Read At His Mercy Online

Authors: Alison Kent

At His Mercy

AT HIS MERCY

 

 

by Alison Kent

 

SMASHWORDS EDITION

 

***

 

PUBLISHED BY

Alison Kent on Smashwords

 

 

AT HIS MERCY
Copyright © 2011 by Alison Kent
All rights reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews,
this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any
means existing without written permission from the author.

 

 

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Chapter One

 

No matter how many times Lise Kimball
told herself the dread in her stomach was nothing, the pressure
increased exponentially with every mile she drove. Her life was
packed, tossed, and squeezed into her SUV, and there was no way
around it.

Her right rear tire was going
flat.

For the last half hour, her steering
wheel had been pulling and the loud thumping noise whirring louder.
Finally, she'd accepted the inevitable and put on her flashers,
hoping to avoid a rear-end collision while creeping along the break
down lane.

She knew the mechanics of changing a
tire, but since this would be her first time and she was going to
have to unload a lot of boxes to get to her spare, she had her
fingers crossed the tire would hold until she reached the highway
exit ahead.

The fact that the night was
dark as burned oil and the oasis ahead well-lighted had her
encouraging the steel belted radial to hang in there. And while she
was at it, she promised any greater power listening that she would
never again trust her vehicle’s maintenance—or any part of her
life—to someone who twisted that trust to suit
his
needs.

Wouldn’t her soon-to-be-ex enjoy seeing
her battling a car jack and a tire iron?

She wondered how Mark had reacted when
the divorce papers had been served at his law office this morning.
And then she laughed, the sound tinged with the hysteria she’d been
trying to keep at bay.

She didn’t need to wonder. She knew,
and pictured him so clearly her stomach clutched harder, nearly
making her sick.

The tic in his jaw as he ground it. The
strain around his mouth as he pressed his lips tight. The set of
his shoulders as he held himself in check. Save for the shows of
emotion presented to the juries deciding his clients' fates, Mark
Kimball's public persona was ice.

No, he’d strike out later. At the
racquetball court. On the freeway between his firm’s downtown
Atlanta location and their suburban home. At her. Never with his
fists, of course, but with words.

And he was so,
so
good with words. As
good as he was with silences. As good as he was with his body which
he shared only when in
his
best interest to do so.

Yeah. She’d had enough. Or rather, she
hadn’t had enough.

It had been weeks,
months
since the man
who’d sworn ten years ago to cherish her until death did them part
had visited her bed. Last she'd looked, cherishing went a lot
further than seeing to her material needs and whims as
he
pleased.

A master manipulator, Mark
Kimball.

But that was all behind
her. In front of her stretched the rest of her life and,
hallelujah,
the
beautiful highway exit ramp. She limped down its length, following
the blacktop to the stop sign and the beacon of lights which had
beckoned her.

The lights turned out to be big square
halogens mounted on tall pines ringing the parking lot of a
restaurant and bar. Across the intersection, the exit ramp became
an entrance ramp, feeding back into to the highway. Signs indicated
a right turn would take her into a town called Danport.

She didn’t need a town. With patience,
the bright lamps shining, and her upper body sculpted and
strengthened by months spent in the care of Mark’s personal
trainer, she’d be fine.

Because really. If she couldn't change
a tire by herself, she wasn't going to make it very far on her
own.

#

The screen door catching behind him,
Donovan True stepped off the bar’s back stairs and onto the parking
lot’s asphalt. He turned for the recycle bins, tossed a bag of
longnecks into the first, one of aluminum cans into the
other.

Glass clanked and rattled, breaking,
cracking like a shot. The sound brought the two strays who lived in
the woods behind the building running as if Pavlov himself had
whistled. Both were mutts, one a beagle mix, the other a
coarse-haired terrier. Neither wore tags on their
collars.

He hadn’t been able to get close enough
to check the collars themselves for engraving. And folks around
here weren’t into microchipping anymore than they were into fencing
their yards. Danport was a small burg with a mostly rural
population. No leash laws. Pets ran free. He got that.

What he didn’t get was people not
seeing to the welfare of what—or who—they’d taken on or been
charged with. Whether that something was a dog, another human
being, or the business that provided their living.

Not that he minded living in Danport
for now. Or keeping the place afloat for a friend doing
time.

But if Donovan hadn’t been in a
position to make the move to Mississippi and the commitment to the
restaurant while his buddy learned the truth about drinking and
driving at the hands of the state, there would’ve been nothing for
said buddy to come back to, The Swamp Pit having gone to the dogs …
so to speak.

At the sound of metal clattering and
groaning from the building’s front, Donovan pushed up from the
roasting pan of scraps he’d set down for the strays, wiping his
hands on the towel flung over his shoulder and heading that
way.

He stopped when he got to the corner
because he had to. There was something about a woman
stretching—arms reaching high, back arched, long torso twisting to
pull her clothes tight—that turned him dumb. And this one … Yep.
Dumb as a bump on a stump.

