Read an Excerpt
Without a Word
By E.C. SHEEDY
BRAVA BOOKSCopyright © 2007 E.C. Sheedy
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe quilt, that inflexible weave of vinyl and recycled cardboard common to cheap motels, gave in to Dan's final kick and collapsed to the floor at the base of the bed, leaving him to battle the sheet binding his hips like a shroud.
Not that any part of his lower anatomy was even close to being dead.
Must have been some dream.
He extricated himself from the bed linen, sat on the edge of the bed, and took a couple of deep pulls of air. His mouth was dry and his face rough with a two-day growth of beard, and his pounding head reminded him of what a sorry asshole he'd been in the bar earlier.
The numbers on the bedside clock, 2:21 A.M., glowed red enough and bright enough to stop traffic.
He closed his eyes, concentrated on his most predictable body part.
The part wanting sex.
Trouble was, he didn't know who he wanted it with-but it was for damn sure it wasn't himself.
"Shit!" This time he voiced the word, while trying to remember the last time he'd gone this long without a woman. He couldn't, so he stood, then padded across the room toward the bathroom and the Questor Inn's third-rate shower.
A soft rap on the door stopped him halfway to the bathroom.
"Dan, baby, you in there?" The voice was female, the whisper was loud, and the tone was raspy.
As usual, sexy as hell. Her low, dark voice went right to a man's groin, exactly where Belinda Diamond aimed it.
And it was exactly what he didn't need right now. He quickened his bare-assed walk to the bathroom, flicked on the light, grabbed a towel, and secured it low over his hips. Motel-cheap and the victim of harsh laundry soaps in a thousand washes, it wasn't up to the job.
He opened the door.
Tall, dark, and beautiful, she smiled up at him and waved an amber-colored bottle in his face. It would be scotch, very good scotch. Which meant Belinda was here to party. The half-light from the hall seeped into his room along with her gravelly voice and the words "I brought you a nightcap." She stared at the excuse for a towel he'd slung around his hips and smiled. "Looks like you've got one for me, too."
"You shouldn't be here, Belinda." He closed the door a fraction, but the fraction wasn't big enough. She stepped around him and into the room.
"I shouldn't do a lot of things." She touched his bicep and walked her fingers to his shoulder. "But I do." She went to the old Formica-topped table by the window. On the table was a tray holding glasses, an ice bucket, and the makings for morning coffee. "Perfect." She turned two glasses upright.
Dan closed the door but kept his distance; Belinda on the prowl meant trouble-trouble he didn't need.
The line of light in the room switched from a shaft of hallway yellow to a triangle of bathroom white, enough to illuminate a torn seam in the worn jungle-patterned carpet. He rubbed his stubbled jaw, wondered what he'd done to piss off whoever up there was in charge of the bad-luck department. One quick trip out of camp to pick up his client, his mind fogged with too much booze, his body seriously sex-deprived, and he had to deal with his ex-lover, now the wife of said client. A very hot wife, as he knew all too well.
"Where's Barry?" he asked.
"Asleep." She poured him two fingers of scotch and brought it to him, her denim-painted hips an easy sway, her gaze fixed to his. "Where all good husbands should be during the wicked midnight hours." She wiggled the glass close to his face. "How else would a woman have her fun?" She dropped her eyes to his crotch and sighed. "I remember"-she ran the tips of her fingers along the hard jut in the towel-"one of these waking me up; you pressed so tight to my ass, you felt like part of me. Me turning. You going in long and slow.... Those were good times." Her gaze was heavy-lidded and smoky. "I mean, really, baby ... you don't want to waste this, do you?" She gave him another stroke, this one slower, with a pause at the tip and some added pressure.
When he jerked against her hand, she tongued her lower lip, smiled at him.
"Jesus, Belinda." He sucked in a breath, stepped away, and headed for the jeans he'd tossed on the chair before he'd zonked out two hours earlier.
The room wasn't big enough, and she was damn fast. One tug and the towel was off; one toss and it joined the quilt and tangle of sheets at the base of the bed. When he turned toward her, she was unbuttoning her shirt, staring at him openly, avidly.
She'd come prepared, because she wasn't wearing a bra. In two seconds the shirt joined his towel on the floor, and she was cupping her breasts, offering them up like ripe melons.
Damn, she had magnificent breasts.
"Let's fuck, Dan," she said. "Like there's no tomorrow. Like we used to. Remember that layover in London. Or Cairo ... You can't have forgotten Cairo." She unzipped her jeans.
"That was a long time ago. Another lifetime." But he remembered all right; they'd stayed in their hotel room for days. And he'd been in Belinda for most of them.
She let out a long breath, touched a nipple with one finger, and slipped her other hand into her jeans. "You were the best I ever had." He caught sight of her black silk panties and watched her hand move under the silk and denim, watched her play with herself, heard her breathing turn ragged. Her tongue circled her lips; her eyes, greedy and dark with sex, met his. "C'mon, baby. Do me. I want you to do me."
