We met Jake Wrigley as Lane’s troubled twin brother in Redemption Lane, and now we finally get to hear his story!! Absolution Road is the second book in the Crossroads series and it can be read as a standalone novel, even though characters from Redemption Lane return in this book too. I have heard such great things about this series, so today, I have a very special treat for you—the first chapter from Absolution Road…
The metal door clanked shut, the sound of its lock slamming into place echoing off the cold wall I currently leaned against. As I pressed my back against the coarse cinderblock, reality hit me smack in the chest like a bullet train barreling through my heart.
Christ. After a whole goddamn year of trying to get my life in order, to heal past wounds and move forward, look at where I landed.
Did they hold mass in the slammer? Not that I was religious, but I would need someone like God on my side, because there was no way in hell Lane was coming to get me. Actually, for the first time ever, I told myself I wasn’t calling him. I’d leaned on my twin brother for two decades too long. I’d only deserve whatever wrath he served up if I called him from the clink. Again.
Forget it being fucking Christmas, he had a gorgeous wife and a cute little baby daughter, a big house in the country, a huge career, and lots of cash. He deserved to be left alone.
Me, I deserved this. I’d get to make one phone call, and it looked like it was going to be to that little wench—the same woman who landed me behind bars.
My frayed jeans tightened around my thighs as I slumped to the floor. I tilted my head back against the wall, rolling my neck. Taking a long breath, I noticed the guy opposite me—he was big, tattooed, hairy, and snarling at me.
I could fucking take him. Let him just try to approach me. I own a gym, for Chrissake.
“Jake Wrigley?” the guard yelled as he approached the holding cell. “Which one of you fools is Jake?” He shoved his key in the keyhole, eyeing me up and down. Nothing like a big-as-fuck black dude with his biceps bulging through his polyester uniform looking at me like he was thoroughly pissed.
Who shit in his eggnog?
I stood. “That’s me.” I ran my hand along my buzz cut and smoothed out my beard. “Time for my phone call?”
“Nah, man. PD’s here to see you.”
“Oh, good. Maybe he wants to go home to his family, and I’m gonna get out of here in time for the holidays,” I said, then chuckled to myself.
“I wouldn’t hold your breath, my man,” the guard said, shoving me toward the next set of locked doors.
“Thanks, Paul, I’ve got it from here,” a soft feminine voice called out from behind us.
Sweet . . . a female guard.
“That’s okay, Ms. Road. I’ll make sure he gets to the interview room. This one here’s a live wire,” he said, keeping his hand on my arm as he escorted me forward, not allowing me to turn around.
Paul gave me a little shove inside the dank questioning room. “Sit down over there, hands up on the table, and don’t try no shit. I’ll be right on the other side of the door, you stupid prick,” he said, nodding his chin toward a chair.
I pulled out the metal chair and silently wondered whether it would hold my weight. At least the guard was being lenient and I wasn’t cuffed. I might have beaten the shit out of that neo-Nazi asshole in the bar, but I wasn’t a threat to society at large.
“What kind of dumbass gets into a bar brawl on Christmas Eve?” Paul muttered to himself as he made his way out of the room.
The door swung closed, leaving me in complete silence. While I waited, I stared at my calloused hands, listening to my own breathing as I wondered how everything went from getting a little better to complete shit. Again.
I was so deep in thought, I didn’t hear the door creak open or notice anyone had entered the room until I was enveloped in a fog of perfume or body spray, or whatever that vanilla-and-toasted-almond smell came from.
“Good evening, Mr. Wrigley, and merry Christmas. Looks like I have the pleasure of celebrating with you.”
The leggy female pulled out the chair across from me and dropped into it, crossing her legs and rolling her silver pen along her lip as her gaze skated over the notes in front of her. I felt totally inadequate sitting across from the beauty in my worn-in jeans, beat-up boots, and Henley. Not to mention it’s obvious I’m a shit-for-brains with a short-fused temper. I’m here, aren’t I?
