So five more days until release! I’m excited and already exhausted just thinking about it. If you haven’t been able to read the preview samples on iBooks or Google Play, then here’s one for you. Formatting sucks on WordPress so I apologize for it in advance.
Explore Her, More of Her (Daisy & Belmont, #2)
Take The Lifeline
I wake with a start. The ceiling looks different. I scramble to sit up. Tree branches canopy over a patio where two chaise lounges border a hot tub. Steam rises from the aqua water. I’m in a white tank-dress that I left in my closet in Malibu. Why the heck am I wearing it? Am I dreaming? I squeeze my eyes shut, and when I open them, nothing’s changed—this is real.
I scramble to turn around. It’s Belmont, and he has a black eye and a bruised cheek.
“What happened to you? Where are we?” I ask.
He rushes toward me. Suddenly shockwaves ripple through me, and I curl up on the bed until the pain passes. I look at my ankle. A bracelet is clamped around it, and Belmont is wearing one too.
“Please maintain a distance of at least five feet while standing and ten feet while lying down,” a man says over a P.A. system.
Belmont and I look at each other, wondering what in the world is going on.
Belmont sat up and shook the cobwebs from his head. He had been lying down, tucked under warm blankets, in a cold room.
He looked at his chest. “What the…?” Someone had attached nodules to his chest, the kind that monitor the heart. Belmont ripped them off as he glared at the blue waterproof walls. He recognized them. He’d had them built to protect himself from the destructive forces of nature that affect islands in that tropical region. He was on the private island he owned in the Bahamas, and he sure as hell hadn’t brought himself there.
After Belmont confirmed that he was alive, it dawned on him that he felt like shit. The left side of his face, including his eye, throbbed, and something heavier than nothing weighed down his ankle.
“What the hell is this?” he whispered as he touched it. It was the type of ankle bracelet the courts put on criminals to track their whereabouts. Was someone trying to keep tabs on him? If so, who?
He examined the room, looking for some sort of clue to how he’d gotten there. A handful of his enemies would love to see him suffer, starting with Matt Silver and Holden Reece. Matt had made a backhanded threat against Daisy, and Belmont took that remark as a declaration of war. So Belmont had locked and loaded and fired back. He had a plan in motion that would expose Reece Holdings for insider trading. But they couldn’t have learned that fast about the shot he took.
Belmont massaged his jaw. He had been heading over to Daisy’s to make sure she was safe, and to seduce her, before he was assaulted. He’d needed her body—he still did.
Belmont frowned as he remembered the cry of one of his assailants. “Charlie…” He could pick his brother’s voice out of a lineup of distorted voices. Why in the hell had Charlie accosted him in a parking garage?
Belmont slid off the bed. His body ached from throwing a barrage of unsuccessful punches. He went into the box-sized bathroom and studied his face in the mirror.
“Damn it,” Belmont whispered. He had noticeable bruising around his eye and on his cheek and jaw. Charlie had gotten him good.
Belmont opened the medicine cabinet to look for the antibiotic cream before he remembered it was in the first aid kit in the master suite upstairs. He decided to treat the bruise then figure out what the hell was going on. Belmont rushed out of the bathroom, but when he smashed the button to open the door of his prison, nothing happened. Just to be sure, he tried it again, and again the door didn’t budge.
He beamed in on the control console located on the wall in one corner of the room. Upstairs, there was a full control room that let him monitor and control every part of the three-acre island. The smaller panel was a substation of the larger room, and it was wired to remain on twenty-four hours, seven days a week. However, none of the indicator lights were on. The panel had been turned off. Belmont walked over to the machine and tried to turn it on, but it wouldn’t power up. He checked the sockets—it was plugged in. Then he ran his fingers along the edge of the rectangular box and noticed a screw loose at the top.
“What the hell?” he said under his breath.
Someone must’ve rewired the system. Charlie was the only one who knew Belmont’s safe room existed. He was also the only one who was aware of the complex wiring connecting that room to the one upstairs.
Belmont fumed. Fucking Charlie. He was going to wring his neck as soon as he got himself out of that jam. Belmont shook his head. Charlie must’ve forgotten that he was a first-rate electrician. Belmont believed that a man who bought and sold multimillion-dollar properties ought to know how to build a structure from the inside out.
