Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Contemporary Romance
Date Published: August 2016
Publisher: Brook Publications

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WHAT IS MUSIC WITHOUT SOME HART?

Ryder Hart
Rock God
Brother
Protector
Wounded Soul

Quinn Abernathy
Photographer
Daughter
Healer of Souls

Ryder Hart came up the hard way. From his childhood, to scratching his way to the top of the charts. Every moment was a struggle. Now that he's made it, nothing is taking him down. Not even a secret so dark it invades his dreams and haunts his waking hours.

Quinn Abernathy's hunger for success is no less than Ryder's. If she wants to succeed in the highly competitive world of photography, she can't let anything, or anyone, get in her way. Until Ryder. He makes her long for more than she ever thought possible.

Music is Ryder's life. There isn't room for a woman like Quinn Abernathy.

A woman who asks for nothing but wants it all.

Grab this stand-alone novel now.


Other Books in the Hart Of Rock And Roll Series:





Hart Of Rock And Roll, Book 2
Published: September 2016

Dalton Shaw was on the verge of success when he made a mistake that could have ruined his life forever. He was one of the lucky ones. A prison sentence wasn't the end. His friends stood by him. Waited. Together, they rode to the top of the charts becoming one of the most successful rock bands in the world.

Dalton thought he had left his bad boy past behind him. Unfortunately, small towns--and the people in them--have long memories. Especially when there are secrets nobody wants dug up.

Returning to Midas, Arizona was the last thing Dalton wanted. Given no choice, he is determined to find the truth once and for all. What he didn't expect to find was a woman like Colleen McNamara.
Prison changes a man. It's inevitable. Can she live with that?

Colleen had one goal. Getting out of Midas as soon as humanly possible. Meeting Dalton Shaw didn't change her dreams. He was a distraction. A bit of fun. She wasn't looking to fall for the blue eyed charmer. But fate--and love--have a way of sneaking up on an unsuspecting heart. It wasn't long before Colleen was willing to put herself at risk if it means protecting Dalton from those who want to use him for their own ends--or ruin him trying.

Danger follows Dalton and Colleen as they search for the truth.

Will they make it out of Midas in one piece?

Will they discover in time that love is the most powerful weapon of all?


Hart Of Rock And Roll, Book 3
Published: October 2016

Ashe Mathison has always been the even keeled member of The Ryder Hart Band.

Unlike his friends, he had a stable childhood. Pampered and loved, he grew up wanting for nothing—except the chance to follow his true passion. Music. In order to follow his dream, Ash had to walk away from his family with nothing but a few dollars in his pocket, a guitar slung over his back, and a driving ambition to be the best.

Ten years later, Ashe has it all. Fame. Wealth. And a tight group of people he can count on to have his back—no matter what.

Mending the break with his family had always seemed like an impossible task. But when an opportunity arises, Ashe knows it might be the only chance he will ever get. It's a risk he has to take.
Belle Richards seems to have the perfect life. With a well-paying job and a handsome fiancé her family loves, what else could she ask for? How about love? Or passion. Both are missing from Belle's life. Only one man ever stirred her heart. Unfortunately, he never knew she was alive.

THE BOY NEXT DOOR IS NOW A ROCK STAR

A chance encounter between Belle and Ashe stirs up unexpected feelings they can't control. For Belle, it was meant to be a one night stand. For Ashe, it felt like more. In the morning, when he reached for her, she was gone. Imagine his surprise when he returns home and finds out the woman he can't get out of his mind is engaged to be married.

For Ashe and Belle, passion, once tasted, is impossible to ignore. But is that all there is? Can they have a future when their lives are so different?

An unexpected threat to Belle's life changes everything. Ashe has found the love of his life—and will not let anybody keep them apart.


Hart Of Rock And Roll, Book 4
Published: December 2016

Zoe Hart knows who she is. Sister, friend. And badass lead guitar player for The Ryder Hart Band. A childhood filled with all-to-real monsters and the uncertainty of foster homes left her no choice but to grow up fast. To survive she built a wall that over time had gotten taller—thicker. She didn't let in anybody but her closest friends. And even they didn't know all her secrets. She doesn't need a man in her life to make it better. She doesn't need a man. Period. Especially a cocky, charming rock God who is used to women falling at his feet.

Smith Carson had known Zoe Hart since she was teenager. Pretty. Amusingly snarky. She was more of a girl than a woman. While he admired her as a musician, he always thought of her as Ryder Hart's little sister. In other words, hands off. When that changed, he wasn't certain. All he knew was that one day—in what seemed like a blink of the eye—she was all grown up. Breathtakingly gorgeous. Along with an outer maturity, her snarky tongue had turned from amusing to acid sharp. If Smith wanted Zoe—and he did—it was going to take more than some charm and a smile to win her.