His own breathing was hard now, along with the rest of him, and the way he saw it, any man who didn't want to look at Belinda Diamond's breasts while she fingered herself had an empty crater for a brain.
Dan Lambert didn't have a crater.
What he had was miserable hard-on.
And a wife.
"Get out of here, Belinda." He turned his back on her, pulled on his jeans, and tucked himself in. Carefully. "I'm a married man." And a father. Okay, so he sounded like a retired church deacon. It was the truth. More or less.
"Yeah, you're married all right. To an unfaithful and very"-she walked up to him, placed her palms on his bare chest-"ungrateful bitch." She circled her hand on his chest, and he felt his nipples harden. "She still seeing that guy? You know who it is yet?"
The room suddenly darkened, as did his mood, and he didn't answer. He had no idea how Belinda came by information about his personal business, and he sure as hell wasn't about to add to her meager store of knowledge-or admit to her he didn't have any.
"Come on, Dan," she cajoled. "It's the twenty-first century. Everybody has a little bit on the side. Monogamy's dead, don'tcha know? Even your dear little wife's picked up on that. So why not a little tit for tat?" She cocked her head and a brow, gave him a slow smile. "My tits, your tat."
His gut clenched, and he strode to the door and opened it. Wide. "I repeat, get the hell out of here. And don't come back."
She eyed him for a few seconds, then shrugged and bent to pick up her shirt. She put it on-slow as hell-and ambled toward the door, where she turned to look back at him. "Your loss, big man. But if you change your mind, you know where to find me." She gave him the once-over, then a perplexed look. "That wife of yours? Holly? Must be dumb as a brick. Because she sure as hell doesn't know a good thing when she's sleeping with it."
When she was gone, Dan headed for the shower. He wanted to wash Belinda away, and if he were lucky, the mess he was in with Holly would wash away with her. He knew he wasn't the first man to have married the wrong woman, but he hadn't expected her to screw around on him.
He shoved thoughts of Holly and her lover-whoever the hell he was-off the backside of his brain. He and Holly would settle that issue when he got home. That's what they'd agreed when he'd left for this job, and that's how it would play out. In the end he was determined they'd do what was best for Kylie. But for now he'd taken on this security project in the Alberta tar sands, so like it or not, he'd have to manage being a daddy by phone for a while. God, he missed that kid. The two, maybe three months ahead of him were going to be tough.
Maybe he'd manage a couple of flights out somewhere along the line-if only to see Kylie.
Neither he nor Holly and her stupid affair mattered. Only Kylie did. If he got nothing else from his marriage to Holly, he had Kylie. She was a gift, and she deserved a home with both a mother and a father. He intended to give her that.
He didn't plan on having more kids, but he'd damn well look out for this one.
He'd already lost one child. He would not lose another.
Chapter TwoCamryn Bruce kicked off her shoes at the door, dropped her keys on the hall stand, and set the nineteenth-century cranberry-colored glass sugar sifter carefully beside them. She had precisely the buyer for it. All-around, she thought, a very good day, businesswise at least, and she was home earlier than expected.
Blessedly, the house was quiet. No TV, thanks to her father being away on one of his short trips. She immediately felt a stab of guilt and reminded herself he wouldn't be staying much longer-or so he said. She was glad to help him out.... Okay, not glad exactly, but at least okay with it. You didn't need a perfect child-parent relationship to do the right thing.
Although with the way things were between Craig and her ... To hell with it!
She wouldn't think about Craig, at least not in a negative way, and she wouldn't think about her father, his odd comings and goings, his endless financial problems.
She padded barefoot toward the stairs. She wasn't going to flash up the worry machine and ruin an otherwise okay day.
Craig wouldn't be here for at least an hour. Not only did she have time to change before dinner, she had time to actually cook dinner-something other than the grill-and-greens fare they'd been eating for the past month.
With her father away, she and Craig would enjoy a quiet dinner for two.
She paused mid-staircase on her way up to the bedroom, ran her hand over the smooth oak of the railing. Not that either of them would say much. It seemed as though both of them were living in their own heads these days. When she thought about it-and she tried not to-what troubled her most was that the mist, the coolness between them, didn't bother her enough. It should, damn it, it should bother her. But somehow her mind wouldn't focus on it.
Maybe after the baby is born ...
She patted her flat stomach and continued up the stairs, anxious to get out of her suit and get started. She'd make a great dinner, light some candles, put on soft music, the whole enchilada. Then she and Craig would make lo-
Inside the bedroom door, she froze, stared, and blinked.
Craig, who'd been shoving clothes into a gigantic red sports bag, straightened, and his gaze shot to hers. Equally as fast, it slid away. In his hand were two freshly laundered and folded white shirts.
"Craig? What are you doing?" Monumentally dumb question, but all she had.
Instead of answering, he cursed, took in a noisy breath, and crammed the white shirts into the gaping canvas bag. He stood looking down at it, his chest heaving.
