It was supposed to be a girls-only weekend in the California mountains. But when Lucy Parker is carjacked by a rugged stranger, her fun weekend takes a nighmarish turn. Now she's caught up in a dangerous world of stolen money, vicious drug dealers, and murder, and the only thing keeping her alive is her oh-so-hot captor.
Imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit, undercover cop Jake Dalton wants answers-now. Worse, he's dragged Lucy into the mix, and she's now guilty by association. With their lives on the line, the race is on to get to Las Vegas before they're killed...and they're running out of time.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
Cathy has always loved writing, but that pesky thing called Real Life cast writing into the backseat for years. Now she has reunited with her creative passion, and devotes every moment she can to all the plots and characters milling about in her imagination. She admits she finds story plotlines in everyday occurrences going on around her.
When she's not writing her special mixture of romance and humor, she likes to travel read, and take long walks with her husband (the inspiration for her happily-ever-afters). Cathy looks forward to many years of writing for readers' enjoyment.
Read an Excerpt
Prisoner of Love
By Cathy Skendrovich, Vanessa Mitchell
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Cathy Skendrovich
All rights reserved.
C'mon, Luce, it'll be fun. A girls-only weekend. We can do manicures, pedicures, take walks along the lake, and dish about men.
As Lucy Parker drove along the deserted highway toward Big Bear Lake that morning, she hoped the "fun" her BFF, Jane, had promised would be worth the drive, the full tank of gas, and the unfinished office work she normally took home on the weekend.
Problem was, the drive was boring. Spotty cell reception meant she couldn't chat with her girlfriends to pass the time, and her temperamental CD kept skipping. Not that she really needed to hear the lyrics to the twangy country song — she was already living the refrain. Brokenhearted, down on her luck, and with a beat-up Honda in place of a pickup truck. Okay, so maybe her heart had only a tiny ding from breaking up with Jobless Bob last May. It had been her pride that had taken more of a dent, but still ... she was swearing off men.
Bob had come at the end of an impressive line of losers and, after kicking him to the curb, Lucy feared she was more like her four-times-divorced mother than she cared to admit. Better to stop dipping into the dating pool while she was ahead and not end up like her mom: sour and disappointed with her life, seeking redemption in the company of Mr. Jack Daniels.
With that depressing thought circling in her head, she accidently passed the freeway off-ramp for the Southern California mountain resorts. Her second-hand GPS harped, "Take the next exit in one-point-two miles ... Take the next exit in one-point-one miles ..."
"Argh," she growled, looking for the next exit sign. She didn't know this unpopulated area at the mountains' foot. Her weekends never included skiing, hiking, or fishing. She'd never had the time for such activities.
"Take the next exit in nine-tenths mile ..."
"Shut up. I knew I should have bought the automatic reset model."
She zipped past a roadside work crew cleaning up trash. Glancing at the workers clad in their bright orange jumpsuits, she figured they were from the nearby prison. That might mean there was an off-ramp nearby where she could turn around.
Finally, a sign loomed ahead. Turning onto the ramp with relief, her stomach dropped when she heard, "Take the next exit in two-point-two miles ... Take the next exit in two-point-one miles ... Take —"
"Oh, for crying out loud." Too late she realized that the off-ramp led to an interlinking highway heading east-west instead of north-south, with no easy way to turn around except for an illegal U-turn across the dirt median — and with the deep ditch at its center she had serious doubts about being able to make it up the other side. She was travelling farther away from her destination, with no solution in sight.
Lucy pulled over to the emergency lane and came to a stop, slamming the car into park along the deserted roadway lined on both sides with waist-high weeds and scraggly pines.
"Proceed forward and take the next exit in two miles ... Proceed ..."
In defeat, she closed her eyes and leaned against the headrest. "Proceed forward and take the next exit ..."
This was a minor setback, she told herself. She wasn't lost. All she had to do was get on the other side of the road, return to the original highway she'd been travelling on, and —
The whoosh of the passenger door flying open snapped her eyes wide. A blurred orange figure blocked the daylight and threw himself into the passenger seat, roaring in a gravelly male voice, "Get the car moving now! And don't even think about jumping." He brandished a rusty file that had a nasty pointed end like a knife. "Do it!"
Lucy screamed. Just opened her mouth and let it rip, all the startled, adrenaline-rushing fear boiling up from her stomach like lava. The sound didn't faze the man beyond a widening of his wild, brown eyes. He grabbed the front of her black Hello Kitty sweatshirt and hauled her close, nose to nose. "Shut the hell up right now and do what I said." He stared into her face for several tense seconds. At last he shoved her away from him.
