Whispers of Innocence

Things are not always what they seem.

(Buy locations available at Davisstories.com)

Early Review
“Intricately plotted and complex, yet not hard to follow. The opening scenes suck
you in and never let you go…This is a page turner. I highly recommend this
intriguing story.” Night Owl Romance, o! reviewers !ic" # $ stars
Other boo" reviews, awar%s an% vi%eos available at Davisstories.com
Bor%er violence& cor!ses aban%one% in the %esert. ra''ic"ing in a !reviously un"nown %rug. (
%angerous religious cult in an isolate% community. )oun%s li"e hea%lines ri!!e% straight 'rom to%ay*s
news!a!er but it*s the reality o' the romantic sus!ense, Whispers of Innocence. Enoch )mith, an
intelligent, yet !sychotic cult lea%er, uses more than his 'loc" to e+ecute ,o%*s wrath on a sin'ul nation
an% evil government.
Dra"e Elliot, a 'ormer -) .arshal un%erestimates the !ower o' the cartel that in/ures his son an%
maims himsel'. -n%er the guise o' !rotecting his brain#%amage% son, Dra"e see"s revenge an% returns
to (ri0ona to 'in% the col% an% calculating !eo!le res!onsible 'or this trage%y.
.ic"i 1ewis, an investigative /ournalist in ucson, receives a ti! regar%ing the origins o' the latest
%rug to hit the streets an% returns to (lta 2ista, home o' Enoch*s 3hil%ren o' ,o% community in which
she was once a member. Dra"e an% .ic"i /oin 'orces to uncover the secrets behin% the cult an% its
success hel!ing chil%ren li"e Dra"e*s son recover normalcy. 4hat they 'in% is 'ar worse than %rugs
coming across the bor%er. heir %iscovery !rovi%es answers to the sha%ows that haunt their %reams an%
the hi%%en connection into their !ast& an% their lives will never be the same.
Enoch stro"e% the "in"y gray bear% as i' it were a treasure% a!!en%age, yet his s5uinte% narrow
eyes never %e!arte% 'rom the note hel% tightly in his !ale han%s. ( hu'' o' stale air e+ite% his cha!!e%
li!s while he shoo" his hea%. 6e brought his hairy 'ingers together an% entwine% them li"e ro!e until
his "nuc"les whitene%. Enoch bowe%, close% his eyes, an% move% his mouth without uttering a soun%.
4hy must it be so har%, 1or%7 3an we not achieve 8our !ur!ose without the loss o' our own7 9
will hee% 8our wor%, but !lease, not another 'allen angel. Not so soon.
E+ce!t 'or the hum o' the %es" 'an an% the ta!, ta!, ta! o' the !ull chain bouncing against the
base o' the brass lam!& the room remaine% silent. 6e straightene% his shoul%ers an% o!ene% the curtain
to the %esolate lan%sca!e beyon% the win%ow o' his s!arsely 'urnishe%, white#!ainte% o''ice. he
swivele% chair crea"e% an% moane% as he leane% bac"& !art 'rom his weight, !art 'rom its many years
serving as his 'avorite seat.
he shi'ting !alette o' twilight colors re'lecte% against the thin clou%s 'orming !in" swirls an%
stationary waves across the %esert s"y. he silhouette o' a ma/estic saguaro cactus stoo% guar% over the
serene sha%ows cast by the thorny vegetation ca!able o' %rawing sustenance 'rom har%#!ac"e% caliche.
o his le't, thirty yar%s 'rom the community boun%ary, something strea"e% in an% out between
the ari% !lant li'e, 'ollowe% close behin% by a larger outline. hrough the o!en screen win%ow, a %istant
s5ueal signale% the en% o' the chase. ( scraggly white !awe% coyote a!!eare% 'rom behin% a bun%le o'
scrub brush. 9t !ause% 'or a moment an% re!ositione% a "ic"ing /ac"rabbit in its /aws as i' it were an
inanimate slab o' meat o' no conse5uence. hen it !ace% out o' sight to rea! the rewar%s o' victory
over those inten%e% as 'o%%er 'or the beast that roam 6is %omain an% harvest the wea" 'or their own
( so't ta!#ta! soun%e% against the %oor. “3ome in.” Enoch*s thoughts returne% to the o''ice as he
greete% his secon% in comman%. “8es, ;oshua7 6ave our sus!icions been con'irme%7”
“8es, El%er <rime, but it*s worse then your associates re!orte%.”
