Caught up in a web of deceit and fearing for his life, he takes the offer of escape promised him only to find himself far south in untamed Florida and married to a girl he doesn't know. When he begins to care for her, the hole he's gotten himself into only digs deeper. Will the dangers and perils they face tear them apart? Or will they find true Love & Redemption?
I hope the prologue makes you want to read on. Also, look for fun information about this series to be posted here on December 19th!
Here's a post I made on the first three books and a link to the book trailer.
And for yet more information on the first book, check out my blog hop article!
(1 Corantaigh 1:30) Eisean a bheir daoibhse bheith in Íosa Críost an té a ndearna Dia eagna de dúinne, agus fíréantacht agus naofacht agus fuascailt.
(1 Corinthians 1:30) But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.
January 1870, New York City
Whispered threads of frosty air purled from Michael's breath as he stepped into the frozen street. Grasping the edges of his coat, he ducked beneath the wide collar and shoved his hands deep in his pockets. His fingers met up with his shirt. Holes. That's what remained of his life.
His mother's lovely face floated upward in his thoughts, and he swallowed the lump in his throat. If only it was as it had been – her and him against the rest of the world. The rosy image faded into the coal-black night.
Three months since she had passed, yet the ache inside grew larger and larger. He'd lost it all – their belongings, their room at the tenement. Forced to sell her stuff to pay the rent and buy food, he'd even traded in her wedding band, and that hurt the most, for it was all that remained of her and the father he'd never known.
His nose stiffened in the icy cold and he labored to breathe. Now, he'd had nowhere to go. The landlord had tossed him out days ago with only the clothes on his back. "Irish scum!" he’d shouted.
The other families only watched, shaking their heads. He didn't blame them for not helping. It was the way of things. Everyone wanted to survive, and in survival, "me" became the most important thing.
The pavement ended at a wide, littered street where narrow buildings seemed to huddle together for warmth. Michael picked up the pace and winced as his toes, numbed by the frigid temperatures, rubbed together. At the corner, he paused.
Laughter spilled out from the open doorway of the tavern onto the cold, empty street. A welcome blast of heat stung his eyes as he swung in the door.
"Hello handsome. I hoped you'd come back." Tapered fingers sporting evenly-shaped nails seized his chin and spun it forward onto a pair of full, crimson lips.
The force of the kiss slammed him against the wall.
"Mwa!" With a loud smack, she released his chin. "You denied me last time, so I decided to take what I want."
The extreme heat in the room settled on his cheeks. "Amber, I ..." he began. But she grasped him by the collar and tugged him across the room.
"Sit!" Whisking his cap from his head, she lowered herself into his lap, her white thighs gleaming upward in the low light.
He focused on her face to avoid her ample cleavage. The heady scent of lilac perfume emerged from her skin.
"Surely you aren't leaving me tonight?" she purred, and she weaved her fingers in his hair.
His insides squirmed, yet he smiled. It was hard not to like Amber.
"It's cold out there, and I have a nice, warm spot for you." She licked her lips, and gooseflesh rose on his skin.
"You're comin' with me!"
A strong arm lifted Amber from Michael’s lap and carried her across the room. The sudden rush of air swished in his face.
Fists flying, Amber pummeled the man's chest. "Unhand me!"
But the man, purple with rage, smacked her mouth with back of his hand. With a cry, she fell into the floor.
The heat in Michael's cheeks sunk into his gut. No man treated a woman like that. He inserted himself in front of her, his gaze driving into the other man's skull. "That's enough.”
Two hard, dark eyes dueled with his from beneath a sweat-soaked brow.
"Michael, don't," Amber whimpered.
The flame inside him flared. What did it matter who she was or what she did? His mama never cottoned to such behavior and neither would he. God helps everyone, she always stressed. He extended his hand and lifted her from the floor.
"Well …” A smirk crossed the man's lips, and he leaned back on his elbows. "Lookee here! Pretty boy to save the day."
The man’s companions laughed uproariously at that comment and clinked their glasses together. This warmed him to his audience. "What you gonna do now? Rescue the damsel in distress?"
Michael turned his back to the taunt, only to spot the bead of blood poised on Amber’s lip. "He hurt you,” he said. He reached out to wipe it away, and she flinched. "Where can we clean that up?"
She flicked her gaze over his shoulder to the man, now distracted by his drink. "In the back." They made their escape.
The room in back of the bar held a multitude of items: casks of wine, bottles of liquor, a crate of unused glasses, and other odds and ends – clothing, cleaning cloths, and lamp oil. Michael followed Amber to a washstand where a porcelain bowl rested in the corner. Dipping a cloth into the water, he patted her lip.
