Kayce Asher is the Creative Director for Emerson Thurgood in New York. After her last relationship, she’s more than a little hesitant about dating again. Texanna Dilworth is a photographer who is the complete opposite of Kayce…tattoos, tomboyish, outspoken, and not afraid of letting her know she’s interested. Just when she’s willing to give Tex a chance after a trip to Provincetown, someone turns Kayce’s life upside down. Her time is divided between her budding romance with Tex, her ex Lora who wants her back, and trying to figure out who’s stalking her and why. Sometimes we think we know someone, but we only know the perception they’ve created.
A suspenseful lesbian romance novel.
Here’s a sneak peak……..
Kayce Asher bolted straight up in bed. Her heart pounded in her chest. She swallowed hard. Was it a dream or was the sound of glass breaking downstairs real? She held her breath and listened. The floorboard beneath her bedroom window creaked and she jumped. The house was full of odd noises at night as it settled, switching from the warm and humid temperatures of the day to the cool and dry air at night. She exhaled and laid back down, pulling the covers up to her neck. Her phone was within an arm’s reach on the nightstand. She shook off the goosebumps and drifted back to sleep.
She didn’t like being alone, but Texanna was away on a photo shoot. She had offered to stay, but Kayce insisted she go. It was a big shoot with a lot riding on it. If she made the client happy, the name Texanna Dilworth would get around. She would be able to break free from the advertising business and branch out into a solo career.
A loud thump downstairs woke her up again. This time, she reached for her phone while she listened. Maybe it was another false alarm, but the hairs standing up on her arms and the back of her neck wouldn’t let her believe that. It was two twenty-five. Just a few more hours’ sleep, and this would all be a bad nightmare. Why did she tell Tex to go? She needed her now. She’d know what to do. She was tough and strong, not scared of anyone or anything.
It’s just my nerves. The alarm would’ve gone off if someone broke in. She checked the alarm app on her phone. No new activity since she went to bed.
A chilling ice cold wave ran through her. The glass breaking. Why didn’t she think of it before? There were motion detectors set up around the house and every door had a sensor. Every door except for the basement door. Due to the way the double glass doors closed with a seam in the middle, it needed a special sensor. The alarm tech ordered it and promised to install it as soon as it came in, which was tomorrow. To make her feel better, he set up a motion sensor that would catch anyone as soon as they hit the bottom step of the basement stairs that led up to the kitchen. Even if they made it past there, the door at the top had a deadbolt. It was a double cylinder deadbolt and needed a key on either side to lock or unlock it. It was overkill, but she insisted on it.
The glass breaking could’ve been someone coming in through the basement door. Now, she wished she had video cameras installed in the basement instead of only the main floor. Her only comfort was knowing the motion detector would trip the alarm if anyone tried coming up the basement stairs. The door with the deadbolt at the top and another flight of stairs still separated her from her stalker. It wasn’t enough to calm her nerves and panic set in. She couldn’t be absolutely certain she locked the door. Earlier, she restocked the fridge with a few water bottles from the basement.
She tried to remain calm because she hadn’t heard anything else. Still, this was the second time a loud noise awakened her from sleep. Her heart raced. Should she call the police? She had called them so many times they were beginning to think she was crazy. Every time she called them out, there was no evidence of anything or anyone. They always came out, but she could tell by the looks on their faces they didn’t believe her.
She slid the covers down past her feet ready to run if she needed to. But where? Downstairs? What if someone was downstairs and had figured out a way to bypass the alarm? What if there was a blind spot in the video surveillance somewhere downstairs and the intruder wasn’t in the basement after all? She checked the video feeds. Her breath caught in her chest when she saw a shadow move in the family room. She was about to check a different feed when the green dot in the corner of the screen caught her attention. The alarm wasn’t armed. She stared at it in disbelief and refreshed the alarm app. She glanced over at the alarm console on the wall. She knew the configuration of the lighted keypad by heart. According to it, someone disarmed the system. Not only did someone disarm it somehow, but they turned off the audible announcement it made when disarming. Her first instinct was to call Tex, but that would be useless. She was too far away to do anything.
