A Moment of Truth: A Complete Bonus Set (A Matter of Trust #1-2)

Table of Contents

A Moment of Truth - Bonus Edition

A Matter of Trust

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Acknowledgements

A Moment of Truth

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

About the Author

A Moment of Truth - Bonus Edition

Includes
A Matter of Trust

Q. T. Ruby

Copyright

A Moment of Truth

Bonus Edition - Includes A Matter of Trust

Copyright © 2016 by Q. T. Ruby

Amazon Edition

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher with the subject line “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the email address below.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

Formatting by Mari Carlopoli at E & F Indie Services

e-and-f.webs.com

A Matter of Trust

Q. T. Ruby

Copyright

A Matter of Trust

Copyright © 2015-2016 by Q. T. Ruby

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher with the subject line “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the email address below.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

Public Relations by Neda Amini at Ardent Prose

ArdentProse.com

Cover Art by Jada D’Lee at Jada D’Lee Designs

JadaDLeeDesigns.com

Editing by Jennifer Matera and Lauren Schmelz at Write Divas

WriteDivas.com

British Consulting and Editing by Catherine Waring at The Book Betas

TheBookBetas.com

Formatting by Mari Carlopoli at E & F Indie Services

e-and-f.webs.com

Dedication

To God—thank you for not forgetting about me.

To my husband and children who make my heart full and my world go ‘round.

To my parents, whose love has always sustained me.

And finally, to my siblings, whose sometimes torturous—but always funny—shenanigans have helped forge my laugh lines.

Chapter One

I hate weekends.

Weekends are forty-eight hours of torturous interrogations led by the investigators. And by the investigators, I mean my roommates, Camille and Bridget.

Camille’s a feisty brunette, Bridget’s a mischievous blonde, and together they’re the biggest pain in my ass. I can’t help thinking about their bottomless pit of questions as I sit in my classroom, finishing my lesson plans for Monday.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my roommates—they’re my best friends, after all—but for as smart as they are, they can’t seem to get it through their heads that I’m just fine staying in. Take last night, for example. They were all over me about not going out—on a Thursday no less.

“C’mon, Claire. Have you seen yourself? I mean, in something other than sweats? You’re beautiful, funny, and you’re wasting your good years inside this apartment in sweatpants—nasty gray sweatpants at that. You don’t even put on those velour, pretend-they’re-not-sweatpants sweatpants,” Bridget said.

“I’m just not into the bar scene, that’s all.”

“Yes, we know, but you have to get out of the apartment now and again. You know, see the world. You live in New York City for Christ’s sake,” Camille said.

“I know—we just went to a movie.”

“True, like three weeks ago, where you sat in a dark theater, shoveling popcorn into your face. How exactly is that seeing the world?” Camille demanded, hands on her hips.

Ugh.

After giving the ungraded essays a good shove into my satchel, I sit for a moment, thinking. I’m just not into what they’re into anymore. Can’t a person change? And, honestly, what’s the problem with sweatpants?

I pack assignments for a sick student into my bag next. My plan is to drop them off to her after the gym before I head home, where the interrogation will commence yet again.

Soldiering through the arctic February air toward the gym, my mind isn’t far from the last thing Bridget said:


Look, I know you hate talking about this, but I’m going to say it anyway. You have to stop letting what happened between you and Mark screw up your life. You have to! You’ve spent too long avoiding . . . well, everything, and it really has to stop. Remember all the fun we had together in college? Where is my Claire?”

Why did she dig
that
up? Just because I prefer the cozy sofa to drinks at a bar doesn’t mean the crap with Mark still affects me. Needless to say, my frustration makes for a good workout.

Afterward, I step out of the gym to find a bone-chilling mist falling and, of course, I’ve forgotten my umbrella.
Figures.

Damp and shivering, I arrive at the fancy apartment building where my student lives. I defrost for a mere moment in the building’s luxurious lobby when I notice the elevator doors are already open. With my clunky bags slung over my shoulders, I dive inside with only a second to spare. I’m startled to see a guy inside the compartment already, leaning near the buttons and staring at his sneakers.

I clear my throat and step to the back of the elevator, making space even though there are only two of us inside.

“Eight, please,” I say, and without a word, he presses the button. I notice seven is already lit. As we ascend, I sneak a peek at the guy. He’s cute.

I glance again. Strike that. He’s ridiculously good-looking!

He’s tall and lean, and his black leather jacket hugs his broad shoulders just right. Sandy blond hair pokes out from the back and sides of his navy baseball hat. His sculpted cheeks are peppered with scruff.

Not that I’m staring.

Oddly enough, he looks familiar.
Maybe he dated Camille or Bridget?
I mentally flip through the roster of men they’ve conquered when a name shifts to the front of my mind—Daniel Chase.
Daniel Chase? The actor?

