Sound of Silence Epilogue

caden (2)

Caden

JT is thirteen months old… 

 

Still panting from my run, I push open the screen door. “Anyone home?” I’m met with silence. One that is not as peaceful as it once was. I frown and stalk to the kitchen to pour a glass of water, chugging it down so fast it drips to my bare chest. But there’s no one here to disapprove of my mess. A long sigh escapes my mouth as I lean against the counter, arms crossed.
  
Goddamn, my life has changed. I look around the house and know immediately what is missing. I want JT’s incessant chatter. That boy doesn’t speak a real word, but he sure talks all the time. I want Gus and Rosie, our newest pup, to prance around my feet, begging for a treat. I want Piper’s voice singing whatever 80’s song is top of mind. I want her unconscious play by play of whatever recipe she’s throwing together, two cups of this, a teaspoon of that. I want to sneak her into our bedroom and stick my hand down her pants, watching her face while she comes on my fingers.

I want my family. 

Disappointment that they’re missing spoils my good mood while I shower and change into jeans and an old shirt. It may be June but a well-worn flannel is never out of season. Rolling the sleeves to my elbows on the way outside, I leave it unbuttoned and drive my truck to the clearing. It doesn’t take long to connect the string lights to the battery, putter around the yard and set up the pit for a camp fire. Dax and Cara, Willow and their baby Olivia, and mom and dad will be over later to celebrate father’s day. Our first celebration since dad left to join the Navy.

I find myself opening the passenger door to my truck. Sitting with my back against the dash, one leg on the ground, the other bent in front of me, I watch the house I built and wait for the family I never thought I’d have.

A simple concept has consumed my mind. I want to give Piper everything. The drive to not just fix her life, but to perfect it, started eight months ago. The minute my discharge from the Navy was final, I set out to do exactly that. I came home from Coronado with my head on straight and a ring in my pocket. Twenty minutes after arriving, after kissing Piper breathless and tickling JT into fits of giggles, I opened the door to my pregnant sister and babysitter extraordinaire. The twinkle in her eye told me she knew what I was up to. I glared her into silence, and then dragged Piper out to my truck for a long drive up the coast.

I’ll never forget that ride. The highway stretched out before us, spending the rest of my life with Piper loomed ahead and warmed the cab more than the sun as it set beyond the ridge. It streamed through the windows painting hazy orange strokes over her glowing hair. My heart swelled and I squeezed her hand, keeping it held tight against my thigh—until all hell broke loose. A loud clank coming from the passenger side, followed by the loss of steering and I knew a tie rod blew. Jesus Christ. I prayed to him in that moment like he was my best friend on speed dial. He answered as I was able to slow down and navigate to a stony jettison of coastline, the pacific rolling in below.

What I learned? Nothing is ever simple.

Not with me. And not for Piper.

Our path was as rocky as the beach and our future as vast and mysterious as the ocean. I laughed when the truck rolled to a stop, my head thrown back and with Piper looking at me like I’d lost my mind. Maybe I had. But I’d lost it with her and that was the best part. I knew she’d accept me any way I came, on any given day. She’d see me through the moments I got stuck in the past and pull me to the present not with words, but with patience and her silence that was always so sweet to hear.

I wouldn’t let anything stop my mission. Not the cool autumn breeze, the breakdown, not the tow-truck pulling up alongside of us or the driver watching me with a raised brow while I walked around the rear to open Piper’s door. The second her legs swung out and I had her hand, I fell to my knees. Ignoring the twinge to my thigh, I dug in my pocket for the diamond I thought was perfect. And when I brought it up for her to see, late daylight making it flicker, it wasn’t words that bound her to me forever. It was the love in her eyes. It was hope and peace and the dream of our future. So it was in our silence that I slid the ring on her finger and called her mine.

Six months later on an early spring day, I met her in the exact same place. This time she found me waiting with Gus and Rosie sitting by my feet, JT perched on my arm and a preacher standing next to me. I had a ghost for my best man. He grinned and gave a casual salute as family and friends gathered ’round to watch Piper drive up in my ancient but repaired truck. She wore her favorite jean jacket, a pretty white dress and a smile as bright as the sun. We exchanged words that day. Real words with deeper meaning.

I’v been her husband for seven weeks and I never wanted for us to be too far apart. I’d wondered more than once if this feeling would ever subside, or if it was natural? Do other men get a flutter in their chest when they look at their woman or is that just me? Did every husband want to lock their wife in the bedroom and make her pant and scream, every day— all day? I shake my head as if it will release the stranglehold on my emotions, and that’s when I see her.

Piper. She watches me from the edge of the clearing. Platinum hair, longer now than when I knocked on her door a year ago. A loose pink sundress that clings to her tits. It’s too short to be anything but fuck, hot sexy, and shows off her toned and tanned legs. She holds a cherubic kid. With his blonde curls and the gray intensity of his gaze, he looks more and more like Justin every day.

Piper’s dark eyes find mine. They twinkle with a grin that has yet to meet her lips. She stoops to let JT down to his feet and I cringe. We both know he’ll tumble to the grass. He’s tried. He’s really tried to find his balance but hasn’t gotten the hang of the whole walking thing yet. My concern grows when she hands him an envelope and motions him forward.

JT squeals his excitement. Piper holds Gus back, Rosie too, as JT takes a step. I sit up, catching my breath, waiting for him to tumble and the frustrated cry I know will follow. It doesn’t happen. I exhale as he laughs and shoots both hands in the air, waving that envelope around while he gets into a rhythm, one hesitant foot in front of the other. Tears spring to my eyes. I look at Piper, her hand holding back a combination laugh-cry while the other films JT’s first steps with her phone.

Once he figures it out, he’s unstoppable. JT is on a mission. He’s halfway to me when I scamper out of the truck and crouch, waiting for him with open arms. “Come on buddy.” My encouragement falters when my voice cracks. Goddamn, this is exciting. I laugh then. I laugh with JT as he meets my grip and I swing him up like he won a gold medal in the Olympics. “Well done big guy.”

“Da,” he says.

My heart stops. The next beat takes way too long and it skips when he says it again. “Da.” Shoving the envelope at my face he starts repeating the one word that clogs my throat. The one word I had hoped to hear but was never certain I would, not from JT. He is Justin’s, always will be, but I know deep down in my soul he is mine too.

“Dada,” JT says as if to confirm it.

I look at Piper as she saunters over, slow steps while she watches me struggle to find my footing. And then she smiles. She smiles that damn smile that tightens my chest, and I can’t breathe. Her eyes glisten as she closes the distance, slipping her hand in my back pocket. The other wraps around JT to cover my arm that holds us together, acting like the anchor she has become.

“Go ahead. Open it,” she whispers and nods toward the letter.

