love against the odds

Boxset Cover Reveal: Love Against the Odds

Against all odds, love prevails.

Love Against the Odds Volume one includes two previously published bestselling novels: Rogue in Love and Open Wounds. This volume features the men of Trent's Body Shop each story is a standalone with a HEA.


Rogue in Love:
Ten years ago, Lex was forced to skip town, giving up everything he’d ever known. But even his time in solitude couldn’t keep away the memory of the girl he’d left behind. The girl who’d offered him her innocence, and her heart.

Thea had moved on from the boy who abandoned her. Good job, fiancé, comfortable life in New York … until everything is ripped away from her, leaving her to pick up the pieces alone.

RELEASE DATE 11/30/2017

When the care of an ailing loved one brings them back to Blackwater, Lex and Thea are confronted by the pains of the past. For Lex, that means helping to heal the broken-hearted woman he left behind. For Thea, it means refusing to let him see the gaping hole his absence created.

The old feelings still linger, but only they can decide to relight the sparks, no matter the secrets and heartaches that come with them.

Open Wounds: 
If you could see your life from inception to your death, would you change things or would you let your death play out as fate intended?

Abel is in search of only two things. A stable job and a safe place to lay his head at night after a mistake that cost him eighteen months of his life. As if fate had plans made only for him, Abel is offered a complicated job, and a chance to redeem himself to his old boss, from an old friend. And then he meets her…
And soon, Abel finds himself adding another item to his list—Hope.

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

 **Includes a bonus copy of Inevitable: Love and War**

Inger Iversen is the bestselling author of several novels including her New Adult Series, In the Dark: Running in the Dark, Sinners in the Dark, Confessions in the Dark, and coming soon, Absolution in the Dark. She is also the author of the bestselling Few Are Angels series, a paranormal romance told from the heroine’s perspective that builds in intensity and intrigue to a finale you won’t see coming. Heart pounding action mixed with heartwarming friendships and heartbreaking romance will leave you breathless and begging for more.

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Check out her books on her site: www.ingeriversen.com
Or email her with any questions or requests at kristen@ingeriversen.com
Follow Inger on Twitter @kris10inger
Friend Inger on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authoringeriversen/


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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!

New Release - Open Wounds: Hope & Abel

GET YOUR COPY TODAY!!

LOVE AGAINST THE ODDS

OPEN WOUNDS: HOPE & ABEL

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

If you could see your life from inception to death, would you change things or would you let your death play out as fate intended?

Abel is in search of only two things: a stable job and a safe place to lay his head at night after a mistake that cost him eighteen months of his life. As if fate had plans made only for him, Abel is offered a complicated job, and a chance to redeem himself to his old boss. 
And then he meets her …
And Abel adds another item to his list—Hope.
 

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


This book includes a sample of Weathered Souls and Inevitable: Love and War

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. Your enjoyment may be enhanced if you follow this reading order:


-       Incarcerated: Letters from Inmate 92510   -Katie & Logan
-       Inevitable: Love and War - 2/28/2015        -Teal & Trent 1
-       Indelible: Beneath His Ink - 12/12/2016    -Teal & Trent 2
-       Rogue in Love - 3/28/2017 *standalone*   -Thea & Lex
-       Open Wounds - 6/28/2017 *standalone*     -Hope & Abel
-       Indebted: Til Death Do us Part 9/28/2017  -Teal & Trent 3
-       Weathered Souls 12/28/2017 *standalone* -Ivory & Eric

Only SIX days left!!

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

AWWM contemporary romance Novella
 

CHAPTER 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about?”

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

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

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

“What?” His delighted surprise made her giggle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt - Open Wounds - June 28th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

                                                                   TWO.                                         

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ah, back on the job?” she asked.

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

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

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

“Got it. What are the parameters?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No,” Abel said hurriedly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes and no,” he answered honestly.

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

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

Open Wounds | Excerpt

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

Open Wounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#TeaserTuesday | Open Wounds

    *LIGHTLY EDITED PREVIEW*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-Order Open Wounds NOW!

AWWM | Adult Contemporary Romance

Open Wounds

Release: June 28th 2017

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

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

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

CLICK TO PREORDER TODAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preorder Open Wounds

AMAZON

AWWM | Adult Contemporary Romance

Kindle Unlimited For A Limited Time!

OPEN WOUNDS: ABEL & HOPE

 

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

A Love Against the Odds Novel

If you could see your life from inception to your death, would you change things or would you let your death play out as fate intended?

Abel is in search of only two things. A stable job and a safe place to lay his head at night after a mistake that cost him eighteen months of his life. As if fate had plans made only for him, Abel is offered a complicated job, and a chance to redeem himself to his old boss, from an old friend. And then he meets her…
And Abel adds another item to his list—Hope.

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

*Lightly Edited Preview*

        Hope curiously eyed the gaudy, purple and pink plastic engagement ring on Thea’s finger, as she held her hand up in the air. Her friend gazed lovingly at it while wiggling her fingers. Bright, adoring eyes met Hope’s as she gushed over the ring and 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.” Thea 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 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 egg shells around me.” Thea’s engagement was amazing news, and Hope was acting like a big-ass wet rag. She pushed back the agonizing memories and 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, or her inability to trust, 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, handing her a clipboard with documents attached. Seconds later, a biker in leather pants—crazy in this heat—a ripped and bloody shirt the size of a mountain 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 the tattered shirt. Hope’s eyes travelled up and up the huge behemoth until her eyes met and 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 seriously injured. Hope 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 to meet her gaze. 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, Hope 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 and get him stitched up. “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.” Making her way to the cabinet, she 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?”

            “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-twenty pounds, Hope didn’t stand a chance against the mountain man, but she knew the first and most important thing to remember 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 put the fear of God in her, Hope 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 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 . . .” He ducked his head down blonde hair falling over his eyes, 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 glanced up as coal-colored eyes shined 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 smiled. “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 broken down and finally 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 do 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 home, 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 in 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.

     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. Scanning the area, she didn’t find anything out of place. How had he tracked her down? She’d been so careful.

     It has to 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.

     Hope turned back to go inside and noticed a note tucked inside 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.