He went on a rampage looking for a tool kit. He opened drawers in the kitchenette then headed back to the bathroom to check the drawers and cabinets. Sometimes he went overboard storing his things, often hiding them from himself. Daisy often watched and remembered where he put things. She was a big help. Unfortunately she wasn’t around when he built the safe room. Belmont paused to calm down so that his memory could flourish. He hadn’t been in that damn room in six years, since he’d installed a new camera on the western side of the island and had to hook up the wiring to the control panel.
That’s it! Belmont smiled victoriously. He pushed the bed away from the wall and opened a hatch in the floor. Inside, he found a compact transceiver that he had stored in case he lost cell phone reception. His current predicament was worse than that—he had no cell phone at all. There was also a first aid kit, which was better stocked than the one upstairs. He kept digging until he found the small black toolbox that contained a ratchet set, a wrench, a set of pliers, extra wires, and a soldering kit.
Belmont sighed with relief. Things were looking up. Even though his face hurt, he went to work restoring the power to the control panel. Once he got started, he realized Charlie sure as hell hadn’t rewired the panel himself. Belmont was undoing the work of a professional. Hours ticked by, and the longer it took him to finish the task, the further away from Daisy he felt. He missed her body, the sound of her voice, and her sensual kisses.
Belmont was convinced that he wouldn’t be stuck in that predicament if he and Daisy had never hit that rough patch. While he was wasting away on the damn island, she was in Provence, France, traipsing off into the sunset with Dexter Frampton. Belmont tried to shake the thought of the two of them together out of his head. If only he could make Daisy as happy as he strived to make her. The only part of Daisy that still wasn’t a mystery was making love to her.
Belmont tugged too hard at an essential wire.
“Shit,” he muttered. He had almost destroyed it.
Suddenly his thoughts sent a surge of frustration through him. Hell, he had given Daisy everything he thought women wanted. Her every wish was his command. The only problem was she never asked for a damn thing! All she did was stew in discontentment while trying to mask her agony with a dull smile. Damn, he hated that smile just as much as he loved her.
Loving Daisy had never made much sense to him. She was nothing like the women he’d dated in the past. They loved his wealth and his status. They wanted to flaunt him every chance they got. They asked for what they wanted, and he had bought everything from boob jobs to BMWs to summer-long vacations traipsing around the world. He liked to give, and he only took infrequently.
But when he’d first laid eyes on Daisy, he knew she was different. He knew she was the one. He just didn’t think she would be so difficult to make happy. Belmont had hoped he could fall out of love with her, but the cells of his body loved the cells of her body. His soul craved her soul. His mind needed her mind to complete him. He had waited thirty-five years to find her. Daisy was the woman God had made for him and he was the man for her—that he knew for sure.
Belmont’s glare rolled around the room. There were no windows, but the clock on the oven said he had been at his task for at least six hours. He had gotten a portion of the control panel working but not the part that controlled the safe room door. Belmont felt like road kill. He was so exhausted that he started mixing up wires. Charlie’s electrician had added filters and control boxes that weren’t part of the original design, so Belmont had to find workarounds. Then when he fixed one function, another function stopped working.
Belmont wanted to yell, but instead he kept his composure. He needed food and a bit more sleep. He opened the refrigerator. There wasn’t that much there to eat. What did Charlie want to do? Starve him to death? Belmont took out one of the three turkey sandwiches wrapped in plastic and one of the three beers. Charlie knew he only drank beer when he was stressed.
The silence was getting to Belmont. He had to force his brain not to think of Daisy or all the work he was neglecting. He also had to keep himself from getting so pissed off at Charlie that he got careless with the box and made mistakes. Belmont hated being helpless, but there was no use in pushing himself to exhaustion. After he finished eating, he took two painkillers for his throbbing everything, lied down, and closed his eyes.
When Belmont woke, he was laying on his side, facing the kitchenette. The oven said it was nine a.m. He rolled up to sit. He had been asleep for almost ten hours. At least his head felt better.
Belmont brushed his teeth, washed his face, took two more painkillers, and got back to work on the control panel. Now that he could think more clearly, he figured out that he shouldn’t try to remove the aspects Charlie’s guy added—he should meld them into the existing wiring. More hours ticked away, but Belmont had finally fixed the last wire. When he pushed the button to open the door, it slid open.
