When it comes to women, Hunter Keaton has rules.
Those rules ensure his life stays uncomplicated and controlled. Control is what he craves, what he needs to keep his inner demons quiet.
Private investigator by day, his life is nothing but a pit of regret, devoid of any and every emotion.
Hired to find an elusive runaway—a wild, hot-headed woman with sinfully enticing curves—Hunter’s self-control is pushed to the limit. Scarlet Woods challenges him in ways that have him wanting to break his own damn rules.
But she has secrets—secrets he’s determined to uncover. He just didn’t count on getting his own past dragged into what turns out to already be a deadly game of lies.
This is not a love story. This is not a tale of how love conquers all.
This is a story of how two people equally shattered by their pasts realize that two broken souls can’t make a whole.
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July 1, 2009
The minute Hunter jumped off his motorcycle, he threw his helmet to the ground and stood frozen on the spot.
This isn’t real. It can’t be real.
What seemed like hundreds of red and blue lights flashed in the background. Paramedics and rescue services rushed past him yelling out orders, frantically trying to get the scene under control. While keeping his eyes set on what was happening in front of him, he slowly made his way closer, hearing nothing but the sound of his entire world slowly falling, heading straight to the darkest pits of hell.
Every molecule inside his body was praying, pleading to whatever God there was to let him just wake up.
Wake the fuck up!
Inside he was screaming, shouting, crying, shrieking, going crazy—yet not a single word or sound escaped him while he just kept on walking toward his worst fucking nightmare.
The smell of gas, burned rubber, and…death filled his nostrils, but he just kept putting one foot in front of the other while his chest started to ache, yet his heart continued to hope.
The closer he got, the clearer he could see the angelic blue eyes that made him believe in magic. In his mind he saw the eyes that had become the life in his veins, the pulse that kept his heart beating. Those blues were his hope, his heaven…his fucking magic in a world filled with nothing but greed, loss, and pain.
“Sir? Sir, you need to move.”
Hunter stopped as a man moved in front of him, yet he didn’t take his eyes off the view that could only be described as the end of the fucking world. His world anyway. But there was still hope, there was still that sliver of a chance that what he thought he saw wasn’t real at all.
“Sir, please. You need to get behind the line now!”
He couldn’t move, not even if he wanted to. He needed to be sure, needed to know if his life had come to an end. If his world had collapsed into nothing but a big black hole.
He needed to know—now!
With a hard shove, he pushed the man in front of him to the side and rushed forward, unable to slow down. He ran as fast as he could, pushing every goddamn person out of his way.
Every brick that had been laid on his path to happiness during the past few months crumbled beneath his feet into nothing but dust of regret and pain. His heart was no longer beating, it was thrashing violently against his ribs while he struggled to take a breath.
Someone came from the side and grabbed him around his shoulders, pulling him back, but he fought with every ounce of strength he had to get free. A second pair of arms grabbed him around his waist, trying to pull him down to the ground. Hunter wrestled with whoever was trying to keep him from finding out what he desperately needed to know, all the while he never took his eyes off the nightmare in front of him. With a violent jerk he was brought down to the ground, slammed onto the gravel.
“I need to know!”
He repeated that same damn sentence a hundred times…a thousand times. “Please God! Please God! I need to fucking know!”
He didn’t give up. He fought the arms keeping him down with all he had in him.
Then something glinted in the sun, grabbing his attention, and for a moment he stilled.
“Beat the odds.” He heard that voice like it was coming from right next to him.
When he narrowed his eyes and saw the necklace laying in the road next to the wreckage, he stopped fighting. Every muscle stopped working, his heartbeat pounding in his throat. Like a disease, ice spread through every bone of his body while hope drained from his soul. Everything around him faded into nothing…except for the necklace that finally confirmed what he had known since the second he arrived.
“Beat the odds, Hunter.”
And that was the moment Hunter Keaton ceased to exist.
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