Authors: Tara West
Damned and Desperate
Eternally Yours, Book Three
Copyright © 2015 by Tara West
Published by Shifting Sands Publishing
First edition, published January 2015
All rights reserved.
This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or other unauthorized use of the material or artwork herein is prohibited.
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.
Edited by Theo Fenraven
Proofread by Jenx Byron
Cover Art by Tamra Westberry
Table of Contents
A message from Tara West…
Dear readers, I hope you enjoy the conclusion to my Eternally Yours series. If so, would you please be kind enough to leave a review where you purchased it and tell all your friends about my books? Indie authors like me depend on readers to spread the word. It’s how we can afford to quit our day jobs and keep writing. ;)
I have a lot more fun in store for you in 2015, so please subscribe to my newsletter for updates. Of course, if I get enough interest in this series, I just may write more books for Callum and Sarge.
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To Jodi, my soul sister. I don’t know what I’d do without your support. You deserve an eternity of cheesecake for all that you do. ;)
Special thanks to Emma, Kelly, Raven, Sheila, and Sheri for beta reading my manuscript. Your input was very much appreciated.
To my street team and fans, thanks for your faith in my books and for all of your support. You are the reason I keep writing.
Theo Fenraven, I don’t know what I’d do without your edits. Don’t know how you manage to make my turd shine, but thanks for helping me look like I know what I’m doing!
Jenx, thanks so much for finding my last-minute oopsies.
Finally, to my husband for putting up with my crazy schedule. From now until eternity, you’ve got half my credits and all my love.
The Oregon Wilderness, 1985
“Mr. Murphy! Thank God you’re alive.”
Damn! The paramedics shouldn’t have come until tomorrow. I’d postmarked the letter for the twenty-third, figuring I’d be dead by then. It was hard to know for sure what day it was. The infestation in my brain had destroyed most of my eyesight. I could hardly find my way to the john, much less keep track of the calendar.
Feeling three times my age of thirty-seven, I did my best to ignore the throbbing in my skull. I slowly tilted my head up, squinting at the man as I tried to make out his features. It was no use. I saw only a shadow.
“What are you doing here?” I growled. “I was supposed to die before you found me.” Of all the damn times for them to show, when I was in the blasted outhouse.
“Hang on.” The shadow bent toward me before latching onto my elbow. “We’ll get you out of here.”
I shook off his grip. Couldn’t a man spend his final moments in peace? “I don’t want to leave.”
“We have to get you to a hospital.”
I laughed under my breath. “No need. I’m as good as dead already.” If a hospital could help me, I would’ve already had this brain tumor removed, but the doctor had said it was inoperable.
There was a bright light in my eyeballs, and I groaned, trying to swat it away.
“He’s blind,” the paramedic said, a sharp edge to his voice.
“Look at his fingers,” a deeper voice sounded behind him. “Hypothermia.”
“That letter to my wife,” I asked the shadows as they heaved me off the toilet. Bastards. I hadn’t even finished. “Did you send it?”
“The authorities notified her. She’s on her way.”
I tried to jerk out of their grip by kicking my legs. “What? No! I can’t let her see me like this. I can’t, I can’t.”
“He’s seizing.” The shadow’s voice sounded deeper, like it was set on slow mode.
And that’s when I felt the disconnect. The snap of my soul breaking away from my body resonated in my ears, and then I was weightless. The blinding thick haze that had permeated my brain finally lifted, and for the first time in months, I felt blessedly free. I saw the paramedics hovering over my lifeless body, and smiled.
“Mr. Murphy, stay with us,” they yelled. “Mr. Murphy!”
“You have a lot of nerve!” Michael’s eyes widened, his pale face flushing as he caught sight of his sister standing beside me.
I cleared my throat as I tried to steady my shaky hands. “She’s my valet.”
He jerked back, and I couldn’t tell if it was disappointment or relief I read in his dark eyes. His shoulders fell as he nodded.
Not knowing what else to say, I gaped at my brother-in-law for a few seconds before he slammed the door in my face. I took a steadying breath, summoning the courage to ring Michael’s doorbell again. After six years of working double shifts in Purgatory, I’d finally made it to my destination, and I wasn’t about to turn back now. I tapped my foot impatiently while my valet hummed. She must have known how my wife’s sweet melody always soothed me.
I strained my ears as I heard the faint sound of classical music filtering from underneath the doorway. Susan’s brother had refined taste, from fine wines to designer clothes. I used to suspect he looked down on my scuffed shoes with displeasure, but he’d never shown it. He’d always been the epitome of politeness until now. Not that I could blame him after what I did to his sister.
