Author: Lindsey Winsemius
Series: Secret of Alba #3
Genre: Romance / Suspense / Dystopian
Will his past become her ruin?
I had it all; power, respect, independence. But now everything is falling apart around me. And I can't help myself; I need to trust the one man I shouldn't ...
I barely escaped my past. I only bring death to people I care about, so now I keep my distance. Until her. Something about this woman draws me in ...
Death has returned to Alba, and the number of victims is growing. Can they stop the evil plaguing their nation before it's too late?
Find out who survives the epidemic in this stunning conclusion to the Secret of Alba series.
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The days were busy, but the nights were hell.
Being so close to Helen, so close but so distant, was taking its toll on his temper.
He looked forward to the evenings, when they would eat together, discussing the day's events. She had a sharp wit he found alternately amusing and arousing.
It was in those quiet times together that she let down her guard, and the prickly, independent woman of the day revealed a softer side he'd never seen before.
And every night when she got up to go to her own room, it became harder and harder not to stop her. To beg her to let him in her bed.
But he'd told himself he'd give her space. She was pregnant and her lover had died only a few short months earlier.
He didn't think he could take much more.
Tonight he didn't know if he could keep himself from seeking out the relief only she could offer.
Darkness had just fallen over the city when he'd arrived home. To her villa, he corrected himself. Thinking of this place as home would be a mistake.
They'd shared dinner and retired to the study to talk, as they did most nights. He couldn't take his eyes from her as she approached, her small feet bare, two mugs of tea in her delicate hands.
She gave him a quizzical look as she handed him one, laced with the whiskey she knew he liked, and he realized he must have been staring.
He thanked her absently, forcing his gaze out the window of the sitting room. The Serenity Garden was beyond, the nearly full moon gleaming off the pool in the center, casting strange shadows from the carefully groomed shrubbery.
He took a swallow of the tea, scalding his tongue, and cursed quietly.
"Is everything alright?" Helen asked, curling her own small form into the chair adjacent his, hands cupping her mug carefully.
"Yes, everything is fucking fantastic," he muttered.
"If you're so over-stressed, perhaps you should go to bed now," Helen retorted sharply.
Vick groaned, the image of his bed, with her in it, popping into his mind. He dropped his head in his hands, rubbing the palms on his eyes, trying to erase the image.
He heard rustling, and felt Helen's slender, cool hand on his brow. He breathed deeply of her scent; sharp and tangy citrus.
"You feel warm, but not feverish."
He laughed softly, mostly at himself.
"Vick, you're worrying me. What ...?" Helen gently forced his face up so she could search his eyes, her hands cupping his bearded jaw.
Sparks of heat traveled from where her hands touched his face and her arm brushed his.
He couldn't be the kind, understanding friend she needed tonight. Standing abruptly, he pulled her up with him. Her mouth parted in surprise, and he gave in to the urge that had been building for weeks. Since the moment he'd first seen her, in fact.
His mouth lowered, not giving her time to protest or pull away, sealing any sounds inside. He didn't waste a moment, his lips claiming hers with force, his tongue sweeping inside. His kiss was fast, almost desperate, for he was afraid she'd push him away at any moment.
She tasted of honey and lemon, her soft mouth taut in surprise for a long moment. Fear mingled with need as he began to think he'd been mistaken; that perhaps she didn't desire him as he did her. He deepened the kiss, feeling as if he was inhaling her essence, breathing the tiny gasps coming from her throat.
Just as he was about to pull away in defeat, she melted into him, her arms coming up to grip his shirt, her tongue tentatively meeting his.
He pulled her tighter against him, his large frame nearly shaking with need and the effort to go slow; to be gentle.
"Vick," she gasped as his lips left hers for a moment to taste the corner of her mouth, her high cheekbones, and delicate jaw. His hands moved from her shoulders, down her slender sides, and under the satin nightshirt she wore.
She gasped again as his palms grazed her taut nipples, his mouth drinking in the sounds hungrily. He moved lower, and they both froze as he touched the slightly convex shape of her stomach.
