Cover Art by Bryan Keller
MaryAnne — I was sixteen when I learned a hard lesson. No, it wasn’t a lesson. It was worse. Kidnapped, tortured, abused in the worst of ways… I’d thought my life was over. Until the day my knight in shining armor came to save me. Patriot. Despite how scary he looks, he has to be the kindest man I’ve ever met. He not only rescues damsels in distress, but animals too. Under that hard exterior is a heart of gold. It doesn’t matter that he’s older than me. The more I get to know him, the harder I start to fall. But why would a man like him ever want someone like me? I’m dirty. Damaged. Broken beyond repair. Or am I? After all, Christmas is a time for miracles.
Patriot — From the moment I saw her, she’s had me wrapped around her finger. I’ve done my best to chase the fear and shadows from her eyes, show her she’s safe. I’ve taken out nearly every man who ever hurt her, even if she doesn’t know it. And the two who are still standing won’t be for long. I want to see her smile. Make her laugh. What better time than Christmas to prove to her life is worth living? I’ll make it the best she’s ever had!
But there’s only one thing I want under the tree this year… MaryAnne. She deserves better. I’m no angel. I’ve killed. Lied. Stolen. And worse. I tell myself repeatedly to keep my distance… until I can’t. One taste and I know I’ll never walk away. MaryAnne is mine! And if she won’t listen to me, then maybe my whacky parrot can convince her. If there’s one thing the African Grey excels at, it’s talking when he shouldn’t.
WARNING: Patriot contains scenes of graphic violence and sexual content, bad language, and abuse. But it also has a happily-ever-after, a tiny feline terror, the most patient dog on the planet, and a bird who always has to have the last word.
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Harley Wylde
I’d been staying with Patriot for a few months now, and I still kept waiting for something bad to happen. No one had been mean to me, or tried to touch me since I’d come here. I wasn’t sure I believed I was safe. Except with Patriot. He was the only one I trusted in this place. Even my cousin made me feel hesitant. It wasn’t that I thought Sean would hurt me, but he’d changed and I didn’t know this new version.
I stared at the pale yellow walls and delicate white curtains at the window. The room was soft and feminine, and a far cry from how it had looked when I first arrived. Patriot had worked hard to give me a place to call a safe haven. He’d painted the room himself and hung the curtains. I’d been too timid to ask for anything, so he’d also purchased bedding he thought I might like.
He’d treated me better than anyone ever had, even before I’d been kidnapped. I knew he probably wanted his home back. Even though he’d been unfailingly kind to me, I couldn’t help but wonder if he only tolerated my presence. When I’d first arrived, Sean hadn’t been in any sort of shape to take care of me, so Patriot had permitted me to stay with him. My cousin was back on his feet now, and yet I hadn’t moved out.
I heard classic rock blaring out front and peered through my window down below. Patriot was on his back under the Bronco, his tools scattered around him and his jeans smeared with oil. I liked standing here, watching him. Maybe it made me a bit of a stalker, but there was something about him that drew me like a moth to a flame. I knew he was older than me, probably by quite a bit, but he was also handsome. I’d even go so far as to call him sexy, and I hadn’t thought I’d ever feel that way about a man. Not after all I’d endured.
He slid out from under the Bronco and yanked his shirt over his head, tossing it aside. My breath caught at the perfection of his body. His arms and chest were inked and covered in muscle. The sun glinted on his reddish-brown hair, making it shine with copper tones. I sighed and wondered how he wasn’t cold without his shirt. It was nearly December, and not exactly warm outside.
My phone rang, making me jump away from the window. I picked it up off the bed and saw it was my cousin.
“Hi, Sean.” He growled softly and I winced. “Sorry. Galahad.”
“It’s been three months, MaryAnne. Last thing I need is you slipping up and calling me Sean in front of my brothers. It shows a lack of respect.”
I sank to the floor, my back to the wall, and drew my knees to my chest. His tone of voice sent me back to a place I never wanted to go. My hand trembled as I held onto the phone. “Sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“I sometimes forget you’re still a kid,” he said. “Try to remember, okay? I’m not angry. Not really. You’ve been through hell and don’t need me fussing at you.”
The last thing I wanted was for anyone to call me a kid. I’d had to grow up fast after I’d been kidnapped. I’d met women ten years older than me who acted like they were still in high school.
“Why did you call?” I asked.
“Patriot isn’t answering his phone. I needed to ask him something. Can you get him for me?”
I chewed on my lower lip. Yeah, I could technically walk out and hand my phone to him. I wasn’t sure I was comfortable doing it. Taking a breath, I steadied my nerves and got up. Even though I had on fuzzy peppermint-striped socks that matched my red sweater and skinny jeans, I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to go out without shoes. Then again, it was the end of November in Mississippi. There was a chance it was in the seventies outside. I liked to be completely covered, head to toe, these days. Even having bare arms made me feel exposed.
I padded downstairs and went out the front door. The music was even louder as I approached Patriot. He’d slid back under the Bronco so that only his legs stuck out. I nudged his calf with my toes. His body went tight, and he slowly came out from under the vehicle. My throat went dry and my hand shook as I handed my phone to him. A frown marred his handsome face as he stood and took it.
“Who is this?” he demanded, keeping an eye on me. He listened a moment and his eyes narrowed. “What the fuck did you say to MaryAnne?”
I sucked in a breath. I’d noticed he was protective of me, but my heart always gave a little kick whenever he got that tone with someone. He didn’t like it when anyone upset me, and it was only one of the reasons I’d started to fall a little in love with him. Except I’d recently turned seventeen and he was a grown man who could have any woman he wanted. Why would he want someone like me anyway? I knew he’d seen the videos of what happened at the hospital where they’d left me. Even if I ever felt I was ready to date, no one would ever want to touch me. Certainly no one who knew about my past, and I wasn’t comfortable leaving the compound to start a new life elsewhere. It wasn’t safe outside the gates.
He grunted and muttered something into the phone before disconnecting the call and handing the phone back to me. I took it and slipped it into my pocket, then shifted from foot to foot. He watched me, not moving or saying a word. Did he want me to leave? I backed up a step and he reached out, wrapping his fingers around my wrist only to release me just as quick.
“You have everything you need?” he asked.
I nodded, not trusting my voice.
“I’ll be done out here in about a half hour. I’ll need a shower, but when I’m done we can go grab a bite to eat. You feel up to going out somewhere?”
I hesitated. I loved spending time with him, but leaving the compound still frightened me a little. I knew they’d taken care of the rival club, and I’d heard the staff at the hospital were being picked off one by one. What I didn’t know was whether or not I’d run into anyone who’d purchased time with me during my captivity. I wasn’t sure I was brave enough to face any of those men.
Patriot moved a step closer and reached out, tugging a lock of my hair. “I’ll keep you safe, Little Bit. Promise. No one will so much as breathe wrong in your direction. If they do, I’ll gut them where they stand.”
My lips twitched with a smile. I knew he’d do it too. He’d slammed the doctor against a concrete wall when he’d come to pick me up at the hospital. Granted, the man was a rapist and murderer. He’d deserved what he got and so much more.
“All right. I’ll go.”