Hidden Away

Caroline Bradley

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Reclusive romance author Lia Hudson has been hiding from a stalker for three years. She must step out of the shadows to pursue a contract that could potentially bring her books to television. This is her dream come true, but will ...
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Reclusive romance author Lia Hudson has been hiding from a stalker for three years. She must step out of the shadows to pursue a contract that could potentially bring her books to television. This is her dream come true, but will her nightmare follow her to California?

Scotty Gold never saw himself as anything other than a ball player. He feels more real at home plate than anywhere, except with Lia. When a concussion brings his season—and possibly his career—to an early end, he’s forced to imagine a future without baseball. Lia could be that future, if only she wanted more than their friend-with-benefits arrangement.

For two years their agreement worked fine. As much as she loved sex with him, Lia was prepared to let him go if that’s what it took for him to be happy. But then Lia’s long-lost stalker catches up to them; she wants Lia and if she has to, she'll take matters into her own hands. Suddenly Scott might not have a future to worry about at all. By the time Lia recognizes her true feelings for Scott, will it be too late to save him?

Excerpt
“Being someone’s first love is great,

But being someone’s last love is beyond perfect.”


At two in the morning, I finally pried my hands off the keyboard. I shoved my chair back from my desk before turning to look out the window. The concrete jungle below sat quietly like a giant beast at rest. It was hard to believe a city of this size ever got quiet. Peering down from the fifteenth floor, the only things moving at that hour were rodents and the changing color of the stoplights, along with the occasional passing car. More often than not, it was a police car.

I loved the view up here. Center City, Philadelphia, was a marvel to behold from the one-hundred-eighty-degree view of my corner apartment. Too bad I rarely took the time to go out in daylight to explore its urban glory, but I much preferred seeing it this way. Cold. Dark. Barren.

Wow, wasn’t that an emo thought? Cheer the hell up, Lia.

Writing about sex all day was hard work. Not as hard as bricklaying in August or teaching middle school, but it still took a lot out of me. And it was lonely work, transcribing two people having sex in my head. I did it well, and I got paid well too. Lia Hudson was a pretty familiar name on supermarket shelves. At least, it was the last time I went there and looked. That was three years ago.

After writing that last love scene, my body begged for rest. It’d been pretty intense with the hero and heroine locked in a department-store warehouse overnight, trying out the mattresses. All of them. Luckily the condom department was nearby and neither one had a latex allergy. I smiled, debating writing allergies into a future book. Acknowledging people with allergy issues could add a new segment to my fan base. How often was that part of the population included in romance fiction?

I shivered. As was typical after a lengthy fictional fuck session, my own female parts craved action like the rest of me craved ice cream. I looked at the phone, debating a booty call to Scott, but at this hour? It wasn’t likely to happen. It’d been a while since our last visit. He’d sure as shit take care of this itch, but he was seeing that hygienist. Bambi, Britni, or something fluffy like that. They’d started up a couple of months ago, and his texts had said they were fine and happy like pigs in a blanket. I got up from the chair. It was more practical to reach for ice cream at this hour anyway.

I laid my hand on the fridge handle. My conscience nudged at me, and I didn’t pull the door open. I’d been too busy writing to hit the treadmill, so I hadn’t earned any of that frozen chocolate pleasure. Another downside to my sedentary profession: butt spread. At thirty-two, I was determined to fight it off as long as I could. Not that anyone would see it, since I didn’t go out.

Resigned to not seeking relief with chocolate, I was still craving an orgasm. Maybe a visit with the B.O.B. would suffice? Batteries were on my latest shopping order, and a vibrator with dead batteries was not really a vibrator. I’d get just as much vibe-action from a banana, and I wasn’t that desperate.

I looked at the calendar. The Brothers’ Midwest road trip was over, so I knew the team was back in town. Their next game was Tuesday night. I could call and ask. Scott and Bambi hadn’t said the L word, so it wasn’t like a quick layover was outside the realm of possibility.

I sighed. “Let him go.”

Shaking my head, I slouched off to the bedroom and resigned to taking matters into my own hands—or at least my fingers.

Minutes later, I burrowed into my thick, delicious comforter with my head cradled in my fluffy pillow and most of my body content as an infant in the womb. The city lay silent outside my bedroom window except for the occasional distant whir of passing cars on the Schuylkill Expressway. They whispered me to sleep, to peace, and to dream…

“You in the moonlight…”

I smiled and sighed. I loved hearing music in my dreams. It usually meant I’d wake with a great story idea in my head. A softly strumming acoustic guitar, Stevie Nicks, and Don Henley.

“…with your sleepy eyes…”

Great choice for my current work in progress, Muse. Thanks. If this was the universe’s way of validating my new story idea, I was good with it. Having a Muse meant I was never really alone in the world.

Can you ever love a man like me,” the voice went on.

