The Only Shark In The Sea (The Date Shark Series Book 3)

BOOK: The Only Shark In The Sea (The Date Shark Series Book 3)
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The Only Shark

in the Sea

 

Date Shark # 3

 

 

By DelSheree Gladden

 

The Only Shark in the Sea

 

Copyright © 2015 by DelSheree Gladden.

All rights reserved.

First Print Edition: October 2015

 

 

Limitless Publishing, LLC

Kailua, HI 96734

www.limitlesspublishing.com

 

Formatting: Limitless Publishing

 

ISBN-13: 978-1-68058-290-1

ISBN-10: 1-68058-290-9

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.

 

Dedication

 

For my Grandma Esther, who taught me about being strong. She is dearly missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

The Why

 

Vance ended the call knowing Stephanie was going to be pissed. There was no chance of getting in contact with her to discuss the change of plans before it was too late. Guy’s flight had been delayed, and even though Steph already knew he was planning to help Guy with his date shark client tonight, she would not be happy about him going to the meeting alone. His next patient would arrive in minutes and he had to make a decision. Sighing and not looking forward to the fight it would cause, he dialed the number Guy had given him.

Vance waited through three rings before being greeted by a timid, “Hello?”

Curious why she didn’t answer her business number with her name, Vance tucked that thought away. “Hello, is this Natalie Price?”

Silence. He heard her take a deep breath. “Yes. Who is this?”

“My name is Vance Sullivan. I’m an associate of Guy Saint Laurent. I’m calling you on his behalf to let you know his flight was delayed and he’s asked me to meet with you tonight in his place.”

“Oh.” She hesitated for several seconds before speaking again. “He didn’t want to just reschedule?”

While Vance could understand the change throwing her—especially knowing a little about her social anxieties—he detected a deeper fear behind her words. “I help Guy out fairly often and he didn’t want to push back your appointment, as he wasn’t sure when he’d be able to reschedule you.”

“Oh,” she said again. “Um, okay. I guess that’s all right.”

Everything about the tremble in her voice said it wasn’t all right at all, but Vance didn’t give her an easy out. Guy had asked him to accompany him to the meeting tonight because he suspected Natalie needed Vance’s kind of help. Specializing in victims of trauma and abuse, Vance wasn’t ready to make a full judgment on Natalie, but he suspected Guy had been right to call him.

“I’ll see you tonight then, Natalie. Have a good afternoon.”

She didn’t say goodbye. The call ended abruptly, leaving Vance to wonder if she would really show up tonight. That would certainly make Steph happy if she didn’t. The idea of this woman bailing on him bothered Vance, unusually so. He couldn’t quite put his finger on why, but there was something in Natalie’s voice that was begging for help even though everything else about her told him to stay away.

 

***

 

There was something about Stephanie’s glare that held back Vance’s usual understanding nature. He slid his tie into place and turned to face her. “Steph, I know you’re upset about this, but it’s just a couple of hours. A consultation.”

Crossing her arms, she pursed her lips at him. “You’re going alone. And it’s at a restaurant, not your office.”

“It wasn’t my choice.” Vance sighed. Walking over to his upset girlfriend, he tried to pull her to him, but she resisted. “I suggested changing the venue to my office, but Guy didn’t think she’d be able to handle a last minute change like that.”

“I know,” Stephanie said, turning her back on him, “but I still don’t like this.”

“Why?”

Vance wasn’t surprised by Stephanie’s resistance. He had been helping his friend with his dating coach business since his wife, Charlotte, was released from the hospital after complications of her chemotherapy treatment, and as long as he helped Guy in tandem Steph was okay with it. Alone and outside what she considered the safety of his psychiatry office, her insecurity and jealousy got the better of her.

Steph knew Guy usually called him in when one of his clients exhibited deep-seated emotional issues that were affecting their ability to form and keep proper relationships. Because Guy’s psychiatry background was mainly in the hospital setting, he liked to get Vance’s opinion on some of his clients during what he referred to as the “date night,” where he would take his client on a practice date and coach them through the evening on behavior and boundaries.

The clients Guy asked for help with usually became either one of Vance’s patients or were referred to another specialist for long-term treatment. Vance suspected Natalie would be the same, though there was something about her situation that stuck in the back of his mind.

“That’s why,” Stephanie said, drawing him out of his thoughts.

Confused, Vance looked at her intently. “What?”

“The look you just had on your face. I heard what Guy said when you were talking about her last week.”

Vance shook his head. “All he said was that she was different.”

“Exactly,” Stephanie snapped. “That’s what Eli said about Leila when she hired him, and that’s what Guy said about Charlotte when they met. Now they’re both married!”

The sigh that escaped his body was profound. Vance rubbed his forehead in an attempt to hide his frustration. “Are you actually worried about me getting snatched away by this woman?” Even though she was trying to push him away, he resisted the urge to push back. “I have been trying to convince you to marry me for the past five years. I haven’t given up yet, so why would you think this client would change that?”

Red crept into Stephanie’s cheeks. “This stupid date shark business. There’s something about it. It’s cursed or something.”

Vance shook his head before he could stop himself, making Stephanie even angrier with him. “Cursed?” he asked. “Both Eli and Guy find wonderful women and end up married,
happily married
, and you think it’s cursed? Most people would be saying the opposite.”

“I’m not most people,” she snapped.

Unable to argue, Vance could only stare at her sadly. No, Stephanie was not like every other woman. If she was, she would have accepted his proposal years ago. She also wouldn’t believe in curses, and she wouldn’t think that ending up with a ring on her finger would be something to have a meltdown about. Vance understood her fears, though, and his expression morphed into one of concern.

