Life Blood

Staccato Publishing

Heat Rating: Sensual
Word Count: 134,310
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Plagued by self-doubt and paralyzed by indecision her entire life, Ava is lost. Until a chance encounter with a stranger brings forgotten memories of a childhood abduction flooding back. Emboldened by the need to know what happened, and to know if the stranger has been the hero she’s dreamed of she follows him into a struggle she never knew existed. Nor the part she unwittingly plays.

Life Blood
0 Ratings (0.0)

Life Blood

Staccato Publishing

Heat Rating: Sensual
Word Count: 134,310
0 Ratings (0.0)
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Professional Reviews

Highly Highly Recommended/ 5 Stars
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Posted January 1, 2011, 6:14 PM EST: Unlike the books that are plaguing many shelves, this book is one to bring in a breath of fresh air. The story line was so unlike the stories that are top sellers. I enjoyed the mix of science within real life situations and made me feel like I was in the book. HK is a wonderful writer who is very riveting.

I didn't want the plane to land! / 5 Stars
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Posted January 9, 2011, 12:27 AM EST: I really don't like to fly but when the pilot said we were going to land, I really wasn't ready. I wanted to see how it ended. What happens? There was such a sense of urgency.I really loved this book and think the sequel should come soon.

Fantastic!!! / 5 Stars
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Posted March 9, 2011, 3:52 PM EST: Excellent read. Unique in the idea that the "fountain of youth" could transpire from something so simple. It challenges your stance on the morality of what is right and wrong, then questions you on how far you'd go. Can't wait for the sequel... there is going to be a sequel right?

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Excerpt

Nothing happened. Again she rang the bell with the same lack of response. Telling herself she was better off for not having to come up with a lame excuse, Ava rang one final time and turned without waiting.

Behind her she heard the tightly fitted metal door releasing itself from the nest of rubber weather stripping with a squelch. She stopped but didn’t turn around. Now that the moment she had goaded herself into was upon her, she didn’t know quite where to take it and was afraid to see his reaction.

“Ava?” Ben’s voice raised goose bumps on her arms.

Holding her breath, Ava made herself face him. Her mouth automatically formed a stiff smile. “Hi Ben.”

Recovering quickly from his surprise and what looked like a hint of something akin to fear, Ben stepped backward into his home. “Would you care to come in?”

Ava couldn’t say no. The mysterious siren song that was him called to her and she answered. “Um, sure.”

He stepped aside and Ava followed him in. The walls were a soft shade of mustard in the entryway opening on the right into a large great room with rust colored walls. The floors were dark hardwood, the curtains cream. The kitchen had dark stone countertops, stainless appliances, and a light colored stone floor she could see at the end of the hallway across from her. Ava walked past the staircase at the left of the hall that led from the circular foyer and curved upward out of sight, leading to what Ava imagined was at least one bedroom and an office, if the size of the unit was any indication.

“Wow, you could get my apartment in here twice.” Ava marveled. She thought about removing her light spring coat, then decided against it. There was a definite chill in the unit and she wasn’t sure she was staying. She wasn’t sure what she was doing. “My apartment is really hot. Do you have trouble heating this place since it’s so big?” She’d only had the one apartment and wasn’t sure how anyone else’s heat worked but his didn’t even feel like it was on.

Ben rubbed the back of his neck, watching her. “I have the thermostat set to sixty-five when I’m not home. It should warm up soon.”

Ava looked at his face and saw no swelling. “What happened to your lip? I mean, it’s healed.” She took a step forward without thinking until she saw him take a step back, keeping the distance between them exactly the same. Ava tried hard not to let her hurt show. It was ridiculous for her to think there was more to this than there was.

“I’m a quick healer.” His explanation was abrupt, defensive. Ben’s voice softened and he pointed to her hand. “How are you doing?”

Ava held it up for him to see. There was some purple starting to show on the palm extending down to the wrist. The swelling was significant and her ring finger was ballooned out around the band that never left her right hand.

Ben’s face changed, he was immediately concerned. “You need to get that ring off. I think I have something that might be able to cut it off.” He moved toward the kitchen.

Hiding her hand behind her, she shouted without thinking. “No!”

Ben whirled and Ava saw the confusion on his face. Hearing the sharpness in her tone still ringing in her ears, she tried to explain. “This was my mother’s wedding ring. She gave it to me when I was fourteen and I haven’t taken it off since.” Pulling her hand out from behind her, she held it up so she could look at it.

He stepped forward, holding his hand out just as he had the night before. “May I?” He didn’t move until she nodded. More tenderly than his strong hands appeared capable, almost reverently, Ben took her hand and first appraised the bruising. His brow furrowed and his lips were tight. Ava saw his jaw working and guessed he was angry, she worried she’d overstepped her bounds by coming or that he was angry at her for being stupid.

His probing fingers lightly moved up to Ava’s finger where they touched the ring her father had given Katherine over twenty-five years ago, sending pleasant sensations up her arm the whole time. She winced as he touched the band ever so lightly and it pushed into her bruised skin.

His response to her reaction was instant. “That needs to come off. Do you see how the skin around the band is getting dark? Your circulation is being cut off. You could lose the finger or damage the nerves if it stays on.”

Again Ava moved to hide her hand behind her back except his grip shifted to her wrist and he tightened his hold, his hand becoming hard in an instant. She was unable to move the captured hand without hurting herself or outright fighting with him, something she was starting to consider as panic at being trapped tightened her throat and made it hard to breathe.

“Ava, you need to let me get this ring off of you.” He insisted, anger sparking behind his eyes.

Stubbornly she shook her head. “No. It was my mom’s, Dad gave it to her.” Her chest was constricting and she fought for breath.

