What happens when everything you know has collapsed, and all you have left is broken pieces?
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Don’t take up space.
Don’t talk too loud.
Don’t tell anyone.
I’ve always been the problem child. Blue—my name alone should have warned anyone with a half a mind that I’d be trouble. Who’s named for the broken crayon nobody wants?
Professor Rhys Kennison should have seen me coming a mile away, and I should have known better than to fall for someone so far out of my league. But his touch is like fire and his taste…like the finest chocolate. What woman could resist that combination?
We’re headed for disaster, though—after all, it’s what I know best. No matter how hard I try, I can’t stop destroying anyone who gets too close. And Rhys doesn’t understand. How could he? When I don’t even understand myself?
Trigger warning: this story contains descriptions of sexual abuse that are required for the story
Heat rating: Entry-level BDSM (with consent) and super-steamy sexy times
Outside the Lines is the fourth book in the Without a Trace series, but may be read as a stand-alone story.
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Note from the author
Every author has one book that pulls at their inner spirit more than others. Often, more than one. While I fell in love with Zi and Kai in Tracing the Line, Blue Trace has a complexity I couldn’t resist writing. Her story holds a personal element that I’ve never experienced in any other book I’ve written (even the ones that will never see the light of day); she’s as much me as she’s nothing like me.
My goal in any story is to present a realistic character in extraordinary circumstances. To show real women living their lives and falling in love. To be honest about the scars and fears we all carry, so that we’ll know we’re lovable and worthy of love. This story does contain an emotional description of rape, but it’s not, in my professional opinion, gratuitous or dishonest. Blue’s character is defined by her struggles, and to honor those of us who’ve been through sexual assault, I wrote that scene with horror and anxiety clawing at my heart.
I hope you enjoy and find much to celebrate in Blue’s world. Several readers didn’t care for her in book three–and for good reason! Her redemption, though, is this book, and perhaps you’ll discover how incredible she truly is.
As you are, too. <3
Special sneak peek:
Ch. 3: The curve balls have Blue second-guessing everything, and she’s desperate to feel something—anything. The last time, she ran the show and drove Dr. Rhys Kennison out of his mind with lust. This time, though, Rhys has something else in mind…
Rhys sits at his desk, laptop open, focused on the screen. I knock lightly on his door as I step past the threshold. The scent of espresso beans assaults my nostrils, though I can’t spot a coffee cup anywhere.
When he glances up, shock and apprehension inform his expression, though his gaze can’t resist wandering. Hunger or fear? Unsure, the confusion makes me bolder.
“Bad time?” I ask, keeping my voice soft.
He leans back in his chair, eyes never leaving mine. With a heavy breath, he rakes his hair with agitated fingers. The stubborn strands return to their lax, messy style, which works on him, though I’m curious what he’d look like sans glasses and fuddy-duddy clothing.
“You shouldn’t be here.” He speaks slowly, as though attempting to convince me…or himself.
I nod, tipping the door closed and twisting the old lock. I stop at his desk, a barrier between us. “I could leave.” I can only imagine what he sees—a simple cotton dress, falling inches below my ass. I went braless—I usually wear one, if only to prevent “show-through.” And as I slip off the short leather jacket to ward off the October chill, my nipples press against the striped green blue material.
He fights to keep his gaze decent, and I bite the inside of my cheek. I’m sure this won’t last, but damn, the way he looks at me, fire burning beneath that abashed, reserved exterior? I could eat him for breakfast, lunch, and twice for dinner, as my mother used to say.
I round the desk, drawing a finger over the uncluttered wood. He regards me, his expression inscrutable. When I reach him, I lift myself onto the surface, crossing my legs.
“Your choice, Professor. I can stay, or I can leave.” My hair falls in loose waves over my shoulders, and my eyes are quite pretty, or so I’m told—light, mossy green, muddy at the centers with gold and a hint of turquoise. Since everybody likes to comment on them, I hope he finds them intriguing.
His armor cracks the tiniest fraction, as though he’s in a daze. He rolls forward a few inches, resting his hands on the desk beside me, careful not to make contact. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“You keep saying that, but I’m not sure I believe you.” His dark eyes seek mine for something I know I don’t possess, though I can’t figure out what. His knuckles brush against my legs, easing beneath my dress.
Glimmers of desire brighten inside me. With slow movements, he stands, his palms skimming my thighs. He glances down as he reveals my naked mound. He inhales, sharp and surprised.
Whatever has always inspired me to push the envelope—force the issue, shove forward only to fall back—trickles away, and uncertainty fills my lungs. After a day too long and painful to process, grief wails from deep within. Guilt sours my arousal—I’ve once again manipulated a situation because of my sorrow, my shortcomings, my failures as a person.
He cuts off my remorse, mouth hungry and off-center. His hands cup my jaw, thumbs encouraging my lips to open beneath his. Tongues tumbling together, our kiss struggles to find a rhythm. He pulls away, resetting the moment, and when his lips cover mine again, thoughts disintegrate in the scintillating heat. I whimper as his tongue possesses me, and he tugs at my neckline, baring my shoulder. The stretchy fabric slips lower as his lips follow south, and he suckles my nipple, teeth gentle then sharp.
I bite my lip to stay quiet. My fingers slide over his scalp as he tends to my other breast, clothing pooling around my waist.
“Lie back, Blue.”
As much a request as an order, I meet his gaze, the hunger stealing my breath. I couldn’t disobey if I wanted to…
Blue’s never run from a challenge, but she’s in way over her head. Every mystery has a secret, and Rhys is no exception…
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For once, I had no problem finding songs for a playlist. 🙂 I listen to many different types of music, and every now and then, I hear something that strikes me as “that character’s theme.” Enjoy!
About Ally Bishop
When you do something effortlessly and people commend you continuously, you have found your gift.
I get story. I always have. I started writing when I was 8 on a Smith Corona (the electronic kind — I’m not THAT old). I wrote stories in every spiral notebook I had. Eventually, I graduated to a Mac (yes, I’m one of THOSE people). I imagined new worlds, emotional conflicts, and HEAs while I waited at stoplights or wandered the grocery store. But here’s the thing: I didn’t just dream it up and write it down — I critiqued what I read. I knew when ideas were good, and when they stunk. I ran writing groups, judged creative contests, and eventually got two graduate degrees in writing. That’s right: I love it that much.
So here I am, years later, writing kickass heroines and devastating good guys, along with some mystery and vampires thrown in (I promise: THEY’RE COMING). And what’s really cool? I do what I love. Wanna write a success story for your life: I promise you, that’s it. Do what you love. And hopefully, you can make a living at it too. That’s the golden ticket, Charlie.
And chocolate doesn’t hurt, either…
The serious stuff:
I have an M.A. in creative writing, as well as an M.F.A. in creative writing with a focus in publishing. I produce two podcasts, host one, and am a freelance editor and publicist over at Upgrade Your Story. In my free time (what is that, exactly?), I read, workout, game, and converse. I’m a high introvert despite my extroverted behaviors, so you’ll find me behind my computer most days. I’m married to the wild and brilliant Billy Crash, have two dogs who are filing to change their species designation to “human,” and can often be found wandering Manhattan in search of the perfect writing spot.
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