Read the Prologue
Mia cursed as her oil light flickered into life again on her car dashboard, reminding her of the impending repairs she would somehow have to find money to get done. Unless she wanted to go back to relying on her feet and an old pair of shoes, which is how she’d gotten around in her first months at Harper’s Bend.
She hit the steering wheel, barely swallowing the scream bubbling up in her chest. She cursed and hit the wheel again for good measure, wanting to give into the urge to throw a full tantrum. At one time, she probably would have. She would have screamed, stamped her feet and broken one or both stiletto heels in the process. But she didn’t wear stilettos anymore. She didn’t throw tantrums, either. If prison had taught her anything, it had taught her some self-control. As satisfying as the tantrum would have been, she instead pulled into her parking space in front of her apartment building and turned her car off. She then took a deep breath and released it slowly as she took the bag of groceries out of the back seat. She’d call some mechanics in the morning to get estimates for the repairs.
“Mia Ellis. You’re not an easy woman to find.”
Mia’s back stiffened instantly – not so much at the man’s voice but at what he said. She’d paid a lot of money to have that name disappear after she’d gotten out of prison. Getting rid of it and adopting a new name were the reasons she now drove a beat up, second hand car and lived in an apartment that had seen its best days four decades ago.
She slowly turned around as she said, “You have me mistaken for someone else. My name is Theresa -”
“This conversation will go a lot faster when you stop assuming I am an idiot.”
She arched her eyebrow, taking in the man standing a few metres away. She could spot money half a town away, and he might as well have had ‘I’m worth billions’ tattooed on his forehead. But not old money. He’d earned or stolen his, one way or another, and that made him even more dangerous.
He had short cut spiked silver hair. Despite the colour, she guessed he couldn’t have been more than forty years old. His hair stood out in stark contrast against his black turtleneck, black suit, and black shoes. His cool blue eyes glinted with amusement and the right side of his mouth jerked up into a smirk. He raised his chin, saying nothing but appearing to enjoy her scrutiny.
She frowned. In her experience, only bad things came in expensive black suits.
“Okay. Let’s assume I’m not Theresa and you’re not an idiot. What do you want?”
His smirk melted into a confident smile. “That’s better. You have two choices: come with me voluntarily or be taken by force.”
“What…?” She frowned and looked around. Not sensing any danger, she looked back at the man. He looked too manicured to do the kind of dirty work he threatened, but rich men rarely wasted time with idle threats.
“Voluntarily, involuntarily. Quietly, noisily. Easily, by force. The choice is yours.” He held his hands behind his back. “I’m nothing if not a gentleman.”
She adjusted her groceries on her hips and shook her head. Definitely money but definitely crazy. What a shame. She could have used a rich man to fall into bed with. Instead, he had to be the last straw on an especially crappy day.
“I choose ‘go screw yourself’,” she said. “Take your suit, your hair gel and your ‘gentleman’s choices’, and have them all kiss my backside.”
She took a step away from her car, moving slowly as she waited for him to say something. The moment she moved, her instincts began telling her something was very wrong. She looked at him.
His smiled remained and his gaze never moved away from her. She looked around the street, waiting for a car to pull up, someone to try to jump her or something to happen. She clenched her groceries, ready to fling them at anyone who came near.
Finally, she shook her head and walked toward her apartment.
Suddenly the sound of a muffled shot caught her attention just before searing pain ripped through her lower back. She cried out, dropping her groceries and clinging to the car to stay standing. Her legs stopped supporting her and she collapsed. She managed to get one hand behind her and felt the blood – her blood – flowing out onto her hand.
“Help me!” she screamed, trying to crawl under the car.
The man with silver hair cocked his head to one side, his smile never wavering as he waved at someone to come closer.
Rain began to fall onto the town of Echo Falls as a man on a motorcycle pulled into a parking spot in front of Sophie’s Cafe. He tapped his fist on his helmet a couple times and pointed up to the sky, feeling lucky to have arrived before the weather, and then pulled his bags out of the top box. He shouldered his backpack and walked to the front doors.
All the outdoor tables and chairs had been stacked up for the night, but the sign on the door said they were still open. He raised his hand to knock on the door just as a woman inside raised her hand to flip the ‘Come on in! We’re open!’ sign to ‘Sorry, we’re closed.’ She looked at him and arched her eyebrow.
He took off his helmet and grinned at her, giving her his best ‘please?’ puppy dog eyes. She smirked and opened the door.
“What can I do for you?” she asked.
“A late customer?” a large man with a meat cleaver in his hand asked as he stepped out into the cafe.
The cyclist swallowed and held up his free hand. “I’m Adam Baker. I’m here about the apartment for rent.”
The woman smirked. “I’m Sophie. That’s Otto.” She nodded to the man with the meat cleaver. “The apartment is upstairs. There are only two rules for staying here. The first is always pay your rent on time. The second rule is that you must like to eat.”
He grinned as he pulled off his gloves. “I think we’re going to get along just fine.”