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Blackwater Deceiver - Maxine and Blu

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Blackwater Deceiver

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A scoff sounded through the line, and she lowered her metal, instinctively ready to move on to her next trick if necessary. Seemed as if a badge meant nothing to the nun on the other end. “And for what? Who are you and why have you arrived without notice?” Okay then. The badge meant less than nothing because last she checked, detectives didn’t need to ring first.

         She narrowed her gaze at the camera. “I’m a detective, ma’am—”

         “Sister!” The curt correction blasted from the speaker. “And all visitors are to call and make arrangements prior to arrival. It is posted on the door.” With a sigh, Maxine turned and read the very small, out of the way sign that declared, “All visitors are to call and make arrangements prior to arrival.”

         “Color me educated,” she muttered. “Shall I come back then, next time with a warrant?” There was nothing she could do if the nun turned her away again, but that one little word always seemed to do the trick. She gave a hard glare into the cameras and waited. A buzzer rang out followed by the clank of metal locks springing into action as the unbarring of the entrance sounded, and she took in a relieved breath. Pushing the door open she stepped inside, noting that the locks looked newly installed. Is that for their new patient or just an upgrade? she wondered. An elderly nun in an all-white habit, with thick rosary beads clutched between frail-like fingers, made her way down cream-colored stairs. Max took in her surroundings of the Romanesque building. Cold, neutral colors with the scent of lemon polish in the air … yep, seemed homelike. She rolled her eyes. Still, this was an amazing place to hide a criminal. Getting information even with all her connections would be hard to procure—hard, but far from impossible. Maxine would find her fugitive even if it meant taking this gothic-like hideaway down one fucking brick at a time.

AUDIO COMING SOON! 

 

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Meet Abel and Hope

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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. Inger Iversen presents a standalone contemporary AWWM Romance in her best-selling Love Against the Odds world featuring Hope & Abel.

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Hope curiously eyed the gaudy, purple and pink, plastic engagement ring, as Thea held her hand up in the air. Her friend gazed lovingly at it while wiggling her fingers in delight. Bright, adoring eyes met Hope’s as Thea continued the story of how Lex had proposed.

“I’d given it to him as a gift, never once realizing he’d use it to ask me to marry him all these years later.” She sighed dramatically, as if she could barely continue without another squeal bubbling out. “He bent down on one knee, looked me in the eyes, and promised me forever.”

Hope had zoned out halfway through the story. Not that Lex’s proposal hadn’t been adorable and romantic, but she often found herself drowning in memories of the past whenever anyone brought up marriage. The idea was to leave the past in New York, but Hope found that hard to do with all the wedding talk and secrets she held inside. She smiled, but seeing the solemn look Thea gave her, she was sure it hadn’t reached her eyes.

            “Oh, shit,” her best friend and boss said. “I keep forgetting that you—”

            “Stop right there.” Hope waved a dismissive hand at her words. “Don’t think for a second I am comparing this to my own life. You get to enjoy this. Lex is amazing, and nothing like Mark.” She crossed her arms over her chest in frustration. Hope had never meant to make her feel like she couldn’t talk openly, because Thea was the only person in her life who she could converse with candidly.

            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 be insensitive and hurt their feelings.”

            “I know, and that puts a damper on your good news.” Hope shook off the sadness threatening to overwhelm her. “No more walking on eggshells when you’re around me.” 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. “Can we both agree to put my shitty past where it belongs? Way the hell behind us. Now, let me see this thing.”

Thea moved closer, placing the hideous ring out for her inspection. Seeing Hope’s reaction, her nose wrinkled and her forehead dipped. “I know, right?” Hope looked up to her. “Ugly as sin, isn’t it?”

Both women laughed at the truth because the ring was seriously fugly.

Thea took her hand back. “Maybe you should get out there and try the dating game again?”

Hope groaned inwardly. She didn’t want to hear the ‘just move on’ speech again. Because she had tried—with no success. After looking high and low, no matter who she ended up dating, she always found them to be . . . lacking. Unsure of whether it was her past, her inability to trust, or the fact that she was on the run she found it painfully hard to even consider dating anymore.

“Hell, I say the next man who walks through that door,” Thea turned to Hope with a calculating smile, “you ask on a date!”

            Hope’s eyes widened at the crazy idea. The possibility of her hitting up the next man to walk through the clinic’s front door was laughable. “No. I couldn’t possibly. You’re crazy. I don’t think—”

            “That’s right. Don’t think,” Thea spurred, “just do.”

            Hope huffed, then saw something out of the corner of her eye. Turning to look at the door, she jolted in surprise. “Oh, for cripes’ sake.” Ms. Collis stood there, angrily banging on the door, leaving fist-sized smudge marks on the glass—a line of people standing impatiently behind her. Good thing Hope had painstakingly cleaned the doors the night before. “I think today is going to be one of those days. Is it a full moon?”

            Thea followed her gaze. “Oh, God help us.” Running to the door, she turned the locks and guided the woman behind Ms. Collis inside. As she passed the front desk, she elevated the woman’s bloody arm and whispered to Hope, “The next hot guy that isn’t dying . . . ask him out.”

Hope’s face flushed with embarrassment.

            Behind her, a crowd of people entered, some looking as if they were drowning in snot, while others bled, or just appeared angry and annoyed. Regardless of the clientele, Hope loved her job. She’d always enjoyed the feeling of a good day’s work. In fact, the past six months at the clinic had been a way for Hope to temporarily ignore the past and focus on a possible future.

And in the beginning, Thea had been able to keep her employment hush-hush, paving the way for Hope to work without fear of one day looking up to find Mark waiting for her. But now that employment papers were signed and turned in, Hope’s worrying increased with each passing day. She shuddered. The idea of Mark following her to Blackwater had become a waking nightmare and a monster under her bed to fear.

Pushing those feelings aside, she looked up and smiled at Ms. Collis, who was handing her a clipboard with documents attached. Seconds later, a biker in leather pants—crazy, in this heat—pushed through the doors of the clinic, blood gushing from his nose. He favored his right side, and pressed his free hand to a wound seeping blood through his tattered shirt. Hope’s eyes traveled up and up the huge behemoth, until her eyes connected with his unconcerned gaze.

Shaking herself from the shock of such a huge man, Hope pointed to the side door where the motorcycle club, or the MC, had claimed the waiting room as their own. Locals who weren’t affiliated with the gang sat in the open waiting room to the right, while the MC took residence in the small room to the left. He nodded his head and made his way to the door.

            “Ma’am, if you could take a seat and fill this out, I’ll be right back,” Hope instructed. Ms. Collis was in to have her cast taken off. It wasn’t the least bit serious, so she would have to wait her turn as Hope triaged the more critically injured. She made her way over to the bleeding man, who still hadn’t opened the door to the waiting room.

            “Sir?” She came up behind him and he swiveled around. 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 when she got the text from Mark threatening her life if she didn’t return to his side in New York, she decided it wasn’t so bad if these huge, gun-toting men were there often.

            The man’s dark eyes flickered to the waiting room. “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 there. Since she worked five days a week, and twelve hours a day, she assumed he’d just been one of the lucky few in the MC to not have gotten stabbed recently.

            Hope glanced to his bloody hands and nodded. “Okay. Let me get that for you.” She went to open the door, when Lucy, the clinic’s receptionist, burst through the front doors, apologizing for being late as she headed to the counter. Now that she was at work, Hope could take him straight back, get him stitched up, and send him on his way. “Actually, why don’t we have you come on back with me. We’ll see how serious these wounds are.”

He followed her to one of the rooms in the back. Hope hadn’t bothered getting him to fill out any forms. The MC members never bothered with the patient information form, and always paid in cash. Hell, the clinic would probably go belly up without the money the men provided.

            Sliding a pair of purple gloves on her hands, Hope pointed to the paper-lined bed. “Have a seat.” She made her way to the cabinet, and found a pair of sterilized scissors. Routinely, Hope would ask the patient what happened, but when it came to these men, the fewer questions you asked, the better. “You have any allergies?”

            Dark eyes followed her movements as she worked. “No, ma’am.”

Hope was long past the initial shock of the MC members having manners. At first, she hadn’t expected them to be polite, or for them to pay, but they did, and they weren’t raucous in the least. It was extraordinarily ironic that men who looked like beasts could be so composed and gentle, yet Mark, who normally wore a three-piece suit, could transform into the monster of her wildest nightmares.

            After a quick assessment, she knew his side needed to be treated first. Asking him to lift his arm, she cut open his shirt and inspected the knife wound. Unfortunately, she’d dealt with stab wounds often in her professional and personal life. His wound was shallow and not life threatening. A few stitches and he’d be fine. Then she could treat his nose.

             “I don’t need any stitches, Doc.”

            Rolling her eyes for the second time today, she said, “Yes, you do and you are getting them.” Ignoring the growl emanating from his chest, she continued to clean the wound. At 5’5” and one hundred ten pounds, Hope didn’t stand a chance against the mountain man, but she knew the most important thing when dealing with the MC members—never show weakness. Once you did that, your ass was grass. The men, while not complete assholes, would play on your fear. Find one sexy? Well, you’d most likely end up on your back.

Hope didn’t have time for that shit. And while Mark had branded the fear of God in her, she was resolute that not all men were created equal. On top of that, she and Thea were off-limits to the members, per some scary, sharp-toothed man named Gator.

            “Piss and vinegar.” His laughter pulled her from her thoughts. “Well, Doc—”

            “Not a doctor, just a nurse.” She winced at her words. She wasn’t just a nurse, and she regretted saying it like that. Doctors and nurses worked hand in hand, and Hope thought neither would be as effective without the other.

            “Well, nurse . . .” Ducking his head down, auburn hair fell over his eyes, and he pushed the strands away as he tried to read her name badge.

            “Hope,” she supplied, just as she stuck the first injection of lidocaine into his skin.

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

Hope couldn’t help but laugh. This man, while not ugly, would not be considered a model under any circumstances. His face held a crooked nose, dark eyes, and wide-set lips. Maybe he could model tactic wear for the military?

She looked up, her coal-colored eyes shining with mirth. “Oh really? And here I thought it was your great fashion sense.” Hope plucked at the bloodied Foreigner shirt.

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

Shaking her head, she set up her equipment and got to work. The man, who she later found out was called Spooky, asked her out a few times before realizing it wasn’t going to happen. Mark had been persistent as well. He’d asked her out a total of twenty-two times, before she’d finally broken down and said yes. Back then, she hadn’t known it was a sign of systemic hostility; she’d been naïve enough to consider it charming that a man like Mark would be so persistent in wanting to get to know her.

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

Heading home that night, she huffed up the flight of stairs leading to her efficiency, and froze when she made it to the top of the landing. There, in front of her door, sat a blue and white package. Her heart jumped into her throat, heaving her into the past.

After every beating, he’d sent her the very same Tiffany-colored box. On one particularly horrific evening, Mark had broken her ring finger, then rewarded her with a three-carat diamond, and a card stating, When that nasty mistake heals, you can wear this.

