Sometimes the right choice can be the deadliest.
When Ellie Watt made the ultimate sacrifice for Camden McQueen, she never thought it would be easy. But walking away with her ex-lover, Javier Bernal, in order to ensure Camden's safety has brought a whole new set of dangers. With Javier's plans for Ellie growing more secretive by the moment, Ellie must find a way to stay ahead of the game before her past swallows her whole. Meanwhile, Camden's new life is short-lived. Fueled by revenge and pursued by authorities, he teams up with an unlikely partner in order to save Ellie. But as Camden toes the line between love and retribution, he realizes that to get back the woman he loves, he may lose himself in the process and turn into the very man he's hunting.
I hadn’t had a panic attack in weeks so it snuck up on me, like a hand reached around from behind me and began squeezing my lungs until there was no breath left. I started gasping for air, my hand at my throat, trying to take nothing in. Tears filled my eyes and spilled down my cheeks in dirty rivulets and my body began to shake.
“Jesus Christ,” Javier swore, nearly taking the car off the road. “Ellie, Ellie. What’s happening?”
I gulped and gasped unable to stop from crying, panic seizing me all over from my shoulders to my feet and I thrashed back and forth in order to get free.
Next thing I knew, he’d pulled the car down a private dirt road that ran between two orchards and he was undoing my seatbelt. He came around to my side and took me in his arms and away from the car. We disappeared into the orchards, the smell of orange blossoms in the air.
He put me down, propped up against a tree and smoothed the hair off of my face. His sunglasses and baseball cap were gone, his hair mussed, his worried eyes searching me.
“Hey, Ellie,” he said gently, running his hand down the side of my face and feeling the pulse under my jaw. “It’s okay, it’s all going to be okay.”
I shook my head, feeling disgusting and messy and lost. I sobbed. “It’s not going to be okay. I can’t do this, I can’t do this.”
He cupped my face in his hands and forced me to look at him. “You can. And you will. You are strong. You are very strong. Right here.” He lay his hand in the middle of my chest. “You will do this and you will succeed.”
I finally found my breath again, the fresh air flowing down the sun-streaked orchard coming into my lungs. “I will fail.”
I sniffed. “I don’t even want this,” I admitted.
He cocked his head and let go of my face. “Then why are you doing this?”
“Because you’re making me!” I cried out. “You’re forcing me to!”
His head jerked back. “I am doing no such thing.”
“You are! You’ll kill my Camden if I don’t.”
I didn’t see the outburst coming. Suddenly Javier was in my face, his skin turning red, his eyes narrowing into viper-like slits, all yellow and full of hate.
“He is not your Camden!” he screamed. I closed my eyes.
“He isn’t here with you now,” he went on, words harsh and short, like bullets. “I am here with you.”
“I know!” I screamed back. “And I hate it! I hate it! I hate you!”
Then before I knew what was happening, I had wound up my hand and slapped him hard across his face. The sound ricocheted down the groves.
I waited, surprised at myself, breathing hard. I watched as his face contorted in the same type of shock. And then something odd flashed across his brow. Something like betrayal. I knew betrayal all too well. I knew it had been on my own face when I found out what Uncle Jim was planning to do.
My dead uncle.
I slapped him again, harder this time, my palm stinging like I was being stabbed with a million tiny knives. “That was for my uncle!” I cried. “You killed him.”
Now I wound up for a punch and decked Javier right in the side of the head. “You killed him,” I repeated, tears streaming down my cheeks again. “You keep taking everyone I love away!”
The whole time, Javier just stayed there. Not ducking my hits, not getting out of the way. He just let me, watching me with that same look upon his face.
“Well, come on!” I screamed. “Hit me back. You know you want to!”
I got up into a crouch and decked him in the head again, my knuckles exploding in pain. “Come on!” I pushed my hands into his shoulders and tried to throw him to the ground. He fell easily, and I threw myself on top of him, throwing punch after punch after punch until he finally reached up and grabbed my wrists with both his hands.
“I’m not going to hit you,” he said, gazing deeply at me with wild eyes, his lip bleeding. “You can hit me all you want but if you’re doing it so I can hit you back, it won’t work. You’ll just break every part of me.”
“I want to break every part of you!” I exclaimed but gave up and collapsed on him. “I want you to break,” I whispered, my head on his chest, my eyes focused absently on an orange tree.
“You have,” he said softly, his hand stroking the back of my head. “I told you that you broke me when you left. And you did. I’m not lying to you.”
“You always lie.”
“No. Not now.” His voice dropped a register.
I raised my head to look at him. He brought his hands on both sides of my cheeks and held me there, his eyes searching me for something.
“Angel,” he said through a breath.
He pulled my face to his, my lips meeting his, slowly. Just a taste of blood and tears. Lips and tongue. The sensation pulled me under, the heat that spread from him and through me, the memories mixing with the smell of orange blossoms. All the pain disappeared as our kiss deepened, all the worry, all the danger melted like my lips and his did together.
It was wrong. So wrong. And I didn’t care. Like I had so many times before, I was willingly bad.
About the Author
Karina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and the USA Today Bestselling author of Love, in English, The Artists Trilogy, and other wild and romantic reads. She lives in a 1920s farmhouse on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books.
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