Read an Excerpt
The Waiting Game
By Eve Devon, Rochelle French
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Eve Devon
All rights reserved.
One hundred, ninety-three, eighty-six ... Anxiety skittered along Brooke Bennet's spine as she realized what she was doing. Counting backward in multiples. Damn. Five years had passed since the kidnapping, and although her therapist had been quick to reassure her the pattern of counting was simply a coping mechanism left over from the trauma, she hated that it sneaked up on her. It meant she wasn't as fixed as she'd like to think.
In the living room of her tiny French country house, she repositioned herself on the yoga mat and forced the numbers from her head as she transitioned from Downward Dog to Warrior One.
She'd felt a little off all week. A little jumpy. But that wasn't unusual for her. She simply had to keep busy in order to outmaneuver the unfurling tentacles of the eerie sensation. If she managed to keep the tension at bay, eventually the feeling would peter out. She just had to grit her teeth. Wait it out.
Easier said than done.
Usually a long yoga practice helped, but when the building tension forced her ribcage to contract rather than expand, she gave up any pretense of trying to find her spiritual center. Dropping out of the pose, she got to her feet and went to the kitchen to fix herself a drink.
She found a wineglass, and after setting it down on the granite counter, uncorked a bottle of pinot noir, poured the wine, and took a long sip, waiting for the alcohol to relax her muscles.
The furious bark of her neighbor's dog caught her off guard. She jerked, accidentally knocking the glass of wine over the edge of the counter. It smashed on the unforgiving slate floor.
Her heart racing, she stood statue-still while she searched out the kitchen window for something — anything — out of place. But everything looked as it always did. After a few moments, the dog settled down.
Her thumping heart would take longer.
In the stark silence that followed, she stared at the floor. Crystal shards shone like a jagged cobweb under the harsh fluorescent light, mirroring the myriad fissures that had spread across her soul the last couple of years. She couldn't seem to eradicate her internal mess, but at least she could clean up the one on the kitchen floor before the puddle of red wine left a stain.
She grabbed a newspaper off the countertop, then sank to her knees to pick up slivers of glass. In a few minutes, all evidence of the spill would be gone, but she couldn't help wishing that erasing the aftereffects of what she'd endured could be as easy.
Get a grip. So the antsy feelings had freaked her out a little. She'd cope. She knew how to do this. Knew how to exist this way. And it wasn't by focusing on the scars of her past, or even on the parts she'd managed to repair. It was by softening her focus and going about her simple and quiet existence. Nerves of steel were what it had taken to rebuild her life out here in quiet Châteauroux, only a two-hour drive outside bustling Paris.
But millions of miles away from what had come before.
The echoing peal of the doorbell startled her. But this time, panic didn't spread through her system the way it had moments before. Control kept her even. Steady. That would be her neighbor, begging forgiveness for the dog's bark, as usual. She rose to her feet, dumped paper and glass into the bin, then padded barefoot through the hall to the door. Plastering on a smile, she yanked open the door.
And stared uncomprehendingly.
Oh, God. Not her neighbor.
Shock rendered her voiceless. Breathless. And then joy and hope leaped along nerve endings.
On her doorstep.
As if by its own accord, her hand reached out, then froze in midair. Why was Cam here? Why now?
Staring at him, she struggled to compute his presence, so out of context. She took in his casual stance. How his hands were shoved into the back pockets of worn jeans. How the buttons of his shirt strained against the breadth of his shoulders. How his heart beat under the light fabric of his shirt.
But as she swung her gaze back up to his face, she caught his tight expression and the edge of something in his eyes that tugged at her and refused to let go — something she recognized but didn't want to remember.
"Cam?" she said with a voice barely audible, and then her knees went weak.
She pitched forward, but his strong hands shot out in support. He eased her back, kicked the door shut, and propped her gently against the plastered hallway wall before taking a small step back. Leaving her to stand on her own. But his hands flexed at his sides as if ready to catch her again.
"You're here," she finally got out. In Châteauroux. In her house. Cameron. The man she'd once loved. The man whose life she'd destroyed, along with her own. Five years ago she'd run from him — from her life. Had gone into hiding, not even letting him know where she'd run to. "How did you know where to find me?" she managed.
"I've always known."
"No." She shook her head. He couldn't have. Only a couple of people knew where she lived, and she'd made sure Cameron wasn't one of them. Confusion set in. If he'd known her address, surely he would have made contact before now.
Despite the fact she'd refused to see him before fleeing England.
Maybe something had changed. Maybe somehow he'd found forgiveness and wanted her to know. Or he'd managed to tease her location out of Steven or Megan. Would her friends have told him where she was, though?
