Chapter Reveal: Promise by Dani Wyatt

promise - chapter reveal.jpg

Release Date March 24th

goodreads-badge.png

Promise_Final[1].jpg

 Flames stole his childhood. Scorched his family. Scarred his face. Beckett Fitzgerald assimilated his hatred and his pain and gave it to the government. They trained him to kill and his life was set. Or so he thought.

 
Promise Henderson lives in quiet desperation. Her art is her solace, her brother her world. Only the State of Ohio has control over him and her only purpose left in life is to save Jordan from the same horrors she suffered. When the scarred face of a dark haired man with Monet blue eyes and a warrior’s countenance walks into her life everything changes.
 
When Beckett sees her, he knows this is his last chance. The little girl from the courtroom ten years ago is standing in front of him and he knows he cannot fail her again. One moment — one choice he made altered the course of her life forever. He must decide to go back to the only life that made sense to him, or tear down her walls and settle the debts of the past.

AP- Excerpt.jpg

Chapter One

Beckett

{Eight Years Later}

I’ve got my hand over Denise’s mouth.

She’s the loudest woman I’ve ever fucked. Not that I’ve fucked that many, I have to be honest, but enough to know that Denise is loud.

Her dime store, blue eyeshadow and the ever present snapping piece of Wrigley’s Spearmint didn’t deter my cock from being seduced by my landlord.

She’s Mrs. Robinson with red hair and a tramp stamp.

Her thirty-something body is twisted under me like a pretzel, the crooks of her elbows locked around the bend of her knees, holding herself high and wide. It’s how she likes it, and it sets my dick coal-miner deep, so win-win.

I’m in fifth gear. The sound of wet flesh slapping and the bed denting the plaster wall must be heard in all seven bedrooms plus the kitchen of this makeshift boarding house on the low rent end of Cleveland’s ass. Denise is letting loose, bucking like we’re in a damn rodeo while I try to muffle her crazy-ass screams with my hand.

I mean, come on. All that noise is distracting as fuck. I like to know the chick taking it from me is getting off, but I don’t need the whole fucking zip code to know.

She’s about to toss us both off the mattress when I realize the sheet is tangled around my foot. If we don’t finish this up, I may end up in the ER with a snapped ankle and a story to tell. I’m trying to kick the twisted linen off and not miss a beat. This is the second round with her this morning, and I should be enjoying myself, right?

But, I can’t keep my eyes off the clock.

7:41 AM.

Wrap it up, Mrs. Robinson.

I take my hand off her mouth. Her dilated, red-rimmed, emerald eyes widen then she gasps.

“Oh gawwwddddd— oh god!”

She starts right up with the fucking noise, so I slap my palm back onto her mouth.

I tip my hips, grinding down into her until her eyes roll to white, and I feel the tightness start to grab my dick. Then, I feel a warm rush as she gushes and from the way she’s flouncing and quivering, I’m hoping she’s done.

The muscles in my back spasm when Denise let’s go and her ankles lock behind my ass. I knock the last thrust home, and my chin falls to my chest. I cum along with her. It’s a sense of relief, but that’s about it.

A minute later, I’m off the bed, the discarded latex already taking a spin into the sewer and the shower heating up.

“You…” She points to me, making that single word sound like an accusation.

Denise is propped up on the threadbare floral pillows, checking her manicure and snapping on a fresh piece of Wrigley’s. Her tits are motionless, silicone coconuts standing unnaturally high on her torso.

Personally, I prefer whatever size mother nature designed. I’ll take a double A true-blue over triple D fakery any day.

“You’re gonna get me in trouble, you know that? I shoulda never rented you that room.”

A touch of her Brooklyn roots comes through.

“How are you in trouble?” I put one hand on my forehead and one on my chin and jerk my head around. The twist and the pop pop pop as much a part of my morning routine as taking a piss.

I blow out a breath, feeling the momentary pressure-release the neck cracking gives. I’ll do that twenty times today. I have to.

No. Of course not. But someone’s gonna catch on. And, I don’t even want to talk about Leon. If he finds out, we’re both dead. That lady in that back bedroom looks like a bible thumper. She might stick her nose where it doesn’t belong.” Denise’s shrill voice rakes on my nerves. She is so much more appealing when my damn dick is in charge.

I want to tell her if she didn’t howl like a fucking hyena on a fresh carcass, maybe half the neighborhood wouldn’t know she was letting the resident who rents room 4B bone her twice a day and three times on Saturday.

Why I don’t have a better sense of self-preservation, I’m not sure. I should. I‘ve seen enough shit to last me seven lifetimes.

