Below are the first three chapters of Loving My Angel, a standalone novel.

1. Danita

Life is bullshit.

Don’t get me wrong. I know life isn’t fair.

I’ve never expected anything to be handed to me.

I ran away from home at age fifteen. The place that was intended as a safe haven from the world, where a child is loved and cared for, didn’t exist for me. I endured unimaginable torture and sadistic abuse in every form imaginable at the hands of those who were supposed to love me.

After a few traumatizing events, I went from place to place, looking for somewhere I could call home, getting involved in things I shouldn’t have. For a while, I didn’t know what time it was or where I slept. I would wake up in stranger’s beds; sometimes dressed, sometimes not.

Five years in, a rude awakening in my world of despair had me seeking help.

I dragged myself out of the trenches with the help of a few friends and finished high school, went to college, got a good job, and finally found stability. For years, I’ve thrived.

Only to have it ripped away from me with one phone call.

Now, here I am, sitting in my living room a week later drowning my sorrows in alcohol.

So drunk I can’t see straight, but what does it matter?

I didn’t do everything right, I know that. I did shit backward and I paid for it.

Either way, I didn’t deserve to still pay for it.

But it wasn’t going away.

All my hard work down the drain.

Life is a bitch and if she were a person, I’d smack her so hard she hit the floor.

Then I’d kick her for good measure.

Instead, life is kicking me and laughing all the way out the door.

And now, I’m left wondering what the point was.

Why did I work so hard to turn shit around if life was just going to keep knocking me down? Am I missing something, and if I am, how the fuck am I supposed to know what the hell it is?

My chest feels as if it’s going to burst as I sit here staring at the wall.

With a roar, I throw the glass bottle at the wall; half filled with alcohol, it shatters and I stare at it, mesmerized as the liquid rushes down the walls to the floor.

Then I rock back and forth as my chest aches with the tears I know won’t flow.

With the knowledge that nobody is able to rescue me from my fate and I’m going to die alone.

So I figure what the hell, I may as well finish the job myself.

Grabbing my keys, I stumble out the door and into my car.

Tonight, my life as I know it will end.

And finally, I will have peace.

2. Ryker

God, she looks like shit.

Fifteen years have passed since I last laid eyes on Danita, but I’d recognize her anywhere.

It’s a fucking miracle she showed up at my door. I don’t believe in much, but seeing her standing at my door last night made me want to fall to my knees and thank who-the-fuck-ever for delivering her here safely.

Especially since she’d been so drunk, I don’t know how the hell she hadn’t hurt someone.

I don’t know how she found me, and I don’t fucking care.

Fifteen fucking years since she’d disappeared into the night.

And now, here she is, sleeping in my bed, looking as if she’s had a real hard time.

Difficult times that never left.

Watching her is torture, yet I refuse to look away.

Her hair — pale and blonde — is fanned out on the pillow as she lies on her side. Her skin is dirty, her nails disgusting, her hygiene indescribable.

Even sitting here in a chair across the room, I smell her; a nasty mix of alcohol, stale cigarettes, and fuck knows what else permeates the goddamned room.

I’m going to need to sanitize my whole fucking bed, but since she passed out in my arms minutes after her arrival, I didn’t want to chance waking her by dousing her in the bathtub.

And she doesn’t just need a shower.

She would probably do well to have an hour soak in a tub filled with disinfectant followed by having every inch of her sickeningly skinny body scrubbed with soap until her skin is red.

I feel dirty looking at her.

I should shower since not even two hours earlier she clung to my body, refusing to let go to the point I had to call for assistance from my staff, but I won’t even waste my time.

I’ve plans to drag her ass into the shower the moment she wakes up and I’ve a feeling I’m going to have to physically keep her in there.

Tossing a glance at the clock to discover it’s nearly two a.m., I sigh while debating whether or not I want to lay next to her to sleep. My eyes travel down her body, covered by a sheet she’s clenched in her hands — having pulled it up until her bare feet were uncovered —and eye the locked cuff around her ankle.

A cuff with a chain I’ve attached to the bed so she can’t run off in the morning if she awakens before I do.

Knowing I’ll need all my strength and wits about me to deal with her, I give in and head toward the bed. Deciding to keep my clothes on, I climb into bed.

