The Highlander’s Forbidden Bride by Madison Faye




Title: The Highlander’s Forbidden Bride
Series: Kilts & Kisses #5
Author: Madison Faye
Genre: Wildly historically inaccurate 
Highlander historical romance
Release Date: June 10, 2019



Blurb

Being arranged to marry a Highlander lord is hardly uncommon.
But when he happens to be gorgeous, powerful, dominant, and your best friend’s dad?
Well, that’s another story…

Lachlan McDougall is a lot of things: powerful, ruggedly handsome Highlander Lord, fierce ex-soldier, my soon-to-be-husband

…And my best friend’s dad.

I grew up in their castle, under his eye. But secretly, I’ve wanted him since before I even knew what the word meant. On the surface, I’m marrying him for political reasons: to stop a war and save his lands.

On the inside, though, binding myself to Lachlan McDougall is a fantasy I’ve dreamt a thousand times.

I know this is wrong, and a sin. But once I lose myself in those dark, piercing eyes, and once I feel his big, powerful hands on me, and once I taste those beautiful lips?

…Well, it turns out, I might not be the only one with a forbidden little secret.

In two days, I’ll be married to a man who I’ve married a hundred times, in my head. The man who’s taken me to bed ten times that number in my dreams.

Twice my age, a scandal waiting to happen, and my best friend’s father.

…I’m in so much trouble.







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AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU

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Author Bio

USA Today and #1 bestselling contemporary romance author Madison Faye is the dirty alter ego of the very wholesome, very normal suburban housewife behind the stories. While she might be a wife, mom, and PTA organizer on the outside, there’s nothing but hot, steamy, and raunchy fantasies brewing right beneath the surface!

Tired of keeping them hidden inside or only having them come out in the bedroom, they’re all here in the form of some wickedly hot stories. Single-minded alpha hero, sinfully taboo relationships, and wildly over-the-top scenarios. If you love it extra dirty, extra hot, and extra naughty, this is the place for you! (Just don’t tell the other PTA members you saw her here…)

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Revenge by Christine Besze

Title: Revenge
Series: Revenge #1
Author: Christine Besze
Genre: Dark Romance
Release Date: June 14, 2019
Cover Design: T.E. Black Designs
Six years they stole from me.
Six years I’ve done my time.
Six years I’ve waited.
Six years I’ve heard her screams over and over.
No more.
It’s time to collect.
And it’s their blood that will be spilled.
Asher Savage spent his life protecting the innocent, taking monsters off the streets. He never thought he’d become one.
Charlee Vega was a pawn in a game she never knew she was playing. An innocent caught up in a war of greed and hate.
Revenge has fed his monster for years, but it comes at a price. Is it one he’s still willing to have her pay?
She’s a means to an end. A complication he never saw coming. And sometimes those are the most deadly of all.
***This book is a stand alone and contains mature/graphic subject matter. For readers 18+***
Tre Talbot – “This is a must read that I highly recommend you bump to the top of your TBR list. If you’re looking for a romantic suspense then this is THE book for you.”
LisaReadsAlot – “Christine Besze at her best! This book was all kinds of Holy S**t. A Must Read, readers.”
SCBookAddict – “Okay – just wow!!! This book is a phenomenal! I did not want to put it down.”
  
Christine Besze is a writer, reader, mother, wife, and lover of all things wine. She lives in her own world of crazy most days, because the voices inside her head hold some great conversation. When she does have to come back to reality and act like an actual grown-up, she spends her time with her handsome hubby Z, their two gorgeous gingers and their mini-herd of German Shepherds. Born in sunny Southern California, she recently made the big leap with her family to the East Coast and couldn’t be happier. You’ll still find her in flip-flops–with a full glass of wine–all year round.
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Valor by Measha Stone

