The Woman Trapped in the Dark is the propulsive third novel in J.D. Mason's contemporary trilogy about unforgettable love, scorching desire, and dangerous secrets.
Marriage can be deadly.
People disparaged their relationship. Enemies tried to tear them apart. But even so, Abby Rhodes and Jordan Gatewood fought hard to be together. Now, they are looking to settle into a life of married bliss. But sometimes the greatest threat stems from the person you trust the most.
Someone is hunting Abby. She has been taken prisoner, held captive by those who would stop at nothing to destroy Jordan. Now he must figure out how his dark and murky past holds the key to finding her.
Every moment, hour, or day that these people keep her locked in this place slowly robs Abby of any hope she has of surviving this nightmare. She wants to believe that Jordan will save her, but it doesn't take long for Abby to realize that it's up to her to find a way out of this terrifying ordeal before it's too late.
About the Author
J.D. MASON is the author of Seducing Abby Rhodes; The Real Mrs. Price; Crazy, Sexy, Revenge; Drop Dead, Gorgeous; Beautiful, Dirty, Rich; Somebody Pick Up My Pieces; Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It; That Devil’s No Friend Of Mine; You Gotta Sin To Get Saved; This Fire Down In My Soul; Don’t Want No Sugar; And On The Eighth Day She Rested; and One Day I Saw A Black King. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her two children.
Read an Excerpt
Wave My Own Pride
"Back then, he was as dumb as a rock." Lars Degan laughed. "Young and pretty as a peacock, but stupid. I did like him, though. Truly, I did."
His son, Brandon Degan, stared quizzically at his seventy-nine-year-old father, watching fascinated as the man's expression melted from one of amusement into a genuine fondness at the memory of a young Jordan Gatewood. Once again Brandon was reminded of just how passionately his father's obsession with Gatewood merged seamlessly from loathing to admiration, and it was that obsession that had tortured Brandon for as long as he could remember.
"I told you what happened. Didn't I?" Brandon's father asked, staring at him as if he suddenly realized that Brandon was still sitting next to him on the deck of Lars's massive Fort Worth house overlooking the lake.
Brandon sighed. "You've told me several times, Dad."
Not that it mattered. Blame it on old age, or just the desperate need to repeat the damn story again, adding fuel to his hatred of Gatewood before that flame burned out, Brandon knew that he was about to sit through the tale again. Sometimes, names wouldchange in the retelling, dates or places, but the heart of the story was always solid.
"His father, Julian Gatewood, was as sly as a snake," his father began. "Slippery and aloof. Acted like he was better than the rest of us," he explained with disdain. "He looked white, you know. Could've passed and we wouldn't have known that he wasn't until he opened his mouth to say something. That's when you'd know you were talking to a black man, through and through."
Once again, Brandon sarcastically marveled at his father's mystical abilities. That this man could tell a white man from a black man simply by the sound of his voice when he spoke was nothing short of extraordinary. It took every ounce of Brandon's restraint not to roll his eyes.
"We threw a party when we got the news that the sonofabitch was dead." He chuckled. "Got drunk on whiskey and pussy for two whole days in celebration."
Julian Gatewood died thirty years ago. Brandon was only thirteen at the time and was too much into skateboards and soccer to remember much about his passing.
That forlorn look returned to his father's light-blue eyes. "I almost felt sorry for that boy when that pretty momma of his planted his narrow behind in his father's chair. It was much too big for him," he said sadly. "In more ways than one."
That was about the only thing Brandon and Gatewood had in common besides both being in the oil business. Brandon knew all too well that same fear that Gatewood had probably felt that day. The trepidation of being expected to fill your father's shoes, and to be forced to put aside your own dreams to live those of another man.
"I knew he'd fail." Brandon's father's face lit up. "Hell, we all did, and we wanted him to. It was imperative that he did."
His father stared back at Brandon, waiting for him to ask the same question he always asked at this most poignant point in the story.
The gleam in Lars Degan's eyes expressed his approval that Brandon egged him on. "Because there were egos at stake. An old doctrine in place that didn't include his kind. We couldn't do much about the father," he said, remembering the force that had been Julian Gatewood, "except smile and nod and mutter under our breath when his back was turned. To his credit, he was a keen and astute businessman. We didn't like him or approve, but there was no denying his prowess. However, Gatewood Industries was an insult to every oilman in Texas."
