This is the beginning of a story … the story of two people who were meant to be together. Why? Because unknown to them, they shared terrifying pasts and the cruel circumstances of their births doomed both of them to a life of hell.
Two strangers … one night … one accidental meeting that changed their lives forever.
Gabriella Martinelli, Manhattan psychiatrist had only one goal in life—to help abuse victims avoid the horrors she’d experienced herself. She worked late, volunteered, and donated her services to anyone who needed them. Life was good … until her nightmare resurfaced. He found her, and began stalking her, and she knew he wouldn’t stop until he destroyed every ragged piece of her.
Kolson Hart, Manhattan’s most eligible bachelor, was ruled by his dark past. He liked control, from the boardroom to the bedroom and didn’t care to be involved with someone whose life was just as screwed up as his was. But one look at Gabriella short-circuited everything. Want … desire … need … will sometimes drive a man to do things he swore he never would.
* This novel contains mature content and it not intended for younger readers.
Meet the Hart Brothers with this exciting first novel…
One day, on her way home from work as a sales manager, A. M. Hargrove, realized her life was on fast forward and if she didn’t do something soon, it would quickly be too late to write that work of fiction she had been dreaming of her whole life. So, she rolled down the passenger window of her fabulous (not) company car and tossed out her leather briefcase. Luckily, the pedestrian in the direct line of fire was a dodge ball pro and had über quick reflexes enabling him to avoid getting bashed in the head. Feeling a tad guilty about the near miss, A. M. made a speedy turn down a deserted side street before tossing her crummy, outdated piece-of-you-know-what laptop out the window. She breathed a liberating sigh of relief, picked up her cell phone, called her boss, and quit her job. Grinning, she made another call to her hubs and told him of her new adventure (after making sure his heart was beating properly again).
So began A. M. Hargrove’s career as a Naughty and Nice Romance Author. Her books include the following: Edge of Disaster, Shattered Edge and Kissing Fire (The Edge Series); The Guardians of Vesturon series (Survival, Resurrection, Determinant, reEmergent and Beginnings); Dark Waltz, Death Waltz, Tragically Flawed (Tragic 1), Tragic Desires (Tragic 2), Exquisite Betrayal, Dirty Nights, Freeing Her (A Hart Brothers Novel #1), Freeing Him (A Hart Brothers Novel #2).
Other than being in love with writing about being in love, she loves chocolate, ice cream, and coffee and is positive they should be added as part of the USDA food groups.
Stay in touch with A.M. Hargrove here…
Want to learn more about “Freeing Her”? Evatopia has a peek of Chapter One for you…
GABBY’S BREATH WHEEZED in and out as his words sent needles of fear racing down her spine. “You’ll never be free of me. You think you can hide behind your fancy title and a big city? Think again, sweet thing. I can find you. I’ll always find you. It’s gonna take a hell of a lot more than New York City to keep you from me.” Then he laughed.
Eidetic images slammed into her as she stumbled backward, smashing into the wall. It had been years since she’d seen him or heard his voice, yet the odors, textures, and visions that surged from old memories made it feel like he was standing right in front of her. Bile choked her as she fought to regain control.
“What? Did I shock you, Gabs? Isn’t that what your friends like to call you?”
Her hand clutched her neck as she processed what he was saying. How could he know that? Unless …
“Aren’t you going to answer me, sweet Gabs? Don’t worry. There’ll be plenty of time for you to do that. I’m here to stay so I’ll be seeing you around. And Gabs, remember how much you loved it when I fucked you? There’ll be more of that to come in the future.” His disgusting taunt made her tremble. “See you around, sweets.”
He ended the call, but she was glued to the wall by some invisible force. No, it was no force. It was sheer terror.
“No!” A primal scream ripped through her, followed by a series of full body tremors. She wanted to throw her phone across the room, but the grip that held it was unyielding. Shit! Oh God, he found me! What am I going to do? The real question she should’ve asked herself was how long was she going to put up with that prick. He’d already stolen sixteen years of her life. How much more of it did he want? But Gabby wasn’t courageous enough to fight him. She’d run from him all these years and thought he’d lost interest in her. But now she knew she’d been wrong.
She blinked rapidly for several moments and looked around her tiny apartment. She had to get away from there. At least for a little while. Maybe grab a drink somewhere to get her mind off the call. Why in the hell had she answered? She knew damn well why. Her patients. She had an open-door policy as far as they were concerned. Maybe she would get that answering service after all.
Shoving her shaking arms through the trench coat, she grabbed her handbag and hurried out. The elevator took its sweet time, but when it finally arrived, she rode it down to the lobby. That phone call had confirmed she was correct in choosing an apartment in a building with a doorman. There was no way she’d risk living anywhere without one. Not with Danny stalking her. She didn’t care if she had to eat once a day in order to afford it. Her peace of mind was worth the sacrifice.
Though, in reality, Danny could find her if he put his mind to it. That thought made her shudder. She extended her arm and peeked at the scars on one of her wrists … her little reminder of how Danny had fucked up her head.
