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review 2017-09-19 15:42
Lies She Told
Lies She Told - Cate Holahan

By:  Cate Holahan 

ISBN: 9781683312956

Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books

Publication Date: 9/12/2017 

Format: Hardcover 

My Rating: 4 Stars 

 

LIES SHE TOLD by Cate Holahan is a dark and twisty mind-bending thriller with more than one unreliable narrator. 

On almost every page, this imaginative psychological thriller forces the reader to reconsider what is real. A book within a book when the lines of fact and fiction are blurred.

“The most dangerous untruths are truths slightly distorted.” — Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Notebook H 

Manhattan author Liza, (of romantic suspense) is under extreme pressure with her upcoming novel. 

Trevor, a forty-two-year-old (editor) is telling a thirty-five-year-old woman in the middle of her target audience demographic, what her peers want in the sack. He thinks he knows trends. 

Alternating between Liza’s POV in the real world, and Beth (the protagonist) in Liza’s novel. Needless to say, both these ladies lives are complex. 

"Blurring fact and fantasy is my trade. I am a con artist. A prevaricator. I make up stories." So why does he think this one is real? 

David Jacobson, husband of twelve years. Nick Landau, David’s law partner is missing. Nick never liked Liza.

Liza and David have been unable to conceive. Both the anxiety of this plus her writing deadlines push her to get lost in her characters. Their marriage is strained. 

. . . She does not invent her characters. She steals them from her surroundings. To be a writer is to be a life thief. Every day she robs herself blind.

"It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place." —Henry Louis Mencken, A Little Book in C Major

As the pressure of the deadlines mounts, Liza becomes immersed in her heroine. Unfaithful? Murder?

Is she writing about her own life? 

Beth has a new baby and her husband, Jake is a prosecutor. He is cheating, while she is home taking care of the baby. The sexy officer, Colleen. The psychiatrist, Tyler, and an old friend.

Will both stories lead to murder? The lines are blurred. 

Who is telling the truth? Who is not? Two stories intertwined.

The author cleverly draws readers into a world where truth blends with delusion, plus more. . . 

Dark, twisty, and sinister grip-lit. The author keeps the reader on its toes while switching from fact and fiction while questioning every move. 

Chilling, unique, intriguing, and disturbing, LIES SHE TOLD, will keep readers turning the pages. With all the books about LIES these days, this one definitely takes a distinctive spin. 

A special thank you to Crooked Lane and NetGalley for an early reading digital copy. 

I also purchased the audiobook narrated by Amy McFadden and Lisa Larsen, for a captivating performance.

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/05/12/Lies-She-Told
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review 2017-09-18 22:16
Lightning Men
Lightning Men: A Novel - Thomas Mullen

Darktown #2

By:  Thomas Mullen 

ISBN: 9781501138799

Publisher: Atria 

Publication Date: 9/12/2017

Format: Hardcover 

My Rating: 5 Stars + 

 

From the acclaimed author, Thomas Mullen who introduced readers to the hit, Darktown landing on my Top Books of 2016 —racial integration of Atlanta’s police department in 1948 — with an explosive multi-layered complex follow-up: LIGHTNING MEN. 

Racial violence and corruption continue in 1950’s Atlanta, with African-American police officers, Boggs and Smith. 

As they say in the South, these two find themselves in a "heap of trouble.” (Among others). 

“Hot Atlanta” is not just sizzling. It is blistering. Fiery. Tensions and emotions run high. Loyalties are tested between family and law. Color lines are threatened. Moral lines are blurred. 

The second in the Darktown series, Mullen uses his hard-boiled crime, cop procedural, to explore post-WWII racism in the South. 

The highly anticipated character-driven LIGHTNING MEN is much more than just a crime-fictional thriller. It is infused with critical historical details and timely controversial subjects we face today.

“Any candid observer of American racial history must acknowledge that racism is highly adaptable.” – Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow 

Highly-charged, Mullen turns up the intensity with characters facing moral, family, social issues and compromises. 

Tensions rise. From racial prejudice, moonshining, drugs, greed, conspiracy, Klansmen, fascist Columbians, white supremacist, corruption, bigotry, violence, Jim Crow laws, preachers, shootouts, paybacks, fear, power, and segregated neighborhoods.

