Dr. Melia Rose and ex-Marine Johnny Hunt had it all. Until one night in Atlantic City changed everything. She's left shocked, confused, and alone, unable to come to terms with what happened.
Hell, she doesn't even know what happened; she just knows her life has taken a one-eighty.
Now, Melia's started over-again-in her secluded, boring life in the swamps of Florida. The people are great, she has a housekeeper who may or may not be Bette Davis reincarnated, and it's quiet. But when her ex-husband shows up, dropping a bomb of epic proportions, her new life is a whole lot more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.
There's nothing Johnny wants more than to undo the damage from the past. The secrets he's been carrying have been eating away at him, but protecting Melia was more important than anything else. Even his own life. He managed to save her last time, but the danger is close-too close. In order to save her once more from his demons, Johnny will have to come clean...about everything.
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Istanbul sweltered in the late afternoon sun. The mingled scents of tobacco, spice, sweat, and seawater permeated the air while, down below, the pier facing the Bosporus bustled with people. Seated on rows of chairs and benches, a group of elderly men puffed on hookah pipes. Several of them smiled haplessly at passersby. Or maybe at some private joke. Johnny Hunt knew they came to that same place every day, but even after spending six months in the crowded Turkish city, he still didn't fully understand what the local rituals entailed.
As he stood under a rippling canopy, hoping to escape the sun that seemed to burn down to the bone, a youngish man with only a few more teeth than his senior counterparts offered him a half-smoked joint and a look of full-blown hope. Johnny scotched the look by indicating his own hand-rolled cigarette. He chuckled when the man slumped, then straightened and zeroed in on a more promising target.
"Hope springs eternal, old friend."
The voice behind him was both American and familiar — and it made his jaw clench to hear it. Not that he hadn't been expecting the contact. It was more that McCabe's being here could only mean one thing: trouble.
Glancing sideways through the shield of his sunglasses, Johnny brought his longtime friend and occasional nemesis into focus. McCabe never changed. He was always a little unshaven, a whole lot cool, and secretive as hell. Enigmatic was how Melia had described him — and why the hell had he gone there?
In response to McCabe's remark, he took a drag on his cigarette and gazed placidly over the busy dock. "I was working on it until I got your weird text. 'Asshole's got noses on the ground and in the air.' What the hell does that mean? I'm ninety-five percent sure I don't want to know."
"It means Satyr's got sniffer dogs circling Melia. Giving her a wide berth at this point, but in the vicinity and watching."
"Shit." Johnny's gaze scanned the fishing boats that jockeyed for position even as they hauled their nets onto waterlogged decks. "Why?"
"Bull," Johnny said mildly. "If Ben Satyr has people watching Melia, then he's figured out I still care. Or he strongly suspects it. Our plan sealed the deal on Melia's end. She couldn't have done anything to arouse his suspicions. Ergo, one of us screwed up."
McCabe tugged his ball cap lower to block the relentless sun. "Something screwed up," he agreed. "Tell me again about that break-in two weeks ago."
"My room was tossed. Whoever did it took the money I leave for thieves and ran."
"All they took was money? You're sure about that?"
Johnny slanted him a wry look. "I'm sure. I've gotten good at this game of 'who the hell cares' over the past three years. Rooms get tossed in Istanbul on a regular basis."
"And yet, two weeks after the fact, my people have ID'd Satyr's people inching too close to your ex-wife for my liking."
A headache loomed, but Johnny ignored it. He'd gone to extremely painful lengths to ensure Melia's safety. No way would he let a bastard drug lord like Satyr threaten her on any level.
"It was a sound plan," he maintained.
And it had been. They'd set her up. Remembering how they'd done it still made him feel sick. Jesus, they'd tricked her into thinking she'd slept with another man.
He'd been forced to walk in and listen to someone else's false account of what had happened. Angry and upset, he'd thrown a lamp against the wall and left the room. She'd tried to explain, but of course that hadn't been possible. The images that had been planted in her mind had her believing she'd slept with someone else. He'd told her he couldn't deal with it and taken a job overseas.
Once he'd believed she was safe, he'd started the divorce proceedings. The whole fucking thing had hurt her like hell. It had damn near killed him. He'd done it to keep Satyr from taking out his insane need for revenge on her. And the plan had worked. So why the interest now? Why all of a sudden after three years of nothing?
"You didn't risk contacting her?" McCabe asked.
Johnny pushed back the pain and guilt. "No."
"Contacting someone she knows? Friends, family, colleagues?"
"What about social media?"
"For Christ's sake." Irritation brought the guilt, always present inside him, rushing back. "I said no. Satyr's threats were real. He was going to kill Melia to make me suffer, and you know he meant it. There was no choice involved here. Keeping Melia safe is all I care about, all I think about, all I want. It's my first, last, and only goal in life."