“4orse7 6ow7”
“9t*s not /ust one o' their !eo!le.”
Enoch stare% at his blac" shoe ta!!ing against the tile 'loor. “,o ahea%.”
;oshua hesitate%, as i' he 'eare% the wrath that woul% surely burst 'rom his senior once given
the une+!ecte% news. =inally, “he beast has again entere% our mi%st an% contaminate% another o' our
Enoch grabbe% the e%ge o' his %es" an% !re!are% 'or the name. “,o ahea%. 4ho is it7”
;oshua move% bac"war% two ste!s. “(bby.”
here was no e+!losion, no burst o' strong wor%s. 9nstea%, Enoch remaine% motionless, e+ce!t
'or the slight tremor in his 'orearms an% the 5uivering o' his bear%. “No, not>Dear, ,o%. Not little
(bby. )o much s!irit, such !romise.”
;oshua a!!eare% con'use%, unsure how to res!on%. Enoch %rug his large han%s across his eyes
an% uttere% a series o' mumble% wor%s. 6e wor"e% his stubby tongue across his li!s an%, as i' in a
gesture o' %enial, he uncovere% his 'ace an% %eman%e%, “(re you absolutely sure o' this, ;oshua7 4e
must be !ositive.”
he subor%inate 'ocuse% %irectly on Enoch*s !lea%ing eyes, “8es, El%er <rime. 9t*s been
vali%ate% by chatter. Not one single voice o' %escent. here can be no mista"e. 9t*s always un'ortunate
when the !urging %oes not 'ully ta"e an% the gi'te% ones are not 'ully awa"ene%. .aybe it*s a sign we
shoul% a%/ust our ritual, move away 'rom the ascension an%>”
“No? he gi't is too im!ortant i' we are to achieve 6is !ur!ose. 9t has !rotecte% our 'loc" 'rom
the wolves again an% again. 9 will not let the unholy threaten our community li"e be'ore.”
“<erha!s (bby was another carryover 'rom the 'irst generation. )omething ha!!ene% in that
!o%, but no recor%s survive% to !ass on their history. )he might have been one o' the resi%ual...”
“No. 9 have 'ollowe% her !rogress 'rom the moment o' her in%octrination. (bby was a =reel but
coul% not have been interru!te% li"e the others. )omething else inter'ere% with her training, her
awa"ening. 4e may never "now. 9' the test returns her to the 'loc", she might hel! us un%erstan% more,
but 9 re'use to toy with the gi't, as i' we %i% not trust 6is will.”
“(s you wish El%er <rime. 9t*s /ust& there have been so many to go early.”
“9 "now, brother. Each one /abs another thorn in my heart, but it*s the cost we must bear to
counter the %evil*s re!eate% attem!ts to thwart our mission. 4e will !revail. 4hatever it ta"es, we must
!revail. =ailure will %oom the 3hil%ren o' ,o% to the !lague o' evil s!rea%ing through 6is "ing%om.”
Enoch*s !osture shi'te% 'rom em!athy to %etermination. “he truth must be teste%. <re!are the
circle. 4e will lay witness a'ter this eve*s !rayers.”
“4hat about the vi!er outsi%e our 'loc"7”
“6ave you contacte% the clan res!onsible7”
4ith a mas" e%ging on %e'iance, “hey*re your associates, not>” he attem!t to !ush bac"
hovere% between them. Enoch conveye% an e+!ression o' %ominance to reestablish his su!reme rule.
;oshua hesitate%, as i' !on%ering something, then ca!itulate% to his master. “8es. hey say the
traitor is on the run. heir sources re!ort he*s see"ing asylum with the unholy ones.”
Enoch 'rowne%. “6as he given witness to us, to our o!eration7”
“No sir, not yet. 6e transitions to 4ashington tomorrow morning. 9*ve as"e% A ”
“(s"e%7 .y ,o%, man. 8ou want them houn%ing us again. 3all the clan hea% bac" now. ell
them everyone he*s come in contact with must be recti'ie%, imme%iately.”
6is secon% in comman% acte% uncertain. No, it was as i' the im!lications o' the last or%er were
more than he coul% stomach.
