Authors: Aimee Laine
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Paranormal, #mythology, #Zeus, #game, #construction
Praise for Hide & Seek, Book 1 in the Games of Zeus
“To say this is well written would be a major understatement … It’s one of those one in a million finds, an exceptional book.”
— The To Be Read Pile
“Hide and Seek is a brilliantly written and sexy book. [with] so much heat, passion and danger you’ll be left breathless for more!”
— Best Books
“I really enjoyed this book. I loved it so much! It was exciting, the characters were amazing, it kept you guessing, and it was so different than the books I am used to reading.”
— Synchronized Reading
“Hide and Seek takes established Greek mythology, sprinkles it with a dash of paranormal, and then shakes it all up with a healthy dose of passionate romance.”
— Bex Book Nook
“I have to say this is one of the best mythology books I have ever read. It completely blew me away, and I could not stop reading.”
“… just know love must, can, will, and does conquer all.”
— J.A. Belfield, author Darkness & Light
J. Taylor Publishing
Published by J. Taylor Publishing
Copyright © 2013 Aimee Laine
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, events, locations, or any other element is entirely coincidental.
ISBN 978-1-937744-21-2 (PAPERBACK)
ISBN 978-1-937744-22-9 (EPUB)
First Printing: March 2013
Here’s to taking only one lifetime to finding a soul mate.
When I suck in air as if I haven’t breathed in hours,
Sweat trickles down my neck,
My entire body shudders, muscles tensing, straining, poised
For something I cannot grasp.
When sight and sound,
Somewhere between life and death,
Awake and sleep,
Today and tomorrow.
When I know I’ve died,
Yet around me,
The sledge hammer circled through the air, whipping around Taylor Marsh’s head. Wood splintered. Fragmented pieces shot off like shrapnel.
With another heave, she drew the tool over her shoulder, and with one step, swung with every bit of force she could muster.
Decades-old siding crumpled under her attack of the shed.
A deep breath and a growl preceded the stretch of her arms and the twist of her body as she propelled herself forward again.
The weighted head hit first, yanking the tool from her sweaty palms and throwing Taylor sideways. On an ‘oomph’, her chest, arms and cheek kissed the red clay of southern North Carolina soil.
Taylor pushed up to her elbows, twisted toward the old building she’d vowed to tear down, and sighed. She sat, ran a hand through her failing hair, where blonde streaks had turned brown, and resecured the tail at the nape of her neck as sweat dripped from her brow.
Despite its age, several of the shed’s planks remained standing—a testament to construction of years gone by.
“One barn to go, and it wants to stay upright longer than the Titanic.”
Beyond the mess, her home stood—a white, clapboard bungalow she’d renovated herself.
“Okay. One more time.” With the sun high in the sky and bearing down upon her with the force of the coming summer, she stood. “It’s no bigger than a kid’s play house. This shouldn’t be so hard.”
Taylor positioned her feet at the front corner, spreading them to give herself a wide base. “Right. One hit to the figurative solar plexus.” She nodded as if the pile would respond. The crunch of a car’s wheels on gravel made her turn. She faced the Jaguar as it rolled to a stop.
Two very recognizable men stepped from within the vehicle. Their long strides spoke of power and confidence, the smiles suggested warmth, and the punch one gave the other—playfulness.
Taylor brushed off grime from her jeans, tapped her boots against the ground and wiped a hand across her brow. “Like that’s going to help.” Giving up on her attire, she headed toward them, leaving her pile of work for later. “Hey, Tripp.” She took his extended hand, gazing again at the tattoo on his neck she’d found so intriguing the first time they met. “Ian.” Taylor switched her hand-held welcome toward the man who did more to her libido than anyone she’d ever met.
He held up his hands, palms out, bejeweled right ring finger glinting in the sun.
“Afraid of a little dirt?” She let her true southern come out, even added a bit to the tone as she spun the only ring she owned around her fourth finger—nothing like the ostentatious, gaudy, show-offy thing Ian wore.
“No. But you’re a … more … I got a flight to New York in an hour,” Ian said.
Tripp chuckled. “Why don’t you have a crew come knock that thing down?”
Taylor glanced back at her project. “What fun would that be?”
“Fun?” Ian asked. “Fun’s hiring a company and sitting back with a beer.” The muscles in his chest jumped under a thin, blue shirt that hugged light mocha skin—a color and smoothness she wanted to run a hand up against. Green eyes contrasted with the chocolate tones and penetrated her psyche, drawing her in and throwing her out at the same time.
Since their first introduction, he’d brought up a mix of interest and an outright fear Taylor didn’t understand.
A grin took hold of her lips. “What brings you two to no-man’s-land, then?” She raised a hand over her eyes, blocking the blinding sun, and kept her gaze fixed on Ian’s defined form, his clothes better suited to Sunday lunch after church—as her mother would say.
Tripp shifted from one foot to the other. “Lexi says she has a client who’s looking at the original Weaton Farm estate house. She hoped you might get over there, do some preliminary renovation estimates and give her that insider info you’re so good at so she can do an upsell.”
“So … Lexi sent you to ask me about the house?” Taylor wiped at a droplet making its way down her temple.
“I told ya, man.” Ian gave Tripp a backhanded slap to the bicep. “She’s busy. And, I gotta go … anyway … need to get back to some real civilization for a while.”
