When the Heart Lies - By Christina North

Chapter 1

Pasties—. God damn pasties. Savannah wore a G-string, too, but the six-inch, glimmering, aluminum tassels covering Savannah’s nipples were what Kinsley fixated on. They were spinning in her three year-old, Max’s, face as he giggled and pointed.

She reached for Max …

Her quick movements made her lose her balance. Florida’s late summer heat wave turned the box-like house into an Easy Bake Oven, and her empty stomach made her light headed. Throw in her toddler attending his first peep show? She fainted.

It was close to midnight when Kinsley Wentworth arrived at Lakeside Wellness Center. The thunderstorm raging outside and the heavy drapes covering the windows kept the private room cozy and dark. The medication the doctor prescribed to calm her anxiety kicked in around two. But it didn’t help much. Still restless, her mind darted back to the previous night. In no time, her heart beat fast, and her pulse drummed through her head. The blood rush to her brain left her body shivering.

She burrowed deeper under her covers and punched her pillow more than necessary, fattening it up. It didn’t comfort her, and she continued to wrestle sleeplessness until Wayde’s unmistakable throaty voice and full-knuckle assault on the door filled the room. She hurried out of bed as he entered and stood guarded.

“Now, Kinsley. Just stay calm.”

“Stay calm?” Her hands landed on her hips, and she couldn’t keep her lip from twitching on the snarled side no matter how hard she grit her teeth. “I’m in a hospital because of your tramp niece, Savannah. An anxiety attack, for the love of God. Is Max alone with her now?”

“What if he is?”

She scoffed. “You’re unbelievable.” Her eyes shifted from his and then back again. Once I’m discharged, we’re leaving Florida and getting away from you.”

“Relax. He’s fine. Ya got nothin’ to bitch about. This place is more hotel than hospital.” He reached for her, and she backed away.

“Oh, no, you don’t. Stay the hell away from me.”

His mouth bunched with resentment, and he lunged toward her. She stumbled backward, settling abruptly on the edge of the bed. Her arms and legs backpedaled fast as she scooted on her ass, putting distance between them. He swooped down, snatched her feet with a yank, and laid her out swiftly. His sloppy, middle-aged body crash-landed on top of her, and his eyes fell dead even with hers. Instinctively, her mouth opened to scream, but his heavy, calloused hand covered it crudely. When she struggled to get away, he trapped her face beneath his own. His wiry, grey stubble scratched the soft, pale skin of her cheek as she squirmed.

“Always resisting me. You like the struggle—doncha?”

A gust of pungent breath smelling of cigarettes and coffee nauseated her. She fought to let herself free, but it was no use. Double her size, he rendered her motionless. She closed her eyes and let her body fall slack beneath him. The pressure of his hand on her mouth lessened, but she stayed still, realizing that if she screamed, hurting Max might not be beyond him.

“That’s right. Settle down now,” he said in a hushed voice as his free hand began petting her long dark hair at the temple. “You’re not gonna holler if I take my hand off your pretty little mouth, are ya, darlin’?”

Tears sneaked from beneath the corners of her closed eyes, rolling down and wetting her hair. She sniffled, attempting to suck back the moisture seeping from her nose and tickling her lip. Slowly, his hand slid away from her mouth and cradled her head close to his. He breathed a nasal sigh, and the moist, hot stream of his exhale blew into her ear. She fought to keep her body from cringing in disgust and angering him further.

In a ghost-like whisper, she said, “We’re going back to New York.” Even as the words slipped from her mouth, she knew they shouldn’t have.

His anger intensified, and he vaulted from the bed, releasing her small frame fast. She rebounded with an unexpected jolt. Stunned, she stayed put.

When he took a step toward her and his hand rose, she flinched, but he didn’t strike her. He simply shook his ramrod-straight finger at her as he hovered.

“I’m here as a reminder. If you’re worried about Max, get back home. You ain’t going nowhere, and even if I let ya, where would you go? Your playboy husband’s finished with you. And don’t forget …” His two fingers spread, and he lifted them to his eyes. Aiming, he drew them