She winced. "You're such a good guy. What are you even doin’ here tonight?"
He smiled and rinsed out the rag. "It's warm."
This was his major reason. He'd certainly never taken to alcohol. He didn't like the smell nor the way it affected people's behavior. In the crowded tenement where he and his mother lived, the man directly above them drank all day and beat his wife all night. Michael laid awake many times, cringing at her cries.
Amber smiled. "Then for goodness sake, why didn't you stay with me last time?"
His eyes locked with hers, and he broke into a gentle Irish burr. "Mama always said, 'Michael O'Fallen, temptashun is greatest whaen ye stan' in de middle av it.'"
She laughed, her hand over her mouth.
The open doorway darkened and their faces turned. Leaning heavily against the door frame, the man raised a clenched fist.
"Lookee at the lovebirds," he slurred. "Think ye just gonna run off? I'm payin' for a night, so you're comin’ with me." He lurched forward, his hands outstretched.
Amber slipped away from Michael and pushed at the man’s chest. "You need to go back in the bar," she snapped.
His nostrils flared, and he shoved her hard, sending her crashing against the wall. "First, me and this fella's gonna settle it. Winner take all."
Michael fisted his hands. Being alone on the streets with no family, no friends, and no roof to sleep under had taught him many things. It taught him he hated the cold. It'd been cold enough in the tenement, but at least there'd been love there. It taught him how hard it was to find food. Mama had always provided, somehow. And it taught him how to survive in desperate situations because so many others were trapped in his same shoes.
Amber peeled herself from the wall and stepped between them. "No, stop. I'll go. Leave him be," she pleaded. Her glance shot over her shoulder to Michael and then back to the man.
Michael took a step forward, his morals warring with his common sense. Walk away an’ let things be, his mama cautioned. This isn’t yer fight. Though wasn’t it? This man would only hurt her in the end, maybe do worse than that, and anyone lacking respect for a woman was lower than scum. His anger flared, and he took another step.
At this motion, the man exploded. In one leap he grabbed Michael and tossed him out the door into the frigid night air. Michael’s spine smacked against the solid brick wall with a crack, and all the air fled from his chest. Gasping, he floundered, his feet slipping on the icy pavement.
The man’s friends tumbled from the building, crowding the narrow alley, their drunken cheers drowning out the pounding in his head.
Michael dug his fingers into the wall and hauled himself upright.
“What’s a matter? Your head hurt?” the man jeered.
Michael stepped out, his fists raised before him, and focused on the man’s face. “Not as bad as yours will,” he goaded.
The man leaped forward with a roar and landed a punch to Michael’s gut. Michael flew backward and down, stabbing pain shooting along his side.
The man hurled his foot toward Michael’s face. “I’ll teach you,” he growled.
Michael’s senses kicked in. Rolling sideways, he grasped the man’s shoe and yanked it upwards. Off balance, the man keeled over, landing prone on the ground. “I don’t think so,” Michael said.
He scrambled again to his feet. Walk away, his mother’s voice begged again. But the distinct clang of a knife stopped him short, and he whirled around.
Swaying on unsteady legs, the man whirred the blade back and forth. "I think I'll just carve up pretty boy's face," he chuckled. "Make him not so pretty." And with that, he lunged.
Michael caught hold of his wrist with a grunt. This is out of hand. Weariness tore at his arms, and his muscles shook. The knife edged closer.
Was this the end? He'd die in an alley, and then what? People who didn't care about him or his life would dispose of him. He'd fall forgotten into the earth, like his mother, buried unmarked with the paupers. Only unlike her, there'd be no one to mourn him. No one cared what happened to Michael O’Fallen.
His eyes darkened. No. I won’t die, not tonight. I’m better than him. Strength surged into his hands, and the knife slipped in the man’s grip.
Stop while ye can, his mother said. But his heart darkened, and with a yell, he plunged the blade through flesh, scraping onto bone.
The man’s eyes grew wide, and he staggered.
“Doesn’t feel too good now does it?” Michael growled.
Blood burbled from the wound, and the light in the man’s eyes dimmed. He slid down the alley wall, a glutinous bloody trail in his wake, and landed on the ground with an oomph.
Michael went numb. Stunned, expressionless, he sagged to his knees. What have I done? He blinked in the sight of the man's contorted, ashen face and fell forward, his hand outstretched across the pavement, voices around him a rumbling echo. I’ve killed him.
Yer anger 'ill cause ye trouble wan day, his mother had said, and she was right because it had.
“Michael, get up,” Amber pleaded.
But he couldn’t. His strength gone, he lay there as the pool of blood turned to ice.
Suzanne D. Williams
Suzanne Williams Photography
Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.