Touch Me In the Morning
Erotic Romance: Contemporary, Interracial/Multicultural
Cover Artist: Honey Jans
Word Count: 72,106
Release Date: May 6th, 2010
When Heaven McKenzie flees from the place where she is being held captive, she is without anywhere to go. On top of that, she knows that her ex will eventually find her. Pregnant and frightened, she finds a shelter where Father Michael gets her a job and a safe haven. She will live with Damian Steele and his autistic sister as his sister’s caregiver.
Damian lives in a quiet estate in the country and is a good friend of the Priest who runs the woman’s shelter. It’s only a temporary solution, and she’s leery about it, but with Gavin on her trail, she decides to give it a try.
Damian Steele is a wealthy Good Samaritan who would rather stay in the shadows than claim credit for his good deeds. Suffering from a terrible stutter and covered with body scars from his abusive father, he is not looking forward to some young woman with problems coming to live in his house.
Somebody, however, needs to take care of Kendra when he isn’t home. As with all the other past caregivers, he plans on laying down the law about how they will simply be boss and worker. In the past the women had tried to befriend and even seduce him, but he doesn’t get involved with the women he hires. He only wants one night stands, as he has demons from his past that forbid him from ever getting married or having children.
Both Heaven and Damian are both shocked and frightened by the powerful chemistry between them when they first meet. Damian retreats, trying to fight it, but Heaven is intrigued by her handsome boss who seems determined to keep her at bay. She is further appalled by her sexual feelings toward him, feelings she had thought had died long ago. Eventually, she is able to break down his wall a little bit, and he becomes her protector, especially since she is pregnant and because he hates abusive stalkers like her ex.
But can he keep her safe and will Heaven ever be able to make him see that he’s worthy of love? And what will happen when she has her baby and leaves him?
Is there any way she can get him to forget his hang-ups and want her to stay?
Forcing one foot in front of the other, she marched her way to freedom. Her lungs burned, adrenalin raced. Thick dark hair kept flying into her eyes and he shrugged it out. Pink blotches of heat parched her caramel skin, but she didn’t have time to scratch. Being pregnant made it difficult to maintain a quick pace and spurred her on. If she didn’t get away, Gavin would kill her, or worse, the baby.
Day faded to dusk and miraculously Gavin hadn’t come after her. As the red sun sank in the darkening sky, Heaven heard the sound of cars and cried for joy. With a final burst of speed, she reached the highway, collapsing on the grassy shoulder. Cars zoomed past and either didn’t see her or didn’t want to stop for a barefoot, muddy, pregnant black woman. One who probably looked deranged, she thought in despair.
Finally, a van pulled to the side. A husky, gray haired man wearing thick spectacles advanced towards her. Through blurry eyes, she saw that the man wore a priest’s collar. Heaven called out to him. “Please! Please help me!”
The man knelt before her, his blue eyes glimmering with kindness. As he passed her a bottle of water, he asked, “What happened to you?”
Heaven stumbled over words, offering a short summary of her life with, and escape from Gavin.
In the midst of her tale, the man helped her to her feet and opened the door to his van. “I’m Father Michael from St. Vincent’s Parish,” he said, once they were on the road. “I can give you temporary shelter. I run a shelter for domestically abused women. Would you like to join me for supper?”
Heaven leaned back against the worn seat of the van and closed her eyes, allowing tears to escape. “Oh, yes,” she whispered, suddenly aware of her body trembling. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Thank you, Father Michael. Thank you very much.”
Weeks later, a compact car rocked slowly down a gravel country road. Numb, Heaven barely noticed the scenery. She tugged the shelter’s donated skirt down to her knees. Making a good impression was so important. In many ways, this job sounded like the perfect answer to her immediate troubles. She glanced over at the driver, a nun in full habit, not hiding the fear and trepidation she felt. “Maybe I should have stayed at the shelter,” she said, twisting the hands in her lap.
Sister Mary Patricia, a kindly older nun with gleaming ebony skin, glanced at her, a soft look on her face. “You’re going to a safe place.”
Heaven nodded, lapsing into silence as the car turned into a long driveway.
