By Carl Weber
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Jay Crawford has spent too long paying for a crime he didn’t commit. For ten years, he’s been in prison, waiting for the right opportunity to prove his innocence. But when his family is threatened, the time for waiting is over. Jay just didn’t realize that escaping would be the easy part…
To get justice, he’ll need the help of the three best friends who have always had his back — Wil, Kyle and Allan. But how long will Allan let Jay stay in his house if his new wife seems to prefer the sexy ex-con sleeping on their couch? And does helping Jay mean Wil finally gets pulled into the not-exactly-legal Duncan family business? As Kyle finds his loyalties — and his finances — stretched to the limit, who will he have to sacrifice?
A man on the run requires absolute trust, but Jay might just be setting himself up for the ultimate betrayal…
"Oh my God!" Lisa moaned repeatedly as she squirmed around in the Jacuzzi. My wife was in the middle of a toe-curling orgasm, with her legs locked around my neck like a vise, making sure I didn't go anywhere.
Normally this would have had me beating my chest like King Kong. Except this time, my head was submerged underwater, and I was on the verge of blacking out. If I didn't do something soon to stop her, she was going to have a whole lot of explaining to do, both to my kids and to the police. With the understanding that I was not going to break her death grip, I desperately made one last attempt to free myself by lifting her completely out of the water and onto the Jacuzzi's edge. She landed on her ass with a loud thump, her wobbly legs releasing me.
"What the—" I said after taking a moment to fill my lungs with air. But I couldn't be mad, because one look at her shuddering body told me my wife was completely oblivious to the fact that she'd almost drowned me. She blinked her eyes opened, a satisfied grin on her face as her feet dangled in the water.
"Fuck, that was amazing," she whispered, staring at me as if I'd just performed a magic trick. Words could never express how much I loved to make her happy. "I didn't know you had that in you."
"I may not ever have it in me again," I teased half-seriously, giving her a mischievous grin. She didn't get the joke, so I moved on, pulling her in close. I kissed the wetness from around her neck, and despite the saltiness of her sweat, she tasted sweet to me.
I stared into her eyes and whispered, "I love you."
"I love you too," she murmured, running her hands gently up and down my back. "I can't believe we're in the backyard, in the middle of the day, making love. Do you know how long I've wanted to do something like this?"
I didn't reply, not verbally anyway. We rarely got moments like these, and I wasn't about to waste this one talking. I could show her how much I was enjoying this better than I could tell her, so that's what I did. I pulled her back in the water, spinning her around. Taking a fistful of her hair, I bent her over the Jacuzzi's edge, sliding my dick into her from the rear.
Lisa and I had a good life together. As a matter of fact, we were looking forward to the kids getting out on spring break so we could all go on a cruise to Jamaica. But that was a family thing, where once again we'd have to find stolen moments for ourselves. Right now it was all about us. With one in college around the corner at St. John's and the other a senior in high school, romantic moments like this between the two of us were few and far between. In fact, our sex life was starting to become somewhat uninspiring. It had boiled down to me waiting until the kids were in bed before rolling over and begging her, "Can I get some tonight?"
Finally, one night she sucked her teeth and told me how unromantic and predictable my actions were. Of course, that didn't stop her from giving me some. She knew she had to get it in where it fit in too, but I heard what she was saying loud and clear. Hell, I agreed with what she was saying. It was hard to get quality, unrushed time together for a little lovemaking. Our time alone had to be strategically placed where we wouldn't get caught or interrupted by the kids. What better time than in the middle of the day when they were at school?
When I entered her, I was gentle at first, but my wife liked it rough when the kids weren't around, so that's exactly what I gave her. I plunged into her hard and deep, and just to make it exciting, I pulled on her hair a little. She squealed with delight, encouraging me to pull it even harder. I tried my best to remain in control, but when she started throwing them hips back at me, working her magic like only she could, I just went for broke, thrusting my dick in her like it might come out the other side.
"That's it, baby. You know how I like it. Yeah, right there. Make her come! Oh, shit!" She encouraged my every thrust with her words.
