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Blackwater Savior is a SHORT story, the beginning of Spooky and Mia. 

Two years ago, Mia Sheridan’s face lay plastered on missing person flyers, CNN, and other various news outlets. She was one among six other missing women from the Clearwater area, neither a trace nor a hair left behind. Abducted, beaten and sold, Mia has finally come to terms with the certainty that she will die her only concern is when that time will come.

Road Captain and eight-year vet with the Blackwater Renegades, Spooky is tasked with convincing a monster to sign divorce papers. He expected blood and mayhem, but what he found instead was Mia Sheridan, whose eyes held an innocence, unlike anyone he'd seen before. SpookyHe never bought the notion of love at first sight―lust at first taste was more like it―but the honey-eyed woman with a subtle glint of defiance in her eyes is a fighter, and that he can respect. When Spooky takes a solemn vow to protect her, he finds himself in over his head, but right where he belongs.
Blackwater Savior is a SHORT story, the beginning of Spooky and Mia. 

 
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Just one piece of information could help Maxine mend a past mistake and let go of her broken past. That name she needs? Her father's murderer. Not because she harbors any tender feelings toward the bastard who beat her mother into a coma. She's desperate to know his last words.

She's steadily clawing down obstacles one lie, one trap at a time … until she encounters a brick wall without a single chink in it. Blu, the enforcer guarding the Blackwater Renegades MC's front door. A tattooed, mohawked mountain of muscle whose ice-blue gaze sets her belly on fire.

Blu's past shadows his future.

After fighting for his freedom in an underground fighting pit, Blu traded wrapped knuckles for a Blackwater Renegades cut. Now he puts his bruised fists to good use against rival gangs.

When he's tasked with seducing Maxine, the enigmatic newcomer, to uncover her motives, Blu discovers there's more to this dagger-glaring, snark-spewing beauty than meets the eye. They share a deep well of unresolved pain that could make him drop his guard … and question his loyalties to the only people he's ever known as family.

P.S. If you are a member of my Insiders Club you can get these short stories FREE.

New Release - Open Wounds: Hope & Abel

GET YOUR COPY TODAY!!

LOVE AGAINST THE ODDS

OPEN WOUNDS: HOPE & ABEL

Open Wounds: Hope & Abel, a Love Against the Odds AWWM Novella

If you could see your life from inception to death, would you change things or would you let your death play out as fate intended?

Abel is in search of only two things: a stable job and a safe place to lay his head at night after a mistake that cost him eighteen months of his life. As if fate had plans made only for him, Abel is offered a complicated job, and a chance to redeem himself to his old boss. 
And then he meets her …
And Abel adds another item to his list—Hope.
 

At twenty-six, Hope has only ever slept with one man, and at her boss’s unsolicited advice, Hope plans to forget the abuse and degradation she suffered at her ex’s hand by seducing and bedding the next man she meets. Unfortunately, after Hope finds a promise of death at her doorstep, her plans are derailed and her only chance at staying alive rests on the dedication of her new bodyguard and her own sheer will to live the life she deserves.


This book includes a sample of Weathered Souls and Inevitable: Love and War

Only, after Hope finds a promise of death at her doorstep, her plans are derailed and only chance at staying alive rests on the dedication of her new bodyguard and her own sheer will to live the life she deserves. Inger Iversen presents a standalone contemporary AWWM Romance in her best-selling Love Against the Odds world featuring Hope & Abel. Your enjoyment may be enhanced if you follow this reading order:


-       Incarcerated: Letters from Inmate 92510   -Katie & Logan
-       Inevitable: Love and War - 2/28/2015        -Teal & Trent 1
-       Indelible: Beneath His Ink - 12/12/2016    -Teal & Trent 2
-       Rogue in Love - 3/28/2017 *standalone*   -Thea & Lex
-       Open Wounds - 6/28/2017 *standalone*     -Hope & Abel
-       Indebted: Til Death Do us Part 9/28/2017  -Teal & Trent 3
-       Weathered Souls 12/28/2017 *standalone* -Ivory & Eric

Only SIX days left!!

