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Standalones - Pretend You're Here

Standalones - Pretend You're Here

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"I'm FBI Agent Stephanie Caddel and I'm on a mission to find a kidnapper in Northern Idaho. My job is to bring him to justice and make sure he can't hurt anyone else. But, as I investigate the case, I start to feel like I'm being watched. 

​​​​​​​That's when I realize that I'm the kidnapper's next victim. I need to act fast if I want to survive."

Read Chapter 1

I slipped my fingers between his and closed them over the space in between.

“Can we talk?” he whispered in that way that made me weak.

I swallowed. 

He couldn’t see my face with his head lying over my middle, and I was thankful for that because he wouldn’t see the tears sliding down the sides. By his tone, I knew he meant to break a vow he’d made long ago, and I couldn’t let that happen. But of course, I’d known this was coming for a long time…edging nearer every time we met.

Running my fingers through Owen’s damp hair one last time, I’d miss him; these stolen moments were wrecked. He didn’t know that yet. Nor did he know the missing part came next. 

“Of course,” I said, doing a fantastic imitation of not lying.

This was the last time we’d meet again in a room alone. I knew what love was and what it wasn’t. After spending a week on assignment with this man, I saw nothing but trouble on the horizon. Love made your heart beam and bleed into your soul. Not love might affect other parts of your body, but it never reached that rare destination. That place where Owen lived. There’s a clear distinction, and I knew not long after we started meeting this way…we’d gone too far. At first, I thought it was just me…but no. The way he held me. The way he looked in my eyes. The way his hands shook before he touched me as if he’d longed for the link since the last time we were together. The way his lips met mine. There was no way around the fact that I was in love with him, and he…loved me without a doubt. And despite that fact, though personal relationships were strongly discouraged in the department, Owen was married which went against everything I stood for.

“It’s not about the case,” he said, lifting his head, and his eyes met mine.

I brushed the river away from my eye. “I…figured that.” I sat up and pulled the sheet up over myself, and he stared at the barrier for a moment and then got up and slipped his legs into his pants at the side of the bed, his belt still in the loops hanging open.

“I’ve been thinking…what? Don’t look at me like that. Are you okay?”

I grabbed the free water bottle I’d left on the nightstand. The ones they give you when you sign in at the front desk if you have a special membership. My hand went straight to my head, and I used it to hide my eyes from him. 

He wasn’t going to do this now if I could prevent him.

“No…don’t,” I said. “I’ve got to get back.”

“Steph, I…” 

I couldn’t handle it. I dropped the sheet and rushed Owen, leaning my bare skin against his chest, my hands covered his whiskered mouth. “Please don’t. Please…don’t say it.” 

It was wrong. In my gut, I knew the truth, but in my mind, I couldn’t help but want him forever. My heart raced every time I neared Owen Garner. I knew it was mutual because he drew lazy circles with the rough tip of his index finger against my shoulder. I would miss this.

The moment I’d met him, he stared first at my eyes, they softened, and then he’d smiled. His eyes lingered on my lips after that…tearing right through my defenses like no one I’d ever met in my life. We’d both tried to fight the insistent desire at first. 

Owen was my superior, after all. In fact, in the beginning, to conceal his emotions, he did the classic thing guys do. When they don’t want someone to know they’re attracted to them, they insult them at every turn, just like a little boy pulling a braid. He found ways to fault my procedures, and no matter how minuscule the infraction, he’d let me know my failings at every chance.

I would look into Owen’s eyes, which stared at me with admonishment, but then the hardness would soften and linger a little too long. 

I’d smile. 

He’d brush his hand through his own hair and turn away from me. It was only a matter of time before either of us could contain ourselves. I loved him like no other, and no one had ever come close to making me feel this way.

But Owen had a wife, and I gave in to the unspoken feelings between us. This was my fault. I was weak, and that weakness scared me to death.

My mother drowned in a bottle over time due to his careless affair. I never forgave my father, and the habit eventually led her to an early death. He died too, without me, somewhere on the other side of the country with a new wife I’d never met. I emphatically vowed I’d never be that person; I’d never steal a man from another woman. I would never cause that kind of pain that destroyed my mother. To me, that was a sin beyond all others, especially when children were involved. And Owen had a son.

He’d made a liar out of me. I’d been weak a moment too long. He had a son with eyes the same shade of brown as his own. And when Owen looked at her…I knew it was the same way he looked at me. I’d met them at picnics. I’d covered for Owen when his son broke his arm last year. And when his wife met me for the first time, I’d held her hand a moment and smiled as I looked right into her eyes. I smiled at her too.  Such betrayal…just like my mother was betrayed. So this was why I cried inside as Owen held me against him.  Only I knew the impending pain of losing him and destroying what we shared together. I had to fix the sin. It wasn’t too late. I knew it had to be done, and it had to be done now.

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