In Darktown, we met rookies: Officer Lucius Boggs and his partner, Tommy Smith. 

From different backgrounds, their office was housed in the basement of the Negro YMCA, a makeshift precinct. They were not even allowed to arrest white men, nor allowed to drive a squad car. They could not patrol outside of the Negro neighborhoods that constituted their beat. No respect and little support. 

Only ten black officers patrolled those thousands of souls. A third of Atlanta were black, yet they were crowded into only a fifth of the land. 

Boggs and Smith had not taken bribes; however, with two years on the force, it appeared half of the white officers took bribes, so how long would the Negro officers resist? 

They were tiring of their powerlessness. The son of a preacher, Boggs was all too familiar with the fallibility of men, even men with power. 

Denny Rakestraw (white) is distrusted by his fellow officers for his suspected role in the disappearance of his former partner, Lionel Dunlow. 

Rakestraw is not a racist but finds it difficult to fit in with his fellow white cops and work with the ten black cops. Neither side, fully trusts him. 

Denny’s problems increase when his Klansman brother-in-law, Dale Simpkins, gets involved in a plot to stop the influx of African-Americans into his neighborhood, Hanford Park. 

Some cops are part of the Klan. Will they accuse one of the richest men in Atlanta of selling moonshine and marijuana?

Boggs had come to respect McInnis over the last two years. He had stuck up for his charges during a few disputes with white officers. How far can he go to protect them? 

Boggs (preacher’s son) is dating Julie with a young son, Sage. Soon to be married. His family opposes the relationship since she is not of their social status. She has a secret past. She is intimidated by their prestigious family. 

When a black man, Jeremiah is released from prison after five years, things get personal. Boggs life gets complicated when he learns the connection. 

Two years earlier, Boggs came close to resigning his position and had second thoughts after a near-death experience. Now, he is unsure again.

Too many mistakes that weighed heavily on his soul. He is sure there would be more guilt and an awkward relationship with his partner. Can he remain as a cop? 

Events will lead each character to major soul-searching. Smith had crossed another line as well. He was afraid. 


. . . The Armor. The façade victims’ families typically wore when they needed to protect themselves or the memory of their loved ones. Folks who wore The Armor sometimes had secrets to hide. 

The Armor was firmly in place as they parried the officer’s attempts to learn more about the deceased. They wore The Armor to keep the cops from learning things. The secrets. . . 

The Armor was worn by the innocent, who had nothing to hide but their dignity, and they were so deeply offended to be questioned by these employees of the corrupt City of Atlanta, these paid enforcers of Jim Crow, that they refused to play along. They may be innocent, hurt, or protective. 

. . . “And lines are only ideas people dream up, to govern what should be possible, to keep you from moving toward the forbidden.”


Three policemen struggle. Each has an agenda and react in different ways to protect. Loyalties are tested. Family versus law. 

Can they continue to work with one hand tied behind their packs without the proper support to do their jobs? Will the latest emotional events, their actions, and tensions make them second guess their current careers? Will they continue to serve and make Atlanta a better city, or is it a useless effort? 

After violence and a shootout, will Hanford Park be transformed? Will the lines between white and black be blurred after the postwar crowding, pushing blacks into areas formerly considered whites-only (without violence)? 

From racial politics and struggles of history, Mullen does not miss a beat! 

The complex emotions of each character are portrayed in depth, making the characters jump off the page. Others threaten lives. Others protect. Struggles both interior and exterior. 

Complications. Affairs interrupted. Old scores settled. Blood feuds magnified. Pride. Costs were high. Greed. 

Hard-boiled. Explosive. Riveting. Timely! 

Love this enthralling series and looking forward to seeing what is in store next for Smith and Boggs. 

When reading of Boggs at his dad’s house for dinner with Julie, reminds me strongly of Greenleaf (a favorite show) and their preacher/family dinners. Heaven forbid, their children do not follow their well-laid controlled plans. 

