Fighting Redemption Bonus Chapter

This additional chapter to Ryan and Fin’s story has been written as a HUGE thank you to my readers.

It’s so easy to read a book and simply move on to the next. I do it myself. I’ve received so many messages and emails of support from all of you telling me that not only is Fighting Redemption one of your top reads for 2013, but one that hasn’t been so easy to move on from. Well I can say this now, I’m having the same problem. I miss Ryan and Fin a lot! So not only did I want to write this chapter for you, I loved every minute of it.

For those who have yet to read Fighting Redemption, please DO NOT READ the bonus chapter. It takes place BEFORE the epilogue and contains spoilers.

If you’ve read Fighting Redemption, I implore you to leave a review on Amazon. I don’t have enough words to stress how much we, as authors, appreciate you leaving your reviews for other readers. It would mean so much!

So, before we scroll further down to where the bonus chapter is hiding, I want to say a BIG thank you to my beta readers for reviewing this addition to Ryan and Fin’s story and helping improve it, and a HUGE thank you to my editor, Max, for donating the time free of charge to help me bring this chapter to you.

So without further ado, I present to you, the Bonus Chapter!!!!! (please click on the link below to open in PDF format)
Fighting Redemption Bonus Chapter

Bonus Chapter Banner 2

If you have any trouble accessing the file on your computer, please contact me and I’ll arrange it in another format for you:

If you haven’t yet listened to the Spotify Playlist for Fighting Redemption, you can find it here:



*****COMING UP NEXT*****

I know him only as Merrick.
He watches me.
I feel his eyes. They are hard and cold.
I hear his voice. It is flat and unemotional.
I see his body. It carries the scars of a soldier.
He is in charge of the Underground.
It doesn’t feel safe here.
But returning to the surface means death.
My name is Aeryn.
I am twenty-two and now a leader of the new world.
This is my story…

Add to Goodreads —>

Merrick Teaser 3


Give Me Strength – Bonus Material

Want to know what Travis was thinking when he first met Quinn at the Florence Bar in GIVE ME STRENGTH?
Let’s not forget Casey. What WAS he thinking during that chat scene on the couch with Quinn? Read on…

I broke into a light jog as I left the Florence Bar, keeping my eyes peeled for a bright scrap of yellow so I wouldn’t miss her. There! I jogged towards the kerb, the odd mix of lust and relief at finding her not confusing me at all. When I saw something I wanted, what was the point in playing games or wasting time? I saw her, I wanted, hence no time to waste.

Unfortunately she tipped her glass of wine all over me, and that was after I caught her accidently spraying her friend with her drink earlier. It was apparent she belonged to the klutz club. Not that I minded, as long as all that stumbling she was doing was over me, I could work with it.

Reaching her side, I forced deep even breaths in an effort not to appear breathless. “Running away?” I asked.

She spun around and once again, I was struck stupid, just like at the bar where I first saw her. Wild flutters had hit my belly when I first ran my eyes over her. I tried soothing them by swallowing from the cold bottle of beer in my hand, but damned if that didn’t work. She’d been sitting in a booth opposite her pretty friend looking like a wild daisy in the middle of thorny roses. Her pale hair spun under the soft lighting and my eyes lingered on her mouth—the soft, full lips definitely captured my attention. When she caught me looking at her, those eyes—hazel? Green? I couldn’t tell from the distance—flared wide and that’s about when clumsiness took the reigns. Going by the wild flush of pink on her cheeks, I probably shouldn’t have saluted her efforts with my beer, but how could I resist? She was fucking adorable. Seeing her flustered was pretty much the highlight of another night out when I’d rather have been at home.

So I bought her a wine as an apology and was just about to take it over and offer it up, along with myself, when suddenly she appeared right next to me. What luck!

After I called out a drinks order to the bartender, Vince, she spun around and I caught her eyes—deep, rich pools of chocolate. Jesus. She was tiny. I would bet that without those sexy shoes of hers, she would only reach my chest. Visions of picking her up, slamming her back into the wall and kissing those lush lips hit me hard.

Realising I was staring, I said the first thing that came to mind. “You’re not gonna toss your next drink at me, are you?”

Her mouth fell open. “My drink?”

I chuckled at the confusion clouding her eyes. “Yeah, your drink.”

“Oh.” She paused. “I don’t have one.”

I nodded to the bar where Vince was just setting it down for her. She followed my direction and frowned. “I didn’t order that,” she mumbled along with something else I didn’t quite catch and gave me her back.

