Twenty four days until COMING UNDONE releases! Wheeee!
Coming Undone starts up a few months after LAID BARE ends and it features Erin’s older brother Brody Brown and Elise Sorenson, a former principal dancer in a national ballet company who’s come out to Seattle to start a new life with her daughter.
To warm up, here’s an excerpt from LAID BARE – featuring protective, big brother Brody:
LAID BARE by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2009, Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, The Berkley Group
“Morning, gorgeous.” He kissed her quickly and tugged on her hair. “I like the spiky thing you’ve got going.”
“I have a rep to uphold and all. I’ll grab something at the cafÃ©. Tell Todd I’ll call later, all right?”
“Sure. Erin, are you all right alone there? With this asshole trying to get to Ella, I worry about you.”
“Aw, thanks. But Brody is right next door and so far, the creep has kept away from the cafÃ©. Probably because of all the big, burly, scary-looking inked-up guys next door who’d smash a man into a greasy spot if he hurt a woman.”
Speaking of Brody, her phone rang and the icon on the screen announced it was her older brother.
“Hey, I’m on my way now,” she said by way of greeting.
“I was wondering what was happening. You rarely just leave the shop closed.”
“Closed? Ella’s not there?” Alarm seeped into her system.
“No. She didn’t call either. I checked your voice mail when I saw no one was there. I just got in myself, that’s why I’m only calling now.”
“It’s not like her to just not show. Okay, I’ll be there in five minutes.”
Ben touched her arm when she hung up. “Is everything all right?”
“Ella didn’t show. Didn’t even leave a message, which is totally not her style. She’s very responsible. I’ve got to go.”
“Erin, let me come with you. Or at least wait for Todd to get out of the shower so he can.”
She clenched and then unclenched her jaw. “I’m fine. My brother is right next door. I don’t need to a babysitter. I’ll see you later.” She was out the door before he could argue.
The darkened windows of her cafÃ© filled her with dread. She’d called Ella’s house only to get her machine, called her cell and got a “voice mail full” message. Ella’s mom’s number was inside on the cafÃ©’s phone book, but she knew Brody would cluck at her if she went into the cafÃ© first, so she breezed into the shop, waving at the other artists.
Brody grinned at her, kissing her cheek. “I love it when you indulge me. Did you get hold of her?” He unlocked the connecting door into the cafÃ© and went in first. She rolled her eyes at his back.
“I didn’t. Her voice mail on her cell is full. I left a message at her place. I’m going to call her mom now.”
He turned off the alarms as she bustled to get the place open.
Once she’d dealt with the three customers who’d jumped from foot to foot to get their caffeine fix, she dialed up Ella’s parents’ house and nearly fell over when she found out why Ella hadn’t been there that morning.
She grabbed the edge of the counter and Brody was next to her in moments. “What? Damn it, Erin, what?”
“Ella is in the hospital. Her ex tried to kill her last night.” She gathered her stuff. “I have to go. She’s at Overlake.” Erin scribbled a note saying they’d be closed for several days and taped it to the front door.
“I’m coming with you.” Brody reset the alarms and pulled her back through the door into his shop.
“Shut up. I saw the appointment book when I walked in a few minutes ago, I know you’re slammed. I’m fine. I mean, I feel awful for Ella, but I can visit her in the hospital. I promise,” she added when she saw the worry on his face.
“This isn’t me trying to be the spunky heroine who refuses help for no apparent reason, okay? I’m fine. It’s full daylight. I go over there all the time. As you may recall, my therapist is there and you made me start going back.” He rolled his eyes at her. “It’ll take me like twenty minutes tops to get there. I’ll be all right and she will too, thank god. I promise to call Adrian or you or Todd if I need someone.”
“That’s not necessary.” Todd stepped into the shop. “I’m right here and able to help with whatever has you looking so upset.”
She wanted to groan when she caught the look passing between Todd and Brody, but she didn’t have time.
“Fine.” She kissed Brody’s cheek. “I’ll call you later to fill you in.” She looked to Todd as she walked past. “You can drive if you like.”