McCabe nodded. "Unfortunately, I believe you. And in the end, the hows don't matter. Satyr's people are there. So's one of mine, but shit happens, Johnny. Could be Mockerie's playing into this unexpected interest."
"Maybe." Because Ben Satyr's boss, James Mockerie, was as insane and sadistic as Satyr himself.
Except that Satyr had personal reasons for wanting to destroy Johnny's life. Those reasons went back to the time they'd spent together in an Iraqi prison. An Iraqi hellhole, in point of fact.
The nightmare had started long before that, but Iraq had been the culmination. Long before Satyr had gone to work for Mockerie, they'd known each other. If Satyr had wanted something, Mockerie would probably have been more than happy to help him. Mockerie was sly, and he had contacts in high places. It was possible he'd been the one to figure out McCabe's three-year-old plan.
Johnny's temples began to throb. He crushed the mostly smoked cigarette under the heel of his boot. "Where's she living?"
"Deception Cove. It's in the Florida Everglades. She's been there for fourteen months. She tried Concord, New Hampshire, and a town called Bastion's Landing in South Carolina. Spent a year in each place."
"Who's responsible for the relocations?"
"She came to me in both cases." Johnny noted that McCabe's gaze slid to a drug deal going down on one of the smaller boats. "My guess? She's having trouble settling. Face it, the way we handled it, she believes she cheated on you. That has to cut pretty deep."
Johnny didn't want to go there. "Better cut than dead. We both know Satyr would have killed her in a minute to get back at me for what he thinks I did to him in Iraq. And before."
"Satyr or Mockerie." McCabe fashioned a set of scales with his hands. "Which way are you leaning?"
"Satyr," Johnny said without hesitation. "Mockerie might be willing to help, partly out of friendship and partly because he's a perverted prick who gets his rocks off torturing and tormenting people. But at the heart of it, Satyr's the more spiteful bastard."
"So." McCabe motioned upward to where the bars and drug dens waited in the afternoon rush. "What say we have a drink and figure out how we can screw the bastard back. Might as well toast the positive side of this."
Johnny tugged his own cap down over hair that hadn't seen a pair of scissors for more than six months. "Enlighten me, McCabe. What's positive here?"
"We know that, of the two, Satyr is the bigger asshole. But at least he'll kill her outright. Mockerie will torture her. The bastard has an evil soul. He hides it when he wants to. If Satyr wants Melia dead, I'll guarantee Mockerie will find a way to be involved in the manner of her death. Wait a minute, maybe I should rethink that positive aspect."
Johnny regarded him shrewdly. "Damn right you should. If you think Mockerie's evil, spend some time with his Mini-Me. Satyr's catching up to his boss at warp speed. All I care about is making sure neither of them touches Melia."
The name sounded vaguely mysterious. It was the kind of place where people with secrets might live.
Melia had a secret — a dark truth she refused to acknowledge most days. It haunted her at night, and had for the past three years, but during the day, she could sometimes forget it existed. Unfortunately it did exist, and the guilt that came with it would be with her forever. It wouldn't matter how far she ran, or how many places she tried to hide. There was no escaping the ugly fact that she'd cheated on her husband. Whether she wanted to believe it or not, the images were in her head — the view of Atlantic City, Matthew in her room holding a wineglass, smiling down at her as she sank onto the cloud of her bed ... She shuddered whenever she thought about it.
The air smelled ever so slightly of the swamp as she examined her final patient of the day. The man, a local mechanic, held up a blackened hand. "Damn rat bit me," he declared. "Biggest sucker you ever saw, doc. Fat as a racoon and then some."
Hiding a smile, Melia washed both the cut and his dirty hand. "Must've been a really old rat, Percy. Its teeth were large and blunt."
"Yeah, well, rats get old, too, right?" He squirmed in his seat. "Just make the pain go away and patch me up so I can get back to work on Sheriff Travers's truck."
The smile broke through. "Oh, I can't let you go back to work, not just like that. You'll need a series of shots first. For rabies."
"What?" Percy snatched his wounded hand away, cradling it against his chest. "You gone batty or something? I don't want no needles."
Melia drew his arm back toward her. "Rats can carry a number of diseases. Rabies is one of them. Unless you killed it and can show me the corpse, I have to assume rabies and give you the proper treatment. Otherwise you run the risk of developing hydrophobia."
His eyes narrowed in mistrust. "What'd happen if I did develop it?"
"From a little bite?"
"Big bite," Melia countered. She probably shouldn't have done it, but she couldn't resist teasing him. That wasn't the first time he'd had teeth marks on some part of his arm. "Yours seems to have been inflicted by an old rat with a powerful jaw and blunt teeth."