 Hope opened her eyes, confused as to when she’d shut them. With trembling fingers, she opened the box. Inside was a diamond-studded choker. Beautiful, white diamonds sparkled in a straight line, surrounded by blood-red rubies, in a platinum setting. Covering her mouth, Hope held in a strangled sob. She didn’t want to leave Blackwater, but once again he’d found her sanctuary. The one place she’d fooled herself into believing she was safe. How could she have been so foolish as to think a man like Mark wouldn’t make her pay for leaving him? She was his possession—his toy.

Mark’s face flashed in her mind and Hope had the sudden urge to run. Instead, she reached into her purse and pulled out the Glock Thea had made her buy from a pawnshop. Scanning the area, she didn’t find anything out of place. How had he tracked her down? She’d been so careful.

It must be my new employment status. Thea had been paying her under the table, but the clinic received government funds, and in the long run, it could have hurt Thea’s clinic. So, Hope had made things right and her official paperwork was turned in.

Turning back to go inside, Hope noticed a note tucked inside the lip of her door. She pulled it out and flipped the card open.

 

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

ONE.

The next installment in the Teal and Trent series is coming soon! Preorder below!

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Forever is waiting...Rogue in Love: Lex and Thea

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Inger Iversen presents a standalone contemporary BWWM Romance NOVELLA in her best-selling Love Against the Odds world. 

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Well, be still my fucking heart. The organ nearly halted and sprang from his chest. Theodora Lee Scott was a sight for sore eyes, but why the hell wasn’t she in New York? The shotgun in her hand was completely another story. She held it level and steadier than he’d ever seen her hold the thing, aimed straight at his chest just like he’d taught her. One twitch of the finger and Lex was a dead man. He could only imagine what Thea saw in front of her. A man or creature from the lagoon had crawled inside what looked to be her bedroom window and ended up in her kitchen fixing a fucking sandwich. He hadn’t shaved or properly bathed in so long he was sure he looked just as rank as he smelled. Lake water would only go so far.

Shoving the shotgun closer, Thea moved her aim. “I said put your hands up.” Thea’s voice held a slight tremble of fear. No doubt, she’d shoot his ass if she had to, but Lex heard the small quiver and confusion laced within that melodic voice. It’d been damned near ten years since he’d heard it and even longer since he’d had the pleasure of hearing her laughter. Slowly, Lex raised his hands up and over his head. He watched as Thea released a breath and calmed ever so slightly. A smart man would speak up now because she’d at least recognize his voice—remind her of who he was, who he had been … and then tan her hide for having the balls to fall in love with someone else and leave him in her past.

Her eyes darted around, taking in the room and the food on the counter.

 “What the hell are you doing here, you damned thief?” Bold words from the woman who’d stolen his ability to breathe every time she so much as looked at him. However, he wasn’t a thief—okay … well, if life gave you lemons—but he’d never steal from family. And that was what Thea and Earl had always been for him. Earl had always been there for him when his father was locked up and his mother out with whatever man was paying for her coke at the time. Old Earl, steady and dependable; sure and strong. Lex knew his mistake the second he’d hopped through the window, anticipation eating him up from the inside out. His first stop once he’d made it back into town should have been Earl’s place—home, but even then, he hadn't expected to see Thea. She had left for college   ago with big plans for city living as a journalist or a reporter, a new man at her side and a fat ass rock on her finger. He’d learned her plans had changed and she’d fast tracked her way through medical school.

So, what the hell is she doing here now? At the thought, Lex glanced at her left hand—bare. Oh, shit, what happened to Mr. Three Piece Suit and his diamond? Lex made to reach for the pink and purple treasure Thea had gifted him some fifteen years ago, but the barrel of the shotgun in his face stayed his hand.

Lex cleared his throat, neglect and liquor roughing it up. “Thea … Thea-bear—” Her gasp gave him pause. He caught the slight tremor in her hand and the shotgun wavered and lowered a fraction. He almost smiled at her deepening frown from the use of her nickname. Of course, she was pissed at his ass. He left without a proper good-bye, and after she offered him her virginity, too. She’d run away, red-faced and teary-eyed at his refusal. No man would ever be worthy of lil Thea-bear, especially not uneducated, poor, white trash such as himself. Even so, she’d been a child. Too young to understand the gift she was offering or the fool she was offering it to. Lex took her in from her delectable head to her plum red painted toes. Just as he’d remembered her, she possessed her mother’s striking features. Soft golden eyes the color of amber in sunlight, smooth milk chocolate skin, and a riot of jet black unruly curls atop her head.

Fuck, has she always been this beautiful? He recalled the young child she’d been all those years ago and the young woman she’d grown into as he watched from a distance. Now, in front of him stood a beautiful, mature adult poised with a shotgun aimed to kill. And still, all he could see was her beautiful hour glass figure with a bit more weight on the bottom than top, just as he liked it, the spark of intelligence in her eyes, and the perfect way she held that damned gun just like he’d taught her. She’d protect herself, she’d stay safe even if it meant taking a life.

Lex lowered his arms and shuffled as she in turn took him in. What did she see? He glanced past her at himself in the mirror hanging in the wall. His blond mountain man beard tinted brown from lake water, his tanned, dirt smudged skin, and he for damned sure smelled. His once blue eyes were bloodshot with enough bags beneath them to carry the burdens he supported on his shoulders. Peering down at his clothes, he recoiled at the sight of a moth-eaten T-shirt, muck-crusted pants, and mud caked boots.

Lex glanced up to speak, to come up with some semblance of an apology, but Thea beat him to it.

Wide, golden eyes met his. “Lex? You crazy son of a—”

He chuckled, but the noise from his chest sounded more like a growl. “Watch that sweet little mouth now, Thea-bear. Good girls don’t cuss.” His voice lowered, his body laxer now that he no longer faced death by way of shotgun. Though Thea’s tense posture told him that she was not having it, Lex continued. “What have you been up to, girl? Don’t you have some man waiting for you in a church at the end of an isle?” He smiled, enjoying the slight wrinkle of her lightly freckled nose as she grimaced.

Holding the shotgun with one hand on her hip, she drawled, “Well, look what the dogs dragged in.” Tilting her head forward, she sniffed the air. “Ugh, what the hell? Have you actually been out rolling with dogs?”

He grinned, white teeth gleaming in the night. “Yup.” The sound of sirens blared in the background interrupted anything else he would say. Still, he noticed that she didn’t confirm or deny his questions about her fiancé.

Thea cocked a brow. “That your doing, too?”

“Them sirens? Last I heard rolling with dogs wasn’t illegal?” He shrugged. “But, maybe.” Silence ensued for a moment before she placed the shotgun down on the table beside her.

“Why in the hell are you here stinking to high hell?” He grinned again. “And why did you take care of your teeth and nothing else?” Disdain lit her eyes as she took him in again.

“Aw, Thea-bear,” Lex turned and picked up his abandoned food, “don’t look at me like that.” He hated when she was livid with him and though it was more times than not, Lex had honestly tried to keep Thea happy. Her crush on him in her youth had swayed quite a few of his choices, keeping him on a better path than what was expected of him. What was that saying about a good woman?

“How should I look at you?” With his back to her, he couldn’t read her expressions, but her voice said all—disappointment. “You’ve been gone so long, Lex. I didn’t even recognize you.”

At that he turned.

“Well,” he said around a mouth of turkey and white bread, “how could you?” He gestured to his unkempt body. Lex strolled to a barstool and plopped down. Stuffing more food in his face, he swallowed fast and watched as Thea cleaned up his mess.

Thea closed the jar of mayo and picked up the bag of bread. “And what’s that all about?”

“What’s what all about?” Lex admired her backside as she cleaned. She sure had grown into a beautiful woman, but he’d always expected her to.

She opened the fridge and shoved his mess back inside. Turning around, she crossed her arms over her chest and sighed. “I’m surprised you even remember me it’s been so damned long.”

“Oh,” Lex let his eyes roam her body, “I remember you all right.”

Heat flared to life in her eyes and she fidgeted under his intense perusal. With a spark of anger, she declared, “You don’t recall shit about me.”

“Shit, I remember. I remember you almost got fired for giving me free Colas.” Lex grinned. He'd been poor as hell back then, unable to afford a seventy-five-cent soda with his boys before they'd head up to the lake. Thea had always smiled, a sweet pink blush spreading across her face as he dug through his empty jeans pocket pretending to look for money he knew wasn't there. She'd always push the soda toward him, a conspiratorial smile on her soft lips. She'd been a little beauty back then as well—a mass of dark, springy curls, eyes the color of fresh honey, a slim figure he’d attributed to her tomboy ways, and the sweetest smile a boy had ever seen. But she’d been too young, too unexperienced; she was only twelve to his sixteen. Of course, he’d never looked at her in a sexual way back then, but now as she stood in front of him—tall, voluptuous, and, earlier, ready to blow a hole in his chest with that shotgun—his dick ached.

“A lot of good it did me.” She scowled and propped her hip on the table beside her. Crossing arms over her chest, she glared at him. “Abbot cussed me out nine ways to Sunday. And what happened to you? Not a damn thing. Paw Paw grounded me for two weeks behind that. Yet, you,” she motioned to him, “kept running with the boys, fishing down by the lake while I was stuck in my room the last two weeks of the damn summer.” Lex felt her ire. Those beautiful honey-colored eyes narrowed at him as if they could launch a missile. “After that, you never set foot in the place again.” She didn't know the shit he'd taken from Abbott or even Earl. No one believed that he'd gotten the cola past hawk-eyed Thea. He'd swore up and down he'd stolen the cola, but they all knew better. Thea had been punished and Lex banned from the store.

“Hell, I saw Abbott at the bar earlier.” Lex growled. “That Blackwater bastard is still calling me a thief. Shit, everyone in town knew me and my family were dirt poor. The second Abbot saw me with that soda, he’d come gunning for me, calling me all sorts of names and shit.” He wouldn’t tell her the same thing happened earlier tonight and that that name was pimp.

Thea grunted. “Then they should’ve believed you. They should believe that you would steal it since you didn’t have the fucking money to buy it.”

He had lied to Abbott, telling him he’d stolen the soda to keep Thea out of trouble, but no one got anything past her in that store, and Abbot had known the truth. He’d even sensed there was a crush brewing for Lex in little Thea back then and he aimed to nip it in the bud.

Once Abbott got it in his mind that Thea was showing any favor to Lex, there’d been nothing Lex could do. And admitting he was a coward, he'd been glad Abbott had banned him from the store. He hadn't had the courage to face her again. He'd never take a thing other than food to eat when he'd had nothing.

 “You are a damned thief.”

Lex eyed her; her words no doubt had their intended effect. Anger flared to life in his blue gaze.

“I ain't never stolen a thing from you, Thea.” His intense stare bore through her, heating the space between them. “Not now. Not ever.” He slashed a hand through the air.

He watched, confounded as tears formed in her gem-colored eyes. He craved to reach out to her, to hold and soothe her. He loathed her tears; his fear of hurting her was part of the reason he'd left in the middle of the night.

“But you did, Lex. You stole my heart and then left town with it. I haven't been whole since the day you ran away.”

