Series: Hunted #5
on January 5th, 2016
Buy on Amazon | Buy on Barnes & Noble
New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Ryan returns to The Hunted series
Ben Knight has spent his life protecting those in need and helping abused women escape their terrible circumstances. He’ll stop at nothing to save the lives of his clients, especially the hauntingly beautiful Kate Morrison, a woman threatened by a man whose wealth allows him to get away with everything—including murder.
Kate’s days spent as a social worker, fighting for those unable to help themselves, means she’s spent her fair share of time in a court room. She and Ben have crossed paths, but never that professional line. When he agrees to aid her in putting Evan Faraday behind bars where he belongs, she must trust the sexy lawyer with her life and that of a precious baby.
Will Kate learn to trust Ben in time to save herself, and will they have a chance to explore the love blossoming between them before it’s too late?
“Mom, seriously, don’t you think you’re being overly dramatic, even for you?”
“Dramatic. Really? He’s divorcing me.”
“How many times have you or he threatened that over the last nearly thirty years? I mean, really, come on. He’ll come around. He always does.”
“Not this time.”
“What now? You slept with your yoga instructor? The Pilates guys? The guy who always remembers your coffee order at Starbucks? The waiter you met at dinner last night? Did you finally up your taste in men and drop your young pups and go for one of the stiff suits Dad calls friends? What?”
“This isn’t funny.”
“Well whatever it is, I’m sure you’ll work it out. You always do. You’ll go back to the usual indifference you have for each other and what you do.”
“Not this time,” Christina yelled. “He served me the papers. If this goes through, it will ruin everything.”
“You’ll be fine. It’s not like you love him and can’t live without him.”
“The prenup I signed means I get next to nothing.”
“Well, that’s your own damn fault for signing it in the first place.”
“How was I supposed to know he’d take on a partner the following year and build a multimillion dollar business out of it?”
“Dad’s smart, focused, and a workaholic. He probably had that partnership set up before he asked you to sign the prenup. That’s what I would have done.”
Christina tried not to think Donald had been that cunning before their marriage. He’d had plans and big dreams for the business. She’d never paid much attention—then or now—and it was coming back to bite her on the ass.
She desperately needed Evan’s help to get out of this mess. With his volatile temper, it wouldn’t take much to set him after his father. But would he come through for her? He’d have to if he wanted to keep his cushy lifestyle of drinking, gambling, partying, and playing.
“He swore he’d cut you off for good this time. You’ll have nothing and neither will I.”
“No he won’t. He always says he will, but he never does. Not really. Well, not for long anyway. I know how to change his mind.”
“You’re not listening. It won’t work this time.” She fell onto the sofa and dropped her head in her hands. She stared at the plush carpet and her Jimmy Choo shoes. “Why did I sign that prenup? The one million payout isn’t even a drop in the bucket of the wealth we share now. The company is worth three hundred times that. This house is worth five times that. I’ll lose my home, my money. Everything I’ve accumulated and helped that bastard achieve will all be taken away.”
“Well you shouldn’t have been so blatant about cheating on him. I’m surprised he didn’t leave you sooner.”
Christina wagged her pointed finger. “Be careful, Evan. You side with him, you may find he’s not on yours anymore.”
Evan narrowed his eyes and leaned forward. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“You pushed him too far with that last bar fight. You nearly killed that man. Then you get a DUI and wreck your car and nearly kill yourself.” She stared at the long scar on his neck. He’d nearly bled to death before help arrived.
“He deserved it. Fucking asshole thinks he can hit on my date.”
“What do you care? You’d only met the woman that night. You probably don’t even remember her name.”
Evan’s face took on a thoughtful, far off look. He shook his head, indicating he really didn’t remember the woman’s name. What did it matter? Her son went from one woman to the next like he changed his shirts.
“It’s the principle. She was with me.”
“Sometimes you’re like a spoiled child. Someone touches your toy and you punch them out.”
“Maybe, but I’m never going to let my woman get away with looking at, let alone sleeping with another man right under my nose. Not the way Dad let you get away with it.”
Christine huffed out an exasperated breath and rolled her eyes. “Are you going to help me or not?”
“What the hell do you want me to do about this?”
“Kill him before he has a chance to do anything.”
The silence grew between them as Evan finally understood that she meant it. They had no other choice.
A lopsided grin tilted his mouth. He shook his head, dismissing her again. “I’m not going to shoot him dead because you signed away a fortune. Hire a lawyer and fight him for more money. He’s a good guy, he’ll pay you just to make this go away.”
She growled, then tried another tactic. “He has a girlfriend. Everything will go to her if he divorces me and marries her.”
“Bullshit. Dad? A girlfriend? No way.”
