Posted in Adult Fiction, Biker, Biker Romance, Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Cover Reveal, Erotic Fiction, Erotic Romance, Erotic Suspense, Mature Fiction, Mature Romance, Mature Themes, MC, New, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Series, Spicy, Steamy Contemporary Romance, Suspense

The Devil Don’t Sleep

Happy Cover Reveal Day to Janine Infante Bosco – Author!

Check out the AWESOME new cover for
Are you ready to ride with Bas & Mac?
¸.•´✶The Devil Don’t Sleep.•´✶  
(A Satan’s Knights Novel) 
by Janine Infante Bosco
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
#TheDevilDontSleep #BringtheBas #JoeAdams #SatansknightsMc #JanineInfanteBosco
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Erotic, MC, Romantic Suspense

.•´✶Preorder Today!¸.•´✶

The Devil Don’t Sleep
Buy Links

Add to #Goodreads:


Cover Designer: JB’s Cover Obsession Design
Model:  Joe Adams
Talent agent: PTS – Pathways Talent Services
Photographer: FuriousFotog

#TheDevilDontSleep #BringtheBas #JoeAdams #SatansknightsMc #JanineInfanteBosco

.•´✶Blurb Reveal¸.•´✶

Sometimes we must let go of what was, appreciate what remains and fearlessly embrace what comes next.

Sebastian “Bas”

Born to a family of outlaws, I was destined to ride with the Satan’s Knights MC. With mayhem and havoc in my blood and chaos living deep in my soul, I learned the Devil don’t sleep. You never hear him creeping and he often comes disguised as everything you ever wanted.

I was just teenager when she first showed, masquerading as the girl of my dreams. A whiskey shootin’ spitfire who knocked me on my ass and helped me turn the town upside down. The girl who stole my heart with her smile and never gave it back. The same bitch who ruined me and turned my blood to ice.

It’s been six years since I turned my back on Mac, my family and my club. I’ve pushed her to the back of my head, wrote everyone off and damned the Kentucky charter to hell. But, where God built a church, the Devil built a chapel.
Now, her life is on the line and it’s clear I’m still a sucker for her gorgeous chaos because I’m the one riding to her rescue.

Mackenzie “Mac”

I often dreamed of what it would be like to stare into Bas’ blue eyes again. To hear his raspy voice whisper his love for me and feel his strong arms around me. After all, it’s always been in his embrace that I felt the safest.
In my dreams, he abolishes my sins and forgives me for breaking both our hearts.
But this is no dream.
I’m running from a nightmare and the one running with me, looks at me with enough anger to burn the world to ash.
Once upon a time, we were in love.
Once upon a time, it was us against the world.
Once upon a time, he didn’t look at me and see the Devil.
If only he knew the truth.
If only he knew the Devil was a broken angel with tattered wings.
An angel who sacrificed her heart and soul for him.

***NOTE: Contains explicit sexual situations, violence, offensive language, and mature topics. Not recommended for people under the age of 18***


Signed picture of cover model Joe Adams, Satan’s Knights T-Shirt & Swag.
Giveaway direct link:

.•´✶Meet and Greet.•´✶

Come meet Author, Janine Infante Bosco and model, Joe Adams at the “Tempted & Tantalizing Author Event” in Staten Island, New York this October!
For further information visit


Janine Infante Bosco lives in New York City, she has always loved reading and writing. When she was thirteen, she began to write her own stories and her passion for writing took off as the years went on. At eighteen, she even wrote a full screenplay with dreams of one day becoming a member of the Screen Actors Guild.

Janine writes emotionally charged novels with an emphasis on family bonds, strong-willed female characters, and alpha male men who will do anything for the women they love. She loves to interact with fans and fellow avid romance readers like herself.

She is proud of her success as an author and the friendships she’s made in the book community but her greatest accomplishment to date would be her two sons Joseph and Paul.


Janine’s Land of Temptations Facebook Group:
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Posted in Adult Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Mature Fiction, Mature Romance, Mature Themes, New, New Release, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Series

Twisted Freedom


Twisted Freedom

Book 2 in the Freedom series.


After battling to escape the hold of a brutal past, Doctor Casey Tyler found emotional freedom in an unlikely place, with an unlikely man, Nate King owner of King International Security not only saved her from a kidnapping but also from herself. With the tough walls broken down and a new found trust and love with Nate, Casey is ready for a new beginning as they slowly ease into a normal life together until… Casey receives a phone call from home.
Now having to return to Sydney Australia to face the man who destroyed her childhood, but this time with the strength of Nate by her side Casey is determined to put her past demons to rest once and for all. Only a trip for closure turns into more secrets and unearthed truths for Casey, turning her newly found freedom into something tangled and twisted in the horrors of her past.

A Captivating story of love, pain and dark buried secrets that turns emotional freedom into something Twisted.

