Book Blitz: Latte Girl by Katia Rose

 

Latte Girl

Genres: Comedy, New Adult, Romance

Synopsis:

Hot coffee is a regular fixture in Hailey Warren’s life. Hot guys? Not so much.

Her grueling shifts at a cafe in the heart of the city’s business sector are rarely punctuated by anything special, so when the gorgeous heir to the security company next door strides into Hailey’s life, it feels like punctuation with a capital P (or D, depending on your preferred terminology).

Jordan Knox is enough to send her heart racing faster than a triple shot of espresso, and when the attraction proves to be mutual, no hidden corners or empty offices are safe from their game of cat and mouse.

But when she’s ready to drop the pretenses, Jordan continues to hold back, and Hailey realizes he’s been hiding secrets that could make whatever’s brewing between them boil over and burn.

‘Latte Girl’ is a full length, standalone novel, and the debut title from author Katia Rose.

Buy Link:
Amazon

EXCERPT:

I manage to get my head out from under the desk, and find myself face to face with his crotch.

Interesting development, notes my very unhelpful brain.

I move my eyes from his crotch to his horrified face.

“I’m— I’m not. A stalker, that is. I wasn’t hiding. I mean, I was just— wait. Let me get out of here first.”

Wondering how I managed to get under the desk so quickly in the first place, I try to contort myself enough to escape. I scoot out with my legs still bent up to my earlobes and then try to haul myself to my feet by grabbing the top edge of the desk.

This, of course, overbalances me and I reach out for the only thing I can find to keep me from falling, which just so happens to be the armrests of Jordan’s chair. I catch my balance with my arms braced on either side of him, our faces inches apart.

A soft “Unph” sound escapes my lips.

He blinks.

“Hey,” he finally says.

“Hi,” I reply, my voice breathy.

 

Latte Girl Play List:

Help I’m Alive- Metric

Coffee- Sylvan Esso

Karma Police- Radiohead

Time- Onuka

The Love you’re Given- Jack Garratt

Till Sunrise- Goldroom ft. Mammals

Waiting- City and Colour

Reminder- Mumford and Sons

Little Lion Man- Mumford and Sons

Do You Love Me Still- The Kooks

She Is- The Fray

You and Me- Disclosure ft. Eliza Doolittle (Flume Remix)

Author Bio:


Katia Rose is not much of a Pina Colada person, but she does like getting caught in the rain. She prefers her romance served steamy with a side of smart, and is a sucker for quirky characters. A habit of jetting off to distant countries means she’s rarely in one place for very long, but she calls the frigid northland that is Canada home.

 

 

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Blog Tour: Mr. Prescott by Carlos Dash

 

Mr. Prescott

Publication Date: August 20th 2017

Genres: New Adult, Romance

Synopsis:

I’m the Mayor of London.

I’ve come to New York purely on business. The usual boring meetings with other politicians.

I don’t expect my time here to be exciting in the slightest.

But who’s that woman I met this morning? No, girl. That would be a more accurate term for her.

She’s only twenty-one years old. A college student. Someone who shouldn’t get mixed up with a guy like me.

But I can’t get her out of my mind. Every single time I close my eyes, I see her face.

How can someone I just met do this to me? That’s the kind of stuff that happens in movies. Not real life.

I know this will be a dangerous risk for me, but I can’t help it. I want her. I need her.

And whatever it may do to my career, I won’t stop until I have her.

Mr. Prescott is a standalone New Adult Romance novel told entirely from the point of view of the male lead.

Goodreads / Amazon

Guest Post:

Hi, thanks for having me.

What made me pick the genre and writing style for my debut novel, “Mr. Prescott.”

Hmm. Good question. Upon seeing my name, Carlos Dash, you might wonder why a man is writing a New Adult Romance novel. After all, it’s a genre where most of the writers are women, and most of the readers are women. But here’s the thing, Carlos Dash is a pen name for a writing duo consisting of one woman, and one man. We write our stories together. And our favorite kinds of stories are love stories… especially ones that are naughty in all the right places.

So here we are. We’re writing a steamy love story about how a handsome politician from London comes to the United States on a business trip, and then falls in love for the first time. The concept of someone from one culture falling for someone from another culture is very intriguing to us. It creates a lot of potential for moments that are sweet, beautiful, sexy, etc. The possibilities are endless. And therein lies the fun of the romance genre. No one knows exactly how things will turn out. What kind of man is he? What kind of woman is she? Will they fall in love right away? Will they end up together? There’s so much a writer can do with that much creative space.

As for why we chose the particular writing style we did, we knew that most New Adult Romance novels are written mostly from the female point of view. So we decided to change it up. Our book is written entirely from the point of view of the male protagonist. And that was such a fun thing to explore, because he’s not just some ordinary man. In addition to being the youngest mayor in London’s history, he’s dashingly good-looking. As well as charming, arrogant, emotionally detached, and a million other things. He has so many layers to him, that we knew it would be a joy for our readers to see a novel from that genre have such a different bent to it. And as he falls in love, the readers will fall in love with both him and the female lead.

So in the end, that’s what it all comes down to: Write what you’re passionate about, and try to have as much fun as possible. The more you enjoy yourself while writing the story, the more the readers will enjoy reading it.

– Carlos Dash

Author Bio:

I’m a guy who likes to cut right to the chase, so here we go: I’m a male author of Romance/Erotica novels that are told entirely from the POV of the male protagonist. If you enjoy happy endings and steamy tales about people falling in love quickly, my stories are for you.

 

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Release Blitz: Educate Him by Sydney Aaliyah Michelle

 

Educate Him
(Highland Park Chronicles Book 2)

Genre: M/F, BDSM, Second Chance Romance, New Adult

Synopsis:

Young, but not so innocent, maybe she can teach an old professor some new tricks.

Davis
I’ve always looked out for her, but she didn’t know it.
She came back into my life and made me want what I shouldn’t have.
Once she learns the truth, it will show her so much, but will she forgive me.

Julia
When everyone else in my life let me down, he made sense to me.
I returned with a plan in mind, but one night with him and plans changed.
The professor can teach me because I’m ready to learn.

Davis and Julia can’t deny their attraction despite the secrets of their past. Will it bring them closer together or reveal how forbidden their love is and tear them further apart?

Educate Him is an unconventional second chance romance with BDSM elements by Sydney Aaliyah Michelle. If you enjoy a sassy, confident young woman, a smooth talking sexy professor, and a connection that reminds you why you love romance, you’ll love Sydney Aaliyah Michelle’s latest stand-alone HEA romance.

Pick up Educate Him and learn about Davis and Julia’s scorching romance today!

 

“What are you doing here, Jules?”
“I wanted to see you. We haven’t talking in a few days, and I just wanted to check in.” I laid my hands flat against the books; they offered comfort.
“You should have called.” He stared off toward his desk.
“Are you excepting company?”
“No. It’s been a long week; I’m tired and I have a headache.”
I stepped toward him, stood a few inches away, but he didn’t drop his hands.
“You should let me rub your temples.” I reached up, and he grabbed my hand and stepped away.
“Don’t.”
“You don’t even want me to touch you?” I asked over the grapefruit size lump in my throat.
“Jules, please just go.”
“No. Why?” I asked. “I just want to be near you. Why is that so bad?”
“It’s not bad, but I just can’t.”
“Why? What is it?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“Then make me understand.”
His eyes flashed, and he stepped toward me. I welcomed the warmth. His demeanor softened for a split second. I saw it. I felt it, but then it was gone, and he slumped back on the bookshelves with his chin to his chest.
“I can’t,” he said.
The words crushed me yet his tone scared me. I stood in front of him. He shuddered but didn’t look at me. I bent down, so I could see his eyes.
“Why?” I asked. “What are you afraid of?”
He lifted his head. He reached up and ran the back of his hand down my tear-soaked face.
I shuddered.
“I’m afraid if I tell you, if I show you what I am and what I’m truly like, then you’ll stop looking at me like that.” His hand dropped to his side. “I’d really miss that.”
“How do I look at you?” I asked. I knew the answer but wanted to hear how he saw it.
“Like I’m a king. You have the ultimate faith in me. I don’t deserve it.” His head dropped again.
“Then earn it,” I said, my tone stronger than I felt on the inside. Inside, I felt like I might crumble any minutes if he didn’t touch me.
“Oh, Julia … How?” He raised his head.
I spotted a glimmer of hope in his eyes.
“Keep it simple. What do you need me to do?”
His eyes grew dark as he approached me. I backed up into the bookshelf, and he placed his hands on either side of my head.
“Do as I say?”
I nodded. My heart raced, and I was sure he could hear it thumping like crazy. He placed his hand over my heart, and I drew in a sharp breath. His fingers tapped against my sternum.
“Look at me.”
I turned my head up and stared into his eyes. His hands rose and surround my throat. He didn’t squeeze, but panic set in.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Jules.” He pressed a little tighter. “I need you to trust me.”
“Okay.”
“Do you trust me?”
I nodded.
“Say it.”
“I trust—” Before I finished the sentence, his lips were on mine.



 

 

Sydney Aaliyah Michelle is a Contemporary Romance writer, a voracious reader, tattoo lover, and movie fanatic who hails from Texas.

After surviving 5 1/2 years living in China, she had the courage to finally pursue her passion and become a writer.

She identifies the sci-fi action flick “The Matrix” as the best representation of her life in the past. She is now blessed to be awake and doing what she loves.

She can recite the entire script from the 80’s teen comedy/drama “The Breakfast Club” and loves any and everything associated with the Avengers Movie, especially Tony Stark.

When it come to books, Sydney reads different genres, but some of her favorite writers are Stephen King, Alex J. Cavanaugh, J.A Huss, M. Never & Emily Bronte. Under the Dome, The Great Gatsby & Wuthering Heights are her favorite books.

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Salvage Him (Highland Park Series Book #1)

Blog Tour: Unbound by Lauren Hawkeye


UNBOUND
(Uninhibited #2)

 Genres: Adult, Entangled: Scorched, Serial, Contemporary, Erotic, Romance

SYNOPSIS:

Celebrity archaeologist Cari Dunn knew an affair with Jasper Benjamin was dangerous. Especially after the sound of shattering glass interrupts what was supposed to be a pleasure-filled night. When the threats against Cari start to stack up and the list of suspects seems higher than ever, Jasper calls for backup. Some very hot and exciting backup. For one night, Cari feels more protected than ever. But if they’re lost in passion, can they see the danger before it’s too late?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33976127-seduced-by-sin

Buy Links:
Amazon • B&NiTunesKobo • Amazon UK • Amazon CA • Amazon AU

Excerpt:

“Get your hands off me!” I hissed as he used his body to herd me against the slender support beam that stood in the middle of the room. My hands were trapped behind my back where he’d twisted them, and I thrashed as he wrapped the belt around my upper arms and torso then around to the back of the column. “Jasper. You’re not seriously doing this.”

“My priority, above all else, is making sure that you stay safe.” Buckling the belt and pulling it tight, he leaned back to look me in the eye. My teeth started chattering when I realized that he was really, actually planning to leave me here. “I promise that you will be safe here. I just need ten minutes, okay? Ten minutes during which I know where you are.”

I shook my head, a chill settling over my body. It was completely irrational, and I knew it, but it didn’t stop the feeling. “I hate you.”

He didn’t even flinch. Instead, he slid a finger between the belt and my skin, testing its tightness. “You can hate me all you want, as long as you’re safe.”

 

 

DON’T MISS THE FIRST PART IN THE UNINHIBITED SERIAL!


SYNOPSIS:

Celebrity archaeologist Cari Dunn is so over the Georgia heat, the red tape at her dig site, and the threatening messages left on her motel door. She just wants to dig, and the network just wants to keep her safe—with a bodyguard. She can’t complain. Jasper Benjamin radiates raw masculinity that penetrates her to the core and ignites passion she’s never felt. Too bad for him, she’s not going to be easy to handle.

Lusting after the bodyguard shouldn’t be so tempting, especially when her life is on the line.

 

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Buy Links:
Amazon • B&N • iTunes • Kobo • Amazon UK • Amazon CA • Amazon AU

Author Bio:

New York Time and USA Today bestselling author Lauren Hawkeye never imagined that she’d wind up telling stories for a living… though when she looks back, it’s easy to see that she’s the only one who is surprised. Always “the kid who read all the time”, Lauren made up stories about her favorite characters once she’d finished a book… and once spent an entire year narrating her own life internally. No, really. But where she was just plain odd before publication, now she can at least claim to have an artistic temperament.

Lauren lives in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada with her husband, two young sons, pit bull and two idiot cats, though they do not live in an igloo, nor do they drive a dogsled. In her nonexistent spare time Lauren can be found knitting, reading anything she can get her hands on, or sweating her way through spin class. She loves to hear from her readers!

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Blog Tour: Untamed by Lauren Hawkeye

 

UNTAMED
(Uninhibited #1)

 Genres: Adult, Entangled: Scorched, Serial, Contemporary, Erotic, Romance

 Synopsis:
Celebrity archaeologist Cari Dunn is so over the Georgia heat, the red tape at her dig site, and the threatening messages left on her motel door. She just wants to dig, and the network just wants to keep her safe—with a bodyguard. She can’t complain. Jasper Benjamin radiates raw masculinity that penetrates her to the core and ignites passion she’s never felt. Too bad for him, she’s not going to be easy to handle.
Lusting after the bodyguard shouldn’t be so tempting, especially when her life is on the line.goodreads-badge-add-38px

Buy Links:
Amazon • B&N • iTunes • Kobo • Amazon UK • Amazon CA • Amazon AU

Excerpt:

“You two know each other. From before the bar, I mean.” This wasn’t a question. No matter how kinky he was, I just couldn’t see Jasper looking up some guy we’d played with at the bar for a bit of follow-up nookie. “Want to let me in on the secret?”

