Whispers in the Darkñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Stay with me tonight?” he asked
Chris’s words surprised her, and sent a thrill of hope down Karyn’s spine.
“Please,” he continued. “Just one more night to make sure my job is complete.” His blue eyes smiled down into hers. “I’m not ready for our weekend to end just yet.”
Neither was Karyn. But wouldn’t spending another night with him just put off the moment she’d have to watch him walk away? After all, they had an agreement. Was she being greedy? Tempting fate? Pleasure blended with misery as the feel of his hand stroking her back made her heart ache and her body hum.
As if sensing her internal debate, Chris leaned across the space between them, persuading her with a deep, sensual kiss. The need for his touch won out over her will, the promise of this moment overruling her fear of the future. “Okay, I’ll stay.”
He rewarded her with a look that guaranteed her a night she’d never forget.
And that was exactly what she was afraid of….
Whispers in the Dark has been a labor of love for me for a very long time. I’m so excited to finally share Chris and Karyn’s story with you!
This book began as a question that popped into my head while listening to a lecture on post-traumatic stress disorder. How do you return to a normal life after something tragic happens? For each and every person, just like for Karyn, the answer to that question is different. But the more I wrote, the more I realized determination plays a key part—the same determination we all need in order to tackle the obstacles that block our goals, hopes and dreams. I like to think that Chris and Karyn shared their determination with me. I hope they do the same for you.
I’d love to hear what you think about Chris and Karyn’s story. You can contact me at email@example.com or visit me at www.KiraSinclair.com.
WHISPERS IN THE DARK
TORONTO • NEW YORK • LONDON
AMSTERDAM • PARIS • SYDNEY • HAMBURG STOCKHOLM • ATHENS • TOKYO • MILAN • MADRID PRAGUE • WARSAW • BUDAPEST • AUCKLAND
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When not working as an office manager or juggling plotlines, Kira spends her time on a small farm in north Alabama with her wonderful husband, two amazing daughters and a menagerie of animals. While writing in one form or another has always been a part of her life, she’s excited to see her first book published with the Harlequin Blaze line. She’d love to hear what you think of her debut, at www.KiraSinclair.com.
There are several people I need to thank,
because this book would never have happened without them:
The Playfriends—Andrea, Danniele,
Kimberly and Marilyn—for brainstorming, Rumors, teeter-totters, late-night calls and panicked e-mail sessions.
The Mavens—Beverly, LJ and Linda—
for setting such a wonderful example.
Rhonda Nelson for that last puzzle piece.
Lori Borrill and Leeanne Kenedy for reading…
and reading…and reading again.
Shelley Visconte for the invaluable information.
My own personal hero and our little girls for your
love, patience and unflagging support.
And finally, my editor, Brenda, for not giving up
on me, Chris or Karyn.
“YOU KNOW, as much as I enjoy this ritual, I’m really starting to resent you hogging my Friday nights.”
Karyn Mitchell looked up from her half-painted toes and rolled her eyes at her best friend, Anne.
“Funny, I don’t remember inviting you, anyway.”
“Yeah, well, I know what you’d be doing if I wasn’t here…”
“Enjoying a nice, long bath?” Karyn raised a pointed eyebrow.
“Booorrrring.” As she flopped down onto the sofa beside Karyn, ice cubes rattled in Anne’s fresh drink. “You’ve been here almost two years—don’t you think it’s time to see something besides your gray cubicle and the inside of this apartment?”
“I like my apartment.” There was nothing wrong with it. Or the fact that she preferred to spend her time safe inside it.
Capping her bottle of Ravished Red, Karyn tried not to let the familiar irritation surface. Anne didn’t mean to push. She just couldn’t seem to help it.
“And grease-stained pizza boxes and demolished cartons of triple-chocolate meltdown, apparently. But neither of those will help you find a man.”
A joking smile crinkled her friend’s bright green eyes. It didn’t help. This was territory they’d been over before, and Karyn was getting tired of covering the same ground. The only thing that kept her from exploding was the fact that while Anne might appear thick-skinned to the rest of the world, she was really a softie at heart.
“I don’t need a man.”
Anne snorted, a sound that clashed with her blond, model-quality exterior, but completely suited the rebel she hid inside. “Every woman needs a man, someone to help you feel pretty, feminine…sexy.”
“I wouldn’t know sexy if it bit me in the ass.”
“That’s my point.” A bright, mischievous smile flashed across Anne’s face, lightening Karyn’s mood. Anne had that effect on her…on everyone. Sometimes it was sickening. But, God, she’d needed that so much when she’d first moved to Birmingham.
