Illusion (Swept Away Book 1)

BOOK: Illusion (Swept Away Book 1)
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The path to true love is never an easy one.
Dedicated to all those who keep on keeping on while searching for the one.

acknowledgments

T
o Rebecca Friedman, the best agent I could have possibly asked for. The excitement you had for
Illusion
from the beginning has helped me bring this story to life. To my editor at Gallery Books, Abby Zidle, for making me laugh during the editing process, even though I wanted to cry. To Katrina Jaekley and Tanya Kay Skaggs, for always being there to listen and provide feedback during every book plot dilemma. To Elizabeth He, for being my friend and daily talking sponge. To Thao Mai, for always believing in me and supporting me: from hot prof to law school to writing—you’ve always been there backing me up. To Jessica Wood, for being my writing partner in crime. To my teacher in second form English class, thanks for reading my story aloud in class and making me believe I had a talent for writing.

All my love goes out to all the J. S. Cooper Indie Agents for providing me daily support and love. My thanks and appreciation go out to all the bloggers and readers who read
and promote my books with exuberant fanfare. Your support and kindness are always in my heart.

Thanks and appreciation to my mum for telling me to follow my dreams after earning three degrees and deciding to quit my job to become a writer. Your support and love have made me very blessed. Thanks be to God for all my blessings. All I can hope is that my books continue to provide a respite and journey for my readers. I know that I’m taken on a journey with every book I write, and these stories give me a reason to smile every day.

prologue

“B
ianca, where are you?” His voice sounded angry, and I shivered as I opened my eyes.

I stared at the large expanse of dark midnight blue sky through the tree branches and prayed that he wouldn’t find me. I could see the white-sand beaches from my vantage point. The whole island looked so much smaller from up here. My limbs felt numb, but I was too scared to even move an inch. If he heard the rustling of leaves, he’d know where I was. I closed my eyes again and tried not to think about falling.

“Bianca, this isn’t funny.” His voice was hoarse, and I heard his footsteps moving closer to me. “Bianca, if you can hear me . . .” He paused, and his voice changed. “Please don’t make this harder than it has to be. I’m not going to hurt you.”

I heard a branch snap below me, and I knew he was close. All he had to do was look up. If he looked up, he’d be able to find me. This man who’d become my most intimate
confidant was now my predator, and I was his prey. I opened my eyes and took a deep breath before looking down. An involuntary gasp escaped my mouth as I realized how high up I was. That was my first mistake.

“I’ve found you,” his voice cracked as he looked up at me with dark eyes. “When will you learn? You can’t escape me.”

“Did you hurt him?” My fingers started trembling as I looked back down at him. “Tell me. Did you hurt him?”

“It depends on what you mean by
hurt
.” He lifted his hands up, and I saw that his fingers were drenched in blood.

I closed my eyes; I had my answer.

“I did it for us,” he said simply, and I felt my heart drop into my stomach. “Don’t you trust me?” he asked me softly as he started to climb the tree. I saw the shiny glitter of the silver knife in his left hand before he placed it into his pocket, and my heart stopped beating for a second.

“I trust you.” I nodded and waited for him to reach me.

That was my second mistake.

one
One Week Earlier

“C
an I have this seat?” A deep voice interrupted my typing, and I stifled a sigh.

“Uh, sure,” I replied, without looking up. I had to finish my latest movie review in the next ten minutes and e-mail it to my editor if I wanted to get paid for the article.

“Can I have some space on the table?” His voice was dry as he spoke again, and I pulled my laptop toward me quickly, my eyes never leaving my screen. “I don’t mean to disturb you.” He continued, and this time I ignored him completely. I didn’t have time for chitchat. Not when I had to finish an article on Adam Sandler’s latest movie and persuade viewers to go and watch it without completely lying about my feelings toward the acting and the poor jokes.

I typed away as quickly as I could, but I could feel that the man was staring at me. I bit down on my lower lip to stop myself from looking up at him and asking what his problem was. It wasn’t his fault that I was on high alert and anxious. I
knew that I couldn’t have an expectation of privacy if I was working at a coffee shop, but I didn’t normally have to worry about a stranger talking to me. People in New York never talked to strangers, not unless they were tourists.

I sighed and looked up. “Did you need help with something?” My breath caught as I stared at the man’s face. He was handsome, or appeared to be under the Yankees cap that covered half of his forehead. His blue eyes looked into mine with a bright light, and I could see a hint of a smile on his full pink lips. I licked my lips unconsciously as I stared at the man across from me and attempted to brush my messy hair back. “I can move onto my back if you want. I mean, move back.” I stuttered as he stared at me with his lips twitching slightly. “I don’t mean I’ll go on my back or anything, I mean I can move farther back, if you need more space.” My face burned red as I tried to explain myself.

