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Rumor

There are moments in life when you make a decision. Accept who you are. What you have become. This was one of those times…

The fairytale I thought I’d found had become a nightmare so quickly after I said, “I do.” Which was the reason I ran when I had the chance. Not thinking about the consequences. Just knowing I had to get free before it was my life that was taken.

I never expected to end up finding a haven. A place where people were willing to help me hide. It was as if I had walked into my own perfect daydream.

King

“Don’t believe every pretty face you meet, sweets. You should know by now that’s a terrible f——g  idea.”

She was my job. I was to make her feel safe and do whatever I had to in order to make sure she didn’t run. Underneath the abused and broken exterior, there was a fighter. It was in her eyes. I lived for the moments when she let me see that spark.

I had been headed straight to Hell years before I met Rumor, but letting her fall in love with me was going to reserve me a room in the darkest pit available. One day soon, she was going to find out I was the monster she was running from and the family she had come to trust was the mafia that had killed her husband.


EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Slay

Abbi Glines

Expected Release Date: 27 March 2024

Book Series: 

A steamy, southern mafia romance—part of the all-new Georgia Smoke series, and set in the same world as the Smoke and Judgement series—is coming next week from Abbi Glines, and I have the prologue and the whole first chapter for you. Rumor and King’s story begins in Slay and it concludes in Slay King.

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Prologue

The silence. It wasn’t comforting. It didn’t bring me peace. When it came, I knew it was the calm before the storm. My entire body was drawn up tight, preparing for the next moment. The one when the rage would explode from him and I would be the recipient. But it hadn’t always been that way. If it had, I’d not be here today. The six-carat diamond ring that weighed down my left hand would never have been placed there.

How easy it had been for him to charm a girl like me. Looking back, I knew I’d been an easy mark. Not hard to impress, desperate for affection, to belong, to be wanted.

Now, as I stood in the three-million-dollar home in Buckhead, Georgia, all I wanted was to be alone. A small house in the country with no one. Perhaps a dog as my companion. He’d be golden and big. We would sit on the worn, faded sofa and watch television at night together. He would sleep at the foot of my bed. There would be no moments of fear. My constant state of anxiety would no longer control my every move. I wouldn’t have to please anyone. Except my dog. I’d call him Bear. Because he would be as fluffy as one.

“Where the fuck is my striped Brunello Cucinelli blazer!” Hill shouted from the staircase.

I tensed. I’d known from the look in his eyes this morning when I served him breakfast that this was coming. The unsettled, agitated glower had been simmering in his gaze. I’d made his favorite breakfast, asked about his day, done my best to pretend that I cared what he had to say. It was a chore that I’d perfected. Pretending this was perfect. Trying my best to give him his idea of how it should look, how I should be, what he wanted the world to believe we were.

“Hanging to the left of your shoes, two blazers over on the top row,” I replied, knowing exactly where I had put it once I picked it up from the cleaners yesterday.

He had an important meeting today with a company who wanted to buy one of the buildings from a company he represented.

His heavy footsteps as he stomped down the stairs sent a shudder through me. I fought the instinct to run. Scanning the living room, I tried to decide the best place to be when he approached. Somewhere that there were no sharp edges I could fall on, free of any objects that could be used to cause more damage than just his fists. As I hurried over to the far corner, my mind raced with things I could say to defuse him. I knew his blazer was there. He’d probably found it before asking me. He had been looking for an excuse. Any reason to hurt me.

The moment he entered the room—his blond hair styled perfectly; his lean, toned body dressed in the white linen pants I had also picked up from the cleaners yesterday and a light-blue shirt that was perfectly pressed—he swung his gaze to me. The rage boiling in those eyes I had once trusted knotted up my stomach. This was a very bad day. It was rare there was ever a good day anymore, but the bad days had different levels of extremity.

“Would you like me to go see where your blazer is? I must have put it in the wrong spot.” I hadn’t, but taking the blame sometimes saved me. I had learned the ways to please him. The more I did that, the less I paid for whatever it was he was convinced I had done.

His clean-shaven face was tan, and his teeth, which he had professionally whitened, were clenched as he stalked toward me. “Did I not tell you that today was important? You live here like a fucking lazy mooch who has ONE job, Carmella. Yet you are too ignorant to even do that right!” he roared before his hand cracked against the side of my face. “There are wealthy women from powerful families who would kill to be my wife. Women worthy to carry my name! Yet I chose you. A nobody from the swamps of Louisiana. You should be grateful that I gave you this life. FUCKING GRATEFUL!” He grabbed my arm and threw me onto the floor.

I said nothing. I knew if I did when he was like this, it only made it worse. Even begging for forgiveness seemed to make the monster inside him expand.

“I let your face and body seduce me, and I pay for it every goddamn day of my life!” He sneered the hateful words, then kicked me hard, taking my breath away.

The sharp pain that shot through me made it impossible to move. If I tried to even shift, the searing in my side would cause me to cry out, and he’d do it again.

“GET UP! GO GET MY FUCKING BLAZER!” he bellowed.

Closing my eyes, I inhaled deeply and forced myself to do as I had been told. The agony caused a cold sweat to break out all over my body. I found a focal point and breathed out and in through my nose. Keeping my eyes locked on the door that led to the back patio, where I would escape if I could. Imagining I was running for the door to freedom. That I would never see this house again. My secluded cabin in the woods with Bear the dog was there, waiting for me.

“If you would just try, Carmella—do something worth the life you’ve been gifted—then I wouldn’t be so angry. You bring this on yourself. You know that, yet you do it anyway.” He was talking softer now. Explaining himself. It was part of the routine.

I nodded. “I’m sorry. I’ll do better.”

He sighed heavily, as if he was weary from trying to teach me.

“Go upstairs and get my blazer, then just get out of my sight. I don’t want to look at you wincing and being dramatic,” he ordered me.

I did the best I could to stand up without crying out. I didn’t make eye contact with him, keeping my head down as I hurried to the staircase. I wanted to get away from him as much as he wanted to not see me. I’d get his blazer, then go back upstairs and hide until he left. I would be kept here all day to clean, make sure everything he’d touched upstairs was back in its place, prepare the evening meal, and hope he came home too late to eat it.

If I had known then that it would be the last time I had to live in fear of Churchill Millroe, the pain would have been easier to bear.


Chapter One

“Monsters could come in pretty packages. I knew that only too well.”

Rumor

I should have called the police. That would have been the sane thing to do. I glanced back at Hill’s Mercedes I’d parked at a busy service station I stopped at before I ran out of gas in Florida. I scanned the area, looking for a sign to clue me in as to where I was exactly. The abandoned Mercedes wouldn’t be noticed right away. This place was crawling with people. It was why I had chosen this as my stop. I had to calm down and think.

Where did I go from here, and how? I couldn’t use anything that required my identification or credit cards.

There was a little less than a thousand dollars in cash stuck in my purse. I’d taken it from Hill’s closet. It was where I had gone to hide shortly after I heard the door on our veranda crash open. I heard Hill’s panicked voice and men demanding their money, saying something about him stealing from them or selling something that wasn’t his to sell. I stood there, listening long enough to know Hill was in danger. The way he begged for them to let him fix it. The tremor in his voice. Part of me enjoyed hearing him terrified. He deserved that. To know how it felt. The other part knew I was in danger and had to hide before the intruders found me.

I barely got myself tucked away when the sound of the gun went off, and then I sat quietly, barely breathing while huddled in the storage cubby inside his walk-in closet. Footsteps got closer, and muffled voices I couldn’t hear well through the walls came, then went. I stayed there for over an hour. When the silence continued, I made a plan. I would leave. This was my chance to escape. I never thought I would get this kind of opportunity to flee Hill. He’d made sure I had no money of my own or a vehicle. My phone had a tracker on it so he could see where I was at all times. So many nights, I had lain awake, believing that my freedom would come with my death. The day that he hit me too hard or not stopped choking me in time.

I had no family to worry about my whereabouts. No one to ask where I was or call and check on me.

I only had Hill. And from the silence, I realized he could no longer hold me.

So, I took the money, necessities, and I left in his car. Not even stopping to glance back at his body, sprawled out on the living room floor. I could see it from the corner of my eye, but I feared if I went to look at him, he’d open his eyes. He’d still be alive. He’d somehow take me with him to his death.

That had been five hours ago. Now that I’d had time to calm down, reality was starting to sink in. I’d run from a possible murder. Stolen my husband’s car. Hill had people who would be looking for him. They’d not get an answer. They would come to find him. Dead. And I’d be gone.

The car had to be left, and I needed to figure out how to get away from here. Put distance between me and the Mercedes. Taking my suitcase, I rolled it toward the entrance of the service station, trying not to limp or let on that every step I took was painful. Maybe I could find someone who looked safe and ask if I could pay them for a ride. To … anywhere. Anywhere but Georgia. Or I could just ask them to take me to a bus station. That couldn’t be too far. You could buy a bus ticket with cash, couldn’t you?

A woman stopped talking mid-sentence to the man beside her to stare at me. Then, she gave me a sympathetic smile before whispering to him. I started to hurry away from them when another man who was walking toward the door narrowed his gaze as he studied me. He seemed upset by something. My appearance maybe? It was then that it dawned on me. Reaching up to touch the side of my battered face, I winced. I kept forgetting about how bad I looked. I had taken the time to cover it the best I could this morning while I was staying upstairs, out of Hill’s sight. He didn’t like seeing the marks from his hands. When he did, it often made him angry all over again.

That had been hours ago, and all my hard work at concealing it was wearing off. Not to mention, it was probably turning a dark blue by this point, and it was hard to cover that up. I hadn’t glanced at myself in the mirror in a while. I knew my bottom lip was swollen. At least half of it from the way it felt.

My side was throbbing, and sharp pains shot through me when I moved, but I’d grown accustomed to that kind of pain. I was good at living with it. This past year of marriage had taught me how to block out the injury and keep going.

“Hey, darlin’,” a man with a long red beard and beady eyes stopped me. His belly stretched his shirt, and he smelled of stale beer and pee. “Looks like you need some help. I got my rig right over there. I can take you somewhere if you’re needin’.”

Oh, hell no. I shook my head.

“I’m waiting on someone,” I lied.

He took another step toward me, tilting his head to the side with a smile that made the hairs on my arms stand up. “Sure don’t look like it. From the looks of you, I’d venture you’re runnin’. No man should hurt a face that purty. I can take you anywhere you’re needin’ to go. You hungry? I’m gettin’ a large pizza inside. I’ll even feed ya. Free of charge.”

He was too close now. I felt the panic starting to creep up my spine. I should have stayed in the car. Looked for a safe older woman from inside of its locked doors. Then gotten out and asked for a ride. That would have been the smart thing to do.

I shook my head. “No thank you,” I replied, trying not to appear terrified.

He reached out for my arm, and I winced before he even touched me. I had to get away. I wasn’t sure I could run though. Not while pulling my suitcase. I’d wrapped my ribs up this morning, but that only helped so much.

“Don’t be scared. I’m real nice. My rig even has a comfortable bed. You can rest,” he said, lowering his voice as he got closer.

I shook my head, feeling frantic. Did no one see this? Were people going to just ignore me and let this man take me?

“If you’ll back up from the lady, that’d save us a lot of trouble.” The deep timbre of the Southern drawl was unmistakably masculine.

I didn’t want help from a man. Men were dangerous. But at this moment, I would take any distraction so I could get away.

The burly man with breath that smelled like eggs snapped his head around toward whoever had come to my rescue. “I don’t think anyone asked you,” he replied, annoyed to have been interrupted during his attempt at abduction.

There was a low chuckle from the other man. It wasn’t a nervous laugh; it was an amused one. As if he thought this was funny. There was nothing funny happening here. I stepped back, and the oversize trucker was no longer blocking my view.

At times like this, there were many things a woman should do. Run would be the first thing. Yell for help would also be smart. An attempt to escape was at the top of the list. However, I was slightly stunned.

Tall, broad shoulders encased in a dark brown leather jacket; jeans that made sure to showcase his thick, muscular thighs and narrow hips; hair the color of ink; and eyes so blue that they seemed turquoise. The stubble on his face didn’t mask his square jawline and high cheekbones. When a slow grin began to spread across his face, I realized he was watching me gawk at him.

“I’m gonna ask this nicely only once. Go on back to your truck and leave,” the blue-eyed man said as he turned his gaze toward the trucker.

“I ain’t scared o’ some purty boy,” he replied, turning around to fully face the other man.

This would be the time I should get away. Take my suitcase and go inside the service station. Someone in there could help me. I started to move when I heard the trucker make a strangled noise. Unable to help myself, I glanced back to see the blue-eyed man grinning as if he were having a casual conversation, but standing very close to the trucker, who was now making small gasping sounds.

“You’ve got five minutes to get your ass in that truck and leave,” he drawled as his eyes glanced past the man to look at me. Then, he winked before turning his attention back to the trucker.

“Jesus H. Christ. You’re fuckin’ crazy,” he stammered, then began walking away at a quicker pace than I would have thought he could, seeing as how top heavy he was.

What in the world had the other man done? The big body of the trucker had blocked my view. And why did I care? I needed to get my butt inside. Turning back to the door, I went to grab the handle when a large, tanned hand reached it first, then pulled it open.

I knew before I even looked who had opened it. I should ignore him, but I couldn’t help myself. My eyes went in his direction anyway.

“After you,” he replied with one of those respectful nods that Southern men seemed to have perfected.

Nervous for so many different reasons, I hurried inside, muttering, “Thank you,” without glancing his way again.

As attractive as he was, I needed him to stop getting closer. He was a stranger, and he was a man. I didn’t trust either.

Monsters could come in pretty packages. I knew that only too well.

Copyright © 2024 by Abbi Glines.

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