Idolize (Dark Storm Book 1), page 1
EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ®
Copyright© 2016 Maggie Mundy
Cover Artist: Jay Aheer
Editor: Audrey Bobak
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
For my husband Alan, and my daughters Jenny and Rachel who are my greatest fans. For my wonderful sister Nora, and my mom Eileen who is no longer with me. She would blush if she read this book.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you to all the people who have made this book possible with their help, support, and encouragement. A year ago the concept for The Dark Storm series came to me, and I knew I had to tell the stories of the stars on the show and the people who they fall in love with.
Extra thanks go to my husband Alan, and daughters Jenny and Rachel. They never doubted I could do this even when I did. Thanks also to my critique partner, Delwyn Jenkins who has been one of my greatest supporters, and has always been generous in sharing her time and knowledge. I also want to thank my number one fan, Suzanne Terry for her support and encouragement, and the odd nag to write more books. I would also like to thank Susan Berger for her information about the movie business in America. It was fantastic to have an actor to help me out with the acting industry.
I would like to express thanks to all members of The South Australian Romance Authors and The Romance Writers of Australia for the support and encouragement. These groups make the dream of publication possible for so many.
I acknowledge the support from my fellow Evernight Publishing authors who share their knowledge and expertise. They are truly a wonderful group that I am proud to be a part of.
Special thanks go to my editor Audrey whose patience and understanding during the editing process was outstanding. Thanks for believing in me and my story.
Last but not least I would like to thank all the people at Evernight who bring their excellence and expertise in the area of publishing.
Dark Storm, 1
Copyright © 2016
“I’m free,” Cassi yelled. “No more bad decisions, rotten men, and running scared. It all starts now.” If anyone was around listening to her scream from the hilltop, they would think she was mad, but she didn’t care.
As she stared at the beauty before her, she considered this was her new life and she planned on grabbing on to it with both hands and not letting go. A mountain hike in sunny California was not something she would have contemplated a year ago. The future meant no permanent men in her life apart from little Tommy, and making it on her own with maybe a little help from her crazy friend, Sasha.
Huge storm clouds hid the sun and Cassi shivered. All this reflection was good for the soul, but her stomach grumbled. She needed to get back down to the cabin or she might get caught in the rain. Being wet and miserable wasn’t part of the plan. As beautiful as the vista was, she headed off.
Those were not the words Cassi expected to hear as she rounded the boulder. She didn’t imagine she’d find anyone else out here. It had taken an hour to work down from the peak, and she’d cussed herself a few times as she stumbled over loose rocks. Her muscles ached, but the hut and a hot shower were only half a mile away. She took a deep breath and considered scouting around the boulder. The person sounded like someone in pain from the groan accompanying the swear words. Her sense of decency wouldn’t let her leave him alone out here. Okay, why can’t you be a selfish shit, Cassi? It would have served you a lot better over the years.
She couldn’t keep the grin off her face when she spied a guy on all fours displaying a shapely butt in front of her. If her solitude was going to be ruined, it might as well be by a nice butt. She wondered for a second whether the face would match up.
“Do you need some help?” Cassi would at least offer assistance as she struggled to keep the grin off her face. She didn’t succeed and started to giggle as he turned around and sat down with a grunt.
That answered her question. He was hot, so the head did match the butt. She had heard people described as drop-dead gorgeous before, and this guy certainly was. He looked like a movie star or a model. Not that she watched many movies apart from kids’ ones these days, or read fashion magazines. She didn’t have any money for haute couture.
His eyes were a beautiful hazel color and he appeared a bit like a lost puppy dog at the moment. His long, dark fringe flopped down over his forehead in an endearing and alluring way. Back in L.A. he would have girls running to help, but out here on the mountainside, he would have to cope with just her. Her stomach flipped as he stared at her. She was experiencing lust at first sight. Just as well, because love at first sight had never done her any good. His happy expression was probably due to the fact of anyone turning up at this point to help him would be a godsend, even if she was a tall, buxom brunette, and not some skinny girl from Hollywood Boulevard.
“Ah shit. Thank God. I was starting to think I’d never see another human on this trail. My cell won’t work properly and I could see I’d be stuck for the night.”
She wasn’t expecting an Australian accent. She hadn’t picked it up from his first profanity. That was good. If she was going to meet anyone out here, then meeting someone from the other side of the planet no one knew was good. One day she would stop being paranoid. She took her backpack off and kneeled down beside him.
“I tripped. I was staring at the view instead of where I was going. I think I’ve twisted my ankle. Sorry about the language, but it hurts like fuck. Shit, sorry again.”