She rolled over to the other side of the bed and opened the top drawer in Tex’s nightstand. She lifted the black steel box out. She wasn’t a fan of guns, but Tex owned a few when they met. Her mind was numb. She tried to remember the combination. All she had to do was open the box, load the magazine into the gun, and take the safety off. She knew Tex kept a cartridge in the chamber. How could she remember all that, but the damn combination to the locked box escaped her? She tried her birthday. Nothing. She tried Tex’s birthday. Didn’t work either. She tried her ATM code. No luck. The keypad turned red.
The correct code floated up from the depths of her memory. Now, she remembered. Tex changed it to something more obvious for Kayce to remember. It sounded like a good idea, but it failed and now it locked her out of the gun safe for thirty minutes.
It had been ten minutes since she heard the thump downstairs. Maybe no one was downstairs, but who had disarmed the alarm? She picked up her phone and armed it again. The panel didn’t announce armed like it should have. She went back to the video feed. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the keypad switch back to disarmed. Someone was controlling the alarm. Between the noises downstairs and the malfunctioning alarm, none of this was a coincidence. This time it was real. Her stalker had finally made it into her house, and there was no one around to protect her.
“Kayce, have you met Texanna?” Jennifer, the producer for the photo shoot asked.
She turned around to see a thin woman wearing ripped jeans and a black tank top that ended at her midriff, which is where Kayce’s gaze lingered. Tex’s abs looked like they had been carved from stone. Her jeans hung low on her hips.
“No, we haven’t met before, but I’m familiar with your work. It’s very nice to meet you, Texanna.”
She extended her hand. Texanna met it with a firm grip and shake of her muscular arm. She admired the tattoo sleeve extending up from her wrist. Tattoos covered both of Texanna’s arms.
“It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with the agency again,” Texanna said.
Texanna’s voice was soft and sincere. Her jet black hair met the top of her shoulders and provided the perfect contrast to her clear crystal blue eyes. No makeup. Her smile was big.
“I wanted to introduce you while you were here. I really enjoy working with Texanna. She’s one of the best in the business.” Jennifer’s phone buzzed. “If you two will excuse me, I need to take care of this.”
“Of course. Anything you need help with? Is there a problem?” Kayce asked.
“No, nothing for you to worry about,” Jennifer said before walking off.
Kayce needed today to be perfect. She’d worked hard to get Stedford Sports to accept her vision for their new line of sunglasses. It was a hard sale. Third generation family ran the sports company. She had to deal with people who had no sense of the family business and were only in charge because of their bloodline. They came to her with their vision of what they wanted. The problem was it wouldn’t produce the results they were looking for, but she knew it wouldn’t be a successful campaign. If she agreed to do what they wanted, it wouldn’t work and they would blame her and her company and take their business elsewhere. Stedford was a multimillion dollar client representing thirty percent of their revenue, so Kayce needed to make sure they were happy.
She wasn’t always around for photo shoots, but she had a lot riding on this one. Just in case something came up, she wanted to be there to take care of it. It would be faster and more efficient that way. Things had a way of getting lost or misinterpreted the more people it went through on the way up to her and back down through the chain of communication.
“You look a little worried and distracted,” Texanna said.
Kayce turned back to Texanna. “Sorry. This shoot is a big deal. I just want to make sure there are no last-minute surprises.”
“Nothing to worry about from my end. The models have been great. The stylists have done an amazing job, and you couldn’t ask for a better location.”
“Thanks. I’m sorry, don’t let me distract you from whatever you need to do.”
“We’re actually on a two-hour break right now. See the way the sun is coming in at a strong angle?” Texanna shielded her eyes and squinted up at the sun. Her well-defined muscles moved underneath the tattooed ink on her arms.
Kayce looked up. The sun was too bright for her. She closed her eyes and relished the warm rays against her skin. Growing up, she had spent every free moment she had at the beach. She had the freckles to prove it.
“Yes, that’s pretty bright,” she agreed.
“That’s not good when shooting. I could bring in some reflectors and other equipment, but I like to shoot as natural as possible. Less is more. I did get some nice shots with some creative flares though.”
“You know what you’re doing. Your work is impressive. Our budget for the Platts account was modest, but the creative ideas you came up with made it one of our most successful ads.”