She wanted to reach out and touch him, but she didn't dare. She had no rights where Cameron Dexter was concerned. Not after bringing everything crashing down around them the way she had. She hadn't just let herself down, she'd let him down. And the two of them had ended up paying the highest price.
All because she had refused to listen to this man, the man who'd been in charge of security, hired to protect her and Megan on Nocturne's world tour. Their musical duo had hit the limelight — until she'd brought everything down on their heads.
Cam reached out and briefly tightened his hands on her upper arms before stroking down the length of them to touch her fingertips. He inhaled sharply, then said, "Brooke, I need you to listen to me."
The last time he'd asked her to listen, she'd been so angry she'd deliberately done the opposite.
And had walked straight into the darkest of nightmares.
The muscles in his jaw clenched, unclenched, clenched again, like a hypnotic metronome. Slowly, she dragged her gaze up to his dark and intense blue eyes, seeking information he now seemed reluctant to share. He returned her look as if weighing what he should say.
"I need you to pack. Clothes. Purse. Passport."
"Do it fast, okay?"
She stared up at him, grasping at comprehension, but failing. Seconds ticked by. Still she didn't understand.
Finally, the tension in him filtered through to her. She no longer could deny what was lurking in his eyes. His body language, his expression, and the tone of his voice were all too recognizable from five years before.
Oh, God. Cameron wasn't here to see her. He was here to protect her.
A slow dread seeped into all the tiny spaces within her. Something bad had happened.
Moving her hands into the gap between the small of her back and the wall behind her, she inhaled deep into her chest and rejected the instinct to run past him and out into the night. Run fast and run hard and never stop. Thankfully, the little shred of control she had left kept her rooted to the spot as she fought the cloying whirl of panic and waited for him to perform his duty.
"Why are you here, Cam? Why do I have to leave?"
He bent a little at the knees in order to look straight into her eyes, as if to make utterly sure his next words had her full attention. It was impossible not to feel surrounded by him.
"Spinks is out. He was released yesterday, fourteen hundred hours GMT. You're in danger."
* * *
Cameron hated that Brooke's lips formed an instant denial. His gut twisted as eyes that had once shone with such life now stretched wide and flashed with full-fledged fear. "Brooke. I need to get you someplace safe. It's possible Spinks could find you here."
Her legs buckled again, and going against all the promises he'd mentally made before knocking at her door, he reached for her. Just one more touch. To soothe the shock, he rationalized. He smoothed his hand over her shoulder-length black hair before tucking it under the curtain of hair to caress the nape of her neck. He knew her, knew she had to be feeling the need to run — run anywhere as long as it was far, far away from him and the news he'd just brought. After one beat of his heart, two beats of hers, he pulled his hand away.
He thought he'd prepared himself for the sight of her. Yet all at once, she was familiar but not. Fragile but holding it together. Scared but still standing.
Before the monster named Andre Spinks had kidnapped her, Brooke had reacted to the world from her heart, not her head. Back then, Cameron had found her response to life frustrating as hell, challenging, and maybe a little bit charming. The fact that she was now attempting to master her emotional reaction to the news Spinks was out of prison impressed him, even as he warned himself to be wary. Sometime soon the dam holding in all that suppressed emotion would burst, rendering every little piece of sinew and muscle in that beautiful body of hers lethargic and useless. He wanted them to be well on their way to safety before that happened.
"He wouldn't come here," she said, the words clipped, as if forced out. "It's over. He's done with me. He wanted me left alive. He told me. He wanted me to suffer."
Frustration burned in Cameron's belly. Christ. Was that really what she thought? That the psycho wouldn't try to finish what he'd started? Cameron wanted to rail at her that this was the danger of shutting herself off from the world without support and with no one to raise the alarm if she wasn't seen for a couple of days. In her bid to get away from England and the media — and him, he thought bitterly — she'd left herself wide open. She wouldn't have stood a chance if she'd opened the door to find Andre Spinks on her doorstep.
"Don't tell me he won't come looking for you," Cameron ground out. "You were never that naive. At the very least, if he doesn't find a way to follow you out here, the paparazzi are going to be beating down your door. They'll find you. Do you want to invite all that into your life again? Bring your new life crashing down around your ears?"
He saw the moment his words sank in. Saw the horror, the shame, the guilt, all clash with what little pride she'd managed to rebuild. Five years ago she'd been a world-renowned musician, a darling of the media. A pain in the ass to protect. And then, because of him, her world had crumbled.
