A brief synopsis:
Mallory Ruskin had always wanted to be an artist. Her formidable years were filled with colors and textures and the desire to explore the world through her creativity. She promised herself that she would spend her life doing what she loved the most and was well on her way to doing so. That is before she met Rory McInnis. At first sight, their attraction was heady, she was powerless to stop it. One tragic night five years ago took away her sight and dreams and now that she has slowly pieced her life back together, Rory’s reappearance forces Mallory to face the fears of the unknown once again.
“Mallory Ruskin,” Rory muttered as he got down on his knees, the rag in hand. Sweat glistened off of his chest and dropped into his eyes as he scrubbed the trimming of the tub, wanting to make certain that he hadn’t missed a spot. When he was done, he smoothed his hands over the surface three times and stood, counting to three under his breath. He walked to the sink and turned the knob three times before turning the water on, rinsing the rag. Closing his eyes, he continued to count, bracing himself against the counter top. Seeing Mallory again had brought on his OCD tendencies and as the anxiety began to overwhelm him, he sought to alleviate them by resorting to his rituals. But even after three hours of cleaning his already spotless bathroom, he hadn’t found the relief he was looking for. If anything, the memories provoked the obsessive behavior, prompting him to move on.
Touching the knob three times, he then turned it off and folded the rag into threes before setting it aside. His next target was the bane of his existence: the carpet in his bedroom. He had to line up each swipe of the vacuum just right to make three perfect rows before he moved on to another section. If at any time he found it lacking, he would start over. One time, he found himself vacuuming for almost four hours in the attempt to quell the overwhelming anxiety that threatened to swallow him whole.
Exiting the bathroom, he shut and opened the door three times before he moved toward the linen closet, again, going through the rituals of three. It seemed to get worst when he thought about Mallory and the accident.
“The accident I caused,” he bit out as he wheeled the vacuum to his room. Plugging it up, he took a second to count to three before turning it on, the loud roar of the engine failing to drown out the compulsive thoughts. He’d hurt the one that he should’ve cherished. No amount of apologies could mend what had been broken between them. With each thought, Rory ran the vacuum in long strokes, taking care to line it up properly. Images assaulted him, the sensations of that night flooding him completely. A sudden jerk threw him off and he groaned when he saw the skewered line, preparing to go back over it again. He was a prisoner, trapped by the bounds of his OCD and convicted of his actions against the first woman he admitted that he loved. He was doomed to a life of misery and with just cause, he felt he deserved every second of it.
Just before he forced himself to start over, he felt a hand fall on his shoulder and turned quickly, coming face to face with Declan. The tension in Rory’s shoulders eased somewhat and he nodded, turning back to the vacuum. Declan knew first hand of his debilitating affliction but never used it to his advantage. Instead, his brother sought to help, just as he was doing now.
Declan watched helplessly as his brother vacuumed, feeling a sort of remorse. As the oldest, Rory exuded confidence, arrogance, and brilliant charm. Declan never fathomed that he would see such a strong man be brought down to his knees by something as humbling as OCD. When Rory slipped, Declan stepped toward him, ready to help, only to be stopped by Rory’s hand. Even in the throes of an event, Rory was too proud to allow someone to help him.
Declan took a seat in the high winged back chair sitting beside the bed and watched, the anger flowing through him at such an ease, it scared him. His parents had a hand in Rory’s affliction; always expecting their oldest son to be perfect, they drove him to the brink, shattering any chances of Rory claiming his life as his own. Even though he was the youngest, he felt he had to stand watch over his older brother, to protect him. Underneath that tough exterior, Rory was broken and it was Declan’s hope that he would someday be able to fix himself.
When the vacuum quieted, Declan stood and walked over to his brother and took the vacuum away from him. Staring into his brother’s stormy grey eyes, he sighed, not liking what he saw. “Have you taken your meds, Rory?” Declan observed as Rory took in three deep breaths and counted underneath his breath.
“I saw her today, Declan. I saw her,” Rory answered as he shook his head.
Declan groaned and took his brother by the arm, “We have to give you your medicine or you’re not going to be able to sleep tonight.”
Rory snatched away from Declan and turned away, “I saw her again, Declan. Mallory…she was at the art studio!”
“I didn’t know she’d come back.”
“She never left, Rory. You did, remember?” Declan led Rory to the bathroom and searched his cabinet, “Why didn’t you take your meds, Rory?”
“She is still so beautiful, Declan. Even though…even though she’s blind…”
“Yes, I know, she’ still beautiful.” Declan grabbed three bottles and set them out one by one in the same manner Rory would, hoping he wouldn’t rearrange them. Luckily, Rory hadn’t noticed anything and Declan picked up the first, taking the pill out. Once he had all three, he reached for a cup and got some water, handing both the pills and the cup to Rory. “She’s gone on with her life, Rory.”
Rory shook his head and popped the pills in his mouth and then taking a swig of water, swallowing the pills quickly. Lifting his eyes to his brother, he shook his head, “She was just so beautiful. More beautiful than I can imagine.”
“More of a reason to stay away from her, Rory,” Declan warned.
“I can’t, Declan. I can’t stay away from her.