Resisting Smith had been easy when Zoe thought he was a shallow, narcissistic pretty boy. The attraction was there, but that was all. Smith didn't try to hide his intentions. He wanted Zoe. To her surprise—as she got to know him—she found herself wanting him back. Before she knew what was happening, he snuck underneath her well-constructed walls. Smith was on a path to her heart—something Zoe hadn't thought possible.

It was tempting. Smith was tempting. But secrets—no matter how well buried—have a way of digging their way to the surface. Demons—both emotional and real—have haunted Zoe most her life. It's time to face them once and for all.

Can Zoe find a way to open her heart to what Smith is offering? Or will the past destroy what she wants the most? Love.


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Monday, February 20, 2017


Romantic Thriller, Romantic Suspense, Christian Fiction
Date Published:  November 2016

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Claire is dead.

She’s been the love of Kevin Foster’s life for as long as he can remember; his soulmate, and his best friend.

Before she dies, Claire, an archaeologist, goes on an expedition to the Middle East and comes across evidence supporting the existence of a biblical, antediluvian site the ancients called Heaven’s Oasis, and that certain ancient artifacts can lead her to it. Claire believes that finding this site will help prove the Bible's veracity, and provide indisputable evidence of God's existence.

Following her unexpected death Claire's expeditions become public knowledge, and the subsequent assaults against her reputation from the scientific community and the media are both brutal and relentless.

Furious at the public ridicule and to prove she was right, Kevin decides to pick up where Claire left off in her search and to finish what she started. He’s willing to sacrifice everything, even his life, to restore her reputation and to honor her memory.

A billionaire arms dealer named Kain Masterson has also been searching for the Oasis, however, intending to keep what he finds for himself. The deadly competition soon becomes a struggle just to stay alive in the race to find the artifacts, follow the clues, and ultimately to find Heaven’s Oasis.


About the Author

Jeff W. Horton was an Information technology professional for twenty-five years before deciding to pursue his lifelong dream of being a writer. Since becoming an author and screenwriter of family-friendly fiction, Jeff has written two screenplays and eight published novels in several genres including apocalyptic-fiction, science-fiction, religious fantasy, and romance thrillers.

His current list of works includes:

    Heaven's Oasis
    New Beginnings
    Frontiers
    Cybersp@ce
    The Last Prophet
    The Way of Nacor
    The Dark Age
    The Great Collapse

When he's not penning his next novel, Jeff enjoys spending time with his family, going to church, and reading.  Among his favorite authors are many immediately recognizable names including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells,Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, C.S. Lewis, Ted Dekker, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Jeff Horton is a member of the North Carolina Writers Network.


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Friday, February 17, 2017

Book Review: Jack of Hearts by Sandra Owens

Jack of Hearts by Sandra Owens



Publisher & Release: Montlake Romance, February 14, 2017

Time and setting:  Present Day,

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

Book Length: 270 pages

Heat Level: 2 Flame

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Alex Gentry doesn’t scare easily. Working as an undercover FBI agent in the biker bar he and his brothers co-own, he hangs with deadly criminals in order to gather information. Danger is just part of the family business. But one thing has him terrified: his attraction to Madison Parker.
Madison is the cousin of Ramon Alonzo, son and second in command to a notorious drug lord Alex is trying to bust. Alex has befriended Ramon as part of his cover, and Madison has unknowingly become his informant. Falling for her could risk this case—and both their lives.
All Madison wants is to get her new bookstore business off the ground, and for her creepy cousin Ramon—to whom she’s unfortunately indebted—to leave her alone. If she could only stop fantasizing about his mysterious new friend, Alex…
As the Alonzo cartel investigation heats up, so does their relationship. But will the secrets they’re keeping tear them apart—or get them both killed?

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Vikki’s Musings

I’ve been a fan of Sandra Owen’s ever since I her amazing novel The Letter, which is a beautifully written historical. When she began writing contemporary, I must admit I was skeptical, but she quickly proved she could handle the transition with her K2 Team series. When I received an invitation from the publisher via Net-Galley, I eagerly accepted. Ms. Owens new series is fantastic!

Madison Parker wants a simple life, one where she can manage her new bookstore with no drama. Unfortunately, she has to borrow funds from her weasel cousin, Ramon. While she cannot be sure, she believes he is involved in criminal activity. When she meets a friend of his, she worries that an attraction to him will involve her in something she wants no part of.

Alex Gentry is working undercover, posing as a friend to Ramon Alonzo, a man who is heavily involved with a drug cartel he is trying to destroy. When he meets Madison, he wants to believe she is not aware of her cousin’s nefarious deeds, but can he trust his instincts?

Jack of Hearts is another great romance by Sandra Owens, and is a fantastic start for her new series. I can’t wait to read the next book in the Aces & Eights series. I was immediately pulled into the story from the first scene and stayed that way to the end. The pacing is excellent and remains so throughout the book.

