Authors: K. S. Ruff
Tags: #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Inspirational, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense
book five in the broken series
This book is a work of
fiction. Names, characters, locales, brands, media, businesses, and incidents
are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any
similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The author
acknowledges the trademarked status of and trademark owners of various products
referenced in this book of fiction, which have been used without permission.
The publication and use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with,
or sponsored by these trademark owners.
In accordance with the US
Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any
part of this book, without the permission of the author and/or artist
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The only exception is short excerpts or the cover image in book reviews. If you
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purposes, prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the author at
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Copyright © 2016 by Ruff
Cover design and
photography by Kari Kunkel Anderson
All rights reserved.
Discover other titles by
K.S. Ruff at ksruff.com
big, follow your hearts, and trust in God
This book proved
difficult to write, in part because of the competing demands on my time and in
part because I didn’t want this story to end. There were a number of people who
saw me through, who served as my inspiration, and helped me finish this book.
I couldn’t possibly thank
my husband, Tobin, enough. He’s put up with a considerable amount of neglect
while I worked on this book, and he hasn’t complained, not once. He’s been
invaluable as a military, security, and martial arts advisor. And there’s a
reason he served as my inspiration for Kadyn. He is truly that supportive and
I want to thank my daughters,
Lexie and Madison, for coaxing me off my computer so life didn’t pass me by. I’d
also like to thank my parents for their love and support. They are the ones who
taught me to dream big, to follow my heart, and to trust in God, a central
theme in my books.
I’d really like to thank
those friends who inspired the characters in this book, those who are mentioned
by name and those who preferred aliases. They have seen me through so many
difficult experiences, some of which have been touched on in this and previous
books. This world would be a far better place if everyone had friends like you.
I also want to thank my dear
friend, Kari Kunkel-Anderson, for photographing and designing my book covers. I
loved exploring Portugal with you!
I’d also like to thank my
reviewers; Amy Goodyear, Erica Allder, Gloria Berini, Faddwa Brubaker,
Christina Kaplan, and Cenia Miller. Thanks for all your wonderful advice. A
special thanks to my phenomenal editors, Heidi Lieu and Shira Ben-Zion, for
helping me improve the book.
I’d like to thank my
friend, TJ Crane, for his copyright advice. A huge thanks to Phil Hagen for
guiding me through the process of getting a small business up and running. I’d
also like to thank Dave Burris for designing a website that still takes my
I’d also like to thank
those fans who have regularly inquired about my progress on this book. Truly,
you kept me motivated!
Finally, I’d like to give
a shout out to my dogs, Khiyara and Kovu, for reminding me that Kri’s life
wouldn’t be complete without another Shih Tzu. Kovu, you took a piece of me with
you when you were called home earlier this week. I will always picture you with
that racquetball in your mouth. Thank you for loving me so unconditionally.
spilled across my face. I stretched my arms over my head. Bracing my palms
against the headboard, I lengthened my torso in a long, luxurious stretch that
would have made even the most self-indulgent cat jealous.
thought with a deeply contented smile.
How I adore Saturdays.
Three semesters down. One to go.
My heart and head were doing
the happy dance.
reached for Rafael. My eyes popped open when I felt the cold mattress. Sitting
up, I raked my hand through my hair and craned my ears. The house was quiet; no
shower running, no dishes clanging, and no coffee percolating. I frowned.
silence was deafening. I flung the covers aside and stepped out of bed before spotting
the envelope propped against Rafael’s pillow.
was scrawled across
the envelope in Rafael’s elegantly slanted script. I wracked my brain trying to
discern whether I’d missed some important anniversary or holiday. A big, fat
nothing came to mind. “Huh.”
climbed back onto the bed, grabbed the envelope, and gently loosened the seal. I
coaxed a charcoal gray notecard from the envelope.
was embossed in
lowercase letters across the bottom right hand corner in a dark red cursive
font. Smiling, I opened the card.
It seems only fitting
that this adventure would begin in the place we first made love. Because the future
is spun from the past, look for me in the place we made love… last.
stared dumbfounded at the note. “What are you up to?” I whispered. The last
place we’d made love was on the desk in the library. Rafael had been prowling
around the library while waiting for me to finish my final paper. He swept
everything but the laptop aside. He set the laptop on the chair before taking
me ten ways to heaven on the desk.
tucked the notecard back inside the envelope and carted it off to the bathroom
so I could brush my teeth and comb my hair before meeting Rafael in the library.
