Release Me

Release Me

by Ann Marie Walker, Amy K. Rogers

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Overview

Release Me by Ann Marie Walker, Amy K. Rogers

The second in the “seriously sexy and sinfully steamy”* Chasing Fire series, about a pain too deep to forgive and a passion too hot to forget...

Alessandra Sinclair knows that Hudson Chase is the last man she should want. The boy from the wrong side of the tracks has grown into a man who would do anything to get ahead, even if it means breaking Allie’s heart. But whenever she’s near him, the attraction between them is undeniable. And now that they’re working together, keeping her distance from Hudson is almost as impossible as keeping her feelings in check...

Hudson already lost Allie once and he refuses to lose her again. He’s determined to use their new business partnership to rekindle the spark he knows is still there. Only the closer he gets to winning her over, the clearer it becomes there are still secrets that could tear them apart for good...

Praise for Remind Me

“An exceptional debut...Can’t wait for more from this writing duo!”—*Tara Sue Me, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Submissive

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780698194779
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/21/2015
Series: A Chasing Fire Novel , #2
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 255
Sales rank: 67,292
File size: 655 KB

About the Author

Though thousands of miles apart, Ann Marie Walker and Amy K. Rogers are in constant contact, plotting story lines and chatting about their love of alpha males, lemon drop martinis, and British supermodel, David Gandy. They are the authors of the Chasing Fire novels, including Remind Me.

Read an Excerpt

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

When we started writing this book it had already been sold. Some agents might have felt their work was done, but not Pamela Harty. She not only got the ball rolling, but her support and encouragement throughout the process kept us sane. Pamela, it has been a privilege to call you our agent, but even more so to call you friend.

To our editor, Leis Pederson, we will never stop thanking our lucky stars that something about our writing made you pick up the phone. Without you, Hudson and Allie’s story would exist only on the pages of Google docs, and for that we will be forever grateful. To Erin Galloway and Ryanne Probst, thank you for helping us introduce Hudson Chase. You both are a wealth of knowledge and your mad skills have been invaluable!

To our amazing street team: Jill Cahr, Lori Schricker, Margaret Fahey, Michelle Fields, Megan Schopp, Natalie Shaw, Sarah Blair, Sarah Gutchall, Tracey Wess, Colleen O’Brien, Eunice Jaquez, Julie Stroop, Misty Villanueva, and Michelle Kirn. Thank you for not only agreeing to be our early readers but for cheering us on and making us believe someone might actually like our little story. To Kaylee Simonetti, there is a special place in heaven for someone pimping books while in the ER. You are certifiable and we couldn’t love you more! And for Maggie Roache, thank you for being our grammar guru and for always knowing the perfect Taylor Swift or Beyonce song to pull us through.

To the book bloggers who devoted their time to reading and reviewing our work, you are the reason so many have welcomed Hudson Chase into the ranks of their beloved book boyfriends. We would be nothing without your unwavering support. Forget buying you a cocktail, we need to throw a rager.

And last but not least, to the readers, thank you for taking a chance on us. You spent your hard earned money on a pair of debut authors and we couldn’t be happier to have you along for the ride. The tweets and Facebook messages you have sent literally from around the world never fail to humble and touch us. Thank you for sticking with us . . . we hope to do you and Hudson proud.

CONTENTS

Chapter One

Allie tried her best to ignore the blue flashing lights in her parents’ driveway. But from her seat in the living room she had a clear view of the brick-paved courtyard just beyond the front door. And she knew that just beyond the courtyard’s limestone fountain stood a row of uniformed officers forming a human barrier along yellow tape. And beyond that tape stood a crowd of reporters with cameras and microphones, all jockeying for a better position among the curious who had gathered at the gates.

Instead she focused her attention on the detective standing in front of her. The middle-aged woman wore clothes more suited for a man and her hair was pulled back in a tight bun. Yet despite her hard-as-nails appearance, there was an undeniable kindness in her eyes when she told Allie it was time to take her statement.

Allie nodded but didn’t speak. She hadn’t said more than a handful of words since placing the call to 911.

The detective stood and reached inside her jacket for a small notebook. Her movements revealed the badge she wore clipped to her waist and the gun she kept holstered at her side.

Allie’s eyes drifted shut and her mind filled with images of gunshot wounds and blood.

So much blood. . . .

“Alessandra.”

She opened her eyes to find Benjamin Weiss, general counsel for Ingram Media, making his way through the foyer. As always, he was impeccably groomed in a dark suit and tie with a perfectly folded handkerchief peeking out of the breast pocket. Only this time his tie was askew and a thin sheen of sweat covered his forehead.

“My apologies,” he said, out of breath. “I came as soon as I heard, but the roads are clogged with news vans.”

As soon as he heard? Allie had no idea who had called Mr. Weiss, but she was glad to have him at her side. Benjamin Weiss was more than just the family’s attorney; he had also been her father’s best friend.

A few quiet words were spoken between Mr. Weiss and Detective Green, and then she was ready to begin. She sat on the coffee table across from Allie and uncapped her pen. “Walk me through what happened after you pulled in the driveway,” she instructed. Her tone was all business; just another day at the office for a homicide detective.

Allie tried to speak but her words came out on a strangled sob.

Mr. Weiss placed his hand on her shoulder. “Would you like some water?” he asked, glancing toward the kitchen and paling as his gaze fell on the scene unfolding in the dining room.

Don’t look.

Allie kept her stare trained on the detective’s pen as she answered Mr. Weiss. “I’m fine.” There wasn’t a person in Chicago who would’ve believed that statement, but a bottle of water wasn’t going to make things any better. And with the way her stomach felt, she doubted she’d be able to keep it down anyway.

“Just take it slow,” Detective Green said.

Allie drew a shaky breath and began to retell the events of the past few hours. “I knew something wasn’t right as soon as I opened the front door.”

“How so?” the detective asked.

“The alarm didn’t make any noise.”

“You mean it wasn’t armed?”

Allie shook her head. “No, I mean it wasn’t working. Even if it’s unarmed, the system still chimes to announce when a door or window has been opened.”

Detective Green scribbled a few notes on the small pad of paper in her hand. “What happened after you came in the house?”

“I could see the light was on in my dad’s study, so I headed that way first.”

Tears clouded Allie’s eyes as she looked across the expanse of the paneled living room to the hallway just to the right of the front door. Her throat tightened as she thought back to how confident she’d felt striding down that hall. For as long as Allie could remember, every aspect of her life had been dictated by what was best for the family legacy. But this time her parents had taken it too far. Going behind her back to arrange a marriage that was nothing more than a business transaction was the last straw. She was done playing the role of the dutiful daughter and she’d planned to tell them so in no uncertain terms.

But when she’d reached the door . . .

“And that’s when you discovered the body?”

“Yes,” she whispered, recalling the image of her father’s lifeless body slumped over his desk. Her gaze shifted to the Kleenex she held clutched in her hand. It had been twisted into something more closely resembling twine than tissue.

“Is your father normally home during the day?”

A few months ago Allie could have answered without a doubt. Her father would have never been home in the middle of the day. But lately he’d been scaling back, letting Julian lead some of the day-to-day meetings as he prepared to take the helm after their wedding.

Julian.

Just thinking about her former fiancé sent a chill down her spine. Her finger touched the remnants of the black eye he’d given her the week before. She’d done her best to cover the shadow of a bruise with concealer, but the makeup had surely been washed away with tears by now.

“Miss Sinclair?” Detective Green prodded.

“Oh, um, no. Usually it’s just my mother and the housekeeper.” Allie gasped.

“She’s fine,” Detective Green assured her. “She was out running errands until just a short while ago.”

“I assume you’re taking her statement as well?” Mr. Weiss asked.

The detective nodded. “We’ll need confirmation from the medical examiner, but it looks like this all took place shortly after she left. If that’s the case, the perpetrators may have waited for her to leave, assuming no one else was in the house.”

A flash came from the dining room, and without thinking, Allie turned toward it. Flash. A photographer stood with his back to her, his camera pointed at the mirrored wall. Allie watched his reflection as he focused his lens on the blood splattered across the wall right behind the spot where her mother had last stood. Flash. He stepped closer, his lens telescoping, and she knew he was capturing details of the images she’d seen when she’d first stumbled into the room—blood and gray matter mixed with shards of mirror and bone. Flash. A moment later he squatted beside the blood that had pooled on the Aubusson rug, photographing her mother’s face, her eyes open and frozen in fear.

Allie tasted bile in the back of her throat, and for a moment she thought she might throw up. This was not her life. This was some horrible dream, the result of watching one too many police procedural shows. It had to be.

“Why are they doing that?” she whispered, not really meaning to say the words out loud.

Detective Green looked up from her notebook. “Doing what?”

“Why are they bagging her hands?”

The detective’s eyes darted to Mr. Weiss, then back to Allie. She hesitated for a moment, but when she answered her voice was level. “To preserve any physical evidence that may have resulted from a struggle.”

A commotion by the front door drew Allie’s attention. Two men in black jackets wheeled a gurney across the marble floor. CORONER was printed in white lettering across their backs, and when they turned toward the library she could see a long black bag stretched the length of the bed.

Oh, God . . .

An involuntary sob escaped her lips at the thought of her father being zipped into a vinyl bag.

Mr. Weiss offered her his handkerchief and she took it.

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to get Miss Sinclair home,” he said, his voice tight. “She’s been through quite an ordeal.”

Detective Green regarded Allie for a moment, then stood and smoothed the wrinkles from her wool pants. “I’ll need to take a more detailed statement in the morning.” She held out her business card. “But in the meantime, if you think of anything else.”

Mr. Weiss took the card. “Thank you, Detective.” Before she walked away, he assured her his office would call to set up an appointment.

“I’ve arranged for a car to drive you home,” he told Allie once they were alone. “And for private security to be stationed at your brownstone tonight.”

Her eyes grew wide.

“Just as a precaution,” he quickly added. “Right now the police think this was nothing more than a home invasion gone wrong, but I’m not taking any chances with your safety.”

Allie nodded.

“Is there someone I can call for you?”

Hudson.

His was the first name that came to mind, just as it had repeatedly for the past few hours. She needed him now more than ever. Needed the strength of his arms around her, holding her up when she felt too weak to stand.

But she wouldn’t let herself call him. She couldn’t. Not after the way he’d deceived her. She had to keep moving forward. No looking back.

Hudson Chase was out of her life. For good this time.

“I’ll call my friend Harper,” Allie said.

“She’s not a redhead by any chance, is she?”

“Yes, why?”

“She saved you the trouble of a call.” He smiled weakly. “She’s been raising hell at the barricades for the past hour.”

Yep, that would be Harper. “Would you mind bringing her around back to the garage and having the car meet us there? I really don’t want to deal with the crowds out front.”

“Of course. And I’ll see that both your cars are returned to the city in the morning.”

Allie stood. “Thank you for . . .” Her voice trailed off. She knew she’d never get through the rest of that sentence.

His eyes crinkled and he gave a quick nod. “There is one more item we need to discuss before you go.”

“Can it wait until tomorrow?”

“I’m afraid not. Although I imagine some of the press corps will leave once they realize you’re no longer in the house, a few will remain until a statement is released. I can have the PR department draft something from the company as a whole, or you can certainly write your own if you’d prefer. There’s also the matter of an internal memo to your employees, but we can address that tomorrow.”

“My employees?” What in the world is he talking about?

He met her confused expression with one of his own. After a moment the crease in his brow relaxed. “Forgive me, I thought you realized.” His voice was soothing yet firm. “As you know, your mother and father were both heavily invested in Ingram.”

This wasn’t news. In fact, for decades the company her maternal grandfather built from the ground up had been privately owned. It wasn’t until a rough patch in the late seventies that her father had been forced to take the company public, but even then the family had retained controlling interest.

“As the sole heir to their estate, those shares are now yours. Alessandra, you are the new majority shareholder of Ingram Media.”

Allie rubbed her forehead. She hadn’t even considered the effect her parents’ death would have on the family business, let alone what role she’d play. Hundreds of questions raced through her mind, but the pounding in her head was making it hard to focus.

“I’m sorry. I know you’re tired. We can hold off on everything else until tomorrow and just release a statement from the company tonight. I’ll have the PR team draft something, and if you prefer I can run it by Mr. Chase.”

Allie’s head snapped up. Hudson? Why in the hell would he run it past him? She realized the answer just as Mr. Weiss began to explain.

“Over the past few months there have been various investment groups quietly purchasing shares of Ingram. It wasn’t until recently that we realized these purchases were on behalf of one individual.

“How this will impact day-to-day operations remains to be seen. A fair amount of shares are still held in smaller quantities by numerous individuals, but Mr. Chase’s most recent acquisitions make him the second largest shareholder outside of the Sinclair/Ingram estate.” He exhaled a heavy sigh. “We can discuss this more at length after we get through the next few days. I don’t want to overwhelm you right now.”

Too late. “Okay.”

“I’ll go find your friend.” He gave her arm an awkward pat before turning toward the door. A question popped into her mind as she watched him walk away. It seemed ridiculous in light of what was happening all around her, but for some inexplicable reason, she needed to know.

“Mr. Weiss?” she called out before he reached the foyer.

He turned to face her. “Yes?”

Allie took a deep breath. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad. Maybe she could limit their interaction. “What’s the margin?”

“Pardon me?”

“The difference in stock percentages, between me and . . .” Her voice caught on his name. She cleared her throat and tried again. “What’s the difference in stock percentages between . . .”

Damn it. Why couldn’t she get the words to come out of her mouth?

“Between you and Mr. Chase?”

She nodded.

“One percent.”

The weight of the day crashed down around her and Allie sank to the couch. On top of everything else, it seemed Hudson Chase was her new business partner.

Chapter Two

Allie barely looked at the two caskets during the morning service at Fourth Presbyterian Church. Instead she kept her attention focused on the pastor as he spoke of eternal life, the organist as she played hymns to accompany the choir, or the specks of dust that drifted across the rainbow of light streaming through the stained glass windows. Anything and everything to avoid facing the reality of why they were there. Even as she stood at the podium to address five hundred strangers, she somehow managed to convince herself it wasn’t real. The two people she eulogized weren’t her parents. They were a businessman and his philanthropic wife, not her and father and mother. Not the only family she had in the world.

But as she sat under a tent in the first row of wooden folding chairs, it was impossible to avoid the two mahogany caskets lying side by side in front of her. The smell from the cascade of lilies draped over the top was almost smothering despite the crisp November breeze. And the sight of them, perched above a discreetly covered but freshly dug grave, was a brutal reminder of her loss. Both her parents were dead, gunned down in their own home by what the police were suspecting was a random act of violence. She knew it was ridiculous to think of herself as an orphan at her age, and yet that’s exactly how she felt. It didn’t matter that she was twenty-seven years old; her parents were gone, and she’d never felt more alone.

Her grief over the past few days had been overwhelming, an almost debilitating sadness woven with a rage that burned deep within her. She suspected it was that rage that kept her moving forward. The idea that each day might bring a new lead was the only thing getting her out of bed when she woke from a fitful sleep filled with gruesome images. But she wasn’t just angry with the shooter, she was angry with her parents. They were gone and now she’d never get the chance to confront them, to tell them she was done living by the unwritten code of the Ingram-Sinclair empire. She’d never have the chance to tell them how angry she was with them for attempting to control her life. How much she hated them for trying to manipulate her into marrying Julian. How hurt she was by the endless stream of lies. Or how no matter what, deep down they were still her parents and she loved them.

Her body shook with a silent sob.

Harper reached for Allie’s hand and squeezed it tight. “Are you okay?” she whispered from beside her.

Allie met her friend’s concerned gaze with watery eyes and gave a small nod. Harper had been a near constant presence in Allie’s life since storming the barricades the night of the murders. She’d insisted Allie stay at her apartment, an offer that proved to be a godsend when their driver reached Astor Place only to find the entire block filled with news vans and satellites. Harper had braved the media frenzy alone, leaving Allie cocooned behind the limo’s tinted glass while she gathered items from the brownstone. And that was only the beginning. Whether sitting beside her as she selected headstones or hovering in the kitchen while she met with detectives, Harper had seen Allie through what had arguably been the worst five days of her life. There was no way Allie could have made it through the ordeal without Harper, and she would be grateful to her for the rest of her life.

The wind shifted and the air crackled with a charge of electricity that swept over Allie’s skin. Her every sense sprang to attention, and instinctively she looked up and to her left. She hadn’t noticed the size of the crowd that had accompanied the two hearses, but as she looked across the cemetery she realized there had to be at least three hundred people seated in and around the white tent. A sense of anticipation coiled in Allie’s stomach as she scanned row after row of faces, searching for the one whose presence she could feel as tangibly as if he were the one sitting beside her holding her hand.

Hudson Chase.

Just the thought of him caused her heart to race. He’d always had this effect on her, from the very first moment she saw him ten years ago. Her friends at the yacht club might have viewed him as nothing more than another townie looking for trouble, but Allie saw past the stereotypical exterior of ripped jeans and a leather jacket. She knew the real Hudson. The one who took her for long walks along the beach. The one who made her laugh so hard she cried. The one whose kisses made her knees go weak.

When she’d turned around to find him standing behind her two months ago, the mere sight of him took her breath away. Even after ten years the connection was still there, so tangible she could almost see it pulse in the air between them. Everything about him called to her on some primal level. From the dark, unruly hair she longed to run her fingers through, to the intensity of his gaze when his blue eyes locked on hers, to the way he held her on the dance floor, her body responding with a longing it knew for no other. He’d felt it too, and despite her engagement had pursued her with an unrelenting passion until she was his, body and soul—and then betrayed her in the worst way possible.

