Bruce Rival was an educated man, born into money yet he strove to be a Journalist by profession. After graduating from Washington State University, he returned to his hometown of Portland, Oregon, and quickly found work at Hedges Walden Review, a well-known literary magazine. Hired on to research and read new books on the market Bruce’s job entailed writing reviews and conducting interviews with authors that were to later be published in the magazine. On the side, he did freelance work that proved interesting and Bruce enjoyed the variety and the many opportunities he found to work for other magazines in his field. At thirty-five he was more of a loner when he wasn’t working, as a younger man, he had his pick of women and sampled as many as he could like any man would.
As he got older, his preferences changed, he was still popular with women, but his interests leaned more toward a stronger-minded type of woman, smart, beautiful, and passionate with a dark side that matched his own. He searched for a woman he could say anything to without being judged or considered depraved which in the end wasn’t all that easy to find.
He was never much of what you would call a cheerful man; in fact, his personality was as dark as they came, and after his father Duke Rival had a severe brain aneurysm and had been told he could go at any time, Bruce seemed to hit rock bottom. Without his father, Bruce would be all alone in the world, the last Rival alive. His families’ large estate had already been pretty much empty, but with his father gone and without the long-time staff of live-in servants Bruce knew it would be a desolate and lonely existence.
Bruce and his father had been very close; his mother had died of breast cancer when he was only eleven so except for their servants it was just the two of them. So, after his father’s aneurysm, Bruce moved back home to be with him hoping his father would be able to recuperate. Duke Rival knew his time had come and spent the last few weeks of his life trying to pass on as much wisdom and love as he could. Wanting Bruce to know how proud he was to have him as a son and making sure to tell him all the things he had never before said.
After his father’s death, Bruce became even more closed off from the world. So, when he was hired to review an up-and-coming book called Red Obsession by a new author named Salina LaRue, he was looking forward to flying out to Chicago to attend one of her book signings and readings. The thought of getting away and back to work was just what he thought he needed to get out of his slump. After reading Red Obsession Bruce found himself very impressed and couldn’t help but try to imagine what the author might look like. Before arriving in Chicago, he had read her book twice and was more than excited to finally meet her. Salina LaRue blew him away, her characters were strong, and her love scenes were crazy beautiful and uninhibited. Her intensity grabbed his interests making him crave more; she was new and talented, so he wasn’t surprised when he arrived to find a line forming outside the bookstore, it seemed as if everyone like himself was very anxious to meet her.
Being on the job as a Journalist, he was given a seat upfront. Unsure what to expect Bruce along with the growing crowd was amazed at the young vibrant woman that walked up to the microphone. Salina LaRue was breathtakingly beautiful; she was curvy yet thin with long wavy black hair and eyes of emerald green that seemed to sparkle as she read to them. Her voice was sultry and smooth and seemed to put the whole room into a trance. She wore a flirtatious smile as she signed one book after another making idle chit-chat with her admiring fans.
That night Bruce sat in his hotel’s bar struggling to keep a clear head as he wrote his review on Red Obsession finding it hard to get her every detail out of his head. Hearing a commotion, he looked up to find Salina LaRue walking in surrounded by eager fans. He watched as she politely signed a few books then sent them on their way with a smile. Entering the bar, she found a seat in the back, taking a darkened corner booth she smiled at the bartender who had followed her over ordering herself a brandy neat she sat down and got comfortable.
Bruce watched her with interest from across the crowded bar. Within minutes a tall man in a business suit approached her with confidence and swagger. “How is it a beautiful woman like yourself is sitting all alone in the shadows?”
Moving to sit next to her Salina stopped him with her hand “I’m expecting someone.” The man looked around “Really who?” Salina looked annoyed “Not sure yet, but I know it’s not you.”
The man stepped back as if greatly offended “No need to be rude.”
Salina gave the man a wicked smile “Why not when it’s so much fun?”
Bruce laughed when the man stormed off, she had fire and spunk and Bruce just sat back and watched as she sent away one handsome man after another. She seemed so at ease in her solitude and with herself. That night unsure why he followed her back to her hotel room. After making sure she made it inside he retired to his bed so under her spell he just lied there awake remembering every detail of her face.
The next morning, he woke early in hopes of moving onto his next story and putting Salina LaRue behind him. Being under some strange woman’s spell no matter how beautiful she was just wasn't something he was used to or appreciated. He was used to getting and taking what he wanted when it came to women hell they usually came to him and with her, it was different, and watching her from afar just wasn’t something he had the patience for, and with her, that’s just how he felt it would have to be. It was as if a seed of obsession had been planted and was already taking root.
