Happy weekend, everyone! Today I have another unpublished short story for you, SOMETHING HE WANTS, which followed LONG PAST DAWN in The Friessens series. There’s also a new audio release, a giveaway and free audio codes to enjoy. Have a fabulous Friday & take good care– Lorhainne
Something He Wants
There was something about the concrete, the barred windows, the miles of wires, and the guards perched a hundred feet up, watching him now with a threat or a warning, protecting these walls and keeping the angry, horrible monsters locked away. Every one of the men inside this prison had been someone’s child, with hopes and dreams of his own, and somewhere along the way, something had gone horribly wrong.
Everything about it was unfeeling, and as Andy Friessen stood outside in the cold, taking in the pale concrete against the gray sky, he knew nothing good could come from a place like this.
The wind picked up and rustled his neatly cut salt and pepper hair as he pulled at the collar of his black coat and shoved his hands in his pockets. He spotted a car in the distance and waited until the silver Malibu parked beside his rental SUV in the lot. He didn’t move as the door opened and a woman he’d known for more than two decades stepped out.
Jan Brown had short dark hair and a round face, and she wore blue jeans and a tan wool coat. A dark-haired young woman stepped out the other side of the car, her wool coat frayed on the arms, her skirt wrinkled from sitting, and her boots scuffed.
“You been here long?” Jan said. She stood only five foot six, he thought, and he towered over her. The other woman was likely an inch shorter but a size or two bigger. She said nothing to him.
“Just got here,” he replied. “So he’s still willing to see us?”
Jan nodded, and he could see her breath as she exhaled. “As of last night, my last call to the warden. Let’s remain cautiously optimistic and remember what the warden said: He can’t be trusted, so don’t tell him anything personal.”
Andy stilled as he thought of his beautiful wife back home and his daughter Sara, who was the image of her. He thought of all his kids, who were just making their way in this world despite the roadblocks that seemed to be tossed in their paths. There was one thing about Andy: When cornered, he came out swinging, and right now, the man they were meeting had something he wanted.
“How long have we known each other?” Andy said.
There it was, the hint of a smile. Jan was the woman who made sure no one ever fucked with Andy, but she kept her personal life neatly tucked away. He’d heard rumors about a divorce long ago from a husband who’d picked her bank account clean, and now a new lover half her age.
“Long time,” she said. “Well, let’s do this. I have other cases, and I want this wrapped up so I can move on.”
He liked that about her, her straightforwardness. The other woman had fallen in beside Jan without a word, not commenting or needing to fill the awkward moment with frivolous small talk.
“Andy, this is Kizzy, a law student,” Jan said, then turned to her. “So we’re clear on your role, you won’t talk to him, and I already filled you in on what the warden said about him. Any interest he sends your way, you won’t engage. Give him nothing. Just sit there and do not answer.”
“Yes, I understand,” Kizzy replied. “So what if he doesn’t sign the agreement or confess?”
The guard at the door buzzed them in. The concrete floor and walls were dark and dingy.
“You just sit there quietly,” Jan said. “That’s why I picked you to come, because of your ability to handle a delicate situation. He thinks he holds all the cards, and right now, unfortunately, he does. We go in there, and we need to all be on the same page so that he believes we have all the power. If he doesn’t agree to our terms, then we’ll walk, and he has nothing. This is it, all or nothing, and we have only one shot at this.” She turned back to him. “This is for your daughter, Andy, and her fiancé. That’s the only reason I’m here, working this.”
There was another buzz as another barred door opened, and Andy waited for Jan and Kizzy to walk through and over to the square window.
A guard was on the other side, a light shining behind him. “Sign here, and leave your bags and coats,” he instructed. “Cell phones, too. Anything you plan to take in will have to be searched first.”
They handed all their personal effects over and signed in to the prison, and Andy took in the knitted black V-cut shirt Kizzy wore. She had a full bust (he suspected a D cup), and her skirt was tight at the hips. Her full lips were unsmiling.
He knew a few things from having read Jan’s notes on her: She had the third-highest marks in her class, definitely competitive, and ass-kickingly good, but with a deadbeat leech of a boyfriend. Andy wondered how long it would take for Kizzy to figure that out.
