Years ago, I counted down to the on-sale date of Release Me and the other books in the original Stark Trilogy by posting chunks online in countdown style. Since we’re just over one week until Anchor Me goes on sale, I wanted to do that again, especially since Anchor Me is the fourth full-length book in the trilogy! (I know, I know. I’m a rule-breaker…)
I hope you enjoy … and come back every day until April 11 for a new snippet from the book!
Note: If you’re coming at this page from Facebook, click HERE to jump immediately to where the snippet left off.
Anchor Me – Chapter One
I look out the window at the beautifully manicured yards that line the wide street down which I am traveling in the sumptuous luxury of a classic Rolls Royce Phantom. A car so sleek and magical that I can’t help but feel like a princess in a royal coach.
The road is shaded by parallel rows of massive oaks, their branches arcing over the street toward their counterparts to form a leafy canopy. Morning light fights its way between the leaves, creating golden beams in which dust sparkles and dances as if to a celebratory melody, adding to the illusion that we are moving through a fairy tale world.
All in all, it’s a picture-perfect moment.
Except it’s not. Not really. Or at least not to me.
Because as far as I’m concerned, this is no children’s story.
This is Dallas. This is the neighborhood where I grew up. And that means that this isn’t a fairy tale. It’s a nightmare.
The branches aren’t stunning—they’re grasping. Reaching out to snare me. To hold me tight. To trap me.
The canopy doesn’t mark a royal corridor leading to a castle. It leads to a cell. And it’s not The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies that fills the air. It is a requiem for the dead.
The world outside the car is lined with traps, and if I’m not careful, I’ll be sucked in. Destroyed by the darkness that hides behind the false facades of these stately houses. Surrounded not by a bright children’s tale, but by a horror movie, lured in by the promise of beauty and then trapped forever and slowly destroyed, ripped to pieces by the monsters in the dark.
Breathe, I tell myself. You can do this. You just have to remember to breathe.
His tone is soft, profoundly gentle, but when I glance toward him, I see that his eyes have dipped to my lap.
For a moment, I’m confused, then I realize that I’ve inched up my skirt, and my fingertip is slowly tracing the violent scar that mars my inner thigh. A souvenir of the deep, ugly wound that I inflicted upon myself a decade ago when I was desperate to find a way to release all the pent-up anger and fear and pain that swirled inside me like a phalanx of demons.
I yank my hand away, then turn to look out the window, feeling oddly, stupidly ashamed.
He says nothing, but the car moves to the curb and then rolls to a stop. A moment later, Damien’s fingers twine with mine. I hold tight, drawing strength, and when I shift to look at him more directly, I see worry etched in the hard angles of that perfect face and reflected in those exceptional, dual-colored eyes.
Worry, yes. But it is the rest of what I see that takes my breath away. Understanding. Support. Respect.
Most of all, I see a love so fierce it has the power to melt me, and I revel in its power to soothe.
He is the biggest miracle of my life, and there are moments when I still can’t believe that he is mine.
Damien Stark. My husband, my lover, my best friend. A man who commands an empire with a firm, controlling hand. Who takes orders from no one, and yet today is playing chauffeur so that he can stand beside me while I confront my past.
For a moment, I simply soak him in. His strength, apparent in both his commanding manner and the long, lean lines of his athletic body. His support, reflected in those eyes that see me so intimately. That have, over the years, learned all my secrets.
Damien knows every scar on my body, as well as the story behind each. He knows the depth of my pain, and he knows how far I have come. How far his love has helped me come.
Most of all, he knows what it has cost me to return to Texas. To drive these streets. To look out at this neighborhood so full of pain and dark memories.
With a small shiver, I pull my hand free so that I can hug myself.
“Oh, baby.” The concern in his voice is so thick I can almost grab hold of it. “Nikki, you don’t have to do this.”
“I do.” My words sound ragged, my throat too clogged with unshed tears to speak normally.
I wait, expecting him to continue, but he’s gone silent. I see the tension on his face, as if he’s uncertain what to say or how to say it—but Damien Stark is never unsure. Not about business. Not about himself. Not about me.
And yet right now he’s hesitating. Treating me like I’m something fragile and breakable.
An unexpected shock of anger cuts through me. Not at him, but at myself. Because, dammit, he’s right. In this moment, I’m as fragile as I’ve ever been, and that’s not a pleasant realization. I’ve fought so hard to be strong, and with Damien at my side, I’ve succeeded.
But here I am, all my hard work shot to hell simply because I’ve returned to my hometown.
Want more? Be sure to pop back tomorrow for more of Anchor Me, available April 11. Grab your copy now!
And if you’re just now meeting Nikki & Damien, why not grab of copy of Release Me, the book that started it all!