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Open Wounds: Hope & Abel, a Love Against the Odds

AWWM contemporary romance Novella
 

CHAPTER 13

Abel sat across the table from her in a dimly lit restaurant, wearing the sexiest navy-blue button up and a pair of dark jeans. She sat back in her low-cut, white cotton dress as Abel eyed the deep plunge of her neckline. In her entire life, she’d never made it past a B-cup and had even considered breast implants at one point; but now, as Abel watched her body, a pink blush spread from her chest to her face.

“Damn, that’s beautiful,” he murmured.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Picking up her glass of wine, Hope took a large gulp. She needed to slow down—the food hadn’t shown up yet and she was already on the second glass. Nervous from trying to draw out her stalker, while getting to know Abel, had her soaking it up like a sponge.

“Just taking in my date.” He winked and took a drink of his water. He’d refused to drink, just in case Edwin made an appearance … and for that, Hope was grateful.

She waved the waiter over for another glass of water, as she needed to slow down, or she would be drunk in no time.

“Hey,” he called, his soothing voice calming a bit of her nerves. “What’s going on?”

Hope pressed her palms to her belly. “Nervous flutters.”

Moving the centerpiece, he pushed his hands to her, palms up. “Talk to me.”

Hope nervously placed her hands in his. His strong hands enclosed hers, the warmth spreading from him to her cool fingers.

“What about?”

“You,” Abel suggested coolly, sad it surprised her.

Mark had never once asked her a question about herself, but had been more than willing to explain to her his struggles at Merrill Lynch, or at the gym. She struggled to come up with something to tell him. There were so many things she could talk about, but where to start?

“My real name isn’t Hope.” She returned his shocked expression with a sly smile. In fluent Korean, Hope spoke her full name and where her mother was originally from.

“What?” His delighted surprise made her giggle.

“Yep, Gidae, but you would pronounce it, Gi-day. I changed it to its meaning, Hope, when I was picked on in school for its rarity.”

He gently squeezed her hands, then flipped them over, tracing circles across her palms. Electricity raced up her spine. Hope’s body heated, and her head went fuzzy. His hands were so sensual, she could feel the tension building between them. And never once had she flinched or run from his touch.

“Man, I hate kids sometimes,” he said. “They can be ignorant and hurtful with their words.”

Yes, that was very true, but her childhood had been too amazing for her to hold on to a few memories of bullies. She shrugged. “That all seems so far in the past. I don’t think about it much now, but I just kept using Hope because it was easier than constantly correcting people’s pronunciations.” Gidae was a relatively easy Korean word, but most Americans butchered it horribly.

A smile grew across his face as he admired her. “Wow, I didn’t even know you were Korean. Not that Koreans look a certain way. Call me crazy, but I’ve worked in a Korean BBQ up north for a few years and you look nothing like any of the ladies I worked for.” He laughed nervously.

“How so?” Hope wasn’t in the least bit offended. Her mother was half-white and Korean, and her father was of mixed descent as well. She was a blend of many ethnicities, a melting pot of Asian and European descent, and she loved all her attributes. Her dark hair—so similar to her mother’s jet-black, silky tresses—and her pale skin, due more to her ethnicity than her recent bouts of lack of sun. Her skin reminded her of her father. He’d taught her German, promising her one day to take her to Germany, the home of his father’s ancestors. The memories were warm and welcomed, and too often ignored.

Open Wounds / Cover Reveal

OPEN WOUNDS: Hope & Abel

Hope & Abel

A Love Against the Odds Novel

June 28th 2017

If you could see your life from inception to your death, would you change things or would you let your death play out as fate intended?

Abel is in search of only two things. A stable job and a safe place to lay his head at night after a mistake that cost him eighteen months of his life. As if fate had plans made only for him, Abel is offered a complicated job, and a chance to redeem himself to his old boss, from an old friend. And then he meets her…

And Abel adds another item to his list—Hope.

At twenty-six, Hope has only ever slept with one man, and at her boss’s unsolicited advice, Hope plans to forget the abuse and degradation she suffered at her ex’s hand by seducing and bedding the next man she meets. Only, after Hope finds a promise of death at her doorstep, her plans are derailed and only chance at staying alive rests on the dedication of her new body guard and her own sheer will to live the life she deserves.

Audiobook Cover Reveal | September 2017


bonus cover reveal! Weathered Souls: Eric & Ivory


Against all odds, love prevails.

Eric never intended to keep her for himself and Ivory's only plan was to experience more than life intended to offer. 

