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Authors: Kimberly Dean

Solace in Scandal

BOOK: Solace in Scandal
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SOLACE IN SCANDAL
Kimberly Dean

Table of Contents

Cover

Title Page

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

More from Mischief

About Mischief

Copyright

About the Publisher

Chapter One

Peace and calm.

Elena concentrated on her breathing as she tried to quiet her mind. She’d thought she’d been making progress towards that goal, but she’d worked too long on her dissertation today without taking a break and the effects were showing. She should know better by now.

Focusing on the tall trees across the lake, she inhaled fresh air through her nose and felt her lungs expand. It was that mystical part of the day when the sun sat fat on the horizon behind her and the night waited impatiently to move in. The beauty of nature surrounded her: a dense forest, a secluded private lake and aromatic earth. Tranquillity was practically reaching out to her, if only she could let it in.

Exhaling, she bent at the waist and planted her hands flat on the dock in front of her. The position lifted her hips and she felt tightness in her hamstrings. The disquiet in her mind was seeping its way into her body. She lifted her hips higher, pushing carefully against the tension, before dropping flat and arching up in the Cobra pose. The position opened her chest and released a kink in her back.

‘Mm,’ she sighed.

The leaves were heavy on those trees, she noticed, changing colour but not yet ready to fall to the ground. Some looked as if they were hanging on for dear life.

She knew how that felt.

Serenity
.

From the prone position, she swung back up into Downward Dog. She blew the air in her lungs out through her mouth until her chest ached. The need for oxygen brought her concentration back and she relaxed her shoulders. She couldn’t let herself get worked up like this. She was safe here, hidden and protected. She’d come here to find answers to all the questions running around inside her head, but she’d found something she hadn’t expected. A haven.

In this, the unlikeliest of places.

Twisting into Warrior pose, she looked up to the house. It sat perched atop the hill behind her. The trees around it had been cleared, making sure there were no distractions from what was important. Wolfe Manor.

The sun was level with it now, making it almost glow, but it was impressive no matter the lighting. Built in the late 1800s, the residence was a testament to human ingenuity and grit. Thick limestone walls stood four storeys high, with a stair tower taking precedence out front. Turrets overlooked the corners, while two larger-than-life wolf statues guarded the main entrance. It was a mansion that made a statement.

Although that statement was being questioned after recent events.

Elena stretched her arms high overhead and felt the knot in her shoulder pop. It was ironic how she felt here, on this property. By all rights, she should feel anger and distrust. Outrage. The Wolfe family represented everything that the 99 per cent hated – greed, opulence, excess and unscrupulous entitlement. Yet while the manor stood proud and stately, its owners’ house of cards had finally fallen down. Deservedly so.

Although their deception had nearly pulled her down, too.

She shivered in the cooling breeze. She didn’t understand that kind of ruthlessness. What made some people think they were better than others? That they could push the less fortunate down and not allow them to breathe? She never would have come here if she hadn’t been in dire straits, but Leonard had offered her refuge. The Wolfes wouldn’t be needing the residence for some time, and the lake house had been empty before she’d moved in. Only the staff and groundskeepers remained.

Dear, sweet Leonard. Out of everyone, he understood the position she was in and how powerless she felt. He’d come to her rescue when she’d needed him most, and she didn’t know how she’d ever repay him.

She could start by taking better care of herself.

She focused on the lake again as a breeze stirred her hair and was surprised to see a thousand diamonds glittering back at her. The sun was glinting off the water now, making it appear as if lights were dancing on its surface. The beauty was undeniable. Pure, spiritual and unexpected.

Yet that wasn’t what made her breath catch. ‘What?’

The air. It had just changed.

It felt heavier … pricklier … It was subtle, but the hair at the back of her neck rose. It was the sensation one got in a quiet old house when a floorboard squeaked and nobody else was supposed to be home.

She was being watched.

The awareness destroyed her rhythm and the inner peace she’d fought so hard to obtain. Her first thought was ‘predator’. She scanned the area around the lake and the rocky beach behind the dock. What roamed these woods? Coyotes? Red foxes? Deer? She couldn’t think of anything dangerous, yet the feeling remained.

She finished the sequence she was going through, but turned reflexively when she felt the air behind her snap. ‘Ah!’

A man.

Looking up, she spotted the source of the disquiet. Suddenly, the benefits of the yoga disappeared. She recognised him on sight. Alex Wolfe. In the flesh. The most dangerous predator of all.

‘Oh, dear God.’
What was he doing here?

Their gazes connected and she felt a jolt. Even with him hundreds of yards away and up the hill, she felt his attention and it was solely on her.

Her stomach tightened and, for the first time, she felt the chill of the evening. With the sun going down, it was getting brisk. Too brisk to be wearing a skimpy sports bra and thin pants. She pressed her hand against her bare stomach, but was surprised to find her skin hot. Tingly.

Sweet heavens, he was something.

His hair was shorter than it had been in the last newspaper picture she’d seen of him. So short, it was almost spiky. His face wasn’t as clean-shaven, either. He had that rough stubble that only male models and movie stars could seem to pull off.

