This is the story of Jason McIntyre and Tammy-Jo Hawthorne. Two people brought together through their parents’ second marriages. It’s about falling in love against impossible odds and beating back a town’s misconceptions.
Tammy-Jo Hawthorne limped down the side of the highway, broken shoe in hand, and cursed everything from the gravel cutting into her bare foot, to the drizzling rain making her mascara run. But most of all, she cursed fate for ever introducing her to her no-good, dirty, rotten scumbag of an ex-husband—Timothy Hawthorne the third, and don’t you forget it.
Her cheeks flamed again even as goosebumps of embarrassed anger chased themselves over her flesh. They’d escorted her out; she still couldn’t believe it. Not one person had stood to defend her either. Ten years she’d belonged to that stupid high-falutin club, and no one had supported her in her time of need. Well, screw them.
A semi-trailer flew past, and a sheet of water drenched her to the bone.
“Ooh.” She raised her shoe in the air and shook it at the fading taillights. “Thanks for nothing.”
Disheartened, she dropped her Louboutin in the grass, careful to keep it off the scratchy gravel, and wrung out the hem of her shirt. Tim had a lot to answer for; not least of which was the fact her Jaguar had been towed away while she’d been inside the country club. It was becoming clear that this had been a well-choreographed plan on his part. He’d thought of everything too. When she’d tried to call for a cab, she found her phone had been cut off. She’d stomped over to a nearby gas station to use the payphone, and found her bank and credit cards had been cancelled as well. He’d taken her love and stomped it beneath his wingtips and now he wanted her pride too.
Well, he couldn’t have it, damn him.
If she had to walk the entire twenty miles to home, she would.
And then she was going to sue that bastard for every red cent he owned.
The traffic snaked by in a never-ending ribbon of color, the noise a match to the static in her head. She thought about doing like she’d seen on television and lift her thumb to catch a ride, but fear held her back. Those were the same shows where the unlucky traveler was never seen again. She didn’t plan on giving her soon-to-be ex that easy of an out.
The rain was falling harder now, coating everything in sight with a silvery glow. If she wasn’t so cold—a combination of nerves and early spring weather—it would be pretty. Okay, maybe that was a stretch. There was nothing remotely pretty about being stranded in the middle of nowheresville thanks to the man you’d promised to love and honor until death did you part. The last of which was looking tempting right now.
If only she knew a hitman.
A throaty engine gearing down set her heart to leap-frogging in her chest—he’d changed his mind and returned her car. She swung around, a relieved smile tipping her scowl upside down, but instead of her beautiful silver Jag, a black-as-sin Mustang idled behind her in the parking lane, its driving lights blinding her with their brightness.
Now her heart pounded for an entirely different reason. She glanced into the ditch, but the forest seemed impossibly far away and the traffic never even hesitated, unaware and uncaring that her life could be in danger.
T.J. shaded her eyes, but she couldn’t see the driver. She clutched her handbag. It wasn’t much, but the soft lambskin purse held the keys to her house and her car—once she got it back—her identification, all the odds and ends a woman deemed necessary, and the proof that her husband was the reason she was in this predicament. She wouldn’t give it up without a fight.
She picked up the only weapon at her disposal, her shoe, and inched backward, dismayed when the car stalked after her. Panic overrode decorum and she turned to run, but the ditch was slippery with the mud and rain and she lost her footing, careening down the steep embankment with a little screech. She landed hard on her butt and sat there for a minute, stunned. How the mighty had fallen. The Hawthorne couple were the envy of Magnolia Mississippi. Everyone wanted to be them, have the same kind of loving relationship they had. What a joke.
And it was all on her.
A car door opened and a few ominous seconds later, T.J. heard footsteps on the gravel meridian. Even through the rain and early evening light, her white shirt practically glowed a neon here I am signal to anyone looking. And of course, someone was. She hunched over, doing her best to become one with the mud, and prayed like she’d never prayed before. Not hard, since she’d never followed any religious beliefs, but she promised anyone who was listening that she’d change. Just don’t let her die.
“Tammy-Jo Hawthorne?” scary stranger dude called down the hill, his voice filled with amused aggravation.
What did he have to be aggravated about? She was the one sitting in a cold, wet ditch while a stalker… well, stalked her.
“Go away,” she yelled, fed up with men and life in general. She swiped at a clump of ooey-gooey crap clinging to her leg below the silk pencil skirt she’d no doubt have to throw in the trash after this episode. Just one more reason to shoot Tim.
“I was at the club today,” he said, and the sympathy in his voice made her squirm. “I heard about your car, thought you could use a lift.”
She threw back her head and let the rain wash over her face. The humiliations just kept coming. The moment he’d mentioned the club she’d known who her dubious savior was; Jason McIntyre.
#6 Wounded Hearts
This is the long-awaited sequel to my popular Wounded Hearts series. Many readers have asked about the missing DEA Agent, Maggie Holt, who was captured by sex traffickers.
This is her story:
I love the romantic suspense genre and Navy SEALs (who doesn’t? :)) and wanted to combine the two with another favorite, motorcycle clubs.