Jackson smirked as he filled a champagne flute to the top with pale, frothy liquid. Tucking two bottles of beer dripping with condensation under his arm, he carried the wine to me, handing Jackson a beer before seating himself on the couch across from us.

I watched his movements, the precise control in them. I hadn’t noticed it before because I hadn’t been looking for it, but now I saw the similarity to the way Jasper carried himself. “You were in the Marines together.”

“Give the lady a doctorate.” Jackson smirked, toasting me with his own beer before twisting off the cap and taking a deep sip.

I turned back to Jasper, who was watching me intently, waiting to pick up on any sign of discomfort. “Do you work together now?”

“Jackson left the Marines not long after I did. Since he worships me so much, he decided to follow me into the world of protection.” Jasper drank, and I was distracted by the sensual line of his throat as he swallowed. “And since his services are not nearly as in demand as mine, he had nothing better to do than follow me out to out to freaking Meadow Ridge, Georgia, on assignment.”

“Wait.” I gulped down half of my drink before setting it on the coffee table in front of us. I pinned Jackson with a hard stare. “You must have known who I was when you approached me, then. Did you do it just to piss him off?”

Beside me, Jasper huffed out a breath; Jackson laughed.

“Sure, I knew who you were. I like your show.” Draining his beer, he set the bottle down beside my half-full champagne flute. “I approached you because you’re hot. It was my shitty luck that you’d already attached yourself to Jasper’s ugly-ass self.”

Beside me, Jasper snorted, and I sat back, evaluating my feelings. I felt like I should have been a little upset that neither man had let on that they knew each other that night. Instead, I found it kind of sexy. “You guys get handsy with each other’s women all the time?”

I tensed as soon as I spoke; I’d just referred to myself as Jasper’s woman. What would he think of that?

When I cast him a nervous glance, he was watching me intently, but he didn’t look like he was going to run screaming off into the night. Instead, he was focused on me entirely, and if I had to label the emotion I saw on his face, it would have been possessive.

“Jackson can’t help wanting what’s mine.” Jasper’s smile was dark and sexy. “But if we’re feeling nice, maybe we’ll let him play for a bit.”

 

Author Bio:

 

New York Time and USA Today bestselling author Lauren Hawkeye never imagined that she’d wind up telling stories for a living… though when she looks back, it’s easy to see that she’s the only one who is surprised. Always “the kid who read all the time”, Lauren made up stories about her favorite characters once she’d finished a book… and once spent an entire year narrating her own life internally. No, really. But where she was just plain odd before publication, now she can at least claim to have an artistic temperament.

Lauren lives in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada with her husband, two young sons, pit bull and two idiot cats, though they do not live in an igloo, nor do they drive a dogsled. In her nonexistent spare time Lauren can be found knitting, reading anything she can get her hands on, or sweating her way through spin class. She loves to hear from her readers!

 Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter | Amazon Author Profile

 

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Book Blitz: Black Shamrocks MC by Kylie Hillman

 

Seizing Control
(Black Shamrocks MC #1)

Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense

Synopsis:

Can you really call him your past, if he refuses to stay buried?

Only daughter of the volatile President of the Black Shamrocks MC and long-suffering sister to four overprotective brothers, Madelaine O’Brien has survived circumstances that would have broken a lesser woman.

Mikhail “Mad Dog” Kennedy is her salvation, her reward for continuing to fight, and the matching piece of her soul.

With her life happy and on track, will the reappearance of the monster from her past be the event that finally breaks her? Or will he be the catalyst she needs to put it all behind her, once and for all?

They say when life gives you lemons; make lemonade. What happens when life keeps sending you demons who refuse to stay buried? Do you lie down and accept defeat or rise to the seemingly unwinnable challenge, and start SEIZING CONTROL

WARNING: This series contains graphic situations and is not suitable for all readers. While this series isn’t dark-dark, basically everything that could need a trigger warning is included at some stage. Please consider yourself warned.

Seizing Control is the first book in the Internationally Bestselling Black Shamrocks MC Series. If you enjoy gritty, authentic, and sexy MC reads, then you’ll love Kylie Hillman’s unique take on MC romance.

Complete Series

 

   

Brotherhood before blood.

It’s that simple.

Until, the brotherhood betrays blood…

On the surface, the Black Shamrocks MC is exactly what an outlaw motorcycle club should be. Unapologetically brutal. Unquestionably ruthless. Unwaveringly loyal.The brotherhood appears rock solid, allied and impenetrable. Their various blood ties only serve as a reminder of the generations of kinship and family that came before them.

Dig a little deeper and the illusion begins to shatter. Beneath a well-cultivated facade of unity, old tensions simmer and new alliances are created. Game plans are being put into action. Legacies are being secured. Deals with the devil are being made.

While these betrayals are being executed with cold efficiency, a new love is born. It’s a love that those undermining the club never saw coming. It’s a love that threatens to derail the upcoming coup. It’s a love that could unite them all and stop evil in its tracks if it’s allowed to prosper.

When those closest to you are plotting your downfall, is it possible for love to conquer all? If the war needed to defeat those responsible could cost you a loved one, would you be willing to pay the price? Unfortunately, the answers don’t matter anymore … because, ready or not, the Black Shamrocks MC is about to be engulfed by BLOOD & BETRAYAL.

Goodreads / Amazon / B&N

Excerpts:

 

SOOTHING SUFFERING, BLACK SHAMROCKS MC #0.5

PROLOGUE

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ~Kahlil Gibran~

Turns out that there is a fate worse than death. After watching my mother fade away before my eyes, I decided that I would do everything in my power to live a long life.

Death is scary.

Death is the end.

Now, every time I look at my scarred and broken body, I close my eyes and I pray for death. It doesn’t scare me anymore; if anything, I look forward to the day that I can close my eyes for the final time and never have to think about Brendan Taylor and what he did to me, ever again. The sweet respite from the voices in my head—the ones that keep telling me that I’m still Brendan’s slut—can only be achieved by embracing the end of my life.

That final barrier, the one that stops me from following through on my desire to die, is getting thinner by the day. With every memory that masquerades as a nightmare, with each flinch away from Mik’s gentle touch, with every single glance he sends my way that’s filled with guilt and regret; I edge one step closer to finishing it all.

No-one knows. I refuse to let them see just how close I am to giving up. There’s nothing they can do anyway. My bed was made when I chose to let my pride get in the way of admitting my mistakes. If I’d spoken up, none of this would have happened.

I should find it ironic that the person I hurt the most is the only one stopping me from taking my life. Except, I don’t. He’s always been the one. Even when I was too stupid to realise it. If it wasn’t for that loving glimmer I glimpse in his gaze when he looks at me, I’d do it.

Instead, I hold onto that love and push through another day.

For how much longer? I don’t know.

All I know is that today isn’t the day I put an end to my pain.

CHAPTER ONE

LAINEY

A heavy hand lands on my shoulder. Lost as I am in my own world—a world filled with painful memories that make the fear that is now my constant companion kick up a notch—I don’t recognize the owner until I’ve flinched away from their touch, putting space between myself and the person I perceive to be my newest attacker. Swinging around with looping punch that would have my self-defence instructor shaking his head, I follow with an ear-splitting shriek that makes me cringe.

Fuck. Lainey. It’s me.” Mik holds his arms out in front of himself. He looks me dead in the eye and waves his hands as if he’s trying to settle a spooked horse. Even his mouth is shaped in a circle as if he’s about to tell me to “whoa”. My heart’s trying to pound out of my chest, fearful trembling seizing control of my body, while heat rises up my neck and warms my cheeks. I feel like a damn idiot, but I can’t seem to stop overacting to the smallest thing.

“I thought you heard me coming, Angel. I’m sorry.”

His apology makes me feel worse. Adding his slumped shoulders and strained expression into the mix only drives home how much he’s suffering with me. The green flecks in his hazel eyes have been dulled by the pain he carries. Every time I flinch away from him, the light in them—that cheeky spark that used to illuminate his face—dims a little bit more.

“It’s all good, I was daydreaming,” I say in a voice that doesn’t sound nearly as breezy as it did in my head. Forcing my stiff, shaking body to loosen, I fake my best smile and close the distance between us in three steps. Ignoring how my hands tremble, I press my breasts against his hard chest and wrap my arms around his neck.

Bringing his head down to mine, I press my lips against his and initiate a kiss that’s deeper than the quick pecks that we’ve exchanged since I was released from hospital eight weeks ago. Mik was rigid when I put my arms around him; yet, he manages to take it to another level altogether at my touch. His arms hang at his side and he doesn’t return my kiss past allowing the initial joining of our mouths. Feeling like I trying to make out with a statue, I pull back an inch and sink my teeth into his bottom lip with deliberate viciousness.

“Fuck!” He yelps, the blank expression on his face changing to one of annoyance. Gripping me with infinite gentleness by the tops of my arms, he moves me back so that he can look down at me. “Why’d you fucking do that?”

Pushing away the embarrassment that’s threatening to overwhelm me—first from my overreaction to his innocent touch and secondly from his refusal to kiss me back—I shake my head at him. Wrenching out of his grasp, I sit on the dining table in the same spot I was before he interrupted me.

“Why did I do that?” I mimic his confused tone. “Gee, I don’t know. Maybe because my boyfriend refuses to kiss me.”

The aggravation leaves his rugged features, sympathy taking its place. It’s the one emotion I can’t deal with; one that he should know better than to send in my direction. The small amount of spirit left in my psyche—the tiny part that survived my ex-boyfriend’s onslaught—flares to life, heating my indignation, and giving me the ability to lash out at him.

“You know, if being with me is too much for you to handle, the door’s that way.” I spit the words at him with a certainty that doesn’t reflect my inner fear that he’ll take me up on my offer. Pointing in the direction of the front door, I continue. “Don’t let it hit you on your fine ass on the way out.”

Swinging back to my feet, I step up into his personal space and glare at him through narrowed eyes. “We both know I’m damaged. Hell, nobody’d blame you if you walked. Nobody wants a woman as scarred as me.”

Putting space between us, I wave my right hand over my abdomen. “Inside and out.”

Turning my back to him, I make my way to our bedroom. Slamming the door shut behind me, I flick the lock before throwing myself face down on our king-sized bed. The tears that are constantly trying to escape from my eyes—the tears that I have to fight everyday—run down my cheeks. The only time I let them fall is when no one else can see them. When I’m alone, they’re stronger than me. So much so, that I should be out of tears to cry since it feels like it’s all I do lately.

Keeping my anguish to myself is becoming too much. It’s making me treat Mik like shit, when he’s the only one who has a chance of understanding how I feel because he’s the only one who knows the full truth of what happened to me. The guilt that my behavior brings just adds another layer to what I’m already struggling under.

If I’d listened to him, none of this would have happened. If I’d gone to him after the first time Brendan hurt me, it wouldn’t have got so bad. If I’d listened to the voice in the back of my mind that told me to tell him the truth, I wouldn’t be broken now.

The handle rattles as Mik tries to open the door, interrupting my mental blame game. He raps his knuckles against the hard wood. “Lainey, let me in. Fuck me dead, I’m trying my best here. If I try to touch you, it makes you freak out so when you kissed me I didn’t have a fucking clue how to react.”

I hear a soft thud, and I can picture him resting his forehead against the door. Swallowing the lump in my throat, I sit up and stare at the wooden barrier that separates us. Wiping my face, I press my lips together so they’ll stop trembling while I breathe deeply through my nose, making my lungs expand before letting the air out slowly. It’s a technique my therapist reckons will calm me, although it hasn’t worked so far.

“Angel. Talk to me. Tell me how to help you. I’ll do anything you want.” He pauses, a loud sigh coming from the other side of the door, telling me that he’s not only confused—he’s hurt and frustrated with me for shutting him out. I open my mouth, unsure what words are going to leave my lips when I speak, when he interrupts me with the words that are the main reason why I can’t confide in him. “Fucking hell, Mo Ghrá. I know this is my fault and I’m fucking sorry. More than you’ll ever know.”

My mouth closes of its own volition. I throw myself backward on the comforter, landing on my back as the tears call an end to the brief reprieve they’d granted me. Flailing my hand toward the head of the bed, I reach for a pillow. Jamming it over my face, I open my mouth and scream … and scream and scream. My mind joins in, shrieking two sentences at me over and over in a matching rhythm to the cries that my pillow is muffling.

It’s not your fault. It’s mine.

Mik must mistake my silence for agreement. A louder thud makes the door shake—I’m not sure if he’s hit it with his head or his fist—before I hear him walk away from our bedroom, his heavy biker boots sounding against the jarrah floorboards. My attention is drawn from my screams as I listen to see if he’s leaving the house.

Ten. Eleven. Twelve. After the thirteenth step, there’s a resounding bang as the front door is thrown open, hitting the wall behind it. I jump on the bed when a louder boom echoes through the house as Mik slams the door shut behind him.