She doesn’t move, so I lean over enough to make sure she’s still breathing, before lying back down on my side and closing my eyes.

* * *

An ear-splitting shriek wakes me up.

The chain jingles, the bed jerking a little as she pulls at it. As she growls with frustration, I smile and slowly roll over.

Only for her body to land on mine, her aquamarine eyes wild and filled with confusion as she stares down at me, her nails digging into my biceps.

I don’t move as she flicks her eyes down at my chest, then glances around the room before finding my eyes once more, glaring at me.

“Who are you? Where am I?” She rattles the chain with her foot, hissing into my face, “And why the fuck am I chained to your bed?”

“I’m glad to see you too, Danita,” I mutter. “You fucking smell, by the way.”

Her eyes widen and she scrambles away with a whimper, and then hugs her legs close to her body as she huddles at the end of the bed.

I keep my voice low and gentle as I sit up. “Don’t be scared. You were pretty messed up when you arrived; I put the chain on you so you wouldn’t hurt yourself by trying to escape while not in your right mind.”

“I don’t know you.” Her lips quiver, tears welling in her eyes, her arms clutching her legs tighter. “How do you know my name?”

“Funny.” I’m amused, yet not surprised, at her lack of memory. “You seemed to know who I was last night since you drove yourself here.”

She doesn’t respond, but I know she’s studying my face. She pulls her bottom lip into her mouth, biting on it as her eyes flick from my eyes, to my hair, down to my mouth, and further south. And when her eyes find mine once more, they continue to lack recognition.

“Perhaps you’re the messed up one,” she remarks, her tone timid even though her words aren’t. “You must be to chain up innocent women to your bed. A woman who doesn’t know you!”

“You sure ‘bout that, Angel?” I see the stuttering breath she takes more than I hear it at my use of her pet name. “Surely fifteen years has changed me, but not so much I’m unrecognizable I hope.”

I could’ve just told her who I am. But I know she knows; her own damn subconscious led her here, so it will click eventually, if it hasn’t already. It wouldn’t shock me to discover she’s faking ignorance.

I’m fairly sure she’s buzzed; a quick glance at the clock shows the time as seven a.m. and with how plastered she was when she showed up, I’ve no doubt the alcohol has yet to leave her system completely.

Her face remains blank though, mouth turning down with displeasure. “People will be looking for me. Let me go.”

“Nobody who cares.” I give pointed looks to her hair, face, and dirty clothing. “When was the last fucking time you showered? You look like you’ve been rolling in a damn pig sty.”

She shrugs, turning her face to gaze at the windows, shoulders hunched.

I stand up, walking over to where she sits and grab her foot, gripping it firmly to stop her instinctive kick from connecting with any part of me. When I lift a hand to pull the string holding the key over my head, her sudden cower pisses me the fuck off. Quickly unlocking the cuff, I toss it aside to deal with later.

Since Danita continues to refuse to acknowledge my existence, I make a decision. Keeping my grip on her ankle, I wrap my other arm around her waist and lift her.

Not that it requires much effort. She’s always been a tiny thing, but now she’s so light I’m afraid she’ll break.

Of course, she’s not pleased with me touching her. She thrashes in my arms, her hands going to my hair and pulling as hard as she can, but my grip is solid. She isn’t breaking away, and too bad for her I like my hair yanked on almost as much as I like doing it to a woman.

“Put me down!” She yells this as I toss her over my shoulder, where she promptly starts pounding me with her fists on my back. “Right fucking now! You’ve got no right to touch me.”

“Too fucking bad Angel,” I respond with a chuckle as I head toward the bathroom. “You’ve no right to offend me with your odor, yet here you are, doing that very thing. Time for a scrub.”

This only makes her wiggle harder.

Usually, a woman squirming in my arms would have me harder than a rock, but the only desire I have right now is to wash her and then burn her clothing.

She must be mentally ill, I think as I step into the bathroom and shut the door behind me using my foot. Nobody in their right mind gets this dirty without washing themselves off.

Reaching in with my free hand and turning on the shower, I set her down, holding onto her upper arms to make sure she doesn’t run.

“You can undress yourself and get in, or I will do it for you.” When she doesn’t look at me, I cup her chin in my hand and make her, keeping my voice gentle and firm. “You’ve got three-seconds.”