Air escapes my lungs in a rush. “What did you do, sunshine?”

“Read it and find out.”

She works with me to slice open the top and unfold the tri-folded piece of paper so I can scan the contents. Fuck. Time stands still. The world shifts to a new axis as the past meets the future, my life with Justin replaying behind my closed lids. From kindergarten through his death all the way to my rebirth. The day I stopped fighting fate and accepted that Justin was gone and he was good. He was good and so was I. We’d gone in separate directions but that didn’t mean I had to stop living. Somewhere along the way I chose life. I decided I liked hope a lot better than grief and I had a bucketful of reasons to feel hopeful. I had two of the best reasons in my arms right now. Without a doubt I belong to Piper. And JT.

He is mine now.

Justin. Taylor. Lawless.

I clutch his new birth certificate in my hand as proof. A low groan escapes my open mouth as I press it in his hair, sucking in his sweet scent and blinking back tears.

“Dada,” he says again.

His arms wrap around my neck, squeezing out my grateful response. “Son.”

My heart spasms with this newfound truth. The magnitude of the responsibility should be staggering, yet all I see is love. Whatever difficulties lie ahead are overshadowed by the joy in my heart and the knowledge that every bump in the road is worth it. I’ll never quit him. I’ll never quit the life Justin set in motion, the best gift he’d ever given. His son. My son.

Piper breathes into my neck, “Happy father’s day, Caden” and I am finally whole.

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A shocking end to a beautiful love story

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Personally, Midnight Sun is my favorite in the trilogy. We get all the things we love to see with Charlie and Colin: passion, such poignant and beautiful devotion between two people who found their forever in one another. Their love is tested more than once by secrets and enemies who want nothing more than to see them destroyed. This story answers all of the nagging questions remaining from books one and two. I truly hope you enjoy the final chapter of the Midnight Trilogy and that it leaves you thinking about Charlie and Colin in the days to come. Thank you so much for taking this journey with me.

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The hold he has on me is nothing short of fierce. With one hand braided through my hair and the other held firm against my lower back, he digs in, covering me in his presence. His heartbeat is strong beneath my cheek, but I know life can change in an instant. I’ve encountered the sudden impact more than most. I’m not sitting on the sidelines anymore waiting for the next curveball. There may be more Ellas or Johns or Shanes to cross my path, but I’m not afraid. I’ve fought my way into happiness too many times to get stuck in the potholes. I’ll stand my ground and take what I want. And right now, that’s Colin. I’m going to marry him and live the dream.

I lean back and tilt my head to give my own command. “Kiss.”

The smile that peels across his face is priceless. It’s sweet and disarming, the hidden side he saves for me. “Hm.” He sinks into indecency, the line of his body molding closer to mine. “Careful, my love. We’re doing so well to manage through your imposed boundaries. I would hate to breach them with only fifty-four hours . . .” he nips my bottom lip, “remaining through this sanction.”

I laugh. “Counting down the hours?”

“The minutes, actually.”

My eyes roll when his hands stray under my jacket, along my spine and to the sides of my breasts. Suddenly, they’re aching and heavy, and my breath fractures when his mouth slides into place with a kiss so intense I can feel it in my chest. I’m ruined by the powerful thrust of his tongue and his complete abandon. And then he rips away.

 “You,” he pants into my cheek. “I’m terrified by how much I want you. More than that, how much I need you.” He tightens his hold. “I’m obsessed with your laugh and with how you look at me, insatiable—exactly how I feel. I’ve never relied on anyone as I do you.” I pry away only enough to see his eyes and the almost painful expression that cannot be smoothed away with my fingers. “So yes. I’m tracking the seconds until you’re mine. And when you are, Charlie, when you belong to me, I will take you so hard time will cease to mean anything other than where my hands are and when they’ll touch you again.”

He kisses me deep, and with a longing that echoes his words. I hate that it has to last the entire day as we separate to tie up loose ends before we become affixed for good.

Each hour has my to-do list growing shorter and shorter. Last stop: honeymoon prep. Hours spent at Je T’aime, Washington’s exclusive lingerie boutique, results in the perfect ensembles to drive Colin insane—in the best way.

Six turns to eight, and when reunited we have just enough time for leftovers with wine and a steaming shower. We fall into bed exhausted from the day, or maybe the year that has chased us right up to our I dos. I slip into sleep with my T-shirt tucked under my breasts so Colin’s head can rest on my bare stomach. He loses his battle to stay awake while tracing words along my hipbone. Forever is not enough.

My whispered affection is lost in a dream that’s over before I can remember it. Night passes to day. Vague impressions of love and loss weigh heavy on my heart as the subtle stroke of light brushes my lids from the outside in. The hint of sandalwood is replaced by something that doesn’t belong under my sheets. I’m flat on my stomach, arms wrapped around my pillow with a chill covering my shoulders. Not once since sharing a bed have we been in one without touching.

Colin is gone, yet I am not alone.

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Midnight, Chapter Two

Website face Colin

TWO

SITTING AT A SMALL table in front of the restaurant’s only fireplace, the senator’s head is tipped to his cell. The few patrons left from the morning rush have a singular focus and I fall in line with them, relieved he misses my inspection. More relaxed than I saw yesterday, he’s wearing a dark blue cable-knit sweater with a high collar. It hangs open, exposing a muscled neck and the white T-shirt hidden underneath. I can’t look away, and it’s not because his sleeves are pushed to his elbows, exposing thick forearms as if he’s more professional athlete than presidential hopeful. It’s a feeling, like we were separated years ago and our reunion took too long to occur. Now that we’re together, I don’t want to miss a breath or a word or smile.

He looks up and the feeling spreads below the belt. I might say my world stands still. If people remain in the near vicinity, I stop caring. In a simple moment it’s me watching a cute boy with my heart somersaulting in my chest. But fairytales don’t exist in real life, and the connection is broken by a shattering crash in the kitchen.

I glance to the hostess and her batting lashes when she deposits me next him. He stands in greeting. “Is there anything you need, Senator McKenna?” she asks in a voice much too breathy for a day job.

He shakes his head a fraction and says, “Charlie.”

That one word lives within me as a shiver. This pull, the draw I feel toward him, is beyond surprising. It’s never happened before. I can’t figure out why now, why him? Then it hits me. I’m not alone, everyone has this reaction. Few people possess the type of magnetism that casts a spell, yet he has it in spades. With my inexperience I don’t stand a chance to fight off his magic.

Keep it professional, Carter. I let the chant loose in my mind and hold out my hand, not expecting the sparks when he makes contact or the sudden lump I can’t swallow when his thumb draws warm circles on my skin. We stand staring; his eyes seek out mine and I wonder what he sees: the injured child or the sheltered adult?

