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Dark Romance Books: Beauty & The Biker | Alpha Male MC Romance

alpha male bad boy bwwm romance novelY'all aren't ready. The BWWM romance novel I'll be publishing at the end of March is sizzling hot interracial romance deliciousness that you won't want to miss.

If you enjoy reading dark romance books with desirable alpha males, bad boys who make you swoon and strong black female heroes, you'll enjoy reading one of our top romance novels anticipated for the year.

Read the description below and then the first chapter FREE. 

Description:

Savage fighter. Ruthless leader. Icy blue eyes. 

My now ex-boyfriend lost me in a bet.

The winner? The ruthless leader of his rival motorcycle gang — Heath.

Heath is a cold-blooded killer, or so I’ve heard.

He expects total submission…

I don’t let anyone tell me what to do.

On the open road, I don’t have a choice.

I’m his. He won me fair and square.

And he won’t give me up without a fight.

Romance Novel Excerpt: Beauty & The Biker | Motorcycle Club Romance

Heath took me prisoner two days ago. Since then, I’d scoped out every opportunity to run. Clinging to him on the back of his Gold Wing, I scrutinized the landscape as we rushed past. Thick forests hung over the highway, shading us from the blazing heat of the sun beginning its descent in the sky. When all the bikes stopped and the men started their tune ups, I hung close to Heath’s bike. 

 

As he stooped down to check his tires, I checked on my cash.

 

I reached into my jeans and pulled out my wad of bills, mostly fives and ones. This was all the money I had but it would have to do. 

 

I counted it for the second time and prepared to run.

 

“Kaja, get over here,” he called and I rounded his shiny metal beast, my eyes darting furtively along the highway.

 

“Yes?” I folded my arms. 

 

My time approached.

 

“Hold this. I need to screw on the bolts,” he growled.

 

I stuck out my palm with a scowl on my face and he stuck the spanner in it with a bemused raised eyebrow.

 

“You don’t have to be so sour.”

 

“Whatever. I want to get out of here.”

 

He chuckled. 

 

“Bossy huh? We’ll see what you say when we get to Chicago and I off-load you onto the first toothless bastard I find.”

 

“Buzz off.”

 

He chuckled again and bent down to adjust his tires. 

 

“Spanner.”

 

I handed him the spanner. 

 

“Good.” 

 

He opened up the toolbox on the back of the bike and shoved it back in.

 

“Why the long face sunshine?”

 

“Don’t mock me,” I spat back, “I don’t have to put up with your bullshit.” 

 

“Suit yourself.”

 

“Ready to go you bastard?” Rhys approached and smacked Heath on the back, causing the two of them to erupt in guffaws. Heath’s laugh was a low chuckle while Rhys’ pierced the air with the same pitch as his Southern accent. Rhys ran his hands through his blond hair and stuck it in a loose ponytail.

 

“Damn straight,” Heath said, “Where’s Jacob and his girl?”

 

Don approached then zipping up his leather jacket and twirling his helmet in his hands.

 

“Those two love birds snuck off for a bit of nookie in the woods.”

 

Heath chuckled, “Joining ‘em this time?” 

 

Rhys snorted, “That slut? No thanks. She’s been passed around by every guy with a bike on the Eastern seaboard.”

 

Don chuckled and retorted, “Yeah right, you’re just pissed off she chose Jacob instead of you.”

 

“Fuck off,” Rhys snorted, putting his helmet on.

 

“Reckon I should go scare him out?” He touched the gun on his holster.

 

Heath shook his head, “Nah. They’ll be here soon.”

 

Don smirked, “Knowing Jacob, it should be about… 90 seconds.”

 

The men erupted into laughter again and I just stood there, glaring with my arms folded. I’d tried to go unnoticed but Rhys noticed my scowl and approached me pressing his fingers to my lips and flicking them.

 

“Why the long face? You ain’t find us funny?”

 

“No,” I spat back.

 

“Hey watch your mouth,” Rhys spat, “You’re nothing but a piece of meat and if you catch an attitude I’ve got no problem ditching your sorry ass on the side of the road.”

 

“Hey!” Heath interrupted, “Leave her alone.”

 

Rhys snickered.

 

“Whatever man, don’t defend her.”

 

Don grunted, “Don’t be a pussy Heath, he’s only joking. No one’s going to harm princess over here.”

 

The men laughed again, like I was some big joke. I kept my gaze steady, trying not to care. I wouldn’t be stuck with them much longer. Five minutes later, Angie and Jacob emerged from the woods holding hands and laughing.

 

“Not much stamina, Jacob?”

 

“Shut the fuck up,” Angie spat, “Watch your mouth Don or I’ll cut your tongue out?”

