Mason Prologue
    Something is wrong. Really wrong. I can't remember what it is. Danny tried to drown me, and I almost died. If Mason hadn't shown up...
    Mason! My eyes fly open as my horrific discovery floods back. Mason is a monster, a sex slave trafficker, and he had me kidnapped.
    My heart tries to escape my chest as I gaze frantically around the room. I'm tucked in Mason's bed, wearing nothing but an oversize t-shirt and panties. I suppose I should be grateful I'm not in a dungeon. Yet. The thought gets me moving, albeit slowly. Whatever the asshole drugged me with is still dragging me down. I'm shocked to see it's almost noon. I must have been out for over twelve hours.
    Biology overcomes fear for the moment and I creep into the adjoining bathroom to relieve myself. I'm so thirsty it feels like my tongue is glued to the roof of my mouth. Hoping no one will hear, I turn the sink on and gulp water from the faucet.
    My footsteps to the bedroom door are careful, soft. I can't hear anything. The house is silent. Is he gone? Am I locked in? Finding my jeans and shoes by the chair, I dress quickly, trying to force my fuzzy brain to think. My first instinct is to try to escape through the window since we're on the first floor. No doubt that will set off his security alarm though, and right now I'm barely strong enough to stay on my feet. I'd never outrun him or his goon.
    A phone. I need to get to a phone and call Ian. He knows where Mason lives and can send the police. Damned if I can remember the address. I'm surprised when the door handle turns easily, and I expect to find someone guarding the door, but the hallway is empty.
    So is the living room. No phone in sight. Shit. What do I do? Do I chance searching the house to call for help, or try to escape? The front door is right there, tempting me. It's afternoon, surely there will be people around. Someone. Anyone. Screw it. I have to get out of here. My hand lights on the doorknob for a split second when I'm frozen by his voice.
     "Are we going to do this again, Everly?"

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Excerpt from Falling Together

    I turn back to the dresser, drop my towel, and bend over to rifle through the drawer, giving him an eyeful. A surreptitious glance in the mirror shows me I have his attention. Leisurely, I paw through the drawer, choose a pair of panties and a bra, and place them beside my jeans.
    “I know what you’re doing,” he growls. His dark eyes are intense when they find mine and slowly travel south.
    “I’m getting dressed,” I reply as innocently as I can manage.
    “You know Joseph and Troy will be here for dinner soon.”
    “I’ll be ready.” His gaze follows me to the closet to find a shirt. Choosing two, I hold one in front of my bare breasts. “What do you think? This one?” I ask, grinning. “Or the blue one?” I swap the shirts quickly, giving him a flash of my nudity.
    His tongue swipes across his lower lip, making me ache to feel it between my legs. “I prefer you as you are, but if you insist on wearing clothes, I like the blue.”
    Casually, I move back to the dresser, turn my back to him, and pick up the tiny white lace panties. I’m taking my sweet time sliding them up my legs when he gently moves our sleeping baby from his chest to the bed. I’m in trouble now. I’ve just fastened my bra when his hands slide down my ribs and grip my hips from behind. God, I’ll never get tired of his hands on me. It’s like an addiction. His lips press against my ear.
    “You’re teasing me,” he murmurs, his voice thick with dark promises. “Don’t try that innocent look with me, sweetheart,” he drawls when I glance back at him. The sound of his voice makes me shiver. I’m so affected by him, a few words and I’m at his mercy. His right hand runs smoothly down my belly and into my panties, while his other arm wraps around my waist and tugs me back against him. I’m pinned, my back to his chest while his fingers slide into me and his thumb circles and presses.”You’re so wet.”
    There’s no hiding how much I always want him. All I have to do is think of his touch and I’m soaked.           “Airen,” I moan.
    “Mmm.” He continues his amorous assault, and I lean back against him as my legs weaken. I tilt my head, giving him access to my neck and he takes full advantage, licking and sucking at the sensitive skin. The front door closes with a bang, and Carson’s voice travels down the hall as he greets Joseph. Shit. Why couldn’t they be five minutes late? Airen’s talented fingers slow and then cease.
    Grabbing his hand in a death grip, I press it between my legs and plead, “No, don’t stop. I’m so close.”
I’m left right on the edge, empty and aching, as he spins me to face him. “That’s what you get for teasing me,” he whispers. A wicked smile spreads across his face at my frustrated groan. “You’d better get dressed.”
    “Airen,” I breathe, desperately trying and failing to keep the whine out of my voice.

    “It’s time to entertain our guests.” He grins. “And don’t even think about it, darlin’,” he adds catching my glance at the bathroom door. His hand darts out to give a quick squeeze between my legs. “Mine. Don’t touch.” Bastard. I sigh and pull on my blue sweater. My heart has finally started to slow when he grabs me and kisses me hard, thrusting his tongue in my mouth and reigniting my need for him. “I’m going to tie your hands to the bed tonight and lick every inch of you,” he growls.

Excerpt 2 from Falling Together

His grin is mischievous as he holds up a balloon and asks, “Do you want to help me teach Airen a lesson?”
“Let’s go out the back,” I reply with a giggle. We’re scarcely out the door when we’re presented with the perfect opportunity. Airen is crouched against the corner of the house, water cannon at the ready, just waiting for a victim. He’s a sitting duck.
We creep up behind him, as close as we dare. I’m fighting so hard not to giggle and give us away. Joseph nods, and we fire the balloons at him, one after the other. The surprise and utter shock on his face is absolutely priceless. Soaked to the skin, water drips from his inky black hair to run down his face.
“Just keep on laughing,” he taunts, wiping the water from his eyes. “You’re both dead.” Joseph grabs my arm and we back away, preparing to run. Airen laughs. “Abby, this is your only chance to surrender, sweetheart.” His eyes smolder as his lips lift in a wicked little half smile. “Just hold Joseph right there.”
I shake my head, laughing. “Come get us, Holder. I don’t sell out my friends.”
“Have it your way, now you’re in trouble.” I squeal and run as he laughs and pivots sharply, darting after us, but he doesn’t get far. In his haste, he overlooks the large mud puddle from the overflow of our rainwater filter until it’s too late. Attempting to leap over it at the last second, his foot slips and he sprawls head first in the mud, nearly disappearing under the murky water before he sits up spluttering.
“Are you…all right?” Joseph asks, struggling to talk through his laughter. I don’t believe I’ve laughed so hard in my entire life. My knees squelch against the grass as I drop down, holding my side, tears pouring down my face.
When I manage to catch my breath and peek at Airen, he’s sitting calmly in the middle of the puddle, staring at us. The sight sets me off again, and when Troy, Eric, and Julie round the corner, I have to close my eyes. Their faces…his smirk…oh, I’m going to laugh myself into a hernia.
He scoops the mud away from his eyes and off his lips before rising slowly, a wicked mischievous grin spreading across his dirty face. Suddenly, he bolts in my direction, and before I can take three steps he embraces me, pressing his body against mine. Mud squishes between us and soaks into my shorts and T-shirt. It’s cold!
“Airen!” I squeal. His wet lips are chilly against my cheek. The muscles in his arms and back bunch and flex as he scoops me up, and my world tilts as tosses me over his shoulder. “Put me down!” I cry, still giggling.
“Sure thing, darlin’,” he drawls. Letting my body slide down his chest, he plants his leg behind mine and falls back into the mud, taking me with him. I’m soaked and covered in grime from head to toe.
“You asshole!” I laugh, splashing him.
“Traitor.” Grinning, he lies back in the mud hole as if he’s reclining on the beach, slips his arm around me, and pulls me onto his chest. I can hear the others laughing and hooting. I’m lying on top of him, face to face. His eyes are lit up, alive and dancing with happiness as they gaze into mine. No woman in the world could resist him when he’s like this. We kiss, warming our lips against one another’s. “This would be perfect if we were naked,” he murmurs, too low to be heard by our snickering audience.
“You’re terrible.”
“Let’s get Joseph,” he whispers. Muddy hands pull me to my feet and we climb out of the puddle. Our intentions must have been shining on our faces. Joseph takes a cautious step back a second before we dart toward him. Eric and Carson hold him until Airen grabs his waist, and we drag him into the mud with us.
“It was Abby’s idea!” He laughs, glancing at me.

“Oh, you backstabber! You’re so full of shit! Who brought me the water balloons?” His lie earns him a muddy splash. After a minute or two of wrestling to keep him submerged in the goo we let him go and climb out. I sling an arm around each of them, and we head for the water barrel to wash off the worst of the mud, still chuckling and teasing. My boys, how I love them.


Excerpt from The Last Woman

“Will you dance with me?” Airen asks, holding out his hand.
   I try not to show my surprise as I take his hand and follow him. He changes the song to one of my favorites, an acoustic version of Give Me Love by Ed Sheeran. I try to act normal and hold him the same as I did Joseph, but he smells so good; like citrus and musk.
   He holds my hand and slips his fingers between mine, sliding his other arm around my waist and pulling me close. I place my hand over his shoulder blade where I can enjoy the flex of muscles in his back as he moves. My head rests tentatively against his, and I feel the soft tickle of his hair. He keeps me so close, his hard stomach against me. I’m pressed against his chest, trying to control the urge to slide my hand down to his ass. As the last verse starts, he pulls me away from him slightly. He gazes at me, and I’m drowning in those eyes, those dark mesmerizing eyes.
   “I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to do this,” he whispers, and then his lips are on mine. Everything ceases to exist. My whole world is dominated by the feeling of Airen’s lips on mine. His kiss is sweet, his lips soft as they move and shift over mine. After a few seconds, the tip of his tongue strokes my lips, and I give in. I kiss him back, and I finally get to taste him, to taste Airen. We deepen the kiss, exploring each other’s mouths as he holds my face in his hands.
   I slide my hand up his neck and bury it in his soft hair, as I wrap my other arm around him and press him to me harder. Oh, can this really be happening? Shouldn’t I be waking up by now? My moan fills his mouth as his fingers trail across my breast and stomach to rest on my waist. He sucks delicately on my bottom lip as we finally break apart.
   I lean my forehead against his chest and close my eyes. He really kissed me. I kissed Airen. Beautiful, sexy, way out of my reach Airen. He seems to know I need a minute and holds me close, swaying to the music until I ask, “Are you drunk?”
   “You know I’m not.”
   We keep dancing as the next song comes on. I’m completely speechless, and my mind is spinning. I want him so bad. I want to grab his ass, reach under his shirt, rub my hands across his bare chest, and kiss him until I can no longer breathe. I’m fighting to control my urges. I know this is wrong.
   “Stop,” he admonishes.
   “Over thinking this.”
   I sigh. “I don’t want you to be sorry or regret anything later.”
   His hand strokes the back of my head and moves down to rub my back. “I won’t regret anything. Why would I?”
   I give him a resigned look. “I’m not the last woman alive. It just seems that way, Airen. There will be other survivors, beautiful women who would happily fight to the death for a chance to be with you. I don’t want to see you settle when things won’t always be this way.”
   “Abby,” he hesitates.
   “Be honest, Airen. Before the plague if I’d passed you on the street in New York, you never would have noticed me. I can never compete with the skinny models and beautiful actresses you’re accustomed to dating. You’re way out of my league.”
   He pushes me away from him and stares at me. “Look at me, Abby.”
   I raise my eyes, and bite my lip.
   “I’m insulted that you think I could be that shallow, as if all I care about in a woman is her appearance. Personally, I prefer a woman with curves.” He runs his hands down my hips. “Still, that’s beside the point. Beauty isn’t the most important thing to me, and besides you’re—”
   “Don’t!” I interrupt him. “Please just don’t. It makes me uncomfortable. I have a mirror. I know how I look.”
   He holds my head in his hands, and his gaze burns into me. “You don’t know how you look to me. I want you to understand I don’t see you the way you see yourself. I see the woman I love.”
   I can’t fight him anymore. I never had a chance. All I can do is nod and press my face into his shoulder. “I’ve tried so hard not to love you, Airen.”
   “How did that work for you?”
   I can hear the smile in his voice. “It didn’t. I just did my best to hide it.”
   He snorts and threads his fingers through my hair. “You did a good job. I was afraid I’d lose you to Joseph for a while. Thank goodness he’s gay.”
   I shake my head in disbelief. He was jealous? His hateful attitude toward Joseph and me really was due to jealousy? Joseph knew, and he tried to tell me, but I didn’t believe him. I can hardly believe it now.
   I have to hear it from him. “You were jealous?”
   Looking away, he mumbles, “Not one of my better qualities, I know.”
   I giggle, and he raises his eyebrows. “It’s a trait we share.” He sits on the couch with his arm around me, and I lean against him, inhaling his scent and reveling in the closeness of his body to mine. “Are sure you want this? I mean, we can’t exactly just date when we’ve been living together for so long.”
   “Hmm,” he hums, nuzzling his face in my neck. “I may have had fantasies of sharing that big closet you have in your room, but we can take things as slow as you want. I just want to be with you, Abigail.”
   “You have to promise me something.”
   “Anything,” he whispers, kissing my earlobe.

Excerpt 2 from The Last Woman
The next day, I’m filling a generator with gas when I get the feeling I’m being watched. “I could use some help,” I remark cheerfully, thinking one of the kids must have followed me outside.
“So could I,” a gruff, unfamiliar voice responds.
A man stands a few feet away from me, and he’s huge. He stands at least six foot three and probably weighs two hundred fifty pounds. He’s filthy, and I can smell him; a mixture of body odor, piss, and rotten meat. His beard and long hair hasn’t had even a passing acquaintance with shampoo. I’m so shocked it takes me a moment to find my voice.
“Hi,” I utter. Aren’t I brilliant? He’s eyeing me up and down like a particularly succulent steak when I notice the shotgun propped on his shoulder. “We don’t want any trouble,” I whisper, my voice trembling.
“Well then, girly, I suggest you keep quiet and get your ass in gear,” he growls. He sounds as if he’s been gargling gravel. “You aren’t goin’ to do anythin’ to make me hurt that little boy of yours, are you?”
Oh no. This can’t be happening. I’m panic stricken, but his threat against Carson keeps me focused. “No, I’ll do whatever you want me to do. Please, just leave my son alone.” I don’t know if he’s aware of Jayla or Airen and I have no intention of mentioning them if he doesn’t.
“Damn right. Come on.”
“Where are we going?” I don’t know whether to stall or hurry. I’m terrified of letting him take me, but I can’t risk him hurting the kids or Airen.
“Home!” he barks.
Airen appears around the corner of the house, walking fast, no doubt hearing the stranger. No! What do I do now? I hold up my hand as he starts toward us.
“Stop! Airen, don’t!” He halts and stares from me to the disgusting man standing beside me holding a gun.
“Airen, listen to me,” I plead, trying to control the tremor in my voice. “I have to go. Please tell Carson I love him.” I’m struggling not to cry while I stare into Airen’s eyes, willing him with all my might not to fight. Indecision is written all over his face. “Please, he has a gun.”
The tension is palpable as they eye each other. Finally, Airen says, “I’ll take care of Carson.”
“You stay the fuck away if you want to live long enough to take care of him,” Mr. Disgusting threatens.
Airen’s fists are clenched and his body taut, like a panther preparing to strike. Anger rolls off him in waves. He’s fighting the urge to run at him, weighing the odds of reaching him before he can shoot. Mr. Disgusting shifts the gun so it’s pointing at my head and gives a rotten toothed grin, daring him to try. Airen looks at me helplessly. “I’m sorry,” he whispers.
“I’ll be okay.” I try to reassure him, though we both know that’s probably not true. Somehow, I doubt this man wants to sweep me away for a free Caribbean vacation.
“Don’t worry, pretty boy. I’ll take real good care of her.” Laughing, he pulls me away and into the woods. We managed to get through the confrontation without anyone getting hurt. Now I just have to find a way to escape.
We walk north through the woods until we come to a gravel road. This monster lives less than two miles from us. How is it possible we haven’t seen him before? I’m lead to a large A-frame house that looks right at home in the forest, a fairytale house.
“Get inside,” he orders.
He’s drunk. I can smell the whiskey even over his stench. Ugh, so much for fairytales. The inside of the house is filthy. Dirty dishes and food wrappers are scattered over the tables, couches, and floor. I’m ankle deep in whiskey and vodka bottles, and the smell is so foul I have to breathe through my mouth.
“I ain’t much of a housekeeper, girly, but I got you for that now. You’re gonna cook and clean and keep me happy, or I’ll go back for pretty boy and that kid of yours.”
“Can I start by opening a few windows? It needs aired out.” I need time to think and until I can find a way out, I feel like the smart thing to do is play along.
He laughs. “Start wherever you want. I ain’t gonna watch you every minute or chain you to a table. If you run, I’ll kill your boy. It’s as simple as that.”
“I won’t run.”
He plops down on the couch, ignoring the puff of dust and the screech of overstretched springs. Propping the gun beside him, he opens a fresh fifth of whiskey.
Wading through the garbage, I proceed to open windows. I really need some fresh air, but I also want as many escape routes as I can get. Should I escape? There’s nothing to stop him from following through on his threats. My heart sinks as I realize I can’t just leave, even if I get the opportunity. We would have to be on our guard constantly. He could hurt Carson or Jayla. I have only one option. I have to kill him.
He has to pass out eventually, doesn’t he? The way he is guzzling the alcohol, it’s inevitable. I’ve never seen anyone drink like that. I’m afraid to even glance at the gun beside him. Surely, he expects me to try something. It’s better to keep busy. I want him to think I’m scared enough to obey and way too terrified to attempt an escape.
I find a roll of trash bags and start with the kitchen floor. Whoever lived here before Mr. Disgusting commandeered the place had obviously stocked the cleaning supplies. I can’t imagine he popped down to the store for antibacterial wipes. To my relief, there are also rubber gloves, an apron, and clean towels in a closet beside the stove. After slipping on the gloves, I begin picking up the trash. Oh, it’s so gross!  Piles of mouse droppings hide underneath the layer of garbage, and mold grows in patches on the floor. I can’t believe he doesn’t have roaches, but I suppose they’ve had more than enough to feed on lately. I can feel his creepy eyes on me as I bend over to pick up a pile of soda cans.
“That’s quite the show you’re puttin’ on there, girly. That’s the sexiest ass I’ve seen in a long time,” he slurs.
Terror is trying to freeze me in place, but I can’t let it. I can’t panic, or I’ll never be able to defend myself. His eyes narrow when I glare at him, and he raises his voice.
“Got somethin’ you want to say? Well?”
My mind is spinning with things I want to say, but I control myself. “You need some mouse traps. They’re getting into your food,” I calmly reply.
He stares at me for a few moments as if I’m some puzzle he can’t solve. Finally, he chuckles. “Ayuh, little bastards are takin’ over.”
“It would probably be easier to get new dishes than to try to wash these.”
“Sure, girly, I’ll get you some tomorrow. We’ll go to the store, and you can get whatever you want.”
How about a gun and a hacksaw? Oh, I hate him! “Thank you.”
“I tole you if you take care of me, I’ll take care of you,” he slurs. “Not gonna be alone no more.”
What he had actually said was if I take care of him then he won’t hurt my son. If it wasn’t for that, I may have been able to have some sympathy for this piece of human garbage. He’s probably been alone for months and obviously decided whiskey was the answer to his loneliness until he saw us living so close to him.
“You just keep on cleanin’, girly. I’m gonna get some air. Gotta make sure that pretty boy you lived with don’t try to take you back.”
“He won’t.”
“Ayuh, I thought he looked a little fruity.”
The screen door slams behind him, and I watch out the window while he plops into an oversized armchair and leans the gun between his legs. I release a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. At least now I can think without him staring at my ass. There must be a way to poison him or knock him out, I think, searching frantically through the cabinets. Damn! All the cleansers are non-toxic or organic. The former occupants must have had small children, or perhaps they were really environmentally conscious.

“Hippies,” I say aloud, laughing. I’m on the edge of losing it, struggling to stay calm and focused. I can’t panic. The sound of a deep rattling snore drifts through the window. He’s passed out in the chair! I can’t take my eyes off of the gun. Do I dare? I have only fired a shotgun once, years ago, and I’m not exactly confident using one. If I screw this up, it’s not only my life at stake. He could kill us all, but I can’t just stand here. I snatch up two of the trash bags I’ve already filled and head outside. I need to determine if he’s really unconscious and if I can creep near enough to grab the gun. If he wakes, I’ll pretend to be carrying the trash to the pile beside the house.

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