Within Temptation (Sons of Temptation #1)
Author: Tanya Holmes
Release Date: May 12, 2014
Category: Romantic Mystery/Romantic Suspense. This is not erotica or romantica. This is a romance centered around a murder mystery.
Heat Factor: 3 out of 5 -- The sexual tension is high, and the burn is slow. Sex is character-driven, rather than plot-driven.
Love, betrayal and murder in a small town….
Serving hard time for murder has left Trace angry and bitter. As far as he's concerned, digging into the past won't replace the years he's lost or erase the hell he's lived. Now that he's free, Shannon Bradford tops his list of bad memories. But he never counted on falling in love.
Set in a sleepy little town during the dead of winter, this award-winning romance novel is a tale of one woman's quest for truth and a man's struggle to forgive.
"MEMORIES flooded my mind, of the quiet riot he was, of the secret crush I’d had on him, and the extraordinary friendship we’d shared so many years ago. As fast as those images came, others replaced them. I was thrust back to the crime scene, back to Mother’s corpse and the shirtless eighteen-year-old roaring obscenities while Sheriff Gray and a deputy dragged him away in handcuffs." -- Within Temptation
We stared at each other for half an eternity as Ray Charles crooned, “You Don’t Know Me” from somewhere in the house.
“Take a wrong turn?” he asked, ice dancing in his eyes.
His jaw worked. “Four days, two hours, and twenty-three minutes of sorry. You get my messages?”
I nodded in shame. “I just…”
“Got scared.” My breath escaped in a misty cloud.
“I should’ve called.”
“You think?” He studied me in angry silence for a time. “Lose the hood.”
“The hood.” He nudged his chin. “Take it off.”
He was testing me. His ‘you’re ashamed of me’ look was unmistakable. So I did as he asked. I tugged it down. “Satisfied?”
Trace swung the door all the way open and his arm formed an arch. I studied the man-made entrance with caution, then ducked beneath it and went inside.
He kicked the door shut.
Unbuttoning my coat, I watched him lean against a wall, arms folded. It may have been my imagination, but he seemed to study me with the same lethal aloofness of a cat watching an unsuspecting mouse—right before the pounce.
To steady my frayed nerves, I concentrated on the beautiful living room. He was renovating. I smelled paint, and drop cloth draped the floor in the adjacent dining room, which he’d jammed with tools and supplies.
An ornate brass floor lamp stood attached to an extension cord that snaked down the hall to what I assumed was the kitchen. A cute tabletop Christmas tree, complete with tinsel, golden ornaments, and candy canes was propped on a twenty-five-inch TV. The pine floor had been polished to a high gloss. Beige paint with alabaster molding covered the walls. Stylish brass vent and outlet covers complemented the gilded vintage ceiling fan above them.
I gestured. “You’ve been busy.”
“Yeah. My shrink thought it’d be therapeutic.”
“You do good work.” I tore my eyes from his sullen face. “It’s beautiful.”
“But a far cry from the fancy digs you’re used to.”
It wasn’t said maliciously. In fact, there’d been a ring of humility in his tone that had almost bordered on apologetic.
“My tastes are simplistic,” I said. “I fell in love with a dilapidated Queen Anne Victorian, but I didn’t trust my instincts. I hesitated. Now it’s under contract.” I turned to him and sighed. “Speaking of which, I may have a job for you. The couple buying it needs a good carpenter. Can I give them your number?”
He hitched a shoulder. “Uh, yeah. Sure.”
“When do you think you’ll be finished here?”
“In a few months.” He lifted a brow. “Guess I’ll be needing a real estate agent.”
“Look no further.” I tried to smile, but it felt lame. What had happened at the club and my vanishing act screamed in his eyes. “So, do you have a place picked out or….”
“Naw.” He paused, then in a serious tone added, “I’m leaving Temptation the second my parole year is up. Sooner if I can get a transfer.”
My smile froze. He’s leaving? “Ah, th-that’s understandable. What, with everything that’s happened.”
“Exactly. There’s really nothin’ keeping me from going, is there?” He paused for a beat, tilted his head, and cocked a brow. “Cholly’s got his own life. Mama and Daddy are gone. Bev’s married, and if Cole ever gets out, I’ve got to find a way to help him—but not here. Not in this town.”
Fearing, dreading, I hesitated before asking, “Will you at least stay in West Virginia?” I cleared my suddenly dry throat. “Or will you move away?”
“What do you think?” He gave the room a fleeting glance. “Three tenants lived here over the past twelve months. When they heard about what happened, they hauled ass. So selling this shack won’t be easy. Either way, I figure I’ll check out the West Coast. Maybe Washington state.”
It felt like he’d reached across the room and punched me in the stomach.
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