“Here we are.” The nun’s calm demeanor made Heaven want to cling to her, but instead she looked at her new temporary home.
“This is the place?” Heaven stared at the oversized white farmhouse, a mansion really, in surprise. “Only two people live here?”
Heaven shook her head in astonishment. The air smelled of flowers, mingled with freshly cut grass. The only structure obvious on the rolling lawn was a red barn. A pond sparkled just before it. Along the perimeter, leafy trees swayed in gentle rhythm. “Are there horses?” Her mood lifted.
“Indeed.” Sister Mary-Patricia took Heaven’s hand and squeezed it. “I have to go now.” She passed a small suitcase into her hands. “If you need a ride back to the shelter later on, just call.”
Heaven slid out of the car, her eyes never leaving the old nun. She hoped she didn’t need that ride back. “Father Michael assured me that the man I’ll be working for wouldn’t hurt me.” She didn’t know why she’d spoken her biggest fear. She couldn’t seem to close the car door. Her fingers gripped the handle until they ached.
“He was Father Michael’s ward in his teen years and they’re very close.” The nun smiled in a maternal way. “Everyone at the shelter knows Mr. Steele. He’s an exceptional person. Father would never send you in harm’s way, dear. A long time ago, he rescued me too.” Her dark eyes shone.
She relaxed a little bit. “It does sound like a great job.”
“He’s a very nice young man. He’s hired girls from the shelter before, and never harmed a hair on anybody’s head. He despises abusive men. I can’t really go into more than that. He doesn’t like others to know about the good that he does.”
“Why?” Heaven’s fears subsided, and curiosity took over.
The nun shrugged. “He’s done a lot to help people, but doesn’t accept the credit.”
Before Heaven could open her mouth to ask more questions, the nun checked the car’s clock. “I’m late for my appointment, Heaven. I have to go. Please don’t worry. It will probably work out and, if not, just call.”
Heaven finally lifted her hand to wave, wishing the nun would stay. Even if the man was a Saint, he was still a stranger. She’d survived at the shelter, and the street was not an option given her delicate condition. She’d survive this too. On unsteady legs, she forced her worn leather loafers over stepping-stones flanked by colorful flowers filling beds to the door. Only after her heart slowed, did she ring the bell. Queasiness flickered through her gut as chimes echoed inside. She sighed deeply and firmed her chin.
Heaven looked around as she waited. The pastoral setting soothed her; would provide a wonderful place to heal. Birds sang in the trees. She stared out at the peaceful yard, hypnotized by its quiet beauty.
“I assume you’re Heaven MacKenzie?”
Startled, she turned back to the now open front door to find penetrating eyes staring down at her. Her stomach twisted, her prospective employer looked more irritated than kind. “I’m sorry,” she said, composure her goal. “I was admiring your property.”
Off to a great start, thought Heaven as she observed the young man with interest. He filled the doorway. Disheveled dark waves fell above emerald eyes lending him a slightly wild appearance. His brazen appraisal triggered an odd sensation within her.
“So you’re the girl Father Michael recommended for the job,” he said, his voice low, polite, and wary. His off-putting demeanor indicated he didn’t want her there.
She didn’t want to be there either, but saw no other option. Mr. Steele paid Kendra’s caregivers well and she needed the money to start a new life beyond Gavin’s reach. “Can I please come in?” Heaven was growing more nervous by the moment and wanted to get the initial meeting completed.
The young man lifted an eyebrow, and then moved aside. “C-come in.”
She hid her surprise at his stutter and stepped into the foyer, scanning the great room. An oversized plasma screen television was a focal point, surrounded by leather couches. The cover of a teen magazine peaked through, and Heaven smiled, Kendra’s no doubt.
“I’m Damon Steele.”
Heaven turned to face him. He held out his hand and she slipped her palm into his roughened grasp. Drawn by his magnetic aura, despite her fear, she studied him from close range. Handsome and intimidating, his green jersey matched his emerald eyes. His muscles strained against the fabric. Silver metal sunglasses sat atop his crown of raven waves. Bare feet added to his laid-back appearance. His lips caught her attention…too wide yet full and sensual. He could only mean trouble for some poor woman. Strangely, her hand sizzled where he’d touched her.
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