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Hard justice, p.1

Hard Justice, page 1

 

Hard Justice
 


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Hard Justice


  Hard Justice

  Jessica Coulter Smith

  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published, and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  This is a work of fiction. All characters, places, businesses, and incidents are from the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual places, people, or events is purely coincidental. Any trademarks mentioned herein are not authorized by the trademark owners and do not in any way mean the work is sponsored by or associated with the trademark owners. Any trademarks used are specifically in a descriptive capacity. Font used in this novel is Garamond.

  Cover Artist: Jessica Coulter Smith

  Stock photos from CanStock Photo

  Edited by Ilse Shaffer

  FIRST EDITION

  ©2016, Jessica Coulter Smith

  Table of Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Epilogue

  About the Author

  Prologue

  Pain exploded across her cheek and through her eye as her head snapped to the side. Bliss staggered back a step, bracing her hand on the wall. With narrowed eyes, she faced her soon to be ex-boyfriend. She’d taken a lot of crap from him over the past year, but hitting was one thing she wouldn’t tolerate.

  “I told you there isn’t anyone else,” she said in a near hiss. “I took myself out for lunch and a shopping trip. I needed to get out of the house.”

  “You haven’t fucked me in months. If you aren’t giving it to me, you must be giving it away somewhere else.” Travis’s face contorted with rage, his skin turning an ugly shade of red. She watched a vein tick in his forehead and wondered what it would take to make it explode.

  “That’s the problem, Travis. Maybe I want more than a fuck. I want it to mean something, and whatever emotions were once between us are long gone. Ever since you moved to the midnight shift, things have turned to shit between us. I can’t stand that you’re home all day every day. I need space!”

  “You mean you need time to whore around.”

  Grinding her teeth together, she balled up her fist and took a swing at him. He caught her hand easily enough and jerked her off balance, causing her to teeter a moment before stumbling into his chest. He gripped her hair and wrenched her head back, leaving her throat and shoulders exposed to him.

  Bliss fought like a wild cat, refusing to give up or give in. Her nails raked down the side of his face, and he let out a roar before shoving her to the floor. She scrambled backward toward the safety of the next room, but he wrapped his hand around her ankle and pulled her back. Bliss kicked out at him, hitting him in the thigh. She saw the madness lurking in his eyes and knew she had to get away before it was too late. She’d waited too long to escape, and now she’d pay the price. All the signs had been there, but she’d ignored them.

  She twisted and pulled herself onto her hands and knees, but he jerked her flat again, her chest against the floor, his heavy body coming down over hers. Bliss felt trapped as the oxygen was pressed from her body, leaving her gasping and praying for a way out. He placed his lips by her ear and a shiver raked her spine at his softly uttered words.

  “I treated you like a princess, gave you everything. You want to fuck around like a whore? Is that what you want?” His hand worked its way between her breast and the hard floor, giving the soft mound a painful squeeze. “Want to spread those thighs for another man, sweetheart? I bet my buddies would pay good money to fuck you.”

  She screamed in outrage, slamming her head back into his face. She heard a satisfying crunch and hoped like hell she’d broken his nose. For a moment, she thought she might escape, but long fingers wrapped around her neck, digging into her sensitive flesh. Her eyes widened, and she gasped as he cut off her air supply. Not one to go down without a fight, she bucked and struggled, finally managing to turn herself over.

  Her hands batted at his face as she fought for breath, the world turning hazy. Reaching blindly for him, she dug her thumbs into his eyes. Travis screamed out and scrambled off her. As she sucked in much-needed air, she staggered to her feet and fled. She heard his booted steps hot on her heels and ducked into the first room with a door—the spare bedroom—and slammed it shut, twisting the lock.

  Travis beat on the door. “Come out of there you fucking bitch!”

  “No way in hell,” she croaked.

  He beat on the door another few minutes before wandering off. Muscles strained and tensed, she listened for any signs that he remained in the house. A glance at the bedside clock told her that he would have to leave for work soon, or call in sick. She hoped like hell he went to work. It would be her only chance to escape.

  When midnight rolled around, she heard the front door slam shut and breathed a sigh of relief. The bastard was gone. She waited another half hour, just to make sure he didn’t double back. He’d been known to leave and return unannounced. When Bliss thought it was safe, she unlocked the door and crept out into the hall.

  Her heart still pounded in her chest as she checked the house room by room. The first thing she noticed was her missing keys. Asshole had probably taken them, thinking it would keep her home. Keys or no keys, her ass wouldn’t be here when he returned.

  “He’s coming back.”

  Bliss whirled, her heart leaping into her throat at the unknown voice. “Now?”

  The apparition nodded. “He has plans for you. The same plans he had for me.”

  “Who are you?”

  The woman smiled. “Cherise Carlton. I had a nice life once, like you. Until he and his friends snatched me off the street, drugged me, and sold me.”

  “Sold you?”

  “I’ll tell you about it while you walk. You have to get out of here now, or it will be too late. If he gets his hands on you, you’ll wish you were dead.” Cherise smiled sadly. “Trust me; this is an improvement.”

