Meadow’s marriage to Sander Hanson wasn’t the stuff of fairy tales, but she didn’t think it was all that horrible. It’s only after his death that she finds out that he was keeping secrets. It starts with unexplained credit card charges, and women’s names in a little black book. Then there’s the secret bank account.
Stetson Christensen had been in business with Sander for many years, but he’d stopped liking the man personally a very long time ago. So when Meadow approaches him and asks for help, he has no problem doing what she asked.
Time spent in close proximity brings their long hidden desire for each other to the surface. Stetson doesn’t want a relationship, and Meadow knows it’s not the right time for one. But they can’t keep ignoring their attraction, and they can’t get away from each other.
Uncovering the dead man’s secrets shows them a depravity that neither of them had realized existed. The more they learn, the more they begin to realize they could be in serious danger. They have to find all of Sander’s secrets in order to protect themselves, and the only ones they can trust are each other.
Will they find everything they need to know in time? Or will Meadow and her children pay for Sander’s sins?
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I read the 50 Shades of Grey series, and another book series that was about BDSM. Both series made a big point about how consent was required in that lifestyle, and it made me wonder: what if someone wanted that lifestyle, but without consent? The whole idea spiraled from there, taking on a life of its own and going in directions I hadn’t expected.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
These characters came to me fully formed and ready to do what they needed to do. They had their names, their lives, their backstories, all ready for me. All I had to do was tell their stories.
It was almost ten-thirty. Darkness pressed against the window of his office, and he decided that he would only wait fifteen more minutes. Then he’d leave and they’d just have to arrange another meeting.
He was about to grab his briefcase when he heard the elevator ding. Finally. He stood and waited. The dark haired man stepped slowly into the open doorway.
“It’s about time,” he said, waving for the man to come in. “We need to wrap this up quickly. I’ve gotta get home to my family.”
The dark haired man stepped inside and closed the door with a quiet click. He began to feel uneasy as the dark haired man still didn’t speak, and continued to move slowly into the room. The dark haired man settled into one of the visitor chairs on the other side of his desk. He slowly settled back into his own chair, the uneasiness growing.
“We’ve got a problem,” the dark haired man said. His voice was very deep, with a gravelly texture.
“Well, you do.”
He raised his eyebrows. “I do?”
“I understand you have issues with our plans to expand?”
He flexed his hands behind his briefcase.
“Well, yes, I do.”
“Would you care to explain?” the dark haired man asked, his voice silky as he touched the fingertips of both hands together in front of his lips.
He squirmed behind his desk.
“Well…it’s kids. I just can’t do it.”
“I see. You have children, don’t you?”
He squirmed even more. “Yes,” he whispered faintly.
“And so you picture your children in this, and you develop a conscience. Understandable.”
He stopped squirming. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe they would understand and either change their minds or cut him loose.
“I’m glad. I was hoping you would understand,” he said, relief infusing his voice. He began to relax back into his seat.
“Oh, no. I didn’t say I understood. I just said it was understandable.”
Instantly, his back stiffened and he felt tension throughout his body.
“If you have issues with our expansion plans, then we have to find a resolution to the situation, wouldn’t you agree?”
He nodded slowly, his mouth going dry as his palms began to sweat.
“And I think there’s really only one resolution to this. Wouldn’t you agree again?”
His heart started pounding, and he heard a clicking sound in his throat as he tried to swallow. His hands shook and his stomach clenched, threatening to come up out of his throat.
“Wouldn’t you agree?” the dark haired man asked again.
He shook his head mutely.
“Oh, well, that’s a shame,” the dark haired man said with a mocking frown and syrupy sadness in his voice. “Because whether you agree or not, we’re going forward with our resolution to the problem.”
He felt his bowels threaten to let go. Tears welled up, clogging his throat and blurring his vision.
“Please don’t kill me. I don’t want you to kill me,” he whispered, pleading.
“Oh, I’m not going to kill you.”
He closed his eyes, sweet relief quickly flooding through him.
“Sarah?” the dark haired man called out.
His gaze shot to the closed door as it began to open. She staggered into the room. Her long blond hair was a tangled, stringy mess, strands of it covering her face. Her face was thin, pale, with dark circles under her eyes and bruises on her cheeks. Her bottom lip was cut and swollen.
She was dressed in a dirty white mini skirt and a torn white tank top. The same clothes she’d been wearing when they grabbed her. Her thighs and calves were covered in bruises and lash marks, and angry red welts surrounded her ankles and her wrists.
Her blue eyes were almost coherent. They focused on him. He felt a stab of terror. He hadn’t done what they’d wanted him to do. He’d have to do it now. Maybe it would be enough to appease them.
The dark haired man pulled a gun out of an inside pocket of his suit jacket.
“Before we finish things up, would you like one final fuck from her?” the dark haired man asked silkily.
Sarah’s eyes shot to him, widening with fear. Then her eyes focused on the dark haired man.
“But you said-” she began in a soft, terror filled voice.
“Shut up,” the dark haired man ordered in a clipped voice.
The dark haired man glanced disdainfully at Sarah, then focused on him again.
“Final fuck or not?”
He shook his head.
“All right, then.”
He started to stand, ready to take the gun from the dark haired man and kill her. But instead the dark haired man turned to Sarah.
“I told you I’d bring you to the man who kidnapped you. I promised you justice.”
“But – I, I thought you meant he’d be arrested.”
