Book Two in the David Family Saga: Bayou Rogues
She was rescued by his family.
He was haunted by events from his past.
Both are ready to love again.
Four years ago Maura lost something impossible to get back. She is reminded daily of the mistakes she made, and yet she refuses to let her past define her future.
The one sin Julian David despises above all others is lying. He wasn’t always this way, but since his darkest hour was borne from lies, he demands truth and will stop at nothing to get it.
But sometimes uncovering the truth can cause more hurt than living with deception. A man living in the past, a woman looking for her future. Is their relationship doomed from the start, or will fate grant them a second chance?
Lies . . . Attempted murder . . . Fraud . . . Deception will have you turning pages all night long.
Enjoy an Excerpt
Maura entered the Craftsman home she’d thought would serve her for quite a few years, but she’d been mistaken. Her ex-husband had gone to extraordinary lengths to make her feel uncomfortable in the home she used to love.
Carrying the few empty boxes she’d brought she headed to her room. She turned on the light and set the boxes on the bed, all the while trying to decide which of her things she absolutely couldn’t live without. She spied her childhood music box and without hesitation crossed the room and plucked it from the bookshelf. As she had done countless times before, she wound the key on the bottom of the box and opened the lid. The tinkling strains of “Edelweiss” emanated from within, stirring wonderful youthful memories: the first time she saw The Sound of Music, the Von Trapp children frolicking through Salzburg, incredible Austrian scenery, the puppet scene about a lonely goat herder. Oh, how she’d loved those goat puppets! Christopher Plummer singing Edelweiss. Mental images of gorgeous fields of the white beauties in full glorious bloom soothed her soul. For all the pleasure it had afforded her, she would treasure the little music box as long as she lived. She carefully wrapped it in tissue paper and lovingly placed it into one of the moving boxes.
Suddenly, steely hands gripped her upper arms in an unforgiving hold. The smell of stale whiskey assaulted her nostrils. “I knew you couldn’t stay gone forever,” a harsh raspy voice grated in her ear and then bit hard into the lobe.
“Ah. Alan, you’re hurting me.” Maura immediately realized that was the last thing she should have said because he delighted in hurting her. She collected her wits—she’d need to be focused to dissuade his no doubt sinister motive.
“Where have you been?” His fingers closed around her neck and she stood frozen in fear, avoiding his eyes.
“I moved in with Bailey at the David’s.”
“You think they can save you from me!” His fingers tightened on her throat. Gasping for breath she turned in his hold and he pushed her roughly down onto the bed, standing over her. Maura assessed his appearance: wrinkled dress shirt and slacks, day-old beard—very un-Alan like. Usually he was clean-shaven and dressed in a finely pressed Italian suit of the highest quality money could buy.
“I didn’t expect you to still be here.” Her voice sounded off—he’d hear it too and know she was scared. Weak.
His evil smile sent a chill racing down her spine. “I’m sure you didn’t.” His body descended over hers, pressing her into the bed. He inhaled her from ear to neck before dipping between her breasts and biting the skin there. Hard. Bruising. She knew it would leave a mark. Alan never marked for pleasure, only to bruise.
“So I see you wasted no time finding a new cock to ride and suck. You always were such a whore.” He slapped her face. His words made no sense—she’d only ever been with him.
Maura swallowed back the bile in her throat. When Alan was intoxicated he was even more dangerous than normal. She knew he would never willingly let her go. She stifled a gasp as she recalled the things he’d done to her when he’d been like this before. Still, she had to try and plead for him to let her go. “I’d not intended to rent from you, Alan. You know that. It’s why your name wasn’t on the rental agreement.”
“No, I guess you hadn’t, but you are my tenant. That’s not all Maura, you belong to me. You’re mine. At least for right now.”
“Why are you doing this to me?”
“Oh, I think you know why.” His fingertips caressed the stinging skin where his palm had struck.
“Because of that day?” He always used that beastly day as an excuse to abuse her. There was only one problem with his reasoning—he’d abused her before the events of that day had ever occurred. “You pushed me and you know it.”
“Yes, but you made me angry. If you’d just been an obedient wife nothing would have happened.”
“You’d had sex with another woman. Two other women.”