Book Trailer


****Book 1-Freedom**** 


Posted in Adult Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Free, Mature Fiction, Mature Romance, Mature Themes, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Steamy Contemporary Romance



Grab it before Book 2 comes out on

Pre-Order on 30 May


Australian Doctor Casey Tyler has been looking for an escape from the memories of her past for a long time so when she takes a 3 month contract working for International Medical Assist the void that’s present in her soul is telling her that this is what she needs to fill it. Flying from one side of the world to another she is faced with a brutal war zone and an unexpected savior in more ways than one.
Nathanial King has seen his share of brutality and war during his 10 years service in the marines, so when a favor is called in by the CEO of IMA to protect a civilian medical team at an American base overseas he finds that his instinct to protect takes over his logic to turn it down, only he didn’t know that a head strong, mouthy Aussie doctor was going to give him more than he ever bargained for.
Only when a dangerous threat forces Nate to take Casey out of the game and back to his home in the USA he suddenly realizes that he not only has to protect her from the threat on her life but Casey Tyler needs to be protected from herself. As he gets deeper into her soul he unearths something more darker than he has ever seen before and now he fears he may need to protect himself from the need to own her body and soul.
A beautiful powerful story of pain, forgiveness and love.

A captivating and consuming romance/suspense An emotional love story over three continents, a story of secrets, brutality, pain, trust, and love. “She was lost and he found her, but can he live with her secrets….” Available in paperback/Ebook

Posted in Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Erotic Fiction, Erotic Romance, Mafia Romance, Mature Romance, MC, Passion, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Sensual, Series

The Tempted Series

The Tempted Series Box Set – Complete Collection
by Janine Infante Bosco
Publication Date: April 8, 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Erotic, MC, Mafia, Romantic Suspense
#JanineInfanteBosco #TheTemptedSeries #AreYouTempted #PropertyOfParrish #TakeTheDetour

¸.•´✶The Collection Includes¸.•´✶

Illicit Temptations
Forbidden Temptations
Uncontrollable Temptations
Reckless Temptations
Lethal Temptations
Eternal Temptation

Plus, ten newly released chapters, catching you up to speed with the couples who fought tooth and nail for their happy endings.

Also included are snippets of holidays with the Satan’s Knights MC and a sneak peek of Janine’s upcoming release, “Below the Belt”–the first book featuring the second generation of the beloved characters in the Tempted Series.

Now, I have one last question… Are you tempted?

Grab Your Copy Today:

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Watch the trailer here:

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“Ms. Bosco has crafted a powerful series full of men and women scarred both, mentally and physically who find happiness in a family of their own making.”—J. Falty’s

Set on the streets of Brooklyn, New York, the Tempted Series is a compilation of six steamy standalone novels that will leave you breathless and wishing for more. Saddle up and get ready to ride as the men of the Pastore crime family join forces with the Satan’s Knights MC. In between navigating the danger that darkens the beloved streets they call their own, each man finds a strong woman to love and carry him through the darkness.

“It’s amazing to me to watch the awesome Tempted series keep getting better when I didn’t believe it was possible, but the author rises to new levels of epic in each new story.”- The Power of Three Readers

You’ll laugh.
You’ll fall in love.
You’ll cry.
You’ll scream.
You’ll probably curse too.
But more importantly, you will become part of this unconventional family.
You will become Property of Parrish.
#JanineInfanteBosco #TheTemptedSeries #AreYouTempted #PropertyOfParrish #TakeTheDetour

The Tempted Series Excerpts © Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved by Janine Infante Bosco

Illicit Temptations © Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved by Janine Infante Bosco :

He set his coffee mug on the counter before stepping precariously close.
“Say it again.” He demanded, barely audible. He was close, too close hogging up all my air. I planted my palms on his chest and pushed.
“You’re a dick.” I hissed. He closed his hand around my wrist and leaned against the counter tugging on my wrist pulling me against him. I wriggled my hand free, but he took hold of my hips and flipped us around so that my back was against the counter. He let go of my hips bracing one hand on each side of me as he gripped the edge of the counter and boxed me in.
“Christ that mouth of yours will be the death of me,” he said huskily.

Forbidden Temptations© Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved by Janine Infante Bosco :

“We’re pretty predictable.”
“Yeah,” she whispered, slipping further under the water her hands were all over her own body, making me fucking jealous that they weren’t mine. “You always give in eventually,” she persisted before pausing for a beat. “Even back then when I was just a girl, you still gave into me, how come?”
“You’re easy on the eyes,” I explained, winking at her then straightening up and staring into her eyes.
“Yeah but I was younger than you, so much less experienced than you … I often wondered why you even bothered.”
“You’re confident,” I started. “Whether you were younger or less experienced never mattered because I knew a confident woman could be taught all the things she wasn’t experienced in. You weren’t insecure which made you easy to mold, easy for you to learn all the things you hadn’t yet tried.”
She laughed slightly. “So you’re taking credit for how good I am in bed?”
“Abso-fucking-lutely,” I grinned.

Uncontrollable Temptations© Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved by Janine Infante Bosco :

“For every piece of clothing you give me, I’ll give you a piece of my past,” I bargained, crossing my arms against my chest as I stared at her lazily through the glass.
“Your past?” she whispered hoarsely. “Maybe it’s not your past I want.”
“Don’t know how to give you more than that,” I admitted, pushing off the door and moving to stand behind her. I wrapped my arms around her waist, bringing her body against mine and looked at us in the mirror. “Give you what I got, Sunshine, and I’ll keep giving it as long as it comes to me,” I vowed, nuzzling her hair. “You see what I see?” I whispered against her ear.
“Turn the lights off, Jack, please,” she whispered, looking away from the mirror. I ran one hand up the front of her body, cupped her chin and forced her eyes towards the mirror.
“No,” I shook my head. “Not tonight,” I said taking her hands and lifting them over her head. I had claimed her to my brothers, but I meant it when I said I wanted all of her.

