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Open Wounds: Hope & Abel, a Love Against the Odds

AWWM contemporary romance Novella
 

CHAPTER 13

Abel sat across the table from her in a dimly lit restaurant, wearing the sexiest navy-blue button up and a pair of dark jeans. She sat back in her low-cut, white cotton dress as Abel eyed the deep plunge of her neckline. In her entire life, she’d never made it past a B-cup and had even considered breast implants at one point; but now, as Abel watched her body, a pink blush spread from her chest to her face.

“Damn, that’s beautiful,” he murmured.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Picking up her glass of wine, Hope took a large gulp. She needed to slow down—the food hadn’t shown up yet and she was already on the second glass. Nervous from trying to draw out her stalker, while getting to know Abel, had her soaking it up like a sponge.

“Just taking in my date.” He winked and took a drink of his water. He’d refused to drink, just in case Edwin made an appearance … and for that, Hope was grateful.

She waved the waiter over for another glass of water, as she needed to slow down, or she would be drunk in no time.

“Hey,” he called, his soothing voice calming a bit of her nerves. “What’s going on?”

Hope pressed her palms to her belly. “Nervous flutters.”

Moving the centerpiece, he pushed his hands to her, palms up. “Talk to me.”

Hope nervously placed her hands in his. His strong hands enclosed hers, the warmth spreading from him to her cool fingers.

“What about?”

“You,” Abel suggested coolly, sad it surprised her.

Mark had never once asked her a question about herself, but had been more than willing to explain to her his struggles at Merrill Lynch, or at the gym. She struggled to come up with something to tell him. There were so many things she could talk about, but where to start?

“My real name isn’t Hope.” She returned his shocked expression with a sly smile. In fluent Korean, Hope spoke her full name and where her mother was originally from.

“What?” His delighted surprise made her giggle.

“Yep, Gidae, but you would pronounce it, Gi-day. I changed it to its meaning, Hope, when I was picked on in school for its rarity.”

He gently squeezed her hands, then flipped them over, tracing circles across her palms. Electricity raced up her spine. Hope’s body heated, and her head went fuzzy. His hands were so sensual, she could feel the tension building between them. And never once had she flinched or run from his touch.

“Man, I hate kids sometimes,” he said. “They can be ignorant and hurtful with their words.”

Yes, that was very true, but her childhood had been too amazing for her to hold on to a few memories of bullies. She shrugged. “That all seems so far in the past. I don’t think about it much now, but I just kept using Hope because it was easier than constantly correcting people’s pronunciations.” Gidae was a relatively easy Korean word, but most Americans butchered it horribly.

A smile grew across his face as he admired her. “Wow, I didn’t even know you were Korean. Not that Koreans look a certain way. Call me crazy, but I’ve worked in a Korean BBQ up north for a few years and you look nothing like any of the ladies I worked for.” He laughed nervously.

“How so?” Hope wasn’t in the least bit offended. Her mother was half-white and Korean, and her father was of mixed descent as well. She was a blend of many ethnicities, a melting pot of Asian and European descent, and she loved all her attributes. Her dark hair—so similar to her mother’s jet-black, silky tresses—and her pale skin, due more to her ethnicity than her recent bouts of lack of sun. Her skin reminded her of her father. He’d taught her German, promising her one day to take her to Germany, the home of his father’s ancestors. The memories were warm and welcomed, and too often ignored.

Excerpt - Open Wounds - June 28th, 2017

Hope’s small body shook in his arms, and he wasn’t entirely sure what was happening. Abel had pulled the item from the box, but barely had time to examine it before she nearly ran them off the road. Glancing back at the truck, he amended that thought, she had run them off the road. His blood had heated at the slight glance he’d gotten at the sight of the lacey garment. Hope shifted in his arms, her face leaving the comfort of his chest.

She pulled away from him, tears and rain streaking down her pale face. “Sorry, I know you said not to leave the truck, but I couldn’t stay.” She grabbed her chest and sucked in air. Her body lay half in the water, half on a bright green patch of grass.

The summer storm had ceased, leaving behind the aroma of rich earth and the sight of his woman’s tears. If Abel hadn’t already been on his knees, the sight before him would have sent him there. He stood, taking her with him as he headed back to the car. Once again, he gently placed her inside. Rain water soaked her clothing, leaving them clinging to her flesh. Abel reached under the seat and found a flannel shirt; after making sure it was clean, he wiped away the rain and tears from Hope’s face. Thinking of how the box had affected her, he covered it with the flannel shirt.

The ride home was long and silent. As soon as they made it into the loft, Abel helped Hope to remove her wet clothes, dress her in one of his shirts, and put her to bed. He would review the contents of the box and folder while she slept because the alone time would do him good. He needed to sit down and figure out why he’d called her his woman and why the sight of her so shattered and terrified had broken his heart.