Enoch remove% any %oubt 'rom the e5uation. “9 un%erstan% your reluctance. 9 regret that our
course may encom!ass the innocent, but nothing can %eter us. he ser!ent must be 'lushe% an%
behea%e%. (ll touche% by its tongue must be cleanse%. here is no alternative. Now go, 5uic"ly, be'ore
it*s too late?”
Enoch returne% his attention to the new %ar"ness outsi%e his win%ow. he !oc"#mar"e% moon
%ominate% the hori0on an% 'orme% a bac"%ro! to the outline o' the %istant mountains. Your will is exact
and hard, oh Lord, but we heed Your word.
6e !raye% 'or continue% gui%ance until the wall cloc" chime% eight times. El%er <rime raise%
his hea% an% too" a %ee! breath. “9t*s time.”
Enoch waite% by the %oor o' the community hall until evening !rayers were o''ere%, an% then
he ma%e his way to the center o' the e+!ansive hall. “han" you El%er ;oshua 'or lea%ing the service in
my absence.” 6e scanne% the circle o' waiting eyes in those o' his 'loc" !ose% aroun% the !erimeter o'
the large room. )ome were in5uisitive 'or his ne+t wor%s, some con'use% by the rare event o' their
lea%er not !artici!ating in their %aily ritual. 6e !ro/ecte% a strange visage& hal' smile, hal' sa%ness.
“.y a!ologies 'or missing our communion, my chil%ren. 9 was in solitu%e, searching 'or 6is gui%ance
an% the strength to %o what must be %one.”
heir e+!ressions mor!he%. he young became con'use%, while the rest, es!ecially the women,
%is!laye% a!!rehension. ( 'ew trie% to tuc" in behin% the male at their si%e in the 'utile ho!e that %oing
so woul% o''er a shiel%. 9t was as i' they "new what came ne+t, li"e watching the mechanical han%le
being turne% ever so slowly on the si%e o' a metal bo+ waiting 'or the ;ac" to s!ring out an% !oint
%irectly at one o' them.
Enoch tugge% %ownwar% on the la!el o' his blac" coat. “Our community is small, but blesse%
with 6is true wor%. Only we have been given the rewar% o' Ecstasy*s ,ate an% the ensuing "nowle%ge.
4ith that gi't comes enormous res!onsibility 'or each o' us. )ometimes that bur%en can cause great
!ain an% sorrow to our 'amilies. But we most !rotect the secret with our lives i' 6is will is to be %one.
4e can only be 6is she!her%s an% the e+tension o' 6is way i' we all wor" together, i' we all are
willing to sacri'ice.”
6e cleare% his throat an% !resse% his han%s together beneath his chin. One by one, Enoch
stu%ie% each 'ace in the room, searching 'or some sign, a chin" in the mas" the guilty use to cover
mis%ee%s, or the intent to esca!e. “.y chil%ren, we each "now the conse5uences o' aban%oning our
laws. here is only one !ath, an% it is 6is %ivine gui%ance.” 6e shoo" his hea%, his voice 5uivere% ever
so slightly, an% he sighe%. “4e again have a traitor in our 'loc".”
( wave o' crea"ing soun%s ri!!le% aroun% the room as the occu!ants shi'te% in their woo%en
chairs, broa%casting their reaction to his li'e an% %eath !roclamation. )ome sat erect, some stu%ie% their
sim!le shoes, while a 'ew covere% their eyes, /er"e% their hea%s an% whim!ere%.
Enoch twitche% his nose an% inhale% the scent o' change in the room. 1i"e a coyote sni''ing 'or
a rabbit*s mus" the moment be'ore it %eci%es to 'lee its hole, he no%%e% his hea% twice. “9 "now. 9 'eel
it, too. One o' our own, turning against us, trying to %estroy everything we*ve %one. 9t cuts to my heart,
but we have no choice. 6is will must be %one. here is but one ho!e 'or this lost soul. <ray 'or her as
she is teste%. Beg 'orgiveness 'or straying 'rom 6is !ath. Only 6is intervention can !rove her s!irit
!ure so she may return to our 'loc".”
