A woman with her children on the run from her past swears never to be another man’s whore. Now her baby’s father turns up dead and not only is his loan shark after her, but the police are after her as well.
Yet, when the malevolent, real estate accountant, Sterling Newman, finds out she is the key to completing his dream property, he blackmails her into marriage or turn her over to police.
Forced to marry in order to save her life and the life of her children, she vows to hate him forever. Yet, somehow he finds a way to make her body betray her heart.
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Wicked Chances (c) 2012 Sylvia Hubbard
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Blair was shocked first by the fact that Sterling Newman wanted to see her again and then the price he was willing to shell out just to see her.
“He and I agreed if you agreed to the meeting there would be no coitus.”
“No engagement of sex,” Shadow easily explained. “No penetration of any kind in anywhere of your body.”
“So you’ve already made an arrangement for me to meet with him?”
Shadow flushed. “Dammit, B, he called me an hour after you left intrigued by you still and he said he needed to see you again. He said needed.”
Blair remembered the desperate tone in his voice as if he didn’t know if he could go on without just knowing something. “I can’t.”
“Don’t grow a damn conscious now.”
When Blair still didn’t respond, Shadow must have sensed her inner conflict.
“I know you have morals, but this is a good opportunity.”
“Morals?!” Blair exclaimed. “I didn’t run away from being one man’s whore to another man’s mistress.”
“But you need money and this money is too good to turn down, B. I’m willing to give you the whole amount. I usually take a hefty cut.”
Suspiciously, Blair said, folding her arms over her chest, “You’ve been making a pretty penny off of me. What’s your real angle, Shadow, because it seems like you take money very serious?”
With exasperation, Shadow responded, “He’s starting to get suspicious about his sister in law spying for me. I need someone else in there. I need someone who can get the inside scoop on him.”
“So you’re using me.”
“Not if you don’t go.”
“I’m not going to be paid for sex!”
Shadow reiterated. “There won’t be any sex. He promised. Matter of fact, he wants to meet in a public place.”
“What about afterwards? Five grand is not just for a wink and a smile.”
“He might asked for a little kinky, but just humor me. I need to know his angle. I need to know why the hell he’s so intrigued by you.” Shadow sighed. “I’ve been watching him for a while. Despite his awfulness the man is a genius when it comes finding gold in property. This is the first time I can get someone close enough to see what he ‘s all about and all his secrets.”
Blair was in deep moral turmoil. When she still didn’t answer, Shadow said impatiently, “Look, I’m giving you the paperwork. I’m going to help you. Hide you. Make sure King Heart never find you because I know how much he likes to collect debts.”
A chill overcame Blair. Even though she didn’t know much about this King person she knew he was a determined loan shark that would do anything to get his money back – except come to Detroit.
Out of all the places King Heart could reach Detroit was a place he knew he was a dead man.
Hell, half the city owed King Heart and it was because of his fear of coming to the city those people stayed rooted in Detroit.
Was that why Shadow was here too? Blair had noted the fear in Shadow’s voice when speaking about King Heart.
“Since you are helping me, “Blair said. “I guess this time, I can help you, Shadow, but you’ve got to promise me not to ask me again to do this for you.”
Shadow smiled wickedly. “Oh I won’t, you can bet your ass but just in case you get a chance, if he says anything in his conversation about Charlotte can you let me know?”
“If he does, I will,” Blair promised.
“I’ll call you tonight.” Shadow let herself out.
Ray Junior came in the room peaking around the corner into the front room. “Is everything okay, Mommy?”
“Everything’s going to be just fine,” she said with enthusiasm. “I want you to get yourself and your sister ready to go outside.”
He ran to the back, while Blair took the gold box and put it in Lannie’s baby bag. If someone was watching them, she didn’t want to be seen leaving out of the house with a valuable gold box.
Once everyone was warmly dressed, she took them to the bus stop. Her kids were used to catching the bus no matter what the temperature they were in. Blair had never had a car of her own. She had a license, but she wasn’t about to use that in Detroit so King Heart could trace her.
