Authors: Kemmie Michaels
Copyright © 2015 Kemmie Michaels
All rights reserved.
Published by Bruce Street Publications, LLC
This is a work of fiction and does not in any way advocate irresponsible behavior. This book contains content that is not suitable for readers 17 and under. Please store your files where they cannot be accessed by minors.
Names, characters, places, brands, products, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademark status and ownership of any location names or products mentioned in this book. The author received no compensation for any mention of said trademarks.
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To my husband, my Smurfs, and my Francessca.
…and also to coffee.
When the yacht lost the view of the coast behind us, Evvie walked straight into my arms.
"What was I thinking?" she asked quietly.
I rubbed her back slowly and untwisted her hair. She slowly relaxed as I gently massaged her neck, focusing myself on the subtle brush of the soft waves along my hand.
"You were thinking that enough was enough," I answered gently. "You stood up and showed him you deserve better than the treatment he gave you."
She nodded as she eased herself from my arms to look around the ship for the first time.
"Halden," Evvie said, causing my heart to shrink at the sound of my false name. "Are you sure he won't find me?"
"I promise. I know how to deal with a situation like this," I told her, setting up the confession I dreaded.
She looked at me in cautious acceptance of her safety, but her brow furrowed. "You do?"
I took a deep breath.
"Because I'm not really a businessman. The CEO named Halden Fells existed to gain intel on your husband, as well as to disrupt his circle of friends."
"What do you mean…existed," she asked in a quiet, hollow voice after a few beats.
She had too much to deal with that day, but I couldn't selfishly hang on to my false identity simply to keep Evvie on the hook.
"Then who…," she trailed off.
"My name is Callen Reed, a friend of Mason Pratt's. He and I go way back. When he asked for help to oust your son-of-a-bitch husband, I came immediately."
"Callen Reed?" she shook her head again slowly in frustrated confusion.
"Callen Reed," I repeated.
Her eyes wandered around the gentle sway of the water, only occasionally finding me in their view.
"You used me," she whispered painfully.
My shoulders sank and I let out a deep breath. "That was the plan."
Her mouth dropped slightly at my admission. She looked around the deck, as if looking for a way to escape this new cage. My heart twisted painfully, and still does, for causing her more harm. I could never have predicted I would need to guard her heart.
"Evvie, let me explain."
Her eyes drift to mine in a pained expression. "Don't call me Evvie," she breathed out, feeling betrayed.
I give her a few moments before I speak. "I know you have no reason to believe me, but you're Evvie to me. You started as nothing but a mission point, but everything changed."
"You're right. I don't believe you."
She walked over to a bench along the port bow, and turned her back to me. Leaving the pained desperation from my voice, I tried to explain as best I could.
"The minute I met you, you stood out. Your poise, grace, elegance…for the first time in my life, I questioned my mission. The
She shook her head, unable to think. I gave her a few minutes, then I went to her as a man who realized how much he loved her. I sat beside her and draped my arm around her. No matter how angry she was, she needed comfort. I was her only option. She hesitantly pulled my arm closer, and I held her with gentle strength. Tension and anger stiffened her frame, but she held on anyway. I could only imagine her confusion by both needing me and being repulsed by my deceit.
"I feel like I'm alone. If you're not Halden…"
"Callen," I murmured softly. "That's the truth. And I promise you, Evvie, you are not alone."
In a heart-wrenching gesture of trust, Evvie curled herself into me and allowed me wrap her strongly in my arms. The strain finally escaped through her tears and the words 'I love you' finally escaped from my lips.
More than two months have passed and I remain solidly in two worlds. Sixty-eight days, and my feet exist in opposite realities which won't let me go: black and white, right and wrong, grief and progress...each foot for foot.
I open my eyes, and I see my bedroom ceiling.
I close my eyes, and I see Evelyn's beautiful smile.
When I allow my eyes to close, I remember the subtle scent of her Jasmine perfume. When I open them again, however, all that remains is grief.
I close my eyes with a final deep breath and I keep them closed for too long, allowing myself to remember too much of her. Diving into thoughts of Evelyn is a drug worth the hangover.
That first week after her husband's arrest was the most incredible week of my life. John Bennett was in jail and Evelyn's freedom washed over her. She stood bright-eyed and refreshed in spite of social and political turmoil. Her breath came to her crisp and strong as she contemplated an upcoming divorce battle. Evvie grasped her new future with more tenacity than I realized she had.
Watching her break away from an ugly marriage was truly beautiful.
Watching her hold on to her vows in the mean time, however, was the most difficult part of being in love with her.
Yes, I loved her. She inspired true, pure emotion in my world. I admired everything about her, which made waiting impossible. In spite of her husband's infidelities and incarceration, she wouldn't be an adulteress.
Before I met Evvie, I had promised Mason I would
her. As a mission point, I would seduce her into an affair.
Evelyn refused, and for the first time in my life, I backed off. I'm sure I could have worked on her until she gave in, but I recognized more in her. I remember her words exactly.
I would love to be with you, but if I have an affair, I wouldn't be any better than he is. For better or worse. I won't break my vows. They're all I have to hold onto.
I may have loved her in that exact moment. She held her resolve, too. I never pressured her, but I wanted her so badly. I imagined her slender body under mine, her head thrown back in pleasure, the sounds of abandon reaching my ears, and the sensation of moving inside of her. I still imagine all the ways we could discover what love feels like. I doubt she'd ever experienced pleasure like I could show her, or the true connection we would have shared.
Still with my eyes closed, I allow flashes of beautiful memories to flicker behind my lids, all from that week on the yacht I rented under an alias. I wanted to keep her safe after her husband was arrested, so I got her out on the water. The two crew members I hired were from my former Special Forces unit. Evelyn never knew she was under that level of protection.
For an entire week the two of us lounged on deck in hours of conversation. Getting through the difficult moments became easy somehow. We had each other. We shared stories and laughed. She confessed to dreams of being a designer. I shared details about my Special Forces career. By the time our week on the boat came to its inevitable end, we returned to the city. Her voice, as always, rang strong and sweet when she spoke.
"I'm ready," she told me with a deep breath the day before we righted our course to the coast. "I want to get back and fast-track the divorce if I can. I know a lot of influential people who probably want to keep their distance from John. Maybe some of them at the courthouse will help me."