6e motione% towar% the rear %oor, but no one move%. he 'igures stan%ing at the e%ge o' the
light cast %own the hallway !ulle% 'urther bac" into the sha%ows. Enoch*s 'ace burne%, his eyes
scorching through the reluctant e+!ressions o' the 'ollowers. 6e snorte% li"e an anti5uate% bu''alo an%
/amme% his right 'oot har% against the 'loor. he men resiste%, but were too cowar%ly to re'use their
master. =inally, the !air le% a young woman into the center o' the hall. (s they remove% the hoo% 'rom
her blac" robe, the whim!ering 'emales in the room crie% out.
“)ilence?” El%er <rime stoo% eye to eye with the accuse%. “3hil%, you have bro"en our
covenants, our trust.” 6is vision blurre% an% his voice crac"e%. “9 'eel as i' the beast has reache% u!
an% slashe% my throat. 4hy, (bby7 4hat cause% you to go astray7 8ou "new our rules. 8ou*ve been
taught 6is will. 9' you were unha!!y with your husban%, we coul% have ma%e arrangements. (ny o' us
el%ers, inclu%ing me, woul% have gla%ly absorbe% you into his 'amily. But to aban%on our tra%itions,
run into the lair o' the unholy& you have s!it on your vows to honor our el%ers, our men, our
community. Now, 'or your violation, we have but one recourse. 8ou must be teste% 'or absolution. 6e
will %eci%e your 'ate.”
Enoch motione% to the two male guar%ians. “Disrobe her wic"e%ness an% !resent (bby to his
test in the !urity with which she came into 6is worl%.”
he guar%ians obeye% an% e+!ose% her nu%e 'orm. ears race% %own her 'ace an% converge%
between her tiny breasts. 6er eyes %arte% aroun% the room, !lea%ing 'or a savior, someone brave
enough to en% this insane nightmare, but no one ste!!e% 'orwar%. 6er sisters o' the 'loc" covere% their
'aces an% we!t& her brothers clenche% their 'ists, struggle% in their chairs, then s5uee0e% their eyeli%s
“)ecure her in the !it as each o' us !rays 'or 6is han%, a sign that her s!irit has been !urge% o'
its sins.”
(gain, they submitte% to his comman%. )he trie% to resist, but it was useless& she was too small,
too wea". hey %rug her trembling bo%y across the 'loor as i' it were something inanimate, o' no
conse5uence. 4hile they tie% (bby to the sta"e% restraints in the 'loor o' the 'oot#%ee! !it mu''le%
soun%s, li"e screams 'rom a chil%, emanate% 'rom the gag aroun% her mouth.
“Bring the swor%s o' the 1or%.”
(nother El%er reentere% the room bearing a large, roughly#woven gunny sac" an% e+ten%e% it
to Enoch. 6e hel% the cloth bag above his hea% an% raise% his eyes. “1or%, we beg you to show mercy
'or this chil%. =lush out the evil insi%e so she can once again return to our 'loc". 4e "now 8our will is
har%, but it is /ust. ell us 8our intent. ,ive us a sign an% !rovi%e her 'ree !assage 'rom 8our test, or
ta"e her soul into 8our %ominion now.”
6e untie% the bag an% %um!e% its contents into the !it. he cries 'rom the crow% %ea'ene% the
hall. “)ilence an% %o not loo" away? 4itness 6is han%.”
Even through the gag, the bloo% cur%ling whine o' a 'rightene% soul %ominate% the bac"groun%
hum o' the 'loc". =inally, 6e issue% 6is ver%ict an% even Enoch began to whim!er. “8our will be
serve%, oh 1or%. .ay you 'in% !eace with your ma"er, (bby. ,oo%bye, my chil%.”
The men shouldered their weapons with pride. aucous laughter and raunchy !okes
accompanied their gestures as they pointed to the bodies on the ground. They were mere trophies to
these assassins. "rrogant smiles depicted the assurance their deed would go unpunished.
#elly$s confused face was the last thing he saw before her head exploded and his screams
crashed against the car.
“No?” Dra"e /er"e% u!war%. 6is breathing cease%, his ears burne% 'rom the heat rushing
through his veins. 6e shoo" his hea% violently but the images bounce% o'' the %resser mirror. 6e
'orce% his nails %ee! into his tem!le but the visions remaine%. Dra"e rubbe% one !alm then another
against his eyeli% to wi!e away the carnage !laying havoc in his min% until the memories were
re!lace% by a curtain o' stars an% bursts o' white light.