He smiled and looked at his ankle monitor. It would only take a dig and turn in the lock with a flathead to free himself from it, but he wondered what the purpose of the damn thing was in the first place. So he left it on. Now that he had telecommunications back up, he wanted to call Charlie and insist that he explain himself. However, Belmont was too curious to put an early end to the madness. He would wait as long as he could to see what Charlie had planned. From the amount of food that Charlie left in the refrigerator, he hadn’t expected Belmont to remain in the hole for long. At least, that was what Belmont hoped.
Belmont rushed up the stairs to the main control room. He had to make the main system the slave and the smaller panel in the safe room the master because an outside source had linked into the main system, giving that person the ability to control everything. Belmont didn’t terminate their control, but he fixed the system so that he could lock them out if he wanted. He powered up the massive surveillance system, but all he heard was white noise. Belmont rushed back downstairs to activate the override function, and this time when he activated the system, the TV monitors showed various shots of outside and inside the property. The timestamp on the corner of each monitor said it was Wednesday afternoon.
“Damn,” he said under his breath. It had been Monday morning when he was accosted by Charlie and his buddies.
Belmont rewound the video until he pinpointed the moment of his arrival. He scowled as he saw himself, out cold and on a stretcher, being wheeled off a helicopter by Charlie, Vince, and another man he scarcely recognized.
Belmont took a closer look. “Stanley Roswell?”
Stanley was Charlie’s friend, and he was a doctor of some sort, which type eluded Belmont. A lanky middle-aged man met them at the front door. The stranger had already been in the house, which didn’t sit well with Belmont. The men quickly shook hands and hurried inside.
Belmont switched to the interior cameras and rewound the video until he matched the timestamp from the outside video. Charlie and Vince sweated profusely as they wheeled him down the long hallway. When they reached the back of the house, Charlie flipped up the cover over the security pad and pressed his thumb to the reader. Belmont clenched his jaw, regretting his decision to give Charlie access to the secured room. The door slid open, and they took the lift down instead of the stairs. They entered the safe room, carefully lifted Belmont off the stretcher, and put him on the bed. Belmont turned on the audio just in time to hear Charlie complain about “Jack’s” dead weight. Vince agreed he was heavy.
“This is fucking nuts,” Vince said.
Belmont could see the regret on Vince’s face.
“We’re already here now, so let’s just get it over with,” Charlie said, also regretfully.
Stanley prepared a syringe. “He’s going to bruise around that eye. This should help.” Stanley injected Belmont with the serum.
“What’s that you’re giving him?” Charlie asked.
“Something to accelerate the healing.”
Charlie nodded, but Belmont noticed Charlie’s stressed expression. “I think he knows it was me.”
“Well, he can’t retaliate in this condition,” Stanley said.
Vince nervously scratched the back of his neck. “When is he going to wake up?”
“Three or four hours.” Stanley shook his head. “I don’t like leaving him unattended.”
“Me neither,” Vince said.
“He’ll be fine. Right?” Charlie asked the unidentified middle-aged man who was strapping the monitor around Belmont’s ankle.
The man motioned to Stanley. “He is the medical doctor.” He spoke with a French accent.
“That’s right, and if anyone finds out I did this, I’ll lose my fucking license,” Stanley said.
“No one’s going to find out,” Charlie said.
Belmont sneered. Charlie was always sure the foul shit he chose to do would have no consequences, but there were always consequences. Belmont had bailed him out of all of them.
Belmont shook his hands. “I could’ve died you nitwit!”
Stanley shot Charlie a skeptical glance then placed nodules on Belmont’s chest. “I’ll monitor him closely. If his vitals become concerning, then you fly me back to this fucking island, and we put an end to this shit. Got it?”
Charlie didn’t respond.
Stanley gave Charlie a look that said he meant business. “Or I’ll wake him the hell up.”
“Jack will be fine,” Charlie said as if he were trying to convince himself. “He always is. Plus, he’s going to want to kiss the ground we walk on when his better half gets here.”
“Daisy…” Belmont whispered. So she would be arriving.
“Yeah, but he won’t be able to touch her.” Vince shook his head. “That’s sinisterly cruel…”
“It won’t be forever,” Charlie said.
“I still don’t see anything wrong with how much they do it. You do it a lot. So do I. It’s healthy,” Vince said, looking at the lanky man for corroboration.
“Their sexual relations are not excessive. I will use sex as an unconditional stimulus,” the lanky man said.
