Love's Last Refuge

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ROMAN (Saints and Sinners)

Genre: Paranormal, occult, suspense, thriller

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Some secrets are worth keeping…

TJ Nowak lost a mother with ice in her veins but gained a father she barely knew. Her brother Anton was the parent missing in her life but he found a calling in violence, leaving TJ to face a new life in a dying town.

Roman Rincon is the juvie rescued by Father Marcus and placed under Benedict Nowak’s supervision. With the records sealed, no one knows what happened that fateful night when Roman confessed to a crime not even the cops will talk about.

Some secrets find the light of day…

Warned off having anything to do with Roman, TJ is all too willing to agree, except for one little thing. The young man lives in the apartment above her father’s car repair business so avoiding him might be a problem.

In the coal mining town of Montville, two teens whose lives have been shattered beyond repair must find a way to cope—with school, with each other, with being marked as broken in a town collapsing under the weight of secrets and lies.

Some secrets you take to the grave, no matter what the cost.


Shadow and light played across Roman’s dusky features, his face turned in profile to the eastering sun hop-scotching on its journey upward, slanting through limbs already shed of leaves. It was the first time she’d seen his face without the hood. With that mantle, that cloak, all but shrouding him into invisibility, what he allowed her to see were deep set eyes, darker than night, yet lit with some inner fire. Panther eyes, the eyes of a hunter. Eyes that never seemed to blink.

Head tilted in arrogance, in defiance, he looked down his nose at her, full lips set in a straight line. He was ice, he was a marble statue, a mountain of granite, immobile and beyond unreal. Only an inch, maybe two, taller than her, he still loomed menacingly. He gave her nothing, asked for nothing.

And he waited.

She should have been terrified. She was. But for reasons she had no vocabulary to explain or even describe, and she wasn’t sure they had anything to do with this stranger or this time or this place. Prudence dictated caution. Her imaginary guardian angel said, “Say no. Say the words. Say them now.”

Instead she slid the straps on Tony’s backpack off her shoulders and fumbled with the clasp, the fabric stiff and unyielding after years of disuse and teen boy abuse. Stuffing the plastic bag and her gym clothes into the cavernous space, she quickly secured the flap and muscled her shoulders back through the straps, going for speed and efficiency.

If she was going to do this thing, then damn it…

Distracted, irritated, at odds with common sense and knowing she was countermanding a direct request from her brother, all she could think about was forcing the teen to move, to unfreeze, to have an emotion, to get on with whatever he planned.

Getting on that bike meant she committed, she said yes, she was belly-flopping into the deep end, she was taking a road less travelled … heck, more likely it was a road no one had ever travelled.

Seconds ticked off a celestial clock, tic tic tic, as she sank into a twilight zone, feeling every bit the cannon fodder she likely was. The thought of facing homeroom with a phalanx of hostile strangers suddenly seemed comforting; after all, those were devils she knew.

This devil, however…

Snarling, “I’ll take that,” TJ yanked the helmet out of the teen’s hand and slammed it onto her head, rocking it side-to-side to adjust the fit, muttering, “Just do it.”

With the smoky visor down, her peripheral vision sliced away by unforgiving black fiberglass, she afforded herself the luxury of challenging the teen to a staring contest. Her with hands on hips, wearing out of the box small town chic, him in tight jeans and scuffed shit kicker boots and a ratty fleece hoodie covering who knew what.

Ben or the highway patrol would come by and find them locked together, neither moving, neither giving in, both in a rigor mortis of combat.

For a fleeting second, so quick she was sure she imagined it, Roman’s facial muscles ticked, a miniscule spasm drawing the thin skin tight over flat cheekbones, tilting his lips upward. Then the helmet settled on his head, the shield up, the rigid ABS framing a face with that fleeting smile still playing about his lips.

