Toxicby Nicole Blanchard Publication Date: August 22, 2017 Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Dark Romance
Toxic Excerpt 1
Inmate #8942589 doesn't have a name--at least not for anyone as low on the totem pole as me. Normally this means V.I.P., high profile assets the government—or those who line their pockets—hide away. Most of the time it's to keep them safe from contract hits from the outside, but I already know he's the dangerous one.
It’s probably the blood.
A lot of prisoners get into fights during transport with other inmates or sometimes officers, but someone must have patched him up sometime between. There’s a bandage on his nose and tape on the apple of his cheek. The blood in his mouth must be from a tooth that got knocked out, maybe? Or a cut in his lip. Either way, there’s nothing that needs my immediate attention, but it reminds me to be cautious.
With that in mind, I keep the space between us as I begin his customary intake screening. “It says here you didn’t do the medical history questionnaire with the officers before you they brought you here.”
He nods, no longer smiling.
“Okay, we’ll start with that.” Rather than get near his imposing presence, I fill out the forms myself. “Are you seeing a physician for any ongoing illness or health issue?”
He shakes his head and I mark it down. Aside from the scrapes and bruises, I don’t need the evaluation to tell me he’s in perfect health. Vitality exudes from him and though every instinct borne from years of lessons at Vic’s hands tells me to keep my distance, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to have his attention on me in a different setting.
I glance back down at the questionnaire to redirect my thoughts. As the gears in my brain grind to a halt, I tap the pen on the side of the clip board, trying in vain to rally the remains of my professionalism.
My gaze lands on the next question and I latch on to it with a tinge of desperation I hope he can’t detect. “Are you taking any prescription or over-the-counter medication?”
He gives another shake of his head and I wonder if we'll go through this whole interview without him ever saying a word. I smother the part of me yearning to hear his voice by replaying the snarling tones my husband likes to employ when he snaps. With it drowning out all the curiosity, my focus returns. The inmate answers the rest of the medical history the same way, nodding or shaking his head in answer. I learn he’s never had a major surgery, has no allergies, and has no familial history of any major diseases without ever knowing his name or the sound of his voice.
Once I come to the end of the medical history, I stop worrying about him trying anything. If he was going to hurt me, he would have done it by now. I’ve done these intake screenings a thousand times, so once I get in the groove, it gets easier to forget my first impression of him along with my own intrigue and go through the motions.
Rooting myself in routine, I “Let’s get you on the scale now so I can get a record of your current weight.”
He grunts his assent, which I take as permission, and I nod to the scale by the office door. Despite his bulk, he moves with the grace of a feline as he crosses the room. The scale clangs as he steps up and I busy myself with adjusting the scales and making notes on the chart.
When I glance up again, I have to stifle a gasp because he’s staring at me with startling intensity. Blatant curiosity makes his gaze sharp and causes my stomach to flip with nerves and arousal. The likes of which I haven’t felt in, oh, years. The same reaction guaranteed to get staffmembers of Blackthorne in ten different kinds of federal trouble.
“Uh, let’s get your height now.”
I indicate the measuring tape affixed to the wall next to us and he shuffles over obediently, all the while his eyes on me with a puzzled expression, like I’m a problem and he’s determined to puzzle out the solution. He submits to my handling as I record his height. Six feet of animal male towers over my five foot six frame.
Without thinking, I shove up the long sleeves of my scrubs as I record his measurements and wonder when I can take my first break. My mouth and throat desperately need a cool, restorative drink.
All at once, the temperature within the room plummets and my whole body freezes in response, sensing the urgent need to flee before I even realize what caused the change. I scan the room, certain I'll find my husband waiting, watching. Instead, I encounter the inmate’s eyes trained on my wrists. My own gaze follows his and my mouth falls open at the sight revealed by my thoughtless action. His own muscles have gone as rigid as stone.
Dark, purpling bruises encircle my wrists. Sweat beads on my upper lip and my ears ring. Frozen in stasis, I can’t think of an appropriate response or excuse—not that I’d need to give him, of all people, an excuse. After a moment of suspense-laden pause where my eyes flit up to his narrowed ones, I turn my back on him and head to the office to call the officers back for their prisoner.
I don’t make it that far.
I should have known better. Every instinct since I stepped into the room has been telling me to keep my guard up because the moment I took my eyes off him, he’d pounce.
And, fuck me, it’s exactly what happens.
About Nicole Blanchard
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Nicole Blanchard lives in Mississippi with her family and their menagerie of animals. She chooses each day to chase her own fairy tale even if they contain their fair share of dragons. She is married to her best friend and owns her own business.
Nicole survives on a diet of too many books and substantial amounts of root beer and slim jims. When not reading, she’s lavishing attention on her family or inhaling every episode of The Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory.
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