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Authors: Mackenzie Lucas

To Have & to Hold

BOOK: To Have & to Hold
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To Have to Hold
Derkesthai Mage [1]
Mackenzie Lucas
ML Publishing (2013)

Sometimes what you see is not what you get . . .
American-born heiress Cate Cooper would never have believed her sexy, stalwart English husband Grayson could be a monster of epic proportions until he shifts into a fire-breathing dragon right in front of her eyes. After several near-miss encounters with the dragon who almost kills her, Cate traps the beast using her own magickal skills as a spellcaster and an enchanted chatelaine left to her by her grandparents. Her husband has one year to battle the dragon within before she gives up on him for good. Too bad her besieged heart doesn’t agree this is the best plan of action. Cate embarks on a journey of discovery where she must learn that sometimes what you see is not what you get and monsters come in far worse forms than fire-breathing dragons.
During the year Grayson Cooper is held captive, he fights for his life and his marriage while his best friend and legal partner, Michael James, moves in on his wife. According to the world, Grayson disappeared without a trace a year before, along with millions of dollars. Only Grayson and Cate know the truth of where he’s really been and the battle he’s waging. Grayson must earn back the love of his wife and win her trust again before a murderer who’s stalking her steals away everything he’s ever lived for and any hope they’ve ever had for a happy future together.
This is a sexy paranormal romance where rekindling passion takes on a whole new meaning.                    

 

 

To Have & To Hold

 

 

Mackenzie Lucas

 

 

 

 

Copyright ©2012 by Mackenzie Lucas

 

KINDLE EDITION

 

Cover Design: Robert Lyons/Roar
Desygn
/RoarDesygn.com

Cover Photographs: man ©Hot Damn Designs/The Killion Group/Kimberly Killion

dragon
© 123RF/Fernando Cortes De Pablo

fire
background © 123RF/shopartgallery.com

celtic
dragon icons © 123RF/Fernando Cortes De Pablo

 

All rights reserved. This copy is intended for the original purchaser of this book. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without prior written permission from the author except by reviewers who may quote brief excerpts in connection with a review.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

 

 

This work is fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are totally fictitious. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is purely coincidental.

 

 

 

To my amazing, talented husband—this one’s for you. Love you, babe.

 

 

 

Chapter One

 


God,
Cate
. You really are the patron saint of lost causes, aren

t you?

Cate
tried to pull free
of Michael’s embrace. He
brought her right hand to his lips, kissing her knuckles. He

d been a good friend to her over the past year, but not one she

d trusted with her secrets. He really didn

t know her at all. And he would never be more than a friend.
When he tried to pull her closer,
the floor above them rumbled as
Cooper raged on the third level of the renovated Victorian she called home. Chills crawled up her neck. His cries sounded frenzied and wounded.

Michael, maybe you should go.


I don

t know how you can live with
that beast
howling and snarling all day and night. I understand he

s a rescue dog. But, damn it, enough is enough.

She massaged her forehead, trying to ease the headache that always seemed to live just behind her eyes.

You don

t understand him like I do. I really think you should go.


See, and that

s exactly what I mean. You

re too emotionally attached
. You never should

ve named
him
after your husband. Ruddy hell, you go on and on about Cooper this and Cooper that.
Cate
,
he

s a damned dog.

He cupped her face.

I

m worried about you.
The blasted animal is
always snarling and snapping up there. He

s dangerous.

An emotion she didn

t want to label flickered in his eyes. The intensity of it scared her. Made her want to burrow deep and hold on for her life or run screaming. She wasn

t sure which.
Cate
turned her cheek into his palm, enjoying his touch for a fleeting second before she pulled back.

Michael was handsome
, charming,
and usually kind to a fault, other than his vehemence about Coop. And she

d give him the benefit of the doubt
on that last one
because every time he got close, Cooper went ballistic--fighting to get free and bellowing at the top of his lungs. Coop

s screams could dampen the hottest of passions.

She had no
clue
what bothered the beast.

And she was quite certain Michael didn

t understand her coolness. Every other woman in his life threw themselves at him. She

d watched it happen too many times to count over the past year. His short-cropped blond hair, tropical blue eyes, and handsome good looks had won over every eligible woman in the
isolated seaside
village of
Porthleven
, and even a few
English
lasses
who weren

t available. The wealthy solicitor
visiting
from London
had
set tongues wagging on more than one occasion.


It seemed appropriate to name him after my husband,

she said
.


Grayson Cooper would not be amused to know you

ve named that flea-bitten shag rug after him. Every time I stop by, he

s snarling and rattling his crate up there. And, yet, there you go defending him, thinking he

ll miraculously morph into a harmless lapdog.


He

s fine. Cooper settles down as soon as you leave.

It was true. The beast stopped raging the moment Michael James drove away.
Every single time.
Coop had some sixth sense when it came to Michael

s visits, which had become more frequent and friendlier over the past six months. The moment the white Land Rover drove up the winding road from the village toward the house, Cooper would start to raise hell.


