Jane loves to read, her favourite genre is romantic suspense; hang out at the beach, luckily she lives in Melbourne, Australia where there are plenty of awesome beaches; bake, especially anything chocolatey; collect teddy bears, she has over 250 so far; oh yeah and of course she LOVES to write, dark and disturbing romantic suspense full of damaged characters are her specialty!
Excerpt from One (Count to Ten, Book 1)
Whipping his car into the driveway, he didn’t bother to lock it as he flew through the front door. Immediately he let out a breath when he heard the shower running; at least he had been right about where he’d find her.
Satisfied she was there, he slowed his pace. Annabelle was upset, she’d just seen the pictures of what someone had done to her family, of what she had been accused of doing, and the last thing he wanted to do was startle her.
Plus, he was also pretty sure that some of her anger would be directed at him. She knew he was interested in her, and he knew she would be upset that he hadn’t told her about the post-mortem mutilation, and that he had thought her capable of such a heinous act.
Reaching the bathroom, he heard the sound of sobbing mingle with the pounding water. Edging the door open, he saw her huddled on the floor of the shower. Her knees were drawn up to her chest, her head tucked in, and her arms encircled her body like she was physically holding herself together.
Without a second thought, Xavier stripped off his shirt, dropped his pants and boxers, and opened the shower door. Annabelle didn’t notice him until he sat behind her and pulled her against his chest.
He expected her to fight him, but instead she came into his arms willingly, resting against him as she cried. When her sobs ceased, Xavier held her for a moment longer, and then gently tugged her to her feet. Again, she came willingly and stood still while he poured some shampoo into the palm of his hand and began to wash her hair. Annabelle leaned into him as he massaged her head, pressing against him, and he had to struggle to reign in his desire.
When he was done, he turned off the shower and drew her out behind him. Rubbing her dry with a towel, Annabelle barely seemed to register him; her white eyes were still glazed with shock. Throwing his clothes back on, he wrapped her in a fluffy towel and carried her to his room, setting her down on the bed as he went to find her something to wear. In the spare room, he dug out some of Julia’s old clothes he hadn’t been able to part with yet, which were still packed away in boxes.
Returning to the bedroom, he saw Annabelle’s eyes were closed and he assumed she had fallen asleep, but at his touch they popped back open. She didn’t move while he slipped the sweatshirt over her head and tugged her arms through the sleeves, carefully trying to avoid causing pain to her injured shoulder.
He needn’t have bothered; Annabelle seemed to have retreated from the world to hide inside herself. Probably a trick she had employed many times over the years and would likely employ many more before this was over.
The sweat pants he slipped her legs into were way too long. Julia had been a good five inches taller than Annabelle, so he rolled them up. After dressing her, he tucked the covers up around her chin and stretched out beside her, surprised and pleased when she immediately curled into him, nestling her face against his neck.
Soaking in how amazing it felt to be holding Annabelle in his arms, for a few minutes Xavier just allowed himself to enjoy it. However, he knew it couldn’t last, he and Annabelle needed to talk about what she had discovered. Gently he began to stroke her hair. “Belle, I think we should talk.”
“Why do you call me Belle?” came the soft reply.
“I don’t know, why?” he answered, surprised with the question.
“You can tell me anything.” He slid his arm out from under her and propped himself up on his elbows so he could see her better.
“When I was little, I used to dream that the man who would love me called me Belle,” she answered dully, her unfocused gaze staring unseeingly through him.
He was touched by the sadness and longing in her voice. “I’m sure your family loved you,” he assured her, knowing what it was like to grow up sure, and yet not quite sure that your family loved you.
At that, tears began to trickle down her cheeks again. “How could someone do that? How could someone chop off the hands and rip out the eyes and tongue of another person? It’s so horrible. Wasn’t killing them enough? What kind of monster did this?”
“I don’t know,” he answered her truthfully. “I don’t know why he did it, but I think that it means something to him, and that’s a good thing. If he’s doing this for a specific reason, then it means we can find him.”
“How could you think that I could do that?” she whispered desperately.
“It wasn’t that I wanted to think you did it, that was what the initial evidence suggested,” he explained. “I am sorry, Belle, really sorry,” he assured her, hoping that she would be able to forgive him.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” her voice was flat, more disappointed than accusing.
“Because I didn’t think you needed to know.”
“You didn’t think I needed to know?” she repeated, with only a hint of incredulity. “My parents and brothers and sister were mutilated, and you didn’t think I had a right to know that?”
“I didn’t think you could deal with it right now; I would have told you when you were ready to hear it.” Xavier wasn’t sure he would have ever told her unless backed into a corner.
“Do you really think Dr. Daniels could be the killer?” Annabelle was still steadfastly refusing to meet his gaze.
“Maybe, but he’s not the only person we’re looking into at the moment.”
Annabelle pressed her body closer against his. “Xavier, I know you have to work, but would it be okay if you stayed here with me for a little while?”
Ignoring the burning desire pulsing inside his body, Xavier told himself that Annabelle needed his support right now, nothing more. “Of course.” His hand cradled her head against his chest, his face in her hair. “I’m not going to leave you,” he promised. “Just try to get some rest. I’m gonna call Kate and tell her I’m not coming back in today and I’m going to stay right here by your side for as long as you need me to.”
He deliberately did not add that he hoped that would be for a really long time. Annabelle was in no frame of mind to be committing to a relationship right now. She needed a friend, someone to help her with no strings attached. He would be that person for her, and if when this was over, she decided she wanted more, then great; and if not he’d walk away. As hard as he knew it would be, if him walking away was what Annabelle wanted, then he would do it.
He tenderly kissed her forehead, then the tip of her nose; hesitating, his lips hovered above hers. Xavier wanted more than anything to kiss her but Annabelle was vulnerable right now, and she’d already accused him of taking advantage of her once. He didn’t want to ruin things between them before they even started by doing it again.
Then Annabelle’s eyes met his for the first time. In them, he saw acknowledgment of what he wanted to do and permission to do it, and ever so slowly he brought his mouth to hers. Ensuring the kiss was soft and light, Annabelle didn’t return it, but she didn’t shrink away from it either.
When he pulled back he met her hungry eyes, and she laced her fingers in his hair and pulled his mouth back down upon hers. This time, her kiss was hard and fiery and the next thing he knew she had released his hair and her fingers were fumbling at his belt.
Breaking off the kiss, he caught her hands and stilled them. “Belle, wait.” He stopped her. “If and when we do this, I want it to be perfect. I want it to be something we’re both going to remember for the rest of our lives. I want it to be something that you want to do, not something you think will make you forget about everything you’ve been through. I’m sorry, I don’t want to hurt you.”
Annabelle nodded, her face growing sad once more, and as he lay back down beside her, she immediately folded into him. With his arms encircling her, he resumed stroking her hair, and in less than five minutes, he felt her relax against him, sleep taking hold.
Reaching out a hand to grab the phone from his bedside table, Xavier hoped that when he found this killer, Annabelle would give him a chance, give them a chance, and not ask him to walk away.