She's a beautiful wreck who hates men, but loves animals. Beaten and left for dead, she suffers from night terrors. When she keeps running into a gorgeous guy things heat up, but memories of abuse dampen the fire.
He's handsome. He's wealthy. He's in a wheelchair. His entire life has changed, and the past months have been hell. But there's a bright spot in Michael's life: Sienna, an adorable klutz who seems to always be falling, so why can't she fall for him? He offers her a ride, not his lap, but that's where she ends up when he comes to her aid after she's had too much to drink. This is the beginning of the hit and miss love affair.
Whether it's a pompous cosmetic surgeon who won't take no for an answer, a family emergency, or a meddling coworker, there always seems to be something standing in their way. A surgery may help Michael regain the use of his legs, but what if it's not successful? Can he handle the risk ― or live with the consequences?
The road is bumpy, filled with dreams and desires, awkward run-ins, and deliciously steamy encounters.
Is there anything, short of a miracle, that could bring these two struggling souls together?
Most of the manners Sienna's parents had taught her had been wiped away by Rob. Still, she wasn't downright rude. She'd get to her car and get the hell out of here. She hated shopping. It was a waste of time, especially for one person. And how much food did a five-foot-three, one-hundred-five pound female need, anyway?
Tucking her bubble gum between molar and cheek, she said, "Actually, I had thought of becoming one." She’d play his game. "So just how does a kindergarten teacher look?"
She could obviously be hell on wheels. Wheels ... He refused to feel inferior. What an attitude! Why was he attracted to her again?
"I would have to say," he took a deep breath but avoided her eyes as he pushed forward, "sweet." Maybe not so sweet ... he mumbled under his breath. "I bet the kids would crush on their teacher the first day of school.
"Nothing. Just joking."
"Kids drive me nuts." Her voice picked up as much steam as her feet, trying to keep stride with him. "It's not that I don't like them ... I have enough trouble taking care of myself."
"I can see that."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Once more. Kidding."
"You seem to do a lot of that."
"Believe me, it helps."
Her eyes slipped over his face, trailing to the spinning wheels of his chair, his feet looking so out of place on the footrests.
"Some weather, huh?"
"Sure is," she replied, watching the wheels splatter through shallow puddles.
She stopped beside the Corolla's rear door and grabbed the handle. "This is mine," she said, trying to level her eyes without looking down at him.
"Nice car. I used to drive a black one. But that was some time ago. What year is yours? 2007?"
"Ah. Mine was an '07. Body style was the same though. Dependable car. They changed this body in '09. Tenth generation, brought back a more powerful engine, good car." Silly small-talk. He sawed a palm across his sprouting beard, smoothing the start of a frown.
"I appreciate your kindness." Treating him like hired help she destroyed the moment, and quickly transferred her things to the back seat of her car, careful not to brush against him.
Still, as she leaned in to lift the last of her groceries, strands of her hair tickled his cheek then rested on his shoulder, but only for a moment — brief but thrilling as he inhaled her. Her hair smelled of jasmine. Her perfume flooded the air with an enticing oriental scent. He liked the way the fragrances mixed and engulfed him — the way she did. During their first official meeting, he knew he liked everything about her, although he hadn't expected her to be a little klutz with a big attitude.
"Hopefully May will be better ..."
"What?" With knitted brows she faced him. Her eyes, slanted like a cat's, were shocking blue, and had become impossible to read.
"Less rain ..."
"Oh — right. Let's hope so." She slid behind the wheel and slammed the door shut. "Thanks again. Can I do anything for you? A lift somewhere?"
For a moment her eyes clung to his. He didn't seem like a bad guy. He couldn't have actually been hitting on her ... She shouldn't have been so unkind. He had only been trying to help.
"Nope. I've got some things to do around here, but thanks for the offer." His face tightened, pulling his full mouth into a troubled shape.
"Better get going before it starts pouring," she said, thinking of her groceries that would be soaked by the time she carried them into her condo if she didn't beat the storm. Through the open window she studied his face. His sable eyes gripped hers, and she felt there was something he wanted to say — but he remained silent.
