Series: Coming Home #1
Author: Meli Raine
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: July 28, 2015
On a dark, rainy night I drove my overstuffed junker car back to a town I never expected to see again.
And when I needed a rescue by the side of the road, a six-foot tall piece of hot, unfinished business named Mark was what the universe sent me.
Three years earlier I’d fled town (and Mark) to follow my wrongly-convicted father to his federal prison, working crappy jobs to stay afloat and visit him every second I could. But now Dad’s dead and I’m mysteriously offered the best job of my life at the college where his life blew up when he was accused of a crime he didn’t commit.
Someone wants me here. Desperately.
I’m hoping it’s Mark.
Because if it’s not, I’m in more danger than I ever imagined.
And if it is?
Mark may be the most dangerous choice of all.
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A flash of light from the corner of my eye catches my attention. I hear the screech of tires on gravel. I
feel the shock of pain. My mind can’t grasp what’s happening. Mark’s arms wrap around me and pull me
down, gravel digging into my bare elbow.
I feel wetness and pressure, then the shock of having the air whoosh out of my lungs. My back is flat
against wet grass. His chest presses against mine. Mark’s hot breath is against my neck and ear as the
rain hits us. The screech of tires fills my ears.
The sickening slide of a car’s headlights toward us catches my eye.
It all registers as Mark rolls our bodies three times down the edge of the ditch. His arms are wrapped
around me tightly. A heartbeat jams against mine, my breasts tingling from surprise and fear.
And then the scrape of tires as the headlights shift away makes the danger go away.
Mark is panting, hard, on top of me. My own breath is held back by his wall of muscle. Every part of him
pushes against every part of me. When I shift my hips I feel his arousal.
It makes me hot suddenly. My mouth is against his neck and I want to lick him. The rain pounds us both,
making him slick. Making me feel more alive and raw than I have felt in three years.
Mark does that to me. Only Mark.
He pulls back, hat long gone, and the rain runs in rivulets down his bangs. It drips on my face and I smile,
lost in his eyes.
Even in the dark I know he sees the real me.
And that’s the problem.
He never believed the real me.
With a hard push I separate our bodies, relief and regret pulsing through me. He stands quickly and
brushes the sides of my arms as if taking inventory.
“You okay? That car almost hit you,” he says.
My head is pounding, but not from the impact with the ground. Too many feelings, too many missed
chances beat through my body like a shockwave on an endless loop.
“I’m fine.” Those are the only words I can find. Too bad they’re not true.
Life is divided into two parts now: Before and After.
As I literally peel my wet clothes off, my fingers touch my arms where Mark’s hands have just been. I
close my eyes and imagine him standing before me. My t-shirt sticks to my breasts and I edge my fingers
over the v-neck. The slide of wet cloth against my nipples reminds me of his mouth. We’d gone nice and
slow, four years ago, when we started dating. His mouth only roamed from mine in the last intimate
moment we’d had before he…
A long, slow sigh fills me. I forget to exhale. My jeans put up a battle in my undressing, catching at the
ankles. I fall and grab the tub’s edge. My butt tumbles onto the thick little bathroom area rug. The color
is a princess pink that reminds me of my old bedroom. When I was little, living with Dad and when my
mother was still alive.
That’s like double Before.
Frustration fills me as the feel of Mark’s arms around me on the wet side of the road twists in my mind.
My body is on fire now, even when it’s wet and cold.
He had to be the first person I saw, didn’t he? Why? I don’t believe in fate. I don’t believe in destiny. I
don’t believe in soulmates.
Pain? That I can believe in. Betrayal and deception and lies are real, too.
Fate is just another lie.
“Thanks for all your help,” I say in a voice that says the opposite.
He doesn’t move. “You look great,” he says, perched one step below me. Our eyes are even. It’s
unsettling, because normally he towers over me. Now we’re equals. My eyes study his, not from the
perspective of looking up.
We say a thousand words with one long look, but none of them is right. No silent words can heal the rift
between us. A light breeze lifts the sandy blond hair off his forehead. The skin around his eyes wrinkles,
showing a wistful longing.
And then it turns to a raw hunger that makes me shake, because I feel it, too.
“You let your hair grow out,” he whispers, his fingers reaching out to touch one unruly lock. It rests right
over my heart and the way he tenderly picks it up sends my pulse into a salsa beat. The air goes inside
me and pauses, waiting to find sanctuary from so much that crackles between us.
And then I release it to the wind, to mingle with Mark’s hair.
“It’s easier,” I say, fumbling for words. I couldn’t afford the haircuts, not while trying to help Dad with
lawyer fees and prison money. Letting it grow out was my only choice. Besides, when you don’t have
someone special to look beautiful for, why bother?
My hand is still on the doorknob but I don’t move.
“I liked it better short,” he adds.
Memories of Dad, of adding funds to his account so he could buy soap and toothpaste in prison, of
counting out my pennies and nickels from tips at the diner so I could make rent, whip through me.
Mark’s words break the spell.
“Goodnight,” I say firmly, and close the door. With trembling hands I put the padlock on.
As it clicks into place, my heart rate returns to normal.
Whatever that is.
Meli Raine writes romantic suspense with hot bikers, intense undercover DEA agents, bad boys turned
good, and Special Ops heroes — and the women who love them.
Meli rode her first motorcycle when she was five years old, but she played in the ocean long before that.
She lives in New England with her family.