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Authors: V. J. Chambers

Slow Burn

BOOK: Slow Burn
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Slow Burn
by V. J. Chambers

 

Leigh Thorn is hiding out in a backwoods college because her father put her in danger, and if the wrong people find her, she’s dead. She’d rather snort lines than think about that. She’d rather do shots of marshmallow-flavored vodka until she can’t remember.

When Griffin Fawkes arrives with the news that her father’s dead, she isn’t sure if she cares. He wasn’t much of a father anyway. The only silver lining here is that Griffin’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and Leigh wants him bad.

Griffin owes his life to Leigh's father. The man begged him to keep his daughter safe. But Griffin didn't expect a cocaine-fueled party girl who barely seems to care about her own safety. It seems like she'd rather destroy herself than anything else.

Even worse, he didn't expect he'd care about her. He knows he's too damaged to ever really be with a woman. The best he can do is to make sure she’s safe from whoever could hurt her. Including herself. Including himself.

Of course, fighting off men with guns is starting to seem easier than keeping his hands off Leigh.

 

SLOW BURN
© copyright 2013 by V. J. Chambers
http://vjchambers.com
Punk Rawk Books
Kindle Edition

Please do not copy or post this book in its entirety or in parts anywhere. You may, however, share the entire book with a friend by forwarding the entire file to them. (And I won’t get mad.)

AUTHOR'S NOTE

It will be apparent to anyone familiar with the area that I have created a college near Thomas, West Virginia where there is none. I haven't named this college, but I imagine it to be somewhat similar to Alderson-Broaddus in Philippi, only maybe not so religious.

I have taken a few other liberties as well. I've also probably made mistakes that I haven't noticed, not only about the Thomas-Davis area, but about Morgantown, Grafton, Boston, and Nantucket. Some of these places I know only through a judicious use of Google Maps and internet searches. So, forgive me, please, if I've got it wrong, and try to enjoy the story for the fantasy that it is.

Thank you for reading, and if you ever do find yourself in Thomas, you really must go to The Purple Fiddle. I insist.

Slow Burn
by V. J. Chambers

 

Chapter One

“You turned off my alarm!” I screamed at the half-naked guy in my bed. I was pretty sure I’d known his name last night when we’d stumbled through my apartment door and collapsed back here. I was pretty sure. Hadn’t I called out something while he was pulling off my clothes?

On the other hand, now that I was thinking about it, I didn’t think the sex had actually been that good. I’d had to tell him at least five time to be more gentle, and he hadn’t listened. At all. I’d call him Rough Hands, since I couldn’t think of his name.

He raised his head sleepily from the pillow. Yuck. Had his hair been that greasy last night? Had his nose been that big?

Ugh. Why did I
do
this to myself?

“It was loud,” he said. “And I’m trying to sleep.”

“I told you last night that I had to get up early, didn’t I?” I was holding the alarm in my hand, still staring at the numbers. It hadn’t sunk in how late I was.

“What’s the big deal? So you blow off class.”

I pushed aside the covers, reached for a night shirt on the floor, and pulled it on. “Not class, you moron. I told you that. I told you it was important.”

He put the pillow over his head. “That thing about having to go drive to a phone to talk to your dad? I thought you were making that up.”

Panic shot through me. “I told you that?” How drunk had I been, anyway? I got out of bed. The minute I was upright, my head started pounding. Okay. That drunk.

“You talked a lot,” he said.

I ripped the pillow away from his head. “Get out.”

He rolled over. “Seriously?” He looked wounded.

“Seriously,” I said. I threw the pillow at his chest and went into the bathroom. I didn’t have time for a shower, but my hair was a complete mess. I popped a toothbrush in my mouth and surveyed my bed head. It was smashed on one side, wavy on the other.

I grimaced. Most girls on earth would be able to pull their hair into a ponytail now, but for some reason, I had the kind of hair that never pulled properly into a ponytail. I’d always have nasty bumps sticking out and my hair would refuse to lie flat. I wasn’t sure why this was, but it was annoying.

I spat out toothpaste and rinsed my mouth. Then I turned on the shower. I’d just stick my head underneath it.

It didn’t really matter how I looked. I wasn’t going to see anyone important or anything. But I couldn’t handle going out into the world looking really bad. I had a modicum of personal pride.

When I returned to my bedroom, a towel wrapped around my now-wet hair, Rough Hands was still lying in my bed.

I put my hands on my hips. “You’re still here.”

He sat up. “I can’t believe you’re kicking me out.”

“Well, believe it,” I said.

He found his boxers on the floor. He pulled them on and came over to me. His hand snaked around my waist. “Hey, didn’t we have fun last night?”

I shoved him off. “Honestly, you weren’t my best lay ever.”

He looked wounded again. “Geez, you’re cold.”

“You need to learn about communication,” I said. “When a girl tells you to be gentle, be gentle for God’s sake.”

He folded his arms over his chest. “You’re really very rude.”

“I was rude last night too,” I said. “We were both too drunk to stop this train wreck from happening. Now get out.”

He clenched his jaw. “Fine. I’m gone, Leigh.” He yanked on his pants, threw on his shirt and stalked out of the room. Was I supposed to be impressed that he remembered
my
name or something?

I sighed in relief and started going through my closet for something to wear. Pulling out jeans and digging through some clothes on the floor for a t-shirt, I tried to get myself together. I wasn’t going to be that late. If I drove really fast, I’d only be ten minutes late. And even if I missed the phone call, I could check the received-calls log. I’d be able see the number he had this month. I could call him back. I could. It would be okay.

“Um...”

I whirled. Rough Hands was in the doorway to the bedroom. “I thought I told you to get lost,” I said.

“I can’t find my shoes,” he said.

I could not believe that. “I don’t have time to help you look,” I said. “I only get to talk to my dad once a month, and this is the day.”