And, apparently, billionaire felons.

His expensive shirt and pants fit him impeccably, yet the power radiating from him wasn’t only the power associated with wealth and status. The disgraced entrepreneur was lean and chiselled. He’d done more on the inside than read books.

Warning signs flared in Elena’s head, and she knelt to pick up her yoga pad. She’d learned to listen to her gut. The exercise usually sped up her pulse, but right now it was racing. He shouldn’t be here – or she shouldn’t. Her hands felt clumsy as she rolled up the springy foam. When she looked up again, he was still staring. Energy crackled in the air between them. She could feel the charge all the way down to her bare feet, and her toes curled against the sensation.

Sex. The man practically radiated it.

Goosebumps rose on her skin.

She didn’t know him. She’d never even met him, but she wasn’t stupid or naïve. Men found her attractive, and she recognised lust when she saw it. From the way he braced his hands against the marble railing and leaned towards her, the wolf seemed ready to pounce. When he uncoiled and folded his arms across his chest, her stomach sucked in even further.

‘Mm,’ she whimpered. She also recognised when the feeling was mutual.

Her response was inappropriate – unthinkable – yet she couldn’t stop staring at him. Her nipples tightened, and she held her yoga mat against her chest to hide her reaction. The sun was gone, and its trailing streaks of light were dimming fast. The noises coming from the woods were getting louder. The chirps of crickets … the hoots of owls … A hot shiver went down her spine, and she started moving to the lake house.

She’d come here to retreat, but had she just ended up in the wolf’s den?

One last time, she cast a glance up towards the main house. Her ponytail swung over her shoulder with the movement and she felt the caress of a hot look slide down her bare back. He was still there. Watching. Wanting.

Quickly she moved inside and locked the door.

* * *

Two hours earlier

The sun was glaring as the man walked out of the nondescript concrete building. The rays bounced off the grey walls and matching parking lot, piercing his polarised sunglasses. For some reason, the sun was brighter outside the walls than inside the complex where he’d spent the last eighteen months. Brighter, warmer and more intrusive. He headed straight into the blinding light, his Salvatore Ferragamo wingtips clipping a steady beat that was soon drowned out by the crowd outside the fence.

A commotion arose when they saw him. People called out his name and shifted to get better views. Cameras clicked and microphones were thrust through the holes in the chain-link fence.

‘Mr Wolfe, what are your plans?’

‘Do you feel remorse?’

‘Where is your grandfather?’

Moving efficiently, his driver opened the back door to the Bentley and blocked their view. ‘It’s good to see you, Mr Wolfe.’

‘Thank you, James.’ He slid onto the supple leather seat, but the click of the closing door made his muscles tense. He didn’t like that sound any more.

He placed the stack of spiral-bound notebooks on the seat beside him and stretched his legs as the Bentley headed for the opening gate. Into the mouth of the lion … The crowd swarmed the car, shouting and fighting for the perfect angle. The sun’s rays bored through the tinted windows into the back seat. The man-made glass couldn’t stop Mother Nature, but it obstructed the flash-bulbs of the cameras that tried to pry into his private space.

The paparazzi couldn’t see him, but he settled his hand protectively over the stack of notebooks as the Bentley kept a slow and steady pace through the horde. There were more important things to think about, like the buttery softness of the leather seat, the brightness of that big yellow sun and the loud clank of the gate as it closed behind the moving car.

Freedom
.

Awareness and caution coiled inside him like a snake. After eighteen months, he was finally a free man, but he wouldn’t unwind any time soon. In fact, he doubted he’d ever totally relax again.

‘Don’t you worry about this, sir,’ the driver said from behind the wheel. ‘I’ll get us through.’

‘I have no doubt.’ His voice was raspy from lack of use. As much as he wanted to barrel through the crowd of gnats, he kept himself contained. Patience. He had it in buckets, although the snake inside him was lashing out.

At last, self-preservation forced the photographers in front of the car to give ground and James was able to pull through and escape. Once free, he dropped the hammer on the gas and the car gracefully picked up speed.

The Bentley probably hadn’t been the most inconspicuous choice in the Wolfe garage, but the vultures from the press would have found Alex if he’d left in a city cab. If he was coming back out in the world, he wanted to do it in style and in comfort. He had nothing to apologise for.

The chauffeur turned onto an on-ramp for I-84 heading east. ‘You relax now, sir. I put some newspapers and your laptop back there for you. It’s only about an hour and a half’s drive until we’ll be there.’

Alex’s gaze snapped to the carrying case on the floor. A computer with the Internet, a connection to everything he’d been denied while he’d been detained. He didn’t have to settle for grade-school notebooks any more, but he kept the ones he had secure at his side.

Getting online was tempting, but he remained gazing through the window. There would be time enough for that soon. Right now he concentrated on the passing scenery, fully aware that the Federal Correctional Institution at Otisville was at his back.

He wouldn’t think of it any more. It was the future on which he was focused now. Firmly. With steel-like focus.

BOOK: Solace in Scandal
12.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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