With exaggerated care he soothed long elegant fingers over the helmet strap, untwisting and nesting it against his jaw. TJ followed the pantomime, mirroring his every movement, a ballet of taunting and dominance. Passing the strap through the d-rings, she looped it back under, securing it firmly under her chin. Rocking her head up and down, left and right, she checked for too much movement.

Roman nodded, pleased.

When he moved, it was like a dancer, with power and grace, so fluid the air molecules slid past like warm honey, drawing her with him. He lifted a leg over the seat and settled on the smooth leather, rocking his hips suggestively, his crotch finding the sweet spot.

TJ licked her lips, willing him to continue but then the beast rolled off the kickstand and burst into life, balanced between muscular thighs in an orgasm of promise.

Saddlebags straddled both sides of the narrow passenger seat. Without a backrest it was easy to swing a leg over, but that meant she wouldn’t have the luxury of support. And no support meant she’d be forced to use the teen’s body to hold her in place, especially on the tight turns coming down off their mountain.

Low slung with a long wheelbase, the Kawasaki seat looked like a tilted U, cradling Roman’s lean build but positioning him in a way that gave her no option but to wrap her arms around his chest.

The fleeting thought, I’m not dressed for this, exploded like roman candles behind the face shield. She’d slipped the Merrell’s on, content to go sockless until phys ed, unwilling to ruin the look with something so clunky as sports cotton drawing the eye away from her carefully crafted fashion statement.

Knowing what was coming and experiencing it were two different things. Roman’s body braced, then angled forward, the shift practiced but abrupt, sending the bike downhill like a thoroughbred launched out of the starting gate. Then they leaned into the first S-curve, left to right and back, the tires welded to the road surface, the yellow line a blur. Not daring to look up, she kept her palms flat against the soft fabric of his hoodie, fingers curling either side of the zipper, threatening to tear it apart. She willed her body to follow the motion, knowing he’d need to fight gravity and her if she foolishly warred with centripetal force.

Nothing other than scrawny patches of metal barrier fence and a few spindly limbs separated the Kawasaki and its riders from a plunge down the side of the mountain. The view was spectacular, the town of Montville appearing cozy, quaint and welcoming as it nestled in the narrow valley far below. The sun’s glare bounced off her face shield when she bent her head to the right, obscuring then illuminating the pretty scene.

Nearing the bottom of the hill, the landscape leveled off, the vista gone as hunting cabins, followed by farm fields, hurtled past. Taking a deep breath, she realized how much she had missed this, riding with Tony, the road open before them, sounds whipped away until nothing but vibration and speed and freedom existed for the briefest moment in time.

Her relaxation hadn’t gone unnoticed. When the road straightened, Roman slowed down to what Tony would have called touring speed. For the briefest instant, he covered her left hand with his, moving both higher, closer to his heart, pressing down until she felt the steady beat beat beat.

The shock of skin on skin nearly unseated her, the memory of a dream tickling at her consciousness, making her question her sanity.

Pressing even harder, it seemed he wanted to push her hand through flesh and bone, to contact with the pulsing muscle, driving it through into her own until she felt just one, only one heartbeat. No longer hers, no longer his.


It was torture of the sweetest kind, pain and pleasure mingling as thick crimson juiced their veins, the flow hardening, crystallizing and shattering, the sharp shards pressing and rending flesh from the inside out.

He withdrew his hand, breaking the disturbing sensations.

What was that? It’s not real, it couldn’t be…

Not convinced she’d imagined it, TJ wanted to let her hands slide down to his hips, trusting rough denim to shield her from any further contact but there was no way to reach that low without flipping her butt off the back of the seat. She ended up twitching in place and reseating her palms, now flat and loose, against his rock hard torso. Letting her elbows take the strain by gouging his rib cage, she prayed it would be uncomfortable enough for him to get the message.

If she didn’t know better, she’d swear he was laughing, his shoulders rocking out of sync with the motion of the bike.

Something, someone, so closed off, so damaged, so broken couldn’t possibly…