“Stephanie, you know I love you, and you know I am happy being with you whether you ever marry me or not. I’m not going anywhere. You don’t need to be worried.”

Much of her anger fell away in the face of his honesty. “It’s hard not to.” The corners of her mouth pulled down and her fingers dug into his arms a little more tightly, as if she were truly afraid to let him go.

“Steph, I don’t want you to be upset about this,” Vance said softly. “The client tonight, Guy said she’s different because he thinks something bad has happened to her and she needs some serious counseling. I’ll most likely be taking her on as a regular patient, so there’s no chance of anything happening between us, right? You trust me enough to know that.”

She didn’t hesitate to nod. They had been together since their sophomore year in college. They knew each other inside and out. Never once in all their years together had Stephanie ever worried about Vance getting involved with a patient, and he had never given her reason to be concerned. This was different. He understood why, but it was hard for Stephanie to combat everything she had been through as a child.

“Do you want to come with me?” Vance asked.

For a moment, Stephanie didn’t say anything. He could tell she was considering it. He didn’t pressure her one way or the other. If she wanted to accompany him, she could model proper behavior. If she didn’t, he knew she would enjoy going out with the girls. It was the last group outing they would have for a while since Leila was getting closer to having her baby. Charlotte would begin her next round of chemo the following week as well, and might not feel up to going out for a while. Even Sabine was in town for the girls’ night. Vance knew how much she loved their get-togethers, but if she felt she needed to come with him, he wouldn’t complain.

“No,” Stephanie finally said. “I…trust you. You’re right. There’s nothing for me to be worried about.”

“You don’t sound very convinced,” Vance said.

Stephanie frowned. “It’s not about you leaving me for whoever this woman is, Vance. I know you love me. It’s the other stuff.”

“Would it really be so bad if we ended up married?” Vance asked, though he already knew the answer. The twisted grimace on Stephanie’s face rekindled an old familiar ache in his chest.

He hadn’t been lying when he said he would stay with Stephanie regardless of her limitations. He loved her more than anything else. That didn’t stop him from wishing things could be different, and lately it had been more difficult to push those emotions away. Having grown up in a traditional family, his parents didn’t understand why he and Stephanie weren’t married, but they loved her almost as much as he did. His family was very accepting of Stephanie even though they were living together and not married.

“Well,” Vance said, shaking off his subdued mood, “if you’re going to pick up Charlotte, you better get going. You know Sabine will complain if you’re late to the restaurant.”

Mention of Sabine stole some of Stephanie’s melancholy. Normally, Stephanie was vibrant and cheerful, chatty to the point of exhausting some of his friends. Only at times when her past crept back to the surface did she fall out of her normal chipper state of being and back into how she had been when they first met. Sabine was almost always a sure cure for such days. There was precious little Stephanie loved talking about more than clothes and fashion. Sabine, being a European fashion model, always had plenty to talk about with Stephanie. Add Leila into the mix with her new fashion line launching in the spring, and Vance doubted Stephanie would even think about him for the rest of the night.

“I’m sorry about tonight,” Stephanie said. “I shouldn’t have even said anything.”

Vance shook his head. “Yes, you should have. It’s okay that you’re concerned.”

He pulled her back into his arms and ran his hands down to her hips. She smiled as she pressed herself against him. Dressed up for a night out, she looked amazing. Her dark blonde hair fell in soft waves around her shoulders, but it was her lips that were his weakness. He loved that she was confident enough to wear the cherry red color. Resisting them was impossible.

“I love you,” Vance said before brushing his lips across hers. Stephanie immediately melted against him at the feather-light touch. He smiled, kissing just her bottom lip. She whimpered at his teasing. He loved that he knew her so well. He was smiling as he kissed the ridge of her cheekbone, the tip of her ear, and then just behind her ear.

When his lips touched her earlobe, her fingers tightened around his shirt. “Vance, if you don’t stop it right now, I’m definitely going to be late picking up Charlotte, and you’re going to be late for your meeting. One more kiss, and I swear I’m not letting you out of this room for at least an hour.”

Knowing she meant it, Vance slowly pulled back with a sigh. Stephanie shivered as his breath washed across her flushed skin. “I’d rather stay here with you, but…”

“I know,” she said with a soft smile. She stepped out of his grasp reluctantly, but smiled devilishly as she reached for her purse. “Let’s pick this back up later, okay?”

Vance scoffed at her. “Yeah, right. You’ll be out until the wee hours of the morning again and I’ll be asleep.”

“We won’t be that late,” she argued. “We’re just going to dinner tonight. We’ve got a pregnant lady about to pop. How late do you really see Leila staying out? Charlotte’s not much of an all-nighter, either.”

Vance laughed. “Didn’t stop you ladies last time.”

Giggling at the memory of the men all waiting up for them until one o’clock in the morning last month, Stephanie just shrugged. “Well then, I guess I’ll just have to wake you up when I get home,” Stephanie said.

She started to walk away, but Vance grabbed her arm and yanked her against him. “You better.”

He kissed her once more, not gently this time, and sent her on her way. He sincerely hoped she would keep her promise as he walked out to his car a few minutes later. As he drove toward the restaurant, his thoughts slowly turned toward Natalie. Guy had given him the basics of her profile the previous week. Natalie hadn’t listed anything noteworthy in her personal history, but Guy suspected she was hiding something. Vance’s main question wasn’t so much
what
she was hiding, but
why
. Years of working with his patients had taught him that the
why
behind a secret was often more damaging than the secret itself.

 

BOOK: The Only Shark In The Sea (The Date Shark Series Book 3)
8.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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