12/2017


 
 

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Excerpt | Rogue in Love | @kris10inger

Burying his face in her hair, Lex inhaled the sweet, citrusy scent of her shampoo. “Hell yeah. That boy has had a crush on you since I can remember.” Her head popped up and that disbelieving honey gaze met his. “Back in the day, he used to talk about how pretty you were.” Lex lifted a hand and touched a springy curl. “How he’d never been with a black girl before and that he wanted you to be his first.” Thea’s abrupt laughter caught him off guard. He glared at her. “I’m not kidding.”

“Jeez, I guess I should feel lucky that he wanted to fuck me instead of hang me from a tree.”

“What the fuck?” Lex gawked at her. “Who threatened you with that?” Ice filled his veins at the thought of someone hurting her based on the color of her skin. Then shame hit next. Had she been exposed to racism? While Earl, Thea’s grandpa, was white as a damned snowflake, Thea’s momma was black and her daddy white, giving her smooth brown skin and a mutiny of jet black coils atop her head. Almost every physical attribute he found insanely gorgeous about her he could attribute to her mixed-race heritage and suddenly, Lex wondered if their children would don her stunning brown skin. Growing up, Lex hadn’t noticed her race. He’d only seen her intelligence and the keen gleam in her eyes as she debated anything. If he’d ever stumped her, she would run off, study the subject, and come back ready for more. So, more than anything he loved her intellect.

Thea rolled her eyes. “Lex, you can’t be that damned daft. The sheriff is as racist as they come. I’ve heard him talking with the boys and nothing he said makes me think he’d be happy to have my half black butt in his bed at night.” A shadow cast over her eyes and Lex wondered at the shit she’d been forced to hear. This was the South, racism was more than prevalent, but he and Earl had done their best to shield her for from that shit.

“No …” She gave a light chuckle, easing the fury inside of him. “One night I heard him at the bar pissed that some local kid tore up his lawn on his motorcycle. Him and some guys in a gang, that I now know was some motorcycle gang, said they wanted to teach him a lesson—”

“By hanging him from a tree,” he finished. “Damn.” The MC gang she was talking about was the First Sons MC. Lex had made sure to stay the fuck away from the MC; his small potato crimes were nothing compared to the murders and kidnappings the members had been charged with. After being approached by one of the members for a job, Lex made fast work of getting gone and fast. Thea’s next words pulled Lex from his thoughts and into a hell that burned his damned soul.

“He asked Earl for my hand in marriage.” Her admission caused his body to go rigid and his blood to boil. While marriage wasn’t something he’d had too much time to consider in his life, it also wasn’t something he’d take completely off the table. He had just thought of children with Thea, so marriage wasn’t so farfetched.

Threading his fingers through her hair, he softly pulled until she met his gaze. “And you told that piece of shit you have a man, right? And a date with him tonight.” For Lex, there was only one right answer to this question, and Thea got it dead wrong.

Pulling away from him, Thea took a step back. “Umm … we haven’t really decided what this is.” She motioned between the two of them. He hated that she’d retreated from him, from his words and the idea of them as a couple because he couldn’t think of them in any other way. He planned to woo her, take her out on a date and spend time with her. Not just fuck her.

Lex cracked his neck, moving it side to side and releasing the growing tension. “What do think this,” he copied her gesture and motioned between them, “is?” He hoped she didn’t think he made it a habit of running around screwing random women. That wasn’t what he wanted from her. She had to know that that wasn’t who he was … or did she? Ten years was a long time to be gone. People morphed into a myriad of different things in less time than that. Was that what she feared? Thea stuck the tip of her thumb in her mouth, and began nibbling on her nail. The foreboding silence she offered Lex freaked him the hell out. Last night, he explained his intentions and believed he’d been vocal in the fact that he cared for her. “Tell me,” he followed her to the corner of the room where she paced, “what do you think this is?”

#ThunderclAp | Indelible

Want to help spread the word about Indelible's audio release? Spread the word with Thunder Clap!

KINDLE FIRE GIVEAWAY

Indelible: Beneath His Ink

 

Former Marine, Trent Reed, is in desperate need of a Hail Mary.
With each failed attempt to convince his woman to pack up and move to Kentucky, his past finds some new way to rear its ugly head. But when his pregnant ex plows into his life, all hell breaks loose—unearthing parts of his past he wished would stay buried.

