All I ever wanted was a home—stability, hard walls, and roots so deep they could withstand the strongest storm. Through long hours and determination, I was finally on my way, signing contracts for my brick and mortar ship, and beginning to feel settled for the first time in my life.
But the night I met John Eaton, I felt that stability crumble. His smile was a mixture of little boy and pure devil at the same time. I knew his type, knew the sort of games that came with men like him.
So I pushed. But he pulled harder. I tried to fight it, to shove away the connection that clawed at my heart, but it was too late. Roots dug in, grew deep, and twisted. John fell for me, and I for him. He was impossible to resist. I was his.
But a secret is a dangerous thing. Held for too long, it can rip a life apart.
Destroy the man I loved.
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The rain was coming hard and fast as I stood in the middle of the shop. Row after row of pieces were laid out on the floor in front of me like a puzzle, all alphabetized, just as I’d done before. And just like last time, slot X was missing. I grabbed the box and held it upside down, shaking it a few times, praying that somewhere, slot X was hidden inside. Nothing. It was empty. Completely empty.
I lifted my glasses and rubbed my eyes. Hard. This wasn’t happening. This really wasn’t happening. I could feel the blood boiling under the surface of my skin, and I took a calming breath. You can go back to the warehouse in the morning, get a totally different unit. Or better yet, try to find something already assembled. The pressure of the last few days was crushing me. I needed sleep, I needed a vacation, a day at the beach with a mojito in my hand. But… the shop hadn’t even opened yet.
Then I heard a loud ping from behind me, echoing through the silence of the empty back room. It was a sound I’d heard a few other times in my life, but one that was never welcomed. I turned around, just in time to hear it again. The sound of water—dripping. Another drop of rain hit the metal counter in the middle of the room, and I closed my eyes. This was a nightmare. There was no way I could handle this. I was out of money, running out of product, and out of time. I could handle going to the warehouse in the morning. I could handle losing another day of work, but a leak in the roof was something I just couldn’t take.
Then it came again, the sound barely audible, but one that caused every cell in my body to explode. I picked up a piece of shelving from the floor and slammed it as hard as I could against the counter. I let out a cry, the impact so heavy it caused my palms to ache—but the shelf remained perfectly intact. I wanted to scream. I needed it broken. I needed something to take the pressure from my life. Tears fell to my cheeks, and my whole body began to shake. I lifted the shelf over my head and slammed it down again. Harder. Then again, and again, and—and someone grabbed me from behind and hauled me against their chest.
“Shhh… It’s okay, you’re okay.”
John wrapped his arms around my waist, pulling me backward, holding my shaking body firm against his. I lowered my arms, letting the solid board fall in one piece to the ground. Defeated.
“You’re okay. Shhh…”
I wrapped my arms around my waist, trying to hide that part of me away. To shield the evidence of my pain. This was all I ever wanted, the thing I’d been dreaming of since I was eight years old. To own something that was mine. But every day I could feel it slipping, and I didn’t have it in me to hold on any longer. My body sagged, and he held me closer, harder, causing the vibrations in my limbs to sink into his.
I didn’t know why he was doing this. Or even why he was here. But most of all, I didn’t know why I was letting him. Things would be awkward in the morning, I knew that, but for some reason, I couldn’t pull away. I was weak and he was strong. I needed strength. I didn’t even care at what cost.
I shook my head, feeling another tear slip into the corner of my mouth. “How do you know?” My voice was broken, hoarse. “Everything is falling apart.”
Taylor is a contemporary romance author who loves writing stories about real people. Ones with hopes, dreams, fears, insecurities, and flaws. She loves to read as much as she loves to write, and is thrilled to share her first novel with you.
When Taylor isn’t writing, she can often be found with her nose in a book, her face behind a camera, or spending time with her husband and three young children.
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