He felt her go stiff, her hands lowering from his arms to protectively cover her slight mound. He released her, letting her take a step back, his hands fisting at his sides to keep them from grabbing her again.
Helen swayed slightly, looked bemused, before sinking back into her chair. Her perfectly coiffed hair was mussed, her lips reddened from his kiss, light whisker burns making her smooth skin.
He knew he should probably apologize; to break the tense silence. But he couldn't, He wasn't sorry for anything. Except that it ended.
"I want you," he finally said, "I want you so damn bad its killing me to hold it in. I'm not going to apologize, and I'm not going to stop wanting to have you, any way I can get you. But I can promise you I won't do anything you don't want. Even if it means keeping my hands to myself." His voice was hoarse as he made the promise that was probably going to be his downfall. He looked out at the damn Serenity Garden, feeling frustrated as hell.
When Helen finally spoke, her words surprised him. "I won't deny I want you, too. But this pregnancy has my emotions so in turmoil, I don't trust myself ... I don't know what I really feel."
Vick turned back around, pushing back the strands of hair falling from the leather tie at his neck.
"I'll give you all the time you need to decide what you want," he promised rashly, desperately glad she wasn't demanding he leave her house.
You're a fool, March. There is no way this can end well for you two.
Since when had that ever stopped him? He wasn't looking for any happy endings. His hand went to stroke his beard, feeling the scars running along his jawline. He'd learned to take what joy he could, because life had no guarantees. And he would find a hell of a lot of joy from being with Helen, however she let him.
"You're so generous," Helen said drily.
Vick grinned in response. "A little too arrogant? Running the State must be going to my head. I'm just not used to so much responsibility in my little 'ole town of Vicksburg."
"I can see how it would be a bit of a shock." Her small smile and dry response told him she wasn't offended at his gently mockery. Damn, another thing he loved about her; her tough skin and quick wit.
Her expression changed, growing serious. She stood, moving close to face him. Her hand lifted hesitantly to trace the same path his often unconsciously took along his jaw.
He almost jerked away as her gentle touch found the same grooves that hid beneath his beard, scars on his skin that ran much deeper. He forced himself to remain still, letting her hand gently trace the damaged skin, following it to the corner of his mouth, moving over his lips. He couldn't stop his jaw from clenching with the effort to remain immobile.
She raised on her toes and pulling his head down, kissed his cheek just above his beard, sending a thrill that wasn't just sexual straight to his chest.
"Sometime, I hope you'll tell me the story of how this happened."
"It's rather dull." He fought to keep his smile in place and his tone light. "Trust me, you wouldn't want to hear it."
"Hmm, I have a feeling I need to hear it," she replied thoughtfully, and he felt uncomfortably exposed under her gaze. "Or perhaps you need to tell it."
Vick opened his mouth with a quick retort, but couldn't force the words out. He turned away with an inarticulate growl. This woman was getting under his skin like no one else had ever been able to.
"Dammit, Helen, just because I want you doesn't mean I'm going to spill my past while you mop my tears." He felt remorse as soon as the words left his lips. But the worst part was that he wanted to spill his secrets; to unload on her fragile shoulders. That was ludicrous; he had been self-contained for his entire life. He certainly wasn't going to start needing someone now.
Helen settled back into her chair, not saying anything. Waiting.
The silence stretched and for once Vick couldn't seem to find any blase comment to fill it. His hand rose to stroke the scar before his stopped himself.
What did it matter? If she really wanted the whole sordid story, he'd tell her. Maybe then it would help her keep her distance.
To learn how dangerous it was to care about him.
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Lindsey Winsemius is an author, marketer, and supermom surviving on coffee and wine on the West Michigan Lakeshore. She learned from a young age that books hold the key to new worlds. As a young adult, she was often caught with forbidden romance novels under her mattress. She's currently published three romance novels, and is working on her fourth which will be released in spring 2017, assuming her wine and coffee don't run out out.
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