Reckless Temptations© Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved by Janine Infante Bosco:

“Riggs, put me down,” she yelled.
“You don’t really want me to put you down,” I ground out. My patience was gone, my nerves frayed. She kicked my back and I pinched her leg as I turned and slammed her up against the wall of the Dog Pound.
“Came here for a reason, Kitten, now it’s time to tell me what that reason is,” I whispered against her ear.
“It doesn’t matter,” she squealed, as I ran my hands up her thighs.
“I disagree,” I argued, glancing down at her legs locked around my waist. “I like your dress,” I said, sliding my hands underneath it.
“You should,” she sneered, wrapping her arms around my neck. “I wore it for you,” she rasped.
Sweetest fucking words I ever heard.

Lethal Temptations © Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved by Janine Infante Bosco:

“Keep your hands behind you,” I instructed as my lips made their way to the swell of one of her breasts. I heard the sharp intake of breath she took, my mouth stilled but remained on her breast as I glanced up at her.
“Behind you,” I repeated.
Once I was sure she wouldn’t move I brought my hands back around and cupped her perky tits. I flicked my thumb over one nipple as my mouth closed over the other, sucking slightly before my teeth grazed the tip. I pinched the other one, rolling the bud between my fingers. I changed tactics allowing my mouth to suck on one as my fingers twisted the other.
Pleasure and pain.
You’re going to learn how the two become one, girl.

Eternal Temptations © Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved by Janine Infante Bosco:

“What’s your name, beautiful?” he asked, casually draping an arm over the back of my stool.
“Grace,” I said, mesmerized by the way he stared so intently at me.
“Grace,” he repeated, testing the name on his tongue, grinning once he decided he liked the way it sounded.
“And who are you?” I stammered, taking another sip, hoping to calm my nerves. This man had the power to undo me with a simple glance.
“Me? I’m the man who’s going to marry you one day,” he said pointedly.
I nearly spat my drink out.
“That’s pretty presumptuous don’t you think?” Or cocky depending on who you ask, I added silently.
He grinned at me as he lifted his hand and ran his index finger down my cheek.
“Watch and see, Gracie,” he promised, dropping his hand but keeping his gaze locked on me.    “The name is Victor, Victor Pastore.”
It is so easy to forget those first blissful moments when you meet the person you’re meant to spend the rest of your life with. Instead, we harbor the resentment life has brought upon us and lose touch of the magic that brought two unsuspecting strangers together.
Sitting across from the man I love for the final time I wonder how I ever let myself become so jaded by the trials and tribulations we stumbled upon in our years together. Why did I let the heartache trump the happiness? Why couldn’t I hang on to all the times he made me smile, all the times I looked into his eyes and knew I was his one and only. Why wasn’t the love we created enough to outweigh the torment of the mob?


Janine Infante Bosco lives in New York City, she has always loved reading and writing. When she was thirteen, she began to write her own stories and her passion for writing took off as the years went on. At eighteen, she even wrote a full screenplay with dreams of one day becoming a member of the Screen Actors Guild.

Janine writes emotionally charged novels with an emphasis on family bonds, strong-willed female characters, and alpha male men who will do anything for the women they love. She loves to interact with fans and fellow avid romance readers like herself.

She is proud of her success as an author and the friendships she’s made in the book community but her greatest accomplishment to date would be her two sons Joseph and Paul.

Join Janine’s reader group:
Amazon Author Profile:
Book Bub Author Page:  

Posted in Adult Fiction, New Release, Pre-Order, Pre-Release, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Romantic Thriller, Sensual, Series, Spicy, Steamy Contemporary Romance, Technothriller

Inconclusive Evidence


The McAllister Justice Series, Book 3

by Reily Garrett

Publication Date: March 26, 2018

Genre: Romantic suspense/technothriller

Content Warning: 18+ due to explicit sexual content

3-13-18Inconclusive Evidence

Braiding nanotechnology and medicine equals magic to the psychopathic mind.

Megan Chauner has achieved her dream of opening a veterinary practice when she receives a mysterious package with a dire warning from a college roommate turned investigative reporter. Entering a world of advanced surgical techniques, polymer microchips, and nanotechnology, she discovers twisted minds merging the latest science with progressive surgical procedures in a bid for power and wealth.

Lucas McAllister faces the biggest upheaval of his life. From chick magnet to wounded cop wasn’t a fall he’d foreseen. Now facing a forced retirement, he returns home to find a gun-toting enigma with multiple IDs deciphering reams of technical, medical jargon and embroiled in a plot destined to alter mankind’s path.

Stalkers and assassins draft reality checks that test Luc’s skill and endurance in keeping Megan and her furball alive while the McAllister brothers unite to thwart a bi-coastal conspiracy.


Death in degrees

Jackie Milburn didn’t do fear.

The late-night walk to her car had never provoked an accelerated heart rate. Tonight, however, a bone-deep foreboding arose from vestiges of instinctual awareness, all merging to question her mission’s strategy. If she failed, millions would suffer and life as anyone knew it, would end.

Indistinct shadows granted a cozy ambience where she often lurked, but dingy light filtering through overhead branches mocked her bravado. Shadow limbs shook with laughter as Fate’s sense of humor conspired with nature to saturate creation’s mindset with malice.

