Mixed Blessings [NOOK Book]

Overview

Internal scars are becoming as difficult to hide for Vincent Gabriele as his external scars. He's a man on a mission to solve a mystery and he believes Daniela Blessing is just the woman to help him succeed. But Danni's temper is as hot as her body and her psychic ability, and despite his best efforts he's made her angry.


(Warning: Contains fiery tempers, a fiery crash and some smokin' hot sex)

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Mixed Blessings

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Overview

Internal scars are becoming as difficult to hide for Vincent Gabriele as his external scars. He's a man on a mission to solve a mystery and he believes Daniela Blessing is just the woman to help him succeed. But Danni's temper is as hot as her body and her psychic ability, and despite his best efforts he's made her angry.


(Warning: Contains fiery tempers, a fiery crash and some smokin' hot sex)

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940011215018
  • Publisher: Lainey Bancroft
  • Publication date: 2/16/2011
  • Sold by: Smashwords
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 248 KB

Meet the Author


I'll stretch my fiction skills to the limit in an attempt to make a suburban Ontario housewife sound scintillating. Here goes:


By day Lainey Bancroft is a mild mannered office manager for the HVAC business she owns with her husband (frequently referred to as Gas, long story—with several different endings). The office is run from her home so she has the luxury of working in her pj’s 24/7 and is also available as a truant officer for her teens, Groovy Girl, who prefers art to arithmetic and is attending the local college for graphic design, and Groovy’s brother Tech who spends hours on end playing guitar riffs from old head banger music and would rather hack into the school computer than actually go to school. (We reckon he'll either be the next Billy the Kid or the next Bill Gates)


Lainey likes to indulge her athletic side by cleaning up after a six-month-old Golden Doodle puppy, a.k.a as the 'Dirt Devil' who lives to shred houseplants, a geriatric, attitude disordered cat that thinks he is a German Sheppard, and the newest addition to the family, a pure black kitten who wandered in despite the other crazy pets and never left. We call her Stella because she can scream just like DeNiro. Stel...lah! Yep, showing my age, for sure. Shocked


In addition to gardening and a vast kitchen repertoire that has earned her the—ahem, privilege—of hosting every family party and event, Lainey also writes. Her romance stories run the gamut on the sensuality scale, leaving her to wonder if she is sinfully sweet, or sweetly sinful. Last week she celebrated her 13th release, the novella Sunni Side Up included in The Wild Rose Press OUT OF THE DARK anthology. Lainey also has short works of erotic romance and speculative fiction published under a name she has yet to publicly admit to. Stay tuned.


There!


And if that didn’t fulfill your more- than-you-ever-wanted-to-know wishes, feel free to pop over to my web site elaineforlife.com

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Read an Excerpt

"If you were sporting a white clerical collar, I'd swear I'd just witnessed an exorcism."

His voice carried a note of resonance Danni would have called pleasant if he hadn't chosen to sneak up on her and make her nearly jump out of her still tingling skin. She paused, one blade on and one off. "I beg your pardon?" She settled her weight on her bare foot, but glancing back at him thought better of it. He towered over her. She propped a hand on the hood of her Jeep YJ and shifted to the foot still on wheels to gain a few inches of height. She raised her brows in her best back-off-Jack expression. He failed to read the message.

"What exactly did you do to the girl?"

Danni shrugged. "You don't look like a cop to me, and even if you were, last I checked there's no law about comforting a scared child." Despite his casual attire--jean shorts, battered sneakers, and a cherry red ball cap perched jauntily backward over thick, blue-black hair--an aura of danger hung as dense as pea-soup fog around him.

Anger energetic enough to spike the hair on the back of her neck crackled from him, yet she didn't perceive a threat. Instead, her curiosity piqued, and she barely suppressed the urge to grip the thick, tanned forearm he'd rested inches from hers to see if she could discover what fueled his fury. Wilted from her episode with Kaleigh, she knew she lacked the strength for another encounter.

"I've never seen a frantic child calmed so quickly. Whatever you did, it impressed the hell out of me. But then, I have reason to believe you're pretty impressive at the best of times."

"Do I know you?"

His crooked smile, complete with a hint of a dimple in his right cheek,would have been engaging if she could detect a hint of warmth or friendliness in the smoke-grey eyes he'd aimed at her like lasers. "No, but I know you. Or I guess I should say I know about you."

