Read INK: Fine Lines (Book 1) Online

Authors: Bella Roccaforte

Tags: #NA, #Horror, #paranormal, #Paranormal Suspense, #New Adult, #Paranormal Romance

INK: Fine Lines (Book 1)

INK: Fine Lines

BY

Bella Roccaforte

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

eISBN: 9781628471663

Copyright © 2013 by Bella Roccaforte

Cover Model Courtney Simonds

Chapter One
The Intruder

Shay

The sound of the faucet dripping in the bath is nearly deafening, intermittently drowned out by the echo in the hollow shaft of the razor each time I pull it up my leg. I lean back in the tub, glancing at the purple candles on the ledge.

“My birthday,” I muse, the two words riddled with sarcasm. The scent of lavender hangs so thick in the air a wave of nausea overwhelms me for a moment. I look over at the gift basket my coworkers gave me. “Fucking lavender.” Why am I doing this to myself?

Does anyone really know me? I’ve had the lavender discussion with Trish. It’s shit like this that makes me feel so insignificant. Guilt creeps in as I remember the celebration tonight. It was a really nice combination birthday and pre-release party for the first issue of my comic, 
Sanguine Specter,
 later this week. My first time being picked up by a publisher, my first real shot at making a name for myself in the industry. It’s all coming together, finally.

A year’s worth of work. A year’s worth of crazy nightmares that translate into ink on pages. Thinking of Gabriel, the hero in my comic, evokes a naughty smile. Why the dreams about him started is a mystery, but I’m glad they did. My imagination conjured up quite a tidbit: piercing gray eyes, disheveled hair, and full lips that make you just want to nibble on them. He really is the kind of good-looking you only find in fantasies. Leaning back, my lids close tight, searching for relaxation; I just want to quiet my thoughts. Maybe Gabriel will come to me tonight. 
Drip, drip, drip.
 I focus on the faucet, sinking into the calm.

The screen door slams; my eyes spring open with alarm, and I hiss, “Somebody’s in my house.”

Slowly and as quietly as possible, I push myself out of the tub and put on my robe. “I need a weapon.” My first thought is to go for my gun—then I remember Dad asked me to let him hold on to it after what happened with Elise.

Searching the bathroom for something to defend myself with, I come up empty. There are footsteps in the kitchen, punctuating my urgency. My loofa-on-a-stick and the gift basket are the only offerings. I weigh the options and decide that more damage can be done with a blunt object than with bath salts to the eyes.

I rest my hand on the doorknob and take several cleansing breaths, trying to remain as calm as possible. Dad always insisted that Elise and I learn to defend ourselves by taking a myriad of martial arts classes like Kung Fu and Kali, but I honestly never expected to need those skills. 
Okay Shay, try not to let the panic negate your training.
 It doesn’t help that I had one too many espresso martinis tonight.

I carefully open the bathroom door to move down the hallway, placing the balls of my feet on the tile first to hide my footsteps. The sound of the cabinet door closing startles me. The lump forming in my throat only gets bigger in spite of my efforts to push it down by swallowing. My body grows more rigid with each step down the hallway. Reaching the end, I see the phone on the kitchen table, but there is no way to retrieve it without being seen by my would-be attacker. My back is pressed flat against the wall, all of my senses dancing with fear and anticipation.

The front door is an option—I can run
. But without shoes or car keys, and with the closest neighbors a mile away, an escape attempt would likely fail. 
Shit, shit, shit, what do I do? What can I do?
 The mighty loofa is raised above my head as though it’s some medieval axe wielded by a mad knight. On the count of three: one, two, deep breath, I mistakenly yell out, ‘THREE.’

On what would have been ‘four’ I burst around the corner, instantly forgetting years of training in Kali. The loofa swings wildly at the intruder, hitting him repeatedly in the head, while a string of expletives flow from my mouth in a wild scream. This is apparently what I learned from martial arts.

