Thanks for joining me for Work In Progress Wednesday. I’m going to share a short snippet from book four in the Horse Mountain Shifters series, Saving Suki. I hope to have the book completed before summer’s end.
“You’re putting on a brave face, but how are you really holding up?”
Her words pricked at his brain as he breathed in her sumptuous fragrance. “Umm…honestly, if I try to think about my father being gone forever, I feel a bit numb.” As his own words hung in the air, an odd, sour sensation stirred in his stomach. Why the hell did I tell her that? He hated thinking about his father, didn’t like imagining how things could have been if they’d reconciled and he hated admitting he’d always wanted the old buzzard’s love. He sure as hell didn’t want to talk about his contradictory emotions on the subject, but even still he could hear his stupid mouth dropping more of his secrets like a huge drain letting washed-away filth leave the shower. “Things were never good between us and during the entire funeral, I felt like a fraud.”
“The parent-child relationship is often a complicated one.” She rested her head on his shoulder while tucking herself in closer to his side, another comforting gesture that somehow had him ready to spill his guts to this woman he barely knew.
“No kidding. I know I’m supposed to be sad or devastated…I can’t seem to muster up much feeling on his passing at all.” Why, why, why! Why can’t I keep my big trap shut around this girl? She’s going to think I’m a fucking sociopath.”
“Perhaps you will when the shock wears off a little.”
“Maybe, but I doubt it. I know it sounds bad, but my dad wasn’t the man that all those people today thought he was. If they knew half of what he was really like…Shit, I must sound like a huge asshole. I’m sorry. I don’t even know why I’m telling you this stuff.”
She patted his knee. “Because you need to talk to someone and I’m here.”
Wrong! Wrong! If I wanted to dredge up all this bullshit until I choke on it, I’d be talking to Dash and Mama Carol; they know the real deal.
Part of him wanted to call it a night just to end the uncomfortable conversation, but his body wouldn’t cooperate. His heart pounded as he swallowed the lump in his throat. Normally, the horse inside him would have been ready to bolt, but at that moment, the damn thing was more like a mule, digging its hooves in and refusing to budge.
“It’s not like I’m happy he’s gone. It’s more like I can’t make myself feel sad about it.”
“Why do you think that is?” Her sweet, calm tone sent shivers down his spine and a murky haze seemed to take control of his thoughts as if his brain was swimming in a pool of liquid Prozac.
“Uhh…up until my last year of college, I was still trying to win his love, thinking if I became a doctor like him he’d have to respect and acknowledge me as a person.”
“I’m sure he loved you.” She lifted her head and glanced at his face. Another lump rose into his throat as their gazes locked. The corners of her lips turned upward and she nodded as if to encourage him to keep dumping all his family dirt on her.
“Nah, he despised me.”
She gasped while shaking her head, her jet black locks shimmering with every move. “That simply isn’t…I mean can’t be true.”
He chuckled before setting his mouth in a grim line. “Sweetie, you have no idea. I didn’t even understand he was my father until I was about six. I was always upset that Mama Carol would leave the house in the afternoon or bring me home from her place after dinner on what were supposedly her days off.
Back then, I didn’t realize she wasn’t my mom. All I knew was that Dash was going to be here at this cozy little place, wrapped up in an afghan his grandma made while Mama Carol read him bedtime stories while I was alone in a house so big and devoid of love, I was scared to get out of my bed until she showed up to wake me the next day.”
She placed a hand on her chest as she exhaled. “I’m sure it had to be confusing.”
His parched mouth could barely form words anymore. He closed his eyes and turned his head away from her to avoid her scent while he pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.
“Are you okay, Malcolm?”
He chewed on the side of his cheek, forcing his spit glands to let go of a little saliva while he counted to ten in his head, willing his self-control to return. He took a deep breath and plastered a smile on his face before facing her again. “I’m fine. Sorry…so long story short…my father and I were never close. When his lawyer called to tell me I needed to come up here for the funeral and to settle my father’s estate, I felt a sense of obligation so here I am.” She nodded and opened her mouth to say something, but he quickly cut her off. “Enough about me—I want to hear about you. Tell me everything. I bet you’re a therapist or a social worker.”
The sadness in her eyes and the darkness clouding her expression disappeared as she laughed. “A nurse.”
“See…” He paused as he pushed a strand of her hair behind her ear and brushed his thumb across her cheek. “I knew it had to be something with some type of bedside manner.”
“I guess.” Her cheeks flushed and her eyes dilated before she looked away.
“A beauty like you must have lots of guys blowing up your phone.”
“Not really. Even the men who don’t shun my family aren’t exactly looking to marry into it. Even after all this time, we’re seen as less than others all because over a hundred years ago one of my ancestors gave birth to a boy who couldn’t shift completely. Sometimes, I still hear whispers of ‘abomination’ when I walk into a crowded room.”
“That sucks. It’s horse shit too and so is the old story of her being impregnated while shifted. The child—”
“Suffered from a rare genetic disorder…yes, I know. The bullying got to me when I was little and I’d started to believe something was wrong with me until a kind, young man stepped in and told me the truth.”
She stroked the side of his cheek, opposite of her, forcing him to look her in the eye. He lifted his eyebrows and offered her his best, flirty smile. “Sounds like a good guy.”
“The best…” She stared at him unflinchingly as if she were looking for something. “You still don’t remember me do you?”
Shit! He placed his palm on the back of his neck as he shook his head. “Sorry, babe. I’m sure I’d remember meeting someone who looks like you. Are you sure you’ve got the right guy?”
She sighed. “It’s getting late. I should get home. I need to study.”
Well, damn…I blew it. “It’s still early. Do you really have to go?” He reached out for her hand as she stood.
“I’m afraid so, but it was great to see you again. Get my number from Dash and call me sometime.”
He stood. “I most definitely will. Let me walk you to your car.”
As small as Mama Carol’s front yard was, they barely had to step off the porch before she was unlocking her vehicle. Mal’s heart sank and a sense of longing he’d never experienced in his life welled up inside of him. It was everything he could do to stop himself from slamming the door closed, pushing her against the car and laying a kiss on her.
Nurse and medical student, Suki Marks, has been in love with former barrel racer turned physical trainer, Malcolm “Mal” Patterson, ever since he defended her from two older boys bullying her back in elementary school. When he returns home for his father’s funeral, she’s sure fate has brought them together. Unfortunately, he doesn’t remember who she is, and to make things worse, a misunderstanding, gives him the wrong idea about her intentions.
Mal returned home to put his hateful father in the ground and settle his affairs out of obligation rather than sentiment. He didn’t care to say good-bye to the man who’d nearly killed him when he was a still a teen, and he certainly hadn’t expected to be left anything in his father’s will much less for the crazy bastard to find a way to mess with him from beyond the grave.
When he first set eyes of Suki Marks at his dad’s gravesite, the horse inside of him nearly drove him crazy. For a moment, he thought they might have something special until he found out she was the second beneficiary in his father’s will. He hadn’t even wanted the old buzzard’s money or his house, but for some reason, he couldn’t seem to resist the cat and mouse game his father had dropped him in, pitting him against Suki. Just when Mal realizes Suki is all he really wants, she’s kidnapped by a shifter purist group that believes her genes are inferior and a threat to their supremacy. Will Mal be able to save her before it’s too late?
I hope I’ve piqued your interest. I’ll try to have a sexy snippet ready next time I share some of Saving Suki for #WIPWed. If you haven’t already, please sign-up for my newsletter so you’ll never miss a new release, sale, or freebie deal.