Here’s your sneak peek at my first release of 2021, Key To Your Heart!
By the time Anderson woke up Saturday morning, it was too late. His faithful four a.m. alarm did not ring, which meant his usual patrol around the house’s grounds before the sunrise did not occur. Anderson snored on, tucked happily between the sheets of a bed that was much too small for a man of his size.
He hadn’t felt a real bed in weeks. Most of the time, he avoided sleep like a debt collector, only catching a few winks here and there in the security trailer when it snuck up on him. His eyes were usually glued to the monitors that mirrored the dozens of cameras surrounding the mansion. Sleep was a luxury he couldn’t afford, especially when everything was on the line.
Anderson had always been a steel wall. As the head of the security team, he set the standard, and if that meant being on-call twenty-four-seven while the rest of his team took the nightly trek across the ocean to stay on the main island, then so be it. Besides, he needed to make a good impression on the network. If he did well, the payout could give him enough working capital to fund his own security company. He wouldn’t have to rely on a ragtag group of guys who preferred the easy route.
Plus, the gig wasn’t half bad. He was surrounded by women who he’d never have the chance to get this close to in real life on a tropical island for ten weeks. All he had to do was make sure they didn’t claw each other’s eyes out.
Never in a million years did he think he’d be doing security on a reality dating show. When he left the corporate world and got into competitive bodybuilding, his stature alone primed him for private security. He was used to pulsing clubs and belligerent guests. Nevertheless, his first professional gig was proving to be a cakewalk. Besides the sporadic screaming match, none of the women had gotten too out of control. In fact, they’d been more accommodating to him than the actual talent.
Pierre “Key” Hart was, in one word, spoiled. Anderson could tell right away that he’d never had anyone tell him no. Even when Key had preposterous requests, like bribing him to take the night off, Anderson maintained his cool, quiet professionalism and remained out of sight. He wasn’t ever ‘off,’ but last night, after the partygoers and the crew left, everyone else went to sleep in a drunken blackout stupor. The house grew so silent that he finally gave in, and even though his feet and ankles hung off the edge of the twin’s bed, it was some of the best sleep of his life.
The buttery scent of sizzling steak shook him out of sleep’s grasp. His eyes cracked open, adjusting to the faint darkness. Beside him, Wednesday’s mouth lay agape, a slow trickle of slob leading from it to the pillow. He smiled and, ever so slowly, removed his numb arm from underneath her.
Surprisingly, he felt refreshed. When he slid between her sheets last night, he thought he’d wake with a belly of regret. Now, if anything, he wanted more. He glanced down at his erection and over at Wednesday’s wet mouth.
How much time do I have? He pulled his arm down to check the time, expecting to see those familiar green numbers with a flick of his wrist. But his watch wasn’t there.
Frantic, he jumped out of bed, fumbling for his clothing. He searched around for a light and flipped the switch on the wall. Warm light flooded the bedroom, illuminating all of his choices from the night before. He stuffed the shot glasses and condom wrappers into one of the pockets on his cargo pants. In bed, Wednesday stirred. A groan slipped from her lips.
“Turn off the light, Andy,” she mumbled sleepily.
“Where’s my watch?” he responded, pulling his shirt over his head in a hurry then running his fingers through his messy hair. He scrubbed a finger over his teeth and wondered if he had time to make it back to the trailer to take a shower.
Without looking over, Wednesday felt around on the dresser beside her. She threw his cell phone and watch down on the bed. Both were black. Anderson pressed on the screens, and nothing. Dead.
“Fuck!” he whisper-screamed under his breath as he stomped toward the window and flung open the curtains. Outside, the sun was just making an appearance, chasing away the purple of the night with its brilliant orange. Anderson was too late to admire a perfect sunrise.
He bolted out of the room, leaving Wednesday without a goodbye kiss. She was going to be pissed at him, but he’d deal with her attitude later.
He should have never stayed over. He’d been dodging the subject for weeks when she asked. There was absolutely nothing he wanted more than to feel Wednesday next to him — other than the cash for this job, and he wouldn’t jeopardize that for anyone. But he couldn’t ignore the tumbling in his belly that he’d done just that.