Movie-worthy! For those who enjoy good crime fiction, and historical fiction as Mullen meticulously traces the civil rights movement through his well-written crime stories and cop procedurals, that involve "real" characters you come to care about. 

Fans of TV mini-series: Underground, Greenleaf and Queen Sugar will enjoy this intense series as well as Michael Connley’s Harry Bosch and Greg Iles' Penn Cage series. 

In addition to the early digital reading copy (thank you) provided by NetGalley and Atria, I also purchased the audiobook, narrated by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – for an award-winning performance. Just finished. 

Move this series to the top of your list. If you reside in the South, this is a “must read.” Especially for those of us who found (find) Atlanta our home for many years. Another Southern winner! 

JDCMustReadBooks

****
Due to post-Irma, residing in South Florida with water damages, power outage, cell towers, and loss of internet for nine consecutive days; no gas, grocery, or mail service – late posting my review on pub day. Let's hope Maria does not pay us a visit. 

Yay! Today we have internet restored, power, cell towers, and mail service! Back in business. Ordered the hardcover copies of both DARKTOWN and LIGHTNING MEN for my personal library. So excited, they are out for delivery today, from Amazon! (Love the covers) Looking forward to receiving my copies. (Now, I have to figure out how to get the author to autograph) my copies. 

Busy catching up with posting reviews and my blog. Thanks everyone for your patience.
 
 
 

City on the verge of a race riot in ‘Darktown’ sequel


Thomas Mullen’s new novel examines brotherly hate  

By Tray Butler - For the AJC

 
 
 
 
Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/04/19/Lightning-Men
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review 2017-09-17 23:40
A Promise to Kill
A Promise to Kill: A Clyde Barr Novel - Erik Storey
  • By:  Erik Storey

    Clyde Barr #2
    ISBN: 978-150112418

    Publisher: Scribner

    Publication Date: 8/15/2017 

    Format: Other

    My Rating: Stars (ARC)

 
Erik Storey returns following his debut hit, Nothing Short of Dying (2016)—where the talented new author introduced readers and new fans to the unlikely hero, Clyde Barr. 

In this highly anticipated follow-up, A PROMISE TO KILL, Barr returns, better than ever! 

An action-packed, intense, adventure where life is anything but simple for Barr. Trouble seems to find Barr no matter how many times life attempts to pull him down. He comes up swinging.

Storey has created an edgy tough main character with strong morals and honor . . . and a heart of gold. 

Men and women readers alike will be drawn to the setting and this strong and intriguing character. I actually like him better than Lee Child’s Jack Reacher.

As we pick up from the last book (can be read as a standalone); however, would recommend reading the first book to get the proper intro into this complex character. However, we do learn a bit more about Clyde in this installment.

Traveling across Utah, with a new mare and a reluctant mule named Bob, Barr spots an old man’s truck in the ditch. He, of course, stops to assist. His heart. His cell is dead. He needs to get him to a hospital. 

He hops into the truck and takes him to the hospital. An old Ute from the nearby Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. They connect. Heart problems. Myocardial infarction. He would be dead without Clyde Barr. 

Lawana and her son. The three of them – grandfather, daughter, Lawana and grandson, fifteen-year-old- Taylor all lived at the family ranch. They needed Barr’s help. He offered. 

He had worked on a lot of ranches and he, of course, did not tell them all the work and places he had been. Clyde likes this woman and family. 

Barr settles into a routine on the ranch. . . until the Reapers.An outlaw bikers club. All white. 

These men were full of menace. The Reapers called him a "bumpkin" and told him to go play with the Indians. He was threatened and warned. Thousands of lives were at risk. 

Taylor’s dad had died in Afghanistan, as an army captain. He was going to help run the ranch while his mom ran the local clinic. He died trying to save his men. Soon Taylor had confidence in him. He looked up to Barr. However, Barr had some proving to do to earn his mother’s trust. 

He wants to protect the reservation and fight for those he cares about. 

Barr soon learns that the family name was a corruption of the name of their great war chief ancestor, Nicaagat. He’d let his warriors in one of the last actions against the US government, right before his people were forced out of the mountains of Colorado and into the alkali desert of Utah.