Abel sat at the table with the contents of the box and the envelope laid out before him. “Fuck.” He thrust his hands through his hair and cursed again. Before him lay a collar made of red lace and leather, with a small lock holding together the ends. From the collar hung a long, shimmering chain—similar to a lead from a leash. He shuddered at the thought of what Mark had used it for.

With the collar came a note, but the collar nor the note were what bothered Abel. Instead, it was the photos he’d removed from the envelope and placed on the table in front of him. Four, eight-by-ten photos, all of him and Hope together at the grocery store. The note, while vital on its own, didn’t concern him the way the photos had. Two were close-ups of his face, and someone had scratched in an X over his face and on the other they had written Get rid of him.

The letter—just as threatening as the first—made it clear Hope and Abel were losing time in the count down. With gloved hands, Abel lifted the letter and read it again.

 

If he’s touched you, I’ll kill him and make you watch.

I’ll give you to the count of three to come home to me—untouched.

                                                                   TWO.                                         

 

He picked up the phone and placed a call to the one person who could help him find the man in the video. There were probably very few men in the world who were still on good terms with their ex-fiancée, but he was one of them. When he and Ivy had gone their separate ways, they had done so amicably. It’d been two broken souls coming together, when there had been nowhere else to run.

“Hello?” answered a groggy voice on the other end.

“V, wake up. What in the hell are you doing asleep, vampire?” He chuckled when she yawned and cursed.

“What in the hell? They let you out of jail and you couldn’t even stop by?” He could hear the rustling of bed sheets on the other end and he wondered if he’d interrupted something.

“Just got out not too long ago, and picked up a job. Did I catch you at a bad time?”

“Hmmm . . . you could have at least called sooner. After all, I was the reason your ass ended up in jail in the first place.” Abel didn’t say a word. If placed in the same situation again, his actions would not differ. “Abel?” she called out in his silence.

“I need your help.” He got up and paced over to his laptop.

“What’s up?” She sounded more alive now, her sleepy state lifting at the idea of having some work to do.

“I need you to run some faces through your facial recognition program, then see if you can run it through the current and past warrants.” Clicking on the screen, he brought up the video of the intruder at Hope’s place. Freezing it at different points, he took screen shots when the man’s face was visible.

“Ah, back on the job?” she asked.

“Not back with the old job, but on a job, yes.”

The sound of excitement flittered through the line. “Freelancing? Even better money. You still have my email?”

“Sent. And of his tattoos as well.” Abel closed the laptop and made his way to the door to check the lock.

“Got it. What are the parameters?”

Abel made his way to each window, prudently checking each lock. “Criminal. This state, and New York.”

She hummed her approval. “That’s specific enough, though New York will definitely slow down the search. How soon do you need this?”

“Yesterday,” Abel admitted. Walking over to the bed, he watched as Hope slept. She turned over, nestling deeper into the covers. Quietly, he moved back to the table, where he’d set up his work.

“That soon, huh?” The sound of tapping on a keyboard came through the phone. “Okay, uploaded, and parameters set. I’ll allow this to run with an alarm that will send the results straight to your email.”

“Good.” He wiped his face as exhaustion claimed him.

V cleared her throat. “Now that that is done, did you want to talk about—”  

“No,” Abel said hurriedly.

Her sharp sigh was all he heard. “Okay then. Was that all?” her tone lowered.

“How much?” He knew her fee, but wasn’t sure if her prices had changed. He opened his laptop again and typed in his banking information.

“Free. Consider it a parting gift.” Though V’s voice held not a trace of anger, Abel knew her better than most.

“V, come on—” His words were met with a dial tone and that worried him. V never made idle threats, and if she decided to kick a person out of her life, there was no changing her mind. A soft gasp from behind him had him dropping his phone instead of redialing. He spun around and stood up to meet Hope; her gaze riveted on the items he’d laid on the table.

“Shit.” He reached to shuffle the photos into the envelope, but she’d already seen them.

“He knows,” she whispered. “I should leave. I can run. I don’t need much; I have jewelry I can hock.” Her eyes finally met his. “Maybe you can help me find a place?”

Abel had thought her voice would sound panicked or drawn, but instead, Hope seemed calm and prepared—as if a life of running was one she’d always expected to live. His heart ached, but he couldn’t let his emotions run wild or guide his actions.

“I’ve got someone matching the face of our mystery FedEx man with a name. She’s good and working under the radar.” He hoped this turn of events would lessen the shock and fear wrought by the array of shit spread out on the table. Removing the gloves he’d been wearing, he tossed them on the table.

“Good. Who is she?” Hope moved away from him and sat in his seat. She pulled a picture closer and examined it.

“She?” he asked confused. “A man delivered the box not a woman.” Abel placed a hand on the back of Hope’s seat and turned the swiveling chair around to face him. Maybe she hadn’t gotten enough sleep, and fatigue had messed with her memory.

Hope rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I know. I’m talking about the woman helping us.”

