Authors: Connie Lafortune
by Connie Lafortune
Bound by Steel
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Bound by Steel
All rights reserved
2016 Connie Lafortune
Edited and formatted by Peter Gaskin
Except for use in a review, no part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.
To Catherine and David Bibby
For your endless support and lifelong friendship
You guys rock!
I’d like to thank my husband, Alan, for putting up with my obsessive-compulsive behavior. A ton of one-sided conversations and a drawer full of takeout menus. Without your encouragement and support, I wouldn’t be doing what I love. You are and always will be my hero. Love you, baby.
To my beta readers and street team—Catherine at
and David at
. The both of you have been so pleasant, generous and downright selfless since I’ve met you. Your dedication and hard work in wanting to see all of us succeed is overwhelming. I’m so grateful for our Zoom meetings, nightly chats, Tweets and passion for books. But most importantly, I’m thankful to have found such amazing friends! Here’s to 2016…
A big shout out to my girl Miranda, for taking time out of your busy schedule to read my manuscripts. Your enthusiasm knows no bounds and gives me the inspiration to keep on writing.
To my editor, friend and mentor, Peter Gaskin. It’s been a year in the making and I’m so glad you’re along for the ride once again.
I'd like to thank Nathan McCree: producer, composer, and sound designer for the production and score of my book trailer,
Bound by Steel
. It was an honor and a privilege working with such an amazing icon in the music industry.
To all of my readers who’ve taken a chance on me. Every single one of YOU are the reason why I pour my blood, sweat and tears onto a blank page. Every. Single. Day. I am nothing without you…
And to my parents—Jeanne and Roland—who are no longer of this Earth but are forever in my heart. I love you both to the moon and back, a trillion times ten.
To my Lord and Savior for giving me the gift of words so I can in turn share them with ot
Table of Contents
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 skin.
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 heavens.
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.