No wait, that wasn’t Don Henley. Different. Deeper, maybe even a little smoky. Not that Don wasn’t all those things, but this wasn’t Don’s voice. My lower parts tingled all over again. Fresh off the last orgasm, I might have to question my sanity if I wanted another round already, but what the hell. If it inspired more books, more books meant more money. Not that what I had already couldn’t get me through five years of writer’s block.

With my hand on my breast and my nipple between my fingertips, I shut my eyes tight, straining to hear that voice singing in my dreams. Maybe one last climax could lull me back into an exhausted coma. Wouldn’t that be nice? Drifting off to sleep as angels serenaded me.

But I did hear music, so this couldn’t be a dream. I groaned. Must be one of my neighbors playing the radio at night. Except the Bannisters weren’t home. They were in Connecticut at her sister’s wedding. I’d heard that fight last week. So…

Goosebumps crept across my skin, and that tingling in my lower belly turned to ice. Someone was singing to me. It sounded like a male voice, so it couldn’t be Maggie, but she was almost fifteen years older than I was, and it had been nearly a decade since I last saw her. Maybe the time in jail had changed her?

I slid my feet to the bedroom floor and stood, taking with me the softball bat I kept under the bed. I tiptoed to the door frame and then peeked down the hallway. My reflection in the glass wall moved.

I froze. What if the intruder saw my reflection too? So much for the element of surprise. I lifted the bat to my shoulder, gripping the tape tighter. Scott’s voice in my head whispered, “Align your knuckles and keep the label up. Extend your arms when you swing.” I could almost smile, despite the situation, remembering an evening on the balcony, the feel of his body behind me and the strength in his arms around me as he showed me how to swing. I wasn’t a four-hundred hitter like he was, so making contact with the singing intruder’s head would be my version of a home run. I’d settle for any body part, if it kept them away from me.

Just outside the kitchen, I slid my hand around the corner to the light switch. From the living room, the crazy jackass was still singing, “Give to me your leather…”

I slapped at the wall, but my fingers didn’t connect with the switch. Instead, they connected with the row of coffee mugs hanging from hooks under the cabinet, setting off a tinkling porcelain chime.

“Shit!” I hissed, still whacking at the wall for the light switch.

A large, solid frame rose up from my sofa. A monster, really, at that size. My whole body shivered so hard it was a miracle I was still on my feet.

I was going to die. Here in my own home that I hadn’t left in months, and they’d take me out of here in a body bag, assuming there was enough of me left. Fuck, fuck, fuck. At the same time, it was an odd relief to know I’d die at the hands of a hulking stranger and not Maggie.

I heard a male voice. “Lia?”

My fingertip finally brushed the switch, half a foot farther down the kitchen wall than I’d expected. I flipped the light on with every last ounce of energy I had. My eyes opened to find Scott Gold standing in my living room, holding my battered old Gibson guitar and looking confused.

“Oh my fucking God,” I said as the bat clattered to the floor. I almost went with it. Hands and knees shaking, I pulled out a kitchen chair. “Jesus. Do you have any idea what time it is?”

In an instant, there was that smile, that beam of sunshine in the middle of the worst storm. That secret laugh at a funeral. The relief wasn’t wiping away my terror so easily, however. Thanks to the scare he gave me, I still hated him a little.

“Yeah, it’s after two,” he said and then shrugged. “Sorry. I kinda got that feeling. I thought since you’re usually a night owl, you might be up.”

“I just went to bed,” I said. “What happened to Bambi?”

He approached the table, looking at the nearest chair like he expected me to have connected it to a booby trap. In my current frame of mind, I might be tempted.

“Amber. It wasn’t working out,” he said as he sat down. He acted entirely more comfortable than I felt. “She was getting too serious. Making plans for the future. It was only two months we were together. It was officially over when she reminded me that I wasn’t getting any younger and I should start planning for retirement. Can you believe that? I mean, talk about your double standards. If I’d said that to her, she would’ve slapped me.”

“I’m tempted to slap you myself,” I said, ignoring his big gray puppy eyes. “You couldn’t go out for a drink? You had to come here and scare me out of five years?”

“I did,” he said, the hint of a wicked smile starting to curl the corners of his lips. Beautiful lips too. The top was a little thin, but the bottom was lush, soft, and talented. Every hero I’d written since we met had Scott’s mouth.

There was that ancient longing pinging all over my belly again. When I bit my finger to try to make myself forget about his beautiful mouth, I smelled my juices on my fingers. The reminder triggered that familiar flurry of need, brushing aside more of my fear in favor of something warmer and sweeter.

He said, “I had a few beers at the airport with the guys, but they all had to go home, so…” He turned his palm faceup on the table with his arm outstretched toward me. “Here I am.”

I looked at his hand like it was hissing. Then I shot him a glare that apparently had no impact on him, because there were those puppy eyes again. That lush lower lip very nearly begging me. And my traitorous body wanting to do things with him, starting with catching that lower lip between my teeth.

“Why did I ever give you that key?” I wanted him, but after the scare he gave me, I was going to hang on to being pissed at him for a while. Besides, deferring the pleasure was only going to make the orgasm that much richer.

