Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Series: Red Stone Security Series, #3
Mara Caldwell is a woman with a dark past. She made a clean break from her old life, never imagining her secrets could come back to haunt her. When an old enemy surfaces and threatens the world she’s created for herself Mara is prepared to give up everything, including the husband she loves if it will keep him safe.
Harrison knew his wife had secrets when he married her, but when he discovers the truth, it’s far worse than he imagined. He’s determined to protect her from a deadly enemy who wants to destroy her, but her lack of faith in him infuriates and wounds him. They must work together to keep her safe, but the man they’re up against seeks to destroy everything they’ve built together. Including their lives.
Harrison gripped the steering wheel of his truck so tight his knuckles were white. He should be in a great mood, but there was a dark cloud that had been hovering over him the past few weeks. The wall that had been growing between him and his wife was getting higher every day.
Taking the turn a little too sharply into the quiet Coral Gables neighborhood where he lived with his wife, he wasn’t surprised when she didn’t bat an eyelash in the passenger seat.
It took a lot to get Mara riled up, but lately she’d been edgy and distant. At first he’d wondered if it was because they’d gotten married so soon after meeting each other. From engagement to marriage had been less than a year. They hadn’t been able to keep their hands off each other and the sex had been off the charts. Thankfully nothing had changed in that respect, but for the past few weeks she’d been leaving early from the shelter where she volunteered, and was evasive about where she’d been going afterward.
“It was good to see Grant so happy,” Harrison said as he steered into their driveway and waited for the garage door to lift. His brother was in a better mood than Harrison had ever seen him. Over six months ago, Grant had been injured in an explosion that left his face, back and one of his arms scarred. Until getting involved in a relationship with Belle, his new next door neighbor, he’d been close to becoming bitter and reclusive.
Mara nodded tightly, her normally relaxed features holding a hint of unease. “I agree. If anyone deserves happiness, it’s him.”
They’d just come from a barbeque at Grant’s place to meet his girlfriend/soon-to-be-fiancé and her extremely large extended family. They’d had a good time, but Mara continued to pull away from him emotionally and he was about to lose his mind. What had happened to make her withdraw from him?
“Do you think he’ll propose to her?” Mara asked, the question surprising him. Lately whenever they spoke he was the one who initiated conversation.
“Yeah, he showed me the ring.” His brother had been so nervous, but there was no way his girlfriend would say no.
Mara chuckled softly and, for the first time in weeks, it didn’t sound forced. “I wondered why he kept patting his pants pocket all day.”
It would be just like his wife to notice something like that. Not much got past her, a trait he found sexy, but right now he was wired too tight to play nice. As the garage door closed behind them, she started to get out of the truck but he placed a hand on her forearm. Tensing under his touch, she turned to look at him, her normally bright green eyes filled with anxiety. “What’s been going on with us the past month?” he asked softly, though the question sounded like a sonic boom in the quiet enclosure.
She pasted on a bright smile that might have fooled anyone else, but he could see the wariness in her eyes. “What are you talking about?” Placing a hand over his, she squeezed gently.
“You know exactly what.” His voice was a low growl, but she barely seemed to notice. Or if she did, she was ignoring it.
Instead of responding, she turned in her seat and slid one hand up his arm as she started to crawl toward him. He inwardly groaned when he realized what she was doing. The past few weeks anytime he wanted to talk, she literally jumped him. Sex was her way of distracting him. And it normally worked. Not tonight though. Placing his hands on her shoulders he held her away from him. His erection pulsed against his fly, pissed as hell that he’d stopped her.
The hurt in her eyes was real and that tore at him. “Are you stopping me?” Okay, and the hurt in her voice was even worse.
“We can’t use sex to fix everything.” God, was that actually him talking? His hot wife wanted to have sex in his truck. He should have her naked and riding him by now.
“Fix what?” Her voice raised just a fraction.
“Why have you been pulling away from me these past few weeks? And don’t deny it.” He couldn’t bring himself to ask why she’d been leaving work early. Not yet. He couldn’t imagine her cheating, but something was going on and whatever it was, she didn’t trust him enough to tell him. And he wanted her to come to him.