Two weeks of vacation with her man? Hell yeah, that is exactly what Teal Lofton’s libido needs. And after surviving seven months apart, their reunion doesn’t disappoint. What she didn’t account for was an unfortunate encounter with people from Trent’s past. A racist, a druggie, and a double-barreled shotgun, culminate into a vacation that will alter the course of her life forever.

Few Are Angels Box Set

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That bed, that room, or even that house didn’t feel like home, though I’d been there many times before during past summers and long weekends with my parents.  The thought of them left a bad taste on my tongue. I swallowed several times, but the bitter taste lingered, growing stronger. I pushed the memory away and stored it in the back of my mind, the place where I locked all of the things that I couldn’t handle and the things that I refused to remember.  That was where their memory would have to stay. I couldn't keep thinking about them because then the voice would start, and with the voice would come the visions and the sickness.  I sat up in bed and looked around for what seemed like the hundredth time. I knew it was late because it was pitch black outside, but I didn’t look at the clock.  I hadn’t slept a full five hours in weeks, and I didn't have anywhere to be in the morning, so time seemed irrelevant. I stayed in this odd fugue state where I was aware of all that was around me, and even more aware that none of it mattered anymore.  I floated through the days on autopilot, waiting for a situation where a reaction was expected from me, and remembering the “normal” way to react. Pretending was a chore that I wasn’t sure I could handle much longer.   The room was so familiar. I knew it like the back of my hand. Why did it seem a million miles away? Or like a dream? Alex and I had spent plenty of time hanging out and growing up together, discovering who we were and where we wanted to go when we were grown.  To us, that meant when we turned eighteen. And now that I’d “grown up,” the disappointment that was my life was more unsettling than anything. The realization of where I was versus where I should have been was a relentless headache I couldn’t remedy. Why did this room seem so cold and alone?  A summer escape became a prison, and a constant reminder of a past that I could never return to.

Normally, my father would be down the hall snoring, and my mother would be in the kitchen with Mrs. Carlton giggling over vodka martinis.  Alex and I would be watching old reruns of Miami Vice.  The memory of my parents crept up my spine and into my heart, causing it to spasm in pain. My lungs felt as though they were filled with water.  I gasped for air, trying to catch my breath, wondering if I would always feel the physical pain at the memory of my mother and father, wondering if the pain would be all I would have left of them in the years to come. In my eyes, memories equaled pain.

I stood up and bent over, putting my face into my sweatpants, and tried to take deep breaths. That had always worked when I panicked at summer camp because I was homesick, feeling out of place amongst the kids who didn’t understand why I didn't want to go swimming in the lake or horseback riding, why I wanted to go home instead.  My stomach heaved. I regretted skipping dinner. Nothing was worse than dry heaving as my body tried to purge itself.

I was sure that I couldn't throw up memories.  Even if I could, I didn't think it would matter; I’d still be full of them. Suddenly, I realized what was happening. I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it, but I didn't want to ride it out for fear that someone would find me passed out in the morning.   The usual wave of nausea that came with my hallucinations slithered into my belly.  My head felt as if it were on fire, which caused my vision to blur and darken.  Everyone thought I was better, that I was cured or close to it. I ran to the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face, hoping that I could shock my body into being normal—free from visions and voices. But it was no use.

“Come to me,” the voice whispered, so close to my ear that I whirled around, thinking someone was in the bathroom with me. The voice. I fought the urge to do as it commanded: follow it into the darkness. My tears threatened to explode, but I held them back. I refused to break down at the Carltons’.  They weren’t going to send me back to the hospital.  The voice and hallucinations weren’t my fault; I couldn’t control them. 

My headache still raged, and from experience, I knew it had not yet reached its crescendo.  I gripped the porcelain sink and squeezed my eyes shut, praying for the pain to subside. My mother had once said that pain was a gift.  It reminded you that you were still alive, and surviving the pain would only make you stronger.  Did she feel that way as she lay dying in the wreckage that night? The thought of my parents’ ordeal did not help. I knew that if I had a full on attack, I would be dragged into a hallucination and they’d find me in the morning, unconscious on the floor. That’d earn me a trip right back to Dr. Lithe and Nurse Laura, with her needles and her pills that made you feel nothing and sleep for days. 

