And what a relief, I have to say. I’m looking forward to a few days of rest and relaxation, and then it’s back to work to finish the Blackstone Trilogy. So without further delay, Crossfire: Broken is available at Smashwords , Amazon , Itunes, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Thank you to all the readers who came to this blog to chat to me and chase me a little bit, I really needed it. Thanks again.
As I promised a few days ago, here are the first three chapters of the third Driftwood book, which is provisionally being called Crossfire: Broken.
By Niki Savage
Copyright 2016 Niki Savage
This publication is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from Niki Savage.
Book 3 of the Driftwood Trilogy
Clad in a black leather teddy, the six foot tall blonde dominatrix shook out the coils of the bullwhip she held in her hand. Some distance in front of her stood her helpless victim, but in this case, not quite so helpless. He has chosen to be here, has even brought the whip he wanted her to use, and has decided for himself how many lashes she should give him. He wanted two hundred in total, divided into ten visits. His visits were irregular, mostly four weeks apart, but after his third visit he was absent for seven weeks, leaving her panicking at the prospect of losing her biggest paying customer.
This was his fifth visit, and by the end of it, he would have received one hundred lashes in total. By now, their routine was familiar, with him already in position by the time she entered the room. It was a bit disappointing, because she would’ve liked to see his face before she punished him.
She had an intense interest in human nature, and wished that she knew why this beautiful man needed her to punish him so viciously. A bullwhip in her expert hands was a fearsome instrument. Though she was supremely skilled with the instrument, able to inflict maximum pain without breaking the skin, it was still a terrifying and excruciating experience.
None but the most hard core enthusiasts came to her for this particular treat, and even they often invoked the safe word by the fifth lash, and that was when she was going easy on them, using the bullwhip to terrify more than to injure. But it was enough for many of them to get turned on enough to get their reward, a fuck that blew their minds, because she was good at that too.
Which was why this man vexed her. She had noticed right from the start that he derived no sexual gratification from the whipping or the humiliation. Whatever pain or anger he felt, he internalized, because little of it showed on the outside. But she knew he felt the pain, because after their last meeting he had winced when putting his shirt back on. That wince had been enough to give her the sexual gratification she sought. This was a job, after all, but she wouldn’t be doing it if she didn’t enjoy it.
She focused on the man in front of her. He wasn’t secured to the rack, rather he gripped where the shackles protruded, which made it look as if he was restrained, but it was just an illusion. She knew it was for her benefit, and he has never let go of the shackles during a beating, maintaining the effect that he was helpless.
His back was smooth and tanned, showing no marks from the eighty lashes she had inflicted over the past four months, and she was proud of herself for that. He stood about six feet tall in his blue denims and black boots, and his thick black hair hung to where his neck met his shoulders. She remembered from before that he had piercing pale blue eyes, which he often hid by allowing his hair to fall into his eyes, playboy style. He always had a few days of dark stubble on his jaw, but it looked good on him. Again, she wondered why he felt in need of punishment, and she wondered about the precise amount of lashes he had requested.
But she had a job to do, so without further delay she sent the whip snaking in his direction. It let out a satisfying crack before it connected his skin, and she was gratified to see him flinch. Without giving him a moment to compose himself, she sent the lash in his direction again, harder this time.
The man sucked in a huge lungful of air after the fifth lash, and she wondered if he was about to scream, like so many of them did, but again he disappointed her, dropping his head and absorbing the pain. But she wanted his pain, wanted to see his pain, hear his pain, and so she sent the whip out again, her blood singing in her ears as the whip cracked before making contact. The man didn’t use his safe word, and she realized that this was what he wanted. She had been too easy on him until now. He wanted the pain, and she no longer cared why, intent on drawing her own satisfaction from hurting him.
~ . ~
The man hanging on the rack was in a world of agony. Fire consumed his entire body, and reignited every time the lash of the whip bit into his skin. Breathing was difficult, because the dominatrix wielding the whip gave him no time to recover between lashes. Finally the woman understood what he wanted, understood that he needed to be punished. Her blows were harder than before, and as a red haze of pain clouded his senses, he wondered if she had finally seen his black soul. If she knew what he had done, she wouldn’t stop beating him until he lay dead on the floor.
He wished that he had the courage to let his tormentor tie him up, so that he could feel the helplessness that ‘she’ must have felt. Even after all this time, he couldn’t say her name, not even in his thoughts. He wasn’t worthy, wouldn’t be worthy until all the poison had been bled from his soul. With every blow that rained on his back, more poison seeped from him. But would it ever be enough, or would he become addicted to the pain, needing more and more of it to feel the peace that came afterwards?
He bit back the cry that rose to his lips as the lash cut his skin, and after the fierce burn, he felt a warm rivulet of blood dribbling down his violated skin, soaking into the waistband of his jeans. Yes, his tormentor finally understood. He needed her to beat him like a bad dog. She had to make him pay for his sins.
~ . ~
By the time the dominatrix came to her senses, the man had multiple rivulets of blood dribbling down his back, but still he held on to the shackles on the rack. He had taken all twenty lashes without using the safe word, which made this a dangerous situation, for her as well as for him. If she couldn’t control herself, and he didn’t stop her, where would it end?
