Authors: Karin Tabke
Tags: #Romance, #Erotica, #Contemporary, #Fiction
The hardest thing is not to love but to be loved in return…
What would you dare to do? Would you dare to do it again? Can you handle the truth? Could you live with the consequences…?
The Chronicles of Katrina
What would you dare to do?
(Book one, out now a free read!)
Would you dare to do it again?
(Book two, out now!)
Can you handle the truth?
(Book three, out now!)
Could you live with the consequences?
(The finale, Dec 10th)
hank you once again to my amazing village: Virna, Tina, Martha, Victoria. Couldn’t have done it without you! Hubby, you know I can’t do any of this without the great coffee you brew each morning and the support that goes with each cup.
I also want to thank my good friend Lawrence, who proudly served in the 82nd Airborne, not only for his continued service to our country but also for his willingness and patience (I know he was rolling his eyes and shaking his head with each series of questions and scenarios I threw at him) as he helped me breathe life into Simon’s military background.
atrina!” Simon called after her.
Tears blinded her as she rushed down Powell Street, bumping into shoulders and handbags. It was a Saturday night in Union Square, and the streets were jam-packed with locals and tourists alike.
The city she’d always loved suddenly seemed like a hellhole. Never before had Kat felt the urge to run as she much as she did now. From her home, her career, her life, a man …
man she’d wanted to trust above all others. The man she’d
to trust. The man she’d been falling head over heels in love with.
Even after seeing the cell phone icon of a ball and chain and actually speaking to his wife—she still couldn’t believe it! Evan’s horrid accusations rang in her ears, only to be drowned out by her recent conversation with Simon. He’d warned her, hadn’t he? He’d said he was going to break her heart.
But not this way. She’d never thought it would be this way.
He was just another cheating rat bastard, shattering everything she had hoped and dreamed of.
“Katrina!” Simon shouted again, his voice closer now.
Katy picked up her pace, slammed into a man, and stumbled. Blindly, she turned up an alley, hoping Simon wouldn’t be able to see her detour through the thick throng of people along the crowded sidewalks.
As if she had jumped into a pool, the city sounds diffused into a disconcerting muteness. The sharp click of her heels on the alleyway echoed eerily around her. The sound of a cat screeching, a door slamming, and the distant thumping bass of rap music changed her mood from furious to cautious. She looked ahead and slowed her hasty steps until she came to a standstill. Three silhouettes exiting a building stopped when they noticed her.
Katy looked over her shoulder to the busy street behind her. If she kicked off her shoes and ran like hell she might make it. Heart thudding high in her throat, she turned back to the three men who were now less than a few feet away. Too late. The tallest of the three grinned maliciously, showing off long, crooked teeth as he circled behind her.
“Hey, mamacita,” the widest one standing in front of her crooned, grabbing his crotch and pumping his hips toward her. If her situation wasn’t so dire, she’d laugh at his crude peacocking. “Need a ride home?”
All three men laughed. Their intention was clear, but it was their audacious expectation that they could just take from her what they knew she would never give them, that infuriated her. Her anger spurred her resolve. They’d get a piece of her over her dead body! She gulped but straightened.
“No, thank you,” she said tightening her wrap around her like a shield and then proceeded to power walk past them. Just when she had the crazy notion they were going to let her pass without further incident, the one behind her grabbed her shoulder.
“Don’t touch me!” she commanded. She swung at him with her purse and turned out of his grasp, leaving him holding her wrap. But as she turned, she backed right into four groping hands.
“Leave me alone!” she insisted, bringing her heel down on one foot, then another. It gave her a brief sense of satisfaction to hear both of her assailants screech profanities in Spanish.
The man behind her lassoed her with her wrap, binding her arms to her side. Struggling, she began to panic. She was one woman with no fighting skills against three seasoned thugs. Katy screamed. In answer, a dirty, callused hand slammed across her mouth. He yanked her hard against his chest. Squeezing her eyes shut, Katy endured his pelvic grind against her bottom. Never had she felt more violated than she did at that moment. Or more helpless. And terrified.