Holy fuck me. Her back. It was entirely naked. I swallowed. Her dress was a stealthy torture device because it snuck up on a man, then dared him to keep it together instead of leaning in and running his tongue from her neck down to the tip of her ass. My dick jerked wildly, taking an obvious liking to that idea.

That was unfair. Surely she had to know that turning her back and showing me all that creamy expanse of naked skin would get me hot.

Payback is going to be a bitch, sweetheart.

Eyes narrowing determinedly, I leaned in towards her ear, stopping just shy of licking the lobe into my mouth and splayed my hand across the small of her back. My dick jerked again, liking the fact that my hand was touching naked skin. “I ordered it,” I rumbled softly and took pure, male satisfaction at feeling her shiver beneath my touch. Yeah, two can play this game, baby. “For you,” I added.

“You did?” she asked breathlessly.

“Uh huh,” I replied into her ear, my lips curving at her response. “When I saw you throw your drink at your friend, I thought you could do with another.”

My words were rewarded when she spun around, her breasts brushing my chest for a brief moment. I sucked in a quick breath when all the blood in my body headed in one, single-minded direction.

Hmm, that round to you, sweetheart.

Determined to best her, I tried not to frown.

“I didn’t throw it,” she denied.

“Sure you didn’t,” I replied. I smiled at her, slow and lazy, and chuckled to myself when her eyes lost focus. “You know, you could just say thank you.”

“What?” she muttered.

Oh, she was making this too easy. I leaned in again and caught her holding her breath. Stretching out my arms around her until I was almost pinning her to the bar, I picked up the beers Vince left for me with a thanks and twisted sideways to hand them to my friends.

“Now,” I murmured, returning to my pretty blonde. “Where were we? Oh that’s right. I believe you were thanking me.”

“Umm…thank you,” she replied, flustered, and I was utterly charmed. How did she do that—come across so sweet and sexy all at the same time? Fuck, I want to see if she tastes the same way.

Fighting the urge to adjust myself inside my jeans to get desperate relief, I realised it was time to kick it up a notch. “Pity,” I murmured with a shake of my head, letting disappointment creep into my voice.

Her smile fell. “What?”

“I was hoping I’d get more than words,” I replied, keeping my voice low and suggestive.

“What were you hoping for?”

Her eyes dropped to my lips. Bingo! I licked them lightly and with my beer in one hand, I used the other to grip her hip lightly and leaning in again, said, “You.”

There. You couldn’t get much clearer than that. See how quick and easy the whole process was? Minimum effort, minimum fuss, no time wasted.

She pulled back, her eyes wide with fear and panic as they searched my face. It was a like a punch to the gut. Fuck. Did I put that there? I could feel her closing off from me and suddenly I realised my mistake. She wasn’t flirting at all.

You dumb, stupid asshole!

How the fuck was I supposed to fix this?

“Excuse me,” she mumbled. “I have to get back to my friend.”

The thought of her leaving tied a knot in my stomach but I didn’t have time to ponder the odd sensation because suddenly her icy cold wine was splashing its way down the front of my T-shirt.

The shock of being doused in alcohol rendered me speechless.

“Oh God,” she cried out, looking like she was ready to be sick. “I’m so sorry!”

Ignoring the catcalls of my friends behind me, I brushed a hand down the sopping mess, only succeeding in spreading it around further. “Vince?” I called out over the blonde’s shoulder. “Towel, mate.”

She took hold of the towel Vince offered and handed it over. Averting those pretty eyes, she mumbled another apology and turned to leave.

Did she think a minor blip like that was going to put me off? Newsflash, sweetheart, I still want you. Reaching out, I grabbed her arm before she could take another step. She paused and met determined eyes. I arched a brow at her. “Leaving me?”

My chest tightened at the sadness flitting across her face. Who or what had made her look so damn lost and unhappy? The sudden urge to throw a punch stumbled across me.

“I’m really sorry,” she whispered. “I can’t do this.”

My brow furrowed with confusion as the towel I held hovered over my chest. “Can’t do what?” I asked.

“Life,” she muttered so softly it was obvious I wasn’t meant to hear. “It wasn’t meant for me.”

Stunned and shaken, my hand dropped from her arm and she spun around and disappeared so quickly my eyes couldn’t keep up with her. Which brought me back to now, outside the bar, catching her by the kerb before she could disappear from my life completely and asking her if she was running away.

“Absolutely,” she answered, her voice clear and honest.

“Me too.”

