The last line of “The Star-Spangled Banner” has always struck me as the greatest irony of the entire song. “Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” So many people in this country have that flag waving over them yet they are not free to be their authentic selves because of the -isms running rampant throughout US history. Jews who chose to change their names, gays who chose to remain in the closet, people of color who chose to pass for white. These subterfuges many times were taken not because of shame for their identity but because of lack of opportunity and/or safety. Such is the story of Belle da Costa Greene.
Belle was born Belle Marian Greener in Washington D.C. to an African American family, which numbered among the Black elite of the late 1800s. Her father, Richard T. Greener, was the first African American to graduate from Harvard. Although light enough to pass for white, he never did. Despite the horrific dismantling of Reconstruction and its immediate impact on their family’s situation in South Carolina, Greener lived his life as a vocal advocate for equal rights for his race. His wife however came to a different conclusion: passing for white would enable her family to have the opportunities and safety they deserved. They moved to New York and lived as whites. This choice however led to her parents’ separation.
Belle’s father’s love of illustrated manuscripts instilled a love for the written word in her. She trained as a librarian and was working at Princeton University’s library where she caught the eye of Junius Morgan, J.P. Morgan’s nephew. This led to the opportunity of a lifetime, and in 1905, she became the librarian/curator for J.P. Morgan’s library. She helped him amass a collection that became world famous and envied by museums around the world. Quite an accomplishment in the days before suffrage was achieved and career women were looked at with suspicion.
She retired from the Morgan Library in 1948, one year before her death. By then, she had enabled Morgan’s dream to come true: to make his library available as a resource to the public. I was glad once again to learn of another heroic Black woman, both from The Personal Librarian, a fictionalized account of her life and the biography, An Illuminated Life: Belle Da Costa Greene’s Journey from Prejudice to Privilege. However, I felt sad society wouldn’t have allowed her to accomplish all she had if she’d claimed her true heritage. I was also moved by the emotional costs Belle paid for choosing to live while hiding in plain sight. Her choice showed a woman could still be brave even if the land in which she lived wouldn’t let her be free.
For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, share the name of someone you admire who may have had to change their name or hide some part of who they were to succeed.
One Breath Away
Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.
Wealthy, freeborn-Black, Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing the mysteriously exotic woman was foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex.
Hope ignites along with lust until the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…
Excerpt from One Breath Away…
In 1872 Texas who took note of a black woman who ain’t been asked to wed?
Yet Eban’s perusal said not only did he take note, but he liked what he saw.
“Ooo, Mother Hawthorne,” Felicity Parker teased. The sandy-haired, light-skinned beauty smiled as only a twenty-something-no-longer-a- virgin woman like her could. “Your nephew’s a- lookin’ Mountain’s way.” She eyed Mary from head to toe. “Does he like his berries big, black, and buxom?”
“Could be. Ya know what they say…” Widow Clemma Hawthorne’s smile grew into a grin. She sat on Mary’s right and whispered to Felicity on Mary’s left. “The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”
The mischief rife in Clemma’s tone shone in her gaze as she waggled her eyebrows at Mary.
Felicity looked Eban up and down with approval.
“If he likes ’em dark, I’ll be glad to blacken up for him. Lord knows I’s tired of beddin’ po’ boys. Whoo chile…” She fanned herself and grinned. “I was in line behind him when he made his deposit at the Savin’ and Loan. His gold rushed across that counter like freedmen hurryin’ to claim their forty acres and a mule.” She turned and nudged Mary. “You juicy enough for that rich he-man, Blackberry?”
Have you ever given your significant other a second chance? This is Chloe Morgan’s dilemma. She’s fed up with Ward Reyes. He’s a part-time boyfriend and she wants more. She wants dates. She wants a guy to wake up to on a lazy Sunday morning. Ward isn’t that guy. So, when she dumps him, Ward sits up and takes notice. He isn’t willing to simply walk away from the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Not without a fight.
Last Chance to Call You Mine: Dirty Addiction
Obsessions come in all flavors…
Chloe Morgan is weak. At least she is when it comes to Ward Reyes. She can turn down donuts like a wrestler during training, but when her on-again-off-again boyfriend blows into town looking for a booty call she goes down like a sinking ship. Only a drastic action can get her to move on with her life and away from the silver-eyed devil. Was it wrong to send him a break-up text? Definitely, but her choices are limited considering she’s an addict. But what if Ward is the only man that can give her what she so badly desires?
