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Seven of the Blog Hop authors got together and created an original story for your enjoyment.
Storm silently wished the world would disappear. Or at least that all the people crowding her, staring at her, would. The animals she didn’t mind; they didn’t look at her with eyes that asked questions she had no intention of answering. Storm had asked Tara to come in early because the rough night she’d passed had left Storm with a mild migraine. She had wanted to try to rest, hoping that the light of day would keep the nightmares at bay. But she hadn’t counted on Blake starting construction on her house so soon. Or Cheri Long dropping by to drip her acidic brand of charm all over Storm’s front lawn. Or her father and Tiny’s spot inspection of the new handyman. She could forget about that nap and the mild migraine would likely be epic by lunchtime.
Storm stowed the sigh as she tried to find room in her refrigerator for the three pies. Her parents had reason to worry and Blake had a job to do.
By the time she had the pies put away, her father and Blake were knee deep in a masculine conversation about the benefits of hand tools versus power tools. Tara was sending her father’s Shepard into fits of glee with a thorough brushing. Storm felt superfluous and, grateful for the respite, she discretely reached into a cabinet for pain reliever.
Nothing could be done for her puffy, bloodshot eyes. She knew from experience she’d wear the scars of her sleepless night boldly. But they would fade. The other scars, the ones she could and did hide beneath denim jeans and long sleeve tees, those would be with her always. Just as, she suspected grimly, the night terrors would. She thought about the mare she’d freed last night on her way home from Blake’s; the panic attack immediately after; and the brief loss of time she’d experienced when she’d been trapped in her own horrific memories.
Maybe Cheri’s right; maybe I am bat-shit crazy. Storm thought as she swallowed the pills. She’d heard the woman’s parting shot. It hadn’t stung. There wasn’t anything that shrewish woman could say or do that would sting. And even if it had stung, all a person needed to do was sit back and wait for Cheri to sabotage herself. The woman was already working her way through her fourth husband and doing her best to ruin this marriage too. Cheri Long didn’t know the definition of monogamy and didn’t care to learn. The line ‘Cheri wouldn’t be married for Long’ was a popular joke around town and Cheri knew it. The fact made her bitter. And for some reason she pointed most of that bitterness at Storm.
But maybe, just this once, Cheri had the right of it. Storm leaned back against the counter and took a long pull from a water bottle. She longed to hold the cold plastic to her forehead. But knew doing so would be a clear tell. It was bad enough her dad was going to go home and tell her mom that she wasn’t sleeping. Storm didn’t want him going back and telling her mom that she was having headaches too. She had caused them enough worry. Caught in her thoughts and in the pain beating a tattoo behind her temples, she didn’t notice that her dad was talking to Tara and that Blake had crossed to her side.
“I can unload the rest tomorrow if the pain is too great.” He spoke gently, softly, as though he had experience with migraines or that he knew she wouldn’t want the others to hear. Her gaze fell back to her father. Either way, she appreciated his thoughtfulness.
“I have some experience.” The tone in his voice had Storm’s eyes meeting his. She didn’t see the pity or the questions she was expecting. She saw understanding. Not of her past, he couldn’t know that what she’d been through, obviously, but of long, restless nights and pain filled days.
Yes, she thought, he understands. Suddenly at odds, with herself and with him, she raised a nervous hand to brush back a loose lock of hair from her face. He grasped her arm by the wrist and gently but firmly inspected her hand. Blake took the water bottle from her other hand and subjected it to the same scrutiny.
“What happened? You weren’t hurt when you left my place last night.” A snippy retort died on her lips when she saw genuine concern etched across his features. Conflict roared within her. She didn’t like her wrists being restrained but she didn’t want the contact with his warm, work-roughened palms to end.
“A horse was caught in some barbed wire. I got a little torn up helping her.” She shrugged and her wrists slid out of his grasp until her fingers remained clasped in his. “Goes with the territory; cats scratch; dogs bite.”
“And barbed wire cuts.” He continued. It was a casual remark; a natural progression to the statement she’d just made but she flinched just the same. Every muscle in her body tensed as though she had been struck. She would have pulled away from him but he held fast to her hands.
“Hey.” His voice was soothing, not unlike how he’d crooned to Ari on the ride to her office. “You’re okay Storm. You’re okay.”
She took a deep breath and calm flooded through her along with a blushing embarrassment. She saw her dad take a step toward them and shook her hands free of Blake’s. Stepping away from the poodle’s compelling owner she asked, “Dad, how about a cup of coffee and a slice of pie?”
It wasn’t until much later, when Storm had a quiet moment to herself in the office that she realized her headache had passed and there was no sign of cuts on her hands.
Blake hadn’t meant to draw her. He’d only intended to sketch the idea he’d had for the porch swing. Before he’d known it he had sketched a full image of her rocking there and part of him was itching to put it on canvas. Blake wondered why this woman had brought back his urge to draw and paint.
There was something dark in Storm Halliwell’s past; something that went beyond experiencing loss; beyond the helplessness, the hopelessness of not being able to save someone that you love.
The same feelings he’d had for a year now.
The tractor-trailer had come over the divider and tore through Callie’s jeep like a warm knife through butter. Blake was at home painting when the state trooper called. She had died only two miles from their home. He had gotten there in record time. But he was too late to do anything, even to say goodbye. He was supposed to have met her for dinner but he’d gotten wrapped up in his latest piece and forgotten the time. She had given up on waiting for him at the restaurant and was on her way home to him, take-out containers from the restaurant on the back seat. Instead of safely enjoying a romantic dinner in her favorite little Italian place, his beautiful Callie had died alone on a dark highway surrounded by the remains of fettuccine Alfredo. The authorities said no one was at fault – the truck driver had had a stroke.
But Blake knew who was to blame.
Ari’s head popped up from where she was sleeping on top of his feet. Her small ears pointed and her small tail quivered. A moment later, Blake heard the rattle of the truck that alerted the poodle. He walked to the door and leaned against the frame as Storm parked the battered pick-up. It was as if by drawing her he’d called her to him.
He watched as she climbed down and marched to his door. She held out her hands like she had when she’d wanted him to hand her Ari. He wondered if this time she was inviting an embrace, as the dog no longer needed tending.
"Care to explain how you healed the cuts on my hands?”
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Visit each listed A Year in Love Blog Hop participating author to read a sexy excerpt from one of their Crimson Romance titles!
Denyse Cohen | Amber T Smith | Peggy Bird | Pam B. Morris | Lola Karns | Becky Flade | Irene Preston | Liv Rancourt | Becky Lower | Morgan O'Neill | L ynn Cahoon | Leslie P. Garcia | Lynn Crandall | Andrea R. Cooper | Sharon Clare | Juli Page Morgan | Melinda Dozier | Nancy C. Weeks | Katie Kenyhercz | Nancy Loyan | Danica Winters | Barbara Barrett | Carol Ritten Smith | Amanda L. V. Shalaby
We’ll have a Blog Hopping Blast together!
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And now - an excerpt from my Crimson Romance title