Her eyes flared with disbelief. “You are?”

I nodded seriously towards my sopping shirt. “I bought someone a drink, and they threw it at me. Seems like a good excuse to ditch my friends in there and head home.”

Well, that’s what I told her anyway, but I wasn’t running away, I was chasing, and heading home alone was not my intention. Catching the flush of embarrassment heating her cheeks, I chuckled.

Seemingly skittish, I realised a bit more finesse than just a direct, “I want to fuck you,” was going to be needed here. “Share a cab?” I asked.

Letting her respond wasn’t going to work in my favour, so before she could speak, I lifted an arm and let out a piercing whistle.

Her eyebrows flew up, appearing stunned when a passing cab squealed to a stop. Baby, if getting a cab to stop impresses you, then wait to see what else I can do.

With manners ingrained into me by my mother since I could remember, I stepped forward and after opening the door, I turned to her expectantly, suddenly feeling like I was trying to coral a skittish horse.

Satisfaction thrummed through my veins when she slid inside the car. Getting in beside her, I shut the door and asked, “Where do you live?”


“Campsie, mate,” I told the cab driver and looked at her. “Campsie’s a bit of a hike for cab ride,” I replied, suddenly frowning. Did she live on her own or with friends? Maybe her place wasn’t such a great idea. Mine wasn’t that great either because my best mate, Casey, was at home.  Having to leave early to catch a flight, it was likely he was in bed though, so my place was looking more like the better option, not to mention it was a hell of a lot closer, and there was that whole time wasting factor to take into consideration. So how did I work this?

“Do you mind if I get dropped off at Woolloomooloo first? I need to get out of this wet shirt.”

“Um…sure.” Her shoulders slumped with obvious disappointment.

So far, so good. I smothered a grin and gave the cab driver new directions while she texted her friend. The girl was being safe. Good. Done, she found me appraising her intently, imagining all the places I wanted to kiss and lick her. I shifted slightly in my seat.

“So… What do you do?” she asked me.

“I’m a consultant,” I replied. Feeling the heavy weight of my job come crashing down on my shoulders, I waved it off as unimportant. “What about you?”

“I’m uh…in between jobs at the moment.”

“So what do you do when you’re not in between jobs?”

She bit down on her lip and desire coiled in my belly like a barely restrained spring ready to pounce. I wanted to bite her lip, then run my tongue over it to soothe the sharp hurt.

“Sorry?” she repeated, pink hitting her cheekbones.

I repeated the question.

“Um…I just finished uni doing business management actually, but that was part time. During the day I worked full time as a receptionist.”

After directing the cab driver, I turned back to her. “Sounds like you’re a busy girl. Who do you work for?”

“Jettison Records,” she supplied.

“Oh yeah?” My eyebrows flew up in surprise. Small world, what with my little sister, Mac, managing a band that just signed with the big Australian music label. “That’s—”

The cab driver squealed around a sharp corner, cutting off my words.

“Ouch!” the girl cried out when her head cracked into the side window.

“Goddamn stupid sonofabitch,” I cursed under my breath, anger at the idiot cab driver heating my blood. “Are you okay?” I asked her. Cupping her cheeks gently, I tilted her head, checking for an injury. “Goddammit, mate,” I growled at the cab driver as I let go of her soft skin reluctantly. “You bastards need to learn how to slow the fuck down.”

Squealing to a stop out the front of the loft apartments where I lived, he had the nerve to say, “Time is money, man.”

I bit back the urge to tell him where he could stick his time and money, when I suddenly realised I’d been provided with the perfect opportunity. “Come on,” I told her while fighting the upward curve of my lips. I threw money at the cab driver and before she could protest, I unbuckled her seatbelt and hauled her out of the car with minimal effort. “I’m not sending you home with this speed demon.”

Lacing our fingers together, I led her towards the entrance of my building, shuddering under the feel of her soft hand in mine. “I’d drive you home…” I told her as punched the code into the security panel and heard the door unlock, “…but I’m probably over the limit.”

When I pushed the door open, ready to invite her upstairs for a drink, and hopefully into my bed if I played this right, she tugged her hand free.

“Well that’s okay,” she told me. “I can just get another cab.”

Pausing, I frowned. No. Just…no. Not ready to let you go just yet, sweetheart. “You think I’m gonna leave you out here wandering the city streets waiting for a cab to pass by?”

There she went with the lip biting thing again. I stifled a groan. My restraint around her was non-existent—holidaying on some remote, inaccessible island. With my eyes burning into hers, I told her she had to stop doing that.

