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Torn Canvas, #2

Torn Canvas, #2

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When the spotlight meets the shadows, can love illuminate the way?

Jori Virtanen, once a playboy model, is emotionally scarred even before a pirate attack changes his life. He retreats into art and anonymity, catching the eye of Olivia Howard, an ethically-driven talk-show host. Intrigued by an unsung act of heroism, she searches him out. Can she help him find love and inner beauty, or will his past keep him forever scarred?

Main Tropes

  • Bad Boy Redemption
  • Scar
  • Friends to Lovers

Synopsis

When the spotlight meets the shadows, can love illuminate the way?

Jori Virtanen learned the devastating power of beauty and betrayal at fifteen, shattering his family and turning him into a reckless playboy model. When his world is attacked again, this time by modern-day pirates, he's thrust into a life-altering odyssey of recovery and soul-searching. As he seeks sanctuary and a new identity as an artist, he grapples with guilt, isolation, and the deep emotional scars that go far beyond his physical disfigurement.

Enter Olivia Howard, an ethically driven talk-show host. She’s put off by Jori’s bad-boy reputation but intrigued after hearing about a little-known act of heroism, especially when she finds he has just survived a horrific pirate attack. When he retreats from the public eye, Olivia’s quest to understand the man behind the scar intensifies.

Can she help a Jori—the man who once reveled in his physical beauty while hiding an inner beast—to find love and the beauty within his soul? Or will he remain trapped in the scars of his past?

Intro Into Chapter One

Olivia leaned against the corner of the office wall, her forehead pressed against the window. She had to get a grip before the meeting with the general manager.

The view of the Manhattan buildings from her office, so different from anything she had experienced as a child, usually soothed her. Far below, the light changed, and the crowd that had gathered at the corner crossed the street. People scurrying along in their busy lives. Real people with real problems.

Certainly not the kinds of problems Olivia had been facing lately. In the beginning, she had thought giving up a normal life to be at the top of her field worth the sacrifice. Now she wasn’t so sure. Her new celebrity status was actually getting in the way of her doing her job the way she wanted to. Even a simple visit to the grocery store meant camouflage, unless she wanted a fifteen-minute excursion to turn into a two-hour autographing session. How was she supposed to connect with people who were starstruck?
People recognizing her in public, an email stalker sending threatening messages, and no personal life. Not what she had imagined and not anything the network manager cared about.

Closing her eyes, Olivia relaxed her fingers and took a deep breath. She straightened, smoothed her skirt, and returned to her desk. Spread out on it were the photos of six up-and-coming models. Three men and three women. Frivolous lightweights, if her staff’s research was to be believed.

Olivia took another calming breath and picked up one of the photos. Was she being unfair, judgmental? The man was definitely hot with his blond, almost white, hair and light gray eyes. Add his nicely sculpted body and he was the most physically attractive of the group of beautiful models. His reputation was also the worst of them all. From the report, a man who used his looks to take advantage of women. Despicable. Beauty with no substance. How cliché. And they wanted her to interview the lot. Gag.

Then why did she keep coming back to his picture? Olivia tilted the photo for better light and leaned in for a closer look. There was something more behind his smiling face. Something in his eyes. It teased her, made her think there was more to him than the stories of his escapades. That something was the story Olivia wanted to do; she was sure of it.

The general manager kept insisting on more trending stories, more sensational topics. Why? He had known the kinds of stories Olivia did when he had offered her the contract last year. Surrendering now to his brain fluff would turn her show into just another trash tabloid talk show like a dozen others. Shows that catered to some of the worst aspects of human nature—selfishness, envy, greed, domination. Olivia shuddered. She would walk away from her contract first.

“Give me something, please!” A groan rose from her chest. Rather than crush the picture, she dropped it.

An older woman popped her head in the door. “Did you call, Ms. Howard?”

“No.” Olivia dropped into her chair. How had her entire career come to rest on this pathetic group?

“Ms. Howard, José’s here. I know you’ve got a meeting in fifteen minutes—”

“Send him in.” His job title might be fact checker, but his experience as a private investigator had made him much more. This might be just what she needed.

The wiry Hispanic man tipped his head, brushing aside a strand of graying hair. At his grin, her pulse quickened. He had something for her. Please let it be about one of the models. Olivia’s eyes flicked to the blond man’s picture. Let her instincts about him be right.

“What have you got?” she asked.

“I think you’re going to like this.”

“Just tell me.” The man had an aggravating tendency to tease, especially when it was information he knew Olivia wanted.

José set a neat folder in front of her and took a seat in the chair on the other side of the desk. Olivia opened the file and hesitated at the newspaper headline. Some kind of accident? She glanced up.

“Just read on, Ms. Howard. I’ve got something else for you before you’re done.”

Olivia checked her watch. Ten minutes until her meeting. She began skimming the page. Driver fell asleep—crashed her car into train barriers—car stuck on tracks—driver crawled out broken window. Olivia straightened. A set of twins had been trapped in the car seats in the back.

“Look at these before you read any further.” José placed a stack of printed papers on her desk, keeping one back.

“José, I’m running out of time.” He pointed at the pictures. If he wasn’t so good at what he did ….

Olivia quickly shifted to the grainy photos that showed a man trying to open the car’s doors. She vaguely remembered the story from late last summer. In spite of the approaching train, the stranger had crawled inside the car and pulled out the children, one at a time. The mother had reported that he and one of her children had almost been struck by flying debris as the train hit the car. The man had checked the child in his arms, made sure the mother and other child were fine, and jogged away.

“This is my kind of story.” Olivia shook her head, her frustration increasing. “But there’s no one to interview. And I’d also like to know what that idiot with the camera was doing taking pictures instead of helping.” She stood, her heart sick. “I have to go.”

“Maybe you do have an interview.” Grinning, José handed her a final picture.

Her hands shook a little as she stared at the photo of a man with pale blond hair holding a child and looking over his shoulder. She picked up the model shot. It was him.

“Why didn’t this come out before?”

“My source wouldn’t say. My guess is that when he showed it to other people, they asked the same thing you did.” José shrugged. “By the way, I already called this Jori Virtanen’s agency.”

“Your-ee?” She checked the name at the bottom of the picture again.

“He’s Finnish, so it’s a soft “j.” Not a cool Spanish “h” like mine. Virtanen’s on a long cruise. Won’t be back for a few weeks.”

“Perfect.” This would give Olivia an excuse to put off the fluff show while she did research about this unlikely hero. To the network, it was all about ratings. She straightened her suit and, with a hint of a smile, headed to her meeting with the general manager.

***

Jori was getting really tired of people pointing guns at him. He staggered a little, struggling to keep his balance on the small catamaran. The swells had to be at least ten feet high. They were lucky no one had fallen from the rope ladder hanging from the larger vessel. The rough seas made his stomach knot, almost as much as their captors did.

He kept expecting to wake up or for someone to jump out with a camera and tell them it was all a gag, a sick joke. Crewmembers on snorkeling excursions weren’t supposed to kill their captain and kidnap twenty passengers.

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