Series: The Haven Series , Book 1.0
By: Tressie Lockwood | Other books by Tressie Lockwood
Published By: Sugar and Spice Press
Published: Jan 06, 2013
ISBN # 9781939151117
By: Tressie Lockwood | Other books by Tressie Lockwood
Published By: Sugar and Spice Press
Published: Jan 06, 2013
ISBN # 9781939151117
Word Count: 63,546
Available in: Epub, HTML, Microsoft Reader, Mobipocket (.mobi), Adobe Acrobat
DescriptionDeja had always stood by her best friend Heath. Even when his father died, she was there for him. All because she'd been in love with him for years. When Heath asks to be her lover, she thinks things are headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, Heath's father had been sitting on a secret that could blow their fledgling relationship apart. The pills Heath had been taking all his life weren't to help him through debilitating headaches but to suppress his true nature. Heath's father didn't want it known that Heath is a white tiger shifter. Heath's secret is out, and someone wants him dead or alive. In order to protect Deja, Heath breaks up with her and leaves town to get answers.
Deja refuses to be tossed aside by the man she loves. She knows Heath is facing danger and uncertainty, and to be with him could mean her own death, but he needs her more than ever. She doesn't care that there's a violent beast inside of him and someone hunting him down. All she knows is she will fight to stay by his side and go wherever he goes. Now the two of them have to stay ahead of the enemy and find out the truth of Heath's past before it's too late.
Reader Rating: (14 Ratings)
Excerpt:Deja stepped out of the car and fumbled with her umbrella until the rain ruined the hair she’d worked hours to curl and style that morning. Her hair and her dress were the reasons she was late to Heath’s father’s funeral. She should have been there, standing at his side and supporting him through this tough time. As it was, she darted from the car to the church and found the door locked. She grumbled and admitted defeat when the sky opened up and drenched whatever part of her body it had missed earlier.
A tap on the door produced nothing. She knew everyone still filled the place as cars lined the driveway and the street. The hearse occupied the spot front and center. Putting muscle into it, she pounded on the door and waited. A blue-haired old lady pushed the door open from the inside, a sour expression magnifying the wrinkles around her eyes and mouth.
“Shh, there is a funeral going on. Show some respect, young lady,” the woman insisted.
Deja raised an eyebrow. Like I came in here shouting? She squeezed past Mrs. Whatshername—she’d seen her before, but couldn’t place the name—and started toward the inner sanctuary. Someone said “Amen,” and the announcement was made for the congregation to wait while the pallbearers carried the casket out. Deja almost muttered a curse, but she bit it off in time, wincing at the pain of her teeth sinking into her tongue.
She was about to crane to find where Heath sat in the front, but then she remembered he would be one of the bearers. When he stood, a solemn expression on his face, she kicked herself once again for not being there for him.
A flash of color next to the spot he vacated caught Deja’s attention, and she frowned. Candi Stapleton, that opportunistic skank, had chosen the moment she wasn’t around to make a claim on Heath. Deja had done what she could for years to keep the woman off of him, and as far as she knew, she’d been successful—except for today of all days. Well, at least he wasn’t alone. That’s what’s most important.
Outside, when the casket had been loaded up to the hearse, Heath stood with Reverend Dawson, nodding as the man spoke to him, and Candi Stapleton positioned herself next to him. Oh no she won’t. Deja worked through the crowd toward Heath. Guilt hit her straight between the eyes when he looked up and spotted her. She’d have to be blind not to see the relief in his blue gaze. He’d needed his best friend by his side, and she’d been too vain to get there on time.
“I’m so sorry I’m late,” she said, and leaned up to kiss his cheek. As he always did, Heath bent to help her to reach him. He stood at six foot, five inches to her five-foot-five and a half. She loved his height and his build. The man had so much to offer the right woman, and too many nights she dreamed of being the one. She scooted in next to him, freezing Candi out. The hiss of anger didn’t faze Deja for a second.
“You’re in time for the burial at least,” Heath said with reproof in his tone. He couldn’t hide the pain she saw in his eyes, though, and it caught at her heart. She put her hand through his arm, and he covered it with his own. “Thank you, Reverend. The sermon was an encouragement.”