A diversion comes by way of the waiter offering coffee. “Yes, please.” I beam with gratitude at him as he pours it, and then at the senator for pulling out my seat.

“Thank you,” I say and sink down.

He’s just as quick to relax next to me. “I hope you slept well?”

Okay, I can do this. He is, after all, a man; there are no lions at the table for breakfast. A smirk lifts the side of his mouth and I forget why we’re here. Oh, right: conversation, campaign, social media. “I did, and you, did you sleep well?”

The smirk stretches to a smile. “Better than I have in months.”

“Good.” I wish I knew what he’s thinking. Yesterday he was completely unreadable. Today it’s as if he’s lowered his shield and stepped away from battle, allowing me a glimpse of the man behind the mask. I glance to the fire snapping next to him, appreciating the heat on my bare legs.

“Are you cold?”

I shake my head. “It feels nice; I didn’t have my thermals to keep me warm last night.” I clench my jaw to hold a straight face.

He tips his head back and laughs. “Thermals?”

It’s deep and genuine, warming me from the inside out, and it spurs me on. “It’s very cold in Michigan, at nighttime especially. Thermals are warm; you should try them.”

“I think you say that in jest, Charlie.”

“You doubt thermals are warm?”

“No, I doubt you wear them.”

I shrug. He’s not subtle as he looks over my face and hair and then he catches sight of my shirt, his right brow lifting in question.

“A sudden fan of the Fighting Irish?”

“You like it?” I ask, opening the jean jacket I had stashed in the Blazer. Underneath is a kelly green T-shirt sporting the college’s logo. “I wasn’t prepared for the overnight stay, so I improvised with a gift shop find. Who knew they sell everything.” And I do mean everything. My ass is peppered with the same logo because apparently there’s a market for Notre Dame panties. Combine everything with my skirt from yesterday and I look more student than business professional.

“It’s the same color as your eyes.” There’s heat in his voice, so much so my stomach flutters. Okay…. It’s time for coffee when all I can think about are his lips, and what his mouth tastes like, how it would feel on my neck.

I focus on my mug, and the cream and sugar. “I like kissing sweet and light. No….” I hold out my hand, horrified. “I mean coffee—coffee should be sweet and light. How do you take yours?”

He smiles behind his cup and now his eyes spark like the flames by his feet. “Dark and strong.”

As in deep and wicked. Oh, for the love of God. I stop to think as the strangest thing sits on my shoulder and whispers in my ear, you’re not nervous or intimidated. And this is not like me. I don’t flirt or banter with boys, let alone a lion. The ease of it, though, is what’s sending warning signals to my brain in bright blinking lights. A sign blaring careful-Charlie-this-is-life-changing is blinking in neon in the near distance, yet I can’t help but follow its stated course.

“Was that your first question?” he asks with a dimple digging into his cheek.

“One of many, yes.”

“You don’t want to know my credentials?”

I contemplate him, the soft wave of hair that escaped from the rest to lie on his forehead and the day’s growth of whiskers covering his jaw—smooth yet rough. In a flash of recognition I know his charm can win over the most difficult conversations, but underneath the perfection he has the potential to lose control. And that’s what I need to discern—how dangerous is he?

“No. I’d expect Evan Daugherty and the rest of your team vetted you against the pack before you spent millions to get where you are today. You’re asking me to leave my family for months, and to do that, I want to know the man under the suit. Tell me who Colin McKenna is.”

He tilts his head and I get the same calculated assessment. His eyes trip on my lips and then he pulls at his bottom one with his teeth before it pops free. “We don’t have anything between us but words, Charlie,” he says, leaning in. “But I need one thing from you.”

He rests his hand on mine. I hadn’t noticed I’d clenched the edge of the table, but the underside of the wood is rough where I’ve dug into the grain. I stare at his long fingers; feel the warmth and the weight and the zing of possibility that travels up my arm.

I drag my eyes to his. Green to blue, and I willingly sacrifice myself to the slaughter. “Anything,” I whisper

“Trust,” he says. “I’ll always give you my honesty and I expect the same from you.”

Oh. I nod, but sense he’s hungry for more. He wants my truth: the dark secrets of my soul.

My heart stumbles over the prospect and I get lost in a vat of overwhelmed. I don’t do change. I lived with my parents until they cut the tie and urged me into adulthood. I like my people, my places, and the familiarity of my day-to-day. The safety all of it brings. And he’s offering—what exactly? Rein it in, Carter. This is an interview, not a proposition. But I fixate on his left hand, still lingering over mine. There is no wedding ring and no indentation of one on his finger. He’s beyond gorgeous, successful, and running for president; I’m surprised he isn’t married.

“My wife died.” He pulls away and rubs the spot as if in memory of the ring that once was.

My eyes cling to his. “I’m so sorry, I….”

“It was years ago. Are you hungry?” he asks, motioning for the waiter.

Starving. But not for food, for the something new he’s offering. For the change that scares me as much as it excites. I swallow my heart as it pounds in my throat and pick up the menu. “Um… I’d like the blueberry pancakes with bacon, please.”

“And I’ll have the president’s special. What?” he asks when my brows shoot up. “It’s on the menu.”

I wave away his grin and set aside the crazy notion this conversation is anything but straightforward. “So what did you do before politics?”

“McKenna Industries.”

“And?”

“I rehabbed failing businesses. They still do. When I ran for office I transitioned the firm to my COO, but I remain the key stakeholder. My forte is determining why a company is deteriorating, get it moving in a new direction, and sell it for a profit.” He looks directly into my eyes as he finishes, “I like to find broken things, discover their secrets, and make them whole; mend and repair until they’re far better than before my interception.”

I squirm under the weight of his stare, as if he’s looking into me, searching again for my truth. “What’s the secret to your success?”

“I learned very quickly that it wasn’t about me; it’s not about my title, or the skills I have, or what I can do. It’s always about the people: their capabilities and motivation. People won’t follow someone because they have a title; they’ll support and do the right thing when influenced by someone they trust. Honesty and transparency are pivotal to a successful endeavor. With those principles and hard work, I push the companies and the employees beyond expectation, surpassing what they believed themselves capable of. Once it’s successful, I sell it and start all over again.”

“So why did you make the change to politics?”

He shrugs. “It’s always been my dream. Fundamentally, the business concept is the same, yet it’s on a bigger level. Very simply, it’s about peeling back the layers one at a time, identifying the problems, fixing them, making it better than it ever was and moving on to the next layer. It’s the ultimate challenge and I do it justice.”

I nod. It makes sense. “But you’re so young.”

“Should I wait until I’m fifty?”

“Maybe. I thought you had to, actually.”

“Thirty-five is the minimum age to run. I’m thirty-six; I’ll be thirty-seven by inauguration, if I’m elected. You think I’m not qualified?” he challenges.