“No, you’ve done enough. Thank you.” He nodded and looked down at his book in a dismissive fashion. Served me right, I suppose. I hadn’t really given him the time of day, and it would be way too obvious if I tried to start up a conversation now. I looked at my watch and then back at my article; I had five minutes to sum up a lackluster review of a movie I’d thought was inane. If I didn’t send it over, I wouldn’t get paid. And now that this was my only form of income, I needed to get paid. I went back to typing, though my mind was partially on the man I was sharing the table with. His knee was rubbing against mine, and I couldn’t help but laugh at myself for the slight thrill his touch was giving me.

“Loser,” I whispered to myself under my breath as I wrapped up the article and attached it in an e-mail. I knew that I was sending the e-mail without rereading the article one more time so that I could try to chat with the man. Though, I really had no business trying to flirt with a strange man in a coffee shop. I was about to ask him what he was reading, when I got the strangest sensation that someone was watching me again. And this time I knew it wasn’t the man sharing the table with me. I looked around the coffee shop and saw an older-looking man sipping his coffee and staring at me over a newspaper. As soon as our eyes made contact, he looked away and back down at his paper. I felt my heart racing as I stared at his coffee cup on the table. It wasn’t from this coffee shop. I pressed Send on my e-mail and grabbed my bag up from the floor in a panic, spilling half of its contents on the ground.

“You need some help?” The man looked up from his book and then stared at the ground. He leaned down and picked up my lipstick and some mints and handed them to me. Our fingers brushed each other’s as I took my belongings from him, and I felt a dart of electricity running through me at his touch.

“Thanks.” I stared into his deep blue eyes and nodded quickly.

“Is everything okay?” His eyes crinkled in concern, and I was about to answer, when I felt the man in the corner staring at me again.

“I’m fine.” I looked back down at my computer screen and stifled a groan. I’d received another message from Matt, a
guy I’d spoken to a couple of times on the computer, yet had decided I didn’t want to meet. I opened the e-mail slowly, not really wanting to read what he had to say. I’d much rather be talking to the hunk in front of me. I read the e-mail from Matt quickly and then deleted it without responding. He just wouldn’t leave me alone. “Stalker,” I muttered under my breath, and looked up again to see the hunk staring at me.

“Sorry, were you talking to me?” His lips were twitching again, and I shook my head.

“No, sorry. I just had an e-mail from this guy. If it was from you, I wouldn’t be pressing Delete, trust me.” I groaned out loud as I realized what I’d said. “I mean, because you seem like a really nice guy.”

“I’m glad to hear that. Let me know if I can be of any help.” He went back to his book, and I was about to ask him a question about what he was reading, when I felt the man in the corner staring at me again.

“Shit.” I jumped up and grabbed my bag, hitting the hunk in the shoulder as I moved.

“You okay?”

“I think I’m being followed.” I said as I shook my head and nodded toward the corner where the man watching me sat. “Sorry, I have to go.” I grabbed my laptop and pushed it into my bag. “It was nice meeting you.” I gave him a quick smile and ran out of the coffee shop. “This was our serendipity moment. I hope we meet again,” I muttered as I gave the hunk one last look before darting down the street. I continued running down the street until I could no longer run
anymore. I stopped outside a donut shop and leaned back against the wall, breathing deeply. I looked left and right to make sure I didn’t see the man who I was pretty sure had been following me and then rubbed my forehead.

“You’re going crazy, Bianca,” I said to myself as I straightened up and started walking at a normal pace. I started laughing as I reached the subway station and went down to catch my train. Not one person had looked at me like I was crazy as I’d run down the street. Even though I’d been running like I was in the 100m sprint finals at the Olympics. That was part of the beauty of living in New York City. You could be who you wanted, and you weren’t judged. The other side of the coin, the side of the equation that made me stop smiling, was the wonder of what would have happened if the man had been following me. Would anyone have come to my aid? I walked on to the subway and held on to the pole without looking at anyone. As I stood there I thought about both men in the coffee shop, one I’d wanted to get to know better, and the other, I hoped I never saw again. I shook my head as I realized how different I was now. My life had changed completely in the last year and so had I.

BOOK: Illusion (Swept Away Book 1)
2.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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