His eyes widened. “Oh.” How would he explain that? If she caught him in a lie, she’d never trust his word again, and that was something he couldn’t allow. But did he have to tell her he’d once asked V to marry him to protect her? “I worked with her—” he started, but the trust in Hope’s eyes made him stop. “Look, she and I have a past, but it isn’t like you think.”

“You didn’t date her?” There was no jealousy in her tone, just pure curiosity.

“Yes and no,” he answered honestly.

Her brow raised and her arms crossed over her chest. “What in the world does that mean? You either dated her or you didn’t.” Her nervous laughter betrayed her casual tone.

“You’re right. But she was much more than that.” Abel was thrown back to two years earlier with his client Ivy, hacker extraordinaire. Since then, she’d quit hacking for the shit company she worked for that nearly got her killed, and started helping him by freelancing.

Open Wounds | Excerpt

When the passion burned hot, triggering a primal response, their only choice was to explore it.

Open Wounds

Abel had been shot before. He’d been stabbed and knocked out, but he’d never been tasered, and that shit hurt like hell. He sat back in the chair in the darkened room waiting . . . Fucking waiting for Gator, or whatever the fuck his name was, to finish up in the other room.

When Abel had regained consciousness, and found Hope missing he’d done the only thing he could, and the one thing he couldn’t afford—calling Gator from the Blackwater Renegades MC. These were not men you wanted to be in debt with, but the panic in his chest and the fear in his heart led him into the lion’s den.

His leg bounced nervously under the table and he itched to palm his gun. Of course, that was the first thing he’d been forced to hand over once he walked into the clubhouse. Rough hands had patted him down, paying no regard to his injuries. A door flew open and the sound of loud music and squealing women spilled into the room.

Gator strolled in, leather pants, naked chest under his leather vest, and fucking barefoot. He glared at Abel as if he’d just pissed in his cheerios. Common sense be damned, Abel didn’t have time for another macho-man stare-down. He needed to get to Hope.

            “Well?” The word flew from him like a bark from a caged dog. “Did you find him?”

            Gator lifted his lip in an answering snarl. His sharpened teeth glistened in the dark room, and the noise rumbling out of his chest reminded Abel that he was not in Kansas any longer. This was Renegade terrain, and submitting to the VP of the MC came with the territory.

Abel grudgingly lowered his tone. “My woman’s in trouble. I don’t have a lot of time. Tell me what you want in turn for the information I need, and it is yours.” Abel didn’t give a damn what they would ask of him, as long as it brought him to Hope. He’d failed to keep her safe. He’d been too busy wanting to touch her that he hadn't noticed the headlights in the rearview mirror. Stupid.

            Gator glared a moment longer before moving to the bar. “Need a drink?”

Abel gritted his teeth. I don’t want a fucking drink, asshole. “No, man. Just the info.”

Gator lifted the bottle and brought it over to the table. Placing a glass down in front of Abel, he poured slowly. Abel vowed if anything happened to Hope while they sat there drinking, he would burn the fucking clubhouse to the ground. He glanced at his watch. Hope had been missing a total of three hours. For one of those hours, Abel had been sitting here—waiting like a goddamned fool. Thinking better of wasting more time with Gator, he made to stand, but the man’s next words halted him in his tracks.

            “We have your woman.” He said the words as if he were talking about finding Abel’s lost dog; unbothered by the fact Abel had sat here for an hour, thinking of ways to commit murder without ending up in jail.

His breath left him in a whoosh, and Abel wasn’t sure, but he thought he might puke. “And?” he asked, trying to hide his fury and concern.

            Gator took a large swig from the bottle of liquor. “The info you gave me was useless. I knew about this man as soon as he crossed county lines. It’s my fucking job to know shit like that.”

Fuck it. Abel lifted the glass and downed the liquid. His throat burned and his gut protested the fiery shit, but he held it down.

            “Where is she?” He stood, leaning over the table. In this moment, Abel didn’t give a damn about titles or authority. He wanted Hope, and he’d find a gun and shoot his way through this cesspool if he had to.

Open Wounds - Abel & Hope A Love Against the Odds Novel

Open Wounds

A Love Against the Odds Novel

Chapter 1

Hope

            Hope curiously eyed the gaudy purple and pink plastic engagement ring on Thea’s finger. Her boss held her hand up in the air and gazed lovingly at it while wiggling her fingers. Bright, adoring eyes met Hope’s.

Thea gushed over the ring as she continued the story. “And I’d given it to him as a gift, never once realizing he’d use it to ask me to marry him. He bent down on one knee, looked me in the eyes, and promised me forever right in front of this old building.” Thea finished.

Hope had zoned out halfway through the story. Not that Lex’s proposal wasn’t adorable, but Hope often found herself drowning in memories of the past whenever Thea brought up marriage. The idea was to leave the past in New York, but Hope was finding that extremely hard to do with all the wedding talk. She smiled, though sure it hadn't reached her eyes by the solemn look her boss gave her.