“It’s over,” she said loudly, expecting that he would let go of the shackles and reach for his shirt, as he had before.
But after letting go of the shackles, he slowly sank to the floor, remaining on his knees and hugging himself as if to keep the pain inside. She ripped her mask off and ran to him as fast as her stiletto boots allowed. From close up his wounds looked bad, and she cursed herself for losing control. She touched the man’s shoulder with her gloved hand, but he didn’t respond to her touch.
“Are you alright?” she asked, tugging more urgently at his shoulder.
He took a deep breath and turned to her. “Like that,” he said in a husky voice. “That’s what I want, just like that, every time.”
She was unaware that her mouth had dropped open as she stared at him, noticing how his blue eyes glittered in the dimly lit room, as if a light came from inside them. Whether it was the light of near insanity she couldn’t say for sure, but it made her feel sick to her stomach.
* * * *
Karl glanced at Nancy, who sat beside him on the veranda of her house in Sandton. On the large green lawn in front of them, Danny played with the boy from next door. After their return from their holiday on the North Coast of South Africa, Danny looked tanned and healthy, so different from the pale, emaciated child he had rescued from the Somali pirates.
At the same time as he remembered the rescue, the unwelcome image of Stefan broken and motionless on the deck of the pirate ship flashed through his mind. He moved uncomfortably, shaking his head slightly.
Nancy put a comforting hand on his thigh. “What’s wrong? You look as if the world’s just descended on your shoulders.”
He sighed. “It’s back to reality tomorrow, I guess.”
She stroked his thigh gently. “It doesn’t have to be.”
He turned to her, a slight frown on his forehead. “I don’t understand.”
“You could stay longer, or maybe forever.”
Karl’s frown deepened. “I thought we agreed that once we’re married, our home will be on La Montagne.”
“I know, but these past ten days have been heavenly. It was so nice to see you on the beach, just being a normal father to your son.”
“I am a normal father. What are you getting at?”
“You’re not a normal father, Karl, not really. I worry about what might happen to Danny if you were suddenly…gone. He’s grown so attached to you that I fear he might never recover.”
“What’s brought this on?” he said, trying to keep the irritation out of his voice.
Nancy clasped both her hands in her lap. She stared at Danny and his friend clambering on the jungle gym for a few moments before she took a deep breath. “I can’t stop thinking about…Stefan and Marcelle. It’s been ten months, and nobody knows if Stefan’s even still alive. It’s so horrible, and I can’t imagine what Marcelle and her children must be going through.”
Karl clenched his teeth and counted to ten before he said, “Marcelle is tough, and she’s a good mother. She’ll get through this.”
“I don’t care how tough she is. The love of her life is missing, presumed dead, and one day her little boys are going to want to know where Stefan is.”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Karl said, keeping his tone even while trying to relax the tension gathering between his shoulder blades.
“Have you seen Marcelle recently? I just assumed that I would run into her on La Montagne, but Charlotte told me she hasn’t been back since she left with her kids.”
Karl cleared his throat. “I haven’t seen her in a while.”
“While Stefan was in hospital you were all over her, and now you’re just ignoring her? Why?”
“I’ve been busy with the search for Stefan, and running Omega, and visiting you and Danny. And in between all that, I’ve led a few missions in Europe, and two in Africa. We’re running short of senior personnel with Heinrich and me sharing the administrative duties. I’m going to appoint a senior man to do the admin, because Heinrich and I are required in the field. Our expertise is wasted behind a desk.”
“But you’re safe there.”
Karl stiffened. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t you think it’s time?”
“Karl, you have me, and you have Danny. Imagine how we would feel if one day…”
“Get to the point, Nancy.”
“I just mean I would sleep better if I knew you were safe. You asked me last week to marry you, and I said I would think about it. But all I’ve been able to think about is…” She pressed her hands to her mouth. “I can’t say it.”
Karl didn’t answer her, keeping his eyes focused on the boys playing in the yard.
When Nancy touched his arm, he stiffened. “Is this what you think about all day? Me dead and you alone? I thought we’d moved past that?”
“I can’t get past it. Every day I think about Marcelle and imagine her pain, and I know I wouldn’t survive it if that had to happen to us. Her children are too young to remember Stefan, but Danny is turning eight next year.”
“I’m trying to think where this conversation is leading. What are you trying to achieve here?”
“I want you to choose us. Choose life. Be with us.” When Karl didn’t answer she carried on fervently, “I’ll marry you and live on La Montagne with you. I’ll give up my job and my friends and everything I know. We can have more children, anything you want. I love you, so much.”
Karl jumped to his feet, his agitation not allowing him to remain seated. “I seem to recall we’ve had this conversation before.”
“I know what I said in Mozambique.”
“My viewpoint hasn’t changed.”
“You just learned to hide it a bit better, didn’t you?” Karl said, a sneer marring his handsome features. “You thought if you gave me time to get attached to Danny, I might give in this time, and let you neuter me for good.”
“Neuter? What do you mean?”
