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       Seduced, p.14

         Part #3 of Surrender series by Melody Anne
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  Oh, the rapture that his words aroused in her. They were the words she’d always wanted to hear coming from his lips. She needed him, too. She had for so long that she couldn’t remember a time she hadn’t needed him — wanted him — loved him.

  “Why don’t you ever talk about your childhood, Shane?”

  She felt him stiffen in her arms and worried that she’d crossed a line. He always closed up when anyone mentioned his past. All she knew was that he’d gone through hell. Neither he nor Rafe would say anything about it.

  “It’s not worth speaking of,” he said as she felt him force himself to relax with a deep exhaling breath. He wasn’t able to fully unlock his muscles.

  “I want to know you — know why the exterior that you present to the world is so tough, so untouchable. Please tell me,” she said, her fingers trailing across his back in a comforting way. If he could open up to her, then maybe they would have a real chance.

  “You don’t want to know, Lia,” he warned her.

  She could tell he wanted to speak to her, though. He needed to let it out.

  “I honestly do, Shane. I want to know everything about you — the good and the bad. I promise not to ever judge. I promise to listen. ”

  “Do you want to know the ugly, too?”

  “Everything, Shane. ”

  Shane hesitated as a deep sigh rose from his chest. When he began to speak, she was completely still.

  “I didn’t have parents like yours, Lia. My father — well, he was…not a good man. Far from it. ”

  “What about your mom?”

  “She was weak and pathetic. I hate to say that about my mother, but it’s true. The things she let happen to me were things a mother should never allow. She went through her own trauma, and I’m sorry for that, but she had a child to think about. If I had children, and I can’t imagine I will, I would never let someone hurt them the way that my father hurt me. ”

  There was so much pain in his voice, stiffness in his body. Lia wished she could take his pain away, erase the memories from his brain, and help him to heal. She did all she could, by running her fingers along his bare skin, by letting him know that she was right there with him, that no one would hurt him again.

  “My mom was young and in love, bright-eyed with the world as her oyster. She was such a beautiful teenager, with dark hair and eyes, olive skin and a laugh that could bring a smile to the most wretched and the most irascible person. She met my father her junior year of high school, and she fell instantly and hopelessly in love, if you can call that love. He was twenty-one, and the typical bad boy. Driving up to their local hamburger shop, he’d taken one look at her and decided she would be his. She’d been flattered that such a handsome older guy took an instant interest in her. She’d followed him like a puppy dog, willing to do his bidding. ”

  There was so much bitterness in Shane’s voice, but his touch against her skin never changed. He was gentle as he held Lia while he dived back into his past. She almost told him he didn’t need to continue, but she knew she might never get another chance to hear, so she remained silent as he paused, as if he was drawing the courage to go on.

  “Their first time together was…” Shane stopped for a minute. “It wasn’t consensual. She’d been dating him for a few months, and she always put the brakes on when he tried to have sex with her. Finally, one night he’d taken her back to his crappy apartment and had a couple too many beers. She said no, but he didn’t stop. I’ll never forget the day she told me about that moment. I was so furious with her. Why didn’t she turn him in? He’d raped her, and she still kept seeing him. And when she found out two months later that she was carrying his child, her parents were furious and kicked her out. What did she do? She moved in with him. ”

  “She told you all of this?” Lia was horrified that a mother would burden her son with such awful knowledge.

  “Yes. They both hated me. She hated me because I was the product of a very unpleasant experience in her life. I was also the reason she was forever locked to this man. She told me on more than one occasion that she should have just aborted me — that she would have if she’d only had the money. Her husband, the man who fathered me, hated me because — oh, probably because he was just an evil bastard. I can’t get inside the brain of someone like that. He liked having such a pretty wife, someone who was so malleable to his will, but he also liked having a lot of women on the side. He would even bring one home on occasion, kicking my mother out of their bedroom so he could use it with this new ‘girlfriend. ’ A few times, he made her, his wife, participate with them. She put up with it, never fighting him. She said it wasn’t worth the beatings he would lay upon her if she disobeyed him. ”

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  “Why in the hell didn’t she just leave, go to a victim center?” Lia was horrified. She’d never imagined that his story could be that bad. “Or why didn’t she call in Child Protective Services?”

  “She was weak. She blamed her woes on me, on him, on everything and everybody except for herself. He was unforgivable, but she was just as bad for staying. The first time he punched me so hard that I got a concussion, she should have realized it was too much. Hell, the first time he’d laid a hand on me, period, she should have left him. If she was OK with getting the shit kicked out of her, that was one thing, but when he was knocking around his toddler son, she should have gotten me out of there. But she didn’t, and it wasn’t until I was older that I realized that what they were both doing was wrong. I was so used to the abuse that I thought everyone got smacked around. ”

  “Oh, Shane,” Lia moaned. She pulled him closer into her arms and held him close. Her tears fell against his shoulder as she cried for the frightened boy he had buried inside himself, and the man who still had to endure those memories.

