Tracing the Line
by Ally Bishop
Published August 10th 2015 by Scarlet River Press
ebook, 250 pages
They say love doesn’t hurt. But it’s a lie. I promise you, love someone long enough, and they’ll destroy your soul.
I’ve spent my life taking care of everyone else: my family, my ex-husband, my friends. Deep down, I know I should focus on myself, but how can I when I’ve got one sister about to implode while the other battles her own guilt?
The minute I met Kai Isaac, I should’ve run in the opposite direction. His business isn’t one I want any part of, and I’ve got way too much drama in my life already. But his kiss…those eyes…the raging inferno he creates when he touches me…I can’t stay away.
Life’s reeling out of control, and he’s my only refuge from the storm. My sister Lux says trusting someone means not knowing everything about them and being okay with it…but what if not knowing the truth ruins everything?
Heat rating: Super sexy, with very light kink 😉
Tracing the Line is the third book in the Without a Trace series, but may be read as a stand-alone story.
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Note from the author
Thank you so much for checking out my book, Tracing the Line! This is book 3 in the Without a Trace series (but can be read as a stand-alone story!), and tells the tale of Kai and Zi, Lux’s sister—it comes right after Inside the Lines. If you read and Lux and Fin’s story, you’ll recall a little of Zi’s story…and this time, you get a front row seat to the heat. Keep an eye out as book 4 in the Without a Series will be out this year!
Special sneak peek:
Ch. 1: Zi thinks she’s here to spend the day with Lux and watch a filming of a short indie film. But Lux has other ideas…and they don’t involve Zi just watching…
It’s definitely a film set. There’s a screen against one wall around which cameras, poles with lights, and several people cluster. The rest of the room lies in shadow, in which Lux and I are standing.
“Lux! How are you?” A tall, thin guy pulls Lux into a hug.
She embraces him back with a huge smile. “Ger! Awesome to see you.” When she pulls back, she introduces us. “Ger is the director on this film. Ger, this is my sister Zi, and she’s here to fill in for Fiona.”
He holds out a hand, his expression weary but cheerful. “Ah, our last victim. I mean, participant.” He smiles warmly as we shake, and I’m wildly conscious of how cold my fingers are against his very warm ones. “We weren’t sure if we had one more to go—the other party canceled, too.”
“You don’t need Zi?” Lux asks.
“No, no, we can use her. I’ll get Kai to stand-in. Let me sound the alarm to get ready.”
“Ready for—” My question dies on my lips as he turns away, bellowing at his people to get “set up.” I turn to my sister, drawing myself up to my full five-feet-eleven-inches so I can glare down at her. “What am I getting ready for here?”
My tone brooks no excuses, and she lifts a shoulder with a heavy exhale. “They’re making a promotional film for a movie series their doing. It’s silly, fun, whimsical, sweet—”
“And what am I doing here then?”
“You’re one of the cast.”
If the idea of being filmed wasn’t terrifying enough… “Doing what, exactly?”
Lux nibbles her full bottom lip. “Making out with someone.”
“What?” My voice drops an octave.
“It’ll be fun, Zizi Baby. It’s a series of strangers connecting, kissing a bit, showing who we are at our most intimate.” Lux seems to rethink her words. “Hm, okay, maybe that does sounds a little scary.”
“No, absolutely not.” I spin towards the door. “Not going to happen.” But there’s several people behind us now, doing God only knows what, so it’s not like I can run out into the hallway. I feel a heavy hand on my shoulder, and Ger is back, a big smile on his lean face. “Zi, right? We’re going to get you into hair and makeup briefly—just a few minutes—and then we’ll be ready.”
I glare at my sister. “Are you going to explain this to him, or am I?”
Lux takes Ger’s arm. “We’ll be right over.”
Ger laughs and nods. “No problem. Kai’s in a meeting so we’ve got a few minutes.”
Lux doesn’t even give me a second to yell at her. “Look, I know this is weird, and I know this wasn’t what you expected. But you’ve been single for two years now. Not a single date…text…anything.” She grips my arms, staring into my eyes. “You need to have some fun. Let loose a little. This is safe; these are nice folks, they’re doing cool things, and you get to make out with someone for a few minutes without any repercussions. Maybe you’ll rediscover your sex drive.”
“I have a perfectly fine sex drive, thank you very much.” But I can’t deny her words. I’ve worked so much and so hard, and if I’m honest, it’s been easier than even contemplating dating again. She knows why I haven’t stepped toe on the field again, and she’s probably right: if I’m not thrown into the pool, I might never swim again. But that doesn’t mean I’m letting her off the hook. “Why didn’t you just tell me what this was all about?”
“Because you’d never have come. And you need this, Zi. You need something. God, you’re younger than me, yet you act like you’re older.”
I stick my tongue out at her. “Easy for you to say, Ms. Hottie-with-a-Scottie.”