“What do you think it would do to me to watch my men go on missions while I sit behind a desk? I’m still a young man, and in the best shape of my life. My skills are in demand on the battlefield, and the war we’re fighting against terrorism is far from over.”
“What about Danny? I love him, but I’d prefer it if he remembered me as a man who fought for what he believed in, rather than a weakling who spent his time behind a desk so his wife could feel secure. Do you realize what you’re asking me do? You might as well cut my balls off and put them on your mantelpiece as a trophy.”
“That’s not what I want. Please, just listen to me.”
“I have listened to you. You’re singing the same tune you sang in Mozambique and I didn’t fall for it then, nor am I falling for it now.”
Nancy’s back stiffened. “You’re being very disrespectful. I don’t deserve this.” She wrung her hands together in her lap until her knuckles showed white. “I want you to think about this, and I want you to choose. I deserve more than what you’re giving me.”
Karl’s mouth fell open in surprise. “You mean my love isn’t enough? I’ve taken you back into my life, despite the circumstances of your rescue. Despite the fact that my best friend is missing, possibly dead, and his wife is in agony. I’ve looked past all that and loved you and Danny anyway. And now you say that isn’t enough.”
“True love demands sacrifice.”
Karl laughed incredulously. “Sacrifice? What about the sacrifice Marcelle has made? Her husband is gone. My friend is gone. We made sacrifices so that you could live. But what have you sacrificed?”
Nancy remained silent and dropped her gaze to her lap.
“Tell me!” he shouted with such vehemence that she jumped in her seat.
“I feel as if you hate me right now,” she said in a small voice.
“Hate is overrated as an emotion,” he said coldly. “I warned you if you started your shit again, I would walk away without looking back. Well, consider me gone.”
“But what about Danny?”
“I won’t let you use him as a weapon against me. Call me if you want him to visit and I’ll send the plane for him.” He shrugged. “Or don’t. But whatever you do, you’ll have to answer for it when he’s older.”
Nancy stared at him, her eyes bright with tears. “I guess I was a fool thinking this could work.”
“No, I was the fool to let you draw me back in again. Goodbye, Nancy.”
Without a further word, he strode into the house and grabbed his bags, still packed from their trip to the coast.
Five minutes later, he was in his rented BMW, speeding up the street, heading for the airport. But the anger seething inside him needed an outlet and a short while later he pulled into a side street and cut the engine.
For a few seconds he sat motionless, trying to bring himself under control. But his breathing increased as he lost the battle, and he roared with rage as he slammed both his fists onto the steering wheel, again and again as his fury rose inside him like a tidal wave.
Long minutes passed before his anger ebbed, leaving him wrung out and breathless.
He should have taken the time to say goodbye to Danny before he left, he thought, filled with regret as he imagined the boy’s surprise to find him gone. But Nancy had left him no choice. The moment she had started speaking about Marcelle the scene had been set for a confrontation.
He has made every effort to get over what happened to Marcelle and Stefan, and move on with his life, and it was partly the reason why he’s avoided contact with Marcelle. He moved uncomfortably at the thought, remembering the vow he had made. But instead of keeping his vow, he had chased his own happiness, enjoying a carefree holiday while Marcelle suffered and Stefan remained lost.
Inadvertently Nancy had reminded him of that fact, while at the same time pushing her own agenda. Instinctively he knew that getting out of there had been the right thing to do. He had left before he said things he could never recall. The amount of anger he still felt towards Nancy had astonished him. He thought he had moved past all that, but the mere mention of Marcelle and her pain about the loss of Stefan had brought it all to the fore again. Without knowing it, Nancy had pushed all the wrong buttons and sabotaged herself in the process.
The guilt settled heavily on his shoulders. He could never give Nancy what she wanted, and he could never give Marcelle back what she needed. But maybe he should at least try.
~ . ~
Karl checked into the Southern Sun Airport hotel but declined the porter’s offer to carry his bags to his room, preferring to do it himself. He had no choice but to stay overnight, because the Omega jet was only due to pick him up the next morning, and wasn’t even on route yet, which was fortunate. He picked up his phone and made the call to cancel the jet. He planned to take a commercial flight to his next destination.
* * * *
Marcelle sighed as she pushed open the door of her hotel room in Stuttgart, Germany. She had hoped that winning the world championships for a fourth time might lift her spirits, even if just for a little while, but after the press conference she had felt her mood plummeting. Perhaps the celebrations later would lift her spirits. Several of the French riders were staying in the same hotel, and they planned to meet in the bar downstairs later that evening.
After a long, hot shower, she dressed in a comfortable gray tracksuit and stretched out on top of the covers of the double bed. She was exhausted from her exertions earlier in the day, and fell asleep within minutes.
~ . ~
When she opened her eyes a few hours later, she saw Karl sitting on a chair beside her bed. She squeezed her eyes shut and opened them again. But Karl still sat there, watching her with kindness in his eyes. Her heart plummeted. He had to be the bearer of bad news. She sat up, and without warning, tears spilled from her eyes. No, no, no, no.
“I’m sorry,” she said with a sniff. “It’s just a bit of a shock, seeing you here. Is Stefan still alive?”
Karl leaned forward and took one of her hands in his. “To be honest, Tiger, we don’t know. It’s been ten months, and we’ve found no sign of him.”
