First chapter of my new serial novel.

Introduction

I'm starting a new serial novel, and here is the first chapter. I'll be sending out chapters every Saturday morning, as long as I'm able to get the updates written. (There may occasionally be weeks when I just can't get a chapter done, but I'll try to avoid those as much as possible.)

This story is a bit different. I've been playing around with it in my head for more than a year now, but I wasn't sure if I could pull it off, so I never got around to writing it. I figured writing it serially might be a good way to tackle it. There is an action plot that's part of this story, but it's fairly minor. Like all of my books, the focus is on characters and romance.

Just so you know, I'm not editing these chapters before I send them. I do read over them once to catch any obvious errors, but don't expect them to be perfect. And I don't have an outline for this story yet, so I don't know how many chapters it's going to be.. At least ten, but probably longer. 

I love to hear from you all on the chapters as I write them, so if you want to let me know what you think, you can reply to this email and it will be sent directly to me.

Inside - Chapter One

Some people live their lives most fully inside their heads. I’ve always been one of those people.

I’m a thinker, a daydreamer, a brooder, a planner. I’ve lived a hundred million lifetimes in my imagination. I’ve had hundreds of jobs, been with hundreds of men of breathtaking brilliance and sexiness. I’ve traveled all over the world and into numerous periods of its history. I’ve been to many other worlds as well, worlds where magic is real.

All these ventures have left me entertained and satisfied. All these lives have made me happy.

One of the results of having such an active and intense inner life is that sometimes the inner life spills over into the outside world. Occasionally, I mentally rehearse something to such an extent that I accidentally end up doing it.

When I was five, I had this idea to save up all the coins I could get my hands on and walk down the block to the corner shop to buy all the candy I wanted but was never allowed to get. I talked over the plan with my twin sister, Chance, and she was just as excited about the idea as I was. So I started daydreaming about it, going through every step of the process in my mind. We collected all the change we could find in a little coin purse, and every morning when I woke up I would visualize myself finally following through with this adventure.

After about a month, the dreaming finally spilled over into reality. One night, I went to bed, telling Chance we were going to do it in the morning. I set an alarm for four o’clock in the morning to make sure I woke up.

The next morning, I turned off my alarm, woke up my sister, got dressed, and waited impatiently until Chance was ready.  Then I dragged her out of the house and onto the city street as quietly as possible so we didn’t wake up our dad.

She was scared. She didn’t want to go. But I’d seen us doing this so many times in my mind that I knew we could do it. So I bullied her into going with me.

There we were, two five-year-olds creeping down a Chicago street at four-fifteen on a Saturday morning by ourselves. Chance whined the whole way and tried to make me turn back, but I was committed.

I’d done this in my head. Now I was doing it in real life.

We made it to the shop, but we were so scared when we got there—convinced the scowling man behind the counter was going to report us to the police—that we only bought a wrapped piece of bubblegum each. We hurried back home, snuck back into the house, took off our clothes and huddled back into bed.

We never told our dad about what we’d done, and eventually it faded into one of those vague, blurry memories that are barely distinguishable from dreams.

Something similar happened the day after I turned eighteen. I’d visualized myself doing a certain thing—something I would have been far too scared to do under normal circumstances—until finally my inner life spilled over into action.

I tried to seduce Will Stone into taking my virginity.

I’m cringing as I write the words because I can relive the mortification of that night so vividly. I should have known better. I did know better. I was a shy, plain, inexperienced eighteen-year-old girl, and he was sexy and cynical and ten years older than me.

He was also my dad’s right-hand man, second in command on his crew. There was absolutely no way he would have thought about me sexually, much less been willing to act on it.

But I’d had the world’s biggest crush on him since he started working with my dad two years earlier. And, for me, having a crush meant making up romantic scenarios in my mind, playing them out again and again until they start to feel as real as anything else.

