Submission and Surrender

By: Cali MacKay

Chapter One

Sitting alone at the hotel bar, Hadley let out a ragged breath and wrestled with her emotions as she hung up with her lawyer, his words still echoing in her head. After two long years of legal wrangling, her divorce was final.

Tears stung her eyes, even though it felt like she could finally breathe again without the weight of her past sitting on her chest. Matt had been a lying, cheating bastard, and yet at one point they’d truly loved each other—or at least she’d thought they had. But that was before she’d lost herself in her work, taking on one case after another, and before Matt lost his job, started gambling away everything they owned and then cheated on her with some woman he’d met in therapy.

Trying to ignore the steady thump of loud music that made its way over the speakers, she took a long swig of her beer, thinking it ironic that she was a police consultant—a special investigator, no less—and yet she’d managed to ignore all the signs that’d been right under her nose. Part of her wondered if it’d just been easier for her to remain oblivious rather than to try to deal with a crumbling marriage.

And then Matt cleaned out her savings on a week-long excursion to Vegas with his girlfriend. That had been the slap in the face she’d needed.

They’d then spent the next few years with him promising to clean up his act and her hating him each time he’d lapsed back into his old habits. He’d refused to get help, and after she’d caught him cheating once more, that had been the last straw.

Vowing never to let love cloud her judgment again, she’d packed her bags and filed for divorce.

Two years ago.

Part of her felt as though she should be celebrating, but there was an even bigger part of her that felt like she’d failed. Failed to see the truth. Failed to keep her marriage together. Failed at being a wife.

The only thing she was good at was her job. And at this point, her job was the only thing she had left. Her cases. Solving her mysteries. At least she was making a difference by putting criminals behind bars and solving cases that had hit a wall.

She supposed she could blame her failed marriage on The Curse—the curse of the Moore women that always resulted in them picking shitty men. Her gran, her mom, her sister, herself…every one of them had been screwed over and messed around with.

She’d thought she’d picked a good one with Matt—and he had been a great husband at the beginning. He’d showed her what it was like to be happy, and he’d made her want that sort of a fairy-tale romance. And then the curse hit, and it all went down the stinking toilet after he got laid off and ended up with far too much time on his hands—time he’d spent gambling and then fucking other women when he was supposed to be getting help with his problem. At least they hadn’t brought kids into that mess.

Knowing it’d be far too easy to let her past drag her down, Hadley vowed to make the most of this new start—this new life. She was finally free of her past and she could start fresh. Leave her mistakes and the curse behind. Find out who she really was when she didn’t have baggage pulling her down into a pit of desperation and threatening to drown her.

With her eyes still on her beer, she felt the air around her shift as someone took a seat next to her. She barely needed a sideways glance to take in the details. Male, tall, far too much cheap cologne, and since there were plenty of other seats at the bar and he’d decided instead to crowd her, it meant that he was going to be a nuisance.

“I’ll have what the pretty lady’s having, and one more for her.” To her, he said, “Name’s Ryan.”

Hadley let out a sigh, and shifted in her seat to face him, managing a small smile as she took him in. Too young, too built, too full of himself, and too drunk, if she had to guess. “I appreciate it, but I’m all set. Thanks.”

“I’m just trying to buy you a drink, princess.” Leaning against her, he closed in on her space, brushing her hair off her shoulder in a move that earned him a glare. “Can’t a guy buy you a drink, or do you think you’re too good for me? You haven’t even told me your name.”

“I think I’m done here.” She didn’t want to get into it, and he wasn’t worth the aggravation. The only reason she was even at the hotel was because she was helping with a new case and it was too far from home for her to commute.

She slipped off the stool when he grabbed her arm. “Hey…where you going? I want to get to know you better. Have a bit of fun. Come on…stay and have a drink.”

Why…why couldn’t she just be left alone to wallow in her misery? She’d wanted a bit of a distraction, but not this. She yanked free of his grasp, fire in her eyes. “Buddy—touch me again, and you’ll live to regret it.”

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