Madison’s character is delightful. She has a great sense of humor, she’s a loyal friend and loves her mother. She also has a cat, which will always make her character a winner in my book! I loved her from the start and wanted her to find her happy ending.

Alex is a great hero. He’s a warrior and a protector. He’s dedicated to bringing down the bad guy, and he loves his brothers. All of them sound yummy! He is so careful and gentle with Madison. It shows a totally different side of his character from the fierce, take charge guy he is when dealing with Ramon and the investigation.

The chemistry between Alex and Madison is strong from the very beginning and grows to a hot blaze by the end of the book. Ms. Owens uses her skill from her Regency romances and keeps the sexual tension building as the story progresses. That is something that is normally less apparent in contemporary romance than historical.

I thoroughly enjoyed Jack of Hearts and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a romance with plenty of action, great characters, primary and secondary, and a lovely love story. Happy reading!



Thursday, February 16, 2017

Book Review: The Scoundrel's Honor by Christi Caldwell

The Scoundrel’s Honor by Christi Caldwell



Publisher & Release: Montlake Romance, February 28, 2017

Time and setting:  1822, London

Genre: Historical Romance/Regency

Book Length: 354 pages

Heat Level: 2 Flames

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

London, 1822.
Thanks to her older siblings, Lady Penelope Tidemore is no stranger to scandal. In order for her to make a good match, her secret longings for intrigue and romance must be quelled. Yet it is through terrible mischance that Penelope is caught in a compromising position—however innocent—with the darkly enigmatic viscount Ryker Black.
Mr. Black is no gentleman. Raised from the streets and proprietor of the most notorious gaming hell in London, Black lives in a world filled with debauchery and danger. Taking a Society wife from the very ton he despises is not part of his plan, even if the innocent Penelope turns his blood hot with desire.
But Penelope isn’t afraid of Mr. Black, and she soon discovers that his reputation as a scoundrel may be designed to hide a surprising vulnerability. As this unlikely husband and wife grow closer, they learn that what started as chance could end up sealing their fates.

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Vikki’s Musings

I discovered Christi Caldwell last year and immediately read most of her backlist. Since then, whenever I see one of her books, I take notice. When I received an invitation from the publisher via Net-Galley, I eagerly accepted. Again, Ms. Caldwell has penned another winner!

Lady Penelope is determined to behave as an exemplary young debutante. Her family has already had their share of scandal. When she is caught in a compromising situation, she believes her life is ruined.

Ryker Black could care less what the ton thinks of him. As a bastard son of a duke, he lives his life as he sees fit. When he is caught with Lady Penelope, something is different. He does not want to see her ruined, not because he cares what society thinks, but because he does not want this spirited young lady to experience the pain it would cause. He does the right and honorable thing.

Can they find a way to make their marriage succeed, or will their different backgrounds tear them apart?

The Scoundrel’s Honor is an exciting read from the first page to the last. It has adventure, lots of suspense, great characters, and most of all, a wonderful love story. It’s fast-paced without feeling rushed. Ms. Caldwell gives the reader a lovely glimpse of the Regency period. Her descriptive writing is excellent, yet still, leaves something to the imagination of the reader.

Lady Penelope’s character is endearing, and I fell in love with her determination, her loyalty to her family and her desire to make Ryker’s life better. She is feisty and independent, yet a truly feminine young woman. So many times, heroines with these characteristics are too masculine for my tastes, but that is not the case with Lady P. Her depth of character is quite good, and I could understand what made her tick.

Ryker’s character is more complex than the heroine’s. He had a horrendous childhood, which influences his decisions. What I liked most about him is his high sense of loyalty to those he feels responsible for, from his sister, his brothers of his heart, to his feelings for Penelope. Underneath his rough exterior beats a heart of gold.

The romance between Ryker and Penelope sizzles throughout the story and only grows stronger as it progresses. Ms. Caldwell masterfully builds the sexual tension, which is a key ingredient for a Regency romance and what I love best about this sub-genre.


If you enjoy becoming lost in the Regency era, and want a romance that will pull at your heart-strings, and with plenty of action, then you will love The Scoundrel’s Honor. The title truly suits this story. Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017




Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy
Publisher: Blue Moon Creative


Beware of dogs, romance and deep belly laughs!

Four friends meet in a dog park and become fast friends. Four different backgrounds, four different personalities, but two things in common, the love for their funny, endearing four-legged furry friends and their deep friendship for each other. Come along and join my girls as they find their true love in the urban jungle of New York City and each snag the man of their dreams. To get you started on this fun journey, this set includes Leashed, Book 1 and Groomed for Murder, Book 2 of The Going to the Dogs series.



LEASHED

And they call it puppy love!