Regardless of destiny’s intentions, she squared her shoulders while scanning the deserted parking lot, alert to any threat. A sense of relief had washed through her after depositing the damning evidence in the USPS blue box. The evil shits would never expect an investigative reporter to mail the sophisticated mechanisms across country. Precautions taken with the dispatch ensured no one could trace the recipient. Always have a backup plan.

This was the biggest scoop of her career and would spotlight one of Delaware’s billion-dollar companies as a collection of hi-tech, sociopathic thugs.

It wouldn’t take CSV Pharmaceuticals long to discover crucial evidence missing and ferret out their traitor. As corporations went, they were as paranoid as any. She prayed Dr. Sorenson made it out of the country alive, and not as shark chum. Paranoia had compelled her to refuse him the number to her newest burner phone. Intuition saw the last one tossed in the Willamette River after tapping out a quick message to her old college roommate. Jackie survived by instincts and prayed they would serve her well—one more time.

Making the last stop to pick up her go-bag would supply the necessary items to disappear until her story broke. The finishing touches included copies of lab reports and communication between the Delaware scientists and a company on the West Coast, ClickChip.

Various colored and styled wigs, plain lens glasses, makeup, and diverse fashion ensembles would allow her to blend with any crowd, but wouldn’t prevent CCTVs and facial recognition programs from pinpointing her location. Planning ahead, she had a well-stocked safe house outside city limits.

Trembling fingers failed to punch the unlock button on her key fob. Instead, her headlights cut a swath through the misty ground cover, a beacon to any waiting goon. Shit. The subsequent knocking of heart against ribs rivaled the best hammer drill while sweat coated her palms and face despite her warmed exhalations sending puffed smoke signals in the frosty air.

A slow, deep breath reclaimed her sense of calm and allowed the subtle scent from emerging camellia blossoms drifting on the night’s currents to settle her spirit. There. This is who I am. For visual affirmation of her feelings, she glanced at her reflection in the driver’s side window.

The sudden thrust of a phantom arm emerging from the dark pinned her against a hard chest. The steely limb angled and applied pressure to tilt her head back as if she were a rag doll.

“Oomph.” Collision forced air from her lungs while shock produced a gasp that inhaled a sickly sweet odor from the cloth rammed over her mouth and nose.

“Wanna play?” Malice drew out each syllable in a parody of innocent sport.

Momentary panic barred all reason. Instinctive reaction initiated clawing at the viselike grip. Subsequent kicking and twisting of her body yielded no compromise in her position.

In her periphery, she caught sight of a malevolent smile and glinting dark eyes under a black fedora. The boogeyman does exist.

Lethargy and disorientation. Another breath or pass out from hypoxia. No more pain. All her muscles relaxed against her will. The invading blackness closed in from the margins.

NO! An enraged cry died in her throat.

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A Dark Prequel to Digital Velocity

Theft of spirit is no one’s birthright.

A quirk of her X chromosome furnished Alexis with an edge few others enjoyed. After fate plunged her into orphan status and an intolerable foster home forced her to the streets, a group of prostitutes sheltered her from their vicious pimp. Seeing something special within, they nurtured and shielded her from their harsh reality until she could forge her own path in life.

Destiny frequently takes us back to our roots. Lexi’s return journey begins when a serial killer attacks one of her adopted sisters. Relying on courage and wit, she must stay a step ahead and secure evidence to free her family from a psychopathic murderer.


Book 1

The deadliest weapons are the ones we never see.

Keyboard prodigy, Lexi Donovan has risen from teenage orphan of the streets to complete independence with little help along the way. When a pervert threatens her friend, she sends an anonymous message to police, leading to a firefight that leaves a cop wounded.

Detective Ethan McAllister’s well-ordered life turned upside down the day an obscure text message led to a sexual predator’s identity and arrest. Since then, Callouston PD’s finest can’t trace the elusive hacker. The latest tip leads him to a brutal mutilation and a riddle indicating the identity of the next murder victim.

The dark net houses a playground for the morally depleted and criminally insane. When Lexi discovers the killer’s digital betting arena, she finds herself centered in a cyber stalker’s crosshairs, a psychopath bearing equal talent.

Street life strengthened Lexi while toughening her protective shell, but nothing could shield her from the shrewd detective forging a path to her heart.


Book 2

The architect of fear employs many forms.

Kidnapping and murder never crossed Kaylee’s mind when seeking a fresh start in Portland, a new beginning to shed the remnants of tragedy dogging her steps. After escaping from an underground cage, she fights to stay one step ahead of the killer bent on silencing his only witness. Kaylee.

Two months after dodging a sociopathic murderer’s best efforts, Caden McAllister flounders within a social sink hole, unable to move forward, too stubborn to step back. Guarded and wary, the private investigator’s stagnant lifestyle detonates into chaos when a battered and bloody young waif stumbles into his care.

Framed for a murdering a past lover, Caden must clear his name and overcome his charge’s doubts while keeping her out of the sex-slave trade. When betrayal ends with Kaylee’s re-capture, Caden must conquer his past and risk all or lose the one he has come to love.

Murder, mystery, underground tunnels, and romance are intertwined in this standalone romantic thriller, the second installment of the McAllister Justice Series.


reily avatar6Reily’s employment as an ICU nurse, private investigator, and work in the military police has given her countless experiences in a host of different environments to add a real world feel to her fiction.

