Authors: Rosie Vanyon
Evernight Publishing ®
2015 Rosie Vanyon
Cover Artist: Jay Aheer
Editor: Brieanna Robertson
WARNING: The unauthorized
reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.
No part of this book may be used or
reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the
case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction.
All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual
events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely
Copyright © 2015
Cara Kelly changed gears but barely
slowed as she approached the next sweeper. She picked her line and eased her
weight right, hugging cool metal between her thighs as she slanted into the
corner. Accelerating out of the curve, she was already setting up for the next
bend. It felt like flying. She barely registered the soaring cliff face to her
right or the sheer drop to the dusk-lit ocean to her left. Her heart was
buoyant, her spirit was at ease, and her mind was empty of anything but the
interplay between her body, the bike, and the tarmac.
It was better than she remembered.
This was a road made for riding and she sucked every bead of pleasure from her
mastery of the arcs and cambers beneath her wheels. Totally focused, completely
caught up in the moment, utterly free.
As she rounded the final curve,
where the road dipped and coiled tautly around the cliff base, her right hand
eased off the throttle. She kicked down to third and tilted hard right, her
memory preparing her for the uphill curl where the turn tightened further and
angled up out of the basin, and the asphalt opened up to a flat, narrow ribbon,
stretching in an almost straight line across the isthmus.
Only once she hit the home stretch
did Cara come back to herself. The high of riding the coast road dissipated
like a tide, leaving behind the realities of her homecoming—so much emotional
debris. Fleetingly, she wondered if it might be possible to outrun the
memories. But if she could, a hundred and twenty wasn’t fast enough.
Her senses returned. She realized
she was squinting against the glare from the sea and sky. She smelled ocean,
exhaust, and sweat. She became aware of her cramped legs and shoulders, her
chilled face and hands.
As though the very sky could read
the shift in her awareness, the sun dropped a notch lower in the afternoon sky,
its orange rays haloing the steep roofline ahead. For a moment, it was as
though the house was the center of the world.
“Flinders’ Keep,” she murmured
inside her helmet. “Never thought I would come back here.”
But here she was, hurtling home.
The sun, descending fast now,
backlit the house, dropping its facade deep in shade while lighting its windows
the same fiery orange as the ocean on either side of the neck of land she
The iron gates were open and she
applied the foot brake as she swung the bike up the tree-lined driveway,
spraying gravel, even as she decelerated into the turning circle and pulled up
beneath the shadow of what had been her mother’s house. By the time she killed
the engine and swung her leg over the saddle, it was almost full dark.
She unbuckled her helmet and shook
the tension out of her legs, reeling a little from the sudden loss of
weightlessness and the abrupt quiet. She pulled off her head gear and drew in
lungsful of air—moss and roses, sea salt, earth and pine—that peculiar mix that
comprised the fragrance of home.
It was odd that she’d come here to Flinders’
Keep tonight, she acknowledged as she stripped off her gloves, unhooked her Gearsack,
and trudged up the front steps. Her plan had been to head on past the turnoff
to the beach and to bunk down at her sister’s place in Ocean Ridge proper—at
least for a day or two. But as though it had a mind of its own, the bike—or her
memory—had impelled her directly here, to the place where it all began. She
supposed she could always backtrack to her sister’s place…
Almost without thinking, Cara
bypassed the front door, moving left to the second of three sash windows
overlooking the driveway. Her hand edged behind the stone window box, planted
with something dark and fragrant, and felt for the key. Maybe she should have
been surprised that it was still there after all these years, but she wasn’t.
Everything about this evening had an air of prescience about it.
“Come to think of it, everything
about this house has always felt predestined,” she muttered as she slid the
iron key into the lock where it turned easily. After returning the key, she let
herself into the house. Her left hand flipped a couple of the antique light
switches inside the door and the ground floor was immersed in lakes of light.
If the house’s exterior seemed
unchanged, exactly the opposite could be said of the interior. Oh, the bones
were there—the sweeping mahogany staircase, the chandelier presiding over the
marble foyer, the elegant plasterwork and opulent woodwork. But that was where
the original features stopped.
Scaffolding, tools, stacked
furniture, paint tins, and tarpaulins littered the ground floor. The kitchen
was nothing but the skeletons of cabinets, the lounge room almost completely
bare except for a grand piano beneath a drop sheet and an indignant cat that
stretched and stalked off into the hallway upon her intrusion.
She’d known what to expect, of
course, but coming face to face with the changes made her jaw clench and her
“At least there’s electricity,” she
told herself as she moved through the downstairs rooms toward the back of the
house. As she had predicted, the “back kitchen,” as they’d called part of the
lean-to that had once been the servants’ quarters, was still intact. She
guessed the people using the house needed somewhere to prepare food and eat.
When she had lived here, the back
kitchen had been her favorite part of the house—always warm from the stove,
fragrant with baking cinnamon or cumin, and cozy in its mismatched clutter. Whereas
the kitchen proper had been a rarely-used soulless state-of the-art,
professional standard glacier, this room still brought to mind crochet,
hot-milk-coffee, Canasta, and Jack Clement singing “When I Dream.”
Cara dumped her bag on a 50s-style
chrome-surrounded table and ran the faucet. She was pleased to find both cold
and hot water and took the opportunity to sponge off the ride’s grime and
freshen herself up.
She supposed she ought to
reconnoitre and check that the house was unoccupied, but the place had an empty
feel, and the sound of 800ccs of engine was hard to ignore, so if she had
company, she was sure she would have known by now. Besides, she was suddenly
starving and exhausted. So, she set about making a pot of Russian Caravan from
the leaves in the vintage Nesco canister on the shelf, and sourdough sandwiches
from the provisions she’d bought during the afternoon with dinner in mind.