There’s some satisfaction as the wood handle vibrates with each thump to his skull. The intruder shields his head while turning around to subdue me. “Shay! Stop it.” He grabs my arms and looks straight at me. “Shay, baby, it’s okay!” he pleads.

My eyes are wide and burning with anger. “Aiden? What the hell? Breaking into my house?” I struggle free from his hold and turn away to hide the evidence of the relief, hope, and pain cycling through my mind. Then there’s the familiar conditioned response of excitement, which returns whenever Aiden does. I wish I could stuff that down, but it’s just part of who I am.

“Happy birthday.” Aiden holds back a laugh as he picks up a bouquet of flowers from the kitchen counter. He flashes that wry, irresistible smile. I can’t help myself from looking back at him and his gorgeous form.

He’s let his caramel hair grow out to his shoulders. I love when his hair is longer. The t-shirt clinging to his muscles in all the right places is mesmerizing. He somehow looks both leaner and more substantial at the same time. Even though he’s only a little taller than I am, that’s never bothered me. His arms are so strong; the way they hold me is sublime. When he smiles, his amber eyes sparkle with all the mystery of who Aiden Roth really is.

Realizing that I’m being lured like a moth to flame, I snap back on point. 
Don’t get soft Shay, stay strong. Don’t forget your anger; he won’t be here long.
 “You can’t just sneak into my house late at night.” My head lowers to hide the tears forming. “I could have killed you, thinking you were some kind of murderer.”

The corner of Aiden’s mouth tugs at a smile, and he raises an eyebrow playfully. “You mean with the deadly loofa?” He can no longer suppress a gentle laugh, reaching for the ‘weapon.’

“It’s not funny. How the hell did you get in here anyway?” I gather the strength to look at him and close my robe tighter, obstructing his view.

Aiden pulls a key from his jeans. “With my key, of course.” He slides it quickly back into his pocket.

“Remind me to change the locks again,” I say. “You shouldn’t be here. You need to leave.” I have to turn away from him and put some distance between us. Moving into the living room, I lean back on the arm of the couch, my arms folded defensively across my chest. My gaze is firmly fixed on the floor in front of me, trying hard to focus on the hurt and anger, to suppress the sadness.

“Shay, don’t be like that. I just don’t want you to be alone on your birthday.” He comes and takes my hands in his. “I’ve missed you.” He leans into me, so close I can feel his breath. There’s a chemical reaction that happens when we are together. It’s so hard to resist. It seems that no matter how angry I am, my body succumbs to the warm hum he sends through me with his touch. He looks up from our hands to my eyes, searching for a glimmer of softening.

To push him back my hands rest on his chest. “That doesn’t work on me anymore. I‘m immune to the ‘soulful brown eyes’ bit.” I glare at him with all my bitterness. “My birthday never mattered to you before.” I catch myself sounding weak, and have to take a breath to summon the new Shay who doesn’t put up with bullshit. “Why should it matter to you now?”

Aiden steps in closer again, putting his hands on my shoulders. His eyes are closed and he touches his forehead to mine. I can feel his heat, his strength, and his words are quiet and pleading. “No strings attached; just let me cook you dinner.” He allows a tinge of sadness through, as though I’ve hurt him. “I brought your favorite: lamb chops, asparagus, and new potatoes seasoned just how you like them.”

My resolve is crumbling, the capacity for rational thought seeping away. Aiden dons an expectant smile as I take him in. His strong chiseled body, bronzed by the sun, his rugged jaw line, his kissable lips, and his gorgeous golden eyes. All of that allows him the confidence to walk in and out of my life at his cruel convenience. He slides his hands down my arms, presses my fingers with his, and breathes into my ear, “Shay, no excuses, no promises; just a happy birthday.”

He brushes his lips against my ear, then down my neck. His breath on my skin sends a current down my spine bent on demolishing the barriers I have spent a year and half building in his absence. I quickly exhale to suppress a moan and push him away, sliding out from under him.