“Doing what?” she asked. Her breathless voice and lowered lids told me one thing—she wanted me just as much.

The realisation had me letting go of the door. “Biting your lip like that,” I replied, taking both her hands in mind and inching closer.

“Oh,” she muttered as I stepped inside her space.

My eyes lowered to her lips. “Your mouth gets all red and swollen until I want to lick it better.”

Planning to do just that, I cupped her face in my hands, angling her body towards the red brick wall of my building so it could bear the force of the kiss I was about take from her.

She stumbled.

“Shit,” I cursed. “Sorry.”

“My fault,” she breathed, her chest fluttering up and down as I pressed my body into hers. “I ahh…should probably get going.”

She didn’t sound like she wanted to get going and I didn’t want her to go. “Uh huh,” I placated.

Then she went and licked her lips. God, but she knew how to flirt without even realising what she was doing. Groaning, I ducked my head until my mouth hovered over hers.

“Can I kiss you?” I whispered against her lips. Not wasting time waiting for a response, my grip on her tightened and I crushed my lips on hers. What was it she did to me? She looked like she needed gentle, but the way she responded to my rough, desperate touch was wild. She moaned when I fisted her soft, silky hair, tilting her head so I could get better access to her lips and tongue. Hard and throbbing, I pressed my hips into her, not wanting to let go of her lips, but needing that hot, wet mouth to move south, and fast.

Christ, Travis, you want her to blow you in the fucking street?

I pulled back, panting, my eyes widening in shock at my complete lack of control.

“Jesus,” I gasped, my eyes falling to her swollen lips. That was a mistake, or not, depending on how you looked at it, because I only gave her a second to catch a breath before I was slamming my mouth back down on hers. I didn’t just want her right now, I needed her like I needed to breathe.

“Do you want to come in?” I breathed against her lips.

Please, God, don’t say no.

I couldn’t remember the last time someone made me feel like this—out of control, desperate and so achingly alive.

Exhaling loudly, I rapped reluctantly on Travis’s door, not really wanting to interrupt whatever the hell he and Quinn were doing in there. Well, it wasn’t really whatever the hell, I did have a good idea, and I wished I was doing it right now too. Lucky bastard. I had a shitty day. Having it wiped out by someone like Quinn would have turned it all around.

“Um, sorry, guys,” I called through the door as I shoved the thought away, “but Travis, it’s the phone, mate. It’s one of your work assignments.”

Moving quickly away, I went for the fridge and a beer. It would have to do the job that sex couldn’t. So would television. I flopped back on the couch, bottle in hand and stared blankly at the screen. The movie I’d been watching with Travis and Quinn was paused, silently reminding me that there was still another hour of the torture to get through. It was a sappy love fest with some supposed action thrown in, but I’d yet to see it. I’d lived through more action sitting at my desk filling out endless police reports.

Travis slipped out of the bedroom door, tying back his hair and sliding his shuttered expression into place. I knew that face. It’s the same one I wore almost every day. It was a good face. It didn’t tell people shit and in our line of work, that could sometimes mean the difference between staying alive or getting shot.

“Take care of my girl,” he muttered as he slipped by me, heading for the front door.

Travis glanced over his shoulder at me and unable to resist, I grabbed my crotch and grinned. “I’ll make sure she’s well looked after, don’t you worry.”

My words smacked the shuttered expression right off his face in favour of narrowed eyes and flared nostrils. Getting the desired reaction, I laughed out loud.

Shaking his head, Travis disappeared out the door, shutting it none too gently behind him. Well, that was fun for a few seconds, what now?

“Quinn? You can come out. I don’t bite!” I yelled out. “Much,” I muttered under my breath.

She emerged from Travis’s room in a tank top and little pair of sleep shorts. Fuck me, but she was cute. We were already close after knowing each other for such a short time because we shared a connection. Not a good one, but one that brought us closer together. I could honestly say I loved her and with everything going on right now, I wanted to be the big brother she could turn to when things went to shit.

Finished pouring a wine, she joined me on the couch and glanced at the television. “Prolonging the torture?” she asked.

I shrugged, liking that she didn’t show me the same reservation I saw come out in her around others. “Didn’t want you to miss it. If I have to sit here and watch this crap, you have to too.”

With that I pressed play, tilted my head back on the couch, and zoned out. What felt like a lifetime later, the credits rolled.

“Mmm,” she mumbled sleepily. “That movie was shit.”

