Authors: Aliyah Burke
To survive the present and have a future, she must trust a man from her past.
D.A.R.K. Cover, Inc., Book 2
Shelly Marie Dixon is a woman with a scary past. Literally. Never able to settle in one place because of the man set on tormenting her. After five years of struggling to move on with her life, she goes back to the man she left years ago. Hopefully, he will help her and not brush her aside.
Adam Wilder, eldest brother and co-founder of D.A.R.K Cover, Inc., never in his wildest dreams expected to find his lost love sitting in the lobby of his company building. No way he’s letting her face this danger alone. If it takes all of D.A.R.K’s resources he will risk it. Whatever it takes to keep her safe. Problem is, will he be able to keep it professional, because one look at her and he wants to go back to how things were, way back when.
The only way that is going to happen is if she’ll believe him when he says: “Trust me.”
eBooks are not transferable. They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement of the copyright of this work.
Copyright © 2016 ALIYAH BURKE
All Romance eBooks, LLC Palm Harbor, Florida 34684
This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or business establishments, events, or locales is coincidental.
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever with out written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First All Romance eBooks publication: March 2016
“Well, shit.” Shelly Marie Dixon dropped the dishrag as she stared outside at the torrential downpour that had just taken out her power. House swathed in darkness, she gripped the edge of the sink and struggled not to panic.
Just hold out for a few seconds.
She clenched her teeth, took deep breaths, and waited on eggshells. Five seconds and the generator kicked on. A deep shuddering breath when the soft lighting pushed back the inky blackness. She stared at her hand, gaze sliding along the faded knife scars in her skin.
Five years. Five years of terror, night sweats, and panic attacks. So much so, she ended up leaving Washington, D.C. to move out to this small town in Colorado in a failing attempt to start over. She gazed out the window, past the herbs growing in their little clay pots, to the deluge creating a river of leaves and grass clippings as they flowed past.
“Hell of a time for my fears to kick in.” She left the dishes in the sink and returned to the corner of her one room studio apartment to dig in the chest of drawers where she swiped three push lights.
“Should have had these out and on beforehand. The second I heard the thunder.” Her hands trembled lightly as she set them in strategic places, turning them to ready. This way if the generator went out, there would still be light. Typically she had them out but, to be honest, she was attempting to move beyond her fear.
Ensuring her place was lit and would continue to be no matter what the weather threw at her, she made her way back to the sink and finished the remaining dishes. Hands dry, she closed the sheer curtains over the sink and walked to the loveseat against the far wall. She could see out the window and the door from here.
Lifting her journal from the arm of her seat, she clicked her pencil then put down her events of the day. As she finished the last line, the generator cut off. Instantly her emergency push lights popped on. Her heart hammered in her chest and sweat slicked her palms, freeing the pencil to tumble to the floor.
Her mind raced with the numerous scenarios. She’d filled the generator so it wasn’t out of fuel. It had been in perfect working order. Was it intentional and sabotage? Or had it crapped out honestly?
Even with all the years and miles between her and the incident her suspicion remained high and on alert. She needed to check. Fear had her anchored to the cushion. Forcing herself to move, she shoved on her boots—without tying them—grabbed a flashlight and keys, then went to the door. She could be scared later.
A few more deep breaths and she exited her studio apartment, stepping into the rain once she cleared the awning. Soaked in seconds, she shivered and walked around to the small alcove where her generator had been positioned.
The beam from her light shone on the red generator and her heart sank. It
been tampered with and that wasn’t the only issue. Propped in the corner out of the wind sat a single long-stemmed daffodil with a dark purple ribbon in a bow around it. Her light fell to the mud at her feet. She didn’t need to read the card there to know the words scripted.
The bastard had found her. Or his people had. She dropped to her knees, searching for the heavy grey Maglite. One finger shoved hard into it, as her knees grew chilled from the cold mud. The spike of pain from her nail bending back pushed her back to reality.
Stumbling to her feet, she hurried to her door, muddy hand digging for her keys. Panting with exhaustion, she pushed inside and slammed the door behind her. Her legs were shaky at best. Shelly Marie locked her door and shut all the curtains.
“Am I ever going to be in peace?”
She shoved a chair beneath the doorknob then made her way to change clothing, actions automatic and jerky. Dry except for her hair, she dug for her throwaway phone and dialed the one number programmed in the list.
“How are you?”
The voice had its own dose of fear in it as well.
“There was a flower beside my sabotaged generator.” Her words were tenuous.
“Fuck, that’s it. You’re going to this company I know about and if you say no, I’ll come drive you myself.”
Chewing on her thumbnail, she listened to her best friend. The tone was all business. “I’m not fighting you on it. Not anymore. You think they can help, I’ll go.”
Tracey Fillmount cleared her throat. “I want to be there with you so bad. I can hear how scared you are.”
“He’s taken everything from me. I can’t do this anymore.” Her voice wobbled. “I just can’t.”
“Tell me where you are. I’ll catch the next flight.”
“I can’t risk you.” She wasn’t losing anyone else. Of course, Tracey was the only one left in her life. “I
“I’ll text the addy. Get there quick so I can come see you.”
“Tracey…” Really, what words could be said? “I—”
“You never have to say it. Love you, Shel.” She hung up.