When Jack falls head-over-paws for cute and cuddly Jill next door -- that creamy coat, those soft brown eyes, and, yowza, those long legs, he simply cannot help himself. Bing, bang, boom, a few weeks later, Jack has some 'splaining to do when that cute female is with puppies. Jack's going to be a father, trouble is his lady love's owner Owen McKay and his owner Callie Lassiter need a little shove into love. Being a large and in-charge Great Dane, that's no problem for Jack. With a little cooperation and a little matchmaking, some nudging, whining and puppy dog eyes, hopefully, everyone will live happily ever after together. bn

Groomed for Murder

Can a dog have a bad hair day?

Brooke Palmer owns Pawlish, an exclusive doggie spa and grooming business in upper Manhattan, but when a client’s champion poodle gets a bad poodle cut and has to undergo therapy to recover, the client sues. The lawyer they send is drop dead gorgeous, but Brooke won't be wooed by a corporate shark in a sharp suit.

Corporate lawyer Drew Hudson has better things to do then take on this ridiculous lawsuit, but since he works for the client’s husband, he has no choice. After meeting the beautiful, sweet-tempered owner, he can’t keep his mind on the silly case. But when the client turns up dog gone dead, Brooke may be a conflict of interest when she’s charged with the murder. All Drew wants to do is prove that this sexy entrepreneur is not dangerous, except to his heart.

Can she take a chance on him?

Don't miss Hounded and Collared Book 3 and 4 along with the wedding novellas that are now available in a boxed set!

Other books in the Going to the Dogs Series:

Hounded
Going to the Dogs, Book 3

I’ll get you and your little dogs, too!

Veterinarian Poe Madigan enters The Fur Ball with her Jack Russell terriers (aka The Terrible Two) to compete for a substantial cash prize that will keep her mother from losing her home. But when her fabulous partner sprains his ankle, Poe must trade him and his talented Bichon for a sexy, muscle-bound hunk who can't dance and his Basset Hound, Lazy Daisy. If that's not enough to make her despair, it seems The Terrible Two have angered someone and they're receiving death threats!

Security specialist Jared Taylor promises one of Poe's friends that he will go undercover as her dog dancing partner to protect her from danger. He didn't expect to find his staid, traditional life would be turned all topsy-turvy and he would find a soft spot for a neglected hound and fall for a Goth princess. But when he reveals who he really is and why he is in Poe’s life will it destroy the foundation of trust they’ve built? Could he lose the real prize - Poe?


Collared
Going to the Dogs, Book 4

Diamonds are a dog's best friend.

Harper Sinclair discovers that her champion, award-winning standard poodle, Ch. Edgewood Sky High Blue is missing her $50,000 diamond dog collar that was given to her by Harper's eccentric, indulging grandmother along with valuable pieces of jewelry. Harper calls the robbery division of the NYPD and reports the thefts. The detective they send is surly and tough with a pair of brown eyes that make even this calm, cool socialite's lungs claw for air.

Rough and tumble Detective Caleb Shaw has better things to do than run over to the penthouse of a frigging socialite to find a frigging collar for a frigging pampered poodle---award winning or not. He has real cases to solve, but when he gets a load of the poodle's owner, his interest in the case...heats up. Satin sheets or not, he wants Harper. But there is more to this robbery than the dog collar. Has someone close to Harper pulled an inside job?

Can a lovely socialite collar a hard-boiled detective or are they worlds apart?


Fetched
Going to the Dogs, Book 5

Companion Novella to Hounded. Your enjoyment would be increased if you have read not only Hounded, but the full Going to the Dogs series.

Poe is getting married and she’s having Jared’s baby. She’s gotten her happily ever after, but everything happened so fast, she’s barely had time to take it all in. She’s worried about her ability to be a good mother. Will her doubts overshadow these joyous occasions—her marriage and honeymoon with her sexy cowboy?

But, she’ll have to catch her breath on the run. Before she can say Zombie Apocalypse, she’s off to Vegas where all her friends and family are assembling. They have to put a wedding together in a week. Can the dog park babes come to her rescue to get this hitching to come off without a hitch?

Ah, wait, The Terrible Two are involved.


Tangled
Going to the Dogs, Book 6

A companion novella to Leashed, Going to the Dogs, #1. Your reading enjoyment would be enhanced if you've already read Leashed.

Callie and Owen are getting married, but there’s always been something that’s bothered Callie. Owen has never opened up about his childhood, never confided in her what formed him into the man he was today.

As they tie the knot, Callie’s determined that now that Owen is her husband, she has a right to know about his past. A past Owen would rather die than reveal to his beautiful new wife. His past is ugly and brutal. He’s worried that Callie will see him in a different light. He can’t take the chance.
But as they embark on their new life together, Callie can’t let it go and Owen won’t open up. How can their marriage progress in light of what Callie feels is Owen’s distrust. Will their marriage even survive the honeymoon?