She stared at the lines of hardship around his mouth, and wondered if Kris had them too. The twins were suffering, not knowing what had happened to the cousin that they had come to regard as a brother.
She flicked her tears away with impatient fingers, angry with herself for having such a fragile hold on her feelings. “So why are you here then?”
“Do I need a reason to see my favorite sister in law?”
Marcelle tried but failed to smile. “I guess not.” She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and rose to her feet.
Karl jumped to his feet and grabbed her shoulder to steady her as she swayed for a moment before finding her balance.
She grimaced. “Sorry, low blood pressure. I shouldn’t get up so fast. And today’s race was hard.”
“For you, Tiger? I can’t believe that.”
“I’m not as fit as I usually am. Yes, I could still give those girls a hiding, but I had to put a lot of effort into it.”
“Well, congratulations. World champion again. But I thought you were planning to sit this season out, and have a baby.”
Marcelle led the way to a couch and sat down. Karl settled next to her.
“Yes, that was the plan,” she said. At Karl’s questioning expression she continued, “They implanted four embryos, and not one of them took. Actually, one of them did take, but I miscarried after six weeks.”
Karl pulled her into his arms. “I’m so sorry. I know you had hoped to draw comfort from carrying Jean-Michel’s child.”
She snuggled against his chest. “Even that has been denied me. The doctors said we can try again in a few months, but I’ve decided against it. I’ve realized that I’m really in a bad headspace right now. The miscarriage was probably nature’s way of protecting me. I’m hardly in a fit state to deal with the hormone changes of pregnancy.”
“So you started training again.”
“Yes, though I had missed most of the season, I trained and gained enough fitness to participate in the Tour de Feminin, and that brought me to race fitness to do world champs. And here I am.”
“And where are the boys?”
“With their grandparents. They’re happy to take care of them. They feel as if they’re getting a second chance with Jean-Michel. They’ve shown me his baby photos, and the resemblance is uncanny. Perhaps this will help them to heal too.”
“But what about Nicky?”
“They regard me as their daughter, and Nicky is a part of me, so as far they’re concerned he’s family too. They call him Nicholas instead of Nikolai, but I guess the French form is easier for them to pronounce.”
“When last did you see them?”
She sat up, moving out of his embrace. “About two months ago,” she said, an expression of guilt passing over her face. “But the season is over now, so I’ll be returning to the farm to be with them again. I’m sure they haven’t even missed me.”
“Are they talking yet?”
Marcelle smiled softly. “Just baby talk so far, but I’m sure they’ll get there.”
“Well, the reason I’m here is to invite you to La Montagne for the off season, the same as always. It’s your home too, you know.”
She shrugged, tears glistening in her eyes. “How can it be my home if Stefan isn’t there?”
“But we’re there, and your friends are there. Everyone would love to see the twins and spend some time with you. You’re family. Please Marcelle. Even if you just come for a month to brush up on your training. Remember you’re a rich woman, and therefore a target for kidnapping. I’m glad to see you’re still wearing your watch.”
Marcelle lovingly stroked over the gleaming timepiece on her wrist. “I never take it off. I don’t want to disappear without a trace again.”
“How do you think I tracked you to Germany?” Karl said with a wink. “Have you considered getting something similar for the twins? If you bring them to La Montagne we can explore a few options for a wrist or ankle band.”
“Actually that’s a great idea.” A shadow flitted across her face. “If I had to lose them too, I don’t know what I would do. But I guess they’re safe for now. I mean the world doesn’t even know of their existence. I was on La Montagne for my entire pregnancy, so there were no paparazzi pictures to entertain the public.”
“Best we keep it that way. Can you imagine if they knew? You wouldn’t have a moment of peace.”
“That’s why I took them straight to the farm. I had promised Jean-Michel that his children would grow up on the farm and get to know the wine business. Of course, I had hoped that he would be the one teaching them, but his father is still young enough to do it, so I guess that’s fine. But it would only be fair for them to spend time on La Montagne too, so that Nicky can learn about what his father has built.”
Karl smiled, but he had a sad look in his eyes. Clearly, he didn’t have much hope of finding Stefan after more than ten months.
“But I’ll continue to keep their existence a secret. They haven’t been to my apartment even. Not even my teammates know I have two children. Only Claude knows, and Anthony, and of course Doc Louis. But not Pierre-Henri. I still haven’t forgiven him for that time he gave me amphetamines and nearly killed me.”
Karl nodded. “Stefan wanted to sort him out for that, but the doc made him promise to behave.”
“Is Stefan really gone, Karl? Have you looked, really looked?”
“We’ve used all of Omega’s resources, and we’ll keep doing so. Sooner or later he has to surface.”
“If he’s still alive.”
Karl grimaced. “If he’s still alive.”
Marcelle stared down at her hands. “The thing I miss the most is being held. I miss his arms holding me tight when I feel like I’m ready to fall apart. I need his arms around me now, but I’m alone. I thought that winning the world champs would make me feel lighter, but it only lasted a few minutes.”
