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First pages

Chapter 1

Gabriella Cross stared at the blinking bar on her laptop and bit her thumbnail in thought. It was terrible, who would want to read this crap?

She glanced at her wine glass. It was empty. With a sigh she got up from the desk and went to the kitchen to pour herself another drink.

She returned to the computer and put on some calming music. It only annoyed her. She turned it off and clicked out of her unpublished blog.

Derek was supposed to be done at the prison at nine, but he had texted that he was working over—he even added a smiley face and mentioned going to the mall to buy something nice at Victoria’s Secret.

Yay, what a guy.

He was full of shit, she just knew it. She opened up the tab to the phone tracking website and typed in her info. When the screen came up, she snapped the laptop shut, not wanting to know. If the blip on the screen was showing over the area of the prison, she would feel like shit. If it wasn’t, she would feel worse.

He said it was over with Jolene, but then again, he said a lot of things. And Gabby had learned that she couldn’t tell when he was lying. She had learned that the hard way.

Gabby finally gave in. She opened her laptop and looked at the GPS tracker. It took her a minute to recognize what she was seeing. She and Derek lived a half hour south of Chicago in what the burbians called the boonies. The prison Derek worked at was a half hour west of their town. But the blip on the radar put him about fifteen minutes east, in a small town called Coster.

“That sonofabitch!” Gabby screamed.

Her cat gave her a wary glance and fled the scene.

“Sorry, Mitzy. Mitzy!”

Great, now I’m a crazy cat lady.

She slammed the laptop shut, then opened it, and slammed it again. With a cry of rage she ripped it free of the charger and cocked back to smash it on the desk—then she remembered it wasn’t paid off yet. Nothing was.

With a disgusted whimper that turned into a full-blown cry, she weakly plopped the laptop on the desk and melted to the floor, fully miserable. Derek was out there right now, sticking his dick into someone who got to see the old him.

“Damned whores!” she screamed.

“Woo-hoo!” someone yelled from the street.

Gabby realized that she still had the window open, having been enjoying the early summer breeze. She pulled herself off the floor and closed it, peeking out and spying the passing bar-hoppers. It was early yet, but already they had begun to gather at the local watering hole, which, unfortunately, was only a block away from her house.

Ten o’clock on a Saturday night and what was she doing? Writing a stupid blog no one would ever read, and complaining about her life, instead of living it. Gabby had a mind to get dressed and go out on the town. The thought nearly blossomed into action, but then she realized that it would be the talk of the town if she went out without Derek. He had made it quite clear that he didn’t trust her. No wonder; cheaters were always the most suspicious.

Maybe she should just do it. Go out and find some bearded hunk and let him screw her brains out. She might have done just that, if it hadn’t been that time of the month; besides, she was thoroughly uninterested in any of the guys that haunted Charlie’s.

Instead she downed her wine and decided it was too weak. If she was going to sulk properly, she needed some vodka, and Alanis Morissette’s wailing voice of womanly scorn.

It was going to be a long night.

Chapter 2

The next morning, Gabby awoke from a dream in which she was trying to break into a car with an out of control alarm beeping maddeningly. She woke angrily, and finding the culprit to be her cell phone, she swiped it off with a stream of colorful curses.

Finally, peace. She pulled a pillow from Derek’s side of the bed and stuffed her face in it, wondering if she could suffocate herself—it would be better than going to work. Her head throbbed and her mouth tasted like the bathroom floor of a bar.

When the alarm went off again, she leapt off the bed like a madwoman and throttled the cell until it stopped making noise and threw it down on the bed.

She would have liked to take a long hot shower, or better yet a bath. Anything but go back to work. Gabby considered just calling in and quitting. She would love nothing more. Just quit her job, divorce Derek, and move in with her sister. Maggy would like that. She hated Derek, and had for years told Gabby to leave him. But there would be a cost to limping to her sister’s house and licking her wounds. Maggy would play the I-told-you-so card and take on the infuriating mother role she had always smothered her with.

No, Gabby was going to have to suck it up and put on her big girl panties—ones not from Victoria’s Secret.

She took a quick shower, sobbing the entire time. Images of Derek and a multitude of different women flashed through her mind in a maddening picture show of depravity. He had probably showered at work and busted out his best cologne for the bitch.

Gabby got out and wiped the mirror, hating her reflection. What was wrong with her? Did Derek miss the old her as much as she missed the old him? Had she let herself go…at only twenty-five?

