REMEMBERED BY MOONLIGHT . . . Sneak peek!
It was well past the supper hour when Charlotte Cassie let herself into the apartment juggling bags of Chinese takeout. Finding the rooms dark and empty, her mood sank. Appetite lost at the thought of dining alone, she slid the sacks into a nearly empty refrigerator, exchanging them for a beer. She studied the cool glass bottle then, with a heavy sigh, put it back, resigning herself to a comfortless evening.
Where was Max?
She paced and mulled over that question as shadows deepened along with her fears.
Had she expected it to be easy having him here so close and yet so agonizingly far away? Bad enough watching him in that antiseptic clinic cell, a prisoner of his own panicked madness, raving, raging, out of control. Worse was having him here, temptingly near yet impossible to reach in the lush, sexy surroundings he’d built for them to share together. A bargain made in heartbreak hell.
It was practical, logical, she’d argued with the others and with herself. Where better for the damaged Shifter king to recover his fragmented past than in surroundings rich with the memories they’d made? The high rise stronghold he’d erected to house his clan would become his own protective cocoon, where he could remain safely swathed in the details of his life. A huge walk-in closet filled with his designer suits and tailored shirts. The scent of his toiletries in the bathroom, of their bodies entwined together in the bedroom. He had few personal belongings and those he kept out on River Road in the mobster fortress where he’d been reared by Jimmy Legere, but his simple tastes were reflected here in the clean yet sophisticated line of each and every room. She’d been sure the proximity would provoke something . . . other than her frustration.
Max had come with her willingly enough. What option did he have? Remain locked away at the Institute as a subject of surveillance and experimentation? To make the transition less awkward, they had made an agreement to set up cohabitation with no pressure to fulfill the other’s expectations. She would walk him through the personal ins and outs of their life together in an effort to spark something familiar. She’d keep him safe from the outside world and from himself. And from her. What an excruciating Catch 22 that had become. To pretend not to ache for his touch. To keep her hands from reclaiming the long, powerful lines of his body, from absorbing his heat, tasting his lips with a hunger that just kept growing. To roll over in the huge bed only to find the two of them separated by more than just space. Or, more often than not, him absent, preferring the couch to her company for what little rest he was able to find.
Though she might be tortured by cherished memories, he was not. She was nothing to him but a protective port in his emotional storm. And that knowledge was driven home like a stake through her chest every time they were together. Every time he stared at her through those cool green eyes without the slightest flicker of response. Every time he took that distancing step back to evade the casually calculated graze of her hand. Every time he lay next to her in the night and silence created an unbreechable force field of discomfort.
Tripping over him every minute of the damned day only emphasized how much she wanted, needed him back. And underlined how far he was away.
Don’t push. Susanna’s advice weighed like a stone upon her anxious hopes. Make the past available, but don’t overwhelm him with it. Let him take it in slowly, don’t force feed him until he chokes. Offer, but don’t insist. Be patient. Not her strong suit. Max was the one who was willing to wait twelve years before making a move for her affections. He was a virtual Job of restraint. Her, not so much. Time was a luxury she rarely enjoyed in her profession’s race for results. If there was a short cut for his recovery, she would take it in a heartbeat if not for the Chosen doctor’s warning.
Max could crash.
Susanna didn’t have to paint a masterpiece in oils for Cee Cee to get the picture. Overload. Melt down. Circuit fry. Permanent collapse of personality. Since they had no idea what had been done to him, those horrifying consequences were all too possible. Susanna had seen it happen when subjects fought the imprinting process—her kind’s nasty habit of mind control by chemically and psychically altering individual will. Max Savoie had been struggling for his identity since he was a child. That fight was ingrained in him.
So she would go slowly. She would suppress her own desires in order to protect him during this fragile stage of rediscovery, and calmly, patiently encourage those baby steps that would bring back her love, her mate, her dream come true.
But what was she going to do if she couldn’t break through that barrier between them? How was she going to live her life if, instead of going back to what they’d had, he rebuilt his world without her?
Cee Cee collapsed on the couch and closed her eyes, struggling against the burn of distress prickling behind them. Her palms pressed to the faint curve of her abdomen as she remembered Susanna’s concern. Was she all right? Not hardly. Nowhere near it.
Time was running out.
Some elements of the past would soon be apparent. Whether Max was ready to face them or not.
Excerpt from my new work-in-progress
REMEMBERED BY MOONLIGHT