Camryn scanned the room. The closet door was open, as was every drawer in Craig's highboy. Clothes from both lay spread over the bed. A box and two large suitcases, closed-and she presumed packed-sat at the base of the bed. Her mind processed what she was seeing in a series of stops and starts. Her heart drummed in her chest. Understanding didn't dawn-it lumbered in methodically, stolid and surefooted.
So this was how it happened. This was how five years of marriage ended-stuffed haphazardly into a red sports bag.
Craig finally faced her, his hands on his hips, his expression both guilty and boyishly defiant. "You're home early. I wasn't expecting you."
"I can see that." She pressed her hand hard against her stomach.
The air in the room lay flat, fatally quiet. His mouth worked silently, and his eyes scanned the room before at last settling on her face. "I'm leaving, Camryn."
His words slapped her, and she balled the hand she was holding to her stomach. "I get that, too." Questions, too many of them, backed up in her brain; she couldn't find one to start with.
His eyes shifted away from her, but his voice softened. "I tried to tell you, Cammie. I'm sorry."
Sorry. A glib, soft-in-the-mouth word intended to mollify, instantly wash away all sins, either heinous or venial, and assuage all hurts. It was like using a silk scarf to suffocate a fire. Not enough. Not nearly enough. "This isn't about 'sorry' or what you 'tried' to do. This is about sneaking out the back door. This is about deception." The words came before her feelings, feelings too varied and coming too fast to make sense of. "What in hell were you planning, Craig? To send me a postcard?"
"No, I-" He rubbed his neck.
"I tried to tell you," he repeated, his voice low. "But, damn it, there's never a moment in this house since your dad landed in on us, when he isn't hanging around, looking over our shoulders."
"He's only been here for a month. You're using him as an excuse." Her father's sudden arrival, after virtually no contact in years, had shocked even her, but she wasn't about to turn him away. She didn't know how.
"It's almost two months! And he's in our face, day in, day out. And it doesn't look as if that's going to change anytime soon."
"He's having a hard time right now." A weak defense, but the best Camryn could offer when it came to her father.
"He's the goddamn master of hard times, Camryn, and you know it." He stopped, let out a noisy breath, and looked upward, like he always did when he was trying to settle his anger. "But you're right, he's not the reason I'm leaving. Not all of it, anyway. But him coming here? Living here? It took up what was left of the space in our lives. And that makes him the last straw."
Camryn rubbed a knuckle along her lower lip. What was happening here had nothing to do with her father. This was about-her face heated as her heart tumbled-something else entirely, something ... irreconcilable. "If you wanted to talk," she said, "we could've talked. We sleep together, remember? Right here in this room, all alone, not a father in sight." She waved a hand, buying time, ignoring her own insincerity, not wanting to go where the real problem sat poised like a scorpion.
"Yeah." He looked at the bed she'd waved her hand over, and his expression turned rueful. "I guess you could call it sleeping together." He shook his head as if to clear it. "And if you'll check your memory banks, you'll remember my pitiful male effort at telling you how I felt about the way things were going between us. That I wanted to ... ease up on things for a while."
Ease up on things ... Oh, yes, she remembered. She remembered that exact and terrifying phrase. And she remembered brushing his words aside, not wanting to hear them, certain he'd come around to her way of thinking as he'd always done. Guilt struck a glancing blow, then another, this one sharp with accusations of her selfishness, her blindness. She'd known his feelings, and she'd ignored them. Now she was watching him pack a red bag. Watching him leave. Watching her dream leave with him.
"You don't have a stupid bone in your body, Camryn. You had to see this coming. You had to."
When she didn't answer, because she had none to give, he took a few steps away. "Your dad showing up? Hell, he was just the icing on a fallen cake."
"It's about the ... baby, isn't it?" The words tumbled out on a rush of breath and honesty in a question that frightened her more than losing her husband.
"The baby ..." he repeated, and again shook his head. "Jesus."
"The truth, Craig. You owe it to me." Even as the words escaped her, she wanted them back. Truths were unpredictable and fearsome, like snakes, venom-packed and lethal. Truths were turning points.
He hesitated, then put his hands back on his hips and faced her, but he didn't speak right away. He seemed to be looking for the right words. "Okay.... It's about the baby-the one we don't have, can't have. The whole getting-pregnant thing you're into-"
"I thought you were with me on that. We talked about it."
"It was the only thing we talked about. Ad nauseum! "And I was with you at the beginning. But I didn't think we'd be selling our souls to the fertility industry."
"Then this is about money?"
He shook a negative. "No. Money's the least of it. It's about ... this drug, that drug, this clinic, that clinic, this test, that procedure. We've been on the get-a-baby treadmill since we got married, with absolutely nothing to show for it."
Excerpted from Without a Word by E.C. SHEEDY Copyright © 2007 by E.C. Sheedy. Excerpted by permission.
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