It was when she bent forward, her ass
gorgeously rounded beneath the flowered skirt skimming her calves,
that he realized the source of the sounds. She was changing a flat.
At least she was trying to.

Boxes and packing crates and shopping
bags and carryalls sat on the ground at the rear of her SUV. The
cargo door stood open, the vehicle tilted to the side on its
jack.

She’d gotten that far, but watching her
throw her full weight into the tire iron, he realized she’d hit her
limit. He had to give it to her for trying. He’d seen grown men
three times her size struggle to break an impact wrench
seal.

She stood again, yelled as she kicked
at the tire, then hands on her hips, turned to face the bar. That’s
when she saw him coming. Looking over, she lifted a hand, a weak
wave, the smile on her mouth less nervous and more self-deprecating
and defeated.

"Hi. I was just about to see if Danport
might have a mechanic before I called Triple A."

Yes, Danport had a mechanic. But
Donovan didn’t want the man getting close to this one’s tires.
"Will a good Samaritan do?"

"As long as you’ll let me pay you for
your time. Or at least let me …" She stopped, looked from the towel
in his hands to the apron at his waist before taking in the empty
parking lot. Shrugging, she looked back. "I was going to add, ‘Buy
you a drink,’ but it looks like I may be too late."

He bent for the tire iron. "It’s never
too late for a drink."

She grabbed at a strand of hair whipped
by the wind. "I guess that means you’re the boss."

He stood slowly, watched as she tucked
one trim ankle behind the other, her skirt floating around her bare
legs. The fabric was summer sheer, and he could see right through
it. Her knees, her thighs, the rib of her panties at her
hip.

His breath hitched as he met her gaze,
desire a snake wrapped around the base of his spine. "Donovan True.
At your service."

"I’m Lise. Lise Kimball." She paused,
one heartbeat, two. "At your mercy."

Chapter Two

 

"Bye, Nova. See you tomorrow at
lunch."

"Noon on the dot, or I’m docking
you."

"Eleven fifty nine, then. Just to be
safe."

"Fine, but sucking up won’t cut short
your shift."

The bartender disappeared into the
kitchen, his laugh growing distant. Lise startled as the back door
slammed like the lid of a coffin closing. The echo bounced and
faded, the establishment's sound system between songs, the room
silent except for her and Donovan’s breathing. Unlit except for the
neon beer signs above the bar.

The light from the parking lot halogens
filtered through the wooden blinds on the windows, striped the
floor’s worn linoleum like prison bars. She looked at her drink,
knowing she was free to go. The amber liquid and ice cubes, dizzily
reflecting the colored logos, kept her there, as did an
inappropriate longing.

For a reason she couldn’t put a name
to, staring into her scotch was easier than meeting the gaze of the
man on the stool beside her. He’d changed her tire, helped her
reload her belongings, been a complete gentleman every step of the
way.

It was only when he looked at her
without speaking that the nape of her neck tingled, that gooseflesh
pebbled the skin of her arms. That her nipples
tightened.

It had been forever since the quiet
lust in a man’s eyes had aroused her, and she feared having her
hunger used against her with calculating intent.

She’d left because Mark had done so.
Weakened her with her own needs. Withheld the intimacy she longed
for. Worn her down until he’d shaken her confidence, stolen pieces
of her she wasn’t sure she’d ever get back.

Ridiculous, really, to fear anything of
the sort. Her savior was a stranger. They weren’t involved. She was
here for a drink before they said their goodbyes. That was
all.

She canted her head to the side, tucked
her hair behind her ear. "I thought you said your name was
Donovan."

"It is." He laced his fingers around
his glass, the hair at his wrists dark. Dark, too, on the far edge
of his hands. Broad hands. Capable. "Nova’s a nickname."

She thought for a minute. About his
name. About his hands. Wondered if they’d feel rough on her skin.
If he’d be clumsy, or if he’d know how to touch her. If he’d know
where. "Like a Christopher going by Topher?"

"Someone would do that?"

"There’s an actor …"

He snorted. "That explains
it."

So arrogant. So sure. She twisted on
her stool, crossed her legs, swung her foot as the music started up
again. Brushed the loose denim at his ankle with each pass of her
sandal to the beat. "And Nova? Explain that."

He chuckled, a deep rusty sound. It
scraped her nerves, dangerous, damaging. "That would mean admitting
to behavior I’m not particularly proud of. And since it involves an
ex …"

A nova. Exploding. Bursting. Shivering,
she found herself asking something unplanned yet … necessary. "Is
there a current?"

His eyes on his drink, he shook his
head, and when she finally glanced over, she was in time to see the
corner of his mouth twitch with ... Regret? Sorrow? Anger? His
profile told only the edge of the story, but the tension was sharp
and made her want more.

"I decided to keep things simple while
I’m here."

While he was here? "By here you mean
…?"

"Mississippi."

Hmm. Rootless? Drifting? Like herself?
"So you don’t live in Danport?"

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