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Authors: S.M. Lynn

Out of the Ashes

BOOK: Out of the Ashes
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Out of the Ashes

by

S. M.
Lynn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014 S.M. Lynn

All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced,
downloaded, or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

 

This novel is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental.  The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

Dedication

 

To my husband – Thank you for not laughing me out o
f bed the morning that I told you I wanted to write this.

Table of Contents

 

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Playlist

Acknowledgements

Prologue

 

Lauren Carmichael had the perfect life.  Her life was the stuff of legend; one could only envy her.  She had
a devoted, handsome fiancé and doting father.  Her mother may have left something to be desired but even the perfect can’t have it all.  It’s not like her mother was cruel to her, just indifferent, so it could have been worse. She had just finished her Bachelor’s degree at UC Davis and had the whole world in front of her.  Perception, especially from the outside, is a funny thing.  Things can look fine, perfect even and be anything but. 

Today is the day that will change her life
forever.  Today is the day Lauren Carmichael dies.  I’m sure death is preferable to her after everything that has happened.  A perfect permanent escape.  Though the blood and wreckage make me sick to my stomach, this is the only way out.  I have to kill Lauren Carmichael or I will be killed.  Simple as that, kill or be killed, and in this case, I choose to save myself.  Call me a coward, call me selfish but I will do what I need to do to save myself.

The life she wanted, thought was in her grasp, was slowly and irrevocably stripped from her, piece by piece.
  How could she have fallen so far and been so blind on the way down?  If Lauren was a stronger woman, she would have stood up and taken them all on but that choice was taken from her.  Death is all she has.

The flames kiss at the sky.  The fire burns bright consuming everything in its path.  All the past is burned to the ground.  Will there be questions about her death?  Definitely, but the answers have been
carefully left for them to find.  Money really can buy you anything.  I’m trying not to be afraid of what’s ahead of me and definitely not thinking about what’s behind me as that would only feed my fear.  Lauren doesn’t have to live in that fear any longer and I don’t want to either.

My life has become one big lie and
I am about to bury it under an even bigger lie.  Frankly, I’m tired of living like this and so this is my only way out.  I watch as Lauren’s final resting place burns beyond recognition. 

I emerge from the trees with Bon Jovi singing in my head about going down in a blaze of glory.  Her end is absolutely glorious.  The end for her and a new beginning for me.  A chance at a new life and maybe finally getting everything I want out of my life.

Ashes fly through the air and in the distance, emergency lights and sirens are approaching.  I jump into the waiting car and speed off, careful not be noticed.  Looking at the wreckage in my rear view mirror, I can’t help but to think how I’m like a phoenix rising to be reborn.

Chapter 1

 

“Celeste, we
’re supposed to meet everyone in half an hour.  Are you about ready to go?”  Gavin shouts through my bedroom door.  I take another look in the mirror tugging on the hem of the tight bandage dress he gave me earlier to wear for tonight. 

“Gav, I don’t know about this dress.
”  I take another glance in the mirror.  It takes only a fraction of a second to run my eyes from the hem to my bust line.  “It’s very short and very tight and there’s practically no back on it at all.  I’m afraid to sit for fear of what people will see and at the same time afraid to stand because people can pretty much see everything anyway.”


Bitch, that dress is a one of a kind Herve Leger.  Now get that tight ass out here so we can have a proper toast before going out.”  I step from the en-suite into my bedroom, figuring that in this mood there’s no point in arguing with him and the dress is very hot; I just wish there was more of it.  Slowly, I open my bedroom door and make my way down the hall toward the living room.  Gavin is plopped on the sofa and I see two champagne flutes filled with sparkling liquid on the table in front of him.  He turns as I enter, a smile playing on his lips.  “Shit, Celeste.  I’ll have to beat the men off you tonight.  That dress is seriously fucking hot.  I love what you’ve done with your hair too by the way.” 

I
’ve really gone all out for tonight; I curled my hair and pinned it up with just a few tendrils escaping and hanging lightly down my neck and back.  I kept my makeup subtle but dark enough for the club that we will be visiting.  I figure I have earned this night out.  I have spent the last couple of years buried in a mountain of schoolwork finishing my MBA and then my internship, so I’m ready to cut loose for once before I venture back into the world of business. “Really Gav, this dress though…”

“I don’t want to hear another word about it.  The dress is hot
as hell, the shoes scream fuck me, and your hair is just begging to be set free.  In short, you are fucking gorgeous and I will be the envy of many, many men this evening.  Besides, Mark has no imagination so this will just lay it all out for him.”

“Yeah, him and everyone else.” 
I mumble under my breath.  That’s what I’m truly afraid of; that everyone can see everything and everything is way more than I care to share with anyone. 

Gavin smiles bringing me back to him and wraps me in a tight hug.  He pulls back to hand me a flute and clinks our glasses together.  “To my darling, Celeste. 
These last few years have been a lot of work for you and I'm glad to have been the one here with you.  And to tomorrow, for your dream job interview.”  I smile as the bubbles dance on my tongue.  “Now,” he swats my ass, “are you ready for your night on the town?  Everyone is looking forward to it,” he eyes me wickedly, “especially Mark.” 