My father was a high-end thief—running sophisticated, lucrative jobs with a small crew. The guys he worked with were skilled and loyal, but they changed over the years as the men moved on, fell out, or found new sources of income.

This sounds like it would make for an exciting family life for me, but it really didn’t. My father might as well have been a businessman for all the details he shared about his work with his two daughters. Chance and I were kept resolutely away from any criminal activities, so the only interaction we ever had was when the guys in my dad’s crew dropped by the house.

They came by pretty often, and I was sixteen when Will Stone started to work with my father. Everyone in the world called him Stone, but I thought about him as Will. He was big and dark-haired and stoic—rough looking, almost dangerous. I didn’t much like him at first. He never smiled, and he had a perpetual glower on his face that wasn’t at all inviting. He barely said a word when I was around. He wasn’t even traditionally handsome (not like movie-star handsome golden boy, Dax, who was also on my dad’s crew and was much more likely to turn most teenage girls’ heads).

But as the weeks passed and Will started hanging around the house more often, my impressions of him changed. Despite his lack of expressiveness, I believed I saw intelligence and interest in his gray eyes. He seemed to look at me a lot, watching what I said or did. When something funny happened, I would always glance his way, and he’d meet my eyes and smile just a little.

It started to feel intimate, like those smiles were just for me. And eventually I built a whole romantic relationship around those smiles in my head.

I loved him. And, in my mind, he loved me back.

I was still a virgin at eighteen and still living at home—having just started college at a local university. Chance got away as soon as she could, going to a college in California, but I wasn’t nearly as adventurous, and I also didn’t want to leave my father on his own. I stayed local.

I waited until I turned eighteen, convincing myself that my age might have been part of why Will had never made a move on me. I’d never dated much at all. Guys at school had never been interested in me. I liked to believe this was because they were too immature to appreciate my depth, but the truth is I was shy and retiring and not nearly as pretty as Chance.

Chance and I are identical twins, so we should look exactly the same. But no one has ever confused us. We have the same brown hair, blue eyes, balanced features, and bone structure, but otherwise we’re nothing alike. She’s always been fun, outgoing, and athletic. She’s always been careful about her weight, so she’s at least two sizes smaller than me, whereas I’ve been going back and forth between sizes twelve and fourteen since I was a teenager. She started getting highlights in her hair when she was fifteen, and she’s always sparkled in a way that I just don’t.

Guys have always liked her a lot more than me.

But Will didn’t give her those secret smiles. He liked me better. I was sure of it.

So on the evening after my eighteenth birthday, Will stayed at our place late, working on plans with my dad in his office, and then he spent the night in the guest room. He often did this. It wasn’t unusual, and it suited my plans perfectly.

I was in a kind of nervous daze as I took a shower and prepared myself, shaving and primping and putting on a little nightgown I’d bought specifically for the occasion. I’d rehearsed it in my head so many times—thousands of times over the last year—that it felt like I was simply performing a role that someone else had written.

Then I tiptoed down the hall to the guest room and knocked on the door softly.

It was well after midnight. I didn’t want to knock loudly or call out. I couldn’t risk waking up my father. So, when there was no response to my little tap, I just opened the bedroom door.

I can barely believe it’s true myself—looking back on it now—but that was exactly what I did. I just walked into a man’s bedroom in the middle of the night.

 In my mind, Will would see me with my undone hair and my sexy nightgown, and he wouldn’t be able to rein in his desire any longer. He would take me there and then, making me a woman in his arms.

You can probably imagine what actually happened—what I would have known would happen if I hadn’t blinded my rationality with so many vivid daydreams.

It was dark in the room when I entered. He’d already gone to sleep. Disoriented and chilled with nerves, I groped my way through the dark room until I ran into the foot of the bed. I huffed and doubled over at the pain from my shin impacting the wooden bedframe.

Now, remember, Will was a criminal. He wasn’t a killer or a particularly violent man—my dad didn’t work with anyone who killed indiscriminately—but he was definitely a criminal. He stole things for a living that didn’t belong to him.