            “Oh, shit,” Thea exclaimed as she came around the corner. “I keep forgetting that you—”

            “Stop.” Hope waved a dismissive hand at her words. “You get to enjoy this. Lex is amazing and nothing like Mark.” Sighing, Hope crossed her arms over her chest. She hadn't meant to make Thea feel as if she couldn’t talk to her because in reality, Thea was the only person she had in her life right now who she could openly converse with.

            Thea’s soft voice met her ears. “I know, but it’s like talking about getting pregnant around someone who can’t carry a child. You want to be excited, but you also don’t want to hurt that person.”

            “I know, and that puts a damper on your good news.” Hope shook off the sadness threatening to overwhelm her. Thea’s engagement was amazing news and Hope was acting like a big ass wet rag. Pushing back the agonizing memories, she smiled again, this time conveying her happiness for a friend who’d saved her ass. “Let me see.”

Thea moved closer, placing the God-awful ring out for her inspection, a wide smile on her face.

            Thea’s nose wrinkled and her forehead dipped. “I know, right?” Hope looked up to her. “Ugly, isn’t it?” Both women laughed at the truth because the ring was fugly. Thea took her hand back and sighed dreamily.

            Glancing to the door, Hope groaned. “Oh no. I think today is going to be one of those days.”

            Thea followed her gaze. “Oh God.” Running to the door, she unlocked the locks and guided in the man with a bloody arm. Behind him, a crowd of people entered, some looking as if they would drown in snot while others seemed angry and annoyed. Hope loved her job and she’d always enjoyed the feeling of a good day’s work. The past six months, the clinic had been a way for Hope to temporarily forget the past. And since Thea had been kind enough to keep her employment hush hush, Hope had been able to work without the fear of one day looking up to see Mark standing outside waiting for her, but all that had changed when a state inspector had come and demanded to see everyone’s license. After that, Hope had applied for her job with Thea using her real name and back came the fear of Mark finding her.

As Hope took the first woman’s information, a biker the size of a mountain pushed through the doors of the clinic. Blood gushing from his nose. He held a hand to his side while blood seeped through his clenched fingers. Rolling her eyes, Hope pointed to the side door where the MC had claimed the waiting room as their own. Locals who weren’t affiliated with the gang sat to the open waiting room to the right, and the MC took residence in the small room to the left. He nodded his head in understanding and made his way to the door.

            “Ma’am, if you could fill this out please and I’ll be right back,” Hope said to the woman she’d been triaging before the huge, bloody man entered. Miss Collie was in to have her cast taken off, and since it wasn’t the least bit serious, Hope made her way over to the bleeding man who still hadn't opened the door and went inside to the MC’s waiting room.

            “Sir?” she asked as she made her way up behind him. Unfortunately, since Thea’s grandfather had ties with the MC before he passed, most of the gang came to her clinic when in need of medical help that didn’t require the coroner. At first, Hope had doubts, but then when she got the text from Mark threatening her life if she didn’t return to his side in New York, Hope decided that it wasn’t so bad that these huge, gun-toting men were often here.

            The man turned to her, dark eyes meeting hers. “Didn’t want to get blood on the door.” His deep voice and heavy Irish brogue caught her off guard. This man was new, or at least had never been in the clinic while Hope was here. Since she worked seven days a week, Hope assumed he was one of the lucky few in the MC to have not gotten stabbed since she’d been in Blackwater.

            Hope glanced to his bloody hands and then to the door. “Oh, okay.”

            Lucy, the clinic’s receptionist, burst through the doors, apologizing for being late as she headed to the counter. Hope started to open the door to the waiting room for him, but thought better of it. Now that Lucy was at work she could just take him back and get him stitched up.

“Well, come on. Let me see how serious these wounds are.” He followed her the few feet back into one of the rooms. Hope hadn't bothered getting him to fill out any forms. The MC members never filled out the patient information form and always paid in cash. Hell, Hope thought the clinic would go belly up without the cash the men brought in.

            Sliding a pair of purple gloves on her hands, Hope pointed to the paper-lined bed. “Have a seat.” Making her way to the cabinet, she searched for and found a pair of sterilized scissors. Normally, Hope would ask the patient what happened, but when it came to these men, the fewer questions you asked the better. However, there were a few she always had to ask.

            “You allergic to anything?”

            “No, ma’am,” he answered.

Hope was long past the shock she’d initially felt the first time she’d interacted with a MC member. She hadn't expected the manners, nor had she expected them to pay, but they did, and they weren’t raucous as she expected them to be.

            Finding the wound on his side needed to be treated first, she asked, “Can you lift your arm for me?” When he did, Hope cut open his shirt and inspected what she found to be a knife wound. Unfortunately, she was familiar with them in her personal life and had plenty of times accessed her own wounds and stitched herself up. His wound, like hers, was shallow and non-life threatening. A few stitches and he’d be fine. Then she could treat his nose.

            “I don’t need any stitches, Doc.” His gruff voice met her ears as she was bent down, cleaning his side.

