How deep can you love?
Passion and danger collide in the explosive finale to Emily and Shane's story.
After tragedy strikes, Shane hovers on the edge of being consumed by darkness. He will fight for the woman he loves. He will destroy his enemy. He will not back down. As shocking twists, dark secrets, and explosive betrayals within the Brandon family come to the light, Shane must fight harder than ever before.
Every thread weaves a dangerous web. Emily and Derek. Brandon Senior. Maggie and her affair. The leader of the dangerous cartel who’s wedged itself inside the Brandon Empire. It all comes to a head in the shattering conclusion to the Dirty Money series.
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed INSIDE OUT series. Suzanne Todd (producer of Alice in Wonderland) on the INSIDE OUT series: Lisa has created a beautiful, complicated, and sensual world that is filled with intrigue and suspense. Sara’s character is strong, flawed, complex, and sexy - a modern girl we all can identify with.
In addition to the success of Lisa's INSIDE OUT series, she has published many successful titles. The TALL, DARK AND DEADLY series and THE SECRET LIFE OF AMY BENSEN series, both spent several months on a combination of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling lists. Lisa is also the author of the dark, edgy series, Dirty Money, for St. Martin's Press.
Prior to publishing Lisa owned multi-state staffing agency that was recognized many times by The Austin Business Journal and also praised by the Dallas Women's Magazine. In 1998 Lisa was listed as the #7 growing women owned business in Entrepreneur Magazine.
Lisa loves to hear from her readers. You can reach her through her website, and she is active on Twitter and Facebook daily.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed Inside Out series. In addition, both her Tall, Dark and Deadly series and The Secret Life of Amy Bensen series spent several months on a combination of the New York Times and USA Today lists.
Since beginning her publishing career in 2007, Lisa has published more than 40 books that have been translated around the world. Booklist says that Jones's suspense truly sizzles with an energy similar to FBI tales with a paranormal twist by Julie Garwood or Suzanne Brockmann.
Prior to publishing, Lisa owned a multi-state staffing agency that was recognized many times by The Austin Business Journal and also praised by Dallas Women Magazine. In 1998 LRJ was listed as the #7 growing women owned business in Entrepreneur Magazine.
Read an Excerpt
"I will live to hurt you. I will live to torture you. You will die a slow, painful death for this."
Adrian Martina, drug lord and monster that he is, doesn't react to my guttural vow, nor does he react to my brother and the woman I love lying on the floor next to me, blood all over them and me. But I react. I jolt out of my shock at finding them like this, and shout up at him, "Get me a damn ambulance!" even as my fingers search Derek's and Emily's necks for pulses. The momentary joy I find in discovering Emily has one is doused by how pale and still she is, and how weak, nearly nonexistent, the heartbeat I finally find in Derek proves to be.
It's then that a shiver of foreboding rips through me, and my gaze rockets to Adrian just in time to find him pulling a gun. But I don't have time to call him the chicken-shit bastard he clearly is before he's lifted the barrel over my head and fired, the sound jolting me. One time. Two. Ironically, considering Martina's very existence is why we are here now, I feel relief and find clarity of mind by the third shot. Martina needs me for financial gain, and I turn my attention back to those who need me and actually matter: Derek and Emily. The stickiness under my hand where it rests on Derek's chest tells me he's in real trouble. From that moment everything goes in slow motion, like I'm in a tunnel, despite how fast I feel like I'm moving. I confirm that Emily isn't bleeding, but she still isn't moving, while Derek's pulse remains faint and he has two bullet holes in his chest, draining like faucets.
"Fuck," I breathe out, adrenaline jolting me, my hands pressing to the wounds. "Get me a damn ambulance!" I shout again, climbing over Derek to keep Emily in my view, my gaze swinging left to find Ramon lying at Derek's feet. "Get me a goddamn ambulance now!"
Adrian's voice carries as a loud shout in the air before he is kneeling on the opposite side of Derek. "Help's on the way," he announces, adding, "and this was Ramon's doing, not mine."
Ignoring his claim of innocence, I eye his neck and then him. "Take off your tie," I order, my blood-soaked jeans and T-shirt of little to no use to prepare the tourniquet Derek needs. I hope. I really have no fucking clue what I'm doing right now.
"You keep the pressure on the wounds," he says, removing the tie. "I'll pull this underneath him."
"Do it," I say, with no misconception about his willingness to help. This is about his concern that Derek's and Emily's safety, or rather lack thereof, might impact my willingness to get him the money I vowed to give him to get him the hell out of my company. The problem for him is that it's too late for a business deal to end our relationship with any ray of light. I'm going to kill him and succeed in doing so where others have failed, but first: we save the ones I love.
He shouts out to his men, and in a matter of seconds, it seems, we have towels, which he's tearing and knotting together. We wrap those around Derek's chest, and the process is bloody and brutal to me, but to Derek, there is nothing. He doesn't move. He doesn't react. Not to the towels or the tie and belts we use to cut the blood flow. We've just finished doing about everything I believe we can do when I hear, "Shane. What the hell is going — Holy hell."
At the sound of Eric's voice, my gaze jerks to the doorway to find him standing just inside the room, one of Adrian's goons on either side of him, each holding an arm. Eric is dressed in pajamas, no doubt already in bed to prep for his early morning surgeries, when he was grabbed and brought here. "This is your version of help?" I demand, my gaze swinging to Adrian's, my lips thinning. "He doesn't belong in this."
"He can help," Adrian says. "And we need help."
"Help is called 'an ambulance,'" I bite out. "The one you didn't call, did you?"
"Let go of me," Eric demands, jerking away from the two men holding him to quickly rush to Emily's side, kneeling beside her to check her pulse and scalp. "Stable, but with a head injury," he announces, already moving toward me. "What do we have?" he asks, motioning to have me inch toward Derek's legs to allow him to position himself next to my brother's chest.
"Two obvious bullet wounds," I say, watching as Eric presses his fingers to Derek's neck. "There was a lot of blood," I add. "I can't be sure there wasn't another entry point."
"No point of exit for the bullets," Adrian adds. "He needs surgery. Good thing you're a surgeon."
Eric's gaze rockets to Adrian. "He won't survive it without blood. And even if he could, I'm not that kind of surgeon. I'll kill him."
"Buy him some time," Adrian orders.
"He needs blood and an ambulance," Eric insists. "Lots of blood that I don't carry around in my pocket. An ambulance should have beaten me here."
"Did you or did you not call an ambulance?" I demand.
"It'll be here," Adrian assures me. "And when it arrives, we need our facts straight. Stick to the truth. Ramon was jealous of Derek and Teresa. You had words with him over Derek, and we all assume he targeted Emily to pay you back." He snaps his fingers and a man steps forward. "Martin here killed him to save us."
"You killed him," I say.
"I killed him," the other man assures me.
Sirens sound in the not-so-distant distance. "Your ambulance," Adrian says. "As promised."
I narrow my stare at him. "If you knew that ambulance was coming, why is Eric here? Why suggest he do surgery?"
"I believe in taking precautions," he says, and before I can repeat Eric's observation that the ambulance should have beat him here, Adrian adds, "and your brother's dire circumstances said he didn't have much time."
"No thanks to you," I say, pushing to my feet as he does the same, and I can feel the façade of control I'm clinging to begin to crack. "And we both know," I add, the two of us glaring at each other over my brother's body, "that 'buy him some time' means you were covering something up before you called for help."
"The ambulance was called," he repeats, his tone as sharp as the knife of emotion cutting through me.
"Not soon enough," I say, and snap, lunging toward him only to have Eric suddenly grab my shoulders.
"Derek," he says. "Think of Derek."
"I am thinking of Derek," I grind out. "And Emily."
"Later," he says. "Do this later."
Voices sound in the building, and suddenly the paramedics are rushing into the room, dissolving the tension in the air and replacing it with urgency and chaos. I back up, giving the uniformed men space as Adrian does the same. Eric, on the other hand, stands in the mix of things, helping the crew. I'm pushed back farther, and Adrian and I end up standing side by side, watching them work. But he's not present to me. There is just me, alone, waiting to hear if the woman I want to be my wife and the brother I love no matter what his flaws live or die.
I can see the paramedics working feverishly to insert IVs into both Derek and Emily, one of them calling ahead for blood as they do. I'm outside the restaurant as Derek and Emily are rolled toward two separate ambulances.
