USA Today Bestselling Author
It’s been months since she broke up with abusive ex-boyfriend, Hawke.
The man won’t leave her alone. He texts, calls, and now he’s stalking her.
She’s exhausted but too embarrassed to share her problem with anyone.
When Jake catches wind Shayla is in trouble, he moves her into his home.
She’s had her eye on him for over a year, but it’s hard to let down her guard.
So she agrees to a bet that keeps Jake at arm’s length.
But Hawke’s getting dangerous and she needs Jake’s help.
He should have asked Shayla out months ago, but she was always taken.
Now it makes his skin crawl that a pilot is stalking her.
The threatening messages Hawke sends her are very troubling.
Jake will do whatever it takes to stop the madness.
The game they play with each other means he can’t touch her.
But it’s hard to keep his hands to himself. He’s got to convince her she’s his.
And that hurdle could be harder than saving her life.
Shayla made a big mistake when she started seeing senior pilot Hawke Richman. They never went out, they had hookups when they were in the same place. Shayla broke it off, but he won’t leave her alone. Everyone has noticed the changes in her and they’re worried about her. She won’t open up about it, not even to her closest friend. Friends who have heard the rumors Hawke is spreading.
Jake has wanted to go out with Shayla since they first met, but she was seeing someone so he really couldn’t make a play for her. He has a feeling they are perfect for each other. With that in mind he decides to find out the truth about what’s going on with her.
This is a favorite scene.
He liked that she was standing tall, trying to look tough. She was barely over a hundred pounds though and lacked four inches on him, especially in her bare feet. Still, she had his card, and he’d played it poorly.
He forced himself to relax his stance. “Can I come in?”
She sighed and considered his question for a moment before stepping back and letting him enter.
He was torn. On the one hand, he wanted to demand that she tell him every detail of what the hell was happening with the fucking pilot she’d been dating. On the other hand, he wanted to pull her into his arms and feel her lithe body against his. That was unreasonable of course.
On top of that, it was incredibly distracting seeing her in so few clothes. Did she not realize he could see the outline of her breasts and the points of her nipples? Jesus. His dick was hard.
“You want coffee?” she asked over her shoulder as she headed across the living room toward the attached kitchen.
“No. I’m good.” He watched her fantastic ass as she walked away. The shorts were loose but still showed off her body. Not much was left to the imagination. He followed her like a magnet into the kitchen and leaned a hip against the counter as she fiddled with the Keurig.
“You’ve probably been up for hours, run ten miles, eaten some sort of green smoothie, and solved the world’s computer problems,” she joked. “But some of us are just now coming up for air.”
He chuckled. This was more like the Shayla he knew. Witty. “I only ran six miles this morning, and the computer problem I solved was my own, but the rest is pretty accurate.”
She rolled her eyes as she grabbed some kind of flavored creamer from the fridge and added it to her coffee. Salted caramel, he noted. After taking a long sip, she sighed. “I’ll be more human in about ten minutes, but…” She shot him a glare. “If you’ve come here to lecture me, I’m not interested.”
Jake drew in a breath and followed her as she wandered back to the living room. When she plopped down into an armchair, tucking her feet up under her, he lowered himself onto the sofa. “I’m worried about you,” he began.
“Don’t be. It will all blow ever eventually. I’m tough. I’ll live.”
Would she though? He wasn’t sure how bad the situation was, but he didn’t like a single word he’d heard from her friends about the fucking rumors being spread about her. Shit ranged from her being verbally abusive to a cock tease. He wasn’t buying either, and neither were her friends.
“Tell me what happened, Shayla.” He tried to keep his voice soft and calm instead of accusatory.
She took another sip of coffee. “I don’t really want to talk about it, Jake. I went out with a man I should have steered clear of, learned a lesson, and broke up with him. That’s all that matters. It’s over. If he wants to be a baby about it, let him. I’m strong. I’ll ignore the gossip.”
Jake leaned back and crossed one leg over the other. He watched her closely as she fiddled with her mug and kept her gaze lowered. Anywhere but on him. She wasn’t being fully honest. “You want to try that again, sweetheart?”
She flinched and glanced at him.
He decided to be blunt. “Look, I don’t know you as well as everyone else in our friend circle, but I’m sure you’re aware I’ve paid attention to you. If you hadn’t been dating someone else, I would have asked you out a long time ago. However, even though we’ve had only limited interaction, I noticed you aren’t yourself. The bubbly woman I’ve met several times was not at Kraft and Christa’s party the other night. You’re more reserved. You looked nervous and sad and pissed.”
She swallowed and looked away. He was hitting close to home.
“Maybe your posse bought your story last night, but I still don’t like it, and I suspect you weren’t completely forthcoming with them either.”
“It’s amazing how much you already know about what happened here last night.” She sighed.
“Don’t be mad at your friends. They’re just worried about you. Everyone is. Now talk to me.”
She tipped her head to the side. “Why on earth would I share incredibly personal information with a man I’ve been drooling over for more than a year? If I wasn’t interested in sharing with my closest friends, why would I talk to you?”
He couldn’t keep from smiling. “You’ve been drooling over me?”
He cleared his throat, forcing himself to stick to the issue at hand here, her safety. Maybe he was exaggerating the extent of her problem, but he didn’t like the vibe he got at all, and years in the Army had taught him to trust his gut. “Sometimes it’s harder to talk to the people we’re closest to. You don’t know me as well. Might be easier to dump on me. Plus, I’m sure you don’t want to worry your girlfriends.”
Shayla said nothing as she finished her coffee. She kept the mug in her hands, idly playing with the rim. Her gaze was locked on the mug, but he doubted she was seeing it. “Why are you being so pushy?” she finally asked. “Why on earth do you care? It’s not like there’s anything you or anyone else can do about it.”
He leaned forward, dropping his foot to the floor and setting his elbows on his knees. “I care because it’s in my nature. I care because I don’t like to see any woman being pushed around. I would care even if I didn’t know you. Also, I’ve drooled over you a bit too.”
She gave him a wan smile at that last part.
“You’re sexy and mysterious and fun and if I hadn’t been so busy with work for the last few months and had paid attention to the fact that you were no longer dating the pilot, I would have swooped in and asked you out. I’m sorry I haven’t done so yet. I’m here now.”
“As much as I’d love to go out with you, now’s not a great time. My energy is zapped from dealing with Hawke. I can’t possibly enter into a new relationship right now.”
“How long ago did you break up with him?”
“Three months ago.”
Jake cringed. “And he’s still bothering you?”
“Yep.” “Does he call? Text? Email?”
“All of the above.”
She drew in a breath and looked at him, seeming to try and decide how much she really wanted to share. “Every day, Jake.”
He nodded, forcing himself to remain calm so she would keep talking. “Why did you break up?”
“He was an asshole.”
“How? What kinds of things did he do?”
She sighed. “Look, I know you’re just trying to help, but I don’t want any help. I want to handle this my own way. It’s embarrassing and I’m not going to like the advice anyone has to give me.”
“Why? What’s wrong with advice?”
“Hawke Richman is a senior captain for Open Skies. He’s been with the airline twenty-five years. He’s a beloved employee who can do no wrong. There isn’t a single person within the company who would take my word over his. You’re a smart guy. You’ve seen how things are going in this country lately. When women speak up, they lose. They lose everything sometimes. They lose their jobs and often their self-esteem. They get chastised and treated like shit. I won’t let that happen to me. I love my job, and I don’t want to lose it over this. I’m going to wait him out. Eventually, he’ll give up and move on.”
Jake listened to every word carefully, knowing it was huge that she was revealing as much as she just did. He could read between the lines. Hawke Richman was a piece of shit. No doubt about it. Jake knew the stakes though. He’d seen it firsthand, unfortunately.
Yes. Jake understood exactly what Shayla was saying, and now wasn’t the time to point out to her that if she did nothing, Hawke would just do this again to some other woman. Shayla wasn’t in the mindset to absorb that or care. Not yet.
Jake made the split-second decision to share a personal story in hopes it would deepen Shayla’s trust in him. “Did you know I have a sister?”
Shayla shook her head, frowning.
“Shelly. She lives in Florida where my parents live. She was in an abusive relationship that lasted several years. It was incredibly hard for her to get out. Her ex gaslighted her every damn day. She couldn’t do anything right and he convinced her it was always her fault.
“If she’d started cooking earlier, his dinner would have been ready on time. If she hadn’t worn such a short skirt, other men wouldn’t have looked at her. If she’d done the laundry yesterday, his favorite shirt would be clean. On and on. Eventually, he beat her almost to death. The police called my parents from the hospital. Finally, she left him, but it took a lot of therapy for her to see the light.”
Shayla wiped a tear from her eye. “I’m so sorry, Jake.”
He held her gaze, his chest tightening. “I’m trying to point out that I understand abuse and gaslighting. It’s horrible. I suspect that’s what you’re going through and you’re too embarrassed to talk about it.”
Another tear fell and she looked away. He was hitting close to home, which had been his intention, but it also infuriated him to know some asshole was harassing Shayla.
“Did he hit you?” Jake forced himself to ask. He sat stiffly, torn between the desire to punch something or pull her into his arms. He would do neither.
Shayla swiped at tears from both eyes now. “Only once, and please, for the love of God, keep this between us. I don’t want my friends to know.”
“Okay. I promise. I won’t say a word. But let me help. Please.” Her situation was serious. No way would he accept no for an answer. A lump formed in his throat at the thought of what she’d been going through alone.
Becca Jameson. Standby: Open Skies, Book Four (Kindle Locations 159-237). Becca Jameson Publishing.
Once Shayla has opened up and lets him see the texts and listen to the voicemails, Jake is concerned for her safety. He talks her into staying with him while he figures out Hawkes motives. There’s no way this man hasn’t done this before and Shayla’s concerns about being fired must be the same reason no one else has said anything.
I love the way Jake and the guys handle this even as thing escalate.
Plenty of intrigue, some action and that simmer to sizzle romance I love so much!
5 Contented Purrs for Becca!
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Becca Jameson is a USA Today bestselling author of over 100 books. She is most well-known for her Wolf Masters Series, her Fight Club series, and her Club Zodiac series. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and Goldendoodle. Two grown kids pop in every once in a while too! She is loving this journey and has dabbled in a variety of genres, including paranormal, sports romance, military, and BDSM.A total night owl, Becca writes late at night, sequestering herself in her office with a glass of red wine and a bar of dark chocolate, her fingers flying across the keyboard as her characters weave their own stories.
During the day–which never starts before ten in the morning!–she can be found jogging, running errands, or reading in her favorite hammock chair!
…where Alphas dominate…