The more she talked, the faster I stroked. I could tell by the way she tightened around me that she was on the verge of orgasm, which was good, because I was too.
"I love you," I said into her ear as I held her hips, pumping her against the side of the Jacuzzi. "And I damn sure love this pussy."
"You love it, huh? Show me how much you love it. Oh, yes, yes, make me come!" Lisa began moaning and shouting louder. "Oh, shit! Yeah, right there, baby. I'm 'bout to explode," she yelled, her entire body shuddering, letting me know that the time was now.
In one deep stroke, my back stiffened up like a board, and I let loose inside my wife, then collapsed right on top of her.
I'm not sure how long I lay on top of her with my eyes closed, but it felt like eternity—until her body tightened up and I thought I heard applause. You know you've done your thing when your wife starts to applaud your performance.
"Kyle… Kyle… Kyle!" she repeated, louder each time.
"Yeah, babe." I figured I was probably getting heavy and she wanted me to move, but I did not want to break our connection. I just wanted to lie there and enjoy that feeling for the rest of my life.
"Ahhhhhh, we've got company!" She tried to lift herself and me up, but I was too heavy.
"Company?" I muttered. I still had my head on her shoulder with my eyes closed. "What are you talking about?"
"She's talking about us." The snickering male voice scared the shit out of me.
"What the fuck—" I blinked open my eyes only to come face-to-face with what looked like a small army of armed men. I felt like I was at the end of Scarface, when all those guys came over the wall after Tony Montana. Thank God my daughters weren't home.
"Anyone else in the house?" a tall white man asked with authority. He was the only one not pointing a gun at us, so I could only assume he was in charge. When Lisa and I didn't respond, he snapped, "I said, 'Is anyone else in the house?'"
His voice rattled me, but it scared the shit out of my wife, who was now in tears. I positioned her behind me as I answered him. "No, no, we're the only ones here. Please, man, if this is about money, you got it. Just don't hurt us." I knew I probably sounded like a scared little bitch, but they had twenty guns, and all I had was a limp dick. At that moment, I would have admitted to being a scared little bitch if it could save the life of my wife and me.
"Nobody's going to hurt or rob you," the man in charge said, showing us a five-star badge. "My name is Deputy Donald Franklin, and we're with the U.S. Marshals Service."
"Marshals Service?" Lisa mustered the courage to speak up. I could feel her moving around behind me, trying to use my body to hide her nakedness.
"What do you want?"
"Sorry. We didn't mean to scare you. We're just being cautious. First time we ever barged in on anyone in a Jacuzzi. Looks like fun." He chortled, then reached down and picked up a towel, tossing it to my wife. "Why don't you folks get dressed?"
He didn't have to tell Lisa twice. She wrapped that towel around herself and scrambled out of the Jacuzzi to retrieve her clothes.
"What is this all about, Deputy?" I asked, angrier now that I knew I wasn't being robbed.
He reached inside his suit jacket and pulled out some official-looking papers. "I think this will explain it, Mr. Richmond. You are Kyle Richmond, aren't you?"
"Yeah, I'm Kyle Richmond." I stepped out of the Jacuzzi, picked up a towel, and wrapped it around myself as he handed me the papers. "What exactly is this?"
"That, Mr. Richmond, is an arrest warrant, along with a warrant to search these premises." His men started to disperse toward the house like they'd practiced his line and their response a thousand times.
"Arrest warrant?" Lisa, who was now half-dressed, squealed. "What are you saying? Are you here to arrest my husband?"
She had said what I was thinking, and I could feel butterflies taking flight in my stomach, despite the fact that I hadn't done anything wrong—other than be a rich black man with a white wife.
"No, Mrs. Richmond, we're actually looking for your husband's friend." Franklin stared at Lisa for a moment, then turned his attention to me. "Fourteen hours ago, Jay Crawford escaped from Danbury Federal Correctional Facility. You do know Jay Crawford, don't you?" He was asking a question I was sure he already had the answer to.
I looked up at the man, then over at Lisa and back to him, swallowing hard. "Yes, Deputy, I know Jay Crawford very well."