“What’s that, Ian?” Taylor turned on her thickest drawl. “You don’t like it down here in North Carolina? You want that rush of adrenaline you get with them city folk?”
“Damn right.” Ian tucked his hands in his pockets. “Too damn slow down here. I need real lights, not lunar ones, or Tripp’s white ass mooning his wife.”
Taylor’s lips retained their curve upward. “That’s just how I like it.”
“I meant the moon part, not—”
Well, not his, but yours.
“Well, you know.”
Shush it, Tay.
She tapped a finger against her cheek, turned to Tripp and tried to ignore the pull from Ian. “Tell Lexi I’ll be in touch after I get this thing down.”
“Really, why not hire a crew?” Tripp crossed his arms over his chest, his wedding band glistening in the sun.
“I need to work off a little steam.”
And a whole lotta lust.
Taylor snuck a peek at Ian’s retreating form, leaving her gaze stuck to his backside for an extra moment.
Yup. That under the moonlight. I could make use of it. Dammit thoughts, shut up.
“Since there isn’t anything else to do ‘round here—as Ian so eloquently put it—I might as well do my own demolition.” She hefted the sledgehammer. “Unless you want to help, that is.”
“Oh, look at the time. We really gotta skedaddle,” Ian said from the car, his tone full of mockery.
“It’s a private flight.” Tripp earned a glare from Ian and a chuckle from Taylor. “Fine.” He spun back toward Taylor. “Just remember to call Lexi, or she’ll ride my ass and say we didn’t stop by.”
Taylor saluted with her free hand. “No problem, chief.”
Tripp stood at the driver’s side door and held up a finger. “Oh, and Lexi says to tell you ‘yes’—whatever that means.”
A larger smile pulled at Taylor’s lips. “Got it.”
“What’s that mean?” Ian said from the passenger side.
“I have no idea.”
Taylor’s laugh rang out as the two boys slipped into their car. As soon as their vehicle disappeared down the road, she turned back to the shed. “All righty, you bastard, it’s time to come down.” She lifted her arms just above her head and let the tool fall backward behind her shoulders.
The sledgehammer’s handle pressed into her shoulder.
She twisted backward to prep for her swing.
The ten pound rock clamored against metal and wood, sending vibrations up her arm. Birds took to the sky. The caw of a crow passed through the air, and a long, low creak of wood sliding against itself began. It increased, creating a stream of chalkboard-like screeches until the entire housing collapsed upon itself.
“Yes!” She kicked out her legs, prepared to bask in her success. “We don’t need no heavy equipment.” A chuckle burst from her.
Taylor meandered to her pile and grabbed one of the freed planks. It slid from the clutches of the others without much effort. A second one did the same as if it had never been nailed in.
The third took a bit of maneuvering, and the fourth came away with three attachments.
She yanked, pulled, shoved, pushed and twisted pieces and parts away, making new piles. One for wood that could be recycled and another to burn.
Wiping her hands against each other sent dust into the air. A cough cleared her lungs and gave her a breath of fresh, untainted air. “Women can do anything men can do … and better. So there.”
As the sun started its dip at the horizon, she tugged at the floorboard planks, bringing up the whole lot.
In the center of a patch of charred earth, a skull faced the sky.
Taylor’s lungs constricted.
The sledgehammer fell at her side.
She dropped to her knees, clawing at the dirt.
On an intake of air, the red clay remained in her view.
With the exhale, the blue of the sky showed through closed lids.
She kicks at the granules falling from the surface of the earth. Rock, sand, dirt, grit. An entire shovel-full covers her face, coating her nostrils until she can no longer see the man above her. A snort forces some of the bitter granules out as he throws another toward her.
“Stop! Somebody help!” Her shoulders move side to side. Her head turns, following the same motion. “Someone, please!”
A torrent of dust, dark with clay and soil, lands on her stomach. He leans forward, scooping and throwing another upon her.
“Please!” Her screams echo off the walls of her building grave. “Someone!” Her tone takes on a hollow effect.
Her location six feet beneath the surface of the earth, with her hands bound behind, prevents escape. He’d planned well, taking away her ability to save herself.
She sheds no tears. Those she has long since given up. She’d begged and pleaded, promised love. Falsehoods, she knew, but she’d tried.
“Please. John!” Another deluge of earth hits her midsection. “Stop! I’ll do whatever you say!”
The man covering her claimed she spoke untruths.
“Somebody!” Her scream fades as her face is again covered by falling debris. She spits it from her mouth, coughing and gagging. “Help!” Her words garble.
More dirt fills the hole.
She lifts her chin, but only the tip reaches outside. A breath draws in more earth, and nothing is expelled. Unable to take in air, unable to keep life, unable to save herself, to survive, pain radiates through her.
To struggle would only increase her own torment.
Weight lands on her toes. Her torso. Her head.
To the world, she no longer exists, merged with the earth she loved so.
His laugh breaks through the growing weight of dirt. “Next time, I will not fail.”
She gasps for a final breath, and life no longer exists.
• • •
Ian Sands paced the floor of his New York flat. Thoughts of the blue-eyed blonde back in North Carolina had filled his mind on the flight up, the ride from the airport, in the elevator, and even as he keyed himself into his apartment. He’d been unable to sit still in the few hours since.