"You can only go with one of them," Eric says. "I'll go with Derek in case he needs help. You go with Emily."
With that offer, he's saved me the torment of deciding between the two, and I nod my appreciation, quickly moving to Emily's side, where a paramedic is adjusting her IV, looking less than pleased for some reason. "I'm her husband," I say with zero hesitation. "Is there a problem beyond the obvious head injury?"
"Just trying to get the fluid moving properly," he says, his attention on her arm, not me, and I reach for her delicate little hand. It's cold. Her face is pale. My heart is breaking. I lean in close to her cheek, my mouth near her ear. "I need you, woman. You can't leave me. That's an order."
"We need to get her into the vehicle," the paramedic says while another appears beside me and forces me to once again back away from someone I love, and trust her to someone else. It's killing me. Driving me out of my fucking mind.
I rotate to find Eric standing outside the ambulance. "He's asking for you. Come. I'll go with Emily." I see Emily's stretcher being lifted into the ambulance, and by the time I turn to Eric again, he's in front of me.
"He's not good, man," he warns, his hand on my shoulder, when he might as well have dug a blade into my chest. "Be with him," he encourages. "I'll take care of Emily." He eyes the paramedic and me. "Go now before they leave us both." He takes off to the ambulance with Emily inside, and I watch as the doors to Derek's ambulance begin to close.
"Wait!" I call out, charging forward. "I'm his brother. I'm coming with you."
"Shane?" the man asks.
He gives a nod and inches the door open, backing up to allow my entry. I climb inside, and I don't have to ask how the paramedic knew my name. Derek moans out, "Shane," from his stretcher, his eyes shut, a monitor to the right of him, while the paramedic maneuvers to allow me to take a spot to the left of Derek.
"I'm here," I say, kneeling beside him, the doors shutting with a thundering crash as I do, sirens screeching through the air, with the promise that death is on the run. "I'm here." I repeat.
His lashes flutter and his eyes open. "Shane," he whispers, but even as he looks at me, I'm not sure he really sees me.
"Yes," I say. "Shane. It's me. I'm here." I pull his hand into mine. And it's cold. Too damn cold. "I'm here," I repeat, because as much as I want to tell him that he's going to be okay, and as fucked up as our family is, I myself have never lied to him. I'm not going to start now. Maybe I should. Maybe a bittersweet lie is what he needs to hear.
"Emily?" he asks.
"What ... what ..."
"She hit her head."
"Damn it," he curses, blood pooling on his lip. "I tried ..."
"You saved her," I assure him, his words and his distress telling me I was right. He took those bullets for her. "She hit her head. She'll be okay." Words I refuse to accept as one of the lies I swore I wouldn't tell.
"I didn't mean ... Things just ..."
"I know," I say, glancing at his monitor and noting his low blood pressure with concern. "We'll get through this," I add, refocusing on him.
"Fuck Martina," he whispers, his expression fierce. "Save ... our company."
"We'll save it together when you get well."
"Promise me. Promise ... you will ... save —"
I squeeze his hand. "Derek."
"Promise me, damn it."
"I promise," I say, hating the sense of "the end" he's giving me.
His lashes lower and lift. "Teresa ... tell Teresa ... I ... love her."
"You can tell her."
"Tell her, Shane." There's a white line around his lips that seems to thicken. "Please."
"I will," I promise. "I'll tell her."
"One ... last thing ..."
"Okay," I say, that word "last" grinding through me. "What is it?"
"Tell Pops ... tell him ... I'll see him in hell, and he ... won't be king." His lashes lower again and his expression relaxes, as if he's at peace with our exchange. Or just unconscious. "Is his blood pressure a problem?" I ask, turning to the paramedic.
"Yes," the man says. "But we can't do much more until we get to the hospital."
"Another five minutes."
Another five minutes, in which I will have no idea what Emily's condition is, while praying I don't watch my brother die, will be hell. I've no sooner finished that thought when Derek's monitor flatlines.
The next few minutes prove there really is a hell on earth.
