Married to a local politician, Jane Ramos-Palmer won't put her dreams aside for her husband's any longer. Overhearing her husband being blackmailed, Janie realizes nothing in her life is as it seems. She's willing to ditch all she has, so she can gain everything she ever wanted.
His world was wrenched cruelly away from him. David “Beast” Huntley's trust has been violated, and being twice shy means he's determined not to get involved with another woman. At least not seriously, and not any time soon. But Janie provokes something in him. His attraction to her gnaws at him, even though she's mired in an ugly divorce with a sketchy politician. Staying away from her is in his best interest and his club's.
When the president of rival MC blindsides and assaults Janie, Beast's inner-beast is awakened. He cannot fight his attraction for her, no matter how wrong it might be.
Release date: December 31, 2019
Print pages: 308
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I could not finish a yawn. My body was relatively tired, my brain was one-hundred-percent exhausted, and here I was, suffering from the inability to finish yawning.
Could that be a real thing? Yawn dysfunction? Like men with erectile dysfunction, would I need some pill to help me complete the act of yawning? I had YD instead of ED.
I had to stop over-analyzing things.
However, it was beyond frustrating to open my mouth so wide, taking in a deep breath, and to be right at the cusp of the descent into relaxation, only to be unable to exhale fully. It was hard to say if it was the craziness of this feeling or the fact that I knew I was dead-tired, but it urged me to cry.
I was so, so tired of crying. It seemed like I had been crying for months now. I bit my lip so I wouldn’t cry about the baby I miscarried ten weeks ago.
Telling myself, willing myself not to cry again frustrated me, and it angered me. None of those feelings were conducive to me getting a decent night’s sleep because they led to nothing but tension.
An arm settled on the curve of my hip and waist.
That arm made me even tenser. I wished, God, how I wished I lived in one of the many romance books I read. Alpha men didn’t let their little ladies lay awake at night not sleeping.
My relief from the arm lifting off of me was short-lived because the hand attached to that arm suddenly clamped onto my shoulder.
“Geez, you are tense, Janie,” Trent, my soon-to-be-ex-husband, said into the darkness. His sausage-like fingers tried to knead my muscles, but it was not working, and for that matter, it absolutely would not work.
Trent was sexist. My best friend Andrea was a massage therapist. Not only did she never squeeze that hard in the areas he was squeezing, she stroked rather than squeezed. I had told Trent this in the past, but he couldn’t fathom that a woman, any woman, could know something he did not.
Andrea had worked my tension out for me last week, but it was a never-ending cycle until this divorce got rolling. Trent was supposed to be served this week, assuming no delays.
“Trent, just leave it,” I muttered. “You have a big day tomorrow. I’ll get to sleep soon, and I’m sure the tension will go away after some rest.”
“’Kay,” he said, and rolled over.
Yeah, a love story this was not. Even the men in romance novels who didn’t get the girl at least rubbed her back gently, in order to offer her some amount of soothing. They did not come at her like their hand was an extension of the Jaws of Life, in an effort to tear her trapezius muscle.
I woke up, startled, because the doorbell rang. I was stunned that I had fallen back asleep after Trent left for the gym at five-thirty in the morning. The bell rang again, followed by a pounding on the door. That was unusual; we lived in the Orange Park Country Club and normally the front gate guard called about guests.
I rolled out of bed, wrapped my robe around my body and went to the foyer. The front door had a panel of glass and I made out my father’s profile. That explained the guard not calling, since my father lived three streets over from us within the country club.
“Dad,” I exclaimed, opening the door. “What is the prob—”
He cut me off by putting a hand to my waist and forcing me into the formal living room to the right.
“Jane N. Ramos-Palmer,” he growled, and I knew I was in trouble. My mother had insisted that her maiden name should be my middle name and when my father was the height of ticked-off, he shortened it to the letter ‘N’.
The door slammed behind him and alarm filled me. My father, a certified public accountant, was gentle by nature and rarely lost his temper…and he certainly didn’t slam doors.
When we both sat on the less-than-comfortable sofa in the formal living room he started.
“Why did your mother— your mother— know you had a miscarriage and I didn’t?” His eyes were pained. “Honey, you can share anything with me.”
I sighed. “Dad, I just thought–”
“No, I don’t think you thought anything, the way your mother tells it,” he interrupted.
Oh, boy! “He wanted me to ‘get rid of it.’ When I told him no, he got pissed and left for six days.”
I thought that would explain it, but Dad’s face shut down. His eyes closed and his lips pressed together. When he looked at me again, his green eyes—the same as mine—glittered angrily. “Did he change parties? He’s a Republican, and he–”
“I reminded him of that before he left. Might be why he was gone for so long. Wouldn’t do to be an overt hypocrite.”
“He tell you where he was for six days?”
“You didn’t ask?” His tone was disbelieving and a little disgusted.
