Nice to be back after a week's break. I thought, this Sunday, I would post from my June release Cold, Cold Heart. Not long before it hits the cyber shelves. This work was previously published under the title of Letting Go and I am happy to have been given the chance to tweak it and bring it up to date. So, with further ado, I introduce you to the world of Daniel and Rachel.
The boy squeezed back the tears. Needle sharp gravel dug deep into already bleeding knees and bit into stinging cheeks as merciless assailants grabbed hold of hair and twisted his neck to the side. He tasted dirt. A cruel smile spread across the ringleader's podgy face.
Still, the boy did not cry. Not wanting to give them the satisfaction, he did what he always did and shut off from the torment and humiliation.
Daniel Haynes has the world at his feet- fame, fortune, so why does he feel so empty inside? What is his interest in Rachel Warner, a girl from a quiet Home Counties English town? Why does she hold the key to his happiness?
But Rachel Warner is scared. Daniel's interest in her threatens her ordered yet unsatisfying life because she has to live with the shadow of her ex-father-in-law breathing over her shoulder. Can she let go of her fears?
“You are not having a good day, are you?”
She sat up, ramrod-straight. Daniel Haines leaned against the open door, his arms folded and gaze fixed on her, probing once more.
“Do you always eavesdrop on private conversations?” Rachel rubbed at her eyes, grateful she'd been in too much of a hurry to bother with mascara.
“The door was open,” he replied in that Yankee tone. “I apologize….” He made a point of knocking loudly. “May I come in?”
Without waiting for her answer, he walked into the room, sat down in the chair on the other side of her desk and stretched out long legs before crossing them at the ankles.
“Make yourself at home…I would,” Rachel muttered. She pulled herself together. He was, after all, a hotel guest and a very important one at that.
For one long moment, he did nothing but stare at her, an unfathomable expression on his face. Then he said quietly, “You shouldn't allow him to intimidate you, you know.”
At first Rachel thought she'd misheard him. “Are you always so presumptuous?” she managed to blurt out.
“No.” He smiled at her. “I'm only concerned.”
A frisson of unease ran down her spine.
He leaned across the desk. “Actually, I've come to apologize for Mai. She can be real possessive at times.”
“Possessive?” Rachel tried not to laugh. “Obsessed more like. I mean I know she's beautiful and probably very obliging, but how can you stand to be smothered like that?”
“Excuse me?” He sat up. “Now who's being presumptuous?”
Guilt caused her cheek to grow hot. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply….”
He waved her apology aside. “Forget it. You are free to think what you want. As I said, I'm here because I believe my crew treated you with less than professional courtesy. Sometimes the guys get carried away. Try and understand. It's hard being cooped up in hotel rooms for weeks on end.”
Rachel couldn't hold back her grimace. Here it comes, the I'm-so-misunderstood-my-life-is-not-my-own sob story. She'd heard it a hundred times over and usually following a night of drunken excess and loutish behavior that prompted a host of complaints from the hotel cleaning staff.
“Interesting.” The smile disappeared. “You're skeptical. Are you judging me? You see me as an underworked, overpaid, and probably oversexed musician. I don't impress you much, do I?”
Her mouth fell open at the astute appraisal.
“You don't know anything about me, Miss…or is it Mrs.? I seem to recall a child being mentioned.”
Rachel’s hackles went back up. “It doesn't state anywhere in my job description that I have to discuss my personal life with the guests, Mr. Haines. I….” The words died in her throat. Reaching out to her, he pushed aside a lock of hair that strayed from her ragged chignon. Warm fingertips brushed against her cheek. She shrank back, her reaction born out of habit and her dislike of physical intimacy. She only felt comfortable hugging and touching Alex.
“Please.” His tone caressed. “Call me Daniel.”
“No.” The word left her lips before she had time to think. “I…I couldn't. It wouldn't be professional.” She looked away, heat creeping up her neck and rising to her cheeks. To her relief, he sat back, arms folded.
“You are so wound up.” Amusement etched tiny lines around his eyes. “You do need to chill.”
“I am perfectly 'chilled,' thank you.” She sniffed, more than a trifle irked.
“I think not. You're stressed. I can tell.”
“Mr. Haines, just why exactly are you here?” She was in no mood for American psycho-babble. She shuffled the papers on her desk, feigning efficiency.
“If you must know….” He folded his arms behind his head and the black T-shirt rose up, affording Rachel a glimpse of well-toned, tanned stomach muscles. “I've come to return your form. I know, I could have sent Mai, but I didn't want to be responsible for a blood bath. Quite honestly, I don't know who is scarier, you or Mai. Okay, okay, stop glaring.” He made the sign of the cross. “I'm kidding. Seriously, I couldn't think of anything to write. There’s nothing I need. We are all very comfortable here. My compliments to the man.” Gaze drifting to the shelf behind her head, he sniffed the air. “However…that coffee smells real good. I've changed my mind. There is something I need. A cup of that would just hit the spot. The stuff room service delivers is pretty damn weak. You can put that in the complaints section, if you like.”
Rachel swallowed. He wanted a cup of her coffee? The entire interlude was too surreal for words.
“Do you mind?” The blue eyes probed her thoughts again. “Only if it's not too much trouble….”
“Mind? Oh…no…of course not. Excuse me one moment, please. I'll just...em...find another mug.” Dropping to her knees, she rummaged through the cupboard under her desk for an un chipped mug.
Pushing aside four years' worth of debris, she wished the green hotel uniform had a longer, not-so-tight fitting skirt.
“Having trouble down there?”
Rachel sat on her haunches, her face flushed, cream blouse in disarray. “No.” Clutching a stained cup to her palpitating chest, she got to her feet, stumbling as her thighs protested. “Milk, sugar?” She turned to the machine. By now, she felt hot and bothered and more unruly strands of hair escaped the hairpins.
“I'm hurt. Isn't it your job to know these things? Aren't you supposed to be acquainted with my every like and dislike?”
Rachel spun round, sharp retort at the ready, but then she saw the sparkle in his eyes.
He laughed at her pique. “You really don't know anything about me, do you? Oh, but don't apologize. It's really refreshing.”
COLD, COLD HEART...Coming soon to MuseItHot Publishing