Truth (Book 2 of the Consequences Series)
by Aleatha Romig
Claire Nichols endured the CONSEQUENCES of Anthony Rawlings’ vendetta. When she first arrived to his home, her goal was survival. Through strength and compartmentalization Claire captivated her captor. Her resilience in the face of his rule threatened Anthony’s well developed plan. Domination became desire and power turned to love. Their passion and adoration in a world of opulence appeared perfect. Yet, reality was a roller coaster of emotion. Claire’s world teetered on the edge of sanity as Antony monitored her every move. When given the opportunity to flee, Claire drove away. A fateful decision which set a well laid plan into motion. However, unbeknownst to either of them, there were others who saw past the perfect facade of Anthony Rawlings. There were others who saw the TRUTH. Conspiracy and unfulfilled promises result in an early prison release for Claire. Not just a release – a pardon. According to the law, her crime never happened! Will it be that easy? Faced with freedom from her past... can Claire seize it? Can she build a new life, mend her broken spirit, become the woman she once was, and seek her own revenge? Or is it all a game? And does the game master have different plans? How does Sophia Burke fit into the puzzle that is Tony and Claire? Will her presence affect the future of this well esteemed man? Can he dominate twice? Is that his goal? TRUTH continues the tumultuous saga of CONSEQUENCES, introduces new players, and uncovers more intrigue. Aleatha Romig skillfully weaves past transgressions through current deception to create a fervent world of obsessed desire. In this reality can an all-consuming relationship survive? When buried sins are discovered they threaten not only Tony and Claire’s future -- but their very lives! Will the TRUTH be revealed in time?
The lounge was beautifully contemporary, mostly white with colored lights, creating an awe-inspiring ambience. She noticed a few other couples at nearby tables. Claire checked her watch, as the other couples were escorted from the lounge. At two minutes before seven, she found herself sitting alone, in the great expanse of the lounge. Maintaining her mask of calm she watched as the archway filled with the man from her past.
Memories of their last meeting in the Iowa City jail flooded her consciousness. Tony’s presence filled the otherwise empty room. The earth no longer rotated on its own axis, but on him. She had compartmentalized away his utter dominance. As much as she tried to appear aloof, the mixture of emotions raging through her, threatened to propel her from the soft luxurious seat. Unconsciously, she gripped the arms of the chair, hoping for stability. Claire feared, if not for the anchor, she might possibly become airborne.
Her breathing labored as his gorgeous form advanced closer. With each step, he narrowed the vast fifteen month divide. He hadn’t changed. His perfect appearance was just as she’d remembered, from his dark thick hair masterly styled in place, to his brown eyes sparkling with electricity. His cheeks were raised, revealing a closed lip grin. And of course, his suit was silk, tailored specifically for him, with cuff links shining from the edge of his jacket sleeves. If anyone else had been in the room, they would have disappeared into his all-encompassing aura. But alas, no one else was present, except the piano player. And momentarily, even the music dissipated.
From the archway to Claire’s table could be traveled in a few seconds; however, it seemed as though Tony’s casual stride fought an unseen tide. The seconds lasted minutes, hours, or perhaps days. During the elapsed expanse of time and space, Claire remembered every moment of their time together. Three years of memories compressed into a fraction of time. Finally, accomplishing his journey – because Claire knew Anthony Rawlings rarely failed at any endeavor–he stood before her table. She fought diligently to remain calm and serene, as he politely nodded in her direction.
His voice filled the cavernous room, engulfing the otherwise empty molecules and stirring the cauldron of emotions within her chest. “Good evening, Claire.”
She’d fought this fight before. Admittedly, she’d rarely won, but nonetheless, the battle was familiar. Claire pressed on, “Good evening, Tony. Won’t you please have a seat?”
“Thank you.” He pulled the chair from the table and lowered his tall lean body into cushioned seat. She watched as his dark eyes remained fixed on hers. Perhaps the rest of the world was gone. It was the most plausible answer. Heaven knows she couldn’t see or think of anyone else. That must be the answer, they were the only two people left, as the Earth spun into a timeless abyss.
Claire once read time doesn’t pass at normal speeds within a black hole. If one were to travel into a black hole for only moments and return again, centuries would have passed. That explained the sensation she felt, once again peering into his dark gaze. She wouldn’t look away; she’d trained herself better than that. Then again, she reasoned, it wasn’t an option. She couldn’t divert her gaze if she wanted. The hold upon her stare was stronger than any ropes or chains made by man. Claire knew from experience, submitting to the hold was her best chance at survival. Fighting was a futile waste of energy.