Barely five seconds later, I hear his Harley roar to life before the squealing of tyres heralds his departure from our street. With straining ears, I listen as the rumbling engine gets further away, the sound receding until I can’t hear it anymore.

Rolling onto my side, I pull the pillow against me and curl into the foetal position around it. Burying my face in its softness, I drag in a ragged breath and Mik’s scent overcomes me. I must have grabbed his pillow. The familiar smell makes me long for him. Yet, I know that after my actions this afternoon, this might be all I’m left with. An empty house, a broken heart and body, and the slowly disappearing scent of the man I love.

It’s with that thought that the never-ending tears pick up pace and begin pooling on the pillow as a liquid tribute to my sorrow.

 

SEIZING CONTROL, BLACK SHAMROCKS MC #1

PROLOGUE

“When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.” ~Unknown~

This has been my motto for the past four years. I was certain I’d proven to myself, and anyone who mattered, that I’d let my past strengthen me, not destroy me. I’d survived every woman’s worst nightmare and I was still standing. I was chasing my dreams, my family was thriving, and so was my relationship. As far as I was concerned, I exemplified the positive essence of the saying.

Unfortunately, everything I thought I’d overcome was about to rear its ugly head. He refused to stay in the past where he belonged. He was determined to conquer me and keep me for himself—to control me, alienate me from my loved ones, and force me to submit to his will. His latest attack was going to prove his most lethal, and he was going to teach me that, even though he hadn’t destroyed me in the past, he had absolutely defined me.

CHAPTER ONE

LAINEY

Cutting the engine, I breathe a deep sigh of relief as I lay my head back on the headrest. Organised chaos is the only way to describe the situation at work today. I love my job, but I’m bone tired. My back hurts from sitting most of the day, and I have a throbbing headache from spending too much time reading obscure briefs and debating vague angles.

Grabbing my phone to text Mik that I’m home, I find thirteen missed calls from him and four messages telling me to wait at the office until he gets there. Just my luck. I forgot to turn my ringer back on. He’s not going to be happy about my lack of communication. I’m going to hear all about it when he gets home.

In my defence, I switched my phone to vibrate to minimise interruptions during my back-to-back meetings this afternoon. Namely his interruptions, since my headstrong man doesn’t respect the rules of traditional workplaces. He calls and texts multiple times a day, even when I’ve told him I’ll be too busy to talk.

The thought of the overreaction I’m going to face when he gets home brings a cheeky grin to my face. The phrase “Control Freak” was coined to describe my fiancé. I can hear his low, gruff voice already, lecturing me for not waiting for him and not returning his calls; for putting my phone on vibrate in the first place. Then I’ll be lectured for leaving work without an escort, and for taking what he deems “unnecessary risks” with my safety.

I completely understand where his protectiveness comes from, although it does grate at my need for independence at times. Because I understand Mik’s need for strict safety precautions—having barely survived what happened when I was eighteen—I don’t often step outside his carefully constructed lines on purpose. Not listening this time is purely due to forgetfulness and exhaustion. It’s unfortunate, but it’ll end up being worth it since every lecture he gives me ends with us tangled around each other in bed. My stomach tightens with delighted anticipation of how this evening is going to end.

Buzzz.

Buzzz.

I’m jolted from my thoughts by my flashing and vibrating phone. I decline the call in favour of sending a text, not wanting to deal with the beginning of his tirade over the phone. Mik is much more receptive to my feminine manipulations in person.

ME: Already home. Just saw your messages. Sorry xx

A reply flashes on my screen less than a minute later.

MIK: OMW.

His abruptness leads me to think that he’s texting me as he rides his Harley. I can picture him weaving in and out of traffic in his rush to get to me. Shaking my head at the dangerous habit I’ve been unable to get him to break, I pull my keys from the ignition. The chronic worrier always returns my texts and calls straight-away. He’ll always drop whatever he’s doing to be with me, should he feel the slightest inclination that I might need him. Gratitude fills me that, four years after he saved me, he’s still as protective as ever.

It’s unusual not to have Mik, or one of the enforcers, pulling into my driveway right behind me. I normally have an escort to and from work each day and I wonder what was so important that none of them were able to be here with me.

Summoning the energy to get out of my car, I pull my oversized work bag out behind me and wander to the mailbox. Pulling out the envelopes and flipping through them, I find that all but one is addressed to Mikhail Kennedy—as always, his detested given name makes me laugh. One single piece of mail isn’t addressed to either of us. The plain white envelope is unsealed. Tipping the contents into my palm unearths a USB with Lainey scrawled on it in black lettering. As I’m contemplating it with growing unease, a white work van pulls across my driveway.

“Hey, miss, are you ready for us?” The big man in the passenger seat yells at me, leaning out the window.

“What do you mean?” I reply, walking toward the van, my thin heels clicking on our concrete driveway. I slip the USB and Mik’s mail into my bag and sling it over my shoulder. A sliver of foreboding runs through my mind, manifesting as an icy shiver that flows through my body. I carefully edge my right hand into my bag and wrap my fingers around the butt of my handgun. My illegal, unlicenced handgun.

Stopping a few metres from the van and cocking an eyebrow, I wait for a response to my question. Almost unconsciously, my thumb begins to play with my engagement ring, a nervous habit I’ve developed since Mik slid the ring on my finger just over a year ago.

The man in the driver’s seat starts speaking, but I can’t hear him. He’s gesturing toward a piece of paper in his hand. Considering signage for a plumbing business decorates the side of the van, I decide they must have the wrong address. Giving myself a mental shake for being suspicious of nothing, I pull my hand from my bag and walk to the passenger window.

“I didn’t book a plumber.”

“We know.” the driver sneers, a sinister smirk crossing his face.

My heart lurches at his tone, chills running down my spine, and I turn to run. Two steps are all I manage before the van’s side door bursts open and two men leap out, each latching onto my arms, and dragging me kicking and screaming into the van. They slam the door shut as the van drives off at high speed, wheels squealing.

Screaming at the top of my lungs, I fight for my freedom with all I have. I manage to kick one of my attackers in the face before I feel a sharp pinch in my arm. Twisting around, I see an empty syringe sticking out of my bicep. That can’t be good. My head grows fuzzy and my eyesight starts to dim. In the developing drug-induced darkness, I vaguely hear a man whining.

“Fucking bitch made my nose bleed. Fuck.”

Turning to search for the source of the comment, I’m hit in the temple with sickening force, and left with no choice but to embrace the beckoning darkness.

*

Blinking slowly because the light hurts my eyes, I lift my head to see if I can determine where I am. I vaguely remember being carried out of the van, and then being thrown onto a bed before I lost consciousness again. It didn’t feel as if I was out for long in the van, so I hope I’m close to home. Feeling slightly better at that thought, I try to make sense of my situation. Everything is muddled in my head from whatever I was injected with.

Forcing myself to keep my eyes open despite the pain shooting through my temple, I discover that I’m in a large bedroom. A man’s bedroom, by the look of the dark bedding I’m lying on. Male clothes lay over the foot of the bed, and the smell of cologne lingers in the air. The cologne smells familiar to my addled brain, causing my stomach to churn.

My strange reaction to the scent disturbs me, but before I can examine why, the bedroom door opens and in strides a large, muscular man with a shaved head and black tribal tattoos covering his arms. He glares at me, hatred shining from his hard eyes. Gathering as much energy as I can muster, I glare back. I can tell he’s the piece of work I kicked in the face, the dried blood on the front of his shirt and bruising setting in under his eyes giving that fact away. I make a point of grinning at him, lifting my eyebrows in amusement as I slowly drag my gaze over his face and blatantly examine the damage I inflicted.

“I see you’ve finally finished with your beauty sleep,” he snaps, advancing on me. “You looked pretty fuckable lying there moaning away like a bitch in heat—”

“You touch me and I’ll have you killed,” I cut him off. I’m not bluffing. I know plenty of people who can dispose of anyone I ask them to. “Where am I? What the hell do you want with me?”

Lashing out at him with my legs, I land a good kick to his stomach. He grunts, but doesn’t slow his stride toward me. Ignoring my shouted questions, he slaps my legs down. Grabbing me by the arm, he hauls me off the bed, shaking me when I continue to struggle. My feet barely touch the ground as he towers over my five foot eleven frame, even with the added height of my heels.

This guy is massive, and regret fills me when he glowers down at me in rage. It’s going to hurt if he decides to turn violent. Silently, he drags me out of the room, down an expensively decorated hallway, and into an open plan living area.

“Is he here yet?” he barks to the other three men in the room.

They’re all equally as big and scary looking as the guy holding me. I didn’t get a good look at the time, but I’m pretty sure they’re the other guys from the van. “She’s really starting to piss me off.”

“He’ll be here in ten. We’ve got plenty of time to teach her a quick lesson, Duke,” the black-haired guy sitting by himself at the breakfast bar announces to the bastard holding me. His gaze travels from the top of my long blonde hair and down my face, coming to rest on my chest, which is heaving from the exertion of trying to keep on my feet during my trip from the bedroom.

“Good idea.” Duke sneers down at me, his intent written all over his face. His grip on my arms tightens. My stomach drops and my adrenaline spikes. Backing me up against the closest wall, he rips open my satin dress shirt, exposing my blue lace bra. I instinctively struggle, albeit sluggishly because my head is still foggy, but he pins my hands above my head by holding both my wrists in one of his big paws. Groping my covered breasts without finesse, he squeezes and pinches. I’m about to knee him when one of the men sitting on the couch jumps up and pulls Duke off of me.

“If you value your fucked-up life, you won’t touch her. We’re here to snatch and deliver, not for fun,” the man states.

Duke lets go of me as he’s yanked backward by the man speaking. Once I have enough space, I rear back and punch him in the face before kneeing him in the balls. My ample self-defence skills are rising to the surface, the residual fog from the sedative they injected into me clearing somewhat. My attack on his family jewels makes him drop to one knee. His attempts to rise to his full height are hampered by the guy holding him. Even so, he still manages to backhand me across the face, my head jerking to the side from the impact. Pain shoots through my cheek and lip, the metallic taste of blood filling my mouth. My face throbs, but I ignore it, choosing to make a run for the front door. Thank God, I’m able to run in heels, my movements sure and balanced, despite the lasting effects of whatever the hell they drugged me with earlier.

Finally shaking off the guy who pulled him off me, Duke, grabs me around the waist, successfully foiling my escape. When he pulls me back against him, I throw my head back and strike him in the chin. He bellows, but doesn’t loosen his hold on me.

In the chaos, the other men rise to their feet and pull their guns. I vaguely register the weapons as they’re trained on me, concentrating instead on my struggle with Duke. I land a couple of good punches to his face and another knee to his groin. He hits me. The blows are hard enough to enough to stun, even as I use every ounce of my defensive fight training to avoid them. I’m left reeling when I mistime my ducking and weaving. It glances off my temple, and I feel my legs turn to jelly, seconds before an unexpected, booming shout from one of the other men fills the room. Duke uses my wavering concentration to his advantage, seizing me from behind and pulling me to his chest. Using his arms to pin mine to my sides, he slides a clammy hand into my bra and kneads my breast.

“Stop fucking touching her,” the guy, who pulled Duke off me initially orders him once more. His serious, almost professional expression matches the take-no-prisoner’s persona he presents with his crew cut, cargo pants, and khaki T-shirt. He looks like a mercenary. Pushing Duke away from me and grabbing me by the top of my arm, he squeezes tight when I resist.

“Duke, fuck off over there and stay the fuck away from her. I won’t tell you again.” He points at the couch. Duke stares at me, intense loathing in his eyes, before he limps off and collapses on the lounge. “Cain, take her back to the bedroom and watch her.”

He shouts this at the smart mouth from the breakfast bar before he turns his back to huddle with the man he was sitting next to when we entered. Cain salutes the order, winking at me like we’re about to share a private joke. I shudder under his lust-filled perusal.

“No problem, Stu.” The mercenary-looking man now has a name. I mentally catalogue all of them. It’ll come in handy later, I’m certain.

The two who’ve huddled are talking in hushed tones, ignoring the rest of us. They appear to be the leaders of this group, so I assume this house belongs to one of them. My first thought when I look at them is that they have military backgrounds, their upright bearing and haircuts a good indication. Either military or MC. They wouldn’t look out of place in a cut either.

My lingering confusion is bugging me. I can’t work out why they’ve abducted me and who this guy is that they’re waiting to arrive. The only thing I know for sure—if this has something to do with my Dad’s MC—he’s going to go apeshit on their asses. It’s a cardinal rule that women and children are not involved in Club conflicts.

Cain saunters over and grabs me by my sore arm, dragging me away from a glowering Duke. I return Duke’s glare through narrowed eyes as I’m pulled passed him and down the hall, sending a prayer to the universe that his balls hurt for at least a week. We’re nearly at the end of the hallway and out of sight of the living area when Cain slaps his hand over my mouth, pushing me against the wall. My head hits the drywall with a sickening thud, and he presses his leg between my thighs. I scream, minimal sound escaping around his hand.