While Lucy cowered in the driver's seat, he kicked his left leg over the console and pounded on the gas pedal with his heavy foot. The car revved, yet remained unmoving, still in park.
"Damn it all to hell," he snarled.
His attention shot to the gear shift knob, and Lucy recognized the moment for what it was: her one and only chance to escape. Gathering the scattered shreds of courage within her quaking body, she slipped her fingers over the door handle, sucked in bolstering oxygen, and wrenched open the door, flinging herself into precious freedom —
Only to be snapped back into the confines of the ancient Honda like a Bungee jumper on a too-short cord. She hadn't unfastened her seat belt.
She turned toward the intruder. Her eyes collided with his and she saw her reflection in their shadowy depths. He shook his head slowly at her.
"That was stupid." He motioned with his knife hand for her to shut the car door and face forward. After staring into his sooty-fringed eyes for another chilling second, she complied.
He continued speaking. "Now, put this piece of shit into gear and drive until I tell you otherwise. And we'd better not get pulled over, because I have nothing to lose, and I'll take you with me in a blaze of glory. Do we understand each other?"
With no other choice, she nodded dully, shoving the shift knob into drive and punching the accelerator. Both their bodies slammed back against the car seats as they blasted off like a race car.
Oh my God. Oh my God. What am I going to do? Hysteria threatened to shut her brain down.
Oblivious to the life-or-death situation, her GPS decided to continue its one-sided conversation. "Take the next off-ramp in three-point-three miles ... Take the next off-ramp in three-point-two miles ..."
The man in the passenger seat growled, "Shut that damn thing up."
Scrambling to placate her captor, Lucy tapped on the GPS, futilely pressing buttons while maintaining her breakneck speed. "Take the next off-ramp in two-point-eight miles ..."
Without warning, her passenger slammed the heel of his fist into the GPS, splintering the cheap plastic and cracking its screen. Like music slowing on a carousel, the GPS spluttered drunkenly, "Ta-ke the n-next exxx ..." until blessed silence filled the vehicle.
Lucy shot bug-eyed glances at the man while he examined a thin line of blood dripping from his hand. Raising challenging eyes to hers, he lifted the hand to his lips and sucked the blood away like he savored it. Lucy gulped and turned her eyes back to the road. She clutched the wheel while taking calming breaths.
Maybe fifteen minutes passed while they barreled down the blacktop. Every minute or so, she sneaked a scrutinizing look at the convict. He grasped the makeshift knife in one fist as his head lolled on the headrest and his injured hand lay in his lap. He seemed to be relaxing slightly, if his posture was any indication. Lucy hoped to memorize his features so that if — when, not if — she escaped, she'd be able to describe him right down to those sharply-angled cheekbones, the scraggly beard that hid much of his lower face, and that shaggy hair hanging over thickly lashed, dark eyes —
"Take a picture. It'll last longer."
She jumped when the man spoke and snapped, "That's so juvenile."
She half expected a hand to smack her in the mouth, or the dirty knife to gouge into her body. Instead, a rich laugh erupted from her kidnapper. "I'm sorry. I skipped the classes on social comportment in prison. My bad."
Surprised a little that his advanced vocabulary didn't match the rest of him, she said, "So you're an escaped convict."
"Of course I am. Did you think I was auditioning for the Great Pumpkin in this orange jumpsuit? Prisoner number 241053, at your service." He pinned her with another one of his penetrating looks. The tiniest flutter of awareness zinged through her — seriously, how messed up was that? — and she ruthlessly stomped it down. The guy might look more like a model than a murderer, but that didn't mean he'd hesitate to hurt her.
She pressed harder on the accelerator.
The convict leaned forward and opened the glove box, sifting through it as if looking for something. Seeming satisfied with his search, he snapped it closed, sat back, and spared a glance at the lifeless landscape blurring past them: fall trees with faded leaves trickling off brittle limbs, dark green evergreens stark against the cold blue sky and fawn-colored earth.
Lucy shuddered, realizing how desolate her chances were the farther she drove on this unfamiliar highway. She'd watched enough CSI and Law and Order reruns to know being a witness put her in a dangerous situation. Did he plan on killing her since she could identify him? Or would he hold her hostage? She knew as long as she was at the wheel she was worth more to him alive. But what would happen when they eventually stopped? She didn't want to hang around to find out. She needed to escape.
