LIES WE KEEP
Pieces of Me #1
When your soul shatters, how will you pick up the pieces?
Jezebel Tate’s writing career has reached success few experience, but when the light of fame shines too bright, Jezebel is cast back into the shadows, where she’s forced to ask herself what happens when admiration becomes obsession.
James Blakely is running from his past. A broken man haunted by a deadly mistake, James reluctantly accepts a position as Miss Tate’s private security and finds himself a pawn in her game of seduction.
When their worlds collide, Jezebel and James must decide how far they’ll go to escape the sins of their pasts.
“WOW! Right from the very first sentence, the first paragraph, I was hooked! This fast-paced page turner is going to give the Fifty [Shades of Grey] and Crossfire series a run for their money! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED IT IS HOT & STEAMY! If you can’t take the heat, stay far, far away from the kitchen that Jezebel and Blakely are occupying! Or any other room/vehicle/closet they might be near! ONE DAY. I read the entire book in one day! In one sitting! I could not get enough! This could be one of my favorites for the year!” – NetGalley Reviewer
“Danielle Rose’s newest novel, Lies We Keep, is her first venture into romance after completing the supernatural Blood Books trilogy, and it may be her finest work yet. Rose brings her infallible instinct for edge-of-your-seat stories to a new genre. This book has elements of all the best fiction: superb writing, a page-turning plot, complex characters, humor, romance, sex, danger, and a killer voice. Though at its heart, this book is a love story, it has all the nail-biting suspense Rose is known for. A must read.” – Tara from Narrative Ink
“This was a fast-paced, steamy, emotional ride. I laughed, I cried, [and] I blushed. The characters felt real, and I was able to connect with them and the story. There were such intense moments that I found myself holding my breath or gasping out loud. Great story, and I can’t wait to find out what comes next!” – Cheree – For the Love of Books
“Wow! Wow! Wow! This is one novel I could not put down. Danielle Rose is a magnificent writer, who is able to bring everything you would want from this kind of story. Her writing moves you through a cycle of emotions and feelings. The story is tense, humorous and sexy – everything I hoped for when I turned to the first page. The characters are deeply troubled, with pasts that are hard to pry out of them. It’s clear we’ve only scratched the surface of Blakely in this first novel, and I am really looking forward to see what happens next. Pick this one up; you won’t be disappointed!” – Amazon Reviewer
I once read if you were a single, attractive woman who happened to have a single, male friend, the chances he wanted to fuck you were incredibly high. Unluckily for me, that seemed to be entirely the case.
When I started writing romance novels, I didn’t realize how drastically my life would change—in more ways than one. Men expected me to act like the porn star wannabes in my novels. Dating drained me to the point of celibacy. I wasn’t proud of it, and I was even less proud of the number of batteries my vibrator had gone through in recent months.
But lack of sex wasn’t the worst part. Fame came with consequences—the ones celebrity magazines often showcased. My number of admirers was staggering, and with them came those who’d protested a particularly worrying form of deep devotion. These stalkers were typically harmless, if only a little grabby.
And yet, here I was, standing cross-legged at my ankles, in black-leather skinny jeans and my favorite off-the-shoulder cashmere sweater with fabric that hugged my hips. My agent begged me to take the formal attire approach, but I didn’t see the point. The person I hired, hopefully today, would see me at my best, worst, and most casual. None of which would be me in a dress suit.
“How many are lined up today?” I asked, attempting to hide my annoyance. Over the past week, we’d interviewed dozens of candidates, but none were the right fit. Like Mr. Right, the perfect bodyguard didn’t seem to exist. I was beginning to think it’d be easier to find the perfect Manhattan apartment…
I glanced at the clock. It was almost time for the eight o’clock interview. I leaned against the window and stared at the busy streets below. From this elevation, the world consisted of perfect grids, each square block perfectly aligned with the next. It reminded me of the novel I was supposed to be penning. I had signed with a new publisher, one who requested I suddenly transform myself from a panster, an organic writer who simply goes-with-the-flow, to a plotter. But my writing process wasn’t like these perfect Manhattan streets: it was messy, and often written out of sequence. While writing, I’d find myself blacking out sections of gibberish at three o’clock in the morning, as I offered to rip out my own hair if only that made revisions simpler.