The memories surface. His rough childhood, the wars he had fought in the third world, and his time behind bars because of a mix-up between the Mexican government and the cartels, and the people he loved and lost along the way. One who was especially important. 

He thought he had left all the chaos behind when he came back to the States more than a year ago. But apparently, he was mistaken. 

Whatever tranquility he had felt when he first entered town had entirely disappeared. This was the kind of thing Barr had tried to avoid since coming back, after being released from prison. However, his strong sense of protecting the underdog had a way of bringing him to the center of trouble.

Will Clyde ever go back to normal or will he be broken? Will the boy, the grandfather and the daughter want to him to stay around? Would he ever belong? He wasn’t Ute. He was an outsider. 

Barr liked to live on the edge. He missed it. He loved it here. Like a wild animal. The most beautiful, smartest, and the toughest woman he had ever met. He liked this family. Was it time for him to move on? 

. . . Does Lawana deserve more than he can offer? Does Barr need to be out there in the wilderness? 

. . . “Somewhere along the way, the empty spaces became part of who I am. It’s where I’m at my best.”

WOW, a powerful story. Well written with in-depth research, Storey knows the great outdoors and the wilderness, reflective throughout the novel. His style strongly reminds me of Charles Martin (another favorite author), The Mountain Between Us and Water from My Heart. Martin (not a crime writer); however, both talented authors possess their own unique individual style; however, they both write stories about the rugged great outdoors and strong tough characters (men) who connect with equally strong dynamic women and children. 

There is always a memorable story which creates a nice balance. A fated encounter, strong bonds, connection, a tug and pull, heartstrings, choices, and consequences. 

Also for fans of John Hart (another favorite), C.J. Box, Lee Child, Ace Atkins, David Joy, William Kent Krueger, and Craig Johnson. 

Highly recommend this gripping and suspenseful series and this gifted newfound master storyteller. Can’t wait to see what’s next for Clyde. 

A special thank you to Scribner, NetGalley and the author for an early reading copy. I also purchased the audiobook, narrated by Pete Simonelli for an entertaining performance. Move A PROMISE TO KILL to the top of your list. Movie-worthy!

JDCMustReadBooks
 
Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/03/08/A-Promise-to-Kill
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review 2017-09-10 00:20
The Best of Us
The Best of Us: A Memoir - Joyce Maynard

By: Joyce Maynard

ISBN: 978-1635570342

Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA

Publication Date: 9/5/2017 

Format: Hardcover

My Rating:  5 Stars

From New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard, a memoir about discovering strength in the midst of great loss--"heart-wrenching, inspiring, full of joy and tears and life." (Anne Lamott)

 

From the author of (2016) Under the Influence Joyce Maynard once again delivers a mesmerizing and beautiful journey and love story.  Love, loss, grief, and marriage. Cancer, and its battles. Life changing experiences. 

 

I loved THE BEST OF US! A deeply moving and powerful tribute. One of the best memoirs I have read in 2017. 

 

Raw and honest, a poignant and beautifully written memoir that accompanied me for a 20 hr. car ride in bumper-to-bumper gridlock traffic while evacuating Hurricane Irma from South Florida. This was supposed to be a birthday weekend trip with my sons coming into town from NC to Florida. Then with IRMA, the hotel canceled and the airlines. Not happening. 

 

Recalculate. Now, I had to evacuate and leave Florida. The perfect book would be THE BEST OF US. Loaded on all my devices and synced to my car. I knew she would carry me through. 

 

What was supposed to be a trip to Highlands, NC (Western Mountains north of Atlanta) to escape Florida and IRMA on Thursday before the upcoming disaster. With only two roads out of Florida and 7 million people in South Florida trying to evacuate. This would have been a 12-15 hr drive. 

 

However, it turned into a 20 hr. drive and never even got out of Florida, much less cross into Atlanta or NC. I could not wait to get out of the car and no hotels on this strip of the turnpike. I only made it a little north of Orlando, in Ocala, FL. (On a normal day, would take you 4 hrs.). At the end of the Florida Turnpike, when I saw I-75 after driving all night, lack of sleep, lack of fuel for travelers, overcrowded highways, and no vacancy; you can bet I grabbed the first hotel I could find when they had a last minute cancellation. 