The woman was seriously all legs and tits. Hell, she could be the X Games Best All Around Chest Winner, if that were an actual category in the sporting event. Damn, it should be!
At the moment, her boobs happened to be right across the table from me. Those puppies were perfectly round and mouthwateringly delicious, even through her tight forest-green sweater. I wondered idly if the sweater was in honor of the holiday or to match her big green eyes.
Then there was her hair, all fiery red and secured in a ponytail that was way too neat. All of a sudden, my cock was rising to the occasion, and not for the birth of Jesus Christ. I imagined setting that ponytail free so that red mess would fan around her face, or maybe over my hips as she lowered her mouth . . .
“Excuse me, Mr. Wrigley,” Legs said, interrupting my fantasy with her silky voice. “I hate to interrupt your deep thoughts, but it is Christmas Eve. You opted for public representation, so I’m here. In fact, I’m the only one here, thanks to my lucky draw of this shift, so I’d appreciate your not wasting my time.”
Most women’s voices annoyed me, but not hers. This woman’s words were breathy. Not exactly husky, her voice sounded more like she was recovering from a bad cold and talking for the first time in days. She didn’t need to raise her voice; her quiet demeanor was dominating in some odd way.
And she wasn’t just curvy body parts as I’d thought. She had brains too.
I frowned and my ears pricked at this idea. I was usually the dominant in any situation, the guy in charge, and here was this gal taking over with minimal effort. Strangely, I liked it. I nodded in response as I took in the striking bird of prey in front of me. Silently, I willed her to pick me as her new victim. I could pretend to let her chase me a little before capturing me and bedding me down.
God, I’d fuck the stiff pole right out of her ass, and then she’d know who was really in charge.
“Alyson Road,” she said, offering me her hand. It was creamy and dainty next to my dark skin, roughened from hours in the gym.
“Allison Road? You’ve got to be shitting me? Like the song?” I couldn’t help but burst out laughing while still grasping her hand in mine. I hated that stupid song. Fucking pussy song. “Did your parents write that song? God, I hope not.”
My gaze followed every one of her moves, watching intently as she crossed and uncrossed her legs, her tight black pants doing little to conceal her curves or the knee-high boots she wore underneath, before she pulled her chair more snugly underneath the table. No longer extending her hand, she said flatly, “No. They did not.”
“Thank fuck! That is the worst song I’ve ever heard. God, every time the Gin Blossoms perform on Howard Stern, I want to take his fucking man card away.”
She cleared her throat. “If it’s okay with you, we’ll move on to why you’re in here. I’ve heard all the jokes before, so you’re not impressing me with your quick wit or humor, Mr. Wrigley. And it’s A-L-Y-S-O-N, not A-L-L-I-S-O-N, for your information.” She spelled out the letters of her name, each one rolling off her tongue with a confident ease.
Leaning my chair back on its two rear legs, I couldn’t help but laugh again before trying to contain myself. This chick and her soft demeanor were all business. Of course, she would be. Who else would work on Christmas Eve? I was pretty certain she could have made me wait until the day after Christmas to post bond, but here she was defending the public on the most holy night of the year.
Add a big heart to the brain, tits, and long legs I’d already noted in her plus column. Maybe I didn’t want to bang her, but rather cherish this sweet thing? The reality of that seemed slim, seeing as the smart, good girls didn’t go for me. Nor did I expect them to. I was the bad boy, and I had the guilty conscience to back that notion right the fuck up.
“Of course, Ms. Road. It’s Jake, by the way. Just J-A-K-E. Full name is J-A-S-O-N, but I haven’t been called that in twenty years.” I mocked her spelling with my very own rendition, teasing the schoolgirl, looking for a reaction like I was in the third grade. “So, let’s get down to brass tacks and get my ass outta here so you can head home to your . . . husband? Boyfriend? He must be waiting for a gem like you to come home to start the holiday, right?”
No harm in trying.
As I spoke, she narrowed her eyes and glared daggers at me. “Are you done with probing into my personal life, interrogating me? I’m pretty sure I’m not the one in jail.”
Obviously annoyed, she followed that volley with another few leg switches. Left over right, right over left. I wanted to grab her knees and spread her limbs and dive in, let my tongue dig deep into her folds, make her let go of all that stuck-up bullshit she had going on while screaming my name. She probably tasted like sweet honey.
I got lost in another wave of thoughts . . . was she bald down there? Or did she have a fiery red landing strip? She didn’t strike me as the full-bush kind of girl; probably had a regular waxing appointment. Yeah, she most definitely kept that area tight and groomed. She was way too uptight to let it go all jungle.
Being detail-oriented wasn’t all that bad. This was the type of woman who remembered birthdays and anniversaries. She’d never leave her kids with the wrong babysitter.
“Mr. Wrigley! Can you please focus? I really do want to go home and have some hours to myself this holiday.”
Herself? Hmm . . .
“In addition to not seeking or calling a lawyer, I understand you still haven’t made any calls? Is that right?”
“Yeah. I don’t want to bug my brother. It’s his first Christmas with his new family and, well, he’s always been the more responsible of the two of us. This would just give him more ammo against me. Basically, Ms. Road, I’m still one huge disappointment even at thirty-one years old, so I didn’t call him. I guess I could call Camper, but she’s the reason I ended up bashing that asshole’s skull into the wall, so I don’t really feel like seeing her right now. So, yep, no call. Looks like I’m spending the holiday in the slammer.”
I leaned forward on my elbows, bowing my head between my arms as the severity of my situation returned. It wasn’t the time for hitting on the hot public defender or thinking about eating her pussy. I was in jail, and this was extremely bad.
Frowning, she asked, “Why did you bash that asshole’s skull?”
The word asshole sounded so funny coming from her pale-pink painted lips. She said it like she wanted to rinse her mouth out with soap afterward, as if her lips had never spoken such an obscenity and now she was forced to while quoting me.
This was a spectacular woman who had everything—smarts, looks, and passion. If my heart hadn’t been painted black, I’d hand it over to Ms. Road to do with it what she wanted. Or someone like her, but I never imagined that for myself.
Lane got that. Not me.
“Fucking neo-Nazi. He was spewing some shit to Camper earlier in the evening, running off at the mouth over ‘her nose not looking like a Jew girl’ and ‘she should keep herself bald because her dark pubes gave her away.’ I guess she had a night or two with him, and he didn’t like that she was Jewish. He kept going, running off at the mouth over his other lady freaking over him hitting someone Jewish on the side. Can you believe that crap? Guy was downright disrespectful. I mean, if you’re sleeping around with a bunch of women, you don’t go bragging in public. Anyway, she’s a good friend and she works for me, so I let my emotions take over. She had already gone by the time it happened.” Frustrated, I let out a long breath.
“Did he say anything to incite you? Or you just acted on earlier emotions?”
She was scribbling notes on her legal pad, her slender fingers wrapped tightly around the pen. For a moment, my thoughts wandered again, visions of her hands wrapped around my cock skipping through my raddled brain.
“Cocksucker got all up in my face and said, ‘I know you’re tapping her and you should scrub your dick because she’s nothing but a dirty Jew.’” I felt my Adam’s apple bob in my throat, as if trying to clear away the rising emotion. “I really don’t know why I cared that much. I’m a fucking atheist, and it’s not like I’m some protector of the Jews. Yeah, I tap . . . I mean, Camper and I have an arrangement. We hang out together when we aren’t seeing someone else. She’s not dirty, and my dick doesn’t need a scrubbing. I never even realized Camper was Jewish.”
“I hear you, Mr. Wrigley. No need to discuss your manly digit or who you’re tapping anymore. Although the next time, I may recommend getting to know who you’re seeing or dating a little better. At least know their religion.” She actually blushed when she said manly digit. Then she sort of scowled as if the mere thought of my dick disgusted her.
Maybe she’s a lesbian?
“So after the man you assaulted, um,”—she looked down to check her notes—“after Mr. Cameron insulted your body and your friend, you did what?”
“I grabbed his big, fucking ugly bald head and bashed it into the brick wall until it was bloody. Oh, and I coldcocked him in the nose, which also happened to get very bloody. I would’ve done more damage, but the cop was right on me, and now here I am with you on Christmas Eve.”
“I see you’ve been arrested one other time?” She had flipped through a folder, her green eyes concentrating as she used her pen to trail the line she was reading.
“Yeah. Some other ass started spewing yo-mama jokes at me at some rinky-dink frat party back in college. My mom’s dead and I don’t take kindly to that shit, so I pummeled him, left him with a concussion and a broken arm. He didn’t press charges. Apparently it was more important that the stupid fraternity not get into trouble for serving alcohol to minors and passing drugs than it was for him to get justice. Lucky me, I guess.”
She nodded while I talked, her eyes intently focused on me as if I was the most fascinating man on earth. And at that moment, I wanted to be. I also wanted to see her head nodding in my crotch, if I was being completely honest.
My semi had yet to subside; Ms. Road had done little to entice it to do so. Not only with her looks, but her eyes that consumed each of my words and her willingness to listen pulled confessions of the truth from my lips. But I knew her intent interest was all part of the gig; she listened for a living. It had nothing to do with me.
Or did it?
“I’d say. Looks like you’re in luck again tonight because when the police went to question Mr. Cameron, they found some very interesting stuff going on in his apartment. Let’s just say, he won’t be pressing charges either. You’re free to go, Mr. Wrigley. Merry Christmas.”
“What the fuck? What were all the questions for?” I stood abruptly, my erection now fully deflated. Here I was thinking this was a pretty cool chick, even though she was nailing my balls to the wall, and she played some mind game with me.
“Had to make sure I wasn’t releasing a full-time scumbag back into the world just in time for the holidays,” she said, barely glancing at me as she shuffled her stack of papers, gathering them into a neat pile.
There she went again, being all stand-up and earnest. And gorgeous, to boot.
She unfolded those long legs and stood, holding out her hand to shake mine again, but I couldn’t move.
I could leave? Just like that? Oh well, who the fuck was I to complain? Except I’d just admitted more to this woman than any other woman in my life.
What a fucked-up night, especially when I realized it was all because of the absurd sexual-favors arrangement I had with Camper. I got a lot of pussy over the years, so I wasn’t sure how I ended up so deep with her, especially since she works for me. Yeah, the responsibility probably fell on me. I’d been in a bad place, desperate for some TLC, and she gave it without strings—mostly. I knew I’d never have what my brother found, but everyone needs a little love, right?
Bottom line: this was on me. I’d fallen down the rabbit hole with Camper, so I’d beat the shit out of this dude when he insulted her, and now I was paying the price. Or not, or whatever the fuck this was.
Following Ms. Road’s lead, I stood, practically jittering on my feet as the adrenaline rush slowly came to a halt.
Finally convincing myself to calm down, I shook her hand and looked straight into her big green eyes. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, A-L-Y-S-O-N. I’ll never be able to think of that song the same. By the way, do you work out? I own a few gyms around town . . . maybe you’d like a complimentary membership?”
I rambled as I stalled, not wanting to part ways with this chick. Now that I was a free man, I wanted to see her again. She ignited something inside me, a desire to protect and care for her, or some weird crap like that. What was this—Oprah?
“Thank you, but I must decline,” she said, her voice polite but with no hint of regret. “The whole lawyer-and-client thing—it doesn’t look right. But you have a good New Year, Mr. Wrigley.”
And with that, her boots clicked against the floor as Ms. Road walked toward the door and slipped out, leaving Paul to handle the rest of my details, and me wondering what the hell just happened. And I don’t mean being released from jail.