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YOUR RETURN and 21 other books. Mystery Blogger Award for 2017. A to Z Blog
Challenge Survivor in 2016. March
2016 Empress of the Universe title – winner of the “Broken Heart”
themed contest and the “I Love You” themed contest on Poetry
Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the
2015 P&E Readers’ Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers’ Choice Awards for
Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile
Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book
Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial’s Author of the Year
Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award.
Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 10 Authors on AuthorsDB.com.
Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.
Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has
been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in
progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 22
books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic
suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, dramatic
fiction, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several
multi-author anthologies. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series,
The Magick Series, The Blood at First Sight Series and The Code of Endhivar
In all of these amazing stories, there’s one burning question…is love worth the risk?
and Jenna are two childhood friends separated by time and distance. Can
they find a way to heal their bond, or perhaps forge a new one?
by her friend’s close call, Victoria decides to take a risk and prove
the lifestyle she led was her downfall. But as Tory sinks deeper into
the tumultuous abyss of desire with the mysterious Rick, can she climb
back out before it’s too late? Or does she even want to?
to run her family’s farm on her own, Sadie takes on a hired hand, Matt.
As they grow closer, so does the danger. Someone wants her legacy. Can
they combat this new threat, as well as the demons of the past, before
Sadie loses everything, including her life?
A Touch of Dawn
thought she’d be in the dark forever. But with the light came Jack, the
police consultant who found her. Can they take a journey of healing
together, or will Caitlyn retreat into the darkness of her mind, where
she lived for so long?
(CONTENT WARNING: With an abuse awareness
theme in this collection, there may be triggers here for past trauma
sufferers. However, HEAs are guaranteed.)
the behest of a soft tone, his spine straightened. Recognizing the voice right
away, he turned off the burner and spun away from the half-seared scrambled
eggs. “Everything all right, Caitlyn?”
she repeated the pained plea, and his stomach clenched.
don’t know. I need to talk to you. Can you come?”
got it. I’ll be at your house in a few minutes. You hang on.”
try,” she managed and it broke his heart. He hung up, grabbed a fitness shake
from the fridge, threw on a pair of shoes and was out the door. He went for a
run every morning in his neighborhood so he knew how to be fast.
wasn’t kidding. He didn’t live far away from her either. Since his clients were
always traumatized, it was useful to be on call. And to be prepared for any
situation. Anything. Slit wrists,
hangings, panic attacks, nervous breakdowns. The list went on. And he could get
a psychiatrist pal on the phone at the touch of a button if admission or
medications were necessary. It also helped to have an excellent memory; he
could dictate all his notes to his recorder after any session.
nothing…nothing had ever scared him like her soft plea. It was hard to admit
the woman had gotten to him, but she had. And he wasn’t going to lose her.
he pulled the car up, he shut it off as quickly as possible, shoved the keys in
his pocket then scrambled from the vehicle. Jogging up the walk, he pounded on
mom appeared with a worried look. “Mr. Thomas?”
pushed past her, casting pleasantries aside. “How is she?” he demanded as he
turned to face her.
Johnson wrung her hands. “I don’t know. I’m not sure what’s wrong. She…” She
shook her head.
woman pointed the way.
followed a corridor to a small bedroom. Pink walls, pink spread. Caitlyn had
thrown a red blanket over the window to block out the light. He saw a huddled
form beneath the bedspread, reached out and threw back the fabric.
sat down to get a look at her. Caitlyn rocked, wet tracks down her face. She
must’ve been crying. Her eyes were shut tight and her hair was wild. She wore a
pair of lavender sweats, and was pretty much unresponsive to his touch. He
checked for marks on her arms and wrists, but found nothing. So she hadn’t
tried to hurt herself.
suspected what was happening, but could only try to pull her from the
nightmare. It was too easy for someone who had been traumatized like she had to
revert to a catatonic state and he wished that hell on no one.
Caitlyn, it’s Jack. Jack Thomas, remember?”
small sound came behind him, and he glanced back to see her mother cover her
mouth. It didn’t matter right now. It couldn’t.
on. Come back to me. Caitlyn, can you hear me? It’s going to be okay. I’ll help
you get through this,” he vowed, and almost choked on the words. He pushed
through the panicked flutter in his chest, gathering her into his arms.