6e trie% not to inhale, 'ought the %rive to survive, but the instinct to breathe was too strong. 6is
bo%y over!owere% the %esire to en% everything. 6e gas!e% 'or air, li"e a man %rowning in a river o'
sweat. hen he !ulle% his ba% leg across the be% an% %own on the 'loor, burie% his 'ace in his han%s,
an% 5uestione% the insanity o' his worl%.
%ne nightmare wasn$t enough& 'hat did I do to deserve this punishment& I tried to stop it. I
risked everything to hold them to account, and for what& 'asn$t my career enough& (id you have to
take the only woman I even…
Dra"e cleare% his throat, again an% again, until the soun% converte% to a growl. 6e trie% to rub
the moisture 'rom his 'ace, but there was too much. 6e !ic"e% u! the sweat#soa"e% !illow an% use% it
as a towel. 6e %ro!!e% the cushion to the 'loor an% re'ocuse% his vision on the night stan%. 6e ri!!e%
the %rawer out so 'ast, the solution to his torment tumble% once an% lan%e% on the !illow. 6e reache%
%own, li'te% the blac" ob/ect, e+change% it into his right han% an% stu%ie% its sha!e, the 'inality o' its
'orm. 6e !resse% it against his tem!le. he col% steel suc"e% the heat 'rom his s"in as he close% his
eyes. Dra"e tightene% his 'inger an% waite% 'or the answer to his !ain. 6e o!ene% his li%s one last time
to sam!le what he was about to leave behin%. 6e hear% the actuator s!ring clic" at the same moment a
!hoto came into clear 'ocus.
)oon, my love, I$ll be with you.
(s he lowere% his eyes, the curly hair o' the secon% 'igure in the !icture caught his sight.
4hat woul% ha!!en to his son i' he>who woul% care 'or his s!ecial nee%s7 he reality o' his
!light burst into his hea% li"e the bullet still chambere% in his gun. *o one but me.
he cowar%ly !ath might van5uish his nightmares, his sorrow, but what o' his son7 )lowly,
cautiously he release% the trigger an% remove% the barrel 'rom his hea%.
*o. I can$t let them take his father, too. They must be the ones that pay, not +ddie. ,e$s suffered
enough. I promise )on, I won$t fail this time. These bastards will be held to account.
6e !ic"e% u! the %rawer an% 'e% it bac" into the night table, holstere% his .B$D revolver, an%
lim!e% through the %ar"ness into the bathroom.
.ic"i struggle% anew. )he was %amne% i' she*% let this asshole brutali0e her. )he /abbe% her
elbow bac" into her assailant*s mi%section an% was rewar%e% with a mu''le% cry o' !ain.
( !ronounce% thum! behin% her hea% ma%e Ethan su%%enly release his tenacious hol% on her
throat. here was another lou% noise& only this time it soun%e% li"e the crac" o' woo% s!litting in two.
6er survival instincts !rom!te% a renewe% 'ren0y to a''ect an esca!e. )he 'elt another han% on
her shoul%er an% twiste% her 'ace to sin" teeth into 'lesh, while !o"ing the shar! !oint o' her elbow
bac"war% blin%ly, ho!ing to hit something, anything.
“Ouch? Damn it, girl, 9*m on your si%e.” 9t was that soothing gravelly voice she coul%n*t get out
o' her min%.
“Dra"e7” .ic"i reali0e% belate%ly she ha% /ust woun%e% the man who rescue% her 'rom
something she never wante% to e+!erience again.
“Oh, shit.” )he !ivote%, relieve% to 'in% his han%some 'ace. “9*m sorry.”
“.y 'ault. )houl% have worn gloves, you little ba%ger.”
Behin% Dra"e, she coul% see the lim! bo%y o' her attac"er lying in the %irt alongsi%e her ;ee!.
.ic"i shu%%ere%. )he wante% to laugh an% cry, both at the same time. )he use% the heel o' her han% to
angrily swi!e at the tears welling at the corner o' one eye.
Dra"e*s eyes shi'te% uncom'ortably, away 'rom her 'ace. “8ou reali0e that*s three, right7”
“hree what7”
“hree times 9*ve save% your ass, only this time 9 save% it literally.”
