Whoever said you couldn’t break somebody with pleasure hadn’t really been trying…
One woman fighting for her future, two men trapped by their past …
One taste of Jerricho Black, Dom for hire, and Scarlet Bailey knows she’s made a big mistake. It’s not the sting of his crop but the intimacy that makes her come undone. The threat made all the more real when her husband hires his services for the next forty days.
Wrongly suspected of a crime he didn’t commit, on the run and in trouble, Jerricho needs the money Killian Bailey offers him. Sleeping with another man’s wife is nothing personal, but every day Scarlet slips deeper into his blood.
Killian tells himself he is not worthy of his wife, not after she got hurt on his watch, and not until he gets his revenge. Now he’s hired a man to give Scarlet what he can’t. So why does he want to hit the man?
Sometimes home feels strange and a stranger feels like home … sometimes the only redemption you find is the one you bought.
“Fascinating characters and hot scenes.” – Reading Romance for EXHIBITION
“I loved the honesty and the realism that’s used to show the characters’ reactions to pain, how it feeds their needs.” – Under the Cover Book Blog for EXHIBITION
“There’s one word I could use to describe the writing style–exquisite.” Love Bites and Silk for EXHIBITION
Ten months earlier …
Killian looked at his watch, twenty-four hours and thirty-two fucking minutes since he’d opened the envelope and found her severed finger. Before he’d even pulled anything out, he’d known the sky was falling. Everything had come crashing down the minute he’d felt her dead skin, such a foreign thing and instantly recognizable. He knew her; he’d always know her.
They’d given him twenty-four hours to save her.
Reading it, the demand had been as clear to him as the knowledge that he could never agree to it. If only it had been money. God, he would’ve given them all his money.
He looked at his watch again, but all the looking wasn’t going to change anything.
He was late.
Thirty-two minutes late …
He wanted to laugh. He wanted to cry. Some fucking knight he turned out to be.
He sat in the back of the van dressed like a goddamn ninja. A loaded gun spun on his finger before he caught it in the palm of his hand. He spun it again and caught it. Spun it and caught it.
Except this wasn’t a game.
This was the most real moment he’d ever had, more real than the death of Daniel—the loss of him still so raw. And now this, it was too soon to lose another person he loved. He couldn’t.
What the fuck were they doing out there?
He was late and now he had to sit here waiting. Maybe he should have gone to the police. Maybe … except they’d never been there for him before. He didn’t trust them. Didn’t trust their judgement, didn’t trust their bureaucracy.
Just like he didn’t trust the men who’d taken his wife. They were never going to give Scar back. Nothing in their letter had implied they would. The message had been clear: do as we ask and she won’t get hurt.
This wasn’t about a swap.
It was a demand for compliance, a lose-fucking-lose.
They were going to keep Scar as collateral to keep him in line. They’d already hurt her once; they’d do it again.
Jesus, the woman he loved was disposable.
The knowledge sat cold and heavy in his gut as he stared blindly into the abyss of the van’s black rubber floor. His whole world had fallen into dark; outside heavy clouds hid the night sky. It was going to rain. He could feel the pent-up storm waiting to burst.
The tension so tight, his bones wanted to crack. And that goddamn voice inside his head, counting down seconds like water drops falling.
He wanted to scream, but if he started, he just might never stop.
It didn’t matter that he’d done his best to find her.
A truck had jackknifed on the Princes Highway, blocking traffic in both directions. The bitter irony was not lost on him that it was because of his own trucking business that Scarlet was in this mess. He’d sat waiting for the traffic to clear while staring blindly through the emergency services colours. The flashing blue lights, the neon yellow, the red fire-truck were surreal flickers of reality as his world spiralled helplessly out of control.
If you buckle, you fall—he’d learned that rule fighting. So he’d kept his shit together because that’s what he did best. He’d survived his childhood by learning to keep a cool head.
A tap on his shoulder made him whirl round, gun pointed.
A man suited in black from head to toe raised his hands in surrender—same team. Killian nodded and lowered the gun. He’d been so in his head, he hadn’t heard the guy calling.
“We’re moving in.” The mercenary’s voice sounded hard and deadly.
About fucking time.
Killian climbed out the van and followed the man around the vehicle. He’d lost his bearings, a disorientation that had nothing to do with geography or the dark.
They were on the edge of Mittagong, an hour south of Sydney. So near to home, but for a long while, it had been as good as the other side of the world. Now, this close, and she was still out of his reach.
His stomach rolled.
He didn’t know how Prophet had found her, but the man was known for getting any information you could afford. So here they were, looking for a girl in a grain stack.
Killian’s guide pointed to a tall, black line of shadows. Trees. His eyes were starting to adjust. Google Earth had shown the trees running along the border of the property to the back of the abandoned silo. They could sneak up unnoticed.
His legs momentarily weakened, his sense of gravity dropped and he stumbled.
