BY: MOLLIE BLAKE

His past haunts him. Revenge drives him. Can her love save him?

After a chance meeting in a bookshop, young Suzy Harper is engaged by multi-multimillionaire, Lawrence Bane, to work on translating a French document. They embark on an intense relationship, but he is surrounded by mystery and shame as demons from his past threaten to destroy everything he has worked for, including her love for him.

This exciting erotic romantic thriller traces the increasingly intense and tender relationship between the inexperienced Suzy and her wealthy, troubled lover, Lawrence. There are two obsessions in Lawrence’s life—his passion for Suzy and his drive for revenge against the gangland boss who murdered his best friend.

Will Suzy be strong enough to accept Lawrence for the man he is? Will Lawrence trust the woman he loves enough to reveal his darkest secrets to her? Will their love survive the challenges that lie ahead?

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Keeping You by Mollie Blake, Lawrence Bane is haunted by a dark past. While now a successful businessman and multimillionaire, he is still convinced that no one could ever love him. And he has accepted that—until he meets Suzy Harper in a bookstore. Her love gives him new hope. However, dark clouds are on the horizon. An angry enemy of Lawrence’s is about to be released from prison, and Lawrence’s life is turned upside down. His new love doesn’t understand when he suddenly disappears, so she goes looking for him. But what she finds not only challenges her faith in Lawrence, it rocks the foundations of her world.

Blake handles an uncomfortable subject with sensitivity and compassion, giving us a glimpse into a world most will fortunately never see. With marvelous characters and a solid plot, this is an erotic romance with a lot more than sex.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Keeping You by Mollie Blake is the story of Lawrence Bane, a man with a dark past. Ashamed of the things he was forced to do to survive as a teenager, he thinks love will never find him. But when he meets Suzy Harper, his whole world changes. Still, his happiness is short lived. The man he believes killed his best friend is getting out of prison, after incarceration on another charge, and Lawrence needs to find the proof that will send the man back to prison where he belongs. But will Suzy understand what Lawrence must do, both to find justice for his friend and to keep her safe from his enemies? When Lawrence suddenly disappears from her life, Suzy is devastated. Determined to find him, she tracks him to his roots, unprepared for what she finds and unsure if her love for Lawrence is strong enough to see her through.

Blake’s character development is superb, and she handles a difficult subject with both sensitivity and compassion. While this Keeping You is not for the faint of heart, if you want an erotic romance with a little meat in it, you really can’t go wrong with this one.

Prologue

Three years earlier:

“Let me go! I’ll fucking kill him.”

Lewis held his arms around Lawrence in an attempt to restrain the younger man and quell his anger. The scene was chaotic and violent, as Josh Black was held down by three of Lewis’s security guards.

“Leave it, Lawrence,” Lewis shouted above the obscenities pouring from Black’s mouth. “The police are on their way. Let them deal with it. He’s not worth it.”

Lewis felt his friend’s body sag, and slowly released his grip on him.

Hanging his head for a moment, his eyes closed, Lawrence fought back the nausea that swept through him. Now wasn’t the time to throw up. He took a couple of deep breaths before walking to the other side of the room, to the woman crouched on the floor. Kneeling beside her he carefully pulled her to him in a comforting embrace. Glancing down at the towel wrapped around her arm, he could see the blood beginning to seep through.

“Come on, Christine,” he whispered as he drew her to her feet and lifted her, cradling her in his arms.

Lewis stepped toward him. “Lawrence, the police will need to speak to her.”

Christine nestled her head into Lawrence’s chest and remained silent.

“I’m taking her to the hospital, and then I’m going to make sure she doesn’t have to come back to this hell hole.” His face was grim and determined. Lewis knew there was no point arguing with him now.

The woman in the faux-fur coat stepped out of the shadows.

“Lawrence…” Her voice was quiet and controlled, with just a hint of wishful thinking. “Why don’t you come back home to the apartment. I—”

“You must be fucking joking! I left all that crap behind when I walked out, Miranda. And it was never home. Just look at her, for God’s sake! And where the fuck’s Jimmy?”

He glared at the man still cussing and writhing on the floor and pulled Christine closer to his body, filled with the need to protect her, before turning back to Miranda. “Just think about how you can live with yourself. It’s over.”

Black’s energy was finally spent and he fell silent as he remained pinned to the floor.

