AROUSE (A Spiral of Bliss Novel)
We promised each other a sweet, hot forever. Then we found out what happens after "happily ever after."
Brilliant, handsome professor Dean West is everything I've ever wanted, but didn't think I would have. My troubled past left me wary and guarded. But when Dean rescued me from mix-up with college courses, the spark between us turned into a firestorm. As he taught me about desire and trust, this warm, sexy man always kept me safe.
And for three years, our hot, loving marriage has been unbreakable.
Or so I thought.
Then one simple question provokes an alarming chain of events that threatens to tear us apart forever.
Not once have I believed Dean would lie to me...until he does.
Not once have I believed I would betray him...until I do.
Not once have I believed we would ever be apart...until we are.
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“Nina Lane has written an amazing story that will resonate with every reader... A journey of one couple’s spiral into a world of jealousy and betrayal, hidden secrets, and the raw purity of first love.” —Sandy, The Reading Cafe
“5 breathtaking stars... It was moving, emotional, warm, tender, funny, sensual, gut-wrenching and I became absolutely and completely invested in Liv and Dean.” —Jenny, TotallyBooked Blog
“5 amazing stars... I loved this author’s style of writing; it was beautiful and vivid and made for compulsive reading... Be ready to feel every single emotion possible.” —Gitte, TotallyBooked Blog
“Arouse is achingly beautiful in its intensity... If you are on the lookout for a read that provides a great, thoughtful story combined with enticing as well as fierce sex scenes then look no further. You have found it.” —Baba, Goodreads
“The author completely drew me into Dean and Olivia’s story, as well as their lives... From beginning to end, the journey is riveting.” —Yesi, Reviewer with Literati Literature Lovers
“Nina Lane knows how to create characters whose actions and feelings make a lasting connection with the reader.” —Bridget, My Secret Romance Book Reviews
“I fell in love with Dean and Liv. As a couple, they stole my heart. I loved them, individually and together.” —Aestas Book Blog
“Nina Lane wrote the perfectly imperfect love story.” —Sheri Zilinskas, Reading DelightZ
“Beautifully written, introspective... For me, a fantastic read.” —Maryse’s Book Blog
“This book right here is why I love to read.” —Brandi, Sugar and Spice Book Reviews
The promise of autumn is in the air. Breezes sweep from the surface of the lake, trees rustle, and ducks waddle along the beaches. The tourists are leaving town, and university students bustle around with their backpacks and laptops. Dean is mired in planning fall semester classes, advising, department meetings, committees. We talk, but not about anything important. Not about us.
I’ve agreed to work three days a week at The Happy Booker, and I volunteer for a few hours at the public library and the Mirror Lake Historical Museum. After an afternoon spent organizing an exhibition on colonial currency, I stop at a coffeehouse for a mocha. The scent of roasting coffee beans makes me think of my first few months with Dean.
I was twenty-four years old and had been accepted to the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a transfer student. I’d spent the previous three years in rural Wisconsin, working at a clothing store and taking night courses at a community college to earn transfer credits.
When my application was accepted at the UW, I’d packed up everything I owned and moved to Madison to start what I hoped would be a new life. The day I registered for classes, a woman at the registrar’s office gave me a hard time about the transferability of my community college work.
I was upset, trying not to cry while pleading with Mrs. Russell to work out a solution.
“There must be something we can do,” I said.
“Miss Winter, the courses you took won’t cover the requirements,” she informed me.
“But I wouldn’t have taken them otherwise. If I can’t get them to transfer, it puts me behind an entire semester.”
“Look.” Mrs. Russell swept the papers into a stack and pushed them toward me. “It’s all in the catalog, if you have questions. We can’t retroactively allow the credits to transfer.”
“I’m not asking you to do it retroactively!” I said. “This is my first semester here, and I’m trying to get my courses in order. If I have to take another foreign language translation class, then I’m already behind. And those classes are full already anyway.”
“The courses you took aren’t equivalent to the requirements for your academic program.” Mrs. Russell glanced pointedly at the line of students behind me. “I’m afraid I can’t help you.”
I blinked back tears, refusing to budge. “Why would they have told me the credits would transfer if they’re not equivalent?”
Then a tall, handsome man approached from another section of the office, his dark eyes fixed on me, his deep voice rolling over my skin like a wave of heat on a cold winter night.
“Can I help with this?” he asked.
My breath stopped in my throat. The sight of him jolted something loose inside me, and for an instant I could only stare at him, struck by the sharp, masculine planes of his face, the steadiness of his expression, his aura of complete control and self-possession.
He was wearing black trousers and a navy blue shirt open at the collar to reveal a V of taut, tanned skin. His hair shone under the fluorescent lights, and I was seized by a sudden urge to tunnel my fingers through the strands to see if they felt as thick and soft as they looked.