“No, I don’t know you well enough to say that. I think there are a lot of people who will jump to that conclusion, though.”

“It’s one of the reasons why I need you.” My heart free-falls. I know very well he’s talking about business, but I feel his comment deeply.

Get a grip, Carter.

My reaction is bizarre. How is it that for years I’ve been immune to desire and at first sight of this gorgeous, completely out-of-my-league man, I’m salivating like a hormonal teenager? None of this makes any sense.

“I have so little experience. What if I fail you?” This is the truth; why would he look to me to assist him in this lifelong endeavor?

“Don’t make yourself uneasy. I’m very familiar with your experience. I don’t leave many things up to fate, Charlie, not in pursuit of the position I hope to have. I need you,” he says again. “You’re young with a fresh perspective.”

“But how do you even know who I am?”

“Evan has read many of your articles and came across a website you devised for Jay Tyler; he’s impressed, as was I when I did my research.”

My head swims. It makes sense he would delve into my past and qualifications, just as I would have done with him if I’d had time. The senator would be very thorough and in depth. He’d uncover everything.

“Think about how good we could be together,” he says as our food appears.

But all I can think about is the loaded meaning behind those words. We suspend conversation while we eat, and I’m amazed at how easy it is to be with him. The moment stutters into déjà vu, as if we’ve had a hundred mornings like this one.

“How are they?” he asks, pointing to my plate.

“Delicious. And your president’s special?”

“Are you turning your nose up at my choice?”

I shake my head. “No, I’d never call scrambled egg whites boring.”

He chuckles. “It’s called healthy.”

Boring, I mouth. “Here, try some of my pancakes; you can taste the difference between dull and insanely good.” I push my plate toward him an inch, encouraging him to take a bite.

He cuts away a triangle from the stack and I watch as he raises it to his mouth. Our eyes connect and the heat is back, raging uncontrollably at our table for two. It was only a pancake, for the love of God. How can it turn into this unbearable tension?

I have to look away. My appetite is suddenly gone; I can’t concentrate on anything but my heart and the thrumming energy under my skin.

“Charlie?” His voice is deep, with a rasping edge to it. I peek at his face where a small smile offers encouragement. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything insanely good, so thank you—for the pancakes.”

So he’s sweet too. Damn man.

“Will you leave today?”

“As soon as breakfast is over.”

“Oh.” I wasn’t expecting that. “And if I accept, when will I join you?”

“Will you accept?”

Now is the time to make a choice. To take a chance on living outside of my box. Albeit a comfortable and safe haven, it’s time to stretch into a new me.

“Yes.”

His response spreads into a heart-stopping grin. “Good. I’d like you to spend a week at my campaign headquarters here in Indiana, and then meet me and the others on the trail.”

“Who are they?”

“My team, the people I trust the most. You’re a part of them now.”

“Oh.” The weight of the endeavor is heavy on my shoulders. “I’d like a few days to get my things in order. Will you send me the itinerary? I’ll also want an outline of your expectations for the blog and social media sites. With your input, I’ll put together a proposal.” It feels good to talk business.

“Yes, absolutely.” He glances at his vibrating cell. “McKenna.” His tone is different on the phone, different than his tone with me. Looking directly into my eyes, he responds, “Give me ten minutes… In addition, I’ll need you to get Ms. Carter specifics on the campaign as soon as possible… Yes, Monday.” After a pause he hangs up. His face, once relaxed and at ease, is fierce and he’s back on the hunt.

A second later he removes his napkin from his lap and stands. I assume he has the bill routed to his room because we’re done. Just like that. Breakfast is over and I have a new future. He steps behind my chair to pull it back.

“Thank you, Senator.” I stand and turn. Lost in a to-do list the size of the Himalayas, I head to the door.

“Charlie!” His sharp tone snaps my gaze from the paisley carpet to the waiter: a huge platter full of dishes is barreling toward me. The senator grabs my waist and tugs my back to his chest to avoid an embarrassing collision. In an instant, an absurd, illogical force grips tight and I’m its marionette, a puppet controlled by an unseen figure, bound to its demands. Closing my eyes, I bask for an instant in his embrace; the heat radiating from him to me fractures my heart into scattered palpitations.

A low rumble vibrates between us as his fingers dig into my hips. Oh, God. I swear his lips brush against my ear. I know he whispers, “Tell me you feel it too.” His breath is rough, it is, I feel it, but then he pushes me away. None of it can be true when I turn to find he’s raking his hand through his hair from root to tip, jaw tense.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t see him.”

“Please,” he says, motioning me to take the lead and past this crazy moment. He doesn’t have to worry; I’d jog if it’d fast-forward through my awkward reaction. He pushes the door open from beside me and we exit the restaurant together. When we’re alone in the lobby he takes hold of my arm and I swing around to face him.

He looks me over one more time, getting stuck on my lips and then my hair. His gaze lands on my eyes and I see a struggle rolling around in his blue storm. But he shakes his head, as if freeing himself from confusion.

“Evan will send you everything you need to be comfortable with a Monday start. I’ll meet you the following week in North Carolina.”

I reach for his outstretched hand and stare at our connection. He’s warm, firm, and electric, very much like his eyes that draw me in and hold me captive. It would be very easy to get lost in them; lost in him.

“Good-bye, Charlie.”

“Colin, have a safe trip.” It’s the first time I’ve said his name. I know it and I think he may too, from the parting of his lips. “Good-bye,” I whisper. Pulling my hand from his, I turn and rush toward the exit. I don’t dare look back; if I do I may say or do something I can’t recover from.

The sting of the cold January air is a welcome slap against my face, breaking through the haze created by this crazy intensity. Imagined or real, it’s profound and disturbing. Holy shit; we’re going to work together for months. Now that I’m away from him, I’m rethinking my agreement; I need to stay away from Colin McKenna.

Text copyright© 2014-2016 by Elizabeth Miller


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Meet Colin McKenna: Beautiful, broken and in complete control –until she opens her smart mouth. 


PROLOGUE

I ALWAYS THOUGHT I was immune to want or need, that I would sleep through the rest of my life and never feel my heart thunder under the weight of a stare. Shivering from a touch or humming through a kiss was not for me. It just never happened. Days clicked into place one black-and-white slide at a time; college graduation, lunch with Mom, shopping with my sister. I’m happy, but not with the kind of dizzying joy that keeps me from concentrating on anything but a Him or an Us.

Last night I went to bed by myself, as I have every day before. But now, now a prickling knowledge shimmers over my skin and forces my eyes open.

I am not alone.

He’s the perfect man: full lips, a chiseled jaw, and a smirk that wars between dirty and sweet. Tall and broad and in my bedroom, he’s bathed in the early morning light. I swallow down a question as he leans in to press his hands on either side of my face, watching me watch him.