Title: Valor
Series: Cavalieri Della Morte
Author: Measha Stone
Genre: Romance Suspense
Release Date: June 13, 2019
My orders were clear. 
Get in, get the job done, and get the hell out. 
No loose ends, no witnesses.
It’s what I do. And I don’t fail. 
Until now. 
She shouldn’t have been there.
And now I have a new job.
Find and deal with Cherise Styles.
USA Today Bestselling Author Measha Stone is a lover of all things erotic and fun who writes kinky romantic suspense and dark romance novels. She won the 2018 Golden Flogger award in two categories, Best Advanced BDSM and Best Anthology. She’s hit #1 on Amazon in multiple categories in the U.S. and the U.K. When she’s not typing away on her computer, she can be found nestled up with a cup of tea and her kindle.
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Day Three by L. Wilder

Title: Day Three: A Hitman Romance
Series: What Bad Boys Do Book 1
Author: L. Wilder
Genre: Romantic Suspense (Standalone)
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Hey ladies I’m really sorry but I just realized the blurb is wrong. Can you please update. Thank you so much. There’s nothing more dangerous than a man with nothing to lose. New York Times and USA Today Best Seller L. Wilder brings readers Jasper Nichols, a sexy, totally alpha hitman, who will hold you captive in this new bad boy series. Our lives are defined by moments, especially the ones we never see coming. For me, that moment came when I was given the opportunity to take from those who’d taken from me. I became a hitman- killing mob bosses, drug lords and everything in between. With judges in their pockets, these men were untouchable by everyone—except me. With every hit, my plan was always the same: Day one- receive the target. Day two- acquire their location. Day three- plan the kill. Day four- complete the hit. On day three of my latest assignment, everything changed. The moment I saw her, I knew she was different from the others. Madison Brooks wasn’t a hardened criminal with blood on her hands. She was innocent, untouched by my world, and undeniably beautiful. On day three, I couldn’t get her out of my head. I kept imagining what it would be like to hold her, touch her, and claim her as mine. On day three, I found myself questioning whether or not I could complete my assignment. In fact, I found myself questioning everything. Many readers were introduced to the sexy, brooding recluse, Jasper Nichols, in Murphy: Satan’s Fury- Memphis, but his connection to Satan’s Fury ends there. Day Three is a new standalone romance novel with no cheating and a swoon-worthy HEA.
“I thought you’d be more comfortable in here.” He ran his hand over his face and yawned before he said, “When I tried to leave, you wouldn’t let me.”
​“What do you mean I wouldn’t let you?” 
​“Let me rephrase.” He turned and looked at me. “You asked me to stay with you.”
​“Oh. I don’t remember that.” 
“Happened just the same.” Concern flashed through his eyes as he sat up and asked, “How’s the ankle?”
I tried to move it a little. “I can’t say for sure, but I think it’s better.”
“Good.” Jasper got out of bed and my breath caught when I noticed he was only wearing a pair of boxer briefs. I could feel the heat rush to my face as my eyes skirted over his muscular chest and drool-worthy abs. I couldn’t imagine how often he’d have to work out to get such a perfectly defined physique. Whatever the answer, it was worth it. With his chiseled jaw and broad, powerful shoulders, he looked like a Greek god as he walked over to the end of the bed. I couldn’t take my eyes off him as he eased the comforter back and exposed my ankle. I was too busy gawking at him to realize what he was doing, but at that moment, I just didn’t care. He could’ve thrown the covers to the floor and had his way with me. I wouldn’t have protested. He lowered his hand to my foot, and a rush of heat surged through my body when he ran the tips of his fingers along the top of it and over my ankle bone. It was at that moment I started to silently curse myself, wishing I’d been better about shaving my legs. He was still studying my ankle when he said, “The swelling has gone down, but it’s still pretty bruised.”
“It’ll be fine.”
“You’ll need to stay off of it for a couple of days.”
“Okay.” 
As he pulled the covers back over my foot, he told me, “I’ll be right back.”
Leslie Wilder grew up in a small town in West Tennessee. A country girl at heart, she’s always thought that life is too short, but she had no idea how short it really was until her brother passed away in 2014. She’s always been an avid reader, loving the escape only a great book can give, and wondered if she had what it took to write one of the wild romances she’d come to adore. With the support of her family and friends, she published Inferno: A Devil Chaser’s MC, one year after her brother’s death. With him in mind, she fulfilled her lifetime dream of writing. Since then, she’s completed the Devil Chaser’s Series and continued on with the Satan’s Fury MC Series. She has so many stories in her head, and can’t wait to share each and every one.
Leslie has been blown away by the support of her readers, appreciating every message, review, and encouraging word she’s received over the past year. She looks forward to continuing this journey with them for years to come.
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The Perils of Autumn by Rusty Blackwood

