Hope Carson may not look like a survivor, but she has escaped an abusive ex-husband and recovered from a vicious assault. Now she endures the painful memories and suspicious rumors surrounding her involvement in the attack. Her ex is a cop, so the last people she trusts are law enforcement officials—and she certainly doesn’t trust how the local DA makes her feel inside.
Remy Jennings should know better. He has no business falling for a woman who he suspects may have a deeply troubled mind. And even if he did make a move, she’d bolt like a frightened rabbit. But how can he deny a burning desire that threatens to consume him? As Hope’s past catches up with her in the worst way, Remy is determined to break through her defenses, earn her trust, and keep her safe in his arms—before it’s too late.
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CHAPTER ONE “She’s a disturbed woman, I’m afraid to say.”
Remington Jennings pinched the bridge of his nose and tried not to think about the sad green eyes and silken brown hair of one Hope Carson. “Disturbed, how? Can you help me out any here, Detective Carson?”
On the other end of the end line, the man sighed. “Well, I’m reluctant to do that. You see, I wouldn’t have a DA on the phone, asking about my wife, if there wasn’t trouble. And I don’t want to cause her trouble.”
“She’s your ex-wife and she’s already got trouble. Do you want her to get the help she needs or not?” Remy asked, his voice taking on a sharp edge. Hell, anybody with half a brain could see that woman wouldn’t hurt a fly unless she was just pushed . . .
“You want to help her, is that it, Jennings?” The detective laughed, but it wasn’t a happy sound. It was sad and bitter.
“If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have called. I’m not trying to lock her up and throw away the key here. Help me out, Detective.” Damn it, Carson, gimme a break.
“Help you out. You mean help you help Hope.” Once more, Joseph Carson sighed. He was Hope’s ex and a cop from out west. He was also proving to be one hell of a pain in the ass.
Faintly, Remy heard a heavy creak. “Mr. Jennings, pardon my French, but you can’t help Hope, because she doesn’t fucking want help. She’s a very troubled young woman. She . . . shit, this is hard, but we hadn’t been married very long when she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She’s manipulative, a chameleon—she can make a person believe whatever they need to believe. You might think you’re seeing a woman you can help—if she’ll just let you. But that’s not the case. You’re seeing what she wants you to see.”
Remy clenched his jaw, closed his hand around the pen so tightly it snapped.
Shit—that . . . no. Not right. Everything inside screeched just how wrong that was. It couldn’t be right—it just couldn’t.
But his voice was cool, collected, as he said, “Borderline personality disorder, you said? Does she have a history of violence?”
Long, tense moments of silence passed and finally, Carson said, “Yeah. There’s a history of violence. Only against herself . . . and me. I kept it very well hidden. I didn’t want people thinking bad things about her, and on my part . . . well, I was ashamed. For her, for myself, for both of us. It wasn’t until things got really bad that I couldn’t hide it anymore.”
“You’re telling me she was violent with you?” Remy knew he needed to be making notes, processing this.
But he couldn’t—couldn’t process, couldn’t even wrap his mind around it. That woman lifting her hand against somebody?
No. The picture just wasn’t coming together for him.
“Yes.” Carson sighed once more.
“So you’re telling me she does have a history of violence?”
“Shit, didn’t I just go through that?” he snarled.
Remy clutched the phone so tight, it was amazing the plastic didn’t crack. This was wrong—so fucking wrong, and he knew it, knew it in his bones.
She’s manipulative, a chameleon—she can make a person believe whatever they need to believe. You might think you’re seeing a woman you can help—if she’ll just let you. But that’s not the case. You’re seeing what she wants you to see.
Damn it, was he just letting her lead him around, he wondered?
Right then, he wasn’t sure.
He took a deep, slow breath, focused on the phone. “Can you give me some examples? Tell me what happened?”
“Examples. Shit.” Carson swore and then demanded, “Why should I tell you this? Just answer me that.”
“Because if she’s got a mental disorder, then she does need help and if she needs help, I’d rather her get help then get locked up. You should know her better than anybody. So if you do care about her, help me help her. Come on, Detective. You’re a cop. You’re sworn to uphold the law, to protect people. If your wife could prove dangerous . . .”
“You fucking lawyers, you always know what to say,” Carson muttered. But there was no anger, no malice in his voice. Just exhaustion. “Yeah, you could say she has violent tendencies. You could say she has a history of violence. She’s very manipulative and all those violent tendencies get worse when she doesn’t get her way. She becomes unstable, unpredictable. There is no telling what she might do to somebody she perceived as being in her way.”
Abruptly, his voice lost that calm, detached tone and he snarled, “There. I gave you all the dirt you needed and don’t tell me you can’t use that. God help me, I hate myself even though I know she needs help. Now tell me what the fuck is going on!”