A hand from behind steadied his elbow. “Sit this out.” The growl was low in his ear.
The leader of the team hadn’t wanted him to come. No military and no police training—Wolf had said he’d get in their way.
He shook his head and pulled his elbow free.
Him being here was non-negotiable.
The twenty-four hours, getting Scar back … all non-fucking-negotiable.
Wolf strode past him, and this time, Killian grabbed the man and hissed. “What are we waiting for? A white flag? Do you think they’re going to send us a fucking invitation?”
They won’t kill her; they’ll escalate. Their first course of action is to come up with a new plan. Kidnappers are very meticulous about their marks. You were picked because you have what they want, and they didn’t think you’d say ‘no.’ Nobody expects a ‘no.’ The no-plan is never as solid as the yes-plan. They’ll regroup their strategy on how to escalate. We have a small window of time.
Wolf’s earlier words had been intended to reassure Killian. Wolf knew kidnappings; Prophet had said the man specialised in retrievals. But it didn’t take Wolf’s expertise to know that ‘escalation’ meant more than a finger. Scar’s chances were still seeping away with the seconds.
“We’re waiting for my scouts.” The calm tone at odds with the alertness in Wolf’s eyes.
Killian blew out slowly, but the inhale hurt. He couldn’t get enough air, the muscles across his chest straining as they locked tight.
Wolf turned as if he sensed something.
Sweat ran down Killian’s back even though he felt cold. There was no sense of relief as two shadows moved out from the trees and morphed into the shape of men.
“All clear. No lookout.” The scout’s breathing was easy as he reached them.
Wolf swore under his breath.
“What’s wrong?” Killian didn’t like the response. Shouldn’t that be good news?
“No lookout either means they really didn’t expect us to find them or …” Wolf looked Killian in the eye, “they’re busy.”
The man wanted Killian to be prepared.
Ice flowed through his veins, rushed up into his head. The ache ran along his jaw, temples throbbing as he nodded his understanding.
He was late.
The ninja club grabbed their gear and started to move.
Four men were all that divided heaven and hell.
The men moved fast, but Killian was fit and kept up effortlessly. So in tune with each other, the team descended on their target without speaking. Just as fluidly, they fell into formation and kicked down the door.
A hard thud as the heavy wood hit the ground.
Chairs fell and men scattered.
Bullets burst from guns like fireworks.
Killian looked around blindly, searching for Scar in the blurred chaos.
Her cry came from the far back corner. Why didn’t she sound right?
His stomach tightened instinctively at her stress. It was getting hard to think.
Frantic, gun waving, he searched in the direction of one dark corner. Nothing.
Knowing ran up his spine as he slowly turned to look over his other shoulder.
Scar was on an old cot in the shadows. A man with blood on his shirt and a gun in his hand stood in-between them. Killian knew without a doubt this was the bastard who’d hurt her.
Anger. Burning. Hot.
The pounding of his heartbeat obliterated the noise around him. His world narrowed in on one spot—that man.
That bastard was going to die.
There weren’t enough bullets in his gun to unload his rage.
Realisation hit him.
The son of a bitch was smiling at him because the man’s gun was pointed at Scar.
A choice: try to turn quick enough to shoot the man before he shot Scar, or try to negotiate. Either way, Killian didn’t like the odds.
He could taste lead. Taste the finality of it.
He looked past the kidnapper and into his wife’s wild eyes as he slowly turned and raised his hands in surrender.
The man’s grin widened—everybody wanted to get out of this alive.
Hands still up, Killian took a slow, measured step towards them.
The gun swung on him.
The flush of relief was physical. He’d made himself the target.
He ignored Scar’s muffled protest behind the kidnapper and carefully stepped forward again.
On me. Just stay on me.
A black car crashed through the large wooden loading doors less than two arms’ length from where the kidnapper was standing. For a moment, there was nothing but debris and quiet as the passenger door flew open and the driver called him.
Then guns exploded again.
Time twisted into quick-slow motion. Killian’s limbs seemed stiff and heavy as he weaved through the hail of death; it appeared as if the bullets were flying indiscriminately. No matter how fast he moved, he was too slow.
She reached out for him, one hand holding an awkward bundle of bandages against her cheek
He was almost there. He dived for her.
Something knocked into him and he fell onto the cot and into her arms.
He couldn’t breathe.
Couldn’t breathe because he could’ve lost her.
But she was alive.
Her arms grabbed him … held him.
She was screaming and she didn’t sound right.
He looked up; the car was getting away. The bastard was getting away.
Not happening. He was not going to let it happen.
He wanted to tell Scar to stop screaming so he could think.
He wanted to beg for her forgiveness for being late.
She clutched him, frantic hands grabbing and pulling at his shirt. Nails raked his chest …
Burning. So tight. He deserved the pain.
He looked down … blood. So much blood. Blood all over the bandage wrap.
Jesus, what have they done to her face?
The world went black.