  “Where?” Bliss rushed onto the front porch, looking down the street both ways. “I don’t have a car. Where am I supposed to go?”

  “Anywhere he can’t find you.”

  Bliss took off at a dead run down the sidewalk, heading toward downtown Boca. She didn’t stop to look over her shoulder. If the ghost said Travis was coming, she believed her. In twenty-six years, a ghost had never lied to her.

  “He’s coming! Hurry!” Cherise said, urging her on.

  Bliss darted down an alley, taking the twists and turns behind the many businesses on the main strip. She heard the squeal of brakes as a car slowed on the main road. With palms slick with sweat and her heart pounding, she ducked into an abandoned building, getting lost amongst the forgotten crates.

  “You said I’d wish I was dead if he found me,” Bliss said in a hushed whisper. “What do you know of his plans?”

  “He lures women in with his smile, or just takes them outright, then sells them to his clients. Some are kept as sex slaves for wealthy men; others aren’t so lucky and are forced into prostitution. The man he sold me to kept me in Miami, but I heard that others were shipped overseas.”

  “Human trafficking? Travis?” Bliss shook her head. She knew the man could be an asshole, but she would never have thought him capable of such a thing. There had to be some mistake.

  “He even samples the goods so he can tell his clients how good they are.”

  Bile rose in Bliss’s throat and sh
e gagged. How could she have spent the past year with such a monster and not know? How could she not have seen the darkness lurking in his eyes?

  “I’ve been following him when he isn’t home. He made a call when he left the house tonight. To one of his buyers. The man wants a blonde, and your boyfriend told him he knew just the bitch for the job.”

  Bliss’s hands fisted at her sides. “Why are you here? Why haven’t you crossed over?”

  “Until he’s behind bars, my soul can’t rest. There are others of us. Waiting.”

  “I need proof. The police aren’t going to believe me just because a ghost said it was true. They’d laugh me out of the precinct.”

  “The night I died, they dosed me with heroin. They kept me high so I wouldn’t fight them, but that night they gave me too much. When I died, they tossed me into a dumpster in an alley. No one knows about the heroin except the killers and the police.”

  Bliss nodded. “If I can get out of here, I’ll do my best to help you. You have my word that you’ll be avenged. All of you.”

  Cherise smiled as her spirit began to fade.

  Left alone in the darkness, Bliss contemplated her next move. It wasn’t safe to come out of hiding, but she couldn’t stay in this building forever. Despite what Cherise said, she knew the police would need more proof, but how could she get it? Travis would be looking for her, which meant she needed to be careful. He had to be brought to justice, one way or another. Bliss just didn’t know how to do it.

  She hunkered down, in the corner, and chewed on her thumb. There had to be a way out of this mess. A way to beat Travis and have him locked away forever. She just needed more time to figure it out. And time was not on her side.

  Chapter One

  Justice Wild sighed as dispatch came over the radio.

  “52, we have a 10-66 at 237 Second Avenue.”

  He picked up his radio and depressed the button. “10-4 dispatch. 52 in route.”

  Putting the handset back, he put his car in gear and pulled away from the curb, where he’d been sitting for the last ten minutes while attempting to enjoy his dinner. He’d advised them he was on break when he’d pulled over, but he knew that meant little if all of the other officers were occupied already. What a perfect way to ruin his meal. A suspicious person. Great. That could mean anything from a gun-wielding psycho to a vagrant trying to find a place to sleep for the night.

  Justice pulled up to the address and put the car in park. He picked up the radio again.

  “Dispatch, this is 52. I’m 10-97.”

  “10-4, 52.”

  As he got out, he grabbed his flashlight and closed the door. No one in their right mind was going to steal a police cruiser, so he left it running while he checked the place out.

  His hand was positioned over his firearm as he approached the building, not sure what he would find. The chain on the door had been broken at some point, not recently judging by the rust built up on it. The door opened with a creak, and he winced. So much for stealth. The inside of the abandoned building was filthy, dirt coating the windows and blocking out the moonlight. It figured, the one place in town that wasn’t thriving is where he would be sent in the middle of the night. If he believed in ghosts, this place would be creepy as fuck.

  Justice switched on the flashlight and scanned the interior. Fresh footprints led toward the back of the structure, and the crates piled up there. Justice drew his weapon and checked behind each and every crate, his search paying off when he reached the one in the back corner. As he assessed the woman huddled in the corner, her eyes wide with fright, he holstered his weapon, not wanting to scare her more. If she decided to attack, he was certain he could handle the situation without putting a bullet in her.

  “Everything’s all right,” he said in a soothing voice. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

  Her clothes were dirt smudged but looked expensive. Her shoes looked new, minus the grime, probably from the dirty building. She definitely wasn’t a vagrant. Blonde hair tumbled over her shoulders in a mass of tangled waves and curls. Justice held his hand out to her, hoping she would take it and allow him to help her.