 

“Why so you can shove it up you —”

 

“Watch the way you talk to my lady buddy,” Jacob interrupted, stepping in front Angie.

 

“Geez, it’s just a joke.”

 

“Yeah well fuck off leprechaun.”

 

“Me ma’s Irish, that’s why I’ve got this red hair,” Don replied, doing his best imitation of an Irish accent and breaking the groups tension, sending everyone into fits of laughter.

 

“Let’s get out of here,” Angie said, “Princess looks like she’s going to shit bricks.”

 

She jutted her chin towards me, drawing even more attention than I wanted.

 

“I’m fine,” I spat.

 

Angie winked, her brilliant blue eyes twinkling with excitement. Her daisy dukes barely covered her thin, pale legs with blue veins trailing through them. Her long chocolate hair hung to the middle of her back and she fixed it into a ponytail before donning her helmet and hopping on her bike.

 

“Time to ride…”

 

I had no choice. I hopped on the back of Heath’s bike, clutching his torso as he revved the engine up.

 

“Don’t let go sweetheart,” he both commanded and taunted me.

 

I wouldn’t let go. With only twenty miles to the next fuel station, all I had to do was wait. Once we got there, I’d go to the gas station restroom and make my break for it. I knew these backroads well enough and this would be my last chance to escape before these hooligans dragged me God-knows-where.

 

We drove down the highway, wind whipping my dreads into the breeze and my breath fogging up the helmet. I clutched Heath tightly because I had no choice. I had no choice but to hold onto his body or go flying down the highway. 

 

The road stretched out for miles before it curved, deserted since rush hour had passed. We were deep in the New England boonies and wouldn’t hit traffic until New York. The Steel Dragons spoke about going around the city when they thought I wasn’t listening. I’d been preparing to take my last stand. 

 

However they managed city traffic wouldn’t be my problem. I needed patience. Heath’s gaze fixated on me whenever we’d stopped. I’d have trouble getting out of his sight at the gas station but he couldn’t follow me everywhere. I hadn’t said much, hoping they’d underestimate me. He kicked the stand up and I squeezed my arm around him tighter.

 

The bikes roared and they kicked up dust as they accelerated down the highway. Jacob and Angie rode side by side in the front, Rhys and Heath rode together behind them.

 

Holding down the flank were Don, and Clay. Don would be the hardest one to get something past. He was too sharp and he didn’t trust that I’d stay with the Dragons in the first place. He’d begged Heath not to bring me along but Don didn’t make the rules around here — Heath did. 

 

I breathed a sigh of relief when we pulled into the gas station as they’d planned. My heart skittered in my chest. I was too accustomed to fear to allow it to paralyze me. I got off the bike and took my helmet off.

 

“You stay here,” Heath growled as he walked to the pump.

 

“I-I need to go to the restroom.”

 

Heath looked me up and down.

 

“Fine. Be quick.”

 

He gestured for me to hand him the helmet so I did, relieved that I was now unencumbered. 

 

The gang stared at me as I entered the gas station. I could feel their eyes on my back and of course, Rhys dog whistled which earned him a warning punch from Heath. A tinny bell rang as I thrust the door open and as the door closed behind me. 

 

I stood alone with the attendant, tempted to ask him to call the police. If the police found me, they’d find out quick that I knew Trey Holt. They’d want me to talk and if I dared say one word my life would be on the line. No cops. I didn’t need them. The attendant at the desk eyed me and then eyed the gang, clad head to toe in black leather in stark contrast to my jeans and white tank top.

 

“You with them?”

 

“Y-yes,” I replied.

 

I was too scared to say much to anyone. The man snorted.

 

“You don’t look like the type.”

 

“C-can I use the bathroom?”

 

“You sure you okay ma’am?”

 

“Yes,” I replied, “I’m sure.”

 

“Okay, it’s back there behind the hot dogs.”

 

“Thanks,” I mumbled.

 

I’d been here before with Trey. A girl had been working that time but the gas station had no reason to change. I walked into the bathroom and closed the door, turning the lock and exhaling.

 

“Pull it together Kaja,” I muttered, wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans and looking up at the window, perched a few feet above me just as I remembered it.

 

I stood on the toilet, grunting as I shoved the small window open. I was small enough to fit and I’d considered running away the last time I’d come with Trey so I’d thought the plan through before. I grunted again as I thrust the entire window open. I reached up to the sill and grunted as I pulled myself up, shuffling my body through the window.

 

There was an eight foot drop from the window that landed on a patch of grass. Lucky freaking me. I tucked and rolled as I dropped. I stood to my feet and without looking back, I turned tail and ran.

 

The gas station was just outside of a small town with plenty of New England charm and an absence of any people. My feet pounded the pavement as I hurried towards the trees. My heart thumped in my chest and my stomach tightened. If I didn’t get away this time, Heath would be pissed and the rest of them would be pissed. I’d be stuck riding to California with a bunch of crazy assholes — who hated me.

 

I burst through the clearing and stopped to catch my breath, bending over my pressing my palms into my knees.

 

“THERE SHE IS!”

 

Shit. Angie ratted me out. So much for girl power…

 

I picked up the pace, adrenaline bursting through my chest and forcing my legs to carry me. At the other end of the clearing I’d have to cross the highway and then I could get to the strip mall. Once I got to the strip mall… Well someone in there had to have a phone. I could call Julie and she’d come get me. Wouldn’t she? I knew she was Trey’s sister but come on, Trey got me into this mess. It’s not like I wanted to be here in the first place.

 

I ran towards the light, through the trees, hopping over felled tree branches and avoiding deep murky puddles with rotting leaves. 

 

“Don’t you dare shoot her!” A voice called — this time Heath.

 

Yeah, I’m sure he wanted Don, Rhys or whoever had pulled the gun to keep their hands off his precious cargo.

 

“She’s heading to the mall, guys we have to split up!”

 

My chest tightened. They knew where I was going and they planned to stop me. I couldn’t stop running. I was less than 1/4 mile away from the entrance to the highway and if I was lucky, I could find someone passing by who would stop and pick me up. 

 

I heard the sound of motorcycles revving in the distance but I didn’t stop running until I exited the deep woods and stood at the edge of the highway on the other side of the guard rails. Traffic was far from heavy, but the roads weren’t deserted with a few family cars heading up to the Berkshires for the weekend. 

 

I climbed over the guard rail, listening for the choking and heaving of the motorcycle mufflers  and waiting for the right time to dash across the road. I stuck my thumb out as I waited, hoping for one of the two options to work out for me. 

 

My heart raced faster, my eyes snapped wider taking in every detail of the landscape from the tall evergreen trees to the leafy green maples to the dust kicked up by the Volvo rushing past. I stuck my arm out and waved but nobody stopped.

 

When I got a break in the road I started to sprint.

 

“Gotcha,” the voice came first them I felt the arms around me.

 

“AHHHHH!”

 

Heath. He’d caught up with me.

 

“Stop squirming and this will over soon.”

 

“LET. ME. GO.”

 

I shrieked.

 

I kicked back and struggled against him. Having height, weight and size as an advantaged meant I was powerless against him. It’s not like I couldn’t throw a punch mind you. With Trey, we’d had to defend ourselves a few times as we rode across the country from bar fights to fending off muggers. 

 

Heath stood a full foot taller than my 5’6” and he kept his body in immaculate physical condition. I screamed and kicked again but he pulled me deeper into the woods, back towards the gas station.

 

“Pull shit like that again and I’ll strip you down and leave you on the side of the road,” he growled.

 

“PUT ME DOWN! PUT ME DOWN! HEEELLLLPPPP!” I screamed.

 

“Shut up!” He growled.

 

“I’ll shut up when you put me down!”

 

“You tried to run. You lost the right to stand on your own two feet when you did that.”

 

Gasping for breath and desperate to stop his thick muscular arms from crushing me, I whimpered, “If you put me down I won’t run. I’ll go with you.”

 

He dropped me and I fell to the ground, screaming as my back hit.

 

“Get up,” he growled.

 

“OW!”

 

I sat up and glared at him as I got to my feet and dusted my hands off.

 

“That hurt.”

 

“Listen up missy.”

 

“What?”

 

“I won you fair and square… You aren’t going anywhere unless I tell you to.”

 

“It’s illegal to hold people captive you know.”

 

He chuckled, “Yeah, ‘cause I’m a real good guy right? Like Trey?”

 

“Don’t bring up Trey.”

 

Heath chuckled again, “I’ll bring up Trey if I want to princess. You’re mine.”

 

He snarled the word mine with such vitriol I flinched. 

 

“Y’know the way back is much faster running than walking.”

 

Heath chuckled, “Nice try. Make a run for it again and you’ll regret it.”

 

“Won’t be my only regrets,” I mumbled.

 

“Hush. Too much talking.”

 

The rest of the way back to the gas station we walked in silence. Heath walked behind me with his quiet long stride. When I burst through the trees fear gripped my chest again. 

 

“Keep moving. Say nothing.”

 

I nodded and kept going. Angie and Jacob straddled their bikes, visors turned up as they watched me.

 

“How far’d she get?” Angie asked with a wicked smile.

 

“Not very I bet,” Clay added.

 

The entire bunch of them laughed again and clinked their soda cans against each other before chugging them down and dropping the cans on the ground.

 

“Ready to ride outta here?” Don asked.

 

Heath grunted, “Yeah.”

 

“Get her on the back of your bike and make sure she doesn’t try anything else,” Rhys drawled with his thick Texas accent, “I’m sick of this. When you made that bet—” 

 

“Quiet,” Heath growled, “I don’t want a lecture.”

 

Angie nodded and gestured Rhys away from us.

 

“C’mon, leave him alone before he hits you again.”

 

Heath smirked at that. Angie got on her bike and led the charge, speeding out of the gas station with Jacob behind her.

 

“She gives too many orders for a woman,” Clay grumbled.

 

He and Don bumped fists and laughed, flicking down their visors and revving their engines into action. Heath turned around to face me before getting on.

 

“No more funny business.”

 

“Yeah. Whatever.”

 

“Listen,” he growled, “If your stupid boyfriend hadn’t bet you like a fuckin’ poker chip, you wouldn’t be here. So blame him.”

 

“He’s NOT my boyfriend!”

 

“Do I look like I give a rat’s ass? Boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, fuckin’ preacher, whoever the fuck he is, he owes me ten thousand dollars.”

 

“What if I could give you ten thousand dollars?”

 

He grunted and laughed.

 

“You don’t have ten grand. Put the helmet on and hold tight missy.”

 

He slammed his helmet on and flipped the visor down after handing me mine. I put it on. He was right. This was Trey’s fault. Trey had lost the right to call me his boyfriend the moment he’d traded me over to the leader of his rival gang. He’d apologized — of course, he always apologized — but that time I’d had enough of him..

 

Tensions had been flaring between me and Trey for a while. I’d been waiting for the chance and as I kicked and screamed slung over Heath Danger’s shoulder, there seemed to be no better time.

 

I straddled the bike, wrapping my arms around him. He adjusted my grasp and revved the bike up. The sound was like a drug to me. I squeezed tight as he started down the highway getting faster and faster until he caught up with the rest of the gang.

 

I grabbed onto his coat, my fingers cold without gloves. The scent of leather and dirt wafted in through the helmet. My faux leather jacket barely protected me from the elements. 60 mph. 70 mph. We were all headed west over 80, each of the dragons as fearless and furious as the wind.

 

Sunset approached and they’d have to stop again soon — this time for sleep. I hadn’t planned to be with them so long. My escape attempt failed and I feared what they’d do to me if I tried again. But if we stopped for the night, I’d have another chance. I clung to Heath until we stopped just after sunset.

 

“Let’s get some grub then we’ll head to the house,” Jacob said once the bikes had been parked.

 

“Did any of you stupid fucks tell Hannah about her?” Angie asked, jutting her chin towards me.

 

“I’ll deal with Hannah. Jake, keep your girl in line,” Heath growled.

 

“What the fuck did you say to me?” Angie asked, folding her arms. 

 

Jacob stepped between them.

 

“Hey, hey can you two cool it for a sec?”

 

Don grunted, “Keep her quiet. We’ll eat. Heath will deal with Han.”

 

Clay nodded, “Sounds good.”

 

We walked inside the Ponderosa and Heath chose our seats, ignoring the chipper hostesses direction.

 

They all ordered and as directed, I stayed quiet. I didn’t think they’d feed me but Heath got me my own steak dinner. I’d barely eaten all day so I didn’t mind staying silent while I wolfed down the entire steak, the mediocre mashed potatoes and the horrible coleslaw. 

 

Who knows when I’d get my next meal, especially if I managed to break away in the middle of the night. So far Heath hadn’t been cruel but I was still his prisoner.

 

Once I was done, Angie slammed down a little over a hundred on the table and tipped the waitress a fifty. The money they’d made for their last deal covered the gang as they traveled across the country to California to make another deal with Angie’s step-brother in L.A. 

 

I got back on the bike and we entered the small blue house with the white door one after the other after the men parked their bikes. Hannah wore nothing but a thin camisole with her nipples poking through and yoga pants. Her hair was a mess, she reeked of menthols and she kept itching her wrists as she told us which rooms we’d have.

 

“What’s her story?” Hannah asked about me.

 

“Mine,” was all Heath said. He didn’t answer any questions about me after that. I knew better than to open my mouth and speak when I hadn’t been spoken to.

 

He marched me upstairs and pointed towards an air mattress on the radiator.

 

“This is our room.”

 

“Our?!”

 

“Listen cupcake this ain’t the fucking Ritz Carlton.”

 

He prodded me until I entered the room. 

 

“Get on the mattress.”

 

“What?” 

 

I turned to face him, fists clenched, ready to fight him off if I had to.

 

“Get. On. The. Mattress.”

 

My chest heaved with my anxious breathing and I stood my ground.

 

“No.”

 

He grabbed me by the wrist and sat me down on the mattress. I squealed as my back sank into the rubber. He pulled a pair of handcuffs out of his jacket and handcuffed me to the radiator.

 

“That’s so you don’t try to make a run for it while we talk business.”

 

I shook my arm and rattled the handcuffs against the radiator. Heath smiled.

 

“No making a fool out of me tonight,” he growled, “Stay nice and quiet and we won’t have any trouble.” 

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BWWM Books: Cocky Cowboy | Jamila Jasper

Howdy BWWM Books Lovers, hop in the saddle and let's skedaddle over to Omaha, Nebraska, the Western setting for my upcoming March release, what I expect to be one of my top romance novels of the year: COCKY COWBOY.

You've just become privy to a little secret and this is your first glimpse at not only the cover but a gripping free sample of the first chapter. Yeehaw! 

If you love interracial romance stories, or if you don't give a damn about color and you just want some hot cowboy action, this is the book for you. Check out the description and then check out this sample 100% free. When you're done reading the sample, share this page with your friends. 

If you share this with 100+ people (Facebook friends, Instagram followers, Twitter followers, ladies who lunch), email me jamilajasperromance@gmail.com for a FREEBIE! 

 

Description: 

This should have been easy.

Hiding out from my ex in Omaha while helping an old woman on her ranch.

One problem…

Her son Kurt O’Connor.

I should have known better than to get involved.

He’s tall, a pillar of muscle, icy blue eyes… and cocky as h*ll! 

He doesn’t just want my body. 

He wants all of me. 

I must resist.

This is a romance novel between a 45 + year old black woman and a hot alpha male! 

If you think you're in for a wild ride... You're 100% right! 

Cocky Cowboy by Jamila Jasper | Romance Novel Excerpt 

 

 

“I’m not a good man. I’ve killed once before and I’ll do it again in a heartbeat.” 

 

I sat, clutching my cup of coffee and staring wide-eyed at Sam O’Connor as she spoke. Her strawberry blonde hair sat in a loose French braid down her back. Her wrinkled face still carried a few scars and her earthy-brown eyes glowed with fierce intensity.  She shook her head.

 

“He said that to me,” she continued, “And he whacked me so hard I had a black eye for weeks.”

 

She chuckled, then gazed off almost wistfully.

 

“The day he died was the best day of my life,” she mused.

 

I drank the rest of my tea and set the mug down on the hand-carved dining table. 

 

“The boys,” she shrugged, “Well the boys missed their father of course. But I didn’t. Billy belonged six feet under. He’s just lucky I wasn’t the one to put him there.”

 

Helen smiled at me and nodded.

 

“Well, I’m so grateful you agreed to have me ma’am,” I said, pushing some of the hair from my blunt haircut behind my big ears that I inherited from my brown-skinned daddy.

 

Sam smiled weakly, “I’m just hoping you can help me. It’s like Billy’s ghost is haunting me, letting me know that I’ll never know peace, even now that he’s gone.”

 

Her eyes narrowed and she exhaled loudly.

 

“Enough about me. Helen tells me you’re a detective?”

 

“I was a detective. I quit and started working freelance five years ago.”

 

“That pays better?”

 

“Yes ma’am,” I replied, “Plus, my ex-husband was a cop. As we drifted apart, it made sense.”

 

“A cop huh? Did he hit you?”

 

Her forwardness surprised me, but it wasn’t a question I hadn’t heard before and it wasn’t a question I was afraid to answer.

 

“Yes ma’am.” 

 

She shook her head, “These men think as soon as they get a little bit of power they can treat women how they want. So long as you’re helping me out, you can stay here as long as you like.”

 

Helen nodded, “It will be a good long while before she’s ready to head back to the East Coast.”

 

I glanced at her and she nodded approvingly. This was the last thing I expected to be doing, hiding out in Omaha, Nebraska from the man I’d thought I would spend the rest of my life with. But in this room of just women, women who had all been through tough times at the hands of men, I didn’t feel alone.

 

Sam smiled, “I got sons about your age. Maybe a bit younger.”

 

“Two of ‘em,” Helen added, “How are the boys?”

 

Sam rolled her eyes, “Helpin’ me out and causin’ me mischief too.”

 

“Do any of them know what’s been going on?”

 

Sam shook her head, “No. If they know any more than I do, they haven’t let on.”

 

“I see.”

 

Helen grinned, pushing a few of her thin frayed dreadlocks out of her face.

 

“Nicki asks a lot of questions,” she said.

 

“It’s how I get closer to the truth.”

 

“We need some of the truth around here,” Sam replied, “Would you like something to eat dear? You’re awfully skinny. No good food out East?”

 

I grinned, “No thanks ma’am, I’m not hungry.”

 

Helen added, “Nicki used to be a vegan.”

 

“A vegan?” Sam raised her eyebrows as if she found the concept ridiculous.

 

“Not anymore,” I replied, “Anemia.”

 

“Well a good bit of meat never killed anybody. Out here, we slaughter all our own.”

 

“You got animals on the ranch?”

 

Sam nodded, “Yes ma’am. We got pigs, horses, cows, chickens… If you expect to stay ‘round here I’ll expect you to help. I’ll go easy on you. I don’t want to scare you off.”

 

“I’m a tough cookie. I can handle more than you think.”

 

“Well good ‘cause as I’m getting older the arthritis in my fingers acts up something crazy.”

 

She spread her fingers wide and then clenched them together in a delicate fist that hid all the bruises and calluses on her palms from decades of hand washing, roping cattle and tending the earth.

 

Helen touched Sam on the knee.

 

“I only got five minutes dear.”

 

Sam smiled, “When you gonna stop being such a rolling stone?”

 

Helen cracked her caramel colored skin into a smile, shaking her dreadlocks out of her face where they’d once again fallen. The silver and turquoise beads on her dreads clinked together, creating music with every movement of her head. 

 

“When life gives me a reason to settle down, I guess.”

 

At fifty, that had yet to happen. Helen lived out of her VW bus, traveling the country selling turquoise jewelry and tarot readings. Given her dreadlocks, her nose ring and her tattoos, she made a convincing fortune teller. I’d never asked her outright if it was all a con, but let’s just say I didn’t believe in her New Age woo-woo.

 

“You takin’ that rickety ole thing back over to Los Angeles?”

 

“Yes I am,” Helen smiled proudly. We all glanced at the VW bus that had taken me to Omaha parked out in the driveway. At some points on the highway, I wasn’t sure Helen was going to get me there in one piece. But now, she was heading out again, leaving me in a strange land with my suitcase of possessions, my modest savings and a house full of strangers.

 

Anything was better than staying in Boston. 

 

“Just make sure you drive safe,” Sam warned.

 

“I always do.” 

 

“And you stay away from that reefer,” Sam chastised.

 

Helen smiled and then winked at her old friend, promising nothing. 

 

“Take care of this one,” Helen told her, indifferent to my presence, “Make sure she don’t go back out there for a good long while.” 

 

Sam nodded, “Yes ma’am.”

 

“I’ll be fine Helen. I’m grown.”

 

Helen snorted, “You grown… I’ve known you since you were a child. You’ll always be Jamie’s little friend.”

 

Helen’s younger brother, now deceased, was the thread that had held us together. An old friendship from my childhood had been what ultimately rescued me from my husband’s mercy. Her rescuing had taken me further west than I’d ever been and further into the country than I was comfortable.

 

“I’d best be off,” Helen said when she was about to leave.

 

Helen had mastered goodbyes in a way I hadn’t. I teared up while hugging her but was sure not to let any tears fall. I was too old for crying. Too old to put up with a man beating me. Too old… That’s what everyone told me.

 

Sam was worse than I was, weeping about how she wasn’t sure she’d ever see Helen again. My guess was she didn’t get many visitors. We walked Helen out to her bus and she put on her Jimi Hendrix, blaring it from her tinny stereo as she pulled off. A dust cloud billowed into the unpaved road and like that her bus chugged off on the road to nowhere… 

 

Sam wiped her hands on her apron.

 

“That woman is something…”

 

“Yeah,” I muttered, “She’s something.”

 

“Braver than I ever was,” Sam continued, “That’s for damn sure.”

 

I didn’t respond to that one.

 

“I s’pose it’s time I give you a tour of the ranch. But I’ll let you get cleaned up and settle in first.”

 

“Thanks ma’am.”

 

“I got you a nice little suite upstairs. I designed it myself for guests. It’s got its own bathroom, own little balcony and everything.”

 

“I’m sure it will be lovely.”

 

“C’mon in then.”

 

Sam held the screen door open as I marched in beside her. Alone on the ranch with her and the sound of tractors outside, my isolation dawned on me. I hadn’t seen anything suspicious or felt any strange nagging at my gut, but even if I had, I’d now committed to spending at least six months out here. We creaked across the floorboards and up the stairs. Sam pointed to the two rooms at the end of the hall.