 

I recall sitting there in the heat, trying to decide where to go, with my A/C running at a truck stop on the turnpike with hundreds of stranded families with their children and pets, sitting in my car listening to THE BEST OF US. 

 

I looked around at all the hundreds of families that may never see their homes again and are sleeping in their cars. While listening to Joyce and her brave fight as well as Jim's courage and tenacity.  

 

I am currently riding out the impending storm here in Ocala, FL at the same hotel for its duration before I can return home to Palm Beach. This central location may still face issues as well, but at least I will not be on the waterfront in South Florida. Still waiting it out until Monday and beyond to see what will happen. 

 

Without the audiobook, to accompany me on this stressful journey, narrated by Joyce, not sure I could have made it thru this time. I always purchase her audiobooks. Her voice is spellbinding. Her stories grab you by the heartstrings and never let go. 

 


 

While listening, filled with anxiety and stress worrying if I would (will) have an apartment to return to on the water, top floor in West Palm Beach and on the heels shortly after my dad's death in June (heart) and mom's (cancer) last August, I had to take a moment to think beyond my current situation, while listening to this beautiful and heartbreaking love story. I related on so many levels. I have so much to be thankful for. Her voice was calming and soothing. 

 

Being around the same age as the author, and single (divorced), I found it refreshing —two courageous and talented people were able to find one another and bring so much joy to one another if only for a short time. 

 

From the love, tears, fears, and sorrows, I adore Joyce Mayard's writing and highly recommend this amazing book. Flaws and all, she shares a personal story with passion, heart, and soul; filled with humor, wit, love, grief, honesty, and raw emotion. From the darkest hours to the magical moments. 

 

An added bonus for the audiobook readers, the author, and Jim share their wedding vows. Priceless! Readers, you have to meet Jim. An incredible man and one which will not be forgotten. 

 

An inspiring story! For readers who enjoyed When Breath Becomes AirHighly Recommend the author and this amazing book. Buy the audio!  An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions. Book Guide 

 

 

 

 

 The New York Times 

 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/08/01/The-Best-of-Us
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review 2017-09-09 18:14
Book Review for Zack by Jessie Cooke
 
 
 
 
 

Title: ZACK
 
Series: Southside Skulls MC Romance #4
Author: Jessie Cooke
Genre: MC Romance
Release Date: August 21, 2017
Reviewed by: Angels With Attitude Book Reviews
5 stars
Arc provided for honest review
 
 
Zack "Attack" Leoni is a wild and free nomad biker who spends most of his time on the road. Each stop there's another woman to satisfy his needs.
He's not one to be tied down to anyone or anything and certainly not a woman with a child. 
 
Nicole Swafford fears for her life as she tries to escape Spider, her violent ex-husband and the father of her child...the same man Zack is meeting for a club business deal.
 
Will the smiling Zack Attack jeopardize club business for a woman he doesn't know, with a child he doesn't want?
 
Will Spider let anyone stand in the way of what he wants? His child and Nicole.
 
Two men, one woman, and a child. That's trouble. Big trouble.
 
This is book four in the Southside Skulls MC Series.
It is a Standalone Romance Novel but characters from the previous novels, DAX, CODY & GUNNER are main players in this story too. HEA and No cliffhangers. 
Intended for Mature Readers.
 
 
 
 
 




Yet Another great read in this ongoing MC series.So far I am thinking this one is my top favorites.

I love it when the men in the story always protest so much about what they want and what they need.As always they think they just want sex and nothing more but, there is always that one that isn't so easily forgotten and when that happens I love seeing these Dark Dangerous Dominate men fall....

Zack's current women he lusts after has a complication as she has a baby and her ex is a current abusive biker from hell from a rival club and still thinks she's his old lady.What man wants all that complication?Zack that is who!He's been in deep since the minute he rescued her.

I loved this story so much from the onset and cover to cover.This story was filled with so much emotion.Some if it happy,scared,hopeful,fearful,love,regret and longing.