The premise of this story is that a woman disappears and her shy, geeky sister seeks help from the only man she thinks will be invested in her case- Reed McLaughlin.
Emma Stone knew the moment she entered the Twisted Sister it was a mistake. The biker bar was as rough on the inside as it was intimidating on the outside. If she weren’t so desperate she would’ve turned around and gone home the moment she saw the long line of bikes parked in front of the dilapidated building.
The noise from cheap speakers pumped way higher than their tweeters could take competed with rowdy laughter, the slap of pool cues striking balls, and the stench of unwashed bodies blending with spilled beer.
Em stood just inside the doorway, blinking like a lost owl. The scene in front of her bemused eyes was like something out of one of those thriller novels her sister enjoyed. She prayed Rose hadn’t ended up like one of those victims.
A burly guy in a leather vest covered in badges bumped into her, almost knocking her out with his breath. Hope he didn’t plan on driving.
“Well, looky here,” he slurred. “Aren’t you in the wrong church, sister?” He stuck his head back and roared, thoroughly amused at his obvious wit. Emma ducked her head and wished herself back home curled up on the sofa with her tortoiseshell cat, Thomas. He slung a beefy arm around her neck and tugged her under his armpit. “Sugar, what’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?”
Emma’s heart beat frantically as she pushed ineffectually against his chest. “Let me go. I need to find a man.” The words barely left her lips before she cringed.
He grinned down at her with teeth stained from tobacco and Lord knows what else. “Lucky you, you found one.” His moist lips puckered and his head lowered and Emma did the only thing she could—lifted her knee and caught him square between the legs.
His arms loosened, his face turned an alarming shade of green, and he dropped like a sack of potatoes.
Emma was feeling a little woozy herself. She’d seen it done on TV, but the women there stood over their fallen assailants with satisfied expressions and handcuffs. She had no cuffs and was terrified. What if his friends noticed? They’d probably shoot her on the spot.
A quick glance around showed her no one was paying them any attention. Relieved, she edged around the groaning mound and inched her way through the crowd up to the bar. A busty brunette in a too-short jean skirt and a black t-shirt with the words, I Really Feel Like Going for A Ride, emblazoned across her chest gave Emma the onceover before grabbing a couple of longneck bottles of beer dripping condensation from the counter.
“You’re in the wrong bar, honey,” she muttered, slipping off the high stool. “You better leave—while you can.” She sauntered over to a table in the corner. Emma could just make out a set of masculine jean clad legs stretched out and crossed at the ankle. The moment the woman got within range, arms, one covered in a sleeve of tattoos, reached out and tugged her onto his lap. She shrieked, but not in fear as Emma had done. This was more of a hello, baby, proven when she buried her lips against the stranger’s neck.
Embarrassed, Em turned away. It wasn’t that she was a prude, it’s just that there was a time and a place and public displays were neither. In her opinion romantic encounters belonged behind closed doors. Some people—her ex-boyfriend for one—would say it was an antiquated ideal, and maybe they were right. But, there weren’t half as many divorces in the days of courtship as there was now with the modern generation’s loose morals.
It took forever before the bartender noticed her. He made sure everyone was happy then worked his way down, laughing and chatting with the locals. He wiped his hands on a surprisingly white apron tied around a lean waist and leaned an elbow on the counter, arm bunching with impressive muscle. His bald head and a gold hoop dangling from his ear gleamed under the fluorescents. A tattoo of an eagle’s talons peeked out from the arm of his shirt.
“What’ll ya have?” he asked, eyeing her like she was an anomaly. Which she probably was, around here anyway.
“I’m, ah… looking for someone. Reed McLaughlin.” Emma caught the quick glance over her shoulder. She turned, but no one was there. “Do you know him?” she asked, not sure why the name would elicit that suspicious look she was now receiving from the previously friendly bartender.
“Maybe. What do you want him for?” He straightened and crossed his arms over a rock hard chest.
This was such a bad idea.
“I have a proposition,” she whispered.
He cocked his head. The earring flashed, mocking her. “Speak up, missy. This is a bar, and I can’t hear on the best of days.”
Emma twisted her hands, then grabbed deep for some courage. “I said, I have a proposition for Mr. McLaughlin.” The words rang loud and clear into the silence between one song and the next ear-splitting tune.
Someone laughed, and then the catcalls and wolf whistles began. Emma groaned, her face flaming as only a redhead’s could. She looked to the barkeeper for help, but his face was stoic. Despair brought a tear that she wiped viciously away. These people didn’t need to see her misery. No one cared.
She swung around to blindly head for the door, and practically rammed her nose into a man’s chest. Her distraught gaze climbed to an uncompromising jaw, firm, yet supple lips—her heart fluttered—a nose with a slight bump on the side like it had been broken at one time, and eyes that glittered almost black in this lighting.
Her knees gave out, but before she could slide to the ground in an ignominious heap a firm male hand gripped her arm and held her upright.
“My place or yours?” A voice like a cat’s contented purr rumbled in her ear.
So there really was a devil, and he was in Cincinnati.