USA Today Bestselling Author
She started a new life working for Open Skies in Dallas three years ago.
With her mother gone and no one constantly chasing her, life has been peaceful.
But her luck has run out. The stalking has begun again.
She can’t pretend to be a regular person anymore.
She never should have let her guard down and fallen for Deacon.
He’s everything she’s dreamed of, but she can’t have him.
She can’t have anyone.
It’s not safe.
It’s time to change her name and move again.
Life took an unexpected turn and flipped his world upside-down.
Now is not a good time to start a relationship.
His new responsibilities all but ensure he’s off the market for good.
If Raeann thinks she has concerns, wait until she hears about his.
He can’t walk away from her though.
She’s the best thing going for him.
If he could put a stop to the stalking…
Convince her he doesn’t care who’s hunting her or why.
But that’s not enough. He also needs to reveal his own problems.
And then pray she agrees to share the burden.
Raeann has been avoiding Deacon all month, now she’s going to have to face him at Bex’s baby shower. He deserves answers but Raeann isn’t sure she wants to share it all. Fortunately Deacon isn’t going to take no for an answer here. He wants to know what’s wrong and to fix it if he can.
This just part of their conversation after the shower and a favorite scene.
“Anyway, and this is where things get wonky, so withhold your judgment.”
“Promise.” Though he did furrow his brow in confusion.
Raeann tugged her hair from behind her ear so that the lock of white draped across her face. “This white lock of hair is caused by poliosis, basically just a lack of pigment. No big deal. It’s hereditary. It’s often referred to as a Mallen streak.”
Fascinating. He’d assumed she dyed it like that.
“Unfortunately, there are plenty of people living in the twenty-first century who believe it’s a sign of witchcraft.”
What? He held his tongue.
“I grew up in a small town in Virginia and even my earliest memories include these modern-day witch hunters. They call themselves the consectari venatoribus, which means huntsmen in Latin. Usually they go by Venatoris. They would hang around our apartment and harass us when we left the house. They held up their five-point stars to ward off evil and would shout at my mother that she was a witch.”
“My God.” He couldn’t hold back his reaction.
“Yeah. Luckily, my own hair didn’t change until I was fifteen. By then I was old enough to stand my ground with these people. I had been doing so for years.” She waved a hand through the air. “But the point is that I don’t know for sure if my mother’s schizophrenia was strictly inherent in her biological makeup or exacerbated by these people driving her literally insane.”
“Is that a thing?” He had no idea.
“Yes. Unfortunately. Probably my mother was on that path anyway, but people can be pushed over the edge, and I’d say she was.”
“Does it matter? I mean… Does it matter what the cause was?” I’m not sure that came out right.
She shrugged. “Maybe. It might matter to me.”
Deacon frowned. “Oh, you’re worried about heredity.”
“Yes.” She tucked her hair behind her ear again. “But that’s not my current problem. My current problem is that I fled Virginia after my mother died so that I could escape the Venatoris who plagued me my entire life. And now they found me.”
Deacon gasped. “No.”
She nodded. “Yes. One of them was on my flight coming from Virginia. She recognized me during takeoff.”
“When did this happen?”
“A month ago.” She met his gazes. “The day I stopped talking to you.”
Deacon swallowed and inched closer. “Why, Rae?”
She shrugged. “It’s overwhelming. Running into that bitch just brought back all kinds of concerns. I thought I had left that part of my life behind. The world isn’t exactly filled with assholes who harass people with a white streak in their hair. Hell, until today when I told Heather and now you that it isn’t dyed, no one even knew.”
“You told Heather?”
“Just that part.” She sighed. “Coincidence. She asked me why I bothered to dye it and then try to hide it all the time.”
“I didn’t notice you trying to hide it before today,” he pointed out.
She drew in a long breath. “When I moved here three years ago, I worked hard to get my head straight and shake myself of those crazy lunatics. I’ve even learned to embrace the white streak. People pay good money for them,” she joked half-heartedly.
He didn’t laugh. “So these crazy people… Are they bothering you again?”
“Yes. It’s insane. It took them less than a day to find me on social media and start harassing me. It’s only a matter of time before they figure out where I live.” She looked down. “I haven’t told Heather yet.”
“Jesus, Rae. That’s a lot of pressure. Why didn’t you just tell me?”
She dropped her shoulders and sighed. “My plate is full, Deacon. I’m always going to be looking over my shoulder my entire life. On top of that, I have to fucking worry about schizophrenia. I don’t date. Not seriously. I let myself get carried away with you, pretending I was a normal person for two entire weeks. It felt like life was reminding me that I’m not a normal person when that bitch showed up on my flight. My entire world crumbled during takeoff.”
“Rae… That must have been awful, but you are a normal person.”
She rolled her eyes. “Not even close. I’m a hotbed of messiness.”
“So let me get this straight. You refuse to get close to anyone because you’re worried about eventually developing a mental illness and some crazy people think you’re a witch?”
“Basically. Trust me. It’s the right decision. Even if I never succumbed to schizophrenia, I could pass on the genetic marker. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”
“So you’re planning to keep people at arm’s length for your entire life on the off chance you might down the road need some medication? People live with schizophrenia.”
“My mother didn’t handle it well at all. I watched her decline until she finally died. She wasn’t very old either. Which honestly was probably a blessing. At least she doesn’t have to fight demons every day anymore.”
“I’m so sorry, Rae. I can’t imagine how difficult your childhood must have been. Your adulthood too apparently. How old are you?”
“Okay, so in the short run, you need a game plan in case these people find you.”
“I haven’t even told Heather. I feel bad that she just moved in with me and now this.”
“Well, as your friend, I advise you to tell Heather first. So she’ll be prepared. Just in case.”
“Yeah. I will. I just… It’s exhausting. I was hoping it would go away. Instead, it’s escalating.”
“Can’t the police do anything?”
She shrugged. “Not usually. The Venatoris are sneaky. I can file a restraining order, but that won’t stop them. Besides, restraining orders require names of actual people. I don’t know their names.”
Deacon closed the distance and took her hand in his. “You don’t have to fight these demons alone, Rae.”
“No. You don’t. You have friends. They will help. And I’m one of them.”
“I can’t ask that of you or anyone else. You don’t understand how overwhelming it can be. It doesn’t end. It just goes on and on forever. It’s not like I’m telling you I’m having surgery on Wednesday and I need a ride to the doctor next week. People are going to follow me around my entire life. I’m going to look over my shoulder every day of my life. And on top of that, I have to worry about mental illness. If I don’t end up crazy genetically, these people will drive me over the edge.”
“You’re not crazy, Rae.” He squeezed her hand. No wonder she was not herself. She was under a lot of pressure and trying to handle it on her own. No one person could be expected to manage all that by themselves. “Please. Let me in. Let me lighten the burden.”
When her shoulders started shaking, he pulled her forward into his embrace. He held her while the tears began to fall, grabbing a pile of tissues before knocking the box out from between them.
It felt good to have her in his arms again. He’d missed her. Of course, the last thing she needed was for him to insinuate he liked her as more than a friend. She couldn’t deal with that right now. So, he’d take a step back. Be what she needed.
It was the only choice he had right now. After all, he hadn’t been honest with her either a month ago. He had a pile of life challenges of his own that rivaled hers. No way in hell could he burden her with his issues. Eventually, he’d have to. Eventually, he’d have to tell everyone. But not yet. Certainly not today.
Right now, the kind, sweet, caring woman in his arms needed a hug, and that was all that mattered. One day at a time.
Becca Jameson. Takeoff: Open Skies, Book Five (Kindle Locations 209-274). Becca Jameson Publishing.
We learn a couple of things in the talk Deacon and Raeann have, one her mother is schizophrenic, and two she a crazy cult thinks she’s a witch because of a genetic white streak in her hair. While they haven’t done anything yet, she’s sure it’s coming. They never left her mother alone until she was hospitalized.
Then Deacon’s thoughts allude to a big problem of his own that he’s keeping a secret. Of course now all these terrible things are going through my mind.
When the cult escalates, damn do they escalate. They are able to get the police involved and Raeann starts staying with Deacon to be safe.
I love the way this story twists and turns, as we slowly get to know Deacon’s issue. Raeann and Deacon have a combustible attraction and when they come together it’s both sensuous and sizzling.
I really can’t wait to read the next book in this series.
5 Contented Purrs for Becca!
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Trent and Destiny’s Story
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!
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