To escape him I walk into the kitchen, stopping to smile sadly at the flowers. All my favorites. My resolve is all but gone as I dip down to smell them.

Aiden slides in behind me, looping his arms around my waist. “Gardenias, because I know how you love the scent.” He lays a gentle kiss on my shoulder. “Lilac because you loved to pick it for your mother when you were a little girl,” another kiss, “and gladiolas because I remember you telling me how they remind you that you can be different and beautiful.” He turns me around and gently glides his thumb across my cheek, pleading into my eyes with a touch of melancholy. “It doesn’t matter how near or far I am from you, you are always in my heart.”

Shay, snap out of this trance.
 It’s always so chemical with Aiden when he’s near me. He sets my very being on fire. The only problem with Aiden is that he has two modes: ‘here’ and ‘gone.’ My head shakes to bring me back to reality. “Yeah, I’m going to go wash the conditioner out of my hair, if that’s alright with you.” The implied sarcasm is anemic, but at least it’s there. I break away from his hold and head down the hallway, relieved that I was able to walk away. Strength fills me with every bit of distance put between us.

He picks up the loofa, smirking. “Hey, you forgot something.”

“Don’t need it. Be gone when I’m done.” Not giving him the satisfaction of looking back.

Closing the bathroom door to lean against it, I exhale. Dear God that was hard. I love and hate the way he makes me feel. I am not going to give into him like I always do. This is the new and improved Shay. The ’don’t need a man to complete me’ Shay. Right?

If only I had a better understanding of my feelings for him. We’ve been doing this ridiculous dance for too long. Since elementary school it’s always been the three of us: Eli, Aiden, and me. Eli was the best friend who was always there when Aiden would bail. His patience is amazing. I remember the first time things got serious between Aiden and me. Eli was crushed, but he never tried to talk me out of it. He would always say that he just wanted me to be happy. Truth is, when Aiden’s around I 
am
 happier. But when he’s not, I’m miserable. That’s how it used to be; that was old Shay.

Who the hell does he think he is anyway? He can’t just come and go as he pleases in and out of my life. I’m not going through this again.

I drain the tub and take a shower, feeling relieved as I slip into my comfy old pajamas. Translation: threadbare bunny PJs that look like torn pirate pants and an old tank top. I wish I were wearing something a little nicer, knowing he’s not going to leave. He’s going to stay, and he’s probably lying on my bed right now with that smug look on his face. Great, he put music on.

I walk through the door that leads to my bedroom, brushing my hair. Of course, there he is on the bed wearing only his button-fly black jeans with a simple silver buckle. His gray t-shirt is neatly folded on my dresser. Clearly this is a ploy to show off his solid chest and perfectly-defined abs—my kryptonite, and he knows it. I stop looking at him in the mirror. “I told you to leave, can’t you ever listen?” I say sharply.

Aiden comes over and hugs me from behind. The heat of his body invades my space. Burying his nose into my neck, he inhales deeply. “I can still smell you under the lavender. I miss you, Shay.” His eyes remain closed while he sways us to the music filling the room. “I’m here now. I want to make your birthday special.” He looks up at me in the mirror and smiles, knowing he’s winning.

My gaze drops from his to my jewelry box. I open the lid, revealing several engagement rings. I pick one up and slide around to face him, creating a distance between us. I hold it up to him. “I think those are the exact words you used when you gave me this one.” I push him away completely and look at him, awaiting a response.

He hangs his head, taking a breath before looking directly in my eyes. “Shay—please let’s not do this tonight, just let it go.”

My eyes sting with tears. “Let’s not do this all again,” I manage to squeak out, turning around and dropping the ring back in the box. The sharp clank of the metal peals in the room. “I have a small fortune in reasons to throw you out, a ring for every stamp on your passport.” The words come out like a whisper, my head hung low. “I’m not doing this again.” Closing the lid on the box, I take a long breath and let it out.

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