Good girls stay away from Ryder Briggs . . . or, at least, they try to. In Renita Pizzitola’s emotional novel of heartache and seduction, one college freshman just can’t get enough.
Brinley Dawson doesn’t drink, she studies—and despite the accusations of her alcoholic mother, she’s still a virgin. But if Brinley’s life is so put together, why is she freaking out to be going to college with the gorgeous, green-eyed jerk she kissed on a stupid dare in high school? Ryder Briggs can have any girl he wants . . . and the rumors say that he does. So why, after publicly embarrassing Brinley four years ago, is he suddenly acting like he’s interested?
Ryder never forgot Brinley. In fact, those perfect seven minutes permanently raised the bar for what a kiss could be. The truth is, Ryder doesn’t dare get too close to anyone. He knows how that worked out for his parents. But when his roommate takes a shot at Brinley, Ryder can’t contain his jealousy. Now he must do the hardest thing he’s ever done: forget about sex and convince Brinley his feelings are real.
Brinley isn’t sure whether she believes Ryder, but for the first time, her body isn’t playing by the rules. Then she discovers that she’s an unwilling part of a cruel game, humiliating her all over again—and Ryder might be to blame. Has Brinley’s little crush turned into a huge mistake . . . or has she found the one guy worth trusting with her heart?
Renita Pizzitola is the author of New Adult contemporary romance and Young Adult fantasy. When not writing, she can be found feeding her caramel macchiato addiction and reading just about anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two children.
Maya Banks is one of my favorite authors. She writes in many different romance genres and I haven't found one that I don't love yet. When I was given the opportunity to read her newest, Keep Me Safe, along with interview her, I jumped. Keep Me Safe marks the 20th Maya Banks book that I have read and I have no intentions of stopping soon. I currently have 3 of her books checked out from the library, plus 2 on hold. I was very excited to meet her at RT14 in New Orleans this year. I got Colter's Woman, Be with Me, and Never Seduce a Scot autographed.
If you haven't ever read any Maya Banks' books then you are missing out. If you like suspense, she has her KGI series. Historical? Try the Montgomery & Armstrong trilogy (Never Seduce a Scot!) or the McCabe Trilogy (Seduction of a Highland Lass!). Menage? She has plenty to try, but I would go with Colter's Woman or the novella Stay with Me. Her newest, Keep Me Safe, centers around a young woman, Ramie, who has a gift that allows her to find missing women by connecting with them. It is more of a curse, then a gift. Though she is able to find dozens of kidnapped and tortured women, Remie is drawn into their hell. Remie feels their pain and lives through the ordeal with them every time she connects to a woman. Over and over again. She goes off the grid to recuperate and hide from a stalker when Caleb Devereaux tracks her down. Giving her no choice, Caleb forces Remie to connect with his kidnapped sister. He would do anything to find her...even force Remie to live through his sister's hell. Now he owes Remie. She turns to him, months later, to rescue her from her crazed stalker. Will Caleb be able to help Remie? In the past I have done author reviews and I try to keep them lighthearted and fun. I have always been fascinated with Ms. Banks writing so most of my questions center around her writing style and thought process. I hope you enjoy the interview.
1.You are an author that has a versatility to
write in many different genres of romance. From historical, contemporary,
ménage, and so many more. Do you have a particular favorite to write?
Quite honestly, no.
That may sound odd, but what I love or rather my “favorite” is the ABILITY to
be able to move from genre to genre with each book I write. It keeps things
fresh and interesting for me. If I had to ONLY write books in one genre for one
series and that’s all I ever wrote, I’d be bored silly. This way I look forward
to each and every book because I know it will hold something new and different
than what I just wrote.
2.Did you always know that you would be a
writer? If not, how did you end up writing?