  “At sixteen, I finally had enough. I beat him nearly to death, then left the house and never turned back. I was done. The sad thing was that I didn’t even care when I found out my mother had killed him. One day, I guess she just had enough, too. She stabbed him in his sleep, then waited for the police to come. She didn’t even try to hide what she’d done. They asked her if it was self-defense, and she said no. She could have gotten off. He beat her constantly, especially after I left, but she still pleaded guilty to the authorities. She told the prosecutor that she’d just decided he wasn’t worthy of living another day. She’d grabbed a kitchen knife, stood over him with a crazy smile on her face and plunged the knife deep into his chest. She told them that she’d laughed as his eyes popped open and he struggled to catch his breath. ”

  “Oh, my gosh,” Lia gasped, unable to imagine what he was saying.

  “I went to the trial. She didn’t know I was there, but I wanted to see what happened. I sat in the back row. It was odd, the emotions I felt. It was as if I was a different person, just a journalist there to take notes. I felt nothing when she was deemed crazy and the judge had her locked up in a mental institution. I felt nothing for the man who had been killed. No…that’s not true. The only thing I felt at knowing he was dead was regret — regret that I hadn’t been the one to plunge the knife into the coldhearted bastard’s chest. ”

  “You don’t mean that, Shane. You couldn’t take a life,” Lia gasped.

  He was silent for several heartbeats. “Not like that. No,” he said. “At that moment, I did feel regret, though. I don’t know. If I had stayed any longer, I might have been the one to take his life. ”

  The certainty in his tone frightened Lia. He was so different from the abused teenage boy he’d told her of, but she couldn’t comprehend what he’d been through. It was so tragic.

  “Have you seen her since she’s been locked up?” Lia was afraid to ask, but she needed to know.

  “No. I don’t have any desire to see that woman,” he spit out, his body tensing again.

  “Maybe you should, Shane. Maybe it would help you to heal and you c
ould fully let go of the past. What she did was horrendous, but if you could tell her that, tell her how wrong she was, then you could let go of that burden. ”

  “How would that help? She’s mental,” he snapped.

  Lia knew he wasn’t snapping at her. She knew he was in a world of pain right now. Having grown up with loving parents and siblings, she couldn’t pretend to know what he had dealt with, but she loved him enough to get some glimmerings.

  “It doesn’t matter if you get through to her, Shane. It’s about you. She stole enough from you, your childhood, your joy, your love. She took it all, and she doesn’t deserve redemption, but you deserve to be able to let it all go. ”

  “Well, I guess it really doesn’t matter now, does it?” he said, shocking her as he turned toward her and smiled.

  “Why is that?” she asked, completely confused.

  “Because we’re lost on a deserted island and may never be found again. It may be our sole responsibility to populate this land and start over,” he teased.

  “Mmm, that sounds like it could be fun,” she said and rubbed against him. The frightening thing was the tug inside her heart at the thought of carrying Shane’s child. It should terrify her. She didn’t want to be a mother, not yet, but as she looked into his eyes, she could picture a little boy with his hair and eyes gazing back at her. She was also confused because of his earlier statement. Did he want kids or not? She didn’t want them now, but she knew she would someday.

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  Shane drew her beneath him and easily slipped inside her body. She knew he was healing by losing himself within her. She was OK with that — more than OK, she thought as passion began building and thoughts of children evaporated as pleasure began enveloping them.

  Lia knew Rafe would rescue them. It was only a matter of time. And so, in the meantime, she would enjoy every moment she was locked tightly in Shane’s arms.

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Ari

  No worries here, Ari thought smugly as she walked up the steps to the huge library. She’d be safe, sound, and inviolable as Fort Knox. There was no way that Rafe would put the moves on her while in a public building. Well, he had in public before, but he wouldn’t dare do something in a library, and they certainly couldn’t have sex. I mean, really!

  Since she’d done nothing but toss and turn the night before, she was quite irritated with Rafe. Had he been a terrible kisser, or had her body not completely betrayed her, then she would have been in a much better mood.

  To top all of that off, the snore-worthy pig of a doctor had dared to call her at midnight to see if he could get her address and stop by. He wanted to have dessert. She’d just bet he wanted dessert. . .

  She’d told him to lose her number, then hung up on him while he’d still been sputtering.

  It seemed that Ari was doomed to end up in the presence of the wrong men.

  This last date wasn’t really her fault, since her friend had set the entire thing up, but still… Some days, it seemed she’d end up as that person with ten cats, four dogs, three piranhas and a parakeet, rocking alone on her front porch. Not that there was anything wrong with that. And anyway, she was far too young to be thinking that way, but it still frightened her.

  She didn’t want to settle with just anyone because she was afraid of being alone. It was OK to focus on herself for a while. Being in a relationship didn’t define you as a person. First, you had to be confident in yourself before you were capable of having a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship.

  Ari had gained confidence over the last couple of years. She was just lonely, making it easier for Rafe to slip past her guard.

  She’d have to put forth more effort in her attempts to keep him out of her pants.

  She found a quiet corner table, and sat down. People were all around her, busy studying or reading for pleasure, but the point was that people were there. She felt secure. Her phone vibrated; picking it up, she saw a message from Rafe.

  Have you arrived yet?

  Yes, I’m sitting in the back. Meet me here.

