an old clipping. He offered it back to her.
“Can I show you something else?”
She pulled another clipping from the envelope. Tired of towering over her, he hunkered down beside her, one arm resting casually on his knee, drink in hand. He took the second clipping. A missing-person case out of Chicago, picked up by the Associated Press, this also from the Boston Globe. Shannon Bliss, age sixteen, missing along with her car, she had not arrived home after visiting friends over the three-day Memorial weekend; a reward of twenty-five-thousand offered for information. The photo looked like it came from a high-school yearbook. A pretty girl, he thought. He looked at the date on the clipping…this had happened eleven years ago. He studied the woman who had offered it. He could see a good resemblance.
He didn’t work many missing person cases anymore. Becky had asked him to give those up for a few years, to consider going back to being a cop working robberies, or teach at the police academy—let his company, Dane Investigations, be run by his staff, at least the day-to-day. A missing sister could explain why this woman had sought him out, and he did know some people in Chicago that might be able to help her. A few of them were at this conference, and he could make some calls and introductions on her behalf. “Your sister?” he asked.
“That’s me.” Silence lingered after her quiet words. “I’d like to go home,” she whispered.
He watched her knuckles turn white where she gripped the envelope, her other hand flex against the carpet; her eyes avert from his to stare down the empty hall. A stillness settled into his muscles. “Did you run away?”
She was quiet for so long he wasn’t sure she would answer.
“No.” More a breath than a word, but he heard it.
He felt his heart begin to crack on her behalf. The nuances mattered now, seeing them, hearing them, and he didn’t have history with this woman to fall back on to help him understand her. “What name do you go by now?”
“Have you spoken to the police?”
She shook her head swiftly. He didn’t let himself show a reaction to that news, just absorbed it. There were things his job had taught him, experiences with his daughter, an awareness that came from so many he had talked with over the last decade, and it all coalesced and settled in his mind. He couldn’t afford to project or assume the wrong thing here. The odds she was in fact Shannon Bliss were small, but they were real enough to pursue. She looked like she was telling him the truth as she knew it. God, help me. The quiet prayer went straight to his Father, and he took a deep breath, let it flow out. A hallway wasn’t the place for this conversation, but a pause would give her time to change her mind about talking with him, so he stayed where he was. There were things he had to know simply to not hurt her further, and he selected his next words with extreme care. “Eleven years is a long time. When did…?”
Her hand settled very lightly, very carefully, on his arm as she shook her head. “Please don’t ask.”
Her gaze shifted back to hold his. He could literally see an enforced poise reasserting itself, see the strength of will it took on her part to slide that calm back in place. It would make his job particularly hard, having her choose silence rather than spill out the details of what had occurred in an emotional wave—he needed that story. But she was coping, and she was giving him the first parameters which defined how she was coping. He had to respect that.
You’re Beautiful in Rope
I moved as he asked and knelt in the middle of the throw. He came behind me and got to his knees also, his thighs outside mine. He must not have been kneeling down though, because he was still taller. His heat radiated onto my back, though he wasn’t quite close enough to touch me.
He touched a finger to the front of my temple. “Closed, please.”
I shut my eyes and took a long, deep breath. As I finished the breath, he leaned forward, against my back, and wrapped his arms around my torso, just below my breasts. Then he took a long, deep breath. His chest pushed into my back as he expanded his lungs. His chest hair raked along the skin of my back. As he released, I realized I was releasing a breath as well. He breathed in again. I breathed in. Out. Out. In. In. He held me tight as we breathed together. I found my anxiety slipping away as I breathed there, in the dark with him.
He took my left arm and raised it over and just behind my head, then put pressure on my forearm, urging toward my right shoulder. My muscle tightened with the movement. He held it for several seconds, then gently lowered my arm. He did the same with my right arm, angling it over my head and to the left. I felt the stretch in my triceps. Was that what he was doing? Stretching me? That seemed odd.
He slid his arm through my elbow toward my back and pulled my arm against his chest. My shoulder muscles stretched. And then he did the same on the other side. The whole while he continued to breath, pausing to press his chest against my back, which made me breath in time with him. He wrapped his arms around me again and hugged me tight to him. We rocked forward and back for a long moment. Everything—his movement, his scent, just his presence—soothed me, and I felt more relaxed than I had in a very long time.
He remained against me, but let his hands roam over my skin. His palms skimmed my arms and my belly—I tried hard not to be self-conscious. He rested his chin on my shoulder as he moved his hands down across the outsides of my thighs. His breath tickled along my neck and collarbone. Then he wrapped around me again, and we rocked for a few moments more.