“He bought her a house ten months ago. That’s where he spends his evenings now. Not here. Not with me.”
“How long has this been going on?”
“I don’t know. I found out about the property when we did our taxes. He doesn’t think I read over those things, but I do. He thinks he can spend five point two million on a house and I’m not going to notice.”
“You think you can spend thousands on dinner, drinks, and hotel rooms and he won’t notice. And watches. Seriously, you don’t think he knows you buy those fucks gifts. He sees the credit card bill, you know?” Evan shook his head and downed the last of his Scotch. “You two are something.”
“He’s never had another woman in his life. She’s special to him if he bought her a house and spends time with her. If he marries her, we lose everything. She’ll inherit, not you.”
“He won’t do that.”
“Yes, he will,” she snapped. “He’s already said as much.”
“I’m calling him.” Evan pulled his phone from his back pocket frustrated his parents’ fucked up lives always screwed with his. He hit the speed dial for his father and put the phone to his ear, but kept his eyes trained on his distraught, and obviously mad, mother. “Dad, I’m with Mom. What is going on?”
“What did she tell you?”
“That you’re divorcing her and have a new girlfriend.”
“Not new. I’ve been with her over a year and a half. I’m happy. I can’t do it anymore, Evan. I can’t live a lie with your mother. Her deceit, your continued lack of motivation to get a job, build a decent life, and getting into trouble at every turn has pushed me too far. My life with you both has turned into a bad habit that eats away at who I am and the kind of man I want to be. I won’t do it anymore. I’m done. She’ll receive her settlement. I’ll set up a trust for you that will pay a monthly allowance for your rent and utilities but nothing more. The next time you get arrested or need to pay someone off to keep them from pressing charges for whatever trouble and harm you cause, don’t call me. I won’t bail you out again.”
“Dad, come on, you can’t be serious.”
“It’s over. I will not pay both personally and financially for your debased lifestyles anymore. Believe me, under the circumstances, what I’m offering is generous. Push me on this and you’ll get nothing. Unless and until you change your ways, we have nothing left to say to each other.”
“What the hell do you mean by that?”
“Ask your mother. She obviously didn’t tell you everything.”
“You can’t do this.”
“Don’t blame me. Your mother lied and cheated throughout our marriage. She got away with it right up until I discovered the real truth. A truth I never wanted to see, but stared me in the face every day. You never take responsibility for the things you do. You always blame others. So you want to blame someone for this outcome, blame her. She did this to me and to you. I’m sorry for that. Because I am, I’ll set up the trust. Take it or leave it, but that’s all you get.”
Evan wanted to chuck the phone across the room, but held on to his temper. Barely.
“Dad, this isn’t fair. I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
“You want answers, get them from your mother. Let her explain why she did it. Why she does anything. The only things she cares about is herself and the money. I mistook her joy when I gave her things as love. She never loved me. She loved what I could give her. Now, I’m taking it all away.”
Evan stared at his phone in disbelief. His father hung up on him.
“I told you. He won’t be swayed this time. We’re cut off.”
Evan fisted his hands at his sides, the phone digging into his palm, and tried to control the welling anger in his gut. “What did you do?”
“Something that can’t be undone.”
“What did you do?” he demanded.
“What I had to do, but that isn’t important. We need to fix this before it’s too late.”
Frustrated with her non-answers, he growled under his breath and tried to think. Without his father’s money, what the hell would he do? The lawyer he’d hired to keep him out of jail cost a fortune. His father paid off that fuck he assaulted at the bar, but he still had the DUI charges hanging over his head. If his father didn’t pay for a top-notch lawyer, he might face some serious fines and jail time.
Furious his mother refused to give him answers and explain why he was about to lose everything, he tried to come up with a plan. Based on the call with his father, the way his father spoke, there was no use talking to him. He’d made up his mind. Evan had changed it many times, but something about the way he spoke, the deep hurt and anger laced in his words set off alarms in Evan’s mind. The rift in their relationship had turned into a tear that couldn’t be mended with empty promises to change his ways.
“I’m telling you, Evan, there is only one way to fix this. If your father lives, we lose everything. You’ve got to make it look like an accident or murder. The insurance company won’t pay out if it looks like a suicide.”
Evan raised his hands, then let them fall and slap his thighs. “Do you hear yourself? Do you know what you’re asking me to do? Kill my own father. It’s beyond reason.”
“You’ve killed before for a hell of a lot less than what you’re about to lose.”