Handled
Going to the Dogs, Book 7

A companion novella to Groomed for Murder Going to the Dogs, #2. Your reading enjoyment would be enhanced if you've already read Groomed for Murder.

Brooke and Drew are getting married and Brooke is happy juggling all her responsibilities with her wonderful fiancé, Drew and her playful Bulldog, Boxer. She’s in her element running both Pawlish, her doggie grooming spa and Bone Appétit, her dog treat franchise.

But, even though Drew hasn’t been demanding, he’s unhappy. Whenever he brings up slowing down, she reassures him she can handle everything. But the reality is that she isn’t and their relationship is suffering. It isn’t until the honeymoon that things come to a head. Brooke is spending more time putting out fires with her businesses than she is quenching her new husband’s fire.

Will her need to handle everything cause her to lose…the only thing that matters?


Captured
Going to the Dogs, Book 8

A companion novella to Collared, Going to the Dogs, #4. Your reading enjoyment would be enhanced if you've already read Collared.

Harper and Caleb are getting married and for the most part nothing has really changed for Harper. She’s still uber rich, her life filled with charities and smoozing. But instead of loneliness and protective walls, she’s opened her heart to the best and most wonderful thing that has happened to her—gorgeous and tough, Detective Caleb Shaw.

But Caleb’s once normal, blue collar life has been significantly changed. With Harper’s money taking care of everything, what is there for him to provide her? Especially when he hears it bantered around that he’s a “kept” man. Harper dismisses that kind of talk as nonsense and urges Caleb to not worry about it. But even as he tries to grow a thick skin, his pride causes rifts. Will Caleb let Harper’s wealth destroy the deep and abiding love they found?

Will their marriage end before it even begins?




About the Author


Zoe writes romantic comedy, new adult, contemporary and erotic romance as well as urban fantasy. She believes it's not about formulas or rules. It's all about the happily ever afters.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Until Sydney by Marissa Dobson

Series: Tanner Cycles Book One
Release Date: February 14, 2017
Forbidden fruit is so much more tempting…
The one woman Coal Tanner was never supposed to touch was the very same he couldn’t resist. She was his best friend’s baby sister, putting her strictly off limits. Not to mention, she was ten years his junior. Yet, she was the only person who made him feel alive, wanted, and everything in between. When he gets a call from his friend asking him to protect her, it’s not just her safety that’s on the line but his heart. Sydney Manor wants to turn her life around after her family is ripped apart. Alone, she’s doing her best to start over, until a man from her past swoops in, trying to save her from the dangers lurking around her. How can he protect her when he knows nothing about the sordid things her family became involved with once he’d left town, years earlier? How can she pretend they are just friends when, unbeknownst to him, he’s owned her heart since he’d come to her rescue on the playground when she was six? Now that life has thrown them together again, he might have a second chance if he can keep his doubts from forcing him to push her away again—even if it’s for her own good. Coal’s business has taken off, keeping him working long hours, giving him everything he ever wanted. But now that she’s back in his life, he realizes something’s been missing—her.
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Chapter One