My hands began to ache from the tight grip I had on the sink. When I removed them, they felt stiff and cold.  The voice hadn’t spoken again, but I could hear what sounded like someone scratching at the bathroom door.  I froze. I thought to call out and ask who was there, but an intruder wouldn’t announce himself. 

Would it be so bad if someone killed me?  I was a whack job. I’d flipped out in school when I’d had the vision, the one of my death. They sent me to Ocean Trace to talk to a shrink, and like an idiot, I had confessed my vision to the doctor. A man’s voice demanding that I return to him. My own death. That day I became the fragile girl that everyone was afraid to be around, scared they would set off another episode.  Finally, it was decided that I would go to an inpatient care facility for seventy-two hours, which turned into three weeks.  That was what happened when you let people in, when you told the truth.  It was my fault, and I realized then that keeping my mouth shut and keeping people at a safe distance was for the best. 

I shook my head and rotated my shoulders, trying to pull myself from the fog the pain left behind. Acting braver than I truly felt, I decided that if the person who belonged to the voice in my skull was outside that door waiting to kill me, then so be it.  I couldn’t live like that anymore.  I grabbed the handle, tightened my grip, and wrenched the door open, fully expecting to see a man in a black ski mask with a knife or a gun, but was instead greeted by Max, the Carltons’ pet husky.  His big eyes were lined with what seemed to be worry, or maybe just the need to pee. Since my headache was receding and my stomach was no longer rolling, I decided that some fresh, cold air would be good for my nerves.

The Carltons lived in Northern Virginia along the near-dead Elmwood forest. The mountains there were vast. In Virginia Beach, where I’d moved from, the “mountains” were no more than a few rolling hills. The mountains in Cedar Grove were beautiful, but I had no interest in exploring them as I had during summer and winter breaks in the past. Nothing was the same. Everything seemed smaller. The mountain trails and fresh water streams didn't hold the wonder that they once had.  It was October and already freezing. I slipped into my coat and the new snow boots the Carltons had bought me before I arrived. I tiptoed down the stairs as quietly as I could, Max following closely. I headed out the front door, nearly tripping as Max bounded out and ran straight to the abandoned shed to the left of the house.  As soon as I stepped outside the, cold Northern Virginia wind slapped me in the face, doing just what I hoped it would: waking me up completely. 

 I looked ahead and saw that Max had made his way to the back of the shed.  I prayed he would make his business short so I didn’t freeze to death.  The porch light didn't reach beyond the front of the shed, and Max had disappeared behind it.  The snow covered half of my boots, and I hadn’t thought to wear gloves. I soon regretted going out with just boots and a coat.  I wasn’t in Virginia Beach where we got an inch or two of snow every ten years or so.  In the short time I’d been in Northern Virginia, more than four inches of snow had fallen.  I waited, and when Max didn't come back, I made my way closer to the shed, calling his name as quietly as I could, but with the cold and my growing annoyance, it was getting harder to care if I woke anyone in the house.  I didn’t have to worry about neighbors.  The closest ones were about four miles away.

“Max!”  I whispered fiercely against the icy wind. I hoped that even though he was a dog, he would hear the displeasure in my voice and comply.   The wind moaned quietly, creaking the brittle frozen branches of the trees around me.  My snow boots sounded as if they were crunching glass beneath them. Great, he’ll hear me before I get to him, and he’ll run. I had only wanted to get some fresh air, not relocate to the front yard.  I walked faster, letting my anger quell the fear I felt creeping along my skin as I neared the shed. It was darker back there because the light from the porch didn’t reach that far.  The contrast created an obscure object in front of me.  My vision seemed blurred again, and the shed looked like a giant ink spot, dark and ominous. Normally, I would have turned around and gone the other way when my nerves skittered under my skin, but I didn't care anymore.  As I neared the blurred ink spot, I almost wished a fox or wolf would be back there to eat me and put me out of my misery. I squashed that thought; the doctor called them “self-destructive thoughts.” I had scoffed at him when he said it, but I wondered why I’d been having so many recently.  The thought of something dangerous back there sent a shiver down my spine, and I trembled.  I kept walking. It felt right, as if I were meant to be there. I was being pulled closer and closer to something familiar, a feeling that I couldn’t understand. 