Though her kids are her life, writing is Reily’s life after. The one enjoyed…after the kids are in bed or after they’re in school and the house is quiet. This is the time she kicks back with laptop and lapdog to give her imagination free rein.

In life, hobbies can come and go according to our physical abilities, but you can always enjoy a good book. Life isn’t perfect, but our imaginations can be. Relax, whether it’s in front of a fire or in your own personal dungeon. Take pleasure in a mental pause as you root for your favorite hero/heroine and bask in their accomplishments, then share your opinions of them over a coffee with your best friend (even if he’s four legged). Life is short. Cherish your time.

Posted in Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Mature Romance, New Release, Passion, Romance

Luther: 2 Truths and a Lie

Strong athletic man

Luther: 2 Truths and a Lie

(Book 2 in the Adair Empire Series)

By K.L. Donn


2 Truths
I was ready to die
He saved me

And a lie
Rock bottom is your breaking point
Or is it?

muscular man


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Nook > Coming soon!


Mysterious woman

King Cover

King: 13 Little Lies (Book 1 in the Adair Empire) by K.L. Donn

**Luther is not a Stand Alone. King must be read first!**

They’re all lies…
Lies – Everyone tells them.
Mistakes – You learn from them.
Drugs – Make you feel better.
Hate – Consumes you.
Family – Will always love you.
Life – Is worth living.
Fear – Will remain.
Cry – Soothes the soul.
Prayer – Answers your calls.
Laugh – You’ll feel better.
Hope – Never dies.
Breathe – Like you depend on it.
Love – Heals all wounds.
Until they aren’t…

Buy Book 1 Now!


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Author Bio:

Krystal is a proud Canadian girl, hailing from Sherwood Park, Alberta. She has a strong dislike for the winter, and a love for spring. Married to her husband Steve, for 13 years, they have 4 beautiful red headed spawns ranging in ages 5-12. She has a strong love of coffee, sarcasm, and wine. (Not necessarily in that order either.)

She has been a published author for over 2 years now. With 11 full length novels and a dozen novellas with 6 published, 4 in edits, 2 being rebranded, and 1 being extended into a novel.

Krystal loves to write about instalove between couples looking for love. She has a passion for contemporary romance and springs into menage as often as she can.

~*~*Stalker Links~*~*

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Posted in Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Dark Romance, Dark Romantic Suspense, Mature Romance, New Release, Passion, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Sensual


Title:  Outrageous
Author: Jennifer Ann
Genre: Dark Romantic Suspense
Cover Designer: Amy Q of Q Design
Model: Miles Logan
Publication Date: Mar. 6th, 2018
The South Side is like an incurable cancer, destroying the lives of everyone it touches.
For Brooke, the nightmare is over, and she uses her experience of survival to help those still living it.
Those like Liam.
He’s the smartest high schooler she’s ever met, and gets under her skin in the most delicious way.
She’s the bravest woman he knows, and he’s amazed she cares about his future and the fate of his band.
Their attraction is undeniable, but it’s also forbidden. She took an oath not to sleep with those she’s promised to protect.
But when the King of South Side tangles with Liam and his bandmates, she’s forced to make a choice.
One that could cost her everything.
Jennifer Ann is an award-winning and bestselling author of contemporary romance with darkly complex plots. Much like her characters, she’s in love with the city of New York, trips on airplanes or the back of her husband’s Harley, and everything rock and roll.
Author Links:
Buy Links:

