Home > The Wild Side (The Wild Side #1)

The Wild Side (The Wild Side #1)
Author: R.K. Lilley

PROLOGUE

I was stalking again.

I wasn’t subtle about it either.  I sat in my car, right in front of the same dilapidated duplex and just watched and waited, for hours on end.

Not that it mattered.  She wasn’t here, hadn’t been here for days, and even her things were gone from the place.  I knew that, because I’d busted into the place door.  The neighborhood was so terrible that no one had even taken notice.  Inside the small studio room I’d found nothing, no hint of her, no clue to her whereabouts, or that she’d ever even stayed there at all.

But I didn’t know where else to look.  I’d circled the city, gone to every place we’d ever been together, or that I’d ever seen her go.

And I’d found nothing.  She’d quite simply disappeared without a trace.

I was distraught.  I couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten, and I’d only slept in fits, for days.  Every harsh thing I’d said to her, every brutally honest thing she’d shot back at me, just circled in my head, on repeat, torturing me.

It couldn’t end like this.  Not like this.  Impossible to even think it.  I refused to give up, and so I searched for her.

Searched for Iris.

I’d become a man obsessed.

CHAPTER ONE

A FEW WEEKS EARLIER

I set my two perfectly folded gym towels down on a chair by the treadmill and got on the machine.

I always brought two.  I wasn’t even sure why.  I was a creature of habit.  Once I started a pattern, I tended to stick to it, rain or shine.

Kind of like my marriage.  Of course, that hadn’t lasted forever, but that hadn’t exactly been my choice.

I punched in my settings and began my warm-up.  I had already done twenty minutes of stretching at home.  My three-hour daily workout was very precise.  I had a family history chock-full of heart disease, and so I aggressively fought to stay healthy.  I was intelligent enough to know that I’d brought the whole thing to an extreme, but honestly, what else was I supposed to do with my free time?  I was busy enough with work, but my work involved a lot of sitting down and tapping away at a computer, and I felt I had to counter all of that physical inactivity, somehow.

I’d just had my dreaded fortieth birthday, and I felt like I was in as good of shape as I’d ever been.  My waistline wasn’t growing, thanks to my three hours a day in the gym, and an impeccable diet, and my muscles were well-toned and good-sized.  I had no idea what age I actually looked, but I figured the liberal salt and pepper at my temples brought it at least close to forty.  I didn’t really give it much thought, as I stayed largely to myself, and any time I was on camera, I went out of my way to avoid seeing it.

The gym was busy, as it usually was, so my time there was literally the most social I was in an average day, and I usually got away with a nod or a good morning to the receptionist on the way in.

That was it.  The only verbal interaction in my day.

Sometimes I had to talk on the phone for work, and once, maybe twice a year, I did a few television or radio interviews.

And that was it.

The scary part was, it was effortless for me.  It had started with an ugly divorce just over one year ago and slowly shaped its way into this.  A sad, old man that could have easily embraced a life as a complete recluse.

I did still go out of my way to workout at an upscale gym, instead of just building one in my house.  I had the room.  I certainly had the money.  I figured it was only a matter of time before I resorted to that, too.

The strange part of it was, I wasn’t worried about it because I was lonely.  I was worried because I wasn’t.  I did miss being with a woman in the literal sexual sense, but that was about it.  I’d considered the idea of hiring a prostitute briefly, but even that seemed like an ordeal.  I detested breaking the law.  It was so very chaotic.

A familiar figure moved onto the machine next to me, and I met pale, smiling green eyes in the mirror, nodded once briefly, then looked back down.

She was a shapely little blonde woman that had started sharing my gym hours nine days ago.

Hot women weren’t exactly a novelty in Vegas, but this one was in a league of her own.

Girl, I corrected myself.  She was a girl, way too young for me to even sneak a long glance at, though I was only human, and she was wearing next to nothing, so I’d caught many, many glances.

She probably thought I was dad material, I told myself, as she started to jog on the machine, her full, perky br**sts bouncing with every smooth step.

She really needed to go shopping for a more supportive sports bra, I thought to myself, my eyes catching on her, then darting away, then glancing again within a few bounces.

She wore only a hot pink sports bra and the tiniest white Lycra bike shorts I’d ever seen in my life.  Her abs were toned, waist tiny, her skin smooth in a way that happened only in the very young.

Way, way too young for you, I reminded myself, my furtive gaze catching on her lithe h*ps as she jogged her sexy little heart out.

My intent stare moved up to her face, and I flushed to find her watching me watching her.  I looked down and kept on jogging.

There’d been no censure in her eyes, and so I found mine wandering back to her face.

She was beautiful.  Not a scrap of makeup on, her white-blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, and still she could’ve stopped traffic.  A real bombshell.  None of it was artificial either, just plain old good genetics at work.

She was friendly, too.  I wasn’t sure why, but she usually took the machine next to mine, if it was empty, though there were lots to choose from.  She always had a smile for me, too.

Maybe I reminded her of her dad.  Or f**k, her grandpa.

It didn’t bear thinking about.

I’d never been with a younger woman, let alone one that much younger.  Hell, she’d probably give me a heart attack.  I shook off the thought.  A flawless little thing like that wouldn’t give me a second glance, and I told myself that was a good thing.

She was likely jailbait, and for a man that’d never even had a speeding ticket, just the idea of that was too scandalous to linger on.

Still, my eyes were drawn, time and again, to her perfect figure jogging hard on that treadmill.  Her legs were incredible, long and slender, bare from the top of her thighs to her ankles, and so toned and tan.

I made myself look away and not look back.

I hit the one-hour mark on the machine when I saw her slow and stop out of the corner of my eye.  This had become a pattern, too.  I did exactly one hour of cardio, before I hit the weights.  She seemed to be working a similar routine, and every day I saw her, it became even more similar.

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