Percy lowered his gaze to his lap. "Maybe it weren't a rat at that. Maybe it was old Butch, my dog. He doesn't have rabies."
"He might, if he was bitten by a rat. Anyway, Butch doesn't have enough teeth left to bite anyone, even if he could rouse himself long enough to do it. You need shots, Percy." Melia raised her brows and continued the teasing tone. "Unless you'd like to change your story."
A red stain crept up his stubbly neck. "Why would I do that?"
"I don't know. Maybe because you don't want me to think you weren't quick enough to avoid your wife's teeth. Rumor has it this has happened before. Did you bite her first?"
Percy's head snapped up. "No! She bit me because I wouldn't give her no- good brother a job."
"I thought you gave him a job four months ago."
"I did. I've hired and fired him three times. Dumbass blew up an engine last week. Hell, doc, all I asked him to do was change the frigging oil. He tried to tell me the engine blew itself up, but that's a load of bull and I knew it. And he knew I knew it. Only one who didn't know it was my wife, and he went bellyaching straight to her with his load of crap. Does that seem right to you? Her taking his side and not mine?"
Melia sighed. "Don't ask me, Percy. I'm no expert on marriage. I'll assume Angie doesn't have rabies."
"She's got venom, and plenty of it." He jerked a shoulder. "But no rabies." He stabbed the index finger of his injured hand at her. "This stays between you and me, right? Sheriff Travers is Angie's cousin. He gives me enough grief as it is."
"He gives you grief, you fix his truck." Melia finished cleaning the wound. "Sounds like a workable trade-off to me. But no, I won't say anything. Doctor-patient privilege. What happens in this office stays in this office. At least, it does for me."
"I hope you mean that." Melia felt Percy's stare grow speculative as she worked. At length, he cleared his throat. "So. You, uh, got a thing going with the sheriff?"
"What? No. I mean, we've gone out a few times. I like him. He's definitely a better cook than I am. Why do you ask?"
"Just wondering. You know folks like to talk. How's about that developer guy from Jacksonville?"
"The farmer who used to be a fireman down Miami way? He did a calendar. Angie says he's hot as sizzling spit. Course, Angie also thinks her dumbass brother looks just like Matt Damon. He likes you, by the way."
"Who, Matt Damon?"
"No, Angie's dumbass brother. Keep up, doc. You about done patching me up?"
"Getting close. Bite's not as deep as you probably think. Use a glove while you're doing stuff for the next week or so to keep the bandage clean." She knew he wouldn't, but she had to make the suggestion.
"You ever been married?" Percy asked out of the blue. Then he jerked back. "Ow."
"Sorry." She breathed through a rush of guilt and pain. "I was married once," she said. "It didn't last."
When cornered, lie. She smiled. "Nothing earth shattering. We had very different careers. Things got in the way of our long-term happiness."
"Sounds like big city bullshit to me."
"We lived in L.A."
"Figures." He considered for a moment. "Hollywood's in L.A. Did you ever meet Matt Damon?"
She grinned. "Saw him. Twice. Your brother-in-law doesn't look a thing like him." Pushing away, she rummaged in a drawer. "Here's a glove you can use when you're not working. It's washable. Come back in two days, and I'll change the dressing. Don't get your hand wet, and don't pull any wrenches for at least that long. We'll see what's what after that." She poked his arm before he could argue. "Sheriff Travers has more than one vehicle. He can make do. I'll give you something for the pain and something else to stop any infection."
He stood. "Pills, or those things you shove up your butt?"
After writing out the prescriptions and handing them to him, she opened the door to the examining room. "Live dangerously, Percy. Find out when you get these filled. And keep a positive thought. Maybe some of the construction workers rolling into town will need work done on their vehicles."
"Maybe." Percy let his gaze slide to the far side of the waiting room. Melia followed it and spotted a man in the corner. He had his back to her, but she knew him well enough that her stomach muscles immediately knotted. Johnny, was her first thought, followed by a vision of blood and, God help her, possibly worse.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
Turning, the man offered her a slow smile. "Hey there, Dr. Rose. Not what you're probably thinking, so you can relax. What's it been? Fourteen, fifteen months?"
Not what she was probably thinking. Well, of all people, McCabe would know. But whatever his reason for being there, he was a wrinkle she really didn't need in her already twisted life.
Like a dog with a bone, Percy nudged her arm. "You two related?"
"Not really," she replied. "Tony here is my cousin's ex-husband's former brother-in-law."
"He's a survivalist from Colorado. Go to the drugstore, Percy. Pick up your painkillers and apologize to Angie. Watch a movie together tonight. Matt Damon, if you can find one you agree on."