Wait! Her phone. In her purse. Fully charged. Another chance at freedom. If only she could reach it ...
As if using telepathy, the convict asked, "Where's your purse, Pretty Kitty?"
Pretty Kitty? The comment had a major creep factor, but then she remembered her Hello Kitty sweatshirt and relaxed just a bit.
He leaned over the center console to peer into the backseat, bumping her with his shoulder. Then he dragged her purse onto his lap and pawed through her most personal possessions. With that final escape route lost to her, she was now truly at his mercy. She fought the sobs threatening to escape her throat as the convict pulled out the phone, his grin as gleeful as a child emptying a Christmas stocking.
"Eureka!" He brandished her cell. "Shiny little thing, ain't it, with all those girlish sparkles and shit?"
He shoved it into his front jumpsuit pocket, catching sight of her fear-filled gaze. "If you still want it, feel free to go fishing for it. Just be aware of what else you might come up with."
Ignoring the innuendo, Lucy begged, "Please, let me go. Let me call my friends. You can dump me on the side of the road. Take my car. They're waiting on me, and they'll be worried if I don't show up soon."
She held her breath and shot a sideways glance at him. He seemed lost in thought, perhaps weighing the merit of her proposition. Though he was probably just a few years older than her, the lines at the corners of his eyes spoke of a harder life. But then, prison wasn't exactly puppies and cupcakes.
Suddenly, he roused from his introspection. He met her look with a flinty one of his own. "As generous as that offer is, it's not happening. I need some down time and you're going to provide that by driving. I have no intention of hurting you. You're just a means to an end, so stop whining."
The convict reclined the passenger seat and settled more comfortably in the chair, closing his eyes with a nearly inaudible sigh. Within seconds his breathing evened out, enraging Lucy even more as she realized she was driving blindly with no avenue of escape.
As that thought crossed her mind, she lifted her foot from the gas pedal. "Don't slow down, sweetheart," her companion said without opening his eyes. "I wake up at the slightest movement. You learn to be a real light sleeper in prison, if you catch my drift. Now, how much gas do we have? I'm guessin' you don't go anywhere without a full tank under your belt, am I right?" Without waiting for a reply he added, "All I need is twenty minutes. You can handle that, can't you?" On a single grunt he eased back in his seat once more.
Swiping a shaking hand across her eyes, Lucy continued on her hurtling path into the unknown wilderness with a sleeping criminal by her side.CHAPTER 2
Well, hell, hadn't he hit the jackpot when he jumped into this car, Jake Dalton mused as he studied the driver between slit lids. The only vehicle passing by on the empty road all morning had to be this POS. That sucked. At least the driver showed some promise, with that long ponytail of dark hair and all those curves stretching that pink kitty face on her chest until he felt like purring. If he could ignore her silent sobs.
Once he would have been ashamed of himself for bringing a woman to tears, especially one as innocent as Pretty Kitty, as he now dubbed her. After all, weren't cops, even tarnished undercover cops like him, sworn to protect and serve? Jake inwardly sneered at the thought of him protecting anyone. Hell, he hadn't even protected himself. His current predicament proved he'd lost the ability to defend himself, let alone the Pretty Kitties of the world.
Becoming one of the "wanted" had never figured in the life plan he'd set for himself thirteen years ago when he'd earned his Associates degree in law enforcement. Raised by a single mom, the product of a drug-addicted father, Jake had sworn to clear the streets of the scum that had sucked his father into its depths. And after five years on the beat, when he'd risen to detective, he'd believed he was on his way. Too bad his mother died of a heart attack before she could see him at his zenith. Shifting in the uncomfortable car seat now, he acknowledged that the silver lining was she wasn't around to witness this current chaos he called a life.
Granted, undercover work gave him that surge of adrenaline he craved. That feeling of making a difference. When he and his best friend, Jerry Litton, also an undercover cop, began investigating suspected drug kingpin Anton Farelli, Jake jumped into his role as small-time punk Nicky Costas with enthusiasm. Almost immediately he caught the eye of Mr. Farelli, who pegged him as a go-getter, and Jake moved up in the drug organization, bringing the quieter Jerry along with him.
Everything went according to plan. Jake, as Nicky, worked the Farelli money laundering system between the Inland Empire and Las Vegas network, while Jerry remained more of a bean counter. Between the two of them, they gathered enough information to bring down the organization. But bringing in all the two-bit players in this enterprise wasn't enough for Jake. He wanted Farelli, the head of the snake, who always managed to stay clear of his own incriminating business. If they didn't get him, he'd just set up shop elsewhere, and more people would end up like Jake's dad, an overdose victim who'd left a wife and lonely little boy in the wake of his sad life.