Tracey had the information to her phone seconds later. Shelly memorized what she needed to and grabbed her keys only to pause by the door. There wasn’t time for her to pack; she had to get out of there. Robert loved people living in fear, he got off on it. Shoving two changes of clothes in her bag, she shouldered it and headed out. Nothing new for her to take her backpack when she left, she didn’t own a purse. She prayed her vehicle hadn’t been messed with. A prayer—hopefully not to be her final one—passed her lips as she headed back out into the downpour.
However, despite the address Tracey had given her, Shelly ignored the destination that would take her to Davidson Protection and went a completely different direction. If one of Robert’s men had gotten to her friend, they would know where she was heading. There was only one place she could go now. A place even Tracey didn’t know about. To the one man who may be able to help her. Who may be able to save her life, if he didn’t hate her too much to assist.
Adam Wilder scowled as he strode through the winter snow to the plowed path leading to the D.A.R.K. Cover, Inc. building. His shoulder still ached from the bullet that he’d received in the last month. He could do for a rest, no argument.
Go to Belize as I did. It’ll do you a world of good.
His youngest brother Wild’s words echoed through his mind as he yanked the outer door open and pushed into the heat. He tugged on the cuff of his black leather glove and headed for the stairs. He had too damn much paperwork waiting for him.
“Adam? Adam, do you have a sec?”
He paused three steps before the stairs. His sister-in-law Karen—who doubled as their secretary—called his name.
“Can you open the closet, please?”
He peered over his shoulder to see her carrying a stack of boxes. Adam dropped his bag and hurried to her side. “What are you doing? Where’s Rhodi? He shouldn’t let you carry so much.”
“I’m not an invalid.”
He grunted and took the four boxes from her, smiling down on her short blonde hair. “Never said you were. Implied my brother is a lazy bastard, but never that you’re an invalid.”
She punched him and, solely because he liked her, he gave the obligatory grunt. An act that earned him another hit. She opened the door and he maneuvered by to place the boxes down on the table before sliding them onto the steel grey shelf.
“How’s my nephew?”
“Demanding, turning more like his daddy.” She rocked back on her heels, hands in pockets. “Never imagined I’d enjoy being a mom. He’s everything to me.”
“Brayden’s a great kid. Go on, I’m sure you’ve got other things to do.”
She smiled and nodded, the twinkle in her eyes making him wonder if she’d not waited for him to do it. He didn’t mind really.
Ten minutes later, he left and headed back to swipe his bag, then took the stairs two at a time. He tossed his bag to land near the black leather couch as he continued to the large desk, also black, and sat heavily.
He needed to get away. His last mission had taken more from him than it should have. More than he cared to admit. Moreover, the problem was, it shouldn’t have for it had been a babysitting gig. Woman and her son, hiding from the ex-husband’s parents who—if he did say so himself—were some ruthless bastards.
For the next two hours he took care of paperwork, lining up other jobs and making notes on completed ones. His phone buzzed and he hit the button with the pen. “Yes?”
“Could you come down here please?”
Adam didn’t hesitate, he wasn’t fond of the tremor in her voice. “On my way.” He grabbed his Glock, made sure the magazine was full, and shoved it in the back of his waistband as he hurried to the door. He took the stairs and pushed through the door to find his sister-in-law sitting at her desk, watching for him. Scanning the area, he didn’t see anyone and met her gaze once more.
“What’s going on?”
“There’s someone here to see you.”
Another look around their waiting room. No one was there. “Who are you talking about, Karen?”
The door to the bathroom opened and a small figure stepped out, ball cap pulled low over the face, so he couldn’t tell who it was.
He ran another perusal of her. Her fear was obvious and her suspicion. He glanced back to Karen, who shook her head to his unasked question of why she called him. Derek had a way of making women feel safe, he was the lighthearted one. Not Adam.
“She asked for you by name,” Karen whispered, answering the question as to why it was him.
Raking a hand through his hair, he stepped forward. “You asked to see me?” he queried, willing her to lift her gaze.
She raised a hand and removed her hat, simultaneously tilting her chin. Dark red curls tumbled free as he was speared by a pair of emerald green eyes he never thought he’d see again in his lifetime. His lungs were empty and it took a moment for him to comprehend, his brain reminding him to breathe.
“Shelly Marie?” Surely it had to be a mistake he was seeing her before him.
“I know I’m the last person you want to see, Adam, but I need your help.” That pink tongue of hers darted out to dampen her lips. “Please.”
Adam blinked a few times. The apparition before him didn’t move anywhere. He took another visual perusal of her. This time picking up on every nuance. Physically this woman may be the one he knew like the back of his hand, but that’s where it ended. It wasn’t his woman on the inside. Dark circles under her eyes were hidden by makeup, while the corners of her mouth were tight with strain. And there was the way her fingers barely peeked out from the oversized long sleeve tee and worked the hat brim with an abundance of nervous energy.
She reminded him of a deer, frightened and ready to bolt at the slightest bit of provocation. Not at all the level headed, calm, woman he’d fallen in love with all those years ago. Karen’s overly inquisitive gaze flicked between the two of them.
“Let’s talk in my office.”
Her green gaze jumped to the door before settling back on him, almost as if seeing him for the first time.
What has her so spooked?
“Okay.” She looked at Karen. “Thank you.”
He gestured for Shelly Marie to go before him, toward the elevator. He opted for this way, pretty damn sure she’d bolt if they took the stairs.