Vince and Charlie looked as if they were confused by the man’s clinical speak. However, Belmont understood him. The lanky man was a doctor, and he was planning to keep them apart sexually and only let them fuck as a reward. Belmont sniffed. In his fucking dreams.
“Whatever,” Charlie said. “The point is, Dr. Calvet knows what the hell he’s doing. Jack and Daisy are going to be fixed when he’s done with them.”
Belmont bit down on his back teeth. He’d heard that name before. Dr. Calvet.
“These methods are inordinate. I too am risking my reputation, but I am doing this as a favor for a friend,” Dr. Calvet said.
Suddenly Belmont remembered Charlie had asked him to call or meet a marriage therapist who was a Frenchman. Belmont had said he’d think about it but never gave it another thought. He scrutinized Dr. Calvet, who had finished activating the ankle monitors.
“Tuck him in,” Stanley said. “Jack will be lethargic when the anesthesia wears off. He won’t be fully awake until tomorrow, but other than a little soreness from the bruises on his face, he’ll feel like new.”
Vince and Charlie seemed fine with that prognosis. Belmont watched all four men file out of the room. Another helicopter arrived with food, and they stocked the refrigerator in the main kitchen and the one in the room where he was being kept. One of Charlie’s electrician buddies was on the copter, and he tested the control panels to make sure Dr. Calvet had complete control from his home in France, which explained the extra wires and filters in the safe room. The guy was good, but his work was rushed and sloppy.
After he watched both helicopters lift off, Belmont touched his ankle bracelet. It didn’t bother him, but at least Charlie’s shenanigans weren’t more sinister. The entire plan had Angelina written all over it. She had a flair for the dramatic, one of the many ways she differed from Daisy.
Unfortunately, all of their planning would go up in a ball of smoke, though not immediately. He liked the idea of him and Daisy fixing their relationship. Something was definitely wrong. They had never been on the same page, but Daisy just wouldn’t give him anything to go on. He needed something, but hell if he knew what that was.
Belmont flipped between cameras to evaluate the lay of the island in real-time. The speedboats had been removed from the docks on both sides of the island, and not one caretaker roamed the grounds. On average, six workers stayed on the island to tame the brush and wipe back the dust in and around the six guesthouses. Each had its own swimming pool, which also had to be maintained.
Belmont had initially intended to turn the island into a vacation resort, but he fell in love with the terrain. He had paid top dollar for a deserted island with sloping bluffs with flat planes, which made it good for building. The main house was built on the highest point of the island, facing west. The sunsets were therapeutic. Belmont had never named the island. He had been waiting for something remarkable to happen in his life, an event or person he wanted to memorialize. Why hadn’t he ever thought to name his piece of Heaven Daisy?
All of a sudden, one of the cameras showed a helicopter hovering over the helipad. Belmont smirked. Daisy had arrived while he was thinking of her. That confirmed it. He would name the island “Daisy’s Heart.” Belmont held his breath as Stanley and another guy carefully unloaded the stretcher with Daisy on top. She was out cold, and he didn’t like seeing her that way. She looked dead, lying there with an IV drip feeding her the knockout drugs.
Belmont was taken aback when he saw Angelina step out of the helicopter, carrying a suitcase. The pilot took the suitcase from her, and she clenched the handrail of the stretcher. Belmont tried to recall if he had ever seen that strained look on Angelina’s face. Angelina and all the men carted Daisy into the house, down the hallway, and into the room he called the mouth because the trees that surrounded the patio furniture looked like lips, and the furniture resembled teeth. Belmont hadn’t planned it that way—it just happened.
The mouth was one of the only rooms Belmont hadn’t installed cameras in, so he couldn’t watch what was happening. He kept his gaze fixed on the monitor showing the doorway. He was eager for everyone but Daisy to leave.
Finally, one attendant walked out of the room. Three minutes later, Stanley and Angelina left. Angelina was wiping away tears, and Stanley had an arm around her shoulder. As soon as the helicopter lifted off, Belmont heard a click. Someone was using the control center. He decided to let them keep their access for the time being. He ran out the door to Daisy.
I sit on a black leather sofa in a room that reminds me of a TV station control room. Belmont has just filled me in on where we are and why we’re here . We’re on his privately owned island in the Bahamas. I feel as if I’m living in a dream. It would be a nightmare without Belmont. However, the shock collar around my ankle feels as if it’s around my neck, choking me. It’s already made me break out in an itchy rash.
