Author:Kristen Ashley

    “Anya!” he shouted, his voice tortured then he ran into a tree and vanished.

    And then there was my aunt. She didn’t move. Just stood on the shore, arms crossed on her chest, mouth smirking.

    That figured too.

    I lost sight of her and kept moving, fighting, exhausted, terrified out of my mind. I was going to smash into one of those boulders. I knew it. I knew.

    No, no. Fear pulsed through me as I saw up ahead the river falling away to nothing.

    And there I was, alone, lost in a current I couldn’t fight, careening headlong into nothing.

    Then I felt him and my head jerked to the shore.


    He wasn’t running along the side. Without hesitation, he dove in, his long body slicing through the air and into the water then he was cutting through it, his powerful arms bringing him straight to me.

    Thank God, Knight.

    Thank God, I wasn’t going to face nothing alone.

    I’d have Knight.

    He made it to me, his arms wrapping around me, one hand sliding up my neck, into my wet hair, cupping the back of my head. My legs fought through the water to wrap around his hips as our bodies met, my arms wrapped tight around him and I held on.

    “You’re here,” I whispered.

    He didn’t respond. He just held my eyes and held on.

    And we slid over the edge, together, holding tight, into nothing.

    * * * * *

    My eyes blinked open as my body jolted, still in freefall from my dream.

    I was breathing slightly heavily, trying to shake away the dream.

    I dreamed a lot. It started in second grade. I remembered them when I woke up. They were clear, vivid, powerful. It didn’t happen every night but it happened frequently. Sometimes they were good. Sometimes they were horrifying.

    I steadied my breath and shook off my dream.

    Then I got up to an elbow, lifting my other hand to pull my hair away from my face and looking to the window with my misty, pretty (but cheap) curtains over the slightly battered Venetian blinds that came with the apartment. I felt under me the abrasive, worn pills of the cheap sheets I’d had too long but I knew, after I bought my new cell phone, new, nicer sheets were on the schedule.

    And I tried not to think about the fact that I could still feel Knight’s arms tight around me.

    Chapter Three

    Filled with Knight

    After I parked, I hurried to the trunk, opened it up, grabbed my canvas bags filled with groceries, swinging one over my shoulder with my purse and grabbing the other two. Then I put one to the cement of the parking lot, slammed the trunk, snatched it up and hurried.

    It was the Wednesday after the Saturday night party at Knight-slash-Nick’s. Saturday night (or, really, Sunday morning), I’d dreamed of Knight. I’d also dreamed of him Monday night. And last night.

    And I couldn’t get him out of my head.

    I knew why and there were several reasons. One, he was hot. He might be scary but scary never eradicated hot. Or, at least, not his kind of hot. Two, he’d given me nothing. Well, he’d given me his anger, a hint he had a sense of humor and a tendency toward throwaway chivalrous gestures but other than that, nothing. He didn’t laugh, smile or talk very much. I knew he didn’t like Russians. I knew he didn’t like loud parties, people and mess in his apartment. I knew he had money and good taste or sense enough (and the finances) to hire someone who did. But other than that, I knew nothing. Not even his last name. And, not knowing much, I didn’t want him to but he intrigued me. Three, he’d picked me up and I’d felt his hard-muscled shoulders and the power of his body. It was affecting. I wasn’t heavy but I certainly wasn’t slight. This, too, intrigued me but in a very different way.

    And last, after contemplating it for some time, too much of it (like, nearly always), his reaction to my building irked me. He didn’t shield me from his anger or his personality, such as it was, but his clear contempt of my living arrangements (and I was certain this was it), was offensive. It was also, though I couldn’t know this but I felt it, out of character. No one who could show signs of courtesy and take care to be sensitive to the differences in our financial circumstances at the same time pointing them out should behave the way he did when he saw my humble abode. It didn’t fit but it did annoy me.

    As I rounded the building and walked up the front steps all of this was on my mind as it had been for days. Along with this I wondered why it was on my mind since I’d never see the guy again. And along with this, what was on my mind was that I couldn’t deny the fact that this was upsetting. Like I knew at a glance Nick Sebring was a jerk, I knew at a glance Knight Whoever was dangerous. I should steer clear. I knew this and the fact of the matter was I had no choice. Knight Whoever and I would not cross paths. Still, I couldn’t help but wish we did.

    Which was crazy.

    I put my hand holding the handles of one of my totes to the front door of my building, pushed in, my body moving with my push and I slammed right into it mostly because it didn’t move.

    Then I blinked.

    Then I pushed again.

    It didn’t budge.

    What on earth?

    I noticed movement inside and saw a man wearing gray pants and a matching gray shirt with a patch over his heart declaring his name was “Terry” and he worked for “Avionics Elevators” was coming my way and smiling. Automatically, I smiled back as his hand came to the inside handle and he opened the door.

    “Everyone’s doin’ that,” he told me as he held the door open for me.

    I stared at him as I walked in and he kept smiling at me.

    “Got a notice in your place that has the codes,” he informed me as he let go of the door and it closed behind me.

    I looked back, hearing it latch in a way it hadn’t latched in months then I looked back at Elevator Man Terry.

    “The door is fixed?” I asked and he nodded.

    “Yup, dude left when I got here. Keypad and call system, all a go.”


    Then, belatedly, I took him in and my eyes drifted to the elevators that had plastic barricades around with signs on them that said, “Elevator out of order. Men working.” The doors were opened and the naked elevator shaft was in view with work lights dangling inside.

    I looked back at Terry. “You’re fixing the elevator?”

    “Nope,” he shook his head. “Fixed. Needed a doohickey. Doohickey replaced, all’s good.” He tipped his head down to my totes and grinned again. “You live on one of the upper floors, you just got help.”

    “Cool,” I whispered even though I never used the elevator. This was another irrational fear I had. Buildings crushing me in underground parking lots and elevators plummeting me to my death. I avoided them if I could and since I was capable of walking up two flights of steps, at my apartment building, I did. I noticed his grin got bigger then I took in his patch and looked back at him. “Aren’t avionics about airplanes?”

    He shrugged, still grinning. “Boss is a good guy but he ain’t too bright. Knows elevators though. Just doesn’t have much of a vocabulary. I think he thinks he made up the word. He might not be bright but he’s a decent dude so no one has enlightened him.”

    “Ah,” I mumbled and he kept grinning.

    I started moving toward the stairs, calling, “Well, thanks for fixing it.”

    “My job, darlin’,” he called to my back.

    I threw a smile over my shoulder and headed to the stairs.

    Jeez, wonder if the jerk Landlord Steve won the lottery.

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