Title: The Perils of Autumn
Author: Rusty Blackwood
Genre: Romance Suspense/Drama
Release Date: January 17, 2019
From the author of the riveting romantic fiction drama, Passions in Paris: Revelations of a Lost Diary, and the celebrated, 5-star award-winning romantic fiction drama, Willow’s Walk, comes the intense romantic drama, The Perils of Autumn.
This page-turner, set primarily in the early 1970s, centers on a young Kentucky woman, Autumn Leeves, born in 1946 to Abigail Leeves, an unwed mother who struggles to make ends meet. By 1970, Autumn graduates nursing school and is sent on assignment by the local hospital to care for the terminally-ill wife of middle-aged English equestrian master, Cyril Landon, owner of Landon Lawns Stables, a most successful thoroughbred racing stable located just outside Lexington, Kentucky in a posh community known as The Meadows.
Duff Taylor, world renown jockey who is tops in his field, lives full-time above the tack room at Landon Lawns and enjoys the many benefits it brings, but he also has a dark secret surrounding an unsolved racing incident from his past that he will go to any length to protect.
Autumn arrives at Landon Manor in time to be thrown into the chaos and finds herself caught in the ongoing disruption that ensues.
Top ranking romantic fiction author Rusty Blackwood, who chose her plume de nom by combining the colour of her russet hair with her husband’s great, great, Scottish grandmother’s maiden name, was born in St.Thomas, Ontario, Canada on October 5th, and grew up on her paternal grandfather’s farm in the County of Elgin, located in the south-western portion of the province of Ontario. 
She acquired her love of literature while still in elementary school where she entered her original compositions into county fairs, school contests, and whatever venue allowed participants in the writing field. She has carried that love ever since and has put it to use many times since becoming a professional writer in 2001. 
From the time of youth she has loved the Arts in their many unique forms, she is a graduate with honors in Interior Decorating & Design. She spent many years on the south-western Ontario stage performing with her family’s country music band: The Midnight Ramblers, followed by the country – rock – blues band: ‘MIRAGE’ as an accomplished vocalist, bassist, and rhythm guitarist. She now resides in the cultural city of St. Catharines, Ontario.
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The Night We Met by Beth Rinyu