“Babe, you have to stop doing that,” Belmont says when he catches me scratching my ankle.
I look at him solemnly. “But I’m itchy.”
He takes a step in my direction but doesn’t come closer. “Take some deep breaths. It’ll help.”
“I don’t see how that can help.”
“The discomfort is in your head.”
“No, it isn’t. It’s around my ankle.”
Belmont and I gaze into each other’s eyes. I hate getting huffy with him, especially while under duress. Maybe he’s right. I take a couple deep breaths. Plus, I’m willing to try anything.
“What happened to your eye?” I ask.
“Charlie and Vince had to fight me to bring me here.”
I shake my head in disbelief. “Does it hurt?”
His gaze caresses me. “Not anymore.”
My heart skips a beat. That one long, sensual look is enough to make me get a grip. I drop my foot off the seat. “Okay, I’ll stop scratching.”
Belmont smiles faintly, and so do I. He powers on a sizable system of television monitors, electrical control boards, and switches. A man with mildly graying hair around his temples fills the screen. He’s sitting in front of a bookcase stacked with psychology books.
“We’re here. Now what is this about?” Belmont growls.
The man takes a moment to appraise me. “I am Dr. Calvet.”
Suddenly I hear Angelina’s voice speak his name in my head. “You’re Luc Calvet, the psychiatrist?”
He straightens his posture. “I am Luc.”
“You’re a friend of my father’s.”
“Jacques and I are good friends.”
“But Angelina put you up to this?” I ask.
“Angelina asked for me to help.”
“Does she know about the shock bracelets?” I snarl.
“May I call you Daisy?” he asks.
“Sure.” My tone is gruff.
“The ankle monitors are part of your therapy.”
The word therapy resounds inside my head like a shotgun blast. “Therapy? I did not agree to therapy. And if I were undergoing therapy, then I’m at a loss as to how outfitting us with ankle monitors as if we’re criminals will help.” My skin turns hot as it does when I’m angry.
Belmont holds up his hands. “Calm down, babe.”
“Mr. Lord—” Dr. Calvet says.
Belmont grimaces at him. “It’s Belmont.”
“Belmont, does your wife’s discomfort make you uncomfortable?”
The question seems to catch Belmont off guard. He parts his lips as if he wants to speak, but he’s lost for words.
I feel as if I have to say something to save him. “You don’t have to give us shock therapy to keep us away from each other. We’re adults.” I make sure to use a less contentious tone.
“I do agree with you.”
“Great, then how do we get them off? I feel like there’s a noose around my neck.”
“The keys are buried in the sand.”
Belmont and I look at each other as if that’s the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever heard. This whole situation is like something out of a B-movie, and Belmont and I are the talentless lead actors.
“Once you have progressed, I will send you the map,” Dr. Calvet says.
I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry.
Belmont’s frown deepens. “Neither Daisy nor I have agreed to treatment. Don’t think we will be bullied into this clusterfuck.”
Dr. Calvet’s gaze shifts between Belmont and me. “I see. You must choose my help. I cannot proceed if you do not agree, but I do hope you agree, because I can help you.”
Belmont and I glance at each other. I don’t doubt that our marriage needs whatever assistance he can offer. I feel as if we’re clinging to a buoy in a rough sea. We could hold on until we die, but we don’t want our relationship to perish. We want to live, and Dr. Calvet is offering us a lifeline.
The problem is that we didn’t choose this. Angelina and Charlie decided it for us. I still can’t believe she let him outfit me with such a torturous device. She should’ve known better. I recall her being inside my bedroom in Chicago and how soothing her warm, moist hand was on my forehead. I was feeling a lot better, and I’d wanted to let her know.
“I’m sorry,” she’d said.
I’d wanted to ask, “Sorry for what?” However, the next thing I knew, I woke up on a bed in a room I didn’t recognize.
I remember Belmont and the woman in the purple dress, Stacy Pruitt. I see myself kissing Dexter and that look on Belmont’s face when he caught us. I recall our stupid, stupid arguments. He accused me of being loveless. I accused him of being entitled and controlling—the two traits I hate most in a man. Yet I love him, and I can’t picture a future without him. Dr. Calvet watches me as if he already knows what I’ll say.
“Okay, I’ll do it,” I say.
Belmont smiles faintly. “Me too. I’m in.”
End of Excerpt