A smile spread slowly across my face at the understatement of the century and I chuckled. Not yet ready to face a cold, empty bed, I asked, “Wanna watch another one?”

I probably should have let her get some sleep, but she agreed. Relieved at having the company, I loaded my movie choice in the DVD player this time while she returned to the kitchen. Disappearing in my room, I grabbed a pair of sweatpants and got changed.

I came back out to an open fridge door and Quinn bent over, her head buried inside it. To give myself credit, I really did try not to stare at her ass, but I was a man after all. It was almost an automatic requirement. Maybe not so much when the woman in question was your best mate’s girl, but she was female, and breathing, and sometimes that’s really all it took.

“Tea, coffee, beer?” she called out.

“Sex,” I muttered under my breath, but obviously that wasn’t on tonight’s menu. Jesus. I needed to get laid and get sex off the brain. “Beer me, Quinn,” I told her.

Shrieking a little, she jumped and elbowed me in the chest. Obviously she wasn’t expecting me right behind her. “Oh God, sorry.”

I smothered a grin at her pretty flush. “My fault.”

Drinks in hand, we returned to the couch and I snatched up the remote, not willing to let Quinn even look at it, let alone touch it like she did last time.

She glanced at me sideways. “This job Travis got called out to. He’s not in any danger is he?”

After taking a deep pull of my beer, I exhaled heavily. “Nah,” I lied casually. Having Quinn up half the night worrying wouldn’t do her any good. “Just another sorry custody dispute.” That was the truth, but it was one that was escalating wildly out of control. With my eyes trained to the television, I explained, “We get called in when it gets out of hand. You know you’d think it’s good—both parents loving the kid so much they can’t agree who gets to spend more time with them—but that’s hardly ever what it’s about.”

“What is it about?”

“Winning,” I muttered bitterly, swiping a hand across my face. All those parents who claimed to give a shit. It wasn’t about their kids. It was about them. What they could get, and how far they’d go to get it. It made my stomach roll. “But for there to be a winner, there’s got to be a loser, right? And we all know who that turns out to be.”

Not wanting to take the conversation further, I pressed play on the movie.

“Is that what happened with you? Travis says he does what he does because of you.”

Is that what happened to me? My chest tightened painfully at the loaded question. My fuck up lost me everything, including myself. Maybe I could tell her one day. Quinn would understand at least some of it, but other parts might be too much for her to hear. I swallowed hard and forced a chuckle. “Travis and I have been friends since we started uni, so I know how you feel around the Valentines, Quinn. They’ll be quick to tell you they’re not the perfect family, and they aren’t. But they’re not perfect in the way that it counts.”

“What way is that?”

“Love of course. They grew up with it. People like you and me, Quinn, we grew up with fear.” Perfect didn’t matter when you were loved, because love—the type the Valentine family share—that’s unconditional. No matter how hard I tried, and eventually failed, I never experienced anything like it, not until I met Travis, and even then it took years for me to trust it. No matter what, a Valentine always had my back. I wanted that for Quinn and after the fallout from their Melbourne trip, it still burned that I hadn’t been there. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you in Melbourne,” I told her, effectively changing the subject.


“But if there’s a next time…” God fucking forbid, “…you get straight on your phone and ring Travis. If you can’t get Travis, you ring me. You can’t get me, you ring Jared, you can’t get—”

“Casey.” She held up a hand, cutting off what appeared to be the beginning of a rant. Since when the fuck did I rant? Since now, apparently. Huh. “I’ve had this chat with Travis already. And Mitch. And Jared,” she added.

Good. I would have been disappointed if they hadn’t stepped up and told her how it was going to be, but damn it all if I didn’t want to have my say. “It’s my turn, and this won’t take long.”

Quinn nodded, sipping at the last of her wine before placing the empty glass on the coffee table. Sitting back, she appeared to be bracing herself. I wasn’t that much of a hardass, was I?

“I know what Travis was like before you, and I know what he’s like since you, and I like the latter.” My voice was firm as I held her eyes and spoke the truth. Travis had been there. He’d seen me through the worst. I always had his back, and him, mine. Seeing the change in him, the spark of happiness in his eyes, was deserved. “He smiles like he means it, even after a long shitty day like he’s dealing with today.” I tapped a finger to my temple. “Up here, there’s you at the back of all that, making his day not so shit because at the end of it, he gets you. You leave, he loses that and we lose him, and I don’t like that. I already feel guilty enough getting him involved in what he does, but it doesn’t come as easy for him to deal with because he hasn’t lived it. So you understand me when I say don’t ever think about leaving again.”

