He's hurt her once, and terrified her. He holds her future in his hands. Can she trust him with her body too?
Desperate to escape her past and start over, Ashley McAllister cuts her ties with her old life and heads for the wild landscape of West Yorkshire, the perfect place to reinvent herself. And her carefully laid plans are working, until she encounters her nemesis—the one man she'd hoped never to see again. Tom Shore, the man she and a gang of thugs attacked and robbed, and who swore he'd make her pay. He owns the cottage she now lives in and adores, and now he wants his pound of flesh. So he takes it.
Intimidated, beaten and dismayed by her sexy and dominant landlord, and totally confused by her intense physical response to him, Ashley needs Tom to guard her secrets. But will he, and his enigmatic and terrifying friend Nathan Darke, allow her to leave her past behind and start again? Having survived her first explosive and humiliating encounter with Tom, Ashley struggles to get her new life back on track. But Tom wants her. His demanding, persuasive, sensual charm is almost irresistible, his mastery of her assured.
But—can she submit to Tom's dominance? Should she? Ashley has escaped one violent and abusive relationship. Is she about to be sucked into an even more dark and dangerous liaison?
About the Author
Ashe has been an avid reader of women's fiction for many years—erotic, historical, contemporary, fantasy, romance—you name it, as long as it's written by women, for women. Now, at last in control of her own time and working from her home in rural West Yorkshire, she has been able to realise her dream of writing erotic romance herself.
She draws on settings and anecdotes from her previous and current experience to lend colour, detail and realism to her plots and characters, but her stories of love, challenge, resilience and compassion are the conjurings of her own imagination. She loves to craft strong, enigmatic men and bright, sassy women to give them a hard time—in every sense of the word.
When she's not writing, Ashe's time is divided between her role as resident taxi driver for her teenage daughter, and caring for a menagerie of dogs, cats, rabbits, tortoises and a hamster.
Read an Excerpt
I pulled it off. Mary, Joseph and all the saints, I only fucking did it! Months of planning, sacrifice, sheer desperation and soul-deep tragedy have brought me here. So here's where I am. At last. Free. Free to start over.
The monotonous asphalt of the M6 heading north rolls in front of me, miles and miles of it. And every mile taking me farther away from—before. Away from 'Shaz', away from poverty and violence and doing without, leaving behind my old life jam-packed with nothing much but drudgery, fear, humiliation.
Not that the future looks particularly certain. But at least there's only me in it.
* * * *
I remember with absolute clarity the moment I knew I was going to be rid of Kenny. It was July thirteenth 2011 at nine sixteen p.m., the moment when the radiologist at Southmead Hospital's maternity unit at last finished clicking away at her keyboard, swirling her chilly probe through the gunk on my abdomen, looking again at her monitor and once more for good measure before she finally turned to me. She had on her well-trained sad and sympathetic face as she calmly announced that my baby had no heartbeat. No heartbeat! How can a baby have no heartbeat? He'd be dead if he…
The maternity unit staff were kind, caring, but they couldn't put it right. Nothing, no one could put this right. My baby was dead. Dead because my thug of a boyfriend couldn't keep his fists to himself. One shove too many, one punch too many, one heavy fall too many, and it was done. My baby, gone. I sobbed. I screamed and kicked and refused to accept. Refused to accept a life lost, wasted through thoughtless cruelty and callousness.
It's not as though Kenny had even meant to kill my baby. His baby. He just simply hadn't cared one way or the other. But it was real, this was all real—really happening to me, and eventually my body took over and expelled my tiny, tiny baby son, out onto a cool, clean rubber sheet. Months too early. Dead before his life had even started. Before I'd even looked into his face to say 'hello' it was already too late to say 'goodbye'. The midwife taking care of me—her name was Ann-Marie I think but it's all something of a blur—scooped him up and out of the way while the young doctor dealt with the afterbirth, and other nurses cleaned me up, made me sanitary and 'normal' again.
Ann-Marie brought my baby back, beautifully laid out in a tiny basket, on a pale blue satin cushion. He was so small, his little limbs matchstick thin, and he was a very deep pink, like a little pixie. Not quite human, yet not quite anything else either. Even though I never asked her to—it never even occurred to me—Ann-Marie took a photo of him with a little digital pocket camera they must keep in the maternity unit for this sort of thing. She also took his tiny little handprints and footprints. And she put all those mementos into a little white memorial card that she gave to me.
I have it still. I'll have it forever. That's all there is left to show my baby was ever here.
* * * *
And my mother came, rushing down from Gloucester when they phoned her, even though she hadn't seen me for a year and had had no idea that I was even pregnant. But she came, she hugged me and she wept with me for her lost grandson. We agreed to call him David, after an 'uncle' who'd stayed with us for a few years and I'd particularly liked when I was little. And when I was well enough to leave hospital two days later, my mother piled me into her little white Renault Clio and took me back to Gloucester with her.
When we got there we both cried some more and planned David's funeral. It took place exactly two weeks after he'd died, in a chilly cemetery in Gloucester. There was no vicar. I don't recall a time I ever believed in God and this latest demonstration of the general cack-handedness of fate certainly wasn't about to change my mind about the benign intervention of some higher power. No, as far as I could see life was just shit, and only marginally better than the alternative. You accepted that and you got on with it. Or not.
So it was just me and my mother, and a silent, sympathetic undertaker who retrieved David's little body from Southmead and brought it here in a tiny white coffin. Not even a hearse—he just pulled up at the stillborn babies plot in the cemetery in a black Volvo estate with David's shoebox of a coffin in the back. He carried the miniature white casket down the stone steps to the pre-dug hole, where two cemetery staff carefully lowered it into the ground. Then the undertaker and the gravediggers stood tactfully back, waiting, patient and respectful and perhaps rather bored, while my mother and I stood, each of us lost in our own thoughts, and we said our silent farewells to the baby I'd known so briefly and my mother not at all.
The following morning Kenny turned up at my mother's house, demanding to know what the fuck I was doing in bloody Gloucester. Why wasn't I in Bristol where I belonged? He needed me and all I could do was bloody cry over a kid I hadn't even really had. And what the fuck did any of it have to do with my mother? She had been nowhere around when we'd needed a bit of cash last year to stop us getting evicted, so we sure as hell didn't need her now.
I told him I wanted to stay in Gloucester a bit longer. Maybe even stay here for good now. He smashed my mother's greenhouse windows and threatened to boot her twelve-year-old cat to death. I packed my stuff and left an hour later with him.
Two days later Kenny was arrested for burglary. Apparently an anonymous tip-off through Crimestoppers linked him to a series of ram raids at Co-op stores around the South West. Naturally he denied it, and naturally I provided him with a rock-solid alibi for all the nights in question. The police were struggling to stack up the case, but as luck would have it another anonymous call to Crimestoppers led them to a lock-up where a load of stolen cigarettes and booze was stored. Unfortunately for him, Kenny was never the brightest or tidiest of thieves and his prints were all over the stuff. So that was it. He went down for three years. I stuck to my alibi story, determined not to give him any reason at all to doubt my loyalty. I knew the jury wouldn't believe me anyway with all the forensic evidence proving Kenny's guilt so it didn't really matter what I said.
In the event, though, it did matter, up to a point. I was convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice and sentenced to eighteen months in prison, a year of it to be suspended for two years. But I had to serve six months. I was shocked, stunned even. I think the jury were too. I suppose I caught the judge on a bad day, a day when he was minded to make an example of someone and it turned out to be me. I hadn't ever considered the prospect of prison, but I gritted my teeth again like I always do and I got on with it. As I knew with absolute certainty by then, worse things could happen. So I set my mind to being a model prisoner.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I was gonna say something but changed my mind. Though i will say this: I AM NOT AND WILL NEVER BE RELIGIOUS. Everyone can live their lives how they please. Problem=solved.
Life has not been kind to Ashley. As she tried to rebuild her life, she finds herself coming face to face with the one man who can do some serious damage to her future. Tom is less than thrilled to find his new tenant is none other than one of the thugs that attacked and robbed him. Determine to make her pay for the sins of her past, Tom takes things a bit too far. Confused and hurt by his actions, Ashley is unsure if she can submit to his dominance. I’m so happy to see Tom get his own story. His appearance in the Dark Side Trilogy definitely perked my interest. Something about the foreign accents rattling around in my brain is such a weakness. Ashley story is an emotional one. So much pain, so much sorrow, so much loss. Her last loss turned me into a sobbing pile of goo. The two of them together is a very tumultuous relationship. First off, their initial meeting is not of the best of circumstance. Flash forward and things are not any better. Tom’s revenge of her actions during the robbery, to say the least, was not very nice. Sorry, I’m not spoiling it but let’s just say, Nathan was right to be unhappy. As for Nathan’s actions, having gotten to know Nathan from before (Another blatant plug to the previous series) I was shocked by his actions. Poor Ashley, double whammy revenge is no fun. I’m glad they came to their senses. I will briefly touch on the sex. Oh yes…it’s good but not as frequent as I expected. Don’t take it as a bad thing. Really it’s the journey that Tom and Ashley take together that really makes the story. The sex is an added bonus and very tastefully done. I merely want to mention, while Tom is a Dom and he wants to have Ashley as a submissive, I found there was some BDSM in their sexual play. Usually when you read a book containing a D/s relationship there is a bit more BDSM. Considering Ashley’s story I think Ms Barker nailed the amount perfectly. In the blurb, Ms Barker states that this book “ends on a cliffhanger that some readers might find upsetting” UNDERSTATEMENT! No, no, no!!!! This isn’t the one I was expecting and I was caught completely unprepared. Of course, I anticipated something else. What a way to throw a curveball at me. ¿ This is most definitely a recommended read. Ashe Barker’s stories will draw you in and have you aching to find out more. If you haven’t had a chance to read the Dark Side trilogy I suggest you do. It isn’t necessary but it will give a bit more background to several of the characters. Now the hardest thing for me is to calmly sit and wait to get my hands on the next book. Come on Ashe…I need that book NOW! I received this book from JeepDiva for the express purposes of an honest review. The opinions and rating of this review are solely mine and in no way was I compensated. Stars – 5, Flames - 3