Apprehension tickled through her nerve endings. Turning from his unwavering stare, she bent to unbuckle her rollerblade. She aimed for a nonchalant chuckle, but it sounded forced even to her. "I guess you know I skate in the park occasionally. Besides that, what exactly is it you think you know about me, Mr...."

"Gabriele," he supplied, proffering a hand for shaking. "Vincent Gabriele. Call me Vince. And I know everything about you, Miss Blessing. Everything I need to know."

She heard a definite note of warning in his final sentence. The throbbing that had barely receded in her head began anew. Ignoring his hand, she hugged her skate against the fork of discomfort prodding her belly. How the hell did he know her name? "And I know everything I need to know about you as well, Mr. Gabriele."

"Really?" This time the smile traveled to his eyes, sending a sparkle of light to brighten the granite.

She allowed her gaze to meet his. Immediately, her nerves receded and a smoldering mixture of emotions wafted through her, sending the familiar heat to dance in her veins. She jerked her eyes away, unprepared to cope with the hostility, heartbreak, and hazard emanating from him. "Yes. I know a man who attempts to intimidate a woman on a sunny Sunday afternoon in a park is not someone I want to know."

Danni scooped her other skate, tucked the blades through the unzipped window of her soft-top, and hopped in the driver's seat. She reached her keys toward the ignition and realized he'd settled a foot securely on her running board and had slung a thickly muscled arm casually over the passenger seat. "My intention was not to intimidate. I apologize."

She fiddled with her keys, aware that she could throw the Jeep into gear and easily escape without doing more harm than knocking him over and leaving him with a few bruises. Something kept her from doing it. "Care to tell me exactly what your intention is?" She realized her curiosity about him fell secondary to her need to better understand the strange claim he'd made. No one knew everything about her. She'd spent the last ten years making sure of that. "No, start by telling me what it is you supposedly know about me."

"You grew up here in St. Catharines but left in your teens. You've only been back for a couple of years. You're a black belt in karate and teach women's self-defense courses several times a year. For the last three years, you've had an on-again, off-again relationship with your codirector at A Place For Peace, the nonprofit organization you helped organize to assist people--mainly women--when they're at a crossroads in life. Gary Bellows, a psychologist specializing in anger management. I assume the relationship is currently on. The two of you had dinner last night on a patio in Port Dalhousie. Looked pretty cozy."

"You've been following me?" She hadn't managed to contain the shrill note of disbelief in her tone. So much for her abilities. She'd assumed the vague sense of discomfort veiling her lately was guilty conscience for the myriad of wrong reasons she'd rekindled things with Gary. Obviously having a man the size of a linebacker track her like prey had caused it. How had she missed that?

Vincent Gabriele had the sort of dark, menacing look that she'd practically made a career out of noticing. Her curiosity began to take a back seat to her anger. "Are you aware of the stalking laws, Mr. Gabriele?"

"Stalking is such a dirty word. I prefer to think of it as careful research." The dimple in his right cheek flashed, but his eyes narrowed, giving his smile a feral quality that forced a shiver from her.

Again she reached for her keys, and again, something kept her from starting the car. Why had he followed her? "Research?"

"Mm-hm. I'm very thorough. Daniela Elise Blessing. D.O.B. November first, '81. Father unknown. Mother Marie Blessing. She OD'ed when you were two. They never confirmed whether the death was suicide or accidental. You were raised by your widowed grandmother, Celia Blessing and her sister-in-law, Rosa."

He recited the facts calmly, as though he read from a cop's pocket notebook, but his chilly grey eyes never left hers. Danni wanted to tell him to stop, but her curiosity wouldn't allow it. Another shiver ran through her and she hugged herself, her fingers playing over the triangular scar at her elbow. A pebble had embedded itself almost completely in her skin when she'd flown from the swing. Nana had dug it out with the tip of a potato peeler. She'd been none too gentle about it either. On humid days such as this, it throbbed like a fresh wound, but Danni thought it was mostly her imagination.

"It was neither an accident, nor a suicide," she said softly, still eager to defend the mother she had no memory of. Still eager to believe something she'd never been able to prove. "Go on."

The brief euphoria she'd experienced from her victory with Kaleigh seeped from her as memories flooded in. She tried to contain the panic and grief they caused, but he apparently possessed a fair amount of perception. For a man. The cocky smile slipped from his face and he drew his dark, heavy brows together. "Are you all right?"

