The Obscured Series, Book 1
Tara Sue Me
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
First edition. October 12, 2015.
Copyright © 2015 Tara Sue Me and Cat Waters.
Written by Tara Sue Me and Cat Waters.
Table of Contents
Chapter Twenty One
Also By Tara Sue Me
Also By Cat Waters
To my husband, who had this crazy idea for the book I thought was going to be women's fiction.
The day I meet Isaiah Martin for the second time, I am running late. I pride myself on my punctuality, not to mention that my clients demand it, and I’m not paying attention to my surroundings.
I look at my watch again. Five minutes after. Shit. I scurry through the hotel lobby, making a beeline to the elevators. If luck happens to be on my side, I won’t have to wait, but the elevators in the largest hotel in Las Vegas are notoriously slow.
Will the stairs be quicker? I glance over my shoulder. The stairwell is located on the other side of the large open atrium. With my client’s room on the thirtieth floor, the elevator is faster, even if I have to wait. I turn back to the elevators.
And run right into a man standing in my path, overcorrect, and twist my ankle.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” he says in a soft, cultured Southern accent, reaching out a hand to steady me. “You okay?”
“Damn it!” My ankle throbs so much I’m not sure I can walk. I gingerly put my weight on the hurt ankle and curse again at the pain.
Suck it up, Athena. This is nothing. Think about what’ll happen if you don’t make it upstairs in the next few minutes.
“Ma’am?” Mr. Southern Gentleman repeats.
“I’m fine.” I tentatively move my foot side to side. “Just give me a minute.”
“Why don’t you come sit down and let me take a look at that ankle?”
“You a doctor?” Odds are he’s just your standard pervert wanting the chance to run his hand up my leg. Even if he is a doctor, I’m not about to let him put his hands on me. Not a wise thing to do, since it’s almost a certainty Mike will find out.
“No, ma’am,” he says. “But I think you may need to rest that ankle just a bit.”
“Really, I’m fine.” I put my full weight on the ankle and nearly fall over as the pain sparks up my leg. “Ow. Ow. Ow. Hell.”
He doesn’t speak again, but takes me by the arm and leads me to a bench near the elevators. His head drops down and he runs a finger along my anklebone. Pokes and prods me. “I don’t think anything’s broken, but you should probably stay off your feet for the next little bit.”
“Easy for you to say,” I snap. “You’re obviously not the one running late.”
He looks up and our eyes meet.
Warm caramel eyes. His thick, black hair is long overdue for a haircut and curls up the tiniest bit at his neck. His firm lips give way to a perfect “O” of surprise at the exact moment I recognize him.
He embraces me with a crushing hug. “Imagine seeing you here. How are you?”
My spine goes rigid, and I don’t return the hug. “I’m....I’m fine,” I stutter while my eyes dart around the lobby, trying to see if anyone’s watching me.
“I can’t believe it’s you.” He is oblivious to my discomfort. “Are you in town for long?”
I force myself to stop scanning the area and focus on Isaiah instead. A cold chill runs down my spine as I take in his handsome features. The last twelve years have treated him well. No longer is he the awkward teenage boy plagued by acne and thick glasses. He’s grown into the handsome man I always knew lay beneath the surface.
He looks at me in expectation. What did he ask?
I fiddle with the hem of my skirt. It rests just above the knee. “I live here.”
“Here in Vegas?”
Not only is my skirt too short, but my shirt shows too much cleavage. I pull the edges, but can't get them to cover me anymore. “Yes, not far from here.”
He looks me up and down. “What are you running late for?”
If I was an honest person, I’d tell him. After all, he looks nice enough. A striking combination of scruffy and clean cut that somehow works. But I’m not honest. Let’s face it, I get paid for sex.
“Just a party,” I lie. “Last one there has to buy the first round.”
“I see,” he says, and for a brief moment I fear he does.
“It was nice to see you.” I grimace at the thought of putting weight on my bad ankle. “Have a good time in Vegas. Don’t blow it all in one place.”
“I’m actually living here, too.”
“You are?” I’d lifted myself part way off the bench, but at his statement, I sit back down. Does that mean I’ll run into him? I’m not sure how I feel about that. “What do you do?”
“I’m a pastor.”
My laughter draws the glances of several people in the lobby. I laugh so hard I lose my breath. I almost punch his shoulder and say, “Good one” before I realize he isn’t laughing. “Oh, shit,” I say instead. “You’re serious.”
“Fuck.” My hand flies up to cover my mouth. “I mean, oh crap.”
Finally, he laughs. “I can promise you my ears are not so delicate that I’ll be offended by language.”
I notice he didn’t say the word, though. “Sorry, I just wasn’t expecting you to say that.”
“I really should be going. I have somewhere to be.” I look down at my watch and frown. “Ten minutes ago.”
“I won’t keep you. I just want to make sure your ankle’s fine.”
“I’m sure it is now.” I stand on my good leg and tentatively put a bit of weight on the bad one. “Ow. Damn it.” Nope, still hurts like hell. No way am I going anywhere soon.
“Have a seat and tell me what you’ve been up to. How you—” he waves, the movement encompassing the hotel lobby.
“Came to Vegas?” I finish for him, when what I really should tell him is what I do in Vegas. But again, I’m not honest.
“Mama died.” I give him a sideways look, keeping my focus on the lobby when I’m not looking at him. “You remember she had cancer?”
“Yes. That’s why you moved. So your dad could get her better care.”
Our small town had been ill-equipped to handle the terrible progression of mama’s illness. I clutch my skirt tight in my hands, still remembering the look on the doctor’s face when he told us there was nothing else they could do.
“Something happened to dad after she died,” I say. “Something snapped. He took off one day and never came back.” I straighten my shoulders. “I was sixteen. I didn’t know what to do.”
“Wasn’t there anyone you could go to?” he asks. “A family member? Someone?”
He speaks in the soft, soothing accent I associate with my childhood. And his voice doesn’t hold condemnation or judgement.
“We were in a strange city,” I continue. “I didn’t know anyone. So much of my time had been spent caring for mama. When dad left, I decided to leave. To buy a bus ticket for Vegas and become a showgirl.”