Cassi glanced down at his feet. His right ankle was swollen in comparison to the left. “My friend, Sasha, uses worse language on a regular basis. I think I’ll cope. Look, I’ve got some tape in my pack. I’m no doctor, but I can strap it for you. I’ve some painkillers as well if you haven’t already taken some.”
She got out the tape while he removed his boot and sock. He gritted his teeth while she worked on his ankle. His face went pale and sweat beaded on his forehead, but he didn’t make a sound. He was tough, she would give him that. For some reason, she thought she’d seen him before, but couldn’t place where. She would have remembered the incredible looks and the accent for sure. He took a bottle of water from his backpack and swallowed a couple painkillers. Gingerly, he pulled his boot back on.
Cassi bit her bottom lip as she stood up. So what did she do now? He was a stranger, even if an amazingly good-looking one. Could she leave him out here? He might get attacked by a coyote. Plus, it was likely to get cold overnight, too. For all she knew, he might have broken his ankle and could need a hospital. Her idea of being on her own was not going to happen. Maybe she could use the distraction to stop thoughts about what she would do with her future.
“There’s a hut not far from here. I’ve booked it for the night, and it has phone coverage. We can get someone to come and get you if you’re not good enough to walk out.” There, she was doing the right thing and offered at least.
The guy winced as he grabbed the rock behind him and tried to stand up. She helped him and he smiled at her through his pain. His cheeky grin made her heart jump and she felt as if she was back at
“Thanks. You’re a lifesaver.”
He wobbled with the weight of his pack and went to fall forward. Cassi moved quickly to grab him. His hands grabbed her shoulders as hers went around his waist as he wavered on one foot.
Not only did he look good, but for someone who was hiking, he shouldn’t smell so good. He smelled musky with a faint hint of aftershave. His face was close to hers and she could feel the heat of a blush rise up her neck as she held onto him. She gulped as she stared at his lips, and was surprised he didn’t make any attempt to move away. She glanced up and noticed he was peering at hers. She should get a grip, help the guy, and stop ogling him. He was probably delirious with the pain.
“Put your arm around my shoulder and we’ll take it slow.”
One of them needed to talk and break the moment. Otherwise she might embarrass herself and plant a kiss on those lips.
At five-ten, not many guys were taller than her, but this guy was at least six foot. He looked mid-twenties like her, she guessed. Cassi placed her hand around his waist and could feel the hard muscles of his body underneath. He placed his arm around her shoulder, gripping tight as they slowly made their way down the trail. He might have ogled her a minute ago, but now it seemed the pain was back as he put his weight on his ankle.
“My name’s Declan. Thanks again for this. When we get back to civilization, I promise I’ll make it up to you.”
“I’m Cassi, and there’s no need. I’m sure if I was the one with the swollen ankle you’d have done the same.”
Her mind was already thinking how he could repay her for this. It involved them being naked and getting very hot and sweaty. Where the hell did that come from? She hadn’t wanted a guy in two years and for good reason. This poor, good-looking hiker didn’t need her getting horny on him. Some sex, any sex, would be great after all this time.
Cassi would be happy for some casual sex with a hot guy. She didn’t need or want relationships. Thank God he could not read her thoughts.
He managed to hobble along as she supported him, though his breathing got heavier. She needed to stop thinking about his body and ask some questions.
“Are you on holiday here from Australia?”
“No. I’ve been here a few years working in L.A. Just thought I’d get away for a day. I used to like bush walking back home. Always helped me clear my head. I left my car down on the main road at the bottom of the mountain. Don’t guess I’ll make it somehow.”
“You can call from the cabin, or the lady comes tomorrow after ten to clean up. She could drive you down the track. I was going to walk out so I don’t have a car.”
He leaned on her more. She would try and keep his mind off his foot.
“I’d love to go to Australia someday. I’ve watched stuff on TV about it. Don’t like the spiders and snakes. You do seem to have a lot of them. I don’t have the money to visit down there anyway.” He probably didn’t need to know that.
“Maybe I can arrange something, as a thank you.”
“That’s silly. I’m just helping you.”
Was he so rich he could give away overseas trips? There was no way she would accept something like that. “You can send me a koala bear toy instead.”
“It’s a deal, and they are not bears. They’re marsupials which are a whole lot weirder, trust me. They scratch up close and when the males are looking for a female, they grunt like pigs all night. It can drive you mad.”
“Don’t spoil it for me. They look so cute.”
“The snakes are bad, but I’ve only ever seen a couple when out bush walking. I’d just stop and they’d slither away. Reckon most of them, apart from the tiger snakes, are more afraid of us.”
She didn’t want to push him, but it looked like a storm was coming in. She didn’t want to get stuck out in the open with thunder and lightning. They made the clearing, and she could see the cabin on the far side. Damn, she just remembered what the place was called. Maybe he wouldn’t notice.
