SECOND CHANCES by Nika Dixon
|Mainstream Romance: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure|
Publisher: Red Rose Publishing
Available now from:
Red Rose Publishing (www.redrosepublishing.com)
All Romance eBooks (www.allromanceebooks.com)
Barnes and Noble (coming soon)
Casey struggled out of a strange dream. Pictures of rain and bricks. Darkness and flashing lights. She grasped for the pieces, but they slipped away and disappeared.
She rolled over, pulling the warm blankets around her shoulders, drifting in the strange state of half-awake. Rain ticked in with an offbeat rhythm on the window, distracting her from the task of returning to sleep. She opened her eyes, the fuzzy edges falling away as she stared at the dark green comforter.
Her bedding was blue.
She blinked, confused.
That wasn’t her nightstand. And why was it on the wrong side of the bed? And didn’t her clock have red digits, not neon green ones?
The realization this wasn’t her house, her room, her bed, shocked her body upright. With a gasp she launched herself into a seated position, confusion and panic of where she was slamming her heart into high gear. Sharp pain split her forehead. Everything tilted with carnival speed, and she pitched forward, desperate to get off the ride. Her body tangled in the bedding, trapping her limbs. She would have dropped face first onto the floor if her forward motion wasn’t halted by a pair of very solid hands.
“Easy,” a male voice growled.
Recognition shot down Casey’s spine with a shiver, and she squeezed her eyes shut. Only one man had the power to break her body into goose bumps with something as simple as the sound of his voice.
She raised her head and looked up into the hazel eyes of the last person she’d ever expected to see again.
Her arms fought free of the encumbering blanket as she struggled to put space between them, but his fingers continued to burn the flesh of her upper arms. He eased her back down onto the pillows and lowered himself onto the edge of the bed.
She knew she stared, but she couldn’t stop. If Jackson was here…then the here was Jackson’s.
“Painkillers,” he supplied, releasing her arms to hand her a couple of small white pills followed by a glass of water.
She threw her concentration at getting the tablets onto her dry tongue, but had to use both hands to steady the glass while she gulped the water. After wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she held out the empty glass.
He took it from her shaking fingers and set it on the nightstand without taking his gaze off her.
Trapped like the proverbial deer, Casey couldn’t look away. Six months of faked ignorance and pretend normalcy fell away in a glance, leaving her feeling just as alone and lost as she was that night all those months ago.
His entire body was tense, a coiled spring ready to snap if the pressure wasn’t soon released.
She wished he would talk, yell, shout. Anything but the silent stare he gave her right now. Casey read his face, the anger, the unasked questions reflected deep in his eyes. He may be able to still his mind and body, but those stormy hazel eyes betrayed everything.
He was still angry.
And he still blamed her.
She’d made a mistake in coming.
He wouldn’t help.
Desperation welled up into her throat, and she dropped her gaze.
And realized she wasn’t wearing her clothes.
With a shriek, she yanked the covers up to her chin. “Where are my clothes?” Her cheeks heated under his unconcerned expression.
“Did you…?” She paused. “Did you take them off?” She was mortified to think he’d undressed her while she was unconscious. The burn spread to her ears.
“You weren’t exactly in any condition to do it yourself,” he pointed out. “What with you passing out and all.”
Casey tried to portray casual, as though waking up in a strange bed, wearing nothing but her underwear, was a common occurrence. But the feeling of embarrassed fire across her cheeks and neck was not helping.
Jackson stood and crossed to the tall oak dresser standing against the far wall. Casey breathed a sigh of relief at the added space and squeezed her eyes shut, wishing she was still asleep. At the sound of a dresser drawer opening, she snapped her eyes open just in time to catch the wadded up t-shirt he flung at her.
She clutched the material over her breasts, her knuckles bunched around the cotton so tightly they turned white.
He crooked an eyebrow.
“Turn around?” she squeaked.
With an exasperated sigh, he turned his back.
Casey tugged the shirt down over her head and pulled the bottom hem over her thighs. Then she tugged the blankets back up to her chin.
“Okay,” she muttered.
He faced her again but remained in the middle of the room, his arms crossed over his chest, watching with intensity.
Casey took a deep breath and held it.
Jackson Hale was one tall, dark, and sexy man.
Especially when he looked ready to strangle someone.
In this case—her.
His stance was wide, his legs braced. The well-worn jeans hugged his muscular thighs, and the light gray t-shirt stretched across his upper arms, accenting the raw strength and muscle of his torso. For years he’d kept his hair cropped short, military style, but now it was thick and wavy, the length almost touching his collar. His features were dangerous, rugged, and he needed a shave.
An avenging angel.
Just not hers.
Dropping her gaze to the bedding, she ran a shaky hand through her tangled hair. Her fingers brushed against a piece of gauze taped behind her ear, and she winced. She pulled at it, frowning.
“Don’t pick at it,” he snapped.
Her eyes jumped to his, her mouth open in reply, but her mind couldn’t complete the order to speak, so she let it close.
Her stomach jumped at the silence and gave a long, slow burble.
Jackson’s eyes narrowed.
Cssey watched as his shoulders lowered and his arms dropped loosely along his sides. “I’ll make you something to eat. Shower’s through there. Towels are on the back of the door. Come downstairs when you’re done,” he ordered, then turned and walked towards the hallway. “And then I expect the details. All of them.”
He left without looking back.
Just like he had half a year ago.
Covering her eyes with her hand, she flopped back down onto the pillows, unable to come up with a coherent answer to the question now what?
Her stomach growled again, and she sighed, arguing the pros and cons of leaving now versus later. He didn’t want her here any more than she wanted to be here. But she couldn’t go without her clothes, and what harm could a shower cause? Clean up first, and then she would collect her things and leave with at least part of her dignity intact.
So what if she drained his water tank in the process?
Sure it was petty.
But somehow the thought of leaving him with an icy cold shower gave her the drive to push off the covers and head to the bathroom.
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For more information on the author, please check out Nika's website, www.nikadixon.com .