The house was still eerily quiet, but Rafael could move like a ninja when he
was trying to be stealthy. He’d crept up behind me without making a sound more
times than I cared to count.
traded my silk sleep shorts for a pair of sweats, tugged a pair of socks on,
and pulled a hoodie over my camisole before heading downstairs. The townhouse
felt empty and cold, which wasn’t terribly surprising since we were expecting
crept down the stairs, intending to prove just how quiet
but the effort proved futile. Rafael wasn’t in the library. Another envelope
bearing my name was propped against my laptop. I stared at the desk. When did
he clean up and replace everything on the desk? I tapped the spacebar and
glanced at the clock on the laptop. It was only eight o’clock.
plucked the envelope off the computer. The same charcoal gray notecard,
displaying the word “love,” was tucked inside. I quickly read the note.
I’m afraid you
have a longer journey in store. Look in the place we first professed our love.
You’ll find that and so much more.
took a step toward the door, then paused. Where were we when we first confessed
our love? I sifted through a number of intimate moments, each one brimming with
heartfelt words. “Yes, but when was the
time?” I asked aloud. My
eyes suddenly widened. Rafael had professed his love in the sunroom the morning
after we first made love. When I awoke that morning, Rafael was in the kitchen
cooking breakfast for me. We ate in the sunroom. He told me he loved me and asked
for a chance to prove it. He’d proven it every minute of every day over the
past nine months.
started walking, then stopped again. Where were we when I first professed my
love? My laughter echoed in the foyer when it struck me. I first professed my
love in the sunroom after baking scones for Rafael. I’d deemed him my dark
angel before inadvertently confessing my love. I shook my head in disbelief. I
hadn’t realized that we’d taken that monumental step at two different points in
time but in the very same location. I hurried toward the sunroom.
smiled when I found another envelope propped against a travel mug filled with
coffee. A chocolate croissant lie nestled inside a white pastry bag next to the
coffee on the wrought iron table. I sampled the croissant and the coffee before
sinking into one of the chairs. I was fairly certain Rafael wasn’t inside the
house. If he’d been inside the townhouse, he would have poured the coffee into
a coffee cup, not a travel mug. He’d poured it into a travel mug so it would
stay hot for a longer period of time. There was no telling how long he’d been
gone, where he’d gone, or what he was up to.
took another bite out of the croissant before opening the envelope.
ado, linger in the place where my hands linger over you.
spun through me the second I read the note. I gathered up the notecards, the
travel mug, and the croissant and headed back upstairs. Rafael’s hands linger
over my body in the shower, and he prefers my shower over his because it has a
marble bench which allows him to get creative when we make love under those
twelve pulsing jets.
finished the croissant by the time I reached the top of the stairs. I took a
few sips of coffee on my way to the bathroom. Rafael told me to linger in the
shower. Why? “Am I supposed to take a shower?”
was my only answer.
set the coffee down, removed the envelope from the bench inside the shower, and
peeled my clothes off before turning all twelve jets on. This little jaunt down
memory lane had left me longing for Rafael in the worst possible way. I
suspected that was the whole point of this exercise. I’d linger just long
enough to look and feel presentable for whatever he had in store for me.
didn’t open the fourth envelope until I had showered, dressed, dried my hair,
and applied a bit of makeup. I was wearing fitted jeans, a long black sweater,
and black boots. My body was humming from the chocolate and the coffee by the
time I sat on the bed to open the envelope.
I chose you long before
you chose me. Where were we when you finally chose me?
chuckled softly. I’d never forget the look on Rafael’s face when I arrived at
his house and announced I was no longer dating Kadyn. Rafael had wadded up a
half-eaten piece of pizza, thrown it toward the garbage can, and missed. I
laughed until I got a good look at him. He looked every bit the predator when
he closed the distance between us. “This changes everything,” he growled
huskily. He pulled me against his chest. Hard. “No more holding back, Kristine.
… every single part of you.”
pulse quickened, both then and now. “I want you to own every part of me,” I’d answered
recklessly. A delicious shiver slid down my spine. “I still do,” I whispered. I
grabbed my keys and walked next door to Rafael’s townhouse.
enough, there was another envelope propped against the banister in the foyer. I
broke the seal.
Always one to
surprise, search the place where I discovered your fantasies rival even mine.
bounded up the stairs. Rafael had to be referring to his weight room. While
training me in self-defense, he’d pinned me against the mirrored wall and advised
me to do the unexpected if I couldn’t hit my assailant’s shin, groin, neck, or
eyes. I’d grabbed him by the shirt, kissed him long and hard, and confessed I’d
been fantasizing about having sex against the mirrored wall. Rafael was so
shocked, he released me. I ran, hell bent on escaping. Rafael tackled me to the
floor, peeled our clothes off in the hallway, and then hauled me back to the
weight room where we proceeded to have sex against that very same wall.
was out of breath by the time I reached the weight room. “
” I snatched
the envelope he’d taped against the mirrored wall.