             “Yes, you do, and you are getting them.” Rolling her eyes for the second time today, she ignored the growl emanating from his chest. At 5’5” and one hundred twenty pounds, Hope didn’t stand a chance against the mountain man, but she learned a few things in the past few months working here. The first and most important was to never show weakness or attraction. Once you did that, your ass was grass and the men, while not complete assholes or angels, played on those two emotions. Find one sexy? Well, you’d most likely end up on your back and his old lady. Act fearful and they’d talk you out of all sorts of shit. Hope didn’t have time for any of that shit. And while her ex-husband had put the fear of God in her heart, she was resolute in the fact that these men wouldn’t do the same. On top of that, she and Thea were off limits to the members per some scary man named Gator.

            His laughter pulled her from her thoughts. “Damn, Doc.”

            “Not a doctor, just a nurse,” she said, then winced. She wasn’t just a nurse and she hated using that word. Doctors and nurses worked hand in hand and Hope thought neither would be as effective without the other.

            “Well, nurse …” He ducked his head down, trying to read her name badge.

            “Hope,” she filled in for him just as she stuck the first injection of lidocaine into his skin.

            “I’d rather you fuss with my nose. My face is my money maker.”

Hope couldn’t help but laugh. This man, while not ugly, would be no model. His face held a crooked nose, lush lips, and wide, dark eyes. Maybe he could model tactic wear for the military? Hope glanced up as coal-colored eyes shined with mirth.

            “Oh really? And here I thought it was your great fashion sense.” Hope rose and plucked at the bloodied Foreigner shirt.

Glancing down, the huge man smiled. “Yeah, that, too.”

Hope set up her equipment and got to work. The man, who told her his name was Spooky, asked her out a few times before realizing it wasn’t going to happen. That should have been Hope’s first clue that her ex, Mark, wasn’t the man for her. Even from the start of their relationship, Mark couldn’t take no for an answer. He’d asked her out twenty-two times before she finally broken down and said yes, hoping to have a cup of coffee and call it a day. Back then, she didn't know that was a form of a systemic pattern of hostility, and she had been naïve enough to consider it charming. She’d been a damned fool, but had learned too late. As early as their first date, Mark showed signs of being controlling.

Hope finished up with Spooky’s stitches and nose, then sent him on his way. After cleaning up the room, she headed back out to see Lucy wrestling a line damned near out the door. Being the only low income clinic in Blackwater had them both working ten to twelve hour days. Hope jumped into the madness until the line had dwindled and the sun was no longer in the sky.

Before long, Hope said her good-byes and made the fifteen-minute trek home to her small apartment. Heading up the flight of stairs on achy, swollen feet, Hope froze when she made it to the top of the landing. There in front of her door sat a blue and white package. Hope’s heart jumped into her throat and her head went fuzzy, throwing her back into the past. After every beating she’d taken from Mark, he ended up handing her the very same Tiffany-colored box. She’d had so many different ‘I’m sorry’ trinkets, she was able to sell most of them in order to live in Thea’s place back in New York. Hope remembered every wound each trinket paired with. And on one night, when Mark had been particularly angry and giving, he broke her ring finger and then rewarded her with a three-carat diamond stating, ‘When that nasty mistake heals, you can where this.”

Hope opened her eyes, confused as to when she shut them as well as confused as to how she’d ended up on her knees in front of the box. With trembling fingers, Hope reached out and opened the box. Inside was a diamond studded choker. Beautiful white diamonds sparkled, surrounded by blood red rubies on a platinum setting. She reached out, touching the trinket as tears welled in her eyes. Covering her mouth, Hope held in a strangled sob. She didn’t want to leave Blackwater or Thea behind, but once again Mark had found her. As his face flashed in her mind, Hope had the sudden urge to run.

Instead, she reached into her purse and pulled out the Glock Thea had taken her to buy. Turning, Hope scanned the area, looking for Mark or anything out of place. How had he found her? She’d been so careful up until a few weeks ago.

The night was still; crickets sang and the wind howled. Hope turned back to the box, noticing a note tucked between the gauzy paper. Kneeling down, she used a pinky nail flip the card open and read.

I’ll give you to the count of three to come home to me.

 ONE.

 

Hope sucked in a deep breath, hoping to clear her vision. I cannot pass out, she chanted over and over. Again, she looked at the beautiful choker. Such an ornate yet delicate trinket lay in the box unaware of the message it conveyed. How strange that something so gorgeous was used to send such an ominous message. Because Mark’s gifts were always purchased in correlation to the part of Hope he planned to break. Hope dropped the gun, her hand flying to her neck.

Open Wounds - Teaser

Lightly edited teaser. 17 and up due to adult content and language 

Right as his eyes were about to close, he remembered something important. Lifting his head, he looked to her with wide eyes, then dropped his forehead against her chest. He couldn’t believe he could be such a fuck-nut. “I didn’t wear a condom,” he muttered, stomach dropping into a pit of despair. When she didn’t react, he looked up at her, only to find her eyes were still closed.