There is a huge
difference between always WRITING and always “knowing” you would BECOME a
published author. I’ve written all my life. I’ve written ROMANCE my entire
life. In junior high, I would write full length novels in 5 subject notebooks and
fill the pages front AND back with as many words as I could. But it never
occurred to me that I could ever BECOME an “author”
For me that was an
unobtainable pipe dream. I never even considered it! It wasn’t until after my
third child was born and I was obviously well into my adulthood that I thought
why not give it a TRY? What have I got to lose? I had a few years before my two
youngest “babies” would enter school at which time I’d planned to go back to
work and so I decided to use that time to try to realize my dream. Fortunately
for me, it only took four years and a LOT of ups and downs and “almosts” before
I signed contracts with two different publishers and began my journey as a
3.Is there one of your books that you have found
that fans gush about more than any other?
Actually yes! A
universal reader favorite seems to be Sweet Persuasion and the hero, Damon
Roche, in particular.
4.When you aren’t writing, what do you enjoy
reading? Is there a particular book you recently read that you want to rave
I have very eclectic
reading tastes. I’m pretty simple to please. All I require is a YUMMY romance
and an HEA and I’m happy. So I read widely across many genres and have
favorites in all types. Unfortunately my reading time has been nonexistent this
year because I’ve been writing furiously to meet my deadlines after health
issues sidelined me for a bit earlier in the year.
5.Is there one genre that you have wanted to
explore with your writing?
Honestly, no! I’ve
been fortunate enough to have been able to write widely across genres my entire
career. I established myself very early on as a multi-genre author and have
consistently written in separate genres since the start. So there isn’t much left!
Any genre I’ve ever had the thought of “Hmm, I’d love to write one of THOSE
stories” well, I pretty much have already!
6.How does your new series, theSlow Burn, differ from other
series you have written?
In some ways it’s
quite different but it’s definitely vintage Maya Banks and my voice is very
recognizable even in a different series. It’s definitely contemporary romantic
suspense and not paranormal romance at all. Not even remotely paranormal! It’s
set in the real world and merely poses the question “what if someone out there
today had psychic abilities?”
So while readers can
expect something “new” from me, the voice, the writing style, the trademark
angst and emotion prevalent in so many of my books will be times TWO in this
7.Are you a fast and furious writer or do you
take you time to brainstorm out the plot and characters?
No, I don’t plan out
my books or have it all completely “figured out” because if I did then I
wouldn’t be able to write it because it would be no “fun” for me! I write much
like I read. I don’t know what happens next until I turn the page. It’s so much
fun when the story or characters take you in a direction you hadn’t considered
and then I write as fast as I can to see where the twist takes me and how it
impacts the overall story. So if I knew everything before I wrote it, I’d no
longer want to write it and it would bore me to tears!
8.How long do you spend writing each book?
It varies WIDELY and
is completely dependent on each individual story. There are some that have
literally almost written themselves and it’s all I can do to keep up with the
typing while others I labor over each and every word, striving to make it as
perfect as I can. There’s definitely no “one answer” for this question. At
least not for me!
9.How do you deal with writer’s block?
I don’t believe in
writer’s block. If I’m not writing, it’s for one of two reasons. Either I’m
being lazy and or unmotivated and simply not writing. OR, something is wrong
with the story and I veered off the tracks at some point hence me struggling in
the present. The solution to the first is obvious. The solution to the
second reason is simply to go back and reread over everything I’ve already
written, figure out where I went wrong and fix it.
10.Are you left or right handed?
is a #1 USA Today and New York Times bestselling author whose chart toppers
have included erotic romance, romantic suspense, contemporary romance, Scottish
historical romances. She is the author of the Breathless Trilogy, the KGI
novels, the Sweet series, and the Colters Legacy novels.
She lives in the South with her husband and three children and other assorted babies,
such as her two Bengal kitties and a Calico who’s been with her as long as her
youngest child. She’s an avid reader of romance and loves to dish books with
her fans and anyone else who’ll listen! She very much enjoys interacting with
her readers on Facebook and Twitter as well as in her Yahoo! Group.
Last month I posted a review of The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski. I loved this book...except for the cover.
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.
One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.
But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
I had issues with the vertical text and the font. Turns out I wasn't the only one. Several of you agreed with me. I'm also glad to report that the cover for The Winner's Crime, which is set to be released in March 2015, is much better.
