Born in Blood
When Jane Blackwood loses her job and Nelson shows up on her doorstep with two homicide detectives on his heels, it’s only the beginning of a roller coaster ride of twists and turns that leads Jane to suspect Nelson might be a killer. Torn between her fierce loyalty and love for the only person who ever protected her, and obeying the law, Jane accepts Nelson’s reassurances and tries to protect him from Detectives MacCaffrey and Clark, who are after evidence to put him away. But it just may be Jane who needs protecting.
Length: Full Novel
Word Count: 92,633
Genre: Suspense/Thriller Romance
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
© Cover Art by Kat Richards, September 2011
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
“Don’t worry. I got the shit beat out of me, landed in the hospital for a few days. Found the airline ticket you sent in my pocket when I was discharged.”
He seemed to sense my next question, because he answered it before I could ask. “Got into it with some asshole at Omar’s.”
Omar’s had been the first place he’d gotten popped for faking his ID. A brawl joint on the river, it had sold booze to bikers who carried more guns and knives than an armory. I didn’t imagine it had changed much, but didn’t know. Back then, it hadn’t been a safe or smart place to get drunk. I’d always prayed his brainier side would lure him into cyber cafes, web-site building, or creating computer games—all things he had done in high school, making it look easy. Or maybe, all my hopes about my brother had been wishful thinking, I realized, feeling guilty.
He grinned like he was remembering something good. “Dude knew better than to press charges.”
I hated to think how bad his childhood had been prior to the group home, if thrashing some dude in a bar and getting beat up was a happy memory.
I must have frowned because Nelson quickly changed the subject to a couple of other kids from the Home who he ran into on occasion at Omar’s or similar places.
“You ever see Talia anymore?” I asked.
From his pocket he pulled out a pocketknife and flipped open the leather-punch blade, then started flipping it from the back of his hand to the front. “Remember this?”
“Mumbly Peg?” Normally you flipped the knife off of a part of your body, forehead, ear, nose, shoulder…so that the point landed in the ground. When you missed, the other player got a turn. Whoever reached the end first won. Historically, the loser had to pull a tent peg out of the ground with his or her mouth. At the Home, losers paid with cash or smokes.
“Is she still living in Sac?” Last time he’d mentioned her, she had been.
He stopped flipping the knife. Something flickered in his eyes, but I wasn’t sure what nerve I’d hit.
“She’s married now.” His tone changed and I wondered if he was still in love with her. “She’s gonna have a kid.”
“Better her than me,” I said.
Nelson flicked the knife from one hand to the other. “This from the woman who braved a windy ravine to rescue a hiker? Got your face all over the paper.”
Not wanting to talk about the ravine rescue, I snatched the pocketknife and flipped it from my knee to the floor. It thunked against the concrete beneath the carpet. For a moment, it looked like it just might stay standing, then it fell over. “You don’t believe me?” I asked.
He snagged his knife back and flipped from his forehead, catching the flat of it on his palm, then flipping it again so that it landed on the back of his other hand. “Course I do.” He stopped flipping the knife and looked at me. “But if you met the right guy… Isn’t that what women say?”
“Talia tell you that?”
He flipped the knife up in the air and caught it, almost nicking his finger.
“Well screw her,” I said.
“Not her fault.”
I gave him a mock frown, not quite sure where this was headed. “Well…any guy I date who wants kids can adopt.”
He flipped the knife again, snagged it easily, and looked at me. “You mean that?”
I stared, thinking I’d finally surprised him. “Doesn’t matter. I’m not a blip on anyone’s radar these days.” I pushed thoughts of Nick away.
Nelson shut the leather-punch blade by pressing it against the side of his leg. “Then you’re surrounded by idiots.”
He pulled open the biggest blade and flipped it from his palm to the back of his hand, then from there to his other hand, palm to back to palm to back, like a juggler. I noticed the scars on his hands, a lighter color than his skin. He’d nicked himself a lot learning to do that trick with bigger, more dangerous, knives. But the scars on his knuckles weren’t from knife-play.
“Still don’t like knives, huh?”
I snatched it from his hand, shut it, and handed it back. For a second, I flashed on the image of a shiny buck-knife, blood dripping from the edge. Like something long forgotten, it surfaced clear and sharp. My nape hairs prickled and my mouth felt dry. That can’t be true, I thought. Can’t be real. Can’t be…
“You want to know la verdad mi hija? Then open your eyes.” It was that man’s voice, the one I had heard in L.A. Inside my head again. Oh God.
I knew what childhood memories did to the kids in the home. Fucked ‘em up six ways to Sunday. I wasn’t about to become one of them. I felt my jaw clench, my stomach tighten. I didn’t need any more crap from my childhood to surface.
Nelson didn’t seem to notice my silence. He’d opened the knife again, splayed his fingers on the couch cushion between us and started tapping the blade point between digits, tapping the point faster and faster until it was almost a blur. Getting wound up.
I was working on breathing. Needing to move, I headed for the kitchen. “Nother beer?”
I grabbed the last two, thinking I could use a six-pack right now.
When I returned, the knife was gone and Nelson was shuffling through my CDs. “Got an MP3 player? This stuff’s old and cold.”
I couldn’t help thinking that when we were seventeen and eighteen, Nelson had once joked he’d probably jump off a fucking bridge before he hit thirty. He was thirty now. I wished I hadn’t remembered that, because I wanted to apologize for dropping out of his life and not doing a better job of keeping in touch. Now, here we were talking about our past, and I really didn’t know anything about my brother’s present.
I tried to pump more information from him, but he sidestepped and brought up more stories about the childhood pranks we’d pulled—like the time I started a fight to lure a counselor outside so that Nelson could search through his office, hack his computer, read about us. I’d been so damn nervous, while he’d seemed dead calm. He’d rewritten a few things in the counselor’s behavioral assessments, adding in swear words and jokes, then emailed it to the guy’s supervisor. I’d forgotten that prank and the others he brought up, no longer finding them funny. That counselor may have been a jerk, but he hadn’t deserved to get fired.
“So what made you come back to Sacramento?” Nelson asked, the two of us on the floor, backs slumped against the bottom of the couch.
Not ready to tackle that subject, I shrugged and asked about his “thug” look.
“Meeting society’s expectations,” he said, his lips crooking up in a half-smile I found unsettling.