Sitting in the hotel restaurant that morning Bruce watched as Salina walked in and sat down. She wore her hair up off her neck held together in what looked like a pair of black chopsticks, and a pair of snug Levi’s, and a black long sleeve shirt with black boots. Bruce had hoped to miss her, yet his heart leaped at just the sight of her, she seemed so at ease as she sipped her coffee and read the paper. A middle-aged man walked up carrying her book, he looked nervous as he hovered above her waiting for her to notice him, after a moment she looked up and smiled then asked him to sit.
Bruce watched them as they talked then smiled as Salina started laughing, her throaty laugh was sexy and more than seductive. When the man handed her the book and pen, she took it and signed it with a smile. When he stood up, she followed and let him hug her, then smiled as he walked away, and she sat back down to eat. Bruce was shocked at his reaction to her it was strong and not like him, he felt like a boy with a crush.
Any other woman and he would have walked right up and introduced himself yet with her he just watched her from afar almost nervously. Just the thought of not seeing her again was painful; looking over his review of her book he laughed, it looked more like a long list of compliments hell he hadn’t even mentioned her book. A half an hour later Bruce watched Salina walk away and tried to tell himself that was the end of it. Yet he couldn’t quite seem to get her off his mind, she had only been on her book tour for a few months and after calling Jack his Publicist for information found out her next stop was Milwaukee. Unsure why when Bruce reached the airport, he changed his plans and bought a ticket on her same flight.
Sitting only two rows back he could hear her talking with the man she sat next to. She drank rum and cokes the entire flight and had everyone around her laughing at her jokes and stories. Her sultry laugh was like music to his ears. After four rum and cokes, the man at her side started to hit on her wanting to meet up with her at his hotel when they landed, and Bruce was all ears curious as to her reaction.
Salina just laughed and said, “Don’t play as if you’re not married, your wife dressed you. Except for those socks I’d say you picked those out for yourself, she probably packed your bags as well and your wedding ring hasn’t been off for more than three hours not to mention your wife wears Chanel No. 5. I’d say you’ve been married ten or more years and have three kids.”
The man went silent Salina laughed “Am I right?” The man nodded Salina smiled “How did you know I have three kids?”
Salina shrugged as she sipped at her rum and coke “Your kids made your carry-on bags contact information tags they must all be under ten because they all made one.”
The man looked embarrassed Salina nudged him with her elbow “She’s lucky to have you, maybe it’s about time you realize you’re lucky to have her.”
The man smiled but remained silent. Bruce was more than impressed it seemed like every time he turned around Salina was making him want her, even more, hell he needed more, he just couldn’t find it in himself to walk away from her not yet. He was amazed at how many fans she had acquired with Red Obsession being her first novel, men and women alike waited at her hotel hoping to talk to her mostly harmless, others more along with the creepy type.
Every night she ate alone yet seemed to find comfort in her solitude occasionally writing things in a notebook. Bruce assumed she was brainstorming ideas for her next book occasionally; an amusing smile would come over her face. On his return home to Portland Bruce was pleased to find out Salina also lived there. Max his driver just shook his head and laughed when he had asked him to follow her taxi, Max had been his father’s long-time driver and Bruce used him on occasion for business and travel. “Just follow her taxi, Max.”
Max looked at him through the rearview mirror with a raised eyebrow “You alright boy, not like you to be chasing after a woman, hell aren’t they the ones usually chasing after you?”
Bruce shrugged “She different Max, hell she’s a whole other breed. I’m supposed to be writing a review on one of her books.” Max smiled “An author huh, anything I may have read?”
Bruce chuckled “Not unless you have started reading semi-erotic romance novels.” Max laughed “None that I’ll admit to you boy.”
Bruce smiled as he leaned back and took off his coat. “She’s got talent that’s for sure. Just don’t lose them I want to know where she lives then you can take me home.”
Following her home, he tried to talk himself out of watching her from afar it wasn’t like him, yet he found it impossible not to, he couldn’t help himself. She was interlaced into his every thought. He needed to know where she lived so that he would always know where to find her. After watching the taxi pull up to her house and her up the stairs into her apartment Bruce was satisfied for now at least. “Home Max.”