The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.
As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them
Gone is the vertical text (thank you!) and I'm much more impressed with the blue dress vs the pink scheme. Not only does it stand out more, I think the deeper color fits more with the character of Kestrel. I'm very excited about The Winner's Crime and if you haven't given The Winner's Curse a chance yet then you are missing out!
There are lots of great YA books coming out this Fall but a few have been popping up everywhere. I have listed the ones I keep hearing the most about. These are the ones I can't wait for and will devour immediately. Now I just have to wait patiently for my hold at my library to come up.
Which book are you highly anticipating this Fall?
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund
on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love
story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.
Since birth, Nyx
has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish
bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill
With no choice but
to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and
hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday,
Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal
Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the
nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.
But Ignifex is not
at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his
castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.
As Nyx searches for
a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself
unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn
enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must
decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was
never supposed to love.
I’ll Give You the Sun by
Jude and her twin brother,
Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is
falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude
cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them.
But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has
happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude
meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more
unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell.
The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have
only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another,
they’d have a chance to remake their world.
Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White
Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved
from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything
changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces
her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything
Jessamin doesn’t—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his
own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess.
Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him.
The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly
Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron
Not Callum Hunt. He
wants to fail.
All his life, Call
has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the
Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean
bad things for him.
So he tries his
best to do his worst - and fails at failing.
Now the Magisterium
awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties
to his past and a twisty path to his future.
The Iron Trial is
just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . .
Jewel by Amy Ewing
Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for
girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude.
Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the
royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is
Purchased at the
surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the
face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that
lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and
hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.
Violet must accept
the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a
forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a
companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in
the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will
cost them both more than they bargained for.
of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last
one her brother gave her before he died.
So Sam joins the
first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s
expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military
brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even
expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls
belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill
sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or
the dare, on something so petty...no matter how much she wants him.
As Sam struggles to
prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her
gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn
to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are
not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and
determined to force her out. At any cost.
Now time's running
short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could
have deadly consequences.
Trial by Fire by Josephine
This world is trying to kill
Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences
that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is
determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and
longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her
graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.
Suddenly, Lily is
in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by
powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian
. . . Lily's other self in this alternate universe.
What makes Lily
weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing
world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone
and a love she never expected.
Prince Alexandro Castanovo arrives in snowy New York intent on protecting his royal family from scandal. And when Reese Harding—down-to-earth and heart-stoppingly beautiful—finds room for him at her inn, it seems like the perfect twist of fate.
Not long ago Reese's world came crumbling down, shaking her foundations. But this enigmatic stranger intrigues her! She's learned to be wary of secrets…but when she discovers Alex's true identity, might there be enough magic in the air to make this regular American girl a princess by Christmas…?
Award-winning author, Jennifer Faye pens fun, heartwarming romances. Jennifer has won the RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice Award, named a TOP PICK author, and been nominated for numerous awards. Now living her dream, she resides with her patient husband, amazing daughter (the other remarkable daughter is off chasing her own dreams) and two spoiled cats. She'd love to hear from you via JenniferFaye.com
Rafflecopter Giveaway (Tour Wide Giveaway for $25 Amazon Gift Card and (3) digital copies of A PRINCESS BY CHRISTMAS)
A sizzling story of a woman who risks her life and her heart to find a wealthy man’s missing sister—the first novel in a sexy new romantic suspense series from #1 New York Times bestselling author Maya Banks
When Caleb Devereaux's younger sister is kidnapped, this scion of a powerful and wealthy family turns to an unlikely source for help: a beautiful and sensitive woman with a gift for finding answers others cannot.
While Ramie can connect to victims and locate them by feeling their pain, her ability comes with a price. Every time she uses it, it costs her a piece of herself. Helping the infuriatingly attractive and impatient Caleb successfully find his sister nearly destroys her. Even though his sexual intensity draws her like a magnet, she needs to get as far away from him as she can.