“There are few things in the world I’d call mine,” he says in his perfect, deep voice. “You belong to me.”

I whimper. I whimper and reach for him. My fingers dive into his hair and pull him down, crashing my mouth against his. He matches my hunger. We kiss, hard and deep, long strokes of his tongue against mine, and I demand more. I’m a ticking time bomb and he started the clock. My pulse, his lips, my breath, his heat, the calm possession, I’m tied into a knot of yes, please and don’t ever leave.

He tastes like everything I’ve ever wanted or needed. And I won’t let him go. Not now that we’ve found our way to each other. Our souls are on a first name basis. Forever has come and gone and we’ve just met again. Mine.

My world explodes into a bright light when he presses between my thighs and my lids snap open.

“Oh, God,” I pant and swipe the damp hair from my forehead. The familiar glow of a streetlight tugs my mind into my room and my life, where a gorgeous man doesn’t affect the state of my panties. “Sleep, Carter.” My voice is angry, as is the punch I throw to my flattened pillow. An early morning starts in hours and leaves little time for wishful thinking. But it doesn’t stop the flush burning up my chest, or hope, as I squeeze my eyes closed to find the dream that will never be reality.


ONE

POLITICS IS NOT MY strong suit; in fact, I hold a high level of disdain for it, and maybe more so for politicians. My simple philosophy categorizes the whole system just above the criminal clientele inhabiting the State penitentiary. Politicians are pompous asses in very expensive three-piece suits. They may hold the appearance of kindness and concern, yet behind the façade they plunder the pockets of Americans, spending taxpayer money as if it grows on the trees surrounding their million-dollar mansions.

The irony that I’ve been asked to meet Indiana Senator Colin McKenna about a much sought after social media position on his campaign team is not lost on me. I don’t know anything about him. The late call from Sonja Bates, an editor I work with, didn’t allow for any investigation, and given my beliefs about the American political system, I have little knowledge of the platforms on which he professes support. I’m more interested in reading the classics than about who’s banging who in Washington.

The thought of following the progress of a stale campaign for months is rather depressing, but my dried-up life savings outweighs any concerns. I’m turning onto the University of Notre Dame campus because my freelance work dried up and I’m broke.

Sliding from my beat-up Chevy Blazer at just past two in the afternoon, I hurry through the parking lot with only a few minutes to spare. The January wind whips in lashing licks. It prompts my jog into the Morris Inn, where I jump in the line of reporters waiting to enter the auditorium. After a credential check, I’m motioned to the far end, where an elevated stage sits in front of a U-shaped configuration of tables. Behind this area are rows of seats for the general public, which are filled to capacity.

I stand aside to remove my coat, accepting the last open chair on the very edge of the assembly. A pretty brunette woman sits next to me, preparing a portable mini recorder on the table in front of her, along with a binder for written notes. I watch, fascinated, as she meticulously reapplies her lip gloss and ensures every strand of hair is in place.

I’m suddenly aware of my white button up. The cotton didn’t fare well through the four-hour drive, so I run my hands down the fitted sides to smooth out any wrinkles and tuck the hem into my black pencil skirt. Afraid my auburn curls suffered the same wilting fate, I twist and pin them up into a loose bun and hope my presentation will pass inspection.

As I pull my iPad from my bag, a balding man appears on stage and the hum of the crowd calms.

“Ladies and gentleman, it’s with great pleasure I introduce you to a man I had the good fortune to teach not long ago at this very university. His goals and ambitions were clear even then; his drive to succeed unwavering. Embodying honesty and sincere candor, he will lead this country into the next decade with a direct connection to the needs and desires of the people. Senator Colin McKenna.”

The crowd erupts into a riotous ovation. Clapping out of politeness, I watch the candidate walk onto the platform, shrouded at first by the shadows at the edge of the stage. Hoots and whistles follow him as he makes his way to the forefront. This is the reception of a popular musician, not a politician.

My hands still midair, breathing forgotten. Colin McKenna is a mirror of the man from my implausible dream. I’m in a trance, a moth caught in a spider’s web without the ability to escape. He’s absolutely gorgeous.  Elegant yet sculpted in sharp lines, he fills the seams of a three-piece suit with a radiating sexuality. He doesn’t look like any politician I’ve ever seen before. He’s young—really young—for a presidential candidate.

A screen hangs behind him, projecting his features large enough for those in the very back to see every brilliant nuance. His jaw is etched from stone, softened only by a slight indent in his chin. Full lips, perfect teeth, and dimples, and I fear I may need a fan to cool the heat on my cheeks when he smiles. Rows of dark lashes frame eyes like I’ve never seen before: a brilliant blue with a slice of brandy shooting through the left one. Thick brown hair is perfectly placed at the crown of his head, smoothed back into a short and neat cut. I want my hands in it. I want my fingers pulling on it as if they were meant to live there. Holy hell. Desperate to refocus, I stare at the podium and the university’s symbol embellished on the front—staring anywhere but at Colin McKenna.

It’s only a moment before my gaze is drawn back. The noise of the crowd has yet to die down. He gives a slight bow of his head, as if embarrassed by the attention, and gestures for the applause to quiet. A hush falls across the room.

“Today I stand before you with our future and the health of our nation lying ahead of us. I have heard the cry for change in Washington, heard the hope that this election will be different than all that came before it. Together, and with my leadership, your desire for a brighter future is within our grasp.”

I find myself staring wide-eyed as he speaks. Surely this man, albeit a very attractive one, shouldn’t have this effect on me. I look around. Many are as struck as I am, watching with silly grins or simply gaping. A camera flash sparks my sanity and I realize I’ve forgotten to hit record. Fumbling, I do so, knowing I must have missed the first few minutes of his speech. Straightening my back, I lift my gaze to the Senator as he confirms his bid on the White House.

“I’ve made it my life’s mission to care for this country and those who call it their home,” he says, squaring his shoulders. “As I continue on with the pursuit of this dream, it’s time I seek the most absolute position in which I can lead with integrity, pride, and passion. I will not let you down; I will not let this country down. I will bring the United States of America into the next decade stronger than it has ever been.” The crowd erupts and once again I feel as if I’m at a concert, suspecting an overly hormonal teenager will throw her bra on stage.

When the cheering calms, he continues sharing his key initiatives should he be elected. After a few more minutes it’s over and the dialogue is opened to the members of the media. He’s quizzed about his beliefs, his priorities during the first year in office, and so on. I’m once again thankful for the iPad, because I’m having trouble concentrating. It’s only when I catch the tail end of a question that I sit taller in my seat.

“…abortion and women’s rights?”

My breath catches but his response comes easily. “There must be a balance between personal rights and the right to live. Life is precious and we must think in that context when considering ending it.”

