It was dark.

Dark enough that it was impossible to tell if it smothered me or scared me with empty distance. I was afraid to move, afraid to find out if I was encased in blackness, or left in a black void. All I knew was that I was terrified.

Haze. I needed to think of Haze.

My mind clung to him, and the darkness became wide fields as I drifted into a dream.

I was wandering the farmland outside his Kansas home. A place I’d never seen, but I was an LA girl, through-and-through, so seeing the Hollywood version of the land seemed appropriate.

Still, it was dark, even in my dream, and fear crept in as I walked along.

Then, suddenly, he appeared and my fears ebbed away. He was tall, nearly a foot taller than me at six-three. His blond hair was the color of barley, the color of the waving fields around us. I wasn’t sure if Kansas had barley or corn, but it didn’t matter.

I watched him feed more wood into a bright campfire I hadn’t noticed before. He’d brought my favorite quilt, a star-design of vintage floral fabrics that I usually kept hidden from most of the people in my life. I sat down on it, suddenly at ease. In the middle of the cold and the dark, we were cozy and safe.

“You’ll learn to like it here,” Haze said.

“Maybe after I learn to like you,” I teased as I poured us each a glass of champagne.

He joined me on the quilt, leaning over to press his lips against mine. I could feel his smile. He knew better than to believe what I said. He knew me and I loved him for it.

The words came easily, but I wasn’t surprised. Of course I loved him.

I frowned. “Wait a minute,” I said. “I’m mad at you about something.”

“Just trust me, sweetheart.” He brushed back a few of my wild red curls, his chocolate brown eyes serious. “I’m trying to protect you.”

“Then come and save me.”

I was up on my feet and moving, running faster than I thought I could, far out into the dark field. When I turned around, Haze was gone. The darkness invaded again and I held my breath until stars appeared above me.

Haze. I concentrated on him again and he appeared. This time, his kiss lingered, tenderness replaced by a searing need. His arms encircled me, iron muscles pressing against my arms, hands at the small of my back, drawing me along the hard length of his body. I reached up and slipped my arms around his neck, pushing up on my tiptoes to answer the plunging hunger of his kiss.

His sigh ended on a growl, the rough sound igniting my desire. I melted against him, wanting to be closer, warmer, our skin heating as we touched. Soon our clothes were no longer barriers, and not even the open night could cool our passion. He pulled me down to the soft ground, draping me across his wide chest. His hands brushed up and down my bare back, leaving traces of electricity with the lightest friction. His caresses made me shiver, and arousal flooded my core. The ache between my legs increased, and I rolled onto my back, pulling him over me, needing his weight.

His eyes swept down my body before two fingers trailed lightly across my skin. When he reached my hip and began to inch his way over my thigh, following the crease of my leg, he dropped his mouth to mine again. Our tongues met, tangled, until I gasped. His exploring fingers reached the apex of my thighs and I opened to him. He plunged one finger deep inside while his tongue delved just as deep, moving in perfect sync.

The rhythmic exploration set off fireworks in my body and I arched up off the soft ground, needing more. My aroused nipples brushed the hot iron of his chest, and I moaned, wanting to be closer. He answered by unlocking our kiss and moving down to brush his hot tongue over one tingling nipple. He slipped another finger inside me while his tongue circled my breast. When he trailed kisses across my chest, and captured my other aching nipple between his lips, I exploded.

He pressed his fingers deep inside me, feeling each wave of my shuddering climax. When the shockwaves subsided, he dragged his fingers out so slowly the wet friction made me instantly aroused again.

“Please, Haze, please,” I begged.

He locked his eyes on mine, and moved between my open legs. The head of his hard shaft bumped against me and I shivered. He pushed into me slowly, letting me feel every inch of him. I wrapped my legs around him, trying to pull him deeper, faster. I needed him inside me, filling me, stretching me.

“I won’t leave you, Leighton,” he murmured as his mouth worked at the skin on my throat. “I’ll keep you safe. Just trust me.”

“I trust you, baby. Please come for me,” I moaned.


He raised his head as he pulled back, then rocked against me, the pressure building as I answered every thrust with raised hips. We held our gaze until the pressure was too much, and then he caught my cries of pleasure in a deep kiss. We came together, the stars brighter above us, the world right as long as we were intertwined. This – he – was my safe place.

The shattering pleasure of the dream woke me, and I tried to recapture it as much as I could. Haze’s strong arms around me. His warmth against my skin. Our promise to trust and to be together. The thin comfort of the dream was pierced by other thoughts as I came awake. Other thoughts and other feelings. Memories.

Like how pissed I was at Haze for keeping things from me, from lying to me about my own safety. I expected it from my grandfather, but not from Haze. I was supposed to be able to trust him, but he’d hidden something important. He’d treated me like a child and hadn’t told me that I was in danger.

And that wasn’t all I’d heard when I accidentally found myself eavesdropping on a conversation between my grandfather and Haze.

Not only had they kept the increasing death threats a secret from me, but they’d also been discussing my relationship with Haze. It was more than Haze and I had even talked about. All of it had been enough to send me to the place I usually went when I wanted to lose myself.


By the time Haze left to answer some family emergency, I’d already been on my way to drunk. I’d ended up being too drunk to turn down a night out clubbing with my back-stabbing, boyfriend-fucking best friend Paris. I hadn’t even argued with Grandfather about taking along a temporary bodyguard.

The hazy memory of our drunken partying was enough to keep my eyes squeezed shut, but I felt the chill of something else right on the heels of the memories. I didn’t want to open my eyes, didn’t want it to be true. I was cold, but it went deeper than simple temperature. This was the sort of bone-deep cold that made everything hurt, including my head.

I didn’t want to open my eyes, but I forced myself to do it anyway, and there was the darkness. I sat up, somehow foolishly thinking I could escape it, but the blackness was almost impenetrable. I could barely see the cords wrapped around my wrists and ankles, but I could feel them as they rubbed against my already sensitive skin. The fear tightened my chest, but couldn’t stop the sobs from escaping. I sucked air back into my lungs on a shuddering cry, but didn’t dare make a sound.

I had no idea where I was or who had taken me.

All I knew was I was alone, and I’d never wanted Haze more.