He licks the side of my face as we wrestle for control of my arms. Overpowering me after a short scuffle, he grabs my wrists and secures them above my head with one of his hands. I try to bring my hands back down so that I can defend myself, but Cain’s too strong. Using the leg he has wedged between my thighs, he lifts me up the wall, and spreads my legs with his hips. He moves between them and presses his denim-clad erection against me. My skirt rides up, exposing my lace-covered core. Feeling his hardness against me through my thin panties, I attempt to squirm away. I can’t stand the feeling of him pressed against me, so I kick him in the back of his thighs with my heels. He doesn’t budge.

“Stop fighting me, bitch. I don’t give a fuck what Stu says. You’re too hot to hand over without tasting,” he tells me, his mouth to my ear.

Ignoring him, I yell against his hand because I know he isn’t supposed to touch me. It achieves nothing, the sound too muffled to carry down the long hallway. He releases my mouth only to punch me hard in the face for disobeying. My head bounces off the wall again, shooting stars bursting through my vision. Fear that I’m going to pass out from the impact overcomes me as he roughly grabs my breasts and grinds himself against me. The world dims. Cain breathes heavily in excitement. He tastes of stale coffee as he forces his tongue into my mouth. I cringe at his invasion, despair winding its way through me like a snake that’s squeezing my internal organs.

When his hold on my hands loosens as his groping gains enthusiasm, I wrench them from his slackening grip and lash out at him. My wild swing misses because Cain is pulled off me and thrown to the floor. I hit the ground with a thump from the unexpected loss of his weight holding me against the wall.

I watch in a daze as a large man with dark brown hair pounds on Cain. Hope rises within me, dulling the panic that’s been threatening to choke me since I woke in this strange house, as I realise that I might about to be rescued. It dies seconds later when nobody comes to investigate the growing commotion.

Wriggling my skirt back down my hips, I sag to the floor, clasping the pieces of my top together. My mind races, matched in intensity by the trembling that’s overcome my body. Blood runs down my chin from Cain’s hit, my lip throbbing in time with my frenetic pulse. There’s nowhere for me to run because they’re blocking the hallway, and this scares me almost as much as Cain’s attack.

Abruptly, the man stops beating Cain. Without acknowledging me, he lifts my attacker by his shirt and drags him down the hallway. A shard of fear pierces my chest as I watch him pull Cain’s prone body away with minimal effort.

“Get this piece of scum out of my house. The rest of you can go as well. This part of the job is done. Stu will be in touch to organise the next phase.” His commanding voice sends chills through me—he’s the other guy they were waiting for. The puppet master behind my abduction. “Find someone to replace him. If I see him again, I’ll kill him for touching her. She’s mine.”

Crouched on all fours, I crawl to the end of the hallway and peek around the corner. Cain’s lying on the floor near the front door, still unconscious, while the others stand near the breakfast bar with their backs to me. They’re watching the newcomer ransack my handbag. Even from behind, he seems familiar. Ominously familiar. I’m still trying to place him when he leaves the room and my range of sight.

My handbag’s presence means my handgun and my phone are here somewhere. The first burst of real hope I’ve had since I regained consciousness explodes within me. If I can’t get away right now, I might be able to get to my phone to call Mik, or get to my gun to protect myself.

Duke and the blond guy—whose name I haven’t learned—turn away from the breakfast bar, nodding to Stu in farewell. They pick up Cain, taking one arm each before they drag him through the front door, closing it behind them without saying another word. My heart leaps when I don’t hear the telltale click of a lock when it engages.

Glancing around for the remaining men, hope grows when I don’t see any of them. The buzz of a phone vibrating on silent breaks the silence in the house. My heart jumps into my throat when I spot my phone lying on the kitchen bench. I’d bet everything I own that Mik’s calling me nonstop to see where I am. My man would be home by now, and losing his mind since I’m not there when I told him I was.

Lord, I’d give anything to go back in time and wait at the office for him like he asked.

My addled mind is finding it hard to wrap itself around what’s happening. I take a few steadying, deep breaths, exhaling slowly through my nose to calm myself.

Peeking again, I see that they’re still gone. It’s now or never to make my run for the front door.

I button my shirt up as well as I can and slip my heels off so I don’t slow myself. My favourite pair of Manolo Blahnik’s are about to be sacrificed for my escape, and my father will be replacing them.

Edging around the corner of the hallway, I spare one last glance in their direction before rising from my crouched position and running as fast as I can to the front door. I make it without detection, twisting the handle of the door with urgency. My shaking hands make a mess of it, impeding my escape.

“What the hell?” a deep voice exclaims, and someone rushes toward me.

Turning the handle with increasing desperation, I squeal with delight when the door finally flies open. My first step toward freedom is thwarted when I’m grabbed around the waist and slung over a large shoulder. My breath leaves me in a rush from the impact.

A large hand swats my ass with a stinging slap, causing me to gasp in shock and pain. The sudden intake of breath forces the cologne from the bedroom to flood my senses. My sedative affected mind finally remembers why the smell made me feel nauseous. Terror rising within me, I struggle in earnest, kicking my legs and punching my captor in the back with all of my strength.

“Now, now, Lainey. Calm down, darling girl. You don’t want to end up hurting yourself, do you?” His deep, velvety smooth voice mocks me.

Realisation dawning, it sinks in that my abduction has nothing to do with the MC, and everything to do with me and the stupid choice I made when I was eighteen.

No. This can’t be happening.

My body shakes uncontrollably. Feeling light-headed, I’m afraid I’m going to faint. My mind races without aim, refusing to accept the truth in front of me.

Brendan’s my worst nightmare. I’ve spent the last four years putting myself back together after escaping this man, and just as I start feeling safe in the life Mik and I have been building, he turns up to wreck it all.

“Put me down, Brendan. Please,” I plead in a shaky voice, scrambling to find some much-needed composure. “You’re not supposed to be anywhere near me, you know that. If you let me walk out of here now, I won’t tell the police and your parole will be safe.”

He chuckles at my request, and slowly lowers me down his body, thrusting his hard bulge against me when our pelvic areas meet. My feet have barely reached the ground before I’m backing away from him.

It’s fruitless. He won’t let me go. Grasping the tops of my arms, he pulls me onto his lap as he sits down on the brown leather settee. All fight leaves my body at his touch, my anxious shaking increasing.

Hearing the door locks engage and buttons being pressed on a keypad, I realise that my pleas to leave are going to fall on deaf ears. I’m stuck for now—not only because of the locked door and security system—but because this man scares me to death. I know if I mess up my escape again, he’ll make me pay in a painful and humiliating way.

“I’ll leave you two lovebirds to your reunion,” Stu says, chuckling as he walks past us and out of sight. I stare, almost with longing after him, willing him to come back and take me with him.

He’s the lesser of the two evils facing me.

Brendan gently grasps my chin, tilting my head until I’m forced to look at him. He looks exactly the same. His eyes are a warm chocolate brown, his skin lightly tanned, and his lips rosy pink and kissable. The dark chocolate brown hair that sets off his traditionally handsome features is still full, luscious, and wavy. Jail hasn’t taken any discernible toll on his looks, which annoys me, because I’m certain that Mik arranged for some of the MC’s boys on the inside to visit him a few times. The evil soul that lurks behind his angelically handsome face is still safely hidden from the world.

“Lainey, what’s today’s date?” he asks, purring the words at me with sadistic pleasure.

The voice that was once one of the most pleasant sounds in the world to me now sends slivers of icy fear down my spine. In a rush I realise the date, and tears of anger and frustration leak from my eyes. I’m angry at myself for dropping my guard. I understand now why Mik didn’t want me to go to work today.

Today is Brendan’s first day off of parole for raping and almost beating me to death just over four years ago. He was sentenced to two years in jail for my assault, with a non-parole period of eighteen months. He’s been out of jail for six months and had left me alone until now, so I’d become complacent in watching my back even if Mik hadn’t. It’s apparent now that Brendan was waiting to be free and clear of the law before he forced our reunion.

“Shhhh, sweetheart. I’m not here to hurt you,” he soothes, rubbing his hands up and down my arms.

I jerk away from him, his touch making me feel dirty, but he curls his fingers around the tops of my arms and pulls me to his chest. Anger coils within me as I take stock of the fact that the only reason he’s sitting here tormenting me now is because I only had him charged with assaulting me on one occasion. I never told the authorities—or my family—about his repeated beatings and rapes, or his blackmail. They believe we had a one-off physical fight and that he threatened my family because I was leaving him.

That was bad enough.

There are only three other people who know the full truth of what he did to me, and that’s how I want to keep it. Mik was always adamant that I should’ve made him pay for everything, but I couldn’t face the embarrassment and pity that telling the truth would bring. I also couldn’t throw Benji under the bus. My reasons seem petty at this moment as I sit unwilling and scared on his lap, wishing that I’d told everyone every horrible detail.

“It’s so good to be able to touch you again, Lainey,” Brendan whispers against my cheek. “I’ve missed touching you more than you could believe. Watching you since I left that hellhole has been torture, especially knowing I had to wait until today to claim you as mine again.”

I gasp at his statement, pulling as far away from him as he’ll let me.

“How have you been watching me? Mik has precautions set up. You haven’t been anywhere near the city or we would’ve known.” The second Mik’s name falls from my lips, I know I’ve made a big mistake. He has a long history of irrational jealousy toward my fiancé.

Brendan’s face changes from loving to irate in a split second. Letting go of my arms, he stands with calculated abruptness. I topple backward off his lap and onto the carpeted floor. He unleashes his anger, slapping me across the face twice, and worsening the damage Cain has already caused to my face.

As I cower, waiting for another slap, he pulls me to my feet by the front of my shirt. I’m barely upright when he grabs my hand and tugs me behind him, through the modern kitchen and into a formal living area. I want to pull my hand from his, but it’s the only thing keeping me upright as he strides in front of me.

There’s a huge telescope pointing toward large bay windows. A room like this should be filled with expensive chaises, televisions, and coffee tables. Instead, it has three desks, numerous filing cabinets, and a large open gun safe lining the perimeter. The walls have paperwork and photos pinned all over them. A quick glance tells me that I’m the subject of most of the photos.

Brendan shoves me into the chair behind the telescope.

“Have a look,” he grunts. “I have been watching you, making sure that dirty biker doesn’t touch you. I was always coming back for you. You’re mine. You always will be, as much as you try to fight it.”

Brendan grabs me by the back of my neck and forces my face toward the eyepiece.

Resistance is futile. I learned this years ago, so I let him position my head where he wants it.

“Given your slutty tendencies, I’m not surprised you ran to him the second I was gone. You will be making up for that and every other damn thing you’ve done to me very soon,” he tells me, certainty colouring his tone.

Attempting to tune out his threats, I peer into the telescope and pray that I’m not about to see what I fear he wants to show me. No such luck since, just as I feared, the house I share with Mik stares back at me.

There’s a large nature reserve between this house and mine containing a playground, bike track, and public amenities. I can see my car in the driveway with Mik’s Harley parked next to it. Mik is pacing on the front deck, running his hand through his hair in jerky, agitated movements. His phone to his ear, I can make out his mouth moving as he speaks.

Dragging my eyes from my stressed fiancé, I take in the whole view. I can see straight through the open curtains into my living room. Brendan has been able to see into my home for God knows how long.

The one place I’ve felt safe for the last four years hasn’t been the sanctuary I thought it was. As usual, Brendan’s managed to make my feelings of safety and freedom nothing but a pretty illusion. I didn’t think my heart could sink any further than it already has in this situation, but this revelation completely knocks the wind out of my sails.

Brendan laughs at my appalled expression, his eyes filling with enjoyment when he sees the situation become clear to me. Even though I know rationally that it’s the wrong move, I can’t stop myself from losing my temper. Rising to my feet, I swing on my heel to face him.

“What is wrong with you?” I question, pushing him as hard as I can in the chest with both hands. He staggers backward a couple of steps in surprise at my attack. “Why won’t you just leave me alone? You need to go away. You’re completely crazy. I’m not yours, and I never will be. I hate you!”

I swing at him, hitting him in the chest and the stomach as I unleash my fears and frustrations. Pulling my right arm back, I punch him as hard as I can in the mouth. Blood bursts from the corner upon impact. I shake my fist out, and swing again.

Five years of fear, anger, and hurt are finally finding the correct outlet.

I’m out of control, and ready to kill him with my bare hands.

I want to hit him, choke him, and humiliate him.

I want him to feel everything he made me feel.

Brendan ducks my follow-up punch and grasps me by the throat, subduing me with little effort. He forces me backward on my tiptoes until my back hits the wall. Then he lifts me until my feet are no longer touching the ground. A sick sense of déjà vu engulfs me as my consciousness recognises the position I’m in.

I scratch at the hand he has around my neck with both of mine; two of my fingernails snap as I try to pull free. Kicking at him with my legs, I attempt to head butt him. I’m fighting for breath, black spots floating through my vision, but I don’t give up. Even lost in my anger, the only thought in my head is that I’m not going to let him hurt me without a fight this time.

He licks the blood from his split lip, before leaning down, and whispering in my ear, “I’ll let you hit me once without punishment, Lainey, because I know I hurt you in the past. Just this once, though. Every time you step out of line from now on, I’m going to punish you or one of your family.”

He licks the shell of my ear before he continues with calm menace. “Is Lachie still catching the bus to practice by himself?”

Shocked, my body falls still at his mention of my youngest brother. Brendan must be watching all of my family—not just me—to know that my fifteen-year-old brother is living in Brisbane now and catches the bus to football practice. My entire beautiful, crazy family moved down here after he hurt me for the final time.