Lawrence carried Christine out of the building, passing the police in the street.

“You’ll find us at the Royal London Hospital,” he called as they stared after him.

Chapter 1

It was midnight when Suzy Harper finally closed her laptop and put it on the bedside table. She stretched over to turn the lamp off and tried to go to sleep—a difficult task when her head was still full of ideas about Lawrence, the handsome hero in the latest story she was writing.

Before her parents were killed in a car crash five years ago, Suzy had been an avid writer. Nowadays, however, she rarely felt the urge to fill her screen with words of love and lust. But when she did, the hero, Lawrence, always seemed to make an appearance in her stories, and her dreams.

With the inexorable dawn of a new day the “Dring! Dring!” of her alarm clock broke into her dream of crazy, yet sensual, love and Suzy stumbled out of bed shaking her head. She really must stop dreaming about that bloody man. He wasn’t even real!

After a quick shower, she got ready for work, squeezing into her skinny jeans and navy sweatshirt.

“Dominic, are you up yet? Do you want breakfast?” she shouted along the landing before making her way downstairs.

The voice of someone who didn’t really sound quite awake came over the bannister. “Yes and yes.”

In her small kitchen, Suzy switched on the kettle and began to put breakfast things on the table. A few minutes later Dominic appeared in the doorway, looking slightly disheveled with his white shirt hanging out of his trousers, the top buttons undone, and his dark brown hair still damp from his shower.

Suzy handed him a coffee. “Thanks for staying over last night.”

He leaned down to her five foot three inches and planted a kiss on her cheek. “You’re welcome, and good morning to you,” he said in his oh-so-polite Cheshire accent. “Have you got much on today?”

“I’m working at the bookshop, and then I’m going to review my advert for the translation work. Can you come back tonight? I’d really appreciate your input. I’ll make dinner, and we can talk.”

Dominic smiled, picking up a piece of toast. “How can I resist such an offer? Richard isn’t due back until Friday so I can stay another couple of nights if you like.”

“Thanks, that would be great.”

“Have you had many responses to your advert so far?” Dominic was referring to a flyer Suzy had written to try to get some French translation work.

“No, nothing yet.”

Although Suzy was born in the UK, most of her twenty-three years had been spent living in Cameroon, and she spoke fluent French. Now she was keen to see if she could make a career using her translation skills. She still hadn’t decided whether to try to go freelance, work with a translation company or go into teaching. Teaching would mean further studies, but it would also mean she would get to know a lot more people around her own age.

And that was Suzy’s problem—getting to know people and letting them get to know her. Especially members of the opposite sex. She had lived in Cameroon since the age of three, and she was just seventeen when her parents died. Cameroon was the only real home she knew and she stayed there, not exactly living, more like existing, from one day to the next, continuing her studies and not giving much thought to her future.

But when her English aunt died last year, leaving Suzy a generous inheritance, it didn’t take much to decide to sample life in the UK again. After all, there was nothing and no one to make her stay in Cameroon. Sure, she had a few friends, but there had never been anyone special. The death of her parents had cut her off from the other students. Some were unsure how to communicate with her anymore and simply kept their distance. Others tried to engage her in the usual student extra-curricular activities but most gave up once they realized Suzy Harper was never going to be the life and soul of the party. There had been a few genuine friends with whom she would go on walks and bike rides, and occasionally go sailing—things she had enjoyed doing with her parents. But she never let anyone get close to her, and after a while, boys who showed any initial interest got the message and left her alone.

So she booked a flight to the UK and arranged to rent a small cottage on the outskirts of Nantwich.

Yet before long the same pattern was happening here in England. Suzy made friends with only a handful of people and still never let anyone get close to her. She preferred it that way.

But she was twenty-three now, and still a virgin. She wondered if she would ever find someone in the flesh to take the place of the romantic hero that lived in her head as well as in her stories. Her cousin, Dominic, was a kind and good-looking man, and it wasn’t hard to pretend she was on a date with him when she needed to. But it was just that. A pretense.

When the pseudo couple had finished their breakfast, Suzy grabbed her coat and bag from the hall. “I’m going to the gym after work, so I’ll be home about seven-thirty. You can let yourself in, and I’ll see you later.” Then she stepped out into the cool November air.