Remy blew out a slow breath and said, “She’s in the hospital at the moment—attempted suicide. Plus, there was an attack on a friend of hers. It looks like she might be responsible.”
“Fuck.” The word was harsh, heavy with fury and grief. “She’s tried to commit suicide before, so as much as I hate to hear it, that’s not a big surprise. But the friend . . . you said there was an attack on a friend?”
“Yes.” Remy scowled absently at nothing. “Maybe you’ve heard of him—it seems like the two of them go back quite a while. The name’s Law Reilly?”
“Reilly.” Carson grunted. “Yeah. I know Law. I wish I could say I was surprised to hear that she’d turned on him, but Hope’s always had a way of turning on those who’ve tried to help her. Those who care about her.”
Remy closed his eyes.
Damn it, was there anything this guy could say that would make it a little bit easier for him to figure out how to handle Hope?
Of course if he wanted her put away, this guy would be making his whole damn night.
But right now, he could almost hear the cell door swinging shut on her and it was just turning Remy’s stomach. “So you think she could have hurt Mr. Reilly?”
“With Hope, I just don’t know. The one thing I do know? She’s capable of just about anything. I also know that I wish I could help her. Hell, I’d like to believe you can. But I know I can’t, and I can’t believe you can either. She doesn’t want help, won’t admit she needs it. Look, if there’s anything I can do to make sure she gets that help, just ask. I don’t want her in trouble, but I do want her to get help. Before it’s too late.”
Remy barely remembered the rest of the conversation. He was too busy finally processing the fact that he’d more or less gotten the supporting evidence he needed.
Hope Carson’s fingerprints had been found all over the weapon used to beat Law Reilly.
She had slit her wrists.
She had a history of violence.
A history of turning on people who cared about her.
According to her ex-husband—who seemed to care about her—she was manipulative, prone to doing whatever it took to get her way.
Fuck and double fuck.
Instead of feeling satisfied with what he needed to do, what he could do, he found himself thinking about those sad, sad green eyes . . .
By the time she landed at Blue Grass Airport, Nia Hollister was so damned tired, she could barely see straight, so sick at heart, she ached with it, and she longed to curl up in a dark, quiet room and just . . . sob.
Giving in to tears had never been her way, but this time, the temptation was strong, so overpowering, there were times when she felt the tears swelling in her throat like a knot. And a scream—just beyond the tears, there was a scream begging to break free.
She kept it held inside through sheer will alone.
Now wasn’t the time to scream, or to cry.
Somewhere inside her heart, she still wanted to believe they were wrong.
All of them.
Joely wasn’t dead. She couldn’t be. They were like sisters—almost closer than sisters.
They rarely fought. They were best friends, in their hearts, their souls. Even when Nia was on the other side of the country for half the year—or out of the country . . .
They could be wrong. All of them—Bryson, Joely’s fiancé, who wouldn’t even go with her to identify the body, the cops who insisted it was Joely . . . everybody. They could all be wrong.
It might not be Joely.
But if it wasn’t her cousin lying dead in a morgue in Ash, Kentucky, then where was she?
Her fiancé hadn’t seen her in more than a month.
She wasn’t answering her cell phone or e-mail.
It was like she’d dropped off the face of the earth.
No . . . she hasn’t dropped off the face of the earth. She’s been lying dead in the deep freeze in the morgue, you selfish bitch, while you’re off on assignment.
Abandoned—because law enforcement always turned to family, although Bryson might have been able to do it if he’d pushed, especially since Nia hadn’t been reachable. Out of contact—fuck.
She hadn’t been around, while her cousin was kidnapped, hadn’t been around while she was killed, hadn’t been around at all and because of that, Joely was treated like some worthless piece of garbage.
Nia hadn’t been around. Oh, God . . . Tears pricked her eyes. She’d been out of contact for almost three weeks. Joely could have reached her, but would she have shared that information with her fiancé? Probably not.
With weariness and grief dragging at her steps, she lugged her carry-on through the airport. Years of living out of a suitcase had taught her to pack light and the bag was all she carried. The rest of her stuff was being shipped back to her house in Williamsburg.
Soon, she’d have to find a Laundromat and wash her clothes, but that was a problem for another day.
Now, she needed to get a rental car. Rental car. Then she needed to . . .
She stopped in front of an ad—it was brightly colored, displaying a chestnut horse racing across a field of green grass. Numb, she just stared at it for a minute and then once more started to walk.
What People are Saying About This
"The second installment of the Ash trilogy maintains the taut thrill quotient while giving [fans] a beautiful romance at the same time." -Romantic Times