It was surreal using utensils she
so clearly associated with her childhood—the mismatched bone-handled knives,
the peculiar sugar spoon with the spinning windmill handle. Her childhood
Mickey Mouse mug was badly chipped, but she used it anyway and it felt right in
her hands. The Royal Albert plate with the blue background and pink roses had
been Mia’s favorite and Cara actually smirked as she selected it, as though her
little sister might come running at any moment and protest.
She wolfed down the makeshift meal
with little decorum and rinsed her cutlery and crockery, wiping the items dry
on a clean tea towel and carefully returning them to their cupboards and
Sleep was next on the agenda. She
wondered what state the bedrooms were in. Not that it mattered—she’d spent the
last two nights outdoors as she’d travelled down from Calgary where she’d been
researching the oil boom for a documentary. Just a roof over her head would be
a luxury, and if she could actually find a bed, well, that would be a bonus.
She returned to the front door, automatically
putting it on the latch, then flicked on the landing lights, switching off the
first floor lights behind her. She climbed the stairs and began to head for her
old room. Stopped. Wondered how she’d feel seeing it gutted. Figured she might
handle that better in the light of day. And opened the door to the first guest
room she came to.
She gasped. Even in the dim light
from the landing, she could see that this room was something else. The walls
were hung with dazzling sequined silks, the enormous brass four-poster swathed
in gilded brocade. The color palette was jewel bright—emerald, ruby, amethyst,
and topaz. The space was all velvet and tassels, furs and sashes. It looked
like something out of a harem.
Despite its decadence, the bed
looked soft and inviting. All those cushions promised to cosset her weary body.
That warm duvet guaranteed to cocoon her aching muscles.
She began to strip off her t-shirt,
but her conscience prickled. She paused. It wasn’t her house anymore. She
really had no right to stay here. She shrugged and yanked off her jeans. Her
bra and panties followed. She could stay here, she rationalized. She was here
for work, after all. She stuffed her clothes in her Gearsack. She’d been
invited. She kicked her bag into the corner. She was just a little early.
Cara practically fell into bed and
almost immediately stopped thinking and started dreaming of belly dancers and
sultans and a thousand and one stories...
Levi blinked. Twice. But the naked
woman was still in the bed.
Masses of tousled tawny blonde hair
partly covered her small, pert breasts. The slender arch of her neck mimicked
the slight curve of her belly. One leg was tucked beneath the heavy gold and
purple bedspread, which barely covered her sex. The slim length of her other
leg was exposed, as though she had grown too warm during the night and slipped
out from beneath the covers.
She was a golden goddess, asleep in
an Arabian Nights fantasy, and he wanted her the way he wanted to breathe. But
he couldn’t seem to suck enough air into his lungs. Though it took every ounce
of his self-control, he knew he couldn’t touch her. Not so much due to any
sense of propriety—although some dim region of his brain was trying to get a
message of decency through his addled thoughts—but more because he was afraid
that if he put his hand on her, actually reached her skin, she might disappear.
And so, he ate her up with his eyes—a
woman so perfectly formed, she was made to be kissed and embraced and licked
and pleasured. She was built to be stroked and caressed...and worshipped. In
fact, it almost seemed wasteful to stand there with his jaw hanging and his
dick hardening doing nothing but gape.
She was created for me...
came unbidden, but it struck him clearly and resonated with absolute truth.
This woman was his, just as surely as was the manhood stirring at his groin,
rising to the call to claim what belonged to him.
She sighed in her sleep and shifted
slightly in the bed, the bedspread sliding aside and coming dangerously close
to baring her completely. At some level, Levi knew he should look away, back
out of the room, pretend he had never seen her. But his brain wouldn’t work,
much less his legs. He sure as hell couldn’t tear his eyes away from the splendid
vision before him.
His arousal was increasing. His
temperature was up, his chest felt tight, and his breathing was erratic. If his
balls hadn’t been so hot and tight and his dick hadn’t been so hard, he would
have thought he was an impending heart attack candidate.
His eyes lingered on the steady
pulse at her neck, the shallow crescent of her navel, the tangerine polish on
her toenails. He drank in all the details, imprinted them on his mind. Her
coloring was all desert sand and shimmering sun. Her lips formed a peach bow
that, even in sleep, seemed to be smiling. Her nipples were several shades
darker. And her eyes were—
Staring at him!
He felt color suffuse his cheeks
and immediately dropped his gaze to the floor. But of their own volition, his
eyes returned to her. Sharp cheekbones, finely shaped brows, delicate ears,
pulse fluttering, nipples puckering...
Slowly and with incredible dignity,
the woman tucked her legs beneath the bed clothes and gathered the heavy fabric
over her breasts, tucking it firmly under her arms. She propped herself up on
one elbow, managing to seem casual and regal all at once. Then she quirked an
eyebrow in his direction, meeting his eyes head-on with her hot blue ones.
How was it that she was naked and
trespassing, yet it was he who felt awkward and tongue-tied?
“Mr. Callister, I presume?”
Her voice was honey and smoke and
amusement. His voice was trapped somewhere between his burning balls and his
hammering heart. He nodded.
“Cara Kelly.” She held the covers
in place with her supporting arm and extended her right hand.
He almost leapt to take it, and
while the handshake was fast, firm, and professional, the undercurrent of the
contact was all sizzling chemistry and promise. He stepped back, so as not to
crowd her—and to better appreciate the glorious sight of her.
“It seems I muffed the dress code
for our meeting,” she quipped and, for the first time, he saw a faint tinge of
color in her cheeks, a glimpse of embarrassment in her eyes. So, she was human
after all. Not completely immortal. A demi-goddess, he thought, only partly of