I open my eyes, and for a fleeting moment I am hopeful. Until the cold
and empty space beside me crawls ruthlessly into my weary bones.
It’s been my personal retribution for the past three years. Since the
death of my beloved.
That’s all I’m able to do. Until I take my last breath.
So, with a heavy heart I fling off the covers and plant my feet on the
ice-cold floor. Apparently, the raging fire I stoked before going to bed
has now fizzled to a few burning embers. I’d laugh at how symbolic
that is to my life. Burning bright one minute, just to have it snuffed
out in a millisecond. The irony of it should have me laughing, but
somehow I don’t find anything amusing anymore. Maybe it has something
to do with the nightmares. The same damn nightmares that have haunted me
for years now. Leaving me broken, alone. Death, my only escape.
I rest my elbows on my knees and cover my face with my hands.
Desperately holding back emotions that want to overpower me. Consume me.
Today marks the third anniversary of Bella’s death. She was the most
talented ballerina that had ever graced this Earth. Unfortunately, she
was struck and killed in a hit-and-run. While the world celebrated
Christmas, I was burying the most beautiful part of me. Bell was my best
friend, my lover, my wife. My everything.
After six weeks of heartfelt condolences, botched investigations, and
sleepless nights, I shut down. My mind was muddled and my heart was
shattered. So I did the only thing that made sense to me at the time. I
ceased to exist. It wasn’t hard to pull off, since I work for the
government. They were kind enough to gift me with a new identity, a job,
and a place to live. So on a cold January morning, Ryker Steel climbed
into his black SUV, never to be seen or heard from again.
I’m suddenly pulled out of my thoughts when I feel a cold nose trying
to pry my hands apart. I can’t help smiling when I look up and see
Cody’s golden eyes gazing into my black and lifeless ones. She’s my
beautiful Bernese mountain dog and the only reason I bother getting out
of bed every morning. She makes me smile when her tongue darts out to
lick my scruffy face.
“Good morning, Cody. Would you like to go out?” Her resounding yelp
echoes off the walls before I even push off the bed. “Okay, okay. Let
me get dressed.”
Once I’ve thrown on a pair of jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, I head
downstairs with her close at my heels. The moment I open the front door,
bitter cold bites at my exposed skin. A fresh layer of snow stretches
across the horizon as far as I can see. She’s gone in a flash. Cody
loves to mark her territory in the white snow, so I know I won’t be
seeing her for quite some time.
After closing the door, I head straight for the kitchen. I need my fix.
Caffeine. It’s my one and only addiction. The rich scent of brewing
beans permeates the air almost immediately after I throw in a pod. Now
I’m thankful I took the time to go into town yesterday to pick up
supplies. Especially since they’re predicting another sixteen to
twenty-four inches of snow our way. I’ve no doubt it’s just a matter
of time before they close down all the secondary roads. Which will make
traveling nearly impossible for everyone rushing home for the holidays.
While waiting for my second cup, I add more wood to the fireplace in the
living room. It sits directly in the center of the log cabin and heats
the entire first floor. I’m mesmerized as I watch the flames flicker
like an exotic dancer reaching out her hand to seduce me. But no matter
how long I stand there and stare into the fire, I’m cold from the
inside out. Nothing could ever make me feel warm and alive.
Wrapping my hands around the mug I gaze into its dark depths. Hoping its
warmth will spread into my hands and radiate throughout my body. As the
steam billows and curls, it appears to swallow me whole. Pulling me
beneath its murky darkness.
So I let go and allow it to take me,
Until something niggles at the back of my mind.
A sense of foreboding washes over me as goose bumps break out along my
Something feels off.
I can’t put my finger on it, but my sixth sense is never wrong. I
stride into my office and flip a switch. Ten monitors promptly blink to
attention. Lighting up the darkness of the room with an eerie glow. The
hairs on the back of my neck quickly stand at attention when I see Cody
running around in circles.
What the fuck!
A car has veered off the road and is now sitting precariously close to
the edge. Although Lake Lucerne is frozen this time of year, a car
falling from that height would plunge straight through the ice. Location
Seven continuously flashes red and I don’t hesitate for a second
longer before putting on my gear and racing out the door.
The last thing I remember is losing control of the wheel. Then nothing.