Karl moved closer and put his arms around her, cradling the back of her head in the palm of his right hand before pressing her face against his chest. “I’ll hold you, Marcelle, for as long as you need me to. I know it’s not the same, but it’s all I can offer.”
# # #
I have been getting some enquiries regarding Aidan’s Redemption, which is the sequel to Lily’s Reprieve, and is also the second book in the Blackstone Trilogy. I had hoped to publish just after Christmas, but I had underestimated how busy my December would be. The good news is that the cover is done, and the manuscript is complete. I am busy now with final edits, after which I will publish, either on or before January 10, 2014.
For those readers who can’t wait, here’s a three chapter teaser of Aidan’s Redemption to see you through.
Copyright 2013 Niki Savage
“Why do you hide beneath the ground like a wounded animal? Why do you not teach these humans a lesson they will never forget?”
Aidan smiled sadly. As usual, Zargun just wanted to destroy and conquer. “And what lesson would that be?”
“That they must worship us, or die.”
“I could not convince even one human to remain loyal to me. How would I convince billions?”
“Are you still moping over that harlot? She betrayed you. Is that love? You should have destroyed her like the others.”
“I could no more hurt her than I could hurt my own flesh.”
“And yet she watched them beat you, and did nothing.”
“She was as much a prisoner as I was.”
“But you keep forgetting that she had put you in that position. If I had not stepped in, you would be dead now, or locked in a dungeon.”
“And you were only too happy to take advantage of the situation,” Aidan said bitterly.
Oscar glanced up, startled by the sound of his master’s voice. Until now, the verbal exchange had been silent. Zargun spoke in Aidan’s mind, and Aidan answered him in the same way.
“Could I have predicted that the radiation of the sun would set me free?”
“You must have suspected,” Aidan said, answering Zargun in his thoughts.
“I hoped, and my hope was rewarded. You have been too easy on these humans.”
“You forget that I am human too.”
“Your innocence astounds me. You gave up the last of your humanity when you allowed me to teleport us to the sun. Could a human survive such a feat?”
Aidan rose to his feet and walked to an ornate mirror that complemented the antique furnishings in the luxurious room. He studied his image for a few moments before declaring aloud, “I look human. I am human.”
Zargun laughed. “Except that you glow in the dark, despite all your sessions with the black stone. Anyone who comes near you will die within hours, and that includes sweet Lily. But she is as good as dead anyway. By now the leukemia would have destroyed her body.”
Aidan grimaced in pain. “You cannot know that for sure.”
Zargun laughed again. “I can only hope. Let us travel into the future, and see if she is still alive.”
“I will not do that.”
“Because that would destroy the last bit of hope I have.”
“I fail to understand what you see in her. You are better off without her. You are stronger without her. You made yourself vulnerable to protect her, and she used it against you. How can you still care for her after she betrayed you?”
“She betrayed me because I failed her. I should have told her everything from the start, and I should have been true to her.”
“But you were true to her, in your own way.”
“It was not good enough.”
“Well, I think it is time for me to take charge.”
“You, take charge? You are just an alien talking in my head. You have no power over me.”
“You will discover that you are wrong. You are a mere thousand years old, but I have been alive for millions of years. Do you think you can stand against me?”
Before Aidan could answer, incredible pain ripped through his skull. He fell to his knees, screaming Lily’s name as red hot, molten agony tormented every nerve ending in his body.
* * * *
Lily lay on an unfamiliar bed, staring at the crystal wind chime she had hung near the window. The September sun shone through the window, instantly transformed by the crystal facets of the wind chime into brilliant colors that danced on the cream-colored walls of the motel room. Yet the room remained chilly enough for Lily to consider adding a jacket to the jeans and long-sleeved T-shirt she already wore.
James was in the room next door, and they had been on the run for six months. During that time, Lily had discovered that James was under the impression that Aidan worked for a clandestine government organization. He had told her that Aidan had instructed him to go on the run with her if she or Aidan gave him the keyword Ulysses, because that would mean Aidan’s cover had been blown.
It sounded almost believable, if you left out the fact that Aidan was part alien, radioactive, and deadly to anything that crossed his path.
In the beginning, Lily had been under the impression that James expected some kind of contact from his employer. But as the months passed by, it became obvious that Aidan had left them to their own devices.
After exhausting the five locations that Aidan had specified, they had kept on the move, changing location every few days, pretending to be father and daughter on a road trip through America. Most people accepted their story readily, if they were even curious enough to ask.
A sharp rap at the door that connected her room with James’ room startled Lily from her reverie. She sat up and called, “Come in.”
The door opened, and James entered, a smile on his face, though she could see the lines of hardship that the months on the run have carved on his features. He wore beige chinos and an open necked blue shirt, but Lily didn’t think she would ever get used to not seeing him in a suit.
“Having a nap in the middle of the day, luv?”
Lily didn’t have the heart to tell James that she hated it when he used that endearment. It reminded her of Victor, who had fooled her with ease, and tricked her into betraying Aidan. Though he and Patrick had paid for it with their lives, Lily couldn’t move past the fact that she had fallen for their deceit. Self-condemnation haunted her, but she had to bear her burden alone, unable to tell James what had happened that fateful morning when she had betrayed Aidan.