The chaos of the South Side is in full swing as I make my way to the band’s usual Sunday night jam session, bass in hand. Only two of us could make it out tonight, but it doesn’t matter. I would’ve gone alone because I need an escape. Music is the only therapy I can afford.
Despite being no more than 30 degrees out, homeless of all ages litter the busted up sidewalks, some propped up against piles of garbage bags, begging for another fix or a hot meal. Tents and cardboard homes line the alleys, their campfires creating an ominous glow against the tall buildings. Every few blocks there’s a car by the curb that’s been abandoned for months, long-since stripped down to the frame like skeletons. A few dealers lurk in the shadows, hoods drawn as they wait for a signal from an interested buyer.
Often there’ll be a horde of drunk college students curious about this part of the city who don’t have the street smarts to stay the hell away. As I cross the bar scene on Fifth Avenue, they’re nowhere to be seen. Instead it’s the usual mix of liars and thieves who are too poor to start over somewhere else, doing whatever it takes to survive.
Too many of the women openly attempting to hook up with guys outside the bars are inappropriately dressed for the weather. On closer inspection, there’s a fine line between junkies and hookers. Some are so high they left home in little more than their underwear, and some looking to get paid for sex couldn’t string an intelligible sentence together if they tried.
Once you add grime and the smell of literal shit to the list of the South Side’s attributes, it’s understandable why it was once labeled by some pretentious magazine as the least desirable neighborhood in the nation. It’s too dangerous even for the likes of Minneapolis to claim us, and too poor for St. Paul to give two fucks that we exist. The governor and the rich assholes that support him with their high-end department stores and fancy universities would physically have us removed from their precious state if they could find a way.
Every last native to this area comes from a broken home. They thrive on crime and mayhem, not having experienced any other way of life. Drugs and violent crimes have touched the lives of every single kid who grew up on these streets, my story being no exception. We don’t know the security of a traditional family, or what it’s like to come home to find dinner on the table. We’re accustomed to a rough hand and cruel tongue. It’s rare as fuck if your parents are actually married.
The only saving grace is that the neighborhood is run by Marshall “King Marty” Blackwood, my best friend’s uncle, making my crew untouchable by proxy. But even his protection has its pitfalls.
Before I’m able to sneak past the two prostitutes that have become a permanent fixture on the corner outside the abandoned building where we jam, the one who goes by “Candy” calls out to me. Tilting my face back to the dark sky, I flick my half-used cigarette to the sidewalk and start for her, smoke streaming from my nostrils. Any other day, I’d smoke ‘em right down to the filter. Since I came across the spot where my old man hides his cartons, however, I’ve been living large.
Aside from her rank smell, Candy’s mostly harmless so long as she isn’t so wasted she’s babbling about bed bugs or the government spying on us through technology. She’s not attractive by any means, but that’s an industry standard when you’re working the corners on the South Side. Most times she’s more akin to a motherly figure, asking if I’m getting enough to eat, or why I’m out on the streets alone. Chunks rise in my throat when she adjusts her ill-fitting bra, revealing a dark tit. In moments like this, I’m convinced she’s hoping to entice me to fuck her. As many years as she’s been working the streets, letting every dirtbag on the South Side stick it to her, I wouldn’t touch her with someone else’s dick.
Her obnoxiously long, bubble gum pink fingernails wave through the night sky. “Rook, baby, get over here! I wanna get a good look at you!”
“You just wanna cop a feel of my ass,” I tell her with a half-hearted chuckle.
She hums like she’s envisioning doing it. “Can’t say I’d mind.” Her smooth, chocolaty eyes darken on mine, filled with humor and mischief. They’re the only part of her that’s not repulsive. “When you gonna play me some of that guitar in private, sugar?”
Bile rips through my throat with her suggestion. “Sorry, sugar. I don’t play for just anyone.”
“Well I’m not just anyone.” Her voice seems to skip an octave when she wiggles her eyebrows. “I’m somebody around these parts now. King Marty’s men have been comin’ around the past couple a days, probably hopin’ to get up in my business. Matter of fact, you just missed them.”
Candy’s friend hums, setting her hand on her hip. “Girl, this ain’t no Pretty Woman. Seems to me like they’re decidin’ on the next place to bury a bullet.”
She’s not wrong. It can’t be a coincidence that King Marty’s men would be loitering outside the building where his nephew headlines a band.
“Did they ask any questions about me an’ the guys?” I ask.
“Don’t you worry, baby.” Her eyes narrow with a message that’s as crystal clear as the meth she smokes. “I ain’t no rat. I ain’t givin’ him any dirt on you boys for nothin’.”
I glance over both shoulders for any sign of King Marty’s thugs, grunting to myself. No one in the South Side does something out of the kindness of their heart, especially a strung-out hooker who can’t afford a new pair of fishnet stockings.
Resting the headstock of my bass against my legs, I fish my wallet out from my back pocket and find a single $20 bill. Not the most enlightening discovery when I won’t get another check until I’ve finished writing a ten-page paper for a senior in Burnsville, but stealing to stay fed is nothing new.
I press the bill into Candy’s outstretched palm. “There’ll be more coming if you keep me updated on any of their future visits.”
Her lips spread with a thin smile, exposing her rotten teeth and bright red gums. She’s a living, breathing epitome of why I’ll never touch hardcore drugs. “Sure thing, baby.”
Leaving the women behind, I head toward the building I consider to be more of a home than the rat-infested apartment my old man leased for the second year in a row. After ensuring no one’s paying attention, I slip the fake boarded door to the side and slip inside. Wouldn’t want a bunch of squatters discovering the shithole’s open. And apparently there’s more of a reason to be paranoid about who’s keeping an eye on us.
I always get bad vibes whenever Marshall Blackwood’s involved. Even though he’s supposed to be on “our” side, he’s involved in a lot of bad shit, and has a helluva temper. Who the fuck knows what could’ve set him off enough to send his crew.
