Book Excerpt - Butterfly Tattoo by Deidre Knight

Monday, April 20, 2009

Butterfly Tattoo
by Deidre Knight
 Samhain, E-Book, Releasing April 21, 2009
About the Book

Michael Warner has been drifting in a numb haze since his lover was killed by a drunk driver. As the anniversary of the wreck approaches, Michael’s grief grows more suffocating. Yet he must find a way through the maze of pain and secrets to live for their troubled young daughter who struggles with guilt that she survived the crash.

Out of the darkness comes a voice, a lifeline he never expected to find—Rebecca O’Neill, a development executive in the studio where Michael works as an electrician.

Rebecca, a former sitcom celebrity left scarred from a crazed fan’s attack, has retreated from the limelight and from life in general, certain no man can ever get past her disfigurement. The instant sparks between her and Michael, who arrives to help her during a power outage, come as a complete surprise—and so does her uncanny bond with his daughter.

For the first time, all three feel compelled to examine their inner and outer scars in the light of love. But trust is hard to come by, especially when you’re not sure what to believe when you look in the mirror. The scars? Or the truth?


A loud banging sound jars me right out of my seat. For a moment I do nothing, remembering the earlier sensation of someone following me. My heart thunders, causing my chest to rise in quick panting breaths of fear. Nobody should be knocking on the bungalow door on a Saturday. Nobody.

Carefully, I step away from my desk and into the hallway, and glimpse a large stranger there at the door. He’s leaning close, shielding his eyes to look inside; I swallow hard to calm the fear, walking toward the intercom with cautious determination.

“Yes?” I say into the speaker, and the man steps back. He sees me and gives an uncertain wave, then hits the exterior intercom button. I don’t recognize him, and that he looks a little rough and slouchy only unsettles me all the more.

“Ms. O’Neill?”

“Yes?” I repeat, more firmly this time. Who is this man? How does he know me?

“Um, it’s Michael Warner.” He sounds vaguely apologetic as he removes a baseball cap and mops his brow. “Sorry to bother you.” That’s when I recognize him as the electrician from yesterday. I sigh in relief, and open the door a crack, though not all the way. Although he’s not a stranger, I’m still jumpy from the adrenaline rush.

“Sorry, I didn’t really think about how much of an intrusion this might be.” He gives me a slight smile. God, he may be slouchy today, but he’s even more beautiful in the shocking daylight, especially his eyes, which are an unusual golden brown color. He has the kind of intense gaze that penetrates you on the molecular level, and I blink beneath it.

“No problem.” I swallow hard. “What’s up?”

“Just wondering if the power is working okay? Any more trouble?” Now this seems like a thinly veiled excuse to me. All the feelings from yesterday, the sense that some kind of connection was forming between us, well it all comes rushing back, as I lean my head sideways against the doorframe. Maybe that way he won’t notice the scars so much.

“You know, it’s going great,” I answer brightly, forcing myself not to smile at him. Instead I hope he’ll see enthusiasm flickering in my eyes, even as I wrap my arms around myself protectively.

“You mind?” He gestures over my shoulder, toward the interior of the building. “You know, if I come in? Just for a second.”

Without meaning to, I stare back at him. Maybe because I’m surprised at how direct he’s being, or even more likely because I’m getting a really strange vibe from him. Like he’s interested in me, but not quite sure how to go about it. I wish I’d gotten a clearer answer about his marital status from Andrea yesterday. As sexy as he is, I’m not down with seeing a married man, and if he is married, I’m feeling way too much attraction flickering between us.

“Ms. O’Neill?” The brown eyes narrow a bit, as uncertainty flashes across his face.

“Sure, sure, come on in,” I rush to say, opening the door wide. “Where’s my southern hospitality when I need it most?”

“Back in Georgia?” he says, shoving his hands deep into his jeans pockets as I fasten the lock back in place.

“Let’s hope not.” I break into a true smile, and I feel the way the muscles pull at the corners of my mouth. God, why does he light me up this way? And he gives me such a glorious smile in return, one that fills his whole face.

“Sorry for being a little cautious,” I say in embarrassment. “It kind of weirds me out being here alone on the weekends, that’s all. It’s creepy quiet.”

“You didn’t recognize me?” He seems genuinely surprised, and I don’t want to admit that he looks a little more ragged than I pictured him being, wearing old jeans and a faded Harley Davidson shirt. Still, he’s undeniably handsome, with those keen brown eyes that transmit so much energy.