            “I’m on birth control from the clinic.” Her eyes peeked open and she patted his arm.                     “I’ve been tested, and I’m clean. You?”

            He let out a sigh of relief and sat up. “Clean, been tested too.”

Hope smiled lazily, her flushed cheeks a beautiful image. She lay before him, with her legs spread wide, and her devoured pussy dripping with his come. Abel took several breaths as his cock stirred at the sight. Instead of taking her again, he stood on shaky legs and held a hand out for her.

He tried to keep the regret from entering his mind; tried to keep it from his face. But in the end, he wasn’t sure if he could, so he pulled her up from the couch and led her to the bathroom.

            “You first,” he whispered once they were in front of the door. He stepped back, covering his groin area with his hands.

Hope turned to face him with a fading smile. “What’s wrong? I wouldn’t mind taking a shower with you.” She reached for him.

Abel took a step back and shook his head. “Not a good idea.” He’d said it in a harsher tone than he meant.

A flicker of hurt and disappointment fluttered across her face before she schooled her features. “Why not?” she asked with thinly veiled anger. “And why are you hiding your cock from me? It was just so deep inside of me, I can still taste it.” His dick twitched at the naughty words.

Abel cleared his throat. “Look . . .” He needed to get off this subject before he took her up against the wall, in the shower, or bent over the back of the couch. “We need to focus on the matter at hand, and—”

“The matter at hand is your come that’s currently leaking down my leg, and how I can have that happen again.” She crossed her arms over her chest, and Abel glanced away from the breasts he’d just tasted, mouth watering for another taste.

This was all a huge mistake, and it was surely going to fuck him over in the end.

“Go and shower,” he said, roughening his tone. “We need to talk—and not about what just happened—but about what will happen when Mark shows up.”

Her face paled and he knew his words had had their intended effect. His heart stuttered in his chest at the look of fear on her face. Abel took a step forward to reach for her, but Hope disappeared into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

Open Wounds | Teaser

FACEBOOK-BANNER (1).jpg

COMING JUNE 28TH 

To say that Hope was impressed with the new digs would be an understatement. The new hub, as Abel called it, was about thirty minutes away from the clinic, but it hadn’t been an issue since they were using Lex’s old truck. Hope peeked at her watch, noting she had a couple of hours before she needed to be at the clinic. That gave her time to poke around the fully furnished place, and grab a small bite to eat. Turning in a circle and taking in the modern place, Hope froze when she got a glimpse of the bed stuffed in the corner.  

            Placing her small suitcase down, she stared at the queen-sized bed in a bit of shock. She thought he was getting a two-bedroom place. “Is this a loft?” she asked Abel, who was busy setting up his surveillance equipment.

Moving closer to the hall opposite the bed, Hope peered down the narrow walkway, expecting to see another bedroom. At the end of the hall, one door sat ajar, and Hope could see the room had a three-piece bathroom set. The narrow hall led to a small balcony on the other side, and that was it.

Turning, Hope made her way to the middle of the room, and just as she was about to ask Abel to find them a place in which his half-naked, toned torso wouldn’t cause her sex dreams at night, he spoke.

            “This is all I could get on such short notice.” He knelt, fidgeting with what looked like a tiny camera. “I called in a favor and I have thirty days before I have to start paying rent here.”

Once again, she took in the loft and its exposed brick walls, sleek, black and white modern kitchen, stainless steel appliances, and beautiful hardwood floors. Hope swallowed hard at the idea of having to pay to live here.

            Clutching the bottom of her shirt, she asked, “And how much would that cost?” Born and raised in New York, Hope was used to prices that would knock your socks off. Something like this would run at least two grand in the city, and it wasn’t even as big as her boss’s old apartment, which had cost even more due to its prime location in Manhattan.

            Abel stood and made his way to the door. “About six a month.”

            Hope gasped and nearly choked on her words. “Six grand?”

            Abel eyed her as if she’d suddenly grown  two heads. “Six hundred,” he corrected.

            Hope blushed. “Oh, yeah. I forget I’m not still in New York.”

            He scoffed. “I don’t know how you could ever forget that in this small-ass town.”

She released the hem of her shirt, now that her heart wasn’t in her throat. Still, she understood that while she could afford this place, there would come a time when Mark would grow tired of playing his games and come after her. There was no point in signing a lease she knew she wouldn’t keep.

Hope watched as Abel rigged the door with his hidden camera. As they’d left her place, he made sure to mention the broken glass outside of her door. He’d warned it wouldn’t work as a deterrent, and it was hazardous to her health if she would have ever needed to flee her place in a hurry. Hope hadn’t said a word. She’d sat there thinking about what she would do when Abel was no longer around and she didn’t have his little gadgets to keep her a step ahead of Mark.

            “This here”—he pointed to the camera—“will trigger whenever there is movement, or when I send a signal from . . .” Abel pulled a small device, similar to a kindle, from his bag. Swiping his hand across the screen, he used his thumbprint to unlock it. “This handheld device.”