As I climb the rackety stairwell to the second floor, the stench of dust and weed that clings to the building fills my lungs with a harsh burn. I make my way past band posters faded with age, hanging over ratty couches that arguably house more crabs than every seafood joint in the Midwest combined. A few months back, the band’s name was spray-painted on the wall behind them in blood-red letters by some chick that tagged along. When we first decided to go by “In Disarray” our freshman year, no one had any objections. Sometimes it’s more our way of life than a label.
The brass sound of the drum kit banging along to a Nirvana tune becomes louder with each step. Trask must be letting his sister go at it again as part of her lesson on rhythm, and how to correctly wield the sticks. The little shit is showing improvement, and can maintain a pretty solid beat. We’re always razzing Trask that it won’t be long before we’ll be kicking his ass to the curb so Sasha can fill his place.
I find the brother-sister duo around the corner. Sasha sits behind the drums in the only area big enough to hold our equipment, dark hair flying around her head as her arms twist and bend through the air. Fourteen and feisty as hell, she shares zero physical characteristics of her lanky punk-ass brother. Since she recently grew curves and her baby-face smoothed down, guys started coming around, asking her on dates and shit. If I were Trask, I’d collect their balls in a jar.
Despite having shaggy hair the color of a regurgitated carrot and Owen Wilson’s fucked-up nose from one fight too many, Trask Green is an all-around decent bastard. For what he lacks in looks, although he still manages to bang any chick he wants, he makes up in heart. The guy gave me the benefit of the doubt from day one when we were kids, and I came in as a transplant from Texas. The others were initially cynical of any outsiders who weren’t raised in this cesspool.
Trask taught me crucial ways to survive the South Side, including how not to get my ass kicked by the locals unless I’m jonesing for a fight, where to use fake IDs to score booze, who sells the best pot, and which chicks at South Valley to steer clear of at all costs (one of many reasons I generally only sleep with girls that aren’t from the area). He’s the one who took me to the ER and told the doc I was pushed down a flight of subway steps the time my old man busted my arm in two places. He’s the one who suggested I start charging kids to do their school work, and even hand-picked the richest ones to start a solid client base. He stole me my first mountain bike, and beat the shit out of a kid that tried to jack it a week later.
Every monumental memory I’ve made since moving to the South Side involves Trask in one way or another. Hell, he was even in the next room when I lost my virginity. He’s one of few I’ll ever truly consider to be legitimate family. He’s my brother by choice, just like our other two bandmates. I’d bleed out for any one of the motherfuckers, although I’m hoping they’ll never take me up on it.
“What up, Rook-man?” Trask shouts, throwing me a goofy-assed grin.
Setting my bass on the stage, I lean in while giving him a fist-bump. “Just livin’ the dream, brother.”
He claps me on the back and chuckles in a low, gritty sound. “Aren’t we all.”
I pass by the drum set and ruffle Sasha’s long dark hair. It’s wild from intense drumming, some of it sticking to her slick forehead. “What up, Sasha Fierce?”
Dark eyes snap up to meet mine, glowering with intensity. The mahogany orbs blend into her pupils, giving her a demonic-like charm. She snarls back at me like a cat, curling her upper lip. “Fuck off, Rook.”
With a grunting chuckle under my breath, I reach for my bass, strumming along as she pounds out the last two verses of Heart Shaped Box. We become one entity, the low octaves of my base matching up with her kick drum, the high octaves hitting the snare on the backbeats.
I allow myself to get lost in the melody, closing my eyes and letting the low chords flow through me. The dark notes become a living thing, erasing all the complexities that make up my shit life. If there was a way to stay here forever, playing until my fingertips bled rather than dealing with what’s outside these walls, I would’ve found it by now. This place is my sanctuary—a haven. It’s another reason why I’m unnerved by King Marty’s thugs getting too close.
By the final chorus, Trask and I are wailing out the lyrics in voices unfit for the shower. Sometimes when we’re together, we’re nothing more than a couple of dipshits that even I wouldn’t want to hang with.
After Sasha hits the final beat, she screams through clenched teeth and stands, shoving the worn sticks at her brother. “You guys are assholes.” Bending at the waist, she flicks me off with both hands and sticks her tongue out before heading for the makeshift kitchen.
Unlit cigarette dangling from my lips, I glance in Trask’s direction. “What’s with her? She start her period or something?”
He lifts both shoulders while lighting a joint. “Who the fuck knows.” Settling on the chair behind the drum kit, he smirks my way. “I was at the bodega by my place earlier—saw the rich chick that dates that prick you’re writing a paper for. You end up tapping that ass last night or what?”
“Nah…she had a birthday party or some shit.”
He puffs on the joint, its moldy grass stench filling the air. “Hard to believe she wouldn’t cancel her plans for you. Even the prissiest snobs usually give in with the promise of a Rook-special orgasm.” Eyes the color of the premium weed he deals popping wide, he releases a howling laugh. “Shit, man! Could you be losing your touch?”
I grunt, refusing to humor him with an answer. My usual game involves sleeping with the girlfriends of the jocks that pay me to keep them from flunking out. They’re blissfully unaware that in reality, they’re paying me to ruin their girls. It’s yet another form of cheap entertainment.
Trask twirls a stick through the air, catching it like a pro. “Child services stopped by the house yesterday, asked to talk with my mom.”
“Oh yeah? What’d you tell ‘em?”
“Said she’d left for work. I omitted the fact that she left several months ago.”
When their mom disappeared around Christmas break, pretty much everyone figured she stumbled across a bad scene while trying to score. “They were good with that answer?”
“For now. They’ll be back. And sooner or later, they’ll find out I’m only seventeen.” Scratching his head, he stares off at nothing. “If things don’t turn around, I’ll have to let them take Sasha anyway. Sending her to foster care would be better than watching her starve.”