  She looked at him, distrust in her eyes, and possibly a little hostility. The distrust he could understand, if he’d startled her, but he didn’t deserve the hostility. Justice frowned. Most people in town trusted the police. While police brutality did happen, it didn’t in Boca. It was a nice, quiet place with most crimes being burglaries or domestic disturbances. Truthfully, his job was boring most days, and he preferred it that way.

  “I won’t hurt you,” he assured her again. “Let me help you.”

  “He’ll find me. I can’t let that happen.”

  “Who will find you?”

  “My boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend.”

  As she tilted her head back, Justice saw the bruise forming on her cheek and he silently cursed. She was obviously hiding from some abusive asshole and was probably terrified of men right now, despite the attitude he saw in her eyes. Justice was far from small and knew he could be intimidating. Somehow, he had to convince her that he meant her no harm, and that coming with him was the best thing for her.

  “Look, sweetheart, I promise I’m not going to harm you. You can trust me.”

  “But he’ll find me if I go with you. He’s working right now. That’s how I escaped. If he finds me…” She shook her head.

  Justice frowned. She wasn’t making a damn bit of sense. “If he’s working, how will he find you, if you come with me?”

  Her jaw set at a stubborn angle and her eyes flashed. “Because he’s one of you.”

  Fuck! “Are you telling me he’s a police officer?”

  She nodded.

  Justice assessed the situation quickly. He couldn’t leave her here, and if her abusive boyfriend was on duty, he couldn’t take her to the station. Not right now anyway. He needed to buy some time and stash her someplace safe. Somewhere no one would find her.

  “What if I took you to my place? Just until morning. If he’s on my shift, he’ll be off work by eight, and I can take you into the station at nine to press charges. We take that shit seriously, even if the guy responsible is one of our own. If anything, that just makes it worse for us because he didn’t just betray you, he betrayed the badge and his fellow officers.”

  “Your place? I don’t know that any place in town is safe. I need to get away, the sooner, the better.” She seemed to think things over. “Your place is safe? You’re sure?”

  “You have my word. I’ll do everything I can to protect you. But you have to trust me for that to happen.” He pointed to his badge. “The day I put this badge on, I swore to protect the people of this town, and I meant it.”

  Hesitantly, she reached out and grasped his hand, allowing him to pull her to her feet. Justice led her outside, and what he saw under the moonlight had him cursing again. There were finger marks on her arms and a handprint clearly displayed around her throat. He didn’t know who had done this to her, but if he got his hands on the asshole, he was going to beat the shit out of him. He’d probably have to stand in line once his fellow officers got a look at her.

  Justice led her to the car and helped her get settled in the passenger seat, making sure she was belted in before he closed the door. She looked at him through the window, the look in her eyes saying she wasn’t sure she’d made the right decision. Using the radio clipped to his shoulder, he contacted dispatch again.

  “This is 52. The building is secure,” he said into the radio. “If anyone was here, they’re long gone now.”

  “10-4, 52.”

  “I’m 10-19, dispatch.”

  And he would be returning to the station, just as soon as he dropped the woman off at his house and made sure the area was secure. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the asshole’s name or not. If he knew who had hurt her, he couldn’t promise he wouldn’t go after the guy. And then it would tip him off.

  He slid into the car and buckled. “What’s your name?” he as
ked.

  “Bliss. Bliss Dougan.”

  “It’s nice to meet you, Bliss. I’m Justice Wild. Let’s get you to my home. I have an alarm system so no one will get to you as long as you’re there. I’m the only one with the passcode.”

  She nodded and her hands fisted in her lap.

  He glanced her way as he pulled out of the parking lot. There had to be something he could do to put her at ease. Some way to make her understand she could trust him, that he would defend her with his life. Whatever was going on, he was certain they could find a solution. If she wanted to press charges for abuse, he would help her do that.

  “What’s wrong?” he asked.

  “What do you expect of me? You have to want something in return for helping me?” She snorted. “No one does anything for free anymore.”

  “Expect?” His brow furrowed. What the hell was she talking about?

  She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “If you’re expecting sex, you can forget it. I don’t whore myself out to anyone, despite what Travis thinks.”

  Son of a bitch! Did she actually think he would want sexual favors for doing his job? Un-freaking-believable.

  “Honey, you don’t have to do anything for me to protect you. It’s my job.”

  Travis, huh? His hands gripped the steering wheel tighter. Travis Malloy was a dead man when Justice got his hands on him. He’d known the man had a temper, but he would never have suspected that Travis would take that temper out on a woman, especially one he was dating.

  Justice pulled into the driveway of his two-bedroom bungalow and killed the engine. “We’re here,” he told her.

  She seemed to study the house, and he wondered what she thought of it. He supposed it wasn’t much, but it was home and in a good neighborhood. The white paint shone brightly in the moonlight, the avocado green shutters giving it a hint of color, even in the darkness. There was climbing jasmine up the lattice he’d attached by the steps that gave off a sweet scent as they approached the door.

 
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