“It needs to. We can put it back on when the swelling comes down.”

How did she explain to him what it meant? That her mom had given her the ring at an awkward stage when she’d struggled with being without a father. Katherine had told her that as long as she was wearing his ring, her father would be with her. It hadn’t left her finger since. Call her superstitious but she feared removing it, even for an instant, would break any connection she’d been granted to her lost parent with its receipt.

Ben’s tone softened. “Do you want to tell me about your father?”

Ava answered, keeping her eyes on her swollen hand still in his grip though it had loosened. She could have gotten loose if she’d tried, the knowledge allowed her to relax. “He died when I was five.”

“I’m sorry. How did it happen?” He sounded genuinely interested. It struck her as strange that she was discussing her father with the very man whom had possibly supplanted him in her memory. Impossible. She told herself yet again.

“Car accident. We lived rural and we were on our way home from the store. The snow was falling hard and the roads were icy. He slid off the road and hit a phone pole. I was in the back. They said I slept through the whole thing.” Talking about it had never been hard since she had no first hand knowledge, her memory of the incident was gone. She was regurgitating someone else’s story.

Ben had been watching Ava very closely during her telling. He was either a good listener or he was trying to figure something out. It was probably the investigator in him, she surmised. Letting go of her wrist he held up his hand. “Stay here. I have an idea.”

“I’m not letting you cut it off.”

He shook his head. “I don’t intend to. I have another idea.”

Dubious, Ava watched him walk out of the room and heard his footsteps hurrying up the steps. While he was gone, she thought to start reducing the swelling by putting some ice on it.

The fridge of a bachelor’s apartment is often an adventure in bacteriology. Ava didn’t imagine Ben’s would be by what she’d seen already. He was older than the bachelors she was used to both by dating and attending the traveling study sessions she’d taken part in. His house was incredibly tidy and he obviously either cleaned it regularly, or had the money to have someone do it for him.

So as much as she was not surprised by his refrigerator’s contents, Ava was shocked by its sparseness. It wasn’t so much empty as devoid of anything packaged, significantly reducing the clutter most people had. There was a curious bag of what must have been tomato juice, the only thing on the shelves and two very full drawers of fruits and vegetables. There was not a single condiment in sight, not even ketchup. She closed the door and took a towel off the stove door, laying it on the counter to put the ice from the dispenser in. The towel was nearly full of ice cubes when Ben returned to the kitchen.

“What are you doing?” He rushed to where she stood and insinuated himself in front of the fridge, Ava was flattered he was worried about her filling her own towel with ice.

“Don’t worry, I’m almost done and if anything touching the ice has been helping. I haven’t had any on it since this morning.” She didn’t want to admit she’d been too busy researching him to think about the hand.

He relaxed and got one more handful of cubes before wrapping them up. He was holding the towel and motioned for her to move toward one of the stools on the opposite side of the island. Ava climbed onto and leaned against the cushioned back, glad for the support. The stool was leather and well padded, she relaxed.

Ben motioned for her to put her hand on the counter and she obeyed. The towel of ice was laid on top. The pressure only hurt for a minute. It was hard to tell if the hand had been this sore this morning, or if typing and surfing microfiche all day had exacerbated the swelling. It hadn’t really hurt before, but it sure did now.

In a few minutes Ava’s hand started to go numb. Ben pulled the towel away and reached to touch the band again. This time it didn’t hurt so badly and she saw that the swelling was coming down, the color returning to a more normal pink. The towel was put back in place and Ava tried to start a casual conversation.

“So how long have you been a Private Investigator?”

“I was licensed in Minneapolis about six years ago.” He adjusted the towel to cover most of her hand.

“What made you decide to become one? Was anyone in your family in law enforcement? Your dad or your mom?”

Ben’s hand had stilled in its ministrations. “My parents are gone, I don’t have anyone else.” He said decidedly.

“I’m sorry. What happened?” She hadn’t read that in her findings. His family must not have published an obituary.

“My mother died when I was a child, my father passed more recently. They were both from small families.” Ben’s eyes were downcast, studying her hand. She didn’t want to push, yet it didn’t make sense if her findings were accurate. At the same time, Ava couldn’t say anything or he would know she had spent the better part of the day cyber stalking him. Her mind was busily trying to figure out scenarios in which Ben was not lying to hide something or that there was a parallel Pearson family, much larger and with a penchant for cranking out investigators who looked just like Ben.

“Hold this.” Ben pushed the top of the towel toward her where he held the corners and sides together, keeping the ice in.

Ava did as she was told and watched him, enjoying the comfort she felt being here with him. Ben stood on the lower rails of his chair and reached across the counter to grab the dish soap. Carefully, he took the delicately folded towel from her hand, lifting it so that he could see the finger in question.

The swelling was down and he pumped the dish soap directly into his fingertips. He looked up, making sure he caught Ava’s eyes and held them. “Let’s get this off while we can. It isn’t going to come down much more until we get the ring off and let the blood circulate more freely.”

Nodding her head was the only answer she could muster. She really couldn’t logically argue keeping it on, as much as she worried about what she might lose. He had a point about her finger being in danger and besides, Ben wasn’t going to argue in favor of cutting it. He only wanted to pull it over the swollen knuckle. Then again, it was really going to hurt and she didn’t look forward to that.

Ben massaged the soap onto the finger, all the while staring at her, his eyes warm and entrancing. Ava felt her heart slamming in her chest and was having trouble catching her breath, painfully aware of his proximity. Her head spun and she was very aware of his hands. One was softly encircling her wrist, the other gently massaged soap on her finger. Ava was staring at his features.

In a rush she nervously blurted. “I Googled you.”

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