“Dad, he came back, saw the sonogram, and lost it.”
“There’s a sonogram?” His eyes were shiny.
I nodded. “Don’t get emotional, Daddy, or I will too.”
His voice was hoarse. “Hard not to, honey, with you goin’ through this alone.”
“Not entirely. Andrea–”
His eyes held my gaze. “Was she at the sonogram appointment?”
“You were alone. That is not right.”
I couldn’t argue that. Had Trent been in the room to hear the whooshing of our baby’s heartbeat maybe he’d have opened his own damn heart. God knew, the moment I saw my little peanut, my mind and my heart changed.
“He saw that picture and still wanted you to–”
“Yeah. Accused me of getting pregnant on purpose.”
Dad looked stunned for a moment. “Takes two to tango.”
It was getting a little uncomfortable. “You remember I got that horrendous sinus infection? My birth control was weakened by the Z-Pac of antibiotics. He wouldn’t use a prophylactic.”
My father stared at the wall for a moment. “So, he knocked you up. Blamed you and wanted you to terminate the pregnancy. I got that right?”
My gentle father had a way of ‘using tone’ when he was angry. This tone was the harshest I’d ever heard though. I was too leery to speak, so I nodded.
Dad leaned forward, elbows to his knees, hung his head, and clasped the back of his scalp. His defeated posture worried me.
“Gimme a minute, Punky. I want to put my fist through a wall right now.”
I gave him that, as a sad smile pulled my lips and thoughts of Gramps took over. ‘Punky’ was the nickname Gramps, Dad’s dad, gave me. Dad called me ‘Punkin’’ but when I was three or four I told Gramps I was ‘Punky.’ The fact Gramps discovered Bob Marley and weed nearly a decade after Vietnam didn’t hurt, either. He thought it was a great name for me, and we would dance around to “Punky Reggae Party” when it was just me and him.
Dad straightened. “Your mother said you miscarried, though.”
“Yeah. I’ll never know if it was what nature intended and would’ve happened anyway, or if it was the extreme stress of Trent and his displeasure, but that happened.”
“What are you hiding now?”
I exhaled. “Dad, it’s been ten weeks. I’m healing, so let’s just—”
“How did you miscarry?”
Now things were awkward. “You know that Black-and-White Republican Women’s luncheon a few months ago?”
“Trent insisted I wear my white dress pants. When I refused he got nasty. Said it wasn’t like I was having my period, and he liked me in those.”
My father’s face turned slightly. “What does this have to do with anything?”
I nodded. “Foolishly, I asked if that meant he was coming around to the idea of a baby. He said some extremely nasty things. I put on a dress, but he dragged me back to–”
“He got physical with you?” Dad growled his question.
Angry at myself for my mistake in word choices, I grimaced. “Not exactly.”
“Janie. Was he abusive?”
“No, but he was… forceful… about what I wore to that event because the Governor’s wife would be there. Sometimes, it’s just easier to go along with him.”
He repeated my last sentence in a whisper. Then he muttered, “I thought we raised you to be stronger than that.” Even in a mutter, his words were laced with regret and guilt. Maybe even a little unintentional poison, too, because my stomach felt sour.
“I’d like to think you did, Dad. I’m strong enough and smart enough to pick the right battles.”
Dad shook his head at me, but I continued.
“Anyway, I wore white, but mid-way through the lunch, I doubled over in pain. When I stood up, there was a dark red stain on my pants. I left early, went to the Emergency Room. They determined the fetus was in distress. So, to answer your question, that’s how I miscarried.”
Dad hugged me, holding me tight longer than usual. He pulled back, keeping hands on my shoulders. “I don’t want to know, but I have to know. Where was Trent during all this?”
I shrugged. “Here, I believe. I called Andi and she took me from the emergency room to her place. I stayed there for almost a week.”
“Is he cheating on you?”
My eyes shifted as far to the left as possible as I thought about it, but they reflexively went back to him. “I don’t know, and Dad, I don’t care. I’ve got a lawyer and I’m filing for divorce.”
Dad’s chin dipped low in agreement. “About time you gave me some kind of good news.” He paused. “Well, my dear. As I always try to tell you, there’s a bright side to this. At least you aren’t getting what Bloomberg calls a ‘gray divorce.’ If you were over fifty, your income would decline by upwards of forty-five percent. You’re young and can still support yourself.”
My dad! I loved him, no two ways about it, but only he would sit there and quote a Bloomberg article right now.
Truth be told, I shouldn’t have been sitting inside the lobby of Warm Vibes, Andrea’s massage studio. She had insisted I drop by when I called her earlier in the morning. While she was prepping her room for an afternoon client, I was in her small lobby area poring through different household files. Now that I had a lawyer ready to dig in and fight for me, I knew I had limited time in which to get my ducks in a row.
