Covert Art by: Phatpuppyart.com
Typography by: Thefontdive.com
Copyright © 2015 J.S. Andrews
All rights reserved.
I dedicate this to all the women in the world who have been verbally or physically abused. Don’t let anyone take away your self-dignity and courage. You are strong, beautiful women and deserve the best life has to offer.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!
I’d like to extend this dedication to my family and friends who supported me with all their love and admiration. To my three children, and son-in-law, thank you for your patience as I sat pounding away at my keyboard for countless hours.
To my sister Linda, thank you for being the best sister anyone could ever dream of having. My two brothers, Kimani and Diallo, Thank you for accepting me as your big sister, even if I do look younger than you both.
To Lois and Selven, who I acknowledge as my second parents. Thank you for your uplifting words of wisdom during the hard times in my life when I was a lost soul and for loving me unconditionally. You’re always in my heart.
To my husband, I would not have had the opportunity to write this book if it weren’t for him. Thank you for supporting our family.
To my best friends, Natalie, Jean, Michelle, Melissa, Jennie, Penny, Carl, Jackie, Jessica, Dalia, Maria, Raymond, Katy, and Joanne. Thank you for your love, support, and encouragement to never give up on my dreams.
Thank you for believing in me!
I would like to acknowledge a few people in my life.
My oldest daughter and son-in-law, who cheered me on to write my first novel. Natalie, Jean, Lois, Michelle, Melissa, Jennie, Jackie, Jessica and Dalia, who encouraged me to keep writing and never give up on my dream. Dalia made me promise her or more like threatened me that if I removed any of the exciting parts of my book she was not going to read it. Yikes!
Dalia, turn up the air, you’re going to need it.
And let’s not forget my two editors who took the time and energy to read and edit Wounded Birds.
Devin Govaere, Romance Editor
Heather D. Sowallo, Windy Hills Editing
I also want to thank two extremely talented women that created my book cover and typography
Phatpuppy Art & The Font Diva
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Jackie, it is because of you that my outlook on life changed. Thank you for gifting me “The Secret.”
A book everyone should read.
I am internally grateful to the Universe for its unconditional love. I am gratefully for all that I have and the love that surrounds me.
I grip my hand tight around the railing, my heart racing to a near explosion. I have to get out of here before he finds me, but where, there is no way out. The place is inescapable; he nailed all the doors and windows shut.
I run up the stairs three at a time. I find a door partially open down a dark, grim hallway. I rush in, and the room is bare, not a stitch of furniture, except for a large mirror hung on the wall directly in front of me. A dim light bulb dangles above the ceiling illuminating the room. I shut the door with a slight click and lean against it. I bend forward to place my trembling hands over my wobbly knees to catch my breath and whimper.
I raise my head and stare at my reflection in disbelief as I watch the blood seeping through my dress, coating my legs. My hands are tainted with the same crimson color from the spiked chains he wrapped around my wrist. I squeeze my eyes shut clenching my teeth from the stinging pain my body absorbed earlier from his belt.
“Ariana, where are you Ariana? I need my fix.”
I gasp and cringe from his repulsive voice. My heart begins to pound harder against my chest, as he turns the knob of the door that I’m leaning on, and there is no place to hide, not even a damn closet! Oh God, help me!
“You might as well surrender. You know, you can’t escape. I know where you’re hiding, I can smell your scent.” He snickers and shoves the door open, pushing me forward and grabs me by the arm and my heart leaps into my throat choking me.
There is no way in hell I’m going to let him chain me up again like an animal. I’ll fight him with all I have until I take my last breath, but my subconscious screams out, “Run Ariana! Run!”
My eyes snap open; my breathing rapid, my dress is clinging against my damp skin and I sink into my seat with relief when I realize I’m in my office staring at Time Square.
I place my shaking hands on my fast beating heart and take several deep breaths to sooth my nerves. “It was just a nightmare,” I say to myself. I close my eyes wondering where that came from; it’s been over a couple of years since I had these disturbing dreams. I shake my head; thankful it was just that and put it behind me.
With trembling legs, I spin my chair away from the city lights and stare at my newly decorated office. I had my carpet replaced with polished wood floors, two traditional-style chairs that sit in front of my dark cherry desk, with three matching Essex bookcases, shelved with travel and hotel literature.
I work for a television network on Broadway and Forty-fourth Street with a magnificent view of Times Square, displaying its abundance of colorful, dancing lights, and famous designers plastered on billboards. I’m grateful for all of my good fortune. I never in a million years thought I would be living my dream, but here I am. Thank you, God!
I glare at the time as if it’s the clocks fault for my frustration and it’s not the dream. “Damn, I’m such an idiot,” I hiss out berating myself for agreeing to this stupid lunch date Sean −my loving boss− arranged. I shut my eyes leaning my head back against my chair, wishing I declined the invitation.