And there I was, sneaking up on him in a dark bedroom.

Less than thirty seconds after I ran into the bedframe, the light suddenly turned on in the room and Will grabbed me roughly, pulling me onto the bed on my back and holding me down with one big hand at my throat.

His reflexes really were quite impressive.

He slept in his underwear. Despite everything else, I did notice that. He had about a week’s worth of beard, and combined with his fierce expression, it gave him a darkly dangerous appearance as he loomed over me, holding me in place with one hand.

I gaped up at him, breathless, wordless, terrified.

None of my romantic daydreams had ever gone like this.

It took about fifteen seconds for him to realize who I was.

With a hoarse intake of air, he let go of me and took a couple of stumbling steps back from the bed. “Greer?” he gasped.

My name is Greer, by the way. A name just as ridiculous as Chance, as far as I’m concerned. My dad always told us that our mother named us—she died when we were barely one so we never knew her—and I have no idea what she was thinking when she gave us these particular names.

When I just lay there like an idiot in my flimsy silk nightie—cream colored with lace straps and a bow that tied under my breasts—Will jerked his head toward the closed door of the bedroom and then back at me. “Greer? What the fuck is going on?”

It was a good question, and I didn’t have a good answer.

“I… I…” I couldn’t get any words out. My cheeks were burning hot now, and I was shaking from my fingertips to my toes. I managed to sit up on the bed, pulling my nightgown down over my thighs.

“What the fuck, Greer?” His voice was rough, and his eyes ran up and down my body. My bare legs, rounded hips, soft belly, full breasts—barely concealed by cream-colored silk. Slowly, I saw enlightenment dawning on his face.

I knew then that he knew what I was doing here.

I had one little flicker of hope that he might be overcome by my female charms.

He made a choked sound and rubbed a hand over his mouth and chin as he took another step backward.

“I thought…” I’d managed two words that time, but any other words got stuck in my throat.

I’d thought a lot of really ridiculous things. I could see that very clearly.

This was a mature, sexy, twenty-eight-year-old man standing in front of me in a pair of black boxer briefs. His body was big and strong and impressive—with well-formed muscles and a lot of dark hair. He might not be classically handsome like Dax, but he was smoldering with masculine energy and sex appeal. He could have almost any woman he wanted.

He was never going to want me.

“Get out,” he said gruffly, turning his face away from me, toward the door.

That was all he said. It was all he needed to say.

I scrambled to my feet and fled.

It’s hard to describe the extent of my mortification over this incident. Years later, I was still flushing hot and cringing at even the slightest recollection of it. I avoided Will for months afterwards, and I was pretty sure he was trying to avoid me too.

We never talked about it, never mentioned it again, but for a really long time it lingered at the front of my mind, humiliating me, reminding me of what an idiot I was.

I was never going to let my inner life spill over into reality like that again.

And I didn’t, at least not for a long time.

It was three years after that, at my father’s funeral, that it happened again. It was different that time. Not as cringe-worthy. More intense.

See, a year before my father died, Will dumped him.

There’s no other word for it. After all the time and effort my father invested in mentoring Will, the younger man just walked out on him. And what was worse, he took Kurt Gallagher, a tech guru who’d been working with my dad for almost as long as Will, with him. Kurt had been Will’s best friend for as long as I’d known the men, so of course he went with him.

Half my dad’s crew, gone in one blow. People move on a lot in that profession, and it’s to be expected. But this was different. Will owed my dad loyalty and didn’t give it to him. He hurt my father in a very real way.

For a year, I was so angry I wanted to strangle Will. I had daydream after daydream about finally being able to tell Will exactly what I thought about him. In my mind, I always did this was the sharpest, most effective words, wounding Will to the quick with how wrong he’d been.

