Book: Grave Bound, (Secrets, #1)
Coupon Code: CP62A
Expiration Date: 5/12/14
Again, let me know your thoughts and stay tuned for Chapter 1 and the story within the story, The Princess and the Warrior.
It's the sun's golden rays streaming through the window that stirs me awake. It's a blinding muscle ache as it shoots through me that makes me wince mid-yawn.
As if wiping the sleep from my eyes will magically ward off lethargy, I instinctively reach for my face. When my hand comes to an abrupt halt several feet away from my lids, I curse under my breath. My inability to do what I want to do when I want to do it may be familiar, but it's no more welcome today than it's been for the last six months. Every single morning I wake handcuffed to this bed is a blatant reminder that my life is not my own.
I'm as much of a prisoner as Stormy is, and last night was an especially rough one with her.
I shake my head, look around, and yawn again. Back-to-back yawns, a clear sign that my sleep was as restless as I suspect. Having dealt with it my entire life, the underlying sense of exhaustion, the kind that makes you weak and scrawny, feels as genetic as the flecks of gold scattering my green irises, the copper tones highlighting my red hair, and the lankiness making up my porcelain arms and legs.
There's only one remedy to ward off the symptoms that make me want to curl up in a ball and go back to sleep. A piping hot cup of coffee. The fact that I can't get even the first sip just yet makes me want it more.
"Carter!" I yell.
Every torture I endure and every freedom I'm denied is done so with that gorgeous man in mind. I'll do anything to protect him from me. From Stormy. If there were any other way, I'd never spend my nights like this. Unfortunately, there's not, and my precautions are absolutely necessary. I can't be trusted. Stormy can't be trusted.
Suffering the beginning stages of a caffeine withdrawal headache and knowing I don't have much time before it turns into something akin to a migraine, I moan and slam my head backward. When I do, I'm vividly aware there's a super-soft pillow behind my head. It's one that wasn't there before I went to sleep. I close my eyes and curse what I know to be true. Despite my constant warnings, Carter has been sneaking into my lockdown room and looking after me.
How many times do I have to tell him not to come down here at night? It's not safe. Not for him. Stormy wants him, and I can't control her while I sleep.
Most people would see my roommate's actions as the deeds of compassion they are, but I don't. I see them as a personal death wish, and that's the last thing I need from him.
"DAMMIT, CARTER! YOU KNOW BETTER THAN TO COME DOWN HERE AT NIGHT!" I scream at the top of my lungs.
Carter is acutely aware of what happened six months ago. I'd give anything to take it back, but I can't. It's just one more deed I can't undo... one more regret piled onto the heap I've built over the course of my twenty-four years... one more reason for me to shelter and protect him while hating myself for the stranger I have living deep inside of me.
When I think back about the night that changed everything for us, I, irritated, close my eyes and count to ten. If I were free and able to run, I would. I'd sprint a six-minute mile in order to keep myself from admitting who I am and the advantage I—Stormy—took of Carter. Unfortunately, I'm not free. I'm tethered to a bed, biting back the anger I have with Carter for willfully putting himself in danger... yet again.
Surely he remembers I swore on all that is holy that I would throw him out if he ever came near this room at night.
I listen for footsteps, biting my tongue until I catch sight of him. I have every intention of giving him a piece of my mind. Once again, I curse underneath my breath when I hear nothing but silence. All I can do is wait for him and the keys to the cuffs.
Wait for my freedom while never really getting it, I think sarcastically.
Channeling as much patience as I can muster, I become acutely aware that my bladder is full and peeing on myself might be a very real possibility if Carter doesn't come and release me soon. After months of waking cuffed to this very bed, I know the surest way to make my situation worse is to keep thinking about how much I have to go. The problem is the bitter woman inside me, the one who swears Saint Carter will walk out on me one day, keeps my attention focused on my body's needs, pure torture her only goal.
Refusing to let Stormy win this battle, I daydream about something other than going to the bathroom. With a sigh and an eye roll, I can't stop myself from wallowing in all the reasons I'm handcuffed to this bed.
With my words, all related to subjects that make me extremely uncomfortable, my body screams in dissention, swearing I only have a few more minutes of ignoring its needs before it will be too late. Without options and just as I'm about to yell for Carter one more time, I hear the click of the lock.
"Thank the heavens," I whisper.
"Rainey." Carter cautiously calls down to me while remaining perched at the top of the stairs.
Even though he's not running down the stairs, rushing over to my bed, and freeing me, I'm not offended. I can't be. He has no idea who’s in control. Me or Stormy. Without regard for himself, he's prepared to face whoever is in charge. If I weren't so protective of him, I'd admit to myself he's an absolute hero—or a man with no sense of self-preservation—for sticking with me as long as he has through this madness.
"It's okay, Carter. It's me, not Stormy," I assure him as my anger instantaneously deflates.
Despite my exhaustion and earlier frustration, I'm grateful Carter insisted I give my sleepwalking alter ego her own name. She and I share a body, but that’s as far as our likenesses go. Carter saw that right away.
"It's only fitting that the two of you have your own names," Carter very logically explained to me a few days after he realized the full extent of what he was dealing with. "Besides, I need a way to separate the two of you."
I'd agreed. Since Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was already taken, I took my lead from Scout, my free-spirited mother—God rest her soul—who christened me Rainey Kay Billows, and named my impetuous sleepwalker Stormy Ray Billows.
Carter's sigh of relief echoes its way to me along with the creak of the stairs as he tiptoes his way down. Given the regret buried deep within his wrinkled brow, he knows Stormy is gone. Equally obvious is the fact that it's me, Rainey, he's afraid of at this moment.
As well he should be.