Lex’s head spun. What the hell had she just admitted to him? He always knew she had a little crush on him in the past, but had her feelings grown over time? Was it even possible that his little Thea-bear still loved him? She'd confessed her love for him on a small, pink, heart-shaped piece of paper complete with a check yes if you like me. Lex had found the letter endearing. At that time, he'd been staying with Earl and Thea for two weeks and feared he'd fuck up a good thing if he responded; a warm home and food in his belly caused him to pretend he never received the note. For weeks, Earl tried to figure out Thea's sudden depression, all while Lex feigned ignorance. There was no way he'd ever been or would ever be deserving of her love.

Thea shook her head, tears tracking down her face. “Of course you didn't know. You never noticed me for anything other than Earl’s granddaughter and a free soda dispenser.” He opened his mouth to speak, but was greeted with a towel thrown in his face. “You stink of dirt and liquor. Take a shower and sleep on the couch tonight. I'm sure Earl will be happy to see you in the morning.” Swiping at her eyes, she turned and headed away from him.

He stood, and moved toward her. “Thea, wait—” Thea’s retreating form stopped, yet Lex still felt at a loss for words. “I didn't just leave.” She turned back, the look in her eyes conveying her disbelief. “I mean, I did, but it's more than just that. There was so much more going on, and—”

Holding up a hand to stop him, Thea spoke. “You don't owe me anything, Lex. And you never did.”

She walked away from him, leaving him alone in the dark house. Moonlight streaked the now empty hallway, her lingering sweet scent the only evidence left of her presence.

Dropping the towel, Lex used the wall to keep him upright. Thea admitted her feelings to him again, and now after ten years would he turn her away? Lifting his head, he thumped it into the wall. Again and again he did this until the image of her tear-streaked face vacated his brain. He never meant to hurt her … on the contrary, he meant to protect her from the rumors that would spread if anyone ever got wind that poor white trash such as himself had taken advantage of the beautiful, smart Theodora Lee Scott.

Smart. Pushing away from the wall, Lex made his way down the hallway into the door she disappeared into. Only after he twisted the door knob and pushed the door open did he wonder if there was a man on the other side of that door with her. The absence of a ring on her finger didn’t mean she was single, just that she was no longer engaged. The thought of Thea no longer attached caused his heart to pitter patter like a fucking teen about to get his first damned kiss. Mine! his heart demanded. The stupid thing always wanted what Lex couldn’t have. Calm down, man, that wasn’t a warm and fuzzy greeting she gave you back there. Damned his head for always making sense.  

Lex smiled at the sight before him. She sat on her bed, an e-reader in front of her face, a grim line on her lips, and her body encased in a cute pink puffy robe.

Thea lowered the e-reader, and eyes blazing she demanded, “What do you think you are doing?”

Lex couldn’t help but to chuckle at her words. As commanding as they sounded, her bright eyes and gloss-slicked lips called to him. Earlier in the day he'd thought to hire a hooker, his need outweighing common sense. But now as he stood before Thea in her ridiculously pink robe, fuzzy socks, and unruly hair, he'd never been happier to have been celibate for the last two years. While emotions ran amuck in his head, his heart thrummed to life at the sight. 

Thea growled. “You trying to stink up the whole place? What? You gonna mark your territory by rubbing your scent everywhere?” She stood, the pink monstrosity of a robe gaping open a little, giving him a small hint of her milk chocolate skin.

His desire flared to life. Lex imagined himself atop her, thrusting deep into her hot, slick channel and licking that sexy spot just above her collarbone, the taste of her passion driving him wild as he pumped into her. Shit, his mind had taken a turn. In the past, he'd turned her down for sex—her age coupled with his station in life a perfect excuse to let her go, trying to do the right thing—but tonight, the lines blurred between the right thing and the thing he wanted most: Thea.

“Yeah, I'm gonna mark my territory.” Entering the room, Lex eyed her as if she were his prey. His gaze leisurely made its way down a delectable body she couldn't hide behind that robe, and plus, he'd already seen her form hugged tight in yoga pants and a T-shirt. She'd no doubt covered up just in case he found his way into her bedroom. As his eyes met hers a spark of long forgone attraction came to life. Even in his disheveled state, his Thea found him attractive. She licked her lips, a nervous habit she'd expressed in the past. Though he sensed her apprehension, he also sensed the underlying current of lust and longing. How long had it been for her? How tight would that sweet little pussy be and how good would it taste? How wet did she get and did she squirt when she came? He’d have to find out. Lex took a step back. Thea’s disappointed frown brought a smile to his lips. She still wanted him, but he couldn't touch her with such dirty hands. Before she was able to speak, whether it was to tell him to fuck off or fuck her, Lex spoke. 

“All those years ago when you asked me to make love to you I said no, I knew it hurt you. But not as much as stealing your precious virginity would have. I’ve always had your best interest at heart, even when I was too stupid to know what that meant. But, let me tell you something …” He enjoyed the sight of her breasts rising as she took in each breath. “I’m gonna go in that bathroom, and I’m gonna take a shower, and when I come out I’m going to give you what you asked for all those years ago and more. So, I need you to be on that bed and ready for me when I get back.”

Without waiting for her response or even gauging her reaction, Lex turned and walked out of the room. Shutting the door behind him, he took a deep breath. He knew she wanted this and he damn sure wanted it. Desired it more than a dying man yearned for life. For years, he'd denied her, decided what was best for her without her input, but no longer.

Lex headed to the shower on edge. Tonight, he'd give in to her needs, and his as well. 

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Meet Ace, Gator, and Mutt from the First Sons of the Revolution MC, and enjoy the first chapter and first look at the spin-off featuring the badass, no-shit-taking men from Blackwater Rising!

And then there were three...Indelible

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A buzzing noise consumed Trent’s ears. The more he tried to wake himself from his dark state, the more a burning sensation flared in his chest. Unfamiliar voices rose and fell, his name called over and over. Trent searched for one sound, one name, one person, but instead found darkness.

On his second attempt to rise, Trent caught the familiar scent of blood. A light touch on his arm, and a soft, unfamiliar voice, coaxed him to open his eyes. This time, it was much easier. Bright lights blurred his vision, and the burning sensation came back in full force.

      “There you are,” a soft voice sounded from the left.

Trent slowly turned his head to gaze into the eyes of a pale woman. Her tender smile and bright gaze filled his vision, blocking the bright light that’d nearly blinded him before.

“Nice to finally see those beautiful eyes of yours.”

Trent heard a beeping sound, and realized it was a heart monitor.

“What’s your pain level?” the woman asked as she lifted the sheets covering him.

Trent looked down as best he could, then tried to lift the arm that didn’t burn to touch the one that felt as if it’d been set on fire. He tried to speak, but the sounds his mouth made were far from words. A gruff grunt, then a coughing whine fell from his lips.

      “Okay, I’ll take that as an eight?” The woman covered him up and picked up a white object. A thin tube ran from the white object in her hand to the bag on a pole beside him. Trent knew what it was called, he knew what was about to happen, but his brain wouldn’t let him form the right words to object. He didn’t want to sleep again. He wanted Teal.

The woman clicked the button, and Trent went flying. The warm sensation started in his arm and made its way throughout his whole body. He fought to stay awake, as he struggled to remember what’d happened. He opened his mouth to speak, to ask the woman to find Teal, but the black depths took him before he had a chance.

      The third time Trent woke, his mind quickly filled him in—Shayla, Jake, Teal . . . and a gunshot. In seconds, Trent remembered everything. Eyes still closed, he replayed the memory of that night. The wild look in Jake’s eyes, and the horror in Teal’s as he fell to the ground.

His eyes opened as soft skin met his, moving comfortingly back and forth across his arm. Once again blinded by the light, Trent spoke the first thing his brain thought to say.

      “T—teal?”

A gasp sounded before his baby’s dark eyes and beautiful face filled his vision.        Teal covered his mouth with her lips, stifling a sob. “Oh my God, baby?”        

      He winced when he tried to move. “Where?”

      “Do you need meds?” She lifted up the white object that’d put him out before.

      “No,” he gasped out through pain. He didn’t want to sleep again. He only wanted to hear her voice and know that she was okay.

Her wailing sobs grew so loud that Trent barely heard the door fly open. Seconds later, Logan stood above him. He took Teal in his arms and held her. Trent’s eyes furrowed at the idea of Logan soothing her.

      “Mother fucker. You scared the piss out of us.” Logan pulled Teal closer as her wailing grew louder. Trent loved his best friend, but he should be the one comforting his woman. The pain in his arm and chest was nothing compared to the ache shredding his heart.

      “Ple—please, baby,” Trent could barely think through the pain, “come here.”

Teal slowly turned to meet his eyes, the pain in her gaze breaking him. Her eyes narrowed as she observed him. “You lied. You do hurt.” She left Logan’s embrace and picked up a white object and pressed the button.

This time, Trent didn’t fall into a blissful sleep, but his pain did ebb, and his mind sharpened a bit.

      “Feel better?” Her words sounded louder now that the buzzing in his head was gone.

He tapped the spot beside him and waited as Teal cautiously, minding his tubes and wires, sat beside him. Logan moved closer as well, his stress-muddled face a sight for sore eyes.

      Glancing around the bed, Teal adjusted herself. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

      “I don’t give a fuck. Get over here.” He had to touch her, to feel her skin against his. Though he was wrapped in bandages and covered from shoulder to feet in a thin hospital blanket, Trent felt the moment her warm body made contact with his.

Through the haze of drugs and the confusion saddling his brain, Trent pulled his woman close. His left arm was so swollen and heavy it wouldn’t move, but he managed to grip her with his right arm. He took in her scent, noting the mild hospital soap and his laundry detergent. How long had he been here that she had time to shower and come back?

Trent searched for Logan in the room, his questioning gaze was all his friend needed.

      “You slipped into a coma after you first arrived,” he explained.

Trent could feel Teal shaking in his arms. He rubbed her back as best he could, as her tears soaked his hospital gown. He closed his eyes, hot tears scalding his eyelids, fighting for escape.

“You lost a lot of blood, and they weren’t sure if you’d keep your arm below your elbow.”

Trent couldn’t see what Logan was talking about, but he could feel it. The burning sensation was gone, but Trent couldn’t move any part of it. He couldn’t even wiggle his fingers. Panic welled in his chest, as he thought about what his life would amount to if he couldn’t use his dominant hand.

      “Calm, brother,” Logan soothed. “They fixed you right up. You’ll just have to hit up some physical therapy and shit.” He stepped forward and reached out. Placing a hand on Teal’s back, he rubbed, surprising the fuck out of Trent.

      Logan then knelt down in front of her and gently pulled her chin up. “You promised me when he woke up you would eat.”

Trent had never heard his friend’s voice take on such a tender tone with anyone but Katie and the babies.

      Teal lifted her head, her gaze fully on Trent. “I’m not leaving you.”

      “You made me a deal after I lied for you, Teal.” Logan’s tone was firm, but still held a soothing quality.

Teal rested her forehead on Trent’s chest. Her fatigue and stress so evident, Trent ached for her. He glanced around the room in search of a cot. Instead, he found a meal had been brought into the room while he was out cold.