Indignation pulses like a second heartbeat, bubbling to the surface. “Would you take away a woman’s right to protect herself? For reasons you couldn’t know, would you take away a woman’s control over her body and possible health?” It’s as if I was thinking out loud, yet it was stated with conviction for everyone to hear. All heads swivel toward me, looking for the dumb ass shouting out in argument with Mr. McPerfect. But I don’t back down. I would like to know.

I need to know.

It’s his turn to stare. His intense gaze holds mine for what feels like an eternity before he addresses me with consideration. “A child has a right to be born, a right to live.” His eyes continue with their hypnotic spell as others invade the moment, hurling questions. He hesitates, studying my face and hair before he shifts his attention away.

Relief floods through me as I sink back into my seat. What did I just do?

The questions and answers flow until the conference comes to an end, and with a brief glance my way, he exits the platform. I let out the breath I didn’t realize I was holding and stand so fast my chair tips back.

“Hey, now, there’s no need to throw furniture. The speech wasn’t so bad, was it?”

Oh, shit. Is he talking to me? The thump of my heart hits my throat and reluctantly, I turn.

He has an easy grin centered on a handsome face; handsome in a California surfer kind of way.

“Ms. Carter?” When I nod, he continues, “Evan Daugherty, the senator’s campaign manager.”

“Right, yeah.” Flustered, I stumble through a greeting and his smile spreads.

“I have a private space set aside for us to talk. Come, he’s anxious to speak with you.”

I don’t know if this is a good idea; after the reaction I had toward Senator McKenna, this assignment is looking more and more unfavorable. Yet I follow, even as nerves settle in my stomach. The only distraction as he leads me past the stage and through a large conference space bubbling with campaign staff is a stunning blonde, who plays voodoo with her eyes. They narrow and spit needles as she tracks my progress. I lose sight of her when accepting Mr. Daugherty’s waved offer for one of four plush chairs in a private tiny room.

As I drop down to sit, the senator fills the doorway. By his mere presence, Colin McKenna commands attention, and he definitely has mine; every nerve in my body is highly attuned to his proximity, shimmering like a spark waiting to ignite. He’s tall, so tall I crane my neck to look at him. I force my gaze to his face, but he’s too—I don’t know, he’s too… him—so I let them trail to his chest. No longer fully suited, he wears only a dark gray vest with a white shirt, collar open. And then lower. I catch myself staring at his muscled thighs and the bulge that lies slightly higher, barely concealed by the slim line of his matching charcoal slacks.

He clears his throat and I blink my way up his rock-hard body. His smile broadens and I lose myself in its brilliance, before I call myself stupid and stand, fumbling with my bag.

“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me on such short notice,” he says in a husky tone made to send shivers down my spine.

As my palm connects with his, a line of electricity shoots up my arm and the air feels full of an almost palpable energy. His brow furrows and his smirk dissolves into the straight line of his lips. I wonder for a second if he feels it too, and then the intensity of his stare causes a hot flush to spread up my chest like a wildfire. Those damn eyes; it’s as if they’re searching mine for answers to unasked questions. My lips part to respond to the mysterious inquiry, but no sound escapes my now parched throat. Shaking my head, I recover and slip free from his grip.

With our physical connection broken, his smile returns. “Please have a seat. May I offer you anything?”

I sink into the soft chair, crossing my legs, and his gaze follows to my leopard-print heels. But I don’t feel ferocious as I did when I walked out of my apartment this morning. The confidence I held as I slipped into my favorite print has been stripped away, and all that’s left is me. Charlie Carter, sister, daughter, a pseudo-journalist from a small town with limited experience. And in front of me is a god among men. Colin McKenna isn’t the boy next door—he’s the lion ready to slaughter the lamb.

I count to three to ensure I won’t squeak out an answer. “No, thank you—I’m fine.”

We’re face-to-face as he sits on the couch, knees apart, one arm stretching to rest on the back cushion, relaxed. “I hope you had an uneventful drive. Where is it that you live?”

“Royal Oak, just north of Detroit—Michigan,” I add after a beat, and then think stupid isn’t a strong enough term.

“That must have taken you most of the morning. I’m sorry we didn’t give you more notice to plan an accommodating travel schedule.”

I wave away the concern in his tone. “It was fine, I didn’t mind the drive.”

He nods. “I understand Sonja has reviewed with you my thoughts on creating an extensive social media campaign, a chronicle if you will, relating to my candidacy and me personally. I want to connect with those who use social media as their primary means of communication.”

“And you believe I may be the person best suited to do this?” I’m incredulous. I fail to understand how my limited resume qualifies me for this assignment.

 “I do.” He continues by changing the subject. “It seems you and I have differing opinions on topics that are very pertinent to the moral compass of our country. I’m intrigued to learn more about your position.”

This is not a conversation I want to have. Not with him. I could kick myself for opening my mouth and wish I had shoved my glorious leopard-print heel into it instead. It takes a deep breath and boiling blood before I can offer the truth. “I don’t believe a man wholly unconnected to the state of a woman’s body should judge and prevent a possible life-saving procedure. How are you, or any other politician, qualified to determine what a woman may do with her own body?”

“And what about the baby, Ms. Carter? Who will protect the innocent life taken each time an abortion is performed?”

I flinch. “There are some instances in which neither one would survive if not for the option. It’s in those circumstances I believe a woman has the right to choose her own life over the beginning of another.” The intensity of my position shows as my voice reverberates my answer, forceful, even though the tone is low.

Nodding, as if to close the topic he says, “It’s very rare that someone voluntarily and so spontaneously opposes my opinion at an event sponsored by my camp. I need to be connected to people, even those with beliefs that differ from my own. I like that you offer another side of the picture painted before me.”

“Is it my opinion you seek, or my ability to write about yours?” I ask. What is it he wants me to do?

His eyes spark. “Both. Tell me, how do you approach a topic to present it in a fair light, approach it from a true, unpolluted perspective?”

“I withhold all personal judgment of the individual or subject. It’s not my job to provide a conclusion for the reader; it’s my responsibility to share the facts as I understand them.” I’ve regained my footing and the fledgling confidence returns. “I learned very early on most people are not as easily read as one would believe. I let them tell me their truth, and listen carefully to the art of people. You would be surprised by what you hear.”

Raising his fingers to his mouth, he begins to pull on his lower lip, and it does something to me. The same something it did last night, and I shift in my seat, hoping he doesn’t notice my thighs squeezing together. “And what if the topic is of no interest to you?”

“Life is interesting, Senator. I don’t need to have a passion for everything in it; I have to find what’s remarkable for the readers. That’s what will engage them in the blog and the topic itself.”