As she felt herself slipping into her old station, she remembered her cause. Claire remembered her friends and their support. She recalled the advice of a good friend. She needed to ask herself, am I in fear of upsetting him? Does he make me smile? She thought about her cellphones in her purse and her car in the parking lot.
No! She could fight and survive. She had! Within the milliseconds that transpired, she clawed her way out of the abyss, time had not elapsed. She continued their dialogue. “It was nice of you to accommodate my change in plans.” Taking a sip of her water, she fought the dryness threatening her mouth and gestured toward a bottle of wine. “I took the liberty of ordering us a bottle of wine.”
Tony smiled a devilish grin. Claire’s insides tightened. His eyes lightened as he lifted the bottle and assessed the label. “Excellent choice.”
Before their conversation could continue, the waiter appeared at their side. “Monsieur and Mademoiselle, your table is not yet ready. May I open your wine?”
Claire spoke before Tony could answer, “Oui, grazie.” She noticed Tony’s smile broaden. In the past she learned amusement wasn’t always a good thing. A small voice in the back of her head warned her to proceed with caution.
After the waiter poured the wine, he left them alone, literally. Claire couldn’t help notice the absence of others. She tried diligently to keep her increased unease hidden.
“My, Claire, you continue to amaze me. I see you’re trying to show me the new independent Claire Nichols.” She didn’t speak. He continued, “You don’t need to work so hard. I’ve been observing you from a far and am already impressed.”
“Tony, my goal is not to impress. My goal is to show that I don’t need your observation. I’m doing quite well on my own.”
“I believe you have surpassed my expectations, once again.”
“And for the record, I was independent before our encounter.”
“Yes,” pause, “I can see how you would think that.” He sipped his wine, “Now tell me, what the point was with the change in venue?”
“No point. I’ve eaten here and thought you’d enjoy the cuisine.”
“I see,” he continued to sip the wine. “That’s good. I was afraid you were trying to manipulate our visibility...”
Before he could continue the maître d’ approached their table. “Excusez-moi, your table, it is ready.”
“Gaize,” Tony replied as he stood. While Claire gathered her handbag, Tony politely helped her with her chair.
As she stood, she continued to fight the old pull. It was as if she were slipping into Mrs. Anthony Rawlings, perhaps not slipping, pulled–by an irresistible force. She needed to remain diligent to be the independent woman she longed to be.
Walking across the empty lounge, Tony placed his hand in the small of her exposed back. She didn’t fight the contact. Actually, she fought the sudden desire to melt toward it. Memories came rushing so fast, she barely had time to blink–the feel of his caress–his ability to elicit emotions and desires–the warmth and security of his embrace. Although her resolve diligently fought, her heartbeat quickened and fantasies interlaced her recollections. Not only, did she remember his large strong hands; she also remembered his tender mouth, firm steady chest, and tight abdomen. The slight touch evoked memories of ecstasies they’d shared. Highs, which before him didn’t exist, and elations she feared were forever extinct.
When his tall body inclined, allowing his lips to hover near her ear, her body tingled. Then, without warning he whispered, and her fantasy evaporated. Reality struck with a slap that only real life can elicit. “I’m glad visibility was not your goal for this evening. I would hate to disappoint you.”
Aleatha Romig is a bestselling author, who has been voted #1 "New Author to Read" on Goodreads July 2012 - Present! She was also #9 most followed author on Goodreads - July / August 3013.
Aleatha has lived most of her life in Indiana growing-up in Mishawaka, graduating from Indiana University, and currently living south of Indianapolis. Together with her high-school sweetheart and husband of twenty six years, they've raised three children. She works days as a dental hygienist but enjoys spending her nights writing. When not imagining mind-blowing twists and turns, she likes to spend time with her family and friends. Her pastimes include exercising, reading and creating heros/ anti-heros who haunt your dreams!
Aleatha enjoys traveling, especially when there is a beach involved. In 2011 she had the opportunity to visit Sydney, Australia to visit her daughter studying at the University of Wollongong. Her dream is to travel to places in her novels and around the world.
CONSEQUENCES, her first novel, was released August 2011 by Xlibris Publishing. October 2012 Ms. Romig rereleased CONSEQUENCES as an Indie author. TRUTH, the sequel, was released October 30, 2012 and CONVICTED, the final installment of the Consequences Series, is scheduled for release in October of 2013
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