She popped four Aleve and put her curly red mess of hair up in a towel. In the bedroom she stared at herself in the mirror. She had gained twenty pounds in the last five years. She wasn’t exactly fat, but had what some people called a muffin top. Still, she hated the woman she saw in the reflection. Sure, she was pretty enough, but what did that matter? Men weren’t really the pickiest creatures. What they liked more than anything was a fun woman—her sister had told her that many times. Gabby realized that she wasn’t fun at all. She was absorbed in her shitty writing career that was getting her nowhere, and she had become so cheap due to her father’s needs that she considered Burger King fine dining.

Derek could’ve helped, of course, but he liked to turn feminism around on her, and said that his money was his money, and her money was hers. Which apparently meant that he didn’t spend any on her either. His stupid fat rims on his stupid fat truck cost $600 a piece, and here she was cutting coupons to save fifty cents on butter.

All out of tears, she sat on the edge of the bed wondering what had happened to her life.

She checked the time on her phone and peeked at her text messages. There was nothing from Derek, but Maggy had sent her a pic of an angry baby with the meme: “BITCH, did I say I was done with those boobies?” Another message from her friend Darb from work was a picture of a box of donuts he had just picked up.

“Shit!” She remembered it was her turn to bring the coffee.

She sighed. She had to be there at seven—it was already six. The drive into the city would take a half hour or more, and a stop at the coffee shop would make her late. She should have been frantic. She should have been peeling out of the place already, but she found that she just didn’t care today.

Gabby dialed the number to the office, hoping that she would get the voicemail. She really didn’t want to talk to her boss, AT ALL. She bit her thumbnail as it rang and was relieved when the recording greeted her. After leaving a message that she had the flu, she sent a text to her sister, letting her know she would be over for breakfast. Then she sent a message to Darb that she was sick. Her friend must have been sitting on his phone, because the reply “OMG I’ll bring you soup” popped up almost instantly.

She began to type back that Derek would take care of her, but then broke down again at the memories of him making her soup when she was sick. Mitzy swaggered over to her and rubbed up against her leg. Gabby picked her up and cried into her soft fur like she was a giant hanky, but the cat grew tired of the crying game quickly, however, and skittered away.

Gabby wiped her eyes, trying to get her shit together. If Derek was going to keep up with his double shift story, he wouldn’t be home until eight. She hurriedly got dressed and put her shoulder-length red mop in a hair tie. From the dresser she grabbed her secret stash—a whopping three-hundred dollars—and snatched up her purse from the chair. On second thought, she grabbed her suitcase and tossed in enough clothes for a few days.

 

When she reached Maggy’s place, she found her sister already up for the day and tending to the small flower bed in front of the porch. Maggy loved tending to her flowers. Her favorite color was red, and the porch, walkway, hanging baskets, and window boxes boasted nothing but crimson varieties.

Gabby parked her ten-year-old Corolla on the side of the street and was met with a curious stare. Maggy waved to her happily, and when the gesture wasn’t returned, she got up from her flowers and came to the window.

“What’s wrong, baby girl?”

Gabby wasn’t going to freak out. She was going to tell Maggy what had happened matter-of-factly. She was going to keep her shit together…

She got out of the car and burst into tears, babbling to her big sister incoherently.

“Oh my God, honey, what happened? Shh, there now. You’re going to hyperventilate.” Maggy pulled her close, and Gabby shuddered against her with sobs that left her unable to speak, let alone catch her breath.

“Come on, come inside. I’ll put on some tea and we’ll work it all out together.”

Gabby allowed herself to be led into the house. As usual, it was spotless, so much so that it looked like a model home ready for a photo shoot. Maggy always had her shit together. She was kind of weird that way; she never cried at funerals, but the stupidest commercials turned her into a blubbering fountain.

“You want some tea? Of course you do.” Maggy helped her to sit at the kitchen island and went about her task like a hummingbird. It was a kind of ceremony, in which the unspoken rule was that Gabby couldn’t begin her story until Maggy had put the kettle to flame, retrieved two cups, the sugar, the honey, and then turned with a contented sigh, and said, “Tell me all about it.”

Gabby sniffled into a tissue and wiped her nose. “Derek is cheating again.”

Maggy pulled her tight and stroked her hair. “Of course he is, sweetheart. They’re all the same. I’m sorry you have to learn the hard way.”

“They can’t ALL be like that. That’s bullshit,” Gabby said with a pout.