“Baby,” he mumbled, hating how reedy and thin his voice sounded. “Go eat that food over there.” He didn’t want to let her go, but if Logan was insisting, it was because Teal had been denying herself.

Logan pulled the tray around and placed it in front of the bed. Neither man spoke until Teal had opened the tray and taken her first bite.

      Trent tried to get comfortable by moving, but pain stayed his body. “Shit, where’s Katie?”

Logan groaned and rubbed a hand down his face and Teal answered.

      “He wouldn’t let her come.” 

      “Not right away,” Logan jumped in, looking ashamed when Trent glared at him. “Fuck, man. I get a call in the middle of the night. Teal is screaming and crying about you getting shot and Jake trying to rape her.” Logan thrust his hands through his hair. His skin had gone milk white, and his eyes held such sorrow, Trent had to look away. “Man, you don’t know what it felt like to get that call, yet be so damn far away. I couldn’t help, and I just knew if anything happened to her, your ass wouldn’t survive it. I couldn’t bring Katie into that.”

Trent watched Teal as her fork froze in mid-air.

“And then when I got here, I couldn’t get her to eat or drink for two days. She passed out twice and had to be hooked up to get fluids in her.”

He growled. “       Teal.” Her name was all he needed to say.

She glanced sheepishly back at him as she shoved chocolate pudding into her mouth. Trent reached up and placed a hand on her side. She leaned into his touch before pulling back and continuing to eat.

      “So, why isn’t she here now?” Trent asked.

      Logan released a long breath. “She’s on the way. Jan-Erik has the girls.” Logan made his way to Trent’s tray and picked up the water pitcher. “I couldn’t have her here. Not until I was able to figure out what was happening.” Filling a plastic cup, he brought it to Trent.

      “What is this lie you told for her?”

Logan placed the cup to his lips, and sniggered. “That this is Mrs. Teal Lofton-Reed.”

Trent nearly choked on his water, causing Teal to eye him warily.

      A thought slapped him in the face a second later. “Where are my pants?”

      Teal’s gaze narrowed. “Screw the pants. Why did being my husband make you choke on water?”

Logan’s soft laughter had Trent wanting to bust his lip open. “Nothing, baby, but why’d you have to lie?” He eyed Logan as he made his way to a pile of clothes on a chair in the corner.

      “They wouldn’t let me in.” Taking a sip of her water, she turned to face him. “When I first got here, I was so out of it I was having a hard time speaking.”

      “She was in shock,” Logan added, coming back after pocketing the ring box.

      “They wouldn’t let me near you, and kept asking about next of kin. Logan was still on the phone with me, telling me to hand the phone off to a doctor.” Teal rubbed her face, a lethargic glaze filling her eyes. “He told them we’d just gotten married and that I was to make all the decisions for your health if I were able.”

      “But she wasn’t,” Logan muttered.

      “No, so Logan did. He was the one who made the call for the surgery to save your arm, and he also got in touch with a plastic surgeon to make sure your dick hand stayed pretty.”

Trent and Logan both burst into laughter at the inside joke Logan had revealed to Teal.

      A nurse walked in just as Trent yawned. She gave a disapproving glare at Teal on the bed. Fuck that, Trent thought. He tangled his hand in hers and held her tight.

      “Mr. Reed, look at you, wide awake.” Her chipper voice sounded familiar, but Trent was having a hard time placing it; and the longer he fought to grab the memory, the foggier his head became.

      Clearing his throat several times, Trent waited until the nurse was no longer fussing with the machines. “How long have I been here?”

      “I am about to call the doctor in.” The nurse offered Teal what he thought was a warm smile. “May I?” She gestured to Trent’s side, where Teal sat. “I need to check his IV.”

Teal released Trent’s hand and shifted from the bed. The nurse picked up Trent’s hand and inspected the line leading to the IV drip.

      “You’ve been here for three days,” Teal answered. “After your first surgery, you didn’t wake up for a while, and then you had a seizure.” Her thin and solemn voice caused his heart to quake in his chest.

      “That is normal, and the doctor warned them it could happen.” The nurse placed Trent’s hand back down on the bed. “You also woke up rather fast after surgery. And you spoke one name and one name only.” The nurse’s gaze turned to Teal. “I find it quite amazing the way a love for a person can make a person fight through pain and fear to come out of it calling for their loved one.” She straightened Trent’s covers. “I’ve seen it quite a few times, and I’m still astonished at the fact that sometimes love cures faster than modern medicine.”

Trent watched as Teal’s eyes watered, and she held onto Logan as if he’d been her lifeline while Trent was unable. She leaned into his friend, her shallow breathing and glazed eyes revealing the fact she was about to have a panic attack.

      “Baby, come to me.” His voice still sounded weak, but Trent knew all too well the signs of an attack.

Logan led her to the bed and placed her hand in his right. He yanked her down and rocked her as best he could, murmuring loving words in her ear. He waited until her shaking subsided and breathing evened out before he spoke.            “Give me the box.”

      Reaching into his back pocket, Logan pulled out the velvet box. He leaned forward and handed it over. “Here you go.”

      Trent took it in his hand. “Teal, baby, lift up.” She didn’t make any moves to sit up.

      The nurse’s eyes widened when she saw the box. “I’m going to grab Dr. Pyzalski and bring him in to see you.” She headed out of the room quickly, no doubt knowing where the conversation was headed.

      “Lift up, baby.”

      Slowly, Teal lifted her fatigued eyes. She needed sleep, food, and Trent by her side.

Trent tapped her back with the box and waited as she turned around. When she froze in his arms, Trent knew she understood what was happening.                 “I thought I was going to wait and let you get settled in . . .”

      Teal’s head whipped around so fast, Trent had to reach out to steady her.           “Are you serious right now?” She turned back and took the box from his hand.

Trent wished he could open it and get on one knee, but his ass was going to be glued to the bed for a few more days.

As if reading his mind, Logan came around and pulled the box from her hand. Getting on one knee, he opened the box, presented it to her and waited. The sight was hilarious, as his best friend was on bended knee with Trent’s ring in hand.

      “Teal,” Trent called. Her bright eyes filled with tears as she looked to him. “I thought to wait. But why?” He lifted his hand until it made contact with her soft face. “Will you fucking marry me?”

She burst into tears. She’d been through so much over the past few days. Trent wanted to make sure she knew this had been his plan long before today. It wasn’t his fear of death that had him proposing, but his love for her. “What is the point in waiting when you already know the only person you’ve ever truly loved is right in front of you?”

      “Yes.” Her single word stopped all of his thoughts from spiraling. “Yes, I will fucking marry you.”

Logan stood and pulled the ring from the box. Trent watched as his friend pushed the ring onto her finger. He couldn’t have asked for a better friend.

      “I was told you were already his wife.” A tall, slender man in a white coat entered the room. With a stern smile on his lips, he lifted Trent’s chart and spoke about blood clots, comas, and all things unimportant to Trent.

All he could do was stare into his fiancée’s eyes; her beautiful face plastered with a sappy smile.

      “Teal Lofton-Reed,” she spoke in a joking tone.

Trent wanted to slap her big ass bottom, but only had one hand free. He wrapped his fingers in her hair and yanked her down.   “Fuck that, woman. Just Reed—Teal motherfuckin’ Reed,” he said just before he kissed her deeply.

 

The next volume in the series release soon! Preorder below!

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Where Teal and Trent began...

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If that redneck, trailer trash, piece of shit didn’t get his ass to this rehearsal dinner on time, Teal was liable to drive to the cabin and force him there by gun point. Those were her thoughts two hours ago while everyone sat around waiting for the best man to show up.

Trent was so late, they’d eventually replaced him with a waiter and gone through the wedding ceremony, twice without Trent. Granted, walking down the aisle didn’t take much practice, but Teal wanted things to run smoothly and that only happened with practice. The minor hiccups so far were nothing and if the wedding continued to go this smoothly, Teal planned to send Katie a large ass bill for putting up with the headache.

Now that the rehearsal dinner was coming to a close, the drinks and hors d’oeuvres were served and Teal was ready to get a drink in hand and out of her heels. “I wonder if we even need Trent. The waiter did just fine,” she muttered under her breath.

“What was that?” Didi asked as she sidled up next to her. She was fumbling through her clipboard, checking off things from the list Teal had given her.

Suddenly, the room quieted enough to hear heavy footfalls entering the room. Teal turned around in her chair to see Trent appear. His massive body demanded attention she refused to give. While everyone else stared and women fawned, Teal stood and made her way to the drink cart. Snatching up a glass of wine, Teal took a long sip and went looking for Katie. When she found her in the corner, the bride seemed worse for wear.

“Damn girl, what’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing, just nauseated.”

Teal called over a waiter with a tray of food and searched for something to help settle Katie’s stomach. She’d already ordered the food before she found out about the baby and Teal wasn’t sure Katie’s stomach could handle any of it. Instead, she asked the waiter to grab her a Ginger Ale and a cup of ice.

“I’m fine, really,” Katie insisted as Teal led her to a chair. “I wonder what kept him?” She motioned to the corner where Logan and Trent stood.

Trent seemed to be explaining why he was late and the look on Logan’s face made Teal believe that whatever story he was spinning, Logan was buying. As they sat and watched, waiting to hear his excuse for themselves, Jayden, one of Katie’s bridesmaids came over and plopped down beside them.

Fanning herself, she asked, “Who is that tall, thick, yummy glass of milk?” The sly smile on her face made Teal roll her eyes.

“Girl, you’re married.” Katie admonished.

With a smack of the lips, Teal added her two cents, “While I don’t condone calling that wildebeest a tall glass of milk, I have to say that being married doesn’t make you blind.”

She chanced an appraising glance at him and hated herself for liking what she saw. His black thermal hugged his thick chest tight enough to reveal muscles that Teal would pretend she didn’t find attractive. His distressed washed jeans pulled taut over thick legs and as she made her way up those powerful legs her eyes stopped at the package nestled between his legs. Hell no.

Jayden threw a hand up. “Preach! I’m just saying, being married doesn’t make you asexual. And Logan’s brother over there—”

“Childhood friend,” Katie corrected, just as Teal had opened her mouth.

“Well, whatever.” Jayden pointed in the direction of Logan and Trent. The women followed her finger to where the men stood. “Both of them look like big ass treats. Just plain yummy!”

Katie laughed and Teal took a swig of her wine. It would make sense that Teal was attracted to Trent. She always attracted the emotionally unavailable, unmotivated assholes—assholes being the main word there. Hence the reason she was attending Katie’s wedding alone. Another gulp of wine passed her lips.

“The dark haired one, as you know, is mine. And the blond . . .” Katie’s voice trailed off when Logan looked over to the table with narrowed eyes. “What the hell are they talking about?” Concern laced her voice.

Teal looked over again and she saw it too. Logan’s face was red and his fists were balled at his sides, his shoulders bunched and he was radiating anger.

“No. God, no.” As Katie jolted up and out of her chair, confusion swept over Teal. “Dammit. I haven’t told him yet! He came back to the room last night and started kissing on me and I got swept up.” Katie raced over to Logan.