"Are you leaving?"

His lips quirked to the right. "Not until I'm done."

Danni flagged a dismissive hand. "Then I'm not all right. Hurry up and make your point so I can be."

"You missed a lot of school as a kid. Enough that your aunt began homeschooling you. It worked for a while, until you started getting in trouble for making prank phone calls. To the police," he concluded pointedly. "Did they ever take you seriously?"

The soft tone and note of concern when he asked only served to piss her off. "You tell me. You're running this episode of this is my life."

He chuckled at her snide retort. Danni shook her head, wondering what it was about the rumble of his laughter that almost made her want to join in. "They never did. Someone decided maybe your aunt wasn't the best influence. You resumed public school, but when you were in ninth grade you got suspended for vandalizing a school bus."

"I did not vandalize that bus." The urge to laugh with him was replaced by the urge to slap him. "I disabled it." The intrusive bastard certainly had done his homework. "We're finished here, Mr. Gabriele."

"Not by a long shot. The day you va--excuse me, disabled that bus your science class was on the way to the Botanical Gardens in Niagara Falls. A tanker rolled on the Garden City skyway. It exploded, Miss Blessing, causing a multicar pile-up, several deaths, and numerous injuries. Right around the time your bus would have been there."

Enough! She closed her eyes against a fresh wave of nausea. Cornered like an animal with her own past. Secrets she thought she'd buried long ago. Sweat trickled between her breasts and down her spine. She wanted to rip off the canvas top, drive like a bat out of hell, and let the breeze blow the miseries of the morning away.

He'd found her once. He'd find her again. But for now, she needed to escape and regroup. Her fingers were slick on the key as she turned it in the ignition.

Instead of leaping away when she popped the clutch and ground into first, he hopped athletically in beside her. Danni didn't feel like she had any control over the primal growl she emitted. He shifted toward her. "Don't do it," she snapped, throwing the gearshift into neutral herself.

He snatched his hand back like she'd smacked him and turned to send her a wary glance. "How did you know?"

She smirked. "I know your type. You've no intention of letting me go until you've fulfilled whatever demented mission you're on." She sighed as she eased the Jeep into an empty parking spot near the exit. "I don't need a mechanics repair bill in addition to whatever headaches you plan to cause me. What the hell do you want from me, Mr. Gabriele?"

"Do you see much of your aunt?"

The unexpected question speared pain through her temples again. Tears prickled behind her lids. Auntie Rosa had lost it when she'd been charged with tampering in a police investigation. She'd been so sure the young pregnant woman had been abducted by her cheating husband and drowned in the lake near the family's summer home. Positive actually. By that time, she'd had a decent working relationship with several members of the Niagara Regional police. They'd followed her leads, dredging the lake. No one had been more surprised, or devastated, than Rosa when the young woman had been found in a motel room a few miles from her home. Floating face down in a hot tub.

"Did she ever recover?" he asked softly.

She blinked back the tears and raised her eyes to his. They were a clear enough grey she could see the tufts of cumulous clouds reflected like tiny white lights in his irises. "Never. She's medicated enough to not remember her own name." Or mine, she thought, a weighty sorrow settling with all her other miseries as she thought of the vague expression on Rosa's face and the fact that she'd called Danni, Marie--her mother's name--the last few times she'd visited.

"Shame. True sometimes what they say about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. Or maybe her intentions weren't quite as pure as she wanted everyone to believe."

The compassion he'd briefly exhibited disappeared like a puff of smoke, replaced by a hard glare of accusation. It was an expression she'd grown all too familiar with over the years of defending Rosa, which is why she'd eventually been forced to disassociate from her aunt altogether. There were just some people determined to believe Rosa had deliberately misled the investigators.

She sighed. "Rosa did the best she could with an ability she never wanted and never fully understood."

"Ah, the old, I-don't-know-my-own-power defense."

The way he clucked his tongue, as though he were disappointed in her for marching out the lame excuse, immediately put her on the defensive. "My aunt had--has--a heart of gold, and I will not sit here and have you dredge up ancient history in an attempt to tarnish it." She reached toward the glove compartment and yanked out her cell phone. "Get to the point, Mr. Gabriele, or I'm calling the cops."

"I wouldn't if I were you." His words were mild, the accompanying smile pure acid. "Fine, I'll buy that, your aunt is confused, weak. But you're stronger than she ever was. Aren't you, Miss Blessing?"