She’s right about Leon. He would probably kill me first, then kill her with my dead body.

“How would Leon find out? Huh? You said he got picked up last night, right?” I have to yell over the rush of the shower as I stick my hand in to check the temperature.

The steam is hanging in clouds and beginning to mist the mirror that is cracked like an old road map. Whoever mounted it must have been on their knees or ten years old. All I can see in it is the bottom of the shiny, textured skin on my left shoulder and the cut of my abs… along with the shadows of my ribs.

I need some groceries.

I like this mirror. My face is not my best feature.

I step into the shower trying to keep my thoughts about the day in check.

“Yep, he got picked up at the Diablo’s.  That biker bar on 2nd.” I hear the faint squeak of the bed springs just when I lean back into the steaming water, squirting shampoo into my hand.

Denise’s sharp voice makes me jump as she pokes her head around the shower curtain, her eyes shamelessly settling down below my waist with a wicked grin.

Not again, crazy. I’ve got real life happening today.

“He’s in holding at county.” She glances up over my chest, avoiding my face, then back down. “Two warrants and he won’t see the judge ‘til Monday.” She’s snapping her gum, and each time she does it my neck twitches.

My twitching is nothing new, but she’s not helping. Today isn’t just another day. It’s when a judge decides what I already know. That I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself without help from the State of Ohio.

Don’t climb in here with me, please.

I lay my head back into the stream of hot water and close my eyes. Luckily, when I look again, her face is gone.

I throw on the one dress shirt I own and a worn pair of khakis. It’s the best I’ve got, and it’s been my standard uniform for the many days I’ve found myself visiting the fifth district court over the years.

One swipe of my fingers through my hair and I’m ready. I can’t see myself in the damn mirror without bending down, but I’m sure I’m as presentable as need be. I grab my backpack, double check my files and sketchbook are inside, then deep breath, and I’m on my way. My hand is on the door, my mind already halfway down the street.

“Do you even know how old I am?” I spin my head around to see Denise sitting on the edge of the bed, the sheets still twisted in a heap.

I grit my teeth until my jaw pops.

“No.”

Her eyes light on my face then dart away. I’m used to people looking away, but when that person  just came on my dick four times, they should give me the courtesy of looking at me when they talk.

“Well, I’m not telling you.” She flashes me what she thinks is a coy smile, but it comes off as sad. She stands up and takes a step toward me.

Jesus, whatever.

I should tell her she’s beautiful. That’s what she wants. But, I’ve never told anyone that. My mother was beautiful, and I don’t just mean in the physical sense. No woman since has made me think of that word.

“I’m leaving.” I should say something else.

Something nice, less pragmatic.  Something nice.

She still won’t look at me, standing there with her silicone double D’s and a worn, pale green bath towel in one hand.

“Bye.” She chirps going for cute, and I don’t miss her added eyeroll.

She knows where I’m going, what I have to do today, and she’s pouting? Why I don’t think with my brain instead of my dick sometimes is beyond me.

I let out the breath I’ve been holding. I shouldn’t be fucking my landlord anyway, especially since her boyfriend is facing twenty to life.

My neck is aching, and I can’t stop the urge to twist and jerk my head three more times as I pull the door shut behind me.

Half a step down the hall and I hear the click of the bedroom door latch opening.

“Hey.” Denise’s voice is softer.

I turn and see the towel is thankfully around her torso. Her bedroom is on the first floor, and this hallway has three other rented bedrooms. So, it’s common courtesy to at least wear a towel where there may be other eyes — though I’ve lived in plenty of places where the word courtesy is as foreign as proper hygiene.

“Good luck today.” She forces herself to look me in the eyes. I can see her counting silently, trying to maintain eye contact a few seconds longer than makes her comfortable.

“Thanks,”  I say.

She looks down at the floor after a few seconds, and I make my way toward the back door.

At the end of the hall, I’m already wondering who I’ll be at the end of the day. Will I feel different? Will there be any relief?

“I could fall in love with you, you know.” Her voice knocks me in the back of the head.

Oh, hell no.