I always pick a favorite character in a story and mine is going to be Zack.I just loved him from the onset.Yes ,he wanted sex from from her but, it was so much more and more about protecting herself and child from harm.He always put her needs first.We saw him grow emotionally himself.He let those walls he had built around himself come down long enough to put his trust in someone he loved and cared about.I though he was smart,sexy,kind protective,loving and caring and an all around super guy.I loved how protective her was of Nicole  and her child from the start.I found myself falling in love with him myself. I loved as we saw him fall in love with the child as well as Nicole.I loved all the things a dad does for their child and Zack never realized that he was playing that part throughout their courtship .Smiles...

Nicole on the other hand I found to be determined,loving,caring,fearful and had a bit of a backbone.Nicole was determined to make a life for herself and that of her child.I will say that she annoyed me at times as she was just so stubborn and disregarded her safety even knowing her ex would keep trying to harm her.I hated how her stubbornness made It so hard for them to protect her.I just wanted to smack her so many times for being so stupid knowing all the time what her ex Spider was already capable of.

I loved the chemistry,the passion and the emotion that this couples sexual situations wrought.They made a really cute couple and the perfect family this is something Zack secretly longed for.I so wanted to to finally find some peace and happiness and someone to love him and I am glad he did I was rooting for him.

My heart broke for Zack and the up bringing he had.I have to say that I detested his mother from the onset of their meeting.I felt relieved that justice was served when It came to her.I so wanted to smack that bitch every-time she opened her mouth and I am so not a violent person. LOL

I loved it.Loved the plot the characters and the twists and turns the story took.We even got the chance to have some of our other favorite MC members grace our pages in this current story and I loved seeing them again with all the quirky personalities their love and loyalty toward one another.

Well Done!

Recommend read to all and of course the rest of this series we are loving it!

5 stars from us









 
 
Chapter 1:
 
