This one is looking goooooood!
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3/27/13 via FB
Jace ordered his driver to the shelter and told him to step on it. He couldn’t be certain that Bethany would stick around, and he wasn’t about to take any chances. Not when she’d already disappeared on him once.
Kate had said Bethany was injured and his mind was filled with images, none that were good. They hadn’t gotten into specifics. Jace had been too impatient to get to her. How the hell had she gotten hurt?
A woman alone on the streets . . . There were 1,001 ways for her to get hurt and every one of them made Jace’s gut clench.
When his car pulled up in front of the shelter, he directed his driver to wait. Hopefully he wouldn’t be long, but he was prepared for anything.
He strode toward the entrance, the wind biting through his coat. When he opened the door, his gaze immediately swept the room, searching out Bethany. Then, finally, he saw her. In the back. Off to one side, away from the others. She was sitting in a chair, pale and looking lost. Still, he drank in the sight of her, relieved beyond words that she was here. He could see that her pants were torn at the knees and on one side. He could also see the bloodstains on her clothing and the raw scrapes on her elbows. What the ever-loving hell?
Before he could start over, Kate stepped in front of him, her face creased with worry.
“Will you be taking her with you, Mr. Crestwell?”
“Oh yes,” he said quietly. “She’s coming with me. I’ll take care of her. I promise.”
Kate’s expression eased. “Good. I worry about her. About all of them.”
He started to step forward, eager to get to her and to see how badly she was hurt, but Kate stopped him once more.
“I want to thank you,” she said in a soft voice. “For everything. The heat. The food. The generous donation. Look around you, Mr. Crestwell. All these women have a warm place to sleep and food to eat because of you.”
Jace grimaced, uncomfortable with her gratitude. He nodded briefly and then headed for Bethany. Her eyes were closed. She looked asleep sitting up. He took the opportunity to study her more closely and he swore at what he saw.
She looked even thinner if possible. There were shadows under her eyes. She was pale.
And she was hurting.
He knelt quietly in front of her. As soon as she sensed his presence, her eyes flew open and she flinched away, panic firing in her eyes.
“It’s all right, Bethany,” he murmured.
Her eyes widened and he was gratified to see that her fear disappeared, but it was quickly replaced by confusion.
His name came out a cautious whisper, almost as if she didn’t believe it was him kneeling in front of her. Then she straightened and she turned her hands inward, hiding the scrapes and the blood.
“What are you doing here?” she asked in a trembling voice.
His expression hardened and he stood. Her gaze followed him up and without saying anything, he simply reached down and plucked her slight weight from the chair.
She landed softly against his chest and he cradled her possessively, determined that nothing else would hurt her. Then she stiffened and her mouth fell open with a gasp.
“What are you doing?” she hissed.
He strode toward the door, his grip tightening when she began to struggle.
“Away from here,” he bit out.
She began to protest in earnest and Jace caught Kate’s worried stare. He nodded to reassure the older woman and then he tightened his hold on her further.
“Enough,” he ground out. “Don’t fight me. You’re worrying Kate. I’m not going to hurt you. I promised her I’d take care of you. Don’t make a scene. Do you want to frighten all the women?”
She bit her lip and went limp. Slowly she shook her head. “No,” she whispered. “But you can’t just carry me out of here, Jace.”
He shouldered his way out of the door and the burst of cold air made her instantly shiver. He swore under his breath, pissed that she wasn’t better protected from the cold. Her clothing was no barrier to inclement weather at all.
“You’re scaring me.”
Her voice was small and he could feel her trembling in his arms, whether from the cold or from true fear he wasn’t sure.
“I won’t hurt you and you goddamn well know that.”
Her gaze was haunted as she stared up at him. He paused at the curb as his car approached, ignoring the stares from passersby.
“How do I know that?”
His lips tightened. “If you don’t already know it, you soon will.”
The car stopped and his driver hurried out to open the back door. Jace leaned in to settle Bethany on the seat and then he slid in beside her. She sighed the moment she made contact with the heated seats.
A moment later, the car pulled into traffic and silence settled over the backseat.
“Where are we going?” she asked, the tremble still evident in her voice.
He reached for her hands, turning them both palm up so he could inspect the scrapes.
“What happened, Bethany?”
She went so still against him that he had to look to make sure she was breathing. There was such darkness in her eyes—hopelessness—that it took his breath away. And he knew, without a doubt, that he’d done the right thing. No matter what demons she battled, what her present or past circumstances had been. He’d done the right thing by tracking her down and taking her away.
Bethany tugged her hands away from Jace and turned her face to the window. What on earth was he doing? How had he found her? Why had he found her?
Seeing him in the shelter had been a huge shock. One that had rendered her incapable of the simplest thought process. She barely offered a token protest when he’d hauled her away and stuffed her into the back of his car. Wasn’t this kidnapping?
“Bethany, look at me.”
Though his tone was gentle, there was no mistaking the command in his voice. It was one she couldn’t help but obey. She turned her chin and peeked up at him from beneath her lashes and her breath caught in her throat.
He was such a beautiful man. So dark and brooding. Power emanated from him. Anyone would be a fool not to sense his strength. It was plain for all to see. He wore authority like he’d been born to it.
Though she’d sworn he was a man who’d always make a woman feel safe, at this very moment she was a nervous wreck. The look in his eyes suggested she wasn’t safe at all, though she wasn’t sure what it was she wasn’t safe from.
He wouldn’t harm her. Of that she was sure. But there were many other hurts than just physical.
“Don’t be afraid of me.”
Her lips twisted. “That isn’t something you can just dictate. Telling someone not to be afraid of you doesn’t make it so!”
