How do you keep going after the one person you always believed you were
meant to be with forever gives their heart to someone else?
How long had it been? Bryan tried unsuccessfully to unclog his brain.
Weeks? Months? The days were all a blur, and none of them seemed to
contain anything worth recalling. Except for Mara.
No, he didn’t want to think about before. Mara could make it all go
away. She helped him, made him feel better.
Or, at the very least, she helped him not to feel anything substantial
He stood in the doorway of his bedroom, watching the raven-haired beauty
who’d shared his bed for...he paused in his thoughts...six months. He
knew now; it had been six months since he returned to California. Six
months of occupying his time with her. Six months of trying to pry
Miranda from his heart and move on.
Question: Why wouldn’t Miranda just leave?
Answer: Bryan wasn’t ready for her to go.
Fate had placed Mara beside him on the plane; and sometime during the
first few weeks they were together, she’d moved in. She rolled over,
exposing just enough skin to make him take a step forward in her
direction. She was so hard to resist. Some people chose drugs or
alcohol to forget. Bryan chose her. As long as he stayed near Mara,
the pain dulled. It was when she was apart from him that he was forced
to think, and thinking was low on his list of preferred activities right
now. He liked the arrangement they had; when Miranda’s memory became
a weight that was too difficult to bear, he knew that Mara would step
in, seeming to sense his pain, and erase it with her own form of
therapy. There was something magical in what she could do to him, and
he didn’t mind letting her do it over and over again.
He scratched his beard. “I need to work, Mara. It’s been too
“Work?” She stretched and yawned. “This is just a dry spell,
Bryan. Besides, I don’t mind taking care of things. After all
you’ve done for me, helping you is the least I could do.” She
smiled at him seductively and rubbed the empty space next to her.
“Come back to bed. I’m lonely.”
He should work, though, shouldn’t he? There was something very wrong
about depending on Mara’s money. Bryan wondered, for a microsecond,
where her money even came from. She left the apartment for work two
days a week, so there was an office she reported to somewhere. A boss,
coworkers, he imagined a desk. Still, what kind of job allowed her to
work two days a week and make enough to afford, well, living?
He shrugged, Who really cares?
There was no way he loved her, no way he’d ever love her. Even as he
struggled to free himself from the quicksand that was his mind, he knew
that much. And it was just fine with Bryan. Love had cost him; it had
made a fool of him. Bryan was done playing the fool. Besides, he had a
good time with Mara. She was incredible, both in and out of bed, no
doubt about that. Her silken, black hair hung nearly to her waist and
her eyes - mesmerizing. She called them azurite, and in his moments of
clarity he recalled that his first impression of them had been that they
looked a lot like the waters of the Caribbean. A person could swim in
those waters, and Bryan often felt like he was swimming - or, more
accurately, drowning - when she looked at him. And the way she could
move, well, poetry had been written about women like her.
No, he didn’t love her. In fact, he wasn’t entirely sure how to
label what he felt. If he was with her, his body hurt less. While they
were apart, Bryan thought he might split in two from the agony. Instead
of lessening with time, his grief over losing Miranda to another man was
only getting worse. Which was precisely why he kept Mara around.
His brain searched for a word; thoughts were thick, like molasses. He
waded through them as if stuck in tar. Coming up with a word
shouldn’t be this difficult. At last, one struck him as the answer.
Intoxicated. That was how she made him feel. She didn’t care if he
was a mess or falling apart or completely incapable of loving her. Mara
was the embodiment of numbing bliss, and that was exactly what Bryan
wanted to feel. Numb.
He slid back into bed with her and she quickly rolled on top of him,
folding him into her arms, her hair spilling around them both. Bryan
smiled at her, his eyes heavy. “What are you doing to me?”
Mara’s eyes gleamed, and for a second Bryan thought he saw red swirl
around the pupil. He was losing it. Seriously losing it. He blinked
hard and tried to focus on her face. Her eyes were blue, like always.
“I just want to be here for you, Bryan. You don’t have ever have to
hurt again. You don’t have to worry. You don’t have to do anything
but be with me. Let me take care of everything,” she said, her voice
coating him and dripping off every nerve like honey.
“Mmmm. That sounds good,” he agreed.
But he needed to think. There was something he wanted to talk to her
about, someone he was supposed to call. He shook his head briskly as if
waking up from a dream. Ah, yes. He remembered now. “Wait. Mara, I
do need to work. I need to get out of this apartment. Nick called and
mentioned something about a job; I have to call him back.”
Mara reached up and caressed his cheek, allowing her fingers to slide
down his jaw, his neck, his chest. “Not today. Maybe tomorrow. For
now, just touch me.” She leaned in and kissed him.
Bryan fell into the kiss, and again had the sensation of slipping deeper
and deeper underwater. His lips slid down her neck, peppering her skin
with kisses. He stopped, his eyes momentarily regaining focus as he
looked at the tattoo on the back of her neck.
The blue lotus was beautiful, just like Mara. When he kissed it, he
imagined he could feel the softness of its petals. Surely it was only
his imagination, but it felt so real. He kissed it again and inhaled, a
fragrance as exotic as Mara filling his nostrils. The world around him
began to blur. All he could see was the woman whose face hovered above
And just as he’d done every day for the past six months, Bryan
willingly gave over a bit more of himself to her.
Excerpted from "Redemption" by LA Kuehlke. Copyright © 2012 by LA Kuehlke. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.