I’m startled when the computer dings, alerting me of an incoming e-mail. I quickly read the subject line “Your number-one fan.” I hesitate for a moment, wondering if it’s another disturbing e-mail, like the one I received a few days ago with a duplicate title.
I double-click to open the preview, and my heart starts to pound wildly against my chest as I stare at the three-D animation of a heart with droplets of blood cascading down over the words “You’re Mine” in large, creepy, white letters, signed by, “Your future husband.”
I swallow past the large lump in my throat and shake the image out of my head. I refuse to let this stress me out. I’m sure many TV personalities receive peculiar e-mails or letters from distraught fans. Right?
With shaky hands, I drag the note into a miscellaneous folder. I’m not going to worry about this now; I’m sure his intentions are just to rattle me, or at least that’s what I’m trying to convince myself of, but it’s not working. My stomach is doing flip-flops, and my heart hasn’t stopped racing.
I glance at the time on the computer. “Oh, damn,” I mutter to myself. I need to meet Michael Grayson for lunch, thanks to Sean.
Sean met Michael just a few weeks ago at a fundraiser, and the light bulb went off in his head. Lucky me. He asked Michael if he were interested in meeting with me in hopes our date turned into a relationship, of course, he didn’t tell Michael that, or did he. Ah! I have no idea why he feels the need to play matchmaker. I’m happy on my own.
Michael Grayson of Grayson & Anderson Architect Developers is a co-owner of one of the largest, successful architectural and construction companies in the world. They just designed and constructed the luxurious, elite Parkview Condominiums located on Central Park South and Fifth Avenue, which is on the other side of the park from me.
I hurry to shut down the computer and then shove a thick pile of paperwork into my tote. I quickly stand up, not only causing the chair to flip back, but also knocking the books off the shelf. “Shit,” I curse out. Bending over, I pick them up in a hasty rush and throw them back on the shelf. I’ll organize them later.
I grab my tote bag, coat and dart through my office door.
“Ariana,” Jonathan, my assistant, calls out.
I was so close to getting out of here on time. I skid to a stop and spin around to face him. My black dress swirls above my knees, and my long black hair cascades behind my shoulders.
“Yes, Jonathan?” I answer in haste then inhale a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I’m running late for a lunch date,” I say sarcastically.
Jonathan stood up behind his desk, all six feet of him, built like an NFL player. He’s young and full of energy and enthusiasm. His blond hair, usually swept-back neat, now hangs over his vivid green eyes.
Jonathan has been working with me for three years. He’s my right hand, and the best PA.
“So, your hot date with the architect is today?” Jonathan asks with a smug expression.
“Yes, and get that smirk off your face.” I snort. I remember when I told Jonathan about the setup, and he laughed so hard he had tears rolling down his cheeks. I was not amused. “I’m going to take it to my advantage and ask if he may give us the exclusive to broadcast the new hotel they’re planning to build in Hong Kong.”
Jonathan brushes his bangs away from his eyes and chuckles. “You’re always thinking, ahead of the game,” he compliments and then says, “You’re a gorgeous woman. I’m surprised no one has swept you off your feet.”
“Thank you, but I’m not interested in getting into a relationship right now. It’s been over three years since my divorce. I’m twenty-seven. I have plenty of time.” I smile, putting on my coat and a knot forms in my stomach. The thought of once being married to Danny makes me sick.
“That’s three years too long,” he says, waving his hand at me. “Well, I won’t keep you from your date. You received these twenty minutes ago.” He hands me a beautiful, colorful bouquet of flowers set in an ivory Lenox vase. I remove the card stapled to the ribbon and read it aloud.
Thank you for showing me the world. With regards, Beth Berner, Las Vegas.
I look at Jonathan. “How sweet. I need to thank her on the air. Can you please place them in my office?” I hand him back the beautiful arrangement.
“Sorry to rush off, but if I don’t leave now, I may end up eating lunch by myself. And won’t that go well with Mr. Match Maker.” I wave good-bye and hurry off for the elevators, my heels clicking loud across the white tile floor.
The elevator reaches the main level. As soon as the doors open, I fly out, heading toward the double glass doors in a heated rush. “I hate being late,” I mumble to myself. I hit the cold, crisp air with a warm burst of sunlight caressing me like smooth silk. I step off the curb, waving for a taxi.
A gust of wind causes a shiver to course through me. I wrap my taupe knee-length trench coat firmly around me to keep the chill away.
I gaze up, admiring the blue sky that replicates the hues of the Caribbean Sea and the blazing sun shimmering over Manhattan’s magnificent skyline. I scan the few trees scattered down Broadway glistening with hints of autumn’s vibrant colors, an indication of early October.