“Of course, my boy. Keep your head up,” the reverend told him. Deja always thought he spoke as if he quoted songs, but she had never commented on it except to Heath. Today wasn’t the day to joke with him about which song the words had come from. They turned toward the parking lot, and he frowned.
“You didn’t drive that, did you?”
She followed his line of sight to her company vehicle. “I don’t have a car, remember?”
“Won’t you get in trouble for always taking the post office Jeep?” Heath helped her into his pickup. They would come back for the Jeep later.
“Why should I? You never know when there might be a mail emergency, and I have to deliver a package.”
He sat behind the steering wheel and grinned, flashing even, white teeth. Heath’s smile had brought a sigh of longing to more than one woman’s lips, but what made the blond-haired, blue-eyed Adonis so special was he didn’t know it. Not because he lacked intelligence, of course, but because he remained down to earth. Heath didn’t know the level of his sexiness. “Thanks,” he murmured.
“For what?” She refrained from stroking his cheek and letting loose one of those sighs.
“For being here. He’s all the family I had left, and now he’s gone.” The sadness flashed to anger as quickly as floods developed in their sleepy little Oklahoma town. Heath punched the steering wheel, and Deja reached across to put her hand in the way. The second she did, he calmed and laced his fingers with hers. They stayed that way for a while, the connection resting in his lap. Then he started the truck and pulled out.
The procession down to the cemetery was not as long as it might have been had everyone from the church come along. Most people who knew the elder Mr. Hunter felt they’d done their duty attending the funeral. That’s how they were, friendly and responsible, even if Tate Hunter kept to himself most of the time. The funny thing was, Heath turned out nothing like his dad. The entire town knew Heath and cared about him.
At the cemetery, the minister said a few more words and offered prayer for Tate to rest in peace. Deja felt Heath take her hand again, and she let him, but she scanned the faces of those in attendance at the burial. One man stood toward the back, a little bit off from everyone else. The hawkish nose and bulbous eyes were not something she would forget, and yet, she knew he’d never been in town before. Maybe he was an old colleague of Tate’s when he said he worked at a car manufacturing plant back east. Deja always thought he spoke well for someone so low on the totem pole, to hear him tell it. Then again, he might just like reading. He had often pushed Heath to it, pressing him to continue his education. Heath’s interests had included owning a ranch and nothing much else. She had supported him in whatever he wanted to do.
When the last person hugged Heath or shook his hand, offering their condolences, he turned to her, and they rested their foreheads together, eyes closed. “What do you want to do?” she whispered.
He grunted. “I don’t want to go home. They’re all waiting to feed me and talk about old times with Dad.”
“Yeah, and remind you they have available daughters you can marry,” she teased.
He groaned again. “I forgot about that part. Thanks.”
She chuckled. “You can tell them all to fuck off.”
“Deja!” Then he laughed too. “What would I do without you to make me laugh even when I don’t want to?”
“Be boring and lonely.” She started back toward the car. “Come on. Hanging out here is both creepy and pointless. I know Mrs. Howser, if nobody else, will be waiting until the cows come home at your place.”
Heath fell into step beside her. “Until I have a piece of her pecan pie.”
“Or two,” Deja agreed.
When they drew alongside his truck, he stopped her from getting in, and she glanced up at him. The hesitance she saw there made her wonder what was on his mind, not likely to be the same as what was on hers.
“I want to talk to you later after everyone leaves. Can you stay?”
“Of course, anything you want. It’s the least I can do for missing the funeral.” She stepped closer to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. Her head didn’t reach the bottom of his chin. “Everyone else has said it and now it’s my turn, Heath. I’m so sorry for your dad dying. He and you didn’t see eye-to-eye, but I know how much it hurts that he’s gone. Just know I’m still here. No matter what, even if you end up marrying Candi or somebody, I’ll be your best friend. I’ll be family.”
She felt him shake in laughter, but it didn’t last long, and he tugged one of her braids. “You never stop, do you? Marry Candi Stapleton? I would be broke within a week.”
“Boy, please, you’re broke now.” She ducked away before he could grab her.
“I will have you know, Ms. Deja Clark, my ranch is growing with each year, and this season, I haven’t lost a single calf. Now get in the truck before I leave you out here, woman.”