After the doctor had told me my chronic migraines were caused by terminal brain cancer, I’d made up a lie about our marriage being too hard and walked out on her. At the time, I thought it would have been easier for her to believe I no longer loved her rather than have to play my nurse while taking care of our two young daughters.
How was I supposed to know the shock of my death would almost kill my wife? I never dreamed she would take my passing so badly, starving herself until she became nothing but a lifeless zombie. My carefree, happy Susan was gone, and in her place was the shell of the woman I once knew. Now that her brother Michael had also passed, I feared she would succumb to the weight of her depression. And then what would happen to our girls?
As I was about to ring the bell a third time, the door swung open, revealing my brother-in-law’s valet, a tall Latin man of about twenty-five. “Master is indisposed,” he said coolly.
“This will only take a minute.” Without waiting for his reply, I pushed past the valet and hurried down the elegant marble hallway toward the sound of the classical music.
My brother-in-law sat at the grand piano in a large foyer, a glass of wine and a slice of uneaten cheesecake beside him as he played a hauntingly sad melody. This was supposed to have been Heaven, a place of peace and happiness, so why was he so sad? Somehow, I suspected my presence was the reason.
I clenched my hands at my sides as I walked up behind him while he stroked the keys with the grace of a seasoned musician. I placed a hand on my chest, feeling as if my heart would buckle when he switched tunes to Amazing Grace. That had been Susan’s favorite song. I worked hard to swallow the tide of regret that welled in my throat. “Michael, I’m sorry for everything.”
He stopped playing and looked up at me with watery eyes. “Do you think it made your leaving any easier for her, knowing you suffered alone? Knowing she could never say goodbye?” His voice cracked as he looked away.
He was right. I had been a damned fool, and I’d thought of nothing else these past six years except finding a way to make things right. I cleared my throat. “I made a terrible mistake. I realize that now, but with your help, I can make it up to them. I’ve just come from a meeting with The Council about the guardian program.”
He spun around, his gaze sharpening. “You’d risk your soul to become my sister’s dog?”
“Yes, but I need a sponsor, a family member, and none of my Murphy relations will sponsor me.” I still couldn’t believe I was trusting my fate with this man, knowing how much he resented me, but what choice did I have? My wife and daughters needed me.
He slowly stood, his glare unwavering, until we were at eye level. “How can I trust you won’t abandon them again?”
Apprehension settled in my gut like a lead weight as the words from The Council members echoed in my brain.
There is a risk you will become so consumed by your canine form, you will forget who you are.
What if they were right? What if I lost all my memories? The day my beautiful bride had said “I do” or the birth of my daughters? But I wasn’t about to confess my fears to Michael. I needed to convince him this would work.
I turned up my chin, commanding a confidence I didn’t feel. “I will be the most loyal companion they’ve ever had.” I traced an
across my heart, hoping above all else I was right. “I swear it. Please. Now that you’re gone, they have no one.”
His shoulders fell, and I could tell by the weariness in his gaze, I was wearing him down. “They have my parents.”
“Who are both going senile, and you know it.”
Michael released a heavy breath as he ran a hand through his dark hair. “But you’d be risking your soul.”
Spine rigid, I nodded. “It’s a chance I’m willing to take. After all they’ve been through, they need a guardian.”
Heaven, present day
I woke up to the exquisite feeling of Aedan’s erection pressing against my backside, his strong arms wrapped around my waist.
“Mmm, morning,” I groaned as he massaged my shoulders. Not that I had any kinks. One of the many perks of Heaven.
“Morning,” he rumbled in my ear, right before he nipped my lobe and then trailed hot kisses down my neck.
I gasped when one hand slid up to my breast and squeezed.
“Want some coffee?”
“No. I want another taste of you.”
Before I could stop him, he was rolling me over, pinning me beneath him, and capturing my mouth in one heat-searing kiss. Another awesome benefit of Heaven: no morning breath, no clumpy mascara, and no sticky armpits. Basically, I woke up feeling as fresh as a spring daisy, kind of like I was living in a douche commercial, only no vinegar required.
But back to that kiss, because it was getting really hot and heavy as he rolled his hips into me, the head of his cock pressing into my girly spot and making me gush like a busted water pipe. Conveniently, both of us were naked after last night’s orgasm fest, and the feel of his silken shaft stroking my swollen clit was beyond heavenly.