Taking a deep breath, Quinn looked away, nodding at the television. “We’re missing the movie.”

Understanding the diversionary tactic, I saluted her with my beer and we both settled in to watch The Fast and the Furious.

“Paul Walker’s hot,” she blurted out. “He reminds me of Henry.”

I tilted my head, watching the apparent man of the hour on screen. I didn’t see it. Paul Walker was dressed like a ten year old. Shaking my head, I glanced sideways at Quinn. “So you think Henry’s hot?”

“Well I’m not blind,” she mumbled.

I smirked.

“Oh shush,” she muttered, slapping my shoulder.

“I like having you here, Quinn,” I told her, because I did. I felt comfortable, like I could be myself around her and not have to think carefully about what I said, or what I gave away.

“You do?”

“Yeah.” I cleared my throat, swallowing a hard lump in my throat. She was like family, and mine was gone. “I had a brother but I never had a sister.”

A multitude of emotions crossed her face, but eventually, her eyes, wide with shock, found mine, realising what I’d admitted to. “Wait. You had a brother?”

I nodded towards the television, gripping tight to the empty beer bottle in my shaky hands before it smashed to the floor. “We’re missing the movie.”

With relief, I felt her let it go and face the television, and as the movie played out I fought to get myself under control until I could breathe again.


Give Me Love – Jared & Casey’s POV

Did you miss the blog tour for Give Me Love? If so, that means you missed reading Jared and Casey’s POV and missed seeing the book trailer!

Watch the trailer here:

Chapter Twenty-Five

The waves rolled in. I could hear them crashing against the shore as I sat in the sand. I put my elbows on my knees and held my head in my hands as it pounded painfully from lack of sleep and from seeing Evie in my head. That slow, sexy smile that belonged to me.
Not. Mine.
Not anymore.
Right from the start I’d always believed she’d be mine. I’d endured years of patience to have her—texting every single day, slowly getting to know the girl who had stamped her name on my heart because it hadn’t belonged to anyone else since. Only her.

I sat and watched every single moment of us play backwards in my head: every crazy, happy, scary, heart pounding, excruciatingly beautiful moment until it finally hit upon when she opened the door of her Melbourne apartment and I saw her for the first time.

I swiped a hand across my face as though erasing the images from my mind, but she still stood there. Her hair had been a riot of waves, her legs long, her skin a beautiful rich blend of olive and rose. I’d wanted to touch it with my fingers to see if felt as warm and smooth as it looked. My heart had kicked wildly in my chest, and my hand came up to scratch idly at the back of my head as I tried to calm my breathing, but her wide eyes didn’t help. They were rich pools of sexy, decadent dark chocolate. I’d made Mac invite her to lunch after she’d disappeared on me, and during it I’d sat almost dumbstruck as I’d listened to her chatter and laugh with Mac and Coby. My eyes were glued to her as she radiated like the sun and it warmed me, leaving me reeling and realizing I’d been living in the dark for far too long. Using an excuse, I’d gotten her number, and from then on she was always in my mind. Every day my instinct had been to talk on the phone about anything and everything with her, and only ever her, but she’d been skittish. At the time I knew there was a reason; someone had hurt her and I wanted to know who and why so I could break his body into pieces. When she’d finally opened her heart, my own had sunk. Two men, and twice she had almost died. The beautiful rose in her cheeks, hearing her voice singing so rich and clear, the life shining in her eyes—I could have missed all of it. The thought left me breathless, but what had my heart sinking was that I was leading her down the same path. I didn’t know how to make a turn, or how to backtrack, or how to let her go.

But this morning she’d made it so easy and so very, very hard. Now I was here at the beach breathing in the cool chill until I felt it in my bones, trying to forget that Evie had taken my heart and ripped it clean in two in front of me. The agony had left me breathless, and fuck, I tried so hard not to let her see. I’d clenched my jaw until I thought my teeth would shatter from the pressure.

Darkness rolled in and eventually I stood and stretched my tired, aching muscles. I strode back to my car, gravel crunching beneath my feet, wind blowing in my hair. Opening the door I found twenty messages on my phone. I didn’t want to know. I grabbed my phone and stalked determinedly back to the beach, right down to the shore, until the waves hit my toes. Just as I was about to fling it into the water or hell, where it belonged, it rang as though desperate not to be tossed away.