It was just a ten-minute drive in her Mazda MX-5–her pride and joy—to the bookshop in the charming market town of Nantwich. Today it was her turn to buy cakes so Suzy called in at the deli and bought three skinny blueberry muffins before going to the bookshop. As she walked in she was greeted by Alison, her boss and gym buddy. The two girls had become good friends.

“I’ve brought cakes,” Suzy said, placing her bags down on the counter. “Are you coming to the gym tonight?”

Alison was checking the till and preparing to open for the day. “Yeah, I’ve got my kit. Have you seen Mike yet? I thought he’d be here by now.”

At that moment a tall, thin guy appeared wearing cycling shorts and shoes, a vented cycling helmet dangling from his hand. “Sorry I’m late, guys.”

He removed his rucksack and headed to the back of the shop to change into his tracksuit bottoms and sweatshirt. Mike was thirty-five and owned the bookshop, but he relied heavily on Alison to manage it for him. He was more of a “ride up a mountain” kind of guy.

Alison was the one who had been keen to take Suzy on when she applied for the part-time shop assistant’s job. The newcomer had good credentials from her school in Cameroon together with references from friends of her family on her return to the UK. Her French was a bonus and her African connections made her interesting to talk to. Although she never seemed relaxed chatting with a group of people her own age, Suzy was always eloquent and confident when talking to customers. Everyone seemed to like her.

Mike walked back to the tills and joined the girls. It didn’t take him long to spot the muffins. He was built like a beanpole but he could eat for England. “So when do we get to eat them?”

“Not till later,” Suzy smirked as she popped the bag under the counter. “I’ll just go through the delivery and put the new books out.”

After Alison opened the shop, they each went about their tasks. The morning progressed unremarkably. Cakes were eaten with coffee, and they talked about what they had done at the weekend. Mike and Alison also made helpful comments on Suzy’s flyers.

French Translation Services
Smart translation capturing style, feeling, and humor
Specializing in French to English
No job too big or small
For more information call Suzy Harper on
01234 516798 or email shtranslates@anymail.co.uk

They had been only too pleased to let her place the adverts on the counter in the bookshop. Suzy was a bright girl and deserved a break.

“Have you had any inquiries yet, Suzy?” Alison asked.

“No. I’m going to go through the advert with Dominic tonight and see if I can improve it. Luckily, I haven’t made too many copies of this version. And I’ll need a website if I’m going to do it properly.”

“How is Dominic? You guys must come over for dinner soon. I’ll text you some dates, and we’ll get something in the diary.”

Later in the afternoon, Suzy started to load some more new books onto a trolley, ready to distribute them around the shop, when the door opened, and a man walked in. As she turned to give the prospective customer a polite smile, the blood drained from her face, and the books slipped from her hands. She stared at the stranger for a moment before registering that the books had fallen to the floor. Panicked, Suzy dropped to her knees to gather them together. She couldn’t believe her eyes. The man who had just entered the shop was the spitting image of Lawrence—her Lawrence, the guy she had created in her stories and dreams. How could this be? With her heart in her mouth, and unable to resist, she sneaked a furtive glance up, only to be met by a handsome face with intense green eyes staring back at her.

Mike hurried over to help Suzy, and Alison shifted her gaze from Suzy on the floor to the drop-dead gorgeous man standing in front of her. He was looking straight down at Suzy with such intensity that Alison hesitated to ask him what he wanted, fearing she would interrupt his thoughts. Instead, she turned her attention back to Suzy. Her friend looked pale and Alison wondered for a moment if Suzy knew this man.

Right, thought Alison, enough time has been wasted. She turned to the stranger. “Can I help you?”

Dressed in dark blue chinos and a very expensive looking Belstaff leather jacket, together with highly polished brown brogues, the man looked as if he had just stepped out of a GQ photoshoot.

Without taking his eyes off Suzy, he responded, “I’m looking for a copy of Inspired, by Sir Steve Redgrave.” His voice was rich, mellow and sexy, without any trace of an accent, and his manner was one of confidence, control and wealth.

Finally he looked at Alison. She couldn’t deny that this man was breathtakingly handsome, with searching green eyes, high cheekbones, and well-groomed sideburns fading into a trace of designer stubble shadowing a firm jaw. His lips were set straight in a “don’t mess with me” kind of expression, but it was all softened by silky golden-brown hair, short at the back and yet floating, unruly, across his forehead to create the perfect frame to his perfect face. Alison took a deep breath. “It’s just over here. I’ll show you.”

