Book Extract: Learning to Drown

Learning to Drown

When that lid swung back, revealing a blue-black sky dotted with pinpricks of white stars, I cried. I imagined this is what it was like to be pulled from the ocean in a riptide right before you started sucking water into your lungs. A very big man gazed in at me, saying nothing at all. My body clenched tight like a fist. I didn’t think it was possible to be colder than I was right at that moment. His mouth moved but all I heard were my own hysterical sobs. I was inexplicably terrified now that I had been saved.

“What?” My teeth chattered louder. I couldn‘t hear him over my own clicking jaws. “One more time,” I said.

“I said, come here. Take my hand.” And then he simply took my bound hands in his. He pulled me to my feet. My body balked at unclenching. It hurt to unbend myself.

“Green, eh?” He smiled. When my knees gave out, he caught me. Effortlessly. As if I were some tiny boneless rag doll instead of long and leggy and completely awkward at the moment. I realized he meant my bra and panties.

“I was feeling spring like.” My body melded to him instantly. He could have been Jack the Ripper and it wouldn’t have mattered. He was warm.

“Too bad for you it’s like twelve degrees,” he said. “But I’m digging the panties. And the thought behind them.” The truck rocked when he walked to the edge of the bed. When he jumped to the ground, I prayed again. Please do not let the large slightly scary man drop me. My legs are bound. So are my hands. All my bones will break. Please let him be athletic. Amen.

He landed easily but I huddled closer. “Freezing,“ I said. I yawned. I was so tired.

The stranger smoothed his hand over my ass, thumbed the back of my thigh. His fingers stroked my lower back. His hands tried to warm me but there was too much of me bare to warm. My body responded, though sluggishly, when he palmed my bottom. His heat penetrated me. “F-f-freezing,” I said.

“I’m working on it. Let’s get you in the cab. I have some overalls in the back and I think a spare jacket. The heat’s on full blast. And then…” He laughed again. It was a nice only slightly terrifying laugh.

“Then?”

“We’ll deal with the cuffs.”

I rubbed my hands together as well as I could while cuffed. I buried my face against his blue jacket and willed myself to vanish. To time travel back and decide tonight was not the night for the abduction game. He opened the cab and the light winked on. His eyes were dark brown and warm. Laugh lines crowded the corners, stubble peppered his chin. Dirty blond hair and a sharp nose. “I’m still here, “ I said. Beyond embarrassed, beyond mortified.

He pulled the knots and freed my legs, face intent like he was working a puzzle. “Yep. Sorry, it wasn’t a dream, girl. Just you and me. Your knight in shining armor.” He smirked and left me on the cracked vinyl seat. The heater poured warm air over me. I put my hands out to soak it up.

“But you are my knight in shining armor,” I said. It was safe to say it because he wasn‘t there to hear.

When he got back he looked less sure of himself. Or maybe he was just freaked out by finding prisoner me locked up like a heroine in a bad horror movie. “Did you steal me?“ I blurted. God help me, my panties were wet. I didn’t realize until I blurted it out, but there it was. And what was there to stop him from seeing that if he chose to look? Nothing at all. The panties certainly were not going to shield me from those eyes.

Stupid abduction fixation. What a time for it to rear its head. Now. With nothing between his gaze and my truth but a pair of lime green panties. A very real urge to kiss him arose. Followed closely by the need to have him kiss me.

“Technically, yes. Does that flip your switch?” He wrapped me in a thick wool blanket. “Better than the overalls while you still have those on.” He nodded to the shiny silver cuffs holding me captive. “So back to our conversation, don’t ignore me–does that get you off?”

I studied my fingernails, busted and cracked now from my ordeal. I watched him work bolt cutters over the chain between the cuffs. “A bit. The whole abduction thing is a fantasy kind of thing for me.” Jesus. Why was I telling him this? Easy. He’d asked me and I felt compelled to answer.

He nodded as if it were the most normal thing in the world. “I figured it was something like that. No big deal. Do you possibly want to know my name?” The metal chain parted like warm butter and there I sat in two heavy silver, but separate, bracelets.

“Thank you,” I said. “And yes, I would very much like to know. What is your name? My name is Ember Sullivan.”

He stared at me. “Ember. Nice. Very hot. And I’m sure that is the first time you’ve heard that.” He pulled a pair of overalls from the front seat and tossed them to me. “My name is Lucas. Or Luke if you prefer. And I just took your boyfriend’s truck because he hasn’t been paying and it’s my job. I repo from guys like that.”

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