I don

t want to leave just because your dog has separation anxiety. Not this time. Please,
Cate
.

Michael slid his hands to her hips and drew her against him.

I want to stay. Overnight. I want to be more than your solicitor or a shoulder to cry on for my best friend

s grieving widow. It

s been a year. Let me stay. Please?

His voice broke.

Let me love you.

The hopeful look in his eyes made her want to cry.

Cate
placed a hand in the middle of his muscled chest. He felt so damned good under her
fingers.
Hard, strong.
Solid and dependable.
She wanted so much to succumb to his dogged pursuit of her. But she couldn

t. She gave him a little push to put a few inches between them. He let go,
his arms falling to his sides, h
is shoulders slumped
. It took several moments
before he looked up to consider her in silence, his chin angled. Hurt radiated from him.

And that made her feel like a total heel.

She turned her back on him and walked to the floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out over the
clifftop
,
then
she paused to address him over her shoulder.

Look, Michael. You know I can

t offer you anything more. I

ve been very clear with you all along. I

ve never
,
ever led you to believe there
could be anything other than
friendship between us. You

ve been my best friend this past year. I don

t know what I would have done without you. But I can

t give you what you want.

His cheeks flushed. And the blatantly wounded expression on his face squeezed something vulnerable inside her. She hated to hurt anyone, especially someone she cared about. But she

d never love him the way he needed. She

d never love anyone that way ever again.

She looked away and stared out the windows, a sudden chill ran through her. She hugged herself, rubbing her palms up and down her upper arms.

Cornwall in February was a bitch. High, frigid winds whipped water into frothy caps that raced along the turbulent oceanic horizon. Cold sea swells crashing against the monolithic sentinels on the strand below splattered water droplets against the glass. Gray flat-bottomed clouds threatening a storm slipped across the afternoon sky, leaching what warmth and light remained.


I

m still married,

she said.


Yes, you

re married, but you

re not dead.

He stood behind her now, hands resting on her shoulders. He tried to pull her back against him.

She resisted.

I might as well be dead. You know I loved my husband.


It

s been a year,
Cate
.
A long, dreadful year.
I

ve given you all your legal options. You need to move on.


Not while there

s still a possibility that he

ll return to me.


Damn it. There you go again. Saint
Cate
. Give it up.
Stop holding out hope for the nasty
git
.
He

s gone. He

s never coming back. Don

t you see what he

s done? He stole from you. Faked his death and disappeared. The son-of-a-bitch embezzled from you because he was too weak-willed to divorce the American fortune he

d married. He

s off sipping
m
ojitos
on some tropical island in the South Seas
,
rolling in the millions of dollars he swindled from you.

He turned her around to face him.

While you sit here in this Godforsaken place with that mountain goat of a dog upstairs, pining away for him like
a
love
sick war widow. Get over it. Let me help you forget him.


I

ll never forget him.

As if
Cate
ever could. A tear slipped down her cheek, blazing a hot trail straight to her battered heart.
She
didn

t need the fancy Oxford-trained solicitor who

d fallen in love with her to remind her that her husband had abandoned her. She knew exactly where the bastard
was sleeping
. What her husband drank. And that he wasn

t exactly rolling in money.

He was a monster. But not the kind anyone could imagine.


He hurt you. I saw the marks.
The bruises.
I don

t care if we did study law together and were once best mates. Grayson didn

t deserve you. Let me take care of you,
Cate
.

Michael cupped her face and brushed his lips gently over hers. He ran his tongue over the part in her lips, coaxing her to open for him.

God, she wanted to
trust someone with the secrets she held so tight they threatened to choke her in her sleep.
But she couldn

t do it. She firmed her mouth.
Turned her head so that his lips trailed over her cheek.
Cate
wished she could love Michael. Any woman would be lucky to have him. And yet
s
he

d only ever loved Grayson.

He never meant to hurt me.

The words came out soft, a
gossamer wing

s beat.

He couldn

t help himself.


Don

t.

Michael pressed his index finger gently against her lips.

Do not justify his abuse.

He pressed his forehead to hers.

Cooper
wailed,
a
long soulful cry.

She eased herself out of
Michael’s
arms and paced back to the wall of windows.

I

m not justifying anything.
In the four years of our marriage, t
he man never once touched me out of anger.

She spoke the truth. Those first two blissful years had been the best of her life.

Then the halcyon years had been devoured by a third that had become a living hell; one lost in a flurry of violence--words that cut deep and physical scars that scored even deeper. Cycles of mania and depression that came and went with the phases of the moon.
Grand intentions and failed promises.
Anger.
And a debilitating madness that twisted her gentle, loving, stalwart husband into a monster she didn

t recognize and who

d destroyed everything he touched.

That horrendous third year had
then
been followed by a fourth of total silence.

BOOK: To Have & to Hold
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