Deeply remorseful for the pain he’s caused, Caleb is determined to make things right. But just when he thinks Ramie's vanished forever, she reappears. She’s in trouble and she needs his help. Now, Caleb will do risk everything to protect her—including his heart. . . .
Maya Banks is a #1 USA Today and New York Times bestselling author whose chart toppers have included erotic romance, romantic suspense, contemporary romance, Scottish historical romances. She is the author of the Breathless Trilogy, the KGI novels, the Sweet series, and the Colters Legacy novels.
She lives in the South with her husband and three children and other assorted babies, such as her two Bengal kitties and a Calico who’s been with her as long as her youngest child. She’s an avid reader of romance and loves to dish books with her fans and anyone else who’ll listen! She very much enjoys interacting with her readers on Facebook and Twitter as well as in her Yahoo! Group.
Rafflecopter Giveaway (FIVE Print Copies of KEEP ME SAFE)
Caleb Devereaux turned out of the sharp
switchback and onto the driveway leading up to the tiny mountain cabin,
swearing when he hit pothole after pothole. Fury and impatience simmered in his
blood but the anticipation of having finally found Ramie St. Claire after an exhaustive
search kept his mood from being completely black.
Ramie was his sister, Tori’s, only hope.
The moment Tori was kidnapped, Caleb
had begun his search for Ramie St. Claire. She certainly wasn’t the first
person on most people’s go-to list when looking for a loved one. Ramie was
psychic and had been helpful in locating victims in the past. While many would
be skeptical, Caleb absolutely believed in Ramie’s abilities.
His own sister had psychic
He and his brothers, Beau and Quinn,
had always been extremely overprotective of their baby sister. With good
reason. Caleb was the head of a veritable empire. Security was always top
priority. They’d always feared kidnapping for ransom, but in their worst
nightmares they’d never imagined that Tori would simply disappear and be at the
mercy of a madman.
There’d been no ransom demand.
Simply a video of Tori bound hand and foot and the maniacal laughter of her
captor as he told Caleb to kiss his sister goodbye.
He just prayed he wasn’t too late.
God, don’t let it be too late for Tori.
It infuriated him that Ramie St.
Claire had simply dropped off the map three months ago. No trace of her, no
forwarding address. No evidence that she even existed. How could she simply
disappear when she was such an invaluable aid in finding kidnap victims and
missing persons? How selfish of her to simply refuse, by her actions, to help
He’d worked himself into a rage by
the time he finally pulled up to the small cabin that looked as though it
wouldn’t weather the upcoming winter at all. He wasn’t even certain there would
be electricity. Only a person determined not to be found would live in a place
He got out and strode to the
ramshackle front door, his fist up and pounding. The door shook and rattled
under the force of his knock. Only silence greeted him and it sent his blood
“Miss St. Claire!” he roared.
“Answer the goddamn door!”
He beat on the door again, shouting
again for her to answer. He likely looked and sounded like the madman holding
his sister, but at this point he didn’t care. He was beyond desperation. It had
taken every resource available to him to finally track Ramie down. No way in
hell he was leaving until he’d gotten the information he’d come for.
Then the door swung open and he was
greeted by the sight of a petite woman with wary, gray eyes. He was momentarily
taken aback, going silent as he stared at Ramie St. Claire for the first time
The photos he’d seen of her didn’t
do her justice. There was a delicate air to her as though she were recovering
from an illness, but it in no way detracted from her beauty. She
looked…fragile. He felt a brief moment of guilt for what he was about to ask
her to do, but he brushed it away. There was no price too high to pay for his
“I can’t help you.”
Her softly spoken words slid like
velvet over his ears, a direct contrast from the anger her refusal caused. He
hadn’t even made his request yet and she was already giving him the brush-off.
“You don’t even know what it is I
want,” he said in an icy tone that would wither most people.
“It’s rather obvious,” she said
wearily, fatigue drooping her eyelids. “Why else would you come all this way? I
don’t even want to know how you found me. It’s obvious I did a piss poor job of
covering my tracks if you managed to find me here.”