Title: The Night We Met
Author: Beth Rinyu
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: July 18, 2019 Cover Design: Amy Queau of Q Design
I’ve always been three things: Loving daughter, devoted sister, and cynical romantic. Okay, maybe not always the last one, that didn’t happen until my ex-boyfriend cheated on me, and not with just anyone…my best friend.
One year later, and I’m over relationships, only interested in the occasional one-night stand. I don’t fall in love with them, and I don’t expect them to fall in love with me. I won’t be waiting around for their call or stalking their social media—until I discover that one of my little trysts indirectly holds my family’s fate in his hands. So, with a little convincing from my older and much wiser sister, I break my own rules for the sake of my family.
He’s the exact opposite of me: Serious, detached and arrogant. Did I mention that he looks like he should be on a billboard for a cologne ad in the middle of Times Square, or the sexy way he botches up my name in his German accent? Well, he does…but I refuse to relent, remaining committed to my plan. Strictly business, no emotions involved, and nobody will get hurt…until nobody turns into somebody I find myself needing more than I ever thought possible.
What do you do when a one-night stand turns into so much more than you bargained for? And how do you stop one lie that’s getting bigger each time you’re with him from caving everything in around you? I know in the end someone is going to get hurt, but I’m powerless to stop it. And for him…I think I may be willing to have my heart broken all over again.
“We don’t have that here. All of our German beers are listed—”
“How do you know it’s German?” He toyed with me.
“Well, I just assumed since you were German that the beer you asked for was German as well.”
“How do you know I’m German?”
“Your accent.”
“You assume a lot of things, Emmeline. Don’t you? Perhaps you shouldn’t be so quick in your assumptions.”
What the hell was his problem? There was no way in hell I could pretend to even like this guy, and judging by his self-important attitude, it wasn’t like I would even be afforded the opportunity to. Bridgette was going to have to go at it alone on this.
“You’re correct on one point, Emmeline.”
“My name is Emme!” I snapped.
He picked up my license still sitting on the bar and studied it keenly. “That is not what your identification says.”
“Emmeline is my proper name. My friends call me Emme.”
Even that stomach flipping smile that had spread across his face wasn’t making up for his arrogance. Look away from the dimples, Em. This guy is an ass!
“Well, since I’m always proper, and I’m not your friend…I call you Emmeline.”
My impatience and anger were escalating at an equal pace. “Okay, fine, since this will be the last time we ever speak, then you can call me whatever you want. Thank you for returning my license, and if there isn’t anything I can get you to drink, then have a nice night.”
His hand covered mine as I went to snatch my license from the bar. “There you go making those assumption again.” There was a spark to his eyes, hinting at amusement over my flustered state.
“Okay…and do tell, what are those assumptions I seem to be making?”
“The beer I requested is Belgian, not German.”
“Well, forgive me. I’ll make a mental note of that, in case another pompous German or whatever it is you are comes in and requests it.” I wanted to walk away and be done with the entire conversation, but his hand was still covering mine with a tightening grip.
Ever since I can remember, I have always enjoyed Creative Writing. There was always something about being able to travel to a different place or become a different person with just the stroke of a pen – or in today’s world a touch of the keyboard. I love creating deep characters who you will love or love to hate. 
My life is not as interesting as my books or the characters in them, but then again whose life is? My happy place is a seat by the ocean with my feet in the sand or on the busy streets of New York City. You will more than likely find one of these places as the setting for most of my books.
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Jace by Jessie Cooke