“Yeah, that’s what you said last night,” said Rough Hands. “And it sounds kind of weird. What’s going on with your dad? Is he a fugitive from the law?”

Augh. I needed to remember not to tell people this stuff. I couldn’t trust anyone. That was what my dad had tried to tell me. “Never mind. Just forget I said anything.”

“He is, isn’t he?”

“Find your damned shoes and get out of my life.”

He shook his head. “You know, if you treat all the guys you take home like this, it’s amazing anyone comes back for more.”

I glared at him. “Comes back? Men are renewable resources. You’re used up. Did you find your shoes yet?”

He tugged them out from under the bed. As he was walking out, I heard him mutter, “Bitch,” under his breath.

Oddly enough, it didn’t even make me angry.

I’d been called worse. And out loud, to my face, not from some West Virginia co-ed with a big nose. I could handle it. The only reason I was here was that my father was trying to sock me away where no one could find me. Thomas, West Virginia was practically the middle of nowhere. He’d stuck me here because he was in some kind of danger. I was too, I guessed.

Honestly, I wasn’t real clear on what had happened.

Six months ago, I was at a normal college in Boston, and my father was ignoring me the way he had for his entire life. My dad had a job for Dewhurst-McFarland, the international arms corporation. I don’t know exactly what he did, because the corporation kept a tight lid on all their projects in development, and that was what he worked on.

Work was my dad’s life. And I was only an annoying distraction to that. Since my mom left him when I was too small to remember her, I’d been raised by a series of nannies, and my dad had
worked
. As a kid, I barely saw him. He seemed happy enough when I was finally old enough to go to college. He could send me away.

Not that I cared. I mean, not really. I didn’t need the guy. He’d made it pretty clear he wasn’t interested in me.

So, anyway, six months ago, I was in college at Boston. I had a great boyfriend named Eric. We’d only been going out for about two months, but we had a lot of fun together. We liked to party. We were crazy. We were up for whatever. That night, whatever had been a baggy of coke and a bottle of tequila.

We shouldn’t have gotten in the car.

I remember Eric laughing behind the wheel. I remember that the lights on the highway were so bright and that they were streaming past us, like we were on a carnival ride. I remember feeling so alive.

And then everything changed. It was fast. There was a car coming at us. Apparently, Eric was in the wrong lane. I saw it. I screamed. He screamed. I squeezed my eyes shut and—

Then I woke up in the backseat of my father’s car in a hospital gown. He was driving and babbling stuff at me. Stuff I didn’t understand.

He said that Dewhurst-McFarland was developing this serum to make supersoldiers. It boosted healing ability, making a person nearly indestructible. My dad had stolen some and given it to me. Without it, he said, I would have died.

I didn’t know he cared.

Of course, he didn’t help Eric. My boyfriend died back there in Boston. And I didn’t even get to go to the funeral.

Apparently, the people at Dewhurst-McFarland were not happy that my father had stolen the serum to give it to me. Not happy at all. And apparently, in addition to being an arms corporation, they were in the side business of killing people. They used the test subjects for the serum as for-hire assassins. And they’d sent them after my dad. He knew too much. Apparently, Dewhurst-McFarland didn’t exactly color within the legal lines, and my dad could expose them. Apparently, they wanted us both dead.

My dad went on the run. He hid me here.

We only communicated once a month. There was a cell phone in a safety deposit box in Cumberland, Maryland, which was about an hour and a half away from where I lived. Close enough that I could drive there, but far enough away that if the phone got traced, it wouldn’t lead anyone bad to me. Dad called the phone at an appointed time. I had to be there to answer it.

This morning, I was late.

* * *

Twenty minutes late. Even driving like a speed demon up Route 220, I hadn’t been able to shave off more time. Now I was in the bank, alone in the room where the deposit boxes were kept, holding the phone.

No one had called it.

Sure, I’d missed the exact time that I was supposed to be here to get the call. But the phone should show the missed call. I’d reassured myself that I would see the missed call, and I would call the number back. And that I’d talk to my dad before he got rid of the cell phone he was currently using. We’d set up a time to talk next month.

And he’d say the words to me that he always used to be too busy to say.

“I love you, Leigh.”

I liked it when he said that.

But no one had called the phone. I scrolled through the previous calls.

Maybe I should try the last phone number he used? I knew he didn’t keep phones for too long. But I needed to talk to him.

Suddenly, I was worried.

I selected the number and hit send.

It rang.

And rang.

And rang.

The voicemail that picked up was generic, the one recorded by the phone company. I hung up the phone.

And then I waited. Maybe I’d gotten the time wrong. Maybe he was going to call me in an hour. I waited. Time passed.

A woman who worked at the bank came in and asked me if I was finding everything okay. I told her I was.

And I waited a half hour after that.

He didn’t call.

I couldn’t stay there forever. I put the phone back in the safety deposit box. I used the key to lock it. I left the bank and went outside.

It was a brilliantly sunny day, and the sky was a deep shade of blue. The hedges surrounding the bank were bright green. Flecks in the concrete of the sidewalk reflected sunlight, twinkling like tiny jewels.

There was a strong arm tight around my waist and something sharp at the back of my neck. “We’ve got your father. Make one bit of noise, and he’s dead.”

I sucked in breath. I twisted to look at the guy who’d grabbed me. He was wearing a black suit, complete with a black tie. He wore sunglasses. His hair was cut in a military-style buzz cut. He was blank and expressionless. “Are you from Dewhurst-McFarland?” I said.

“Shut your mouth,” he said. “We’re going to walk slowly and casually to the parking lot. You’re going to cooperate if you want your father to live. Nod if you understand.”

What was I supposed to do? I nodded.

“Good,” he said. “Let’s walk.”

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