Then my dad died—from something as mundane as a heart attack—and Will came to the funeral. I hadn’t seen him for a year at that point, and he was still just as darkly attractive, just as rough and stoic and dangerous, even in the black suit he wore.

After the graveside service, he had the gall to come up to me and tell me my dad was a good man.

My dad.

Who I loved more than anything.

A good man.

As if I didn’t know this already.

I snapped.

I was still dazed from the sudden loss—half my family gone in a matter of minutes. I’d been stewing with resentment toward Will for months now, and I hadn’t yet forgotten my mortification of his rejection when I was eighteen.

I’ve never hated anyone as much as I hated him at that moment. So I simply snapped.

I slapped him hard across the cheek.

I’ve never been a physically violent person. I’d never hit anyone before that moment, and I haven’t hit anyone since. The impact was sharp, stunning. It hurt my hand. It made a red mark across the lower part of one of Will’s cheeks.

He stared at me, unmovingly, like he was just as shocked as I was by the blow.

Then I told him off the way I had so many times in my mind over the past year. “How dare you come here today! How dare you tell me he was a good man. You walked out on him, after everything he did for you. He loved you, and you broke his heart, when he’d been nothing but good to you. Maybe you live in a world where people can act out of selfishness and spite and still come crawling back to play nice and put on the pose of respectability so that other people believe they’re a decent person at heart. But I don’t live in that world. My father didn’t either. You screwed him over, and you’ll never be a decent person. You don’t get to play nice now. You don’t get to talk to me. Walking away is what you wanted before, so you can keep doing it. For the rest of your life, for all I care.”

Since I’ve never been a very good spontaneous talker, this tirade came out far more articulate than it would have had I not been giving it to him in my head for so long.

It wasn’t really like me to actually say it though. It was once again my inner life spilling over into reality.

Will’s expression was blank, motionless, for several long moments. He just stared at me with those steel gray, unnerving eyes, his face still reddened by my hand.

Then he gave a curt nod, turned on his heel, and walked away.

That was the last I saw of Will Stone for two years.

I did grow up finally. I kissed a man at last. I had sex. I even had a boyfriend I kept for almost a year—one of those philosophy-major, coffee-shop types who like to sit around and gaze at the stars, talking about all the problems of the world for hours. I finished college and went to graduate school, enrolling in a dual mater’s program in English and Library Science. I wanted to be a librarian, to spend my days surrounded by books.

I stayed close with my sister. I made some good friends. I missed my dad. I thought about Will sometimes still, but he mostly faded into the background.

Until I was twenty-three and getting out of a Shakespeare class on campus. Some of us were standing around, talking about Henry V. I was trying to flirt with a classmate who was cute in a geeky kind of way.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not a very good flirter. I’ve never been able to do it. The most I can do is smile a lot and laugh at a guy’s jokes and act like I’m really interested in what he’s saying.

That was what I was doing just then, standing on the sidewalk outside the English department building. I was smiling and giggling and hoping the guy was interested in me.

Then Will Stone strode back into my life.

I recognized him immediately. It’s impossible not to notice him when he’s on the move because he doesn’t just walk. He paces like a tiger, he prowls, he stalks. That afternoon, he wore a pair of old jeans and a black T-shirt—similar to what he’d always worn when he was hanging around our house. He had more of a beard than he used to have, but his mouth was set in the same forbidding glower.

He was heading right toward me, striding down the block. People were moving out of his way quickly, and I could hardly blame them. He didn’t look like the kind of person you wanted to confront.

I had been saying something to the geeky guy when I first saw Will, but my words trailed off forgotten. I couldn’t make my mouth work. Or my mind work. I couldn’t do anything but stare as Will approached.

There was absolutely no reason for him to be here.

The geeky guy I’d been talking to turned toward Will too, since my attention had so clearly moved to the approaching man.

I opened my mouth to say something. To apologize to the geeky guy or to ask Will what the hell he was doing here.

I didn’t have time to say anything.