I refused to move home, not only due to the terrifying memories they knew nothing about, but because I was determined Brendan wasn’t going to derail my plans for my future entirely.

My mind quickly dismisses his words, and I calm myself. He doesn’t realise that one of the Club’s enforcers escorts Lachie everywhere for this exact reason. Everyone was worried Brendan would try to use my family against me when he was freed from jail, so Mik has used the MC to put multiple layers of safety precautions in place. Lachie doesn’t know he’s being protected because of me. He’s just been told “Club business”, which is our dad’s go-to excuse when he doesn’t want to explain something.

Brendan squeezes his hand tighter around my neck and continues to torment me with his words.

“Do you understand what I’m saying, Lainey? You’re mine, and you’re going to stay with me this time. The people you love are going to get hurt, one by one, every time you try to leave me.” He leans down and stares at me with feral, glazed eyes. “Now nod if you get what I’m telling you. I’ll let you go when you show that you understand me.”

I stay still, fixing unblinking eyes on his, ignoring his demand. The strong, defiant, and wilful parts of my personality that Mik’s spent the last four years helping me put back together won’t let me bow down to this monster again. He can threaten my brothers as much as he wants because I know that they’re safe this time.

There’s nothing he can do. Mik’s going to put this madman in the ground for daring to touch me again. I can feel it in my soul that my wild and unyielding fiancé is going to rescue me.

I continue staring at Brendan. I refuse to give him the satisfaction of making me nod.

He regards me steadily, a smile curling his lips when I continue refusing to give him the reaction he seeks.

“This is what I love about you, Lainey. You challenge me like no one else.”

Nuzzling my ear, his free hand closes around my breast. Vomit rises in my throat.

He knows exactly how to get to me.

Brendan lets go of my breast. He rips the last of the buttons off my shirt with his free hand. It falls open, exposing my bra. Touching me again, the asshole tweaks my nipple until it goes hard, then he pinches it until I whimper.

“Nod if you understand me, darling,” His voice is tender, loving. A contradiction to his nasty touch.

I shake my head, not only at his request, but also to clear the pain. Killing me isn’t going to give him what he wants. I know that I just need to wait him out. I can take any pain he throws at me. I proved that last time.

Licking the inside of my ear, he sinks his teeth into my lobe with enough force to cause maximum pain without breaking the skin. I can’t help myself as I scream as much as my closed-up throat will allow me.

“Nod if you understand.” He repeats after removing his teeth from my earlobe.

As the pain recedes, I regain my will to fight. I pull against the hand around my throat, stomping on his foot with as much force as I can manage. He barely acknowledges my attack, except to slam me back against the wall when I try to knee him in the groin. My bare foot has little effect against his boot.

His body is shaking with rage. He slams me against the wall twice more, not with his full strength, but enough to hurt and make me rethink my bravado.

Maybe I should nod, just to get him to let me go.

Black spots dance across my eyesight when he squeezes my throat once more and shoves me against the wall for the fourth time. My head bounces off the wall. Brendan pushes up my skirt, wedging his thigh between mine. I squirm, trying to keep my legs shut, but he’s incessant, and manages to get his thigh not only between my legs but against my panties. I hoarsely scream at him to stop, head-butting him as hard as I can when he doesn’t.

All I achieve is hurting my own head because he doesn’t stop.

Not even for a second.

When I head-butt him again, he slaps me across the face. As I fall still from the impact, his hand slides to the apex of my thighs. Using the considerable weight of his body to pin me against the wall, he finally releases my throat. I draw much-needed gasps of air, hoping this is over.

Instead of letting me go as I’d expected, he rips my panties off of my body with one harsh tug, and throws them on the floor behind him. My constant struggling achieves nothing as Brendan pins me with apparent ease against the wall. He strokes between my legs with surprising softness, rubbing his hand back and forth, from my clit to my ass. Continuing his circuit as my entire body shudders in disgust, my mind trying to shut down to block out his vile touch. He grins at my reaction.

I thought I could defy him, but I can’t go through this particular form of torture again.

I mentally admit defeat, my head sagging against him. I mouth against his shoulder that I get him, furiously nodding my head as tears stream down my face. He leans away from me and smiles down at me, gloating. He knows he’s broken me and won this round.

“Too little, too late, my darling,” he admonishes, using two fingers to penetrate me with clinical precision. I scream in pain, fighting to get away as he pumps his fingers into me again.

 

MAKING CHOICES, BLACK SHAMROCKS MC #2

PROLOGUE

“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.” ~Lewis Carroll~

Everything in life comes down to choices. Big choices, little choices, choices that seem insignificant at the time yet end up having a significant impact on our life, and choices that we know are going to change things for us in the biggest way.

Smart people—educated, well-raised people—like me make choices with rationality. We make choices by weighing up the pros and cons, by analyzing every potential outcome, and by removing emotion and fear from the equation.

Is love a choice?

Can you make a choice whether or not to love someone? Or is it a decision that’s taken out of our hands by a combination of hormonal fluctuations and our addiction to them, emotion-led instinct, and a micro-moment of positive resonance that transcends all logic and common sense?

I was certain that as a logical, educated, and composed woman, I would eventually love the person who was the best fit for my career aspirations. The person who would complement my vision for my life. The person who would meet my parent’s exacting expectations.

As a logical, educated, and composed person, I didn’t believe that I would ever regret my choices. If I was honest, I thought I was too smart to end up with significant regrets.

How wrong was I.

CHAPTER ONE

LUCAS

“I knew it!” A small, angry voice interrupts me as I’m watching Maddi walk down the hallway to her bedroom and the—potentially unwanted—surprise that awaits her.

Swinging from my spot on the couch to face the French doors that lead to the alfresco area, I’m greeted by an irate JJ. She’s staring at me with her hands on her tiny hips, her ruby-red lips pressed together tight. The fury that emanates from her makes her dark-red hair appear more intense than usual, her ire helping her appear taller than her just over five feet.

“You know what?” My heart’s thudding in my chest. Fuck. I hope she doesn’t say what I think she’s going to say.

I don’t want to deal with this tonight—or any bloody night.

Clenching her hands into fists when I rise from the couch and walk toward her, she spits her answer at me through gritted teeth. “That you’re in love with Maddi, Lucas. I’ve been watching you with her for months. Ever since she moved in with you when Mad Dog dumped her perfect ass, you’ve pined after her like a bloody, love-sick fool hoping she’ll give you her attention.”

“You know nothing. It’s not like that.”

I want to defend myself further, but I can’t. I’m not guilty of everything she’s assuming, but I am guilty. What JJ doesn’t understand is her place in the convoluted mess of my fucking emotions.

“Why do you care anyway? We’ve been playing this cat-and-mouse game that you love so fucking much for the last six months. Didn’t you tell me we were finished last night?”

Shuffling on the spot, she drops her gaze from my eyes and studies the cream tiles on the kitchen floor as if they hold the answer to my questions.

“I came over to apologise. I didn’t expect to find you with Maddi on your lap. And I didn’t expect to hear you tell her that you’d love a shot with her. Damn, Lucas, she called you my dirty little secret. Is that how you feel?”

“It is. You fucking know it is.”

“That’s not fair. I’ve told you why…”

“Yeah, thanks for the warning. You’re a true friend!” My best female friend’s pissed-off voice interrupts JJ’s attempted justifications when she yells from her room. I hold up one finger to silence the seething woman in front of me and yell in response, “Anytime, Princess!”

Even in the face of JJ’s anger, I can’t help the booming laughter that rumbles from my chest. She’s obviously found Mad Dog waiting in her bedroom, ready to ambush her and finally talk her into taking him back. As much as I wish otherwise, she’s made for him, and he’s perfect for her. They just needed someone to give them a push to sort out their shit once and for all—a push I’m happy to provide.

Maybe happy is the wrong word.

It’s more like a push I feel obliged to provide.

“What the hell is that about?” JJ asks in a frosty tone once my laughter dies down.

“That was about the surprise waiting for her in her room.”

Raising one perfectly sculpted eyebrow at me, she sneers. “The surprise being Mad Dog?”

“Yep.”

Turning my back to her, I walk to the fridge and pull out a beer. Cracking the top, I drink half of it down in one go. I’m confused as fuck. I don’t know how I feel about this whole situation. I’m happy that Maddi hasn’t sent him packing yet, but the part that will always wonder if we would’ve stood a chance won’t shut up.

How I feel about JJ isn’t helping matters, and neither are her bloody hang-ups.

“You’re a piece of work, you know? A real fucked-up individual.”

Straightening my shoulders, I face her. “Jesus, tell me how you really feel, Doll. You’re fucking awesome at telling me how I’m wrong about everything, so let’s lay it all out. Let’s sort this shit out once and for all.”

As she stands there swallowing hard in the face of my ferocity, I continue. “You don’t get to barge into my house after you threw my feelings for you in my fucking face last night and then cuss me out for looking out for my best friends. Whatever it is you think is going on here, you’re fucking wrong. All I’ve done is put everyone else’s happiness in front of mine, and I’m fucking over it. Princess and Mad Dog will sort their shit out, so how about you sort yours out. You gonna tell Daddy about us, or are we over and fucking done for good? Those are the options here. All or nothing.

As I come to the crux of our problems, JJ bites her bottom lip so hard that I’m worried she’s going to draw blood. She can throw all the shit she wants at me about my feelings for Maddi, but I’ve done fuck all wrong. I’ve chased this woman for six months—breaking every fucking one of my rules along the way. I’ve kept quiet about us, even going as far as pretending that we aren’t fucking six ways to Sunday when we’re in front of anyone she knows.

Fuck, I’ve even hidden in her bedroom when her parents have turned up at her place unexpectedly. In return, I’ve introduced her to my Club, and they’ve all taken her into our family. She’s even been to my parents’ for our monthly Sunday roast lunch.

A place I’ve only ever taken one other woman.

All I asked last night was that she finally acknowledge we’re more than a fucking fling. That went down well, resulting in a temper tantrum about me pushing her too fucking fast. Instead of listening to what I had to say like a bloody adult, she told me it was too hard and that we couldn’t see each other anymore.

Then she stormed off.

I’d decided then and there that I wasn’t chasing her anymore, so I’d left her alone today and was planning to do so from now on. There are only so many times I’m willing to bang my head against a brick wall before I give up. Throughout the day, I’d slowly wrapped my head around the end of whatever the fuck it was that we had, only to have her come here tonight to fuck with my head again, jumping to conclusions that weren’t hers to make anymore.

Finishing my beer, I throw the empty bottle in the recycle bin before verbally prodding her again. “You gonna stand there all night chewing on that luscious lip of yours? Or am I gonna get a straight answer?”

Sighing, she removes her teeth from her lip. “I need to think, Lucas. I came here to apologise, even though nothing’s really changed. You want serious, and I can’t give you that…yet.”

“Bullshit. You can, but you won’t. Too scared of what everyone else thinks—that’s what you are.”

Approaching me as if I’m a wild animal she’s unsure of, JJ lifts herself up onto her tiptoes, and grabs me by the front of my shirt. She tugs hard, and after a moment’s hesitation, I lean down to her. “I need time.” She breathes her words over my face before she touches her lips to mine. It takes every ounce of control I have not to pick her up, push her against the wall, and kiss her back before planting myself inside of her warm body.

Instead of giving in to my growing need, I pull back from her mouth. “Six months is plenty of time.”

Her pretty, hope-filled face shuts down, and the professional mask she wears at work drops into place. Awesome. Here comes cold, calculating JJ.

“No, it’s not. I’ve told you it’s not. I need more time.”

Shaking my head at her, I gently push her away from me, and toward the French doors that she entered through. She doesn’t even attempt to struggle to stay with me, heightening my doubts of the success of what I’m about to offer.

“One week, Doll. That’s it.” This ultimatum is going to bite me in the ass—I can feel it—but I need to do this. I’ve been burned before. Actually, I was more than burned—I was fucking incinerated.

I need upfront promises before I go down this road with another woman with daddy issues.

“You’ve got one week. I’ll leave you alone for one week. So go home now, JJ, and think about how it felt when we met. Think about how good we are together. Think about how you feel when we’re apart. And when your week’s up, I’ll come find you. Then you can tell me if those feelings outweigh your Daddy being upset with you.” When I emphasise the word “Daddy” she winces. It’s a low blow, but she’s supposed to be a grown woman. I need to know if she’ll ever be all in with me.

“All right, Lucas. I will. But you need to do one thing for me during this week.”

Fuck knows what else she wants from me. I’ve done everything she’s asked of me, even when it’s chafed against my need to be straightforward.

“Anything, Doll.”

Walking to the French doors, she pauses with her hand on the door handle. “I want you to figure out if I’m more important to you than Maddi. If I have to deal with the fall-out from my family for you, then I refuse to play second fiddle to her.”

JJ doesn’t wait for my answer. She simply walks out the door, leaving me with my mouth hanging open.

Fuck.

 

SEEKING REDMEPTION, BLACK SHAMROCKS MC #3

PROLOGUE

“The day misspent, the love misplaced, has inside it the seed of redemption. Nothing is exempt from resurrection.”

~Kay Ryan~

There comes a time when you have to admit defeat, when the only thing left to do is throw your hands in the air, and say “That’s it! I’m done.”