Unnerved, I jerked my attention back to Mrs. Russell, who was explaining the situation to him. She called him “Dr. West.” Likely a professor, then. I wondered what he taught.
Dr. West listened patiently, glancing at me every so often. “What classes are you trying to take?” he asked me.
“She’s a library sciences major, and she has to register for foreign lit translation and intro to biology,” Mrs. Russell said.
“But I shouldn’t have to take those because my credits should transfer,” I persisted.
“Make an appointment with a guidance counselor, Miss Winter,” Mrs. Russell suggested. “That’s all I can tell you.”
“By the time I do that, classes will already have started.”
“You have a couple of weeks yet to finalize your courses,” she continued. “I’m sure they’ll help you sort this out.”
I knew by the tone of Mrs. Russell’s voice that she wasn’t going to give in, and the hopelessness of the situation crashed over me.
“The professors can—” Dr. West started.
“Never mind.” Because I didn’t want to start crying in front of him, I grabbed my bag and left the office.
Halfway down the sidewalk, my vision blurry with tears, I tripped on an uneven piece of concrete and went sprawling onto my hands and knees. My open satchel thumped onto the ground, papers spilling out.
“Are you okay?” Then he was there, crouching beside me to pick up the papers before the wind caught them. He reached out a hand but stopped an inch from my arm, his fingers brushing the sleeve of my gray sweatshirt.
“I… I’m okay,” I said.
He could have touched me. He was close. Close enough that I caught a whiff of him, a clean, soapy smell that settled in my blood and loosened the knot of frustration stuck in my throat. Close enough that I noticed the size of his hands, his long fingers and the dark hairs dusting his forearm where his sleeve inched up.
Awareness shot through me. I dusted the grit from my palms and straightened. He stood between me and the street, waiting in silence for me to collect my composure. A few people passed behind me, forcing me a few steps toward him.
He held out my satchel, his gaze moving over me, eliciting a surge of heat. I pushed strands of hair away from my face and looked at him. My heart hammered, my chest pooling with warmth. I was shaken all over again by the way my body reacted to him, with this hot pull of attraction I had never experienced before.
Not for any man. Ever.
“Thank you.” I took my satchel from him and straightened the papers. All I had to do now was turn and walk away.
I didn’t. He was still looking at me, his hands in his pockets, his hair ruffled by the breeze.
“Are you a professor here?” I asked.
He was big. Not all bulky and heavy, but tall with broad shoulders, long legs, and that air of self-control that made him seem in total command. The wind flattened his shirt over his muscular chest, and I had a sudden image of folding myself against that chest and feeling his arms close around me. Safe. Protected.
Nothing to fear. Not from him.
I stepped back, not having felt this way before and not knowing where it was all coming from.
Why him? Why now?
“I’m a visiting professor for the year,” he said. “Medieval history.”
He was a medieval history professor. For whatever reason —the sheer dorkiness of the field?—this admission eased some of my tension.
“Oh.” I hitched the satchel over my shoulder and folded my arms across my breasts. “Well, thanks for your help back at the registrar’s.”
“The professors of whatever classes you need to take can approve your transfer credits,” he said. “You don’t need to go through the registrar’s office first. Get the course syllabus and bibliography from your previous college, and bring them to the professors to see if it fits their curriculum. If it covers the same ground, they should approve the transfer as a direct course equivalent.”
“Why didn’t Mrs. Russell tell me that?”
“She probably didn’t know. Professors have a lot of power.”
I almost smiled. “Even medieval history professors?”
“Especially medieval history professors,” he assured me.
“Knights on horseback and all that?”
A responding smile tugged at his mouth. “And damsels in distress.”
My heart constricted. Ah, fairy tales.
“Hey, Professor West!” A young man jogged up to him. “I heard you were teaching here this year. I was at Harvard when you were a grad student. Tom Powell.”
The kid stuck out a hand. Professor West shook it and made a few appropriate comments. I backed up a step, not wanting to leave him and yet not knowing how to stay.
The other guy kept talking. Something about a paper he was working on.
Professor West glanced at me. I had the sense he was about to make an excuse, extract himself from the conversation so that he could turn back to me.
So we could finish what we’d started.
I retreated another step, staring at the sunlight glinting off his hair, the sharp edges of his profile, the muscles of his neck, and the confidence of his stance.
Professor West was beautiful. He was beautiful and warm and wanted to help a distraught girl in a ragged gray sweatshirt. Even though his eyes seared me like a caress he hadn’t made a move to touch me or invade my space. If anything, he seemed to restrain himself from doing so.
If I could trust myself with anyone, I thought, it might be him.
Before he looked at me again with those penetrating eyes, before I could think of an excuse to stay, I surrendered to my fear and hurried away. I had to force myself not to look back.
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