Outside the office windows, the world went by unnoticed by Coal Tanner as he continued working late into the night. Work didn’t stop just because the day faded into darkness. He put his heart and soul into Tanner Cycles and his work was never done. There were always parts to be found and ordered, clients to contact, designs to be approved, and more. The business had exploded far beyond what he’d thought it would. While that meant he had to take on more of an administrative role, leaving the hands-on work to his brothers, he still received the same rush of adrenaline with each completed project.
His cell phone vibrated along his desk, stealing his attention from the computer screen. Unknown caller. For a moment, he debated not answering it. The only people who had his number were his brothers, and a few friends. Business calls went to his office phone first and if he wasn’t there, they would be directed to his cell phone. This call never came through his office, meaning it was either someone close to him or a wrong number. With everyone’s number that was important to him programmed into the phone, it was more likely the latter. Still, he found himself putting his work on hold and picking up the call.
“Hello?”
“Fuck, man, I thought you weren’t going to answer.”
“Jay?” Coal’s original frustration fizzled out as the voice of his old buddy drifted through the speaker. “How’s it going?”
“Not so good. I was locked up tonight, but that’s not why I called.” Jay paused for a moment and lowered his voice. “It’s Syd.”
“Fuck, man!” He dragged his hand through his hair and leaned back in his leather office chair. “Tell me you didn’t get her involved in your shit.” It was bad enough that his old buddy couldn’t clean his act up but to bring his sister down with him took the whole mess to another level.
“Nah, but she’s in trouble. If they can’t find me…” Jay hesitated. “You know what will happen. Fuck! You’ve got to help me. That’s my baby sister.”
Yeah, he knew what would happen. They’d go after anyone connected to him, which would leave Sydney with a bullseye on her back that she might not even know about. “Where is she? Still living at your old house?”
“Yeah. I know it’s a few hours’ drive from you, but I don’t have anyone else to call that can keep her safe.”
“What about your dad? Can’t he watch out for her?” With the mention of Mr. Manor, Coal’s chest tightened. He didn’t like the idea of Syd being alone with him, even if he was her father. Whenever he was strung out on drugs, he turned abusive and Coal wouldn’t force anyone to suffer that torment, especially not Syd.
“He’s been locked up for a couple years now. Guess I’ll be joining him…” There was noise on the other end and Jay’s voice rose a notch. “I’m begging, man—you’ve got to help her.”
“Don’t sweat it. I’m heading out now. She’s not going to be happy, but I’ll have to bring her up here with me. It’s the best way to protect her. I can’t be gone from the shop for months.” Coal hit the save button on the document he was working on and shut down the laptop.
“I don’t give a shit if you drag her away kicking and screaming. Just protect her. If anything happens to her—”
The line went dead and Coal tossed the phone back onto the desk. No doubt his time was up. Coal didn’t need Jay to finish the threat for him to know his friend would hold him responsible if anything happened to Syd. Jay wouldn’t place the blame on himself for getting into this mess and leaving Sydney at risk. He would only see Coal’s inability to protect her.
Coal would drop everything to make sure she was safe. It didn’t matter, because there was no way he was letting her get caught up in the shit her brother left her in the middle of.
Shoving his laptop into his bag, he glanced at the clock on the wall, realizing it was past midnight. “Fuck.” It would take him at least twelve hours in the car, and that was with him breaking the speed limit and not hitting any traffic. He needed to get there quick if he was going to get her out of town before whoever Jay owed money to came looking for him. He grabbed his cell phone off his desk again and scrolled through his contacts. Knuckles.
The late hour didn’t faze him as he hit the button to call his old friend. Knuckles was a good guy, loyal to the family, and had been their pilot for more than ten years. There wasn’t a doubt in Coal’s mind that he could trust him to be willing to jump his aid now.
“Yeah?”
“Knuckles, I need a lift. How soon can you make it to the airstrip?”
“Tonight?” There was a hush of a female voice in the background, letting Coal know that Knuckles wasn’t alone. “Fine, man. Give me twenty. Will I be waiting for you? I have another run tomorrow afternoon, so I need to be back before then.”
“No, just drop me off in Pittsburgh. Then you can return, get some sleep, and be ready for Cal. File the flight plan. I’ll see you when you get here.” He didn’t give Knuckles a chance to respond before hitting end on the cell phone and placing it back on the desk. Who knew how long it would take him to convince Sydney she needed to get out of town? He wouldn’t hold Knuckles up when his brother, Callaway, needed him to pick up a cycle from Texas they were going to restore.
He left his laptop bag sitting by his desk and headed up the steps to his place. While his brothers shared a house on the other side of the landing strip, he preferred his privacy, so he’d turned the third floor of the warehouse into his own private condo. It had been used for storage but with some time, money, and a lot of cleaning, it had turned into a sanctuary where he could get away from work, at least as much as he would allow himself. He’d gather a few things in case he got tied up in Pennsylvania and once they were in the air, he’d arrange for a rental car.
Flying out of Pittsburgh’s airport with Syd would be too risky. Too many people could see them traveling through the terminals. He’d need to get her out of the city, possibly out of the state, before they could risk Knuckles flying them back to Minnesota. By then it would be easier to just continue the trip back by car, rather than wait for Knuckles. Especially if she’s fighting me every step of the way.
* * *
Every step Sydney Manor took in the old house produced a creak that seemed more sinister now that she was alone. It wasn’t the first time in her life she had been home alone, but this was the first time no one would be coming back to her. She was alone in the world and finding someone on the porch when she arrived home from work had left her uneasy. It was a friend of Jay’s but his cryptic warning told her he’d be trouble.