“Well, it was dark yesterday, you know.” I lead him into my office.

His voice gets softer, fuller. “But I recognized you.” I don’t know how to respond to that, so I nod, my ponytail bobbing rhythmically. I feel him behind me, his presence; am aware of his body and how tall he is, as he shadows me all the way into my office.

“Please, sit down.” I make my way to the other side of my desk. Maybe if I stick to my usual professional role, I can regain my composure here. I run a smoothing palm down the front of my khakis as I primly take my seat. Then, folding my hands in front of me, sitting very upright, I meet his magnetic, golden-eyed gaze. Oh, yes, he’s too beautiful for me—by many long miles. Plus, he’s got to be married.

Surreptitiously, I glance at his hand, but it’s obscured behind the stack of manuscripts on my desk. Okay, no answer to the Big Question yet.

“So.” I clear my throat. “What’re you doing here on a Saturday? Don’t tell me you’re this dedicated to keeping my lights on.” As soon as the double entendre is out of my mouth, I regret its accidental escape. Thank God Michael doesn’t even seem to notice.

“Oh,” is all he says, like he hadn’t thought about it before now. “Just forgot my paycheck, that’s all.”

He reaches absently for a paperweight on the corner of my desk, moving it from hand to hand, which is when I begin to wonder precisely why he’s come to visit me. He looks down at the domed glass, studying the picture within. “Your family?”

I wince because it’s an old picture of me, one that predates my attack. No scars, just me—as beautiful, I suppose, as I once used to be. “Yeah, me and my parents.”

He squints down at the magnified image, studying it intently. I notice the way the edges of his eyes crinkle into smile lines.

“Horse farm?” He turns the picture toward me, although I know the image by heart.

“I was raised on one, yes.” I’m not sure why, but I don’t want to reveal anything personal—at least not anything more than he’s already gotten out of me. Certainly not that my retired parents live just a few miles away, over in Santa Monica, or that they came here three years ago to nurse me back from the brink.

He returns my paperweight to my desk guiltily, giving it a reassuring pat. Again, I wonder precisely why Michael Warner has come to see me, why he keeps fidgeting this way. I try a new tack. “Andrea is a precious girl. We had a really good time yesterday.”

“That’s what I heard. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you did.”

“It was nothing.”

He looks intensely at me. “No, that’s not true. It was really important to her.” His voice grows quieter. “And me.”

“Well, your stepdaughter was an angel.”

“My stepdaughter,” he repeats, frowning.

“Well isn’t she? That’s what she told me.”

His whole expression darkens like a storm cloud. “Actually Andrea’s why I wanted to see you today. Don’t know how to ask this, so I’ll just do it.” Those words always seem to pave the way for bad news, and I tense immediately. “Did Andie mention her scar?”

I relax again, relieved to know what’s on his mind. “A little, yeah.”

“What about the accident? Did she talk any about that?”

I shake my head no, and it hurts me the way his face kind of falls. “Oh, okay.” He nods thoughtfully, the thick dark brows knitting together into a melancholy scowl. “I had hoped maybe so.”

“What happened to her?”

His gaze tracks back to me. “She was in a bad car accident. Something she doesn’t talk about much,” he admits. “Hasn’t talked to anyone about it, honestly. It was pretty traumatic.”

“I see.” I’m starting to understand now. I’m also starting to understand why it was so hard for him to come to me, the awkwardness in his approach. Without even trying, I apparently did what nobody else has been able to do. “You wanted to know what she said to me.”

“That’s right, Ms. O’Neill.”


I see him studying my scars: it’s in the slight, unobtrusive way the eyes shift sideways, then dart back again. I see it every day, especially around here. Nobody has the courage to ask, yet they all wonder what happened to leave me looking this way.

Michael rises unexpectedly to his feet, sliding his baseball cap onto his head decisively. “Want to go grab some coffee?”


“I’m going over to Borders on La Cienega. We can get some there.” Again the winning smile, accented by a single dimple that I hadn’t noticed before, and I completely cave. He’s got me in the palm of his hand already, damn it. I can’t believe that he’s seen the visible scars, but he’s just asked me out anyway.

“I’ll follow you there.”

The trouble is, if I’m not careful, I know I just might follow him anywhere. Oh, please, please, don’t be married, Michael Warner.


"Heard this one's interesting." From the shelf, he removes a face-out copy of Julian Kingsley's recent novel Beautiful, But Me. What editorial genius thought that title was a good idea?