“Shh, shh, mama, we gonna make you feel sooo good you’ll beg us for more,” her captor whispered against her ear.
Squirming, kicking, and screaming against his hand, Katy fought for her life.
“And I’m gonna make you feel sooo bad you’re gonna beg me to stop,” Simon said dangerously.
Katy nearly died of relief when she heard Simon’s deep, confident voice behind her. The thug jerked her around, catching her neck in the crook of his arm to face Simon, who was moving in fast.
“Come a step closer, and I’ll snap her neck,” the hoodlum threatened, tightening his hold on her. Grabbing his forearm, Katy gagged as he applied more pressure.
“Damage one hair on her head and I’ll kill you,” Simon promised, his voice filled with menace and the assurance that he could, and would, make good on the threat.
The two other men flanked the guy holding her. “There are three of us,
and only one of you.”
“One of me is all I need to mop the street with all three of you.”
He stepped closer, his gaze never wavering from the thug whose right arm was locked around her neck. If she could just get him to loosen his grip enough so that she could drop to the alley floor, it would give Simon the opening he needed—to what? Get beat up by these three guys? Not that she doubted Simon’s abilities, but these were not little boys playing cops and robbers.
“I’m giving you five seconds to let her go before I make you part of the alley.”
“Bring it,” her captor invited.
Just as he said the words, Katy let go of his forearm, raised her arms, reached back, and rammed his eyes with her thumbs. He yelped and loosened his grip just enough for her to drop straight to the ground, and in that instant, Simon kicked the guy in the throat, the sickening sound of crackling cartilage signaling the end of his plans for the evening.
Simon grabbed her from between the other two, shoving her behind his back.
A glint of metal caught the alley light as the two left standing crouched low, moving slowly toward them. “He has a knife!” Katy cried, grabbing Simon’s back.
Her own safety took a backseat to Simon’s. It was him they wanted now. And as angry as she was at him for his betrayal, the thought of him lying in a pool of his own blood in the alley terrified her.
Gently pushing her toward the mouth of the alley, Simon said, “Get out of here.
.” Unable to move, afraid to leave him, but knowing if she didn’t, he would not fully focus on the bad guys, Katy stood transfixed, torn between what she wanted to do: stand by his side and aide him or do as he said to do, so that he could give the thugs his undivided attention.
Simon didn’t wait, he took immediate control of the situation, Making a quick sidestep, with his right he foot kicked the thug on the left in the chest knocking him off balance, pivoted around and with his left foot, kicked his friend in the knees. He made another quick turn and took the first guy out with a leg sweep. But as Simon came back around, both attackers were up and at him.
Taking a hard punch to the gut, and one to the chin, Simon grunted in pain. Katy cringed, feeling helpless when one of the thugs kicked Simon in the gut, then got in close and jabbed his torso several times. But Simon was bigger, stronger, and faster, with fighting moves like something she’d seen in a movie. Horrified and oddly mesmerized, she watched Simon systematically beat the living tar out of them. They got their licks in, too, but Simon was a master of hand-to-hand combat and some kind of martial art.
When all three of her assailants lay motionless on the alley floor, Simon turned and, breathing heavily, walked toward her. His jacket was dirty and shredded, his shirt stained and askew. He jammed his fingers through his mussed hair. “Are you hurt?” he asked, his worried eyes raking her from head to toe.
“I’m fine,” she lied. How could she be fine? She’d just talked to her boyfriend’s
and then was attacked by three thugs. “Just a little shook up.” As the enormity of what could have happened to her hit her, Katy bit her bottom lip to keep it from trembling, while blinking rapidly to keep the threatening tears at bay.