“Sure, and good luck finding one.” Maggy let out a sigh and sat beside her. “Listen, Gabs, I’ve shaken my tits for married men, single men, priests, schoolteachers, and the goddamn smiley-faced full-of-shit mayor. Don’t take it so hard when a dog turns out to be a dog. They just like to be petted by someone besides their owners sometimes.”

Gabby blew her nose and stared at her, aghast. “Is this supposed to be helping?”

The kettle gave a whistle, and Maggy jiggled her perfect boobs over to the stove. She came back and poured water over the tea. “So you drank all night and skipped work?”

“Yeah, I just couldn’t go back there today.”

“I wouldn’t shed too many tears over that dumbass.”

“Look, Naggy, I know you hate him, but you mind if I grieve a little? We are freaking married you know. It’s kind of a big deal.”

“Don’t call me that,” said Maggy. “You know I hate that name.”

“Sorry,” said Gabby.

“I just know you could do so much better than that dickless dumbass.”

Just then, a naked guy walked out of Maggy’s room, looking bleary-eyed and about twenty years too young for her. Gabby choked on her first sip of tea when she saw the incredible specimen swaying with his athletic swagger.

“Oh, hey,” said the sleepy stud. His playful smirk swept across the two of them, as though this was possibly a surprise ménage a trois. “I didn’t know anyone else was here.”

He apologized, but he did nothing to hide his gold-medal junk—he was uncircumcised, and the extra layer gave him an exotic look.

“Sensitive moment, honey. Why don’t you jump in the shower, and I’ll make you some eggs,” Maggy told him.

The sleepy stud muffin smirked at Gabby and swaggered toward the living room. Gabby couldn’t take her eyes off his milky bottom.

“Sweetheart, the bathroom is next to the bedroom,” said Maggy, sipping her tea.

“Oh, right,” said Stud Muffin as he turned around.

Gabby forced herself to turn her head when he sauntered by again.

When the bathroom door had shut, she glanced at her smirking sister. “What?”

Maggy’s smile widened. “You look like you could use a shower.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“Honey, I’ve seen that look in a woman’s eyes before. You might think that men and women are nothing alike, but you’re wrong. We’re just better at acting civilized, and not as easily amused. Your husband thinks he can run around town screwing every hussy that smiles at him the right way, then that must mean you can too. See how the fuck he likes it.”

“You’re out of your mind,” said Gabby, though she couldn’t help but smile at her animated sister. She had that blonde pin-up doll beauty from the 1950s that made boys want to join the army to prove they were men.

“What? He’s a good enough guy. Came in last night. Clarissa would’ve milked him dry had I not saved his dumb ass.”

“I don’t care if he’s a good guy or not. I’m not having sex with a stranger in your shower. Besides, his thing looks as thick as my wrist. It should be illegal.”

Maggy purred. “You don’t know the half of it, sister.”

Gabby laughed, slapping Maggy’s shoulder weakly. “I’m trying to pout here.”

Maggy hugged her again. “You’ll be alright, babe. This is the best thing that ever happened to you. You’ll see.”

Chapter 3

Gabby spent the day with Maggy, lying around and watching French movies. Around noon they popped the top on a five-year-old pinot noir that her sister had sitting around, and watched The Well-Digger’s Daughter. By two o’clock the bottle was gone, only to be replaced by another movie and a crisp white that Maggy said cost four hundred dollars.

The regulars at the strip joint liked to bring the girls presents now and again, and while some girls chose jewels, cars, or clothes, Maggy chose wine. Therefore, she had a cellar full of the good stuff. Two more movies and two bottles later, Gabby and her sister had completely forgotten about the movie, and were deep into a men-suck bitchfest of epic proportions.

“No matter what,” said Maggy, raising the bottle, “we gotta stick together. You just say the word and I’ll give Derek the Kenny treatment.”

Gabby groaned at the memory.

The “Kenny treatment” was what they called the incident with one of Maggy’s ex-boyfriends, who had put the moves on Gabby when she was only sixteen. When Maggy found out, she went berserk. The next day, the authorities found Kenny tied to a light pole all beat up and wearing a three-roll duct tape diaper.

After that, Maggy never got serious with a guy.

Gabby had always kind of blamed herself. She had flirted with him, just a little.

“You don’t have to give him the treatment. I just want to be done with it. I need to move on. The truth is…it’s been over for a long time. I guess I’m just the last one to admit it.” Gabby nearly broke down again but found her strength by downing the rest of her glass.