I hate to say the defiant look in her eyes pleases me, but anything is better than the deadness of them up until this moment. She doesn’t move or even blink.

“One.”

Nothing.

“Two.”

When she doesn’t react, that’s when it dawns on me. She wants me to take her clothing off, so she can fight me. She likes it rough.

But, the instant I laid eyes on her, all I saw was how fragile she is. Any other time, I’m all for being rough, but no matter what she wants, she can’t handle being mishandled at this point.

I won’t tell her that though.

“Three.”

She grins then, raising her brows as if to say, ‘bring it’ and I grin right back at her.

Then lift her into my arms and step into the shower with her, clothes and all.

And as the hot water pounds down on both of us, she screams, “Fuck you, Ryker! Fuck you, you son of a bitch!”

Yep.

Ryker, one. Danita, zero.

3. Danita

How the fuck did I end up here?

If there’s one person I never expected to see again, it’s Ryker.

Ryker fucking Redding.

Son of a bitch. How did a mission to die lead to his front door?

He’s the last person I want to see and the last person I want to explain myself to.

As I stand in the shower with the hot water pelting down on me, all I can do is stare at him, cursing my own stupidity in my head. I don’t even remember looking up his name and address. I’ve no idea where I am, but waking up in his bed had been a total shock.

I’m still not sure I can wrap my head around it.

Ryker.

My first love.

My only love.

We met when I was thirteen. At fifteen, he’d been new to town, and instantly took an interest in me, his next-door neighbor. For a year, he tried to get me to talk to him.

For a year, I resisted.

Until one day, he found me by the creek running a bit down from our backyards, and sat beside me in silence.

And waited.

When I’d started to cry, he hadn’t even asked why. He didn’t question me. He’d simply taken me in his arms and hugged me.

He isn’t holding me now, but his arms are loose around my upper body. I bring mine up and push on his chest.

I’m glad when he accepts my silent demand to release me and drops his hold, because he has to quit touching me.

I can’t handle it.

I don’t deserve his kindness.

He has no idea how much I warrant nothing but his disgust.

Hopefully, I die before he finds out, since I’m sure I couldn’t handle his hatred.

It would ruin the only happy memories I have, of which there aren’t many.

I drag my eyes to meet his.

I’m not sure what to make of him. He was right about one thing though — even in the fifteen intervening years, he hasn’t changed much. His hair is the same medium blond I remember, his eyes green-gold, and his muscular five-eleven height dwarfs my five-three frame.

“Angel.”

His beautiful mouth moves and instantly I’m pissed. “Stop calling me that. I’m not a fucking angel.”

Narrowing his eyes, his lips twist. “No. You’ll always be my Angel. Get used to it.”

“Not.” Crossing my arms over my chest, I glare at him. “I’m not your anything. I’m not anybody’s anything.”

Except their nightmare perhaps, that is.

“Are you going to take your clothes off or do I need to take them off for you?”

My clothes are drenched now, as are his. It’s stupid for us both to continue standing here in them, and I know the sooner I’m clean, the better the chance I have of getting out of here before he convinces himself us meeting again is divine intervention or some shit.

“If I shower and make myself smell nice, will that shut you up?”

“It’s a start.” His disapproving gaze flicks down my body and back up quickly. “After that, breakfast. You’re too skinny. How much do you weigh, or do I not wanna know?”

I grab the hem of my t-shirt and pull it over my head, dropping it to the shower floor as I unbutton my way too big pants, taking them and my underwear off without answering him. When I stand up straight again, he’s taken off his shirt, but I know the moment he looks at my body because the sharp intake of his breath is unmistakable.

“What the fuck, Danita?” He wraps his hand around my upper arm. “You’re covered in bruises!”

I know what he sees.

Or rather, what he thinks he sees.

Somebody abusing me. Somebody treating me badly.

But I asked for those bruises, every single one of them.

Confusion is written all over his face as I grin at him, lifting my chin as I declare, “It’s not what you think.”

“I see,” he says, mouth flattening out in a grim line, dropping his hand from my arm as if he’s been burned. “So not only do you like to fight, but you’re a masochist as well.”