She grins, any mention of her love Fin MacKenzie turning her cheeks pink with delight. “Very true. And we need to find you your hottie, okay? But first, we have to get you in fighting condition. Today might be a good ice breaker.”
I widen my eyes and blow out a breath. “I’m not sure making out with a stranger is going to fix anything.”
“Maybe not.” She steers me towards a door on the other side of the room. “But it can’t hurt.”
Here I am, makeup-ed and my hair spritzed and coiffed—the stylist insisted my long locks should be down in soft curls and used a surprisingly small amount of makeup—and I’m standing on “my mark,” an “X” of black tape on the floor.
“Just do what comes naturally,” Ger says, patting my shoulder. “We’re looking for honest reactions.”
“Don’t I need another party for this?” I ask, my acidic tone a result of my nerves.
Ger chuckles. “You do. He’s on his way.”
I’m just hoping he’s not a stunt double for a hunchback. Lux stands off-camera, chatting with a “grip,” or at least, I think that’s what the woman’s called. A gaffer? I can barely remember my own name at this point.
In order to make me feel more comfortable, Ger introduced me to several of the people standing around in casual wear, some manning cameras and mics, others with clipboards. There’s not that many people—maybe eight, total, but it seems like a lot in this small space.
“Sorry that took so long,” echoes a deep voice behind Ger.
“No worries, Kai. Zi, this is our executive producer, Kai Isaac.”
I’m not a short woman, but Kai makes me feel tiny. If the man didn’t play basketball, coaches somewhere must’ve drowned in sorrow. His dark hair, wavy, in a rumpled, not-quite-styled look begs to be touched. Like the rest of the crew, he wears jeans and a t-shirt, and he moves with an elegance that belies his casual air. But I’m captured by his gaze. Smoky green and muted amber, with flecks of gold around the center, and when those eyes meet mine, there’s a softness that steals my breath.
“Good to meet you,” he says with a smile.
His hand feels huge around mine as we shake, and I struggle to find my tongue. “Y-you as well.”
“Now that we’re all here, we can get started.” Ger steps back, leaving Kai and me facing each other. “Remember: we want this to be honest, so try to relax. We’re going to roll tape, and you’re going to get started when you’re ready. And…action.”
Suddenly, the room seems too small and too big at the same time. Kai looks down at me, his full lips curved with a small grin. “Are you okay?”
“We’re not supposed to talk or something first?” I lick my lips, my mouth dry, and I’m wildly aware that I didn’t chew gum after eating breakfast. God, is my breath bad?
“Not really. The goal is to show what happens when strangers lose themselves in another person.”
I’m pretty sure I’m already lost. I trail my hand through my hair, nerves fluttering. How am I still upright? He steps closer, reaches for my hands. His touch is gentle, and he draws my palms up to his shoulders. “Pretend we’re in a club, and I’ve gotten up the nerve to ask the most beautiful woman in the room for a dance. You don’t know me, but there’s something between us.” He grins, both charming and teasing. His broad shoulders are hard beneath my fingers, and as his hands rest lightly on my waist, it’s impossible not to melt against him, to feel his long, muscled body against mine.
“I don’t know how to dance,” I whisper, then want to kick myself. With my hormones firing like loose cannons, anything’s liable to come out of my mouth.
“I’ll teach you.” With aching slowness, he lowers his mouth to mine. His lips are soft, curious, and as we explore each other, he tightens his hold around me, his fingers slipping into my hair. He deepens the kiss, his tongue sliding against mine, and he tastes of cinnamon with a hint of coffee. I can barely take a breath as I dissolve against him. His palm grazes my hip, seeking purchase as he presses me closer, and I can feel the hard length of him against my lower stomach. Some part of me is relieved: I’m not the only one getting turned on. A small voice in the back of my mind reminds me that I’m making out with a total stranger, but that doesn’t seem to make much impact. Or maybe, that’s the point?
Minutes—hell, it could be hours—pass, and we break away, both breathing heavily. I catch a faint whiff of something mildly spicy—aftershave?—mixed with him, and I want more. He holds my face close, his gaze seeking. Satisfied, his lips brush against mine. An invitation, and one I’m more than happy to oblige. This time, I guide our pace, mouths hungry and wanting, my hands exploring the hard planes of his back and shoulders. He answers easily but doesn’t push. Instead, I take us deeper, dropping my hand to his ass and pulling him against me. His mouth trails to my neck, searing my skin with kisses and small nips. It’s all I can do not to moan. His fingers slide beneath my tank, over the bare skin of my lower back, as his lips blaze a path over my shoulder and collarbone. My knees weaken, and I hold onto him as every nerve ending sparks with pleasure.
I’m ready to explode when he gently pulls back, drawing his hands up to my shoulders. “I’d love to enjoy you even more, but I’m not sure if you’d want that on camera,” he says softly.
The Cast of Tracing the Line
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.