your nightshade sneak peek...
Nightshade - a Redemption novel - available now
The hardened assassin who lost everything, and the girl who sweeps into his life like a chaotic storm of heartache, seduction, and intrigue. She’s everything he hates, but with one look, he can’t stay away . . . with one touch, she ignites a craving unlike anything he’s ever known. Now he’ll do whatever it takes to protect her from the heartless man he’s spent a lifetime obeying.
I mumbled to any god or mother listening that I wouldn’t be stopped when I rounded the next corner. A girl I had buried long ago was thrashing deep inside of me, trying to break free—but she wouldn’t.
She meant hope. She was weak. I couldn’t afford either.
On the outside, I radiated confidence. I was the girl everyone wanted . . . or wanted to be. My hips swung just enough to catch the attention of every man who passed by me. And some of the women. My full lips twisted into a sensual grin, causing them to stop in their tracks or stumble over themselves. My clothes tightened and dipped in all the right places so my body would be all they saw and craved that night.
On the inside . . . on the inside I was trembling and holding my breath.
Don’t stop me.
Don’t say my name.
My silent plea may as well have been shouted the way his head snapped up when I edged around the building.
He was always there. I doubted a day would come when he wouldn’t be. But I lived for the days when he didn’t call out to me.
I purposefully made eye contact to show he held no power over me.
Don’t stop me.
A defeated breath punched from my lungs when he said my name just loud enough to reach me.
Not allowing my frustration or hurt to show, I let out a sharp, wicked laugh and sauntered up to him. Trailing my fingers over his bulky arm, I murmured huskily, “Beck . . . you’re always my favorite part of the night.”
He watched my fingers for a moment before lifting his glare to me. “You know the game, Jess—gotta get paid. You just choose a different way of going about it than I do.”
My teeth gnashed, but I sidled up closer and forced my mouth into a taunting grin instead of the sneer that so desperately wanted to break free. “Beck, Beck, Beck . . . Baby, I know you’re craving to find out exactly why men keep coming back for me. Don’t pretend you’re better than me because you get to stay in that nice, big mansion. Or because you earn your money by assuring strung-out women they don’t need to pay for all they take when we both know someone has to pay.”
By the time I finished talking, my mouth was inches from his.
He dipped his head closer, almost as if he couldn’t help himself. But then he whispered, “Three-ninety, Jess.”
I jerked back, my face falling. “Like hell! You gave her two-sixty worth a few days ago.” My stomach twisted as panic set in. Oh God . . .
He wrapped an arm around my waist and hauled my body back to his, his voice dropping low so it wouldn’t carry—an unspoken reminder there were people around who could hear us. “Not my god damn problem your mom can’t stop using.”
“You’re an asshole,” I sneered. “Never again. Don’t you ever sell her anything again.”
I’d said those same words to him countless times. Just as I’d said them to her two previous sellers while growing up. The only difference between Beck and the first two was Beck had never once laughed at my demands. But like them, he’d also never listened to them.
“Technically, I’m not selling to her. She takes, and you pay.”
“Fuck you, you know what I meant. She was at a gram and a half a week—maybe two—before you came into our lives. She’s solidly been at four a week for a year, and you just gave her six only a few days after the last sell? She’s going to die if you don’t stop giving it to her,” I said through gritted teeth, and was horrified when I realized my eyes were burning and Beck was blurry. I clenched my teeth tighter and blinked the tears back.
But he’d already seen.
“Jess,” he said softly, then let out a frustrated groan. Looking around us at the people randomly walking about, he pulled me closer to the building and dropped his head closer to mine. “Jess, you know I don’t have a choice—”
“My life and my choices have been taken away because you won’t stop feeding her addiction, Beck.”
Anger and disgust flashed through his eyes. “Don’t ever put that shit on me. You had a choice—you made it,” he reminded me. “This all could’ve been different.”
“I told you my condition,” I hissed.
His eyes only hardened.
Time passed as we glared at each other. Eventually, he broke. “I didn’t have a choice,” he admitted. “If she didn’t come to me, then she would find someone else . . . and it’s best that she comes to me. You don’t know what would happen if she found one of the other dealers in town. You don’t know what they would do to her.”
“Right,” I said with a soft, demented, laugh. “Because the possibility of what you or one of your people would do if I didn’t pay for what she took is just as comforting.”
Beck was in his late twenties—only a few years older than me—and had been my mom’s dealer for the last ten or so years. He’d tried to slip into the protector role for the latter half of that time, but it didn’t change who he was. What I was. And why we ended up in each other’s company nearly every day.
He didn’t try to take advantage of me the way my mom’s first two dealers had. He didn’t try to touch me the way those old, greasy men had when I was only a child. But I would be an idiot to forget that he was incredibly dangerous.
It had taken many years slipping into houses and meetings unnoticed before I found out who Beck worked for—what ruthless family he was involved with.
When you find out the Irish-American mob is a very real thing that still runs as strongly as it does silently, and they control a good portion of the cocaine that moves through the south—and most importantly, that passes through your mother’s veins—you do whatever it takes to keep her from their wrath.
Even if it means destroying yourself.
Beck sighed through his nose and lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “It’s business, Jess.”
At least he had the decency to sound apologetic. Slightly.
I wanted to yell that his business was killing my mom—the only person I had in the world. Instead, I forced my expression to calm and my eyes to become hooded. My mouth fell into a pout as I leaned closer to him.
“Business? Beck . . .” My lips slowly stretched into a grin. “If you wanted to talk business, you only had to say so. You’ve already kept me held up here for five minutes now. In my business, time is money, even if you aren’t able to perform. Clock’s tickin’, baby. How much longer do you want to keep me in your presence? Because I have roughly half an hour left until that three hundred and ninety dollars is mine again. Less if you decide to take me up against this wall and make me—”
I cut off with loud peals of laughter when Beck shoved me away from him, stumbling a few times before I was able to gain my balance.
“Aw, did I hit a nerve?” I cocked my head to the side and giggled wildly. “Nope, didn’t feel anything.”
“Fuck you, Jessica.”
Yeah, well, at least I’m not crying anymore.
I grinned mockingly at Beck as I sauntered toward him again, but faltered at his next words.
“You think I’d touch a whore who’s as fucked up in the head as you?” he asked with a sneer.
My smile froze on my face, but I somehow managed to continue moving toward him. Somehow managed to press myself against him as I dug into my purse for what I had made that night. Somehow managed to look at him from under my eyelashes and speak in that low, throaty tone I knew he loved rather than screaming at him.
I pressed the money into his hand. “I seem to remember a time where that statement wasn’t true.”
His eyes creased in the corners, like he wanted to apologize for what he’d said, but his voice was hard when he spoke. “That was before you started selling yourself.”
“Wasn’t before the rest.” I tapped on my head, lifting my brows knowingly, then let out another wild laugh as I ambled away, swaying as I did. “That’s all I have,” I lied. “You know how I can pay off the rest of what is owed. All you have to do is ask.”