I sighed heavily at seeing Travis on the other line. He had his own shit to deal with, and I hated him being caught up in mine. I knew I wasn’t the only one breaking in two. I could see it clear as day. I had no idea why no one else could see what was going on with Travis, but something needed to be done before he snapped.

I answered anyway and as he spoke, his words told me a tale that had my chest squeezing so hard my lungs locked down. It slammed my broken heart to the ground and crushed it into dust.

“Fuck,” I whispered when he’d finished.

The world spun before my eyes and tears burned fiercely. How could I have let my past blind me from seeing what was really there? It wasn’t a simple mistake I had made; it was one that carried so much weight where lives now hung in the balance. Lives that if lost, would mean mine was too.

I drew air into my starving lungs in such a rush I thought I’d choke.

“Fuck!” I roared, the word weighted with guilt and agony.

I turned and ran, adrenaline shutting off everything. The utter fear, the panic, the terror, it locked tight as my car growled to life and I raced for the stadium. When I arrived the shake of Travis’s head told me what I didn’t want to know.

As the early light of dawn arrived, we were still wide awake, eyes burning red, shaking from lack of sleep, lack of food, and the crash of adrenaline.

“Coby,” I answered when he rang.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Jared. Evie is gone. Gone!” he ended with a shout.

“No,” I denied, my voice a hoarse whisper. “Don’t fucking tell me that, Coby. Don’t fucking tell me she’s gone.”

Fuck. Please tell me I wasn’t watching my entire world crash around me. I felt like my body was in the eye of a hurricane and everything was burning and crashing and tearing apart around me as the wind whipped my hair with eerie silence.

“I’ve called Frank,” came his hoarse voice. “We’ve tracked her phone to Canterbury Road. Where are you?”

“Closer than you, but still ten minutes behind. Leaving right now.”

I hung up and growled, “Car. Now,” at Travis and tossed him the keys. “You drive.”

My fingers jabbed at my phone with frustrating slowness as Travis squealed and spun tyres.

“Damn you, Evie. Answer your goddamn fucking phone!”

I tried again, leaving a message. “Baby, fuck. I’ve got frantic messages from Henry and Coby. What the fuck do you think you’re doing? Frank has your location on GPS, so wherever you think you’re going, Travis and I are right behind you. Just turn around and go home. Turn the fucking car around damn you and go home. We need to know you’re safe. Ring me, baby, please? Don’t do this. Please don’t… I… fuck.” My voice cracked and I hung up the phone.

Frank messaged through the address of where Evie’s GPS location had stopped at, and I had to lock down every single nerve ending to stop myself from yelling at Travis to plant his fucking foot. He knew the urgency of the situation; his red eyes were as frantic as mine. Shit was going down and it was all on me. I cursed again. If we survived this nightmare, then I swore I would leave. If that meant having to live in the dark, I would do it.

We pulled up outside an old, abandoned white weatherboard house. Evie’s blue Hilux was in the drive, empty, the driver’s side door wide open, keys still in the ignition.

I reached around, pulled the handgun from the waistband of my jeans, and engaged the slide. In one frozen moment I met Travis’s eyes, and then I ran for the door. As I surged through, arms up, finger on the trigger, what my eyes found had my heart choking in absolute horror and my entire world went black.

Chapter Twenty-Seven


I threw my bag in the back of the car and hopped in the passenger seat as Mitch turned the key in the ignition and reversed, taking us from the underground car park and into the early morning light.

I rubbed my hand across my tired eyes as the scenery began to rush by in a blur. I felt flat – not up or down, just somewhere in the middle of fucking nowhere and I hoped like hell I was doing the right thing by leaving. God knows I didn’t want to, but I reminded myself that Evie was worth so much more. Jared and Evie fit together, everyone could see it, and as much as it pained me, so could I.

I remembered back to when I first met her and felt myself smiling at the memory. I never smiled so much as I did around her, and it felt good. She’d had a mouthful of chips so large it was a wonder she could still breathe, yet I figured she could because she still managed to yell at her friends. Then after the meeting they’d had at Jettison Records, I got dragged along the shopping aisles with her. Usually, I hated the domesticity of it, but she questioned me on every little thing, and it was fucking amusing. “Salted peanuts or cashews?” she’d asked me as though lives hung in the balance over what was chosen. Mac had grabbed them both out of her hands and threw them in the trolley before stalking off on her phone. Then it was on to the chips aisle, and just when I thought we’d never make it out of there before we turned grey, we were heading for the checkout.

I chuckled and felt Mitch’s eyes glance my way. “What?” he asked.