When Teal finally understood what Katie meant, she stood ready to follow Katie as she sprinted across the room, but as she propelled past the table her red wine glass spilled and tumbled off the table nearly hitting the floor.

“Shit.” Teal cursed fiercely as she made the catch.

Jayden stood. Reaching for a few napkins she handed them to Teal. “What is going on over there?” she asked, but Teal ignored her not willing to tell Katie’s business.

Grabbing the napkins from her, she blotted up the spilled wine. Thank God she’d convinced Katie away from white tablecloths, but white tablecloths were the least of her concerns right now. Glancing around the room, Teal found and signaled a waiter. Pointing to the mess, she mouthed, “Get this,” and then added a “please” for good measure. Let him get it.

Turning around, she saw that Logan’s anger didn’t seem to be directed at Trent, but at Katie who was holding her stomach in the most telling way.

Damn, that Trent. “Fuck!” Teal struggled to keep her anger at bay. Normally, she’d have exploded in a flurry of curses and threats, but it was taking all of her to hold it back. She was sure that Trent had told Logan what he’d heard in the car from the smirk on his face to the devastation on Katie’s.

Teal made a B-line straight to Katie. By the time she’d gotten over to them, the damage was done. She placed a soothing hand on Katie’s back. Her friend was shaking, but silent. As a matter of fact, everyone was silent.

Hesitantly, Teal spoke. “What’s going on?” She looked to Katie and then Logan, keenly ignoring Trent, who appeared satisfied by the friction he’d started.

Logan took a deep breath. The ire Teal had seen from the other side of the room had faded somewhat. “Katie, can I talk to you, alone?” His voice hard and unyielding, causing alarm for even Teal. He was mad and maybe even let down, but Teal was positive that the wedding was still on. Katie’s reasons for worry were sound, but in Logan’s defense, in a marriage, secrets could be a deal breaker.

Katie’s shoulders dropped and she nodded. Logan may have been upset, but Teal believed that he and Katie would work it out.

“This is what I was talking about.” Trent’s voice broke the silence.

Teal scanned the room hoping that the drama had gone unnoticed, but no such luck. She turned to Trent. Taking a breath she calmed her nerves and in the nicest voice she asked, “Can I talk to you in the lobby?”

She wasn’t sure if there were guests out there or not, but she knew for damned sure that most of them were in the main hall staring at them as she spoke. What Teal had to say needed minimal attention from innocent bystanders.

Like the smart ass he was, Trent motioned for Teal to go first. “Ladies and liars first.” He chuckled when she growled at him.

The lobby wasn’t empty, but it also wasn’t filled to the brim with wedding guests either. Teal turned to watch as Trent exited the main hall and stood in front of her. She assumed he meant to be imposing and impossibly large to the point that she would back down, but screw that. Teal had kept quiet long enough, she’d handled every issue with grace and sophistication, but ignoring it and letting it build up, caused a meltdown in her brain. Trent’s sideways smirk just added fuel to the already fever pitched fire.

“You redneck, inbred, cousin kissing piece of shit!” There, the smirk was gone and replaced by a scowl, but oh, Teal was far from finished. “Let me guess, did daddy touch you inappropriately? Did your last girl take your balls and lock ‘em up in a jar until Trent was a good boy and earned them back?”

Teal knew men like this. They were just like the miserable bitches she’d had to deal with her whole life. Daddy touched them so they used that as an excuse to fuck every man out there including hers. There was always some fucking excuse for misery to love company, but Teal wasn’t having that shit and if she had to boot Trent out of this wedding and play best man and maid of honor, that was just how that shit would have to go down.

“Why? What was it that made you come here and try to ruin your best friend’s wedding?” She threw up her air quote gesture as she said “best friend”. This was not how shit was supposed to go.

Trent’s scowl had faded, but Teal could see that her words had reached him, but not in the way she’d hoped.

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Teal and Trent - Teaser

SEPTEMBER 28th 2017

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Months after opening up his heart – and his past – Trent is looking forward to a future with his new bride and daughter. He’s recovered from the near-fatal shooting, hopes to purchase a farm for his beloved Teal, and is building a life free from the horrors of his past.

But the past has a bad habit of never staying buried, and now it’s coming after his entire family. Because Trent didn’t reveal all his secrets to Teal, and the deepest, darkest secret he’d always kept just out of reach is about to break the surface.

An old debt is being called in, one that will pull Trent back into the world of sex, lies, and murder he’s fought so hard to escape. And in the wake of devastating betrayals, he’ll discover who is truly loyal to him, as he agrees to pay that debt with an unforgivable crime.

Trent will stop at nothing to keep Teal and his daughter safe. Even if that means losing them forever.

Meet Ace, Gator, and Mutt from the First Sons of the Revolution MC, and enjoy the first chapter and first look at the spin-off featuring the badass, no-shit-taking men from Blackwater Rising!


Sensing Teal’s stress, he moved closer, wrapping her in his embrace as she pulled the phone to her ear and spoke. “Mother?” Her tone held no warmth, but the chilling air one would offer an unwanted guest or stranger. Though, behind the chill lay anger—sharp and deep-seated hate. Her ridged form melded easily into his, accepting the soothing embrace he offered.

Later, he’d ask why she still hadn’t told her mother the news about their marriage. Thinking on it now, it felt good to throw that in the woman’s face. Fuck, his mother-in-law was a straight up bitch.

His wife gripped the phone hard enough to crush it, her anxiety evident in her tense posture and attitude. Trent knew the fear a parent could wrought in a child. He knew the sense of fear his stepfather had placed in him with each swipe of the belt or cigarette burn. But for Teal, he sensed a different brand of fear. The kind of fear Trent had faced every day in his life—the fear of disappointing everyone around you.

            Trent massaged her shoulders, squeezing the tense muscles. The acrid stench of entrenched mother-daughter dysfunction settled in the air.

She sighed heavily. “I’m sorry.” Her tone brokering not a hint of apology. “The condo has new occupants now. You cannot stay there.” Trent had never heard hide nor hair from Teal’s mother in the time they’d been together. Though he had no example of the actions of a good mother, Trent knew that a mother who gave at least one fuck about her kid would pick up the phone in a year.

Teal had promised to inform her mother about their nuptials, but it’d seemed she failed to do so.

“Now isn’t a good time. We have—”

Trent glanced down at her silence.

Teal pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. “We don’t have room.” She stopped again, her body tensed.

Trent pulled back. Not even thinking to lower his voice, he asked, “What the hell does she want?” Annoyance flared to life when she ignored him and continued to speak, or rather be spoken to.

He recalled every memory of Teal’s references to her mother. Not a damned one of them gave him the cozy-grandma feel he’d hoped Emma Mae would experience. Between his own human incubator and Teal’s mother, Emma Mae didn’t stand a chance. But that was where he and Teal came in. It was their job to offer their daughter what no one had ever been able to offer them—unconditional love and protection.

Teal glanced up, ire burning bright in her eyes as her mother spoke, knowing whatever was being said would be something he’d loathe. What the fuck was going on in that conversation?

Teal shook her head. “Maybe for a day or two, but that’s all.”

            Teal threw her head back and sighed. “Mother, I am not jobless—per se.” Her harsh tone withered, transforming into one of uncertainty. She bit her lip. Finally, sick of not being able to hear both sides of the conversation, Trent pulled the phone from Teal’s hands and place the call on speaker.

            Preoccupied with the stress wrought by an overbearing mother, Teal didn’t complain. She merely sagged against the counter, her body shaking in anger as her mother spoke. “And, if you don’t have a job, it isn’t like you can’t accommodate your sister and I. Teal, always so damned head strong, even when you are in the wrong.” A strained sigh sounded through the line. “Despite our commonalties—”

“We couldn’t be more different.” Teal finished.

“Absolutely.”

Trent’s eyes narrowed at the woman’s words. He couldn’t have this nonsense in his house for a few reasons. The first being, Teal’s reaction to her mother’s phone call alone. It spoke volumes to the stress that having her in his home would cause his wife and child. Shit was already tense over that email and his endless hours of overtime.

Hell, he knew Teal wanted to take the job, even after her promise to stay at home with Emma for a year. He needed to nip this shit in the bud, and fast.

            “I just don’t think it is a good time now,” Teal said. “I have too much going on, and with the baby—” She placed her head in her hands as if she’d already admitted defeat to the request.

            A loud huff sounded. “You want to tell me what is really going on over there? And what damned baby are you talking about? Why is it Katie—a child who is not my own—the only one willing to talk to me about what is going on? Teal, what the hell have you done to your life?”

At that, Trent snatched the phone and ended the call. Thinking better of it, he turned the device off. He then turned and gripped the counter, using it to hold him up. “What the fuck was that about?” The anger he felt wasn’t directed at Teal, but at her mother.

            Placing her head in her hands, she turned to him. “I haven’t told her anything about our life yet.” Sheepishly, she looked up at him.

            Trent shrugged. “And why would you?”

Teal’s stressful gaze turned to one of confusion. Her dark eyes tracked over his face, no doubt in search of answers. Trent reached up and caressed her cheek. She leaned into him, causing his chest to expand at her acceptance of the comfort he had to offer. She always made his chest tighten with pride and his heart accelerate with need. Each touch felt more intense than the next.

He couldn’t let her feel bad about this. “Baby, since you’ve been with me, she’s called you how many times? She didn’t even know what was happening in your life until she needed a fucking place to stay.” He waited before he spoke again. Waited for the Teal he knew, the Teal she hid from the world to surface from behind that tough as nails exterior. “When you needed her most, where was she? You did shit on your own until you met me, and now we do things together, as a family.”

            Teal nodded. “I know, but you know just as well as I do how a mother can fuck with your mind.”

            He chuckled. “Don’t bring me into this.”

            Teal slapped his chest. “You know what I mean, Trent.”

And he did, he just didn’t want to get in to the heavy why of it. His past and her present were far from his mind when Teal pulled back to stretch. Arms raised over her head, her chest thrust out, pushing her heavy breasts front and center. Trent started to reach out and she batted his hand away.

“Explain something to me?”

Trent cocked a brow. “What?”

“How do you . . .” She bit her lip, struggling with what she wanted to say. “How did you get over having shitty parents?”

Okay, that took him right out of the nice haze the sight of her breast had put him in. Cock soft and a churning feeling in his gut, Trent took a receding step back.

Teal reached for him. “Hey, sorry. I know we don’t talk about this. I just—I guess I am just wondering how you dealt with it.”

He sighed. This was what he loved and hated about Teal. She took from him, things he’d never offered a soul—the truth about how his past had molded him.

“My mother is a completely different beast than yours. Polar opposites to be exact.” The vault of long repressed memories opened and his head filled with the pain and suffering of the past. “Where your mother forced the importance of a good education on you, mine reminded me that I was the reason she’d dropped out of high school.”

Trent shrugged, as if learning his mother despising him hadn’t carved a valley in his heart. Teal’s soft hand on his cheek jolted him from his thoughts and he focused on forgetting the fear, the past, the anger, and the lies. And now, all that was left was Teal and Trent, two souls who’d crashed into one another leaving a maelstrom in their wake.