She forced a smile. “Nothing much else to do. And I feel as if I just can’t catch up on my sleep.”
“You slept all day in the car yesterday. Are you sure you’re feeling alright?”
“I’m fine, but I have this horrible headache that just won’t go away. Do you have some Advil in your room?”
“No, luv, but we can get some after lunch. There’s a good restaurant down the road. I think we need a solid meal to get our strength back.”
Lily suppressed a shudder at the thought of food. “`I’ll give it a miss, if you don’t mind. I’m not hungry.”
“I’ll bring you a takeaway, in case you change your mind. And I’ll see what pain pills I can get.”
“Thanks,” Lily said, glad that he had not insisted that they stay together.
James left, and she lay down again, resuming her contemplation of the crystal wind chime Aidan had made for her.
In the rush to leave the Central Park penthouse, she had grabbed what she could in the allotted fifteen minutes. She had left behind all the beautiful designer clothing she owned, and had instead filled her suitcase with sensible shoes, jeans, T-shirts and jerseys. The kind of clothes that she imagined someone on the run would need.
Then she had used five precious minutes to take her wind chime down from the ceiling and pack it in its box. Afterwards she had run to Aidan’s room to grab his favorite woolen sweater and a bottle of his aftershave, tools she could use when the longing became too much to bear.
But she had also disobeyed James’ orders. She had left all her credit cards and her laptop on her bed as instructed, but she had packed her iPad and her iPhone. Aidan’s cell number was in the contacts list of her iPhone, so she had planned to purchase a prepaid sim card, and then call him. But since then a few things had happened that left her hesitant to contact him.
During the first months they had been on the run, she had often woken during the night, sure that she had heard Aidan calling her name. And while awake, she would hear his voice in her mind, telling her over and over that he loved her. She had wondered about that at first, wondering if that was what Aidan had meant when he told her that teleporting to the sun had changed him into something else.
Maybe he had reached a plane of higher enlightenment. Maybe he was now capable of mental telepathy, like the aliens on the planet Hedon. Maybe he was trying to reach her, to reassure her that he was in good health and that they would be together again somehow.
But if he had wanted to do that, he could just have phoned James. At each of the five locations, James had found a locker that contained new papers and an unlisted cell phone. But no call had ever come through on any of the phones, adding to James’ belief that Aidan was dead, because he had not contacted them as agreed. But Lily knew better. She had betrayed Aidan, had trampled on his love for her, and this banishment and uncertainty was her punishment.
Her eyelids grew heavy as she stared at the crystal wind chime, and a few minutes later, she fell asleep.
~ . ~
Lily woke what felt like only minutes later when James burst into the room. She jumped to her feet, startled, but then immediately sat on her bed again as the world turned dark in front of her eyes. She took a few deep breaths before looking up at James. “What is it?”
“We have to get out of here,” he said, two spots of high color in his cheeks. “Some strangers at the restaurant were asking questions, looking for someone of your description.”
Lily yawned. “I’m sure this town is filled with plenty of blonde twenty something girls.”
“They described a scar on the girl’s forearm.” He grabbed her right arm and pushed back her sleeve to reveal a crescent shaped scar dating back to her childhood. “They described this scar.”
Lily gasped as her insides turned to ice.
“You need to pack,” James said. “We’re leaving in ten minutes.”
Lily didn’t need ten minutes to pack. She rarely unpacked her suitcase anymore. It took her three minutes to unhook the wind chime and pack it into its box, and a further thirty seconds to sweep her toiletries off the bathroom counter and into her toiletry bag. Slipping on her trainers and tying her shoelaces took less than a minute. Only five minutes had passed by the time she walked through to James’ room with her suitcase.
He had already slammed his suitcase shut. “We’re getting good at this,” he said, trying to inject humor into the tense atmosphere.
Lily played along, forcing a smile. “Practice makes perfect. Where to this time?”
James frowned. “Let’s just keep heading north, as far away from New York as we can get. When we see a town we like, we’ll stop off for a couple of days again. I just don’t know how they keep finding us.”
Lily didn’t know either, but she had a strong suspicion. Last night she had used her iPad, and today strangers were looking for her. Victor had once asked to borrow her iPad while his had been in for repairs, which strengthened her belief that the iPad was suspect. “James, I forgot something in the bathroom. You start the car. I’ll be right behind you.”
“Don’t be long,” he said as he headed out the door with his suitcase.
Lily stepped back into her room and opened her suitcase. Her iPad lay on top of her clothing. She grabbed it and ran into the bathroom. After lifting her iPad high above her head, she smashed it onto the edge of the bath. The back cover of the device shattered, exposing a tiny circuit board, and a blinking red light. Two small leads attached the circuit board to the battery of the iPad, and Lily tugged it free before grinding it to pieces beneath her heel.
This explained a lot, and she felt a surge of rage at the damage Victor was still wreaking, even though he was long dead. No doubt, he and Patrick had planted the device, hoping it would lead them to Aidan’s hideout, but she had never taken her iPad to the mansion, knowing that she wouldn’t need such entertainment with Aidan in the vicinity.