            Hope bent forward. “Nifty gadget.” She watched as the screen brought up a video of the hallway.

            “This is better than your average security camera. I use government grade CCTV cameras. This one here records sixty frames per second, resulting in a feed that looks like we’re watching live TV.” He tapped a button on the screen. The empty hall disappeared and in its place, a wide view of the elevators appeared. Again he clicked, and the traffic in front of the building popped up. A few people milled about as cars passed by.

            “Holy shit. It’s such a clear picture.” Hope moved closer to Abel, his warmth spreading around her like a protective blanket. She ignored the gooseflesh that rose on her skin; but harder to ignore was the insane need growing in her belly. What in the hell was going on with her libido? Since the night before, she’d thought of nothing other than Abel’s expansive chest, and his deep, soul-searching eyes.

She shook her head clear. There was no time for that, and he’d all but turned her down last night—even after admitting that sleeping with a client hadn't been off the table in the past.

            Abel placed the device down and turned to face her. As he moved, the bare skin of his forearm brushed against hers, spreading heat throughout her body. Hope trembled, and Abel—extreme gentleman that he was—took her reaction the wrong way. Apologizing, he stepped back. And then, as if thinking about it further, he took another step back for good measure.

Hope resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She was not some simpering victim who would never allow another man to touch her again. She was, however, a very horny adult who needed to get her libido in check.

When she looked in the mirror, she saw a different woman. One that Mark had molded and trained, but that wasn’t what she felt like inside. She still felt like Hope, and Hope needed others to see that as well. It would take some time, but she was healing. Thea and Lex had aided in a way they would never understand, and Hope prayed that men wouldn’t always treat her the way Abel was now.

Touched By You by Summer Evans

Touched By You
Summer Evans
Publication date: July 1st 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Rose Thorne had a perfect life. Beautiful. Fun. Vivacious. She had the perfect husband. And the perfect sprawling mansion in the poshest part of town. Until a perfectly viperous size three in heels walked past her Adonis of a husband and left her as sad and pathetically broken as an old country tune. After months of sobbing over her broken life Rose is learning that maybe “perfect” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be anyway. More than ready to get her groove back Rose joins her best friend’s gym. She’s bound and determined to learn to live again. And to be the awesome person she knows she still is. That’s where she meets her panty melting, personal trainer, Jackson Moore.

Jackson is used to women throwing themselves at him. He’s fit. Tall. Smart. And has a smile that could charm the panties off a saint. Rose Thorne is like no one he’s ever met. She’s brash. Hilarious as hell. She’s also a very voluptuous size sixteen. But there’s something about the saucy woman that sparks his imagination. Jackson is a good time guy, he loves women, he loves sex. Relationships are for pansy-ass losers. He’s got aspirations, goals, and a secret. A big one. One that prevents him from letting any woman too close. But Rose makes him want to throw his rules out the window. She makes him want to open up. She makes him want…everything.

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#TeaserTuesday | Open Wounds

    *LIGHTLY EDITED PREVIEW*

 He watched Hope eat like she’d been starving. What in the hell had her husband said or done to convince her she needed to look like a bag of bones? When he’d first entered her place, he noticed she wore sweatpants and a long-sleeve shirt. He’d thought it was to possibly hide scars or bruises, but now, Abel considered the possibility that her body was unable to fight the chill in the air. And there was a chill; the AC seemed to pump out freezing air, even though the temp had fallen due to the storm outside. He’d seen the small unit above the window and planned to check it out after dinner.

Another moan escaped Hope’s lips and his dick jumped. Shit, he was not supposed to be lusting after a client. Not only was it unprofessional, but it was flat-out stupid. She was in a vulnerable state and didn’t need him eyeballing her tiny, heart-shaped lips.

            Hope moaned around the last bite. “Jesus, Abel.”

Lost in his inappropriate thoughts, he could only muster a grunt in response. Abel wanted to adjust his cock, as it was uncomfortably bunched up in his jeans. Pulling his plate back, he used it to hide his erection.

            Hope’s eyes popped open. “This is the best meal I’ve had in years.”

            Looking at her plate, he noticed it was empty, and she looked like she wanted to lick it clean. Abel made a trip into the small kitchen area. Placing his plate on the counter, he lifted the pan of food and brought it into the living room, along with a spatula. Without asking, Abel scooped a second helping of lasagna onto her plate. To his surprise, Hope didn’t protest, but greedily started eating.

He smiled inwardly. Every woman he’d ever dated always rejected his homemade pasta dishes. One had even told him the body couldn’t differentiate between pasta, rice, or a cupcake. Abel had just served her a salad and waited for the date to be over.