I’m cold. So, so cold. I don’t know how long I’ve been trapped in
this stupid car. Hours could have easily turned into days. And every
breath I take feels like it will be my last. My head hurts and something
sticky is oozing out of it. Not good, since I’m in the middle of the
woods in Bum Fuck, New York. Obviously, I’m lost. And I’m an idiot
for thinking I could rent a car and make it to my parents’ house
before the storm hit. Now, I know exactly where I’m going to spend my
holidays. This hunk of metal will surely be my tomb until they find me
in the spring.
Darkness. It envelops me like a stifling cocoon. Only this time, it
feels different. It’s not cold. It’s as warm and cozy as a summer
day. Is this what it feels like to die? Could death be knocking on my
door? No, I won’t die! Gage and my parents would never forgive me for
being so selfish. Fight, Lyra! Do not succumb to this feeling of
euphoria simply because you’re too weak. Fight!
One lone tear makes its escape as I feel my body floating towards the
I wake to something soft and warm draped across my chest. But it takes a
minute or two for me to realize what it could be. A comforter. Was I
dreaming? No, the accident was most definitely real. I know this to be
true because my head feels like it’s split apart. Slowly, I raise my
hand and feel the gauze that now covers my wound. Am I in a hospital?
No, I can’t be because it doesn’t have that clawing antiseptic smell
that hospitals do. So, where am I? Distress causes me to suck in a deep
breath, which is excruciating. Clearly, my head wasn’t the only injury
I sustained. My ribs must have taken a beating, too.
Once my senses return, I can actually hear and smell the logs crackling
in the fireplace. While the mouthwatering scent of stew surrounds me.
Comforts me. It doesn’t take long before my belly growls in
anticipation. How long has it been since I’ve eaten? Hours? Days? I
have no idea but my eyes suddenly fill with unshed tears when I realize
I’m in someone’s home.
Someone saved my life…
I can no longer hold back my tears as they suddenly burst free. Every
single emotion I’ve ever repressed comes gushing out as I feel the bed
dip beside me. I draw in a painful breath, too afraid to open my eyes.
God only knows what’s waiting on the other side. But the one thing I
do know—death surely would’ve snatched me with her icy fingers had I
stayed in that car for much longer. Perhaps she already had.
I muster all the strength I possess and slowly open my eyes. Only to see
golden ones staring back at me. A beautiful dog with a multicolored coat
and floppy ears peruses me. Before I have a chance to utter a sound, a
loud bark resonates in the quiet room.
When a man suddenly appears at the head of the stairs, I’m cautious.
His height and broad shoulders cast a scary shadow that dances along the
dim walls. And my heart immediately takes flight as it thumps wildly
inside of me.
“Cody. Come.” The dog takes one last peek at me before joining its
master. “Sit,” he commands, as his hand firmly brushes the top of
the dog’s head. Then I cower when his focus returns to me. “How are
you feeling?” he asks.
When I open my mouth to speak, nothing comes out. I’m so parched. And
it certainly doesn’t help when I have to tilt my head up just to look
at him. He’s intimidating with his tall frame looming over me.
Immediately, my body begins to react. Trembling uncontrollably. Quickly,
he grabs a blanket from the foot of the bed and wraps it around me.
“Is that better, Lyra?” he asks, squatting down beside me.
He knows my name. Now he’s at an advantage because I sure as hell
don’t have a clue who he is. All I can do is nod as I gaze into his
hypnotic eyes. They’re as black as the night and a perfect match to
his silken hair. Which is long enough to graze the collar of his shirt.
With his scruffy beard, it’s almost impossible to see if there is a
handsome man underneath. But it certainly draws attention to his full,
sensuous lips. They’re perfectly shaped. And when he catches me ogling
them, they curl into a mischievous grin.
When a glass of water mysteriously appears in his hand, I lunge for it.
Spilling half of it on myself before quenching my undying thirst. “Go
easy, Lyra. You’ll be sick if you drink it too fast.”
After I’ve extinguished my scratchy throat, I say, “I’m glad you
find me so amusing, especially since we don’t know one another.
Apparently, you know my name but I don’t know yours.” I can’t help
glaring as he matches my stare. When he reaches for a towel on the
nightstand and tries to mop up my mess, I swiftly grab it out of his
hands. I might be in pain, but I will not let a stranger touch me.
He’s smiling when he runs his index finger across those sexy-as-sin
lips. “You didn’t have a hell of a lot to say over the last three
days, but you’re sure making up for lost time.”
Excerpted from "Bound by Steel" by Connie Lafortune. Copyright © 2016 by Connie Lafortune. 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.