It’s boring and grey outside. Perfect weather for a great Paranormal Romance! Don’t miss this gorgeous exclusive excerpt of Abbie Roads’ Race The Darkness!
Xander paced the length of his porch, his bare feet padding across the wood, the sound pleasantly mixing with the chorus of nighttime noises rocking out on the hillside. But still turmoil roiled inside him. As much as he hated to admit it to himself, he was worried about Isleen. Worried about her health, her sanity, and—after finding that cross on her forehead—her safety. The thing that worried him the most was the simple fact that he cared at all. She shouldn’t dominate his mind. Was Matt right? Did the women in her family possess some strange power to enchant the men in his?
A rhythmic sound invaded. He paused in his pacing, trying to place the origin. It was the crunch of gravel under feet. Someone was jogging up the driveway toward his place. He leaped off the porch, oblivious to his bare feet, and raced toward the sound.
His eyes weren’t as sharp as his ears, but he knew—fucking knew—the figure that emerged from the curve was Isleen. She sucked and wheezed rapid breaths. Her heart beat a frantic duh-dum, duh-dum tempo. Her gait was all wrong—sloppy and disjointed, arms flailing almost as if she were swimming instead of running. With the way she’d acted earlier toward him, something had to be terribly wrong for her to seek him out.
Adrenaline bucked through his system, charging his muscles, readying him for a fight. He scanned the lane behind her, expecting to see someone pursuing her. Nothing. He listened for the sounds of a chase. Nothing.
He sprinted toward her. “What’s wrong? What’s going on?”
She didn’t answer, didn’t look at him, just continued on, ignoring him as effectively as if he were invisible. For only a fraction of a second, pissed-off-ness nearly got the best of him. Then he realized she was all lights-on-but-nobody-home. Again. “Shit.” He chased after her, nabbing her by the arm. Her body swung around to face him, her forehead thunking against his sternum. The sound—an unnatural wonk of bone hitting bone separated by thick skin—reverberated through his chest. His arms trapped her close to him. “Goddamn it.” The last thing she needed was a head injury caused by him. “I didn’t mean to…”
He lost what he was going to say in the sensation of holding her. She was so petite, barely tall enough to reach his pecs, and yet she fit every angle and curve of him as if they were two pieces finally fit back together to make one. He held her until her heart shifted out of warp drive, then stepped back from her.
Moonlight silvered her skin, giving her a luminescent glow, but her face was completely devoid of expression. Her gaze fixed forward, locked on an intangible spot in the air between them. He’d seen this look at the hospital right before she spouted off about a murder she could not have known about. And yet, did know all about.
“Isleen. Snap out of it.” His voice went deeper, carrying a strength beyond what it normally possessed. He shook her hard, one rough jerk that slung her head around her shoulders. “Wake up. Now.” Wake up? Where’d that come from? Did he honestly think she was sleeping? One moment she was lost, and the next, clarity and lucidity slammed into her features.
“Xander,” she cried and flung herself against him, clawing at the back of his shirt with her hands and pressing herself so tight against him that it felt like she was trying to hide inside his skin.
“It was horrible. He killed her. He killed them all, and there was nothing I could do.” Her words were run-on sounds, coming out so fast he could barely understand them. “I tried and tried, and all I could do was stand there and listen. I felt their blood… I felt their blood on my face, and I—”
“Shhh—take a breath.” He waited while she sucked in air, then let it go. “I’ve got you. You’re safe with me.” He kept talking, saying nonsensical soothing things to her, rubbing his hands up and down her back, feeling each ripple and ridge of her rib cage and spine. When she calmed, he tried to pull back from her, but she clung to him like burr.
“Don’t let me go. I think I might shatter if you do.”
A precursor to a smile twitched the corner of his mouth. “I won’t let you go.” He meant it.
“Xander?” When she spoke, he felt the heat of her breath against his chest.
“How’d I get here?”
He wanted to be surprised by her question, but he wasn’t. This was exactly like in the hospital. “You ran.”
“I mean, just a minute ago it was daytime and I was at Sunny County Children’s Services and—” Isleen kept talking, and Xander kept listening to the fucking horror she was spouting about Mr. Goodspeed and murder. She had to be talking about a nightmare.
“You weren’t there. It wasn’t real. You were at the main house where I left you. Only two hours have passed. Not a day. It was a bad dream, and I think you were sleepwalking. Dad will know for sure. That’s his job. He researches that kind of shit.”
The relaxed, intimate way she clung to him vanished. She threw herself out of his embrace. Instinct had him stepping toward her to put her where she belonged. With him. Every step he took forward was one she took backward. He forced his body to stillness and his hands to fall to his sides. The heat of rejection ignited in his gut.
“I forgot. I forgot. I’m sorry.” Her voice was a complete apology.
“Forgot what? Sorry about what? What are you talking about?” He tucked his hands under his arms to keep the traitors from reaching for her. She didn’t want him touching her, so he’d abide by her rules. After what she’d endured, he needed to give her control whether it made sense to him or not. The best he could do was try to understand her feelings.
A pressured grunt escaped her mouth, and she slapped her palms on either side of her head as if she were trying to keep her brain from bursting out her ears. He was in front of her, his hands over the top of hers, before he even told his body to react. Where their skin touched, he went cool and began to sting—only sting wasn’t the right word. The sensation was a cross between a sting and an itch and something surprisingly pleasant, something similar to what he’d felt when she accidentally touched his scar in the hospital. He closed his eyes, feeling the sensation move up his arms, across his shoulders, and down his torso. A shiver rippled through him. What was going on? Whatever it was, he liked it and so did she.
By day, Abbie Roads is a mental health professional known for her blunt, honest style of therapy. By night she writes dark emotional novels, always giving her characters the happy ending she wishes for all her clients. Her novels have been finalists in RWA contests, including the Golden Heart. She lives with her family in Marion, OH.