"The monsters you really should be afraid of, don't need to hide in plain sight. The truly dangerous ones…have no need to hide."
When physical pain allows you to escape your reality; what do you do when the pain is no longer strong enough to quiet the emotional ache?
Diouana “Nikki” returned to her hometown six months ago to tend to her sick mother. She thought she’d left her “baggage” behind her on the opposite coast, only to find that it never left her side. As her self-destructive thoughts begin to consume her, her mother -- realizing Nikki’s torment -- pushes Nikki to complete her last wishes.
Eric Brenton, Nikki’s new neighbor, lives in a dark, chaotic world that is easily hidden behind his model good looks and cocky demeanor. Unapologetic about his dirtier intentions, he sets his sights on Nikki with an offer to help her. But his help comes with very unorthodox conditions and a huge price.
And Eric...comes with an extensive black box warning label.
Warning: Contains graphic language, frequent graphic sex, and dark themes.
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I moved forward to retrieve my phone from his hands, but he quickly withdrew, holding it just above my reach with an enduring smile.
“A thank you would be nice.”
“You know what would be nice? If you gave me back my fucking phone and stopped talking to me.”
He didn’t stop smiling, but his moderately thick, jet brow raised underneath the brim of his blue baseball cap. “Bad morning?”
“Seriously. Give me back my phone.” I tried to keep my voice level, but I was near to throwing a tantrum. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I hated it when strange men bothered me. He didn’t fall under the one-percent category.
He folded his arms and tossed out a foot. “First a thank you, then your name.”
I walked off and shoved my hands in the pockets of my jeans as I not so quietly fumed.
“Shit,” he muttered at his failed attempt to get me to do—whatever he wanted me to do. “You’re just going to walk away and leave your four-hundred dollar phone with a stranger?” He walked by my side, easily keeping up with my brisk pace.
“Three hundred. I didn’t get the sixty-four.” Not sure why he was bothering me. I looked like hell. I felt like hell. I had the permanent, unfriendly scowl of someone you wouldn't want to chat up.
“Can you slow down, so I can give you back your phone? You don’t want to be bothered? Fine. I get it. But if you leave your phone with me, I’m going to have more than one excuse to see you again.”
“Why? You don’t know me. A guy like you can walk into a bar and get a girl on his arm within seconds. I get that maybe you like conquests or something. I hear humans do that—“
“Humans? Are you trying to infer that you’re an alien?”
“God!” I shrilled. “You’re not funny.”
He stepped in front of me and stopped my stride. When I tried to walk around him, he moved again.
“Would you move?”
“Hold out your hand.”
He stepped forward, squinting his eyes with a temperate, twitching sneer. “Hold out your fucking hand.” His tone transformed into one that bothered me enough to do what he told me to do. He almost slid my phone into my hand, but abruptly changed his mind. With my phone firmly in his hand, he put both arms behind his head. Staring me down, he pressed at my stonewall with an overt dominance. “Your name. Then, I want you to thank me.”
I glared back, unrelenting.
“I may just…happen to lose my grip, and let your screen shatter like I should’ve the first time. Never know. Do you want to test how nimble my fingers are? Are you really comfortable enough with me to trust me?”
I said nothing.
He dangled my phone in the air.
The thought of having to go to the Apple store, because I would need a new phone right away, was enough to make me bristle. “Nikki,” I forced through my teeth.
He stepped forward, making me step backward. “And?”
“Thank you,” I said insincerely.
He slid my phone in my hand and jogged down the path without another word.
About Courtney Lane
By way of Rochester, NY and several other places before I landed in California. I live with my husband, dog, daughter, and a demon masquerading as a dog.
When I began writing (I know this sounds familiar, over dozens authors state this) it was an outlet for me. Not only that, I was creating fan fiction before I knew what fan fiction was. Eventually, my writing evolved into standalone worlds with standalone characters.
While I write across genres (I find it hard to stick to one genre), I do have an archetype when it comes to the female protagonist -- they have to have certain type of strength, strong convictions, and layered personalities. There will often be a lot of darkness and depth to my stories, but I don't see the point in writing vapid characters who are thrust into "safe" situations.
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