What was it about strong, capable women that made them magnets for the losers of the world? He supposed Kizzy was simply following in Jan’s footsteps in that regard. At the same time, he’d learned long ago that even people who could be relied on were not always heroes. Case in point, he definitely wasn’t.
He took the clip-on visitor badge that the guard handed to him and clipped it to the pocket of his shirt, then looked up after he heard another buzz, seeing a different guard now, uniformed, wearing the same deadpan expression as the two before.
“We have only thirty minutes,” Jan said, holding her briefcase again, first through the barred door.
Andy gestured for Kizzy, who hadn’t pulled her gaze from him, to follow.
“I didn’t expect you to be coming with us, Mr. Friessen,” she said. She had fallen in beside him as Jan led the way, following the guard down another hallway, concrete and more bars ahead.
“Why wouldn’t I?” was all he said.
She didn’t shrug, just kept walking. There was something about the walls that seemed to ooze with death. Maybe that was why his heart was pounding, and he reminded himself to breathe past the feeling of panic in his chest. He wondered if this was what every man felt when he walked through these doors, many to never step outside again. At least he would be going home.
How many doors had they passed? There was an echo, the squeak of metal, the clang of keys, footsteps, voices, then shouting as another door was opened and closed. He figured they were inside the prison by now, and he and Kizzy followed Jan and the guard into a concrete room with a metal table, chairs, a light in the ceiling, and no window.
He listened to chains and the echo of footsteps, and then a man appeared, dark, tall, handcuffed, with prison tattoos on his forearms. Darnell Watson was big and strong, and Andy wondered if he could snap a man’s neck if given a chance. He was put into the chair, and his dark eyes locked on to Andy’s as a guard cuffed his ankle to the floor. Andy listened to the clang of the metal as the cuffs fell away.
Darnell rubbed his wrists, taking in Jan before his gaze landed on Kizzy and he made a sound of appreciation.
“I’ll be just outside,” the guard said. “Call if you need me.”
Andy leaned against the concrete wall, looking down on this man, who was doing life.
“So is this pretty mama here for my conjugal visit?” Darnell said.
His tone had Andy stiffening, but Kizzy only flicked Darnell what he thought was a “Fuck you” expression. She kept it together. Good girl!
“Mr. Watson, we’re here about Tiera Reed,” Jan said. “You know, the woman who’s doing life after taking the fall for you and your stolen guns. Right now, you could do the right thing and come clean. It will mean no more time is added to your sentence, and if you do, there’s a deal that could even make your time easier.”
Darnell laughed, deep in his chest. Andy took in the cut of the muscles in his forearms and the way he sat in the chair, shamelessly undressing Kizzy with his eyes. It took everything in him for Andy not to grab that piece of shit and make him mind himself, but Jan had already tossed him a look that told him to pull it together.
“Tiera who?” Darnell said.
Right, that was why they were there. Darnell wouldn’t come clean for the crime he’d done, for grooming one woman after another, hiding behind them and taking cover. After all, it seemed he saw women as nothing but collateral damage.
“Are you finished being an asshole?” Jan said. “This is a time-sensitive offer, and the clock is ticking. Tiera Reed, young mother of two boys. Come on, you know what you did, telling her she’d get just a couple years and be out, yet the three-strike rule got her. She didn’t hear from you again. You moved on, but the next woman was smarter. She wouldn’t take the fall, and here you are.”
He said nothing at first, then angled his head to Kizzy like a dog sniffing around a bitch in heat. “So who’s she?”
“My assistant, another lawyer,” Jan said. “So how about it, Darnell? Come clean and your life gets a lot easier.”
The quiet echoed in the concrete room.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Kizzy said. She had leaned forward, and even he could see the cleavage she didn’t try to hide.
Darnell pulled back. “Not good enough,” he said.
“So doing the right thing isn’t for you?” Jan said. “I see that, but then, how many women have you talked into doing your bidding? They take the fall, carry the guns and the drugs, and you pick at them bit by bit, like a vulture.”
He smiled. “So who’s the angry white man in the corner who looks like he’d rather slit my
throat than talk?” he said.
Andy didn’t move and didn’t uncross his arms.
“No one of importance,” Jan said. “He’s just here observing. Pretty sure you were offered something you’ll never get otherwise.”
Andy made a point of looking at his watch.
