Authors: Kahlen Aymes
PROMISES AFTER DARK
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
PROMISES AFTER DARK
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Copyright © 2014 Kahlen Aymes
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Designed by: Kristen Karwan
Cover photo by: Scott Hoover Photography
Cover model: Colby Lefebvre
Published by Telemachus Press, LLC
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ISBN: 978-1-941536-70-4 (eBook)
ISBN: 978-1-941536-64-3 (Paperback)
Special thanks to my S
Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward, Julie Richman, S.E. Lund, J.L. Mac, Kelly Elliott, Liv Morris, Kailin Gow, Heidi McLaughlin, Aleatha Romig, Sandi Lynn, Ilsa Madden Mills, T.K. Rapp, Kimberly Knight & Crystal Spears. I love you bitches so flipping hard! Thank you for all of your support, love, and, (ah-hem), inspirational pictures. :)
To the many blogs who post, pimp and feel so passionately about these books, I couldn’t do it without you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Thank you to everyone (blogs, authors) who organizes and invites me to the events and gives me the opportunity to meet my readers! You ROCK!
My street team: Kahlen’s Angels, Team Ryan and the Peppy Pimpers! Thank you for always having my back!! <3
To Jennifer Singh & Amber Hayden ~ Heartfelt thanks for all you do! Group hug! xo
Heartfelt thanks to my agents: Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein and Shira Hoffman of McIntosh and Otis Literary, NY, NY.
To my readers… Thank you for the support, love, tears and amazing words you offer to me on a daily basis. You humble me and I adore you! <3
Olivia ~ As always… Hugs and Kisses. xoxo
Promises After Dark
Table of Contents
Dr. Angeline Hemming sat in the leather chair across from one of her regular patients, listening to her drone on about her abusive ex-husband. The desperateness of the woman’s situation should have held her focus and she admonished herself, shaking her head a little to bring herself back to the conversation. She’d heard the same story on previous appointments, and though she was sympathetic to her patient’s plight, she also felt frustrated when the woman stayed in a situation that didn’t change. Besides, Angel’s mind was filled with her own personal fight to push aside her fear of being hurt and to just dive headfirst into the amazing feelings she felt for Alexander Avery. Her heart told her he was amazing. He was everything. Her head told her he was a huge risk. But, she didn’t want to concentrate on that.
She counseled people for a living and was having one hell of a time practicing what she preached, and the irony was not lost on her. Alex had been nothing but wonderful and her heart was lost to him, but there was still that irritating niggle that picked at her, telling her to keep her eyes open and her feet firmly on the ground. She was frustrated. She hated worrying, hated doubting even one little thing when it came to Alex.
She was drowning in her relationship with him, though she was afraid to trust it one hundred percent. Angel wanted to. Badly… and maybe, she was nine-tenths of the way there. It was incredible how well the two of them connected mentally, and of course, physically… She was giddy and floating, her heart full and mind filled with him, but there was still a moment here or there when his phone would ring or one of her patients would talk about her womanizing boyfriend when her heart still clenched.
Angel loved everything about Alex and looked forward to every second they spent together; he made her feel beautiful, sexy, insatiable; utterly and completely intoxicated; loved. He made her feel empowered by the way he craved her. He was still very much the man in the relationship, but she sensed he was just as much a slave to the attraction as she was, and at times, there was vulnerability in his eyes when she wanted to kick herself for even a second of doubt. She closed her eyes at the thought.
She would kick her doubt to the curb and leave it there if it were the last thing she did!
The hours apart from Alex dragged, and she found herself constantly checking the clock on her desk, her phone, and email. Even though her schedule was chock full until the end of the day, she longed for his touch, his words, the way his eyes caressed her, and their conversations.
She brought the woman’s words back from the sort of muffled, subconscious place it had been relegated to and blinked. Normally, Angel felt this type of session wasn’t the best use of her expertise and just a different version of the shit she dealt with on the radio show. She’d much rather be putting sex offenders behind bars, but her soft feelings for Alex, and the freshness of the relationship still hanging precariously on the precipice, gave her a more empathetic view of women whose hearts were hanging in the fragile balance. Angel’s cynicism had become somewhat diminished, but her logic didn’t come to a full stop. Her brain told her this woman was doing very little to help herself out of a bad situation, but had now fully acknowledged that you don’t choose whom you love, and how much it hurts to walk away from someone who’d become your entire world. Even when you fought—every inch of the way, clawing and scraping—hoping not to fall in so deep that your heart lay open and defenseless. Her own vulnerability made her acutely aware of the pain of those around her; the perfection of her situation with Alex screamed how fragile it really was. And rare.