“Bullshit,” I snap. “You’d never let that happen. You’ve been busting your ass to make ends meet ever since your mom took off. You’ve always been a resourceful bastard. You’ll figure something out.” Lighting the smoke, I inhale deeply, grateful for the sharp burn filling my lungs. These days, feeling anything other than empty is a real treat. “Forgot to tell you—I had an interesting conversation with Candy the Hooker before I came up here.” I glance thoughtfully in his direction while he’s taking another hit. “Sounds like King Marty’s goons have been sniffin’ around her and her girls.”
Trask’s back stiffens. At the same time, a tick passes through his dilated eyes. “What’d they want?”
“Dunno, but I highly doubt it has anything to do with that rank pussy.” Exhaling, I continue to eye him. For someone with a joint in hand, he’s unusually tense. “Why? You know somethin’?”
“Nah.” His gaze darts to the other side of the room. Guilt flickers across his face like cherries on a cop car, as plain as the fucked-up nose on his face. “But whenever King Marty sends them out for something, it can’t be good.”
“You got that right,” I agree, continuing to study him closely. There’s no stopping the skepticism creeping into my thoughts. The whole lot of us aren’t too trustworthy, but we make it a general rule not to lie to each other. We’re all aware Trask sells weed for King Marty, so if it was somehow related to that, he’d come clean. He’s hiding something bigger. “Can’t hurt to watch our backs a little closer,” I add, hoping he’ll take the hint. If he’s worried about something that involves Marshall Blackwood, he can’t be too careful.
The conversation ends there. We break into an abbreviated jam session, cranking out an old B-side tune from one of Bowie’s older albums that we’ve been trying to master. It’s not the same without the other two filling in the melody. More than anything, I get the feeling Trask is still shook up about King Marty’s men the way he repeatedly fucks up on the tempo. As if to prove my suspicion, he splits before we’ve finished the song, claiming he has to help Sasha with homework.
Although he smokes strong enough weed to justify a healthy dose of paranoia, he pulls his sister along like the devil’s on his tail. As they disappear into the stairwell, I can’t stop wondering what the hell he’s gotten himself into.
Before I’m fully awake to comprehend what the fuck’s happening, a fist connects with my face, jarring my eye back into its socket. The lick of pain that follows is a familiar, welcoming feeling.
Too bad for my old man, he’s conditioned me to enjoy this shit. To feed off the sharp sting of torment as a reminder of all I’ve survived, and that I’m still here. I just wish it could happen after I’ve had a full night’s sleep. My uninjured eye tries to compensate for the temporary veil of darkness.
“Stupid ass punk!” he roars, his outline a mere blob in the darkness. The usual stench of booze clings to his skin the way pot clings to Trask. “You think I wouldn’t notice you’ve been stealin’ from me? It’s time I teach you a thing or two about respect!”
If I weren’t nursing a bruised kidney from last time I had the balls to goad him, I’d be tempted to shout out a “hooah.” Until you’ve been reamed by a former Army drill sergeant who was forced into early retirement because of a bum knee and hates the entire fucking world, you haven’t experienced a real ass-chewing.
My stomach twists as words continue to blast from his mouth with the precision of an automatic rifle, the consistency of pure shit. “Get on your pansy-ass feet, son! We’re gonna have us a little talk about where you get the money for all those new tattoos and those ugly as fuck earrings you wear like you’ve grown a vagina! If you have that kind of cash flowing from your dick, you should be helping pay the bills around here, not stealing goddamned smokes from your old man!”
Sweet. He’s loaded out of his mind again. Looks like I’m in for another night of whack-a-mole.
Still in a stupor from the unceremonious wakeup call, I throw my blanket off my legs and sit on the edge of the bed, rubbing my hands over my face. “What time is it? Can’t this shit wait until the sun’s up?”
The next blow to my jaw comes so hard and fast that stars flash before my eyes, blinding in the darkness. My head flings backwards, bouncing against something hard under my pillow.
The pistol my best friend gave me for my seventeenth birthday.
Less than three weeks after we moved in, I was robbed at gunpoint. What kind of stupid fuck would think a twelve-year-old would be carrying something of value? At least I learned a valuable lesson.
The old man’s at it again, pacing the room and shouting a bunch of nonsense as my fingers curl around the cool handle. If nothing else, with any luck I can make him piss himself like he’s done to thousands of soldiers.
“On your feet, you piece of shit!”
Grunting, I shove the pistol into the back of my boxer briefs and rise up to meet him, arms held out at my sides. “Do your worst, Staff Sergeant.”
A wheeze is wrenched from my gut with the following uppercut to my ribs. His shouted insults become white static as he throws punches, not seeming to give a shit where they land. Pain ripples through me with the force of a blazing fire, too wild and bright to be contained.
I try to relax as best I can, and let it happen. Putting up a respectable fight would only warrant another punishment. It’s easier to absorb his pain than to worry about the consequences. It’s not like I’m in any fuckin’ sports, and the teachers assume whenever I come to school battered that I voluntarily started a fight.
Before long, the tang of copper and bile fills my mouth. His fist connects with my ribs again, and I momentarily blackout from the pain. From the feel of it, he’s dislocated a handful of them this time. Fuck I hate my life.
Holding a hand out, I stop to spit blood on the floor and twist my spine. Immense pain burns through my chest with every movement. “Fuckin’ hell. Can I call a time out? I think you might’ve punctured a lung.”
The moonlight shifts outside, exposing the monster standing in front of me. Mouth twisted, eyes dark as coal, fists suspended at his sides, it’s like getting a glimpse of the devil himself.
Fuck it. He always tells me I’m not too bright anyway, my favorite quote being,“If brains were made of cotton, you wouldn’t have enough to make a tampon for a flea!” May as well prove it to the has-been son of a bitch.
Pistol aimed directly at his face, I release the safety. “On second thought, keep your hands to yourself.”
His sinister laugh that follows would’ve made Jeffrey Dahmer cringe in fear. “You don’t possess the kind of balls it takes to shoot me, you little stupid ass—”
I squeeze the trigger.