I shrugged and shook my head.

We pulled up at a red light and as the car idled, Mitch asked, “What do you think of Quinn?”

Quinn was utterly charming. She was tiny—only coming to my shoulder—and with her with her tousled white-blonde hair and full lips, so very appealing. She’d been wearing a pretty yellow dress that should have brightened her eyes, but there were shadows behind them. I knew, because I recognized them in myself. My chest had a pang because someone as sweet as her didn’t belong in a place where shadows lived. I could only hope hers weren’t as dark as mine because I’d lived in hell for so long I didn’t know who the fuck I was anymore. I was trying to dig my way out, but when you weren’t sure you deserved to breathe fresh air, it was hard to summon the effort. People like Evie, and even Quinn, were the sort of people that made you want to try.

“I like her. She’s different then all the rest, but you didn’t need to push her over.”

Mitch laughed. “I didn’t mean to. How was I to know she was there? She’s so small a gust of wind could knock her down.” The light turned green and Mitch accelerated. “Tell me what’s going on with Travis, Casey.” He paused to check his blind spot and then changed lanes. “You’re closest to him than all of us these days.”

My lips pressed into a flat line, not liking what I was about to say. “We’ve gotta take him off.”

Mitch shook his head. “Fuck,” he muttered. “He won’t do it.”

I could only agree, and I knew why. It was the exact same reason why I wouldn’t do it either.

Mitch pulled into a park at the airport, and we both got out. “You could’ve just dropped me off, mate.”

“Yeah, but I need coffee. May as well get one here.”

Once inside, I checked my bag, and we both grabbed a coffee. “How long you gone for?”

“Four weeks,” I muttered. “Not long.” And it wasn’t, but who knew what four more weeks would do to Jared and Evie. It was better this way that I finished up the overseas contract.

“You’re doing the right thing.”

I nodded because I kept telling myself that. Hearing it from Mitch reinforced the decision, but it still didn’t stop the feeling of what might’ve been. I swallowed the hollow feeling and finished my coffee, the heat of it warming my insides.

“Right. Better get going.”

Mitch nodded and gave my shoulder a slap as we reached the gate. My eyes caught Evie running towards us.

I stopped in shock. “Evie.”

Breathless from running, she planted her hands on her hips and I stood, my eyes running over her. As usual, she looked fucking sexy as though she’d just rolled out of bed, giving you the urge to roll her back in it. I smothered the punch to the gut that lust gave me and waited for her to catch her breath.

“You’re leaving,” she said, the accusation and hurt clear as day in her eyes. Fuck. I didn’t want to leave her. We’d become good friends, and I hated knowing she’d feel like I was abandoning her right when she needed her friends most.

“I need to get going.” Mitch gave me a nod, and I returned it. “See you in a few.” He gave Evie’s shoulder a squeeze. “See you tonight, sweetheart.”

She snagged his arm before he left. “What’s tonight?”

I tuned their conversation out as I watched her speak, realizing with a pang that I’d miss her.

The announcement of my flight boarding came over the PA, and I interrupted them. “That’s my flight.”

Mitch left with a wave, and Evie folded her arms, her voice wobbling when she asked, “Are you leaving because of me? Because I swear to God, I’m sick of people leaving me. It hurts.”

Fuck. She was blinking back tears, and I wanted to take her in my arms and hang on tight. Instead, I gripped her arm gently and moved her out of the way of the traffic flow before someone pushed into her. “How did you know I was leaving? Did you speak to Jared?”

She nodded.

I let go of her arm and told her why I was leaving before picking up my carry-on bag when they announced the final boarding call.

When she said she’d miss me, it filled the hollow feeling for a minute, and I brushed my hand down her cheek, relishing the brief touch.

Offering her a final wave, I turned, and hardening my heart, walked through the gate and onto the plane.

Huge thanks to the participants of my blog tour for their time and efforts contributing to such a worthy cause 😉
See their blog and reviews below!

In order of appearance:
Reading Is My Timeout:
Rude Girl Book Blog:
Smardy Pants Book Blog:
Devoured Words:
Reality Bites Lets Get Lost:
Novel Seduction:
The Book Hookers:
Book Reader Chronicles:
Wine, Relaxation & My Kindle (excerpt only):
The Book Avenue:
Book Nerds Anonymous:
Book Crush (excerpt only):
Love Between The Sheets:
Book Addict Mumma:
The Book List Reviews:
Reviews by Tammy & Kim:
Shh Mom’s Reading: