Recovered Innocence series continues as two broken souls discover that keeping
their hands off each other is even harder than facing their demons.
behind bars for a crime I didn’t commit—the murder of the woman I loved. Now
I’m free, but life on the outside is a different kind of prison. I don’t know
who I am or who I want to be. At least I have my sister, Cora. She never
stopped believing in me. She even got me a job at the private investigation
agency that cleared my name. And then Vera Swain walks into Nash Security and
Investigations and kicks my world on its ass.
make me come out of hiding after two years on the run: finding my sister. I
made the mistake of telling a monster about her, the same monster who beat me
and broke me. Now I’m forced to confide in Beau Hollis of Nash Security and
Investigations. He looks at me like he knows me—the real me. He sees too much,
makes me feel too much. The pleasure he offers is exciting and
addictive. But I can’t fall for him . . . because my love could get us both
Cora backs out the front door of her garage apartment, her arms full. I jog up the walk and relieve her of the files she’s carrying. She locks the door and turns to me, a big smile on her face. It gets me every time. A combination of joy and surprise like she can’t believe I’m really there. I can’t believe it either. I hope I never get used to this feeling, or to that smile. I hope she doesn’t either.
I follow her down the walk to her car and put her files in the trunk. I stand just in time to see the car keys flying at my face and catch them before they smack into my nose.
“You have to practice sometime,” she says. “Drive us to work.”
I haven’t driven in more than six years. My license expired while I was in prison. My parents sold my car.
“Are you sure?”
She opens the passenger door and climbs in with a wink. I let out a frosty breath in the cool morning air. This is one more thing I have to relearn in my life outside. I slide into the driver’s seat and adjust it for my bigger body and longer legs.
“The mirrors too,” Cora reminds me.
It’s like I’m taking driver’s ed all over again, but with my little sister as my teacher. I hope driving isn’t as hard as riding a bike. That shit took me too many tries to get right. I’m wobbly like a kid riding without training wheels for the first time. Bike riding is a fucked-up metaphor for my life now. Everything is an uphill struggle and scary as fuck. I suck so bad at it, I wonder sometimes if I shouldn’t just commit a crime for real this time so I can go back to the predictability and reliability of prison life. I won’t, but the thought is scarily tempting sometimes.
You wouldn’t think being free would be so hard.
I do as Cora instructs and start the car. She coaches me the whole way. I’m relieved when we arrive safely. Driving is a hell of a lot easier than riding a bike. We get out of the car and head into the offices of Nash Security and Investigation. I owe Cora and everyone in this place everything. If Mr. Nash and his son, Leo, hadn’t agreed to help Cora find the bastard who killed Cassandra and worked to set me free, I’d still be sitting in a cell. How do you repay someone who rescued you from hell and gave you your life back?
I juggle Cora’s files that I retrieved from the trunk, open the door for her, and follow her inside. The receptionist, Savannah, looks up at Cora, then does a double take when she spies me trailing behind my sister. Her first, fleeting glance is full of female appreciation that quickly morphs into avid curiosity tinged with fear. She doesn’t want to be attracted to an ex-con, but I’d put money on her panties being soaked at the thought of fucking me. I’m a walking, talking good girl’s bad-boy dream. I’m the guy she bangs once or twice on the quiet just so she can brag about it later to her friends.
I grin at Savannah, following it with a wink and a lick of the lips. She gasps and presses her hands to her chest. Her cheeks bloom red. If we were alone I bet I could take her right there on top of her desk. Wouldn’t even have to pull her panties all the way down, just push up her skirt and pull them aside. She’d shower after, feeling dirty, and later she’d jack off, reliving it. I’m not even the slightest bit tempted by her or any other woman I’ve met since I got out.
Another way my life’s fucked up.
I set Cora’s files down where she directs me to. Her office is small, with two desks in the middle facing each other. It’s an odd arrangement, but Cora likes it this way, I guess.
She gestures to the desk opposite hers. “Have a seat.” She sifts through her pile of files until she finds what she’s looking for, then pulls it out and comes around to where I’m sitting. “I thought maybe I’d start you off with some simple searches. See if you like the work.” She twitches the mouse, bringing the computer screen to life. “These are the search sites we use.”
Clicking on the top three bookmarked sites, she brings them up, explaining how they use them and what info the sites can provide. She has me do some easy searches, then leaves me on my own. I don’t suck at it. I’m actually quite good. And I like the work. I’m halfway through the searches Cora wanted me to do when Savannah sticks her head in the doorway.
“Vera Swain, your ten o’clock, is here,” she tells Cora. Her gaze darts to me, then back to Cora.
“Thanks, Savannah. Want to sit in?” Cora asks me. “Take a break from the computer?”
“Sure.” I stand and stretch.
Savannah jumps and squeaks, then disappears from the doorway.
Cora’s mouth bends into a frown. “I don’t know what’s wrong with her lately.”
“I’ll talk to her.”
I follow Cora into the reception area. Savannah blocks whoever it is she’s talking to so I can’t see who it is, but whoever they are, they’re small, much smaller than Savannah’s five-nine frame. Savannah shifts, revealing a pastel confection of a young woman about Cora’s age.
All lace and silk, she’s sweet looking in her soft colors like she just walked out of a Sunday church service. But the look in her eyes is wary . . . suspicious . . . jaded, reminding me of angry, hard prison stares. This chick’s seen some shit. More than that, she’s experienced some shit, has maybe even done some shit. She’s a survivor. This I understand. I recognize her in the same way I recognize the new man that stares back at me in the mirror.
Her costume is nearly perfect. I bet if I sniffed her she’d smell like baby powder and lemons. I edge closer to her. She catches me with a sudden flick of a glance, freezing me where I stand. Everything about her shouts Back the fuck off. It only makes me want to draw closer. Who is she? Who or what made her this way? And why does she look at me like she knows who I am? Not the TV-news-segment me, but the real me, the Beau deep down inside.
For the first time since I got out of prison I don’t feel alone. There really are others out there like me. One of them is standing mere feet in front of me, regarding me with the same guarded, expectant look I’m wearing.
And she’s beautiful.
suspense, mysteries, and the occasional hilarious Tweet. She discovered romance
novels in middle school and hasn’t stopped writing since. For a number of
years, she made her living as a hairstylist and makeup artist and co-owned a
salon. Somehow hairstylists and salons always seem to find a way into her
stories. Yarnall lives with her husband, two sons, and their rescue dog in
Orange County, California, where she’s hard at work on her next novel.