“Excuse me,” Will muttered when he’d reached me. He was talking more to the geeky guy than to me.

To me, he didn’t say anything. He just put his big hand on my back, turned me around, and walked me away in the direction he’d come from.

I still have no idea how he did it, since I had absolutely no desire to go anywhere with him. But I was still slightly dazed from the surprise, and I couldn’t think clearly enough to object to the move.

So I walked with him toward a black SUV I somehow knew was his. It was the only vehicle in sight that looked like it could belong to Will.

He didn’t say anything. He kept a hand on my back and used it to guide me along, keeping me walking at a pace far faster than I normally moved.

Until it finally clicked in my mind that this man was taking me somewhere I didn’t want to go.

I didn’t know him anymore. I didn’t trust him. I didn’t like him, and I had more reason to resent him than I did almost anyone else in the world.

And here he was, bullying me into going with him without any explanation at all.

I made a choking sound and jerked away from him, whirling around to glare up at him. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

“I’ll explain later,” he said, his eyes scanning the street and then the sidewalk. “Come with me now, and I’ll explain later.” He stretched his big hand out toward me again.

I moved out of his reach. “You’ll explain now, or I’m not going anywhere.”

He looked faintly annoyed but too urgent to indulge the annoyance, if you can understand what I mean. “You’re in danger, Greer.”

“I’m…”

“In danger. Now get in the car right now.”

He spoke in a manner that made it clear he was used to people obeying him. And who wouldn’t obey this man. He was big and hard and scary-looking. Just his physical presence alone was intimidating.

I wasn’t intimidated though. I was angry.

“You don’t get it show up out of the blue and boss me around. I’m a grown woman, not a stupid teenager. I don’t have to do what you say.”

“For fuck’s sake, Greer,” he growled. “Do you think I’m doing this for fun? If there wasn’t real danger, I wouldn’t be here at all. I promise I’m not looking for a good time, and I’m not into practical jokes. You’re in danger, and if you don’t move now, I’m going to throw you over my shoulder and carry you.”

He was clearly losing his patience, and I knew very well he was entirely capable of going through with his threat.

It wasn’t the threat that made my decision, however. It was the fact that he was so annoyed with me.

There was no reason at all for him to come here like this and demand I leave with him unless what he had claimed was actually true.

Maybe I was in real danger.

I’d never gotten into any trouble. Not in my whole life. My dad might have been a criminal, but he’d made sure neither of his daughters had any stray thoughts about following in his footsteps. I’d never wanted to. I’d done well in school. I’d lived a quiet life. I’d never done anything that would put me in danger.

But still…

Will evidently believed that I was.

So without another word, I walked to the passenger door of the black SUV. Looking relieved, Will clicked the locks opened and moved quickly to the driver’s side.

We got in, and he was pulling out onto the street in less than thirty seconds.

I watched him as he drove, realizing as I did that he was more than urgent. He was in crisis-mode. Adrenaline must have been pumping through his veins because his skin was slightly damp and his eyes were alert and watchful. He was breathing heavily.

It scared me. A lot.

If he felt that way—if he believed I was in real danger—than maybe I actually was.

I’ve made up hundreds of daydreams about adventures in my life, usually in the company of at least one handsome man. I enjoyed putting myself in those kinds of stories, the danger becoming a bonding catalyst and leading to very romantic outcomes.

This wasn’t a daydream. This was real life. I didn’t want to get hurt—and I definitely didn’t want to die.

Will Stone was the last person I’d wanted to see when I woke up that morning, but he would have always been my first choice to fight off any danger I might face.

If anyone was capable of protecting me, Will was.

I could hardly believe I was sitting in his car like this, only a foot away from his tense body, still disturbingly familiar to me despite the years that had passed.

I waited until he’d gotten off campus and pulled onto a downtown street before I finally demanded, “Now tell me what the hell is going on.”

Noelle Adams

PO Box 35, Pearisburg VA 24134

noelle-adams.com

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