He reached for his pocket. “I can give it back if you want.”

I held up my hand. “Hold on to it for now. I never know if I’m going to need you to come in and water my plants or something.”

“You never leave this place.” He turned, looking around the room. “Wait. You have plants?”

“I might. Someday.” I shook my head, crossing my arms over my chest, which drew his eyes to the motion. My nipples reacted as if he’d touched me. To make matters worse, he licked his lips and then met my eyes. I pointed at his nose. “Don’t. Don’t even think it. I’m mad at you,” I said as I creamed in my panties, no longer able to fight off a smile. This was going to be good. Sex between us was already fun, but make-up sex beat everything. I already was good and mad.

“Oh, come on, darlin’,” he drawled as he rose from his chair. When he stood, I couldn’t miss his arousal. It practically pointed at me through his jeans, beckoning. My mouth watered, but I fisted my hands under my arms, though I also needed to wipe my damp palms on my nightshirt. “How was writing today? Anything good?”

“You mean did I write any sex scenes,” I said. “Yes. Three. No, wait. Four.”

“Oh yeah? Anything fun? Anything you might want to test out on a willing partner?” He came closer. His cologne, a leather scent crossed with musk and citrus, wrapped itself around me, unwinding my muscles, begging my body to come closer, to breathe in more. I knew how cobras felt hearing the charmer’s flute. Except I really wanted to bite him.

“Nothing you’d be interested in since you don’t read.” Before I was within his reach, I jumped out of the chair, passed him, and headed for the refrigerator, snagging a glass from the rack on the way.

His hand thunked on his chest. “You wound me.”

I swallowed. My attention locked on his hand, remembering how his chest felt under my fingertips: beautiful, firm contours with just enough hair to remind me he’d passed puberty with flying colors. With his shirt off, he felt like warm stone. I especially liked the way he shivered when I licked his skin there. But I wasn’t giving in yet.

“I’ll have you know I’ve read every one your books.”

I glanced over my shoulder. “Have you?”

“Of course. Hell, I even pass them around to the rest of the guys. They love them. Most of them want to meet you. A few of them even want to marry you, but I told them you’re not available.”

The very idea put a hot rock in my gut. “Did you?”

“Of course I did. See? I think about you even when we’re not in bed.”

I faced him with the glass of water in my hand. “How kind of you. So why are you here again?”

He stepped toward me with a wanting look in his eyes. All I had to do was give him the green light, and his body would do some amazing things to me. “I thought you might want to, you know, comfort me. In my time of sadness and all.”

“You dated Bambi for two months.”

“Amber. And I was away part of that time too, but we texted each other almost every day.”

I put the glass aside, not surprised to find myself standing in the corner, pinned between the fridge and the counter. “So you had a mostly cyber relationship, then.”

“I suppose so,” he drawled, tugging at the neckline of my oversize nightshirt and peering down into it from his six-foot-one height. “Why do you sleep in those things, anyway? They’re so…” He waved his hand like a magic wand that would make the right word appear.

“Unsexy?”

“Yeah, something like that.”

“I write about sex all day. At the end of the day, I’m kind of tired of it.”

He stood mere inches in front of me. His cock could’ve reached me if it weren’t tucked away behind his zipper.

“I’m sorry to hear that. I guess I’ll have to leave here brokenhearted.”

My hands twitched, eager to reach for him, to feel the planes and lines of his body under my palms, and to feel his reaction to my touch.

“Looks like it,” I said.

He took a step closer. “Unsatisfied.”

“Probably.”

“Aching and needy.” The hint of whine in his voice made my lips twitch.

“I’m sure you can find a quiet place to jack off.”

We stood in the cold silence, watching each other and each waiting the other out. Our eyes locked, neither one blinking. It was like having a staring contest with a statue, but I knew how to play the game. Better still, I knew how to win.

Or maybe he let me, because an instant later, his hands were under my arms, lifting me off my feet and sitting me on the counter. One more step and his hips fit perfectly between my thighs.

“Damn you’re good,” he said.

“Don’t you know it.” I pulled his face to mine and crushed my mouth against his.

He tasted like beer and whiskey. I drank him in, intoxicated by his mouth, his tongue, and his flavor. His hips thrust against mine, and I locked my ankles behind his back. His hands tried to lift my nightshirt, but I was sitting on the edge of it. He snarled and lifted me again, this time off the counter, into his arms, and pressed against him. I gasped and nibbled at his lower lip. My arms twined around his neck. He broke the kiss long enough to ask, “Bedroom okay?”

I nipped at his earlobe. “No. Let’s do it on the balcony.”

He laughed and squeezed my ass. “You know I hate your sarcastic side.”

“And yet you keep coming back,” I said, grinding my pussy against the fly of his jeans. I was dangerously close to getting off with my panties still on.

He groaned and pressed my back against the refrigerator door. “Because you keep doing that.”

Copyright © Caroline Bradley

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