“Ten minutes is all you have,” Jan continued, “and then we walk out that door and never come back, and you go back to that cell that you share with a man who cries himself to sleep every night, to the crazies who howl all the time. Bet you never expect to have a good night’s sleep again. I can’t imagine what that would be like, kind of like losing your mind bit by bit every day—and because this is a federal max in Pennsylvania, they don’t allow conjugals. But what if you were transferred to a medium security, say, over in Washington, where it seems more like a country club?”
Darnell wasn’t smiling anymore. Andy guessed he’d figured out who held all the power here.
“Say I do confess to something,” he said. “How do I know that I’ll get my transfer, that I’ll get what you say? It seems to me that I have something you want, so let’s do this. You get me the west coast, and get my sentence reduced.”
There was just something about Darnell that told Andy the man wouldn’t give them what they wanted. Of course, that would have been too easy.
Jan had her file open and wrote something down, then clicked her pen, closed the file, and tucked it into her briefcase. “Well, I guess we have our answer. I’d say that’s time.” She scraped back her chair, and Kizzy took her time getting up. Andy didn’t miss Darnell’s panic, his anger, the animalistic expression that said he could hurt them.
“Whoa, wait a second! What’s going on?” he said. “You’re not going. We’re just negotiating. We’re just getting started. Come on, sit back down.”
But Jan had her hand on Kizzy’s back and had moved her around the table, then tapped on the door. The chair scraped back, and Darnell was on his feet, but the chain clanged, and he couldn’t move. The guard was there in an instant, slamming him down on the metal table. The sounds, the scent, the feeling of desperation—Andy wondered how many showers he would have to take to wash it all away.
“Don’t go,” Darnell called out. “What the fuck? I want a deal. You said you’d get me moved. I know her! Yes, I talked that stupid bitch into owning it. She was easy, like putty. You
want to know everything? I’ll tell you…”
He was still yelling, though the guard had him face down, his arms pinned back. Andy took in Jan’s determined gaze, which flicked over to him.
“That will be fine then, Darnell,” she said. “Guard, if you could sit him down?”
As Jan walked back around the table and the guard had Darnell sitting again, Andy appreciated how she could fool anyone into thinking she was soft and easy. He knew that he and Kizzy had been dismissed, and they started toward the door.
“So, Mr. Watson, just so we’re clear,” Jan continued behind them, “this in contingent on you coming clean on the crime, providing details that can be corroborated so that Tiera Reed, who is doing life for you, will then be free…”
“So that’s it,” Kizzy said as they walked back through the prison, led by another guard.
“Yeah, that’s it,” Andy replied. He stopped at the window with her, signing out, taking their things back. “I suppose this was a long way to come to just watch and listen,” he added.
She stood before him as they waited for the guard to open the door. “With all due respect, Mr. Friessen, I’m not a fool,” she replied. “I know you both used me because I’m his type, and that’s the only reason I’m here.”
For a second, he paused. He didn’t know what to say, and he took in the guard ahead of them, who was expressionless but whose watchful eyes said he knew exactly what Andy and Jan had done.
He should’ve been ashamed, but instead he said, “I won’t apologize. You’re a smart woman. I owe you, so here is my gift to you: I want you to know that when you fly home with Jan tonight, you’re going to walk in on your boyfriend with another woman in your bed, or you’re going to check your bank account and find it’s down another five hundred, and it’s because you’re that same strong, confident type that men like Darnell Watson find, groom, and take everything from.”
Her face gave away nothing. When she went to answer, the guard interrupted them.
“He’s right, ma’am,” he said. “I see it every day. The signs are right there in front of you. You just need to open your eyes and see them.”
New on Audio
Grab a FREE US or UK Audible code below–first come, first served!
Enter to Win
Want more heart-warming stories to add to your TBR pile? Enter to win A REASON TO BREATHE on BookSweeps today—plus dozens of other exciting Sweet Contemporary Romances from a great collection of authors… AND a brand new eReader. Click here to enter. Contest ends June 2, 2021.
Free Audio Codes
Get a FREE US or UK Audible code for these Wilde Brothers titles. A limited number of codes are available; first come, first served. Honest reviews are always appreciated. Happy listening! *Code must be redeemed immediately or will be reassigned to another reader within 48 hours.
***Before claiming your audiobook code please make sure you are signed into your Audible account. You do not need to have a paid membership to have an Audible account or claim FREE audiobook codes.