Deja dodged around the truck and jumped in the driver’s side. She hiked her dress up to climb across the middle and plopped down in her seat. When she looked over to Heath just getting in, she caught his attention focused on her legs and flushed. She never did things conventionally. Doing what was expected at all times made her feel trapped, and she tended to break out and let loose. Heath hadn’t failed to encourage her in the crazy, even in middle school when they first became solid friends.
At Heath’s ranch house, just as they expected, cars lined the front, and people were already inside. Some were even sitting on the front porch swinging and eating heaping plates of food. “Damn, no respect at all,” she complained.
“Sally must have let them in.” From the look on his face, she thought he was close to firing his weekly cleaning lady.
Deja shook her head. “It was inevitable. Now stop frowning and pretend you’re grateful for their love and support.”
A short while later, Deja overhead Heath repeating her words verbatim to more than one person he saw out the door. The day had grown to be the longest in history, with the sun uncooperative in the fact that it hung in the sky long after she thought it should set. The food had disappeared, but that never stopped these southern folks. They just ran home and brought over more to cook up in Heath’s kitchen.
While Heath saw off the last of the guests, Deja searched the house for any they missed. There were bound to be drunken idiots who had soused themselves until they passed out. Mr. Howser was one of them, but this time, Deja didn’t find him. She found Candi in the laundry room off the kitchen.
Deja leaned a hip against the washer and crossed her arms over her chest. “What are you doing?”
Candi jumped and swung around to face Deja. Her blouse had been unbuttoned down past what was decent, and her skirt cut off too short. Neither resembled funeral attire, but then what could one expect from a woman who had caused more than one marriage to end in divorce?
“What are you doing here?” Candi demanded. “Don’t you have mail to deliver?”
“Don’t you have marriages to destroy, I mean, tables to bus?”
Candi’s face reddened, and she raised her chin. “I got a stain on my blouse, and I thought I’d wash it real quick before it sets in.”
Deja approached her. “What, a microscopic one? You live a mile and a half from here, Candi. I’m sure your mama can get it out with some concoction she put together. No, what you really want is to make another play at Heath, and I’m not having it. He buried his father today, and he doesn’t need you in his face.”
“You just don’t want anyone else to have him!” Deja had to hand it to the woman. She didn’t back down easily.
“Oh no. Heath can have any woman he wants. You and I know that, but he damn sure won’t be having you. Anybody but you.” Deja stood nose to nose with the woman. “So you can take your skanky tail out of this house before I have you flying out of it. Your choice.”
She didn’t have to make her threat twice. Candi clutched the front of her shirt and darted out the back door. Deja wondered if she intended to run across the fields until she hit highway 81.
Reader Reviews (9)
Submitted By: yveswms on Apr 15, 2013Good story. Hope part II comes out soon!
Submitted By: nverde6 on Apr 7, 2013Hot hot smut in a TLockwood novel, as usual. But the lead female was annoying
Submitted By: lyjo46 on Mar 2, 2013I loved loved loved this book, it has an great story line,with well developed characters. I loved the chemistry between the hero and heroine. All the books in this Series are outstanding and a must read.
Submitted By: Accomplir on Feb 26, 2013Love love love this book!! can't wait for the second part.
Submitted By: tigris7 on Feb 19, 2013Very good book!! Definitely has a different spin regarding shifters. Ms. Lockwood is one of my favorite authors and never has she disappointed me.
Submitted By: neneburge on Feb 3, 2013I loved this story, the intrigue and sensuality was off the charts. I loved the twice on the shifter story also. I enjoyed Deja and Heath both as individual characters first and then as a loving team second. Very well done. I cannot wait until the sequel which I hope is coming some since he author left us with a nice little cliff hanger...
Submitted By: sra246 on Jan 25, 2013This book seemed to have it all. Adventure, comedy, and love. Can't wait to read the next book.
Submitted By: lurker1 on Jan 17, 2013A different type of shifter story. The plot was decent what was great were the characters. Ms Hunt did a masterful of creating unique characters each with their own distinctive voice. Very Well done. I enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend.
Submitted By: happy on Jan 13, 2013this is a great story very different type of shifter i can't wait for the next two books.