But after her escape, the Order of St. Lucian had found another use for the tracking device, and only because she had disobeyed James, who had told her to leave all electronic devices behind in New York.
She left the ruined iPad in the bathroom, grabbed her suitcase and stormed out of the room to where James waited. She still kept her iPhone, because it had never left her possession, so she knew that Victor couldn’t have installed a tracking device in it.
Minutes later, they drove out of town. In the next town, they planned to use one of James’ false identities to trade the brown Ford they were travelling in for a different car.
Always moving forward, always running, trying to remain alive, but was this living?
* * * *
With the new car fueled up, James and Lily took turns driving, sleeping in shifts, and stopping only for food or fuel. As the sun rose the next morning, Lily slipped her sunglasses on, and glanced at James’ sleeping face. She felt a stab of guilt, knowing she had put his life at risk. Six months on the run wasted because she had a tracking device in her iPad.
The leads attached to her battery told her that the device had been feeding off the power of her iPad, which is why they’d had times of relative peace when her battery had been flat, and she had not bothered to charge it.
But last night she had discovered that the motel had free wireless, so she had charged her iPad and logged on to the internet, desperate to check her mail, hoping to find an email from Aidan. Instead, she found close to a hundred emails from Suzy, imploring her to respond.
She had thought it was safe to use her iPad, because she had removed the sim card and disabled location services before they had left New York.
But she had no way of knowing that the tracking device would report her general position every time she logged on to a wireless network. And that could have cost James his life. He would have fought to the death to defend her, and he was capable of it. Lily had discovered that James had worked most of his life for a British agency in London, who hired out bodyguards who posed as butlers.
James had told her that when he reached retirement age, Aidan had approached him and offered him employment as caretaker of his apartment in New York. James had jumped at the opportunity, eager to explore new horizons.
But had he signed up for this? The order of St. Lucian wasn’t interested in him, though they would kill him if he stood in their way. No, they wanted her, for reasons she could only imagine. But she had a few ideas. The first obvious idea was that they wanted to use her to draw Aidan out into the open. But how would they achieve that, if she didn’t even know where he was?
But another, far more sinister agenda worried her. She had heard Charles and his father talking in the elevator while she had been in the coffin. From the conversation, she had gathered that Charles had found the hazardous material container with the used condoms. God only knew what they planned to do with that, but she was quite sure that they meant for her to play an integral part in their plans.
James woke and stretched as best he could in the cramped confines of the passenger seat.
“Did you have a good rest?” Lily asked, glancing at him.
He frowned as he stared at his watch. “You were supposed to wake me three hours ago.”
She smiled. “You looked like you needed the rest, Grandpa. I still have quite a buzz going from that enormous cup of coffee I had at midnight. Go back to sleep, it’s all under control.”
James relaxed again and closed his eyes. “If you say so, luv. Wake me when we reach the next town. I think it’s time we find somewhere to book in so we can get cleaned up.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Lily said brightly, fighting the exhaustion hovering behind her eyelids. A sign indicated fifty miles to Bellingham, a town close to the border of Canada.
Look out for the rest of Aidan’s Redemption on January 10.
Beter late than never, is what I always say. I had promised that my new book, Lily’s Reprieve, would be available at the end of January 2013. And I almost made it, except I was two weeks late. 😉 But sometimes life intrudes, and I’m sticking to that story. Lily’s Reprieve, which is book one of The Blackstone Trilogy, is available now at Barnes & Noble, Apple Itunes, Smashwords and Kobo.
This is my first foray into paranormal romance, so I have made the book free at Smashwords, and it will soon be free at all retailers except Amazon. I plan to add two more books to the series to complete the Blackstone Trilogy.
I have included a picture of the cover for Lily’s Reprieve. If anyone is wondering what is on the cover, I am happy to explain. That is what it looks like when the gorgeous, yummy, handsome and sexy Aidan Knight disappears in a brilliant flash of light. Why, do you ask? Well, you’ll have to download the book to find out.
Crossfire, the first book in the Crossfire Trilogy, is free on Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, Sony, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Diesel. On iTunes, Crossfire has more than 220 ratings and reviews across the series, and on Barnes & Noble there are several enthusiastic five star reviews.
I have noticed a lot of new blog visitors, and it has left me wondering if they are looking for a different Crossfire Trilogy, written by Sylvia Day, which was published recently. So far only the first book “Bared to You: A Crossfire Novel ” is available. I believe the next one will be out in October. But while you are waiting, please check out the book I mentioned above. My Crossfire Trilogy is complete, and I promise love, romance, action and instant gratification.
If you look at the comments on the right hand side of the page, you will see that many readers have left comments saying how much they have enjoyed the Crossfire Trilogy. And the first book is free. That’s a good offer, and shows how confident I am that readers will go on to purchase the second and third book in the Crossfire Trilogy. The reading order is Crossfire, Crossfire: Fire & Ice and Crossfire: Hearts on Fire.
Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog, and please come back soon.
***** UPDATE Hearts on Fire is available at all major ebook retailers***** UPDATE
Hearts on Fire is finally available at Barnes and Noble, at the iBookstore and Sony. I would like to thank #Smashwords for working tirelessly to ensure that everyone can obtain my books, no matter where they are in the world, or what device they are using.