“We’re through.” Ward read the text a dozen times and still can’t believe it. But the proof is there in black and white. His sweet Chloe is giving him the boot. At first, it’d been the blazing heat between them that captivated Ward. It was Chloe’s giving nature and sarcastic wit that kept him coming back for more. Unfortunately his life is a mess, thanks to his brother’s gambling habit. Ward has spent the better part of his life cleaning up Malcolm’s messes. He’s tried to keep the ugliness of it all from touching Chloe. Now, she’s threatening to walk away and Ward isn’t about to let her go without a fight.
Will Chloe give him one more chance? Read the excerpt from Dirty Addiction and find out! Universal Purchase link for My Perfect Pleasure Anthology: https://books2read.com/u/mZQqql
Ward closed the distance between them and wrapped an arm around her middle, tugging her up close. “I’m not walking away without a fight. I care about you. And I know you care about me.”
One brow lifted as she stared up at him. “I’ll get over it.”
“No, you and I belong together,” he explained. “I fucked up, I admit that, but I’m going to fix it. I promise you.”
She bit her lower lip and looked away. “It’s too late for that, Ward.”
“It’s never too late, baby,” he murmured, aching to kiss her senseless.
The doorbell rang and Chloe let out a heavy sigh. “That’ll be Lauren.”
He let her pull out of his arms, but Ward wasn’t through. “I’ll go, but I’m coming back tomorrow. You and I have unfinished business.”
She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “If you come back, then you’d better be ready to share everything with me,” she warned. “Everything, Ward. No more half-measures. It’s all or nothing.”
He watched her, knowing it was now or never. “I hope you’re ready for that.” And he hoped the truth wouldn’t send her running in the opposite direction…
It’s Friday, and maybe you’re getting ready to download a story and meet your new Weekend Book-Boyfriend. Well, I have a suggestion for you. Russell “Animal” Hathcoat is a bounty hunter, who will fall like a ton of bricks when he meets the right woman. He’s growly, grumpy, and rough around the edges but has a tender heart. Everything you could want in a BBF.
I reduced the price for this weekend only!! You’ll save $3 if you pick up your copy now! Read the excerpt below for a peek inside the fun you’ll have!
MONTANA BOUNTY HUNTERS: Authentic Men… Real Adventures…
A rough-around-the-edges bounty hunter takes a nature photographer on a wild ride.
Former SEAL, Russell “Animal” Hathcoat, retreated to a remote mountain cabin after leaving the Navy. Haunted by horrific images that replay in his nightmares of his last mission with his SEAL brothers, he intends to renovate the dilapidated cabin as penance and therapy, and to avoid rejoining the world around him. But then, someone who understands what he needs better than he does arrives to offer him a job.
Allie Travers loves the freedom and solitude of being a nature photographer and journalist—until the day she stares through her lens at a charging black bear. With her heart in her throat, she can only stand watching in horror, knowing she’ll never escape in time. But rescue comes in the form of a wild man who risks his life to frighten away the animal.
Once the danger is past, she’s told by his team of bounty hunters that she has more to fear than any animal in the woods. A felon is on the loose, and she has to accompany them to safety. Seeing an opportunity, Allie shadows the team as they hunt their prey deep in a national forest. Much to Animal’s chagrin, more than just his protective instincts are aroused by the pretty photojournalist.
Animal tuned out the crackling, thudding sounds of his team members moving through the forest.
On day three after he’d joined the hunt, he wasn’t regretting his decision to give MBH a try. He’d been unwilling to make any long-term promises. Hadn’t signed a contract or filled out a W-9. Not yet, anyway. When Fetch had described what Tibbets had done, and then talked about the hunters who were already on his trail, Animal had felt a stirring of interest. Manhunts were something he was familiar with. So, he wasn’t hunting a high-dollar target through the Hindu Kush mountains. Wasn’t dropping into some walled compound to sweep a house in the dead of night.
Still, this felt familiar. Moving through the bushes. Tracking a target. Looking for campfires, footprints, signs Tibbets had stopped to piss or shit. That morning, they’d found a butchered deer. Most of the carcass had been picked apart by scavengers. So, it hadn’t been left by a game hunter. He’d taken a portion of a haunch, had roasted it over a quickly built fire, and had eaten as much as he could before moving on.
Looked like Tibbets was feeling pretty sure he’d slipped the noose. He hadn’t even bothered to try to bury the evidence he’d been there.
The first afternoon, Animal had ridden along with Carly and Reaper. They’d shown him the warrant and pictures of Tibbets and his family. They’d canvassed businesses in Olney—gun shops, grocers, gas stations, but no one recalled seeing him or his cousin Murray.
That evening, they headed to Tibbets’s favorite haunt again. The women sat at the long polished bar, chatting up the bartender and the waitresses. Dagger and Mace played pool with two plugged-in and gossipy locals. Reaper and Animal sat at a table, watching the doors. But none of them were getting any bites.
About an hour into their surveillance, Hook and Cochise arrived.
Hook slapped a map on the table. “Found the parcel his family owns. It sits on a creek.”
“’Bout damn time,” Reaper had muttered.
The next morning, they’d geared up and surrounded a small, ratty camper trailer. Tibbets had been there recently but was now gone. After tearing through his belongings, searching for clues where he might have gone next, they bagged up dirty clothes for Mace’s dog Taco to scent on.
The moment Taco lowered his nose to the ground, following Tibbets’s trail from the camper’s metal steps, they’d realized the man had headed straight into the woods, afoot, rather than driving out.
They’d left Dagger, Lacey, and Cochise behind to watch for any movement in town, and to keep an eye out for any of his relatives who looked ready to head north with supplies to help him out. The rest of the team members grabbed their gear from their vehicles and began tracking Tibbets into Flathead National Forest.
Animal didn’t mind the rough conditions. He was accustomed to long marches and sleeping on the ground. None of the hunters, even Carly Stenberg, complained about the conditions, even after they’d endured a chilly rain the previous day. They’d dried their clothes beside a fire last night, reasonably assured they were still a day’s hike from catching up to Tibbets. Conversation had flowed around him, but he hadn’t felt the need to try to contribute.
This was a tight, well-trained crew, and they knew each other well. But they seemed to understand he wasn’t the chatty type. He rather liked the fact they let him be.
They came to the edge of the woods. A large meadow stretched before them, mountains in the background. The meadow was broken on one side by ridges of exposed rock.
“We got company,” Reaper said quietly. They all held back, remaining hidden in the brush. Reaper lifted an arm and pointed.
Animal pulled out his tactical telescope and followed Reaper’s direction, at last spotting a slender figure standing beside an outcropping. Not their mark.
A woman. She stood in front of a tripod and peered into a camera. She had wheat-colored hair drawn back into a messy braid. She wore a red plaid shirt and a khaki vest over blue jeans and boots.
Suddenly, she jerked back her head, giving him a glimpse of her profile. Her eyebrows were lowered, her mouth dropping as she stared down the hill.
He turned his telescope toward whatever had caught her attention and immediately understood her concern.
A baby black bear ambled into the clearing, heading upward toward her location.
“Where’s mama?” he whispered.
As though answering his question, a loud bellow sounded from the forest farther down the tree line. A large bear ran out, huffing and bellowing, heading toward the woman.
He didn’t have even a millisecond to think through a better plan. Animal dumped his pack and ran into the clearing, tearing at his shirt. When he’d ripped off the buttons down the front, he flapped the edges, trying to make himself look bigger. “Ha! Ha!” he yelled as loud as he could to draw the bear’s attention away from the woman.
Mama bear bounced on her front paws and spun toward him.
“Don’t shoot unless you have to!” Animal tossed over his shoulder to Reaper.
“Don’t get in my line of fire!” Reaper shouted back.
“Don’t shoot her!” the woman screamed.
“You shut up!” Animal yelled, still running, still flapping. Didn’t she realize he was trying to draw the bear’s attention away from her?
The bear’s head moved from Animal, to Reaper behind him, and again to the woman, likely trying to decide who was the biggest danger to her cub.
Animal roared and flapped and moved a little closer.
The baby bear squalled and changed direction, running for his mama.
Just when Animal feared the bear would charge, she spun and ran into the woods, her cub running right behind her.
Animal halted, breathing hard. He gave another flap of his shirt. “Ha! Ha!” he shouted, hoping she’d been startled bad enough not to turn around.
Then he heard a whirring sound, coming from up the rise. He turned his head toward the woman. The sound came from her camera. Animal gave her a fierce glare then began to stalk up the rise.
When he reached her, she straightened and flashed him a wide smile. “Thanks for that. Thought for a second there I was going to be lunch.”
“What the hell!” he bellowed, anger shot through him. Didn’t she have a clue how close to being “lunch” he’d been, trying to rescue her? And all she’d thought about was taking her damn pictures?
Her eyebrows shot upward, and she stood still.
Behind him, he heard more of his team stomping up the hill. He should have turned and walked away. Should have let Reaper handle getting her packed up and off the mountain. Away from him.
Instead, anger vibrated through him. He glanced at the gear strewn around her feet. “Who the hell comes out to the wilderness without a goddamn gun?”
“The only shots I plan to take are with my camera,” she said icily, lifting her chin.
He ground his teeth as his face heated.
“Wish I’d been shooting video though,” she said. “The footage would’ve gone viral. Do you chase bears often?”
My latest book releases tomorrow night just after midnight. I’m sitting here wanting to share the entire story right now, but I’m settling for a snippet instead. But which one? An exciting criminal takedown? The first kiss?
I’ve shared the entire first chapter. You can read it here. What about a snippet from the sex scene?
How about I choose my favorite scene from the book?And it might seem weird to you, but I love this tiny scene featuring my favorite waitress, Nadine. She makes an appearance in all the books. The woman is a fixture in Dead Horse—she’s rude, irascible, and knows everyone’s business. She’s decided that the bounty hunters are enemy #1 and never gives them any slack. This scene has more to it, because you’re meeting Nadine’s relative, who will feature in my first We are Dead Horse story. So, maybe this excerpt won’t be as much fun for you because you’re not seeing the “bigger” scene but it’s my favorite because I love, love, love Nadine.
Nadine in Gabriel…
Their table at the diner was surrounded by other tables. No privacy. And business was humming. Fig glanced up and watched the hunters’ “favorite fan” approach. “Watch out,” she whispered to Gabe. “Nadine’s coming our way.”
Gabe’s mouth firmed into a thin line.
Nadine slapped laminated copies of the menu on their table. “Heard you two let that Jimmy Calhoun fella slip right through your fingers.”
Fig raised her eyebrows. “Nadine, I never figured you for someone who kept up with current events. You being so busy and all.”
Nadine’s eyes narrowed. “Had someone from your TV show call me yesterday. Said they wanted some local color and wanted to interview me. Told ’em they’d need more than a damn five-minute segment to cover all the issues.”
“I’m sure they were eager to sign you up.”
Nadine huffed a breath. “So, are you two gonna order or talk my ear off? I’ve got other customers to tend to.”
There’s plenty of talk today about how reparations need to be made to African Americans for the harm done by slavery, but you don’t hear much about how long this kind of demand has been going on. In Mary Frances Berry’s book, My Face Is Black Is True, I learned how a thirty-six-year-old washerwoman co-founded one of the first poor people’s campaigns in this country.
Born enslaved in 1861, Callie married William House in 1883 and supported her children after his death by doing washing. Many former slaves had to support themselves in unjust sharecropping arrangements or doing menial work. Seeing how elderly war veterans received pensions, Callie along with Isaiah H. Dickerson theorized the same could be done for the formerly enslaved. Their idea gained so much support they chartered the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association (NEMRB&PA). Some sources cite they had hundreds of thousands of followers.
In My Face Is Black Is True, Mary Berry quotes federal officials as saying House’s movement “is setting the negroes wild.” They moved quickly and in 1899, the organization was charged by the Post Office with using the mails to defraud slaves. Undeterred, NEMRB&PA got legal representation and pressed on. In 1915, they filed a class action lawsuit to provide former slaves with pensions for their unpaid labor. They claimed $68 million in taxes on seized rebel cotton could be used to provide the compensation. Their suit was denied by both the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court.
While NEMRB&PA had strong grassroots support, this was not the case with some of the Black Elite. Mary Berry suggests Callie, being a washerwoman, worked against her receiving the respect that was her due. She found no champions among African American leaders and newspapers when the Post Office had her arrested in 1916 for using money for her own purposes. Despite the prosecution’s inability to show proof of how much money she was supposed to have embezzled, she was convicted to a year in prison. No surprise then that when the government wanted to stop Marcus Garvey’s grassroots movement in 1922, mail fraud was the route they took.
Callie was released in 1918 and continued to support herself as a seamstress and washerwoman until her death ten years later. While the government may have stopped her, ex-slaves continued writing Congress demanding they be granted pensions. Chapters of NEMRB&PA existed until the 1930s.
History doesn’t always give us the HEA’s that romance guarantees. So as heart-rending as Callie’s story is, I don’t get discouraged. It’s just proof of what the late congressman, John Lewis, told us: “Those of us who are committed to the cause of justice need to pace ourselves because the struggle does not last for one day, one week, or one year, but it is a struggle for a lifetime, and each generation must do its part.”
For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, share what inspires you when you encounter setbacks.
Better to Marry Than to Burn
Wife Wanted: Marital relations as necessary. Love not required nor sought…
A bridal lottery seems the height of foolishness to ex-slave Caesar King, but his refusal to participate in the town council’s scheme places him in a bind. He has to get married to avoid paying a high residence fine or leave the Texas territory. After losing his wife in childbirth, Caesar isn’t ready for romance. A woman looking for a fresh start without any emotional strings is what he needs.
Queen Esther Payne, a freeborn black from Philadelphia, has been threatened by her family for her forward-thinking, independent ways. Her family insists she marry. Her escape comes in the form of an ad. If she must marry, it will be on her terms. But her first meeting with the sinfully hot farmer proves an exciting tussle of wills that stirs her physically, intellectually, and emotionally.
In the battle of sexual one-upmanship that ensues, both Caesar and Queen discover surrender can be as fulfilling as triumph.
Excerpt from Better to Marry Than to Burn…
She sidled up to him, cupped his erection and fondled his balls.
“Ready for bed or ready to bed me?”
He moaned, placed his hand atop hers and increased the pressure. Already hard, he hadn’t imagined he could get any harder.
“Is that beautiful brass bed new?”
He gulped. “Ye—yes. Bought it—bought it for the honeymoon.”
“I’m ready to be bedded now,” she whispered. “Or is that something we must negotiate?”
All thoughts of dinner vanished.
“No,” he rasped, leaning forward, as hungry for her lips as he was to be inside her.
“Good.” She stepped back, out of reach. “But, let’s be clear…” She bent over, so her butt protruded toward him. She massaged each buttock so her crack parted invitingly. “Tonight it’s the Greek way or no way.”
He blinked, stunned by this demand to be taken anally. His master had had books filled with drawings, depicting naked Greeks wrestling. Those pen and ink depictions flashed before him now. Arms constrained by arms, legs entwined with legs, butts and groins enmeshed in snug contortions. He’d love to take Queen that way, experience first- hand the erotic intimacy etched in the men’s struggle-laden features.
He took one step toward her then stopped. No. One day, he would…but not tonight. Not their first time. Their first time would be the nose-to-nose, chest-to-breast, cock-to-vagina coupling he’d hungered five years for.
I love a tortured hero, don’t you? In the latest installment in my Zenariansseries, I deal with the trauma of loss. My battle-scarred hero Zadoc lost his beloved ofelia (soulmate) to the war with the Mordaines. Murdered right before his eyes. Doomed to live without her, each day is a new torment for him. I honestly cried a few times while writing his tragic story. He loved his Jasmine with all his heart. So, when unassuming Laura St. Claire comes into his life and he finds himself drawn to her, Zadoc is torn. It’s a betrayal to Jasmine’s memory, and yet there’s just something about the dark-haired human female that tugs at him. Even her scent is somehow familiar. Is he being given a second chance at love?
When you pick up this novel you can expect to read about an immortal alien hero, an introverted bookworm of a heroine, love scenes that will knock your socks off, and edge-of-your-seat action. Have tissues handy because you just might shed a few tears!
Other novels in my Zenarians Series include Zar, Kade, and Dyre. All can be read on their own, but you won’t want to miss these over-the-top alphas! To get you started you can read the first chapter of all four books on my website: https://www.annerainey.com/zenarians-series
Zadoc: Zenarians Series, Book Four
She awakens the beast in him…
Zadoc has known happiness when he met his beautiful Jasmine. His ofelia. His soulmate. She was his whole world. Only to have her ripped away from him when she was murdered during the war with the Mordaines. Her death was a knife to his heart. As a centuries-old Zenarian immortal, Zadoc is aware that he will never love another. Never feel the soft caress of a lover’s hands upon his wings. The physical scars he bears are a constant reminder of all that he’s lost. Until he meets Laura. Sweet, shy, and Earth-born. Her presence brings light and joy to his soul—and his creature isn’t immune to her innocent allure either. After so many years of cold emptiness, Zadoc will go to extreme lengths to keep Laura by his side.
Laura enjoys a simple life. A good book on a stormy night. Sunday dinners with her family. Her life is as modest as it gets and she’s happy with the status quo. When she meets Zadoc, co-owner of Zenarian Industries, she’s instantly drawn to him. His commanding presence and the deep, gravelly tone of his voice sends tingles of awareness along her nerve endings. Everything feminine in her stands up and takes notice. Until she glimpses the black wings sprouting from his back. Wait, wings? Before she can wrap her mind around what she’s seeing, she’s kidnapped by a disgruntled co-worker and tortured, marking the beginning of Laura’s crazy adventure into a world she never knew existed.
Laura couldn’t look away. She suspected she was frozen in terror. Or maybe she was having a crazy and intense dream and she couldn’t wake up. Sleep paralysis was a thing, right? People suffered from it all the time. You think you’re awake, but you aren’t. Either way, nothing in her life could’ve prepared her for what was sitting next to her. Zadoc has wings. Giant black Lucifer-type wings. She watched as the gorgeous man shifted around on the sofa to get more comfortable. She had to scoot away from him to keep from being hit in the face by the right one. They were spread out on either side of him. A twitch of his shoulder and the left wing flexed, knocking into the table lamp. For a few worrisome seconds the metal base teetered back and forth before it steadied.
Oh, God, it couldn’t be real. “Touch him,” she mumbled to her cowardly self. “Just find out if they’re real.”
Taking a deep breath, Laura reached out with her right hand and stroked a feather near the top bend. It was as soft as velvet beneath her fingertips. Zadoc’s entire body went rigid and his eyes flew open. His gaze snared hers. “Ofelia,” he murmured in a voice so deep and hoarse that Laura felt it coast along her nerve endings.
She slowly got to her feet. “I don’t—”
Sheer terror prevented her from finishing the statement. She backed up a step, stumbling over the heels that she’d kicked off earlier, then ran toward the door. She heard Zadoc calling her name, but adrenaline was pumping hard and she ran for all she was worth. She saw her purse on the table near the door and grabbed it, then gave the knob a vicious twist, shoving the door wide. She hauled ass down the sidewalk to the street beyond. “Help!” she screamed. A porch light came on a few houses down and she ran toward it. She could hear footsteps behind her, but she didn’t dare look back. Suddenly a car came barreling around the corner, headlights momentarily blinding her. Brakes screeched and a passenger door swung open. She stared in horror as Eddie sat behind the wheel holding a gun.
“Get in,” he shouted. “Now, Laura, or I’ll kill you and your boyfriend.”
Laura looked back and saw Zadoc running toward her. The wings were gone. As if they’d never been there. Had she dreamt the whole thing? Jesus, maybe. A combination of too many hours at the office and not enough sleep. She’d had freaky dreams plenty of times. Zadoc yelled her name and Laura started in his direction, but Eddie’s words pulled her to a halt.
“He’ll die first,” Eddie snarled. “I have nothing to lose, thanks to you.”
Her stomach churned and her knees nearly collapsed. If she didn’t get in the car then Eddie really would shoot. Zadoc would be dead and it’d be her fault. And all because she’d had a nightmare and imagined things that couldn’t possibly be real.
Gabriel Pelletier was pretty sure something had changed. Not that he was a deeply intuitive man—at least, not when it came to women. However, he was one hundred percent sure something was different about the bounty hunter’s office admin and operations guru, Fredericka Newton.
For one thing, she’d insisted that very morning that he call her “Fig” like everyone else in the agency did—her delivery crisp, her lips firm. And she’d hit him with that as he’d poured his first cup of coffee before the morning meeting had even begun.
When she’d turned on her heel and left him with his jaw sagging and wondering what bee had crawled up her ass, he’d seen Chase’s black eyebrows rise and his lips purse, had noted Cowboy’s grimace and Cage’s slow blink. Worse, Marti had been doing her best after her initial snort not to bust a gut laughing while her man Hardman shushed her with a glare.
Gabe had thought he’d had a budding friendship happening with Fredericka…er, Fig. “Fredericka” had been the name she’d given him when he’d first arrived after he’d received the invitation from Cage Morgan to join the agency. He’d sat across from Fig’s desk, filling out forms, while she’d kept up a light patter of conversation, which he’d learned later from the rest of the hunters was highly unusual. The Fig they knew was all about the job, hyper-focused, no chitchat. And yet, she’d been friendly with him. Soft and warm-looking, too—something he’d mentioned to his partner, Eli Pope, who’d done his level best to hold back a grin, especially when Gabe had mentioned just how nice “Fredericka” was.