Natalie Gray has lived in a corner of Doug Carlyle's soul since the day they met. She's his light in a dark world, the good that cuts through the evil his mind too often sees.
She's his anchor, his heart, his future. The world and all its horrors can wait. This is the time for them. He wasn't anticipating someone else had a different agenda. He won't
be caught unaware again. Natalie's become a part of his mind. Now he has to shut her out to save their lives. That alone is a tricky balance that could cost him the love he
holds so dear.
Doug Carlyle reeled his fishing line across the water,
hoping to entice a bluegill into grabbing the fly. It was all about patience.
He’d learned that from the cradle up, right here at the family cabin every
summer. The lesson had served him well in life, so had the hours perched on his
dad’s knee—or grandfather’s or uncle’s. When work was especially tough, Doug
wrapped himself in the love of his family, if only in his mind. Here on the lip
of this beautiful freshwater lake, he could recharge from the horrors work
thrust his way. Sunlight glinted off the blue-green surface like a million
stars at night. The breeze sifted through the towering trees and calmed his
It was especially nice to be here when summer heat melted a
person to nothing in the city and all the crazies came out. Although, with late
afternoon thunderstorms starting to move into the mountains, it might wind up
being colder than Doug preferred. If the rain got too bad, he’d not only be
stuck inside the cabin, he’d be stranded when the roads washed out. Just him
and the thoughts and voices of others that crept into his mind.
He sighed and cast his line again. He had books, beer,
supplies, blankets, and extra jackets in the closet if the walls closed in and
he needed to walk it off. He’d manage. He always did.
Doug couldn’t remember when he’d realized he was different
from other children. In his family his ability was a given. Doug was glad for
that. They had the “sight,” as his grandmother called it. They’d shown him how
to use it wisely, how to deal with some of the things he saw that weren’t so
nice, how to protect himself. Still, no one was happy when he’d decided to go
into profiling. The discipline involved with that work helped him hone his gift
and have it mean something.
The family respected his need to make a difference, but they
worried. He’d seen it in their minds. They helped him stay grounded despite
their concerns, giving him distance when he needed, wrapping him in love when
he needed that too. Without that he risked overload. It had happened to his
older cousin with near lethal results—another reason the family didn’t want
Doug involved in police work of any kind. At that point it was a little too
late. Doug had made the commitment and wouldn’t back away from it. He monitored
himself daily, sometimes hourly, to keep in check and notice the internal
signals telling him it was time to clear his head of the garbage collected from
So he lounged in one of the two Adirondack chairs on the
dock built by his maternal grandfather, cold beer and bottled water in a cooler
by his side. The cabin, with the wooden steps Doug and his father had built the
year before were a mere stone’s throw away. The motorboat tied next to him
bobbed as if begging to be taken out for a spin. His family had left the day
before, giving Doug a few days to cleanse his mind before heading back to work.
He missed them, but he also treasured this quiet time. No one’s thoughts to
intrude on his. No having to put up his blocks. At least no one in his general
People occasionally occupied other cabins dotting the
lakeshore. The closest at the moment was at the farthest end a mile down, and
Doug could tune the honeymooners out. It wasn’t easy when their passion poured
his way. With his family gone and without the distraction they’d provided,
sexuality from the couple seeped into Doug’s head, adding to the agony of being
away from the woman of his dreams. He felt like a voyeur beating off each time
to give himself relief, imagining himself sliding into Natalie Gray while he
Oh, well…what they don’t know…
Smiling, he cast his line again. That’s when he felt the
presence of another drift into his head, and not just any other person. Natalie
was driving up the road.
He parked his fishing rod in the bracket and stretched to
his feet to face the arrival. Nothing the honeymooners could project would
equal the feeling of seeing Natalie pull her Ford Escape to a stop before the
cabin, right behind his Jeep Cherokee. She’d lived in a corner of his soul from
the first time they’d met the previous year. At the time they’d both been
involved with other people. He’d known the instant he’d seen her that she was the
one…and he hadn’t been able to do a thing about it, except be patient and
wait until the time was right.
He’d ended his own relationship right away. Doug couldn’t
continue being with Bette when he knew she was out there. It wasn’t
fair. He liked Bette too much to use her. Two months later, Bette met the love
of her life. Now they were married with a baby on the way. It hadn’t
take long for Natalie to be single once more either. Still he waited for that
perfect moment, wanting her more than anything else, yet content to get to know
each other better.
He’d felt a nudge from the universe that last time they’d
had coffee. It wasn’t the most opportune time since he was leaving for the
cabin within hours. Once she was finally in his arms, Doug knew he’d never want
to let her go. All he could do was sow a seed for when he returned—a subtle
touch up her arm, along with a promise to see her when he got back. The warmth
that had pulsed from her when he’d done so had made it doubly hard to leave.