***** UPDATE Hearts on Fire is available at all major ebook retailers***** UPDATE
I have noticed from search engine results and from the comments section that readers are looking for Crossfire: Hearts on Fire at Barnes &Noble, the Apple iBook Store and the Sony store. For now, Hearts on Fire can be found at Amazon , Smashwords , Diesel and Kobo.
As a South African, I cannot publish directly to B&N and the iBook store, or even Sony. So I go through Smashwords, who distributes to these online stores. It takes a little while, because Smashwords does a manual review of the book to ensure that they are happy with it before they will give it Premium Distribution. Normally it takes about two weeks for the review, after which they will send it to the various stores. I have found that for the Apple store and for B&N it takes a further two weeks to appear, but with the Sony store, it’s normally a few days.
So, realistically, Hearts on Fire won’t be available at B&N or the Apple iBook store before maybe June 10, or even later. That’s the bad news.
Here’s the good news. Because Smashwords is a distributor for these stores, they have all the formats available in their own retail store. So it doesn’t matter if you have a Nook, a Sony reader, an iPad or an iPhone, you will find the correct format at Smashwords. So for those of you who want to read the third and final book in the Crossfire Trilogy now, please make your way to Smashwords by clicking on the link.
I have also had some enquiries regarding the spinoff novella Driftwood that I wrote for Kindle, which is only available at Amazon. Driftwood will be available at the other stores around the middle of June. Yes, that was a little experiment of mine, which I regret, and I will certainly never again make any book of mine exclusively available at any particular store.
Crossfire, the first book in the Crossfire Trilogy, is available for free at all major online retailers. Everyone, that is, except Amazon. Unlike Smashwords, Amazon does not give me the freedom to decide if I want to give a book away. There is a way around it, though. If enough customers report a lower price elsewhere, Amazon will usually match the price, which in this case, will make Crossfire a free book at Amazon. It’s very easy to do. Just go to the Crossfire page at Amazon, and click on the link that says ‘tell us about a lower price.’ Then you put in the link for B&N or iBook Store or Sony where Crossfire is free, and you’re done. If enough people do that, Amazon will have to react, and I would really appreciate the help.
The trend I’m seeing at the moment is that Amazon customers download the free copy of Crossfire from Smashwords, and then go on to purchase the second and third one from Amazon. This would make it impossible for their collection to be displayed together, because the free copy will be listed as a personal document on their kindle, whereas the Amazon purchased copies will be listed as books. So, please help, it will only take a few minutes of your time.
I would like to thank everyone who has purchased books in the Crossfire Trilogy, and certainly from the feedback I’ve had so far, the books have been well received.
It is now 04:14 on a Wednesday morning in South Africa, but I know somewhere in the world, it’s still Tuesday. So I think that still counts. I kept my promise, and Crossfire: Hearts on Fire is available on Smashwords and Amazon.
By the way, for those who read the first few chapters of Hearts on Fire at the end of Fire & Ice, it would be worth it to start Hearts on Fire from the beginning, because I made a few changes to those first few chapters.
Happy reading to all, and thanks for your patience. (I’m going to bed now, and I plan to sleep for a week.)
Well, I guess that’ll teach me to make promises. Two months ago, on February 7, a reader asked me when I planned to publish the third installment of the Crossfire Trilogy. I had just finished the manuscript, and replied very confidently that I’ll release Hearts on Fire in 6 to 8 weeks. After all, I just had to do the edits, right? Wrong. I had miscalculated, forgetting that Hearts on Fire at 96 000 words was almost double the length of Crossfire or Fire & Ice, which had each taken me two months to edit. And double the length means double the editing time.
I did my best, working seven days a week, in the process cutting nearly 7000 words from the manuscript while tightening up my language. Don’t worry, I didn’t cut any scenes, just silly words like eventually, finally, really and other words that slow down the speed of the story. Believe me, when I edit it’s more like an interrogation of the manuscript, and it’s brutal.
The good news is that I almost made it. And if April 7 had not fallen right in the middle of the Easter weekend and left me with a very busy household, I would have made it. Yesterday I still thought I had a chance, if I used Los Angeles time instead of South African time, but an hour ago, I realized the game was up.
To give you an update of my progress, the edits are finished. What I normally do once the edits are finished is to convert my word file to a kindle file, load it on my kindle, and give it a final read through as a reader, not a writer. I have the uncanny ability to read a piece of my work as if I had not written it, so this final read through is very important. I always think of a book as a symphony, and when I read it for the last time, I’m listening to my book’s music, and listening for clangers. Yes, I just made up that word. But what I mean by that is anything that jars, anything that pulls you out of the story, like this. CLANG. It could mean a missing word, or an extra word, or a missing punctuation mark, anything like that.
That’s what I’m busy with now, but with the amount of interruptions I’m getting, I’ve had to put it aside. I’ve realized there is no point in trying to rush it, because I would hate to put out a product that isn’t as perfect as I can make it.
So I’m in the homestretch, and will announce it here the moment Hearts on Fire is available.
I want to say Tuesday but I don’t want to make any promises. Shh.