Authors: A.M. Hargrove
A. M. Hargrove
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This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and storylines are products of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously.
Cover photo by Scott Hoover of Scott Hoover Photography
Cover model: Hollis Chambers
I don’t know if I would still be doing this crazy writing thing if I hadn’t met this great group of beta readers. Not only do they critique my work, but they are also my wonderful friends and stick by my side through all my rants and raves, pull me out of the mud when I’m thigh deep and can’t seem to trudge my way out of a scene. So here’s to you all of you who are my right hands, and here’s to all our laughs (hard laughs at that) during our chats, emails, voxes, phone calls or what-have-yous. I love you all to pieces!
Thank you to Terri Thomas, Kathryn Grimes, Andrea Stafford, Kristie Wittenberg, Heather Carver, Candace Selph, Megan Bagley, for being my eyes, ears, heart, and soul in
. And I’d like to extend a special thanks to my horse expert, Hetty Rasmussen for helping me with the scenes with Storm. Without Hetty, those scenes would’ve sucked because I know nothing about those lovely creatures. Oh, and I’d be remiss in not thanking Hetty for helping me with all the teasers she continually supplies for me.
I can’t release a book with thanking Annie’s Fan-Attics! I love hanging out with you ladies. I’m sorry this year has been a crazy train, but you have been a major part of my book adventure so I’m sending out my heart-felt gratitude to you!
Finally, my family deserves a huge thanks. And I’m proud and excited to say we’ve grown by one this past summer, with the addition of a daughter-in-law. Thank you for having the patience to put up with me during my long hours right before a new release.
A Hart Brothers Novel, Book 2
“Mommy! Mommy! I’m scared. Where are you?” Dark. It’s so dark. I can’t see anything and my throat hurts so bad. I want my mommy. But she won’t answer me. Why won’t she come? She always comes when I call her at night. But she doesn’t come this time. And I keep calling her. My Spiderman pajamas are wet and I want my blankie because I’m cold. My teeth make a clicking noise because they keep chattering and they won’t stop. I have to pee again and I don’t know where the potty is. I’ve already wet myself once and I don’t want to do it again. Mommy will be mad at me and I don’t want to ruin my Spiderman pajamas. Maybe if I roll up in a ball I’ll be warmer. After a while it doesn’t help much, so I call for Mommy some more. But she still doesn’t come.
There’s a noise somewhere and I lift my head. I think I was sleeping. “Mommy, is that you? Mommy!” I sit up and it’s still so dark out. I want to see my Spiderman pajamas so I hold my arm in front of my face but it’s too dark to see anything. I scream. And scream so long my throat hurts. And I cry. “Mommy! I want my mommy!” I curl up, knees to chest, and rock back and forth, crying for Mommy. But she never comes.
Something scrapes in front of me. Is it a monster? I think there’s a monster in here and I scream.
“Shut up. Stop that screaming or I’ll leave.”
I can’t stop screaming. I try but they keep coming out of me, even though I don’t want them to. Something covers my mouth, and a mean man tells me if I don’t shut up, I’ll have to stay in the dark forever. His voice scares me more than the dark. More than not having my mommy. My body shakes and suddenly my voice is gone. I can’t talk.
“That’s better. Now listen. This is your new home and the sooner you learn some manners, the better it will be. Behave, and your life will be easy. Obey me, and you’ll be given treats. Disobey, and you’ll be left here alone. Do you understand me?”
The mean man says things to me but I don’t know what they mean. I only sit and try to see him. But I only see the dark.
“Good. Now eat this.”
Something is pushed into my mouth. I can’t eat it because my throat hurts so bad. I start to choke. Then I vomit.
The mean man yells and he wipes my face. It’s so dark, I can’t see him.
He shoves a straw in my mouth and I drink. When I do, it burns my throat and I cry.
I drink more but it hurts. My face is wet from crying.
Then I hear the scraping sound and it’s quiet again. And I curl up and cry. I want my mommy. I want her to sing to me and rub my back like she does when my head hurts. I want her to kiss me and tell me a story. I want to tell her I didn’t mean it when I did those bad things and didn’t listen to her. Maybe that’s why she’s not here now. I’m sorry, Mommy. I didn’t mean it. I’ll be good. Come back, Mommy.