You realize that you’ve reached that point, when no matter how hard you try to tell yourself that your life is going to get better, you know deep down that you’ll need a miracle for things to improve. And since I don’t believe in miracles anymore; I know I’m fucked. Right now, it’s just a matter of when, not if.

In my former life as the pin-up girl for wholesomeness, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d ever reach this point. I was the girl with the nice house, the worthwhile career, the supportive parents, and the hot bad-boy biker boyfriend who was really a teddy bear underneath it all. I volunteered. I played competitive hockey. I helped old people carry their groceries to their car.

I can pin-point the exact moment my life started to spiral out-of-control. When his fist connected with my cheek that first time, when I accepted his sobbing apology instead of walking away like I’d always said I would if it happened to me—that was when everything was set in motion.

Forgiveness, deliverance, salvation—I’ve always believed that everyone was entitled to a second chance. I might not have faith in my own worthiness, but the broken man who has joined me in my descent into the darkness, I know he warrants another opportunity to pull himself back from the brink.

For me, I know there isn’t a way out of this bleak, black hole we currently call a life, yet before I admit defeat, maybe I can help him find the redemption he so desperately seeks?

CHAPTER ONE

BENJI

My mouth is dry, my fucking head pounds, and the throbbing in my right arm is almost unbearable. Actually, every part of me aches in some way—the constant beeping and the bright, overhead light shining in my eyes is not helping matters—and that makes me wonder how hard I partied last night.

Bloody hell, I’ve gotta lay off the meth. The comedowns are hitting harder and lasting longer. This one looks like it’s gearing up to be a real motherfucker. Even trying to swallow is near impossible. I need something to drink, something to at least wet my mouth. Opening my eyes to search for the bottle of water I keep next to my bed, I regret that decision when the pain in my temples kicks up a notch. My need for something wet overrides my desire for total darkness, so I close the eye that hurts the most, and peer around the room with my good one.

This isn’t my room. I’m in a goddamn hospital room. The annoying beeping is coming from the monitors hooked to my left arm, the ache in my right arm is explained by the plaster covering it. Raising what I assume is a broken arm, I peer at it in confusion. Flashes of Maddi screaming at me flit across my mind, followed by glimpses of Lacey staring at me with hurt, tear-filled eyes. I grab my head with my left hand and squeeze my eyes shut as a bolt of pain tries to split my head in half.

Why were my sister and Lacey at my house together? How did I end up in the hospital? What the hell happened?

“About time you woke the fuck up.”

Shit. I feel like death warmed up and he’s the last person I want to deal with.

Dropping my arm back onto the bed and feigning sleep, I lie still and concentrate on keeping my breathing regular. So far, I’ve been able to keep him from working out how much I use. If he sees me like this, he’s going to figure it out pretty, fucking quickly.

“Don’t fuck with me, boy. I’m not in the fucking mood. Shit’s hit the roof today. Finding out you’re a lying junkie is the least of my bloody problems.”

I thought my mouth was dry before but listening to my dad spit his venomous words at me turns it into the Sahara. Sighing in defeat, I turn my head in the direction his voice is coming from. Cracking one eye enough to see him, I attempt to speak. My voice is croaky and just about inaudible.

“Turn the lights down. Get me water.”

Dad shakes his head at me, huffing like I’ve asked him if I could take his antique Harley for a ride, before hauling his mammoth frame out of the green visitor’s chair. His shoulders are slumped as he moves to the light switch and dims the room. Grabbing a plastic cup with a straw, he shoves it at me once I’ve raised the hospital bed so I’m upright. He drops back into his seat with a loud exhalation, making my eyes roll of their own accord.

Ouch. Dumb move.

Holding the cup as if it contains liquid gold, I suck ice-cold water through the short straw as I regard him over the rim. He looks tired. Deep lines bracket his blue eyes—the same ones that stare back at me whenever I look in a mirror—and he looks a decade older than he did when I last saw him a week ago. Returning my gaze through bleak eyes, he scares the shit out of me. I’ve never seen him look so defeated.

“Well, what’s up?”

I break the heavy silence filling the room. The atmosphere feels like it’s trying to squash me like an irritating bug. Serious discussions with my father are something I avoid like the plague; not that they occur often. I’m normally invisible to him, unless I’m running around a football field in a futile attempt to live up to his footy legend status.

Looking at the closed door to my room before he leans closer to me, Dad asks, “You know how I’ve been looking for the body?”

Fuck. I don’t want to get into this shit again. Sucking some more water through the straw, I try to ignore the guilt that’s knocking on my mind seeking admittance. My fuck-up has left my family’s motorcycle club with a big problem to deal with. It’s left my twin sister in an even bigger predicament if the body is found by someone outside of the Club. So far, Dad’s kept it from everyone else, but I’ve always known it was only a matter of time before they found out.

“Yeah. Did you find him?” I hold my breath, hoping like hell that he’s about to say that he’s finally found him.

“Doesn’t matter no more. The Shamrocks know about it. They reckon they’re gonna find him themselves, which is bullshit. Ain’t nothing nobody can do…I’m out of the Club anyway. They can go fuck themselves.”

I can’t follow a word of what he’s saying. My mouth drops open as I stare at him. Dad’s a bigger fucking mess than I originally thought. It takes a moment but I find my voice again. “What the hell are you talking about, Dad? What do you mean, you’re out of the…” Trailing off as I realize that he’s not wearing his President’s cut, I shake my head, and grimace when shards of pain ricochet through my skull. I can count on one hand the number of times in my life that I’ve seen him without his cut on. None of them have been in public.

“They voted you out because of my fuck up?” The question tumbles from my lips and my heart falls with them. Disbelief grips me, even as I interrogate him. There’s no way my mistake was bad enough to get Dad booted as President. Not from a Club my family founded.

There’s something he’s not telling me.

“What the fuck’s going on?” I demand with as much volume as I can muster. Confusion doesn’t sit well with me, something I inherited from the man who’s sitting in front of me, refusing to meet my eyes.

My rough and tough father—the father who alternates between scaring the shit out of me and inspiring awe within me, even as a twenty-three-year-old grown man—visibly gulps. Shrugging, he shakes himself, then straightens his shoulders and meets my eyes with the trademark O’Brien don’t-fuck-with-me glare that my three brothers, sister, and I all got from him.

“I had some schemes in action. Had hoped that I’d pull off everything without anyone putting two and two together. None of the balls I had in the air fell in my favour. Fucking Mad Dog fucked everything up for us.”

“Us?” The pain in my head fades into a secondary annoyance as my confusion grows at Dad’s mention of Mad Dog. I haven’t had much to do with him over the last six months since he’s always busting my balls about my so-called addiction, although I’m aware that he’s been at loggerheads with Dad since the shit went down with Maddi and her ex. Fuck knows why Mad Dog’s copped the blame for everything that happened with my father, but if it keeps him off my back, I’m not going out of my way to set Dad straight.

“Bloody hell, you’re not making any sense. You’re saying that you haven’t found Brendan’s body and that it’s not a problem anymore. If that’s right, why have the Shamrocks voted you out? What schemes are you talking about? What does any of this have to do with me and Mad Dog?”

Leaning forward, Dad laces his fingers together and leans his chin on them. A strange glint lights up his eyes, making my pulse spike. “It is what it is, Benji. I’m sure you’ll hear all the details soon enough. I’m out, but your ass is covered. Right now, we need to concentrate on making sure you end up in your rightful role. He might’ve fucked everything else up for me, but if the Shamrocks survive the war that’s coming, there’s no way he’ll be leading my club. The presidency belongs to the O’Brien’s. It’ll be a cold day in hell before a Kennedy is anything more than a fill-in.”

Please, Lord, don’t let him be hinting at what I fucking think he is.

“Dad, I’m not—” I begin to tell him that I’m not on board with this, but as usual, I’m ignored. Sitting upright, his expression’s fierce as he talks over me. “I have a plan in place to guarantee you the presidency. All you need to do is follow my instructions. Call time on your footy, get your junkie self fucking clean, and get your sorry ass prospecting. It’ll be a fucking formality and in a year or two, you’ll be Prez.”

My racing heartbeat becomes a roar in my ears as his words about finishing my football career sink in. No fucking way. I thought I had a few more years before we had to have this conversation. I’ve never said I wanted to join the Club. That’s always been Maddi’s thing—even though she’s a girl, she’s much more than suitable. It’ll be even better once her and Mad Dog sort their shit out and get married. An O’Brien and a Kennedy, the dynasty will be intact, and I’ll be free to live my own life.

“I’m not quitting footy. I’m rehabbing my knee so I can play next year.” I argue.

“Highly fucking unlikely that’ll happen considering baby girl just broke your arm for you. You’re never gonna play footy again. Wake up and smell the roses, son. You’ve wasted the talent I gave you. Squandered it and fucked me over in the process.” Dad spits his words at me. Pure loathing covers his face, his top lip curling on one side as he snarls at me. “You owe me. You owe your twin. You owe Joel. Each of us have paid the price for your fuck-ups.”

My stomach churns as his accusations hit me. He’s one-hundred percent right. I’m a fuck up and my family has paid the price. My guilt travels up my throat, making me gag. After my bender, there’s nothing in my stomach to puke, yet that doesn’t stop my body from trying. My mouth waters, and I start shaking. A cold shiver shoots through me and my body breaks out in goose bumps.

Inhaling deeply through my nose, I ride out the sickness by slowly letting the air out through my clenched teeth. Once I feel somewhat better, I turn my attention to my father. He watched me battle through the sickness with hard eyes, his lips pressed together in a tight line.

“Coming down, are we?”

Dropping his accusing glare, I stare at my plastered arm without answering him. Dad’s words about Maddi breaking my arm tumble around my head and I struggle to piece together when that might have happened. Last thing I remember was calling Lacey and sweet talking her into coming over and sharing the meth I’d just got my hands on. She came over, helped me shoot up since I’m still hopeless at hitting my vein, and then we’d fucked. A typical night between the two of us. I don’t know why Maddi would be there at the same time as Lacey since we’re keeping the fact we’re fucking to ourselves—Maddi being Lacey’s best friend is a complication I’m not thrilled about. My bossy-ass twin doesn’t need any further reason to stick her nose into my shit.

“Did you hear what I said?” Dad pulls me from my thoughts with his terse question. I hadn’t realized that he was speaking again.

Giving him a sheepish smile, I shake my head.

He snorts at me.

“I said that you need to ask to prospect the day you get the fuck out of here.” He waves his hand around, indicating my hospital room. “I’ll get Lenny to nominate you. You can deal with your footy club later.”

“Dad.” I interrupt him. “I’m not—”

Pointing his huge fucking finger in my face after he jumps to his feet and strides to my bedside, saliva showers my face when he yells at me, “You’ll do as you’re fucking told. I have plans in place for this to go down tomorrow. Fuck this up for me and I’ll make sure you have nothing left. You think everyone’s pissed with you, now? That’ll be nothing to how much they’ll hate you by the time I’m done.”

I recoil at his vehemence. His eyes glitter with fury and he looks one step away from completely losing it. Watching his shoulders shake and his fists clench and unclench, I stay quiet so I don’t push him over the edge. My father’s a volatile man, prone to temper tantrums when he thinks you’re not going to meet his demands, yet until this moment, I’ve never been scared that he was going to deck me. Right now, it’s a genuine worry.

Summoning every ounce of spine I possess, I force down my nausea, straighten my back, and meet his eyes.

“You’re losing the fucking plot, old man.” Swallowing hard, every part of me revolts at what I’m about to say. This is the last thing I ever wanted to do. “But I’ll prospect.”

Lifting my broken arm, I point at my fucked right knee with the fingers protruding from the cast, and laugh. It’s a hollow laugh, not the least bit happy. “We both know I’m never playing footy again so I might as well pay you back for the fall you’ve just taken for me.”

I watch as my father blinks in rapid succession. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was fighting tears. The moment passes as if it never happened, his features hardening as his expression shuts down.

“What if I am losing it?” he asks, without any heat to his tone. “Would that make you fucking well listen to me?” Dad doesn’t wait for me to answer him before he continues in the same monotone. “All I’m trying to do is make sure you kids are taken care of. You mightn’t agree with my plans, but they’re what I think is for the best, so just do as you’re told for once.”

Even though he says this evenly, it still gets my back up. My own temper sparks. Do as I’m told? He’s got to be kidding me?

“Jesus Christ. I don’t have a clue what you’re on about. Fuck you and fuck your cryptic bullshit. I’m a grown fucking man.” My nostrils flare as my breathing picks up pace. “You’re a bit late to become a caring father now. Maybe Matty and Lachie will welcome your sudden concern, but me, Joel, and Maddi don’t need you.”

I want to say so much more. I want to yell every grievance I’ve had with him since my mum died but I force myself to stop. It’s too late. He’ll never listen.

Bull-headed cunt that he is.

“I said I’ll prospect. That’s it. I’m not making a play for the president’s patch unless I’m wanted. If that means Mad Dog ends up as Prez, then that’s too fucking bad—”

For the first time, I’m ready to admit my lack of desire to join the Shamrocks, but I’m forced to shut up when he hurtles forward and grabs me by the front of my hospital gown. Pulling my face to his, he glares at me, running his feral eyes over my face as if I’m a puzzle he’s trying to solve. Shaking me twice, he throws me back against the bed. There’s nothing left of the father I know in his eyes when he snarls his ultimatum at me.