I’d told my publisher I could do it. I could become the plotting fool they wished me to be. But that promise, like this view of Manhattan, was a lie.
I took a swig of coffee from my to-go cup and smiled. I loved Manhattan: the people, the smells, the food, the shops. I had an explicit love affair with the city, and I wasn’t afraid to admit it. There was a hum to it, a hustle and bustle seen nowhere else.
With the emergence of the first threatening letter, my agent had asked me to relocate, to get far, far away. The idea of writing on an antique typewriter on the front porch of a log cabin that sat on a hundred acres of lakes and mountains was a trope movies used to beautify this industry. In reality, being a writer was a lonely (and not quite as picturesque) profession. At least, that was my reality.
But I was okay with that. I once enjoyed the solitary life of a casual dater.
Because of my career choice, I met mostly two kinds of men: the overly-sexual ones who assumed my erotic books were diaries and those who swore writing was nothing but a hobby.
I refused to surround myself with the latter, even though the former wasn’t a winning lottery ticket either.
And so, my agent tried, begged even, to get me to move away—especially after we started receiving the letters. The police wanted me to move away, escape to the middle of nowhere, too, because that was safest. Hiding in plain sight, in a city crawling with millions of people, never worked in the movies. But I couldn’t do it. Chances were, the only soul mate I’d find was Manhattan.
And I couldn’t just leave it behind.
I was stubborn and stupid, but if I was going to be forced to offer up my life on a silver platter, then I’d do it while happily residing in Manhattan. I was okay with this, though. I’d been alone for as long as I could remember. What was the point in expanding my circle now? Said circle consisted of three: me, Manhattan, and my best friend, who just happened to be my agent. I didn’t need anyone (or anything) else.
As I sipped my coffee, I watched the streets fill with people. Manhattan moved at a different pace than the rest of the world—even when compared to other big cities like Los Angeles or Chicago. I lived by the New York minute, and I honestly couldn’t understand those who didn’t also swear by this unwritten code.
I watched New Yorkers scurry about, desperately trying to make it wherever they were going both on time and in one piece. From my viewpoint, they were nothing but ants on the hunt, taking orders from their queen. I blinked, and the group I’d been spying on disappeared through traffic. I swallowed the gulp of coffee I’d been holding in my mouth.
I wondered if this stalker was there, watching me watch them. Could he see me up here? Was I nothing but a shadow to passersby?
Two years ago, my debut novel was published. One year later, it reached Hollywood. Six months ago, the letters came. And these weren’t ordinary fan mail. They were detailed accounts of what would happen if he and I ever met. He described his ideal relationship—one where his partner wasn’t granted leniency or freedom. I shuddered at the thought. He sent me drawings of women in submissive positions. I was all for spanking, hair pulling, blindfolds, and handcuffs, but the way he described his fantasies, the way he outlined the women in his drawings was… unnerving. It left me wondering how many others he’d written. How many other women were the objects of his obsession?
And so, my best friend and literary agent, Tara, brought in potential bodyguards. While I was concerned about the letters, I still hadn’t considered their sender as much of a threat. Hiring a bodyguard seemed like overkill.
“Three more for today,” Tara said.
I had almost forgotten I’d asked her a question; I was so consumed by my own thoughts.
She glanced at the clock on the wall, her long, black locks swaying as she frantically gathered paperwork.
I watched her reflection in the floor-to-ceiling windows that boxed in her corner office. Unlike me, she took the formal approach. Her skin was the color of smooth dark chocolate, so she often dressed in bright colors. Today, she’d chosen gray slacks and a bright blue blouse. I was envious of her ability to look truly fantastic in the boldest of colors. Unlike her, my skin was bland. I couldn’t pull off such daring looks.