 

“That’s Kurt’s room and that’s Dierks’. Mine is downstairs. And yours is right through here…”

 

She pushed open the first door on the left which opened into a room far larger than I’d expected. Sam maintained the farmhouse decor, but a few modern touches like an air conditioning unit for the summer months, a memory foam mattress and a large shower made the space familiar. 

 

“It’s lovely,” I acknowledged, eyeing the well-curated decor of hens, roosters and other farm animals. 

 

The white sheets on the bed had tiny little cow patterns on them and the cozy comforter was ivory and real down. Sam opened up the old dresser, showing me where I could put my clothes.

 

“Now I’ll leave you to it for a minute. I’ll be up in twenty.”

 

“Thanks Mrs. O’Connor.”

 

She grimaced, “Please, Sam.”

 

“Sorry Sam.”

 

Her grimace turned into a smile and she walked out of the room, leaving me to my own thoughts for the first time since I’d entered her home. I peered out the window over the flat rolling fields. I’d expected Nebraska to be flat but the cornfields stretched out for miles and miles creating an almost impressive vista. 

 

The fact that I didn’t know a single soul in Nebraska except for Sam O’Connor was a relief to me. I was tired of answering questions about Dominic. I was tired of the judgmental stares or the whispers about the bruises on my arm. The rumors and the lies had chased me out west and now that I was here, I’d have a chance to start over. 

 

I turned over the events of the past month as well as my week long road trip with Helen. I unpacked my clothes in the drawer and hid my jewelry box under the mattress. I hung onto that box with all those memories of Dominic tucked inside, not because I wanted to remember him but because I’d let go of every other part of my identity. I needed something to remind me of who I was, at least who I’d been when I married him.

 

I unpacked and flopped back on the bed, running my hands through my new haircut, wondering where the heck I was going to find someone to do my hair in Omaha. 

 

A shout interrupted my ruminations. 

 

“BULLSHIT KURT AND YOU KNOW IT.”

 

A bass drawl boomed across the open fields. 

 

Kurt. If I remembered correctly, that was one of Sam’s sons. I glided towards the window and pulled the lace curtain aside just an inch so I could peer through the window without detection. No one had mentioned to me that Sam’s sons weren’t too fond of each other.

 

A deeper, quieter voice responded, “Stop making a damn racket. Ma will be out here with her shotgun again.”

 

The voices came into view. Sam’s “boys” were men, younger than me, but still men. From my estimation, they were both in their mid-thirties. They were young, but not young enough to be considered kids.

 

“I DON’T GIVE A DAMN. Y’HEAR THAT?”

 

“Listen, you need to calm down or I’ll sock you in the mouth.”

 

“I’D LIKE TO SEE YOU TRY YOU LYIN’ BASTARD.’”

 

The brown-haired one spat at his blonde brother. The blonde one rushed him and a knock at my door forced me to turn away from the fight which had now gone silent — at least from the second floor.

 

“Are you ready?” 

 

“Come in!”

 

Sam came in with a smile on her face and flour on her starched white apron.

 

“Baking downstairs. C’mon it’s time for me to show you the ranch.”

 

“Yes ma’am.” 

 

I glanced towards the window but I couldn’t make out where her sons had gone. As we walked through the fields, the pens and the barn, I caught no sight of Sam’s sons. But you bet your bottom dollar I still had questions about them.

 

“How old are your sons?”

 

“Kurt’s 35 and Dierks is 32.”

 

Mid-thirties just as I’d guessed.

 

“They work for you?”

 

“Yes ma’am. Kurt works with the horses and he traps furs. Dierks manages the farm hands.”

 

“Do you have many employees?”

 

Sam shook her head, “Not since the first frost. They’ll start up closer to the start of summer. Right now it’s just Jack.”

 

“How long has he been working for you?”

 

“Jack Wilson’s an old friend of Dierks. He’s a mean drunk but he shows up to work on time and he don’t ask for much money.”

 

Sam’s country accent made her more personable to me and she got real comfortable as we moved around the ranch and she explained what my morning duties would be. I listened to her while absorbing every detail of my environment. This was my new home. Most importantly, this was the site of my newest case. Sam had yet to explain what was happening precisely, but I’d gathered from Helen it was something bad and that I’d need to be alert.

 

“I’ll take you through the fields to meet the Brody family.”

 

“Neighbors?”

 

“Uh huh. Bitches too.”

 

I gasped and stifled a chuckle as I heard Sam cuss. She’d given off the impression that she was a good frontierswoman who minded her manners and kept her language polite. 

