(Book 1 of the Identity Series)
An Erotic Fantasy Romance Novel
From Whiskey Creek Press Torrid
(Also available at Amazon, All Romance eBooks, Barnes and Noble, and BookStrand)
Word Count: 53K
Brenda McKay has no man in her life, and she really doesn’t have time for one. That’s not a problem, since Brenda’s new job responsibilities keep her too busy for any sort of social life. But the day she is saved by a strange man who calls himself The Defender is the day her heart will never be the same.
Lorne Palmer has loved Brenda since they were in grade school. Shy, introverted, and the middle brother of two over-achievers, he has never really approached her for anything other than to help her with her homework. And to be there for her when her other boyfriends deserted her.
It wasn’t until he finally acquired his super powers and became The Defender did Lorne finally decide enough was enough. If he couldn’t work up the courage to claim her as himself, perhaps The Defender could.
Warning! Contains sabotage, weird chemical names, smiley boxes, floating root beer, corporation hanky-panky, isolated safe houses, chocolate-covered strawberries, and things that go BOOM! in the night!
Her parents’ bedroom was the way she remembered it. Her father had never removed her mother’s thing after her death. Dresses still hung in the closet. The hair brush sat on the white doily on the dressing table. Brenda bet herself her mother’s undies and all would still be in the bureau drawers.
Do I begin clearing everything away? Or do I go back to the labs and hope to find out something about the explosion?
Her stomach clenched, reminding her that she hadn’t had breakfast. Time to raid the refrigerator and larder to see if there was anything she could whip up. She was passing through the living room when someone knocked at the front door. She didn’t need three guesses to know who it was after seeing the familiar figure. She was already grinning when she opened the door, only to be met with a cardboard box with a smiley face drawn on it.
“What are you doing?” she laughed.
“Good morning! My name is Box. I’m here to help you pack up the things that make you unhappy.” The voice was squeaky but unmistakable as the box jiggled from left to right.
Still laughing, Brenda peered out onto the porch where she saw at least a dozen or more empty boxes. “Lorne! What are you doing here?”
He dropped the box to grin at her. “Delivering coffee.” Today he wore a black t-shirt with a Fender Stratocaster guitar emblazoned on the front. Although the shirt was well-worn, the jeans looked brand new, right down to the neat creases in the legs. Red high-top sneakers and a light-weight navy blue windbreaker completed his typical scruffy but incredibly handsome look. To her surprise, he reached down where he had set a travel mug, and handed it to her. “One artificial sweetener and just enough milk to turn it from black to a gross-out diarrhea brown, just the way you like it, madam.”
Brenda stepped back to let him enter, bringing the boxes with him and dumping them in the living room as she sipped her coffee. “Mmm. Thanks. I don’t suppose you brought breakfast with you, too.”
Lorne reached inside the pocket of his windbreaker to pull out a foil-wrapped package. “Scrambled egg on toast was the best I could do. It’s Lee’s turn to get groceries, and you know much he loves that task,” he remarked with exaggerated irony.
Brenda peeled back the foil and pinched a bit of the sandwich, stuffing it in her mouth. He’d even buttered the bread. “Oh, God, Lorne, you’re going to make some woman a great husband some day,” she giggled. “Now, the truth. What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at work?”
“Still on bereavement leave,” he told her, which she could understand. Nearly everyone in town knew how close the two families had been. “And speaking of, I didn’t like the idea of you having to remove all of Mr. Mac’s things all by yourself. That’s what family is for.”
Before she could protest, he snatched up two boxes and strode down the hallway toward the master bedroom. Dutifully, she tucked her coffee in the crook of her arm, grabbed a box with her free hand, and followed.
For the next two hours they packed nearly all of the empty boxes with clothing and odds-and-ends, folding the four lid flaps inside one another on top like an envelope, rather than taping the box shut. Every so often Brenda would come across an item she couldn’t bear to part with, and she’d add it to the small pile on the bed.
“You know, if you plan to stay here or keep the place, I have a suggestion,” Lorne commented as they took a break. They were seated on the bedroom floor, enjoying the last of the coffee she had fixed an hour earlier.
“What’s that?” She looked around the room, now devoid of everything except the furniture. The packed boxes were waiting in the living room for him to cart off to Goodwill.
“Keep the bedframe, but buy a new mattress, and use this as your bedroom now.”
“Oh, I can’t.” She shook her head. “This is where Mom and Dad slept. I couldn’t use it.”
“All right. Buy a new mattress anyway, and let guests use it. Would you have a problem with that?” he gently asked.
“No. I can handle that.” She gave him a watery smile. “Thanks, Lorne. For everything.”
“Hey, what are best buds for?” he grinned back.
“No, I mean it. You…you’ve been there for me every step of the way. I don’t know if I could have done it alone.”
“Yeah, you could have. You’re intelligent and strong, and I don’t mean just physically. You’ve got grit, as Luke would say. Look at how you kept our butts in line while we were growing up! Took a lot for a measly girl to hold sway over us three guys!”
She was laughing again, remembering all the times in the past when she’d go one-on-three over some issue or another. Leaning over, she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. Or rather, on the stubble. Although it was scratchy, she caught a whiff of his scent, familiar and heady. Reluctantly, she pulled away.
“Thank you,” she started to say, when Lorne caught her arm, stopping her face mere inches from his.
A moment became two, stretching into timelessness as they stared at one another. Brenda could see herself reflected in his smoky gray eyes which seemed to soften with every passing second. Breathing stopped, and then Lorne moved forward, closing the distance. The next thing she knew, warm lips closed over hers, taking away every thought as she sunk into his embrace.