Brandon wanted to say, But Dad. You worked for the man for fifteen years. But he knew better.
In his father's mind and in the minds of relics like him, oil was a white man's business. They'd built empires on the shit, and damn anybody who didn't fit the mold and who dared to trespass on those empires. It should've been easier being the son of a racist, considering the environment that he'd grown up in, but Brandon hated his father's attitude toward anybody who didn't look exactly like him. Of course, he knew to keep his mouth shut.
"Gullible is what he was," his father continued thoughtfully, describing Jordan. "He was so eager to learn, and who else did he have to rely on but us?" He stared earnestly at his son. "He trusted us. He had no choice. Hung on every word we said as if we'd dipped them in gold, committing what we told him to memory, taking our advice to heart. He respected us."
It was cruel what Brandon's father and others in the company had done to twenty-year-old Jordan Gatewood. Brandon listened as his father recounted the brutal ways that they conspired against him, setting him up for failure, only to stand him up again long enough to catch his breath, pat him on the back, tell him how good a job he was doing, then pressed down on him again, driving him into catastrophe after catastrophe, subtly blaming him for destroying his father's business, his legacy.
"It was a slow but steady dismantling of this boy's psyche, his spirit. That's how you do it." He nodded his affirmation as if Brandon needed or even wanted to know the process for destroying a man from the inside out.
"A young man's mind is the easiest to break. It's fragile and uncertain of itself. He was so afraid of failing, and yet that's all he ever did. We made sure of it," he said proudly. "We were patient, Brandon. You see, we didn't want to crush the business completely, but we were like sharks, taking chunks out of it as we watched it die a slow and agonizing death. We all wanted a piece of it, the choicest pieces, of course. So we had to be careful how we took it from him. We had to be careful to feed that boy just enough advice and encouragement to keep the corporation from going under too quickly, but only barely. And we had to be careful not to tear him down too much. He needed some fight. Not a lot, but enough."
It was morbid. Heartless and selfish what they did to him. Physically, of course, they never laid a finger on Jordan Gatewood, but they didn't need to. They poisoned his mind, his soul. They tortured his self-esteem, devoured his faith, crushed his sense of duty and obligation to the man who had built this unlikely empire, reminding young Jordan day in and day out of how he had failed his father.
Lars slowly dropped his gaze. "We made him suffer for over a decade. Some might call it abuse, but, no" — he shook his head — "it was a lesson. We were putting him in his place." His father looked back to Brandon. "All that ego he'd gotten from being touted for his exceptional skills as a college football player, and swooned over for his good looks, born into money, that boy had never known what it was like not to think so highly of himself. But all that arrogance seeped through his pores like sweat as, year after year, he lost millions of his father's hard-earned money. More than half of his employees had been let go, and Jordan had resorted to liquidating company assets just to keep the lights on. We'd done what we'd set out to do, and we were so damned proud of ourselves for it."
* * *
Lars's respect for his son was a private point of contention, balancing precariously on a line as thin as a strand of hair. Brandon had always been a simple boy, too eager to please but with no conviction, no spine or balls worth swinging even when he and Lars didn't see eye to eye. Lars had always resented that about his son. He held Brandon's gaze with his own, daring that boy to look away or to protest, his disapproval of how Lars had treated young Gatewood. Brandon had his mother's eyes, expressive and telling. They gave away his secrets.
"You think I'm silly," Lars said unexpectedly, catching his son off guard. "A silly old racist? Is that it?"
Brandon shifted and cleared his throat. "Of course not, Dad."
Brandon was a coward. There aren't too many things that can break a man's heart more than realizing that his son lacks courage. Jordan Gatewood had always had plenty of it, which, admittedly, was the one thing that Lars had always admired about him.
"I don't hate him because he's black, Brandon, although it doesn't help," he said with a smirk.
Lars thought back to that place in time, ten years after they'd begun the systematic destruction of Jordan Gatewood, when he suddenly realized that instead of breaking him, they'd actually created a monster.
"We almost had him," he said, recalling the excitement of victory and satisfaction he'd reveled in back then. But Lars was tired. Tired of plotting and of having to overthink every move, every word, every action and counteraction. Jordan proved to be smarter, more diligent and determined than any of them had expected. His resolve had kept him motivated longer than they had hoped. That pretty boy of Julian Gatewood's had had more of his father in him than any of them could've imagined. Finally, though, it was nearly over and all that was left was to drive the wooden stake into that boy's fragile heart.
"He'd made the biggest mistake of his short career," Lars recalled. "Bought the rights to drill in this section of the Gulf near Louisiana." Lars frowned. "It was a tricky site. Everyone else who'd tried to drill there had failed, lost millions in equipment and even lives. Jordan had been researching how to dig in a place like that and found a young engineer to build him a special drill bit, and rigged it some kind of crazy way." He waved his hand dismissively. "I don't know. But it was expensive. He drained the company's reserves dry to pay for it."
Jordan had taken on this venture all on his own without the advice of Lars and the others. He'd been doing that a lot lately, going off on his own with some harebrained scheme of how to hurry up and recoup millions in losses, failing time and time again.
"There's nothing there, son." Lars sat behind his desk, rubbing frustration and exhaustion from his eyes over yet another disaster this boy had walked this corporation into.
Lars tossed a binder across his desk to Jordan. "Bone-dry, Jordan," he said irritably. "Read it. Since you didn't have the money to pay for it, I paid for the geologist to come out and survey the site my damn self. Ain't nothing down there, and even if you get lucky and hit pay dirt, it won't be enough to cover the cost of that fancy equipment you wasted company funds on."
"I don't need your report," Jordan said indignantly, staring at Lars. "My gut tells me I'm right."
Lars sighed irritably. "Your gut's full of shit, boy. Literally. Face it. You fucked up, Jordan, again. This is it." He threw his hands up in disgust. "You wanted to bankrupt your father's corporation, well, pat yourself on the back, son. You've certainly done that."
There was a time when Jordan would've hung his head in shame, but Lars hadn't seen him do that in years.
"Mark Waters has made a generous offer," Lars said calmly. "One you need to consider taking because, frankly, you're all out of options. He'll buy that equipment of yours, all your deeds, and anything else you're willing to sell him at ten percent above value, Jordan. It's a good deal, son."
All Jordan had to do was agree and this long, arduous ordeal would've finally been over. "Use your head, Jordan," he encouraged him. "Take the offer, walk away, and get on with your life."
Without saying another word, Jordan stood up and walked out of Lars's office.
Lars always got quiet at this point in the story. He'd never been the kind who believed in miracles, until one day Jordan Gatewood showed up and pulled one right out of his ass.
"Two months later, that bastard found it," he said dismally. "He found every gotdamned drop."
Of course Lars knew. He'd known all along how much oil was there. It was just a matter of getting to it. That's all. A picture of Jordan, standing tall and proud on that rig, graced the covers of Money, Inc., The New York Times, and World Money magazines. He'd not only found one of the most expansive oil pockets that this country had seen in decades; he'd patented that new drill and rigging system, and all of a sudden, Gatewood Industries had a heartbeat again.
"He came back into my office a month later and handed me a file."
"I took the liberty of hiring my own geologist," he said smugly. "And I expect your resignation by morning," Jordan said, looming over Lars still sitting behind his desk.
Lars stood up. That impertinent bastard needed to be put in his place again. "Remember who you're talking to, boy."
Jordan planted his fists on Lars's desk and leaned close to him. "No, Lars. You remember who you're talking to," he said threateningly. "I'm your Frankenstein monster, motha fucka. You got sloppy. Weak. Maybe sentimental," Jordan said with a wry smile. "Eight million, wouldn't you say?" Jordan shrugged. "Ballpark? Is that how much you've stolen from me over the years?"
"I haven't stolen a gotdamned thing," Lars shot back.
"No. You've stolen eight million gotdamned things. I've been keeping track. I'll admit it, man" — Jordan straightened his stance and stuffed his hands in his pockets — "you had me going in the beginning. It was rough and your ass put me through it." Jordan nodded introspectively. "But you taught me lessons I could've never learned in college. Fuck an MBA." He smiled. "Right? The school of hard knocks taught to me by my enemies. Pure gold."
Gradually, Lars began to understand what they'd done to young Gatewood.
"You get the fuck out of my building," Jordan said calmly. "On your way out, I want every gotdamned stock option you ever put your fuckin' hands on."
Lars was livid. How dare this black bastard threaten him and threaten to take any damn thing he'd worked all these years for.
"Who the hell's going to believe you, boy," he growled. "You dumb fucker. You think because you hit pay dirt it makes you more than what you are? You're a nigger, Jordan. An ignorant nigger who's got no business —"
"I'm a niggah who's got you dangling by your balls over a fire, Lars. I'm a niggah with no fear. I'm a niggah with money. And I want you out of my sight. I don't want you on my board or owning my stocks. I don't want your fucking name on none of my business cards, and if you take so much as a pencil, I'll spend my last dime personally pile driving your ass into the ground. I will ruin you. I will humiliate you and your family. I will tear down the walls of your reputation until there's nothing left but ash and shit."
"You've got nothing on me, son."
Jordan glared at him. "That you know of," he said coldly.
He was bullshitting.
"Call it, Lars," he threatened. "Call my bluff. Force me to show my hand. Please."
"I was tempted, but that look in his eyes —" Lars shook his head. "I was almost proud of him," Lars continued somberly. "I was certainly afraid of what he'd become. Jordan's successes began to pile up one on top of the other. Even his failures had a way of working out in the best interest of Gatewood Industries." Lars looked at his son. "You see, it's not his skin color that I hate so much. This kind of loathing doesn't just happen overnight. It grows. Festers. It's like a cancer, spreading and gnawing at a man. Maybe it's because I know I'm running out of time, Brandon," he said, his voice tinged with melancholy. "There's a sense of urgency to finish what I started, to see him ruined."
A long silence hovered between the two of them before his son finally said something that caught Lars by surprise.
"If you hate him so much," Brandon began cautiously, "why not just have him killed?"
Lars shook his head in dismay at such a question. "Killed? No." He sighed. "No, Son. It's not his life I want. It's something much more valuable and lasting. It's his legacy. There's no real gratification in taking your enemy's life. If there is, it's short-lived. But to see him suffer, to watch him suffocate in regret and sink into the muddy despair of his failures and losses. To humiliate him." Lars smiled. "Dignity. It's the one thing a real man values more than his own life." He nodded, sighed, and closed his eyes. "You take that from him, that thing he loves most, that he'd die for, and leave him stripped of respect, honor, and hope." Lars smiled. "That's the sweetest kind of victory. That's the kind that lasts forever."
Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.
— James BaldwinCHAPTER 2
Go My Severed Way
A creaking floor.
Subtle vibrations shifting air, filling space.
Hushed voices and soft sounds of shoes shuffling along the corridor outside her bedroom.
Who's to say for sure what combination of these things caused her to stir awake suddenly from a deep sleep? Abby blinked her eyes open in time to see a shadow fill the doorway to her room.
Panic, fear, ballooned in her chest. Was she awake or still asleep — dreaming?
As the shadowed person crept into her room horror gripped her.
"Who? W ... what —?"
She pushed up on the bed, still half asleep — still desperately trying to will herself awake. The soles of her feet touched the floor as Abby started to run, but not before seeing another shadowed figure appear behind the first, both reaching for her.
She screamed! She fought! Wake up, Abby! Jesus! Jesus, this was real!(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Woman Trapped in the Dark"
Copyright © 2018 J. D. Mason.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Wave My Own Pride,
Go My Severed Way,
The Woman Trapped in the Dark,
My World Crumbles,
Ashes in Your Ashtray,
Working Too Hard,
I Try to Hide,
I Love You Now and Ever,
Thieves in the Temple,
Dug My Own Grave,
Games, Changes, and Fears,
He Loves Me Wrong,
No More Dawn,
Love Come in a Hurry,
In My Dawn,
A Little While Longer,
I Got My Patience,
Run This Game,
You Work All Day,
I Should Be Gone,
Much Too Much,
The Word Came to Me,
A Honeycomb Tree,
All This Cold Despair,
Back to the Lab Again,
Cut Other People Open,
I Got the Antidote,
Hold Your Nose,
Couldn't Fake It,
Too Afraid to Lose It,
Love, Please Let Me Be,
If You're Not There,
Like a Poor Man Looking for Gold,
Feet Fail Me Not,
Both My Hands Are Tied,
Sickness over You,
Some of Us Cannibals,
Taking over Me,
Better Never Let It Go,
Too Good at Good-byes,
He's Cold Product,
Lessons from the Ancient Roots,
Right Down to the Bone,
Don't Care Where They Kick,
Looking for My Soul,
As Cool as I Remain,
The Better Man,
I'm Holding On,
Also by J. D. Mason,
About the Author,