Nicole walked in the front door of the little studio apartment and stood there for a few moments torn between her heart melting at the sight of her friend holding her sweet baby while they both slept, and being angry that the door had been unlocked and she’d walked right in. She knew that without Stacey she would had never made it this far, but sometimes her beautiful friend just didn’t get how dangerous things had gotten. She walked over to the rocking chair and touched Stacey on the shoulder. Her green eyes fluttered open and for a second she looked confused. When they finally focused on Nicole’s face she smiled.
“Hey, Nick, is it that time already?”
Nicole slid her arms underneath Stacey’s and took the sleeping baby out of them. For a second she just held him up near her face and breathed him in. The sight and the smell of her baby gave her strength, and God knows she needed it. Taking a seat on the couch and kissing the still-sleeping six-month-old angel on the forehead, she looked at Stacey. Her pretty, blonde, slightly disheveled friend was yawning and stretching. She had spit-up on the shoulder of her pink t-shirt and the messy bun she’d pulled her soft blonde hair up into looked like it had given out some time ago. Nicole felt bad again for being angry with her. Stacey had given up a lot to become a part-time nanny to Nicole’s son. She didn’t stay out all night partying any longer and she rarely had a man in her bed…which was new. Stacey watched little Liam five days a week while Nicole worked the morning shift at the bakery, and then she went to her own job in the evening and worked another eight hours…for little more than a lot of drama in return. Nicole bit back her anger and softly said, “You forgot to lock the door again, Stace.”
“Shit. I’m sorry. Liam and I were sitting on the front porch for a while before he started to get sleepy. I came in and fixed his bottle and the next thing I know you’re standing over me.”
And one of these days it might be Spider standing over her. “It’s okay. I don’t mean to be a nag, but even though we might think Spider doesn’t know where you live now, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t. Spider has a way of knowing everything, sometimes before I do.”
Stacey stood. “You want a glass of wine?”
“No thank you. I should get Liam home…”
“He’s fine. He’s asleep. I’m fixing you a glass of wine and you’re staying for dinner. I’ll order pizza. Neither of us have work tomorrow, and that worry line between your eyes is deep today. Something happened.” Stacey didn’t wait for her response before going into the tiny little kitchenette and taking a bottle of wine out of the refrigerator. Nicole got up and went over to the bassinette in the corner. She kissed her baby’s soft face one more time before laying him down. She was still staring at him when Stacey came back over with two glasses of wine. She handed one to Nicole and then took out her phone and dialed a number. As she pressed it to her ear she said, “You can sit down and relax for a minute, babe. He’s not going to disappear.”
Nicole smiled at her friend and took a seat closer to the bassinette while Stacey ordered the pizza. The idea of Liam disappearing was her greatest fear, one that she lived with daily thanks to Spider. Each time he showed up, no matter how the conversation started, it ended with him making threats, telling her she’d never see her child again…the thought of that alone made her feel like she couldn’t breathe. He used those threats now, hoping she’d give in and come back to him, but one of these days she knew he’d tire of her, or kill her and she’d never see Liam again.
“Pizza is on its way,” Stacey said, tossing the phone aside and taking a sip of her wine. “Now start talking.”
Nicole smiled. “Everything’s fine, Stace. You know how I am…”
“Why do you make me drag it out of you? What did that piece of scum do this time?”
Nicole sighed. She didn’t want to talk about Spider…but since Stacey was as involved as she was by virtue of being Liam’s protector eight to ten hours a day, she needed to know. Maybe it would remind her to lock the door. “He came by the bakery today.”
“Shit. I thought Armand had a restraining order against him.” Armand was Nicole’s boss and the nicest man she’d ever known. He was protective of Nicole and Liam, and when asking Spider to stay away politely didn’t work, Armand had gotten a restraining order and promised the biker that he’d call the cops if he even saw him in the parking lot.
“He does, but he wasn’t there today…”
“So? The order is still in effect. Shit, Nicole, you have to start calling the cops on this guy. Maybe a few days in jail will give him a clue.”
Nicole chuckled sadly. “He’d only come out more pissed off and his absence from club business would just piss the rest of them off. So far Spider has kept the club out of it. I don’t want to make things worse.”
Stacey sipped her wine and sighed as she sat it down. “What did he want?”
“The same thing he always wants, to tell me that I belong to him and Liam belongs to him, and give me an ultimatum. He’s really pissed that I won’t tell him where we moved. It took me forty-five minutes to get here because I was scared to death he was following me.”
“Where was your bodyguard today?”
Nicole shuddered at the mention of Zack. The man had the kind of effect on her that most women pray for. Everything about him was sexy from his long, thick, disheveled brown hair to his light blue eyes and down to his incredibly hard body. But Nicole had almost the same reaction when she first met Spider, and that had worked out all bad. She wasn’t looking to repeat her mistakes. “He’s not my bodyguard.”
“So you keep saying. He and five of his closest friends…a few hot ones, I might add…packed up both of our apartments and moved us in the middle of the night. In the past two weeks, he’s spent more time at that bakery or outside of it than he probably has on his Harley. He’s got it bad, Nick, and he’s fucking hot. You think that Hashtag guy has an old lady?”
