|Fallen From Grace
All excerpts © Laura Resnick
"Laura Leone will keep readers up all night with this fascinating, passionate and emotional novel. This unusual love story, told with freshness and authenticity, gives new meaning to the term 'tortured hero' and illuminates the healing power of love."
—Award-winning Author, Susan Wiggs
Finalist for 2004 Rita Award ("Best Contemporary Romance")
"Desert Island Keeper," AllAboutRomance.com
Rain continued drumming gently on the roof. Ryan's gaze shifted to Sara's mouth. Her lips were a little swollen now, and he realized how hard he must have been kissing her before. She looked so...
God, he wanted to kiss her again.
And once she knew the truth, she'd never let him do it again.
He shouldn't have done it in the first place. That's what she'd think, too, once he told her.
"Ryan?" she prodded.
Jesus, just tell her, would you?
Her thick, dark hair was a tangled mess now. From the rain. From his hands. From that sudden tumble to the floor he'd inadvertently given her when he realized what was happening and shot out of that chair and her embrace only seconds before he'd have taken off all her clothes and made love to her.
His body was still crying out for her.
"So if you're not a model," she said, "then what do you do for a living?"
Say it. Say it. Say—
"I'm an escort."
Finally! Thank you.
"An escort," she repeated.
His breath came rushing out. "Yes. I'm an escort."
There. It's out. Done.
He should have told her weeks ago. When he realized how he was starting to feel about her. When he suspected how she was starting to feel about him. He should never have let things come this far between them without telling her.
"An escort." Sara shrugged, a slight frown on her face. "Like... a PR escort?"
He blinked. "A what?"
"A public relations, um, escort. You know." When he just stared at her blankly, she elaborated, "When a writer gets sent on tour to promote a book, for example... Are you saying that you're the person who would take her around to her interviews and autographings while she's here in San Francisco?"
Shit. She didn't understand what he meant.
"No," he said hollowly, "that's not what I do."
"Then what do you do?"
She sat with her hands folded, looking patient, intent, and encouraging.
"Go on," she urged.
"I spend time with people."
"You spend time with people?"
"You spend time with women." She still didn't understand.
He looked away. "Maybe at a party, or a restaurant, or on a trip..." Come on, spill it. "Maybe in bed."
"In bed? Are y..." Now her voice was uneasy. "I mean, when you say... Is this—"
"I get paid for it." He took a breath, seized hold of his resolve to give her the honesty she deserved, and met her eyes again. "Usually by the hour or by the day. I get paid to be good company. In bed, out of bed, whatever the client wants." Seeing her jaw drop slightly, he added, "That's my job. To be whatever the client wants."
She looked stunned, confused, a little upset. "You mean you... Women pay you to have sex with them?"
"Sometimes. Sometimes, I just spend time with them."
"Spend time," she repeated.
"Being good company."
"Yes," he said, lowering his gaze.
"And you get paid for this."
"I do." He wished this conversation could be finished now.
"Are you telling me..." Sara sounded like she was sure she must be mistaken when she said, "Ryan, that sounds like prostitution."
"Oh, no," he said ironically. "It's only prostitution if you get paid for sex. If you just get paid for your time..." He met her eyes, wincing at the dawning shock he saw there. "Well, then it's all strictly legal."
* * * * *
"What happened last night?" Sara asked quietly.
Ryan closed his eyes. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Yes, I've noticed. But, Ryan, you can't come home injured and just not tell me what happened."
He didn't open his eyes. His jaw muscles worked tensely for a moment. Then he said, "I'm sorry I yelled at you last night."
When it became clear he didn't intend to say any more, she said, "It's all right to yell when you're upset. It's not all right to shut me out like this."
He turned his head away from her. "Why don't you go home, Sara? I don't feel like talking." His voice was flat and dull.
"I'm not leaving you like this."
"I'm fine. Nothing's broken."
"You look like hell, and you're acting like a stranger."
He opened his eyes. "I want to be alone. Go home."
"No. I think you may be in shock or something."
He looked at her with a touch of exasperation—which was a reaction, at least. "I didn't give you the right to push like this."
"Yes, you did. And you gave up your right to treat me like this."
He closed his eyes again. "Lay off. I'm tired."
"Tell me what happened."
He ignored her.
She looked at the scrapes on his knees and, when he shifted, she noticed one on his belly, too. "Christ," she muttered. "How's your backside?"
His eyes flew open and he stared at her with a sudden, glittering tension. Since it was the first sign of real emotion he'd shown, she said, "Turn around. Show me."
"Get out." The words were like bullets.
"No. Show me the rest. What exactly has happ—"
"This is my apartment!" He gripped the side of the bathtub and pushed himself into a standing position, grimacing a little as he did so. "And I don't want you bothering me!"
He got out of the tub and seized her arm. Naked and dripping water everywhere, he dragged her out of the bathroom, through the bedroom, and down the hall to the door. She felt sure this sudden surge of anger was healthier than his dull apathy, but she was nonetheless distressed by it. Still, as long as he was on his feet and interacting with her, even angrily, she thought it would be best to keep pushing.
"I'm not leaving until you tell me what happened!"
He yanked open his front door and thrust her into the hallway.
"Who did this to you, Ryan? What did they do to you?"
"God, stop! Stop!" He slumped and put the heel of his hand against his forehead. "Would you just stop, Sara?"
"No, I won't stop. What's going on?"
He started breathing hard. "I can't... Please, I can't... talk about it."
"Ryan, let me help you. Let me—"
"Don't," he said in a rough voice. He slammed the door in her face.
She stood there staring at the closed door, feeling lost and helpless. What could she do for him?
Should she leave him alone for a bit? Would that really be the best thing?
A tear rolled down her cheek. Whether or not it was best, that was clearly what he wanted right now. What he insisted on, in fact.