I heard Max growling before I rounded the corner, but not even that stopped me from moving forward.  I understood that something wasn’t right, maybe even dangerous, but my legs wouldn’t comply with fear’s plea to turn and leave. My stomach did a few nervous flips, and my heart raced, leaving me lightheaded and dizzy, but I kept walking. I placed a hand on the side of the shed for balance.  I felt as if I were being swallowed by the murky darkness, never to find my way out again.  My hands and legs were numbing and stiffening from the freezing cold, but I ignored the pain and continued.  It seemed as though I would never reach my destination until, rounding the corner, I heard what sounded like my name being called behind me.  My brain wanted to comply and turn around to see who it was; however, my feet had other plans. Max growled again. My heart threatened to beat up into my throat and out of my body. I held onto the shed with frozen fingers, trying not to collapse into the snow. My legs and feet had gone numb, and my head was a balloon slowly floating above me. I heard my name again, but closer.  Max finally came around from behind the shed and headed to the voice behind me. As I slowly slid to the frozen ground, I saw he had a red smudge on his gray-black muzzle. Max blurred, and my vision flickered, then went black. I didn’t even feel the snow as I fell face first into it.

3 Day Countdown!!

    Trent sat in his truck, just down the street from his home, holding the tiny box in his hand. Deftly he flipped it over and over again with his fingers, watching the burgundy velvet spin. When was the right time to ask a woman to marry you? His fear was that his past would constantly find its way back into his present. Could he drag Teal into muck and mire of his past?

After buying the ring and allowing Katie to fawn over it, he’d spoken to Logan. Though his friend had tried to assuage his concerns, he’d only added to them. Logan’s past was still a major topic of concern with Katie, so much so, they were seeking counseling. Trent couldn’t imagine fucking up Teal’s life so bad she’d need to talk to some doctor about his failures.

Logan had promised they’d both agreed it was necessary, but Trent could hear the disquiet in his best friend’s voice. He feared losing her and his children. And while Logan and Trent faced different demons, both fought a battle in which losing would cost them more than they could afford.

For the first time since he and Teal discussed moving in together, Trent wondered if moving to Vermont might just be the better option. He wondered if he could sacrifice the freedom of living without a mortgage and being his own boss. How selfish was it of him to demand Teal sacrifice her job and security, when he hadn’t considered doing the same? 

And the countdown begins!

December 12th 2016

     

    Teal pursed her lips and smacked his chest. Ducking out from under him, she said, “Finish up those dishes. You promised to take me out for dinner tonight.”

    Trent went back to finishing up the dishes. “When did this happen?”

    “You didn’t think I was going to come all the way down here and allow you to hold me hostage in bed, did you?” She turned and strutted away, her thick ass swaying. “I want to go to that carnival thing in the next town over.” She walked into the laundry room and reached in the dryer. “The one over in . . .” She leaned up and looked to him. Her brow furrowed as she tried to make sense of the word she saying. “Muth-uss-sas?”

    “Mathoussa,” he corrected. Turning away, he scrubbed a dish, paying close attention to the bacon grease that still lingered. He listened as Teal went on about her love of carnivals. Her dulcet voice lulled him into a false calm, damned near making him forget his issues with crowded and loud places. Trent could deal with them for an hour or so, but even then, the sick feeling in his stomach and his headaches would start.

     His heart raced at the idea of spending more than a second in a crowded, noisy-ass place with complete strangers. He could see how easily anyone could use such a crowded place for their agenda. Hell, the Boston Marathon bombings, the subways in New York, and—

    A soft hand gripped his shoulder. “Baby?”

He recognized Teal’s soothing voice as soon as she’d spoken.

    “Shit, wait here. Let me get a towel.” Before he could say a word, she’d disappeared into the bathroom.

    Trent’s surroundings came back into focus and his gaze moved to the sink. The dish water had a red hue swirling into the sudsy water. What the fuck had Teal made? He didn’t remember any pasta sauce.

The sound of Teal’s feet pounding back to him pulled his gaze up. The fear in her eyes had him pulling her into his arms.   “Shit, what’s—”

    Teal pulled from his arms just as fast as he’d grabbed her. “Careful!”

