Book 1 in the Ash Trilogy…
also available in audio
The scream Lena Riddle hears in the woods behind her house is enough to curdle her blood—she has no doubt that a woman is in real danger. Unfortunately, with no physical evidence, the local law officers in small-town Ash, Kentucky, dismiss her claim. But Lena knows what she heard—and it leaves her filled with fear and frustration.
Ezra King is on leave from the state police, but he can’t escape the guilty memories that haunt his dreams. When he sees Lena, he is immediately drawn to her. He aches to touch her—to be touched by her—but is he too burdened by his tragic past to get close?
When Ezra hears her story of an unknown woman’s screams, his instincts tell him that Lena’s life is also at risk—and his desire to protect her is as fierce as his need to possess her.
First in a new romantic suspense trilogy
from the unedited copy
“Are we going to hide now?” he asked, stopping in his tracks and turning in a slow circle. “If I find you, does that mean I win?”
A sound caught his ear. Cocking his head, he listened. It was faint, that low, soft moan. The erratic gasps as she struggled to breath. Quiet, but not quiet enough.
Laughing, he followed the sound.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are…”
He hadn’t ever realized how much it would be to chase them.
The voice of reason advised caution, though. Wouldn’t be wise to make such a drastic change in his game plan, not now.
Lena was dreaming.
She knew it and she had to admit, it was one damn fine dream.
In the dream, she could see. She had vivid memories from back before she’d gone completely blind and sometimes, those dreams taunted her.
This dream wasn’t so bad, though.
She was outside and the sun shone down on her, brilliant burst of light and warmth raining down on her. Tipping her face to it, she stared into the sun until her eyes watered and burned.
“You shouldn’t stare at the sun.”
The voice was low, rough…sexy. And familiar.
Ezra. Damn him.
Couldn’t he leave her in peace, even in her dreams?
Lena was a sucker for a sexy voice and he had such a fine one. Hands came up from behind, rested on her waist and then slid around her, pulling her back against a hard, strong body.
“I don’t want to dream about you,” she said, but she didn’t pull away from him. No, she rested her head against his chest and continued to stare at the golden-white burn of the sun.
“I told you that you shouldn’t look at the sun,” he murmured, stroking one hand up and cupping her breast. Something hot and liquid flared to life inside her.
“It doesn’t matter if I look at it or not. Not now.”
“Because I’m just dreaming. Those pesky UV rays can’t hurt me here.” As much as she hated to look away from the sun, she did, turning in his embrace to study his face. She wanted to see him, too. See what her subconscious image she had cooked up to go with that sexy voice.
And damn, her subconscious had delivered just fine.
Although sometimes she suspected her sighted memories weren’t as clear as they could have been, she wasn’t going to complain. He looked just fine to her.
Right now, she could see…
Right now, she could touch.
And more…she could be touched. Touched by somebody that wasn’t moved by curiosity or pity, or even worse, some fucked-up male desire to get a unique score he could tell a bunch of his loser friends over a beer.
No, she was being touched by somebody that very obviously wanted to touch her right back. So what if it was only in a dream? At least here he couldn’t disappoint her by saying he’d call and then not follow through.
As he ran his hands down over her body, stripping away her clothes, Lena lifted her eyes upward and stared at the sun again.
Lost herself in the warm golden glow and the feel of a man’s hands on her body.
She could see…see his face as he guided her to the ground and knelt between her thighs.
She could touch…touch his shoulders and fist her hands in his hair.
She could feel…feel the fiery hot pleasure blistering through her as he levered up over her and pushed inside.
She could hear—
Lena came awake with a gasp. Her heart knocked against her ribs and she shivered as cool air danced over her sweat-slicked body. A breeze drifted in through the open window.
It was cool…not cold. But she was freezing.
Hearing one low, questioning yip, she held out her hand. Puck pressed his nose against her palm and she heaved out a breath. The dog’s body was tense—all over tense and he had his hackles up.
“Sorry, boy. Just had a bad dream,” she muttered. She’d gone and freaked her dog out.
As she started to lie back down, she heard it.
Jerking back up, she turned her head towards the window, tried to breath past the knot in her chest. “What in the hell…?” She closed her eyes, listened. Concentrated.
Puck growled again, louder this time, his voice rough, full of menace, full of warning. Lena shushed him, her voice sharp, her own fear edging its way in.
Through the window, she could hear…something. Thrashing in the forest that bordered the western edge of her property. The western edge…the woods. That strip of land where lately, her dog didn’t like to go. Not for the past few months.
“Somebody, please help me!”
The sound of the woman’s screams, raw and agonized, sent a shudder racing down Lena’s spine.
“Oh, God,” Lena whispered. Her heart slammed against her ribcage as she reached for the phone by her bed.
There was another scream and she dropped the phone. Swearing, she crawled out of the bed, patting around on the floor. “Damn it, damn it, damn it.” Icy, cold sweat dripped along her spine as she listened through the window.
Branches snapping. A ragged moan. Then all was silent.
Where’s the fricking phone??
Making a sound halfway between a sob and a growl, she stuck her hand under him the bed and heaved out a sigh of relief as her fingers brushed plastic. Scuttling across the floor, she pressed her back to the wall and listened, phone clutched in her hand.
Call 911, damn it! She tried to get her fingers to move but terror made them clumsy.
Outside, she heard nothing. She didn’t hear anything…wait. Yes, yes, she heard something now, but it was quiet…somebody, moving so quiet and so soft as they moved through the trees.
If her room had been any farther away from the trees, if she had lived any closer to town…hell, if she’d had the radio playing, she never would have heard it. So, so quiet…
There was another short, sharp scream–one that ended all too abruptly. The sound of it was enough to get her frozen fingers to move and she dialed 911.
Puck made a rough sound low in his throat and nosed her leg. She patted the space next to her and as he pressed his big, furry body against her leg, she wrapped an arm around him.
“Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?”
“I…I hear a woman screaming. She’s screaming for help.”
“Walker has crafted a taut, scary trilogy opener…” Romantic Times
“Fascinating and complex characters, an evil psychopath, and a slowly building threat make for a can’t-put-it-down read…” Fresh Fiction
“The best romantic suspense I’ve read in 2011…” Pearl’s World of Romance