Caleb frowned. Had she been ill? Was
that why she’d dropped out of sight so she could recover? It didn’t matter why
now that he’d found her. He didn’t care what her reasons were.
“With your abilities why would you
purposely make yourself difficult to find?” he demanded. “My sister’s life is
at stake here, Miss St. Claire. I’m not merely asking you to help me. I’m not
leaving until you do.”
She shook her head adamantly, fear
chasing the lethargy from her eyes. “I can’t.”
There was quiet desperation to her
words that told him there was more to her refusal than what appeared on the
surface. Something was wrong and yet he couldn’t summon any regret for forcing
her compliance. Not when Tori’s life hung in the balance.
He reached inside his jacket and
pulled out Tori’s scarf. The one item they’d found at the sight where she must
have been taken. In the parking lot of a grocery store beside the open door of
her car. He should have never let her go alone. He’d failed her. Failed to
protect her. Failed to ensure proper security.
Ramie immediately backed away, a
desperate cry on her lips. He shoved forward, forcing the scarf into her hands
and holding her and the scarf so there was no escape. She emitted a broken sob
and she looked up at him, stricken, her face going unnaturally pale. Her pupils
flared and then clouded, pain and devastation clearly outlined on her features.
“No,” she whispered. “Not again. Oh
God, not again. I won’t survive it.”
Her knees buckled and she would have
gone down, but he caught her, ensuring the scarf never lost contact with her
hands. He watched in horror as Ramie’s body sagged, slipping from his grasp
despite his best effort to support her weight. She was simply lifeless, as limp
as a rag doll. He quickly followed her down to the floor, determined that she
not lose her grip on Tori’s scarf. But it didn’t seem to matter now. Ramie was
Her eyes glazed over and her body
began to twitch spasmodically. She curled into a fetal position, the fragility
of such a self-protective measure gutting him. She moaned softly and then began
“Please don’t hurt me again. Please,
I’m begging you. I can’t take any more. If you’re going to kill me, just do it.
Quit torturing me.”
Chill bumps spread rapidly up
Caleb’s nape as Ramie’s voice, which sounded nearly identical to Tori’s, filled
his ears. Dear God, was he witnessing what was happening to his sister through
The scene Ramie was painting was horrifying.
Not only for the fact that his sister was even now enduring the absolute worse.
But from all appearances, Ramie was suffering with her.
He’d certainly done his research on
Ramie St. Claire’s abilities but there was little information beyond her
astonishing success record. No mention of how she managed to help victims or
what it did to her. God help them all. What had he done?
Her body jerked and it took only a
moment for Caleb to realize what was happening. It was too unmistakable. Bile
rose in his throat and he had to suck in steadying breaths to keep from heaving
the contents of his stomach on the floor. Tears burned his eyelids as he
helplessly watched his sister being raped through the window of Ramie’s
Ramie’s weeping tore at his heart
and he gathered her into his arms, not knowing what else to do but rock her
gently. “Tori?” He whispered his sister’s name experimentally, not knowing if a
link had been established through Ramie. “Can you hear me? It’s Caleb. Tell me
where you are, honey. I’ll come for you. Hold on please. Don’t give up, no
matter how bad it is.”
Ramie’s head jerked sideways and the
imprint of a hand immediately appeared on her cheek. Caleb was horrified,
unsure of what to do now that he’d crossed a line he couldn’t come back from.
He tried to push back his guilt, telling himself that anything that helped him
recover his sister was worth it. But was torturing an innocent woman worth it?
He hadn’t given her a choice. She’d
told him no and yet he’d forced this on her not knowing the heavy toll it would
take. He had no idea how her powers worked and now that he did he was sick to
his soul. No wonder she’d been so resistant. No wonder she’d told him she
couldn’t do it anymore.
“Ramie. Ramie!” he said in a more
forceful voice. “Come back to me, Ramie. Come back so you can tell me how to
Ramie’s eyes were opened but so
distant that he knew she wasn’t here. The imprint of the hand on her face was
bright and vivid, red against deathly white skin. There was a look of such
defeat and despair in her eyes that once again he found himself battling tears.