Laughter. Something she’d only faked for years. Her family had smothered her. Cocooned her in bubble wrap and walked on egg shells around her. Even surrounded by people, you could be alone. She just hadn’t realized how alone she’d been until she’d met Anne.
It hadn’t always been that way. A mischievous child, she’d grown up the center of attention and relished every last moment. And as a teenager, she’d loved being the outgoing, friendly one. Not the most popular girl. But the one everyone turned to for advice and a shoulder to cry on.
Being happy had been easy. Then.
She missed that girl. Wanted her back. It had taken five years, but she was finally starting to find that place inside again. If she could just break through that last barrier to being whole…
“A good man would teach you ‘sexy.’” Anne’s mouth twisted into an up-to-no-good grin as her eyes flashed fun. “Now turn the radio on. The show’s about to start.”
Karyn groaned. She had a love/hate relationship with Dr. Desire and his radio show. There was something about that man’s voice that made her insides tingle and turn to goo. Listening to him talk about relationships and sex for hours every night drove her crazy. Of course, she supposed it was self-torture, considering she’d given up all hope of ever having sex again.
“You’re on the air with Dr. Desire. Let’s put some spark back in your love life.”
His familiar voice filled the room around her. Calm and pleasant, deep and dark, Dr. Desire had the uncanny ability to put her at ease and hype her up, all with that one catch phrase.
Comfort and confusion, that’s what he offered. How could she want everything he talked about—a healthy, satisfying relationship plus sweaty, hedonistic, no-holds-barred sex—and yet still be unable to take that first step in finding it?
Listening to his show had become a nightly ritual, one she shared every Friday with Anne. It had started out as a sort of self-prescribed therapy. She’d hoped that hearing men and women talk about sexual relationships every night would take the edge of fear away, would get her juices flowing again. And it had, it did, but each and every time she’d attempted to put that energy to good use, the anxiety would resurface.
Holy hell, she was frustrated.
She wanted sex. She wanted a life. And she wanted someone to share them both with.
“How can he fulfill your needs if you don’t tell him what you want? Listen, ladies, we aren’t mind readers. You want a little adventure with your sex? Then spell it out for him. Trust me, he’s probably willing to try anything once.”
Karyn sighed and leaned back against her sofa. She rattled the ice cubes in her buttery nipple, wishing, not for the first time, that the warm buzz wouldn’t go to waste. But she never drank hard liquor in public, not when there were men around to take advantage.
Rolling her head sideways, Karyn shot Anne a glare. “No.”
“He’ll have the answer.”
She stared disbelievingly as Anne hopped up and hobbled across the floor toward the phone.
“Ah, no—he won’t.”
“Look, how can it hurt? You’ve seen how many therapists over the last few years?”
“Four in five years.”
“And has anything they’ve told you to do helped?”
“Precisely.” Anne duck-walked back to protect her wet polish. With a raised eyebrow and cocked hip, she thrust out the handset. “What do you have to lose?”
Staring at the thing like it was a mud-covered spider, Karyn said, “Uh, my dignity, self-respect, sanity? Any of those will work. There is no way I’m going on the most popular radio show in the city to spill my guts. Everyone I know listens to this show. You’re the only person here who knows what happened. I plan to keep it that way.”
“So lie, use a different name. No one will know.”
“You’re assuming he can’t help—”
“He can’t. You listen to the show just as much as I do. He might know a heck of a lot about the male/female thing, but somehow I think my problems run a bit deeper than the normal issues he handles. I do not need a sex expert.”
“That man is an expert on more than just sex. He knows how to handle a woman, make her feel special. Although, if you ask me, a sexpert is precisely what you need.”
Anne frowned and Karyn thought, Oh, shit. Her best friend bright and animated…that was normal. Her best friend with a mission…that was just scary.
“That man could charm the panties off anyone—including you. He’d have you naked and panting before fears and your overactive brain could sabotage you.”
Standing up, Karyn paced past her friend toward the stereo. She should just turn the damn thing off. Instead she turned back and asked, “What do you think he’s going to say?”
Anne lifted one challenging brow. “It’s more what I expect he could do.”
“Do? What, you think he’ll pimp for me? Find a man willing to take on the challenge?”
Anne twirled the phone in her hand. “Nope. I expect he’d help you himself if you asked.”
Her knees went weak, almost like someone had reached in and pulled the bones straight through the bottom of her feet. “Asked. You expect me to ask Dr. Desire for sex?”
“He’s precisely what you need. He definitely knows his way around a woman’s body. Any man who can talk about women and pleasure the way he does…” Her friend trailed off into a wistful sigh. “At least call him.”
