For all of you waiting with baited breath for a teaser, here’s an excerpt from Another Time Around (available Tuesday).
She made her way across the generous space, ending up where the high ceiling gave way to the loft. She could only assume she was directly under his bedroom, but refused to let her mind wander further than that. In front of her were two doors beside one another. She looked back at David for guidance, but he was busy clearing the table. Taking a chance, she picked the door on the right.
When she entered the room, she searched for the light switch. She flipped it on, and was bathed in a glowing red light. Adjusting her eyes, she looked around to find photographs hanging from wires strung like clotheslines across the room. Some photos were of people, some of places and buildings. All seemed very artistic, though she’d be the first to admit she knew nothing about art.
A framed picture hung on the far wall drew her attention. It grabbed her and made her step closer and closer until she was standing right at the base of it. It was a close-up of a woman’s jawline, warm and dewy and glowing red in the light from the bare bulb that swung above it. Her lips were full and wet, barely parted to reveal a row of sparkling teeth. Though she couldn’t see her entire face, Brin could tell she was an extremely beautiful woman.
“You found Claudia.”
Brin jumped, startled by David’s entrance. “I’m sorry. I must have taken a wrong turn.”
“Quite all right. Easy to do.”
She pointed around the room. “I take it you’re a photographer.”
“Picked up the hobby at the academy. When we were training in forensic photography.”
“I take it you never went digital.”
David shook his head. “Nah. Film is much more vibrant to me. More personal.” He stepped up behind her to look at the photograph. “I took that while we were on vacation in Cabo.”
“Who is she?”
David grew very still. “Claudia Moran. She was my partner on the force in Virginia. The one I was telling you about.”
Brin’s mouth went dry. “Oh God. I’m sorry. I had no idea your partner was a woman.” She looked at the photograph again and noticed the raw emotion of it. “Were you…involved with her?”
“Yes.” He didn’t even bother to hedge. “We were very much in love once.”
“But this picture…” She turned back to it and saw it with a new appreciation. “You keep this picture up to remind you of her.”
He shook his head, moving between Brin and the photograph. “No. I keep it around to show me that I have a talent for art. To remind me that there are other things in life besides waste and crime and ugliness. I keep it because it stirs something in me and because it’s hard in my line of work to remember that I have an emotion other than disgust.”
Brin swallowed hard. She hadn’t seen this side of David before, and part of her wanted to turn around and run out of the place as fast as she could. But she was frozen to the spot. Only frozen wasn’t the word that was coming to her mind. It was heat. Blazing heat.
“Disgust?” she asked, her voice a mere whisper. “Planning parties?”
David’s eyes shifted suddenly. A smile came to his face, but Brin knew it was forced. And it made her heart pound.
“I simply meant the extravagance of it. Rich people will throw money at a cause, but it has to make them look good. They want their names on plaques acknowledging their supposed generosity. They don’t want to help. They want to be looked upon as benefactors.”
Brin had to swallow again. “Not all of them—us—are like that.”
David’s gaze fell, but it didn’t seem to break the tension. “No, you’re not. That’s not what I meant.” He brought his eyes to catch hers in a relentless hold. She just stared back, unable to even blink. “You’re different, aren’t you? You’re soft around the edges. Caring. You have a passion in your soul, but it seems to be dying.”
He reached up and brushed her cheek with his rough palm, making her shiver. The chill ran down her spine and up again, and her knees went weak. Parts of her she’d thought would never stir again went wild as his hand wound in her hair. Soon his lips were millimeters away from hers.
“Why is that fire dying, Brin? What could put a damper on that passion? And what could fuel it?”
Her eyes closed, but she had no control over her own body anymore. She was completely on autopilot. Baser instincts had taken over, and she was at his mercy now. She’d only felt like this once before in her life. Only Max could make her lose control.
She pulled back. “I’m sorry. I still need to use the bathroom.”
David didn’t react as she retreated from the room, just stood his ground and nodded. “Just one door over.”
Brin ran into the bathroom and locked the door behind her. She put her back to the wall and panted. What the hell just happened? Her face stared back at her from the mirror with flushed cheeks and wide eyes. Water. She needed cool water splashed on her face. Oh, but that would wreck her mascara. How did high-class, model-like women manage not to get excited and flushed so they didn’t have to mess up their makeup? It was just another sign that she was living a life she wasn’t cut out for.
“So what was that little display?”
“Max!” She jumped at the sound of his voice. “You’ve been hiding away all day pouting and you decide to show up now?”
He dug his fists into his hips. “It looks like now was a good time to arrive, I think.”
Brin stomped over to the sink and splashed water on her hot cheeks. To hell with the damned makeup. “Nothing happened.”
“Nothing happened? Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t you just about to suck his face off?”
She spun, her face more flushed than before. “Well forgive me. I haven’t sucked face in a long damned time.”
“You were sucking mine last night.”
“How could I have been? You’re dead. You’re not really there. You’re a figment of an overactive and undersexed imagination. You’re a hallucination brought on by living with Hank too long. You’re a result of some prescription drug habit I must not be able to remember because I burned out too many brain cells. You’re not freaking real!”
Max took a step back and breathed heavily. “Ouch. If that’s the way you feel…”
“It is,” Brin said with the stamp of a foot. “Face it, Max. You might be standing here talking to me, but I’m alone. I’ve been alone for two years and I’m sick of being alone.”
Max looked at the floor and chewed on his lips uncomfortably. “I didn’t mean to complicate your life.”
“Well you did.”
He paused but didn’t look at her. “Then I’ll go.”
She put her hands on her hips. “Maybe you should.” But she was talking to thin air. He was gone. Another chill ran down her spine, but this time it had nothing to do with desire. This time is was fear. She was terrified she’d never see Max again and, at the same time, terrified that she would.
Her stomach lurched and she felt dizzy. Then she discovered that tart au tain doesn’t taste nearly as good the second time around.
A quiet rap came from the other side of the door. “Brin, are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Brin mumbled, trying to hold back the waves of nausea. “But David, I think maybe you’d better call me a cab.”