Title: Jace: Phoenix Skulls Motorcycle Club
Series: Phoenix Skulls MC
Author: Jessie Cooke
Genre: MC Romance
Release Date: May 18, 2019
Ignored, unloved and verbally degraded since the day he was born, Jace didn’t know what real love was. He spent his young life trying to stay invisible. It was the only way he could avoid the ugly taunts and physical assaults of his peers. But when you’re twice the size of the other children around you, invisibility becomes a problem, and at that point Jace had to learn how to fight, and fighting became a way of life, a means to survive.
There was one person on earth who loved Jace, and who he truly loved in return. That was his little sister Rosie. Rosie was autistic and destined to be as neglected by their father as he was. Jace recognized her worth and her intelligence at a young age, but his stepmother, frightened of what she didn’t understand and envious of how much Rosie loved Jace, insisted he be sent away to a boarding school.
Jace languished, miles away from the family that couldn’t stand to look at him, and the sister who he knew needed him, until once again his world was rocked and he returned to Boston. On his way home, at fourteen years old, he met a legend…or maybe two. A man with blond hair and incredibly intense blue eyes named Doc Marshall that reignited a spark of interest inside Jace that he’d been too busy to covet for a while. He wanted to ride a Harley. He wanted to be in a motorcycle club, and he wanted more than anything to be the guy in a leather vest who rode off into the sunset with his beautiful old lady behind him.
Jace had to put that dream away for quite a few years. Although he was bigger, stronger and smarter than most of the adults in his world, that lost, scared little boy still lived inside of him. The rage that lived there too lay dormant, most of the time. When it flared up, however, it could be lethal, and more than once it was.
By the time Jace was twenty-five, he’d been incarcerated more than once, beaten, stabbed, burned and constantly abused. Meeting two men would change his life. One had a heart of gold and saw the potential in Jace and fed it. The other he’d met once before when he was a boy, and the other man was barely out of his teens. It was Dax Marshall, now the president of the Southside Skulls. Jace was flabbergasted to find out that Dax was not only impressed with his work, but came to be impressed with him as a man as well. Between his boss and his mentor, and the place in the Skulls Dax offered him, Jace finally had real hope for his future. Then one day he skidded into the life of the most beautiful woman in the world and although Jace knew she was way out of his league, he was helpless not to fall in love with her. Of course, she had a few flaws of her own. She was possibly the meanest woman Jace had ever met, and she might just be addicted to sex as well…but sometimes a man has to make a decision to take a right, or a left, or continue up the mountain and around the tight, dangerous curves. Everything Jace had learned or experienced in his life, had led him to that moment…climb on the back of his Harley as he revs up the engine and find out which way he chooses to go!
Chapter One
Jace Bell changed schools four times before he got to the fourth grade. He hated that, and he resented his father because of it. He never told him that, though. Already at eight years old, there was nothing that scared the boy, except for his father. “The Colonel,” as Jace called him–behind his back of course–was a real colonel in the army at that time. He was a career military man and he never said no to an assignment, no matter how much it might fuck up his only child’s life. Jace didn’t have a mother. He never wondered about that until he started school and realized that almost everyone else did. He asked the Colonel about it and his response was, “She didn’t want to be a mother. She didn’t particularly like either one of us, so she left.” That was it. That was the only conversation they ever had about her.
Jace wasn’t always the only new guy. Military life meant going to school on an army base where there might be a new kid every day of the school year. He also wasn’t the only kid that got picked on, but as a little boy, with no one to talk to about it, he felt completely alone in his misery. Each time they moved, the town changed, the army base looked a little different, and the schools and teachers changed…but the bullies were always lurking. At only eight, and in the third grade, Jace was already as tall as a sixth grader. He looked about twelve years old, and mean kids liked to point out the obvious. They called him “Jace the giant” or “Jaliath,” and sometimes on the playground they would actually pretend he was Goliath, and they would throw stones at him.
Jace never once thought about telling the Colonel about the abuse. He did his best to avoid it, by avoiding everyone. He knew he was big and ugly, but he thought if he stayed silent, and out of everyone’s way, they would forget he was there. It worked at home. Sometimes, even when the Colonel was there, he’d go days without talking to Jace. Most of the time he wasn’t there, but it was even worse when he was gone. Jace would be left with a babysitter or nanny, and those were as ever-changing as his schools were. He had a lot to do with that. He wasn’t nice to them. He wasn’t necessarily mean either. Jace didn’t know the meaning of the word “intimidating” back then, but nevertheless he had figured out how to become it. He would quietly stare at the young babysitters no matter what they said to him, refusing to answer them, and giving them the meanest look he could muster. Most of them didn’t come back after the first day, and by the time Jace turned nine, the Colonel had given up and just started letting him stay by himself.