“You don’t get a say in fuck all. Everything’s already in motion. You either get with the program or you get the fuck out of this family…” His words trail off as he turns his back on me and walks to the door. “Since we both know you’re a junkie loser who can’t survive without his twin saving his ass, I’m sure you’ll make the right choice. Considering I didn’t tell the Club about you hiding Connor and his whore at your house after they fucked-up their takeover attempt.”

Every ounce of oxygen is sucked from my lungs at his veiled threat. I’m gasping for breath when the door slams behind him, making me jump in shock.

How the fuck does he know?

Anyone else finds out what I did, I’m dead.

Literally.

CONQUERING CIRCUMSTANCES, BLACK SHAMROCKS MC #3.5

CHAPTER ONE

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” ~Buddha~
“The biopsy showed Invasive Lobular Carcinoma Breast Cancer. I’m sorry, but it appears that it’s already spread to a degree.”

I cross myself as the official diagnosis is delivered in measured tones that are meant to be reassuring. It’s possibly futile—this effort to keep my rapidly failing faith alive—but I say a prayer to my Lord for good measure. To be honest, in my heart of hearts, I already knew the truth which is why I didn’t tell anyone about my suspicions. Or that I had an appointment today.

With Mikhail’s release from prison this morning, my children were needed elsewhere. If they knew what I had planned for today, after the urgent phone call from my specialist’s receptionist yesterday afternoon, all five of them would be here trying their hardest to be supportive. As much as the thought of my daughter cross-examining the doctor and the boys cracking jokes to lighten the mood makes me smile, I’d much rather that they attend a happy event.

Shaking away thoughts of the children, a wry smile crosses my face at the reaction I’d receive from them if they knew I still called them children. The twins, Madeleine, and Benjamin, are twenty-three while Joel is almost twenty-two. Rounding out the siblings is Matthew at seventeen, and the baby, Lachlan, who recently turned fifteen. Hardly children anymore, although they always will be in my heart.

“Ms. Markham,” the sympathetic voice of my specialist cuts into my musing. Crossing his hands and resting them on his desk, he regards me with a serious expression. “The options are not pretty, but I’m confident that you are facing good odds. Due to this being your second occurrence, I must stress the need for a double mastectomy and a full hysterectomy, in addition to the chemotherapy. You’re only forty-six. Life-saving and preventative measures are needed.”

He doesn’t have the sentence completed before I’m shaking my head. It might be a life-ending decision, but I can’t face losing my breasts and my most feminine of female body parts. Every woman has a limit to what they can handle. I know mine with absolute certainty. The decision I made twenty years ago stills stands—strong and true, and I’m as resolute today as I was back then. Life may have dealt me cruel blows with the loss of my only biological child, followed quickly by my first brush with cancer, yet even with the subsequent loss of my ability to have other children because of the treatment options available back then, I will not be persuaded otherwise.

Dr. Jenkins presses his lips together at my vehement, albeit silent denial. “Wendy, if you want to live then you’re left with no other options. With a second occurrence, one that’s already spread to the lymph nodes, chemotherapy followed by surgery is your best chance for survival.”

Internally, I’m screaming with frustration at his stern, disapproving words, although I’m sure on the outside I appear to be listening with appropriate gravity. I’ve always been a master at hiding my true emotions. It’s held me in good stead, and I hope it continues to do so because after the last few months, this is the last thing I need to deal with. Patrick is slowly driving me crazy with worry, and the children all have varying issues for which they require my ongoing support.

I don’t have the energy to fight cancer on top of it all.

“I’ll think about it,” I reply in a non-committal tone, reaching into my handbag where it rests on the floor next to my seat to pull out my beeping mobile. “I need information about the effects of the chemotherapy. Recovery times, if it’s needed weekly or fortnightly, potential side effects, the long-term effects on my health…those type of figures.”

While Dr. Jenkins busies himself with gathering the documents that answer my questions, I quickly check my phone.

MADELAINE: He’s FREEEEE!!! Come to the club and say hello xx

MADELAINE: Oh, and Dad’s in town. He was hiding in the prison carpark, but rode off before anyone could say anything to him

At the mention of Patrick, the butterflies that only he can set off take flight in my lower belly. Lust. Unadulterated, pure, orgasm inducing lust flows through my suddenly taut body. I place my palms together and slide them between my thighs until they rest against my throbbing core. Then I press my legs together in an attempt to calm myself. Now is not the time to remember that it’s been over five months since he touched me last.

Summoning every ounce of willpower I possess, I relax my tensed body and reply to Madelaine’s text message.

ME: Thank you, sweetheart. I’ll try to get there.

As I bend down to slip my mobile back into my handbag, it beeps again. Seeing that the doctor is still occupied with sliding leaflets out of folders, I pull it back out to see what Madelaine has to say to my evasive answer. She’s likely to be unhappy, as determined as she is to pull me out of the funk she feels I’ve fallen into since my split with her father.

PATRICK: I’m in Brisbane for the day. I need to see you. Please answer me, little lady.

My stupid heart—the one that still beats only for him, even after all he’s done—skips a beat. Warmth spreads through me at the effort he’s put into contacting me after I’ve continued to ignore his phone calls. It wouldn’t seem like much coming from anyone else, but I know how much he hates texting. His fingers are three times the size of a normal man’s, making it hard for him to hit the right letter. Patience not being one of his few virtues; continued mistakes usually results in his phone flying into the closest wall.

Running my eyes over his message, savouring each word as if it’s the last I’ll ever read, tears well in my eyes when I read his endearment. “Little lady” were the first words he ever said to me. We literally ran into each other in the only bakery to grace the one-horse town I called home; the town that he had moved to that very day. With loaves of bread and fresh rolls to feed his five children piled high in his huge arms, Patrick hadn’t seen me when I’d walked in front of him, engrossed in my paperback. Walking while reading is one of my quirks; one that’s resulted in more than a few accidents. Although, none have ever been as life-changing as walking into Patrick that day.

ME: Leave me alone. Please. I beg you.

I type the words, delete them, then type them again and press send before I can talk myself out of it. It kills me to be so blunt with him, although it’s unavoidable. My diagnosis is the final nail in our always doomed relationship. There is zero chance of Patrick coping with what’s to come. Not after watching his first wife perish from the same disease.

“Wendy,” Dr. Jenkin’s voice cuts into my thoughts. “This should answer any questions you have.”

Looking up from my phone with sightless eyes, I blink in rapid succession. My vision clears after a moment, and the tears that were welling retreat … for now.

“Thank you,” I reach across the table to grab the leaflets. Shuffling them in my hands, the sheer volume makes my mouth run dry. There’s so much information to take in. Waving them at him, I laugh as I try to brazen my way through the solemn silence that’s gripping the room. “A little light reading to get—”

“I’m going to give you the same advice I’d give my wife. Please get the surgery,” I purse my lips as he says this solemnly, cutting me off to make an obvious play on my emotions. “A lumpectomy is not going to stop the spread. It’s already in your lymph nodes and the surrounding tissue. Your breasts can be reconstructed, and hormone therapy will help you through menopause.”

Standing, I stuff the leaflets into my handbag. I need to get out of here. It feels as if the walls are closing in on me. His words are sucking all of the oxygen out of the room as I flee without another word, two thoughts circling my mind while I run for the car.

I don’t want fake breasts. I want the originals.

The breasts that fed my child for the glorious two hours that I had her in my life.

The breasts that cradled the head of Patrick’s five children when they cried.

The breasts that Patrick worshipped for almost thirteen agonizingly trying, yet blissfully happy years.

 

TEMPTING FATE, BLACK SHAMROCKS MC #4

PROLOGUE

“It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll; I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

~William Ernest Henley~

Revenge. The vindictive pleasure it brings has been many a man’s downfall. Its seductive nature, the power it imbues, the satisfaction that settles in your bones knowing that you’ve settled the score, is a craving that’s hard to resist.

My man is strong. Stronger than any I’ve ever known yet I fear his need for retribution is going to beat him. The Club needs a leader they can trust, a man who sticks to his word, a champion of their code of honour. Me, well, I need my lover, my partner, my soul mate to put me first. He needs to be the master of our destiny, the keeper of our fate, while I’m lost in my grief and confusion.

It’s not fair. I know it’s not. Yet, even knowing how much he needs to avenge the wrongs that were brought down on our head—the deception that threatened to tear the Shamrocks apart—I can’t give him what he’s asking for.

My blessing.

To kill my father.

Every fibre of my being accepts that he’s my soul mate. My matching half. The yin to my yang. We both acknowledge that our destiny was sealed when I was just a girl. However, if he continues with his pursuit of vengeance, I fear the outcome will do more than tempt our fate.

It’ll destroy our future.

CHAPTER ONE

MIK

The wind and my woman at my back.

There’s no better feeling.

Gripping my ape-hangers, I manoeuvre my Harley to the head of the pack and accelerate. Fuck riding behind Timber right now. Fuck riding with anyone but Lainey. She’s the only person who matters to me, my sole reason for breathing.

I’m finally fucking free. The jail is nothing but a receding reflection in my side mirror. We’ve survived our latest betrayal. Five months of fucking hell it cost us; leaving my woman to struggle on her own and me locked in a manmade hell-hole. Every fucker who conspired against us is gonna pay. I don’t give a shit whether they call themselves family or friend.

Mik was who they locked up. He was stabbed and beaten; bent and almost broken by a corrupt system and a plan put in place by a man he once loved like a second father.

Mad Dog is who emerged. Spiteful, nasty, bitter, and resentful. He’s hell bent on revenge; bound and determined to rid the world of every cockhead who’s ever done us wrong.

Starting with Beast. Father of the love of my life or not, he’s going to die.

It’s with that resolution sitting in the forefront of my mind that I decide where me and Lainey are heading first. The party at the Compound can wait—the Club will still be there no matter how long our detour takes. I need to get properly reacquainted with my woman before I deal with the celebrations they have planned. Why the Shamrocks would think I want to share a beer in remembrance of the deception that saw me lose my freedom for five months alludes me. The last thing I want to do is examine the damage caused.

No, I wanna spend my first night balls deep in my woman—reminding myself of how well our bodies fit together. I need her to ground me before I put into action the plan I formulated while I was locked up. Her beauty, her innocence, the way she needs me to complete her. They’re the perfect antidote to the darkness that threatens to spill free anytime I think about Beast, about Thomas Taylor, or the corrupt fucking legal system that they manipulated to keep me away from her.

Patting Lainey’s hands where they sit snuggly around my waist, I wait until she looks at me in the side mirror before I gesture with my thumb at the left-hand side of the road. Slowing my bike, I round a sharp corner and then come to a halt in front of a huge two-story house.

Bracing my Harley with my feet, I lock my knees so the perfectly balanced machine doesn’t tilt and pull off my helmet. Patting the inside pocket of my cut, first the left side then the right, I pull out the packet of smokes I stashed there on my way out of the prison. Lighting one, I inhale deeply, holding it in my lungs as I watch Lainey look at the house, then at the sold sticker sitting proudly across the “For Sale” sign, and then back at me.

Pulling her helmet off in a rush, she stares at me with wide, bright blue eyes. “Mik. You didn’t?”

Her tone makes it obvious that she’s hoping that I did. Twisting as much as I can, I nod proudly as the smoke I was holding billows from my nose. Her delicate little nose twitches, her disdain apparent. I don’t usually smoke around her unless I’m drinking, being what you’d call a part-time smoker—that was until I was incarcerated and had nothing else to do. As of now, I have a habit. It’s just one of the many things that have changed in our time apart.

“I can’t believe—” She stops speaking and looks back at the house. Her delighted expression makes all the headaches caused by trying to purchase a house while I was locked up worth it. I was determined that I wasn’t coming home to my dad’s spare room, our room in the Compound, or the house that Lainey had rented in my absence. “My God, it’s huge. How much was it?”

Throwing my cigarette onto the ground near my front tyre, I grab Lainey’s closest hand and pull her toward me. It’s not easy, but I manage to silence her with my mouth. Slipping my tongue between her easily parted lips, I explore the recesses of her mouth as we kiss. Frustration takes hold when my hands try to touch her without success; our positions making it impossible. Pulling away from her alluring mouth, I grin when she pouts. “Hop off, Angel. Let me show you your new home.”

We walk hand-in-hand up the drive to the front door. Reaching up, I grab the key from the top of the door frame where Joel left it for me, and unlock the house. With an extended arm, I usher Lainey in before me, my eyes firmly planted on her ass that’s displayed in all its glory in her tight jeans. She comes to a stop in front of me and only my quick reflexes stop me from ploughing into her back.

Spinning to face me, she wraps her arms around my neck and plants kisses all over my face. I pull her body into mine, my eyebrows lifting as I realize how much weight she’s lost since I held her last. I knew she was struggling without me; the light in her eyes was dimming with each visit to see me in jail, yet, I hadn’t a clue she was this bad.

Placing my hands on either side of her face, I pull her away from me, ready to ask her about her much-smaller frame. Lainey mistakes my intentions, instead taking a step back and pulling her shirt over her head. When her tits come into view, pushed high in a sexy red bra, all of my questions fly out of my head. Fuck, I’ve missed her. Seeing her almost every day was torture when I couldn’t even hold her hand without running the risk of getting her visitation rights revoked.

