Morgan Young had a perfect upbringing, and now she’s got a perfect boyfriend and a perfect future—until her twenty-first birthday changes everything. First Morgan finds out, in the most painful way possible, that her relationship is a sham. But that’s nothing compared to the nightmare about to unfold.It’s too late for Tucker Noscalo. A brutal childhood left him with a bad reputation and a criminal record. Fresh out of jail, Tucker has a score to settle with Baybrook’s crooked chief of police—his own father. Nobody will believe Tucker’s explosive accusations without proof and a good lawyer, neither of which he has on his side. Until he sees someone he used to know, someone who just so happens to be the daughter of the best lawyer in the county.He needs Morgan to convince her father of the ugly truth. But first he has to convince her, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get her to listen. Confronted by the story of Tucker’s dark past, Morgan feels utterly compelled to help him. And as their connection grows into a fierce bond fueled by raw passion, Morgan finds herself falling for the wrong guy—but never has the promise of love felt so right.
Things aren’t exactly going my way. My breath burns heavy and hot in my lungs as I run. And run and run and run.
Not that I should have expected them to go smoothly. After years spent under my father’s command or seeking freedom from it, it’s eerily unsurprising to find I’ve landed myself in this much trouble just one day after getting released from prison.
Yeah. I said prison.
But I didn’t belong there.
I don’t intend on going back.
Working out in the yard at Baybrook Penitentiary, jogging the perimeter every chance I got, has paid off. Blood is drying on my shirt, the sting of broken flesh on my knuckles a physical reminder of what I am capable of. I dig deep and find the strength to run faster.
Now to find a car. I had a friend when I was on the outside. He owed me a favor. I cut across a yard and skirt a big wooden playground set with brightly colored plastic tubes and slides, wondering what it might have been like to grow up in a house like this. I wonder if the kids were protected. Safe. Loved.
But I don’t have time to do a postmortem on my childhood. Praying no one is looking out of a window, I leap a fence to an attached apartment complex and land on my feet on a crumbling pile of asphalt. The weeds are overgrown, the trees scraggly. There is junk in the yard and garbage in the lot proving that the people who live here don’t give a shit about appearances.
Or much of anything.
People like us have our reasons for feeling that way.
If Lady Luck is any friend at all, she’ll shine on me, and Mark’s Dodge Charger will be parked in exactly the same spot as when he and I used to break laws together. Minor laws. We didn’t kill anybody or anything.
I slink past a few other cars parked under a dilapidated awning, and spot Mark’s Dodge, Chelsea (named for an ex-girlfriend), parked outside of his garage. Similar to the real Chelsea, the car is dull and kind of dirty. But for my needs, the car may as well have a light from heaven shining upon her. This is a blessing when I need one most.
I calm my walk as I approach his driveway, edging along grass that needs mowed and taking a peek through a pair of partially open shabby curtains. My former good buddy is sprawled on his couch snoring, mouth wide open. I wonder if he was able to keep his job at the gravel pit, or if he was fired for one of many reasons he’d been fired from everywhere else. I smile as I remember the fun we had together. Feels like about a hundred years ago, even though it’s been more like two. “Fun” had been a rare commodity in my world back then, and right about now it is extinct.
I consider knocking on his door, asking if I can borrow Chelsea, but I don’t consider for long. The debate lasts exactly two seconds before I turn away from Mark’s window and walk to the car I’m about to appropriate for myself. She’s unlocked so I slide onto the seat and palm the steering wheel, ignoring the sting on my knuckles as I grip the wheel. I haven’t driven a car in a while—not since I stole my father’s Explorer one fated night, and being in the driver’s seat sends a rush of intoxicating freedom surging through my veins.
Freedom I can’t allow to be taken from me. Not again. Not ever.
I am prepared to hot-wire her, a handy trick, but then check the glove compartment—the stupidest place to keep a set of keys second only to the visor.
There, beneath the expired registration is a key taped to the vinyl cover of the owner’s manual.
Before my luck runs out—given the way every other damn thing has worked out tonight, it very well might—I jam the key in the ignition and turn over her blubbering engine. Loud. Way too fucking loud.
As I back out of the driveway, Mark’s door swings open. He lumbers out, wearing boxers and nothing else, rubbing his eyes, his hair and beard scraggly. I stomp on the brakes and shift in to drive. Mark’s stark confusion fades and he smiles.
It’s as good as getting his permission. I jerk my chin in a silent good-bye and gun the engine. The fuel gauge reads three-quarters full, plenty of gas to get me to the shittiest convenience store I can find. I need supplies for where I’m going and if the place is shady enough, the clerk won’t bat an eyelash at my T-shirt covered in blood. One hand gripping the wheel, I keep my eyes on the road while searching the front and back for something to change into. Surely Mark has left a shirt or— My fingers curl around something cool and slick in the back seat and I pull it into my lap. The dark leather smells like pot, and has seen better days—like the nineties—but the jacket will have to do. At least it’ll cover my shirt.
My bleeding knuckles, however . . . I shake my hand out as I pass a Waffle House, several semis parked in the lot, the inside well lit—a little too well lit. Stopping even briefly to wash my hands is tempting, but risky. I settle for the napkins I spotted in the glove compartment when I was digging for the keys.
Alternating hands on the steering wheel, I wipe as gently as possible, grateful that most of the blood isn’t mine and consider I’m luckier than I gave myself credit for a moment ago. My father was always a fighter. I’ve seen him take down a man twice my size—one who was out-of-his-mind high. I shouldn’t have been a challenge for him tonight, but I had the element of surprise.
What I didn’t have was the proof I went to my childhood home to reclaim. The videotape that would exchange mine and my father’s places in the eyes of the law and anyone with a functioning conscious. The plan was to send him to prison, not send myself back. It was time. Jeremy is gone. Mom is safely out of the country.
But now . . . now I don’t know what the hell to do. Without proof of what he’s done, it’s my word against my father’s, and there’s no doubt who the masses will believe.
I have no idea how I’m going to get that tape. It isn’t as if I can go back and ring the doorbell. It’s not like I can go to the police and plead my side of the story.
There isn’t much sympathy for the ex-con who beats the police chief unconscious. Especially when the police chief is his father.