“My mother played a role,” Teal said. “She was cruel and kind. You never really knew which monster you’d wake up to in the morning.”

“But she offered you kindness?” Trent had wished his mother knew the definition of the word.

Teal shook her head. “Not in the way you think. I’d have preferred her cruelty.”

Confused, Trent lifted her chin to meet her gaze. “Why?” Was the only word he could speak. He’d known the cruelty of his mother and felt it at his father’s hands. He couldn’t fathom anyone wanting such pain and suffering in their lives.

“Because, at least then, I knew where I stood. The mood swings and the mind games fucked me up. Every morning my sister and I would sit at the breakfast table waiting for my mother to come around the corner.”

Trent placed his hands over Teal’s arms and caressed her smooth skin as she spoke.

“It was misery waiting. My stomach would be in knots and my head dizzy.”

“But she never beat you?” Trent asked.

“No. But sometimes I wonder if it would have been better if she had hit us. Physical wounds heal, but the mental breakdown she put us through . . .”

Trent felt the goosebumps on her skin, along with a shudder that rolled through her body. He eased her closer. If he could, he would protect her from her past and the pain that littered her memories. “Any kind of abuse can leave emotional scarring, Teal. I don’t wish that on you or anyone else. This is why we took Emma Mae.” Placing his hands on either side of her, he said, “Do you want your mother in your life?”

She peeked up at him. “I’ve worked very hard to keep her away from me.” She glanced away, and tears filled her eyes.

He hated her tears, but he told himself that he would be the only person who ever saw them, and the one person to always soothe them.

The room seemed to almost darken and center on her; the only illumination, a greenish glow from the overhead microwave clock. The wind danced around outside the house slapping against the shutters sending falling swirls of dust up and into the black night sky. Trent sensed all of this, knew it like the back of his hand.

Indebted: Til Death Do Us Part Teaser

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“Blackwater Sheriff Henry Olgove reveals to NDC27 affiliate of CGFA-TV, the body found Sunday night in East Blackwater, approximately five miles from the notorious motorcycle club hangout, is believed to be that of missing teen, Amber Tonwlyn-Havers, daughter of Congressman Alexander Tonwlyn-Havers. Amber was last seen Saturday by witnesses, around 2:00 AM, leaving a house party in downtown City Central, alone. She was thought to have gone to a party in the neighboring city of Treville.

“Congressman Havers has not been available for comment, though his publicist asks that the family’s privacy be respected in their time of mourning. In other news, tensions rise in Blackwater as one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter organization plans a protest of the death of African American teen, Anthony Smiddle. The standoff between the KKK and Black Lives Matter protesters has police stretched thin.”

                                                                                               

            Teal turned off the television, then placed the remote control down. Leaning back, she closed her eyes and took in a few deep, calming breaths. There were things friends and family admitted to you about becoming a mother. There were the things you wanted to hear, the things you enjoyed hearing and then there was the truth. It was a rare thing for a parent to speak of the debilitating fear and uncertainty that came with becoming a parent. The indecision and then the apprehension in every decision made, small or large.

While Trent’s upbringing made Teal cringe, she also knew that her own past hadn’t been much better. Yes, Teal had grown up in a seemingly good home, and her family’s money had afforded her a great education and kept her fed and somewhat content, there was more to growing up in a good home than money and a full stomach. Irrational as it may seem, Teal wanted to shelter Emma, but would she truly need it? Would she need an overbearing mother? Hell, would Teal become her mother?

What the fuck was going on in the world today? Things were recently changed in Teal’s life, with a husband and a child to care for, and her ever-growing fear of raising Emma in a world full of dangers she couldn’t possibly protect her from was starting to weigh on her. Was this what motherhood would continually be like? Undying love and fierce protection, followed by the crippling fear of threats of the unknown?

Placing a hand over her stomach, Teal sighed. Trent mentioned wanting another child, while her inner voice told her now was not the time. Hell, she’d just be honest and admit she wasn’t sure she wanted another child—ever. She tilted her head to the side and watched as Emma shifted on Trent’s chest. Teal often found herself counting ten little pink fingers and toes, kissing cherub soft baby cheeks and caressing her daughter’s blonde curls.

Her daughter was the exact opposite of her physically, but Teal never once worried about their differences. She sensed Emma’s trust and love in her and Teal was dead set on never letting her down. As Teal slightly moved and stretched her stiff legs on Trent’s lap she shifted her husband and daughter just a bit.

            Trent’s eyes popped open, his hand tightening over Emma’s back. “What’s going on?” His groggy voice woke Emma from her sleep. She released a sleepy coo that melted Teal’s heart.

            Teal moved her legs from Trent’s lap, leaned forward and gently pulled Emma from Trent’s arms. “I thought you were just resting your eyes?” she admonished softly, giving him a sweet smile. Teal softly patted Emma’s butt, helping to calm her back to sleep. The sweet baby lay her head on Teal’s chest and began to snore once again.

            Trent stretched his arm over his head and yawned. “I was, baby.” He sat up and glanced over to her. Teal noticed how he still favored his right arm for most things. While his physical therapy had ended, Trent still had trouble controlling his arm and certain movements.

            “Oh, okay. I guess your snoring was just to trick Emma to sleep?”

Trent sat up and placed a hand on sleeping Emma’s back. His large hand made the little girl seem even tinier by comparison. Born a preemie, Emma had constantly fought to maintain a normal weight, and now at nine months and fourteen pounds, she was just barely fitting into the six to nine-month clothes gifted to her from Teal and Trent’s friends.

Teal placed a kiss over Emma’s curling blonde tresses, and caressed Trent’s hand. Her life in Kentucky had proven easy-going at first, but recently, she’d felt restless and anxious. The South proved to be just as tense as she’d expected, with the Black Lives Matter and KKK acting out for various reasons. Teal wasn’t sure she felt safe, and this was after she’d just stopped waking up from nightmares where Jake had made good on his threat to rape her.

            Trent leaned in and kissed Teal’s cheek. “And my plan worked.” He pulled his hand away and stood. “Want me to take her to bed?”

            Teal squeezed Emma once again, as she didn’t want to let the warm bundle of baby go. “Sure, make sure all those stuffed animals are out of the crib before you place her in there.” She handed Emma to Trent and went into the kitchen to pull a bottle of water from the fridge.

It was a Friday night, and once again, Trent had fallen asleep on the couch while Emma napped in his lap, and Teal had flipped through the channels, hoping to find something to keep her mind off their issues with Harper and Markus.

Teal had learned that it was best to talk to Trent about stressful things at certain times, like directly after she’d sucked every bit of come out of his quivering body; however, after a long stressful day, now was not that time. Teal treaded to her office and retrieved her laptop from the dresser.

Back in the living room, she sat down and opened her emails to see a few from Jan Erik, past co-workers, and Summer. The header in the email from Summer caught her attention. Teal’s brow furrowed in confusion as she read aloud, “Help wanted.” Clicking the email, Teal read its contents. As she did, her heart flittered in her chest and her excitement grew. In her eagerness, Teal let out a light squeal. “A job opening?”

            “Hey, where are Emma’s fluffy blue socks?” Trent broke Teal’s concentration.

She glanced up to see Trent with a handful of tiny socks in his palm, and a flustered expression on his face. Pointing to the bedroom, she said, “They are in the—”

            “What were you just saying? Something about a job opening?” he interrupted her as he motioned to her laptop. “What job opening and where? More importantly, for who?”

Teal gauged his reaction carefully. While she had hoped the night would end without any heavy discussions, the second Trent dropped the socks on the couch and sat beside her, she knew there would be no putting it off.

            Teal turned the laptop to face Trent. “I’m not sure yet. I just received the email from Summer.”

            Trent pulled the laptop from her hands and placed it on his lap. “The chick that tried to help Shayla?” he asked, skimming over the email. “Why is she offering you a job at something called Safe Haven?” He gripped the laptop, his flustered expression changing into one Teal had become very familiar with. His veiled anger didn’t intimidate her though, it irritated her.

            Teal rolled her eyes at the question. “How the hell am I supposed to know? You are the one reading the email.”

She and Trent had agreed she would spend the first year at home with Emma. And at the time, when everything was new, and Trent was home with her, recovering, she’d meant it. However, now, it was a completely different story. Teal felt cut off from the world, and it seemed her job had gone from an administrative assistant with a degree, to Emma’s mom. Not that Teal minded being a mother—in her mind, she thought she’d done well. It was that Teal never expected to have her identity stolen from her.

Perhaps, if Teal had had three toddlers running around the house, she wouldn’t feel the same, but one infant who barely made a peep? She found herself sitting on the back porch with more time on her hands than she’d expected. And to top it off, Teal’s friends were all in Vermont, and were career-oriented women who despite being married, and settled, hadn't had children yet. Then there was Katie, who was on her third book tour and in talks with her agent about film rights to her novel.

Teal had never felt so alone, yet surrounded by a loving family. To make matters worse, even though they’d won the civil suit against Jake, lawyers had stated it would take time to actually get the money he owed—if they ever got a cent. So, Trent still worked massive amounts of overtime to add back some of the money to his savings that the medical and lawyer bills had created.

Teal hoped once the money from Jake came in, Trent would stop working himself to death. But that wasn’t all. Katie and Logan were miles away, with a growing business and baby girls, and Violet, her new local friend, was now the CEO of a company, so gone were the days in which she came over for hours on end. Like a fool, Teal had fancied herself a true Southern Belle, sipping mint juleps, and gossiping while watching Emma play.

Months after opening up his heart – and his past – Trent is looking forward to a future with his new bride and daughter. He’s recovered from the near-fatal shooting, hopes to purchase a farm for his beloved Teal, and is building a life free from the horrors of his past.

But the past has a bad habit of never staying buried, and now it’s coming after his entire family. Because Trent didn’t reveal all his secrets to Teal, and the deepest, darkest secret he’d always kept just out of reach is about to break the surface.

An old debt is being called in, one that will pull Trent back into the world of sex, lies, and murder he’s fought so hard to escape. And in the wake of devastating betrayals, he’ll discover who is truly loyal to him, as he agrees to pay that debt with an unforgivable crime.

SEPTEMBER 28th, 2017

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Trent will stop at nothing to keep Teal and his daughter safe. Even if that means losing them forever.

Meet Ace, Gator, and Mutt from the First Sons of the Revolution MC, and enjoy the first chapter and first look at the spin-off featuring the badass, no-shit-taking men from Blackwater Rising!

Indebted - Teaser

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Trent walked into the Devil’s Bastard, the sound of men cussing and laughing overwhelmed the air as his booted feet pounded the pavement to the back room, where he and his men normally sat, pounding beers, and watching ass. Grunts and head nods greeted him as he made his way further into the club. He ignored them all, making a bee-line to the back. He glanced in the back room to see Jason, Mark, and Dillon all throwing back a shot of what looked like whiskey.

            “Hey!” Trent called to the only waitress behind the bar. It was noon and Sam was the only one working. “Get me a double of what they got, and keep ‘em coming, till I say otherwise.”

Sam nodded and busied herself behind the bar, while Trent sat down at the table nearest the back exit.