 

“What makes you say that?” I asked, both bemused and curious. 

 

Maybe one of those despised Brodys was what had been causing the trouble.

 

“When you meet ‘em, you’ll know.”

 

We eased through the cornfields and came to a small house. A man lay on the porch with a hat over his head. It was only when we approached the porch that I noticed this “man” was a woman wearing red lipstick. She was tan with freckles over her nose. Her hair was dyed black and she had a scowl on her pretty face.

 

“Good afternoon Mrs. O’Connor.”

 

“Hi Emma, is your mama home?”

 

If these people didn’t like each other, you couldn’t tell. Not yet at least. They hid their disdain beneath Midwestern politeness and broad smiles. 

 

“I’ll go get ‘er.”

 

Emma hopped to her feed, brushing her hands on her overalls and looking me up and down with a cheeky grin on her face.

 

“What’s her story?”

 

Sam glowered, “She’s a friend. She’ll be staying with me for a while.”

 

Emma snickered.

 

“Her? Out in Omaha? You warned her yet?”

 

I could tell Sam was getting all hot and bothered, but I could handle myself.

 

“I love Nebraska so far.”

 

“Yeah well, it’s a piece of shit.” 

 

Emma opened the door to her house and stepped inside, yelling up to her mother.

 

“MA! OLD SAM IS HERE! SHE’S GOT A BLACK CHICK WITH HER.”

 

I started to understand where Sam was coming from and why she might not have been fond of the Brody family. Stomping down the wooden steps alerted us that Emma’s ma was coming. The woman pushed past her daughter to stand with us on the porch. Emma stood next to her mother, slouching and slinging her hands into her pockets. She had stretched ears, thick Kohl black liner and a few nose and liprings. Not exactly the “cowgirl” you’d expect.

 

“Hi,” Emma’s mother introduced herself, “I’m Nancy.”

 

“Nicki. Pleased to meet you.”

 

Her palm lay limp in mind as I gave her a strong, confident handshake. I pulled my hand away and she wiped hers on her denim.

 

Nancy and her daughter had the same sharp blue eyes, but Nancy’s hair was a wheat blonde color, likely what Emma’s had been too. She dressed in simple jeans and a t-shirt with her blonde hair falling down to the middle of her back in gentle waves. A kerchief wrapped around her head kept her hair from falling into her face.

 

“Sam,” Nancy said, folding her arms, “Are you here to make accusations again?”

 

“No,” Sam replied, “Wanted to show Nicki a friendly face.”

 

Her sneering look told me that Nancy was who Sam really had problems with. The feeling appeared mutual. 

 

Nancy snorted, “What the heck are you doing out here in Omaha? You look like a real urban kind of girl.”

 

The way she said urban made my skin crawl, but I ignored it. I was too grown and experienced in life to let passive prejudice get under my skin.

 

“I’m helping Sam.”

 

“The problems at the ranch,” Sam continued, “She’ll be investigating. She’s a private eye.”

 

Nancy raised her brows and smirked in disbelief.

 

“Her?”

 

“Yes ma’am,” I interjected.

 

Nancy chuckled, “So you think she’ll help you find out who’s haunting the ranch? Well we all know it’s Billy darling.”

 

“Haunting?”

 

I narrowed my eyes. Sam had led me to believe this was a real mystery, not something paranormal. I’m a detective — a shrewd one at that — I believe in what I see right in front of me. I didn’t believe in hauntings of any kind.

 

“Yes,” Nancy continued, “Didn’t Sam tell you.”

 

I looked at Sam with confusion, wondering what was going on and wondering if I’d come out here for no reason.

 

“You and I both know it’s not a haunting,” Sam hissed, “There’s no such thing as ghosts.”

 

“It sure looks like a ghost,” Nancy retorted with a shrug.

 

“And acts like a ghost,” Emma added.

 

Sam’s face reddened and I could tell she needed a way out.

 

“I’m sure you’ll explain the whole thing later,” I offered.

 

Emma chuckled, “Well good luck.”

 

Sam’s face now shifted from red to purple and I thought she was going to smack Emma Brody right in her smug face.

 

Before Sam could say anything else, we heard gunshots. Loud ones.

 

“FUCK. YOU.” 

 

I recognized the voices from Sam’s fighting sons. The gunshots continued and Emma chuckled.

 

“He’s shootin’ at his damned brother again?”

 

Sam’s face went from pale to ghost-white.

 

“Want me to grab my gun and silence ‘em?” Emma asked, gesturing towards the O’Connor house with an imaginary shotgun.

 

“No,” Sam replied, “We’ll be leaving. I’ll deal with the boys myself.”

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