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Teaser Tuesday: Give Me Shelter

Here's an excerpt from the first in my Marshals series, Give Me Shelter!

You can pick it up here!

The heaviest part of the storm passed Bex by with a bottle of pinot on the coffee table and an old Steve McQueen movie on the TV, at least, until she lost power and then it was just her and the bottle. Considering her mood, she couldn’t think of better company.

The Fergusons, or as she privately thought them ‘Manson-family Lite’, were giving her gray hairs. So much angst, rage, and resentment distributed between the three of them, there was no way out that didn’t involve extensive blood loss and/or counseling. There was no way out of this that would leave them intact, and that was a hard pill to swallow, considering all she’d done to help them change their lives since they’d come into the program.

Violet, on the other hand, remained completely unfazed by the upheaval of leaving her old life and moving into the program. Of course, up to this point, everything in her life had been unsettled, so it stood to reason that she could adapt quickly to just about anything.

She was a kindred spirit, with her eyes sharp and her back unbowed because she didn’t know any other way to carry on. She’d referred to her experiences in Massachusetts as her ‘prison break’, out of bondage and into her own life as a free woman. In a lot of ways, Vi’s life was similar to Bex’s, whose life had been one big prison break, from two days before her seventh birthday when the man she’d thought had been her father left after learning the truth, until now. Only Vi had managed to ditch her jailers and really make a break for it.

Bex smiled, such a tough kid, with the stones to walk away from her mother, and the only life she’d known, at fourteen. Reclining on the couch with her feet on the table, she swirled the wine in her glass. Had it not been for her younger sister, she would have made the same choice. Walked away from the drama, the craziness, and the maternal albatross around her neck. Her life would certainly have been different without the chaos and the endless stage show tragedy that was her own mother, even in her occasional bouts of sobriety.

Only that wasn’t true. She grimaced as she sipped her wine. Whether she wanted it or not, the other constant in her life brought order from the white noise with no visible effort at all. Eli was with her, beside her as her friend, behind her as her ally, and in front of her when necessary, always without complaint and no expectation of a reward. And it was only recently that she began to suspect why.

He never said anything about it, which was surprising given his penchant for talking about anything that came to his mind, but every once in a while she saw . . . something. A flash of longing on his face, an extra hint of affection beyond merely being her friend, hell, even last night as she sat mutely on his couch. He was tender with her, in a way that seemed different from the way he interacted with other women. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on her part, but she’d been expertly reading people since about the age of ten, and felt pretty confident.

That confidence, however, didn’t necessarily translate into action. Just because she believed that maybe, most likely, he felt the same didn’t mean that she knew what to do about it from here. Her longest relationship to date had only lasted one tumultuous year and the restraining order was still in effect. She figured that long-term relationships just weren’t in her DNA. It’s not like she’d had the best of role models, either.

It didn’t mean that she hadn’t thought about it more than once. The long car rides transporting witnesses, when they got to talk, really talk. He drove, so she could watch him to her heart’s content without concern of being discovered. His angular features gave him a somewhat austere look that his blue eyes infused with warmth. His mouth was quick to smile and had been at the root of more than a couple fantasies of hers, late at night fare that wouldn’t even be okay on cable. The phone rattled on the coffee table in front of her, making her frown. There were only two reasons for late night calls, neither of which she felt like dealing with right now. One look at the caller ID had a rueful smile tugging at her lips. “Afraid of the dark?”

“Nyctophobia, from the Greek Nyx or night, is one of the most common and primal of man’s fears, but alas, I just wanted to check on you.” His late-night voice, all sexy and honeyed with a touch of bourbon, always reminded her of dark chocolate, decadent and mostly forbidden. Even when he was spitting out random factoids, she just loved listening to him talk. “I lost power during the last lightning strike.”

“Same here. Killed my movie. You never see Bullitt on cable.” She kicked her legs up so she was stretched out on the couch, a hand behind her head as she closed her eyes and imagined him in bed, speaking life into the darkness around him. “What about you?”

He hummed and in her mind she could see him stretching out, the sheet inching lower on his bare chest. “Played a little online chess, watched a rerun of Ghost Hunters International, nothing special.”

Her lips twitched in amusement. “We’re an action-packed pair, aren’t we?”

He hummed in agreement. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay. You know you can call me if you need me.”

“I know.” She sighed and leaned up to sip the last of her wine. He was always just a shade extra attentive when she was having a tough time, bringing her thoughts on him full circle. “You take good care of me.”

“Someone has to.” The smile in his voice warmed her and reminded her of a cozy hug. “Sleep well, Bex.”

“You too, Eli.” They disconnected and for a moment she let herself dream of not having to tell him goodnight. Of resting comfortably in his arms, regardless of the storms outside, literal and figurative.

Bex knew she was a train wreck when it came to relationships, so that’s why they remained only fantasies. His gentle and loving nature would be bled dry in under a week and it would wreck the best partnership and friendship she’d ever had. Regardless of the potentially smokin’ hot sex they’d have, she knew it was probably a bad idea. Still, in the dark, it was a nice dream to have.

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