Danni bit back the automatic yes that sprang to her lips. Really, any of the facts he'd reported so passionlessly could be attributed to Rosa. Even the school bus. She could claim her aunt had warned her, urged her to tamper with the bus. Maybe he didn't know a damn thing about her after all. "I've no idea what you're talking about."

"Please don't insult me with any more denials. I told you I'd done my research. Even a rank amateur could connect Danni Best to Daniela Blessing. I assure you, I'm no amateur."

No, the determined slash of his jaw made it clear he'd be a man who took the most direct, professional approach to whatever he sought. "Who are you?"

"I'm a man with questions."

Questions he obviously thought she could answer. Danni decided the most expedient way to rid herself of him would be to let him ask. "I doubt I can help you, but go ahead and ask."

"As I understand things, it's common in the uncommon world of psychics for a gifted person to experience the victim's pain. To grab hold of a raggedy teddy bear and be able to find a lost kid. To feel an unexplained pain or connection, and seek out the repressed or abused woman."

Danni tried to laugh, but it emerged a feeble warble. "Been reading your pulp paperbacks, have you? I'm sure I saw that somewhere, too. Believe me, I'm not in the habit of carting around stuffed toys, or rescuing little Timmys from wells."

"Not on record, anyway."

His certainty infuriated her. Obviously, no matter what she said he had no intention of backing off. "Look, Mr. Gabriele, if your kid is missing standard procedure is to call the cops. Their standard procedure will be to blame your ex."

"No kid. No ex. And no damn luck with the cops." He delivered the statement blandly, but then another of the rumbling chuckles spiked the hair on her arms. "Didn't you know that?"

Thoroughly frustrated by the conversation and growing wearier by the minute, Danni snorted. "What, you think it works that way? Like freakin' satellite TV or something. Three thousand channels of other people's misery and secrets I can tune in to on a whim." She made the mistake of looking at him again. Beneath his smirk, she sensed the vulnerability of a wound he couldn't heal and couldn't quit picking at. Again she resisted the impulse to touch him and discover what had ripped open the chasm she felt echoing inside him.

Brokenhearted guys weren't her thing. There were much more dangerous situations to exhaust her so-called talents trying to mend. "I know a lot less about you than you appear to know about me, Mr. Gabriele. And that's still more than I want to know. Are we done now?"

"If you'll confirm something for me, we can be. For now."

She didn't like that "for now" part, but she gave a small nod. "I might."

"Various things I've discovered have led me to believe you can reach past the victim and grasp hold of the victimizer. Am I right?"

Relief washed her like summer rain, loosening the tension in her aching muscles enough to make her sag. He was a reporter or something, just satisfying his curiosity. He didn't actually want her to find someone. She'd feared he'd approached her to hunt down a cheating spouse. Then she'd had the idiotic notion she'd been about to get busted by the psychic police or something for relieving other young girls of the disturbing visions that had plagued her as a child. She didn't steal their abilities, per se. She'd just discovered a way to compartmentalize them until the girls reached an age where they could choose to reopen the door--or leave it forever locked.

She nodded again. Her voice feeble and hoarse when she admitted, "Sometimes one. Sometimes the other. Often both."

"That's pretty rare. Right?"

A zealot's excitement seemed to light him from within, unnerving her all over again. She shrugged. "Not like I'm a member of a secret club where we compare notes or anything. I can only tell you what I experience."

"And you can feel--or see, or whatever--the perpetrators?"

"Sometimes," she said in qualification, not bothering to add the odds were about ninety-nine-point-nine when she tried.

He actually whooped like an excited kid at a ball game. "Excellent. Then you're going to help me find someone."

Again, she had the urge to slap him, or maybe toss him out on the tarmac and throw a few crescent kicks at his thick scull for his arrogant assumption she'd do whatever he ordered. "Why would I do that?"

"Because, Miss Blessing, February twentieth of this year when you went out of town you weren't actually at a symposium on high needs children."

Danni said nothing. She couldn't have even if she'd wanted to. Her stomach had planted itself firmly in her throat. He'd been tracking her for six months?

He delivered a single nod, as though he'd read her panicked thoughts. "I know where you were, and I know what you did there. While I personally view your actions as quite heroic, I'm not at all certain the authorities would see things the same way. What do you think?"

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