Terrified, she made sure every door and window was locked, before escaping to what had once been her sanctuary—her room. She needed to figure some things out. With her father and two brothers behind bars, how was she going to pay the bills, handle whatever legal fees they needed, and everything else? She needed to come up with a plan. Instead, all she could think was that she was the last Manor standing. All of the males in her family had ventured down the wrong route in life, while she’d vowed to stay out of trouble and away from the drugs that had ruined her family.
Maybe she needed to leave the area. The part of town they lived in had become so consumed by drugs and crime, it wasn’t safe there any longer—especially not without Jay or someone there. At eighteen having just graduated from high school a couple of months ago, surely she could find work somewhere else. A hundred bucks was all she had to her name, but there had to be something in this shit hole they called home that she could sell.
A fist pounded on the door, and fear rose within her. Without turning on a light, she reached over to her nightstand and grabbed the handgun she had placed there. The gun was her father’s, but he’d taught her how to use it years ago. He must have known he was going to prison and she’d be left with Jay. This had been his gift to her, so she could protect herself if the time ever came. Her brother had been into the same shit as her father so he had to realize that one day this would be her fate. They’d sheltered her, protecting her from the worst parts of their lives. Now, something about this whole situation screamed that she had been tossed directly into shark infested waters. What was she supposed to do?
The pounding on the door stopped, then resumed; whoever it was had gone to the back door. She wanted to creep out of her room and see who it could be but whoever was there in the middle of the night hadn’t come for a visit. They were coming because of something Jay had done. She didn’t want to die because he owed someone money, or someone wanted drugs. The hundred dollars she had in her purse was all she had. She couldn’t pay someone off.
The noise subsided and her breaths came easier. The person at the door would be back, though; she wasn’t going to get rid of her problems that easy. Knowing that she needed to get out of there, she eased off the bed and began to throw things into a duffle bag. There was no place to go but she couldn’t stay. She had to do something.
“Sydney.” The male voice was unfamiliar.
The stairs creaked and she pressed her back to her bedroom wall. She held the gun out before her, knowing she needed to relax, focus on the target, and be ready when he entered her room.
“Syd…” The soft, husky voice drifted through the door.
It can’t be. Maybe it was her ears playing tricks on her but she swore that voice belonged to someone she knew. Someone she could trust. With the gun at the ready, she couldn’t stop the dash of hope from blooming within her. Could he have known and come for her? All these years later, would he be her saving grace again?
Without a sound, the bedroom door handle turned and the door drifted open. Could she do this? Could she really pull the trigger? She didn’t know but her finger hovered over it. Give me the strength…
“Syd…” A man stepped through the open door and her heart skipped a beat.
“Coal!” Tears streamed from her eyes. She wanted to go to him and have him wrap his arms around her, but fear rooted her to the spot. How did he know she needed him?
“Damn it, why didn’t you answer me!”
“What do you want?” Suspicion crept into her words. Was he tied into the mess Jay was in? She knew he and his brothers had left the state and made it big but it didn’t stop the misgiving from tainting her thoughts. What was the big man behind Tanner Cycles doing slumming in her neck of the woods? Now that he was a rich man, he never came back to their old stomping grounds.
“Syd.” He stepped farther into the room. “I came for you. Get your stuff. We’re going somewhere safe.”
“I can’t…” She didn’t know why she said that. While she had dreamed about him coming and rescuing her from the mess she called her life, now that he was here, she was scared. But did she fear leaving everything she knew behind or her feelings for him? She wasn’t sure. He could have any woman he wanted. Why would he want her?
“Can’t?” He tipped his head toward the half packed duffle bag on her bed. “It looks like you were considering just that when I arrived.”
“They’re after me.” Her gaze drifted toward the window as she wondered if they were outside. Were they out there waiting for her to come out? Would they eventually make their way inside and find her? She couldn’t stay cooped up in the house forever. She’d have to go grocery shopping; after all, there was nothing left in the refrigerator expected a sour container of milk and Chinese food from three days ago. Damn you, Jay!
“I know. That’s why I’m here.” Watching her intently, he inched closer to her. “How about we put down the gun?”
“Huh?” She followed his gaze and realized she was still pointing the gun at his chest. “Shit!” Carefully moving her finger away from the trigger, she lowered it. In her heart, she knew she couldn’t shoot Coal, even if it turned out he was part of Jay’s mess.
“Give it to me.” He held his hand out for it.
“I might need it.” There was no safety on the gun and she already had one round ready in the chamber, just in case. “They were already here.”
He closed the distance between them and with one hand, he cupped the side of her face, while with the other, he reached for the gun that she now pointed at the floor. “Do you trust me, Sydney?”
“Yes.” The single word came out more like a squeak as she could finally take in the man before her. Before the darkness and shadows prevented her from getting a good look at him. The pictures in the magazines and online didn’t do him justice. His broad shoulders and thick biceps made her feel small. She wanted to reach around his neck and unravel the tie that kept his shoulder length, dark brown hair out of his face. In the years since he’d left the city, he’d transformed from a young man with an attitude to a man who was beyond sexy.