She swallowed hard and sat back. Picking up her fallen purse from the floorboards, she held it in her lap like a shield as she wrapped her arms around herself. “I’m sorry if I’m not the wife you imagined. God, Harrison, I’m not fucking perfect. Being married is new to me and…” Shrugging, she trailed off.
Mara almost never cursed and to hear her drop the F-bomb made him realize there was definitely something going on with her. Maybe it really was just an adjustment issue, but somehow he didn’t think so. It was clear she wasn’t going to say more, however. He could see it in the stubborn set of her jaw.
He nodded, forcing himself to drop the conversation for now. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Mara relaxed a fraction, but he could still see the stress in her eyes. She raked a hand through her straight, short blond hair, something she rarely did and only when she was nervous. “All right…I’m going to head inside.”
“I’ll be inside in a minute.” The hurt look flittered through her gaze again, but he shoved his guilt back down at putting it there. She shut the truck door behind her and went into the house.
Harrison expelled a heavy sigh. He had to figure out what the hell was going on with his wife. If he didn’t, he was afraid he’d lose her forever. After taking a few deep breaths, he followed her inside. Once in the kitchen he saw she’d disarmed their custom made security system—courtesy of Red Stone Security where he worked—and left a trail of clothing for him to follow.
His entire body tensed, his cock straining against his pants. He wanted her so bad he ached. Harrison reset the alarm, then picked up one high heel left on the kitchen tile. He found the other as he stepped into the hallway. Her bra and silky top were on the stairs. Once in their bedroom he heard the shower running and the bathroom door was open.
Her invitation was clear but… He left her clothes and shoes in a pile on the bed. He couldn’t force his feet to carry him in there. He was too damned angry about the wall that had had been building between them. The secrets.
And he didn’t have a doubt in his mind that she was keeping them. If only sex was enough to make a marriage work, but it wasn’t.
Grabbing workout clothes and shoes, he headed back downstairs to their home gym. With his high stress job and odd working hours, he needed a place to keep in shape. While he preferred to run outdoors, which he usually did, he was glad Mara had insisted on a treadmill because right now, he planned to run off this energy. He’d run until he dropped or at least until the temptation to sink deep inside his wife’s sweet body lessened. It would never be gone, but he had to get a grip on his emotions and needs if he wanted to stay objective. He planned to find out what the hell was going on with her and sex would only distract him. Lately he got the feeling that was exactly what she wanted and he wasn’t anyone’s puppet. And he wouldn’t be ruled by his cock.
Two hours later, Harrison trudged upstairs. His body was soaked in sweat but his muscles burned in awareness from his workout. The lights in their bedroom were off so instead of disturbing Mara, he took a shower in one of the guest bathrooms.
When he slid into bed next to her, he cursed his body’s immediate reaction. It didn’t matter how long or how hard he worked out, his cock just woke up around her.
With her back to him and muted streams of moonlight coming through the sheer drapes covering their windows, he could just make out the two webbed scars on her back. One on her upper right shoulder blade and one damn close to her spine. He knew exactly what they were.
When he’d first questioned her about them, she’d shut down and hadn’t returned his calls for a week. God, he’d been crazed then. And that was when he’d known how much control she wielded over him. Because when she’d told him the scars were part of her past and she would never answer questions about them, he’d reluctantly agreed to let it go. Of course he’d done a triple background check and had his contacts at the CIA run her prints and everything had come back clean. Probably too clean, but he’d ignored the signs because he loved her. She was so giving to those around her, volunteering most of her time at a shelter for abused women when she wasn’t with him. Everything about her was just…kind. But he should have listened to his gut.
Now he wanted to kick his own ass for that. Reaching out, he went to wrap his arm around her and pull her tight against his chest like he normally did, but at the last second, he turned his back instead. He closed his eyes and prayed for an hour or two of sleep even though he had a feeling he wouldn’t be getting any tonight.