“An old lady’s life is not for you, babe. You value your independence too much. And we both know that hot isn’t enough.” When Nicole first met Spider, the fact that he was hot was what got her into trouble. His dark, almost black hair and gray eyes and smoking body had been all she could think about. She was barely eighteen and still living with her over-protective parents, so the excitement of the “bad boy” edge had factored in as well. She had been a good girl for too long and Spider made her want to change that almost overnight. After sneaking around with him for a month and a half, she packed her bags and told her parents she was leaving. Her mother cried and her father lectured. They begged and pleaded for her not to go. Her father threatened that she’d never be able to come back. Her mother told her that she was taking everything they’d ever done for her for granted, and ruining her future.
Nicole refused to listen to anything they told her about what a miserable life she’d have if she left Clarksville and moved to Memphis with Spider, however. By her nineteenth birthday, she was living with him and taking pride in the fact that she was his old lady. Her nightmares didn’t start until they’d been together for almost two years. Spider started drinking more and, Nicole suspected, using hard drugs. The first time he stayed out all night and didn’t call her, he came home smelling like cheap perfume and pussy. They’d gotten into a huge fight and that was the first time he hit her. She’d never been hit before in her life. He used the back of his hand, but he was so much bigger than her, it had knocked her to the floor. She was stunned by that, but even more so when he picked her up and took her to the bedroom. He told her that he was going to show her who was boss as he proceeded to rape her. When he was finished, he told her that from that moment on, she was keeping her mouth shut about what he did and who he fucked. He “owned” her, not the other way around. That night Nicole had waited until he went to sleep and then she’d gotten up and, taking nothing but her purse and her keys, she left the apartment. She’d taken a taxi to the bus station and another from the bus stop to her parents’ house outside of the Clarksville countryside. She got there just as the sun was coming up. Her father was picking up the morning paper as she stepped out of the taxi. He looked at her and went back inside the house without saying a word.
Nicole had almost left then, but she barely had cab money and Spider had sheltered her so much that she didn’t have any friends. The idea of going back and living with her rapist was almost more than she could stand. She had taken a deep breath, swallowed her pride, and followed him inside. Her mother took one look at her in her off-the-shoulder Black Sabbath t-shirt, cutoff jeans, and leather ankle boots and burst into tears. Her dad’s response was worse, however; he just refused to look at her. It didn’t take her long to figure out that going there had been a mistake. They’d washed their hands of her. She’d gone back to Spider that day and endured a second beating, even more severe, for leaving in the first place. Three months later she realized that she hadn’t taken her birth control pill the day that he raped her. She was pregnant and for the first few months after she found out, she waffled between wondering if a baby would “save them” and thoughts of taking her own life and the baby’s along with her. She looked over at the bassinette and shivered at the horrible thought.
“Hey, you still with me?” Stacey asked, bringing Nicole back to the present.
“Yeah, sorry. What did you say?”
“I said, Zack isn’t just hot. What guy goes out of his way to do all he did for you without asking for anything in return? I think he’s a good guy.”
“He’s a biker, Stace. I may have been naïve when I hooked up with Spider, but I’m not anymore; bikers do what they do and they don’t give a shit who they hurt while they’re doing it. Spider was good to me for almost two years and look how that turned out. I’m never going there again. I just need a few more months and then I should have enough money saved to get me and Liam out of here for good.”
Stacey looked sad. “I can’t believe you’re going to take off, with the baby who I love too, and I’ll never see you again.”
“Come with us.” Stacey didn’t have any family and she worked as the manager of a nightclub. She and Nicole had met one night when Spider had taken her there and after feeling up every half-dressed ho in the place, he picked one to go home with. On his way out the door with his ho, he had tossed Nicole a twenty and told her to “put her ass in a cab and be there when he got home.” Nicole found her crying at her table and the two women had quickly bonded. It was going to break her heart to leave her only friend behind, but Stacey loved her job and she was good at it, Nicole doubted that she’d be willing to leave.
Stacey smiled and said, “It’s tempting, babe, but you know I don’t like change. Changing apartments was almost too much for me. If not for you and that baby, I’d never have agreed. I love you and I understand why you have to go. I don’t understand, however, why you didn’t just do it when your hot bodyguard offered to take you anywhere you wanted to go that night.”
“Because then I’d owe him, Stacey. Hell, I already do for everything he’s done. But I plan on paying him back before I leave town and then washing my hands of anyone that wears a leather kutte and rides a Harley.” The sound of a knock on the door caused Nicole to almost jump out of her seat. Stacey gave her a concerned look and said:
“It’s just the pizza, babe.”
Nicole nodded. “Just make sure, before you open the door, okay?”
“Sure.” Nicole watched Stacey walk over and look out the peephole. When she pulled open the door and Nicole saw the young man with a Pizza Hut uniform, she breathed a sigh of relief. She reached over and pulled down the blanket that had worked its way up into Liam’s face. She couldn’t believe he was already six months old. He was growing fast, and she had to get them far away from Spider before he was old enough to be influenced by him. She was smiling when she heard Stacey scream. Instinctively she scooped up the baby before she turned, knowing Spider’s smiling face would be the next thing that she saw, even before she saw it.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
Jessie Cooke writes hot romance novels about tough guys, bad boys, bikers, fighters and lovers and the women of strong character who tame them.
 
 
 
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