Two tortured souls need each other to heal. One soulless villain vows to destroy them both.
To escape an abusive lover, trauma nurse Vanessa flees to her late grandmother’s cottage a hundred miles away. With new friends and a new job at a rural medical center, she struggles to overcome her PTSD and her distrust of men.
Building contractor Blake lives with crushing guilt. Scarred inside and out, he didn’t trust himself anymore. After the loss of his wife, he buried himself in work, avoiding friends and family, and keeping his emotions buttoned up tight.
When they meet, Vanessa feels not pity, but empathy, on seeing Blake’s burn-scarred face. Fascinated by the moody carpenter who created such stunning work, Vanessa wants to learn more about him. And what better way than to have him work on the house she’d inherited from her grandmother.
This cautious beginning blossoms as they reveal their inner fears and desires to each other. Can they let go of the past and find a future together?
But her former boyfriend wants her back and will stop at nothing to find her. In this cat and mouse game, lives are at stake. And time is running out.
He needed to get this sketch done and be gone. When she’d opened the front door in casual attire, her hair nonchalantly disheveled, he’d almost given in to the urge to blurt the clichéd, “Honey, I’m home.” What brought him almost to his knees were her bare feet, as though she’d felt so comfortable having him in her home, she didn’t have to fully dress.
Get a grip, DeMarco!
Doggedly, he measured room sizes and placement of doors and windows, marked the locations of outlets and switches. The larger bedroom held a double bed, much too small for him …
Damn it, keep your mind on your work!
He stumbled into the smaller bedroom, the last of the rooms to be sketched onto the graph paper, determined to focus on the job at hand. Boxes were stacked three high against one wall. Obviously, she hadn’t had time to unpack all her things. He moved them to be sure no outlets were hidden.
One of the boxes tipped over, but he managed to catch it before it toppled and disgorged its contents. The top flaps popped open. His mouth went dry; heat engulfed him.
Handcuffs. A corset. He didn’t dare delve further into what his mind had already labeled Pandora’s Box, the repository of all the memories of his world that had come crashing to a halt with Mariel’s death.
Nevertheless, the images came unbidden. Mariel on the spanking bench, ass high, her blonde hair tumbling down around her shoulders. Mariel on her knees, holding an offering of a peeled, ripe peach in her hands as she looked up at him with adoration. Mariel cuffed to the cross, begging to come.
A drunken Mariel stamping her foot and shouting that he was stifling her, and him stalking out in a huff …
He was still staring at the boxes when Vanessa walked in—and gasped. Her wide eyes and flushed cheeks betrayed her dismay. She scurried over to the boxes and shoved the top back into place.
Blake shook himself out of his reverie. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude on your privacy.”
She resembled a rabbit paralyzed by the sharp gaze of a hungry predator. Her hand remained on top of the box, as though she could prevent any more secrets from being revealed. The rest of her body slumped in an attempt to make herself small. Shame turned her face a deep red.
Fuck! The last thing he wanted was to cause her pain. He walked over and put his own hand over hers, her humiliation trumping his anguish.
“Hey, it’s okay. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. I was in the lifestyle … before.”
She raised her big hazel eyes to look at him, and he nodded while he squeezed her hand.
“I can’t believe it,” she said, a quiver in her voice. “What are the odds?”