I am so excited to release my second book, Mirrored Deception. Here is an excerpt. I hope you enjoy.
“I will not hire a bodyguard!” Jayla Ralston stormed across the room. She righted a small bookshelf and started picking up the books from the floor. “You’re overreacting once again.” Jayla couldn’t believe her sister would even suggest such a thing.
“How can you say that?” Jenna’s eyes moved over the mess as she racked her fingers through her hair. “Your apartment has been broken into and trashed. You’re being impossible. What do you think Mom and Dad would want you to do if they were here?”
“That’s a completely unfair question.” Jayla closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Jenna had a way of hitting below the belt using their parents to create guilt, knowing only too well it worked every time.
Jayla grabbed the broom from the closet off the living room to sweep up the broken shards of glass from pictures that had been scattered about the room. “I will think about it, okay?” she whispered, only wanting to make peace with her twin.
“You know I love you, Jayla. I just don’t want anything to happen to you.” Jenna’s voice softened. “I worry about you.”
“I know, but you really don’t have to. I don’t think he will bother me again.” Jayla’s voice broke. She wished she could show more confidence. Looking at the two of them was like looking in a mirror. They were identical, and yet very different.
“I’ve got to go, sis. Will you be okay?”
“Of course, Jen. I’m fine. I’ll just clean up.” Jayla walked her to the door and hugged her close. “I love you. Please don’t worry.”
As she shut the door and turned to survey the damage: the overturned chair and knick-knacks scattered about the living room, Jayla choked back the tears. How could he have done this to her? Her pictures of her family were broken and strewn about the floor. A bodyguard wasn’t needed. What was needed to get away from it all.
She turned and headed to the bedroom. Dragging a couple of suitcases out of the closet, Jayla started throwing clothes into them. She debated whether to call Jenna and decided against it. She wanted to disappear and give herself a chance to think. Jenna would only be telling her she couldn’t run from her problems, but to meet them head on.
She needed more than this. Jayla slammed the suitcases, grabbed her laptop and headed outdoors. She threw the bags in the trunk and gave a good look around the parking lot. Convinced no one was around, she jumped in and started the car. She pulled her hair back in an elastic band and pulled from the parking lot. With no destination in mind, Jayla aimed for the coast.
For the first few miles, Jayla kept a watchful eye out for anyone following. After an hour it became clear she was the only one on the road. Her grip loosened on the steering wheel, the tension leaving her shoulders. As she rolled the windows down to smell the cool ocean breeze, Jayla’s mind wandered. She wanted her life back -- yet, she wanted a different life. She was filled with many regrets of late.
Driving the coastal route, she paid no mind to the time until her stomach grumbled reminding her she’d missed dinner, and she became very aware of the time. Dark shadows had crept across the landscape. She clicked on the headlights, realizing the gas gauge read empty. How could she take off on a whim without thinking of fueling up? She could hear levelheaded Jenna now -- “never thinking”.
At a bend in the road, the headlights illuminated a sign for a bed and breakfast, The Cliffhouse. There was a sign below for vacancies. Jayla perked up a bit. At least it wasn’t far ahead and it would do for the night.
She turned into the entrance and drove up the winding, cobblestone driveway. Around the last turn, a large Victorian house came into view. The place was dark. Not surprising since it was ten o’clock. Hopefully someone was still up.
Jayla sat there for a moment and wondered if they were open. The needle on the gas gauge hovered just at empty; she had no choice but see if they had a room for the night.
She grabbed her small overnight bag and left the rest of the luggage in the car. After locking the car doors, she walked briskly up the steps of the veranda, past the wicker furniture. In the dark, Jayla rang the bell and waited. She shivered, straining to see beyond the porch. She wrapped her arms around her middle and paced in front of the door. The hairs on the back of her neck tingled with the sense of being watched. But that could be. This place was out in nowhere. Jayla shook off the sensation—just remnants of the god awful day.
Jayla rapped on the door with impatience.
“Yes, I’m coming,” responded a male voice from inside.
The door swung open. Finally.
She was about to speak, but when she got her first look at him, words couldn't get past her lips.
The man filling the door leaned nonchalantly against the doorjamb and studied her. His tousled dark hair looked as if he'd just got out of bed. His tanned, bare chest had her pulse racing. “Yes?"
Just that single word brought a sizzle of awareness coursing through her body. “I'm...er...sorry. I didn't realize the time and I was running out of gas."
He glanced over her shoulder, to the car and back. Perfectly shaped eyebrows rose while sensuous brown eyes surveyed her from head to toe. Okay, she probably didn’t look too presentable after the long road trip. The salty air had given her skin that needs-to-be washed feel. Forget about the lipstick, which had undoubtedly been gone for hours.
His scrutiny made her uneasy. Surely he could say more than one word?
"Do you have a room available?" Jayla shoved a lock of hair behind her ear.
He stood upright away from the door without a word. Jayla couldn't help but notice how his well-worn jeans looked like they'd been hastily zipped up, the tab partially undone.
"Come in." He stepped aside.
She followed. The foyer was small, but well kept. He stopped at a desk and turned. "How long are you staying?"
"Tonight, maybe longer." Jayla tried to read him. He didn't invite small talk. "I'm Jayla, Jayla Ralston."
"Okay, Jayla." He said her name slowly, almost seductively. "Sign here. Name's Tristan."
She nodded and leaned down to complete the paperwork. She looked up and met his dark brown eyes. Her pulse ratcheted up another beat. There was something in his sharp look that held her gaze.
He finally broke the spell and gestured for Jayla to follow him to her room. "If you need anything, I'll be around in the morning."
Jayla let out a deep breath. This place might do after all. No one would look for her here. Alone at last. She dug out her laptop and started to write.
The change was just beginning.
He watched until after midnight when the house had finally gotten dark. Only one guest had checked in tonight. The only light left on was the one on the veranda.
He slipped around to the west side of the building, treading carefully on the pebbled walkway, not wanting to leave any footprints. He had watched the house for months and knew the west side wing was empty and that there didn’t appear to be plans to fill the rooms even in the busy months of the summer. At the side door that once was the servant’s entrance, he ran his hand along the top of the doorframe, and found the key put there years ago -- sixteen years.
He chuckled. The poor fool probably forgot it was there, or forgot anyone else knew it was there. The key slid easily into the lock. It still worked. He let himself in and shut the door, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dark, though it didn’t matter, this place was as familiar as the back of his hand. Pocketing the key, he started for the back stairs carrying one bag—that held all his belongings.
He had come back to claim what was rightfully his and claim it he would. It might take some time to get. Halfway up the stairs, he stopped and listened. There were no sounds, only the sound of his breathing. He shook his head and continued up to the first bedroom. Trenton laid on the bed fully clothed, eyes closed. He couldn’t let his memory play tricks on him. They were gone. He had survived. He was back - and would make sure certain people paid for what he had been through.