My phone rang with the tone assigned to Trent, and my stomach plummeted. "I'll have to call you back, Trent."
"The hell you will. We'll talk about this right fucking now, Jane."
I moved next to the white-noise machine that Andrea kept in her office to maintain her good vibes when clients weren't expected. I hoped and prayed that it sounded like I was in a car as I said, "Trent, I'm driving. It really wouldn't do for your state representative campaign if I had a wreck because I was on my phone while driving. I'll call you back as soon as I can find a safe place to pull over."
Disconnecting, I hastily packed up all my files from Andrea's desk. I called out a quick goodbye to her and hefted my messenger bag onto my shoulder. My nerves were wracked as I headed out to my car, and it was all I could do not to hyperventilate. I vaguely heard the voices of two men approaching, but the stupid bump in the sidewalk caught my peep-toe pump and I started to go sailing, when two masculine hands caught my arms.
"Whoa, babe. Be careful. It'd be downright criminal to skin those pretty knees."
I looked up into two of the bluest eyes I'd ever seen. They made me think of the water in Key West, the aqua tone was so brilliant. I blinked and tried to focus on this man's entire face. He was GQ gorgeous, such was his perfection. Well, that was if GQ ever did a biker issue, because he was wearing a leather vest like his cohort, who I knew was Andrea's overbearing, but terribly sweet, boyfriend, Liar.
"Uh, thanks. I'll definitely be more careful. Hey, Li, nice to see you again. Wish I could stay and chat, but I really gotta go."
Liar gave me a chin lift, and I scurried past him and his utterly gorgeous friend to my BMW. I don't know what made me do it, but as I approached my car, I turned back and saw that the perfection of Liar's friend also extended to his backside. His ass in his Levi's made me bite my bottom lip. I knew the Riot MC logo from hanging with Andrea and Liar over the past few weeks, but something about this guy's cut was different. Then it hit me. The bottom of it said "Biloxi, MS." Well, now I didn't feel like a total heel for not introducing myself in my haste. It was a good eight hour drive to Biloxi from Orange Park. Pretty decent bet I wasn't going to see him again. Plus, with an impending divorce on my hands, I definitely didn't have time for another man. Even if he was practically a modern-day Greek god come to life.
I settled into the bucket seat of my sports car, and took more time than was strictly necessary with arranging my messenger bag. I was stalling. I knew it, and part of me just didn't care. The conversation with Trent was not going to be pleasant. My lawyer had told me he'd likely be served the divorce papers today or tomorrow. His livid tone told me he'd been served. I was hoping this could be done quietly, quickly, and amicably, but that hope was fading fast.
I started up my Beemer in order to get the AC flowing, and with a deep breath, I called Trent back.
"Jane. What the fuck is this bullshit I just received from your lawyer? You knew when we got married that I had no desire to have kids. Absolutely none, and you went and got pregnant anyway."
I had to keep my temper in check. Trent and I had had this conversation multiple times over the past six months. I didn't ‘go and get pregnant anyway,’ as he put it. Trent never had sex with me when I was menstruating. Ever. Trent had a very healthy libido, and as soon as I showed any sign of being my normal self after the sinus infection, he was all over me to have sex. I wasn't averse to his advances, but I repeatedly told him that my birth control was not going to be as effective and we needed to use a condom. His pigheaded stubbornness and selfish focus on his own comfort resulted in me turning up pregnant almost seven weeks later.
In my calmest voice, I said, “You insisted on not wearing a condom. People reap what they sow, Trent.”
He sighed and I could envision him at his County Commissioner desk, spinning a yellow number-two pencil on his blotter. “The baby’s gone, as it should be. This divorce petition is bullshit. We’re a team, Jane. There are no differences between us that cannot be overcome.”
Every time I thought I knew the depth of this man’s ignorance, I found I was wrong.
“Really?” I whispered. I cleared my throat and said in a low voice, “Because the difference is, now that I’ve seen a fetus in my womb, heard that heartbeat, I know I want that. I’m abundantly aware you do not. That is an irreconcilable difference if ever there was one, Trent.”
On that, I disconnected the call, put the vehicle in gear, and barely kept my sports car from burning rubber out of the tiny parking lot.
As Liar went inside Andrea’s studio, Beast hung back. The sporty Beemer sedan was running, and he could see the clumsy strawberry-blonde’s hands moving. She had walked out like a zombie, and he was dying to know what could have her in such a daze. He wasn’t joking about her knees. Normally he didn’t consider himself to be a leg man, but hers were especially long and shapely. A thrill went through him as he imagined them wrapped around his hips.
He shook his head at the thought. It was because of a woman’s deception he had come to Jacksonville. Another woman was not what he needed right then, and definitely not one like her. Other than the initial stumble, she shouted upscale and uptown.
Still, she intrigued him.
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