“It’s what men do.” His thumb and index finger closed over the tip of one breast and squeezed hard until pain faded to numbness. She refused to give him any sort of reaction.
“Let me up. I need to get back to packing.”
“Not a chance. I believe you know why I’ve been waiting here all day.”
“So you’re going to rape me then.” Maura inhaled deeply.
“Oh, not rape. We know each other. Really Maura, are you trying to pretend that you never took enjoyment from our marital bed?”
“That was a long time ago.”
“Not so long ago, my dear. If you try really hard I bet you’ll find that you actually enjoy a thorough fucking. I still remember when you’d beg me for it. And don’t forget, we’ve got witnesses.
“The David family. Julian alone will make a solid and convincing testimony, don't you think? He was so gone on you before I intervened. Can’t say I blame him. You’re breathtaking. From the moment I saw you I knew I had to have you.” He licked her neck and Maura forced herself not to cringe.
“If memory serves me correctly, the table had been set for an intimate dinner of four. Couples night. Fried soft shell crab.” His fingers rubbed against the skin of her delicate neck. “Very cozy. And then I entered this charming domestic scene with my overnight bags, asked you to take them to our room, and then made myself at home at the table. Have to say the crabs were divine.” He pulled hard at a lock of hair that he’d twirled between his fingers.”
“Ow.” Maura hadn’t intended to utter the exclamation, but instinct won out.
Alan smiled, delightedly. “You should have seen the look on Julian’s face when I uncovered you for the whore that you are. In his mind, you’re just a lying slutty bitch.”
“That’s not true.” The words had to be spoken aloud so she could begin to believe them—an audible admission of denial at his harsh words.
“Isn’t it? You weren’t surprised to see me when I showed up. And then you didn’t kick me out. Bailey put up more of a struggle than you did. It seems you were expecting me all along. Not a very convincing argument for rape. Don’t forget I own the rental house you live in and I’m paying for Bailey’s medical expenses, and wasn’t there something else . . . oh yes, I’m providing the one-hundred-twenty-thousand-dollar grant to the English department for your research. Not so much rape as quid pro quo, my dear.”
He inhaled long and deep, his nose pressed to her neck. “Do you know what happens during a rape investigation?”
Maura closed her eyes and focused on taking even breaths.
“Look at me, Maura.” He held her wrists at her sides, his weight still on top of her, pinning her down with his knees at her hips. “You would have to go to the emergency room after”—his eyes scanned her body from head to toe—“a vaginal and anal examination would be conducted and a sperm sample collected. Then a local cop, probably a man, or a couple of men, would need to jot down your detailed report of what happened word-for-word. Even after all that you still probably wouldn’t get the judgment you seek.”
His maniacal laughter chilled her to the bone. “And those cops I told you about—the men—would also need to collect evidence of a struggle, so you would have to bare yourself to show the bruises and bite marks for photographs.”
She swallowed thickly. “What bruises and bite marks?”
“The ones I’m going to give you.” His head went down and his teeth sank into the nipple he’d bruised earlier. The bite burned and her body seized so hard she thought he must have torn the flesh.
Tears leaked from her eyes and down her temples into her hair. “Alan, please. Don’t do this. I’ll move back to New York where we can be husband and wife again.”
He pulled up and looked down into her face with flaring nostrils and eyes much too wide. “I don’t want to be your husband. I like our new situation much better.”
In that moment Maura knew there was nothing she could do to free herself from the situation so she let her mind wander to one of her favorite memories—she was eighteen and had been given a most precious gift by her grandmama—a trip to England. Even then Maura had loved the classics. The first thing she did while in England was make her way to the hometown of the Brontë sisters.
The lovely thoughts were obliterated when Alan roughly pulled her clothes from her body, ripping her shirt in the process. He bit down on the fleshy part of her left breast and again broke the skin. He flipped her onto her belly and pulled her arms together behind her. Maura’s shoulder screamed in protest from an old injury and the pain of having her arms pinned up to her back. He tightly held her wrists together with one of his large strong hands.