.ic"i hate% to show her vulnerability. )he struggle% to %re%ge u! a glib res!onse instea% o'
bursting into tears. “(re you im!lying my ass isn*t worth saving7”
9n the re'lection o' his !ic"u!*s hea%lights, he grinne% slightly an% 'ocuse% on the curve o' her
hi!s reveale% by her !ulle%#%own !ants. “No, 9 woul% never say that.”
.ic"i loo"e% %own at the scratche% an% bruise% 'lesh an% ma%e haste to re'asten her /eans. 6er
trembling 'ingers ma%e 'itting the buttons into the holes %i''icult. “Besi%es, 9 %i%n*t nee% your hel!.”
Dra"e actually snorte%. “Right.”
“4ait a minute. 6ow %i% you get here when you %i%7 4ere you 'ollowing me7”
“4hy, Dra"e7 Do you "now something 9 %on*t7”
6e scanne% the carnage on the groun% an% use% the 'ingers o' his in/ure% han% to !ress against
his mustache, as i' he were trying to hi%e his e+!ression. “No. 9*m /ust a better observer.”
“8ou mean you saw this coming7”
“(s you !ulle% out 'rom the restaurant, these yo#yos s5ueale% out 'rom the bac" corner o' the
!ar"ing lot without switching on their lights an% too" o'' in your %irection. ;ust %i%n*t seem right, so
here 9 am. 9 coul%n*t ignore the little voice telling me they were u! to no goo%.”
“hat*s a %amn goo% thing.”
“(nything else you*% li"e to say to me7”
.ic"i crosse% her arms, running her han%s u! an% %own the goose bum!s there. “han"s 'or
saving my ass.”
“hat was har%, wasn*t it7”
“8ou*ll never "now how har%.” .ic"i bit her li! to "ee! 'rom blubbering. he %anger was !ast,
but the clear evi%ence o' Dra"e*s em!athy ma%e "ee!ing her emotions in chec" e+tremely %i''icult.
)he /amme% a !alm into her eye soc"et an% twiste%, then wi!e% the wetness on her /eans.
“Damn.” Dra"e muttere% the oath so'tly, too" a lim!ing ste! 'orwar% an% gri!!e% her wrist.
hat was all it too" 'or .ic"i to close the %istance between them. )he turne%, clung to his
broa% shoul%ers, an% burie% her 'ace in the heavy 'abric o' his shirt to sob silently. 6is arm encircle%
her bac"& his han% gently rubbe% the s"in o' her arm e+!ose% by the sleeveless blouse.
hey stoo% in silence, a woman unaccustome% to revealing her emotions gaining com'ort 'rom
a man who care% enough to let her get them out in her own way, in her own time.
.ic"i 'inally e+hauste% her tears. )he wi!e% her 'ace across his shirt then raise% her eyes to his.
9n the moonlight, the scar running across his chee" a!!eare% almost metallic, highlighte% by the shell
woman*s silvery rays. )he reache% a tentative 'inger u!war% to trace its outline.
Dra"e shu%%ere% slightly. 6e remaine% 'ro0en in !lace, as i' unsure how to react.
“9*m sorry about that. 9t*s been a long time since>” 6er wor%s %ro!!e% o'' as 5uic"ly as her
han% 'rom his 'ace.
“No nee% to be sorry.”
“8our shirt is wet.”
“9t*ll %ry.”
“9 hate to cry.”
“8ou %o it well.” .ic"i raise% an eyebrow an% Dra"e elaborate%, “8ou %on*t ma"e a soun%.”
“9 learne% not to.” 9' anything, .ic"i was even more embarrasse%. )he too" a ste! bac"war%
an% sought to change the sub/ect be'ore Dra"e coul% as" 'or an e+!lanation. “4hat ha!!ens now7”
Dra"e reache% %own an% !ic"e% u! both !ieces o' his cane. “Damn. hat asshole has a thic"
s"ull. 9 really li"e% this one.” hen he a%%resse% her 5uestion. “4e call it in an% wait till the sheri''*s
o''ice gets here.”
“9 %on*t want to %o that. 9 %on*t nee% the e+!osure right now.”
“4e have no choice.”
.ic"i let go o' her arms an% reache% out a han% to gras! his in/ure% one, !ressing her 'ingers
into his !alm. “8ou thin" you coul% hel! me out here7 9 can*t blow my cover, not now.”
