Saturday, October 8, 2016

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Violence corroded her…

Obedience defiled her…

Fear kept her chained…

Freedom is hard to embrace when she’s never learned to trust. Yet in the span of a second, she grabs a single opportunity and runs toward it. Straight into the sanctuary of a pub at the end of a wharf.

She doesn’t understand the concept of friendship. She’s never felt the connection of a relationship. She’s as innocent as the driven snow and yet tainted with corruption. Still, she finds herself surrounded by people who accept her, without even knowing the first thing about her. But one of them is determined to dig deeper.

He treasures his friends, yet he’s steered clear of committed relationships. He likes his life comfortably predictable and entirely controlled. Until it isn’t. For months he’s avoided interacting with The Skipper’s newest addition. Perhaps realizing that once he looked deeply into those liquid brown eyes, he wouldn’t be able to turn away.

When his present and her past puts them both on the brink of change, they are forged through fire as one.

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 It’s three in the morning by the time Dino drops me off at home where, to my surprise, my car is sitting in the driveway.
“Ike,” Dino says, noticing my reaction.
I’m blessed with the friends I’ve made and with a sidelong glance at Dino, a warm feeling sneaks up on me. I’d not considered him part of that circle I keep small for a reason, but this small sign of caring has me reconsider. I’m not one prone to letting emotion guide me so I’m not quite sure what moves me to let it now, but I lean over the center console and give him a kiss on his cheek.
“Thank you.”
Energy crackles in the air as he turns his stormy eyes on me, those big hands that were cradling his son’s face not that long ago, now coming up to cradle mine. His mouth comes down suddenly and his hard kiss on my lips is almost bruising. I just sit there like a moron, my heart pounding so loud, I’m sure he can hear it. Even when he pulls back and whispers, “Thank you,” only a breath away from my lips, I can still feel the charge bouncing over my skin.
I’m still dazed when he walks me to my door, tells me he’ll call me and leaves me with a kiss on my forehead. Unsure what to make of that, or of my own reaction to it, I push it aside and instead focus on the past few hours we spent at the police station.
I’d had the presence of mind to give Mark a quick call, asking him if he would mind meeting us there. An ex Portland cop himself, I though perhaps he could be of support. I’ve had enough dealings with the police force to have my own connections and go-to people, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have another familiar, supportive, face there, both for Jonas and his father. Mark and Dino know each other and so after the initial surprise to find Mark waiting for us, Dino quickly seemed relieved to have someone there who understood the process and could make introductions.
I was first to give my statement and a very demure and fearful Jonas had been guided into the room after, his burdened father right behind him. With Jonas only seventeen, the detective had suggested Dino be in the room with him for the initial questioning. I’d stayed out in the hallway, declining Mark’s offer to drive me home. Four hours later, Jonas had come out of the room, and with only a quick glance in my direction, was lead away down the hall by an officer. Then Dino appeared, looking absolutely drained, the detective behind him with a hand on his shoulder.
“Let him stay here tonight. It won’t hurt him to learn where he could end up should he continue on this path. Tomorrow we’ll talk to the DA and work out a plan where to go from here. He’s done the right thing, Mr. Brachio, but I’m not gonna lie—it won’t be easy. I’ll call you tomorrow morning when I know more, but for now, head home and try to get some rest. We’ll be in touch.” With that detective Hotchkins walked off in the direction Jonas disappeared in, leaving Dino looking lost in the hallway.
Again, that pain in my chest stabbed, watching this big man torn between his need to do what’s best for his son by letting him feel his responsibilities or to whisk him far away from here in an effort to protect him. I recognized that feeling and that’s why I walked up and put my arms around him. For a moment, he just stood there, but then his arms slid around me, hands fisting in the back of my coat and his big head buried itself in my neck.
So proud, so strong, and yet brought to his knees by the weight on his shoulders. It about killed me.
The drive home had been quiet. Each of us lost in our own thoughts. It startled me when he spoke.
“The shelter or your house?”
“My house,” I say after a moment’s hesitation. I’d left my car at Ike and Viv’s earlier and hopped in with Dino.
Hanging up my coat in the closet, I walk straight into my kitchen. Middle of the night and after only a single slice of French toast for dinner and a horrible cup of coffee at the police station, my stomach needed something.
Half an hour, and half a sandwich, later, I crawl into bed. The clock on my nightstand says it’s close to four and I turn off the light, hoping I can catch a few hours.
Five minutes later, I click the light back on. It’s no use, I can’t stop thinking about Dino. Did he get home okay? He’s alone in that big house; should I’ve stayed with him? I’m not sure why I’m obsessing over this but I know I won’t be able to stop until I know he’s alright.
I scroll through my contact list and am grateful to find I have his number, even though I’ve never used it before. It rings three times, four, then five and I’m about to hang up when it’s answered.
“No I can’t sleep either,” he says, without waiting for me to identify myself.
Uncanny, how in tune he seems to be. The empathy he’s shown over the years is the main reason I’ve kept my distance. He sees more than a normal person would, or should. He’s been dead on with his concerns and care for three women I know of; Syd, Viv and only recently, Ruby, guessing well before anyone else knew, at the demons haunting them. That’s why; my baggage is mine and mine alone. I’ve taken great care not to let my old life bleed into my current life, but Dino has the ability to bridge that gap. He’s already shown it in the way he’ll look at me sometimes. I’ve been snapping at him since the first time he spoke to me. Not because I don’t like him, but because he terrifies me. And with good reason, since with the single question he asked me last night, he showed me he could see all of me.
“Sorry, I’m…yeah, I just wanted to make sure you got in okay,” I stumble a bit.
“Thank you again,” he says, his deep rumbling voice jagged. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without you.”
Irritated at the emotional response he is able to evoke, I’m a little more brusk than I mean to be.
“Nothing any half decent human being wouldn’t do.” I already regret the tone before the words leave my mouth, but then I hear his soft chuckle over the line.
“There she is.” Amusement laces his voice. “Was wondering when my biscuit would come out.”
“Your biscuit?”
“A crunchy outside, difficult to butter up, but worth every effort once her full flavor hits your palate.”
I have no answer to that. His assessment both scares me and excites me. Such is the danger of Francis ‘Dino’ Brachio.
“Night Dino,” I blurt out instead.
“Night, Biscuit,” I hear him whisper right before he disconnects the call.


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About The Author

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Author of the popular Cedar Tree series, as well as the critically acclaimed standalone “From Dust,” Freya Barker is driven to make her stories about 'real' people; with characters who are perhaps less than perfect, but just as deserving of romance, thrills and chills, and some hot, sizzling sex in their lives.

Recipient of the RomCon “Reader’s Choice” Award for best first book, “Slim To None,” Freya has hit the ground running. She loves nothing more than to meet and mingle with her readers, whether it be online or in person at one of the signings she attends.

With her kids grown and out in the world, Freya has poured her creative energy into spinning story after story with an endless supply of bruised and dented characters, vying for attention!

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