In addition to her fashion sense, I’d also always admired her work ethic. Like me, she put her job before anything else, and it showed. She was the best literary agent in the game, so she got the office with the best view. That’s how it worked in the publishing industry.
The ability to write was what made the sale.
Either I had talent or I didn’t. Either Tara could sell an idea for top dollar or she couldn’t.
Clearly, Tara could. And when she realized I could link a few well-worded sentences together, she signed me as her first client.
I stifled a groan at the thought of sitting through three more interviews. I knew I needed to be here, to do this. With each passing day, he, she, whoever it was, was sending more letters and getting closer, and I knew Tara needed this. She needed to know I was safe. But after hours of endless interviews and being no closer to finding a good match, I was cranky. And hungry.
That was a lethal combination—especially for a writer. I was one pen stroke away from killing off someone in my next book. And I was supposed to write love stories.
A quick knock against the door brought me back to reality, and I spun on my heel to greet the intruder.
“Come in,” Tara said as she gathered her clipboard. She glanced at me, giving her best reassuring smile.
“Mrs. Johnson,” Tara’s assistant said, “Mr. James Blakely is here for his interview.”
She stepped aside, and the finest male specimen I’d ever set eyes upon strode in. My breath caught at the sight of him. He was delicious: his dark gray suit was tailored to perfection and strained around his thighs as he walked toward us. My eyes trailed the length of his body, from his large black shoes to his long legs to his lean torso. His chiseled jaw held a five o’clock shadow, and his brown hair was cropped perfectly.
I, without a doubt, would be fucking him in my dreams tonight.
At the very least, he would inspire my latest heroine’s next love interest. With each step he took, I could feel the confining layers of writer’s block being stripped away.
He offered his hand to Tara, who muffled a greeting, seemingly unaware of what had just stumbled into her office.
That’s what married life did to you, and for the first time in months, I was glad her single-radar was broken.
Because the moment Mr. James Blakely walked into her office, he was mine.
When he grasped my hand, his sapphire eyes softened, even though I was sure he noticed me eye-fucking him. He was probably used to it. A man like this commanded each room he walked into. The testosterone flowed from him in waves, slamming into me and nearly bringing me to my knees. He was an alpha male, through and through. I, too, was a proud alpha. Submissive wasn’t in my dictionary.
But I’d be lying if I said the thought of being tied up and spanked by this man didn’t cross my mind in a flash.
I suppose the real question was: could he handle an alpha female?
I knew what I wanted, and I wasn’t afraid to take it. That intimidated most men. I silently prayed to whatever god or goddess would listen that this man wouldn’t know the meaning of intimidation.
And until I could take him, my vibrator would be putting in overtime to images of this sexual fiend.
I stared, unwilling to release him from my grasp. He stood just a foot away; his scent lingered, tickling my nose. He smelled of cologne, mint, and the undeniable scent of a god. My favorite smell. I inhaled slowly, licking my lips.
His eyes dropped, watching as my tongue slowly escaped back into my mouth, and my teeth dragged against the skin of my lower lip. Other than the drop of his eyes and the tiny muscles in his jaw clenching, betraying his control, he showed no signs of weakness.
I was going to have to work hard for this one. And I was completely okay with that.
It wasn’t every day I met someone I’d shamelessly fuck into oblivion, and it definitely wasn’t every day that I met someone who could handle the demanding role of my heroine’s love interest.
Even so, internally, I pouted. But, really, what did I expect? He sure wasn’t going to toss me over his shoulder, slam me down on Tara’s desk, and fuck me until the entire building knew his name.
I made a mental note to get my own office for such an occasion.
The firm lines of his lips softened until a crooked, sly smile formed. That smile said everything, and most importantly, it told me he knew exactly what I was thinking.
Fuck, I wanted this man. Badly.
It had been months—months—since I’d been with someone other than Mr. Dependable, my vibrator. I fought the urge to rip off his clothes and mount him like the stallion he clearly was.