“Thanks. I’ve always loved a challenge.”
“I know Jennifer loved working with you on that one. She knew how important the Stedford ad was and insisted we bring you in. Have you worked on any of our other ads?”
Texanna shook her head and brushed her hair back behind her ear. “No, this is only my second time working with Emerson Thurgood, but I hope this is just the beginning.”
“I hope so too. Well, it was nice meeting you, Texanna.”
“Please, call me Tex.”
“Okay, Tex. What time will you begin shooting again?”
“We still have an hour. I was just about to grab something to eat. Jennifer snagged the best caterer in town. Do you want to join me?”
Kayce checked the lock screen on her phone. No urgent messages. “Sure. I haven’t had lunch yet.”
After grabbing a plate of food, she followed Tex out to her truck. Since it was an outdoor shoot, there wasn’t any place to sit down and eat. Everyone sat on the ground eating their lunch.
Tex lowered the tailgate of her truck and placed her plate down. “Give me one second.” She walked around and pulled a blanket out of the cab of the truck and returned. She covered half the tailgate with the blanket. “Don’t want you getting your outfit dirty.”
“Thank you.” She placed her plate down beside Tex’s. The tailgate was high, above her waist. “What’s the easiest way to do this? I haven’t climbed in the back of a truck since…well, let’s just say it’s been a while.”
“Right. Why don’t you back up to it, brace yourself with your hands, and I’ll give you a boost?”
“No need to go through all that. I’m fine eating while standing here. Really, it’s okay.”
“But you’ll miss the view of the beach. What’s the matter? Is it your skirt? You’ll be fine. Go ahead, turn around.”
Kayce took a hesitant step towards the tailgate and turned around, bracing her hands on the edge.
“Okay. On three,” Tex said. She placed her hands on Kayce’s hips. Her grip was strong and firm. “One, two, three….”
She held her breath and jumped upwards at the same time Tex lifted her. She scooted backwards and pulled her skirt back down where it rode up her thighs during the jump.
“What about you? How are you going to—” Before she could finish, Tex used her upper arm strength to hoist herself up. The muscles in her upper arms flexing while she lifted herself. Once her hips cleared the edge, she slid back and ran her hands along her thighs. Kayce caught herself staring and forced herself to look away.
“Isn’t this much nicer than standing?” Tex glanced down at Kayce’s lips. “A beautiful view, nice breeze. I love the beach.”
“Yes, you’re right, the view is beautiful. I love the beach too. I don’t get out here as often as I would like. Work keeps me busy, life gets in the way, things come up. This is nice, even if I’m here working.”
“Well, not right now you aren’t. Relax a little. I won’t tell anyone.” Tex continued to stare at her. “There it is. Wow, look at that smile. You really do miss this.”
Kayce nodded and took a sip of water. She listened to the waves crashing. “Have you always been interested in photography?”
Tex laughed. “Is that a work-related question or a relaxing, getting-to-know-you question?”
“Probably a little bit of both, but your work is stunning. I imagine that’s something you’re born with, the ability to see beauty and art where other’s can’t.”
“I think I’ve always loved art and photography. It amazes me how a picture captures a moment and freezes time. It’s fascinating. You can take courses and learn about technique and study some of the great photographers, but you have to really want to do this. It has to be a passion, a love. You have to learn from experience, and trial and error. It’s a give and take relationship with the environment, people, whatever it is you’re interested in shooting. You and I can use the same equipment and shoot the same subject, but the pics will look different. There are so many ways to take one photo.” Tex paused. “I’m sorry. I get a little carried away sometimes.”
“No, no. It’s obvious you love what you do. I wish I had a fraction of the talent you have. My pictures always come out too dark or too washed out, sometimes blurry.”
“All of those things are fixable. Those are the types of things you can learn, but I bet you have a great eye for photos.”
“What makes you say that?”
“You’re the Creative Director at Emerson Thurgood, which means you are creative and you have a talent for seeing things other people can’t. I’d be happy to help you improve your photos, if you’re interested.”
“Thanks, but you don’t have to do that. I’m sure you’re busy.”
“If you want to learn, I’d love to help you.”