He glanced down at her to see blood smeared on her arm. His eyes widened, but she gave him no time to react. Yanking his hand from her, she showed him what she’d gone crazy over. Teal shoved his hand up to his face and Trent saw a large gash from the middle of his palm to his wrist. His eyes widened at the sight.

    Trent pulled his hand from Teal. “What the fuck?” He looked to her as if she had the answer.

    She swallowed hard before she spoke. “I was talking and I looked up at you. Your shoulders were tense and you weren’t responding to me, so I came over and you’d broken a dish, or a cup or something.”

Shame heated Trent’s face at the look of concern in her eyes. Trent looked away, disgusted by the pity in her gaze; he could take that shit from strangers, but not from Teal. Pushing past her, he headed to the bathroom. He ignored her as she called after him, slamming the door in her face as she attempted to follow him in the bathroom.

Her shocked gasp and thump on the door reminded him of just who was on the other side. She’d raise hell if he left her out there, but Trent just couldn’t bring himself to open the fucking door. Instead, he opened the First Aid kit on the side of his tub and pulled out his supplies.

    “Lord have mercy, just open the damn door,” came Teal’s muffled voice.

Trent rinsed the cut under the faucet and assessed his wound. While it was deep, he could get away with using skin glue instead of heading to the nearest Urgent Care center for stitches.

    “Hey!” She knocked harder on the door. “You think I’ll be squeamish at the sight of blood?

Trent tried to ignore her voice, but her concern ate at him. After trying several times to work with one hand, he finally opened the door.

Teal stood, leaning against the wall, still holding the towel she’d ran to get for him.     “Oh, now you want my help?” Her hand made it to her hip, just as he made to slam the door again.

    Teal caught the door with her palm. “Hey, hey, hey.” She entered the bathroom. “Let me see.”

He grunted and held up his hand, wincing when she grimaced. “Aw hell, Teal. It ain’t that bad.” He viewed the wound again, then motioned to the First Aid kit. “Take out that glue there.”

    “Glue? Hell no. That nasty shit needs stitches.” Dropping the towel, she took his wounded hand in hers. Moving it from side to side to gauge the depth of the cut. “Maybe not. The bleeding is just a slow trickle.”

Trent watched as she flipped the glue box over several times, reading the instructions. He smiled as her lips moved, but no sound escaped them. Finally, she pulled the pen from the box and removed the cap.

“This may sting a little,” she said, but Trent sensed she was speaking more to herself than to him. Her quiet tone turned to a whisper as she berated the pen for not working as she’d expected it to.        “This fucking thing,” she muttered.

Trent used his unharmed hand to gently pull the pen from Teal’s fingers.        Flipping it over in his hand, he pressed the release button at the top. “Sometimes it sticks.”

She took the pen back and placed it on the counter beside them. Trent opened his hand and displayed it for her. She took the towel and dabbed the wound clean. He felt nothing but her soft warm fingers moving over his skin.

She sanitized his hand, glued the wound shut, and wrapped it in gauze. Her delicate touch soothed him so much that her next words didn’t register. Releasing his hand she asked again, “Does it hurt?”

    At her question, he stopped staring at her beautiful face and blinked. Clearing his throat, he glanced down at her handiwork. A throbbing pain pulsed through his hand and up his arm. Why hadn't he felt the pain until now? Looking back at her, he shook his head.

    Cocking a brow, Teal placed a hand on her hip. “Okay, now that we got that taken care of, what the fuck is going on?” Eyeing him observantly she added, “You had that same glazed look in your eyes the day of my crash. Like you weren’t fully there.” She crossed her hand over her chest and sighed.

Trent knew he needed to tell her the truth about his episodes, but that was easier said than done. He’d mentioned his PTSD before, but hadn't gone in detail about his triggers. He avoided her gaze by moving around, cleaning the bloodied towels. “Glazed look?”

    “Yeah, it was as if you weren’t there, Trent. What happened? Was it the carnival?”

Trent turned to her when she went silent. “Ever since my experience overseas, I—” He shrugged, not able to say the words. The last thing he wanted was to talk about PTSD with her again. As if the mandatory meetings all those years back hadn't been enough, now he’d have to wade through the mess with Teal. He trusted her more than anyone else in his life, but that didn’t make speaking about the illness any less traumatic. He was ashamed and embarrassed.