It’s often said that an addict has to hit rock bottom before they can begin their journey to recovery. My story is much different. Surprisingly enough, I’m not an addict and never have been. But I’ve been at the bottom. More than once. I hit it the first time when I was only seven years old. Not only was it the bottom. It was hell. It’s when I learned to lick the fiery flames of the devil himself. Only my devil was a dragon. Also known as my father. What I didn’t realize was that time was only a dip in the barrel compared to what would happen to me later.
The first time I thought he broke me but I didn’t know how wrong I was. It wasn’t until later that I realized what kind of destruction he could spawn. And that time I didn’t only break, he took me apart piece by piece, until there was nothing left to crush.
William Shakespeare wrote, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” Well, for years I was wronged. And now I plan to seek revenge. Carefully, slowly, and methodically. And when the time is right, I will strike with everything I have.
The trees speed by in a blur as I take the curve with greater speed than I should. I need to slow down. But my mood doesn’t allow for that. Downshifting, I give her all she can handle as she hugs the road, engine purring. The gasp pulls me out of my fantasy race mode and I ease up on the accelerator slightly.
“Sorry. Sometimes I can’t help myself when I get on these two-lane roads.”
“Is that really all it is?”
“Of course. And don’t start again, kea. Besides, haven’t I ever confessed my secret to you? I’ve always had a deep desire to be a race car driver.”
“Oh, really? Like this Lamborghini didn’t give that away.” She harrumphs, and I’d like to take a look at her face but I don’t dare take my eyes off the road.
Laughter rumbles in my chest and I can feel her eyes boring into me, trying to uncover what’s in my head. That’s the trouble when your lover is a psychiatrist.
“Cut it out. Now.”
“What?” Innocence drips off her with that single word, but I know damn well she gets me.
“Enjoy the ride, the scenery. It’s not often we get out of the city like this.”
“I’d rather enjoy another kind of ride.”
My mouth curves with her comment. “Oh, don’t worry. I have plans for you, gorgeous. Tall plans.”
“Kolson, what kind of plans?”
“You’ll see.” Throwing her off my inner turmoil is my goal. The last thing I want is for her to see through my façade. My gut is about to go haywire. The Dragon’s Lair. That’s where we’re headed and it’s the last place on earth I would choose to go. But I don’t have a choice. Only Gabriella doesn’t know that and my plan is to keep it that way.
“So what?” Her question confuses me.
“How do you like your new baby?”
My grin has to give her the answer. “I love it.”
“I wouldn’t have known by the way your knuckles look like they’re going to pop through the skin on your hands. Death grip much?”
I quickly glance down and damn if she isn’t right.
“Wanna explain that? Either you think that steering wheel is going to try and run away, or you’re about to freak out over this little visit to your dad’s. Kolson, you’ve avoided this for the last two weeks. You’ve danced around this every time I’ve asked and this is the end of the line. You know I won’t tolerate lying. I want the truth. And I want it before we get there.”
“Damn it, Gabriella. Can we not just go and spend one goddamn night and forget it?”
“No! Because that’s not how it’ll work. Pull the car over. Now, please.”
Her obstinacy is the last thing I need to deal with. I have enough on my plate with the dragon himself and this overnight trip. I don’t need her poking into things. My foot lowers the pedal to the floor and the engine roars to life, even more than before.
“Kolson, I’m warning you. Pull. This. Goddamn. Car. Over. Now!”
We’ve been together for several months. I’ve seen this woman go through hell and back but never has she spoken to me in that tone, not even when I treated her like shit after our last visit here.
I spot a place ahead where I can pull off and as soon as the car comes to a stop, the passenger door flies open. One thing about Gabriella is when she’s angry, her caramel-colored eyes shoot sparks of fire. I swear to God, they look like they turn into bottle rockets exploding on the Fourth of July.
Chestnut waves fan around her as she wears a path next to the car. I’m in for one hell of an argument. My brain works through every possible excuse as I get out of the car.