fighter, I was once a well-known and feared man in this town; now I am
returning a stranger. Being home reminds me of the losses that have turned my
soul dark and built my walls high. Until I met Juliet, the sexy yoga instructor
who has invaded my every thought. Her light shines so brightly, it is like a
beacon calling to me, cutting through my darkness. But there is something
hidden behind her eyes, and she’s got walls as tall and thick as mine.
everything. Now I am trapped in a prison of lies where my heart is locked away
with my secrets. Rage has stirred things in me I thought I could never feel
again. He thinks he can get through. But I can’t give in… I mustn’t… for his
sake and mine. I won’t let the ghosts of my past hurt anyone else.
four years ago. I had taken for granted living life every day without looking
over my shoulder. Never feeling any real peace, a tiny part of me was always on
high alert. I feared that at any moment, I would be discovered. I had spent the
past four years trying to cope with intense, crippling anxiety, and everything
I had done was still no match against the nightmares that visited me often.
escape him. Now the effects of my mistakes had spread. I feared not only for my
life but also those of people I love who were put in danger because of me. I
was no longer free. Now, at twenty-seven years old, my time had run out.
to adjust to the darkness. I used my shoulder to wipe the dampness from my
face. Blackness cloaked the room, making it impossible to see anything around
me. The musty air blasting through the vent was frigid. My fingers and toes
were numb, making them hard to move. An intense headache competed with the
throbbing pain in my face. The tiniest bit of warmth against my back made me
aware of the body next to mine. I tried opening my mouth; the tape that had
sealed it shut had been removed. My lips felt swollen, and I tasted dried blood
on them. I nudged the body next to mine. I hoped that it was Paige, that they
hadn’t separated us.
croaked her childhood nickname.
waiting for an answer.
“Ana…” a low voice struggled to whisper back.
the body next to mine. “Oh, Paige…” I leaned into her as close as I could, “I’m
so sorry you got dragged into this.” My voice hitched and my eyes welled, but
no tears came. Dehydration left nothing for my body to spare. We leaned into
each other. The friction caused my broken body to ache. “I will find a way to
get us out of here,” I promised her.
Light streamed down the staircase. It was dim yet blinding in the blackness of
the basement. We both jumped and huddled our bodies even closer with our hands
tied behind our backs.
clanked heavily down each step. The stairs moaned under the weight of the man.
A large shadow appeared, then the massive body that belonged to it. It was
him—the monster. The man with all the scars. The slight limp in his step gave
highlighting areas of the basement before finding us. The light so shocking
when it hit me, I squeezed my eyes shut. I could feel the tremors rolling off
Paige’s small body. God, please. Please
send someone to rescue us before it’s too late. I had pushed away everyone
who cared; now there might be no one left who could save us.
fancy shoes on the damp concrete as they got closer and closer. I braced myself
as the large body loomed over us.
up the pace. My bike pushed forward faster, anxiety building in my chest as I
passed the small road sign with the arrow: Sugar Maple 15 miles.
body as I got closer to home. My bike sped through the warm night, covering the
distance as fast as possible. Miles of trees, bushes, and mountains were
blurred in my peripheral vision over the last five and a half hours until I
finally crossed Georgia from Tennessee.
filled my ears, the mountain air leaving a light mist on my partially exposed
face. I tried to stretch my back. I felt tight everywhere from not stopping.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up so I could leave this place. After
four long years of exile, I couldn’t get back fast enough.
surprising my brothers in the Stained Souls MC came to me last night when I
tossed and turned trying to sleep. Friday seemed too far away. At first light,
I packed my shit and left behind everything that couldn’t fit on my bike. I
knew my club brothers weren’t expecting me until the weekend so they could
throw me a huge homecoming bash. As much as that sounded great, I wanted some time
to reacquaint myself with my newly renovated hometown. Besides, I knew that the
party would leave me hungover for days, and that wasn’t how I wanted to start
were raking in cash with all the new people in town. The club owned several
buildings on the main strip, so naturally, they had done pretty well with the
renovations. I hadn’t decided, even with the influx of income, how I felt about
returning to a town full of strangers. I was once a well-known and feared man
in this town. Now I would be the stranger. The thought had my stomach turning.
one hundred on the desolate road. The blackness of night was the perfect
backdrop for the slideshow that was running in my head. All the people, places,
and friends I left behind…the good times with my brothers and the bad times
that destroyed my soul. I shouldn’t have wanted to go back. I should have
embraced my new life. But no matter how much darkness and anger Sugar Maple
triggered, it was still home.
approaching glow of city lights that made the horizon over the mountain appear
bright compared to the inky sky that surrounded it. The May heat and humidity
created a haze blanketing the area.
hillside, the moon illuminated the bright white chapel and gave it an eerie
glow. It stood tall and menacing, overlooking the bridge into Sugar Maple. Its
angular windows, the way they looked down the hill to the town below, reminded
me of angry, judging eyes.
pulled me to it. The decaying stones of the cemetery were almost as white as
the church. My eyes locked on a single headstone. I swallowed back the lump
that formed in my throat. Every fucking time I entered or left town, I was
forced to pass the painful reminder of what life took from me. I had said
goodbye to three people I loved standing under those tall maple trees, which
always seemed to mock me.
hugger, yoga enthusiast, and coffee addict.
creative ventures over the years, but none has fulfilled her true passion for
reading and writing. In her debut novel, Consumed by Rage, Zara has finally
made into reality her dream of becoming a novelist, which has been thirty years
in the making.
Sweet Valley High at age ten, and she has been a book addict ever since. She
started writing her first YA bad boy romance at age thirteen and has since
moved on to alpha males, hot bikers, and sexy vampires.
between writing and cooking. No one makes a better veggie burger! Her love of
animals has influenced her plant-based lifestyle. From the time she could walk
she brought home every stray she came across, wanting to keep them all. Her
friends nicknamed her “Snow White” because she is slightly obsessed with
feeding every hungry wild animal in her neighborhood.
romance while listening to loud music under fairy lights, surrounded by plants,
crystals, and wind chimes. Zara lives with her husband of 23 years, their
teenage daughter, spoiled pit bull, and her very ornery cat. She spends
weekends laughing on the Chesapeake Bay with her extremely loud Italian family!
She dreams of moving to a place where she can walk barefoot and be on a
paddleboard with her pit bull all year long.