March 15th, 2009, 12:08 AM
Between her annoying neighbor Brett and an unknown stalker, Maria finds herself in a dangerous situation that forces her to seek help. Who better to turn to than the private investigator next door?
Even though he offers to help her, Dylan isn’t interested in her and couldn’t make it any clearer by the way he avoids her every chance he gets. While she doesn’t have to worry about any sexual advances from Dylan, can she keep her own desires under control until they capture her stalker?
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March 15th, 2009, 12:10 AM
<o:p> </o:p>Maria Talbuth slammed the door shut. She leaned against it and drew in a deep steadying breath. Things were getting really weird, and right now she couldn’t handle anything weirder. If Brett and his wandering hands didn’t find someone else to harass, she might have to resort to one of her mother’s magical potions.
A shiver danced up her spine at the thought. She’d given all that up in order to have a normal life. No way, no how, was she going back to that kind of lifestyle. Stability and money were more important than spells, magic, and speaking to the dead. Not that she could do any of that anyway. Her spells all flopped, and the dead never spoke back. Thank God for small miracles.
After saying a quick prayer for Brett to go away, Maria peeked through the peephole and watched him move out of the way. The door across the hall opened, and he stepped out.
Dylan McKnight. He worked for the detective agency run by his family. His specialty was night work. She’d like to find out if the rumors were true and his real specialty lay in the bedroom. Velma said he brought a woman home at least twice a week, and their cries of pleasure always woke her in the middle of the night.
Dylan’s dark blue eyes focused on her door, staring as if he could see her, but that was impossible. No one could see in through the peephole, only out. She’d once tried it out of curiosity.
Faster than she could blink, he pulled his door shut and crossed the hallway, raising his hand to knock on her door. She squeaked and backed away. Even though it was expected, the sound of his hand on the wood made her jump.
“Maria? It’s Dylan from across the hall.”
“Just a—” Her voice broke. Heat crept up her cheeks as she cleared her throat. She never failed to embarrass herself in front of her handsome neighbor. “Just a minute.”
Nerves danced a fancy jig in her stomach while she debated if her clothes would add to her embarrassment. She studied her red tank top, cut off blue jean shorts and sandals. Matching red toenails peeked out at her. In the past it didn’t matter how dressed up or down she was. Dylan never gave her a second glance. The painful reminder that she wasn’t his type resurfaced. If only she could get him to give her a chance.
She forced a smile as she opened the door. Another harsh rejection from him wasn’t on her list of things to accomplish today. She’d ignore her hormones and pray he said whatever he had to say and left quickly.
“Hi, Dylan. What a surprise. Do you need to borrow a cup of sugar or something?” She bounced from one foot to the other and tried to see if Brett still lurked out there. She didn’t need to get ensnared in another conversation with that leech.
“Can’t you stand still for one minute?”
She froze and looked up at Dylan. His facial expression left no doubt he’d rather be anywhere else than here. Disgust couldn’t be more evident in the curl of his lip or the way his nose flared as he held out a thin white envelope.
“What’s this?” Careful not to brush her fingers against his, she accepted the card-sized envelope and looked down at it. It was addressed to her and postmarked El Dorado Springs, Colorado. No name. How weird.
“Looks like Billy mixed up our mail again. I swear that man should have retired ten years ago.”
“He needs the money. You know how lonely he is since Rose died. He—”
“Save it for someone who cares. I just wanted to drop off your mail.”
Before she could thank him, the shrill ring of her phone sent all her blood rushing from her head. Suddenly lightheaded, she grabbed onto the door as she swayed.
“Are you okay? You don’t look very good.”
She swallowed and tried to answer, but her phone rang again. Right on time. Dread rose in her, sending goose bumps over her arms and legs.
“Maria?” Dylan grabbed her shoulders and pushed into her apartment. She didn’t even think to hesitate as he shut the door and half carried her across the room. He pressed her down into the sofa. “Are you okay?”
The phone rang again, and her answering machine clicked on. “Sorry, no one is home. Please leave a message after the tone.” Her voice rang out clear and happy on the machine, but she knew what was to come next wouldn’t be happy. Or clear. It never was.
“Maria.” The caller’s voice was low and harsh as he crooned her name. She struggled to make out his words even though she knew she wouldn’t like what he had to say. “I know you’re there. You look lovely today. I can’t wait until we can be together.”
Maria whimpered and buried her face in a cushion as shudders racked her body.
“Did you wear the peach negligee yet? I bought it, thinking how it would look on your soft, creamy skin. Does it feel good when you wear it? Do you imagine it is my hands, sliding against your body, instead of silk?”