  I have a table on the third floor. Just come up the stairs and go to the right.

  I have a great table. Why don’t you come back down here? she replied. She’d been hoping to arrive before he did.

  We can’t eat down there and I brought a late lunch, he countered. As her stomach rumbled, she realized she’d forgotten to eat again. Food sounded fantastic. Even if she went up to the third floor, they wouldn’t be in any less of a public place. She’d still be fine.

  Picking up her bag, she didn’t bother responding but made her way up the stairs. On the second level, she found the children’s section, and she smiled as she watched a man with a circle of kids around him while he read. The boys and girls were fascinated with the variety of his storytelling voices. If only she could play her different parts as well when dealing with Rafe.

  Continuing over to the next flight of stairs, she went upward, then frowned as she realized she was in the stacks section, the part of the library her classmates had said they would go to when they wanted to make out with their boyfriends.

  Well, this wasn’t a college campus, and if Rafe thought they were going to be doing any touching, then he had another thing coming. She was there to pore over the pages of his ancestor’s journal, take notes, and learn all that she could. She wasn’t there to get screwed on a hard table — both literally and figuratively.

  When she rounded the corner and found Rafe sitting at a covered table with an elegantly presented lunch, she felt her heart speed up.

  A smile crossed her face without her even thinking about it. Of course, Rafe couldn’t just bring a sandwich in a brown paper bag. That would be too pedestrian of him. And too plebeian for that dyed-in-the-cashmere aristocrat.

  “You look lovely, Ari,” he said as he stood and moved to her chair, holding it out for her.

  “Isn’t this a bit much for lunch in a library?” she asked while trying not to enjoy his compliment.

  “Nothing is too much for you. Not ever,” he whispered against her ear, sending shivers down her spine.

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  “We’re here for the journal and nothing else, Rafe,” she reminded him in a breathy whisper.

  “That’s what you’re here for. I have…other plans,” he said mysteriously.

  “Well, put those plans away…and anything else you might be thinking about taking out that should remain hidden. We’re in public,” she reminded him as she looked at the food — an out-of-the-ordinary chicken salad, artisan rolls, exotic fruit, and small appetizers. Yum. He’d even managed to bring in a bottle of wine.

  She knew she shouldn’t accept the wine, but she couldn’t resist, knowing that because he’d chosen it, it would be spectacular. How her tastes had changed since meeting him. She used to despise alcohol, and with good reason, considering the trouble it had gotten her into on more than one occasion. She still avoided anything other than wine, and she now knew how to distinguish between good wine and rotgut. This definitely wasn’t rotgut.

  “We’ll have lunch, and then I’ll leave you alone for a while to study the journal,” he said, and she looked at him with suspicion. What was he up to now?

  “Hey, I’m trying to compromise,” he told her as he held up his hands.

  “I don’t know if I trust you, Rafe. Scratch that. I know I don’t trust you,” she said, though the lifting of her lips took away some of the sting.

  “You’ll just have to learn how to trust me again,” he said, then took a bite of lunch.

  “Again? I never trusted you,” she said.

  He looked wounded and was slow in answering.

  “I will just have to earn your trust, then. I want to earn it, and your respect, too. I want to be with you. You will soon realize how important this is to me. You will soon know I want only the best for you — for us. ”


  “We can’t turn back time, Rafe. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but there isn’t a magic wand available that you can just wave and — abracadabra! — the past is forgotten,” she said, and the hurt in his eyes made her feel like a heel. She was close to apologizing when he looked down and the moment was over.

  They finished their lunch, keeping the topics on anything but the two of them, and Ari found herself relaxing. When they were done, a man came in and quietly removed all traces of the meal, and then Rafe pulled out the journal.

  Ari gladly took it, excited to get started again. Soon she was lost in the world of William and Saphronia, and she didn’t notice when Rafe got up and left.

  She also didn’t notice when the floor was closed off and she was left all alone with Rafe.

  Hours passed without Ari’s notice. When most of the lights downstairs in the library went out, and they dimmed on the floor she was on, she kept on reading. She was oblivious to the rest of the world as she sank into the tragic love story between William and Saphronia.

  The days creep by with an agonizing slowness, and now two full months are lost in uncertainty, nay, in terror. No word from you has reached my eager hands, and I do not know whether you are still among the living or — I cannot force my pen to write such words. Without you, my life is all confusion and woe. My father has demanded that I marry another, a man who is twenty years my senior, a man whose habits and tastes are utterly uncongenial, a man whom I could never love — even if you had not appropriated that most tender of feelings all to yourself. Father declares that this man will be able to take care of me and provide a secure life for my future children. I have expressed my love for you and you alone, but he says he would never sanction a marriage with a man who is a mere soldier and one who has cast his lot in with the North, among people who, in his words, would deprive his family and those around us of their rights and their freedom. He adds, so cruelly, that you will likely die on the field of battle or find another helpmeet with whom to spend your life, and that I am giving into silly and girlish ideas. Oh, if only a letter from you would reach me and tell me how you are and whether I am still the object of your devotion, just as you are of mine! I will never give up — not even with my dying breath.

 
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MELODY ANNE SERIES:

Surrender

 

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