Tara cleared her throat, and I tore away my eyes from Mr. Sex God’s. In my moment of weakness, I hadn’t realized Tara had already taken her seat. She stared awkwardly and fidgeted with invisible lint on her pants.
Only then did I realize I still held his hand. Playing it cool, I shrugged, dropping his hand and stepping back, needing the safety space provided before I jumped him.
“Thanks for coming, Mr. Blakely,” I said with a small smile as I took my seat beside Tara.
Her lower-Manhattan office was in the business district, but you’d never know it. The bustle of the streets fell silent once you reached the top floor, which housed Johnson Literary Agency. With wall-to-wall windows, the office looked larger than it was. A small desk, some bookshelves stocked with my latest releases, and a comfortable seating area with four plush, over-stuffed chairs were all the room contained.
Now, as Blakely took his seat and casually rested his hands on his lap, it felt too intimate. The usual open, breezy atmosphere was no more, and silently, as Tara flipped through her papers, I wondered if my not-so-subtle fawning was as obvious as I assumed it had been.
Who was I kidding? Of course it was. I was sure even Tara’s assistant, who hadn’t stayed to watch our interaction, knew what took place.
The catcall of a woman in heat could be heard for miles.
“Thank you for considering me, Miss Tate. While I’m sorry to say I haven’t personally read your books, your reputation precedes you. It’s an honor to simply be interviewed.”
His voice was deep, smooth, and it washed over me in ecstatic waves. Was it even possible for him to get any sexier?
“You’re not exactly my target audience.” I winked. Had I seriously just done that? Internally, I rolled my eyes at myself. Get it together, Jez!
His jaw clenched, the defined muscles tightening. The area between my legs quivered. There was nothing sexier than a man with a chiseled jaw who happened to be wearing a suit. I had every cologne, luxury car, and evening wear commercial to thank for my high expectations of men’s appearance.
“Right, so,” Tara said, tapping the end of her pencil against her notepad, “tell us a little about yourself, Mr. Blakely.”
“I enlisted in the Marine Corps at seventeen, but shortly after, I was placed in a special operative team. Last year, when it came time to renew my contract, I left.”
“Why is that?” Tara asked.
He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bouncing against his throat, and I held back a moan. Since when did I find Adam’s apples sexy?
“My unit wanted out, and I was loyal to them. It was time for them to retire. They’d already put in twenty years, and they had spouses, children. With the rest leaving, I didn’t feel the need to stay. To be frank, I wasn’t interested in joining another team.”
“Loyalty’s important,” Tara stated.
“It is, ma’am.”
Our eyes locked, and I saw it. The emptiness, the alpha stripped away. The man who sat before me wasn’t the cool, collected person he’d been showing us. He was damaged, wounded. He blinked, and it was gone; the facade remained. The switch was brief, lingering just long enough for me to see myself in him.
“Do you have family?” I asked, swallowing the knot that formed in my throat whenever I allowed my memories to creep into my conscious.
He arched an eyebrow. After my earlier display, he probably assumed there was a hidden meaning to my question.
But he was wrong.
Scratch away the surface, the pretty face, the muscular body, and I saw the vulnerability that he tried to hide in his eyes. There was darkness there. And I knew it well.
I saw that same sadness every time I looked in the mirror.
“No, ma’am,” he said simply. His lack of an elaboration told me everything I needed to know. I’d given the same quick responses and generic replies whenever someone asked me about my family.
Few people could be asked that question and honestly answer with a ‘no.’
I was one of those people, and clearly, Blakely was, too.
I released the breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. “Please, call me Jezebel.”
“Jez means to say that this job requires a lot.”
I knew Tara would chime in. She was more than just my agent or my friend. After the accident that claimed my parents’ lives, she strove to be my savior.
“It’s twenty-four-seven, three-sixty-five work. You’ll be staying at Jez’s apartment. At least until things settle. This would be taxing on a significant other or even children. I imagine you’d hate the position after just a few weeks.”
“Understandable, of course, but no, I don’t have anyone. Being in the military for the past fourteen years made it impossible to form relationships, and my parents died when I was young. They didn’t have siblings. I’ve been on my own for years.”
Tara offered a sad smile. “I’m sorry, Mr. Blakely.”
He brushed away her concern with the wave of his hand. “It’s been a long while.”
I shifted in my chair, wondering how long it’d take until I could shrug away concern with that same ease. The conversation had taken a turn for the worse—a turn I’d instigated. The familiarity of his words was too close for comfort. That longing he showed mirrored my own—and I wasn’t ready to deal with those feelings yet.
I wasn’t sure I’d ever be ready to deal with the death of my parents—or the fact that I’d been responsible.
I cleared my throat, and Tara understood my silent message. I chastised myself for succumbing to the past—the past hurt, but I couldn’t change it. I needed to live for now. I pushed down the pain and focused on the interview, focused on Blakely.
That brief vulnerability I’d witnessed in his eyes was gone. I could do the same.
“Can you tell us about any specialized training you’ve had?” Tara asked quickly, giving me something to focus on.
He nodded, but as he answered her question, his eyes were on me, acknowledging the way I shifted uncomfortably. He acted just like a bodyguard. He was already annoyingly good at it, and I hadn’t even hired him yet.
“I’ve studied various forms of martial arts, though I’m passionate about Krav Maga. It focuses more on you and your surroundings. I’m much more about having a good offense than defense. Certain situations are avoidable. It just depends on how you work the people around you. I’m very good at reading people,” he said, his eyes still on me.
“Great. Anything else?” Tara asked.
At some point, I would have to speak again. I knew this. I was just finding it incredibly difficult to put even simple thoughts together. My primal instincts, though, were clearly intact.
My mixed emotions were waging a war within me: I was torn between fight, flight, or just screwing the man in front of me.
Thank God I didn’t have this reaction to most people. Controlling my urges twenty-four-seven, three-sixty-five would be exhausting.
“I have taken up boxing, and staying fit and healthy has always been an important lifestyle decision for me—even before I joined the military, really. I’ve also been trained to handle various weapons, and I do have a concealed carry permit.”
I shook away the thoughts creeping in and focused on my potential bodyguard. His arms strained against the fabric of his suit as he leaned forward and adjusted in his seat. I met his gaze, and he smiled. I swallowed down the drool that would have inevitably slid down my chin. My eyes strained to see if I was having the same effect on him, but he didn’t give away anything.
“Have you ever been a bodyguard?” I asked.
“In a way, yes. After leaving the military, I’ve worked odd jobs that’ve required me to run security for… individuals during events.”
I nodded. “Anyone I know?”
He didn’t elaborate, and I didn’t push it further. Most of his clients were likely wealthy and paid him good money to keep his mouth shut. Just like I would if I were to hire him. He was going to see me at my good, bad, and ugly, and I needed to know that he could keep his experiences confidential. Sure, if he was hired, he’d have to sign the dotted line that told him to shut up, but I liked to know there was more there. I liked to know his silence was more than just a thin piece of paper between him and whoever bid the highest for my baggage.
“Well, this all sounds great. We have a few more interviews lined up, but once we make our decision, we’ll—”
“I want him,” I said. I knew those words held a deeper meaning, and I was sure he knew it, too.
But I didn’t need to think about the burning desire to rip off his clothes. This is the first candidate I cared to be around, and his background was more than sufficient. I knew Tara would recommend him once he left the room—so I beat her to it.
“Excuse me?” Tara whispered.
Tara had always been by the book. She liked order; I liked emotion. Every decision I made was emotion-based. It might not have been the best strategy at times, but I was still breathing.
“You’re hired,” I said, ignoring Tara.
“Jez, we still need to run background checks and—”
“Then you’re hired as soon as you pass the background checks.”