It’s difficult hailing a cab during lunch hour. I hate it when the taxis drive by with their top-lights lit, reading “off duty.”
I let out a loud whistle, startling a few people. I watch and listen attentively to the sounds of the cars’ beeping, the yellow cabs charging through traffic, pedestrians hurtling across the busy streets, and buses filled with passengers. God, I love this city. Moving here was the best decision I ever made.
I sigh with relief when a taxi pulls up, and I scurry in. “151 East 58th Street please,” I blurt out to the driver. I sit back, enjoying the ride and view of the city. Michael called me earlier to confirm our lunch date. He made reservations for us at Le Cirque a restaurant situated in the prestigious Bloomberg Tower.
I stare out the window, shaking my leg as the anxiety starts to build up, waiting for the red light to turn green. I gasp. My heart, my inner girl, slams her brakes to stop for a peek. A frigid, chill slithers within me like a cold steel rod, and my blood drains from my face as one of the pedestrians catches my attention.
A man crossing the street bears a resemblance to my ex-husband. After several blinks, I exhale deeply, unsure why I panicked. There was no way that could have been him. He’s been dead for over six months. He died two and half years after we divorced. Then a smile creeps across my face. It’s cruel to grin about a person’s death, except the man was an inhumane bastard.
Walking away from Danny was the smartest and bravest decision I ever made. He wasn’t the man I thought he was. His drastic change after we married put me into a whirlwind of pain. I hope he’s rotting in hell with Satan, the lowlife piece of shit.
I hate to admit this, but I was happy when I received a call from the Galveston Police Department asking me to identify Danny’s body. I will never forget the sight of his gray, waterlogged body lying on the cold slab in the morgue. They’d fished him and his car from Galveston Bay not far from Pelican Island. Thank God Blake, one of my closest and dearest friends came with me.
I moved from Galveston, Texas, to New York City when they offered me the position of co-host for the family vacation segment on Global Networks. This was a month after I divorced Danny. The television station is geared to uncovering those tucked-away lavish places in the world, unveiling the vogue restaurants, beaches, luxurious hotels, famous marinas, and family retreat spots. The shows are broadcast to nearly a hundred million homes in America and more around the world.
On my first day at Global, Blake Delaney greeted me with welcoming warmth. He’s a smart and talented man who holds a masters in fine arts in production and a minor in photography. He escorted me throughout the building, introducing me to employees from each department. At lunchtime, he invited me to join him for lunch at a lavish restaurant. Our connection was instant, and we became the closest friends. One of the few men I trust.
One year later, the studio promoted me to host “World’s Luxurious Hotels,” a grand opportunity to report on the most exquisite hotels worldwide. Just two weeks ago, I traveled to Ravello, Italy, to televise the Palazzo Sasso, an extravagant hotel situated on a cliff top overlooking the Amalfi Coast. The icing on the cake was that I had the honor of having lunch with the prime minister of Italy. That was amazing.
The cab stops, jerking me into the now. I glance out the window and discover we’re sitting in front of the Towers. My anxiety level has now tipped over the Richter scale. I pay the driver, leap out of the cab, and rush towards the restaurant, cursing my boss for setting me up on this crazy lunch date. I’ve told Sean countless times that I have no desire to see anyone, but does he listen?
Why can’t he seem to understand? Why does he have to be such a stubborn mule?
With sweaty palms and a racing heart, I make my way through the glass doors and freeze. I do a double take at the Adonis, standing at the heaven’s gate. Holy Mother of God, I honestly thought they airbrushed those photos on the magazine covers. He has a distinguished look to him, well-defined face . . . spotless, so clean and freshly shaved. His thick, wavy, black hair falls just below his ears. He stands over six feet tall. A long cream-colored trench coat can’t hide his wide, broad chest and shoulders and covers an elegant navy blue Giorgio Armani suit. Trust me, I know an Armani. His thick, long lashes shadow his green eyes that sparkle like precious emeralds.
I’m awestricken by the beautiful sight standing before me. I make an attempt to move, but my body decides to cease on me, leaving me numb and speechless. He has to be one of the most desirable men that I have ever laid eyes on. The gorgeous Adonis approaches me, which I’m grateful for. My little heart is panting wildly as she peers through to see the Adonis for herself.
He flashes me a bewitching grin, which has my head swimming. “Miss DiMarco?” He asks, extending his hand to me. I’m hypnotized by the rich, seductive tone of his voice, which has a hint of an English accent. I have a strong desire to press my mouth over his smooth, velvet lips ever so gently for a taste of the forbidden fruit. I gasp inwardly, stunned at my inappropriate thoughts and blink several times to snap out of my stupor.