Jace maintained the anger he felt inside of him, the hate he felt for other people, the sadness and worthlessness he felt over never being wanted…well into the middle of the third grade. Then a well-placed rock and a particularly bad day unleashed a kind of rage that no third-grader should even possess. That particular day, he’d waited in the boy’s bathroom, like he did most days, for the rest of the kids to leave before he started walking home. He wasn’t afraid of them, but he preferred avoiding them to the confrontation if it was at all possible. That day as he was leaving, he saw the only person in the world he could honestly say he liked. It was his third-grade teacher, Miss Morgan. She had pretty blonde hair and light blue eyes and she smiled at him, a lot. No one else ever smiled at Jace, and it gave him a warm feeling deep in the center of his chest. She always wore flower print dresses and when she stood close to him, Jace could smell her floral perfume. It was like being in the middle of a sunflower field with the sunlight shining down on his face. Sometimes Miss Morgan would rumple his hair with her hand or look at one of his assignments and tell him how smart he was. No one else ever told him he was smart either. He’d just assumed that he wasn’t at that time. Jace didn’t understand the feelings he had for Miss Morgan. For months he thought that he only wished she were his mother. He imagined her making him cookies after school and giving him hugs and saying nice things. But that day he had a new feeling. It was jealousy, or envy, but again, Jace had no words to describe it.
He heard a loud rumble as he came out of the bathroom and he looked in that direction toward the front of the school. A big, dark motorcycle, black and shiny with a ton of chrome, pulled up in front of the school and the man on the back of it pulled off his black helmet. Jace was fascinated by the machine, at first. He spent a lot of his time at home, putting together model cars that the Colonel let him buy with his allowance. He thought about buying a motorcycle once, but so far he hadn’t. Now looking at the black Harley made him want to run right out and get one…a model, that is. It might have been the coolest thing he’d ever seen. But then, he saw her.
Miss Morgan came out of the front door of the school…but she looked different. She wasn’t wearing the yellow sunflower dress she had on that day. She’d changed into a pair of jeans, and a long-sleeved black shirt and boots. Jace had never seen her in anything other than a dress, but when she walked straight for the motorcycle, and the man on the back of it…he understood. That ugly feeling started in the pit of his stomach when Jace saw the way she smiled at the man. It was even prettier than the smiles she gave Jace. Her whole face lit up. But that wasn’t the worst of it. That ugly feeling moved up into his chest when he saw the man stretch out a tattooed arm and pull Miss Morgan in for a kiss. Jace had only seen people kiss like that on late night television, the kind he wasn’t supposed to be watching. It looked like the man was trying to suck off her face, and Jace almost went over to help her. When she pulled back, however, she was still smiling, only now there was another kind of look about her, like a glow or something. The man on the bike handed Miss Morgan a helmet, and Jace watched her put it on and climb on the bike. She wrapped her arms around the man and laid her head against his back. Once her legs were pulled up and her feet on the chrome pegs, the bike took off…and Jace felt like he was watching his princess ride away on someone else’s horse.
With those confusing feelings festering inside of him, Jace started walking toward home. He made it about three-quarters of the way before he felt a stinging feeling on his right cheek. He thought he’d been stung by a yellowjacket at first until he heard the giggles. He looked over toward a clump of bushes and trees and the freckled face of Randy Barr. The biggest bully in school was looking out at him. Randy was laughing and Jace would never know if it was still about what he was feeling for Miss Morgan, the feel of the rock hitting his cheek, Randy’s smiling face, or the culmination of all of it…but he snapped. For the first time in his life he felt the need for violence. He could almost taste blood in his mouth as he dropped his backpack and began to run toward the bushes.