Anderson hurried through the house toward the front door, pushing the negative thoughts away. Any minute now, his crew would be arriving. He didn’t want to look well-rested like he’d slept in a contestant’s bed all night. He needed to be the same grumpy know-it-all they were used to. He hurriedly scraped the crust out of his eyes and shook the wrinkles out of his shirt.
First things first, he had to do his rounds and secure the perimeter. By the time he got outside, a black truck was pulling into the driveway. He knew his team of five would hop out, ready to receive the day’s marching orders.
Anderson would have to start fresh tomorrow. It was way too late now.
Shooting pain startled Jaimee awake, zipping up, down, sideways, and front, pinging in places she didn’t know it could exist. It swam through her veins, drilled through the bone, and tore into the soft tissue of her brain, plucking her out of her dreams by the nail of its finger and shaking her awake.
Reality slammed into her like a steel-toe boot. She opened her mouth, and a pathetic whimper emerged. She barely had enough strength to roll over to her side before vomit jumped out of her mouth. The hot slime trickled down her neck and between her breasts. She caught her breath, and the unmistakable smell of vodka served her another punch to the gut. Her eyes popped open, and she realized she was surrounded in darkness.
Black pressed in on all sides, and she had no idea where she was. Soft carpet kissed her palms even though her body felt like she’d spent the night on a concrete slab all night. She shook the fuzz out of her brain, but she couldn’t tell if she was still dreaming. She placed her fingers to her collarbone, expecting to feel the familiar trail of metal between her thumb and finger. But her rose necklace was gone.
Her heartbeat quickened in her ears. Think, Jaimee, she willed herself, stretching her memory of the night before. It wasn’t the first time she’d woken up someplace she didn’t remember. But her wild college years were extinct. She was grown now, and she knew something had gone horribly wrong. Her ears strained in the darkness, and everything around her was creepily still.
She pulled herself into a ball. Think, Jaimee.
A distorted memory of broken glass flashed behind her eyes, but she couldn’t recall anything else. Shooting pain returned with a vengeance while she unraveled herself from the floor. On shaky legs, she took one step forward. She placed her hands out in front of her for balance and continued one tiny step at a time. She couldn’t tell where she was going. The only message that replayed in her brain was that she had to get out. She kept one foot in front of the other until she had no more solid ground to travel.
She stooped down, and her hands landed on solid wood.
She was in Pierre’s room. She pictured it in her mind as she’d seen it dozens of times before. Relief flooded her like a warm shower. When she stood upright again, a bolt of pain shot through her ribs, robbing her of breath. She stumbled to the bathroom, doubled over, wading through the aftermath of the night they shared abandoned on the floor. Her feet swept past what felt like piles of clothes. Napkins crunched under her feet, and silverware clanged together. What happened last night?
“Babe?” Jaimee asked the darkness. There was no answer.
“Pierre?” she asked again after a sickening wait. She strained to hear past the silence. Her feet hit the cool tile of Pierre’s bathroom, and finally, her journey had come to an end.
She thought she grabbed the sink for balance, for solace, for an anchor, but her hand slipped off the countertop. Her elbow collided with the side of the sink, and she didn’t know if she could even muster any more tears for the pain wracking her body.
She brought her wet hand to her face, and the distinctive smell of copper made her heart thrash around in her chest. Then, the trembles started in low waves, from her ankles to her knees, and then finally, her blood-soaked hands.
“Adrien-ne,” she asked through chattering teeth, her voice barely above a whisper. “T-turn on th-the lights.”
“Certainly,” Pierre’s home assistant answered pleasantly. Soft light flooded the bathroom. Jaimee choked back tears when she leaned closer to her reflection, unseeing — or maybe unbelieving.
Vines of crimson snaked over her body. Her hair was a tangled mess of angry curls. The blood-soaked robe clung to her like a second skin. She watched her bloody reflection touch its fingers to her face. Tears escaped from her eyes, and she wanted to run as far as her feet could take her. But when she turned, the sight in the bedroom rooted her in place.
Pierre’s arm hung lazily off the side of the bed. His head was turned to one side unnaturally. She didn’t have to get any closer to know he was dead because the bed was a river of blood, and he’d been drowning.