Gavin introduced me to Mark a few weeks ago and we had been out on a couple dates but truthfully with my internship and applying for jobs, I hadn’t been able to devote much time or thought to a relationship.  Plus my dreams
, or should I say nightmares, are still haunted by a relationship from the past.  “Gav, Mark seems really nice but…”

“I’
m going to stop you right there.”  His eyes darken and I can see the frustration.  Gavin has put up with so much from me.  I really just need to let loose and give him this night and some fun.  “I know something happened to you before.  I see it in your eyes every time a man approaches you.  I won’t pretend that it doesn’t hurt that you still won’t let me in after all this time. But I get that you need to protect yourself.”  He takes a step closer bringing us face to face.  I peer up into his eyes.  “Mark is a good guy.  I wouldn’t have introduced him to my very best friend if he weren’t.  Shit, if we only played for the same team I would have snatched him up myself.  You need to let people in.  The girls seriously think you are wonderful and there’s an excellent chance that Mark is not the only one of the guys that would like to see what’s underneath that dress.”  He winks at me, trying to make me smile. 

I’
ve been too guarded but most of the time I feel there’s no way to move forward from the past and from what I’ve done.  There have been many times when I’ve wanted to tell Gavin everything, not just to explain the nightmares but too really, truly open up to him and let him share the burden of what has happened.  But could I really do that to someone I love?  Could I really be so selfish as to put them in that kind of danger?  I love Gavin.  He is probably the first person I have truly loved since I lost my father but that’s all the more reason not to tell him. 

Not wanting to ruin
the celebratory mood, I bring my glass up to his again.  “To you, Gavin.  My very best friend.  My world.  You have made the last few years much more wonderful than I could have ever imagined.  Not to mention the wonderful things your job has done for my closet.”  I smile, a genuine smile this time, and gesture from the gorgeous, though miniscule, sequin dress I have on down to my the sparkling FMs on my feet.  “You are a lifesaver.”  In more ways than you will ever know, I continue to myself and instead of drinking to my toast, I throw my arms around him trying to keep the tears at bay. 

“Now
doll-face, this is a happy occasion.  School is done, the internship is done and tomorrow you interview for the job that I have had to listen to you talk about for the last 2 years.  No tears tonight.  Let’s go shake our asses and find some hot men to bring home.”

“You know what, Gav?  For once I am not going to
argue with you on either point.  We need tonight and if I find a hot one, I plan to do just that.”  Gavin waggles his eyebrows at me.  “What? You think you’re the only that can bring home hot guys?”

“Alright, I think that
’s enough champagne for now.”  He smiles.  “Let’s go.”

The club is packed when we arrive
.  Gavin’s agency has arranged for a VIP table as some PR for a few of the models so we don’t have to wait in the line and go right in.  Mark, Stacia, Penny, Brooks, Ben and a few others from his agency are already there, waiting for us.  Mark and Ben give me a long once over and I know Gavin is right about this dress.  “Damn, Celeste.  I hope you leave some men for the rest of us.”  Stacia winks at me. 

“Well,” I settle into the seat between her and Mark, “I suppose I can share tonight.”

“Oh no, baby.”  The word grates on my nerves.  “You are mine and there’s no way I’m sharing with anyone.”  Mark growls into my ear.  I place my hand on his thigh and smile up at him.   His gaze drops to my lips and I see the longing in his eyes.  The first time he took me out he wanted to kiss me, probably wanted more than that but I just can’t do romantic entanglements.  They are too hard, too dangerous. 

But tonight, I just want to let it all go.  I want to know
what it’s like to be with a man, underneath a man again.  I want to feel his hands, his lips on me, everywhere.  “Mark.”  I whisper out softly as his lips just graze mine. 

“You just got here so we better go dance before I drag you home.”  He tosses back his drink and leads me to the dance floor. 

“Hey, will you order me a drink?”  I shout to Gavin over my shoulder as Mark pulls me by the hand. 

When we reach the floor
, Mark pulls me close and moves our hips in unison.  I will not even try to downplay how hot Mark is.  He is a male model for god’s sake.  He has this total Matthew McConaughey vibe about him right down to the v that peaks out of the top of his jeans when his shirt rides up ever so slightly.  The man oozes sex and I’m sure has no problem getting it.  Mark looks at me hungrily, “I’m so glad Gavin brought you out with him tonight.  I thought maybe you were avoiding me.” 

“Mark, I
’ve really enjoyed the couple of times we went out.  I’ve just been so busy with school and that internship.  But now, I have nothing else to distract me and tonight I’d really like to focus on lots of other things.”  I lean and brush my lips on his neck. 

He turns me in arms
so his front is pressed to my back as our hips continue their rhythmic movements.  “Celeste.”  My name drips hungrily from his lips.  My gaze travels around the floor as Mark continues to whisper in my ear and run his lips over my neck. His hands circle my waist and span my stomach pulling me tighter against him. 

In my
lust-induced haze, my eyes connect with a man across the room.   Mark may be a model but this man is a Greek god.  Even from this distance, I can see his muscular build underneath his dress shirt.  I can tell by his appearance that he has removed the tie he must have been wearing earlier and his top button is undone.  I look around to find the suit coat that I’m sure he had on at one point but do not see it.  Dressed in business attire in the middle of one of Manhattan’s poshest nightclubs, you would think he would stick out like a sore thumb but with his cocky attitude he blends right in, like the building was built around him to tailor to his every desire.  His inky hair falls around his face in that messy just fucked way.  I want to run my fingers through it, even though Mark has me firmly in his grasp. 

BOOK: Out of the Ashes
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