I look at Evan, who has remained silent through the entire conversation, standing against the far wall, arms folded against his chest. He grins as if he’s in on a joke I’m not aware of. “Was that your tactic when you created and maintained the highest rated personal blog for three years straight?”

My heart explodes in my chest. “Oh, that.” I bite my bottom lip and wait for my pulse to settle. “I um, it was a lucky coincidence at a time when not many people were talking about plus size fashion. I wanted to chat about it and I didn’t care much if anyone wanted to listen.”

“Millions did. Why’d you stop?”

“It was drawing me into the spotlight and I prefer to remain behind the scenes.”

McKenna leans forward. “Ms. Carter, I’m about to embark on a tour of the United States seeking the Republican presidential nomination. I would like for you to accompany me as I campaign. Use your expertise to understand my motivations and connect my beliefs and me to voters via the Internet. Will you come?”

It takes a moment to formulate a response, and the only thing I can think to say is “Charlie.” His right brow lifts in question. “Call me Charlie. Ms. Carter or Charlise is too formal.”

“Charlie,” he says as if tasting my name, savoring it. When I don’t answer he tries again. “Charlie, I want you to contemplate my offer. Would you meet me tomorrow for breakfast?” he asks, yet I think by the command in his tone he only expects an affirmative answer. “It will give you an opportunity to learn more about me and the campaign.”

I’m drawn to this man, his masculine, chiseled jaw and cheekbones, straight nose, blue eyes, and the glorious waves in his hair. This is uncharted territory, and I’m not sure accepting his offer is the right thing to do—for him or for me.

“I haven’t booked a room to stay through the night.”

He glances over my shoulder. I turn to the window and the snow that has started tumbling from the sky. Big, wet flakes fall, the roof of the building next to ours already thick with buildup.

“I’ll take care of the room for you this evening. Don’t drive in this weather.”

I agree with him, but not because of his demand. It’ll take double the time to get home in this mess. “Okay.”

“Good.” He stands, staring down with an unreadable expression. “I would like for you to enter into our agreement knowing little about me or my campaign. Base your perspective on what you learn firsthand. Can you promise me you’ll forgo any research from this moment forward?”

I’m surprised by his request. Most journalists engage in extensive preparation prior to embarking on such a journey. “Will you promise to be forthright and honest with information when I ask for it and have a need to know?” I search the sculpted lines of his face to determine the truthfulness of his answer.

“On my honor,” he says, and for some reason I believe his sincerity.

“I promise.”

“Until tomorrow then.”

Standing, my hands fan over my skirt to ensure it’s lying smoothly over my rounded hips. His eyes flick over the area I just caressed and then he turns and steps from the room.

“Until tomorrow, Senator,” I whisper to his retreating backside.

Text copyright© 2014-2016 by Elizabeth Miller


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The Midnight Series

The Midnight Series

Men like him don’t exist in the real world, but they do in Washington. Perfect smile. Perfect manners. Tall, broad and beautiful. The most powerful Senator in DC is seeking the White House. And he wants me to help him get there.

Me. Charlie Carter, sister, daughter, a pseudo-journalist from a small town with limited experience. He’s a god among men. Colin McKenna isn’t the boy next door—he’s the lion ready to slaughter the lamb. I should run, bury myself under the years that have slipped by, but the new whirlwind of opportunity his offer holds entices the prey from her hiding spot.

I give in. And because we’re both a little bit broken, we fall, and it’s fast and hard and intense. But just as the campaign gets going, things start to fall apart. Someone is intent on breaking us. Not just breaking us up, but destroying our hope for a future. My secrets, his advisers, and the past conspire together, and it seems they’ll succeed.

Or will they?

The Midnight Series is an intense, sexy romance with a dash of intrigue and loads of emotion from author Elizabeth Miller. This thrilling, complete series is at times laugh out loud funny, it sizzles between the sheets and drops one surprise after another. Midnight is not a political drama, nor does it delve deeply into politics. Prepare for an epic romance about two people with disparate lives trying to come together. It’s for the 17+ crowd.


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Midnight Excerpt:

Colin reclines against the back of the couch. I’m in the chair at the small side table, with ten feet separating us. I’ve had enough brandy to warm Iceland. Or, maybe the heat is from the way he tracks me with his eyes. From the tips of my toes, that are now freed from heels, along the line of my legs, one crossed over the other and bared by the long split in my skirt. And then to my breasts, now rising and falling with my heightened breath. All from a damn look that has my nipples pebble to sharp points. I should stare at the floor, his shoes, not his quads that are hardly contained in black pants, or his biceps bulging as he crosses his arms over his bulbous pectorals—muscles. Every single muscle on this man is tight and thick.

I squeeze my thighs together and he growls.

He growls.

I do it again and he stalks forward.

From couch to chair, he’s on me in a second. My head snaps back as his hands grip me above my waist and he hauls me up. I’m plastered against him with my fingers in his hair—every luscious silk strand. His mouth slams into mine.

My God.

Hot, sweet like wine and sexy as hell, his tongue sweeps in to taste me. Deep lashing licks to shorter strokes, and my heart leaps into next year. Something is going to happen between us. I want it like I’ve never wanted anything before. I’m taking a new path and he’s at the end of it. No matter what happens between us, he will become a part of me and I’ll take him with me forever.

He breaks away, breathless and pleading with his eyes.

“Tell me to stop, Charlie.” His chest heaves beneath my hands as I run them all over him and then his shoulders, feeling the rippling veins on the side of his neck and up to his jaw. I hold him as a struggle plays out on his features and in his gaze. “Talk to me,” he whispers.

I brush my lips against his. “I want this.”

He groans his agreement and tugs on the belt holding my dress together. It billows open and his thumbs help it from my shoulders and then down my arms until it falls to the floor. Left in lace lingerie, I wonder what he’s thinking. I’m more buxom than bony and for the first time in my life I care that my hips are round and my breasts are big.

Stepping away a foot, he says, “Take off your bra.”

I hold my breath; no one has seen me naked before. Not like this. My vision blurs as I reach back to the clasp.

He inhales at the same moment I feel the chilled air against my skin, confirming my vulnerability. “Charlie,” he breathes, lifting a hand to feather his fingers down the side of my body, stopping on my hip bones. “Look at me.”

A cry is lodged in my throat. I’m afraid of what I’ll find when I do. I need him to kiss me and make me forget the insecurities in my head, and the past that swirls along with them. A bleating whimper escapes when I find his hungry eyes, and he says, “You’re gorgeous.”

I launch myself at him, kissing his chin, his cheek, nipping on his jaw. “Make me feel everything. Make me feel so good the only thing I’ll remember is this night and you.”

The last word is lost in his mouth. He sweeps me up as if I weigh nothing and holds me against him. In seconds we’re in his room and then I’m on his bed.