“What the hell? Maria?” When Dylan touched her, she couldn’t prevent the whimper that tore past her lips. “Is that an ex-boyfriend?”
Maria shook her head and covered her ears. Experience told her his words would get more cruel and taunting as he went on.
“I hope you enjoy your gifts, Maria. I want you prepared for when I come for you. When I do, you will be reborn again. And you will be mine in all ways, Maria. All ways. Your screams will resound off the walls as I use first your body, then your soul for my pleasure and purification.”
Maria pressed her hands even tighter over her ears.
“You will be mine, Maria. Body and soul. It’s taken me a long time to find you. I’m coming for you, Maria. Soon.”
She heard Dylan growl, then her machine beep as he picked up the receiver. “Whoever you are, Maria is under my protection. Don’t think about setting one foot in this building or even this block. If you come near her, I’ll tear you apart limb by limb and throw your carcass in the Delaware.”
Mad laughter echoed in her ears even though she couldn’t hear if the caller responded. Why can I hear him in my head? God, he’s sick. Crazy. Why is this man after me?<o:p></o:p>
“You picked the wrong woman to stalk this time, buddy. I—”
Silence filled the room. When Dylan cursed, she realized her admirer must have hung up on him. Shivering again, she stumbled off the sofa and raced for her bathroom as her stomach churned. Blinded by tears of anger and fright, she sank to her knees next to the toilet and tried not to throw up.
Gentle hands caressed the nape of her neck as Dylan pulled her hair back and whispered soothingly. She collapsed against him, letting her tears have free rein. She was tired of pretending everything was okay. She needed a knight in shining armor.
The realization of who comforted her sank in. Though she knew she should pull away, she didn’t want to. While she might secretly be in lust with him, Dylan didn’t even like her. Even if he offered her relief, it would be temporary.
He didn’t feel the attraction she did. Her body hungered for him with an intensity that frustrated her most nights. Instead of finding relief with someone, she always came home alone. Night after night. No one could arouse her like he could with just one look. If he wanted to put his arms around her, she’d take what she could get before he remembered he didn’t like her.
“Maria. You have to talk to me, baby. Who was that? An ex-boyfriend? A disgruntled employee?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know who it is.” She pulled free and rubbed her arms, trying to get warm but knowing she’d never be warm again. Instead of pulling away, she wanted to let Dylan hold her close and promise she’d be safe from now on. Damn, she needed to get a grip on reality. He didn’t want her, and she didn’t need him. Much.
“I saw your reaction to the phone call. There’s more to this than you’re admitting. Talk to me, baby. What’s going on?”
“It isn’t just the phone call. Whoever this guy is, he’s been sending me presents in the mail. To get that card and then have the phone ring…”
“Was there a return address on the card?” Dylan released her and walked back to her living room.
She didn’t want to follow, but she had to know what was in the envelope. “A partial one, but no name or street address, so it won’t be very helpful. I don’t even know anyone in El Dorado Springs, or Colorado for that matter. Is that the right zip code for El Dorado Springs? We can’t be sure that it’s his actual address.”
“Or that it’s from him. Where have the other things from him been postmarked?” Dylan examined the envelope, turned it over, and looked at the seams.
When he held it up to the light, she leaned close to see if they could see through it. There was something that looked like a huge playing card.
Before she could lean closer, he brought his arm back down and sniffed the envelope.
“I’m sure there’s no chemical poisoning. It sounds like he wants to hurt me in person, not from mailing me something.”
“We don’t know that it’s from your secret admirer.” He frowned and shook the envelope for a moment, then opened it. He peered inside as he pried the flap open.
Maria leaned over, curiosity winning over her fear. But before she could see inside, he gasped and dropped the envelope.
“What is it?” She backed up against the wall, waiting for something to crawl out of it. “What’s in it?”
“A card.” He wiped his hand on his jeans, and her gaze focused on the spot where the material pulled taut. “Are you into tarot? Do you practice?”
“I don’t believe in tarot. Or magic.” Even as she said the lie, she dragged her gaze away from his groin and looked down at the envelope.
Dylan’s scent teased her senses. He smelled of cinnamon and spice, and something completely and utterly male. Desire settled thickly in her stomach. Instead of drooling over someone she couldn’t have, she should concentrate on the card.
March 15th, 2009, 07:09 AM
oh wow Michelle Cheerleader
March 15th, 2009, 07:49 AM
Love the cover for this book and the excerpt is fantastic.
March 16th, 2009, 09:52 PM
it was so much fun to write.
i love tortured heroes lol
and i really had a wicked bad guy :)
sick twisted and just mean lol
June 14th, 2010, 09:53 PM
I have not read your books. Will be adding them to my to read list. I love all the excerpts I have read so far. :notworthy:
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