Later that night he laid in bed and wondered what she was doing anxious to return in hopes of seeing her again.
Salina LaRue was a loner by definition and lived a life of solitude; her only escape was her passion for writing and her lust for collecting swords, daggers, and strange and unique weapons of war. Which just happen to be one of the only things she had in common with her father and grandfather. They too were serious collectors and weapons were the only subject they could even maintain an actual conversation about. Any other methods of communication between them usually ended in arguments which then turned into violence. Her father’s main method of parenting and punishment was to ignore her altogether. Her grandfather, on the other hand, favored more of a hands-on approach. His beatings became like second nature to Salina, the more she tried to fight back the worse it would get. Even from a young age, she knew it was better to just let him hit her he would tire out soon enough.
Fighting back would only fuel his fire and the alcohol did enough of that already. Seeing her grandfather Martin sober was a rare sight that not many could say they had seen especially since he had closed LaRue automotive after her grandmother Helena had passed away when Salina was six followed closely by Salina’s mother Celeste. Soon after Salina and her father moved from the small mountain town of Brightwood to Portland. Salina’s mother had died in a car accident due to drunk driving after that it just seemed too painful to stay. Leaving Salina to return to her grandfather’s cabin every single summer thereafter. Her father Samuel had taken a job in sales for an automotive company and traveled leaving Salina with a nanny until she was twelve after that she was left alone. Raised a tomboy Salina was treated like a boy that’s when her father wasn’t completely ignoring her, as she grew and went through puberty, he distanced himself even more.
Like his father violence was one of the only forms of communication he knew, that and ignoring her of course. He would leave his work schedule on her door so she would know if she was on it or not and how long he would be away, leaving her money for food, etc. The only time her father spoke to her was when he was scolding her for one thing or another. At the age of seventeen, her grandfather died of a heart attack while beating her. Two months later her father also died of a heart attack while in the heat of passion with some woman Salina had never heard of let alone met yet seemed to know her father better than she did. During her college years at Washington, State Salina wrote an advice column on “Tailoring your sex life to fit your needs as well as your lovers.”
The column was printed in the local college newspaper, not that she was an expert, but her readers seemed to like her advice and her column proved to be an exciting read and it proved to be her inspiration while getting her bachelor’s degree in Journalism. After graduating she moved back to Portland and bought a classic Victorian home with her inheritance, it was rather large so after a year she had it renovated and rented out the downstairs leaving her a two-bedroom apartment upstairs with a winding staircase as her entrance on the side of the house. For the first five years after college, Salina spent most of her time doing freelance work for several popular women’s magazines, not her dream job but it paid the bills and put some experience under her belt and padding on her resume.
Having always wanted to be a novelist Salina took off to Ireland for a year and wrote Red Obsession, a dark romance filled with seduction and suspense, a publisher’s wet dream. Within months of its release, Salina had gained a large fan base, her popularity grew even more as she traveled the United States doing a book tour involving book readings and signings.
While on the road she met many men, nothing serious just one-night stands, and that fit Salina just fine. At twenty-eight the last thing she wanted or needed was a relationship, hell sometimes you just need to get laid. After three longs months on the road, she returned home to Portland and started her second book Shadow Lover. A young and vivacious woman in her late twenties Salina kept to herself, she wasn’t married, nor did she have or want any children. Her solitude was lonely at times, there were times she would watch families walking by her house and she would wish she had a man to love her and to truly know her.
Every man that she had been with throughout the years thought her to be black-hearted and unable to open up to them, too dark and too cold. And after reading any of her work they worried she was what she wrote about and that scared them and she couldn’t deny it because it did come out of her head so maybe they were right, maybe what they said was true.
Then came the day she found a letter on her door.
As strange as it seems to me to contact you this way, I find myself doing it anyway. When I first saw you and heard your voice, I wanted more. It’s not like me to obsess but my mind is filled with thoughts of you and I have never even met you. Like you, I’m different, a loner at best. Yet you my beloved have grabbed my attention and your words on paper only give me a peek into the dark crevices of your mind, so I delve deeper needing to connect. Wanting you even more yet confused as to why I’m going about it the way I am when any other time or with any other woman I would have already introduced myself without hesitation. For some reason, you’re different, special and I want you more than I’ve ever wanted anything before. I hate to sound weak it’s just not in me but you my beloved are my only exception.
Salina didn’t know how to feel she had never had a fan come to her house and leave a letter. Yet his words were very flattering.