“I know I should take the kids and leave him, but I love him so much,” she cried, her words breaking. “He’s good to me in many ways, and he never hurts the children.”
“Maryanne.” Angel sighed sadly, trying to temper the tightness in her chest and the bluntness of her words. She wished she could reach across the desk and take the woman’s hand.
Of course, your husband is hurting your children
How can you not see it?
She thought, her jaw tightening as she swallowed but making a conscious decision to soften her tone. “If he hurts you in front of them, naturally, they’re hurt. Horribly. Watching their mother being beaten and berated is abuse as well. I know you see the situation isn’t good for any of you, including your husband. He needs professional help.”
Maryanne nodded and blew her nose loudly into a tissue. “I know. I’ve managed to hide the fact I come to you. I tried to tell him, but he put his fist through the wall in our bedroom. He doesn’t want to come to counseling—he sees it as admitting he’s doing something wrong. He can’t admit he has a problem.”
“Admitting it is the first step to recovery. If he can’t face it and want to stop badly enough, he won’t.” Angel looked sympathetically at Maryanne as she spoke. “For the sake of your kids, you need to. You have a responsibility to take them, and yourself out of the situation. You don’t deserve being beaten or made to feel bad about yourself.”
“I know that’s what you keep saying—”
Angel interrupted her. “Because it’s true. No one deserves what he has done to you.”
The woman’s face crumpled again and a sob burst from her chest. Angel’s heart went out to her on one level, but on another, she was frustrated with repeating herself and with her patient’s refusal to do anything about her situation. Abuse victims were made to feel worthless; like they somehow asked for or deserved what was done to them. That was how abusers manipulated and kept the victims in the situation long-term. She sighed aloud.
“I’m going to have my assistant give you information on Harmony House. It’s a safe house where you and your children can stay free of charge until you get on your feet. You’ll be able to take a step away and think things through; they have counselors there, and it’s safe.”
Angel buzzed her assistant, Liz, on the intercom and asked her to get the woman the Harmony House address and contact information, and soon after, the session ended. She had an hour for paperwork on another molestation case, but at least with this one, the perpetrator showed classic signs of a pedophile, so she could make solid recommendations and a substantiated profile that would put this one behind bars.
Her afternoon progressed at a snail’s pace, and her last appointment was a woman who was raped in the underground garage of her apartment complex. At least, on this occasion, there was DNA evidence, and it was an open and shut case. The hard part would be helping the girl get through the terrifying fear that now paralyzed her so she’d be able get on with her life.
Angel couldn’t help but shudder at the memory of Alex’s car being vandalized in the garage of her own building and how she’d almost been raped and killed under Mark Swanson’s hands inside her own home. Now, it was natural that she would want to get away from that condo, but she wasn’t sure if she was ready to move in, lock, stock and barrel, with Alex as he insisted. They’d both gone through so much to get that bastard arrested and charged. Still… he was out on bail, so Alex and Angel would remain on edge until the trial was over.
Alex’s shoulders got tense whenever Swanson’s name was mentioned in the news or in conversation between them or with Kenneth. His green eyes would skirt to Angel’s face to gauge her reaction, yet trying to disguise his own, but his demeanor was tense. She could read the worry behind his eyes despite his attempts to act unconcerned, and she was certain he was equally aware of how petrified she was, in spite of her bravado.
Cole, Bancroft, and the others were still following her everywhere, and even though she protested, she knew better than to argue with Alex. She would lose anyway, and secretly, she was glad to have the protection.
She’d learned two lessons well. One, Mark Swanson wasn’t one to give up easily, and two, Alex was a force to be reckoned with on many levels. He would have his way, especially when it came to Angel. The thought caused a delicious shiver to run through her entire body.
Her phone buzzed in her purse as she made her way out of her office. In the hallway outside, Cole was waiting, leaning nonchalantly against the wall, dressed in dress slacks and a dark gray turtleneck sweater.
Angel smiled wide as her eyes skirted down to his finely polished shoes. Alex was certainly beginning to rub off on Cole. His strong jaw was lightly covered in a day’s worth of stubble, and the sweater accentuated his broad shoulders.
She felt bad. He was with her so much. Alex worked him like a dog, and the only time he had off was when Alex was with her, because Bancroft was tailing Swanson. She’d seen Cole send appraising glances in Becca’s direction on the few times he’d seen her. Angel decided when things settled down, she might have to have them both over for dinner. Alex’s lackluster opinion of Cole was changing, and Angel could see the changes herself. She trusted Cole implicitly now.
“Nothing.” Angel shook her head and smirked. “I was just thinking you clean up well.”
“It’s still not a suit.” Cole shrugged and grinned back. “I’m still kicking and screaming in regard to that.”
