Revealed to Him

Revealed to Him

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Synopsis:

Handsome and tough Jake Tanner, a veteran and the owner of a successful security firm, never lets his past hold him back. Despite his prosthetic hand and foot, women swoon over him—and with him between the sheets. Yet Jake feels bored and restless…until he’s hired to protect a beautiful writer whose life is in terrible danger.

Self-imprisoned by the fear of the anonymous stalkers who threaten her life, video-game writer Natalie Beck now only dreams of the world outside her pink-bedecked apartment. Trusting people again is off-limits. But the more time Jake spends with her, the more his professional commitment evolves from simple duty to scorching desire. While deeply sensual sparks ignite between the two, the danger outside circles closer. Will Jake’s intense devotion be enough to save Natalie? Or will she turn away from the one man willing to do anything to save her?

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE
    NATALIE
Every long journey begins with one step.
I read that on an online forum a while back. It was one of those photoshopped inspirational quotes done in a curly typeface on top of a beautiful sunset. To this day, I remember the image vividly not because it featured a blonde beauty clad in a sports bra and tight shorts with a golden retriever by her side, but because my best-friend and editor Daphne Marshall pointed out that the cliff formation in the background looked like a penis. Once someone points out a penis in a picture, it can’t be unseen.
“Do you remember the Mount Dick photo?” I ask Daphne. She and I are standing at the kitchen island as I stare at the door of my apartment.
“The one with the chick running on the beach with her dog? How could I forget?” She arches an eyebrow. Daphne is tall, slender, and every inch the fashionable New York working woman. She could be on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily with her slick black outfits and perfectly shod feet. In contrast, I’m wearing pink flannel pajama pants decorated with penguins and a faded NY Cobras T-shirt that I’d stolen from my cousin Oliver a few years ago. I did brush my hair and teeth, though. That’s a plus. “Did we decide that she was running toward Mount Dick or away from it?”
“Away. There was genuine terror in that dog’s eyes. Like whatever lurked behind that penis would haunt him forever.”
“Maybe that’s just you projecting.”
“Ouch.” I slap a hand over my chest, but I can’t deny her charge. I am haunted by a lot of things in my past, but I’m trying to move past them, which is why Daphne’s with me today. Today I’m going to push the elevator button, and she’s going to make sure that if something bad happens, I’ll get back to my home safely.
It’s a huge step forward for me, metaphorically speaking. The elevator is only twenty steps away from my door. And there are only fifteen steps between me and the door of my apartment. I know precisely because I’ve documented them in the journal I started keeping three years ago. The journal doesn’t contain my thoughts and dreams—it’s a collection of numbers and tally marks recording how many times it took to open the door, then step into the hall, then push the elevator button, then wait in the hallway before puking, crying, and losing consciousness because my throat closes up from fear. Not fear of anything in particular. Nope, my fear is of fear itself.
The worst kind.
The stupidest kind.
The seemingly incurable kind.
Two weeks ago I was able to leave my apartment and go down to the subway stop three blocks away. It was a huge victory for me, seeing as I’d not been able to leave even my building three years ago, let alone be within sniffing distance of a subway tunnel. One anonymous note that was barely threatening sent me scurrying back inside—years of therapy shot to shit.
It’s safe to say that sometimes I can’t stand myself.
But not today. Today I’m going to open my apartment door. I’m going to walk the twenty steps to the elevator, and I’m going to push that damn elevator button. I won’t try to get on. My little brain can’t handle that kind of exposure today. Maybe tomorrow or the day after. But I won’t get outside again unless I take that first step.
“What if you gave me a push?” I suggest.
Daphne makes a frustrated noise. “Why are you doing this to yourself? I feel like I’m watching you volunteer for torture. Your face is shiny and your skin is clammy.” She pats my cheek with the back of her hand. “Shit, you’re already going into shock.”
“I’m not.” I take two deep breaths and start counting. Counting helps to slow my breathing from freaked out back to semi-panicked. So does focusing on the picture of the Eiffel Tower that I have hanging near the entry. Also pressing the large middle vein on my wrist repeatedly.
I do all of those things so that I can unstick my feet and move toward the door. Just to the elevator, I tell myself. Heart pounding so hard, I’m sure Daphne can hear it, I take my first step and then another. I keep going until I’m at the doorway. Daphne’s slim body is a welcome presence behind me.
“I’m glad you’re here,” I say between heaving breaths. I raise a shaky hand to wipe away the cold sweat that’s formed on my forehead.
“Of course. If you were to pass out, I wouldn’t get the next chapter in your book that is due in, oh, thirty days.”
“You’d get it,” I protest, ignoring the doorknob in front of me. “It might not be for a few days, but you’d get it.”
“So you say.” She leans around me and places her hand on the door. “Want me to open it for you?”
I hesitate, but then nod reluctantly. If she doesn’t open it, it might take me another fifteen minutes to muster up the strength to even place my hand on the knob. With her taking the initiative, I only have to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.
When her hand reaches for the doorknob, I avert my gaze and focus on the Eiffel Tower. I should have put the picture of Mount Dick up there instead.
One step.
A long journey.
Hell, I’d take a short journey. The click of the latch releasing ratchets up my panic. My heart starts racing again. I rub my slick palms together and try to start breathing from my belly instead of my chest.
In through the nose.
Out through the mouth.
My heart is strong. It beats so powerfully because it is strong and I am alive.
In through the nose.
“Maybe you should come back inside?” Daphne says quietly.
“No. I can make it.” I want to turn and hug her for enduring this with me. It must be hard. When my cousin Oliver, who plays quarterback for the NY Cobras, gets hit on the field, my heart stops until he gets up. She’s an amazing friend.
I press my hand against my stomach and take one step. Only thirteen to go.
Out through the mouth.
After each step, I stop and breathe. I reassure myself I am doing fine. Daphne waits patiently behind me.
I don’t know exactly how much time passes, but after thirteen steps and thirteen deep breaths, I find myself at the elevator bank. I choke out a laughing sob. “I made it.”
“Good job,” she says.
    Licking my lips, I raise my hand and press the DOWN button. The walls of the hall seem to shake as the elevator rises from the lobby. The lights above the elevator shift as the elevator passes each floor.