Jace was almost there when his nemesis seemed to realize that this time, Jace was going to fight back. His green eyes widened and Jace heard a scream just before he dived through the bushes toward him. He missed, and Randy took off running after the two girls and a boy that had been with him and had already gotten a good head start. Jace’s legs were long, and Randy’s weren’t. In three long strides, Jace caught up with him. He pounced on the boy, knocking him to the ground. Randy’s face was buried in the dirt and when Jace grabbed his shoulder and pulled him over onto his back, it was so filthy that all Jace could see were his frightened eyes and the blood that seeped from the kid’s nose and ran down his chin. Randy opened his mouth to say something. Later, he would claim that he was going to apologize for what he’d done earlier. Jace didn’t believe that, and he didn’t care. Before Randy had a chance to speak, Jace unleashed all that anger. He beat that boy until he was unconscious. When Jace realized Randy was no longer moving, that’s when he stopped. Just like that, the rage was gone, and Jace just felt tired…and ugly inside. The “ugly” was probably guilt, but Jace’s grasp of emotions was all over the place all the time. All he knew at that moment was that he did feel sorry for what he had done. But he didn’t feel sorry enough to believe he might never do it again.
He got off the boy, leaned down, and picked him up…and he carried Randy home. Randy’s mother was still screaming when the MPs got there and took Jace into custody. Probably because of who the Colonel was, they didn’t hold him long. The Colonel picked him up, angrily lecturing him all the way home about how a “man” does things. When they got there, he was told that he was grounded for two weeks. Now Jace would never dare laugh in the Colonel’s face, but laugh he would later on. Being grounded meant nothing to him. It meant spending all of his time in his room, watching television and putting his models together. His “consequences” had only further impressed upon him that fighting back had been the right thing to do.
Jace was suspended from school twice that year for fighting. He didn’t like Miss Morgan anymore. He’d felt betrayed that day when he saw her kiss the motorcycle man…but the rock on her finger and the swelling of her belly a few months later really did him in. He stopped even trying to ignore his tormentors, and he would revel in the feeling that unleashing all of that anger gave him afterward. It was almost the end of the school year when he was expelled altogether. That made him even happier. He’d gotten into putting together model motorcycles, small, replicas of Harley Davidsons. Not having to go to school kept him from having to see Miss Morgan. It kept his tormentors away, and it gave him time to do the only thing that really calmed him down: put together and take apart his models. It didn’t really matter anyway. The Colonel had new orders and it was time to pack up and move again. There would be another new school, and new bullies and a new teacher he already decided that he wasn’t going to like. What Jace hadn’t bargained on was the new woman that would come into his father’s life, and into his home. Myrna would be the catalyst that would change everything, but at the time, when Jace was only nine and his father announced he was marrying her, and they were having a baby…Jace was sure it wasn’t going to be for the better.
Jace knew from the start that Myrna didn’t like him any more than anyone else did. She tried to pretend in front of the Colonel, but Jace knew it was fake, and what Myrna wasn’t bright enough to realize at that point was that the Colonel couldn’t care less if she liked his son or not. Jace did wonder sometimes about why he was so unlovable. He thought it was mainly because he was big, and ugly. He’d never been little and cute like any of his classmates. His hair was dark, his eyes were black, his nose was too big and his lips too small. When he was nine years old his hands and feet were bigger than the Colonel’s and by the time his father married Myrna, Jace was half a foot taller than her. She acted like she was afraid of him, although Jace had never even intimated that he’d lay a hand on her. His rage was focused on the kids at school who gave him a hard time. He didn’t like Myrna, but he never thought about hurting her.
He thought about Miss Morgan often, even after the move. Each time he saw a Harley on the street with a woman on the back, he wondered about her. He also had to watch Myrna’s belly get bigger every day, and that reminded him of his old teacher…his first love…as well. Jace also instinctively knew, even at such a young age, that Myrna and the Colonel both already liked the unborn baby more than they did him. Myrna had people in and out of the house, decorating the nursery. She turned it into a fairyland, as soon as she found out that she was having a girl. Jace wasn’t allowed in the nursery. His father told him he’d break something or trip over something with his huge feet. To spite him, Jace would break into the locked nursery door at night. He would move things around, and sometimes take things. Then he’d lock the door on his way out and let Myrna wonder about it the next day.
The day that his sister was born, the Colonel came home from the hospital and made him take a shower and dress in his good clothes. Jace didn’t tell his father, but he had no desire to see the baby. He’d never known a baby, but he’d seen them on TV and they didn’t look all that interesting. When they got to the hospital, the Colonel checked in at the nursing station with an older woman with white hair and bright pink lipstick and scrubs.
“I brought my son to see his new sister.”