Well played, my
love. Now the place where I would hold and keep you for all eternity.
snorted softly. “Either I know you too well or you’re purposely making this
easy for me.” I walked to Rafael’s bedroom. He’d threatened to chain me to his
bed for all eternity countless times. I loved the look on his face when he tossed
me onto his bed. His expression suggested he’d won a much coveted prize, as if
it were unfathomable that I was lying in
bed, and he looked fiercely
determined to keep me there. That look did unspeakable things to me. There was
just something about a man, his woman, and his bed.
kicked my boots off, crawled onto Rafael’s bed, grabbed the envelope, and
burrowed beneath the duvet. I loved Rafael’s bed, and it wasn’t just the cedar
and clove scented cologne lingering on his bed linens. There was nothing floral
or feminine about this bed. The mattress, the bedding, the colors, and the
smell were all inherently male. Rafael’s bed was one of my favorite places to
be. I could easily remain here for all eternity.
set the other cards aside so I could open the envelope. The envelope held the same
charcoal gray notecard with “love” embossed in a crimson font across the bottom
right hand side. I could end this game, remain in his bed, and he’d find me
eventually. The idea was tempting until I opened the card.
strength, my dear. Seek the place where I made my intentions clear.
bolted upright. My heart beat so frantically I could hear nothing beyond my
thunderous pulse. Suddenly, I knew what he was up to. “No,” I whispered. I fell
abruptly from the bed. Somehow the duvet had gotten tangled around my legs. I
jumped to my feet after wrestling with the duvet. “
,” I gasped.
voice echoed in my mind. “
I’m not dating you to pass the time. I have every
intention of marrying you, Kristine.
swallowed forcefully. “This is…” Tears pricked my eyes. “Rafael’s
I paced blindly across his bedroom. “Oh my God. He’s proposing.”
I sank to my knees when the room tilted.
…” I forced myself to breathe. “We’re really going
to do this.” I pressed my hands against my chest. My heart was beating wildly,
as if demanding…
I stumbled toward the bed, straightened
the duvet, pulled my boots back on, and gathered up the cards. Each was tucked
securely in its own envelope. I took a deep breath… then another… and another.
“I want this,” I confessed to the empty room. “I want to marry Rafael.”
I glanced uncertainly at the envelopes.
Rafael had made his intentions clear in nearly every room of both our
townhomes… at Reagan National Airport… in Delaware… in Saint Tropez… in Montana…
in New York… in Mexico… and in Texas. He’d made his intentions clear at every
possible turn. So, where was I supposed to go?
I sat on the edge of his bed for the
longest time, mulling over the possibilities. Suddenly, it struck me. Rafael
had never been more emphatic about his intentions than when I drove to Harper’s
Ferry. I’d felt the determination behind those words so forcefully I’d
genuinely feared I was going to wreck his car. “The Enzo.”
I ran to the kitchen, grabbed his keys
from the hook, and bolted down the staircase leading into his garage. The
envelope was sitting inside the Enzo. I quickly scanned the note.
You know how I
long to see you pregnant with my child, but do you recall where we first spoke
of having children?
I lowered the door to the Enzo. Fear,
desire, and an exquisite yet painful yearning were now spiraling within me. I
could barely breathe. I returned his keys to the hook and locked the front door
when I stepped outside.
I walked down the front steps, cut across
the trail, and strode across the grass. A large rock had been strategically
placed in the spot where Rafael and I played twenty questions while enjoying a
picnic dinner and wine along the Potomac River. He didn’t play that game
fairly. He asked only the most important questions, even after I insisted he
work up to the more difficult ones. That shouldn’t have surprised me. Rafael warned
me he wouldn’t play fair once I gave him a chance to win my heart.
dropped onto my knees and stared at the stone. “
I won’t play fair, Kristine.
Once I’m in, I’m all in. You give me this chance, and I won’t walk away... not
” Rafael warned. My hand trembled as I reached for the stone. I
thought about everything we’d been through since Rafael had spoken those
words... my fraternizing with the Russian mafia, being held captive by the SVR,
Michael’s death, my unspoken desire to join him in death, the shoot-out between
the drug cartels, Kadyn’s abduction, and the favor I now owed Maxim. Rafael hadn’t
wavered from that position… although he was certainly justified in doing so. He’d
remained fiercely devoted, despite all of the seemingly insurmountable
obstacles. I lifted the stone and freed the envelope.
hugged my knees to my chest and peered at the Potomac River before reading the
You know how much
I love you, but do you know where I last spoke those three most coveted words?