“I thought we could try for your car, but that’s going to take at least three hours. I don’t think you’ll make it. The sky looks like a storm is coming.”
“The cabin sounds bloody fantastic. My ankle’s fucking hurting bad right now. Sorry.”
They stood outside the door of the cabin and she heard him chuckle. He’d obviously noticed the sign saying ‘The Love Shack’ above the door. Cassi had chosen it because it was cheaper to have a one bedroom place and she planned on being alone.
“I’m in love with myself. What more can I say?” She suddenly realized what she said. He would be considering there was a vibrator in her bag.
“I’m not saying anything after you saved me.”
He might not be saying anything, but he did laugh. He could sit out on the deck and call his friends to pick him up if he said anything cheeky.
She helped Declan through the door to the couch and put a cushion under his foot. The cabin was basic with a kitchen, a couch, one bedroom, and a small bathroom. He sighed, put his head back, and closed his eyes. As she watched him, there was a loud crack of thunder. Her body went cold as she jumped and shrieked. It was silly, but thunderstorms had always freaked her out. Any thoughts of a cute guy disappeared. The night she’d walked out on Steve, with Tommy in her arms, was during a thunderstorm. The noise always made her feel like it was hiding something. The rain started to pelt down on the roof as she wrapped her arms around her middle.
“You okay?” Declan asked. His eyes were open again and he was peering at her.
“I don’t like thunder, but I’ll be fine now we’re inside. Do you want to try your phone again and see if there’s any coverage?”
Cassi made her way over to the kitchen and put the kettle on to make some coffee. There were the basics like tea, coffee, and milk provided. Plus, she had some food but not much.
He sat there for a while fiddling with his phone. She walked back over with the steaming mug and placed it on the table beside him.
“No luck then? Must be the storm. Maybe you can try again when it stops.”
Thunder rumbled outside and Cassi couldn’t stop her hands shaking. Dear God, she hoped it ended soon. Each time she looked up, the window lit up with lightning and she imagined Steve’s face leering at her through the glass. She would spill her coffee and burn herself at this rate. She put her drink down. Declan reached out and took her hands in his. She didn’t know this guy, but his simple action helped her slow her breath.
“You’re really scared, aren’t you?”
She saw the concern on his face as he stared at her. Her chest hurt as she tried to get air in. He squeezed her hand and the touch of another human gave comfort and calmed her a little. Even if it was from a stranger.
“I’ll be fine.”
There was another crack of thunder and she screamed. This guy would likely think she was a crazy person, which was probably not far from the truth at the moment anyway.
“Everyone has something they’re scared of, Cassi. If they say there’re not, they’re lying. Me, I’m okay with thunderstorms, but I can’t swim in the ocean. When I was a kid, I went out fishing with my dad. Our boat was about thirty feet long. We thought we must’ve been over a sandbar because we noticed the depth changed. Then it moved and we realized there was a great white shark below us. It circled the boat and then went off. Give me a swimming pool any day.”
He kept rubbing his thumb on the back of her hand and the simple gesture made her feel closer to him. She knew he was chatting to calm her down, and she liked him for it. If he kept this up, she would be leaning in for a kiss and freak him out. The idea of comfort in someone’s arms tonight was looking more appealing than ever. She needed to do something practical before she jumped him.
“I’ve got some food in my bag. Not much, but some packets of pasta we can heat up.”
“Sounds great. I’d help, but I’m pretty much useless at the moment. I’ll go through my pack and see what I can contribute to our feast.”
He let go of her hands. Cassi made her way to the kitchen and started to cook their meager rations. When she came back over with the meal, he had placed his food out on his lap. There were lollipops, chocolate, and a small bottle of brandy.
“I’ll get some glasses then.”
The brandy would probably help with his pain, and it might also make her seem a little less like a tightly coiled up spring. He poured a large brandy into her glass and she chinked it with him.
“So what do you do when you’re not hiking?” he asked.
Cassi froze. This was why she wanted a weekend away on her own. She avoided meeting new people so she wouldn’t have to talk about herself and her past. What would she say? I have had a shit life, and trust me, you don’t want to know? It was easier to avoid things.
“For work, I clean a retirement village.” She took a gulp of the brandy and hoped that would be enough. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but she enjoyed it, and it paid the rent. What more could a person want? “What about you?”
“Like lots in L.A., I act.”
“Maybe that’s why I thought I knew your face. I don’t watch much TV, though. What have you been in?”
“I’m in a show called Dark Storm. A gale hits a town, and afterward, creatures from another world start to appear. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek with lots of fun and fist fights.”
She noticed he tensed as he said the show’s name. Was he worried she was some kind of groupie? She didn’t want to disappoint him, but she had never watched it.
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