“True, but it’s a lot closer. You look good. It suits you.”
“Have a good day, did you?” Cole asked with a sly grin, taking her coat from her and holding it so she could slip her arms inside. It was fall, Chicago had turned colder, and today a light mist had been constant all day. Angel’s shoulders shrugged a little as her phone buzzed again.
“It was okay. Glad it’s over.”
“You gonna answer that? Sounds like little brother has a rod up his ass,” he remarked wryly.
She laughed and laced her arm through Cole’s. “Maybe, but he’ll live. He didn’t call or email me at all today.”
Cole pursed his lips then chuckled. “I see. So, now he’s being punished, is he?”
“Not exactly.” Angel paused for a beat when the notion she was intentionally punishing Alex hit Cole. She wasn’t one to play adolescent games with men, but his lack of contact stung, despite her logical brain assigning a laundry list of reasons why it could have been impossible for Alex to spare a few minutes to call or email. He did run a multi-billion dollar company. “At least, I wasn’t trying to.”
“No?” Cole’s eyebrow shot up, knowingly.
“No. But I don’t need to be a pushover, either.” Angel bit her lip as Cole opened the door to the black Lincoln sedan he was driving. Her brown eyes glinted with amusement as the door was closed behind her, and Alex’s brother walked around the front of the car and slid behind the wheel. Cole glanced at her as he started the car, his smirk telling her what he was thinking. Angel kicked herself mentally.
“Right. That wouldn’t be like you, and you were both working. Alex has some big deal in Sydney he’s trying to get done without actually traveling there.” He stopped, astonishment flashing over his strong features. “Did I just make an excuse for him? Un-fucking-believable.” He shook his head and rolled his eyes.
A laugh burst from Angel, and she shot him a look.
“Seriously, maybe he didn’t call, but he’s been all over me. Trust me, you were on his mind all day.”
“Really? Is he pestering you to bring me out to the house? I told him it’s too far to go during the week. I have too much work to do to commute that far.”
“Is that the only reason you don’t want to go?” Cole pointed to their left, in the direction of the building where they both had apartments, silently asking Angel if that was where he should take her. Alex would have his ass, but he’d rather beg forgiveness than go against what Angel wanted. When she nodded, he pulled into the stream of traffic and accelerated. “Alex mentioned you were moving in together.”
“Oh, he did, did he?” Angel’s brow furrowed angrily, and she huffed at Alex’s presumptuousness. They’d discussed it for five minutes in bed, once or maybe twice. “He’s too sure of himself. It hasn’t been decided for sure.”
“He’s worried and in love.” Cole cringed and gave Angel a look that said he couldn’t believe he was buying into that sappy shit. She dipped her head and smiled softly, her fingers nervously fiddling with the straps of her purse. “Never thought I’d say this in this lifetime, but Alex deserves a break, Angel.” Cole paused for a few seconds, clearly considering his next words carefully. Angel glanced his way and waited for him to continue. “He’s always been in control, and he can’t accept when he isn’t. He doesn’t know what the hell to do with himself, and he’s floundering a bit. It’s kind of funny to see him act so out of his element, but this Swanson thing has him in knots. He’s more relaxed when you’re with him.”
Angel grinned broadly. “Thank you, Dr. Phil.”
Cole chuckled. “Don’t you mean, Dr. Hemming?” he retorted.
Angel’s expression sobered. She felt an easy camaraderie with Cole, and he could shed some light on what Alex was thinking. “Alex scares me as much as Mark Swanson. I’m trying to let myself just go with the flow, but his track record doesn’t include long-term. And I even understand why, but I’m already—” She stopped and looked quickly at Cole.
There was a stall reserved for him in the parking garage, and Cole pulled into it. It was cold so he hesitated before turning off the engine. “Forgive me, but you’ll never know if he can make it to long-term if you don’t give him a shot. His relationships end when he wants them to.” Cole flushed and shot a glance at Angel, instantly regretting his choice of words. She looked pensive as she bit her lip. “He never fails at anything, especially something he wants. It used to make me want to beat the crap out of him when we were kids. Trust me. He’s in this.
in. There are things I could say to prove it, but Alex wouldn’t thank me for sharing. Is it necessary?”
Angel shook her head. She didn’t need proof. She felt Alex’s commitment in his actions, and when they were together, his touches were reverent, his kisses passionate and worshiping. His intensity, not just in his protectiveness but his possessiveness, was a big part of what worried her, even as it thrilled her. She knew she could trust him with her life; he’d done more than enough to prove it. She’d accepted she loved him, accepted there was nothing she could do about it even if she wanted to, but her mind still cautioned, even as she silently acknowledged she was way beyond the point of no return.