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The Secret (North Woods University #3)
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Secrets… they can make or break you.
I would know. I’m hiding the biggest secret of all. My scars are so much more than skin deep. They consume me, control me.
Then I meet him, Clark Jefferson. Six foot two inches of greek god hotness, with a smile that’ll make your panties disappear. He wears a clear warning label: Heartbreaker, and if I was smart I would stay away from him.
With my past, my secrets nothing could ever come of being with a man like him. Still I cannot ignore the feelings he stirs inside me. He frightens me and excites me all at once.
Our meeting isn’t fate though, he needs me as much as I need him, and so we strike a deal.
But secrets can’t remain secrets forever and as I grow closer to Clark my feelings for him grow too. Soon the line between fake and real blurs and when the past I’ve been running from finally catches up with me I’ll have to confess to Clark the truth or let go of a love that was only ever supposed to be fake.
**This is book three in the North Woods University Series. It can be read as a complete standalone and contains NO cliffhanger, NO cheating, and a HEA. Please be advised this series contains material not suitable to all readers. This is NOT a YA series.**
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I hate social gatherings, crowded spaces, places where there is nowhere to escape. It makes the suffocating fear that I live with every day that much thicker. My palms are sweaty against the glass I’m holding that is about to slip out of my hands, but just like the fear, if I clutch onto it any tighter, it might shatter under the pressure. I might shatter under the pressure. This is a normal occurrence though, something that I deal with every time my father drags me to one of these events. No, that’s a lie. This kind of debilitating fear follows me everywhere I go. Fear has been part of my life for so long that I don’t know what it feels like to live without it. It’s a second skin…now.
The need to escape consumes me and I try to take another step backward, but I’m already as close to the wall as I can get without going through it. My back is pressed against the smooth brick in the corner of the large room filled with some of my father’s biggest clients and business partners. In such a big space, one would think you wouldn’t feel alone, but I’m always alone, in the mental and physical form. Like a statue, I stand watching the people around me, they laugh and talk, mingling, some of them drinking alcohol or eating from the buffet. They do it so casually, like it’s second nature.
Sometimes I wish I could be part of that, part of the world around me, instead, I choose to seclude myself. I stay on the outside, looking through the window, but never going in. It’s easier that way, then I don’t have to explain myself, or face the cruel looks, or comments.
Most people here ignore me, knowing better than to make conversation and that’s really what I’m hoping for wherever I go. So when I see this six-foot, brown-haired, broad-chested guy heading right toward me, I wish for the wall to swallow me up. I’m more than shocked and scared.
I’m actually frozen in place. If I could run, I would, but because I can’t, I just stand there, my feet rooted into the floor as he steps closer.
What the hell is he doing?
“Hello beautiful,” he greets, stopping less than a foot away from me. His scent wafts into my nose as I suck in an anxious breath. The unknown boy slurs, his green eyes are just a little more glassy than they should be, leading me to the conclusion that the beer in his hand must not be his first one.
I crane my neck back and stare up at him in disbelief. Besides him looking a little drunk, he is extremely handsome, his jaw sharp, his cheeks high, an all-American look that reminds me of some of the guys I went to high school with, and from the way he carries himself, he knows it too.
My lips pressed together in a firm line. Even if I wanted to say something I couldn’t. When he realizes I’m not going to say anything, he continues, “I’m guessing the reason you’re hiding over here in the corner of the room, is because you’re bored like me?” He pauses briefly, tilting his head, amusement glittering in his eyes. An ache starts to form in my chest at the look. He’s so close, his scent surrounding me, suffocating me.
He licks his pink lips and then asks, “Wanna get out of here?” His gaze briefly lowering and raking over my body. There’s a knot of fear rising in my throat.
My heart rate picks up and my hands start to shake. “No, thank you,” I say quietly, my voice trembling. Please just go away.
I look past him, and around the room. People are listening to someone who just started speaking up front, all their backs turned to us. Oh, no. I can feel the fear slithering up my body, threatening to overtake me.
“Seriously, let’s go…baby. I promise, you won’t regret it,” he coaxes, everything about him screams confident and cocky, I’m sure he is not used to hearing no. Then he lifts a hand, dragging his fingers over my cheekbone and I nearly drop my glass at his touch. Fear and panic spreading up and up, sinking into my muscles and my lungs. I start shaking, my throat closes up and my knees wobble, knocking together. Air refuses to fill my lungs.
He’s too close, too interested in me. His large body crowds my personal space and all I can think of is that he wants to hurt me.
No, that he is going to hurt me.
“Are you alright?” he suddenly asks, concern apparent in his tone. “You look like you’re about to pass out. Come on, let’s get some fresh air,” he announces, grabbing my arm and dragging my stiff body toward the back exit. No, no, no!