She drew herself upright and said in a determined voice that shook only a little, "What kind of clothes should I pack?"
That she'd managed to find a little logic, a little fight within her, gave him some reassurance. If he was right and Spinks had a mind to begin his sick games again, then she would need every bit of strength she had in the days to come. He'd make sure she kept that fight in her and that she could control it before they took further action.
"Pack for comfort. Pack light. Can you do that?"
"I can do small."
"Good. You pack. We go. It's that simple. I'll start locking everything up. You give anyone a spare set of keys?"
"No. Of course not," she said, ducking her head and sidestepping him to stride off down the hall. "I'll get you my set of keys. I keep them in the kitchen."
Of course not. He blew out a breath as he followed her down the hall. She'd said it as if she would never again be comfortable giving someone that kind of access to her life. As if she'd never let herself trust anyone again. And for good reason.
"Make sure you gather all personal documents," he said. If Spinks did find his way into this house, there was no way Cameron would let the monster use anything of Brooke's to satisfy his sick urges. "How about a journal or diary?" He poked his head into the living room and got hit with a good dose of minimalism — blank walls and nondescript furniture — before following her down the hall. The walls in the hallway were like those in her living room. Crisp, white, and naked, no doubt the same as the day she'd moved in. What kind of life would she write about in a journal? Emptiness? Blank pages?
"You keep anything like that?" he prompted, glancing back at her, then quickly dragging his eyes away from the sway of her hips before she turned and shook her head.
He followed her into the kitchen, which he quickly scanned. Glossy white cabinets, the countertops and flooring a matching black-speckled granite. The only color in the room came from six shiny green apples nesting in a stainless steel bowl, and the only personal item was a sketchpad with a plan for a flower garden.
A flower garden, of all things. If this was all she felt capable of now, it was a bitter pill to swallow. He wondered how Megan McGuinness, her former bandmate, would reconcile the hollowed-out Brooke he saw before him with the vivacious and gregarious Brooke of before.
He tried convincing himself it would be easier to get her to leave a house barely lived in than one in which she'd made a home, but anger mashed with guilt, and he knew he'd have rather found her getting ready for a night out with friends. Living her life. Embracing her life. This didn't look like living.
"Where is all your stuff?"
"What do you mean?" she asked, pulling out a kitchen drawer and placing a set of keys on the countertop.
"Mementos, photos, memorabilia —"
"Anything connected to Nocturne I left with Steven, or I put in storage."
So Megan and Brooke's former manager had possession of everything that defined Brooke Bennet. Pity lodged in Cameron's heart, unwelcome. "You kept nothing?"
She shook her head, stepped back, and then gave a small gasp. Quickly, she pulled a knee up to her chest.
"What's wrong?" In a nanosecond, he was at her side. Half-supporting her, he brought her over to a kitchen barstool.
"It's nothing," she said, sitting. "A glass shattered earlier. I must have stepped on a shard."
Kneeling in front of her, he took her foot in his hands, wincing when he saw blood appear. "Do you have a first-aid kit?"
She pointed to the cupboard under the sink. "There's a plastic tub with some bandages."
Gently, he set her foot down to go retrieve the medical supplies.
Silence stretched between them as he rifled through the pitifully meager first-aid kit and thought about what to say. She had nothing personal to pack? Not even musical instruments? Photographs? Sheet music? He was both amazed and disheartened to see she'd walked away from her life so thoroughly. Music had been her everything.
Just one more thing Spinks had stolen.
Cameron swallowed the guilt back down, yanked a bandage from the tub, and turned back to her. With gentle fingers, he pressed around the wound on the sole of her foot, acutely aware of the warm softness of her skin, of her every reaction to his touch. When she shook, his thumb automatically pressed soothingly into the arch of her foot. A mistake, because her violent shudder vibrated all the way through him. Into his bones.
He looked up into her eyes, caught the dilated, glazed expression, and pretended to misunderstand. "Easy," he said softly. "It's only a tiny puncture. I want to make sure no glass fragments remain."
"It's fine. It's not like I haven't had worse."
Yes, she had.
On account of him getting so engrossed in her, he'd not done his job properly.
He fixed the bandage in place before quickly rising to his feet. His words emerged gruffly when he said, "You've got ten minutes to pack, and then we're leaving."
She remained where she was, frowning. "I still don't understand. Were you sent by Steven?"
"No." Nocturne's former manager had avoided him for years.
"Who, then? Someone had to have contracted you to protect me."
"Why would they?"
Excerpted from The Waiting Game by Eve Devon, Rochelle French. Copyright © 2013 Eve Devon. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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