Neither she nor McCabe said anything until the door closed behind her curious patient. McCabe was a smart man, not to mention a handsome one. He had enough of a beard to disguise his face, and what the beard didn't cover, the brim of his black hat did. He also wore a faded plaid shirt over denim, and work boots covered with at least ten layers of mud.
"Looking good, McCabe." She locked the street door and turned the sign. "What brings you here? I'm not planning to relocate."
"I'm not planning to relocate you." He started toward her. "You're looking good, too, Mel. Better than the last time we met."
She stared him down. "What do you want?"
"To talk." He held up his hands. "Only that. You came to me after Atlantic City when you found you couldn't settle, and I helped you carve out a new life. Connections." He grinned. "They come in handy."
"They do," she agreed. "And I appreciate you pulling strings so I could try different places, searching for the right fit."
"Is this it?" he asked.
"Possibly. Inasmuch as anywhere ever will be." She wouldn't ask, she promised herself. McCabe might be Johnny's boss, but they were also friends, and had been for several years. McCabe would have information, but ... no. Better to stay on neutral ground. "I've been seeing a man, sort of. I have a house. And a housekeeper. Her name's Gertrude. She swears she's possessed by the spirit of Bette Davis."
"Bette Davis wanted to come back over and clean houses for a living?" McCabe grinned. "You sure you don't want to relocate? There are some great small towns in Kentucky."
"I like the Everglades. The life cycles are fascinating."
"And it doesn't hurt that you were born in the area. You have a cousin here, don't you?"
Excerpted from "Dark Justice: Hunt"
Copyright © 2018 Jenna Ryan.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is book 2 in the Dark Justice book series. It can absolutely be read as a standalone but I would read the first one just so you know who one of the bigger antagonists is! This one is about Johnny Hunt and Melia Rose. Johnny and Melia were married until something happened to end it all. Something that makes Melia hate herself and not be able to move on with her life. She has moved again, this time to a small town and is trying to make friends and just live her life day by day. Until her ex drops in and throws a bomb shell at her that she truly wasn't expecting. And throws her life into a spin all over again. Whereas Johnny just wants to keep on protecting the woman he loves, even if that means sharing secrets he never thought he would share. Or trying to get a second chance and make things right with her. I absolutely loved this book! I was hooked from the start and definitely didn't expect the truth of what happened the night their marriage ended! This book had twists and turns, funny moments (love her housekeeper!!), and action to keep you interested and absorbed. And then you throw in the love and chemistry between them? Made for a engrossing read! Plus the bigger story ARC with McCabe has been pushed along and I can't wait to see where that takes us!
I am on the fence with this book. I loved book one, Morgan, but this book wasn’t quite as well done, in my opinion, as the first book in the series. Why? Well, there was a bit of repetition with the two bad guys thinking and saying they wanted to “kill her (Melia) for revenge – no let me torture her” and her ex-husband saying “I did it to keep you safe but I never stopped loving you”. And, I didn’t feel the deep abiding love between Johnny Hunt and Melia Rose that I might have wished for. That said…if I forget the trick Johnny played and the lie he perpetrated and only look at the part where he does everything he can to keep Melia safe…that might be okay except…but why were the bad guys so inept unless it was to be a spoof of a story and not meant to be taken seriously? You know, backwoods small town in Florida with stereotypical and/or wacky characters, crazy things happening, moonshine, the token bloodhound and such… Even after writing the review I am on the fence… Did I enjoy the story? Kind of Do I want to read the next book in the series? Yes Why do I want to read another? I want to find out what happens between McCabe and Mockerie (a very bad man) I am also curious about Laidlaw…mentioned in this book…he might deserve a story of his own…maybe? Thank you to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the ARC – This is my honest review. 3 Stars
This is one rollercoaster of a story for sure. if you like excitement, twists and turns, betrayal, suspense, and a little love on the side, then you will love this book. Melia was a fantastic leading lady. She was strong and fierce, not letting fear or ex-husbands stand in her way. I loved her reaction seeing Johnny after the three years apart. She was almost like another teammate to Johnny and his crew. I am really looking forward to McCabe's story. While this could be a standalone, it is part of an ongoing series. Not once did I feel like I was missing something. I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher through Netgalley.
I'm glad I gave this series a second chance because I enjoyed this one. It's a second chance story that I found unique and interesting. The story came together fairly well and I really liked Johnny and Melia. They may be divorced but you can still feel the spark between them. What I wasn't clear on all the time was exactly who the bad guys were and why they suddenly decided to go after Melia. The story seemed to drag in parts so I may not have been as focused as I could have been. Overall it's not a bad read and it is full of action and romance.