            While Hope ate, he walked to the door where Lex had left his bag of supplies. Abel told Hope that they would stay in Thea and Lex’s house for the two weeks that they were gone, but he soon developed a better idea. He was going to start calling in old favors. Lex was paying him well and Abel decided that renting a small place just outside of town would be feasible. To his understanding, Hope would continue to work at the clinic, though he knew this was something that placed her in danger. But Lex had conveyed this was a deal breaker for Hope. She wouldn’t agree to a bodyguard if she was forced to quit the clinic.

Abel commended her for wanting to help Thea while she was gone, but he couldn’t help but want to shake the woman and remind her about the threat Mark posed. At the same time, he wasn’t one to hide forever either. Hope’s life needed to continue, and Abel was here to make sure that happened without incident.

Pulling the equipment out of his bag, he called over his shoulder, “What’s your schedule like this week?”

            “Five, twelve-hour days, then Monday and Tuesday off,” she answered.

Abel smiled when he heard the fork scraping the plate. He would have to talk to Thea about the next few days. He needed time to formulate a plan, check out the work area, and get a few guys to track Mark’s whereabouts. The last part would be hard since he didn’t work for A2 Security anymore, but he was sure he had a few favors in the bag there, too. Pulling a motion sensor from the duffel, Abel stood and headed to the door.

            “Where are you going?” Hope asked the second his hand touched the doorknob.

            Abel turned back to her. “I’m going to set this motion sensor up outside. You want to watch?” Her eyes darted to the window, no doubt eyeing the rain still falling. “I just need to go to the covered porch area. No need to get wet.”

            “Yeah, just let me get my shoes.” Hope shoved her feet into a pair of flip-flops.

            He eyed her little toes as she shoved on the flip-flops. “No, you should wear tennis shoes.”

            “Why?” she asked, slipping out of the bright yellow flip-flops and donning a pair of Nikes.

            Opening the door, he gestured for her to stay behind him. “Just in case you ever have to run.” He stepped out into the cool night air. Rain still fell from the sky and lightning struck somewhere off in the distance. He didn’t think they had anything to worry about, but better safe than sorry.

            “Oh.” Hope wrapped her arms around herself. “Yeah, that makes sense.”

            “Have you ever tried to run in wet flip-flops?” Shaking her head, she followed him out the door. “Good, because it’s damn near impossible.” Scanning the area, Abel tipped his chin to the biker perched on his bike surveying the area. It’d been a steep price to pay for one night’s service, but Abel thought it well worth it.

Pre-Order Open Wounds NOW!

AWWM | Adult Contemporary Romance

Open Wounds

Release: June 28th 2017

Missing Teal and Trent from Inevitable: Love & War? Check out Rogue in Love, the first of many standalones featuring Trent Reed's new employees!

If you could see your life from inception to your death, would you change things or would you let your death play out as fate intended?Abel is in search of only two things. A stable job and a safe place to lay his head at night after a mistake that cost him eighteen months of his life. As if fate had plans made only for him, Abel is offered a complicated job, and a chance to redeem himself to his old boss, from an old friend. And then he meets her…
And Abel adds another item to his list—Hope.

At only twenty-six, Hope has only ever slept with one man, and at her boss’s unsolicited advice, Hope plans to forget the abuse and degradation she suffered at her husband's hand by seducing and bedding the next man she meets. Only, after Hope finds a promise of death at her doorstep, her plans are derailed and only chance at staying alive rests on the dedication of her new bodyguard and her own sheer will to live the life she deserves.

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     Abel stood, arms over his expansive chest, an unreadable expression on his face. “I thought you said you weren’t defiant?” he asked with a glimmer of a smile playing across his lips.

This wasn’t funny to her; this was her life—always on edge, unable to sit down and take a true breather. “I’m not.”

      “Then you’ll have no problem packing up your stuff and moving into Lex and Thea’s place for the next two weeks.”

Hope sensed this wasn’t a question, but a thinly veiled command. While she didn’t mind doing exactly that, she did worry about her friends.

     “And don’t worry about Lex and Thea. They won’t be there. It’ll just be me and you.” His eyes met hers in question.

There was something about Abel that calmed her. Maybe it was his take charge attitude, or the fact the gun tucked into his pants would be used to protect her if necessary. She glanced down at the bulge in his jeans. Yeah, it was definitely the last part.

      “But what about when they return from their trip?” Hope worried. While she understood she couldn’t run forever, she was currently concerned with the danger her presence put her friends in.

Abel pushed away from the wall and made his way to her couch. Sitting down, his long legs bunched uncomfortably between the coffee table and the couch. Hope rushed over and pulled the table away, giving his legs some room. The movement knocked over her glass, and her tea spilled all over the table. Getting to her knees, Hope wiped up the spill.

“We don’t have much choice in the matter. You are hard up for cash, so we’ll need to take advantage of the offerings we have.” He leaned forward to help clean up the mess, but Hope shoed his hands away.

Hope blushed, never having been so embarrassed in her life. Having lived in among the upper echelons of New York, she’d gotten used to a certain type of lifestyle. With the money her parents left her, Hope had been set for years to come—until Mark had gotten his hands on it, that is.