“Syd, are you listening to me?” He took the gun from her hand and placed it on the dresser.
“What?” She blinked away her thoughts and the anxiety rushed back. “I, umm…”
“Finish packing. We’re leaving.” He stepped back from her and she had to wrap her arms around herself to shake off the chill.
“I don’t have anywhere to go.” Even as she argued, she went to her dresser, pulling out the few things she wanted to take with her.
“You’re coming home with me.” He stepped to the window and glanced out at the street. “Take everything you need. You won’t be coming back here for a while, if ever.”
She tossed the last of her clothes into the bag before grabbing her purse and the money she’d hidden from Jay in her nightstand. “Maybe Jay will get out and…”
“I doubt it.” He stepped back from the window and nodded to the bag. “Ready?”
“Why do you doubt it?” While she could take a guess, she wasn’t even sure what he’d been arrested for. “He has to come back.” If he didn’t get out of jail and take care of whoever was looking for her, how would she be able to move on with her life? Wouldn’t they continue looking for her, until he squared things with them? She wasn’t sure if he owed them drugs or money but she had no doubt he owed them big for them to already be at the house looking for him.
“Syd…” As his gaze fell on her, the words faded away, and sadness shined back at her when she looked him in the eyes. “Fuck! I could kill him for putting you in the middle of this.”
“It’s bad, isn’t it?” The pieces of the puzzle were falling into place and she realized it was worse than she thought. If Jay had called Coal to get her out of the city, her brother wasn’t coming home anytime soon. But it wasn’t even that; it was the caution in the way Coal acted. He hadn’t turned on any lights and he stuck to the shadows as if expecting someone to be lingering around the house, watching for her. “They’re going to kill me because of him, aren’t they?”
“No, baby.” He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her tight against his body. “I’m going to protect you, but we’ve got to go. Do you have everything you want? Anything that’s not important we can replace once we get where we’re going.”
When she nodded, he stepped back, grabbed her duffle bag, and slid it over his shoulder. “Let’s go.”
She reached back to the dresser, her hand brushing against the butt of the gun when his arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her away. “Wait.”
“No.” He tugged her toward the door and when she fought him, he pushed her up against the wall. “Can you guarantee me that gun isn’t stolen? That it hasn’t been used in a crime? Damn it, Syd, I know what Jay’s been doing all these years. Tim…your dad…do you want to end up like them? Getting caught with a stolen gun…using the fucking thing…what the hell are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking about staying alive. Just because they’ve done those things doesn’t mean I’ve done anything wrong.”
“Still so naïve.” He tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear and shook his head. “The police know you. They know you’re connected to Jay. With him out of the picture, they’re going to be wondering if you’re picking up where he left off. Just like Jay took over from your dad. In the twenty minutes I’ve been here, I’ve seen two police cruisers. Do you think that’s a coincidence? Every single officer who knows your family is wondering if you’re in on it, too. They don’t have any proof, but you’re the last one left and look where you’re living. They’ll be watching you.”
“But I’ve never…” She tried to argue but he was right. Three months earlier, Jay was dropping her off at work and they were pulled over for speeding. The car was searched and Jay had drugs on him. He was arrested and she was questioned as if she was guilty by association. That was when she started putting money aside, with the intent on getting the hell out of town. Everyone who knew her family thought she was no good, just like them. “Why come back if you think I’m just like them? Surely you don’t want to tarnish your perfect appearance. Mr. Millionaire with it all together, what are you doing here? Slumming?”
The sound of glass shattering stopped him from giving an answer. Instead, he took her hand and pulled her down the stairs, toward the front door. “Stay behind me.”
“You don’t go toward the noise. That’s how everyone ends up dead in a scary movie. Shouldn’t we go back upstairs?” Upstairs they’d find them, but there, she had the gun. They could protect themselves. “I can’t run forever. Maybe I should just face them.”
“Bullshit.” At the bottom of the stairs, he glanced out the window next to the door before opening it. “Let’s go.” He pushed her out the front door, keeping her close to him, as a figure came out of the kitchen.
“Don’t fucking move!” the figure in black hollered at them as Coal slammed the front door behind them.
“Move!” He pulled her down the deserted street as bullets rang out behind them. They ran toward the car he pointed to, clicking the universal remote “Get in.”
As she climbed into the passenger side, she chanced a look back at the house in time to see a man lumbering off the porch, his weapon pointed in their direction. Coal got in the driver’s seat and started the engine. Moments later, gunshots echoed through the stillness of the night. Terror filled her, stealing her breath from her lungs.
“Coal!”

About the Author:

Born and raised in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, Marissa Dobson now resides about an hour from Washington, D.C. She’s a lady who likes to keep busy, and is always busy doing something. With two different college degrees, she believes you are never done learning.
Being the first daughter to an avid reader, this gave her the advantage of learning to read at a young age. Since learning to read she has always had her nose in a book. It wasn’t until she was a teenager that she started writing down the stories she came up with.
Marissa is blessed with a wonderful supportive husband, Thomas. He’s her other half and allows her to stay home and pursue her writing. He puts up with all her quirks and listens to her brainstorm in the middle of the night.
Her writing buddy Pup Cameron, a cocker spaniel, is always around to listen to her bounce ideas off him. He might not be able to answer, but they’re helpful in their own ways.

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