I lean forward a little and squint.

Oh my God . . . It’s got to be him! Bridget and my students would die!
A giggle threatens, but I quickly shove a sock in it.

Of course, it’s just my luck that under my winter coat is a sweat-drenched body, my long, dark hair is escaping its ponytail holder, and any remaining makeup from the day has probably smudged its way under my eyes. Great. I have officially become a sewer rat. I wipe under my eyes and tug my coat closed to hopefully contain my stench. I roll my eyes.
This is my life.

In the midst of cursing my luck, the elevator comes to a jolting stop. I’m tossed forward, and I slam my hands against the walls to catch my balance.

“What was that?” the man says in his hot English accent as he looks up and around.

I’m pretty sure that in any other situation, I’d be putty in his hands, but at this very moment, I don’t care about my sweaty self or the super-handsome man or his amazing voice because—

There are NO windows!

The space shrinks, and my chest tightens. I can’t breathe. “Try pressing the door open button?” I say, gulping my fear.
Please don’t let me lose it.

He presses the button, but nothing happens. He tries a different button. Nothing.

“Try ringing the emergency bell,” I blurt out.
How long can I handle this?
My lungs aren’t working, and I know from my thundering heart that my body will require air soon.

“Right.” He searches the rows of buttons.

The bell rings. We wait. There’s no response. Panic escalates inside, and I channel it as best as I can into my tapping foot.

“Oh! My mobile,” the man says, his back still to me. He pats his back pocket, finds it, and dials.

“Hello, Len. I’m stuck in your lift . . . Yes, I’m fine . . . one other person . . . all right . . . thanks.”

Inhale . . .

Exhale . . .

I’m focused on the steady rhythm of my breathing when he turns to face me. No doubt horrified by my near-hyperventilation, his eyes widen as his phone slips from his hand. His cheeks redden as he swipes at the flying phone once, twice, before finally catching it midair.

He straightens up. “Uh, my manager lives upstairs . . . he said he’ll phone someone.” He rubs the back of his neck a couple of times.

Breathe, Claire . . .

“Great because . . . small spaces . . . aren’t . . . my thing,” I say between breaths, attempting humor in this very unfunny situation. I draw in a deeper breath and let it out in a slow, quiet whoosh that begins to steady my heart and nerves. Then I meet his ridiculously green eyes and my heart gets racing all over again.

He gapes at me, probably worried about my current state of mind. I am, too, actually.

“Are you all right?”

“I’ll be okay.” I drop my eyes to the floor as a heat rushes through me.

Breathe, Claire . . .

In . . .

Out . . .

We’re quiet for a few awkward moments when I realize I’m going to hit full-panic mode if I don’t distract myself from this four-walled cell—and won’t that be a little embarrassing.
Find something.
Distract yourself, Claire.

“This might be a really weird question, but . . . are you Daniel Chase?” I peek up.

“Yes.” He seems to brace himself.

Oh God.
Here I am, a hot mess and virtually panicking, a mere three feet from the most beautiful guy I’ve ever been near, not to mention the tiny fact that he’s a famous actor. This moment only confirms what I learned a few years ago—my life plus men does not equal happy.

Well, since I’m about to die
. . . “I’m Claire Parelli.” I hold out my hand to shake his.

“Nice to meet you, Claire. Don’t think I’ve seen you around here before. You just move in?”

His handshake is firm, warm, and wow, my name sounds amazing wrapped in smooth English silk. I hide my swooning well. I think. I hope. “Oh, no. I don’t live here. Teachers can’t afford places like this.” I grin.

“They’re not like I remember them,” he says, almost as if I’m not meant to hear it as he glances up at the unmoving floor numbers.

“What’s that?”

He shakes his head and surveys me a moment. “It’s just that you don’t look like any of the teachers I had.”

Every bit of me freezes. “Oh.”

“So what’re you doing here then?”

“I’m dropping off work to a student who’s been out sick all week.”
Breathe . . .

He cocks an eyebrow. “I didn’t know teachers did that sort of thing.”

“What sort of thing?”

He smirks. “You know, go door-to-door, leaving homework for all the children.”

“Yep, just like Santa!” I laugh.

His grin widens. “What do you teach?”

“English—at an all-girls high school here in the city.”

“All girls, eh?” He shudders. “What’s that like?”

“Well, it’s fun, challenging sometimes, and . . .” The next thought makes me smile. “They sure do enjoy you.”

He shakes his head, smiling too. “Now, that’s embarrassing.”

“But it must be nice to have so many fans.”

“It’s flattering, definitely, but . . . it’s still bizarre.”

“You mean it’s weird to have young girls obsess over your every move?”

He laughs and nods. “Yeah, sometimes I feel like I could have a full-on panic attack.”