Once the guys on the outside of the investigation deemed they had enough evidence, everyone, including Jake, got swept up and taken to county jail. It was paramount that he maintained his cover, just in case any of Farelli's people slipped through the noose. If that happened, Jake could continue his charade as Nicky Costas. A charge for narcotics distribution only lent him more credibility in the criminal world.
Following his "arraignment," he was moved to state prison to await trial, and received his work/training classification after processing. His captain, under the guise of a lawyer, had told him it wouldn't be much longer before he'd be cut loose like Jerry had been, so Jake had sat tight and tried to keep a low profile amongst the career criminals he fought to keep off the streets.
He'd lost contact with Jerry as soon as they'd been booked, but that hadn't been a surprise. Multiple undercover cops in the same lockup were just asking for trouble. What was a surprise was when, two weeks into his confinement, a group of Hulk-like thugs jumped him on the far side of the prison yard.
After beating him to the ground until he felt like a pile of pulverized carrots, one of them planted a foot in his chest, leaned into his face and said, "Mr. Farelli wants to know where his money is. You got twenty-four hours to get your shit together and tell me. You can find me in the laundry. If you don't, it'll be a finger next." The guy stood up and gave Jake one more kick in the ribs before saying, "Unless I slip and take the whole hand." They'd slithered away while laughing menacingly, with the tower guards none the wiser.
Excerpted from Prisoner of Love by Cathy Skendrovich, Vanessa Mitchell. Copyright © 2015 Cathy Skendrovich. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This started out as a very promising, fast paced story. There is plenty of suspense. The characters are likable and their chemistry and banter are great. However, the ending seemed flat to me. For two people who cared a lot about the other, their actions once the case is solved did not fit with the rest of the story. I would've liked to have known what happened with Jake after he was arrested and how he cleared his name. ARC received from Entangled Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
Full of Chemistry, great action Lucy Parker ‘s weekend of fun just went belly up. She was heading into the mountains for some fun and a girls weekend only when she was carjacked by an escaped prisoner. Now Lucy is held prisoner, she is terrified and unsure she will make it out of this alive. Once an Undercover cop Jake Dalton , then imprisoned for a crime that he didn’t commit , Jake wants answers and he wants them now. He broke out of prison and he took Lucy hostage in a bid to get answers. He didn’t hurt her but he needed the answers before the real criminals got rid of them. Now it’s a race against the clock to get to Las Vegas to get those answers and as they do so, the twists and turns of the case turn everything on its ear as the MC start to fall for each other. OMG, the chemistry between them was HOT! Lucy comes across at first as prim and proper and by the end…she really had changed. Jake—well, he was all man and very rugged. This story has a lot of action and suspense and passion all around. I really enjoyed this story and I very much enjoyed the ending of the story. My Rating: 4.20 stars **** ***A gifted copy was provided by the publisher for my honest review****
*I received an ARC from Entangled Publishing in exchange for an honest review* Jake is an undercover cop trying to clear his name. Lucy is the woman he hijacks along with her car to get to safety. Later when he finds himself in dire circumstances with no one to trust, he turns to Lucy. Jake hates that he has put Lucy in danger again, but when they are discovered, they have to go on the run together. This action packed romance is a great read. Lucy and Jake are great characters and this is a fun story, with humor, romance, and danger. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Promising suspense premise that started off well, but was hampered by a weak lead character and underdeveloped plot. I was intrigued by the setup, found it well-done, and was engaged immediately. Jake is an cop who is deep undercover in a drug ring and as a part of that, was arrested and in jail to maintain his cover. While there, he discovers he's being set up to take the fall for stealing from the drug boss. Unable to wait for his superiors to pull him out, Jake breaks out of jail. Lucy is a mild-mannered accountant driving to meet friends for a spa weekend vacation when she's carjacked and kidnapped by Jake. He can't blow his cover until he figures out who is working against him, so he has to play up his criminal alias. I liked Jake and found him complex and interesting. He truly felt bad for scaring Lucy, and tried to make amends when possible. In contrast, Lucy's characterization was inconsistent and weak. I could never grasp who she was. She would stand up to Jake, then cower and fall apart. Way, way too many of her scenes had her crying. She would reprimand Jake for calling her nicknames, but then it was ok for her to do the same back to him. The romance had elements of Stockholm Syndrome, which I find interesting, but quickly morphed to insta-love. I wasn't feeling their attraction and didn't find it believable. The suspense plot was predictable and heavily foreshadowed, with a lot of telling instead of showing. Action scenes were better done and much more engaging. The final chase was exciting if fantastically unrealistic. The ending "six months later" section was a letdown, and left me feeling disappointed with both characters. I strongly disliked the author's side tangent regarding Lucy's weight/shape. She was described as "curvy" and hiding her shape under baggy clothes, along with other references to being plain. The villain later calls her many fat shaming names like "fat cow". It is mentioned that she is a size 10, which made "fat" references all the more ridiculous. I don't know why any of this was included. It felt forced and unnecessary. Overall, I think this was a strong premise that didn't fulfill its potential. Ultimately an unsatisfying read for romance and for suspense. 2.5 stars. ARC kindly provided by Entangled Publishing via Netgalley.
I loved this book - it is a great romantic suspense that drew me right in. It starts with Lucy getting lost and kidnapped by undercover cop, Jake. The sexual tension in the air between them sizzles from the very beginning. Lucy doesn't know he's a cop and doesn't understand why she's so attracted to him. Soon she becomes his only hope for a future. If you are looking for a fast paced quick read, you have found it. I am really looking forward to reading more by this author.
Lucy is heading out for a girls weekend when she is kidnapped by escaped convict who isn’t what he seems to be. Plenty of drama and suspense with great chemistry between the characters. I really liked the story and couldn’t put it down. Enjoyable read!
Rating: 3.5/5 Heading off into the California mountains, accountant Lucy Parker is carjacked by a handsome, attractive, prisoner, changing the weekend from a girls only event to one packed with action packed, mobsters, crooked lawmen, murder, explosions and so much more. When it turns out the carjacker is actually an undercover police officer, imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, life is about to get more dramatic than Lucy has ever dreamt of! This is one of those books that has great characters, a brilliant overall plot and is an ok read but somehow doesn’t quite live up to the high expectations I’d had as far as I’m concerned – probably my unrealistic expectations rather than the author’s fault. Stockholm syndrome has nothing on the instant attraction described in this story…. Lucy goes straight from a sobbing wreck to instant sexual fantasies! Really?!?! The pace is inconsistent and some of the events just happened away from the story and I’m not sure how. Having said all that, it will appeal to anyone who wants to escape into a quick read with suspense and romance added to the mix. I actually look forward to reading more by this author in future as I suspect her books will keep on improving! Thanks to the author, publishers and NetGalley, too for provided an ARC for me to read in exchange for this, my honest review.
This was a first read for me by Cathy Skendrovich, but I can tell you it won't be my last. I love her writing style and her mixture of romance, suspense and action come together to make a great story for us readers. I was drawn into this story from the very beginning and it kept my attention til the very end. Lucy was on her way to what was supposed to be a girls weekend away when she gets kidnapped by Nicky Costas,(aka Jake Dalton) an undercover cop that is on the run. Nicky was in on a big sting operation that went down and to cover him, they had to put him in jail as well as the others, but when he gets a visit from the bad guys in jail promising he will get hurt, Nicky knows that he has to look out for himself and get out of there. Nicky escapes and Lucy is the first person he runs into, so he has her drive him to an old abandoned house for him to regroup and find out if they are on his trail or not. I was at first not sure how to take Nicky. I wasn't sure if he was going to be the mean criminal that he was supposed to be or if he was going to be the undercover cop that he said he was. When he didn't have the heart to hurt Lucy, I fell in love with this couple because you could feel the sparks fly off the page between them. There was humor in this story as well. I loved that Cathy threw in some humor. It made it a great story. Nicky gets away before Lucy wakes the next morning of their first night together. Lucy thinks she is done with this nightmare and goes to the police with her story but tells them she doesn't want the media to get wind of her name. Lucy is able to stay away from Nicky and the whole incident until he shows up at her house one night. Things get crazy again with Nicky in her life. When Nicky finds out that he is being suspected of skimming off some of the cash from the raid, he knows that he has to prove his innocence, but he is the only one that cares about proving his innocence so he sets out to prove it. The action and suspense start up and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Will Lucy and Nicky, aka Jake get together and have their HEA?? You need to read this story to find out. This was such a great read that I read it in one sitting. I can not wait for more from Cathy Skendrovich with her action and suspense with romance thrown in. Great job Cathy!!