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“What do you want?” she asked. “I don’t know what you want from me.”
Mason gripped her upper arms, forcing her eyes to meet his. He knew he’d made a mistake the moment her warmth bled through the silk of her robe and into his palms, sending a ripple of sensation up his arms and down his body. “Why did you lie about knowing Judith?” he asked, his voice low and gravelly but not in the terse tone he used to intimidate a witness. No, she might not recognize it, but he could hear his lust cradling each syllable.
She squeezed her eyes tight as if to prevent her tears’ escape, but instead it forced them down her cheeks. “I wasn’t lying. I don’t know her. I don’t remember her. I don’t remember anything.”
He lifted one hand from her arm and brushed the tears from her cheek with his thumb before running it across her bottom lip. Her eyes remained closed, and his chest rose and fell in rhythm with hers. He leaned in close enough to inhale her breath.
“Don’t,” she said without force.
He shuffled his feet forward the few inches required for his body to brush against her breasts. “How can you not remember?”
He brought his mouth down, barely touching hers, his tongue tasting the salt of tears on her lips—those lips he had wanted to kiss from the first moment they’d met.
“Please,” she said on a puff of air and tried to pull away from him, but he tightened his hold on her arm.
“Please…don’t kiss me.”
“I think you want me to kiss you.” When she said nothing in protest, he pressed his lips to hers and gently pulled first her top, then her bottom lip into his mouth. He held her chin between his thumb and fist to lift her face.
Tears still streamed down her cheeks, but she opened her eyes and shook her head. “I…I can’t do this.”
Mason trailed his finger down her throat to the opening of her robe, stopping just over her heart, and she trembled with a hitch in her breath.
“What do you mean you didn’t remember her because of the accident?”
“I have…gaps, memory loss.” Her tears had begun to wane.
“I’m going to kiss you again.”
“No,” she whispered when his mouth hovered mere millimeters over hers. He dropped his hand from her arm to the small of her back and pulled her against him, and she gasped at the unmistakable evidence of his arousal. “I’m not ready for this.”
“Because of your injury?”
“Because of the infidelity. My husband. He hurt me.” Her words pinched his heart and he nodded. “I can’t be with a man—any man. I can’t trust anyone. I don’t even trust myself to have the sense or judgment to know who can be trusted. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to trust anyone again.”
Mason laid a soft kiss on her mouth, tugging her bottom lip gently between his teeth. He lifted his face just enough to look at her. In time, he could teach her to trust again, at least to trust him, but it would take patience—and perseverance. He thought she might be worth the effort.
“If you want me to stop,” he told her, “if you really mean it, say ‘apple.’”
Alicia furrowed her brow and blinked before meeting his stare directly. “But I told you to stop.”
“Yes, but you didn’t mean it.” The color rushing into her cheeks proved him right. “I will only stop if you say ‘apple.’ Understand?”
She responded with a single, slow nod, never taking her eyes off him. When he covered her mouth with his, he ran his tongue along the seam of her lips, and she opened for him. He wrapped both arms around her then, holding her tight, and she placed her hands on his shoulders. As his tongue swirled inside her mouth, she leaned against him and released a low, moaning sigh. He allowed the kiss to continue and to deepen, in part because he wanted to prevent her from using the safety word, but primarily because he didn’t want to relinquish her delicious mouth. Although he would never call himself a connoisseur, he could detect the subtle notes of cherry, chocolate, and plum from the wine on her tongue.
About Alicia’s Possession
Following the horrific car crash that left her in a coma for two months, Alicia Pageant has returned to her affluent lakeside home to recuperate and come to terms with her husband’s infidelity and their impending divorce; but her attention is frequently captured by the violent arguments of Daniel and Judith Holloman who recently moved into the house on the other side of the lake. One night she is awoken by gunshots and other strange noises coming from across the lake; and, after witnessing what she believes is someone driving away with a body and never seeing Daniel again, Alicia insists on calling the police, against the advice of her estranged husband, who believes she has imagined it.
Detective Mason Crawley is sent out to investigate the “suspicious incident,” which he considers a nuisance call – even more so after learning of Alicia’s recent head injury and watching her take her pain medication with wine. He interviews Judith Holloman, who says her husband has gone out of the country on business, but the stories of both women begin to unravel when he sees the two of them meeting. Then while attempting to locate Daniel, someone claiming to be a contractor with the Department of Defense warns him not to investigate Daniel’s disappearance further.
Mason confronts Alicia and demands an explanation, and she is forced to admit that her head injury has left her with no memory of the accident or the several weeks before. Still she insists not only that Daniel is dead but now he is haunting her because she knows he was murdered.
Although he cannot control his increasing attraction to Alicia, Mason isn’t sure if she’s lying, delusional, or in some sort of danger. This leads him to look into her drunk-driving accident, in which she drove her BMW into a lake several miles from her house; but something about the single-car crash doesn’t add up either.
Even as they succumb to their growing feelings and desires, Alicia doesn’t know if she can trust anyone after her husband’s disloyalty; and when Mason discovers that the night of Alicia’s accident she had gone to confront her husband’s mistress – and no one has seen the girl since – he doesn’t know if he can trust her either. And now he has yet another mystery to solve, with Alicia at the heart of it.