Suddenly she hunched inward, her
entire body jolting as though absorbing a blow. She wrapped her arms around her
stomach and he realized that she’d been kicked. Or rather Tori had been kicked.
It was a horrific, helpless feeling to know that two women were being
victimized, one because of him.
Then she simply rolled away, her
cheek lying against the cold floor, her eyes fixed and vacant. She was
completely still and terror gripped him. Was Tori dead? Oh dear God! Had he
just witnessed his sister’s murder?
“Ramie! Wake up! God, please wake
up. Tell me how to find her. Tell me that she’s still alive!”
He picked Ramie’s slight weight up,
swearing because she was so thin and fragile, weighing nothing in his arms. He
carried her to the worn sofa and carefully laid her down, not wanting to hurt
her any more than she’d already been hurt.
He sat on the edge, gathering her
icy hands in his, rubbing, trying to infuse warmth. He had no idea what to do.
Should he take her to a hospital?
Then after several long moments, she
blinked and seemed to come out of her trance. Pain immediately swamped her
features and she began to silently weep again, each tear cutting him to
“Is she still alive?” he asked
anxiously. “Do you know how to find her?”
“Yes,” Ramie said dully.
Hope surged in his heart and he
found himself nearly crushing her hands in his.
“Tell me where,” he urged.
Slowly and painfully she whispered
the location down to the minutest detail. Chills once again slithered up his
spine at the precision in which she described not only the location but the
kidnapper. She even provided a license plate number.
He picked up his phone and
immediately called his brother, relaying the information that Ramie had
provided. When he was done, he stared helplessly down at Ramie, grateful and
yet deeply regretful for what he’d just subjected her to.
“What do I need to do to help you?”
he asked softly.
Resignation dulled her eyes even
further. “There’s nothing you can do,” she said in a flat voice. “Just go.”
“The hell I’ll just leave you here!”
He was already calculating in his
head that he could simply bring her with him. He could get her the care she so
obviously needed at the same time Tori was receiving what she needed.
“Your sister needs you. Just go.
I’ll be fine.”
The lie was so obvious, but it
seemed to be all she could muster. He was torn between rushing to be with Tori
and staying to ensure Ramie would be all right. But how could she be? Two women
would live with this for the rest of their lives. His precious sister and the
woman he’d forced to help him never knowing the price she’d pay.
“Please,” she begged, her voice
breaking. “Just go and leave me be. I gave you what you wanted. I helped you,
now go. It’s the least you can do.”
Caleb stood, wiping a hand over his
hair and down the back of his neck in agitation. “I’ll go, but I’m coming back,
Ramie. I’m going to make this up to you.”
“You can never take this back,” she
whispered. “There’s no making up for what’s been done. Just go and take care of
your sister. She needs you.”
She closed her eyes, tears seeping
from her eyelids. How could he just leave her like she asked? And yet how could
he not go and ensure that his sister was safely recovered? He’d never felt so
torn in his life.
“If you have any humanity
whatsoever, you’ll leave and never tell anyone where you found me,” Ramie said
hoarsely. “Please, I’m begging you. Just go. He plans to kill her tomorrow. At
dawn. You don’t have much time.”
Her words proved to be the impetus,
driving him to action. But goddamn it, he would make this up to her. Somehow,
Regret swamped him. Worse was the
fact that even knowing now what he hadn’t known before, he couldn’t say he
would have done anything differently. Not when it meant the difference between
Tori’s life and death. But at least now he better understood Ramie’s
resistance. No longer did he look at her and think she was selfish and cruel.
Now he realized her disappearance had been self-preservation. He didn’t know
she’d survived this in the past. He just prayed he wasn’t the tipping point in
pushing her so far over the edge she’d never recover.
Caleb closed his eyes and then
gently touched her cheek. “I’m so sorry. You’ll never know how much. My family
and I owe you more than I can ever repay. I’ll go for now and pray to God I’m
not too late. But I’m coming back, Ramie. Count on it. I’ll make this up to you
if it’s the very last thing I do.”