Michael sat in the parking lot, in drizzle that had turned to steady rain, looking on as she drove away. Eyes fixed on the shrinking bumper stickers plastered across the Corolla's rear: Save a Life-Adopt a Pet, he smiled. Then he headed in the direction of his cottage, hidden from the plaza by evergreen walls trimmed with oak.
Who am I kidding? She'd never be interested in me. "Dream on, fool," he mumbled, cooling a cup of tea with a lingering breath.
That night, as she slipped into bed, Sienna thought about all of the things she should have done on her day off — and facing another tomorrow.
The laundry still overflowed in a corner of the room. Random garments hung on a chair- back, a few things strewn on the floor. Washed dishes sat in the drainboard. Where had the day gone? She hadn't even played tennis as she sometimes did on her day off. Shopping must have taken longer than usual. Shopping. For a moment she thought of him, and the grapefruit he'd rescued which were sitting in a bin in the refrigerator, scrubbed and cold like her, with hair damp from the shower.
Mind, stop! Go to sleep, Sienna.
Rolling over, she punched her pillow into shape. Still, memories roamed as they did every single night. The guy at the plaza seemed kind — the complete opposite of Rob Lucas.
She wondered what had incapacitated him and how long he’d been disabled. Could he have missionary style sex? With the woman on top, of course. Could he have sex at all? Stupid thoughts. None of her business. She was too nosy. Anyhow, celibacy wasn't all that bad.
Then she imagined what her life would be like now if she'd met a guy like him instead of her ex. But it was neither here nor there because she was finished with men. All men. Cute men, nice men, sexy men. It didn't matter. She had been reduced to a shuddering mass of bloody flesh, left for dead on her own living room floor. Horror she tried to forget always blindsided her! Shit! I refuse to give in. I won't be afraid. No more nightmares. No more Rob.
She was finally in control. She had made a nice home for herself: pleasant friends, good job, money in the bank, hobbies. Well, maybe just tennis when time and energy permitted. Why the hell would she need a man? Even if he was nice, and hot, like the plaza guy.
Too bad ... Erasing both men from conscious thought, she drifted off to sleep.
Screeching, she flees the lower level leading to the deck where gusts of wind tug her hair at the root. Her feet barely touch the steps, the strength of her arms using the banister to double-time her legs. Fluttering locks snap like wings, whipping her face. Without breaking stride, she swipes strands from her eyes and dares a backward glance.
He's chasing her. Dragging a plaited rope behind him. No — he can't be ... Rob is dead!
Her heart begins to pound.
In hot pursuit, the figure takes the stairs two at a time.
Another glance — he isn't far behind. A chill runs down her spine as she recognizes two distinguishing features: his eyes. His eyes are black rocks, not only lifeless, they're pure evil.
It is you. Her stomach tightens.
Oh, God. . .
She'll have time to double back, circle the deck, make it down the stairs to slam and lock the cabin door. Miscalculation — the length of his athletic legs will overtake hers in moments. She knows what he's about do to her. He's done it before. Her heart races.
The dream had been so vivid it could have been reality. When Sienna opened her eyes she was exhausted. Although she had drifted through unconsciousness for the past eight hours, she felt like she hadn't slept a wink. Her head was groggy, her mouth felt like cardboard, and her body ached. Of course I'm tired, she told herself. I've been running all damn night. When are these dreams going to stop?
Reaching down, she yanked covers off the floor and back onto the mattress where they belonged. From the look of the bed, it had been a wild night. Too bad she hadn't enjoyed it. She'd make the bed later. Right now she needed a cup of coffee. She sat up, wondering why she wasn't wearing her nightgown. Reaching down, she snatched it from the floor, slipped it on and dangled her legs over the side of the bed, taking deep breaths until her throbbing temples calmed. She felt dizzy. Low blood pressure, she was certain. But judging from her lively pulse, her blood pressure had to have skyrocketed during the night. She looked around the room. There were no shadows, no figures. There was no ocean, no yacht. And Rob was not beside her — or behind her, thank God. It was over. But her mind wouldn't rest. She had to do something to straighten out her life.
(excerpt continued on Thursday)