He’d missed her like crazy every day since, took her image with him to bed each
night in the crowded cabin. No wonder he’d caved so quickly from the
honeymooners. Now Natalie was here, firing up his libido, wiggling into his
heart all the more.
Doug opened his mind and probed hers. She was here on
business, but he also felt joy overlaid on the dark news she had to deliver.
Happiness rippled through her when she waved and flashed him a smile. He waved
and smiled back, heartbeat racing in time with hers. His erection rivaled the
size of the pine trees around them. He shoved the tips of his fingers in his
jeans pocket and watched her pick her way down the wooden steps toward him,
wanting her more with every inch that brought her closer.
She’d gone casual for her visit wearing jeans, sneakers, and
a dark green T-shirt that came a hair shy of clinging to her torso. Her long
brown hair was pulled up in a ponytail that dangled to her shoulders. Sunlight
filtering through the treetops and dark clouds glinted off the red highlights.
When left loose, her hair shone like treasure. Doug knew it would feel like thick
strands of silk running through his fingers. He wanted to drown in the smell of
her, that combination of scents unique to Natalie alone.
“I should have known better than to try to sneak up on you.”
Who needed the sun when there was a smile like that beaming
“When did you know I was here?”
Doug shrugged. “Probably when you turned down the road. It’s
hard to tell. I was fishing, pondering the lint in my navel, and wondering when
the newlyweds on the other side of the lake were going to go at it again.”
Natalie laughed. “Hard life.”
He grinned. “Very hard when they’re hot and heavy.” And I
want you so bad I can taste it.
She’d reached the bottom step. Her brown eyes sparkled with
humor. She was genuinely glad to see him, despite her original reason for
seeking him out. Doug wanted to delay that discussion as long as possible.
“It was a long drive for you. Would you like a beer or a
bottle of water?” He reached for the small cooler between the chairs, already
knowing her selection.
“Sure.” Obviously she knew he knew. Doug liked that. Natalie
had always accepted him for what he was. Not once had she questioned anything.
Her long fingers brushed his as she took the water. A tingle
zipped up his arm and he felt the jolt of impact in her head. Perhaps putting
up some walls would be polite.
“I would have called, but someone’s cell phone seems to be
off.” Natalie twisted the cap off and took a long drink.
Doug’s gaze locked onto the slender column of her neck as
she swallowed. The image of her lips wrapped his cock, sucking him down doubled
his agony. “What can I say?” He shrugged a shoulder and motioned her to one of
the chairs. “Spotty service. Forgot to bring the charger. I’m on vacation.”
“The dog ate my homework. The sun was in my eyes. My
shoelace was untied.” Natalie eased into the low-slung chair with a contented
sigh. “God, it’s beautiful up here. I haven’t been to the mountains in ages. I
could fall asleep right here, right now.”
“Go ahead. I’ll wake you in an hour…if the storm doesn’t
open up first.”
They eyed the darkening sky.
“It looks like the clouds might win that race.”
“You realize if it starts to rain we’ll be stuck here for a
bit. You don’t want to be on those roads in a storm. Flash floods, mudslides…”
Natalie took another sip of water and stared at the lake,
now turned gray-green and choppy from the approaching storm. “I can think of
worse fates than being stuck in a mountain cabin with you.”
Doug grinned like he’d hit the jackpot. As a matter of fact,
maybe he had.
She glanced at him from the corner of her eye. “Your pole’s
Thinking of the erection swelling his jeans, Doug started to
She snickered. “Your fishing pole.”
Doug laughed at himself. “Sorry.”
“No, you’re not.” She winked and polished off the water.
“You caught me.” He pulled the rod from its brace and reeled
in a bluegill. “Looks like you’re my good luck charm. This is my first bite
since I’ve been here.”
“Always happy to help.”
“Stay the night, and I’ll be happy to cook you dinner as
Natalie eyed the sky, then cast him another sidelong glance.
“Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse.”
“Great.” He unhooked the fish and placed it in the second
cooler of ice. As much as Doug wanted her, there was that nasty business that
had brought her here. “Now that we’ve had foreplay, want to tell me why you’re
All trace of humor faded. Doug was damn glad he’d put his
walls up. He didn’t want to see the darkness in her mind. She was going to
share it soon enough.
Natalie closed her eyes, rested her head against the back of
the chair, and folded her fingers over her stomach. “Give me a bit. I’d like to
soak up a few more minutes of peace.”
“Take as long as you need.” Doug tossed out his line.
Anything to keep the world’s darkness at bay. Anything to keep her with him as
long as possible.