Rhia McCabe hid under a religious veil for years. One determined choice changed all that. Disheartened with the world, and having lost it all—her faith, her friends, her home—she must rebuild her life from the ground up. That’s easier said than done. Life isn’t the peaceful journey she imagined it would be, and her heart has led her into some very dangerous territory. Will Rhia survive long enough to enjoy her newfound freedoms, or will falling for a strong, dominant man see her losing more than either of them imagined?
Steve Jax hates games, especially when they involve friends trying to interfere in his life. He’d built a decent existence for himself since his wife Kathy died, and saw no reason to change anything. Until now. He thought the danger his job imposed on those he loved was all in the past, giving him the option to move on and love again. How wrong had he been? Ghosts from four years ago have resurfaced, along with a new adversary that’s threatening the only woman he’s risked letting into his heart in years. He may have sworn he’d never endanger another lover – but life isn’t perfect, and neither is he.
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Steve groaned and resisted the urge to open his eyes. He shivered, the chill in his bones becoming more evident with each second of wakefulness. He peeked out between crusty lashes. The sky exposed a hint of the coming day, the sunrise a glimmer of pink tinting the shoreline.
He sat up. Waves pounded in unison with the throb of his head, as surfers danced on the crest of waves before him. Unlike the pictures inside his head, the scene contained a peacefulness that he envied. Kathy had died a month ago. Treatment failed. They said he’d have her for a maximum of two years—she’d lasted less than one. He’d dealt with death before—at work, and when his parents had died—this was different. Kathy took a large piece of him with her, she’d left with his heart.
Steve stood on shaky legs, gathered the empty bottle of Jack Daniels nestled into the sand and began the long walk up the hill to the house he’d shared with his beautiful wife, the home he now hated because she wasn’t in it.
He made it to the stairs leading up to the place he’d once called home but couldn’t go any further, so he sat down and contemplated his options. Go inside to the constant reminder of what he’d lost, or sit with the step cooling his butt. Option two it was.
Steve toyed with the empty bottle knowing he’d sent the companies’ profits into overdrive over the last four weeks. He had to stop, get back to the man he’d once been, but didn’t know how.
“Why haven’t you been answering your phone? I’ve been worried.” Steve glanced up to see his sister, Angel, staring back at him with a worried annoyance filling her expression.
She took the bottle from him and delivered it to the trash.
“Where’s your phone, Steve?” She asked.
“No idea.” He replied, wondering why she’d even bothered to come.
He wanted to appreciate the concern but couldn’t summon the energy to do so. Angel retrieved her mobile phone from her bag and called a number, staring at him with one raised brow, as his phone betrayingly responded from inside his pocket.
“Get up and get inside the house.” Angel said, moving toward him and looking less than impressed. “I need coffee and from the look of you, well, you get the drift.”
If he didn’t want her to man handle him to get him inside—and she would—then he had to move. Standing slowly, he turned and led the way, fumbling through his pockets to retrieve his key. Movement hurt, his body aching from spending yet another night sleeping anywhere but the bed he’d shared with his wife. Although, last night, passed out drunk in the sand at his local beach, had set a new low for him. He saw no end in sight to the depths of his despair. Lost. That’s what he was without Kathy, and he had no incentive to find himself. What was the point?
Angel hustled him into the shower, threatening to wash him herself if he didn’t comply. He suddenly discovered that there were limits to the depths of humiliation he’d allow, and his little sister showering him was one of them. As he watched the traces of sand he’d washed from his hair and other crevasses disappear down the drain, he wondered where he’d end up. He dried himself and dressed in the clothes Angel had found and placed on the bathroom sink. Surprisingly they were clean. He didn’t think he had any of those left.
He wandered out into the living room to the smell of breakfast and saw the pot of strong coffee Angel had made waiting for him on the dining table. She walked in just as he sat down and placed the feast of bacon, sausage, eggs, and toast in front of him. He wasn’t hungry but ate it anyway.
“You’re coming back to the Highlands with me. I can’t stand the thought of you all alone up here slowly killing yourself.” Angel stated.
He wouldn’t argue, because there was no point. For someone a good foot shorter than him, his sister was a formidable woman. Once she set her mind to something then changing it took some effort. That was something Steve didn’t have, and at least if he was in a different location, the reminders of Kathy wouldn’t plague him every minute of the day.
“So, you’d rather me have an audience while I slowly kill myself?” He raised his gaze to look at her, Angel met him with a steely glare. Clearly, his dry attempt at wit didn’t amuse her.
As he finished eating, Angel emerged from the back of the house carrying a duffel bag and suitcase. She plopped them near the door.
“Christian and Daniel will collect your Harley this afternoon and bring it back to the house. You have a meeting with Trevor next week, who, in case you’re wondering, is also worried about you. That gives you seven days to try and get your head together and make some decisions about what you’re going to do.”
He already knew what he was going to do. Sulk, drink and continue to feel sorry for himself.
“Is this where you give me the talk about we all lost Kathy, and that I’m not the only one to miss her, that everyone is grieving, but I’m the only one letting it destroy me?” He asked.
Angel crouched down next to him. The compassion and sadness in her eyes boring into his empty soul.
“I can’t even imagine the pain you feel right now. All I can see is the result of it and feel the fear that I might lose you because of it. I want to help you, but I don’t know how, none of your friends do. That’s why I’m taking you home with me. I want you to know that, despite losing Kathy, there is still hope. You are loved, Steve Jax, and I will not lose you. I will not let you fall any further down this rabbit hole. So, pick up those bags and let’s go home.”
As he drudged out of the house—for what he knew was the last time—walking behind the sister he’d not long known, he told himself he was lucky not to be going through this alone. He had an Angel to help him pick up the pieces. The sun made his eyes water as he headed to the car, at least that’s what he told himself. He wished he knew where his shades were, so he could cover the evidence of his grief, as they drove away, heading toward a different life.
* Playing Jax is a contemporary, romantic suspense novel with a M/F romantic pairing. This book contains erotic sex scenes with BDSM elements.