The nurse looked at Jace and smiled. “Well, isn’t she a lucky girl to have such a big, strong brother to look after her?” Jace didn’t say anything until he felt a nudge in the middle of his back.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, in a voice that was already much too deep for a nine, almost ten-year-old.
The nurse came around the desk and led them to Myrna’s room. Jace stayed in the background while the Colonel fussed over Myrna and the baby in a way that Jace had never seen the old man act. Jace wondered if the Colonel would like the baby more, just because he liked Myrna more than Jace’s mother. Jace was smart enough to know that didn’t make any sense, since it wasn’t his fault who his mother was. It wasn’t his fault that she had made him ugly. The Colonel was a good-looking man with light brown hair and green eyes, so Jace was sure his mother had been the ugly one. But what confused him was how he was the only one who seemed to know that wasn’t his fault.
“Jason, come meet your sister,” the Colonel snapped at him. “Why are you always lurking in the corner? It’s creepy. You remind me of a serial killer, or something.” Jace didn’t know what a “serial killer” was, but he knew “creepy.” The kids at school had called him that, plenty of times. He wasn’t surprised that his old man used the term to describe him, especially now that he had a new kid to love. Jace did as he was told and went close to the bed. The Colonel held his arms out to Myrna, and reluctantly, it seemed, she placed the baby in his arms. Jace was suddenly looking into the baby’s face, and at first, he wasn’t impressed. She was pink and wrinkled and her eyes were closed. Her lips and cheeks were moving rapidly, like she was sucking on something. Jace thought she looked like one of the aliens on the old black-and-white movies he watched late at night. “Her name is Rosie,” the Colonel told him. As if the baby already knew her name, she pulled open her eyes and she was looking directly into her big brother’s. In shock, because he’d never seen anyone who looked like him, Jace said:
“She has black eyes, like me.” He was happy about it, but Myrna stole his joy once again, snatching the baby from his father’s arms and saying:
“They’re brown, and I’m sure they’ll lighten up eventually.”
Jace hoped not. He hoped that God…or whoever was up there…had finally put someone else on earth like him. For the next few hours, Jace was forgotten again, as usual. But he kept his eyes on the baby. He got a strange feeling when he looked at her, especially when she opened her black eyes and looked back at him. It was a good feeling. It made him feel warm inside…and he felt something else too…protectiveness. He knew, before he left the hospital that day, that he was never going to let anyone hurt his baby sister. Maybe that was his purpose in life all along. He was too young to know about any of that. But what he did know was that from that point on, the only time he felt content, and safe, was when he was in the company of his little sister, Rosie. Rosie liked him too. She’d smile and coo every time he looked at her. When she got old enough, she’d reach for him and cry. Myrna didn’t seem to like how close the two of them were, especially since Rosie seemed to prefer Jace over her. The Colonel didn’t notice any of it, of course. He was back to business as usual and Rosie’s newness, or whatever it was, seemed to have worn off.
When Rosie was two years old, Jace woke up to the sound of her screaming. His heart raced as he jumped out of his bed and ran down the hallway to the nursery. When he got there, Rosie was on the floor, bleeding from her tiny little mouth and nose. She’d tried to climb over the side of the crib and she’d fallen four feet to the floor. Jace ran over and scooped her up into his arms, just as Myrna came into the room. From there, it took Jace a while to even process what had happened. Myrna was screaming, and then an ambulance was there, and then the MPs. The Colonel showed up not long after and within days, Jace was on a bus, headed to a private, military boarding school, one thousand miles away from his sister.
Twelve-year-old Jace stared out the window of the bus, thinking about Rosie. His little sister was barely two years old and she wouldn’t understand why he went away. She was too small to understand that it wasn’t his fault, that he’d done everything he could do to protect her. The pain consumed him, mile after mile. It felt like it was eating his insides out and even at twelve years old he knew he’d never survive it. He had to find a way to deal with the pain…so somewhere along the path between Boston and his new school in New York, he let the pain simmer, and then burn, and ultimately turn into rage. Jace knew rage. He’d known it for years. The difference between rage and pain was that he knew what to do to release the rage when it burned too hot. From that moment on, Jace was like a volcano, always on the verge on a spontaneous eruption…and for the next fifteen years of his life, that rage would be his compass, leading him, guiding him, controlling him…and every so often leaving him dangling on the very edges of hell, sometimes hoping the thread would snap and put him, and everyone around him, out of their misery.
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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