From the author of Ricochet and Backfire comes a dark erotic suspense serial …
Episode Three: In the underbelly, trust is everything, and Dylan will soon discover that Ripley trusts no one. With the return of an old threat, loyalty is on the line, and betrayal could mean the end of everything for both of them.
They call me RIP.
I’m a killer. A murderer. A psychopath.
In the eyes of the righteous, I’m a monster, born of sin and depravity.
I want to protect her, but I’m not a good man.
I want to love her, but I no longer feel.
She gets under my skin, though, and has awakened something inside of me.
Something I’d kill for.
I’m not her savior—not even close. In fact, I’m worse than the hell she’s already suffered.
I’m her vengeance. Tit for tat, as they say.
And if she’s not careful, I’ll be her ruin.
For months, I’ve watched him.
I’ve fantasized him as my savior, my lover. My ticket out of the hell I’ve lived in for the last six years.
I never dreamed he’d be my nightmare.
Had I known what he really is, I’d have never gotten in the car that night, but life is full of cause and effect.
And sometimes the choice on offer isn’t a choice at all.
It’s the result of something already in motion, and we’re merely left to survive the ripple effect.
*This is an erotic suspense/erotic romance not recommended for readers under the age of 18 due to graphic violence and sex
I sit on the edge of the bathtub, breathing through my nose to keep from throwing up whatever’s left in my stomach. An incessant tremble runs beneath my skin, stirring up nausea in my gut.
“It just … came out of nowhere. I felt sick.” The glass of water passed to me diverts my attention, and I glance up at Ripley’s massive form looming over me, arms crossed. “That smell. Something about the smell on your hands.”
“Were you cleaning something?” I take a small sip of the water, nervous that I might not be able to keep it from coming back up.
“Blood,” is all he says, as if I’m not supposed to ask.
To hell with that. I’d rather talk about what he did than focus on my embarrassment, because I have no explanation for why I freaked out.
“I could really use the distraction right now.” Dropping my shoulders, I sigh. “Humor me?”
His jaw shifts, and maybe I wasn’t supposed to ask him about his work. Maybe it’s all classified or the hitman equivalent. Whatever. I know Ripley’s not a good man. That he does bad things. But I’ve come to the understanding that no one in the underbelly is good. So I really don’t give a shit if I’m not supposed to ask.
“I killed a man.” His eyes are trained on me—one blue and one hazel, neither of them so much as flinching with his confession.
The line of tension that stiffens his shoulders sags, and he smiles down at me. “Is that where we’re at now, Bandit? You’re so comfortable around me to ask the details of my kills?”
“You don’t have to give me details.” I don’t even realize I’m fidgeting until I look down to see the red streak where I’ve scratched my knuckles.
“Shot him. Square in the skull.”
I keep my gaze glued to my hands, imagining the scenario. Ripley’s big menacing body standing over the man who begs for his life. Horrible. Yet somehow it takes me away from whatever nightmare I suffered moments ago. “Did you burn him with acid?”
“No. He was a merciful kill.”
“Merciful? Are any of them worth mercy?” The sneer in my voice takes me by surprise and tipping my head back, I just catch the shake of his head. “If you were going to kill me, how would you do it?”
Ignoring my question, he jerks his head toward the glass of water in my hand. “Are you feeling better?”
My cheeks warm with embarrassment, and I’m glad he doesn’t answer. It was a stupid question. “Yeah. It went away.”
“What exactly was it?”
The nervous vibration still skitters along my bones, but I shrug. “I wish I knew. Ripley? Are you going to throw me out?”
“Why are you asking that?”
“Because you’ve … not asked me for anything. Is the deal off?” I lodge my fingers though my hair, gripping tight to my skull. Teetering on the line of sobriety has fucked with my head and I’ve become deathly afraid of what I’d do for those pills outside of these walls. “I know I screwed up with the drugs. And I wasn’t … I didn’t want to steal from you. But I can’t go back on the streets. I can’t. I already know I’ll die out there. I don’t know what was up with the bleach, but it has nothing to do with drugs. I promise.”
A good ten seconds of silence follows before he says, “Deal’s not over yet.”
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Keri Lake is a married mother of two living in Michigan. By day, she tries to make use of the degrees she’s earned in science. By night, she writes dark contemporary, paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Though novels tend to be her focus, she also writes short stories and flash fiction on the many occasions distraction sucks her into the Land of Shiny Things.
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