Evan tried not to think about the man he beat to death and left in a dumpster behind a bar over a fucking five hundred dollar bet. The guy cheated. He needed to be taught a lesson. Evan was drunk and high and out of control. He barely made it home that night, too messed up to even remember how he drove home. His mother found him passed out in bed the next morning, his clothes covered in blood from beating the guy’s face in. His memories of that night were more flashes of images than an actual play by play of what happened. They found the guy’s body at the dumps four days later. By the time the cops came to question him as one of the last people who had contact with the guy, Evan had his shit together and his story straight. They played poker. Evan lost and went home to sleep off his night of drinking. His mother backed him up about what time he arrived home. She even helped hide the bruises on his knuckles with makeup before he went downstairs to meet with the cops. That’s it. The cops never came back or linked the murder to him. She always had his back.
Unlike his father who always wanted him to take responsibility, do the right thing, and generally let him suffer whatever fate came his way. No thank you. He didn’t deserve to spend his life rotting in a cell. If it came down to it, he’d go out in a blaze of glory before he let the cops lock him in a cage.
He liked his life. The freedom he had to do what he wanted, when he wanted. Now, his father wanted to take that all away. Make him responsible for earning the money he’d learned to enjoy his whole life. He’d never had to work for anything. Didn’t really know how. Definitely didn’t want to do the whole daily grind in an office or some other shit job. As far as he was concerned, his father made him this way. He couldn’t just cut him off now. Evan didn’t care about the reasons, he wanted what he’d always had, what he deserved as his father’s son. But could he actually kill him? He needed to see his father, this woman, the other life his father had been secretly living.
“What’s the address?”
His mother handed him a slip of paper she took from her pocket.
He walked out the front door without a word to his mother. He got in the Range Rover she got him for his birthday two months ago to replace the car he wrecked. It pissed his father off that she’d given him the gift. His father always wanted to pull back when his mother wanted to spoil him. Well, he’d take his mother being in control of all that money over his dad any day. This wasn’t about killing his father but securing his future.
A thought flickered, maybe the Scotch might be fueling his outrage, before it burned out without really flaring to life inside his mind.
He checked the address and swore. What kind of person buys a house for his mistress this close to his own family? His parents were fucked up. No wonder he didn’t turn out normal. Hell, normal was for all those stiffs working their lives away. Not him.
He was fucked up enough to know what needed to be done. To keep his life, he had to take his father’s.
I have been a fan of Jennifer Ryan’s Hunted series for the past year when I went and read the previous books. I love romances with a bit of suspense, and Jennifer’s books have that and more!
The book starts out with our villains, who I don’t think I’ve ever had mixed emotions for a victim (one of them, that is) before. We have the characters, Evan and Christina (mother and son), chatting about Christina’s divorce to her husband and the prenup that she signed when they first married. Seems innocent enough right? NO. Evan is a volatile boy of a man who thinks he is entitled to everything. He Drinks, gets into fights, even killed someone in a drunken rage. So his equally entitled, fucked-up mother convinces him to kill his father. All hell breaks loose.
From previous Jennifer Ryan books I’ve read, I know she has no problem killing off characters in the book, so I had a feeling what was going to happen with Evan’s dad and his fiance, who is Kate’s sister. Feeling worry that her sister wasn’t picking up her phone, Kate goes to their house and finds them on the floor. I really don’t know how she didn’t have a full-blown freak-out session right there. The book became shrouded in emotions that had my heart aching for Kate. Kate’s not-so-great past had me wishing I could find her childhood self and wrap her in a cocoon of love. It breaks my heart what foster children can go through.
But in walks Ben, attorney who has a passion to help those less fortunate. I loved Ben’s character and his immediate acceptance of Morgan’s prediction (make sure you read her book…it’s great!) that he will meet his soul mate that night, who was Kate. That immediate acceptance was covered by a protective instinct that I love to read from men. I’m a total sucker for a man who knows that a woman is precious and to be protected. I truly enjoyed Ben as a character and love interest. He wasn’t super alpha male, but he wasn’t meek and mild either. He had a depth and this amazing, caring heart, it is hard to find anything to mark against him.
The plot and feel for the book was perfect. I never felt bored or lost. Jennifer Ryan knows how to create a story that will have you clinging to the pages, needing to know what happens next. Everything She Wanted was everything I wanted in a book!
Jennifer Ryan is the New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of The Hunted Series and The McBrides Series. She writes romantic suspense and contemporary small-town romances featuring strong men and equally resilient women. Her stories are filled with love, family, friendship, and the happily-ever-after we all hope to find.
Jennifer lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children. When she isn’t writing a book, she’s reading one. Her obsession with both is often revealed in the state of her home and in how late dinner is to the table. When she finally leaves those fictional worlds, you’ll find her in the garden, playing in the dirt and daydreaming about people who live only in her head, until she puts them on paper. Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads