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Update!

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

Hi, everyone! Just wanted to repost a quick update that I posted on social media a couple weeks ago to keep everyone in the loop.

  1. I have a stand-alone releasing this fall. I mentioned “October-ISH” on Instagram to give you a roundabout idea, but it could be November. It’s done. It’s coming, and I have not released any information on it yet, but I will.
  2. I’m working on Nightfall, but you can relax for a while. I won’t be finished any time soon.
  3. I have a Birthday Girl Halloween bonus scene releasing late next month. I’ll post the link here when I have it, so make sure to subscribe to my NEWS section here if you haven’t already.
  4. Conclave Part II will release on Devil’s Night. Again, it will be posted here, and Conclave Part I is already here if you scroll through my NEWS.
  5. The Fall Away spin-off series will hopefully begin next year.
  6. I’ve been offline for about a week. My assistant is answering questions, and I apologize if I haven’t seen any tags or comments on Twitter/IG or in my reader group.

Hope this helps answer some questions and let you know what to expect. Take care, and happy autumn–if you’re on this side of the equator 😉 If not, happy spring!! <2



Conclave Part I

Monday, August 19th, 2019

Devil’s Night Bonus Scene

*There is a part 2 coming on Devil’s Night. This doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, but it does tease of the next scene to come. Please read with caution as Part II will not be released until October 30. This scene will remain on my website, so feel free to come back to it if you want to wait for Part II to release. Thank you!

DAMON

I walk in, dropping my keys on the entryway table as I pass on my way to the kitchen. I dart my eyes up.

There are no lights on upstairs.

If she left me, I’m going to burn the whole fucking world down until I find her, and if she took my kid, I’m really going to take my time with her. This is bullshit. When I call, you answer. When my men pass you the phone, you take the goddamn call! I have no idea what the hell I did now, but I’m going to have to break something to keep myself from wringing her precious, little neck.

Cutting my trip short to race home, because she decides to ignore my calls and do little pirouettes all over my peace of mind? What the fuck? I knew I should’ve been single. I knew that I knew that, because this is what women do, isn’t it? They take you and ball you up into a nice, little fucking knot until you can’t breathe, and…

I clench my fists, shaking my head. Bullshit. This is such bullshit!

I charge down the hall toward the kitchen, ready to hit the attached garage and grab myself some rope to remind her who she’s in love with, but I spot a figure out on the patio and stop.

It’s raining outside. Who’s there?

I change directions and head for the windows.  

Heath Davis, one of the guards Mr. Garin hired for the night shift, leans against the bricks of the house, shielded from the rain under the awning. His hands sit in his pockets and a cigarette hangs out of his mouth. Smoke billows into the air above his head, and I lick my lips, trying to ignore the burning need on my tongue. The problem with quitting smoking is it’s really hard if you never fully quit.

His black hair, neatly combed back, shines under the flaming porch light, and his blue eyes are turned toward the yard, watching something.

I follow his gaze.

Winter stands waist deep in the pool, her back to us as droplets pummel the surface of the water and her hair sticks to her back.

I release a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. She’s there.

She raises her arms, gliding them through the evening rain as she steps to the right, and then swings out her arms and steps to the left.

She’s dancing. She practices in the pool a lot for balance.

But then I watch as she pulls all of her hair to one side, revealing her naked back, and I drop my eyes down her spine to her naked waist and hips.

I dip my chin, my eyes going hot. She’s not wearing any clothes.

I move just my eyes, darting them over to Davis. He doesn’t blink, his gaze staying on her. 

When I said watch her every minute, I didn’t mean that. 

Winter turns around, still fisting her hair with both hands, so her arms are covering her breasts, but I notice the white tulle she wears covering her face, and my heart feels like it’s skipping ten beats. It’s part of the costume for her upcoming show, and she’ll practice with it to get used to it.

But only wearing that and no clothes—and as far as she knows, I’m not here to see it—really pisses me off.

I watch as she drops her arms and sways to the side, shooting out her hands and twirling in the rain. Her wild hair, the see-through fabric on her face, her perfect breasts and skin…

God, she’s fucking surreal. With something about her that will always be innocent. Thunder cracks overhead, splitting the sky, and I no longer care if she’s angry or why. I want in that pool.

Heading over to the fridge, I pull a sandwich off the tray inside and take a butcher knife out of the block, slicing the square in half before walking outside. I take a bite with the knife still in my other hand.

Davis notices me right away and straightens, stomping out his cigarette. I stare out at Winter, her slender body arching and bending and taunting the fuck out of me like she’s so good at doing. My dick swells in my pants, and I cast him a quick glance. I’ll bet his is good and hard, too.

Davis clears his throat. “You said to watch her every minute.”

I take another bite and scrape the blade across the wrought-iron fence, cleaning the mustard off.

“Excuse me, sir.” And I see him dip his head out of the corner of my eye and back away to leave.

But I stop him. “Give me your belt.”

He pauses. “Sir?”

I sheath the knife in the flower pot in front of me, stabbing the soil.

He clears his throat again, and I hear a jangling as he quickly removes his leather belt.

He holds it out for me, and I take it. “If you ever insult my wife again,” I tell him, “I’ll take my son fishing using your eyeballs as bait.”

“Yes, sir.”

It’s not Winter’s fault. She’s in her home, it’s late, and she should be able to expect privacy.

I fling the rest of the sandwich into the bushes and slide the end of the belt through the buckle. “Go home,” I tell him.

After a moment, I hear the back door open and close, and I head for the pool deck, belt in hand.

Raining, dark, enclosed by trees… I stalk toward her, quiet and calm. It’s like we’re kids again. I love being hidden with her outside. 

Winter dances slowly, her movements long and languorous with no real choreography as she freestyles to the soft, haunting tune coming from the pool house. Her wet skin glimmers in the faint glow coming from the house, and I don’t take my eyes off her as I strip off my clothes.

Leaving them in a pile on the ground, I grip Davis’s black, leather belt in my hand and hop in the pool. She stops moving, turning her head at the sound, but she doesn’t face me or say anything.

She knows it’s me.

Threading the strap through my fist, I walk through the heated water, taking in the glittering droplets on her shoulder blades as the rain hits my own head and arms.

 I stop right behind her, the top of her head resting under my chin.

“I have something for you.” I lean down, grazing her ear with my lips. “You want it?”

But she turns her head away.

I cock an eyebrow, widening the gap in the belt.

“You must be very angry,” I say. “I call, you don’t answer. I send flowers—fucking flowers, Winter—and I don’t even get a text. I tap into the cameras, and you have them offline…”

She refuses to turn around.

I drop the loop over her head and pull the slack tight, her body slamming back into mine.

She gasps, and I look down, seeing her breasts rise and fall quickly.

I dip down again. “What did I do now, huh?” I growl low in her ear.

But she whips around, the belt slipping through my hand as she sloshes through the pool and away from me.

I grind my teeth together, following her with my eyes. She stands up tall again, defiant with her hands on the surface of the pool in front of her, so she can feel me coming.

The strap of the belt wraps around her neck, the slack falling down her back, and while I can barely make out her eyes, I see her pink lips, panting through the wet fabric.

“Not talking to me?” I start to circle her. “Hmm… I must’ve done something very bad.”

Her hair sticks to one of her breasts, and I can almost feel them between my lips.

And I no longer give a shit what she’s mad about, because I want her in our bed.

“Come here,” I tell her.

But she moves away instead, sensing my approach.

“Come here, Winter,” I say more firmly.

She continues to circle as I circle, the rain dancing across the pool and splashing up onto her stomach. Every inch of her skin is drenched, and my mouth is suddenly so dry.

“Now.”

But she tips her chin up a little, keeping her lips good and closed.

I grin, hoping she can hear it in my voice, because I’m losing my fucking patience. “Your sister came when she was called,” I taunt.

And that is it. Winter’s icy façade suddenly cracks. Her eyes go wide and then quickly morph into a glare as she shoots out both hands and shoves water at me.

I dive in and grab her as she’s distracted, throwing her over my shoulder. “Such a troublesome girl,” I scold, slapping her ass. “Why couldn’t I like the easy one? But no, I wanted this one.”

I hold her in my arms, but she arches back up, facing down at me with a scowl as she pushes at my chest.

Darting out my tongue, I run it up her stomach, licking off the water. A whimper escapes her, but she turns her head away, playing defiant.

My dick is ready to go, but it’s funny. As mad as she gets me, I secretly love it. I like it when it’s not easy. I take some skin between my teeth, looking up to see her eyes close as she digs her nails in my shoulders.

“Yell at me,” I whisper. “Scream. Hit me.”

I grip her ass in my hands, keeping my eyes on her as I graze the underside of her breast with my mouth.

“You mad at me?” I say against her skin, seeing her nipples, erect and hard for me.

She says nothing.

My lips tickle her breasts as I continue taunting her. “You want to leave and find yourself a decent man?”

She doesn’t want someone else. She better not want someone else. She likes me misbehaved. She likes me, period.

She still doesn’t answer, but she’s no longer pushing me away.

I quirk a smile. “You wanna touch me?”

When she doesn’t say anything, I shift her to one arm and grab the belt at her back with my free hand and pull, forcing her neck back as I catch one nipple between my teeth.

She gasps. “Damon.”

I nibble hard, biting into her breast and sucking on it as her clit throbs against my stomach.

“You hate me?” I play, walking to the edge of the pool and dropping her to her feet. “You done with me? Is that it?”

I push her into the wall, seeing a smile peek out before she quickly hides it again. 

“You hate what I do to you?”

She bites her bottom lip, breathing hard.

I whip her around, wrapping my arm around her waist as I press her into the pool edge and breathe hot into her hair. My dick is so hard, I can already feel it dripping.

“Talk to me,” I tell her.

Reaching around, I tip her chin up toward me and cover her mouth through the fabric, an electric current shooting through me at the feel of her tongue brushing my lips, but I can’t get at it, because of the tulle. My whole body hurts. I need her.

“Talk to me,” I whisper against her mouth. “Please.”

She keeps silent.

I nibble her lips, sliding my hand down her ass and teasing that little spot that scares her just a little.

She shudders as I push her forward and force her knee up onto the step. She leans onto the pool deck as I rub her clit with one hand and her ass with the other. My dick naturally finds where to go, pressing into her tight, little entrance.

I see her gulp.

“Talk to me,” I warn her. “If you want me to stop me…”

Then you’re going to have to ask.

Her jaw flexes as she keeps her mouth shut, and I’m not even mad. I don’t want to stop. The rain falls around us, and I lean down, sucking the water off her back as the head of my cock presses into her, and I hear her whimper as I push through her tight little opening and stop.

“Damon,” she pants, her chin trembling nervously at where I’m going. “Damon…”

But I clamp my hand over her mouth and pull her back to me, her back arching so goddamn beautiful, and I’m not even all the way inside her yet.

“You had you your chance,” I whisper in her ear. “My turn.”

I slowly slide the rest of the way in, taking it in stride as much for me as for her. She needs to adjust, but she’s so damn tight I’ll be done before we even start.

I bury myself to the hilt, feeling the cool skin of her ass pressed into my hips, and I pause for a moment to let her get used to it. Her body shakes in my arms, but as soon as her breathing starts to slow, I start moving.

Gliding in and out, shallow at first, I feel her constrict around me, and I’m reeling. I don’t care what I did. I’d happily take an eight-hour flight for this. All she has to do is ask.

After a minute, I feel her start to back up into it, meeting me halfway, and I remove my hand from her mouth.  

“Don’t talk,” I tell her. “Just take it.”

I grip her hip in one hand and the belt with the other and fuck her tight, little ass, taking out all the frustration she causes me that I love. I kiss and bite her neck and lips, eating her up as I sink my body into hers with her moans filling my ears.

“Decent men don’t do this,” I tell her. “But that’s why I wanted this one. She’s a devil just like me.”

She digs her nails into the pool deck, her neck pulled back by the belt, and I look down, watching my dick slide in and out of her as her wet hair bounces against her ass.

“Harder,” she moans.

I take her hand and put it on her clit, watching her arm move quick as she rubs herself, while I fuck her.

Her moans get louder, I feel her body shake, and I pound harder as I pull the belt as taut as I can.

She screams, and I’m immediately behind her, coming with three more hard thrusts and every muscle burning to exhaustion.

Oh, God. My whole body fires up, my stomach explodes with pleasure, and I release the belt, letting her fall forward before I break her neck. She lays over the edge, whimpering and breathing hard, and I unclench my fingers from her hips, withdrawing my nails from her skin.

She whines a little when I slide out of her, but I don’t move otherwise. Leaning down, I rest my forehead into her back.

“I love you,” I say.

She doesn’t respond, and I’m too weak to keep up the pretense.

“Okay, okay,” I admit. “Yeah, I may have threatened your choreographer with…” I search for words that won’t piss her off, “removal of certain limbs. I don’t like him putting his hands there. I put my hands there.”

He doesn’t need to hold her that far up her inner thigh, for Christ’s sake, I don’t care what the lift is called or if he’s gay. Just no.

“They all need to fucking know,” I explain. “They’ll respect you, and they will respect me, so by the time Ivarsen is old enough to notice, they won’t need to be reminded again.” I stand up and turn her around, guiding her legs around me as we float back into the pool. “The only one who can bring Ivar Torrance’s father to his knees is Ivar’s mother.”

I want them all to respect me. He doesn’t touch my wife like that, and if that means they fear me, then okay.

She purse her lips to one side, looking unimpressed but not really angry anymore.

I rub her nose with mine. “Forgive me?”

She lets out a sigh but then slowly nods.

I smile, relieved. “Talk to me then?”

But then she shakes her head.

I growl and push back, letting her go. “Then if that’s not it, what the hell did I do then?” I slap the water. “Goddammit!”

She stands up, replying flatly, “You won the bet.”

And then she turns around, finding the edge of the pool and hopping out.

The bet…

It only takes a moment for the light to dawn, and I realize what she’s talking about. The bet. My chest swells, and a smile spreads across my face as I dive for the edge of the pool, catching up with her.

“And you let me fuck you like that?” I scold, hopping out of the pool and lifting her up again.

Her arms and legs wrap around me, and I gaze up at her beautiful face as she strips off the mask and the belt.

“Yes, because I needed that,” she admits, looking embarrassed. “You know I’m all over you in the first trimester, especially.”

I laugh and squeeze her harder. I never actually thought I’d succeed. After Ivarsen was born, I wanted to keep going. Kids in our twenties, raise them in our thirties, and ship them off to college in our forties when we’re still young enough to have the house to ourselves and still be kinky, you know?

But she read some study that gifted children are usually only children or in families where the kids are five years or more apart. She wanted Ivar to have our complete attention during his formative years or some shit.

So we made a bet. She would get pregnant if I could get her pregnant. While she was on birth control.

I knew I was Superman.

“You’re mad you’re pregnant again?” I tease.

“I’m mad I lost the bet,” she snaps.  

I kiss her. “Do you really think I’d not let you have something you wanted?”

She smiles. “Really?”

“You want a motorcycle, you get a motorcycle.”

Her face lights up with her beautiful, excited smile, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to take her out in the middle of the night on the empty roads.

After the baby comes, of course.

“I love you,” she finally says back.

“Good.”

I let her down, and we both walk to the pool house, grabbing towels laid out under the awning.

“And in all fairness, I wasn’t trying to cut your trip short,” she explains. “I’m sorry. I was just making you mad enough that you’d hunt me down when you got home.”

A mischievous smile spreads over her face.

Honestly, I don’t even care anymore. Michael and Kai can handle the meetings, and I love the angst in the games Winter and I play. When we’re in bed—or the pool—it never feels like we left high school. We’re perpetually two horny teenagers, and I feel alive in my life every day.

 I wrap a towel around my waist. “Has he been good?”

“Yeah.” She nods. “The nanny wanted to give him a sliver of chocolate to see his reaction, but I told her we needed to wait for you.”

Hell yes. First chocolate? That’s big.

Winter was timid about having a nanny at first, guilty that she couldn’t do everything herself, but it’s been good. It gives us a little more time alone here and there, too.   

She covers herself, and I take her hand. “Come on. I wanna see him.”

I know he’s asleep, but it’s been a week.

But she digs in her heels, stopping us. “He’s um…”

I look at her, my nerves instantly firing. “What?”

“He’s um…” She swallows. “Not here.”

Excuse me?

“He’s not here?” I repeat. “He’s twelve months old, Winter. Where is he?”

She shifts on her feet. “Rika wanted him for the night.”

“Rika…” I say. “And she took him to Meridian City?”

Winter turns her head away, telling me all I need to know.

I nod and grab her hand, leading her back to the house. “Of course not.”

***

Minutes later, we’re in the car and racing down the road, heading for the Fane house. I can’t believe they’d do this while I was away. If I hadn’t come back tonight, would I ever have known?

Winter sits up, dressed in a jeans and navy blue sweater, her wet hair combed and in a tight ponytail as she faces my direction. “Don’t be mad at me.”

“You know how I feel about this,” I tell her, grinding the wheel in my fist. “There’s no one else on my side. Not even Nik. You need to stand by me on this.”

“I am,” she rushes out. “I just… I don’t know.” A look of guilt crosses her face. “I guess I felt sorry for her. Rika said she’d be there every minute. I wouldn’t put him in danger, Damon.”

His “grandmother” is danger.

I want to be angry with Winter. She, above anyone else, should stand by me. She knows why I don’t want Ivarsen around Christiane, and it’s for good fucking reason.

But it’s not like I don’t go behind her back to educate her choreographer from time to time or see to it that her old pal Ethan suddenly lost his interest in photography.

But this is our son, dammit. They don’t get to make decisions about him without me. Rika has no business sticking her nose in this.

“You know she can’t prove herself if you don’t give her a chance,” Winter points out.

“She had a chance.”

After a short pause, Winter adds, “Yeah, so did we.” Her voice is somber as we both stare out the windshield. “Thank goodness we gave each other another one.”

***

I storm through the dark house, holding Winter’s hand, and spot Rika standing outside the library, looking through the windows in the closed doors. A couple of other people stand next to her, and I charge over, the sight of Christiane holding a sleeping Ivar in her arms as she sits in a chair coming into view beyond the glass. A man is in the room with her, reading quietly on the sofa as she rocks my kid.

I reach out and grab the handle, but Rika twists around and steps in front of me, covering my hand with hers.

“Move,” I order her.

“She’s not hurting him.”

“That’s right. She won’t.”

“Damon, calm down,” the guy next to her says.

I look over, seeing Will’s cousin, Misha.

I glare at him. “Eat my dick.”

Winter groans at my side, and some chick with Misha comments, “Oh, so this is Damon.”

But I turn my anger back on Rika.

She stares up at me, holding my stare. “Misha?” she says. “Will you give us a second?”

Yes, please. Piss off.

Winter slides out of my hand. “Misha, can you show me the sun room?” she asks him and then to us, “I’ll let you two have at it. Sorry, Rika.”

“Sorry for putting you in the middle, Winter,” Rika tells her.

They leave, and I try to push past her, my eyes darting from her to Ivar.

“That kid doesn’t absolve you.” Rika inches in front of me again, trying to catch my eyes. “He doesn’t make your past go way or make you better than her.”

I get in her face, gritting out. “Move.”

But she doesn’t. “You tied me to a bed,” she says. “Kissed me. Bit me. Even as I cried.”

The memory of all the times I tried to hurt her—did hurt her—rushes at me, but I push them away. 

“Wanted to share me with your friends,” she goes on. “Wanted me to yourself for a little while, too, remember that?”

My stomach knots. What the hell?  

“Your little sister…” she taunts.

I grab her arm and pull her away from the doors, shoving her into the wall. “You shut up about that shit,” I whisper, seething down at her. “I never want to hear about it again.”

“You threw me on the ground and tried to take off my clothes…”

I rear back, running my hand through my hair. What the fuck? I thought we were okay. Why is she doing this?

“I didn’t want you,” she continues to fucking talk, “but you forced your mouth on me anyway.”

Taking her by the wrist, I pull her into the kitchen, her bare feet stumbling across the hardwood floors. I force her into the wall and glare down at her.  

“I would never have done anything,” I growl, no longer keeping my shit to a whisper. “I would never have hurt you!”

“I know.”

She answers so quickly and so easily that I hesitate, because I expected her to argue.

She knows. She knew.

Well, at least there’s that. But still… She can’t compare Christiane to me. We’re not the same. Yes, I made enough mistakes to last a lifetime, but I’m not a bad parent, and that’s just about the worst thing you can be.

And she was bad for twenty-three consecutive years. Not only did she completely abandon her child, but she put me in the hands of people who were evil. 

I made my mistakes when I was young. When I was angry. When I was…alone.

I’m not those things anymore.

What does Christiane have to say for herself, huh?

“And I know you never will hurt me,” Rika tells me, her eyes soft and glistening. “I trust you. So trust me.”

I narrow my eyes, part of me wanting to give her what she wants. It’s only fair, and I want to trust her.

But she’s too good at getting what she wants out of me. Of sacrificing her queen to get my king. 

We stare at each other, her words hanging in the air, but then I hear a ringing, and she raises her fingers to her ear, tapping on her earpiece.

“Erika Fane,” she answers the phone, holding my eyes. “Charles, so nice to hear from you.”

A glint hits her eyes, and I stand up straight, but she stays glued to the wall, watching me as she talks.

“Yes, my assistant sent the itinerary. I can’t wait.” She smiles.

I slowly release the knots in my stomach, calming my breathing as I wait for her.

Charles…itinerary…She’s been busy, trying to finish her degree and mayor the town. It’s impressive, though. Putting her into position was one of the better ideas I’ve ever had.

“Oh, rest assured our future alumni are in good hands,” she tells whoever she’s talking to. “I’ll be there early.” She laughs as I hear a male voice on the other end. “Oh, yeah, you know me. Overprepared every time.”

I watch her, graceful and well-spoken. A true player.

“No, Michael is in London,” she tells him. “But keep his seat open.” She eyes me. “I might still be escorted.”

I almost snort. As in moi?

Bitch just took my king. She knows I want this. Escorting her to a function in Thunder Bay. Making a public appearance at a respectable event. Having my wife, my kids, and my sisters around me and slowly building my family and our world, so that when my kid—my children—are old enough to remember, they won’t know it was any other way.

She does trust me. God, I don’t know why, but… she did let me go when she could’ve turned me in. And then she rescued me and bled for me and fought with me…

“I know what you do to parents who hurt you,” she finally says, returning to our discussion. “Do you really think I’d put her in your path if I weren’t sure?”

My mouth curls a little, amused. “You scared of me?”

“Oh, lots.” She nods exaggeratedly.

I laugh and turn around, relaxing a little as I walk to the sink and fill up a glass of water.

I gulp down all of it as she pulls some things out from the refrigerator.

She pulls up her hair into a bun and takes out a slice of bread, scooping some tuna onto the slice.

A hunger pang hits at the smell, and I realize all I had to eat today was that half sandwich a half hour ago. Coming to stand at her side, I take a slice out, too, and scoop some tuna salad onto the bread.  

“Charles,” I repeat the name of who she was just talking to. “Kincaid?”

As in our old dean who’s still dean of Thunder Bay Prep and helped Winter’s father take me down the morning I was arrested?

Rika smiles to herself, and I look down to see her take her single slice filled with tuna and fold it in half, peeling off the top crust. I falter, glancing down at my sandwich, which is already folded the same way. Huh. 

“I’m giving the orientation speech tomorrow for the incoming seniors,” she explains, taking a bite.  

 “And Michael and Kai are in London,” I add, “trying to wrangle that architect.”

I was there, too, until Winter decided to be funny.

So Rika had no one to escort her, except me.

She trails around the island, sitting down on a stool.

She props up her elbows on the counter. “I mean, you don’t have to escort me,” she explains. “I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself. And the Andersons will be there, not to mention Kincaid still hates you, so…”

Is she trying to get me excited?  

“You just might steal the show.” She feigns a sigh, sounding forlorn. “And I know how you like to keep a low profile.”

I chuckle, peeling off my crust. She’s as good as Winter at playing me, but I can’t say I don’t enjoy it.

But… I also know she wants a show of trust, too.

I don’t want Ivarsen around Rika’s mother. But I’m not entirely sure it’s because I don’t trust her.

Maybe I want to punish her. Maybe I’m jealous that he gets to have what I didn’t.

I stare down at the sandwich I can no longer eat, my stomach churning and the hint of bile in my throat.

If I want Rika, and I want my kids to have her, there’s no getting around Christiane. I don’t want to have to explain to them why they can’t see her or why they can’t come here.

Fucking fine.

“He can stay the night,” I tell her, “and we’ll see how it goes.”

She’s silent, but I can see her looking at me out of the corner of my eye. “Anything beyond that goes through me.” I look over at her. “You understand?”

She nods.

And if Christiane disappoints me, she will meet her maker before she ever meets another kid of mine.

I toss the sandwich down on the counter, filling up another glass of water. I have to get this taste out of my mouth.

“Winter’s pregnant again, isn’t she?” Rika asks, taking another bite.

“How did you know?”

She shrugs. “She’s been tired. Nauseous.”

Well that explains why she took the cameras offline then. She didn’t want me to see.

Rika leans on the counter, her eyes downcast as she plays with the rest of her sandwich. Her throat moves up and down as she swallows and then her jaw flexes like she’s deep in thought.

I take a drink and then dump out the rest of the water. “What?”

She darts her eyes up. “Nothing.”

But she’s not convincing. She’s thinking something.

“What?” I grit out again.

But she fires back. “Nothing.”

Her gaze falls to her sandwich again, and I decide to leave it. She knows how to solve her problems.

Which reminds me…

“While we’re on the subject, I want you married before you have his child.”

She laughs at me. “You want?”

I nod. “Kai married Banks in a day. What’s taking so long?”

It was a little different when she was just my friend’s girlfriend, but things have changed.

“You’re not married to Winter yet, either.”

“Winter and I are waiting for Will to come home,” I point out.

“Yeah me, too,” she quickly replies as if latching onto the first viable excuse I was stupid enough to give her.

But that’s not it. I know it’s not it. They’ve been engaged for a while, and Will only left town about a year ago. At first, I thought it was Michael. His schedule, his obligations, etc.

I’m not sure it’s his fault anymore, though. What’s going on with her?

I watch her play with her bread, remembering the first time we were alone in a kitchen together. I had to be fifteen. She saw me, stopped breathing, and left as quickly as possible.

Now she rarely makes a move without my knowledge or input.

“You know what a papal conclave is?” I ask.

She shakes her head a little. “Um, kind of, I guess.”

I slide my hands into my pockets and lean against the fridge. “When it’s time to elect a new pope, every cardinal in the college of cardinals under the age of eighty is locked in a room until they can come to an agreement on who the new pope will be,” I explain. “They started doing this, because eight hundred years ago, it took three years to choose a new pope due to political infighting. People don’t solve problems if they’re not forced to face them, you know? Now, the cardinals are led into the Sistine Chapel, there’s a shout of “extra omnes” meaning “everyone out”, and the doors are chained shut, locking them in until they solve the problem.”

We might not make the best decisions under pressure, but you can’t make a decision at all when you’re not talking about it.

She sits there, the wheels in her head turning. “Conclave,” she murmurs to herself.

“It’s a good idea when you’ve got things to settle, you know?”

We have weddings to plan. Projects that can’t stall, because her fiancé is always out of town. Winter wants to start some humanitarian organization, and I know Kai’s family has connections abroad who can help.

Not to mention Banks. We need everything nicely set up for my plans for her, and it’s past time to get started. I’ll need help getting her on board.

And keeping Kai out of my way about it.

And, of course, there’s Will.

“Pithom,” she says.

I meet her eyes, a smile spreading across my lips. Michael’s family’s yacht. Not a bad location. No need for locked doors, because there’s no escape at sea.

I nod.

Someone enters the room, and I look up to see Misha walk in, Winter holding onto the other girl’s arm.

“I need to talk to you,” he says to Rika.

She slides off the stool. “Right,” she says like they had a conversation I interrupted when I showed up. “I’m sorry.”

I take Winter’s hand and guide her over to me, locking eyes for a moment with the chick who brought her in.

“Who is she?” I ask.

But Misha takes the woman’s arm and slides her behind him, out of my view.

I snort. “I just wanted to say hi,” I tease. “I mean, we’ll all run into each other a lot. She may as well get to know me.”

If his dad is dating Rika’s mother, and they possibly get married, we’ll all have to get really friendly.

Winter chimes in. “His bite is worse than his bark, but he only bites me,” she assures the new kids. “Don’t worry.” And then she arches up on her toes to kiss my jaw. “Get along, please.”

Misha’s snotty little glare rests on me, because he wouldn’t know a good time if it sat on his face. The girl is cute, though.

He finally turns his eyes to Rika. “When was the last time you heard from Will?”

My stomach coils at the mention. Will is rarely in touch these days, but he is adamant that he needs to do what he needs to do. I left him once, after all. If he could wait me out, I can do the same for him. 

“He texts,” Rika answers.  

“He texts you?”

“Well, his parents,” Rika replies. “They say he’s on a retreat. Doing humanitarian stuff in Asia.”

Misha shakes his head. “They’re lying.”

“How do you know?” I chime in.

“Because I know them,” he shoots back. “His mother nods a lot when she’s saying things that aren’t true.”

Rika looks at me. “Rehab?”

Possibly. They could be getting him sober and keeping it quiet.

But it’s Misha who responds. “They would tell us, because they know Will would anyway once he got out.”

“They might not want us looking for him, though,” Rika suggests.

“Well, I think we should,” Misha tells her.

I thin my eyes, liquid heat running down my arms, because now he has me afraid.

“Why are you worried?” I ask him.

“Because my grandfather is coming up on re-election, and Will is a mess.”

The weight of what he’s suggesting slowly starts to sink in. My father threatened me with it countless time, but I’ve never heard of anyone actually being sent there. He’d be in more danger there than not.

But …he’d be out of the way. He’d be unheard and unseen. No longer a liability.  

“Ivar was born a year ago.” I look down at Rika as I hold Winter’s hand, realization hitting me. “He wouldn’t have abandoned me this long. Not willingly.”

She shakes her head. “They wouldn’t…”

“I really hope not,” I say. “Even if we can find it, we’ll never get in.”

Misha moves up, standing directly at Rika’s side. “Don’t you worry about it,” he tells me. “We’ll take care of it.”

What? We’ll take care of…

I grab Rika’s arm and pull her over to my side as I glare at him. “That’s right. We will.”

You little shit. You know what your parents almost married makes you and her? Absolutely nothing. No one shuts me out.

“This is family business,” he maintains.

“And I’m the oldest,” I fire back, inching forward. “Get in line.”

He may very well be her step-brother at some point, but I’m blood.

“Guys…” Rika’s shoots out her hands to push us both back.

“You fucked him up enough,” Misha warns, meeting me eye to eye, “and I’m not twelve anymore.”

“Yeah, I know.” I smile, giving him a pat on the cheek. He jerks away. “You grew into a pretty young thing, didn’t ya, Princess?” I flick the earring in his lip. “You wear more jewelry than a chick, but let’s get one thing clear. The only thing those pathetic tattoos serve to do is hide that baby soft skin underneath.”

He smirks. “Turning you on, am I?”

His girl snorts behind him, and I scowl.

Misha pushes forward, ignoring Rika’s protests. “You’re bad for him.”

“I didn’t let him O.D. to his death on my watch,” I growl, throwing the death of his sister in his face.

Misha shoves me in the chest, forcing me back, and the next thing I know, we’re both on the ground, scrambling to get on top of each other and punch the living daylights out of one another.

Ok, that was low. Annie was sweet and all. Honestly. But he has some nerve suggesting he’ll take care of Will better after what happened to his kid sister. What a little shit.

And to even suggest that he, Rika, and Will are “family business” that doesn’t involve me makes me want to grind my boot into his pretty, little fucking face.

“That’s enough!” Rika yells.

I feel people around us as the girls probably scramble to pull us away from each other, but he’s had this fucking coming. Wallowing around town in his own personal black parade, all woe is me, because he has a good dad and money and a safe home life but turning up his nose at it in his hippie search for truth.   

“Stop it!”

Someone pulls at my shoulders as I almost get him under me, so I can straddle the little fucker and then maybe he can write a poem about it.

But then ice cold water hits us both, and I gasp, pausing long enough for Rika to kick me off of him. I fall to the side, both of us breathing hard.

Shit. My hair hangs in my eyes, and I wipe the water out of my eyes.

“Misha,” she grits out, staring down at him. “We’re having a conclave in one month. You just got yourself invited.”

And she stalks off, setting the glass pitcher down on the island.

Misha sits up, flipping me the finger. “Prick.”

I push myself to my feet. “Babysoft.”

Sea is a great place to bury bodies, you know? Deep breath, asshole.

***

RIKA

I blow out the smoke, most of it filtering out the window. Normally, I’d go outside, but it’s still raining, and I’m too frazzled to care about one cigarette in the house.

Misha. Damon. Will.

Student. Mayor. Aunt.

Sister.

I drop my eyes, taking another drag.

Michael.

I want to do all of it. I hope I can do everything else I want to do, too.

A lump lodges in my throat at the thought of Damon’s conclave. There are things I need to say before I leave that boat, but I’m scared.   

“I kind of regretted you never grew up with siblings,” my mother says, approaching my back, “and now that you have one, he’s an immediate bad influence.”

She wraps an arm around my waist and smiles at me, cocking an eyebrow at the cigarette in my hand. I laugh, grinding it out in the dish I brought over. Damon and I have stashes in several locations, but none here. I guess if Ivar spends more time here, Damon will, too. May as well arrange one more stash then.

I look down at the old black and white photos in silver frames adorning the little table in front of me.

My great-grandfather, circa 1900, sits on a horse at the family ranch in South Africa.

I run my finger over his ten-year-old face, the black hair and eyes like coal in the photo. “Ivarsen has the hair,” I remark. “Not the eyes, though.”

Ivarsen’s eyes are blue, like his mother’s.

“No,” my mother replies. “It skips several generations. None of yours or Damon’s children will have both.”

My children. A sinking feeling aches in my stomach.

I take a breath and pull away from my mother, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.

“I’ll take the baby monitor in my room,” I tell her. “I want to get up with him if he wakes.”

And I start to walk away.

“When are you going to tell him?” she calls out.

I stop. But I don’t turn around, my heart beating faster. “Tell him what?”

“That your father’s will accounted for you and any other children I’d have,” she says. “When are you going to tell Damon?”

My shoulders relax. Oh, that.

I was pretty pissed when she first told me. I didn’t trust him. I wasn’t going to allow him to run my father’s work into the ground in some temper tantrum. I needed to make sure I could trust him.

In the meantime, I set aside his half in a trust for Ivar, but…

I guess my mother’s right. He’ll make something out of it. If he wants it.

But I have a feeling he doesn’t. I’m kind of proud of him. He’s the only one out of the four who can say they’re completely self-made. Damon is doing well. I kind of envy the freedom he has. He’s creating his own legacy.   

But still…he should know. I was wrong to keep it from him.

“I’ll deal with it,” I tell her and continue walking.

What’s one more order of business to add to the conclave anyway? Nine friends locked on a boat with alcohol, spear guns, and the black ocean at night? This was a fantastic idea.

*Conclave Part II is coming on Devil’s Night!



Kill Switch Bonus Scene

Monday, March 11th, 2019

*This scene takes place after Kill Switch and is a spoiler for the Devil’s Night series. Please feel free to come back to it after you’ve finished Kill Switch.

DAMON

“You’re insane!” Bryce screamed, walking away but then turning back around and charging up to me again. “I’m going, and I’m not coming back this time!”

‘K, Bye.

I slid the notch of the hammer onto the nail head, pulling out the nail and removing his full morning of fuck-ups. The muscles in my arms were charged and hot, and if he didn’t fucking leave, I’d remove him myself.

“I mean it, Damon!” he barked again, calling my bluff.

I shot him a middle finger, not looking at him.

I heard cans crash to the floor and guessed he’d probably kicked something as he stormed to the door.    

“Hey, what the hell?” I heard Kai burst in, the two-way door flapping as he charged in from the front office and into the warehouse where we were working. “What’s going on?”

“He’s crazy,” Bryce said. “He can’t work with people!”

I laughed under my breath.

I heard Kai sigh, because he was as much at his wits’ end as I was.

Like, seriously. No one here could think for themselves. You had to tell them every little goddamn thing, and God help you if you had to give them more than one instruction at a time, because their brains would fucking short out, because they couldn’t remember all that AND remember to breathe at the same time.

I finished removing the last two nails and pulled the two-by-four off and tossed it off to the side, getting rid of any evidence he did any work here today.

“He’s temperamental, but he’ll compromise,” Kai explained to Bryce. “We’ve been through this before.”

“Compromise?” Bryce whined. “He threw an ax at my head!”

“If I’d thrown it at your head, I would’ve hit your head,” I growled low.

There was silence, and then I heard Bryce’s voice. “I’m outta here, man.”

I knelt down, pulling up the nails on the next board he’d fucked up.

“Bryce, come on.”

“Let him go,” I told Kai.

The door swung open again, hitting the wall, and the rest of the crew around me cleared their throats, getting back to work as Kai loomed. Why was he even fucking here? If I couldn’t have Will handling shit out there, then I wanted one of the girls. Michael and Kai stressed me out more.   

“How are you going to get anything done?” Kai demanded, and I noticed a stack of papers crunched in his fist.

“A lot better without that idiot around.”

“Damon…”

But I shook my head. Just fucking stop. I needed to get the framing done on three more treehouses before the baby came in like nine days, not to mention finalize the design on the fountain in front of Meridian City’s new library and figure out what the fuck a she-shed was, because Catherine O’Reilly just loved her son’s new treehouse and thought I could build her something of her own. She was paying double to rush it before the snow started in a few months, so I couldn’t say no.

Photographers were coming by all week to get shots of “work-in-progress” for the new website that Alex was handling and thankfully doing everything to get us set up online. I just wanted people to leave me alone in the warehouse. I moved faster without help here.

But part of me knew I was part of my own problem, too. The Langston kid wanted a treehouse, but once I found out he was obsessed with pirates I chucked everything that was already done and started a design for a tallship instead. What the fuck was I thinking?

I looked over at the bow and masts already constructed, feeling a smile tug at my lips. It was going to look fucking fantastic when it was done, though. It was worth it if he loved it.  

“You are running on fumes,” Kai told me. “You just got back from Washington, and then California before that, you have a baby on the way, projects are piling up…” He trailed off, and I felt him inch closer. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think you should start smoking again.”

I arched an eyebrow. I hadn’t entirely quit, actually. I probably never would. 

Lifting up the first frame, I leaned it against the wall and then moved to the next one.

“You don’t need employees, you need a team,” Kai said, following me. “I’m not taking any more orders until we get this place in shape. With a regular staff. I’ve already put word out at the university that you’re recruiting.”

I shot him a scowl. He wasn’t wrong. I just didn’t have time to deal with it.

But Kai went on, “You need an office manager, you need a design team, and you need a receptionist, and that’s not me. I have enough on my plate.” He rubbed his neck. “Everyone is scrambling to keep you covered, but you’ll be a lot less stressed if your home base is running smoothly.”

“Fine, whatever,” I snapped. “Just take care of it. I need to stay ahead of schedule.”

Just do what you want, and don’t bug me with it. I knew they were all doing me a shitload of favors, and I was grateful they were here, because I wasn’t cut out for a lot of this. I just wanted someone else to be the face of the business and for me to stay in the background, designing and building and being left alone. If Will was here, he could do it. He’d be happy to do it.

But he wasn’t here a lot lately. He’d come home for a couple months and then fly off again, itching for space he never seemed to need before. He, Alex, and a few others were backpacking around Scandinavia over the summer, but when they came home, he stayed there, and I hadn’t seen him in weeks.

Although, he checked in regularly.

I think he was feeling left out. He saw Michael with Rika, Kai with Banks, and me with Winter, and struggled to feel like he belonged. He had Alex, but she wasn’t what he needed, and he just kept running away again and again, so he wouldn’t think or…feel. Or deal.

Kai turned and headed back for the lobby but then stopped, pulling his phone out of his pocket.   

“Ah, shit,” he said. “Where’s your phone?”

“Why?” I grumbled.

“Because it’s time.”

“Time for what?”

He stared at his phone, smiling to himself. “I guess you’re girlfriend likes to stay ahead of schedule, too.” And he looked up at me. “She went into labor two hours ago. Where’s your fucking phone?”

My heart leapt into my throat. What?! I patted my jeans, looking around me.

Shit!

I spotted it lying on a pile of boards and darted over, swiping it up. Pressing the power button, it didn’t light up.

“Fuck, it’s dead. Where is she?” I barked.

Two hours. She’d been in labor for two hours?!

But he just laughed. “At the hospital. Let’s go.”

Why was he laughing? Maybe he forgot how frantic he was when his kid came a few months ago. 

I charged out of the room, hearing Kai tell the guys to lock the place up at five, and we hurried out of the building and into my car.

***

We rushed into the hospital, knowing Labor and Delivery was on the third floor from when Banks had her kid in May. I didn’t even know Winter was in the city today. What the hell’s the matter with me? She probably texted, but I’d forgotten to charge my phone last night, and I didn’t know how long it had been dead.

We went up the elevator and bolted out as soon as the doors opened, heading for the nurse’s station, but I immediately spotted Banks sitting on some chairs, holding her and Kai’s son.

Madden.

Mads, for short. Mads Mori. Poor kid sounded like an assassin.

I brushed her face as I walked by, and she smiled big, excited for me. Mads gnawed with his toothless mouth on her jaw, making cute sounds and shit.

But then a scream pierced the air and a gasp, and I heard a man’s voice and Alex’s coaching. “I’ve got you!”

Without waiting, I burst into the room, my heart jumping into my throat. I’d never heard Winter sound like that before. Jesus. Was it supposed to sound like that?

She laid on the bed, and I rushed up to her, helping Alex hold her up as she pushed for the doctor. 

“Six, seven, eight…” the nurse continued counting.

“Baby,” I breathed out, kissing her.

“Damon,” she gasped, realizing I was here.

“Nine, ten,” they finished.

And Winter let out a breath, sucking in air.

“I was so scared you weren’t going to be here,” she said. “My water broke while we were shopping, and he’s coming so fast.”

“I was with her,” Alex told me.

I steeled my arms around Winter and kissed her forehead, cheeks, and lips, making sure she felt me close.

“Thanks,” I told Alex.

Winter shook, and I studied her face, seeing her biting her bottom lip and tears hanging at the corner of her eyes.

And just like that she was eight again, our fingers hanging on by a thread in the treehouse, and I couldn’t stop what was happening to her.

“Why is she crying?” I barked at the doctor.

“Because it fucking hurts!” she yelped, answering for him.

“Well, give her something!”

“It’s too late for that now,” he mumbled through his mask and then peered over Winter’s legs. “Plus, you wanted natural childbirth, right?”

“What the fuck for?” I burst out, looking down at her like she had three heads. “We didn’t talk about that.”

She growled and pushed back up on her elbows.

“Alright, deep breath and push!” the doctor said. “One, two, three, four…”

“Ahhh!” she gritted through her teeth, her whole fucking body tense and rigid, and I wanted to look, but I didn’t want to leave her.

“Five, six, seven…” they called.

Winter looked flushed and sweat beaded her brow.

“Eight, nine…”

Her face twisted up, and she let out a small scream, and a tear fell, and I tightened my fists, unable to take my eyes off her. Jesus, fuck. Why the hell would she turn down perfectly legal drugs?

“Ok, the head is out!” the doctor told us.

My lungs emptied, and my stomach somersaulted. I moved to look, but she pulled me back. “Don’t leave me.”

I leaned back down and kissed her, but I started to laugh, and I couldn’t help it.

I didn’t know why I was feeling what I was feeling, but it was incredible. Whatever it was.

“I’ll bet it’s a boy,” she said, sucking in deep breaths.

“If you’re wrong, you have to do that bathtub thing for me,” I remined her of our bet.

We hadn’t found out the sex of the kid, wanting to be surprised.

But she just laughed despite herself. “I do it for you anyway. You know that?” she shot back.

“Ok, one more push,” the doctor told her.

Alex and I lifted her up again, and she took a few deep breaths, and then inhaled one more and held it, squeezing her eyes shut and pushing as the count began.

“One, two, three…”

I stared at her face, so much shit washing over me as I watched her, but most of all I just wanted to hold her close. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

“Four, five…”

I was going to be such a screw up. I’d do some many things wrong with her and this kid.

“Six, seven, eight…”

But fuck, I was going to love them. I didn’t care about being perfect. I just wanted to be everything my father wasn’t. I wanted this with her a million more times, and no matter all the shit that still lived inside me, I already knew I was better than him.

“Nine, ten…”

The doctor pulled back, Winter collapsed, and I heard a shrill cry fill the room.

“It’s a boy!” the doctor said.

I looked over, seeing red, little arms and legs as they cleared out his mouth and checked him, and then I watched as they brought him over and put him on Winter’s chest with a little blanket.

She smiled but started crying, wrapping her arms around him, and I just stood there, unable to breathe for a minute.

“A boy,” she said. “Told you.”

“Jesus Christ.” I smiled, lightly touching his head, almost afraid to touch him. “Holy shit.”

I checked his fingers and counted his toes, holding one of his long legs as he kicked.

“Twenty-two and three-fourths inches long, eight pounds and eleven ounces,” the nurse said somewhere behind us.

“That’s big,” the doctor commented. “He’s going to play basketball, Damon.”

I smiled but didn’t take my eyes off my girl and my kid.

I kind of wished we were fucking married now, but with the business, Winter’s dancing, and the pregnancy, we decided to take our time and do it right. I wanted to have it our way.  

Alex left, probably to tell everyone waiting that he was here and healthy, and then I remembered that Will wasn’t here.

I faltered. He should be here for this. Out of all my friends, he should be here.

“What does he look like?” Winter whispered up at me, her voice raspy. 

I smoothed my hand over both their heads. “Like next year he’ll be running around in the fountains with us,” I told her. “He’s perfect, baby. Black hair, a little pissed off…”

She snorted, and I thought about what he’d look like in a year when he was walking and running and laughing and playing. I wanted the noise. I wanted it all over the house. I wanted it filling our lives from here on out.

“Congratulations,” the doctor said as the nurses cleared up.

I kept my eyes on my kid. “How soon can she get pregnant again?” I asked the doctor.

“Damon…” Winter laughed under her breath.

I heard the doctor chuckle. “I think he likes being a father,” he said to Winter.

But I just turned my head and locked eyes with the doctor, and his face fell.

“Oh, you’re serious,” he said, realizing I wasn’t laughing.

He opened his mouth to speak, but it took him a few moments to find his words. “Um, within a few months, I’d say,” he finally answered. “It was a healthy pregnancy. But she needs time to heal.”

And then he said it again, slower and firmer, sounding like a warning. “You should give her time to heal.”

The corner of my mouth tipped up, amused.

Did he think I was a monster?

***

The night passed as they transferred Winter into another room and took the baby to get washed. When they returned him, we all held him for a while, and Banks, Kai, Michael, and Rika finally left, but I asked Alex to stay in case Winter needed something, and we didn’t want to leave her alone. I stayed by his bassinet, watching him breathe as mother and son both slept, but after not being able to get any myself, I needed to stretch my legs.

I walked over to Winter, pulling my phone off the charger as I whispered in her ear. “Going to get some air,” I told her. “Be right back.”

She moaned softly and nodded, and I left, closing the door behind me.

I went down the elevator and made my way outside, the balmy August air thick and heavy on my skin as I stretched my arms over my head and yawned. I breathed in the smell of hot asphalt and fresh bread from the bakery down the street and dialed Will, but it went straight to voicemail.

I shook my head.

I almost hung up, but then a rush of sudden anger made me lash out. “You knew my kid was coming this month,” I snapped. “Why aren’t you here? You missed it. You know, you’re just really fucking…”

But I stopped and hung up, grinding my teeth together, because I didn’t know what to say.

Asshole.

But after a moment, I felt bad. I had no right to lose my temper with him.

I dialed him back, waiting for voicemail to pick up again. “I miss you,” I said. “We all miss you. We need you, okay? My son needs you. You’re his favorite. I know it already. Just…”

I shook my head again and hung up.

I shouldn’t be angry. I’d done my fair share of shit I thought I needed to do.

This was just important. I wanted him part of this memory.  

I turned to go back inside, but a twinge of something else hit my nostrils, and I paused. Realization hit, and I smiled to myself, forgetting Will for a moment.

Turning my head, I saw a cloud of smoke drift from behind a corner and walked toward it, spotting Rika sitting on a parking stump with her legs outstretched and ankles crossed as she smoked a Davidoff.

I walked up next to her, staying standing, and without looking, she handed me the pack and lighter as if expecting me.

What was she up to? She’d been awkward as fuck the past several months, and I was half-tempted to kidnap her again, steal Michael’s yacht, and take her to sea until she had it out with me. We hadn’t gotten a chance to speak earlier, but she was clearly back for a reason.

I took the cigarettes and dug one out, lighting the tip and reveling in the welcome, familiar taste. I took another puff and blew out the smoke, handing the cigarettes and lighter back to her.  

“I’m going to tell her she has a grandchild,” she stated, still staring ahead.

So that was why she was sitting out here at four in the morning? Trying to figure out how to handle a situation that was none of her damn business?

“Tell her whatever you want.”

In the months since I’d found out that Rika’s mother was also mine, I’d neither spoken to or reached out to Christiane Fane. She saw to my freedom after my father was killed, but as far as I was concerned, she owed me that much, so no, I wasn’t grateful. Screw her.

Winning wasn’t important, but the fight was, and she didn’t fight for me at all. Having her around would bring absolutely nothing to the table.

But Rika continued to protest. “Damon, you can’t do this to her. She deserves to be in his life.”

“Do you really believe that?” I asked her even though she still wouldn’t look at me. “What if my father had never told me the truth? Would she have? It didn’t look like that was her plan.”

“Maybe once she learned he was dead, that was exactly her plan,” she shot back. And then she stood up and looked up at me. “The truth is, she wanted you. She didn’t abort you or give you away. And she wasn’t the best mother she could be, but she never hurt me. She never raised a hand to me, and she loved me.”

I shook my head, not caring.

Or trying not to care.

An image of Christiane played in my head, though. Young, crying, holding me in her arms before my father snatches me away. I couldn’t imagine the pain.

But I blinked and shook my head. No. I was a parent now, and I knew, without a doubt, nothing would stand between him and me. She was weak for far too long. My kid didn’t need someone like that.

“She’s not the only family you have, either,” Rika pointed out. “She comes with an army of relatives in Africa and Europe. Don’t you want that for your children?”

“No,” I retorted without hesitation. “My children will have Winter and me.” And then I looked over at her. “And you.”

She narrowed her eyes on me.

“And Banks, Alex, and the guys,” I added.  “And they’ll have your children. This is their family. It’s exactly the family I want for them.”

And before she could argue any more, I flicked the cigarette off and walked away, back toward the entrance.

“I will win this,” she called out, threatening me.

And I turned around, unable to hide the smile from my face. “I look forward to seeing your next move,” I taunted.

And I spun back around, heading into the hospital.

Honestly, I wasn’t concerned. She might win, but it wouldn’t be tonight, and it wouldn’t happen if I didn’t ultimately want it to. The prospect of having Rika back in play was just too much fun, though, so let her try.

I hated my father for everything he’d done, but even though I hated to admit it, I loved this part. Part of me always wondered why I was drawn to Rika just a little more than other women besides Winter and Banks. I wondered why whatever was between us felt natural and inevitable. How I could’ve hurt her or killed her a thousand times, but something always held me back.

Of course she was one of my own. Of course she was. It all made sense last Devil’s Night. Everything seemed to align, and I had no fear.

Like Banks—like Winter and me—Rika was unique. She was built for the wilds, and I wanted her in my family. 

Walking back down the hall and heading up it the elevator, I made my way for Winter’s room and lightly closed the door behind me. Her phone sat on the bedside table, an app playing some rain sounds as she slept, and I stepped over, looking in the bassinet at the sleeping baby, who was still swaddled up tight and warm. But now he wore a black beanie with white lettering “New to the Crew”.

I laughed quietly and looked over at Alex passed out on the chair next to his little bed. I didn’t remember that among any of the things Winter bought. I’d have to thank Alex. That was pretty funny. She must’ve woken up and changed it while I was outside.

I cocked my head, looking down at him. I expected him to be crying 24/7, but he was pretty quiet. Maybe he knew he was safe.

Or maybe he was tired, and shit would get real tomorrow.

“How is he?” I heard Winter whisper.

I popped up, looking over and seeing her sit up, her blonde hair in beautiful disarray around her.  

“Asleep,” I told her.

I leaned down and held her face, noticing how exhausted she looked. We were both running on little fuel with everything going on these days, and it was time to slow down. I’d wanted to get so much more done before the kid came, but there was no time for that now. She’d need me a lot the next couple of weeks at least. But eventually, I’d need to hire someone to help with the baby. We knew that was a reality.

For now, though, I’d enjoy it just being he three of us.

I kissed her, and she put her hand on mine. “I need a shower.”

I stood up and took her hands. “I’ll help.”

I guided her out of the bed and carefully across the suite to the bathroom, leaning down to nudge Alex on the way. “Alex?” I said, seeing her jostle. “Keep an ear out for the kid, okay? We’re gonna take a shower.”

She nodded and yawned, and we headed into the bathroom, but I left the door open a crack, just in case.

Winter wasted no time shedding her hospital gown as I started the shower, getting the water warm enough, and she wrapped her arms around my waist, hanging onto me like she was going to fall over.

“You smell like high school,” she mused.

“I had a cigarette,” I admitted, even though I was pretty sure she knew I was still smoking here and there. “I was just feeling too good.”

“I like it.”

I didn’t want it all over my clothes when I held the kid, but the prospect of looking forward to a smoke once in a while made “quitting” easier.

I stripped off my clothes and lifted her into the shower with me, closing the door behind us.

As soon as I put her under the water, I saw the blood start to rinse from her body and turn the floor pink.

My stomach turned a little. I wanted more kids, but I didn’t like putting her body through this at all. I knew she’d be fine once she healed, but it almost seemed unfair that some women did this five or six times. Sometimes more. It looked brutal.  

And I didn’t want to see her cry like that again.

We washed our hair and rinsed, and then I soaped up a cloth and washed her body, knowing she must be fucking sore to let me do it without protest.

“What will you do?” she asked as I knelt in front of her and washed her legs. “About Christiane?”

I paused, thinking. With Rika, I had too much pride to give myself away, but with Winter, I was freer.

“Do you think I should let her in?” I asked, not looking at her.

She put her hands on my shoulders to steady herself as I lifted her leg and washed her foot.

“I don’t think we have to be in a hurry to make any decisions now,” she said.

I smiled to myself. I loved how she was. She made me better, because I loved seeing her happy, but she didn’t push me, either.

“Our family comes first,” she added.

“Our family…” I repeated. My family. Mine.

I continued washing her, finishing her legs and cleaning the blood off her thighs.

“Do you ever stand at the edge of a cliff or a balcony,” she asked, “and have this moment where you wonder what it would feel like to jump?”

I raised my eyebrows.

“Kind of thrilled at the idea that you’re one step from death?” She squeezed my shoulders. “One step…” she said. “And everything changes?”

“Yeah,” I said quietly. “It symbolizes a need to engage in self-destructive behavior. It’s not that uncommon.”

While driving, we think, even for just a moment, about jerking the steering wheel into oncoming traffic or leaping off the balcony of a ship and into the abyss of the black water below. They’re passing thoughts and little dares we allow our psyche, because we’re tired of not living and we want the fear. We want to remember why we want to live.

And some of us were more tempted than others at the thrill of how, in the moment, everything could change. Of how it’s not about who we are but what we are, and animals don’t apologize for whatever they need to do to survive.

“There’s a French phrase for it,” she said. “L’appel du vide.”

I looked up at her, her pink lips misty with hot water.

“That’s what binds us,” she told me.

“Who?”

“Our family.”

Our family?

“Kai, Banks, Michael, Rika, Will, Alex…” she went on. “You and me. We all hear it. L’appel du vide. The call of the void.”

I stopped, gazing at her.

“The call of the void,” I murmured.

Was she right? Was that what bound us together? Like recognizes like, after all, and we lived in that need to go a step further and feel everything we were capable of. The fear was terrifying, but coming out the other side redefined our reality.  

“I like it,” I told her.

She paused and then said, “I love you.”

A pang hit my heart like it always did when she said that. Like I was falling for her all over again.

I stood up and wrapped my arms around her, smoothing her hair back under the water.

“You’re so beautiful,” I said. “Even though you gave me a son when I explicitly asked for a daughter.”

She broke out in a laugh. “I didn’t give you anything!” she argued. “It’s the chromosome the male contributes that decides the child’s sex. This is all your fault.”

We both smiled, and I nudged her with my nose. I wasn’t sure why I thought the kid was going to be a girl. Maybe I just hoped. I seemed to be better with girls. Banks, Winter, Rika… I was afraid, I guess.

“We’ll just have to keep trying,” I teased.

She nuzzled into my neck, leaving little kisses and making chills break out all over my body.

“I love you,” she whispered. “I love you.”

My dick started to harden, and I shook my head. “Don’t…” I begged. “You’re going to make these next few weeks torture.”

We couldn’t have sex for I-didn’t-know how long.

“He’s perfect, you know?” I scaled my hands down her back. “You did an amazing job. I just hope he has more you than me in him.”

She nodded, agreeing, and I gave her a swat on the ass.

She laughed. “So what are we naming him then?” she asked.

“We didn’t decide?”

“Not that I remember.”

I closed my eyes, shaking my head. God, I had no idea. Nothing old, please. And nothing biblical.

Oh, and nothing unisex. Like Peyton, Leighton, or Drayton.

“Any ideas?” she asked.

But I just leaned her back into the wall and held her close. “Tomorrow,” I said.

Right now I was more interested in climbing into bed with her and sleeping for as long as we could.

The name wasn’t important. He had my hair, and tomorrow, maybe I’d get to see if he had her eyes.

If he had mine, then I guess nothing skipped generations, after all, and Christiane was full of it.

Couldn’t wait to find out.

***

Thank you for reading!! The horsemen will return <3



Nightfall Teaser Scene

Friday, February 15th, 2019

As promised, here is the teaser scene for Nightfall (Devil’s Night #4), the final installment in the Devil’s Night series! Release date TBD. The first three books are now available and FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

*You should be able to read this scene, even if you haven’t read all three previous books yet. It’s not really spoiler-y.

Emory

Present

It was faint, but I heard it.

Water. Like I was behind a waterfall, deep inside a cave.

What the hell was that?

I blinked my eyes, stirring from the heaviest sleep I think I’ve ever had. Jesus, I was tired.

My head rested on the softest pillow, and I moved my arm, brushing my hand over a cool, splendidly plush white comforter.

I rolled my eyes around me, confusion sinking in as I took in myself burrowed comfortably into the middle of a huge bed, my body taking up about as much room as a single M&M inside its package.

This wasn’t my bed.

I looked around the lavish bedroom—white, gold, crystal, and mirrors everywhere, palatial in its opulence like I’d never seen in person—and my breathing turned shallow as instant fear took over.

This wasn’t my room.

Was I dreaming?

I pushed myself up, my head aching and every muscle tight like I’d been sleeping for a damn week.

I dropped my eyes, taking inventory of my body first. I laid on top of the bed, still fully clothed in my black, skinny pants and a pullover white blouse that I’d dressed in this morning.

If it was still today, anyway.

My shoes were gone, but on instinct I peered over the side of the bed and saw my sneakers sitting there, perfectly positioned on a fancy white carpet with gold filigree.

My pores cooled with sweat as I looked around the unfamiliar bedroom, and my brain wracked with what the hell was going on. Where was I?

I slid off the bed, my legs shaky as I stood up.

I’d been at the studio. Byron and Elise had ordered take-out for lunch, and—I pinched the bridge of my nose, my head pounding—and then…

Ugh, I don’t know. What happened?

Spotting a door ahead of me, I didn’t even bother to look around the rest of the room or see where the two other doors led. I grabbed my shoes and stumbled for what I guessed was the way out, and stepped into a hallway, the cool marble floor soothing on my bare feet.

I still went down the list in my head, though.

I didn’t drink.

I didn’t see anyone unusual.

I didn’t get any weird phone calls or packages. I didn’t…

I tried to swallow a few times, finally generating enough saliva. God, I was thirsty. And—a pang hit my stomach—hungry, too.

“Hello?” I called quietly but immediately regretted it.

Unless I’d had an aneurysm or developed selective amnesia, then I wasn’t here willingly.

But if I’d been taken or imprisoned, wouldn’t my door have been locked?

Bile stung my throat, every horror movie I’d ever seen playing various scenarios in my head.

Please no cannibals. Please no cannibals.

“Hi,” a small, hesitant voice said.

I followed the sound, peering across the hallway, over the bannister, to the other side of the upstairs where another hall of rooms sat. A figure lurked in a dark corridor, slowly stepping into the landing.

“Who is that?” I inched forward just a hair, blinking against the sleep still weighing on my eyes.

It was a man, I thought. Button-down shirt, short hair.

“Taylor,” he finally said. “Taylor Dinescu.”

Dinescu? As in Dinescu Petroleum Corporation? It couldn’t be the same family.

I licked my lips, swallowing again. I really needed to find some water.

“Why am I not locked in my room?” he asked me, coming out of the darkness and stepping into the faint moonlight streaming through the windows.

He cocked his head, his hair disheveled and the tail of his wrinkled Oxford hanging out. “We’re not allowed around the women,” he said, sounding just as confused as me. “Are you with the doctor? Is he here?”

What the hell was he talking about? ‘We’re not allowed around the women.’ Did I hear that right? He sounded out of it, like he was on drugs or had been locked in a cell for the past fifteen years.

“Where am I?” I demanded.

He took a step in my direction, and I took one backward, scrambling to get my shoes on as I hopped on one foot.

He closed his eyes, inhaling as he inched closer. “Jesus,” he panted. “It’s been a while since I smelled that.”

Smelled what?

His eyes opened, and I noticed they were a piercing blue, even more striking under his mahogany hair.

“Who are you? Where am I?” I barked.

I didn’t recognize this guy.

He slithered closer, almost animalistic in his movements with a predatory look on his face now that made the hairs on my arms stand up.

He looked suddenly alert. Fuck.

I searched for some kind of weapon around me.

“The locations change,” he said, and I backed up a step for every step toward me he took. “But the name stays the same. Blackchurch.”

“What is that?” I asked. “Where are we? Am I still in San Francisco?”

He shrugged. “I can’t answer that. We could be in Siberia or ten miles from Disneyland,” he replied. “We’re the last ones to know. All we know is that it’s remote.”

“We?”

Who else was here? And where were they?

And where the hell was I, for that matter? What was Blackchurch? How could he not know where he was? What city or state? Or country even?

My God. Country. I was in America, right? I had to be.

I felt sick.

But water. I’d heard water when I woke, and I perked my ears, hearing the dull, steady pounding of it around us. Were we near a waterfall?

“There’s no one here with you?” he asked as if he couldn’t believe that I was really standing here. “You shouldn’t be so close to us. They never let the females close to us.”

“What females?”

“The nurses, cleaners, staff…” he said. “They come once a month to resupply, but we’re confined to our rooms until they leave. Did you get left behind?”

I bared my teeth, losing my patience. Enough with the questions. I had no idea what the hell he was talking about, and my heart was pounding so hard, it hurt. They never let the females close to us. My God, why? I retreated toward the staircase, moving backward, so I didn’t take my eyes off him, and started to descend as he advanced on me.

“I want to use the phone,” I told him. “Where is it?”

He just shook his head, and my heart sank.

“No computers, either,” he told me.

I stumbled on the step and had to grab the wall to steady myself. When I looked up, he was there, gazing down at me and his lips twitching with a grin.

“No, no…” I slid down a few more steps.

“Don’t worry,” he offered. “I just wanted a little sniff. He’ll want the first taste.”

He? I looked down the stairs, seeing a cannister of umbrellas. Nice and pointy. That’ll do.

“We don’t get women here.” He got closer and closer. “Ones we can touch anyway.”

I backed up farther. If I bolted for a weapon, would he be able to grab me? Would he grab me?

“No women, no communication with the world,” he went on. “No drugs, liquor, or smokes, either.”

“What is Blackchurch?” I asked.

“A prison.”

I looked around, noticing the expensive marble floors, the fixtures and carpets, and the fancy, gold accents and statues.

“Nice prison,” I mumbled.

Whatever it was now, it clearly used to be someone’s home. A mansion or…a castle or something.

“It’s off the grid,” he sighed. “Where do you think CEOs and senators send their problem children when they need to get rid of them?”

“Senators…” I trailed off, something sparking in my memory.

“Some important people can’t have their sons—their heirs—making news by going to jail or rehab or being caught doing their dirty deeds,” he explained. “When we become liabilities, we’re sent here to cool off. Sometimes for months.” And then he sighed. “And some of us for years.”

Sons. Heirs.

And then it hit me.

Blackchurch.

No.

No, he had to be lying. This place was an urban legend wealthy men told their kids to keep them in line. A secluded residence somewhere where sons were sent as punishment but given free rein to be at each other’s mercy. It was like Lord of the Flies but with dinner jackets.

But it didn’t exist. Not really. Did it?

“There are more?” I asked. “More of you here?”

A wicked smile spread across his lips, curdling my stomach.

“Oh, several,” he crooned. “Grayson will be back with the hunting party tonight.”

I stopped dead in my tracks, lightheaded.

No, no, no…

Senators, he’d said.

Grayson.

Shit.

“Grayson?” I muttered, more to myself. “Will Grayson?”

He was here?

But Taylor Dinescu, son of Dinescu Petroleum Corporation I now gathered, ignored my question. “We have everything we need to survive, but if we want meat, we have to hunt for it,” he explained.

That’s what Will—and the others—were out doing. Getting meat.

And I didn’t know if it was the look on my face or something else, but Taylor started laughing. A vile cackling that curled my fists tight.

“Why are you laughing?” I growled.

“Because no one knows you’re here, do they?” he taunted, sounding delighted. “And whoever does, meant to leave you anyway. It’ll be a month before another resupply team shows up.”

I closed my eyes for a split-second, his meaning clear.

“A whole month,” he mused.

His eyes fell down my body, and I absorbed the full implication of my situation.

I was in the middle of nowhere with who-knew-how-many men who’d been without any source of vice or contact with the outside world for who-knew-how-long, one of them who had a great desire to torture me if he ever got his hands on me again.

And, according to Taylor, I had little hope for any help in the next month.

Someone went to great lengths to bring me here and make sure my arrival went undetected. Was there really no attendant on the property? Security? Surveillance? Anyone with control of the prisoners?

I ground my teeth together, having no fucking idea what the hell I was going to do, but I needed to do it fast.

But then I heard something, and I shot my eyes up to Taylor, barks and howls echoing outside.

“What is that?” I asked.

Wolves? The sounds were getting closer.

He shot his eyes up, looking at the front door behind me and then back down to me. “The hunting party,” he replied. “They must be back early.”

The hunting party.

Will.

And how many other prisoners that might be just as creepy and threatening as this guy…

The howls were outside the house now, and I looked up at Taylor, unable to calm my breathing. What would happen when they came inside and saw me?

But he just smiled down at me. “Please do run,” he said. “We’re dying for some fun.”

***

Thank you for reading! The horseman will return!!

KILL SWITCH (Devil’s Night #3) is available NOW!

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*It is recommended to read Corrupt (Devil’s Night #1) and Hideaway (Devil’s Night #2) prior to reading this book. Both are now available on Kindle Unlimited.

𝐂𝐎𝐑𝐑𝐔𝐏𝐓 (𝐃𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐥’𝐬 𝐍𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 #𝟏)
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𝐇𝐈𝐃𝐄𝐀𝐖𝐀𝐘 (𝐃𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐥’𝐬 𝐍𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 #𝟐)
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KILL SWITCH is LIVE!!

Monday, February 11th, 2019

NOW LIVE & FREE with Kindle Unlimited!!
“𝗜’𝘃𝗲 𝗱𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗳𝗮𝗿 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝘀𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝗻 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗜 𝘄𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗽𝗿𝗶𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝗳𝗼𝗿. 𝗦𝗵𝗲 𝗵𝗮𝘀 𝗻𝗼 𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗮 𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝗯𝗮𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗴𝗲𝘁.”

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WINTER

Sending him to prison was the worst thing I could’ve done. It didn’t matter that he did the crime or that I wished he was dead. Perhaps I thought I’d have time to disappear before he got out or he’d cool off in jail and be anything but the horror he was. 

But I was wrong. Three years came and went too fast, and now he’s anything but calm. Prison only gave him time to plan. 

And while I anticipated his vengeance, I didn’t expect this. 

He doesn’t want to make me hurt. He wants to make everything hurt. 

DAMON

First thing’s first. Get rid of her daddy. He told them I forced her. He told them his little girl was a victim, but I was a kid, too, and she wanted it just as much as I did. 

Step two… Give her, her sister, and her mother nowhere to run and no fuel to escape. The Ashby women are alone now and desperate for a knight in shining armor. 

But that’s not what’s coming. 

No, it’s time I listened to my father and took control of my future. It’s time I showed them all—my family, her family, my friends—that I will never change and that I have no other ambition than to be the nightmare of their lives. 

Starting with her. 

She’ll be so scared, she won’t even be safe in her own head by the time I’m done with her. And the best part is I won’t have to break into her home to do it. 

As the new man of the house I have all the keys.

Kill Switch is a romantic suspense suitable for readers 18+. It is advised to read Corrupt (Devil’s Night #1) and Hideaway (Devil’s Night #2) prior to reading this book. 

*It is recommended to read Corrupt (Devil’s Night #1) and Hideaway (Devil’s Night #2) prior to reading this book. Both are now available on Kindle Unlimited.

𝐂𝐎𝐑𝐑𝐔𝐏𝐓 (𝐃𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐥’𝐬 𝐍𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 #𝟏)
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Kill Switch Excerpt #1

Sunday, February 3rd, 2019

Kill Switch (Devil’s Night #3) releases February 11, 2019.

***

WINTER

I shook my head, fighting the memories that raced through my mind. “I won’t let you have anything else from me,” I told him. “You raped me. And it wasn’t statutory rape. It was rape.”