“You’re damn lucky that’s all you are,” he rumbled. He got out his phone and quickly called in their position and what had happened, then he went to work. Fascinated, she watched him kick the knife to the edge of the alley, then tie each assailant up with their own hoodies, and string them together with his belt. Once immobile, not that they were going anywhere, they were out cold, Simon patted them down for more weapons. Two knives and a set of brass knuckles. He tossed them over with the first knife. Then he grabbed her wrap from where it had dropped in the alley, and gently placed it around her shoulders. “Damn it, Kat,” he rasped, emotion adding an edge to his deep voice. “I told you to get out of here.”
The woman in her wanted two things at that moment: To melt into his arms and kiss him for saving her life, and to knee him in the nuts for lying to her and making her run into the alley in the first place.
Angrily tightened the wrap around her shoulders as if it would protect her from him or more honestly, protect her from herself, she backed away from him. “I don’t need you to come to my rescue, Simon. Just leave me alone.”
“That’s a crock of bullshit. If I hadn’t come when I did, they’d have dragged you off to the nearest hole and eaten you alive.”
“I wouldn’t have been here in the first place if you weren’t such a dick!” she accused.
His dark brows crashed together. “I wouldn’t be such a dick if you would just trust me, damn it.”
” he corrected.
She laughed bitterly. “You’re right. I won’t. Because I’m done being an idiot.” She hesitated, then wanting to know, no desperately needing to know, she said, “You said you wanted to explain. So explain things to me, Simon. Explain to me about the old ball and chain. Explain to me about Jen, your wife! Explain to me, are you or are you not married?”
His jaw clenched. His body tensed. “It’s not a simple question to answer.”
Any lingering hope she’d harbored shriveled up and died. “Right,” she whispered. “So that’s your explanation. And on that basis I’m supposed to believe you haven’t betrayed me. That what? Jen would be okay with the fact that we just—we just had sex?”
His eyes flickered, yet he said nothing.
She shook her head and swiped at some tears that had escaped. “What are you going to tell me next, Simon? Oh, Kat,” she said sarcastically. “She doesn’t understand me the way you do. She doesn’t even love me.”
His full lips thinned.
In a measured tone, he said, “Our relationship isn’t based on love and it never was. I’ve never cared for her the way I do you. I’ve never hungered for her the way I do you.”
He moved closer, his body heat infiltrating the chill that had overcome her when the attackers grabbed her. Nudging her chin up with his fingers, Simon brushed his lips across hers.
“I swear it,” he breathed. “Even if you can’t believe anything else, believe that.”
It took just about every muscle in her body to resist pouring herself into him. Hysteria at what almost happened to her swelled. She had almost been—she squeezed her eyes closed, shutting out the images of what those men would have done to her if Simon had not pursued her and come to her rescue. He had told her once before that he was good at being a hero. At least he hadn’t lied to her about that.
Trembling, she shook her head and pulled away from him. “I can’t do this, Simon. I don’t have the stomach for it.”
For a second, he hung on to her, as if he was refusing to let her go. As if he was going to give her that explanation he’d said he would—a real one this time—but then he released her and stepped back. He looked pissed while he did so, and she got the distinct feeling he was pissed at himself, not her. “I’m sorry, Kat. I know this looks bad, but I’m not at liberty to say anything else.”
Her heart sank, and she knew she was certifiable. Part of her wanted him to keep fighting for him, to convince her he was telling the truth, but how could he when he hadn’t even denied he was married?
“You sound like a politician. And you know what, Simon? I don’t like politicians.” She picked up her purse, brushing off the dirt. It was open, exposing her toothbrush.
“I had one for you at my place,” he roughly said.
Glaring at him, she stuffed the toothbrush back into the purse and snapped it closed. Inside, she winced at the memories of their last encounter and what he’d said just before the old ball and chain had called.
Go clean up, then I’m taking you home and making slow crazy love to you.
She’d wanted that so badly. To have a place in his life. To have love between them rather than just sex. But how could that be, given how they’d met?