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Desperate to Touch
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From USA Today bestselling author Willow Winters comes a heart-wrenching, edge-of-your-seat gripping, romantic suspense.
I ran from him, even though my heart knew better.
He chose a life of crime. I never wanted any of it; I only wanted him. I left when the danger bled into my life, taking more than I was willing to sacrifice.
Desperate to Touch is book 2 in a series. Hard to Love must be read first.
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“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”
― Stephen King
The first year Seth moved to the East Coast, years ago
The journal in my hand is thick and the edge of its pages are worn. As though she didn’t just write in its pages daily, but instead read and reread the scribbled confessions of the past three years constantly. The spine itself is cracked and it divides the journal in two.
Guilt riddles its way into my thoughts. I shouldn’t be reading a patient’s journal, not when she only gave it to me because I told her I’d fix it for her. She trusted me because I’m her nurse. I’m supposed to help Delilah and take care of her.
The poor woman who lives on pills during the day and is haunted by nightmares when the sun sets gave me all her secrets. I know I shouldn’t take it, but the second half of the journal starts with the description of a barn Marcus took her to.
Marcus. Just seeing his name chills me down to my bones. I don’t even realize that I’ve stopped moving, breathing, that I’ve simply halted in the middle of the narrow hall until a sweet new resident asks me if I’m okay. I think her name is Bethany.
“Fine,” I tell her and force a smile, although the scribbled name, Marcus, lingers in my mind. The whispered hiss, Marcus, repeats itself faster and faster as I make my way to the office to read what she wrote about him. The Rockford Center deals with mental health, so naturally, drugs and violence are a conversation starter. Many of my patients talk about Marcus. Marcus and the Cross brothers. Recently, Seth King is a name that’s going around too. I have to close my eyes, swallowing thickly as I shut the door to the dark office, leaning my back against it and simply trying to breathe.
Seth King, the man I loved on the other side of the country. The man I ran away from. He gave me time, but I knew he’d come for me. It’s been a week since I first heard he was here, only miles from me, and I’ve been praying. I begged God to give me a sign, to tell me what to do. Opening my eyes, I stare down at the notebook. My salvation.
I photocopied every page of Delilah’s journal, hiding in the small back office of the Rockford Center. I can still remember how anxious I was and how heat smothered every inch of my skin. Knowing I could be fired instantly, I still had to do it. I’d only just started working at the center, my first job as a nurse. I had to do whatever it took to survive. I suppose I’d been saying that a lot back then.
That journal was my leverage for when Seth inevitably came for me. Filled with multiple entries all about Marcus, the boogeyman, the Grim Reaper. A faceless villain who made deals in back alleys, running the streets around these parts, battling for power along with the Cross brothers. Unlike Carter Cross and his brothers, no one knows who Marcus is. They’ve never seen his face, but his signature power plays and ruthless reputation are notorious.
I thought that if Seth came for me demanding the money I stole, I’d give him the copies. I thought maybe it would be of value to him because I knew he came to work with the Irish mob who ruled this part of the East Coast, a.k.a. the Cross brothers. And they’d give anything to uncover any details on their faceless nemesis, Marcus, and his secrets.
They were all in the worn journal. This woman Delilah, my patient, had seen him. Felt him. She loved Marcus. She had a single journal when she was first admitted. It described details of where they met and what he wanted with her. It was leverage. Several years have passed; my patient’s collection has grown as she’s come in and out of the Rockford Center, when her mental state is too harmful to be away from the help we give her. She has a journal for every year, five years now, and I never stopped photocopying them. I could give Seth information on Marcus, in hopes that he wouldn’t hold our past against me.
I kept waiting and waiting for Seth to come for me. Didn’t he know he’d have to be the one to make the first move? I wouldn’t even be able to look him in the eyes or say his name out loud.
Years came and went yet he never approached me. It wasn’t relief I felt, it was like a prolonged mourning. Maybe he wanted me to feel his presence, to know I couldn’t have him. I remember the first night that thought came to me, and how hard I sobbed against my pillow at the thought. I’d take my punishment; I deserved it.