“I can see why you might want to believe that. Maybe you feel ashamed or guilty, because you liked it.” He paused and then continued. “But be careful, Winter. I can still put you through quite a lot.”

“Oh, I’m scared,” I shot back.

There was nothing else for him to take.

He stood there for a moment, quiet and still, but then his hard voice pierced the silence.

“Mikhail?” he called.

And I jumped.

“Ke nighg-ya,” he ordered.

What?

My dog yanked out of my grasp and trotted away on his command.

“What are you doing?” I darted forward. “Give me my dog.” And then I called, “Mikhail!”

But I didn’t feel either of them near me now. Where did they go? What was that he said? Was that Russian? Mikhail didn’t know any commands in Russian.

I heard the dog’s collar and tags jingle from a few feet away, and a lump filled my throat.

“That’s a good boy,” I heard Damon coo to him. “He’s smart. He knows who his master is.”

Mikhail went to him?

“Mikhail,” I gritted out. “Mikhail, come here.”

“Now the question is…” Damon continued, and I heard him approach again. “Do I keep him or give him to my father. I haven’t kept a dog as a pet in years. Not sure I have the knack for it.”

My nerves fired. “Give me my dog.”

“You want him back?” he asked, getting closer. “Then beg me.”

“Fuck you!”

He grabbed the back of my neck, fisting my hair. “A dog is a dog and a bitch is a bitch,” he bit out. “Neither of you is very much use to the world, so I don’t care either way.”

I planted my hands on his chest, trying to pull away.

Mikhail.

Please.

“Beg me,” Damon taunted. “Beg. Just whisper it. Just say please.”

He couldn’t take my dog from me. What was he going to do to him?

My face started to crack as I thought about Mikhail, and I wouldn’t know where he was or if he was okay. If he was hungry… Would Damon send him away?

Damon kneaded my scalp, still gripping my hair. “Whisper it,” he said, his breathing turning ragged. “Whisper it like I did your name the morning they found me in your bed and arrested me, Winter. That’s all I want to hear. A little whisper.”

His hand shook where he held me, and my stomach knotted so hard, I was in pain. Please stop. Don’t do this.

“Killing him would probably be more merciful than giving him to my father,” Damon added. “He’s not good with dogs—”

“Please,” I burst out, a tear falling. “Please just give me my dog back.”

“On your knees,” he ordered.

I closed my eyes.

Goddamn him. He knew exactly what to do. Every time.

God, I hated him.

But slowly, I lowered.

I fell to my knees, my teeth clenched but still shaking as his hand stayed in my hair.

“Please,” I whispered, tightening every muscle in disgust at myself. “Please.”

“Again.”

“Please,” I begged.

And I waited. Waited for him to say something—to say I could have my dog back—but he just stood there, holding me by my hair.

He just stood there.

Was this what he wanted to see? Me degraded on my knees? Me scared?

He loved me scared. It got him excited.

I almost thought I liked it, too, once.

And as the seconds passed, and he held me there as my heart thumped in my chest, it was like we were teenagers again for a moment.

When I liked the games he played with me.

Before I realized I was the toy.

The terror and the dread. But the exhilaration and the safety I’d felt in his arms.

How I’d never hated anyone as much as I hated him, but how I loved what I felt with him more than I loved anything I felt with anyone else, either. I was so stupid.

His fingers started to move, caressing me so softly as his breathing turned heavy and strained. “Winter…”

My clit throbbed once, and I broke, silently crying as shame heated my cheeks.

No.

What the hell had he done to me?

He pulled me up, pushing my hair behind my shoulder and his voice suddenly normal.

“Good girl,” he told me. “Of course, you can have your dog. Did you think I was a monster?”

I jerked away from his hands. “It hardly matters. You already ruined my life. Long ago.”

“In the treehouse when you were eight,” he finished my thought for me. “I remember that party. It’s funny, though. That’s all you do remember, isn’t it?”

“What are you talking about?”

“The fountain,” he pointed out. “Do you remember what happened in the fountain before we went to the treehouse that day?”

The fountain? I searched my brain through my confusion, not coming up with anything that stood out as out of the ordinary. I was eight, so I couldn’t remember every detail.

“Nothing happened,” I told him.

I wasn’t letting him take what happened that day and turn it around on me. I was nice to him. Nothing I did or said deserved what happened after. Nor did anything I did or said years later in high school deserve what else he took from me.

He sighed. “I’m out of my own control, Winter,” he said “There are no choices. We are who we are, and we do what we do. It’s nature. Like game pieces, I will play my part, because I can’t resist. I can’t be what I’m not.”

I frowned. He sounded resolute. Like this was the end for me.

“I hope you won’t disappoint,” he finished.

So this was it then? He was going forward with whatever ugly desires that simmered inside his twisted brain, because he was determined to not understand the pain he caused and that crimes have consequences? He’d gotten what he deserved.

I won once. I’d do it again.

“Just pick new tactics,” I told him. “I don’t appreciate you ambushing me like some pervert in the bathroom.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Bridge Bay Theater,” I prompted. “I was alone in the bathroom today. You came in and messed with me. I thought you would’ve learned how to up your game in prison.”

He laughed once, took a drag of his cigarette, and exhaled. “I have no idea what fantasy you were concocting in your dreams, but I was in New York all day,” he said. “I just got back an hour ago.”

“Yeah, of course you were.”

“Why would I lie?”

I paused, realizing he might have a point. He had no motive to deny it. It was no secret he had it out for me and my family.

With just us, here in this room alone, he’d take pleasure in doing and saying whatever he wanted with no one else to hear.

He stepped up to me, and I could smell the tobacco on him, as well as the fragrance of his clothes, the expensive fabric and the leather of his shoes.

“I’m better than that,” he whispered down on me, and I could feel the ice on his cool breath from the drink he’s just had. “Why would I corner someone in a public space when anyone could walk in and interrupt me? I would need privacy.”

His fingers brushed my hair off my cheek, and I jerked away.

“Like a big house?” he told me. “With miles of empty forest outside and no neighbors. No traffic. Nothing.” I heard the sick smile in his voice and didn’t miss his meaning at all.

He already had it all planned out.

“Everyone else is gone, leaving her alone,” he continued. “No one to help. No one to hear her. No one to stop me. A whole night. Just the two of us.” His breath was on my lips. “In the house together. So much space to run, and only so many places to hide.”

I curled my fingers into fists, and if I didn’t know it before, I knew it now. He had changed, after all.

He’d gotten worse.

And in his head, he did the time, may as well do the crime.
Dread curdled my stomach as he brushed past me.

“Goodnight, Winter,” he said.

And I didn’t mistake the hint of excitement in his voice.

***



Birthday Girl is Now Live!!

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

?FREE with Kindle Unlimited!!?

Amazon US—> https://tinyurl.com/yahp5k6g
Amazon UK—> https://tinyurl.com/y9mcznpm
Amazon AUS—> https://tinyurl.com/ybvfyvnj
Amazon CA—> https://tinyurl.com/ya3su3n2

Paperback —> https://amzn.to/2HF5Hia
Add to your TBR —> https://bit.ly/2Gp74DE



New Book Coming!

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Sooooo… I’ve been up to something. 😉

BIRTHDAY GIRL is a stand-alone, taboo romance I’ve been secretly working on, and it’s finally done!!
It releases April 17th, so mark your calendars!

Cover and synopsis coming April 10th <3 Bloggers, sign up here! ---> http://bit.ly/2FEfxSU

Add to your TBR —> https://bit.ly/2Gp74DE



★.•*°★ HIDEAWAY is LIVE!! ★.•*°★

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Live-Graphic-HideawayThank you to everyone who’s waited and been so patient! As a thank you, the book is currently only $2.99 during release week!! Grab it before it goes up to its regular price!

 

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2yRPIZB

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2yDkCUo

Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/2xSasC4

Amazon AUS: http://amzn.to/2wt7bGa

KOBO: http://bit.ly/2qTcpKH

B&N: processing

iBooks: processing

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2fK7Box

Add it on Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2rlt7nu

 

Are you ready? Hiding places, chases, and all the games are back!

BANKS

Buried in the shadows of the city, there’s a hotel called The Pope. Ailing, empty, and dark—it sits abandoned and surrounded by a forgotten mystery.

But you think it’s true, don’t you, Kai Mori? The story about the hidden twelfth floor. The mystery of the dark guest who never checked in and never checks out. You think I can help you find that secret hideaway and get to him, don’t you?

You and your friends can try to scare me. You can try to push me. Because even though I struggle to hide everything I feel when you look at me—and have ever since I was a girl—I think maybe what you seek is so much closer than you’ll ever realize.

I will never betray him.

So sit tight.

On Devil’s Night, the hunt will be coming to you.

KAI

You have no idea what I seek, Little One. You don’t know what I had to become to survive three years in prison for a crime I would gladly commit again.

No one can know what I’ve turned into.

I want that hotel, I want to find him, and I want this over.

I want my life back.

But the more I’m around you, the more I realize this new me is exactly who I was meant to be.

So come on, kid. Don’t chicken out. My house is on the hill. So many ways in, and good luck finding your way out.

I’ve seen your hideaway. Time to see mine.

*Hideaway is a romantic suspense suitable for ages 18+. While the romance is a stand-alone, the plot is a continuation of events that began in CORRUPT (Devil’s Night, #1). It is strongly recommended that you have read Corrupt prior to reading this.

And CORRUPT (Devils Night #1) is currently only $0.99! 

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1SSFb3Q

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1Lh6K0q

Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/1Sv3Nie

Amazon AUS: http://bit.ly/1MgOV5v

KOBO: http://bit.ly/20XLnNe

B&N: http://bit.ly/1NZVifQ

iBooks: http://apple.co/219gLsd

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2xNre3v



Taking Requests For HIDEAWAY ARCs!!

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

You’re seeing it here first!

Thank you to anyone interested in reading early and helping with the release blitz of HIDEAWAY (Devil’s Night #2) on Aug. 22nd. I am so grateful for the support of my work and look forward to finally letting you dive in.

Please Note: You do not have to have a blog to review, but I would appreciate anyone interested in reading early to have a Goodreads account AND have read CORRUPT (Devil’s Night #1).

Thank you again and BRING ON AUGUST! (More because it’s closer to fall, and I’m ready for candy corn 😉 )

Pen

Sign up here—> http://bit.ly/2tQFy7G