“Careful with this one, Kayce,” a man’s voice said. She turned to see Ricky Morton. He was part of their team for the shoot.
“She’ll steal Lora away from you, just like she took Heather away from me,” he said.
Standing in front of them now with his arms crossed and his face red, he stared hard at Tex. The muscles in his jaw worked and flexed. Kayce looked around for someone to help. She thought she knew Ricky well enough, but she didn’t like the way he towered over Tex.
“What are you talking about?” she asked.
“Why don’t you tell her?” he nodded at Tex.
“This isn’t the time or place. Heather chose to leave you. I didn’t steal her away from you.”
“That’s not the way I see it. She liked men, and she was with me until you came around. I don’t know what you did to her, but she left me for you.”
Kayce expected Tex to back off from him, but she didn’t flinch. In fact, she smiled.
“Are you sure you really want to know all the things I did to her? I can tell you, but it won’t change anything.”
“You’re a smug little bitch, aren’t you?”
Kayce hopped down and stepped between them. “Ricky, you need to calm down. Don’t do anything that will jeopardize your job.”
“You’re defending her? I’m warning you. Keep an eye on her. She’s a home wrecker.”
“No, I’m not defending anyone. I don’t know what happened and as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone’s work, it isn’t my business. Is this going to be a problem?”
He stepped back and held his hands in the air. “No. No problem.”
She watched him walk away shaking his head. He kicked a water bottle across the parking lot. The pounding of her heart slowed down once he was out of sight.
She turned around to find Tex finishing her lunch like nothing happened. “I’m sorry about that.”
“What are you apologizing for? It had nothing to do with you.”
“I know, but he had no right to attack you like that. I approved everyone on this team. If he’s going to be a problem, I can try to replace him. Threatening conduct like that is enough to have him thrown off the account and possibly fired.”
“No, don’t worry about it. He’s just pissed. I mean I did end up dating his girlfriend, but I didn’t do it on purpose. She came on to me. Heather was a model on a shoot I was doing for another agency. I had no idea she was seeing him until after he confronted me. This little encounter was nothing compared to that one. Besides, he’s the best damn digital tech in the Tri-State area. Don’t get rid of him because of me.”
“But I won’t tolerate that kind of hostile behavior around this team or any team.”
“No one else saw it, and I can stay clear of him. I think his little performance was more for you than for me. Who’s Lora anyway? Your girlfriend?”
“My ex-girlfriend, and that’s a long story.” She gathered up what was left of her lunch.
“I guess he hasn’t heard about your breakup yet. Well, the good news is there’s nothing to worry about. I can’t be accused of being a home wrecker this time. Not that I plan on anything happening. I mean not that I wouldn’t mind. Dammit, I should probably just quit talking.” Tex smiled at her.
“That’s probably a good idea.”
She checked the time. She hated Ricky had mentioned Lora. It had been almost a year now, but she was still trying to get over it. How long does it take to get over someone you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with? It wasn’t easy forgetting about the six years they were together.
“It’s time to get back to work anyway. Are you going to stay for the rest of the shoot?”
“Yes, but I won’t get in the way. Don’t mind me. Just observing and making sure nothing major comes up.”
“Well, it was nice meeting you. That offer to help you with your photos still stands.”
“It was a pleasure meeting you as well. I just might take you up on that offer.”
Tex wrote her number down on the back of a napkin and handed it to Kayce. “I know I should get business cards, but they’re just so…corporate, and that’s not who I am. Give me a call any time.”
“Thanks.” She took the napkin and watched Tex walk towards the beach.
She didn’t know that much about Texanna Dilworth except what Jennifer told her when pitching her for the Platts shoot months ago. Tex was a free spirit and only did freelance work. She had an eye for what the client needed, even if the client wanted to go in a different direction. She was also quick to tell them how wrong or narrow-mined they were being, almost costing her the job a few times.
Kayce knew clients in advertising are a strange breed. They come in wanting help selling their product, but they don’t want to change anything about themselves or their product. They want to keep their name and their way of doing business even if it’s hurting them. Often, they would tell Kayce that they needed to maintain their brand, which would then lead to her holding their hand and twisting her team’s ideas into a clever discussion to make the client think it was something they came up with on their own. It was time consuming.