Her shirt has barely slipped from her fingers to the floor before I’m walking her backward in search of the closest wall to lift her against while I unsnap her bra and free her breasts. We come to a stop when Lainey’s back hits the wall behind us. Mouths pressed together, tongues duelling, my fingers are nimble as I pop open the button to her jeans and yank them and her panties down past her knees. I hold them so she can step out of them, planting a kiss on her smooth mound as I straighten. Lainey starts fumbling with my pants button. My frantic movements make it hard for her so I undo it for her. Tugging my zipper down, I pull my jeans down far enough to free my cock. Her slender fingers are wrapped around me before I’m fully exposed, working my dick up and down with the finesse of a woman who’s had her hand around it many times before.

Impatient to be inside her, I knock her hand aside, push her hard against the wall and lift her with one arm under her ass. With my free hand, I guide my cock inside her tight body, burying myself to the hilt in her hot cunt with one forceful stroke. Lainey’s resulting gasp is music to my ears, as is her instinctive response to wind her fingers through my hair and tug at it.

Drawing back, I drive myself into her again. She feels fucking exquisite, gripping me with her pulsing walls, pulling me further into her beautiful body. I push my cock into her pussy, over and over, each stroke harder than the last until I’m lifting her up the wall with each thrust.

“Mik…God…Missed this.” Lainey’s words are barely audible; broken and breathless. When her legs wrap around my hips tighter, I know she’s close to the edge. I make enough space between us so I can reach her clit and still maintain my pace. Grinding my thumb against the sensitive bundle of nerves, I feel her pussy clamp around my cock as I send her over the edge into the first orgasm I’ve been able to give her in months. The tightening of her walls pushes me past the point of no return, my release spilling into her while she’s still riding her own climax.

“Fuck. Yes.” I groan as I come. My orgasm feels like it goes on and on. I’m like a boy getting his first taste of how good a woman feels around his dick. It doesn’t matter how many times you pull yourself, nothing will beat spilling your cum into a tight cunt. It’s even better when that pussy belongs to the woman you love.

Lainey slumps forward, her head coming to rest on my shoulder as the final spasms of my hips die down. She’s done for, while getting a taste of her after so long has me barely softening. It’s not gonna take much for me to be ready for round two.

I’m still buried in her, enjoying the feel of her pussy holding me inside, when the difference in her weight pushes its way back into my head. She’s always been tall and curvy—not heavy but her body was lush in all the right places. The woman I’m holding in my arms is frail. Too slender and nothing like her normal self. It’s fucking scary.

Standing straight so she’s not leaning against the wall, I walk into the kitchen and place her on the island that separates the kitchen from the dining area. Pulling my softening cock out of her, I shrug off my cut and then my T-shirt. Putting my cut on over the ribbed tee I was wearing under my T-shirt, I pass it to her so she can clean up. While she’s doing that, I zip up my jeans and have a proper look at her.

“Fuck, you’re a sight for sore eyes.”

My comment can be taken two ways. Her jutting collarbones look sharp enough to cut, the natural tone in her arms is gone and so is some of the fullness from her perky tits. The tattoo of St. Michael on a Harley on her hip and the rose tattoo that runs down her right side almost look too big for her now. I’m gonna smash Benji and Joel’s heads together for letting her get like this. They both promised me that they’d look after her.

Fine fucking job they’ve done.

Lainey’s cheeks flush, making me realize that she understood what I meant with my observation. She wraps her arms around herself, trying to hide her body from my prying eyes, and it’s then that I spy the white bandage on her right thigh. I’ve seen that before—a long time ago—and its presence makes my mouth run dry.

Heart pounding in my ears, I reach a suddenly shaky hand toward her leg. She sees me coming, reads my intentions in one glance, and scrambles backward on the countertop to get out of my reach. Her evasive tactics don’t stop me. I grab hold of her ankle and slide her in my direction.

“No. Mik. It’s not what you think, I promise.” The timid delivery of her protest, coupled with her continued fight to get away from me, confirm what I already suspect.

Holding her leg straight, I peel the edge of the bandage back. I find three thin cuts across the fleshiest part of her thigh. Across flesh that bears evidence that this isn’t the first fucking time. They’re not shallow because they’re done with a practised hand—a hand that belongs to the squirming woman in front of me. The bloody woman who swore on her little brothers life that she’d never do this to herself again.

“You promised.” She flinches and I watch Lainey’s blue eyes become brighter as tears well. Pulling her into my arms, I pick her up with one arm behind her back and the other under her knees and hold her to my chest.

“I’m sorry, Mik. It won’t do it anymore. Not now I have you back—” She breaks off, sobbing softly as she snuggles into me. “You’re all I need. When I have you, I feel safe. In control.”

My heart fractures in my chest for my broken woman, although, anger rises within me at the same time. Not at Lainey; at the cunts who’ve caused her to get to the point where she feels like she needs to cut her own flesh with a fucking razor in order to feel some control over her life. My body’s vibrating with rage at the cockheads behind my incarceration. They’re the reason she’s back to square one. The shit she’d already been through nearly killed her, yet, they saw fit to bring more down on her head.

“Shhhh.” I try my best to soothe her, all the while the plans I made in prison go round and round in my mind. Tonight is about me and Lainey. Tomorrow, I’m taking the President’s patch from Timber and beginning to right the wrongs done to us. Starting with my fucking father-in-law-to-be. He’s gonna learn that the Black Shamrocks MC is now mine and anyone who disputes that will join him in Hell.

 

FINDING NIRVANA, BLACK SHAMROCKS MC #5

PROLOGUE

“A great battle is a terrible thing,” the old knight said, “but in the midst of blood and carnage, there is sometimes also beauty, beauty that could break your heart.” ~ George R. R. Martin ~

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so it’s said. The day he walked—limped—into my clinic, there was no beauty to be found. Instead, a gigantic dark mass of rage hid his soulful blue eyes, perfectly symmetrical features, and full lips under a cloak of misery so dense that it stole the breath from my lungs. I took down his name, and he took a piece of my heart.

My mum always says that I’m too quick to trust, too fast to give away my feelings. I can’t help it. Pain and suffering calls to me. It whispers my name, begging me to act as a salve to the unbearable ache that I can see them crumbling under.

From the first moment I can remember, my touch has brought comfort. Whether it was my puppy when he injured his leg, my little sister when she grazed her knees, or my daughter who still looks to her mummy to kiss away the hurt—I’m the person who makes everything better.

Until him. He confounded me; shook off my desire to care for him with an angry shrug that should have scared me into leaving him alone. It didn’t work, though. Because beneath his veneer of hostility, there’s a glimmer of something deeper. It’s easily identifiable to those who are adept at finding it.

Hope. That’s what I see when he lets his guard drop.

And, it’s what stops me from walking away when he begins snarling at the world.

Life let me taste the sweetness it can offer—one time, long ago. The spark of interest that colours his cheeks when he looks at me. The hint of jealousy that narrows his eyes when I talk to his friends. The way he angles his body closer to mine when I’m near. They tell me two things.

One. I’m responsible for the hope that’s growing in his gaze with each furtive glance in my direction.

Two. This man is my last chance to grab the fleeting goodness that life has to offer.

Because, together, we could do more than fall in love.

We might find nirvana.

CHAPTER ONE

JOEL

A sharp bolt of agony travels from my knees to my hips. Thankfully, I broke nothing when I dropped to the ground next to my bleeding sister. Although my relief is short-lived when she screams as I prod her in an effort to find the source of the dark, red liquid that’s pooling on the ground beneath her. Shifting so I can get out of her way when she reaches for Mad Dog’s hand, the sheer fury in the words that Maddi yells freezes the beating of my heart in my chest. It stops. Dead in its tracks. Unable to cope with the bloodbath that surrounds us.

“This is wrong. It’s my goddamned wedding day. It’s not supposed to end like this.”

The unfairness of the situation is clear. What I can do to help is not. The hand she’s holding belongs to her more-than-likely, close-to-death—or dead—husband of fifteen minutes, not even two metres away, her best friend lies unmoving over his family, while just beyond him our cousin lays dead. What used to be his chest is sprayed over the ground in front of him; the knees of his sobbing father—my uncle—kneeling in the remnants of his only child. Around him, the rest of the Shamrocks women scream, and the few men who are still standing search the yard for clues to whether the attack is over.

Lacey falls to the ground beside me, finally able to come in answer to my wild beckoning. Her eyes are wide, filled with the same emotions that I know she’ll find reflected in mine.

Disbelief. Urgency. Sorrow.

“Are they alive?” Lacey shoots the question at me, then ducks her head to brace herself for the answer. The couple in front of us aren’t moving, except for the minute rise and fall of their chests.

“I think s—”

My reply is cut off when another explosion erupts. The row of Harley’s that line the front fence lift off the ground and then burst into flames, sending everyone scattering. This time we have no leadership to tell us what to do, and that fact becomes apparent as everyone takes off in different directions.

We are sitting ducks.

And the snipers who have us in their sight know this.

“Get down,” I growl at Lacey, pushing her by the shoulders until she’s on the ground next to Maddi. “Play dead.”

Sparing my suddenly cooperative hands a quick glance, I force myself to my feet. I need a weapon and I need to find out who’s left to form some sort of a defence with me. No sooner has that thought taken hold in my mind when it’s sent spiralling to the dark recesses of my brain.

I spot three men, all dressed in black. One is positioned on top of the Clubhouse, the second partially hidden in one of the alcoves built into the eight-foot-tall concrete fence that surrounds the compound. That’s bad enough. But, it’s the third guy, who turns my blood to ice.

He has his rifle pointed at Benji. My brother is distracted; his attention focussed on Viking and our younger brothers. He’s frantically gesturing for Matty and Lachie to help Mad Dog’s ailing father into the workshop. Over the shrill cries, and the gruff voices that are trying to take control, I can hear my brother taking charge of that trio—all the while, oblivious to the threat that’s bearing down on him.

“Get in the shed, and, get the fuck down. Don’t even look out the windows.” My feet have a mind of their own, heading in my brother’s direction before I decide to. The limp that normally slows me is curiously absent as I watch the third sniper lean closer to his scope and line Benji up. My brother’s still yelling orders as I close the distance between us.

My throat has seized up, the warning that I need to provide not coming. One step. Two steps. I open my mouth and yell louder than I ever have in my life. “BENJI! SNIPER!”

He spins toward me, turning his back on our little brothers. His mouth—the one that’s been responsible for some of the greatest one-liners I’ve ever heard—drops open when he sees me gaining on him. My right arm lifts in an attempt to show him where the sniper is, only to fall uselessly to my side when the sound of a shot being fired rings out and a perfectly round, bright red circle appears in the dead centre of his forehead.

Benji drops to his knees. The surprise that was on his face disappearing as his expression turns blank and his life comes to an end. He slumps forward, falling face first on the concrete driveway. I stumble over my own feet and land next to him. My hands raise just in time for me to brace for impact, then I roll onto my side next to my dead brother and look up at the cloudless, blue sky.

For a second I close my eyes and hope to hell that this is all a dream. Opening them, I’m met with the shocked faces of my two little brothers and Kyle leaning over me. Matty begins to speak, only to be drowned out by the staccato sound of an automatic rifle echoing off the surrounding buildings.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

One. Two. Three.

Matty. Lachie. Kyle.

One by one, my blood brothers and our adopted brother fall to the ground beside me.

Everyone I love. My sister. My cousin. My brothers. Gone.

The shooting stops, a deathly silence taking its place. I turn on my side, determined to find another survivor. Instead, I see nothing but rivers of red. The blood of my family runs down the concrete driveway, pooling together as a manmade tribute to the carnage to which I just played witness.

I lower my eyelids again.

Please God, let this be a dream.

I lift them, only to be greeted by the same sight.

Nope, it’s definitely not a dream.

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Author Bio:

 

Kylie Hillman is the Australian author of the Internationally Bestselling Black Shamrocks MC series, Amazon #1 Bestselling NA/Sports novel, Brawl (Black Hearts MMA #1), and the recently completed Centrifuge Duet. She’s currently working on the highly anticipated spin-offs to the Black Shamrocks MC series, writing the rest of the Black Hearts MMA series, and plotting her upcoming psychological thriller, Blood Oath.

She’s also wife to a Harley-riding, boating and fishing, four-wheel driving, quintessential Aussie bloke and mum to two crazy, adorable, and eccentric kids. A Crohn’s Disease sufferer and awareness campaigner, as well as an avid tea drinker, metal head, and math nerd, Kylie is known for lacing everything she says with sarcasm and inappropriate innuendo.

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Cover Reveal: Toxic by Nicole Blanchard

 

Toxic
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Dark Romance

Preorder: iTunes / Amazon / New Release Alert

“John Doe” was just another patient. A criminal.

As a prison nurse, I knew the rules: do my job, don’t get involved, and never let a prisoner get under my skin.

I broke all three.

My passion, my obsession, my addiction. I risked my entire life so we could be together.

I thought helping him escape from prison would be the hard part.

It turns out when you fall in love with a villain, you also turn into one.

 

Author Bio:

Nicole

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Nicole Blanchard lives in Mississippi with her family and their menagerie of animals. She chooses each day to chase her own fairy tale even if they contain their fair share of dragons. She is married to her best friend and owns her own business.

Nicole survives on a diet of too many books and substantial amounts of root beer and slim jims. When not reading, she’s lavishing attention on her family or inhaling every episode of The Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory.

 

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