Ava Stone has spent her entire life looking over her shoulder-waiting for the past to catch up with her....
After surviving a horrific attack as a teenager, Ava has never been able to truly overcome her fears. The incident was covered up by her family so she wouldn't have to deal with it publicly-yet only one person understands what she had to endure in private- her brother's best friend, MacKinley Powers, who found her the night of the attack. But even he doesn't know everything-and she's afraid to open up to him.
Mac has loved Ava for most of his life-and being in close contact with her every day as head of security for Danvers International isn't helping. In fact, it makes him realize the painful truth- He has to walk away to keep his sanity. But when Ava is forced to rely on the only man who has never let her down, can Mac break through the protective walls she's needed for so long?
Sydney Landon is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Fighting for You, Weekends Required, Not Planning on You, and Falling for You. When she isn't writing, Sydney enjoys reading, swimming, and being a minivan-driving soccer mom. She lives in Greenville, South Carolina, with her family.
Praise for the Danvers Novels "Wonderful....Landon's foray into contemporary romance has just the right amount of angst, sass, sexiness, humor, and, of course, romance."--Fresh Fiction
"If you like the Cinderella-style story, this modern-day version is sure to be a hit."--Once Upon a Twilight
Praise for the Danvers Novels "Wonderful....Landon's foray into contemporary romance has just the right amount of angst, sass, sexiness, humor, and, of course, romance."-Fresh Fiction "If you like the Cinderella-style story, this modern-day version is sure to be a hit."-Once Upon a Twilight
Also by Sydney Landon SIGNET ECLIPSE Chapter One Ava Stone stood concealed in the parking garage of the Danvers International Office Building staring as her longtime friend Mac--McKinley Powers--greeted his new girlfriend. Mac was nothing if not polite, so if he had noticed her, he would have insisted on introducing her to Gwen. But Ava already knew all about the other woman. When she found out that Mac was dating someone who also worked for Danvers, she''d made it her business to find out everything she could about Gwen for two reasons. First, Mac was a friend and in her mind, no one was good enough for him, including--and perhaps most especially--herself. Second, Ava had been in love with Mac for years and if she couldn''t have him, then she didn''t want to see him end up with just anyone. The relationship between Ava and Mac had been complicated for many years. Mac had grown up next door to their grandfather. Ava and her brothers, Brant and Declan, had come to live with their grandfather when their parents were killed in a plane crash. At the time Ava was thirteen and her brothers a few years older. Their grandfather had been an indifferent bastard who accepted responsibility for them but mainly just wanted them out of his hair. Ava and her siblings had known Mac and his family for most of their lives, since their parents had insisted that they visit their grandfather on a regular basis, even though they weren''t particularly close to him. Their grandmother and grandfather had divorced when Ava''s father was still young. She had packed her bags and walked away. As far as Ava knew, her father had never seen or spoken to her again. Actually, no one mentioned her--ever. Ava thought the visits with their grandfather were more about her parents having a couple of weeks away without having to drag their kids along than any real family bonding time. One of those solo trips to Florida had taken a tragic turn when they didn''t come back. Their plane had crashed, and they were simply gone in the blink of an eye. Ava had been crushed at the death of her parents, seemingly more so than Declan or Brant. Later she came to realize that they all just handled the grief in different ways. Brant, as the oldest, had grown up almost overnight and tried to watch over her and Declan. He had also attempted to keep the peace with their grandfather, feigning an interest in his company that she wasn''t sure he''d had back then. Hell, she wasn''t sure if he had ever really developed a genuine interest for the business, but he felt it was expected of him as the eldest. And Declan, well, he turned into a hell-raiser. The old man chewed his ass out almost as an afterthought every time he got into trouble, but Declan didn''t care. She was pretty sure that their grandfather had secretly loved it. She suspected he felt as though he was reliving his youth through his younger grandson. She, on the other hand, had struggled to find her place in the world with the loss of the two people she had depended on to watch over her. They might not have been Ward and June Cleaver, but they were her parents and a life without them seemed unimaginable. So, on the days that she just couldn''t cope, she turned to Declan''s friend Mac. Even when she was a teenager, he had been a caring presence in her life and he always made time for her. She felt special when she was with him. He always acted as if he wanted to hear her thoughts and dreams. She also had a huge crush on him, which she was sure was no secret. As the years passed and she got older, she started to resent Mac for not returning her feelings. Her resentment had come to a head around the time she was seventeen and had been dating at that point. No matter how alluring she dressed, he still ruffled her hair and slung his arm around her shoulders in an affectionate gesture whenever they were together. He asked about her dates and told her about his. Unlike with most boys from school, she never caught him looking at