“I don’t care for the guy.”

He turns to me in clear surprise. “You know him?”

“Well.” I sigh, taking the book out of his hand, studying the expensively designed dust jacket, inlaid with gold foil. “Let’s just say he broke my best friend’s heart.”

“Guess she hates him, huh?”

“Actually, he doesn’t.” I flip over the book to reveal Julian’s disgustingly perfect author photo on the back of the cover. Another good reason to loathe him: no man should be so absolutely gorgeous. Who knows? Maybe this latest title’s directed to the world at large as a form of honest apology.

“Oooh, he does look like a heartbreaker.” He gives a strange kind of laugh that I don’t quite know how to read. I think of Trevor’s first assessment of Michael, that he was gay. Because I can’t imagine that most straight guys would describe Julian as a “heartbreaker”.

Once again, I cast a covert glance at his ring finger, curious. Only this time I don’t like what I see—a silver band glinting beneath the streamlined bookstore lights. “Would your wife think so, too?”

“I’m sorry?” The bushy dark eyebrows draw together in genuine confusion.

“Your wife,” I repeat firmly, this time gesturing toward his hand. “You are married, right?” I ask, folding my arms across my chest. No guy’s going to play me, no sir. “You’ve got a wedding band on, after all.”

He stares down at his hand, extending his fingers as if he’s never noticed the ring before, and I’m cool as possible, proud of myself for having been a smart girl, until he answers softly, “Uh, widowed. Actually.”

“Oh, God. I’m so sorry,” I blurt, feeling embarrassed and sad all at once. Sad because of the dark pain that fills his eyes. It’s so obvious, only a fool could miss it.

“No, I’m glad you asked.” He picks up another copy of Julian’s book absently. “Wouldn’t want you to think I was playing around or anything.”

“I didn’t.”

“’Cause I’m not that kind of guy,” he presses, offering me a gentle smile. The thing is, I don’t know precisely what kind of guy he is. A melancholy one. A beautiful one. My kind of guy… maybe. With that quiet realization, I give my ponytail an anxious tug as he leans close, lowering his voice. “But that doesn’t explain what you’re doing, Rebecca O’Neill.”


He gestures toward the floor, at my sandal-clad feet. “You’re clearly off the market.” I stare down, confused, until I realize he’s pointing at my silver toe ring, a series of hearts knit together, circling my second digit. “You’re wearing a band, yet you’re talking to me in a bookstore.” He laughs low and throatily. “Unchaperoned, at that.”

“We’re downright risqué.”

“So that is your ring toe?” he asks, studying me closely. “Like your ring finger?”

“Oh, the same general rules apply for feet.” I giggle, staring at the floor. “My foot is happily spoken for, thank you very much.”

“Who’s the lucky guy? He wearing a band inside his loafer? Did the pair of you run off to Vegas together?”

“Who says it’s a wedding ring?” I tease, avoiding his gaze. “Maybe Foot is only engaged.”

“True,” he observes. “Foot is very sexy, so I can’t blame the guy, but I do think she’s worthy of true commitment.”

I haven’t felt this beautiful in years.

I glance upward shyly. Lord, he’s tall, too—I hadn’t realized just how tall until now, when I find myself craning upward to meet his dark gaze. “Truth is,” I say, rising to my full five feet two inches of height. “Toe thinks she’s Cinderella, and she’s still searching for her glass slipper.”

“It’s good to dream,” he says, but sadness veils his eyes again despite our repartee. I wonder if his wife loved fairy tales. I wonder if she believed in happily-ever-after, like I used to once upon a time.

And I wonder if it’s still good for me to dream. Because standing here with Michael Warner, some lost part of me thinks that maybe it is.

“Do you?” I ask, surprising even myself with my directness. “Dream, I mean?”

A scowl forms on his face as he considers my question in silence. Moments spread out, long and eternal, until I wonder if he’ll ever reply.

He removes his baseball cap, slapping it again into his palm with a sigh. “I used to, yeah,” he answers thoughtfully. “But not anymore.” It’s all he says, and then he walks away from me, ambling toward the coffee bar, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such heaviness on anyone’s shoulders before.

For some reason, watching his retreat makes me recall a bit of wisdom my daddy’s always quoted to me. Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

Daddy would say we’re two virtual strangers with the exact same disease.

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1 People said

  1. I have two books on my shelf that are by this author. It's part of a series. I'll be starting the first one next week. I had no idea Knight has so many books out there. This is way cool! Love this genre!


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