Kayce was the Creative Director at Emerson Thurgood. They had taken her on as an intern, and she impressed them with her ability to form relationships with the clients. A few of the larger accounts at the firm signed on because of her. She wasn’t afraid to go after the impossible and refused to take no for an answer. She could be persuasive when she needed to.
She wasn’t immune to the stares of her male clientele. At first, she found it offensive. It didn’t take long for her to use it to her advantage. She felt bad about it, but they didn’t. Some wouldn’t even try to hide the fact that they stared at her breasts or that their eyes roamed over her from head to toe while they adjusted themselves and shifted in the chair across from her.
She didn’t flaunt her beauty. In fact, she thought she was average. It wasn’t until college that she started to feel comfortable in her body, becoming more outgoing and confident.
The Stedford Sports campaign had been a successful one. The client loved it and talked about doing another campaign in the winter for their ski line. Now was the lull before everyone started gearing up for their Christmas ads. She didn’t want to think about all that work plus Stedford Sports coming in again for another campaign. It would be a lot of work, but it would also mean a lot of profit for the company and a nice bonus check at the end of the year.
She checked her calendar like she did every Friday before heading home. She told herself it was to prepare for the upcoming week, but really it was to see if she needed to work on anything over the weekend. She let out a sigh of relief. This weekend she was free to do whatever she wanted. All she wanted to do was unwind and relax. Take-out food along with streaming a few movies and going through some of the books she had downloaded were the only things that interested her. If there was time, maybe she would get through the stack of magazines on her nightstand.
She watered the spider plant by the window. It was a tough little plant. Lora gave it to her on their second date after finding out about Kayce’s lack of a green thumb. She promised her it was almost impossible to kill and was simple to take care of. It only took a month to prove Lora wrong, and she gave it back to her to take care of. Lora nursed it back to health and kept it until she later moved in with Kayce. Even then, the plant was Lora’s responsibility and it thrived. After the breakup, Lora left it and Kayce couldn’t bring herself to give it away. She never remembered to water it so she brought it to the office where her secretary helped keep an eye on it. It was a constant reminder of Lora, but it was the only thing she had left of her.
Her phone rang and she jumped. Her secretary, Lisa, left for the day earlier. She sighed and picked up her bag, heading towards the door. She didn’t want to get involved in anything that would spoil her weekend. Besides, she should’ve left two hours ago. She made it as far as the door but then stopped. The phone continued to ring. It had to be an important call if they hadn’t given up by now. She threw her bag down in the chair and reached across the desk to answer it.
“Hello, Kayce. This is Texanna, Tex, the photographer from the Stedford Sports shoot.”
“Is something wrong? That campaign ended two weeks ago. The clients loved it, by the way.” She sat down in her office chair and pulled out a notepad and pen.
“No, nothing’s wrong. I hope Ricky didn’t change your mind about taking me up on my offer.”
“No, I’m not worried about what Ricky said. I haven’t given him a second thought.”
“Good. I have some free time, so I thought I would call and see if you wanted to get together. I enjoyed talking with you. I’d love to shoot some pics with you and teach you a few things.”
“Sure, that sounds good. Just let me know when and where.”
She hadn’t dated anyone since the breakup. Is this a date? Am I ready for that? An image of Tex flashed through her mind. Tex was the complete opposite of Lora. Tex was confident and sure of herself, where Lora was more reserved. Tex was strong and muscular and Lora was thin and graceful. Tex was attractive, but wasn’t the type she dated in the past. She wasn’t interested in her like that. She wasn’t interested in anyone like that at the moment.
“Does that sound good?” Tex asked.
“I’m sorry, I got distracted. What was the question?”
“It’s okay. I’m surprised you’re still at the office. You must be pretty busy.”
“It was hectic today, but I’m leaving soon before anything else pops up.”
“I know how that is. Anyway, I asked if tomorrow after lunch was okay? Around one-thirty?”
Kayce wrote the time down on the notepad. “That works for me. Where should we meet?”
“I have all my equipment in my truck. I can loan you some to use. I can pick you up at your place, if that’s okay with you?”