“Hello again, Doctor,” the doorman said as she exited the building. She jerked her head in response and walked briskly out the door. Thoughts of Danny had her head swimming. Her heels clicked along the sidewalk. She had no particular destination in mind, as long as it was somewhere that sold strong liquor.
Spying the martini glass in the window, she ducked inside and took a seat at the bar.
“What can I get you?” the bartender asked.
“Double martini, dirty, extra olives.”
“Coming right up.”
Gabby’s nerves were raw as she took in her surroundings. The place was fairly empty. Only one other man sat at the bar and there were a few other people scattered about. Once satisfied that Danny wasn’t anywhere around, the only thing she cared about now was soothing the tension from her body. Alcohol was the fastest method to do so.
The bartender slid her the martini. She guzzled it like water and picked up the tiny plastic sword of olives, plucking them off one by one.
“Care for another?” the bartender asked.
Gabby didn’t pay attention to the man sitting two seats over from her. He observed her suck down her drinks like a siphon. If she didn’t go easy, she was going to end up face planting on the bar. But that was her problem and he had enough of his own to contend with.
When the bartender handed Gabby another martini, she held it up to him. “Bottoms up.”
The bartender eyed her with concern. He’d never seen her before and he’d worked at the place long enough to know most of the regulars. Her pristine appearance set her apart from most of his customers. His intuition made him believe this wasn’t her usual thing, either. Especially the way she was knocking down those loaded martinis. She was breathing heavily and a fine sheen of perspiration covered her upper lip. Her jerky movements made him question what was going on. He looked at the guy sitting close to her and they both shrugged. It was her business if she wanted to get wasted. As long as she had the money to cover her tab, he didn’t care.
She tossed back the contents of her second double. “Ahh,” she said when her glass was empty. Then she rubbed her hands together.
“How about an ice water?” the bartender asked.
“Nah, not yet.” Gabby shook her head. “Not potent enough.”
“You must’ve had some kind of rotten day.”
“No, the day was pretty good. It was the last twenty minutes that sucked.”
The bartender eyed her as she started rubbing her arms.
“Well, don’t let it ruin your night. What’s twenty minutes?”
She raised her head and a pained look settled over her. Brow creased, she suddenly looked thirty years older.
“Please, mister, don’t ever say that to anyone again. Twenty minutes can take your life from joy to pure hell. It happened to me and here I am, sixteen years later, still living the nightmare.”
The bartender clamped his mouth shut as he stared back at her. Must’ve been some ordeal to elicit such a response. He nodded and asked her if she wanted another martini. “Make this one a single. And more olives too,” she said.
The other man at the bar overheard her. He normally didn’t give a shit about others, but the tone of her voice clawed at him. He recognized something in it that he was all too familiar with.
Turning to her, he lifted his glass. “Here’s to better days ahead.” Caramel brown eyes fringed in thick black lashes locked onto him. He noticed she had dark brown, almost black hair. It was twisted up in a messy bun that she wore at the nape of her neck. Her nose would have been perfect had it not been for the slight bump on the bridge. It looked as though it may have been broken in the past. A mouth a tad too wide drew him in, and he couldn’t stop staring at her full pink lips. It was they way they moved when she spoke, and how lovely they were shaped that made him want to take them in his mouth and suck on them. He had to force himself to listen to what she said and stop ogling her mouth.
“Well, I’ll certainly drink to that.” She lifted her glass and clinked it against his. Her words were already slurred, as well they should be. She was on her third martini. If she didn’t stop soon, she’d be in serious trouble.
He watched as she wrapped her lips around another olive and slid it off the tiny plastic sword. That’s when his dick got hard. He decided he needed to stop looking at her because there was no way he would let himself fuck a messed-up piece of work like she was. And a shitfaced one no less.
“So, what’s your story?” Gabby asked him.
He never should’ve opened up that conversation line.
“I don’t have a story. I have a fucking saga.”
She grinned. “Well, isn’t that a coincidence. So do I.”
“Listen, precious, you couldn’t come close to what I have.”
“Ha! That’s what you think, Skippy.”
“Skippy?” Who the fuck is Skippy?
“Yeah. Skippy. You look like a Skippy to me.”
“You think I resemble a jar of peanut butter?”
She leaned into him and sniffed. “Nope. You don’t smell like peanut butter.”
He couldn’t stop the rumble of laughter that escaped his lips. “Well, that’s good, because I wouldn’t want a troop of rabid squirrels chasing me.”
“Do you have a name? Unless you want me to call you Skippy.”
“Gabby.” She stuck her hand out and he shook it.
“Nice to meet you, Gabby.”
Her head listed to the side as she tried to focus her eyes. “Well?”
“Ah, I get it. I guess it’s just gonna have to be Skippy, then, isn’t it?”
The bartender interrupted and asked if they needed another round.
“You betcha,” Gabby answered.
Skippy raised his brows. “Don’t you think you’d better slow it down a bit?”