Hopefully with the paperwork Shadow would give her she would be able to do a lot more, like a get job and even put her son in school.
After paying the electric and gas bill, she bought lunch for the kids and while they ate she knew they were right next door to the pawn shop. Since they were well fed they didn’t mind the wait inside of the pawn shop where she hocked the box for a hundred dollars and bought them toys. Going two stores down, she bought some new school clothes for the both of the children. Lannie started getting sleepy, so Blair decided it was time to get home. They had been out for about six hours in all and Lannie was due for a good nap. The bus ride home all together would be about forty-five minutes to an hour. Even Ray would catch a few winks during that time as well, trusting his mother to keep them safe.
As they were waiting for the bus, her phone rang. Without looking at the number, she knew it could only be Shadow.
“Where are you?” Shadow demanded to know.
“Just about to get on the bus and head home.”
“Don’t go home,” Shadow warned. “Someone broke in. They trashed and stripped the place. The police were called by the neighbors and someone alerted the landlord. Did you have any personal items in the house to link you there?”
The news was devastating, but since leaving Chicago, Blair had kept all personal information on her at all times. Before they left, she had even cleaned out the floor panel just in case she wanted to do more while she was out and about. “No,” Blair said. “Not even mail.”
There were the children’s other toys, but with the money in her pocket, she could get more.
“Good. Text me your location and I’ll tell you what bus to catch for a safe location.”
“What about tonight? All our clothes and everything-“
Shadow cut her off. “I’ll take care of everything.”
Two tiring hours later, they were just getting to a private woman’s shelter. Mae, the supervisor in charge, was expecting Blair. She was an older woman in her late fifties. A couple of teeth were missing here and there, but she had these kind brown eyes. “You don’t mind sleeping in one room together, do you?” Mae asked taking the stroller from Blair and placing it in a closet by the door with a lot of other strollers.
“I’m fine, but I do need to charge my phone somewhere.”
“Yeah, Shadow said you would and had someone drop off a charger for your phone. They also left a couple of bags of stuff in there for you.” Mae handed her a key. “And Shadow just left a few minutes ago from waiting about thirty minutes for you to give you this envelope.”
Blair opened the envelope and smiled with relief. There were papers there to start the process of getting the kids in school. Shadow had even provided a list of schools that Blair could get the kids in right away.
Mae looked over her shoulder and saw the list. “Two of them schools park their buses right nearby.”
“I don’t know how long I’ll be here,” Blair said unsurely. “Shadow just told me to show up here.”
“Trust, Shadow. Get them kids in some school so I won’t have social service breathing down my throat and you can get some help to get a place of your own,” Mae said.
Ray Junior gripped her hand. He was uncomfortable and he wanted to stay close to her. Blair was still holding Lannie as Mae led them up some stairs to the second floor where it looked to be about five different bedrooms. “Usually families don’t stay here longer than about a year. I know it looks small but this is like a safe house. Most women here are running away from some crazy ass that nearly beat them half to death and want them to come home and use them again as a punching bag. You running from something like that?”
“Something like that,” Blair said evasively.
Mae opened a door at the end of the hall. “You’re right by the bathroom, but it’s a bathroom you all share on this floor. I stay in the basement. The kitchen duty is assigned by room number. You’re day five which don’t roll around til Saturday, but your day to cook is Wednesday. Is that ok?”
“Sure,” she said because she really had nothing planned.
“Imma be picking the kindergartens up from school tomorrow so you can ride with me to enroll your kids. Shadow says she’s got some nurse coming around in the morning to look your kids over.”
Blair put Lannie on the queen size bed that was sunken in the middle but the bedding was clean. “Stay with your sister, Ray,” she ordered and followed Mae out of the room. “Does Shadow usually do so much?”
“Hell, Shadow saved a lot of these women here.”
“But she’s so young.”
“You can be a genius at any age,” Mae said proudly. “She used her money to buy some properties and open them up as houses like this. We help fund it by odd jobs. Since she’s so young she has to rely on others to help her out – adults that she can trust with the properties. I run this one and get grants to keep it up as much as possible, while Shadow just makes sure if I need anything I can always rely on her.”
Blair thought about her experience with Shadow and wondered was the girl some kind of pimp. “Odd jobs?”
“Yeah, like cleaning up other properties and working for organizations that give us things like food and clothing. It’s quiet today cause the van took the mothers over to the soup kitchen to clean up before the morning crowd. Everyone will be back by nightfall and you’ll get to meet everyone.”
That job was way different than the one Shadow had found for Blair.
“Does she often keep large sums of money and valuables for the woman?” Blair asked suspiciously.
“All the time,” Mae said obviously. “When you’re on the run, knowing your stuff is in a safe place means everything. Shadow is like our bank. We know everything’s safe as long as she’s got the stuff.”
Mae could have been paid handsomely to vouch for Shadow. Blair wasn’t sure on that tip, but she wasn’t going to dispute Shadow was saving her life.
“Shadow also said a cab is coming to get you tonight so I got duty to watch the kids. That’s fine with you? Get to know the other girls and you guys can work out a schedule for night watches. I’m a little busy so I can do this rarely,” Mae said.
“Thanks so much.”
“Dinner’s served at six through eight-thirty, so get down to the dining room if you want any for you and your kids.” Mae went back down the stairs.
Blair checked the bathroom. There was nothing out of the ordinary except it was bigger than the one she had at the one bedroom apartment.
Getting back in the room, Ray Junior lunged at her body for a hard hug. He was pretty strong for his age, but she loved knowing her son was still affectionate and not in the no touch me mom stage yet.
“We’re safe,” she said to him. “Things can only get better, okay?”
He nodded and went to lay by Lannie.
Obediently he had already taken off Lannie’s coat and placed his on the side of the bed.
In the room was one dresser, a large closet where they could store everything and a writing desk with a chair. There were rules on the walls that said only light snacks were allowed in the room and the room must be cleaned and vacuumed twice a week. Once by the occupant and the other by the house supervisor on any day she deigns, but the occupants would be notified the day before.
This was most likely to keep illegal drugs and severe un-cleanliness out of the house.
Blair picked up the coats and hung them on a hanger on the back of the door, along with her own. There were two large paper bags of clothes for her and the kids to last them a couple of days. “Go take a shower before Lannie wakes up, Ray,” she ordered handing him some clean clothes.
He looked reluctant, but obeyed.
After putting the clothes in the dresser, she looked through the contents of the envelope. Lannie’s new name was Charlotte and Ray Junior’s new name was Kaedon. Blair’s new name was now just Bea and the last name Shadow had decided on was Costello. Why that last name or any of the other names was strange to Blair, but she didn’t question anything.
Shadow had a full workup including shot records for the children. They had previous school records from Chicago and also birth certificates.
Blair hugged the paperwork to her chest and promptly put the information in her bag she always carried or made Ray in charge of. Tonight when the children were well rested before dinner, she would inform them of what was to be done.
Of course, Lannie was a little confused about her new name but Ray was helpful in telling the little girl that “Charlotte” would be a nickname she had to use and her real name would have to be a secret to everyone except her family.
Lannie was aware they were trying to stay away from “Daddy” so he wouldn’t hurt “Mommy” anymore because the child knew how sad it made her mom and she was very much for making her mother happy.
Blair deeply thanked her son for helping her get Lannie to understand before they proceeded down to dinner. Lannie was enthusiastic to tell everyone how her name was Charlotte and demanded everyone would call her by that name.
It was the secret joke of the family and Blair had a good time meeting the other women, while casting humorous looks at Ray at Lannie’s silliness.
Mae told Blair discreetly a box had been delivered from Shadow and had been set by Blair’s bedroom door.
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