A woman in a wide-brimmed hat shifted in her seat, and Allie’s breath caught. She looked away after only a glimpse of the dark, wavy hair, but she was certain. It was him. Her hands curled into fists in her lap, her fingernails biting into her palm. How dare he show his face here? After everything he’d done to steal her father’s company out from under him, Hudson Chase had the nerve to attend his funeral?

Bagpipes began to play but Allie could barely hear them over the sound of the blood roaring in her ears. Harper reached for her elbow, urging her to her feet as the pastor approached to offer his final condolences. Allie’s knees wobbled as she extended her hand.

“They were wonderful people, Alessandra. Their loss will be felt by the entire congregation.”

A quiet “Thank you” was all she managed in reply.

Harper leaned closer. “Maybe you better sit back down. You look as white as a ghost.”

“No, I need to . . .” Allie looked over Harper’s shoulder just as the man behind the wide-brimmed hat rose to his feet. Her chest tightened.

It wasn’t him.

“You need to what?” Harper asked.

“Nothing,” Allie mumbled. What the hell was wrong with her? Hudson Chase was the last person she should want to see at her parents’ funeral. And yet of all the emotions waging war inside her, there was no denying the fact that at the moment the strongest was . . . disappointment.

A quiet murmur built around her as the mourners began making their way back to their cars. Some lingered, and selfishly Allie hoped they wouldn’t approach. As the new majority stockholder of Ingram Media, she knew there were people she should greet and hands she should shake. But as the only child of the two people about to be buried under six feet of dirt, she wanted nothing more than to be left alone. Actually, despite her feelings of anger and betrayal, in that moment what she truly wanted was nothing more than to have Hudson’s arms around her. To feel the soothing touch of his hands stroking her hair. To hear the rasp of his voice whispering in her ear, telling her everything would be okay, and to know that despite all evidence to the contrary, it would be.

Allie straightened. She had to stop thinking of Hudson as some white knight riding in to save the day. He was a dark knight whose duplicity had hurt her far too deeply to ever let him back into her life.

Elizabeth Prescott waved a gloved hand at her from across the tent. Allie cringed. She was definitely not up to a round of country club small talk with her mother’s friends. She glanced around, and within seconds wide shoulders stepped between Allie and the rest of the mourners.

“The car is ready when you are, Miss Sinclair. Just say the word.”

Allie tried her best to muster a smile. “Thank you, Clayton. I’m ready now.”

He gave a curt nod and whispered discreetly into a microphone barely noticeable at the cuff of his dark suit. Having a bodyguard wasn’t something Allie had ever wanted, but Mr. Weiss had been adamant, insisting the additional security was necessary to ensure her safety during the ongoing police investigation. In the end she’d agreed to the added precaution on a temporary basis. At the time her concession had been more to relieve his worry than hers, but she had to admit Clayton’s shielding presence came in handy at moments like these.

“This way, ma’am.” He gestured toward the rear of the tent.

In the distance Allie could see the black limo waiting at the bottom of the hill. She paused, her hand reaching out to rest on the gleaming wood of her father’s casket, before turning to leave. She and Harper had nearly reached the car when she heard someone call her name.

“Alessandra,” Benjamin Weiss said, hurrying to catch up to her. “A word, please.”

“I’ll wait for you in the car,” Harper said. She slid into the limo and Clayton closed the door behind her before assuming his post a few feet away. Allie knew that behind those dark sunglasses his razor-sharp gaze was scanning the crowd, and that beneath that well-tailored suit a loaded gun was holstered. She tried not to think about why, focusing her attention instead on Mr. Weiss.

“I’m sorry to bring this up now,” he said, “but the board has called for an emergency meeting at Ingram headquarters. I’d hoped to put this off until at least next week, but between your parents’ passing and the revelation of Mr. Chase’s acquisitions . . . Well, I’m sure you can understand their concern.”

Allie nodded. Of course the other board members were concerned. Richard and Victoria Sinclair were gone, and now their daughter, a relative stranger to them, was at the helm alongside a man who’d spent the past few months covertly acquiring a substantial portion of their stock. When he wasn’t fucking her on every available surface, that is. At least the last part wasn’t general knowledge. It was going to be hard enough to face that room with Hudson sitting across the table from her. Thankfully no one on the board knew about their personal involvement.

“When?” she asked.

“Tomorrow morning.” Mr. Weiss gave her a quick rundown of the proposed agenda before ducking into the back of a waiting town car.

Allie pulled her coat closed and crossed her arms over her chest, holding the pieces of herself together as she stared out across the top of the limo at row after row of headstones. When she’d walked out of Hudson’s penthouse two weeks prior, she hadn’t planned on ever seeing him again. Now she had a little less than twenty-four hours to prepare for her first board meeting with him. She had no idea how she would react once they were in the same room, but one thing was certain: she had to keep her distance. And never, under any circumstances, allow herself to be alone with him.

Chapter Three

Worst. Fucking. Day.

Scratch that. Shit days were piled up behind him, so this one was going to have to take a number.

Hudson hooked his finger into the immaculate knot at his throat and gave the expensive noose a sharp tug as he stepped off the elevator and into his penthouse. The silence wasn’t a surprise. In fact, once upon a time, he had infinitely preferred it. But now it was a killer. His loafers pounding against the wood floor were too loud, and as he pulled his tie from around his neck it sounded like sandpaper grating against the fabric of his collar. He thought of the numerous times he’d come home, beat to hell from work, to find music blaring or a fucking video game plastered across the theater screen. Instead, the place was a mausoleum. God, he’d give anything to have that noise polluting his penthouse now. At least it would muffle his thoughts, which at the moment were like loud screams jackknifing through his brain.

He reached for the stool at the breakfast bar and his fingers curled around the edge as he contemplated throwing the thing. He wanted to disturb the silence and emptiness, wanted to punch through the reality of the present and invade the past, altering its course. If he could, his parents would still be alive, Nick wouldn’t be a goddamn junkie, and—his head dropped and he exhaled a sharp breath—he wouldn’t have royally screwed things up with Allie.

Quitting the white knuckle routine on the barstool, Hudson stripped out of his jacket, draped it over the back of the stool, and then tossed his tie on top. As he did, he remembered his phone. He flipped the lapel back and reached into his pocket for his cell, but when he pressed the button to fire up the screen, he found a whole lot of nothing. No messages. No missed calls. What the hell did he expect? It had been two weeks and Allie hadn’t returned a single one of his calls.

He stared at the screen, lit up with a photograph of Allie taken during their trip to Lake Geneva. She was straddling his Harley, beckoning him with a smile, her cheeks still a little flushed from the wine. But instead of that perfect smile all he could picture was how fragile she’d looked sitting in front of two matching caskets, clinging to the redhead seated next to her. The anguish etched in the delicate features of her tear-streaked face had shredded him. And when her shoulders shook with the sobs she was trying to hold in, he knew he should have felt grateful for her friend’s support. Instead he’d envied her purpose. Hudson wanted it to be his arm she gripped. He wanted to be the one she counted on to hold her up as the world as she knew it bottomed out.

He punched the button on the phone, cutting off the self-torture.

Fuck, he needed a drink.

Shoving his phone in the front pocket of his pants, Hudson strode to the Subzero and yanked the door open, only to find it empty of the beer he was craving. Cursing, he snapped it closed and stalked upstairs toward the game room. He didn’t bother turning on the lights. The glow from the glass door fridge behind the bar provided the only light he needed to hit his target. He grabbed a Heineken, cracked it open, and flicked the cap off with his thumb. As he watched it slam dunk into the trash, he suddenly realized where Nick had picked up the nifty little trick.

Hudson flinched at the sound of his phone echoing through the cavernous room. He set the bottle on the bar and dug his cell back out of his pocket.

“Chase,” he answered, not bothering to screen the call.

A gravelly voice came from the other end. “Hey.”

“Nick, hey, how—”

Nick cut off the hi-how-are-ya’s. “Has it been on the news?”

“Couple lines in the Trib, but nothing more.” Hudson wasn’t surprised. Dead drug dealers didn’t make headlines. Nick blew out a relieved breath, but Hudson could still sense the undercurrent of stress. “You’re not to worry about it, clear? I’ve handled it.”

“What do you mean? The cops gotta be looking for me. APB or some shit, right?”

Hudson ran a hand through his hair. “No one is looking for you.”

“How can you be sure? What if someone saw the—”

“Not like this, Nick. Not on the phone.”

“Why? Do you think someone’s listening?”

“No. But I—”

“Holy shit, is your line tapped? Are you being watched?” Hudson could hear the wild panic gaining momentum.

“Jesus Christ, Nick, no. But my presence has already been requested at the police station in regards to the Sinclair murders. I’m not taking any chances.”

Nick snorted. “Yeah, like you’d kill Allie’s parents.”

“They have to rule me out as a suspect and I intend to cooperate.” Anything to keep the police from having a reason to dig too deeply into his life. Looking into the shit buried in his past was like pulling a thread. Yank on one and the whole thing would unravel.

“What if they’re just playin’ you? What if they know something?”

“Like I said, don’t worry about it.” Nick was a first-rate addict and the last thing Hudson wanted was for him to relapse and die by his own hand. Not on his watch. If it took stint after stint at high-priced rehab facilities, so be it. There wasn’t a chance in hell he was going to hit a brick wall when it came to saving his little brother. “Focus on getting yourself clean, understood?”

“I’m clean as a fucking whistle, Hudson. So stop the song and dance bullshit. Level with me.”

“Well, let me switch it to a different tune.” Hudson tightened his grip on the cell phone until he heard the thing squeak. “Sober, Nick. You need to cut the shit with the booze, the drugs, the life you’re living.” His voice grew more powerful with each word. “Goddamn it, I don’t want to bury you next to them.”

Silence stretched out between them, filling the line with white noise.

“It wasn’t your fault.” Nick’s voice came quietly through the phone. He’d been saying the same thing for the past ten years, but the fact was Hudson was wholly responsible. He’d never forgotten his litany of failures, and every time he tried to get some shut-eye a motherfucking slideshow played in his head: Nick being ripped away from him; gruesome images tinted with red; his mother’s cold, lifeless body staring up at him; and finally, Allie in the elevator as the doors slid closed.

He couldn’t lose his brother or suffer through long, dark months of not knowing where Nick was or whether he was alive or dead. Hudson choked back anger laced with fear. “I don’t want to lose you too, Nicky.”

“Not happening, no fucking way. I got a new lease on life, ya know?” Nick chuckled, no doubt to break the tension they both felt, but then dove headfirst into another minefield. “Have you heard from her?”

“No. She won’t return my calls.”

“Did you go to the funeral? Shit’s been all over the news. Even made The View.”

“The View?”

“Yeah, ladies in here dig it, and I’m kinda stuck for the ride. Good thing that one chick has a nice rack.”

“Fuckin’ A, Nick.” Hudson laughed for the first time in two weeks.

“So did you talk to her?”

“No.” Hudson rubbed the back of his neck. “She didn’t even know I was there.”

“Dude, why the fuck not?”

“Wasn’t the right time.”

“Chicken-shit pussy.”

“It’s complicated, Nick.”

“Yeah, what do I know? Hey bro, I gotta run, people waiting in line to use the horn.”

“I’m glad you called.”

“Yeah.” Nick cleared his throat. “Me too. I’ll catch ya later?”

“Sure. Bye, Nick.” Hudson waited until he heard his brother hang up before ending the call, then fisted the beer that was sweating it out on the bar and took a long swig. He glanced around the dimly lit room, from the dartboard to the pool table to the bar and, finally, to the column. That fucking column. Images of her were everywhere. There wasn’t a goddamn place he could look and not be reminded of her. Alessandra Sinclair had not only come back into his life, but had taken up residence in his heart.

And tomorrow he was going to see her.

Hudson took another drink of his beer. There might be a conference table between them at the board meeting, but before the day was over he planned to get her alone in a room. She’d have no choice but to hear him out.

He wasn’t taking no for an answer.

Chapter Four

Allie made sure she was the first to arrive. The emergency board meeting wasn’t scheduled to start for another half hour, but she wanted to give herself plenty of time to get the lay of the land. Of course she’d been in the Ingram Media conference room numerous times over the years, but that had always been to attend events as Richard Sinclair’s daughter, not for an official meeting of the board of directors, and certainly not as their new majority shareholder. Holiday parties and photo ops were a far cry from the proceedings about to take place on the thirtieth floor of the Ingram Building.

She walked the length of the room, her eyes drifting over glossy mahogany. Allie knew she had a lot to prove to the people who would be assembling around that table. As her fingertips trailed along the high back of each leather chair, she found herself picturing the crowd that would be arriving in a matter of minutes. Some were lifelong friends of her father’s, who she suspected would still see her as a little girl in blond curls and frilly dresses. Some were powerful leaders of the city’s most successful businesses, who she feared would view her as grossly unqualified to hold a position she’d only earned through nepotism. And while the former might like the idea of an Ingram remaining on the board, their business savvy would no doubt push them to side with the latter.

But as daunting as it was to imagine facing that audience for the first time, it wasn’t what had her pacing the room.

It was him.

Allie made her way to the windows that looked out across the Michigan Avenue Bridge.

As she watched the Chicago River flow into Lake Michigan, she thought about the last time she’d seen Hudson Chase. It was the morning she’d uncovered the truth about his plan to take control of Ingram Media. She stared unseeingly at the gray horizon and her thoughts began to drift back to that day. Hudson standing in his foyer, a towel slung low around his hips as water dripped onto the hardwood floor. He’d begged her to let him explain, but what explanation could have possibly justified his lies and betrayal? She’d refused to hear him out, and while in her heart she knew it had been the right decision, the look on his face as the elevator doors slid closed that morning had haunted her ever since.

Behind her the conference room door opened with a soft click and the low murmur of voices told her the other board members had begun to filter into the room. But instead of greeting them and engaging in the sort of sympathetic small talk that had consumed the past few days, she remained by the windows, enjoying the last moments of calm before the eventual storm.

There was a sudden flurry of activity outside the meeting room, and instinctively she knew he had arrived. A wave of anxiety rolled through the pit of her stomach, but she took a deep, calming breath. These board meetings, while infrequent, would be inevitable. The sooner she got used to seeing him in this setting, the better.

She turned around, and a moment later Hudson Chase strolled into the boardroom. The hum of quiet conversation ground to a halt and all heads turned as one to assess the corporate raider who’d quietly amassed the second largest percentage of Ingram shares right out from under their noses.

The sight of him nearly took her breath away. Wearing a charcoal suit, white shirt, and silver-gray tie, he looked every bit the powerful, in-control CEO. But Allie knew the passion that burned behind those eyes, and when she looked at his dark, unruly hair, she knew he’d run his fingers through it just before stepping into the room. He moved with measured grace, his muscles flexing beneath his perfectly tailored suit. Allie knew every inch of that body intimately, how it felt beneath her touch, how it moved over her . . . inside her. She knew the man, not the corporate myth. He was the one who she’d fallen for. He was the one who’d broken her heart.

She had meant to look away, to show him nothing more than a passing indifference, and yet she was utterly transfixed as she watched some of the most powerful players in Chicago greet him with a mixture of wary fascination and awe. Even as the outsider, Hudson still commanded the room, offering his hand to some, a curt nod to others. His demeanor was courteous and professional, but there was an air of casual confidence about Hudson that sent a clear message to those in the room. He was a man who got exactly what he wanted.

Well, not this time—not when it came to her.

As if feeling the intensity of her stare, Hudson turned and his gaze met hers. The corner of his mouth lifted in an almost involuntary smile, then quickly faded. Yet despite his sobering expression, there was nothing he could do to hide the intense longing in his blue eyes. Allie felt it hit her like a physical blow, her entire body responding to the sight of him.

Without taking his eyes off her, Hudson murmured something to the gentleman next to him and began making his way toward the windows. Allie’s heart beat faster with his every step, until the sound of the blood roaring in her ears drowned out the rest of the room. Her throat felt dry and tight when she swallowed, and she suddenly wished she’d had the presence of mind to pour herself a glass of water when she’d arrived. Then again, with the way her hands were trembling, she’d have likely spilled most of it on her burgundy dress. In that moment Allie realized she was wearing the same dress she’d worn the first time Hudson kissed her in his office. It seemed more like a lifetime than two months had passed since that first encounter, and yet the desire she felt was undeniable, even now. She fisted her hands at her sides and squared her shoulders. This was it; she just had to get through the awkward pleasantries and then focus on the meeting’s agenda.

Hudson came to a stop directly in front of her. “Allie,” he whispered. His voice was low and rough and washed over her heated skin like a lover’s touch.

“Mr. Chase,” she said, firing the first shot. It was important he understood the terms of their new arrangement right from the start. She felt a surge of satisfaction when her voice remained steady.

Hudson blinked and his expression faltered. He regarded her for a moment and then opened his mouth, but Mr. Weiss appeared at his side before he had the chance to speak.

“I’d like a moment with you both before we begin.” He ushered Allie and Hudson toward the corner of the room, speaking only once they were out of earshot of the rest of the board. “I thought perhaps I should say a few words to begin today’s proceedings. The past few weeks have been stressful in many regards.” He glanced briefly at Hudson before turning his attention back to Allie. “As chairman, your father would normally run the meeting, but . . .”

Mr. Weiss cleared his throat. With all that had transpired over the past few days, Allie hadn’t had much opportunity to think about the toll this had taken on him. He’d been handling everything with his usual calm, efficient manner, but he’d lost his lifelong friend and the stress was written all over his weathered face.

“Assuming neither of you has any objection, that is?”

Hudson gave him a quick nod. “That will be fine.”

Allie waited until Hudson stepped away and then placed her hand on the elder gentleman’s forearm. “Thank you, Mr. Weiss.”

“My pleasure.” He smiled, but when his eyes met hers she saw the sadness he hid behind his professional exterior. “And Alessandra, please call me Ben.”

Calling a man she’d known since childhood by his first name felt awkward, but if she had any hope of convincing the board to see her as more than Richard and Victoria Sinclair’s daughter, she had to start acting like it. She returned his smile and lifted her chin. “Thank you, Ben.”

“Ladies and gentlemen.” He addressed the room as he moved toward the head of the table. “If you’d like to take a seat, I believe we’re ready to begin.”

One by one the other board members took their seats. Hudson waited until Allie had sat on Ben’s right, then pulled out the chair directly across from hers. She could feel the weight of his stare on her, but kept her focus on the charcoal-gray folder in front of her with the words INGRAM MEDIA embossed in silver across the top. Allie opened it and scanned the typed agenda as Ben thanked everyone for adjusting their busy schedules to accommodate the urgency of the meeting. At the top of the list was the first order of business: Appointment of Temporary CEO. She shouldn’t have been surprised. As a publicly owned company the transition of power had to be swift and seamless.

Allie traced the foil logo at the top of the letterhead with her finger, and all at once the enormity of what was about to take place hit her. This wasn’t just any company, it was her family’s legacy. Her maternal grandfather had started out selling newspapers on a street corner, and by the time of his death had grown Ingram Media into one of the largest companies in the country. Her father had dedicated his life to continuing that growth, expanding their scope far beyond the printed word, first with cable television networks and later into various online platforms.

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Release Me 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story begins right where we left off in book one, and this stoey does not disappoint. Allie and Hudson have obstacles to overcome and they do so. The sex again is off the charts but now.its filled with an emorional toll of uncondirional love. Rhen of course all hell has to break lose, if you can imagine trouble, mayhem..damsel.in distress and anorher cliffhanger well you"ve got it in book.2 of the series. Im hooked. I loved it, i adore Allie and Hudson, im rooting for a happily ever after. I will have to read book 3 to find out how this cliffhanger plays out. Bravo to the aurhors for bringing these wonderful lovimg and perfectly flawed characters to life. Hudson is pure sex. Hot as heck! Allie is sensual and naiive but in such a strong feminine way. She holds the power and Hudson"s heaet. How i worry and wonder who would lose more in the end of this book, hudson or Allie... so so good, onto book 3!
TheSassyBookster More than 1 year ago
4.5 Stars! I don't give my affection very easily so I'm quite surprised at how invested I have become in Hudson and Alessandra. I know I loved REMIND ME, but RELEASE ME completely blindsided me and I felt my heart go splat as I fell in love all over again! In RELEASE ME, Allie steps up to take control of her life. Things have changed for her both personally and professionally and she while she has to work with the man destroyed both her heart and her trust, Allie is not willing to listen to his explanations or forgive him for his betrayal. Well, Hudson is down but not out. He knows that he messed up and misses Allie a lot but he's not willing to lose her a second time and will do everything to get her back - beg, grovel, even walk away for a time - if it would get her to forgive him. This is Hudson Chase, the man. Completely stripped of all artifice, totally open, totally honest, totally in love. I swear my heart broke when he walked away from Allie, even though I knew it wasn't over for them. Thank God for BFFs and some tough love to break down Allie's defenses. This is also Allie, the woman, no longer bound by her duty to her family, free to make her own choices and live her life on her own terms. She loves, she hurts, she forgives. I really enjoyed seeing Allie come into her own as a professional and even in her relationship with Hudson. What they share is so intense and real, their connection even deeper and they literally can't keep their hands off each other, hot and heavy everywhere! I loved seeing them do all the couple things, the romance, the passion, the sex and even the time shared with their loved ones, but I totally loved how they love each other. Every touch, every word, every look is proof and I cold not get enough. But while they are basking in their love, the clouds are gathering. Danger is around the corner and unresolved issues have to be addressed. Once again, this book ends in a cliffhanger, this one so abrupt that I did not see it coming. I can't wait for October to read the final installment of this trilogy. RELEASE ME is pure emotion - heartbreak, forgiveness and consuming passion and I dare any reader to resist the emotional roller coaster ride. Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
bhillson83 More than 1 year ago
This is definitely one of the best series that I have read in a long time. I mean the name Hudson Chase just screams sex, sex, sex! His sex appeal is out of this world and both Walker and Rogers do a fantastic job of writing the most hot and steamy sex scenes that I have read in a long time. I absolutely loved Hudson and Alessandra as they were two characters whose chemistry sizzles on and off the pages of the book and leaves you wanting more. I started this series on a Tuesday morning about 4:00am when I couldn't sleep and finished the first two novels by 5:00pm same day - sooo good! Words cannot express the sensuality of this series and both Walker and Rogers should be extremely proud of the great novels that they have written. I cannot express how good this series is - it is up there with all the great Billionaire Romance novels with that dash of Fifty Shades - but better! I would definitely recommend this series to those who love a great read - that includes hot sex scenes, romance and a bit of a mystery .... Walker and Rogers have definitely made a fan out of this girl and I CANNOT wait to read the next book in the series! This is a definite MUST add to your T0-Be-Read Shelf!
italiangirl56 More than 1 year ago
2nd in the series... Now this book I loved. This one was full of romance .. travel.. love This one kept me captivated from the first page I was hooked. I was always anxious to turn the page.. read the next chapter. So much going on. This one was really good. Loved the travel... I pictured it all ;) So nice to leave in your mind. The love story between them.. so very intriguing! Described beautifully. Making you want a romance like that. Making you wish you had someone like that. The ending was... (waiting till October) I'm going to die till then... ;( Hanging by a thread.... sighs
csingh More than 1 year ago
To say I was eager to read this book might be an understatement. The first book in this series ended in a very surprising manner and so I was impatient to see what happened to Allie and Hudson. This book did not disappoint. It was both hot and surprising. I'm learning I shouldn't make theories about what's going to happen next because I'm going to get it wrong. Allie and Hudson are dealing with a lot of change. Their personal and professional lives are going through lots of upheaval. My heart broke for Allie. She's lost so much in a small amount of time. I admired her for her resolve and strength. Even going through half of what she did would leave me a mess curled up in my bed. I like how she took charge of what was going on around her. I also felt bad for Hudson. He was trying hard to what Allie asked of him, even if it broke his own heart. I was also concerned with how he was handling his recollections of the past. It really made me wonder what had happened to him. I liked seeing Allie with her friend Harper and Hudson with Nick his brother. I really liked seeing the latter; it was as if they were bonding again, and part of that was due to Allie. I really liked the range of emotions this book made me feel. There were moments of sadness, happiness, fear, and even anger. I'm liking how the story keeps my interest from the first page to the last. It did seem like all the major action happened in those parts though. I'm really concerned about Hudson and Allie. I'm once again intrigued about the direction the story has taken. Ann Marie Walker and Amy K. Rogers have done a great job at moving Hudson and Allie's story forward. They've made great progress as a couple from the start of Remind Me to the end of Release Me. I'm can't wait to see how they grow as a couple in Reclaim Me. I'm hoping things will get easier for them, but I have a feeling they will have to struggle some more before that happens.
ljtljtljt More than 1 year ago
Release Me by Ann Marie Walker and Amy K. Rogers is one scorcher of a read. It is the second book from their Chasing Fire trilogy and I believe best enjoyed after reading Remind Me, the first book in the series. But beware, both books end with a marvelous cliffhanger and the final book's release is not until October 2015. This is the love story between Allie Sinclair and Hudson Chase. Two people from opposite sides of the tracks. Allie comes from tremendous wealth, yet remains down-to-earth and personable. Hudson is a self-made billionaire, who had to struggle for everything and anything in order to become the successful businessman he is today. They are thrown together and pulled apart during various stages in their lives, yet have never stopped caring about each other. Their attraction is undeniable and their need for each other is heart-wrenching at times. I really liked this book and the way the authors evolved Allie and Hudson both personally and professionally. Unfortunately, the moment Allie agreed to meet Julian, her conniving, evil and violent ex-fiance, I became disenchanted. Throughout the story, Allie is depicted as a smart and resourceful woman, and I felt that this action contradicted the authenticity of her character. Luckily this circumstance occurred at the end of the book, so I was able to enjoy most of it. Before I read the third book, I plan to reread books one and two in order to get back into the Allie and Hudson groove. Overall, this is a hot and fast-paced well-written love story, with a suspenseful twist at the end. Complimentary copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
BFF_K_BFF_Book_Blog More than 1 year ago
I am pretty much gushing about this series to anyone who will listen! I've emailed, texted, Facebooked, Tweeted and raved to anyone who seems even remotely interested. The Chasing Fire Series is absolutely FANTASTIC! Release Me sort-of starts where Remind Me left off, but with a twist! Allie had plans to regain control of her life at the end of Book #1, but those plans are quickly blown apart in a terrible discovery that rocks her world. With this shocking turn of events, Allie finds herself face to face with Hudson once again. And, though she tries desperately to stay away, the overwhelming pull to him is just too much. Allie continues to struggle in this book, but you can understand her stress and frustrations with all she has been/is going through. There are portions of the book where Allie shows fantastic flashes of resilience and gritty determination. I think she's going to need these in the final book. (Plus, resilience is one of my favorite traits for a heroine!) Hudson is just as swoony as ever!
AmyBosica More than 1 year ago
So, I am such a dork. I didn’t realize when I requested this book that it was book 2 in a series. I have to admit, I was a little worried once I realized that I was jumping straight into book 2. But as I started reading, I realized I was worried for nothing. I didn’t really have trouble following along at all. And to me, that was a good thing! Release Me is sexy and intriguing with a little bit of mystery and danger sprinkled in along the way. I loved the connection between Hudson and Allie. Hudson hurt and betrayed Allie, but you could tell that he loved her and would do anything to win her back. Hudson…. All I can say is wow! He was a total alpha male. He knew what he wanted and wasn’t afraid to go after it. I loved seeing Allie and Hudson together, they just burned up the pages. Release Me is my first book by this author, but definitely won’t be my last. I loved everything about this story, from start to finish. I definitely will be going back and read the first book, just so I can get a little more history on the characters. Release Me was a quick and enjoyable read. I couldn’t get enough of the characters. The story does end with a cliffhanger ending and I can’t wait to see how everything will play out. *I was provided an ARC copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
AboutThatStory More than 1 year ago
Wow! This was intense, emotional, and unbelievably hot! Loved it! This book starts where Remind Me leaves off and I love the tension and animosity between Allie and Hudson. They are such great characters. You can feel the pull they have towards one another and I really got caught up in it. I loved the build of them coming together and moving forward, it was so fantastic! Wanting something but having to forgive, it just made for this full story that was detailed and descriptive. I was completely pulled in. There's a lot going on throughout and I had a million questions. There is an underlying element of mystery that had me wanting more and I absorbed all the details I got. It was intense! Allie had so much to deal with during her and Hudson's reconnection. It was so sad and yet I loved her strength throughout. I pretty much inhaled all the details learned about Hudson's past. Loved all those dark details that were emerging. I couldn't not get enough! Hudson is a fascinating man. I still have a ton of questions about her parents, Hudson's brother Nick, and Julian. Which leads me too HOLY CLIFFHANGER BATMAN! I'm dying. Need the third book now. This story took the schmexy to a whole new level. Seriously, it was unbelievable hot! I love the connection they have, it's like an insatiable need, with love and lust combined which makes them coming together off the charts hot. Besides the hot, there were also these sweet, playful moments that make Hudson and Allie so relatable and real… let's just say Mr. Chase could help me decorate cookies anytime. ;-) Such a great story. Loved the build throughout. From Hudson and Allie coming together and all the underlying questions that emerged to really seeing the beautiful and passionate connection they share. About the time I thought I was ready for more drama and development, bam! It happened! The ending totally had me on the edge of my seat and I was left with my heart racing. Awesome read which I thoroughly enjoyed. Couldn't put it down! That ending though, wow. I need answers! Complimentary copy received for honest review.