“Sure, as long as it’s no trouble.”
“No, it’s no trouble. That way I won’t have to transfer all my gear. I’m bad about leaving something behind.”
“Okay, great. I’ll text you my address.”
“So, you do still have my number?”
Kayce opened her bag and pulled out the napkin with Tex’s number on it. “I have the official napkin number right here in my hand.” She laughed. “Is that the number I should send it to?”
“Yes, that’s the one. So, you didn’t lose my number, huh? That’s a little disappointing. I thought maybe that was the reason you hadn’t called.”
Kayce’s cheeks reddened and she bit her lip. Had the conversation just taken a turn? Was Tex flirting with her?
“I…I’m sorry. I’ve been—”
“It’s okay. Are you sure you want to go tomorrow?”
“Yes, I want to. Please know that me not calling had nothing to do with Ricky.”
“Okay, don’t worry about it. We’ll go out tomorrow, I’ll show you a few tricks, give you some tips, and then if you want to know more, you can call me next time. Deal?”
Kayce circled the time and wrote Tex’s number underneath it. “You got it. That’s a deal. Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise, but I think you’ll enjoy it.”
“Not even a little hint?”
“Nope. My lips are sealed.”
Kayce laughed. “Okay then. I look forward to whatever surprise destination you have planned. Thanks for calling and inviting me.”
“No problem. Don’t forget to send me your address.”
“I will. Goodbye.”
She hung up the phone and tore the sheet of paper off the notepad. She pulled her cell phone out of her bag and typed out a message with her address to Tex. She checked it three times, making sure it was correct and that she didn’t have any typos. She hit send and waited for a response with the phone in her hands. A few seconds later she received one.
Thanks. See you tomorrow!!!
The anticipation was killing her. She was nervous and excited about Tex picking her up. It still felt a little bit like a date to her. She would’ve told her she wasn’t interested in dating anyone right now, but she didn’t want to make a fool out of herself. Maybe Tex wasn’t interested in dating her either.
Tex pulled into the driveway and Kayce’s heart began pounding again. Should I open the front door? No, that would make me look eager and desperate. She backed away from the window where she had been standing for the last forty-five minutes. According to the clock on the wall, Tex was right on time. She waited in the living room. Her palms were sweaty. Her mouth felt like it was full of cotton. She needed something to drink. She reached for the handle on the fridge. The sound of footsteps coming up the sidewalk caused her to pull her hand away. Instead, she wiped her palms on her jeans.
She had no idea where they were going or what kind of conditions to expect, so she went with a simple pair of jeans and a charcoal gray T-shirt with a V-neck. She stood at the edge of the hallway and checked herself in the mirror. She pushed her auburn hair back behind her ears. Her green eyes reflected her anticipation. Growing up she hated her light complexion and sprinkle of freckles, but now she appreciated the sun kisses from childhood.
The doorbell rang. She took a deep breath and reminded herself this wasn’t a date. Nothing to worry about.
She opened the door to find Tex in jeans like the ones she had on when they met. She was sure of that because that image had burned itself into her mind. More like seared its way, if she was being honest. The tight black Henley contrasted her tattoos where the sleeves were pushed up to her elbows. A twinge of disappointment ran through her mind. Tex’s tattoos intrigued her, and she was looking forward to seeing more of those hidden beneath her shirt. The fact all the buttons were undone helped end her disappointment. Tex might’ve possessed a tomboyish charm, but the exposed cleavage screamed she was proud of her curves too.
Kayce leaned against the doorway. “Any trouble finding me?”
Tex took a step closer and studied her. She felt a little uncomfortable, but then Tex smiled. “I couldn’t imagine I’d ever have trouble finding you.”
Kayce swallowed hard and crossed her arms in front of her chest. “Good. So, where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“It was a surprise yesterday. You still won’t tell me? Should I be worried?”
“No. You’re in very experienced and capable hands. I’ll take good care of you.” Tex made an invisible cross on her exposed chest, pushing the fabric further apart. “Cross my heart.”
Kayce’s gaze lingered on her cleavage long after Tex’s fingers had left their imaginary mark. “And I should just trust you, huh?”
Tex winked. “Of course.”