Karyn shook her head, not sure what to say. There was no way she could ask Dr. Desire for sex. On air no less!
Narrowing her eyes, Anne jabbed the phone toward her. “If you don’t, I will.”
Karyn’s heart seemed to seize in her chest. Pulling her gaze away, she decided to ignore the pointed gesture.
Anne shrugged and started dialing.
Snatching the phone from her, midpunch, she stabbed the off button and hid it behind her back.
With a smirk Anne said, “I have a cell phone, you know.”
Karyn growled under her breath. Arguing with Anne made her almost as frustrated as fighting with her big brothers always had. A tiny part of her missed those moments with her family, when she could be herself, when her older brothers had acted like annoying, interfering older brothers. No one except Anne fought with her now.
“Look, I’m not asking that man to sleep with me.”
“Fine. But call him. It can’t hurt to tell him your story, see if he has any advice.”
Karyn swayed. Sure, she’d considered calling before. The only thing that had stopped her was an absolute certainty that it wouldn’t do any good.
Crossing the room, Anne laid a hand on her shoulder. “You’ve tried everything else. What do you have to lose?”
She gave up with an exasperated groan. “What am I supposed to say to him? Hi, my name is Karyn and I’m a victim of rape?”
“Well, that depends on what you’re looking for. I’d suggest you start with the fact you haven’t had sex in five years and go from there.”
Plopping down onto her sofa, Karyn dialed the number for Dr. Desire’s hot line, 1-800-4DESIRE and cringed. It sounded a little too close to a phone-sex line for her peace of mind. But if this would get Anne off her back for a while it’d be worth any discomfort. She’d call, tell him her problem and just see if he had any suggestions.
What she wouldn’t do was ask him for sex.
Her heartbeat quickened as the line connected and rang. The bundle of nerves in the pit of her stomach seemed to tighten and churn as she explained to the show’s producer why she was calling.
After being placed on hold, Karyn breathed deeply in a vain attempt to dispel the emotions jittering through her. She’d explain her situation—leaving out most of the details—and then when he couldn’t offer her anything constructive would hang up and forget she’d ever dialed the number.
She felt better, until she looked up into her friend’s expectant eyes.
“I still think you should ask him for sex. I’m telling you, that man knows his way around a woman’s body. The only thing you’d be thinking with him touching you is more, more, more.”
The breathless way Anne moaned the words was not helping. “I am not going—”
“You’re on the air with Dr. Desire. Let’s find the spark in your relationship.”
Karyn’s eyes flew wide as she leaped to her feet, standing uselessly in the center of her living room. His voice slid down her spine, not from her strategically placed speakers, but from the phone pressed tightly to her ear. Her hand flexed around the curved plastic in a bid to hold on to something tight. She certainly didn’t have hold of her sanity at the moment.
A vision of Dr. Desire, a carbon copy of the billboard she passed at least twice a day, jumped easily to her mind.
With a wide, white smile and rumpled, dark brown hair that always looked as if some woman had just run her fingers through it, the man was gorgeous. No red-blooded, breathing woman could argue that. But it wasn’t just his rugged jaw or kissable lips that held her attention. Something deep inside those smoldering blue-gray eyes made her insides clench and melt whenever she drove past.
Even now, just the memory of that picture had her body heating. Heating more than it had for any flesh-and-blood man in the past five years.
“Now, don’t be shy. I won’t bite. Unless you want me to.”
Karyn heard his laugh. Like his voice, it was deep and sexy and somehow soothing. She relaxed the muscles that had bunched at her back and sank blindly onto the sofa.
Her mouth opened and words tumbled out before she could stop them.
“I need you to sleep with me.”
CHRISTOPHER FAULKNER nearly fell off his chair. He did bobble the microphone in front of him.
Considering the timid way this woman had started her phone call, that last statement had been a shocker.
Jerking up, he mouthed, “What the hell,” to Michael, his forty-two-year-old producer. The man supposedly screening his calls just shrugged and went back to playing with switches.
Chris fought down the urge to strangle him. He’d wrangled with that sensation often over their five-year friendship. There was something about the other man’s laid-back attitude that tended to grate against his nerves. Especially during the past few months.
Michael knew he didn’t like to deal with this sort of thing on air. Hell, he could barely walk out his door without being accosted by some primped-up prima donna looking for him to rock her world. All they ever really wanted was an instant catapult to notoriety. Or money.
The novelty of fame had long since lost its shine. He really enjoyed helping people, but could have done without some of the headaches that went with the job.