“I should go back,” I say, but apparently I’m not loud enough, because Daphne doesn’t respond. She’s staring at the elevator doors, waiting for them to part.

What if there’s someone inside the elevator? What if it’s the note writer? What if it’s someone from my past? My stomach starts churning and I can feel the acid rising. “I should go,” I say again, but no one hears me. I must be so quiet.
I clear my throat, but all I taste is bile. I choke it back.
The note. That goddamned note.
Five words on a throwaway piece of paper shouldn’t get to me. The threat is stupid and vague and clichéd. Although if it is from who I think it is—one of those cowardly, dickless wonders whose unwashed sweatpants are filled with Cheetos dust and whose only form of social activity is hurling insults on the Internet—then it should come as no surprise that the threat sounds like it was cut and pasted from the cheesiest pulp novel ever.
And I hate that it gets to me. I hate that I’ve been driven inside, a prisoner of my home. I hate that I’m gasping for breath standing in front of this goddamn elevator. I hate that the first fucking breath of fresh air that I sucked in took two years to achieve. I hate all of it, but my hate isn’t stronger than my fear.
That’s probably what I hate the most.
“Daphne.” I reach out for her.
She’s lost in her own thoughts. I’m drowning in mine.
Why should that note affect me so greatly? There has never been a robbery or assault in this building. There are famous people, like my cousin Oliver, who live here. All signs point to being safe.
I’m safe and I’m at the elevator.
I’m at the ELEVATOR!
Black dots start to swim in front of my eyes as my stupid brain starts telling every part of my body that we’re in danger. My heart is pounding so hard and fast I fear it might leap out of my chest. My breath is stuck in my lungs and can’t get out because my throat has completely closed up. I’ve got no strength in my legs and I’m shaking so hard my vision has blurred. When the bell dings and the elevator slides open, I collapse.
And then there’s nothing.

© 2015 Jen Frederick



Revealed to Him

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