her in any way other than as just another brother. Her emotions had been all over the place as she dressed for the senior prom. She was looking forward to wearing the pretty dress that her grandfather had given her the money to buy, but she was less than thrilled with her date. She had gone out with him several times, mainly to take her mind off Mac, but she wasn''t really interested in him. He was handsy and determined, and those hands were always trying to get under her clothes. Sometimes it seemed as if he had way more than two hands. As soon as this evening was over, she planned to tell him they were through. He was simply a means to a social end tonight. Later, she would come to know him as the animal who stripped away her innocence and left her lying in a bed of dried leaves in the woods, a mile from her house. It would take her what would seem like hours to walk, stumble, and finally crawl toward the lights of a house in the distance. Mac''s house. She had lain bruised, cut, and bleeding on his doorstep, unable to summon the strength to reach the doorbell. The beautiful iridescent gown that she had twirled in earlier on the dance floor was tattered. The delicate material had been ravaged by first her date, then by the weeds and briars as she crawled through the dark forest. She had no idea how long she had lain there, staring into the starry night as if in a trance, when the door suddenly opened. The bright light in the room beyond made her blink in surprise. She was no longer even certain where she was. A foot connected with her bruised leg, causing her to cry out in pain. "What the hell?" she heard as she tried to struggle into a sitting position. Suddenly, strong hands were on her shoulders. She was breathing hard, terrified that he''d come back. She twisted away frantically, terrified of what would happen next. "Ava? Honey, is that you?" She stopped suddenly, causing the hands holding her to slide. She knew that voice. He''d never hurt her. Even as her body screamed in protest, she climbed onto the man''s lap squatting next to her and held on with everything she had. She was shaking so hard she could barely keep her arms looped around his neck. "Mac . . . please help me," she remembered whispering frantically. He stood in one swift movement and swung her up higher in his arms. Without saying a word, he walked back into the house with her, kicking the door shut behind them. When they reached what she thought was the living room, he sat down with her still in his lap. Soft light flooded the room as he used one arm to flip on the lamp on the table beside them. "Honey, what happened?" He tried to move her, but she continued to hold him tight, afraid of what would happen if he let go. He stroked her hair, murmuring words of reassurance against her head, until the shudders subsided. When he moved her back again, she let him put just enough distance between them to see his face. She heard his quick intake of breath, then a barrage of profanity. She started crying then, not able to handle him being angry on top of everything else that had happened. "I''m sorry. Please don''t be mad at me, Mac." A harsh laugh tore from his throat. "Honey, I''m not mad at you. But I need you to tell me what happened. Were you in an accident?" She wanted to say yes and just forget the rest, but she had never lied to Mac. He was the one person in her life whom she trusted without reservation, even more so than her brothers. She didn''t know what to do or where to turn . . . and she hurt so bad . . . everywhere. "No . . . he . . . hurt me." His eyes never wavered from hers as he asked, "He hurt you how?" Tears rolled down her cheeks as she revealed the truth to him. "He forced himself on me, Mac. He held me down, and he . . . raped me." She saw the exact moment that her words sank in. His face blanched an alarming shade of white before turning a dark red. That was the night that they both had shattered. Mac would spend years trying to put her back together again, and she would spend years trying to convince everyone, including herself, that she was okay. And the bastard who raped her . . . his only punishment ended up being to leave South Carolina and agree never to contact her again. That sentence would be decided by her grandfather, who had never liked having the family''s dirty laundry aired in public. Always better to handle things privately. Ava was brought back to the present by the sound of a slamming door. Apparently, Mac had finished his conversation with his new girlfriend and had helped her into her car. No doubt, they had made plans to meet later. Just a few months ago, that would have been her walking out with Mac. They would jump in one of their cars after work and go for dinner somewhere. Now, though, she had been shoved firmly into the casual-friend zone. Granted, they had been only friends for years--but she had always had the hope of something more between them. Now Gwen was the woman in Mac''s life, and Ava was just the screwed-up friend of the family. As if sensing someone''s eyes on him, Mac turned suddenly in her direction and there was nowhere to hide. He''d seen her standing in the shadows. Hell, she''d spent most of her life in them. For just a moment, he looked at her as he used to. His mouth pulled into a smile and his eyes softened in the way she had always loved. God, he was so handsome. He kept his dark hair in the short buzz cut favored by the military. His tall body was lean, without an ounce of visible fat. The cargo pants and T-shirt that he was wearing did little to disguise the muscles rippling in his shoulders and thighs. Mac was, without a doubt, drool-worthy. He was the kind of man that women turned to st
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