His gaze hardened. “Have I given you any indication that I’m going to hurt you?”
“You just carried me out of the shelter against my will! What you did was kidnapping! Why were you even there, Jace? How and why did you find me? I don’t understand.” Her words came out much higher than she intended. There was a shrillness to her voice that spoke of her panic.
He put his fingers to her cheek, pressing in just enough that she felt his touch and was powerless to turn away.
“You need me,” he said simply.
2/27/13 via FB
Twenty-five minutes was how much time it took for her to realize she was out of her mind. Twenty-five minutes to know she’d made a huge mistake.
Bethany washed her hands and then checked her pocket again to feel the folded bills. The kitchen had died down and most of the staff had left except for those remaining behind on clean-up duty. That wasn’t her gig, thankfully. Her job was done.
She hesitated as she glanced between the door leading to the alley and the door that led back to Ash and Jace.
Jace hadn’t lied. The ballroom had cleared in fifteen minutes. She wasn’t sure how he’d managed to pull that one off, but then he seemed the type of man who always got what he wanted.
Now all that was between her and a night of hot sex and good food was that door.
The door to the alley swung open as one of the guys hauled a sack of garbage out to the trash bin. A rush of cold air blew in, penetrating Bethany to the bone. She shivered as chill bumps raced across her arms.
That was her other option. Cold. Loneliness. Another night of uncertainty.
Put that way, door number two seemed like the only logical choice.
She pushed off the edge of the counter she was leaning against and walked toward the exit. As she reached it, she took in a deep breath and let herself out.
Jace stood there waiting, hands in his pockets, leaning one shoulder against the wall. His gaze found her and penetrated as swiftly as the cold air had a moment earlier. Only this time, instead of a bone-deep chill, heat spread like wildfire through her veins.
Even before she responded, he moved, pushing off the wall and then he was next to her, his hand sliding around her nape, his thumb brushing over the soft skin right at her hairline.
Damn but the man’s touch was lethal.
“Ash is in the room taking care of dinner.”
She glanced up at Jace, for the first time directly meeting his gaze. “So we’re staying here?”
A smile twitched the corners of his mouth. “I own the hotel. Seems as good a place as any to stay for the night.”
He owned the hotel. Okay, not that she didn’t know he and Ash were stratospherically out of her league, but hearing those words, I own the hotel, just reinforced that she should have chosen the cold over temporary warmth.
“Obviously I didn’t prepare for this,” she murmured as they headed toward the elevators. “I don’t have any clothes or . . . stuff.”
She wanted to laugh because the entire conversation was absurd. Even if she’d known, she wouldn’t have been prepared because she didn’t have stuff. She had nothing except the hope of the next day being better than the last.
Again, Jace’s mouth twitched and his eyes gleamed as he ushered her into the waiting elevator.
“You won’t need clothes. Or . . . stuff.”
Her hands trembled and her knees shook. This was her last chance to back out. He leaned forward to punch the button to the top floor. The door was still open. It would be easy to walk out, say she’d changed her mind and slip into the cold night, embracing what was real.
Jace suddenly looked at her, his gaze seeking, almost as if she’d broadcast her thoughts in real time. He stared at her a long moment, his finger pressed against the button to the floor. When she made no move, he straightened and leaned against the far wall, still studying her as the doors closed.
“You’re nervous,” he said, still staring at her.
She gave him a duh look and he smiled again. He had a killer smile. It wasn’t easy and charming like Ash’s. Smiling seemed to come natural to Ash, like it was in his makeup to be this easygoing, flirtatious guy who women fell all over themselves for. Bethany didn’t get the impression that Jace was much of a smiler. He seemed way more serious than Ash. And if she was honest, that brooding, badass persona hit every single one of her buttons. Because this was a man she’d feel safe with for the night. He was a man a woman felt very secure around.
“Nothing to be nervous about,” he murmured as the elevator stopped.
As she started to step off, he put his arm out to stop her and then he pulled her into his arms. She landed against his chest and his head was angled so their mouths were close. So close she could feel the harsh exhalation of his breath.
“Bethany, there’s nothing to be nervous about,” he said again, that mouth hovering so temptingly over hers.
He trailed a finger down her cheek to the corner of her mouth just as the elevator started to squawk because the doors had been left open for so long. He ignored it, focused on her, watching and absorbing like he could reach into her thoughts. Or like he wanted to, at least.
“I’m okay,” she whispered.
And then he smiled. Really smiled. Not one of those twitch movements where it looked like he was about to smile or that he was fighting it. A full-on, teeth-flashing smile. And man, did he have beautiful teeth. Perfectly straight. Ultrawhite. Million-dollar smile. But then, everything about him was aces . . . right down to his shoes.
So far out of her league. So far it wasn’t even funny.
Visions of Pretty Woman danced in her head. Cinderella. A one-night fairy tale. Only she knew better than to ever dream of happy endings. Fairy tales were nice to read. They were nice to think about. But they weren’t remotely realistic. Fairy tales didn’t happen to girls like Bethany.
So she’d take her one night and tomorrow she’d go back to doing what she did best. Living one day at a time, taking it as it came. Surviving.
He gestured for her to proceed from the elevator, and as soon as she stepped out, he fell into step beside her, his arm wrapping securely around her waist. It felt good. Too good. It was too easy to get all wrapped up in the fantasy. This man didn’t give a damn about her. He wanted to get laid. She wanted warmth and food and a means of forgetting her shitty existence. That was an arrangement she could deal with.
For more Fever excerpts go to http://mayabanks.com/books/fever/