I’m not turning around for that. Not now. Not today.

~~~~~~

It is ironic that on a day like today when something big is about to happen, I notice more of the small things.

Dimitri that works the metal detector didn’t shave this morning.

I toss my wallet, keys, and cell phone in the little plastic tray. No one needs to tell me what to do.

I also know exactly how much money I have in my wallet. Exactly zero.

Dimitri gives me a full nod with eye contact this morning.

Even he knows.

We’ve never exchanged much more than a few words here and there over the years. Today, I see something else in the movement of his head, the way he takes a deeper breath as I pass.

I fucking hate pity.

I step through the X-ray archway.

With any luck, when I walk out of here, I’ll be legit. On my own, according to the great State of Ohio.

Not that I haven’t been on my own for a long freakin’ time already. But, according to the law, I still need supervision. That shit is hilarious.

I grab my wallet and keys after I’m cleared through the metal detector when I look down and see the dark gray, flattened spot of someone’s discarded gum on the marble floor.

What kind of asshole does that?

I guess some asshole that might not like the way things are going for them. This place is ripe with people who think they’re getting the shitty end of the stick. Most of them sharpened the damn stick themselves and went about doing as much damage with it as they could. Then, they’re surprised when their lives turn into an episode of Cops.

You need a license for almost anything, right?

Want to drive? Well, you need to take a class, then a test, and then you have to abide by a fuck-ton of rules, or they will snatch that precious piece of freedom from you.

You want a dog? Get a license.

You want to burn leaves in the fall? You need a permit.

You want to start a business? Get a shit-ton of licenses, permits, and forms.

You wanna have a kid? Do your thing, nothing else required.

All along the top of the hallway ahead of me, there are slanted white streaks of dusty sunlight filtering through elevated windows. I’ve made this trek so many times.

I see the wide eyes and pinched brows on the people I pass. There is an overwhelming stink of old cigarette smoke when I walk by a forty-something lady with a worn, thick manila envelope clutched in her hand.

It’s not enough that none of the damn windows open in this catacomb of limestone and marble. You add in too many humans and not enough soap, stir that up with lawyers and the sharp scent of whatever they use to polish the floors, and my stomach is ready to reveal my breakfast.

My boots make a thunk-scrape sound with each step. Thunk-scrape, thunk-scrape.

I dip my right shoulder and put more weight on the right step than the left. For some reason, today I notice the uneven cadence.

Miriam at the information desk has a line of irritated people in front of her, yet she still manages to catch my eye, and I wink.

She tugs her lips to the side in an attempt to squash her smile. In her job, it’s important to stay in character. Just as quickly as I pick up on the rare curve of her lips, I see the same look that Dimitri gave me.

Pity and relief.

People pity me either because they know my past or because they can see the evidence of it on my face.

People feel relieved because whatever has happened to me, hasn’t happened to them.

I notice the way kids stare and adults look away. By now, it’s just an observation. I used to get pissed, now I understand.

I get it.

I catch a reflection in the glass that runs along the mile-long hallway outside the courtroom doors. I tower above most people. My hair isn’t unruly, but it does need a cut. Due to budgetary restrictions, a trip to the barber will have to wait.

The wall of glass is on my right, the heavy doors along my left. I hear the sniffles of a girl before I see her. I look down where she stands next to a bored looking woman with a thick file in her hands.

God damn, how hard would it be just to talk to her? Comfort her? Distract her from whatever bullshit is waiting for her today.

She’s probably six years old. I can’t help but notice she has a huge, unkempt knot in her dirty, blonde hair. She’s wearing a ponytail, a messy one, but no one bothered to brush her fucking hair before she came to court. Really?

On top of that, her socks don’t match, and she’s wearing green sweatpants with a cartoon image of The Hulk on one pant leg. Her oversized, yellow t-shirt hangs off one shoulder, and I can see the jut of her collarbones through her pale skin.

Jesus, my heart breaks looking at her.

Sorry kiddo, life ain’t fair. Get a good armor going.

I try to smile at her, but she won’t meet my eye. I want to scoop her up and tell her I get it. I understand. You can’t trust anyone. Especially the adults.

A blast of cool air hits me as I open the doors to Judge Horace Carmichael’s courtroom. I give my eyes a moment to adjust to the dim light, and I knit my brow straining to see as I step inside.

From behind, Louis’s voice greets me.

“Early as usual.” He has a voice that needs to be on the radio.

I like Louis. He’s the only — and I do mean only — person I’ve met in this bureaucracy that even hints at still retaining some humanity.

And a sense of humor.

That is not easy.

Louis’s barrel chest and dark stare would be intimidating attached to anyone else. He’s a monolith, towering over me by a good three inches. He must get his hair buzzed every day, because, in all the years I’ve known him, I’ve never seen it noticeably longer or shorter. A few more silver hairs replace black each year, but that’s the only change I’ve been able to detect.