She’d picked up another olive and brandished her little plastic sword at him. “No, I do not think I’d better slow down a bit. I’m feeling rather mahhvelous at the moment.”
“But wait until tomorrow. Then the regrets will knock you right in the kisser.”
“You know what, Skippy? I think I’d rather you plant your mouth right here on this kisser.” She puckered and closed her eyes.
It took everything Skippy had not to laugh at her. But the more he looked at her, that urge to laugh was quickly drowned out by a different urge. She wore a white blouse that was unbuttoned, exposing the V of her creamy chest. The way she was leaning toward him gave him a sweet view of her lovely cleavage. If Skippy weren’t careful, his dick was going to have a party in his pants and that wouldn’t do at all.
With her eyes still closed, Gabby asked, “What’s taking you so long, Skippy?”
He put his lips next to her ear and asked, “Do you have a habit of offering those sweet lips to perfect strangers?”
She sat up straight on her stool. “Of coursh not.” She swayed and shook her head as her long fingers gripped the edge of the bar.
Skippy was looking at a very drunk Gabby. He signaled the bartender and had him deliver a large glass of ice water.
“Gabby, drink this,” he said as he handed it to her.
“What ish it?”
“Why in the world would I want water? I don’t wanna kill my buzzzz.” She laughed.
“I don’t suppose you do.”
She whipped her head around and nearly fell off her stool. “Woo. That was closhe.”
Why the hell had he ever started talking to her?
“So, Shkippy, what do you do for a living?”
“A little of this and that.”
“What do you like better? Thish or that?” And she broke into a series of giggles and couldn’t stop. Her palm slammed the bar top and she giggled even harder. “Oh my God, would you look at this. I’m tearing up,” she said. “Do you have a tissue?”
Skippy handed her a beverage napkin. She leaned over to him and whispered rather loudly, “Can I tell you a shecret?”
“I don’t know, Gabby. I’m not good with secrets.”
The blood drained out of her face as it darkened with pain. In a quiet voice, she told him, “That’sh okay because I’m very good with shecrets, Shkippy. The besht shecret-keeper ever. I never tell.” Then she drained her glass and went back to rubbing her arms.
Skippy thought for a moment that he may have met his match in the fucked-up-past department. Or at least it was looking that way.
Gabby wished Skippy hadn’t brought up the secret thing. Oh, she really couldn’t blame him, now could she? She was the one who started it all. She grabbed her arm and slid her thumb across her wrist, massaging it. Would she ever stop hating Danny? Maybe. If he would leave her alone. But she knew that would never happen. She shivered, thinking about what he’d told her on the phone.
“You okay over there?”
“Fine,” she lied. Gabby learned a long time ago that it was easier to lie about things. The truth only got you in trouble. And caused lots of pain. That’s how she ended up in her career. She needed to help people who’d been to hell and back, like she had.
Getting the bartender’s attention, she ordered yet another martini.
Skippy was glad to see the bartender didn’t make this one a double. Not that it mattered. Gabby was ten sheets to the wind by now.
“Thank you, tarbender. You’ve been good to me tonight.”
“You’re welcome, ma’am.”
Skippy and the bartender tried not to laugh.
Gabby picked up the little sword and began eating her olives.
“You have quite the weapons cache there,” Skippy noted.
“Yesh. Now I can defend myshelf against that dickfashe pervert.”
“I’m sure they’ll be quite effective.”
She rested her head against her hand and screwed up her face. “I doubt it. Nothing ever ish.” A few minutes later, she sat up again, wobbled, and announced it was time for her to leave.
She looked at Skippy and asked, “Do you know where I am?”
“Yes. It’s 5 O’Clock.”
She wrinkled up her brow and asked, “Ish it five o’clock?”
Skippy laughed. “No, that’s where you are. The name of the bar.”
“But where ish it?”
Shit, she needs a hand. “Gabby, where do you live?”
“Oh, no. You’re gonna try and get in my pantsh. I’m not shtupid, mishter.”
“No, I was going to help you home. You’ve had a lot to drink.”
“Have I?” She pushed herself away from the bar and spun out. Skippy caught her before she hit the floor.
“Yes, Gabby, you have.”
“Rut-roh.” She giggled.
Skippy paid both tabs and walked her outside. The cool air felt great on her face but then she said she needed to go back inside to collect her swords.
“You’ll be fine without them.”
In a serious voice, she said, “Noooo, I need them for protection. They’ll defend me againsht all evil and keep me shafe againsht intruding marauders who want to murder me, or rape and pillage.”
“I think you read too much George R. R. Martin.”
Then she turned her caramel browns on him and asked, “Will you lend me your shword? I really need a shword tonight. One that’s long, hard, and dangeroush.” She wore a mischievous smile.
He shook his head. “Precious, you don’t want to get close to my sword.”
“No? Why not?”
“Because it’s long, hard, and dangerous all right, but I promise you if it ever penetrates anything of yours, you will never be the same again.”
She started to laugh but then hiccuped and promptly passed out.
“And now what the fuck am I supposed to do?” he said to no one in particular.