“You’re staying with me,” said Maggy, topping her off with an eight-year-old Dal Forno Valpolicella. “I’ve got the extra room—”

“You’ve had it waiting for me for two years.”

Maggy laughed, exposing her wine-stained teeth. “I know.” She lost herself to the giggles and fell back on the carpet. She began to cry tears of laughter then, and she sprang up with purpose. “It’s going to be great, babes. Just you and me. Screw those meat stick swinging apes. I’ll show you how to be an alpha female.”

 

When Gabby woke up, she felt like anything but an alpha female. She reached for her phone, but it was nowhere to be found. Then she remembered; under Maggy’s command, they had both locked their phones up in a safe.

The sun shone through the blinds at just the right angle to torture her sore eyes. Outside, birds sang a happy morning tune—Gabby wished she could shoot them all.

“What time is it?” Maggy groaned from the other end of the sectional.

“I don’t know. You locked up our phones.”

“Oh, yeah.” Maggy giggled, but then moaned and held her sore head.

After a time, they finally roused themselves off the couch. Gabby put on a pot of coffee, and Maggy went to get their phones. When she returned, her scowl wasn’t just from the hangover.

“The psycho left you like five hundred messages,” she said, tossing her the phone.

Gabby scrolled through her messages. There were twenty-seven. They started with, Hey babe, where you at? at nine o’clock in the morning, and ended with: This shit isn’t funny Gabs, at three in the morning.

She groaned.

As if to mock her dread, tires screeched to a halt outside.

“Stay in the house!” Maggy told her, and grabbed a baseball bat from behind the door. She marched outside like a soldier in her short shorts and tank top, and Gabby couldn’t help but run to the window to see what was going to happen.

“Gabby! I know you’re in there!” Derek yelled.

She parted the curtain and saw Maggy blocking a very pissed-off looking—and drunk—Derek. Their voices were muffled through the glass, but she could make it out easily enough due to their screaming.

“…I want to see my wife!”

“She doesn’t want to see you!”

“Get the hell out of my way, whore!”

Gabby winced when Maggy clocked Derek over the head with the bat. She nearly ran to the door to tell her to stop, but she was enthralled. When Maggy got going, all you could do was sit back and watch the show.

Her big sister kicked Derek in the balls when he was down and proceeded to smash his headlights, side mirrors, and windows in the span of five seconds.

He lurched to his feet and scrambled into the truck, spitting curses and promises of vengeance. Then he put it in drive, squealed the hell out—and slammed into the side of a passing car. Maggy came running back into the house like a little kid who had just pulled an outrageous prank and dove onto the couch next to Gabby. They both watched out the window.

The man driving the car was cursing out Derek and calling someone—presumably the police—on his cell phone. It was quite apparent that Derek was drunk. He kept lurching forward to take the phone, but the bigger guy kept pushing him back and threatening Derek with a meaty fist. Neighbors from the apartments across the road emerged from behind screen doors. It was turning out to be quite a spectacle. When Derek noticed the crowd and realized the trouble he was in, he jumped back in the truck and peeled out.

And how Maggy howled.

“That dickless fuck is in BIG trouble now!” She laughed like a mad scientist—and Gabby was glad that she had never made enemies with her sister.

“Oh my God, LOOK!” Gabby screamed.

The cops had come from the direction Derek was headed, and were parked sideways in the street, ordering him out. They even drew their guns.

“Oh, shit!” Maggy yelled, enthralled.

Derek finally got out of the car and was quickly pepper sprayed and slammed to the ground. Gabby couldn’t help but wince.

“That dude done screwed up now,” said Maggy with a clucking of the tongue.

 

When the chaos died down and Derek was taken away and his truck towed, Maggy poured them coffee and whipped up a ham and cheese omelet.

“That crazy sonofabitch is gonna be in jail at least until tomorrow. You should head over to your place and clean it out. I’d go with you, but I’ve got an appointment with this filthy rich dirty boy from the city. I can’t pass him up. One night with this prince pays two months’ rent.”

“I’ll be fine. Like you said, he’ll be in for a while,” Gabby assured her.

“Get what you need to last you a week, and I’ll get my lawyer to work out everything else. When we’re done with that dickless wonder, you’ll even get half of his freaking pension.”

“I don’t want anything from him. I just want to get out.”

Maggy was already shaking her head. “Screw that noise. You’re going to get whatever the great state of Illinois says you are. And trust me babe, between your cute little innocent smile and my lawyer’s teeth, he don’t stand a chance.” She regarded Gabby with deep consideration. “You still have that pic on your phone from when he blackened your eye?”

“That wasn’t like all that. We were both drunk. I threw a chair at him!”

“SO! Did he have a black eye?”

“Well…no. But—”

“But my ass. He’s a dickless pussy. Quit sticking up for him.”

Gabby left it at that. She didn’t want to argue when her sister was so worked up.

“Alright,” said Gabby, hoping to placate her. “I’ll get my things, and then we’ll figure it out.”

Maggy kissed her on the forehead and headed to the front door. “Best thing that ever happened to you, babe. You’ll see.”

“I love you, Maggy.”

“I love you too, Gabs. It’s all going to be different from now on.”

Maggy gave her a wink and headed out into the sunlight.

Chapter 4

After her sister left, Gabby sat at the island in the kitchen and methodically drank the entire pot of coffee while she scrolled to China on Facebook and updated her blog. She didn’t want to go get her stuff. Sure, she had talked about leaving Derek for months, but she never really thought she would go through with it.

When the pot was gone, she gave a sigh and snatched up her keys. She might as well get it over with.

During the entire ride, the radio played songs to remind her of her plight. She flicked from “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” by Led Zeppelin to “Irreplaceable” by Beyonce. Even the commercials mocked her. “Need representation in a divorce? Shafter, Shafter and Percy are here for you.”

By the time she parked her car in front of their apartment, she was out of tears. Luckily she hadn’t bothered with makeup, knowing that it would just run all over her face, making her look like some kind of CoverGirl zombie.

Reluctantly she got out and went into the house. The place was dark, and judging by the bottles strewn about the living room and kitchen counter, Derek had downed about a case since getting home the morning before. He was working the four-on, three-off shift, and he usually spent the long weekend hammered. There was a time, back before everything got fuzzy, when she would have been right there with him. They used to get shitfaced and have the best sex in the world. She sighed; it seemed like such a long time ago.

Every picture she looked at reminded her of the way things had been. But life was not lived in pictures. Now, looking at them, Gabby felt as empty as the fake smiles made for the photographer. She turned from the pictures and went to her room. In the bedroom she stuffed clothes into duffle bags and collected a ridiculous amount of toiletries.

When she had gathered her things, she went to her broken jewelry stand—one that they had found on the back deck in the snow after a particularly hairy night of boozing. Neither knew how it got there. She lifted the lid and took out the only thing worth two shiny nickels—her mother’s sapphire pendant.

“What are the bags for?”

Gabby gave a cry and guiltily stuffed the necklace in her pocket. “Derek…” Her mind raced. How had he gotten out of jail so fast?

“That’s my fucking name. Answer me!”

“Look, I’m just getting my things…just let me leave and I’ll be out of your life. You can go around screwing whoever the hell you want. I don’t care.”

Derek seemed to take up the entire doorway. He was one of those tall stocky guys made for football, tailgating, country music, and raising hell. Gabby found herself eyeing the glass door to the back porch.

“What the hell are you talking about? Why did you spend the night at your whore sister’s?”

Anger flared inside her, and she tried to summon some of Maggy’s strength. “I’ve got a tracker on your phone. You weren’t working overtime. You were out screwing some dirty slut.”

He was caught, but he showed only a hint of guilt. Soon it was gone, replaced with rage. “You’re tracking my goddamned phone. What’s wrong with you?”

“Don’t turn this around. You’re the one cheating.”

“What? Because some dumbass website said I was somewhere else? That shit hardly ever works. Just think of what a pain in the ass the GPS in the car is.”

He had a point, but…

“Gabs.” He took pensive steps toward her. “Babe…”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, throwing up her hands and causing him to halt. “It’s been over ever since Jolene. I guess I was just the last to figure that out.”

“What are you talking about? That was two years ago.” He was closer now, opening his arms to hug her—to control her.

“NO!” She pushed him away as hard as she could, hurting her wrist in the process and hardly budging him.

“Gabs…” He had a hold of her now and was pulling her close. “You know I would never do that again.” His hands went from loving to groping in two seconds flat.

“Let me go.” She tried to stay calm, but his grip was like a vice.

One hand held her pressed to his body, the other dove beneath her sweat pants and found her sex. She wiggled around and pressed her thighs together, but his searching fingers found her.

“Let me go!” She thrashed, and all the while he whispered drunken promises in her ear.

When she dug her nails into his beefy arms, he pushed her hard into the wall. She whacked her head but stayed on her feet. He ignored her and inspected his arm.

“What the fuck, Gabby?”

“You can’t control me just because you’re bigger,” she screamed.

“Oh, but you can make me bleed just because you’re smaller?”

“Just let me leave!”

“Goddammit, Gabby! What the hell is wrong with you? Why do you have to keep bringing this Jolene shit up all the time?”

Gabby moved before her determination failed her. She darted for the door as fast as she could. Derek lunged for her but missed, and she frantically ran through the living room toward the door. He caught her beside the couch and pushed her hard, causing her to fly forward and skid across the linoleum connecting to the kitchen. Before she could get up, he grabbed her under the waist and with a heave and a twist, threw her onto the couch. She scrambled and grabbed the lamp from the nightstand and threw it at him. Derek ducked in time, and only received a glancing blow. It smashed to the floor behind him.

He fell on top of her back so that she was forced facedown against the couch. He squeezed her so hard she couldn’t move. His full weight was on her, and his rancid alcohol breath suffocated her. “You think you’re going to divorce me? Take half my shit? Is that what you and that whore sister of yours have planned?”

One of his arms was pressed against the back of her neck, and the other began tearing her pants off. Gabby tried to scream, tried to fight, but Derek held her face so hard against the cushion that it was all she could do just to breathe. He was working himself into a rage now. Her sweatpants came off, and her underwear were torn in half.

“I’ll never let you go. You hear me?”

Derek was maneuvering himself now. She heard his belt buckle and felt his weight shift.

“NO!” she managed to scream.

He punched her in the back of the head hard.

Everything went black.

When she came to, she didn’t know if it had been seconds or hours. He was inside her now, crying. He spoke words of love as he thrust into her slowly. She thrashed and kicked, but she was helplessly pinned.

“Let me go, you sick son of a bitch!”

Gabby…” he panted, getting close.

She squeezed her eyes closed and imagined herself far, far away. Anywhere but here beneath him. He tensed and cried out, squeezing her left breast so hard it hurt. When he had emptied himself, he lay on top of her, panting.

He lay there kissing her cheek lovingly. She could feel the heat of his seed inside her and nearly became sick. But she dared not move. Her ears rang and her head throbbed where he had hit her; it had already been sore from hitting the wall.

After a time, he finally withdrew. She waited, not moving a muscle. His belt buckle clicked closed, and she heard him stagger to the kitchen. The refrigerator door opened and closed, and a beer cap jingled into the sink.

“You want a beer?” He said it as though nothing had happened.

Gabby broke down then and finally pulled herself up. She found her torn sweatpants and put them on, not caring if there was a hole in the backside.

“I fucking hate you,” she finally erupted.

Derek stood, leaning back against the sink, unable to look her way.

“You hear me, you sick bastard? I hate you! I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU!”

“THEN GO!” He threw the bottle at her, but it missed and smashed the screen on his precious forty-inch TV. “Goddammit! Look what you made me do!”

She laughed and cried at the same time, trying hard to find her way across the living room with tear-filled eyes. He didn’t try to stop her, but went to his big screen to survey the damage. When she pushed through the door, he was calling to her. She stepped off the landing and misjudged it, falling hard on the concrete walkway.

“Gabby?”

The voice came from the porch next door. Jim, their neighbor and Derek’s buddy, was staring at her, shocked.

Derek called to her again, and something in the house smashed. She pulled herself up and noted the length of Jim’s cigarette. It was almost gone—he must have heard what happened.

“Keep him the hell away from me!” she cried.

She ran to the road as the front door burst open. Her hands fumbled in her pockets until they found the keys, and she leapt into her car and slammed the door as Derek came around the driver side with Jim in tow. A commotion started between the two men as Gabby turned the key. Thankfully it didn’t mistake her life for a horror movie—it started on the first turn.

Gabby peeled out and left Derek and the home they had made together behind.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

M.J. Lovestone is the author of the Gabriella Cross Paranormal Romance series. The first book in the series, A CROSS TO BEAR, was recently chosen as a Kindle Scout winner. M.J.'s hobbies include reading, painting, gardening, cooking, and daydreaming of one day living by the ocean.

Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
YES! There is a hidden power within us all, and it waits to be unleashed.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
A Cross to Bear is fully self contained with no cliffhangers. That being said, I plan on continuing with the series if there is enough interest in it.

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