Excerpt for Waking the Lion by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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Published by EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ® at Smashwords

Copyright© 2018 Lacee Hightower

ISBN: 978-1-77339-716-0

Cover Artist: Jay Aheer

Editor: Karyn White


WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


To all the NHL players who inspired me…


The Gentry Duo: Book One

Lacee Hightower

Copyright © 2018


We must be conscious of this; one day, the life we have, will be gone.

—Lailah Gifty Akita

Pearls of Wisdom: Great Mind

Someone once said, “The tragedy of life is not death … but what we let die inside of us while we live.” Hardships sometimes leave us bitter. Change our perspective. Lead us into the dark. And swallow us.

Resembling more of a special ops soldier than a trained caregiver, when Rebecca Manning, RN, walks through the door showing no emotion, the moment leaves an ugly, begrudging taste in my mouth. Other than a quick agitating exhale through the nose that’s too large for her small rounded face, she’s silent, only checking vitals and hurriedly entering something into her tablet like she can’t get away quickly enough. Her silence doesn’t sit well with me, so I do what I’ve done each time she’s walked through the door the last four hours. With an exaggerated lift of my chest, I exhale with a long breath of fuck you and hiss, “It’s too motherfucking cold in here.”

She glares at me, holding her temperament in check. “I’ll adjust the air, Mr. Gentry,” she counters in a voice far from feminine.

Another wave of enraged spite sweeping through me, I lift my good arm, giving the silver rolling table an angry push. It ends against the wall with a wrath-intended bang, the dinner tray crashing onto the floor with unmistakable green Jell-O oozing from underneath an overturned small white bowl.

Tubes and monitors are everywhere you look in this horrific place. The smell of sickness and death fills the air. Robotic doctors and nurses going through the steps to mend broken people. Prolonging lives for another day, a few minutes longer. And all I can do is sit here helpless. Hopeless. Not a fucking thing I can do to change the situation.

I detest this place.

Hate this sick world we live in.

Self-reproach fists my gut, my mind drifting to only hours earlier. Driving toward downtown, the radio blaring Guns N’ Roses. Singing at the top of my lungs. Not a damn thing on my mind but the good. The evening ahead. Tomorrow. Next year.

Nothing else to do as I return to reality, I scan through channels of shit I don’t care to watch, freezing as I listen to my own name making the local news.

This can’t be happening.

Was it something I said?

Something I did?

My chest aches. Everything hurts. My shoulder… My gut… My legs… My dick…

Minutes seem like fucking years.

And this hell … is only the beginning.

Chapter One

Valentine’s Day


Embrace the good times. They can end in the blink of an eye.

Life’s good. All is right with the world. A little after noon, a group of us sit in a private room at Luigi’s after a brutal workout, the table covered in platters of various pastas, most not available on the daily menu.

“You don’t get it, man. I’m fuckastrated.”

I take a long swig of ice water, choking back a laugh. “Fuckastrated? Don’t think I’ve heard that one, Spunk.”

“Yeah man, I’m hurtin’ for a squirtin’.”

The entire table roars with laughter as Mikael Jokinen, AKA Spunk, vents his sexual frustrations in his strongest animated Swedish accent. Still speaking mainly Swede the biggest part of the time, his English isn’t worth a shit, and he loves irritating the complete fuck out of all of us who don’t understand half of what he’s saying. Other than the few foreign criticisms we’ve all become accustomed to hearing, we usually just nod and agree with whatever comes out of his mouth. All that aside, the four-year talented veteran loves fucking things up on the ice. We’re damn fortunate to have him playing for the Hawks.

Spooning a second helping of wheat rigatoni tossed in a spicy marinara sauce and Italian sausage onto my plate, my urge to hassle the guy we all like to refer to as the “Swedish Spunksponge” hangs off the end of my tongue. As much as I know that once I start in on him this conversation will be never-ending, I just can’t hold back.

“One day you’ll learn, Spunk. Women in this part of the country actually prefer men with their teeth in instead of on their bedside table. It’s an American thang,” I say in my spirited Texan accent that I still haven’t acquired much of, even after years in the States.

Spunk takes all our criticism in stride. Damn proud to be labeled the team’s biggest man-whore, he puffs out his chest and smiles, proudly showing off his lack of two front bottom teeth.

Knulla dig, Gentry.” Spunk holds up both middle fingers, rattling off another Swedish insult that I’m all too familiar with. “Says the kuk whose motto was once Rub, Ride, and Release.”

“Touché, Spunk,” I respond with a proud nod. Just like the rest of the team, they all know who I was before I met Lindy.

Next to me is Brandon Tackett. My closest friend and trusted confidant on the team also has his own personal proverb. “Tack it. Then nail it.” Another proclaimed lifelong bachelor, Tack moved in with me in my downtown condo planning on a week or two stay at the most, ending up my roommate for over a year until I fell into home ownership. One of the best players in the league, he’s known in the NHL for his all-world hands and speed. His extraordinary goal-scoring feats will definitely be missed one day when his retirement comes around. He’s considered the hothead of the team, so along with my reputation as the most dangerous forward in the league, we make a good duo on and off the ice. Cocky as hell, he’s also presently giving me shit about needing to finish up and get home to my old lady.

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I still have a stop to make.

Determined to rub in the fact that I need to leave early to pick up flowers, in a five-minute stretch he’s referred to me as everything from a “house bitch” and “pussy whipped”, to “snatch-hammered” and “first-rate cunt lapper” in five seconds flat. Tack’s hellbent on staying single, and the women fucking love this guy. Tall and lanky, he’s got that perfect hair going on, with just the right amount of wave that the ladies seem to get off on, and a pair of unusual, clear brown eyes that you can damn near drown in. And then there’s his smile that when broadened, includes two deep dimples on either side of his lips. Females melt when they see the guy. Hell, if I wasn’t straight, I may go after him myself.

Tack grins, cramming sourdough in his mouth. “You still have your infamous chictionary, Gentry? Filed away somewhere safe and sound, just in case that beautiful woman of yours finally gets sick of your shit and moves on to a three-legged man like me? Or how about your revolting collection of thongs and bras? Did Lindy let you keep those?”

Patrik Dubnyk, the one other married man in our lunch group, and Spunk nearly choke on their food. “Your buddy here claims your so-called black book, or chictionary was full of either married women or chicks hit with the fucking ugly stick.”

I turn toward Tack and give him a nice punch in the chest. “Always good to know my closest friend speaks so highly of me.”

“It’s what good friends do,” he replies. “Hey, listen to this,” he says, on a roll to twist the knife even deeper. “First time I ever went over to Gentry’s condo, I walked through the door expecting a nice cold beer and some football on the flat screen. Maybe a pizza or a burger. Instead, I was welcomed with an odor resembling rancid dog breath and old fucking fish. It wasn’t until I’d lived there for a month that I finally figured out the reeking stench was the stud-muffin’s collection of panties.” His tone lowering while a waitress gathers empty bread baskets, he mumbles,” I learned to appreciate the aroma of old tuna after a time.”

“You know you’re full of shit, Tack.”

We all erupt into more roaring laughter.

“Besides.” I elbow him in the gut. “What about all the times I heard you in there baying to the fucking moon?” I look across the table at the smiling guys. “At first, I thought he was a sleep walker or maybe a loud snorer. Took me weeks to figure out he wasn’t either. It was only Romeo rubbing one out.” I grab his shoulder. “So, brother, at least I could get actual pussy.”


Home a little over an hour later, I’m starting off this day of romance with a bang, red roses and Godiva truffles in hand. No matter how much I consider Valentine’s Day another ploy to rake in millions for retailers, my lady is a romantic at heart. And I’m happy to assist in giving her a passion-filled night.

After long minutes of accusing me of buying the chocolates for myself, we settle on the obvious fact that she’s the real lover of sugary sweets and end up in bed.

“You ready, baby?”

My mouth lies deep between her thighs, lapping at her honeyed essence. Other than the occasional slice of pie or rare piece of chocolate, her sweet juice is the only luscious craving I can’t seem to get enough of.

She moans, tugging at my hair. “Oh God. How do you do this to my body?”

“Feel good, baby? You ready?”

Her big blue eyes glaze over as I suction her clit between my lips, nipping the edge with my tooth just the way that takes her to that special edge. My own moan of satisfaction lifts up my chest as I watch tears form in the corners of her eyes as she slides into climax.

Lindy and I have a sex life that belongs in the record books. Our first night together, we shared an hour-long dinner before spending the next twelve in bed, leading to a hot, rapid-fire romance that led us to eloping in Vegas only three months later. All other women became non-existent when I realized the biggest, brightest set of eyes known to mankind, along with a head full of wavy, wild dark hair belonged in my life.

When I met Lindy after damn near brushing her temple with a flying hockey puck, convincing an ice girl to give her my deepest apologies and, I hoped, get the dark-haired beauty to share her phone number, the rest was history.

I never looked at another woman.

“God, Rhett. It feels so good.”

“That’s it, baby. Come around my dick this time, beautiful.”

I hold back my own throbbing release, always making sure Lindy comes first.

Presently working on her second climax, I’m taking her hard from behind, the way she likes it best. When I know she’s ready I drop a hand around her mid-section and rub her clit, knowing the one small movement will take my wife right where we both want her to be.


She comes hard, my dick plunging balls deep as I empty inside her, hoping this gives her the baby she wants.

Seconds later, I ease out and flip over onto my back. Automatically, she rolls on her side and tangles her legs between mine like she always does after sex.

“I love you, baby. You’re so beautiful, Lindy.”

Her face is damp as I push the strands of unruly, naturally wavy hair behind her ear and brush my lips across hers, taking her mouth, which always seems to have the faint taste of cinnamon and chocolate.

“I love you more,” she whispers. “To the moon and back, baby.”

All I wanted was a romantic Valentine’s Day with the love of my life.

Hold on to me tight, baby. Come on, Lindy. Don’t let go. Help’s on the way.

Don’t let go… Help’s on the way… Don’t let go… Don’t let go…

Chapter Two


Few have been lucky enough to experience true love.

Flashes of gold, one after another. What do they mean?

Why can’t I fucking remember?

My head tight with tension, a flashback bites at me, pulling hard at my chest. The weather cooler than normal for mid-March, the temperature feels like an oven as I anxiously race through the halls of North Texas Covenant Center, trying to put form to what’s happening here instead of fighting the emotional chaos behind my chest. There’s a large silver tray stacked high with blankets. I grab one for some odd reason.

I barge through the door of room 213, smelling her immediately. Lake is beside her identical twin, her fingers massaging Lindy’s thin wrist. A bottle of my wife’s favorite gardenia-scented lotion is beside the bed, one of many personal items I’ve brought since the accident. Just wanting them to be there for her … just in case. I suddenly wonder when my in-laws will arrive from Florida.

“Lindy? Baby?”

Her head turns my direction, and I stop dead in my tracks. Skin white as snow. Eyes strangely more pale than usual. Her gaze meets mine with warmth and affection.

Floored, I fight like hell not to show the emotion pounding in my chest.

“Hi,” she whispers, her voice hoarse and scratchy.

“Hi yourself, beautiful.” I brush a hand over her cheek, and she leans into the small touch.

“Your hair,” she says in a faint whisper. “It’s long. I like it.”

I lean over and kiss her forehead, blinking back more emotion.

“Sit down by me, baby,” she says, my stomach clenching as I pull a chair up close.

“How do you feel? Can I get you anything? The doctor … has he been in? Do you need another blanket?” Rambling, I look at a despondent, shot-down looking Lake. Her lips seal shut as she blinks away tears. I want to ask her why she’s not happy, but I don’t.

Lindy’s fragile hand strains to squeeze mine.

“Lake talked to the doctor,” Lindy whispers. My gaze shoots back to Lindy’s twin, who bites at her lip and quickly exits the room saying she needs to make a quick call. Certain what I’ve just seen in her eyes is something akin to a heavy heart, I’m confused.

What the fuck?

For a few seconds, neither of us speak. Only look at each other. Hold hands. Smile. Still so amazed that she’s alert and able to communicate after a month of silence, I rub my fingertips across her pale, overly-thin cheek again, squeezing my eyes shut for a second, the same sense of dread I felt earlier rocketing through my chest, heavier than before.

“Sure you don’t need anything, angel?” I ask for the second time, her eyes holding a strange, faraway expression. She turns and looks fixedly at something on the wall.

“Look, baby,” she says softly. “Angels. Lake couldn’t see them. Do you see them, Rhett?” Her gaze is filled with a mixture of both peculiarity and a peaceful calm. She points, and I turn and look at the photo, my eyes clouding with unease and dire dread.

“Aren’t they beautiful?” she whispers.

I bend over and twist my arm around my head, my throat and chest heavy. I know what this means. My grandfather saw the angels in his last hours before giving in to his battle with heart disease. For what could be the last time, I bring Lindy’s feeble hand to my lips and hold it there, the sting from tears sneaking down my face. I’m not sure how to respond to her comment about the angels, so I do all I can to make her feel at peace.

“I see them, sweetheart,” I respond through a choke. My heart breaks, my body going numb. “And yes … they’re beautiful.”


With a quick spin, I turn back toward her, her eyes latching on mine. No fear in her gaze, she simply smiles, and I kiss her hand again. Then she takes mine and does the same.

“God, I love you, Lindy.”

She nods with a faint smile. “I know you do.”

Helplessness pounds behind my chest as I half choke on a sob. “I’m so sorry … for everything,” I say softly, hating this so-called God that’s supposed to be good and filled with love.

“Never have regrets, baby,” she breathes out. “I love you, Rhett. And always remember … live life like it’s the last day. Never look back on the bad.”

As tears drip off my chin, her eyes start to glaze. They’re still open, but there’s nothing left and I know it’s over.

“To the moon, beautiful.”

Was it something I said?

Something I did?


Two hours later, nearly an hour since she took her last breath, I’m listening to the doctor explain coma patients awakening for brief periods of time right before dying, referring to it as “rallying”. These patients are suddenly able to communicate and sometimes sit up or even eat something. No medical explanation why the rallies occur, they’re common. Considered a physiological “recovery” right before death, the person sometimes knows that their final hours are approaching and expresses that knowledge in symbolic or metaphorical actions or language.

Lake insists that she snapped out of it strictly to say her goodbyes.

I’d never know how … or why the strange event happened.

My eyes stinging, my throat flushes with emotion. Tears flow. Soul-crushing, grueling sobs echo off my chest. My face in my palms, I’m begging anyone, anywhere, to make this all a huge, ugly nightmare. Return Lindy and take me instead. I squeeze at my temples, praying to wake up from this miserable dream to see my wife alive and well. Safe and warm. Doing what she does so perfectly—living a carefree, happy life.

“I’m so sorry, baby,” I whisper to myself, wishing like fuck she could hear me.

Lake takes my hand and squeezes.

“I couldn’t save her, Lake. It should have been me. It should have fucking been me.”

“Rhett, there’s nothing you could have done.”

Bull fucking shit! There was plenty I could have done.

I could have insisted we valet the car … put my foot down and told her I wasn’t leaving my Mercedes in an abandoned lot … ignored my dinging phone.

My voice breaks, and I swallow hard. “Fuck, Lake. I couldn’t tell her no. I never could. Lindy was the better person,” I utter. “The better fucking person.”

Lake places her head against my shoulder and we both cry. After long miserable minutes, the tears finally ease, and my mind starts reeling with what to do next. Lindy once told me she wanted to be cremated and I’m pretty positive her family will have something to say about that. Whether they do or don’t, I’ll respect her wishes.

The hospital room is empty now. The machines all silent. No more dripping sounds from the dangling IV. No nothing. Just an empty bed. And the fucking stench of death.

“Look at me, Rhett.” Lake’s voice is stern, and I turn toward the carbon copy of Lindy, clenching my jaw to hold back more tears. She looks exactly the same. Hair. Porcelain skin. Bright blue eyes.

“Whether or not you want to believe it, this is not your fault. You gave my sister a beautiful life. She was loved. One hundred percent happy. She would never want you feeling responsible. She’d want you to go on with your life and live it to the very fullest.”

“Jesus Christ, Lake. I can’t even remember the goddamn killer’s face.”

Hours later, Lake and I both leave for home. With an empty hole behind my chest, I feel more alone than ever. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Not even my worst enemy.

Chapter Three


It’s never really goodbye. Only “see you later”.

Hours of chaos, time quickly turns into days. Notifying close friends and family.

Arrangements for the cremation.

Preparations of an obituary.

The final minutes when everything comes to an end.

Whispering goodbye to a casket full of ashes.

Tears and more tears, one minute I think I’m fine. The next, my body is shaking with grief.

Ten days have passed. Lake and Lindy’s parents have returned to Florida, mine to Canada. My closest friends have stopped coming by, the ringing of the doorbell now silent. Even Reese has eased up. After days of heart-wrenching mayhem, the house is eerily quiet as I sit on the edge of the couch staring at four walls that seem so empty.

So damn silent.

Forced to make another heart-stabbing decision, I stuck with my initial plan and had Lindy cremated after being pleaded with to reconsider. Not happy with my decision, her parents finally agreed to go along with it as long as we still had her remains buried in a cemetery. Pretty confident I’ll never see any of them again, I nonetheless obliged by burying her ashes, happy to end on good terms.

Not religious, my mind swirls with the whole aspect of faith more than ever now. Heaven, in my mind, is really only an assumption. Simply a bunch of words taken from a book that has no real authentication. I’ve tried reaching comfort through the preacher’s promises that Lindy is in a better place. Soaring with the angels with no pain, no worries, and no regret. Saying that more than once, as much as I want to believe, until I have real proof, nothing will convince me.

There’s still no lead on the case and probably won’t be. Because I can’t fucking remember. And it was dark. Nobody else saw or heard anything. We were in a deserted damn parking lot.

The only thing recovered were the remains of my stripped Mercedes, discovered a week after the robbery in an old junkyard, wiped clean. Besides that, the detectives have nothing to go on. Browsing dozens of mugshot photos more than once, I haven’t recognized any of the faces. Nothing but a fucking blank, I barely remember anything about either of them. Way too much time is passing. Both perpetrators should be well into preparing for lifelong journeys of living as someone’s bitch in heat behind nicely rusted prison bars.

Why the fuck can’t I remember?

Dead air takes over and settles throughout the house. Counting the minutes, I wait for the sound of anything at all. Still there’s nothing but silence, other than a bird chirping somewhere in the distance. The occasional rare sound of the air popping on. The faint sound of the pool running. A dog barking somewhere outside. I’m stuck in memories for too long, and the silence is almost worse than my gloom. It’s getting to me, and I barely feel human. For the fourth or fifth time, I watch the glass doors leading out onto the patio where the cat Lindy named Polar continues pacing, almost as if he knows something is different. Finally, I stand up and do something I swore I never would.

I open the door and let the damn cat in.

No time wasted, as I sit back down, he instantly jumps up on the couch, climbing onto my lap and staring at me with those slanted blue eyes. Brushing up against my gut like everything is right, when it’s nothing but bad and misguided.

“You wanna stay in the house tonight, buddy?”

How many countless times did Lindy ask to bring the cat in? Rain, cold, sleet … I always refused.

My hand rubs the cat’s head. “Tonight, you stay inside.”

I hesitate and inhale a long much-needed lung full of oxygen, squeezing my eyes shut. I miss Lindy. My past life. Cookouts by the pool. The dreaded window shopping that she loved so much. Deep conversations about the future. My gut twists and turns like a knife jabbing in my abdomen. My throat fills with a huge lump, and I try swallowing, a lone tear forming in the corner of my eye.

“I’m so sorry, Lindy. For not being able to save you. Please forgive me.”

Heartache rises up my chest. My eyes fill with another bout of emotion as more sobs fall, my body suddenly shaking with grief and remorse as I drop my head between my palms. Gulping back tears, I lift my head, turning to see if Reese has returned. For a quick second, it felt like someone touched my shoulder. My body shudders at the eerie sensation, while I almost swear that I smell the faint scent of flower-infused lotion that I know is only in my head.

Sonofabitch! Motherfucking hell! Am I losing my complete shit?

I ease an arm over my face and close my eyes. So tired. So. Fucking. Tired.


My arm still over my face, my eyes blink open. Was I sleeping? Am I still? Maybe this is all another dream. I don’t know what anything is anymore. Nothing makes sense. Lindy’s words still play in my mind. Words she didn’t speak before she died. Or any other time. Live your life. You have so much to give. No guilt, Rhett. Follow your heart. Remember the gold.

Remember the gold? Fuck! What the hell does it mean? She never said that! Or any of the other shit racing behind my head. I tug at my hair and take another glimpse around the room to be sure all this hasn’t been a nightmare and Lindy’s still here. Off in the kitchen. Outside with the cat. Creating some kind of flower or plant concoction.

Pansies grow through snow, babe.

What the fuck is it with gold? That image spirals through my brain. What. The. Fuck?

Empty memories hit me hard, and I look straight up and silently curse whatever’s above me. My chest is tight. It aches so badly that I want to scream and never stop.

“Goddamn you to hell!”

Loneliness getting to me, I’m beginning to imagine shit. Craving Vicodin more than ever before.

Chapter Four


Six Months Later

Silence only makes misery greater.

So far, I’m managing as well as I’m able. I’m still breathing. Still have beer in the refrigerator. Vicodin in the cabinet. Still no interest in anything. Today’s proving to be a little rougher than usual. More upsetting dreams that make no sense and long months without sleep start fucking with a man after a while. All the Vicodin and beer in the damn country won’t get this shit out of my head. Nothing will … until I remember.

Lindy wanted this house. Said she loved the big yard and couldn’t wait to plant so many flowers that neighbors all the way down the block would smell the scent drifting through the air.

Flowers just send out a happy message.

Goddamn fucking flowers. I detest them. Want every last one pulled up by the root.

I’d been perfectly content with my condo. No yard to worry about. All the conveniences without the upkeep or cost. And I sure the fuck didn’t care about smelling roses and magnolia blossoms.

But she loved it.

And I love her with every cell of my body.

Gloom simmering in the pit of my stomach, it bites my throat with burning acid. I shove the hair away from my face and toss the top of a beer into the trashcan behind me. Time unfolding, it’s somewhere around mid-morning, or later. I don’t know the exact time. Don’t really give a flying fuck.

Like the majority of my days, I’m stretched out in a turquoise-blue patio chair, my body stiff, my head buzzing from the two painkillers I swallowed minutes ago to ease my mind that’s miles deep in a hell-filled pit. With a long chug of my second Guinness Extra Stout, I lean over the cushioned chaise lounge and spit into the pot of blooming, blue hydrangeas beside me. Despite daily doses of beer, piss, and spit, the plant continues to reproduce as quick as a pen full of cottontail rabbits.

How did I end up like this? Living in a huge-ass house, a yard full of flowers and all kinds of blooming shit that means nothing? I never wanted the hassle of home ownership.

But she did.

I can’t wait to fill a house with beautiful babies.

So here I sit.


Running from nightmares.

Dreading my next breath.

I choose the outdoors because I can no longer stand the alternative. It’s nothing but Lindy. Every single item picked by her, there isn’t one thing that doesn’t make me want to plow my fist through the wall. The house even smells like the nauseating grapefruit-scented candles she demanded burning, saying they’d been proven to soothe the soul. Proven by fucking who?

I’d rather be strapped to a burning inferno being charred by an eternal flame than smell that scent any longer. Rather be eaten alive by wild boar than feel this way another minute.

I’m fucking pissed.

No drive of any kind left in my body.

With a quick toss, I send the empty Guinness bottle sailing into the trash receptacle beside the built-in grill to join all the others. Another amenity I’d never given any thought to owning.

But she wanted the outdoor kitchen.

Think about it, Rhett. Parties when we have kids. Hotdogs on the grill.

The need to go in the house and take a piss is growing by the minute. Fuck it. Instead, I lower my sweats down just enough to remove my limp dick, and piss into the hydrangea plant. Repulsion stretches through my insides, my gut tangled in knots. The last months. The next year.

How can I do this … without her?

At some point I’ll have no choice but to get my shit together. Lindy would never forgive me for pissing in one of her beloved plants or leaving a mess on the patio. The trash will have to be emptied unless I want rodents the size of baby hippos and the stench that comes along with rotting trash. Then again, who the fuck really cares anymore?

My gut screaming, it begs for nutrition. Something besides Vicodin and beer—my diet of choice the last six months.

Don’t do this, Rhett… Please, baby…

There it is again. That sound in my head. That voice that won’t let up.

She’s inside me. Underneath my skin. Demanding I get up and get over this. Move on and pull my head out of my ass. Life isn’t always simple. We all have issues. It’s part of it. That’s exactly the way she thinks.

Fuck, I wouldn’t want her seeing me this way.

With a shake of my head, I open another beer, polishing off half in one swallow.

Chapter Five


“You sure this isn’t another set up, Darci? I mean, last time…”

“No. I swear.”

A giggle creeps up my throat, getting me an exaggerated shoulder shrug. Last time Darci insisted on setting me up I ended up on the ultimate date from hell, sitting in a nice restaurant in Ft. Worth with a guy crying in his beer over a recent break-up. Story of my life where blind dates are concerned. Darci’s previous attempt hadn’t ended well, so I’m not exactly trusting when it comes to her choice of men.

Ten minutes pass and I don’t know how she’s done it, but my aunt is ninety seconds from successfully convincing me this isn’t another attempt at finding my future husband, but simply some quick, easy cash. An hour-long house call to give her new customer’s brother a haircut and shave her exact words. After my initial no freaking way conversation, I’m still unconvinced I want to do something this unorthodox, but I’m nevertheless considering it. God knows if anyone can persuade me to do something so outrageous, it’s Darci. The two of us are thick as thieves, and she knows I’d gladly walk through fire for her, and vice versa.

“I may need a stiff drink before I can pull this off, Darci. This dude could be a psycho serial killer for all I know.”

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