“Well, we could go that route, Sarah. But that requires an investigation, and a trial, and twelve people on a jury finding him guilty. That may not happen. But right here, right now, you can get your own justice. No one will ever know.”
“I won’t be arrested? Go to prison?”
The dark haired man shook his head.
“I promise you, Sarah, you will never see the inside of a prison. You will never be arrested.”
The dark haired man held the gun out to the young girl. With shaking hands she reached out and took it. She held it in two hands and stepped closer to him. He began to shake his head.
“No, no, please, no. I have kids. I have a wife. Please. Think of them,” he begged her.
“You didn’t care about me when you took me. You didn’t care about me when they raped me over and over. Fuck you,” she whispered.
She stepped closer, and he stood up. He’d fight her for the gun. He wasn’t going to go without a fight. He wasn’t going to die at the hands of a girl who’d been stupid enough to believe every little lie he’d spoon fed her, and didn’t even have enough sense to not get in a vehicle with a stranger.
The dark haired man pulled out another gun.
“Don’t bother. I’ll kill you anyway,” the dark haired man said harshly.
He looked at the dark haired man for a long moment. He could fight her anyway. But the dark haired man would just kill him in the end anyway. The dark haired man would probably shoot him while he fought with her for the gun, and even if he didn’t, there was no way he could get the gun from her and turn it to shoot the dark haired man quickly enough. It was over. He was lost.
He gulped and sank back into the chair. She stepped up right next to him, and placed the gun against his head. The metal was cool against his hot skin. He closed his eyes and began to pray. He heard the soft, metallic click of the hammer being cocked. He could feel the tremble of her hands in the slight vibration of the barrel against his temple.
He didn’t even hear the bang of the gun.
The late-October day was sunny and mild. Birds chirped merrily away in the trees, and puffy white clouds floated serenely overhead.
Meadow Hanson’s hands were ice cold, clenched in her lap. She stared down at the green grass, at the spot where it met cold, black earth. A pile of dirt dug up, covered with a green cloth out of deference to the grieving. But there was a spot left uncovered, and Meadow focused on it. It was easier than thinking about her future.
When the police had knocked on her door, and told her her husband was dead, she’d denied it. Lysander couldn’t be dead. He was at work, and she would just call him and he would tell the police he was fine. They explained to her again that he was dead, and explained that he’d been shot. Impossible, because the building that housed his business had several layers of security.
But he was. They’d given her his personal effects: his watch, his cell phone, other things. His wedding ring. She closed her eyes against the sadness and the pain, ignored the happy nature sounds around her, and ignored the voice of the minister as he continued on with the graveside service.
A short time later, she dug her fingers into the cold, moist, dark dirt at the side of the grave. Followed by her twin daughters and her son, she leaned forward and dropped the dirt onto the top of Sander’s casket. It landed with a hollow thud. Her children followed suit, another three hollow thuds. As she walked away, she looked at her hand, dirt under her nails, in the creases of her palm and knuckles. This was the last memory she would have of her husband, of her marriage. A memory of burying him. A memory of dirty hands.
Her last memory of him alive was an argument. They’d argued over money, as usual. Sander was so tightfisted with a dollar that it wasn’t even funny. He controlled all of their finances, and she had to all but beg for every dime she spent. He’d been angry that she wanted money to buy the kids some new school clothes. She didn’t understand what the big deal was. They had more than enough money. But Sander always wanted more, and wanted to keep what they did have.
She realized that she was now in charge of their finances. Her finances, she amended in her mind. It was her money now. Her money, her house, her kids, her life. She’d never have a chance to share another intimate moment with her husband. Every decision would be up to her from this point forward, no matter how big or small. But after so many years of Sander being in charge of everything, she had no idea how to do that. Though she’d fought to be included, fought to work with him to discipline the kids or pick her own new car, he’d never let her.
He’d never attend one of the kids school plays, or go on one of their field trips. He’d miss their graduations and their weddings. But would he have gone to those things even if he had lived? She had her doubts about that.
She went through the small reception after the funeral as if on autopilot. She moved around the living and dining rooms of her home, talking with people, thanking them for coming, smiling at memories they shared with her. But what she really wanted to do was hide in her room. She wanted to change out of the black sheath dress and matching heels, put on jeans and a t-shirt, put her hair in a ponytail and clean the house. Or go for a jog. Anything but stand here and listen to people rattle on and on about her husband.
Finally it was over. The house was silent. The kids were with her parents, who’d come in from out of state for the funeral. They’d never approved of her marrying Sander, but they were being very supportive of her and the kids. They’d taken the kids overnight to give Meadow a chance to grieve alone.
She stood with her back against the front door, staring around at her living room. It was time to start the rest of her life. Without her husband.
Wendy Miller is the author of romance and romantic suspense novels. She began writing as a child, and with the encouragement of her grandmother, as well as other family and friends, she eventually independently published her first novel, Tangled Deceit. She is often working on more than one project at a time, because her brain refuses to focus on only one. Wendy is also a single mother of two sons, both of whom have ADHD. She homeschools both of them, as it allows them to be educated without being medicated. When she isn’t teaching her sons, researching or writing on her latest project(s), she enjoys reading, watching television and movies, listening to a huge variety of music, swimming, camping, and even fishing now and then (though she does not bait her own hook or remove her catch from the hook. Why do you think she had sons?). You can learn more about Wendy on her website, http://www.wendy-miller.com. She also loves to hear from her readers, and you can email her through her website or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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