"Good, so why don't you tell me where the hell he is?" the deputy asked, staring at me, stone-faced.
I foraged around the outside of the quaint ranch-style house, lifting everything that wasn't nailed down. It had always been my experience, from hanging out with my well-off buddy Kyle, that one out of every five summer-home owners left a key hidden somewhere on the property, just in case they had to send a repairman, had a friend coming by, or simply didn't want to take a chance of being locked out when they forgot the master key in their city house two and a half hours away.
So far I'd come up empty. I'd been to multiple houses that didn't have an alarm sign in front, and I still hadn't found a key. Not that it mattered. I'd go through a hundred if I had to. You see, breaking out of prison was the easy part; it was staying free in the middle of a manhunt that would prove to be difficult.
Nevertheless, I'd done what most would have thought impossible: I'd escaped from a maximum security prison and was far enough away that I didn't have to worry about dogs being on my heels. Unfortunately, I hadn't slept or eaten in almost two days.
I guess I should have thought this whole thing through just a little bit more. Escaping prison was something a man could do on his own. You don't really need anyone to plan an escape if you're truly motivated, which I was. But now that I was out, I realized that I definitely should have considered asking for help. I really wasn't looking to put in jeopardy the few friends I had left—at least not yet, not until I started working on the bigger picture. Besides, it was less of a risk asking folks to help you when you were face-to-face. You know, when there was no one around to read your mail or eavesdrop on your phone calls and visiting-room conversations.
I finally found what I was looking for under a flowerpot at the sixth house I checked. Six had always been my favorite number.
"Come to Daddy," I said with a smile, bending over to pick up the dirt-covered key. Once it was in my hand, I headed straight for the front door.
"Fuck!" I exhaled, trying my best to keep it together. I can't even begin to explain my frustration when the key wouldn't fit into the lock. After managing to sneak onto one of the ferries from New London, Connecticut, to Orient Point, New York, and then finding my way to East Hampton without rousing any suspicion, I had finally found a key, but it didn't work. It was demoralizing.
With a shrug of my shoulders, I walked around to the back door. It was a long shot, but maybe my luck hadn't quite run out yet. When the key slid into the back door lock and I heard it click, my heart wanted to sing Hallelujah.
Taking a quick check of my surroundings, I pushed the door open, waiting a full minute before I entered the house to see if some sort of alarm was going to go off, then locked the door behind me. The stale odor told me nobody had been there since the fall, which was a good sign, because it probably meant they wouldn't be back until late spring, and it was only March. I went straight for the fridge, where I found nothing of use, only some condiments and salad dressing. The freezer, however, was a different story. I found frozen vegetables, a whole pack of chicken parts, and a small box of Omaha steaks, all of which I removed. It was going to take them a few hours to thaw out, but I was going to eat good that night. Regrettably, I was hungry now, so I microwaved the vegetables, doctoring them with spices I found in the cabinets. I swear, until you spend ten years in prison, you never know how good something as simple as Green Giant vegetables can be.
After my stomach was full, I located the master bedroom and went straight to the closet. To remind me that I was caught up in a real-life drama, the clothing belonged to a man who had to be at least half a foot shorter than me, about two sizes smaller, and his feet were just as small. I exited the closet and went for the dresser. I fished around in a couple of drawers until I found something that was workable.
"Well, Jay, old boy, you can't lose with a sweat suit," I said, pulling out the navy blue fleece. Then I went through each room, randomly looking through drawers, closets, and dressers for any loose cash or more appropriate clothing. The only thing I found that would be remotely helpful was an old mayonnaise jar full of change. Not exactly a windfall, but at least it was filled with mostly silver coins, and not all pennies.
By the time I finished ransacking the place, it was dark and I was tired as hell. For now, this was a safe place, but eventually I'd have to formulate a plan to avoid being captured. I was not about to let that bitch who had me locked up in the first place hurt my son. I just hoped it wouldn't be too late.
I let out a long, aggravated sigh as I watched two United States deputy marshals walk out of my office. They'd just drilled me for the past hour about my friend Jay, who had apparently escaped from prison. I eased my 290-pound frame back behind my desk and into my chair, waiting until both men disappeared into the elevator before I picked up my phone. I dialed the only person who could possibly make sense of what the hell the deputies had just told me.
"Big Wil, what's up?" Kyle, my best friend of more than thirty-five years, answered. There was a tentativeness to his voice that made me think he'd been expecting my call.
"Jay escaped from prison," I told him. I was sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting to hear his reply. Kyle, Jay, our other friend Allen, and I had always been close, more like brothers than friends, but Kyle and Jay had a different kind of bond. I knew this news was going to hit him hard.
There was a slight pause on the line, which spoke volumes. Kyle wasn't normally one to hold back his opinion. "Yeah, I know," he finally responded. "The deputies raided my house about two hours ago. I'm still trying to calm Lisa down from the trauma of having all those men with guns seeing her naked."
"Raided your house? What the fuck is going on?" I shouted. His wife being naked registered, but I didn't want to touch that with a ten-foot pole. I did want to know why they felt the need to raid his house. I mean, couldn't they have stopped by his office like they'd done to me? Or did they know something I didn't?
"Jesus Christ, Kyle. You didn't help him escape, did you?"
"Come on, Wil," he growled angrily. "They raided my house because I'm the only one who has visited Jay regularly. I'm pretty sure I'm the prime suspect to have been his accomplice." There was a hint of annoyance in his tone, and I understood the reason for it. He was sending me on a little bit of a guilt trip.
Kyle had been on my ass for the last year to go see Jay more often, especially since he'd pulled some strings to have him transferred to Danbury, Connecticut, closer to us. I'd gone a few times, but the truth was, I hated all the bullshit I had to go through. The guards treated us visitors like we were the damn inmates. I wasn't about to get into that "you don't visit him enough" argument with Kyle again, so I ignored his comment. Besides, we had a much more important issue to discuss at the moment.
"You didn't answer my question, and those deputies who left here made it very clear that they think he had help. So right now, I need to know it wasn't you."
"No, Wil, I didn't help him… but I'm not saying I wouldn't if he'd asked," he replied in a dead serious tone that quite frankly scared the shit out of me.
"What the fuck? That's aiding and abetting a fugitive! They lock people up for shit like that. You could lose your family, your business, and more importantly your freedom behind Jay's bullshit."
"Wil," he said in a low, calm voice. "He's been in prison for ten years, and we both know he's innocent."
"Do we?" I asked. I wanted to believe Jay was innocent, but I had my doubts.
"What do you mean, do we? Of course we do. He's our best friend, remember? He wouldn't do anything like that."
"Look, Kyle, I'm just saying, none of us know what went on behind those closed doors, but you've seen the evidence. That girl Ashlee was beaten up, there was evidence of vaginal injuries, and she had his semen inside her. Who are we to say she was lying?"
"I can't believe what I'm hearing. Wil, Jay didn't rape that woman. She set him up." His voice rose with his anger.
"If you say so, man." I really didn't want to continue the conversation, and thankfully, I was given an out when I spotted a dark-suited figure headed toward my office. "Look, my director is headed this way. I'll give you a shout after work."
Malek Johnson, my boss of two years and fifteen years my junior, barely acknowledged my secretary Barbara as his short ass walked past her and into my office. Malek was one of those smooth-talking, brown-nosing Negroes who talked a good game to the white boys upstairs so that they thought he was a fucking genius, but he didn't know shit. If it weren't for me and the other department heads saving his ass all the time, he'd have been gone a long time ago.
"Everything all right, Wil? I heard you had a couple of cops come to see you." He lifted an eyebrow in a fake gesture of concern, which made my stomach turn a little. Guess he was on a fishing expedition.
"Yeah, two U.S. marshals wanted to ask me a few questions about an old high school buddy who escaped from prison yesterday." I laughed, trying my best to keep the mood light, in spite of the seriousness of the situation. Just the fact that I knew someone who had escaped from prison was embarrassing as hell. I swear I could see Malek's smug ass suppressing a smirk. "But it's nothing," I told him. "They just wanted to know if he'd made contact with me."
"And has he?" Malek asked sternly as he settled into the chair across from my desk.
"No, and I don't think he will."
"Good." He nodded, folding his hands in front of him. "Have you taken a look at our stock price today?" I tried to read his facial expression and his body language, but he was impenetrable.
I shook my head. "Not since the merger rumors."
There were a few rumors floating around about a possible merger or a buyout, but I had tried not to pay attention to them. Some type of shift was definitely in the air at the pharmaceutical company, but whether the change would be for good or for worse, I wasn't sure. I just knew I couldn't get sidetracked from what I was supposed to be doing. The best thing for me to do—the best thing for any of us to do—was to just keep doing our jobs and doing them well. That way, if a merger did happen, there was a chance we could remain employed.
"It's no longer rumor," Malek said. "The VP told me about it a week ago, and CNBC reported it today. Stock's up almost ten bucks and climbing. A company guy like you probably made out well on your profit sharing alone."
"I'm sure I've done all right." I smiled, because he was right. I'd held on to every share I'd been given or bought since the day I walked in the door twenty-five years ago.
"And I'm sure you'll continue to do all right, but there are a few people around here who won't." I wasn't sure what he meant by that, but I was relieved that it seemed the bad news wasn't directed at me. Either way, I didn't want to jinx my apparent good luck, so I kept my mouth shut.
Malek continued, "Wil, I need you to do something for me."
Even though I wanted him to think I was cool, calm, and collected, inside I was starting to become tense. Given the topic we were discussing, I could imagine several things he would ask me to do, and none of them were good.
I shrugged. "Sure, what's up?"
His eyes were cast downward. That was not a good sign. It's never a good thing when a man can't look another man in the eyes. Finally, he made eye contact.
"Like I told you before, the merger is going to happen. At least that's what they are calling it; but ultimately, we're being taken over. It's their CEO who's going to run things, which means his people. Upper management is going crazy trying to look lean so they keep their jobs." He looked out through my glass wall at several employees, the ones that I supervised, seated in their cubicles.
Dear Lord, if this man was in here to do what I thought he was about to do…
"What are you trying to say, Malek? Am I out of a job?"
He turned to me and shook his head. "No, but some of your people are going to have to go. I know you've been with the company awhile. Some of your employees have been working with you just as long. Which is what makes this so difficult."
I swallowed hard, trying not to throw up. My stomach was doing so many flips.
"I need you to cut half your staff."
"What?" I said in shock as I stood to my feet. I'll be honest and admit that a part of me was overjoyed it wasn't me being axed, but to have to deliver bad news to half of my employees—that was asking a lot.
"You can't be serious," I protested. "We barely get things done with the staff we have."
"Well, figure it out, 'cause I'm serious as hell," he replied, his tone all business and no sympathy.
"When do I have to do this?" I was beside myself.
"Tomorrow. Severance packages are being worked up as we speak, but we want all their IDs and computer passwords by tomorrow, end of day." He stood up from his chair. "I'm sorry, Wil. I know it's tough. Hell, it was tough for me just to come in here and ask you to do it, but our hands are tied."
I looked out at my employees. Some of those guys were like family. I'd been to their homes for barbecues, they'd been to mine; I'd gone to lunch with them, and they'd shared some of their personal problems. A couple of them even looked to me as a friend. I couldn't do this to them.
"Malek," I said to my boss as he was headed to the door. "I can't do this." I pointed to the window. "I can't do that to them."
He looked at me with not even a hint of compassion in his eyes. "It's part of your job, Wil, and if you can't do it, then we can find somebody who can, if you know what I mean."
The underlying threat did not go unnoticed. As much as I didn't want to see my team out of work, I had to look out for number one first, so I was quick to say, "If that's what you want me to do, then I'll do it."
The corners of his mouth raised, and then he said, "Thought so."
"I don't understand. I thought he was up for parole. Why would he do something stupid like this?" I asked Kyle, who'd picked me up from the subway and driven me home just to have this conversation.
"That seems to be the million-dollar question, Al," Kyle replied, pulling up in front of my house. His smooth, dark-skinned face was tense, like he was carrying the weight of the world on his short, muscular frame. "I just hope Jay doesn't do anything stupid and get himself killed."
"Tell me about it." I sighed, genuinely concerned. Jay had always been a wild card, even as a kid. "You, Wil, and Jay are the only family I have left, other than Cassie."
Kyle and I sat in his car silently, each of us lost in thoughts of our fugitive friend, until I reached for the door handle and he grabbed my wrist.
"Hey, there's still a chance the marshals might be contacting you like they did to me and Wil. You be careful. These guys have orders to shoot first and ask questions later." He gave me the sternest of looks.
"I will, but I doubt I'm even on their radar," I told him, and he nodded his agreement. The only reason we could both be so confident was because, unlike him and Wil, I'd never gone to see Jay in prison or spoken to him on the phone. I'd wanted to. Hell, twice I even drove down to North Carolina, where he spent his first three years incarcerated, but I just couldn't bring myself to see the closest person I had to a brother locked up like that. I did, however, give Kyle money to put in his commissary every month and a gift package every holiday, but nothing was ever in my name or official.
"Oh, and Al, if by chance Jay tries to contact you, tell him to stay away from my house and my office if he doesn't want to get caught. Wil's too. They've got people watching us."
I nodded, then stepped out of the car, heading up the walkway. I hadn't gone five feet before Kyle beeped his horn, rolling down his window with a goofy grin on his face. "Hey, on a happier note, how are things in paradise?"
"Everything's great. Couldn't be better." I was now grinning too. Kyle and Wil were always teasing me about my eight-month marriage. Cassie and I were the butt of every newlywed joke you could imagine. "Cassie's home. Why don't you come on in? I'll throw a couple of steaks on the grill and we can throw back some cold ones like the old days."
"Wish I could, but Lisa's been on the warpath ever since the marshals showed up at the house. I spend any time away from her and she'll think I'm conspiring with Jay. I'm going to take her and the girls out to the Melting Pot for dinner, see if I can get her off my back. Besides, don't nobody wanna be around you and Cassie with all that over-the-top kissy-face shit y'all be doing." He laughed, joking about how affectionate we were in public.
"What's the matter? You jealous?" I asked with a smirk.
"Damn right I'm jealous." He shook his head, looking disgusted. No man loved his wife more than Kyle loved Lisa, but my friend was an ass man, and no one had an ass like my wife. Fuck, nobody had a body like Cassie, period, that we knew personally. She was one of those women who had really big tits, a tiny waist, and shapely oversized hips that almost looked cartoonish, like Jessica Rabbit. Not to be bragging on the missus, but when she walked in the room, she turned heads—men and women.
"She's still sucking your dick without being prompted, isn't she?" he asked.
"Of course. She loves giving me head."
"Well, brother, you better enjoy that shit while you can, 'cause I'm here to tell you, it's not gonna last forever." There was no hiding the jealousy in his tone. "My wife ain't sucked my dick without being encouraged in fifteen years, unless it was my birthday, our anniversary, or she's pissed me the fuck off real bad."
"Stop hating, Kyle." I laughed.
"I'm not hating, Al. I've been married twenty years. I'm just predicting your future. You're no different than the rest of us, and neither is your wife."
I could hear him laughing as he pulled out of the driveway, and I made my way to the house feeling good about my current situation—at least the sexual part. The rest of it, well, that was something I needed to talk to my wife about.
- "Those who desire pure escapism will find plenty to enjoy."—Library Journal, starred review
- "I would recommend to readers that enjoy a fast-paced read that has twists and an unpredictable ending."—San Francisco Review of Books
- "Weber's skill at turning the four flawed friends into sympathetic characters affirms his trademark approach to tales of characters making terrible choices. ...The clever conclusion will shock readers. Kimberla Lawson Roby's fans will also appreciate this adventure."—Booklist
- "An exciting read replete with treachery, betrayal, and some spicy love scenes... Weber is a master at taking the reader on a roller-coaster ride."—RT Book Reviews
- On Sale
- Jul 3, 2017
- Page Count
- 320 pages
- Grand Central Publishing