I watch as the paramedic works on Derek, and somehow, by the time we pull into the hospital driveway, Derek's heart is beating again. He's breathing, but I'm not sure I am. Even before the vehicle pauses, the doors of the ambulance are yanked open and I just get the hell out of the way, exiting and allowing the paramedics to lift Derek's stretcher, and him with it, out of the vehicle. A cluster of people instantly surround him, instructions being shouted, the bed being rolled toward the hospital entrance.
Double-stepping to keep pace, I scan for Emily's ambulance, an iron fist around my heart at her absence. "Where the fuck is she?" I murmur, pulling my phone from my pocket as Seth appears out of nowhere.
"What the hell happened in that restaurant?" he asks, making this the first time I've seen him since Ramon's men blocked his entry into Martina's place with me.
"Aside from finding them both in their present conditions," I say, "my brother took a couple of bullets for Emily." I punch Eric's number into my cell as he exits the sliding glass doors in front of us, blood streaking his clothes. "Where's Emily?" I demand, returning my phone to my blood- drenched pocket.
"They took her back for tests," he says, "but they need a responsible party to sign her in."
I nod and step around him, entering the emergency room and heading to the counter to greet the female attendant in scrubs behind it. "My brother and my wife were just admitted," I say with no hesitation in claiming that bond with Emily for personal and legal reasons. She might not be my wife yet, but she will be soon if I have my way. If she'll still have me at all. If I should even dare believe I can be worthy of her now.
The attendant eyes my bloodstained shirt, her expression unchanged as she says, "I'll need insurance or credit card information."
I remove my wallet and slide the company insurance information across the counter, along with my black Amex card. Questions and paperwork follow, and I arrange for the private wing, the place the elite go to hide from the press. Because right now any press linking our family to a cartel is the last thing we need. I've finally finished what needs to be finished when I hear, "Mr. Brandon."
Turning, I find a police officer standing with Seth and Eric. "Yes?" I ask, irritated at the timing, impatient for an update on Derek and Emily.
"Can we ask you some questions?"
"You can ask me to read you the dictionary for all I care," I say. "But not until I know my brother and my wife are stable." Neither Seth nor Eric blink at my reference to Emily as my wife, and I don't wait for the officer to agree or disagree with anything I have to say. I offer him my back and return my attention to the desk. "I need to know what's happening to them now."
"The Brandon family! I need the Brandon family."
At the shout from the other side of the room, I rotate and spot a woman in scrubs as the source of the inquiry. "Here!" I call out, ignoring the police officer still hovering, and making a beeline for her by way of the packed waiting area. "I'm Shane Brandon," I say, stopping in front of her. "Derek's my brother. How is he? And my wife. Emily. She was —"
"She's stable and unconscious," she says. "They're running a CT scan on her now and then we'll get her to a room."
"Stable," I repeat, not prepared to have that equal relief. "Are you the doctor?"
"A nurse," she corrects me.
"And you've been told she's stable?"
"Defined as what?"
"Defined as stable," she repeats. "And in testing right now. Your brother, however, is in critical condition. Aside from losing a dangerous amount of blood, one of the bullets is lodged in his heart."
My own heart damn nearly stops beating. "And?"
"He's in surgery. If you'd like to come with me, we can get you set up in the private waiting area until your wife and brother are situated in rooms."
"I've talked to the front desk about setting Derek and Emily up in the private wing," I say. "I assume that's in progress."
"If you've set it up, it'll happen," she says, and without waiting for my reply, she turns away, pushing through a set of double doors. I follow, the scent of sickness and death scorching my nostrils, while Seth and Eric appear on either side of me, the police officer thankfully gone now. Eric should be as well, and I'd tell him as much, but the nurse stops in front of a doorway and faces me, or rather us, her gaze shifting between Eric and Seth then back to me. "I'll have one of the aides bring a few pairs of scrubs."
I give a curt nod, but she's already rushing away. Peering into the small, boxy waiting area, I confirm it's empty and enter the room, seeing fifteen or so chairs — some down the middle and others lining the walls to the left and right of me. A large window is the only thing distinguishing it from an oversized casket about to suck me in and do me in all at once.
"You need to leave before you get any deeper into this," I say, rotating to face Seth and Eric, my attention on Eric.
Excerpted from "End Game"
Copyright © 2017 Lisa Renee Jones.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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