            Dillon thrusted a fist in the air and hooted. “Fuck yeah.” Leaning back too far, the man nearly toppled out of his chair. Reaching out, he righted himself, just before his ass met the floor. “Man, what are you doing here so early? Ain’t you got work or some shit?”

Normally, Trent couldn’t stand Dillon, as he was always ready to start shit. But today, he was glad as fuck he’d run into him. It’d only take beer, or the promise of some ass, to get him to do any kind of favor.

Sam sat the shot glass down on a paper napkin.

            Trent glanced up at her. “Y’all getting fancy around here?” He picked up the double and slammed it back. “Another.”

            Sam smiled, her crooked teeth on display. “Nah, nothing like that. You starting a tab, Reed?” Her playful tone had dissipated the second Dillon showed interest.

            “Yeah, start one up for me.”

            “Me, too,” Dillon added.

            Sam flicked him the bird. “Hell no. Pay as you go.” The group laughed and Dillon sat back in his chair, looking like someone had kicked his puppy.

            Jason took a long swig of beer, then placed the bottle on the table. “What brings you in here this early?” Trent knew he would be a hard sell. The swastika tat on his chest and KKK inked on his knuckles, along with the fact he’d been in jail for numerous hate crimes, told Trent convincing him to rescue a little Spanish teen would be close to impossible.

            Trent took in the man’s ice blue gaze and cruel smirk, and shrugged. “Just trying to pick up a few fellows for a job I got contracted for.” He had to make sure to not tell the men he owed the FSMC a favor. Hell, that would send even the dumbest man running from the room. “I need men not afraid of the law.” Trent didn’t bother lowering his voice. He’d scoped the place out the second he walked in and knew every damn drunk in the bar.

Jason quirked a brow, but didn’t say a word.

            Dillon’s grease-stained hand flew up. “Ooh! Pick me.” Trent’s eyes went to the man as he waved it left and right, wiggling in his chair like the ace student in the class dead set on fucking up the grading curve.

            “Put your damned hand down,” Trent muttered. “You know I got your ass. A bottle of whiskey, and a hand job over at the titty bar you love so much.”

Dillon whooped and hollered, before heading to the restrooms in the back. Sam made her way over and sat another shot glass in front of Trent.

            Mark motioned to the glass as Trent tipped it back. “You ain’t never been one to drink this early.” His lazy drawl came out a bit slurred. Mark drank at any time of the day. The man’s large size gave him more leeway in that area; while most men hovered around the two hundred mark, Big Mark was pushing three-twenty. His weight wasn’t sloppy, either. Mark held his weight in his legs, chest and arms, and power lifted daily.

            “Celebrating,” Trent lied.

            “How much you paying?” Jason asked.

            “A grand each.” Trent placed the shot glass on the table.

            “BYOG?” Mark asked.

“Yeah, but I got you on ammo,” he said, knowing that’d sweeten the deal. This way, all the money went to the men, and nothing was wasted on supplies.

            Jason was the first to agree. “I’m in. How soon?”

Before answering, Trent looked to Mark who nodded. “Tomorrow.”

Sam placed down another shot.

            Mark motioned to his glass and she moved to refill it. “Who we riding with, and what is the job?” Sam picked up his cup and headed back behind the bar.

            Trent was only mildly surprised that the men waited until now to ask about the actual job, however, Trent had never really been into anything too heavy in his life, so perhaps they weren’t worried by that account.

            Trent downed the shot and placed the glass on the table. “I got three friends riding along. Mutt, Ace, and Gator from Blackwater.”

Jason sat back, his beer sloshing over the rim of his cup onto his hand.

            “Brothers from Blackwater?” Dillon stumbled from the bathroom, his hands fumbling over his fly. “Them dudes . . .” He whistled, then sat—or rather, fell drunkenly—into his seat. “Well, I’m still in, but I want a happy ending,” he added, as if this were some sort of negotiation.

            Trent grunted his approval. “You all in?” He lifted the next shot and threw it back. His head began to cloud, and his body loosened—the liquor having its intended effect. Eyeing each man, he knew the second they decided to ride with him.

As each man said yes, Trent imagined the group of men heading down to Blackwater. Trent was not fucking naïve. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would be expected to kill tomorrow night. Keeping himself alive was his main goal, but Trent also thought to the young girl caught in the crossfires of a vengeful gang and her corrupt father.

            He stood on loose legs; he needed to check with Reno—an old buddy—to see if he would join. “Meet me at my house, tomorrow night. I’ll go over the plans with you there.” Trent wasn’t too concerned with the police in this situation, seeing as how the FSMC had most of them on their payroll, and wouldn’t dare show up to an MC shoot out.

As he headed out the door, he pulled a fifty from his wallet. Placing it on the bar, he pushed it over to Sam. He wouldn’t leave that shit anywhere near Dillon, as the bastard would end up drinking it.

            “Thanks, Trent.” Sam smiled. “And thanks for watching Rain for me last week.” Her sad smile pulled at his chest. She was a good girl, stuck in a shit town, and he’d often wondered what would have happened between the two of them if he’d known she liked him before Shayla crashed into his life.

            “No problem. Call me if you need me to watch her again,” he said honestly. The two-year-old was cute as a butterfly.

SEPTEMBER 28th 2017

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Months after opening up his heart – and his past – Trent is looking forward to a future with his new bride and daughter. He’s recovered from the near-fatal shooting, hopes to purchase a farm for his beloved Teal, and is building a life free from the horrors of his past.

But the past has a bad habit of never staying buried, and now it’s coming after his entire family. Because Trent didn’t reveal all his secrets to Teal, and the deepest, darkest secret he’d always kept just out of reach is about to break the surface.

An old debt is being called in, one that will pull Trent back into the world of sex, lies, and murder he’s fought so hard to escape. And in the wake of devastating betrayals, he’ll discover who is truly loyal to him, as he agrees to pay that debt with an unforgivable crime.

Trent will stop at nothing to keep Teal and his daughter safe. Even if that means losing them forever.

Meet Ace, Gator, and Mutt from the First Sons of the Revolution MC, and enjoy the first chapter and first look at the spin-off featuring the badass, no-shit-taking men from Blackwater Rising!

 

First Look - Indebted

Hey Reader,

Here is your first look at Indelible. Take a trip back in time with Trent, see where Teal has landed in her new role as mother, and get a peek at new characters from included in the new spin off releasing on 2018 in Indebted! Release date 9.22.17

READ THE A CHAPTER BELOW

Lightly edited and subject to change

Readers 18 and up


“You sly fucking dog,” Teal whispered as Trent helped her out of the truck. He’d passed the range and headed straight for the Italian restaurant she’d pointed out last week.

Trent placed Teal’s hand in the hook of his arm after tipping the valet. “You mentioned it smelled delicious the last time we passed it.” He gave a light shrug.

“It did.” She sniffed the air, taking in the scent of fresh baked garlic bread and pasta sauce. While Teal and Trent were doing well with the healthy eating, Teal was in the mood for chicken smothered in red sauce and a huge glass of wine.

Holding tight to his arm, she followed him through the parking lot and into the restaurant. Inside, as the hostess stated her spiel, Teal took in the nice décor and finely dressed occupants.

“Follow me,” the hostess called over her shoulder, as she led them to a cozy booth in the corner. She handed them two linen menus. “Your server will be with you shortly.”

Teal nodded. “Thank you.”

Trent leaned back in his seat and eyed the menu. “Nothing healthy at all on here.” Glancing at her over the menu, he winked. His hot gaze took her in, saying more than his sexy lips ever could. Placing down the menu, he bent forward. Candle light flickered, and the sound of tinkling laughter and hushed whispers surrounded them.

He placed his hand on the table palm up and slowly pushed toward her, his fingers outstretched in an open invitation. Teal accepted and placed her smaller hand into his. Closing his fingers around hers, he squeezed lightly. Teal met his gaze, taking in the sparks and the heat of his intense stare.

“Um . . . would you like to start with water, or perhaps a glass of wine?” the waitress said, appearing at the end of the table.

Teal was the first to look away. “Yes, a nice red for me, and Trent here will take whatever custom beer you have on tap, please.”

Jotting in her pad, she smiled in Trent’s direction. “We have some pleasant craft beers. If I may recommend?” Teal nodded. “Our, IPA, Rush Low, is great paired with our filet mignon, steamed asparagus, and garlic roasted potatoes.”

Teal cocked a brow and chanced a peek at Trent. He didn’t need that fancy shit. An ice-cold beer, a T-bone steak, and some loving, and Trent was as satisfied as they came.

However, tonight, for her, Trent nodded. And without an ounce of snark said, “Sure, that sounds good—medium.”

“I’ll have the same, but with the wine, please,” Teal added.

“Great, I’ll get that started for you.” Taking the menus, the woman strolled away to put in their orders.

Trent shoved his blonde hair over his shoulder, then threw his arm over the back of his chair. “Baby, let me ask you something.”

She caught a glint of mirth in his eyes and couldn’t help but get excited. Perking up, Teal leaned forward. “Hit me.”

Trent chuckled. “What do you think about—”

“Here you go.” A glass of wine and a tall, frosted glass of beer slid into Teal’s vision. “Your food will be out shortly.” And again, the waitress sauntered off.

Picking up her glass, Teal took a long sip of her wine. “What’s the question?”

He smirked. “Why don’t you want to celebrate your birthday?”

Teal blinked repeatedly, a bit confused by the question. “Huh? Where did that come from?” And then came another sip of wine. Crossing her legs, Teal leaned back, taking her wine with her. She rested her elbow on the back of the chair and got comfortable.

“You’re only thirty—” he started.

Teal sliced Trent in half with a glare cutting him off, and he burst into laughter.

“Okay, okay.” He held his hands up in mock surrender.

With a smirk, Teal lifted her hand and motioned for Trent to continue.

“But seriously, I want you to explain it to me. Why?” His eyes roved over her body, as they made a slow perusal. “Why would a beautiful, young woman such as yourself hate celebrating her birthday?” He took a sip of his beer and cursed under his breath.

“What?”

            “Hot damn, this shit is good. It’s so smooth.” Placing the beer down, he pushed the glass over to her. “Try it.”

Teal took the glass and lifted it. Taking a small sip, she smiled when the light flavor hit her tongue.

“I wasn’t expecting that. Hell, but at nine dollars a glass, it sure as shit better be good,” he said as Teal handed him back his glass.

            “You want to tell me what that birthday comment was about?” she asked, unwilling to allow him to change the subject. The beer was good, yes, but there was more going on, and with Teal’s birthday a mere three weeks away, she feared Trent was going to make a huge deal of it.

As he opened his mouth, his phone tinkled a sound and Teal knew it was a text message. “Baby, just making conversation with you.”

            Teal cocked a brow as Trent lifted the phone and peeked at the screen. A soft smile, she once thought was reserved only for her, played across his lips. “That better not be some party surprise for me.”

Becoming engrossed in his phone, Trent didn’t respond.

Teal placed her half-empty glass on the table and scooted forward, in hopes to get a closer look.