“Yep. So, everything good? You think we’re good?” I despise the insecurity in my voice.

“Well, you know I’m always honest.” He gives me a reassuring smile. “Yes, I think we’re good. Could it still go sideways? Sure, there’s always that chance.”

“Fuck.” My hands go up and over my head, rubbing back and forth, gaining momentum. I can’t believe we could come this far and have it all fall apart.

I’m not going back. They can hang me by my balls; I’m not going. I will not live another day in another foster home.

“Hey.” Louis senses my rising ire, and he knows that will not work in my favor in front of the judge. “Breathe. I have a good feeling, okay? We’ve got all your bills, school records, recommendations — all the proof you’ve been knocking it out of the park on your own. You are the most organized almost-eighteen-year-old I’ve ever met.” He laughs, but I can still hear that halt of doubt in his voice.

I’m making a sound like a pressure relief valve on a steam engine when Louis lands a solid hand on my shoulder. My neck is twitching like a motherfucker.

After almost a year of taking care of myself under the watchful eye of my current social worker, I get a notice that Child Protective Services wants to place me in yet another foster home.  Fuck that.  I worked my ass off getting them to agree to let me live on my own even though I had just turned seventeen at the time.  They said it was a probationary arrangement, but I hit all my high notes for a year.  I worked, paid my bills, kept my grades in the four-dot-oh range and then this?

So, after I got the letter, I wrangled Louis and my social worker and petitioned the court to release me permanently from the nurturing care of CPS.  I’m just a bump shy of my eighteenth, so fucking come on already.

Louis gives my shoulder a squeeze, he can feel my tension.  He’s one of the only people I let touch me. I’m not a fan of people in my personal space.

“I’ve got another case coming before Judge Carmichael today. She should be here by now.” He scans the nearly empty courtroom and looks at his watch. “Just wait here, and I’ll be back.”

Louis turns away as I settle into the rearmost row of benches tossing my backpack next to me.

He stops a few steps away. “You bring your notebook?” He sets his eyes on me, raising his eyebrows.

It’s a rhetorical question; he knows I have it. I always have it.

“I want you to start right now. You’ll want to have something about today. I’ve got a feeling things will go your way.”

Over the years, I’ve discovered that sketching and drawing relieves my stress. Whenever I have a court date, I’m sketching faces, writing down thoughts, snippets of things I hear. It’s become a part of me.

Louis is out the door. There are two other people inside with me, huddled together in the kind of hushed whispers you find in the cool darkness of a court of law.

The room feels like a bulkhead, and no one leaves quite the same way they came in.

I unzip the top of my back pack and pull out my files and sketchbook.  I flip it open to a blank page and shift forward on the bench to dig for the pencil in my back pocket. I set pencil to paper. I love the sound of the surfaces meeting, and then making something new from the friction. I start writing.

Let this be the last fucking time.

I can’t go back.

I won’t go back.

The soft squeak of the hinges on the massive door draws my eye.

The very instant I lay eyes on her, my pencil comes to life.

Louis is guiding a young man a little younger than me inside the courtroom and gets him settled in a bench toward the front.

Right behind him, I see another little girl accompanied by what must be her social worker hustling into the room. Her eyes dart around like a cornered mouse, their color near translucent. Like the crystal clear shallow water of a tropical shore, I want to look away, but I’m mesmerized. Her hair falls to her waist in a tangle of silk the color of antique porcelain. She is as close to a living, breathing china doll as there could ever be.

My eyelids burn when she turns toward me. Her ivory cheek is decorated with an angry purple and red circle. I notice how she crinkles her nose when she looks up at the woman by her side, hoping she will be the one to save her. Because I can see she needs saving.  Then for just a moment, our eyes meet.

This broken, little soul with white hair and skin to match digs her sheer blue eyes into mine so deep, I feel her fear. My heart shatters inside my chest as I see the pain in her eyes and the way she moves so softly, gliding instead of walking.  Her arms around her waist, holding onto herself, hoping for protection that she seems to know will never come.

Someone else was born inside of me that day. Someone that knew she was part of me.

AP - about the author.jpg

Dani Wyatt loves her alpha men; make them military, cowboys, MMA — any uber alpha with a wicked possessive streak and an insatiable libido. Receive a free exclusive unpublished title when you join Dani’s private readers group for updates, free chapters and discounts.

http://eepurl.com/bubxzz

She’s a 40 something regular lady who just happens to love badass alpha males who pull your hair and love their women with a lethal passion.

When she’s not writing (which is not often) she is probably laughing about some irony (like A-1 Steak Sauce is vegan), riding her horse, wondering why The Walking Dead can’t have a new episode every night, or looking cross-eyed at some piece of technology sent to ruin her day.

Twitter  Facebook  Web  Goodreads  Amazon Page

Ardent 4.JPG