“Lie back.” It’s a soft command, but a command all the same. I scoot to the middle of the mattress and drop from my elbows as he pulls his belt free. Need rushes between my thighs and he watches me squirm. One button and then the next; by the time he frees his shirt and bares his chest, my clit is throbbing and I’m wet, so wet and panting with anticipation. His pants and boxer briefs follow. The man has no shame. He stands stock still, hand stroking his hard length as I take in my fill.

Holy Shit. He is a god among men. There’s nothing soft about him. His abdomen ripples with dips and shadows. A small smattering of hair frames his erection. And oh my, it’s—I swallow a lump—it’s more than I thought it could possibly be.


Midnight: One destined meeting. It alters journalist, Charlise “Charlie” Carter’s course. When asked to work on a Republican candidate’s campaign, she’s unprepared for the intense reaction she has toward the young, handsome presidential hopeful, Colin McKenna.

Unable to resist Charlie’s allure, McKenna succumbs to his desire and they find themselves exploring a passionate, physical relationship that is soon tested by not only their own secrets, but his political advisers.

Traveling the country in pursuit of the presidential nomination, his career aspirations and complications from the past collide with their desire to be together, threatening to tear them apart forever. Midnight tells a compelling story of burgeoning trust, intense passion and secrets that could cause it all to unravel in a heartbeat.

Midnight Sky: Confused and upset by dark revelations, Charlise “Charlie” Carter ended her relationship with the beautiful yet damaged presidential hopeful, Colin McKenna.

But Charlie learns all is not lost, nor was her love given in vain. With a new understanding of how she came into Colin’s life, and his true feelings, their sensual affair continues.

Holding on to hope, Charlie gives him her heart and he’s promised to protect it and her. Yet real danger lurks at every corner, in every city and behind each door. Colin must find a way to keep her safe and by his side, all the while remaining committed to his bid on the White House.

While Colin wrestles with Charlie’s security and the campaign, she struggles with new-found fame. Washington demands perfection and she is far from pure. Can Charlie remain true to herself and help Colin realize his dream? Or will outside forces tear them apart for good? Midnight Sky is a story of sacrifice and a love so true, it transcends public persecution and deep-seated insecurities.

 

Midnight Sun – Cover Reveal

Midnight Sun – Cover Reveal

Midnight Sun

The third and final installment of the McKenna Chronicles

Adult Contemporary Romance by author Elizabeth Miller

Release date: May 7, 2016

Cover art by Najla Qamber Designs

MidnightSun (2)

Midnight Sun: When sheltered journalist Charlie Carter first met the brooding and enigmatic presidential hopeful Colin McKenna, it ignited a passionate affair that set both their lives racing in a new, yet terrifying direction. Hunted by her past, Charlie was forced to face her fears and the stalker who could have ruined the future she barely hoped to have. Determined to lay history to rest, she overcame those obstacles to claim her spot next to the influential man she loves.

Now, with the presidential campaign behind them, Colin and Charlie have it all—power, passion and a love so true nothing could come between them. With the grandeur of the wedding approaching, Charlie is swallowed by the enormity of becoming American royalty. She knows living in the White House with all its scrutiny won’t be easy, but she’s secure with herself and with Colin.

Just when everything settles into a new normal, and it appears nothing can eclipse their bond, the unthinkable happens. Colin’s worst nightmare is brought to life. He must race to save the one woman who brought order to his world and a happiness he never thought possible. With history seeming to repeat itself, Colin fights to hold them together and prepare for a new life that could possibly be the end of Charlie’s.

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Excerpt:

The hold he has on me is nothing short of fierce. With one hand braided through my hair and the other held firm against my lower back, he digs in, covering me in his presence. His heartbeat is strong beneath my cheek, but I know life can change in an instant. I’ve encountered the sudden impact more than most. I’m not sitting on the sidelines anymore waiting for the next curveball. There may be more Ellas or Johns or Shanes to cross my path, but I’m not afraid. I’ve fought my way into happiness too many times to get stuck in the potholes. I’ll stand my ground and take what I want. And right now, that’s Colin. I’m going to marry him and live the dream.

I lean back and tilt my head to give my own command. “Kiss.”

The smile that peels across his face is priceless. It’s sweet and disarming, the hidden side he saves for me. “Hm.” He sinks into indecency, the line of his body molding closer to mine. “Careful, my love. We’re doing so well to manage through your imposed boundaries. I would hate to breach them with only fifty-four hours . . .” he nips my bottom lip, “remaining through this sanction.”

I laugh. “Counting down the hours?”

“The minutes, actually.”

My eyes roll when his hands stray under my jacket, along my spine and to the sides of my breasts. Suddenly, they’re aching and heavy, and my breath fractures when his mouth slides into place with a kiss so intense I can feel it in my chest. I’m ruined by the powerful thrust of his tongue and his complete abandon. And then he rips away.

“You,” he pants into my cheek. “I’m terrified by how much I want you. More than that, how much I need you.” He tightens his hold. “I’m obsessed with your laugh and with how you look at me, insatiable—exactly how I feel. I’ve never relied on anyone as I do you.” I pry away only enough to see his eyes and the almost painful expression that cannot be smoothed away with my fingers. “So yes. I’m tracking the seconds until you’re mine. And when you are, Charlie, when you belong to me, I will take you so hard time will cease to mean anything other than where my hands are and when they’ll touch you again.”

He kisses me deep, and with a longing that echoes his words. I hate that it has to last the entire day as we separate to tie up loose ends before we become affixed for good.

Each hour has my to-do list growing shorter and shorter. Last stop: honeymoon prep. Hours spent at Je T’aime, Washington’s exclusive lingerie boutique, results in the perfect ensembles to drive Colin insane—in the best way.

Six turns to eight, and when reunited we have just enough time for leftovers with wine and a steaming shower. We fall into bed exhausted from the day, or maybe the year that has chased us right up to our I dos. I slip into sleep with my T-shirt tucked under my breasts so Colin’s head can rest on my bare stomach. He loses his battle to stay awake while tracing words along my hipbone. Forever is not enough.

My whispered affection is lost in a dream that’s over before I can remember it. Night passes to day. Vague impressions of love and loss weigh heavy on my heart as the subtle stroke of light brushes my lids from the outside in. The hint of sandalwood is replaced by something that doesn’t belong under my sheets. I’m flat on my stomach, arms wrapped around my pillow with a chill covering my shoulders. Not once since sharing a bed have we been in one without touching.

Colin is gone, yet I am not alone.

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The Midnight Series

Series Covers

Midnight & Midnight Sky Limited Time eBook Bundle 99 cents Amazon US

Midnight & Midnight Sky Limited Time eBook Bundle Sale Amazon UK

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