“Much like I am about to do here.”
Breathe in . . .

He leans in. “Are you all right?”

I breathe out. “I think if I keep talking, it’ll keep me distracted enough . . . if you don’t mind, Daniel,” I say because I’m sure I look nuts, and now I’m proving it.

“No worries. And call me Dan.”

“Okay.” I grin. “So what are you doing in New York, Dan?”

“I’m here for a few meetings, then I’m off to London tomorrow for a short break. Afterward, it’s back to L.A. for my next job.”

“Wow, that’s a lot of traveling. Do you come through New York often?” I ask, as my mind and heart start to settle.

“Often enough. I assume you live here in New York, then?”

“Yeah, not too far from here.”

“Have you always lived in New York?”

“No. I grew up in Connecticut but moved here about three years ago.”

“Connecticut’s close by, right?”

“Yes. The next state over—about an hour away.”

“So you came here for work?”

“For the most part.”

He examines me a moment as if deciding to ask me something other than: “You enjoy teaching?”

His attention makes me squirm. “Yes, but it’s like any job I suppose—it has its ups and downs . . . well, except your job perhaps.” I smile.

“Ha! Right, there’s nothing bad about my job.” He snorts.

I raise an eyebrow at him. “Yeah, it must be awful to earn gobs of money while thousands of women throw themselves at you. You really have it rough.” I laugh.

Cocking his head to the side, his pursed-lip smirk nearly stops my shaky heart. “Honestly, I am quite lucky; I have a brilliant job, but it has its ups and downs, too,” he says, challenging me.

“What’s the hardest part?” I challenge right back.
Am I flirting? I think I’m flirting.

“Oh, I don’t know . . .” He glances down at his feet. I get the sense he’s hoping I’ll drop the subject, but he finally says, “You really want to know?”

I nod.

He pauses, assessing me again. “I suppose the hardest part is that right now things are good, but . . . I wonder what will happen if the public tires of me.”

I’m stunned by his honesty—to a total stranger, no less. Well, a stranger who’s forcing him to talk. “Considering the fact that so many of my students are obsessed with you, I don’t see that happening any time soon.” I smile wide, hoping to silently convey that I mean no harm.

He shrugs. “Thanks.”

But I feel the need to explain further. “The thing is—even though the entertainment business seems focused on looks, I don’t think you could be as successful as you are without talent too. I saw
Life in Eden
a few weeks back, and I thought you were really good in it . . . plus it doesn’t hurt that you seem like a nice guy.”

A perfect smile graces his already perfect face. That stupid heat shoots through me again.
Damn it. Shut up, Claire!

The elevator quickly jerks and stops, rudely reminding me of my location in the tiny box from hell. We both reach for the walls.

Dan studies me carefully. “Doing okay?”

Breathe in, Claire . . . breathe out . . .

“I think so . . . maybe I should sit.” I drop my bags from my shoulders and slide down the smooth wall to the floor.

He takes my hand to guide me. Butterflies swarm my belly, battling the panic for attention.

“Did I tell you how little I like closed spaces?” I ask, trying to distract myself once again.

“You mentioned it.” He smiles kindly and joins me on the floor with his forearms resting on top of his bent knees.

I hear the sound of someone banging on something outside the elevator. Muffled through the doors, walls, and whatever else separates us, a male voice calls, “Hey! You okay in there? It’ll be a few more minutes.”

“We’re fine!” Dan yells back. He turns to me and asks, “Are you fine?”

I nod and slowly breathe.

“Is your family still in Connecticut?” he asks, surely because I look so on edge.

With a quiet exhale, I look up into his eyes, but this time I find them soothing—soothing enough to focus and respond, “Yes, they’re all still there. Your family still in England? I mean, you are from England, right?”

“Yeah, London.”

“Do you see your family much?”

“I go back when I can, but not as often as I’d like. Even still, they find ways to keep me grounded.” He rolls his eyes and chuckles.

“Especially now I bet, with the hype of your movies and all that goes with it—like girls hurling themselves at you. Nothing like family to put you in your place, right?” I smile.

“Precisely. My sisters don’t let a moment pass without reminding me what an idiot I am.” He laughs and shakes his head.

I laugh along knowing exactly what he means—my family has never been big on stroking egos.

“Do you see your family often?”

I shrug. “Often enough . . . So your new movie—what’s it about?” I ask, purposely switching the topic.

He furrows his brow but answers. “It’s about a guy who tries to find himself and how he deals with the outcomes of his decisions. It’s a bit more of a drama—different than
Life in Eden
.”

“Sounds—”

BOOM!

The elevator rattles hard this time, ripping the air from my chest. I dig my nails into my palms and clamp my eyes shut, on the verge of tears. “God, I wish that’d stop happening.”

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