As the man was led away, Suzy stood up, and Mike began to help her rearrange the books on the trolley. “Are you okay, Suzy? You look pale. I think you’d better go and get a drink. I’ll finish putting these out.”

Suzy was thankful to have a means of escape, and she hurried upstairs to get some water from the machine. As she sank into one of the large soft leather chairs in the reading area, she tried to calm her breathing and stop shaking. She closed her eyes, still unnerved by the resemblance of the man downstairs to the fictional lover she occasionally took to bed.

By the time Alison came up to check she was okay, Suzy was able to confirm she felt fine.

Meanwhile downstairs the customer found the book he wanted and walked over to the counter.

Up to me to serve, then, thought Mike as he headed over to the till. It didn’t escape his notice that the guy took one of Suzy’s flyers and put it in his pocket.

“I like your sports section. I’ll have a good look around next time I come.”

Mike smiled and the stranger handed over his credit card.

“Thank you,” he said as Mike processed the payment and handed him the book.

Then the stranger walked out onto the street.

His sleek, white Jaguar XKR-S was parked just around the corner. He took the leaflet out of his pocket and looked at the name Suzy Harper, the corners of his mouth almost, but not quite, forming a smile. As he got into the car, he pulled out his iPhone and tapped into his email account.

Subject: French translation
Dear Ms. Harper,
I require a translation of a purchase agreement. Please call me to arrange a meeting to discuss the matter.
Yours sincerely,
Lawrence Bane.

He pressed Send. Leaving no time to ask himself what the hell he was doing, he hit the accelerator and headed toward home.

***

Back in the bookstore, Suzy went downstairs to face inquisitive looks from Mike and Alison.

Alison was just shutting the drawer in the till and getting ready to close the shop. “Are you sure you’re all right, Suzy? You looked like you’d seen a ghost earlier. Was it the guy who came in?”

“Yeah. Something of a looker, wasn’t he?”

Alison glared at Mike. “Well, I thought he was rude, staring at Suzy like that. He could see she was flustered over dropping the books.” Just at that moment, a pen rolled onto the floor, and Alison ducked below the counter for a second to retrieve it. “He seemed to give you a strange look, Suzy,” she continued, pausing to study Suzy’s distant expression. Her friend seemed miles away and for a moment Alison wondered again if Suzy knew the man. “Anyway, I doubt we’ll see him again. He didn’t look the sort to be out buying his own, or anyone else’s, books.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Mike said quietly, his eyes on Suzy. “He said he looked forward to having a good look around next time he comes. And he took one of your leaflets.”

“He did?” Alison and Suzy blurted out in unison.

“That’s really weird,” Alison said. “If he rings you, Suzy, you need to be careful. I wouldn’t trust him. You never know what nutcases are out there. I said I didn’t think it was a good idea putting your mobile number on.”

“Well, I doubt he’ll ever ring me.”

Suzy sounded distant.

Unbeknown to her colleagues, she was still getting over the shock of seeing “her” Lawrence in the flesh. How the hell was she ever going to get him out of her head now? Perhaps it was about time she stopped living in this fantasy world and gave herself at least half a chance of meeting a nice guy to settle down with.

She sighed and looked at Alison, trying to change the direction of this conversation. “Anyway, I’m sorry for being a bit clumsy earlier. At least I didn’t damage any of the books. Is it okay if I make up the downtime next time I’m in—I think it’s Friday?”

“Don’t worry about it, Suzy, it wasn’t long, and you’re always putting in extra time when we need it. Just take it easy driving, and remember what I said about that man.”

“Yeah, take care, Suzy,” Mike called as Suzy left the shop. Then he turned to Alison. “What do you think about it, then? That guy will know that’s Suzy because he’ll have heard me call her name out. And the leaflet’s got her name on it. He didn’t ask me anything about it. Just put it straight in his pocket.”

“I don’t know. He looked classy, but that doesn’t mean anything.”

Secretly, Alison always hoped Suzy would meet her Mr. Nice Guy before too long, but she had no idea how this chance meeting would change Suzy’s life.

© 2018 by Mollie Blake

Manic Readers:

“It’s an interesting scenario, with lots of twists, & an eventual HEA ending, but it’s a long journey for this pair. I hope you enjoy their journey, because I did.” ~ Alberta, Manic Readers READ FULL REVIEW