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Behind the Mask: A Dark and Steamy Over 40 Romantic Suspense

Behind the Mask: A Dark and Steamy Over 40 Romantic Suspense

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Main Tropes

  • Mid-life Romance
  • Instalove
  • Stalker Vibe

Synopsis

On a mission to forget her boring life back home, romance author Evelina Morales lives it up while she's away on business.

When she meets a man straight from the pages of one of her books, she lets herself get swept up in the magic like those lucky women she writes about. After one steamy night together, she sneaks out at first light.

Psychiatrist Marco Aguilar isn’t about to let her get away that easily, though. He’s a man on a mission to find the woman who has him entranced, and when they come face to face, sparks fly.

He knows all about the secret she's keeping. But it's the truths of his past he can't come to terms with that threatens to destroy them both.

Intro into Chapter One

I psyched myself up for this all day.

All the way across the lawn, my breaths got quicker, and the pounding in my ears drowned out the songbirds eating at the feeder. A chill sat at the base of my lungs like I ran a hundred miles in those few seconds it took to reach the detached brick garage.

Soaking wet, my palms wiped along my jeans as I rounded the corner. I stepped through the doorway, cracking my neck like a boxer coming toe to toe with his opponent.

Blackness swallowed everything until only the beer cans existed. Stacked three feet high like some trophy for how disgusting my husband was to me now, they toppled over when I kicked them. “We need to have a talk.”

A groan cleared his throat as Greg squished his cigarette into the jar lid he used as an ashtray with his nicotine-stained fingers. “What do you want?”

Covered in a sticky yellow-brown film, the garage reeked of rotten onions, stale beer, and what I hoped to God wasn’t urine. Searching for someplace clean to lean against, I gave him a thumbs up. “Well, congratulations.” So the filth of his lifestyle wouldn’t pollute me, I was careful to only let my shirt touch the wall when I backed to it. “Your daughter caught you with your girlfriend in the church parking lot on her way home from the grocery store.”

Teeth dug into his lip in the window’s reflection to hold back how little he cared while I moved the patch of dark hair away from my forehead. “You’re all class.”

His fingers flung up from the knees of his grease-stained blue work pants. “What did you expect would happen when you cut me off?”

Air flapped through my lips as I rolled my eyes away to the yard through the open garage door. “Gross.”

Leaving the mowing to me as usual, this worthless man had me shaking my head. “I don’t care what you do, to be honest. They don’t need to witness what a dirtbag you are, though.”

Another beer cracked open, and he shrugged back at me as his greasy salt and pepper hair fell over his eye. “I’ve worked every day for the last twenty years to pay their way in life.”

His default response was maximum self-praise for his minimum effort, but he always left out how I brought home more than him. “They’re all grown up now, and my obligations to you people are over. So deal with it.”

My fingertip dug back into my chest. “In case you forgot, my book sales paid off the house and bought my car. That was me dealing with your sorry ass.”

When he rolled his eyes, I turned away and wiggled my finger over my shoulder. “And as I said, I don’t give a damn what you do, because I’ve been over you for a long time.”

The more I unloaded on him, the lighter I became, and I was smiling when I stepped over the threshold. “Be a little more discreet. You’ve been a complete disappointment of a father most of their lives, so the least you can do is give them their dignity.”

“You know” — I gagged from the sound of his phlegmy gurgle, calling after me — “ever since you got your ass beat by that crazy asshole at work, I’ve had this ongoing fantasy.”

His metal stool screeched across the concrete, and I turned around to find his finger flipped out at me. “Every day, I pray I’ll come home and find you dead.”

The stainless steel lighter flicked out, and he held it under the cigarette at his lips. Meant to intimidate me, the puff of smoke he blew over my face only made me smile. Because now I wouldn’t have an ounce of regret when I left him. “Maybe I’ll luck out, and your plane will crash this time.”

Nodding at him, I backed out the door. “Well, let me see if I can’t fly out tomorrow instead and make your dreams come true.”

A shadow crossed the ground ahead of me when he leaned out the door. “That would be great. Thanks.”

The back door closed behind me, and the clicking of my daughter’s lip ring against her teeth came from the window overlooking the backyard. “God, how can you stand him?”

Defending him since they were old enough to sense something was wrong, I only sighed at myself now for not leaving sooner as I opened the cupboard. “He’s your dad.”

The charm Trin toyed with on her necklace sent sparkles all over the kitchen when she crossed through the light beam between us. “Oh, please. I can’t remember him ever doing anything for or with us.”

While I filled my glass, my shoulder jerked. “Well, that’s not a problem anymore, I guess. Your dad indicated he wants me to leave, so…”

What kind of chaos Greg would cause now everything was out in the open made me cringe. “It might be ugly around here now, so why don’t you and Lara stay at the beach until I come home next weekend? I’ll pay for everything.”

A tug started on my ponytail, and her light purple hair fell over my shoulder when she dipped over it. “I will if you call Carrie and make her go to Savannah with you.”

I dumped the rest into the sink, and she shoved her hip into the counter next to me. “You need a girl’s weekend more than anyone I’ve ever met.”

She pulled my phone from the microwave and handed it to me. “Go have an adventure. Get laid.” I laughed at her as I flipped through my contacts. “Have the time of your life.” With her fingers under my chin, she turned me to her. “And as soon as you come home, call a lawyer with our blessing.”

The closet where we kept the suitcases slid open, and she pulled out the sparkly purple one covered in anime stickers as I put the phone to my ear. “Hey girl, are you free this weekend?”

Covered in stacks of silver rings, Trin’s fingers made a tinking sound when she wiggled them at me until she disappeared on the other side of the doorway. Unpinning my itinerary from the corkboard, I smiled at the voice squealing back at me. “Awesome. Start packing. I’ll book the flight.”

All I wanted was a few days anywhere but here to clear my head and figure out the next steps. But in less than twenty-four hours, my entire world would unravel instead… and I thank God every day it did.


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