I won’t let them hurt you anymore, okay? No one will. It’s just you and me.
You. And me. I’m going to take care of you, I swear,” he said with his lips
pressed to her temple. “Come back to me, sweetheart. Come on.”
tried once more, unaware what words spilled out of him. Desperation alone drove
his actions. As he cradled her to his chest, a fruity scent drifted into his
nostrils. Strawberries, he thought. He felt the strangest combination of
rightness and deep concern. “The world needs you, darling. Don’t hide away.
Come back to us. Please.”
a few moments, a shudder went through her and a small voice whispered, “Jack?”
right. I’m here, honey.”
filmed her eyes. “I, I was back there again. In the cellar.”
know. I’m so sorry. But you’re here now. You’re safe in this house, and with
me. You just go ahead and cry it out, hmm? Then you can sleep.”
sobbed hard as he held her tight. Soon, she quieted to the occasional sigh and
he pulled back to look at her. Her face was flushed and wet from her tears. He
caressed her cheek. “How ya doing?”
shook her head.
right. That’s fine. It’s a hard road, but I know you can do it. I’ll help you.”
really mean it,” she whispered, her tone incredulous.
nodded. “Yeah, I do.”
skin was so soft beneath his hand and he had to stop himself from stroking
further. “How are you sleeping?”
what I thought.” He looked at her mother. “Mrs. Johnson? Could you get her
woman slipped out of the room.
about your antibiotic? The pain medicine? Have you been taking those?”
They make me a little nauseous.”
to hear that, sweetie, but they are necessary. And if you do use the sleeping
pills, don’t try to drive, okay?” She murmured an agreement.
her mother returned with the pill bottle and some water, Jack measured out a
tablet, then watched as Caitlyn took it, eyeing her throat. “Good, that’s good.
I’ll stay till you get to sleep, but we need to talk this out soon. All right?”
he held her against his shoulder, the minutes passing, until she went limp and
her breaths evened out. It shook him that he could’ve held her forever, and he
wouldn’t have had a problem with it. He checked her eyelids to be sure she
slept before he covered her up with the bed’s blanket and spread, and cleared
out of the room.
Johnson followed him. “What was that? What’s going on?”
daughter almost went into a catatonic state. What happened was too traumatic
sat down on the sofa abruptly as if she’d lost the strength to stand. “But…I
assumed I could handle her. I thought she would be okay.”
is more than anyone can handle alone. And she won’t be all right for some time.”
frowned. “Then she needs a professional.”
want a therapist? Fine. I can do that—”
stood up. “You? But, why?”
have the credentials. I told you before.”
don’t have the money. This isn’t necessary—”
not asking for money,” he cut across her complaints. “Do you realize what just
happened in there? She trusts me. It’s good for Caitlyn to have someone to rely
on right now, and she trusts me. She needs an anchor. Do you get that?”
nodded slowly, and then frowned. “I don’t understand her. She’s despondent. She
won’t even look at me or talk to me. I hear her cry at night, but she clams up
when I’m around. She won’t let me touch her at all. What made her like this?
Was she abused? I haven’t seen any obvious bruises on her. Of course, they
might have been hidden by her clothing. I…I just thought she’d want to be home
after being gone so long.”
sighed, sweeping a hand through his hair. “Mrs. Johnson, do you know what
happened to your daughter?”
course I do. She was kidnapped, held for a while. And when they said there was
no ransom demand, it made no sense why she was even taken.”
Do you know what really happened to
got quiet. “I…wasn’t told. And she won’t say anything.”
tone dropped low, stark, but he couldn’t have prevented himself from expressing
it if he’d tried. “It’s a living nightmare, not knowing if you’ll die from
physical abuse or neglect from one minute to the next. Do you know where they
kept her? In a dark cellar, locked up, caged for their pleasure. That’s why she
couldn’t stand the light and is still sensitive to it. Three months in the
dark, terrified, battered, half-starved and raped constantly. Can you imagine
By the time he was
done with his soliloquy, Caitlyn’s mother was weeping. Hard. He crossed the
room and grasped her shoulders, but didn’t move to embrace her. He couldn’t
offer much sympathy to the woman right now; it wasn’t in him. The past was
closing in on him fast. The flash of a dark closet with only a rim of light at
the bottom was all he could see for a moment, but he managed to shake it off.
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