“High pain tolerance. They have to hit me pretty hard to make me feel it, which is exactly what I ask them to do. Looks bad, but I don’t really feel it.”

He nods, hands going to the button on his pants, and I look away as he strips off the rest of his clothing. He picks up mine and tosses the pile out of the shower, then gently guides me under the water with a shake of his head.

Before I can say anything, he’s tilting my head back under the water, gliding his hands over my hair. His eyes burn into mine, and unable to handle him looking at me, I close them. He removes his hands from my hair after it’s wet enough, and after the snap of a shampoo bottle top, they’re back in my hair.

“Turn around.”

He’s standing so close I feel his breath on my ear as he speaks. Not opening my eyes, not saying a word, I turn so my back faces him. His hands glide through my hair in an instant, soaping the bottom before returning to my scalp, massaging it.

It’s been so long since someone has touched me this way; I’m not sure what I feel, especially as the scent of the shampoo reaches my nose. I can’t help it; I giggle.

“Green apple? That’s a bit of a girly scent, isn’t it?”

His hands slide out of my hair, resting on my shoulders, his mouth near my ear once more as he says, “Well, you’re a female aren’t you? I sent someone out while you were sleeping last night to get some items for your use.”

“Thank you,” is all I say, the touch of his hands distracting me from anything else, but making me want to clarify my current state. “I’m usually not this dirty.”

And I’m not. It’s been a rough few days, and I’ve been depressed. But I won’t share that with him; he doesn’t need my burdens. And even if I could, I’m not sure I’m ready to say any of it out loud.

He stays silent, reaching past me to pull a loofa off the wall and making it soapy with body wash, then proceeding to clean every inch of my body. When he’s done with my backside, he indicates I should turn around without saying a word. I notice him pause as he squats, wrapping a hand around my smooth leg, before sliding it up and down.

I know what he’s thinking, confirming it moments later with his question, “Laser treatment?”

“Oh yeah. Everywhere. Well, except my head of course.”

He keeps his eyes on my legs, surprising me by not looking elsewhere to confirm what I’ve said, and resumes his ministrations.

I don’t know why I’m letting him continue to touch me. Every stroke of the loofa and every touch of his fingers has me wishing he would just fuck me right in this shower. Which can’t and shouldn’t happen, no matter how much I want it to.

And when he stands up and holds out the loofa to me, I’m disappointed and relieved at the same time.

“I’m sure you can finish while I wash up.”

I take it and move out of the way, holding the loofa clasped between my hands, arms against my chest as I watch him step under the water. He turns the dial, making it so hot the steam thickens between us, then tosses his head back and runs his hands through his hair.

I’m mesmerized. Taking this chance to examine him, I finish washing myself as I take his delicious form in. He’s got a bit of stubble I want to touch, and his exposed neck has me wanting to lick and nibble on it. I know he’s strong after the way he lifted me and held me, but it’s much more obvious underneath his clothing. He’s not insanely ripped, but he certainly takes care of himself and works out.

As my eyes go lower, I wonder if he doesn’t find me attractive. He hasn’t reacted at all to my nakedness.

Sure, I was dirty when we got in, but I’m not dirty now.

Deciding to see where I stand in a moment of curiosity, I step forward as he finishes washing out the shampoo and then give in to my impulse. Stepping on tiptoes and placing my hands on his shoulders, I press my lips to his neck before he can react to my sudden movement.

“What are you doing?” He questions me, his arms wrapping around my waist and pulling me close, even as the words fly from his lips. “Angel…where’ve you been? Why did you leave?”

“Nowhere. Everywhere.” Unable to look at him, I speak into his shoulders while my fingers dig into his shoulders as I continue to press kisses on his neck, tears filling my eyes. “I can’t explain. I’m so sorry…”

One hand slides up my neck and into my hair. Tugging gently, I let my head fall back, my eyes closing in reaction. His lips hover above mine as he says, “I’ve never been happier than the moment you showed up on my doorstep. You take all the time you need to explain; I’ve got all the time in the world.”

He doesn’t kiss me. He tucks my head back in the crook of his shoulder, and as I press one more kiss, I close my eyes while another tear falls.

Because the hardest part of all this is having to tell him I’ve not got all the time in the world.

That I’m dying.

And there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.

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