Alan’s grunting and heavy breathing was beginning to nauseate her so Maura let her thoughts take her away. She’d toured the Brontë home and parsonage museum. Most fascinating, yet disturbing, was the cemetery that stood behind the church. Moss had colored the gravestones in green-jeweled tones and the misty English air kept the palate moist. It was estimated that forty thousand bodies were laid to rest in the small tract no bigger than an average-sized backyard. One source indicated the bodies were stacked ten deep. Since the cemetery was in the direct path of the town’s water source, fresh water trickled through the graveyard and became contaminated before it reached its destination, slowly poisoning the town’s inhabitants. With the gray-blue hues and moldy grasses, a surreal kind of beauty existed, even in the midst of all that despair.
Maura lost her focus on the peaceful memories when Alan pushed her face into the mattress and she felt the stinging and burning pain from his exertions and the push-pull of her skin. She closed her eyes and was whisked back to West Yorkshire, England.
Wuthering Heights was Maura’s favorite Brontë work. She’d adored it as a teen and still read the book after the first cold snap of the season. The second chapter of the book had the tenant, Mr. Lockwood, trudging through thick, wet snow as a blizzard ravaged the landscape. Maura liked to read that part wearing fluffy wool socks and sipping cocoa.
“Did you hear me?” Alan’s voice pierced through her alter ego.
“What?” He pulled her so that she lay flat on her back on the bed. She was naked. He was fully clothed and adjusting the hardware on his slacks and belt. He lay next to her on top of the quilt.
“I asked how the research project was coming along.”
The funny thing about Alan was, after his horrendous actions and mistreatment of her he’d always enter a period of remorse where he would shower her with gifts and attention in an attempt to reestablish their balance.
“It’s great. I enjoy it.”
“I want you to talk about it.”
She didn’t want to talk to him and she definitely didn’t want him touching her the way he was doing now. His nails lightly traced from her shoulder down to the swell of her hip and drew designs on her skin. His ministrations resulted in zero sensation from her—good or bad. She was completely numb as she lay on naked display before him.
She spoke of the influence of the weather patterns on the writings of Emily Brontë and of the detailed computer program Bailey had created to keep track of all the data and weather patterns that exist in the writing.
“I got you a new car. It’s in the garage.” He tossed a key fob onto her bare stomach.
“I don’t want anything from you.”
“A bit late for that discussion. I own you. Besides, I don’t know why you insist on driving that piece of shit. It’s not safe.”
In these moments she didn’t understand Alan. She could understand the lying, cheating, angry, and abusive Alan. But she didn’t understand his tender moments after such brutality.
“Alan, why do you do this?”
His fingers slid from her skin and she internally sighed with relief. He laced his hands together behind his head and stared at the ceiling. “You’re the only connection I have to her.”
He was speaking of their child that she’d carried to eight months. Alan had pushed her, causing her to take a nasty tumble. Early labor had ensued and resulted in a stillborn child. The sight of the tiny infant-sized casket at the funeral had broken her heart.
“Do you think she’s happy with the way you treat me?”
He sat up, facing away from her. “Maura, I blame you for everything that happened. You deliberately provoked me. What’s done is done. He stood. “Her spirit doesn’t live on anywhere. You know I don’t believe in that shit.”
“She does live on in heaven, she absolutely does.”
“Does that help you, Maura? I don’t see how. She’s still dead.”
Alan gathered his things, and then he was gone. She lay on the bed with her wretched thoughts until the room turned dark. The therapy she’d sought had brought her a little peace and maybe closure. She felt sad at times, but she tried hard to understand that she wasn’t to blame for the events of that day. Alan was projecting his guilt onto her because he knew it was his ultimate action that had killed their child that dreaded day. As much as she detested him, if he came to her seeking the same closure she had, she’d help him find it. She wouldn’t wish that sorrow on her worst enemy.
Gathering her composure, Maura sat up and stretched deeply, put on her robe, and then padded to the bathroom. She poured gardenia oil beneath the flowing water and inhaled. Tying the sash tighter around her robe as she walked through the house, she searched for her purse. Her hands shook as she poured one little white anxiety pill into her palm. She soaked in the tub until the water turned cold. There were no tears to be had because she’d learned tears didn’t bring solutions. Maura was a planner. Her immediate plan would be to continue living at the David home until she found a home of her own to rent. That was all she’d be able to focus on at the moment.