Deter McNellis never thought he’d be a victim—living through kidnapping, rape, and the threat of being sold as a sex slave. Getting rescued is only the beginning of healing. He’s forced to relive the experience over and over in his dreams and when he has to share it with the authorities. To Deter’s shock, he finds himself attracted to one of the deputies helping with the investigation—Marrakesh Anderson. The deputy invites him to call him Mac and gives off signals that he’s interested in Deter, too. Deter finds Mac’s clumsy attempts at wooing sort of sweet, and he struggles to overcome his fears so he can spend time with the handsome man. The appearance of the kidnapper’s buyers makes Deter worry he’ll never feel safe. To top it off, Deter discovers Mac is hiding something…something life altering. Can Deter gather enough courage to open himself to a future so full of change, or will his fears send him running?
Reader Advisory: This book makes reference to past abuse / rape.
“This is Deputy Anderson,” Rueben said, introducing him. “He’s here to take your statement.”
Oh, even better.
Deter nodded slowly. “Of course.” Licking his lips, he forced himself to ease his grip on his calves. He lowered his knees, tucking his legs half under his butt. “W-Will you have a seat?”
After waving toward the closest chair—a sturdy cushioned one that had been pulled near the bed to get a better angle at the TV bolted to the far wall—Deter grabbed a pillow and rested it on his lap. He knew he was facilitating his desire to hide behind a shield, even a facsimile of one, but he couldn’t help it. It also kept him from picking nervously at his clothes.
“Thank you,” the deputy responded, his voice a soothing tenor. He crossed to the indicated chair, then dragged it a couple feet closer to the bed. Once he’d settled on it, he smiled at Deter and held out his hand. “Like Rueben told you, I’m Deputy Anderson. Marrakesh Anderson.”
When Deter reached out and slid his hand against the deputy’s long, strong fingers, tingles erupted across his palm. Deputy Marrakesh held Deter’s gaze as his nostrils flared a little. The officer sucked in a soft gasp while he lightly squeezed Deter’s hand.
“Please, call me Mac,” Marrakesh offered softly, his voice turning a little raspy. “If it would make you more comfortable.”
Deter’s knees would have buckled if he hadn’t already been sitting. He saw the spark of attraction within the man’s gaze, the heat of arousal turning the light-brown eyes a honey-gold color. His own heart felt as if it stuttered in his chest as his body responded to that single look.
“I’d like that,” Deter found himself whispering. “Thank you.”
It was Rueben’s turn to clear his throat.
Marrakesh, Mac, released Deter’s hand, but the warmth remained in his eyes.
Deter felt his cheeks heat as he rested his hand back on the pillow. He gave Rueben a side-eyed glance. Other than interest, he couldn’t describe the expression on the usually open male’s face.
“Start wherever you feel comfortable, Deter,” Mac urged, redrawing his attention. He had a notebook in one hand and a pen in the other. “Is it okay if I call you Deter? Or would you prefer Mr. McNellis?”
Quickly shaking his head, Deter felt his eyes widen. “No, please. Call me Deter.” He grimaced. “Mr. McNellis is my father, and…I don’t want to think about him.”
“Of course.” Mac’s lips curved into a small, encouraging smile. “If it’s okay with you, I’m going to ask a few general questions to get us started. How old are you?”
Appreciating that Mac didn’t just make him dive into the story, Deter felt himself begin to relax. “I’m twenty-two.” His lips curved into a wry smile when he saw Mac’s lifted brows. “I know. I look younger. I get told that all the time.”
Mac nodded, his expression warm. “You do. Certainly nothing wrong with that.” He jotted in his notebook as he continued, “And when’s your birthdate?”
Nodding again, Mac glanced toward his notepad as he wrote that down, too. “Do you remember what club you went to and when? Were you alone or did you go with friends?”
And so it begins.
Deter swallowed hard. “I went to the club on Friday the thirteenth.” He scoffed. “Should have known better, right?”
“It’s just a date, like any other,” Rueben cut in, sliding closer, obviously attempting to lend support with his solid presence.
Appreciating the move, Deter forced a slight smile as he glanced Rueben’s way. He focused back on the pillow as he revealed, “I went alone. My friend, Toni, couldn’t come. His little girl had a tummy ache, so he canceled the sitter and stayed home with her.”
At the time, Deter had been super disappointed. It’d been a couple of weeks since they’d been out together, but he’d understood. Toni’s daughter, Anabelle, came first. She was a sweet little girl, especially for a three-year-old.
Deter had gone through a couple of days, while sitting in the dirty storeroom with several other kidnapped men, where he’d blamed Toni for everything. If his friend had gone with him, none of it would have happened. He’d gotten over that, though.
It was my own fault for accepting an open drink from a stranger.