The sound of a plate being placed onto the table pulled Teal’s attention away from the phone. “Would you like more wine, ma’am?” the waitress asked, placing Trent’s plate in front of him.

Teal nodded, and to the waitress’ surprise, she lifted the glass and finished it in a few gulps. How the hell was she supposed to convince Trent not to make a huge deal about her birthday? She glanced up again to see that he was responding to the text. What was going on? He never responded to her texts, he would always just call her right back. He hated it, stating his fingers were too big and caused him to constantly get autocorrected.

Teal cocked a brow. “Trent.”

Shoving the phone in his pocket, Trent peered up at the waitress and mumbled, “Thank you. This looks good.” Then he unwrapped his utensils.

“Thank you.” Teal spoke to the waitress. As soon as she walked away, she crossed her arms over her chest and cleared her throat.

“What?” Trent asked. He cut into his steak and brought it to his mouth. Looking at her, his brow scrunched in confusion. “What, are we supposed to say grace or something?” He lowered the fork. “Shit, Teal, you know I’m—”

“Who was that on the other end of that text?” She smiled, maybe a bit too forcefully.

Trent placed a hand over the phone in his pocket. “Ah, hell baby.” He thrust a hand through his hair. “It was work, and I didn’t want to bother making a call since we got this date night going and all.” He lifted his chin toward her empty glass. “You getting more?”

Teal rolled her eyes. “Yeah.” Deciding to leave the text—most definitely about her birthday—alone, she lifted her fork and tried her food.

“What are you and Violet planning for this party?” Trent took a bite of steak.

After chewing her food, Teal spoke. “Violet is apparently leaving me in charge.” She shrugged. “She probably feels sorry for me and the fact I have jack shit to do all day.”

Trent’s eyes narrowed. “Or, she’s asking her friend for help with something important.” Dropping his fork, he grabbed the cloth napkin. “Look, you have got to stop acting as if raising our girl is boring.”

She froze mid-bite. “That is not what I meant, and you know it.” Teal kept her tone low. She was not about to get into an argument in public.

The waitress strolled over and placed a glass of wine on the table. Teal immediately snatched it up and took a sip.

He scoffed. “Then what am I supposed to think here, baby?”

Teal bit her lip and took a deep breath. “I don’t know.” Her honest answer shocked even her, but Teal didn’t stop there. “I never thought of myself as a stay at home mom. I’ve always worked. And though Emma is the light of my life, I can’t just be her mother, or just your wife.”

“Them titles suddenly ain’t good enough?”

She sensed the hurt in his voice, drowned in anger and disbelief. This was headed in the wrong direction and needed a course correction, fast. Setting the glass of wine down, Teal reached across the table and took Trent’s hand.

“No, it is more than enough, but I want to work as well. I’ve worked my entire life to create a good career and future for myself.” Squeezing his hand, she continued, “I can see in your eyes when I talk about going back to work after the twelve-month break we both decided on, that you aren’t going to be happy about it.”

“Hell no, I’m not, but you’re telling me, here and now, that the life I am offering you—”

“Don’t,” she demanded. “Do not act as if I am Harper or Shayla.” Teal’s face heated at the implied accusation. “To them, the life you wanted to give them wasn’t enough. Me wanting to work, to help support our family, is not the same thing and you know it.” Suddenly, her stomach protested the wine. Placing a hand over her stomach, Teal winced.

“I don’t know how to take what you say to me sometimes,” he admitted in a careful tone. “You want to go back to work after the twelve months? Fine. Will I be happy with it? Hell no. But I know it’s what you want.” He released her hand and picked up his fork and knife again.

Teal felt the tension between them ease a bit. “I just feel like this is a huge argument we keep pushing back for a later date.” She propped her elbow on the table and rested her chin in her hand, as she watched Trent shrug and go back to eating.

“Maybe so,” he said in between bites of food.

“I still love you though.” She blew him a kiss, hoping to lighten the mood a bit more.

“How could you not?” He smirked. “You gonna need any help with his party?”

“Um, probably. It’s supposed to be at the bar. It’s not a surprise or anything like that, so I can call Poe if I have any questions.”

His voice lowered as he asked, “You cool with going back to that place?”

“Yeah, I am. I mean Jake is out of the picture, so no worries there. Oh, and Violet said that Poe has personal security at the bar.” She lifted a shoulder. “That should keep everyone in line.”

“Personal security?” His untrusting tone gave her pause.

“Yeah.” Teal watched as Trent’s expression and body language altered. “That’s good, right?” It had been Teal’s condition. If you got a bunch of men together and drowned them in free liquor, chances were a fight of some sort would break out. On top of that, they weren’t completely closing the bar, so other people would be in the mix as well. “I asked for that because the bar’s regulars are still permitted to show up, and while we may be able to control close personal friends, I can’t say the same for drunk strangers.”

Trent finished his beer. “Who is heading this shit up?”

Teal wracked her brain for the name Violet had given her. “Renegade Security.”

Trent’s grip tightened on his knife.

“What?”

He looked away from her. “You can’t hire anyone else?”

The waitress appeared at the table. “Another beer, sir?”

Trent muttered a dismissive, “Yeah,” then returned to the conversation. “There’s no one else?”

Teal shifted in her seat. “No, Poe said he has a contract with them.”

He stared past her, as if he were no longer in the moment. Perhaps a memory had stolen him from her, and Teal was not okay with that.

Snapping her fingers in front of his face, she called his name. “Trent, what’s going on in that head of yours?”

He focused on her and sat back in his seat. “Nothing, just thinking about something.”

Teal waited for an explanation and when one didn’t come, she spoke. “And?”

The prompt was left unanswered as Trent took the beer from the waitress and swigged half the thing down. Once he’d finished the glass, he released a small chuckle, but nothing else.

Nervous energy welled up inside of her. “Okay, so you want to tell me about this company, or should I call Poe?” She slipped off a heel and nudged Trent when he still didn’t speak. She placed her foot on his knee, keeping it there just in case she needed to kick the answer out of him.

“All right, it ain’t too bad.” He let out a long sigh. “I mean, it used to be run by this mean son of a bitch who’d once threatened Shayla.”

Teal closed her eyes and slumped in her seat. She hoped that even though she’d adopted Shayla’s biological daughter, she’d never have to hear that name again.

“But nothing to worry about now, he’s dead.”

A whoosh of relief burst from Teal. “Damn. You could have led with that, yeah?”

He cocked his neck to the side, stretching the tension from it. “Yeah, I should have.”

“Then why are you so worried?” Something wasn’t adding up for Teal. “What is the big deal if he is dead?”

“Dead or not, baby, I ain’t interested in partying with them.”

Her eyes widened and Teal picked up her wine and gulped some down. “Are you saying you won’t go?” She didn’t want to have Trent sit this out. Moreover, if Trent didn’t feel comfortable dealing with Renegade security, should she?

“No, baby. I’m going, and it ain’t such a big deal now.”

“He’s dead, so it should have never been a big deal.” Teal took a few more bites then placed her fork down.

“You done already?” Trent asked.

Checking his plate, she noted all his food was about gone, except for the veggies. “No, I’m just saving room for dessert.” She did a little excited wiggle.

With a grunt, Trent pushed his plate away. “Same here.” His eyes darkened and he reached below the table and grabbed the foot Teal had placed on his knee. She gasped when his thumb applied slight pressure to her instep. His light massaging continued until the waitress came, cleared the table, and took their dessert order—to go.

In the truck, Trent held Teal’s hand as he searched the radio for something to listen to. “I can’t believe there isn’t anything decent on the radio these days.” Trent lifted her hand to meet his lips.

“Hell, I’m not thinking about that shit.” He pushed her hand down until it was in his lap. Trent’s hard length pushed back against the seam of his jeans. “I just want to get you home and fuck you.”

Teal let out a giggle as her face heated. “Damn, where did that come from?”

“I’ve been thinking about it ever since that waitress back there explained how sweet and decadent that dark chocolate ganache would taste.” He opened her hand and placed her palm on his cock. “Shit, I was hard pressed not to tell her I was headed home to have my face in some of the best damned dark chocolate I’ve ever tasted.”

“What in the hell?” Slapping his chest with her free hand and squeezing his cock in the other, Teal said, “Well, do we have to wait? I wouldn’t mind some white chocolate for the road.”

He gently bucked into her palm. “Hmmm, don’t play, baby. You know I will pull this damned truck over and fuck you.”  

Teal unzipped Trent’s jeans. “Oh no, I am completely serious about my sweets. You know that.” Trent’s gruff laughter sent a spark of heat to Teal’s core.

“You want a taste, right now?” he asked, his dark eyes darting from the road to her and then back again. Teal didn’t want to be pulled from a fiery wreckage by firefighters with her mouth wrapped around Trent’s member, so instead she opted for a quick hand job.

“I’ll taste it when we get home, but for now.” Teal stroked Trent, making sure to pay extra attention to his sensitive tip. As his moans grew louder Teal glanced at the speedometer and noticed that they were speeding. “Damn, slow down a bit.”

Trent followed her gaze. “Shit.” He hit the brakes and reached for her hand. “Maybe we should wait. Fuck, if I come while we are driving I’ll wind up killing us both.” Teal watched as Trent tucked himself away as best as he could then place his warm hand on her thigh. “Open up for me.”

“What?” She asked even as she did his bidding. “I thought we were waiting until we got home.”

Trent unbuttoned her pants. “That was for me.” The sound of her breathing mixed with the unzipping of her pants echoed in the car. While there wasn’t much room to play, Trent’s fingers made contact with her core through her panties. “Open wider for me.” Teal did so. She watched Trent’s fingers as they made little circles over her damp panties.

Trent’s voice deepened as his desire roared to life. “You already wet for me?” Teal nodded and threw her head back onto the headrest. A second ago, she couldn’t wait to get home, and now, she prayed they hit every fucking red light in the state. Trent’s talented fingers coaxed Teal’s clit forward and a deep moan from her. Her body heated as her core tightened ready for release.

Pushing her panties aside, he brushed her gently with his knuckles. The light sensation pulled Teal back from the ledge, while keeping her body wound tight.

“Trent,” She copied his earlier move and gently bucked into his hand urging her to give him what she needed.

Teal moved her hips with the motion of Trent’s hand, the slow build guaranteed her an orgasm she would not forget, and Trent knew it. He knew her body so well, that Teal believed he alone had been created to love her. He’d mastered her body, taken the time to taste every inch of her all while pushing her body to the max.

When he pulled his hand away, Teal’s eyes popped open. “What?” When she was greeted by the site of her home, Teal’s eyes widened. “When the hell?”

“Half way between more and harder.” Trent chuckled. “Come, baby. Let’s send these two home and finish what we started in here.”

Teal opened her door, unwilling to wait for Trent to make his way around the truck and open it for her. She shouted over her shoulder, “First one there gets to come first.”

The second her hand reached the door knob, Trent’s strong arms caught her and pulled her back into his chest. His warm lips met her ear, and warm breath fanned over her neck. Seconds later, Trent pressed his erection into her back as he spoke.

“My baby always comes first, and tonight, I remind you of that over and over, so you never forget it.”

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.