Pasting a smile on his face—because the listeners really could hear when it wasn’t there—he put every ounce of experience he’d gained over the past five years into handling the thorny situation Michael had dropped in his lap.
At least he’d learned something on his journey from ordinary nighttime DJ to megastar.
“Well, gee, I’m flattered.” He forced out a laugh that fell as flat as the lie he’d just told. He was nowhere close to being flattered. In fact, he was much closer to annoyed.
“That’s not…I didn’t mean…Let me explain.”
The young woman’s voice floated into his ears through the headphones he wore. He heard desperation, which scared him, but also something underneath that caught his attention. Something sweet with a tinge of the same uneasiness he was trying to ignore. In a strange way it stirred a connection, a sense of kinship with the woman on the other end.
“I know this must sound crazy to you and, frankly, I wouldn’t blame you if you cut me off, but please just hear me out. Honestly, I didn’t mean what I said before. Really.”
Her admission took a bit of the edge off. Barely.
She paused, sucking in air. The broken sound reverberated through his brain. When she started again her voice trembled and he wondered what had made her take this step. Whatever she was trying to say, it was obviously difficult.
“My name is Katy.” Her voice faltered and drifted away for a moment before beginning again. “This is hard for me to talk about.”
“Well, I can’t say I’ll sleep with you, Katy.” He forced out another laugh, but even he could hear the brittle edge. “But I’d like to help. Tell me what’s going on.”
“About five years ago I was date raped. I knew the guy. Not very well, but enough to think I’d be safe with him. I wasn’t.”
A tight knot dropped into his stomach, punching straight through to his toes.
How had this girl gotten through? She’d already hit two of the auto-dump buttons—propositioning him and having a serious sexual issue, one that required professional help. He was no professional.
His unfinished business-management degree didn’t really qualify him to deal with severe sexual hang-ups. And if, in the silence of his own mind, he’d thought once or twice about remedying that deficiency in his education…well, there’d never been a reason to admit that idiocy to anyone.
He stared hard through the glass at Michael. The other man’s forehead was wrinkled even more than usual. Sure, now he cared. Where had that interest been five minutes ago?
Katy’s voice continued, tightening and turning to an emotionless monotone while she recited the bare-bones facts he really didn’t want to hear.
“It was terrifying and a long time ago. But I can’t seem to move past it. I’ve tried so many things, listened to so many people. No one seems to have the answer.”
“The answer to what?” The sound of his own voice coming through the headphones shocked him. Why had he asked her that?
“I can’t have sex. I want to.” The girl groaned softly, the sound lodging right next to the knot at the bottom of his stomach. “God, I want to. But even thinking about it—I freeze up.”
His eyes locked with Michael’s through the pane of glass between them, narrowing to slits. His jaw clamped so tight he thought the entire audience could probably hear the grinding sound.
This girl had a serious problem. Not the “my boyfriend won’t go down on me,” “my girlfriend won’t do a threesome,” “is this burning sensation something to worry about” kind of stuff he dealt with in a normal night. She needed some professional help. She did not need him.
This had disaster written all over it. His show was bubblegum and handcuffs, not emotional turmoil.
He’d fallen into the job as Dr. Desire. A few comments to a late-night caller and before he knew it, what had been a play-the-records, punch-the-buttons kind of job had turned into hours of sex and relationship discussions that led to more than he’d ever imagined. But he’d worked hard over the past five years to build a public persona, to provide confidence and helpful information to those seeking sexual answers and a push to try something new.
The people who called into his show—the people that got past Michael’s supposed screening process—mostly wanted relationship advice or to share their own fantasies or be turned on.
He was prepared for that. He was not prepared for this.
“Katy, as much as I’d like to help you, I’m not a doctor. It sounds to me like you need to see a professional.”
“I’ve talked to a therapist. Four, in fact. None of them helped.”
He looked again at Michael, raising his hands in the universal sign for “What the hell do I do now?”
His producer’s response was the cut sign—a hand across his throat. He’d like nothing better than to end this call, but he didn’t think that would be a very good idea. Not for Katy. And certainly not for the show. His female listeners—who comprised more than half his audience—would raise hell. How could he extract himself without appearing cold and indifferent?
“Well, Katy. Maybe you just need to give yourself some more time. You had to have been young. You barely sound old enough to drink.” He pushed out another laugh, trying to maintain the tone of the show despite feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“I’m twenty-six and it hasn’t gotten any better in five years. That’s a long time. I want a husband and kids. At the rate I’m going I’ll be fifty before I have sex again.” Another desperate sound echoed across the line and twanged the nerves at the bottom of his spine. “I don’t think I could handle that.”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî