Formats and Prices
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 6, 2016. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Ellie Pearce learned the hard way that boys can’t be trusted. But the night she meets Jamie, something shifts. He’s different: brooding, a bit dark, determined to change. The connection they share is intense, compelling. Ellie tries to resist, but with each breathtaking kiss, she can’t help falling deeper.
Things between Ellie and Jamie are perfect-and perfection can’t last. When fate goes horribly wrong, Jamie’s only hope of saving his family is to strike a deal with the devil. Most of all, Jamie wants to prove he’s the person Ellie believes him to be. But if she learns just how much he’s been hiding, Ellie won’t be able to believe anything Jamie has ever told her . . .
There are significant moments in life that shape the way you see yourself. Some sort of shift in the balance, a throwing off the equilibrium. Moments that, in hindsight, you can look back on and pinpoint as exactly when things changed either for better or for worse. This was that moment for me. Everything hung in the balance; everything was uncertain, undecided, and unwritten.
This was my second shot, my chance to come out of the darkness and into the light. With every cell in my body I was planning on fighting to be free of this life, even if it killed me.
The trouble was, it was out of my hands. Maybe I would try my hardest but wouldn't be accepted; maybe I would never be good enough. Society had its ideals, and a guy like me didn't fit in with those at all.
Every now and again something comes along that ignites your desire to be the person you strive to be, the better person. When I stripped everything else away, peeled off the dirty, raw, and damaged layers, all that was left was hope. Hope for a better life, for a brighter future. Just hope for a chance.
Suddenly, with that fire in your belly, a what if becomes a possibility. What if you threw ideals out the window? What if you dismissed everything you ever knew? What if the bad guy could be the hero of the story for a change?
I guess what it all boils down to is this: My name is Jamie Cole, and I'm a murderer.
Taking a deep breath, I stepped tentatively over the threshold, leaving the place I vowed I would never return to. I was free; finally, after serving just over four years in juvie, I was free to start over. Stuffed deep in my pocket, so it wouldn't get lost, I had just under two thousand dollars—my wages for working kitchen duties while I carried out my sentence. Nestled next to it was the address of the rooming house that my parole officer had arranged for me to stay at, some sort of shitty convict rehabilitation accommodation block by my understanding.
As the door slammed shut behind me, panic set in for a second because I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to be free. But that was when I saw it. Outside. Not the exercise yard, which was the only "outside" I usually got to see, but freedom. The January sun was shining, there were no walls with barbed wire on the top, just a clear, open view of a road and a yellow cab parked a hundred yards away, obviously waiting to pick me up and take me to my new place. Nervous excitement built in my stomach.
I shouldered my bag, which contained the only possessions I had to my name: a few sets of clothes and one photograph of my little sister, Sophie. As I took the first few steps away from the gates, my heart was beating out of my chest; it felt weird to be walking away from the place I'd considered home for the last few years. I was waiting for the alarms to sound and someone to tackle me to the ground and start smashing me with a baton. They didn't. I walked quickly toward the waiting cab. I didn't look back; I'd never look back. This was my fresh start. This place had saved me, and I was hoping that it had changed my life and had at least given me a fighting chance. I didn't want to go back to the life I'd led before all this happened; I couldn't live like that any longer. I was determined to change.
"Hey, Kid!" someone shouted just as I pulled the cab door open.
I turned around, and my heart dropped down to my feet as I spotted a familiar figure just getting out of a shiny black Mercedes that was parked across the road and down a little way.
"Ed?" I hadn't seen this guy since I was sent down, and I didn't want to see him now.
Ed jogged over and pulled me into a hug, slapping my back enthusiastically. "Good to see you again," he greeted me happily.
Ed looked no different than I remembered; he was still a smarmy, overdressed jackass. "What are you doing here?" I asked, flicking my eyes around nervously. I didn't even want to be seen talking to guys like this again.
"Boss wants to see you." Ed nodded toward the car about thirty feet away from the cab that I was so desperately trying to get into.
"I can't right now, I need to go get checked into my new place," I rejected, trying to think of a better excuse. But I knew it was useless; if Brett Reyes wanted to see me, he'd see me conscious or unconscious.
Ed smiled. "Boss wants to see you now, Kid. You can check into your place later." He turned and walked off toward his car without looking back.
A scowl slipped onto my face. I hated being called Kid. They had all called me that when I worked for Brett. I guess it was because when I started working for him, that's what I was. I was eleven years old the first time I did a job for him—dropping a manila envelope full of cash through the window of a parked cop patrol car. Bribe money. The cops turned a blind eye to his activities, and in return they got a nice little payout. Perfect.
I closed my eyes and sighed dejectedly before leaning into the cab and smiling apologetically at the driver. "Sorry, I won't be needing you." I didn't wait for an answer, just slammed the door and followed behind Ed, climbing into the passenger side of the Mercedes.
I felt sick. There was no way out of this. I probably wasn't going to survive the rest of the day. So much for the fresh start I wanted. I wasn't even going to see the sun set. To say that my life sucked right now would be the understatement of the century.
Resting my head back against the expensive leather, I looked out the window, watching the streets change and turn more urban as we headed deeper into New York City and toward, I assumed, Queens, where Brett usually conducted his business. I sighed inwardly and wondered why I'd dared to hope that things could be different. There was no way Brett would let me live, I knew too much about him. The things I knew could put him away for years, but I would never tell. I'd been offered a deal so many times when I was going down: reduced sentence, a high-class juvie instead of the craphole I was sent to, even a cushy little job when I was inside. But I never once considered turning state's evidence and standing against him, never.
* * *
About forty minutes later, we pulled up to the warehouse that I had spent so much time in as an adolescent. The place hadn't changed at all. My stomach clenched as I thought about what was probably going to happen to me inside. I just prayed that it would be quick and painless. Brett surely respected me that much, at least.
"Come on then, Kid, let's go," Ed urged, climbing out of the car.
The sounds of the angle grinders and welders from the warehouse chop shop were like familiar music to my ears. I'd spent way too many hours of my childhood here, learning how to remove serial and chassis numbers so that we could sell the cars that I stole to order. I was the best car thief in Brett's organization. People placed their orders, Brett found the cars, and I stole them. Easy. I'd never even come close to being caught. We didn't steal any old car, though; they had to be top end. We didn't take anything worth less than a hundred thousand.
"Hey, Kid. Long time no see!" someone called.
I glanced over to see Ray lifting his welding mask from his face. He was the one who'd taught me everything I knew about cars. I walked over and gave him an awkward hug while he patted my back affectionately.
"Hey, Ray. How's it going?" I asked, discreetly eyeing the silver Porsche 911 on the ramp.
"Things are great. I have a daughter," he answered proudly, pulling off one of his thick leather gloves and running a hand through his sweaty brown hair.
"No shit, really? Congrats!"
"Thanks. We called her Tia. She's two," he gushed, grinning.
I slapped him on the shoulder; he'd always taken care of me, and would make an excellent father. "That's awesome, man, nice." Ray deserved to be happy. He was one of the best people I knew.
"Thanks. How you been?" His eyes drifted over me slowly, probably checking for any cuts or bruises.
I shrugged. "I'm good. I'm about to go see Brett. I'll talk to you later; maybe we could grab a drink or something?" Now that I was trying to go straight, I wanted nothing to do with anyone in this world anymore, but Ray was the exception. I thought of him as a big brother, and would love to keep in touch with him. Well, if I survived the next few minutes, which was highly doubtful.
"Absolutely. Here, I'll give you my number. Call me and we'll sort something out. You have a place to stay? You could come and stay with me and Samantha, she won't mind. You can meet Tia," he offered, already scribbling his number onto a scrap of paper and holding it out to me.
I stuffed the number in my pocket as I spoke, "It's okay, I've got a place. But thanks anyway."
"Kid, come on, you know Boss doesn't like to wait!" Ed called behind me.
Sighing deeply, I gave Ray another man hug before following Ed. I felt like I was taking the long walk to my death.
I thought about my life as I climbed the stairs. My eighteen short years of life. Wasted. A pile of shit. What was the point in even bothering? To be honest, for about fifteen of them I'd wished I was dead anyway, so maybe this outcome wasn't too bad after all. At least this way I wouldn't have to try to change. Changing would be hard, probably the hardest thing I would ever have to do. Maybe I should be grateful that I was about to bite it.
I stopped outside the office door, waiting as Ed knocked.
"Come in!" Brett shouted through the door. The sound of his deep, husky voice made my shoulders stiffen.
Ed smiled and twisted the handle. "See you after, Kid. We'll catch up," he said, opening the door and slapping me on the shoulder.
"Sure, Ed, whatever," I replied dismissively, rolling my eyes. Why he was bothering to act like he didn't know what was coming was beyond me.
Holding my breath, I forced myself to remain calm. My eyes swept the large office; it was still done up exceptionally, just like I remembered. Brett's overly large antique oak desk still had pride of place in the center of the room. There were expensive vases and statues behind him, and even the houseplant on his desk looked exotic. Brett Reyes liked the best, he always had.
Brett stood up from behind his desk, smiling warmly at me in his expensive gray tailored suit. "Hey, Kid! Good to see you," he said, coming around the desk and engulfing me in a hug.
"Yeah, you too," I lied, trying to control the slight tremor in my voice. I knew how this was going to end; I just prayed he liked me enough to do it quickly. A nice shot to the face, or, even better, the back of the head so I wouldn't see it coming.
Brett pulled back and smiled at me, his blue eyes soft and friendly. He'd aged considerably in my absence. His forehead was lined with wrinkles, and his dirty-blond hair had receded. Although he'd aged quite a bit since I last saw him, he still didn't look as old as he was. He was easily in his midfifties, but people often thought he was early forties.
"So, how was it?" he asked, gripping my shoulders as he waited for my answer.
"It was okay." Glancing around, I saw two guys sitting on the sofa off to the side. The older, dark haired one I didn't know, the other was a guy I knew from juvie. Shaun. He was a real nasty piece of work, and I'd seen him make many peoples' lives a misery in the year that we were inside together. I myself had had a fair few run-ins with him, the last of which had ended when I'd smashed his face into a table not long before he was released. I held in my groan. "Hey, Shaun," I greeted him stiffly.
Brett snickered and slapped me on the shoulder as he strutted back around to his side of the desk. "Yeah, I heard you two had some problems inside," he mused, still chuckling. "Maybe you should kiss and make up."
I snorted. "He can kiss my fucking ass if he wants," I retorted, looking at Shaun warningly as he glared at me and stood.
"You little shit…I swear to God, I'll—" he started, but Brett held up a hand, silencing him.
"Enough! I won't have you two fighting. Shaun, you've been here for the last three years, so I've seen how you operate, but trust me, you don't want to be having a problem with the kid," he warned.
I clenched my jaw. I didn't want to get into a fight, but I knew I could defend myself if I needed to. I'd always been proficient at taking care of myself—probably because I'd learned how to block out pain. Of course, I still felt it, but I just didn't care. Pain made you strong; it meant you were still alive. Pain could be your friend when you thought you were dead inside.
I smiled a challenge at Shaun, daring him to go against Brett's orders. He sneered at me but sat back down, so I turned my attention to Brett.
"So then, Kid, I've set up an apartment for you. I thought you'd like a few days off to get settled, and then come back to work Friday night," Brett said, rummaging through the top drawer of his desk. He pulled out a set of keys and tossed it to me. "Here, it's a two-bedroom. We'll sort out rent and stuff later."
I set the keys on the desk and shook my head. "Brett, thank you for going to all this trouble for me, but I can't. I don't want to do this anymore. I'm going straight from here on out."
He visibly recoiled at my words. "Kid, I need you here. No one can boost like you." The throbbing muscle in his jaw told me he was growing angry.
"I'm sorry, Brett, I am. But I just don't have the motivation that I used to. I'm not doing this type of shit anymore," I replied sternly. I'd made up my mind: Either I went straight, or he would have to kill me. I didn't need this anymore; the reasons I'd had to do it had died the day I became a murderer. Everything changed on that day: my outlook, my priorities, everything.
His fist slammed down on the desk, making his plant shake from the blow and a pot of pens tip over, scattering across his desk. "You think you can just walk away? For more than three years I looked after you and showed you my business! Three years I spent training you, and you think you can just walk away? You can't!" he ranted, his loud voice echoing off the walls.
"Brett, I want out of this life. I just want to go straight. I won't do it, I'm sorry." I shook my head and looked him right in the eye, showing him I wasn't going to back down.
He sighed, the muscle in his jaw clenched again, and then he nodded to the two guys behind me. I closed my eyes, waiting to die. In unison, they grabbed my arms, pulling them behind my back as I was slammed face-first into the desk. Someone's arm went across the back of my neck, pressing down, making it difficult to breathe.
I didn't open my eyes when something hard pushed against my temple. As the safety was clicked off, I waited for my life to flash before my eyes, or the epiphany you were supposed to see before you died, but I didn't see anything as the gun pressed harder into my skin, causing my jaw to ache.
"Kid, you know the rules. If you want out, you earn it. You still owe me for all the time I invested in you," Brett growled angrily.
I forced my eyes open and saw that he was the one holding the gun as he leaned over the desk, glaring at me. I didn't bother struggling; I was dead either way, there was no way I was getting out of here.
"Just kill me if you have to, because I'm not doing it," I said, awkwardly shaking my head.
"I don't want to kill you, Kid. You're amazing at what you do. The best I've seen. It'd be a waste," Brett said, looking at me hopefully.
The arm across my neck pushed down harder, making me groan as I struggled to draw breath. "No!" I choked out.
Brett growled in frustration. "I need you to do a job. It's five cars, one night. One job, then you're out."
Just one job? But would it actually stop at one? The thrill of boosting cars was like some sort of addictive high. If I started again, would I be able to stop? I wasn't convinced I would.
"Can't do it," I said ignoring the metallic tang of my own blood as I chewed on the inside of my cheek. I knew what was coming, and it wasn't going to be painless.
But instead of delivering the slow, brutal death I was envisioning, the gun was withdrawn and Brett stepped back. "You should think of your mother, Kid. She's so screwed up. Having her daughter murdered like that, then her son getting sent down. She kind of went off the rails. I've been looking after her for you. It'd be a shame if something awful happened to her after all she's been through already." He shrugged casually as if we were talking about the weather.
The son of a bitch is threatening my mom? I thrashed, managing to get one of my arms free so I could push myself up, but before my attempt could accomplish anything, I was slammed back down on the table roughly.
"Don't you fucking dare!" I shouted acidly.
Brett chuckled. "Kid, I like her, honestly. I don't want to have to hurt her. One job and I'll leave your mother alone," he bartered.
I squeezed my eyes shut. As much as I hated my mom, she was still my mother at the end of the day and I didn't want her hurt, especially not the type of hurt I'd seen Brett inflict on so many other people.
Awkwardly, I nodded in agreement. Air rushed back into my lungs as I was yanked up to standing by the back of my shirt. Shaun smiled wickedly at me as he patted the top of my head. "There's a good boy," he teased condescendingly. I gritted my teeth, trying not to react.
Brett clapped his hands, rubbing his palms together excitedly. "Great! The job is in three days. Here, take this cell and I'll call you with the details, I had it all set up for you. And take the apartment, too." He slid a cell phone and the apartment keys across the desk.
I grabbed the phone and shoved it deep into my jeans pocket. "I've got a place. One job is what we've agreed to, so I don't need the apartment. Thanks anyway," I said, trying to be polite even though I actually wanted to maim him.
"Okay, Kid. Whatever you want."
I turned to leave but caught sight of Shaun arrogantly smirking at me. Before I could stop myself, I raised my arm and threw a punch into his face. The satisfying crack of his nose made me smile as blood instantly spurted from his nostrils. He yelped, shocked, his hand shooting up to his nose to staunch the flow.
"Don't ever touch me again. There's a good boy," I growled angrily, using his words. I turned and strutted out the door, ignoring Brett roaring with laughter behind me.
This is it," the cabdriver announced, cautiously locking his door with his elbow as he stopped outside a filthy-looking, dilapidated apartment block.
Trying not to turn my nose up at the place the state had arranged for me to stay upon my release, I handed him the requested money and stepped out. Instantly, the sweet aroma of burning weed assaulted my nose from where several people milled around outside smoking joints in broad daylight. The cab sped away almost as soon as my door closed, leaving me standing there among the scummy-looking people, who were all looking at me like they wanted to beat and rape me to within an inch of my life.
As I made my way up the sidewalk toward the front of the building, a barely legal girl stepped forward and set her hand on my chest. Her eyes were bloodshot, her hair was wild, and she looked like she hadn't washed or changed her almost nonexistent clothes in about a week. "Hi there, handsome, you looking for someone?" she purred.
"No thanks," I replied quickly, shrugging away from her hand as I continued to the front door.
Once inside, I walked toward the little reception desk, my feet sticking to the cracked tile floor with each step. I had to laugh when I realized that the guy was sitting behind chunky thick bars with what looked like bulletproof glass behind them. He even had a handgun sitting on the side of his desk.
He sneered distastefully as I approached. "Yeah?" he grunted, muting the TV show he was watching.
"Hey. I'm Jamie Cole. I was told I had a room here."
"Cole? Let me see…" He shifted in his chair, causing it to squeak from the pressure, and shuffled through some papers.
I turned subtly so that I could see up the hallway, making sure no one was sneaking up on me from behind. I'd gotten pretty adept at staying out of trouble. As long as you saw it coming, you could either face it head-on or walk the other way.
"Yeah, here you are." He ticked my name off some sort of list, then sniffed and wiped his nose on the back of his hand as he pushed himself up from his swivel chair and padded over to a little cabinet mounted on the wall. He pulled down a set of keys and waddled back to me, plopping down heavily. Everything looked like too much effort for him. The guy was carrying about fifty pounds of sheer fat around the middle, so no wonder life seemed taxing.
He threw a couple of forms and a pen into a little metal drawer and shoved it hard so that the drawer popped out on my side of his protective bubble. "Sign on the bottom and it's all yours," he instructed as I retrieved the registration forms from the drawer.
I scribbled my name and passed the papers back to him.
Barely glancing at my forms, he tossed them to the side. "Okay, so there aren't very many rules here. Just try and stay out of trouble. Make sure you lock your door, even when you're in the room. Take anything valuable out with you, or lock it in one of the safes here inside the office," he advised, waving his chubby hand at the row of little safes built into the wall. I nodded, and he continued, "You have a front door key. The door gets locked at ten p.m.; after that you'll have to let yourself in. Your room is 234." He shoved the drawer back through to me.
I grabbed the set of keys from the bottom and shifted my bag on my shoulder.
"Second floor, turn left at the top, and good luck." He smirked, and I silently noted the amusement in his tone.
"Right," I mumbled. On the way to my room I avoided touching the railings and walls, covered in years of grime and dirt. If Brett didn't kill me, then I'd probably die from some incurable infection I'd catch from this place; I could practically taste the germs with every breath.
I found my room easily, unlocking the door and shoving it open. The room was bare save for a couple of bits of furniture; on the upside, the mattress looked clean, and the sheets piled at the end looked new, so at least I wouldn't have to sleep in other people's filth.
In the corner, next to a door, was a little sink; I headed over to the door and opened it to find a toilet and the tiniest shower stall I'd ever seen. I could kill two birds with one stone, and shower while I'm taking a leak. Now that's a time saver! I snorted before outright laughing at my predicament. The place was so awful that I kind of wished I were back in juvie; at least it was clean and familiar there.
Dropping my bag, I flopped on the bed and stared at the ceiling. All I could hear was shouting and fighting from outside, and people banging around in the room next door. I closed my eyes and thought everything through. I needed to get a job, and I needed to get a car, and then I could get the hell out of this place. One job for Brett would make my mom safe; after that I could move on like I'd planned.
When the sounds of girlie moaning and headboard banging started in the room next to mine, I pushed myself up and decided that I might as well go and start the job hunt now.
I left the rooming house in quite high spirits and headed to the nearest stores, starting to ask around for a job. A couple of people seemed interested, right up until I told them where I was staying, and then they backed off right away. It was obviously common knowledge what kind of people lived at that place—scum of the earth, murdering losers, just like me. By the third place I asked, I was lying and telling people I was in the process of moving. But I still didn't manage to swing an interview.
A little way out of the neighborhood, a junkyard caught my attention. I decided to try to fulfill my second task—getting a car.
I headed toward the little white office trailer, but a guy stopped me on my way there. "Hey, what you looking for?" he asked politely, wiping his greasy hands on a rag. He was wearing oil-stained gray overalls and had a Yankees baseball cap covering his black hair; he was probably not much older than me.
"Oh, hi. Uh…I'm not sure. Do you have any cars that need work to get them running? Ones that you want to get rid of cheap?" I inquired.
A smile crept over his lips. "You know about cars?"
"Yeah. A thing or two," I answered. There wasn't much I didn't know about cars, actually.
"Okay, well, I'll show you what we've got. None of them run, though." He shrugged and walked off behind the trailer. I followed behind, barely able to contain my excitement. I hadn't had my hands on a car engine for what felt like forever.
Around the back of the office, he stopped. "These are the ones we use for parts; the others we crush. They're okay, except they don't run. None of them are complete now, though. You could make a car out of the parts of the other ones and what we have around the yard," he stated, nodding to about ten beat-up, scratched, and rusted cars parked there.
- "Fighting to Be Free is an utterly captivating read that will make you fall in love and leave you breathless until the end."—Natasha Preston, New York Times bestselling author of The Cellar
- "In Fighting to Be Free, Kirsty Moseley delivers another epically beautiful love story that will have you rooting for the underdog and compulsively turning the pages."—R. J. Prescott, USA Today bestselling author
- "Gritty, heart wrenching, and sexy with a bad boy lead who will melt your heart. Kirsty's words flowed so flawlessly...I was rooting for Jamie and Ellie from the very beginning. A great read...I can't wait for the rest of the series!"—Sophie Jackson, Author of the Pound of Flesh series
- "Kirsty Moseley at her best. Five kindle-throwing stars!"—International Bestselling Author, S.K. Hartley
- "Kirsty Moseley excels at writing a swoon worthy male that compels you to keeping turning the pages...and Jamie is no exception."—International Bestselling Author, Ker Dukey
- On Sale
- Sep 6, 2016
- Page Count
- 400 pages