One of his arms left me briefly and then returned. Rope, a little bit scratchy and smelling of grass, rubbed against my shoulder, across my chest and up my neck. He hadn’t uncoiled it. It felt like a big lump of rope. His arms moved again, and I heard the rustle of rope on rope. Then a strand—double strand?—fell across my thighs. He dragged it slowly and it tickled my skin as it moved. He drew the piece up over my breasts and over my shoulder, the whole thing trailing lightly over my skin.
My entire body woke up. My skin received every touch from the rope or from him with a jolt of electricity. As he ran the strand behind my neck and down my other shoulder, goose bumps broke out and I shivered. My breathing had quickened, and the low moan from my throat surprised me.
His hand trailed down my left arm and grasped my wrist. He brought it close to my body, and I felt rope being wrapped around it. I peeked from beneath my lashes and saw him anchoring the rope around my wrist. I closed my eyes again. I didn’t really need to see. I’d realized that this wasn’t about seeing.
Using the long end of the rope, he brought my wrist up to my right shoulder, positioning my arm across my chest. He pulled the rope down my back, across and around the left side of my torso. He made it tight, and the rope bit into my skin. It hurt, but didn’t, at the same time. He angled me back against him, and I leaned, letting my head roll back on his shoulder. His scent—cloves and sweetness—hit me again. I breathed deep.
He wrapped the rope around my arm and my belly from left to right. He pushed me forward with a hand in the middle of my back until I was leaning down, head almost to the floor. I felt him pull the free strand through the piece hugging my back, and then he pulled me up by the rope. It bit into my skin in the front, with painful little lines. I swayed into him again.
The rope came against the front of my neck, but gently, his thumb guiding it, brushing my skin back and forth. A little twinge of panic tried to overcome me, but I pushed it down. He was giving me sensation. He wasn’t even tightening the rope. I relaxed again.
After that, things just became fuzzy. He unwound the rope from me, leaving the anchor on my wrist. Then my arm was drawn behind my back, and he wrapped the rope around my torso, binding my upper arm to my side and my wrist and hand to my back. He never tied the rope off. His palms roamed over my skin, warm and earnest. He left trails of heat wherever he touched.
He shoved my body forward again and then covered me with his. The weight of him held me down. I didn’t feel fear, but rather comfort. His weight comforted me.
Surrounded. Cocooned. Safe.
My mind turned off, and I floated. His movements against me still registered, but only from a distance. I had no real concept of the order in which he did things. Nothing hurt. Everything felt good and right.
“You are beautiful in rope,” he whispered very close to my ear.
In this sizzling continuation of the Mastered series by New York Times best-selling author Lorelei James, a man will find the domination he’s always craved….
Shiori Hirano and Knox Lofgren are left to run the martial arts program at Black Arts while Ronin Black travels. On the surface, the two highest ranked belts appear to cooperate–but in private, they butt heads constantly despite the undeniable attraction between them. Soon their power exchanges start to make for a sweltering dynamic in the bedroom….
At first Knox is shocked to be living out his submissive desires, but Shiori sets out to prove that embracing his true sexual nature doesn’t make him a weak man. But even while their sexual relationship grants him a power and fulfillment he finds surprising, there’s no training regimen for the fight that comes with loving a strong woman….
©2015 LJLA, LLC (P)2015 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.
Grace Dillon was a champion figure skater until she moved to Thunder Point to escape the ruthless world of fame and competition. And though she’s proud of the quiet, self-sufficient life she’s created running a successful flower shop, she knows something is missing. Her life could use a little excitement.
In a community where there are few eligible singles, high school teacher Troy Headly appoints himself Grace’s fun coach. When he suggests a little companionship with no strings attached, Grace is eager to take him up on his offer, and the two enjoy… getting to know each other. But things get complicated when Grace’s past catches up with her, and she knows that’s not what Troy signed up for.
Faced with losing her, Troy realizes Grace is more than just a friend with benefits. He’s determined to help her fight for the life she always wished for but never believed she could have – and maybe they can find real love along the way.
©2015 Robyn Carr (P)2015 Recorded Books
Chosen for Power – Women of Power series, book 1 by Kathleen Brooks I opened up the newest audible book for one of my favorite authors this week. Kathleen Brooks’ newest series “Women of Power” was first released in April of last year. Though I tend to try to wait for the Audible version –… Continue reading Chosen for Power – Women of Power series, book 1 by Kathleen Brooks
The Key Trilogy by Nora Roberts There are books I return to again and again. This fantastical, suspenseful, romance series about three beautiful, capable, intelligent, strong women is one I have read quite a few times in the last several years. I love trilogies by Nora Roberts – the female protagonists are always capable, fiery… Continue reading The Key Trilogy by Nora Roberts