Tara frowned. We hadn’t discussed this, and I knew that bothered her. But the truth was, I was going to spend a lot of time with this person. I’d rather have that person be someone I was comfortable being around.
And, really, how much more comfortable could I get at this point? I didn’t want to fuck the others.
“Tara, someone thought it was a good idea to hand him a gun permit, so I’m fairly confident he’s safe.”
“How long will it take to get the background checks in?” I asked.
“Well, we can rush them,” she replied.
I nodded and leaned over, grabbing the folder that lay on Tara’s lap.
“Has he signed a nondisclosure yet?” I asked as I flipped through the documents in the folder.
“Yes, ma’am, I have,” he said when I reached the stack of stapled documents I’d been looking for. I tugged it from the folder and handed it to him. He scanned it as I spoke.
“This lists your pay, benefits, and what would be expected of you. Take some time to read it thoroughly, and give me an answer once your background checks come back.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“The pay.” He glanced up. “This is too much.”
I shook my head. “I pay well.”
“I can’t accept this.”
I cleared my throat and stepped into my business shoes, the ones I loathed wearing because they hurt like a bitch. “This isn’t a gift, Mr. Blakely. The person I hire will be uprooting. The person I hire will have little to no social life. The person I hire must be willing to take a bullet for me. I don’t look at my expectations lightly, so what I pay is fair. I should warn you, though, before you get to the next page. There are pay increases after certain milestones. If you stay with me for a long time, you very likely will become a rich man.”
“I have no desire to be rich,” he said. “Money changes people.”
I blinked. Once. Twice. He was right. Money did change people, and usually, it wasn’t for the better. Even so, I hadn’t expected that response.
He swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing deliciously in his throat. “I—I apologize, ma’am. That was uncalled for and unacceptable. It won’t happen again.”
I brushed away his concern. “No worries. I didn’t take it personally. So, we’ll be in touch?”
He smiled. “Yes, ma’am.”
I gestured for the packet. “Give me that packet back.”
He frowned but handed it over.
Un-clipping the pen from Tara’s clipboard, I flipped to the back page, scribbled something down, and handed the papers back to him.
He grinned as he read what I wrote.
“What did you add?” Tara asked.
“Another condition of employment. This ‘ma’am’ business won’t work. I’m twenty-seven, Mr. Blakely, not seventy-two.”
He smiled a wide, cheeky grin, flashing me an award-winning smile, and I nearly crooned.
“Well, Mr. Blakely, we have your paperwork, and we’ll process your background checks. We’ll be in touch in a day or so.”
He nodded and stood. “Thank you,” he said, shaking Tara’s hand.
I absently handed Tara her folder and pen as I shook his hand. His sapphire-blue eyes sparkled as they searched mine.
“Until we meet again, Mr. Blakely,” I promised. His name rolled around my head, and I couldn’t deny that I liked the sound of it.
I reached the door that held us captive in Tara’s office and yanked it open. The cool air of the hallway assaulted me, and only then did I realize I’d been overheated. My porcelain skin was likely pink, made even brighter by the light gray of my sweater. I cringed at the thought.
I turned back and brushed up against my soon-to-be bodyguard’s firm torso. He caught my hand before I could tumble into him, steadying me. I bit my lip as I glanced up. He was tall. Very tall. I hadn’t noticed earlier. I was five foot seven, but in my black pumps, I was pushing five foot ten. He still towered over me—a good half-foot, at least. Realizing I was already practically groping my hired help, I stepped back, running a hand through my hair and pushing back the chocolate-brown strands that fell before my eyes.
“Tara will put a rush on the checks.” Because I’d like to make sure I’m not fucking a sociopath, I added silently.
I glanced at her. She nodded in response, still sitting in her chair.
Blakely nodded and smiled as he passed me. I bit my lip and rested against the door frame as I watched his retreat, my eyes trailing the length of his torso, stopping when they reached his perfect ass. I sighed.
He pushed the button for the elevator, walked in, and then kept his eyes on me until the doors closed.
This one was going to be trouble.