“(re you as"ing 'or my hel! now7”
)he too" a ragge% breath an% swallowe% the thic"ness o' emotion le't over 'rom the encounter.
)he was s!ent, both !hysically an% emotionally. “8es.”
Dra"e*s right eyebrow li'te% as he contem!late% her re5uest. “=ine. 9*ll try to "ee! your name
out o' it.”
“9 sai% try.”
)he no%%e%. “9 hear% you.”
6e reache% into his 'ront !oc"et 'or his !hone. “8ou better get out o' here, be'ore 9 change my
.ic"i too" three ste!s towar% her ;ee!, then !ause%.
“han"s. 9 really a!!reciate you being there 'or me. 9 owe you big time.”
“9*ll remember that.”
“9*m serious, Dra"e.”
“6ell, 9*% be ha!!y i' you /ust %i%n*t ta"e chun"s out o' my ol% hi%e anymore.”
.ic"i sighe% as she hea%e% into her ;ee!, 'ully intent on an e+!e%itious e+it. )he loo"e% at the
remains o' the vehicle*s so't to! an% gras!e% the e%ges o' the torn vinyl hanging over the console. )he
use% as much 'orce as she coul% muster to ri! it away an% stu'' it un%er the seat. )he !ulle% o!en the
%amage% %oor an% haule% her aching bo%y u! into the seat. )he twiste% the rearview mirror so that it
met her ga0e. )hit, forgot about the truck.
.ic"i stuc" her hea% out the win%ow. “hin" you coul%>7”
Dra"e lim!e% over to the attac"er*s !ic"u!, got in, close% the %oor, an% bac"e% the vehicle out
o' her !ath.
)he revve% the motor an% the /ee! shot bac"war%, turning with a groan o' %ente% metal an%
%amage% !arts bac" onto the highway. 9n her rearview mirror, she watche% Dra"e "ic" the unconscious
bo%y o' her assailant towar% his truc" an% his hea% bounce% against the tire.
Dra"e 'i+e% on the %istinctive high#!itche% whine an% small tail lights o' the ;ee! until they
both %isa!!eare% against the %istant wall o' %ar"ness.
'hy was she so upset& I stopped them, nothing really happened. I don$t get it.
6e ha% /este% about her ass, the 'act that he actually %i% save her, an% that as a woman she %i%
nee% him to>
he answer blare% out against the vacuum o' night on the isolate% lan%sca!e. o him, she
ha%n*t been !hysically assaulte%, he ha% seen to that. But to her, she ha% still been ra!e%, emotionally,
mentally. he control we each cherish o' in%e!en%ence, the ability to %eci%e what we choose to %o, that
right ha% been stolen 'rom .ic"i. No matter how strong she was on the outsi%e, she was a still a
woman at ris" o' losing her rights at the whim o' someone bigger, more !hysically !ower'ul. he
ability to give o' hersel', the gi't o' her beauty, charm, an% !assion& they ha% ra!e% !art o' her min%,
ta"en away her control to %eci%e when an% whom she>
-esus. ,ow could I have been so damn blind&
Dra"e sense% a shi't in his 'oun%ation, his construct o' the woman he ha% /ust met. )he wasn*t
what he ha% !erceive%, a mo%ern aggressive sel'#'ocuse% 'emale hell bent on remaining unattache% an%
on her own. 4ell, maybe on the sur'ace, but un%erneath, she was a re'lection o' what he cherishe% in
Felly. .ic"i was an icon o' the 'eminine mysti5ue he calle% out 'or in the mi%%le o' the night, nee%e%
as a man to survive, to be com!lete again.
6e thought about her comment at the restaurant A about wishing away her 'eminine attributes,
thought about her nee% 'or control. 4hat ha% ha!!ene% to ma"e her 'eel that way7
6e saw it now, what she was, what he misse%. 9t was her !hysical an% emotional vulnerability,
that unvoice% longing in her eyes to have someone nearby, on the rim, where they coul% 'ly in, hol%
her, !rotect her, cherish all that she was when things went ba%, or when she merely wante% to 'eel
s!ecial to someone, to a man. 6e ha% ma%e a mista"e, mis/u%ge% who an% what this woman was about,
an% that recognition stirre% something insi%e, in his heart, something he thought woul% never return.

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