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Solomon Sanders doesn’t have time to fall in love. Until a stunning, skittish, single mother forces him to pause and recognize just how empty and hollow his busy life has become.
From the start, it’s been ingrained in Solo’s DNA to fight.
Fight for what he believes is right.
Fight for the people he loves.
Fight for the traces of good in a place which tends to be filled with a variety of bad.
Fight for survival, so at some point, his life will quiet down and find a normal pace.
He wasn’t ready for the impact his secretive, shy, obviously out of place new neighbor was going to have on him. And never in a million years was he prepared to fall head over heels for her and her young daughter.
Now, he’s facing the most important, and the hardest fight he’s ever fought… the battle to win Orley’s damaged heart.
Orley Vincent’s heart is full of fear, leaving no space for love. Until a big, brash, brawler of a man forces his way in and makes her realize facing her fears is the only way she can ever be free.
From the start, Orley was groomed to believe she wasn’t good enough.
She wasn’t the perfect daughter. Or student. Or girlfriend.
But, she has always been the best mother she could be to her daughter, Noble.
Keeping Noble safe has always been the one thing she was determined to do, which ironically, is how she ended up on the wrong side of the tracks, living next door to an unlikely hero. Orley’s a woman on the run. She had no idea her frantic sprint was going to land her in the tattooed arms of a man ready to teach her how to fight for herself… and for love.
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Being out on the streets when the sun went down was not a good idea in any part of this no-good city.
Not that being on the streets during the day was any better, or safer, but something about the daylight seemed to keep the worst of the predators at bay. When it got dark, all bets were off and the shadows took on a life of their own. Anyone foolish enough to be caught out in the dark, distracted and unaware, was considered prey.
I knew all of this, had learned that lesson the hard way the first few days of living in this god-awful neighborhood. But tonight, everything that could go wrong had, which meant I was walking with my head down, clutching the tiny, sleep-limp body of my daughter in my arms, trying not to draw attention to either of us. It was a nearly impossible task. One look at the fear stamped all over my face, the anxiety which kept my posture tight and stiff, or a glance down at Noble’s designer sneakers, and it was obvious to anyone looking that neither of us belonged here. Unfortunately, not fitting in made us even more of a target. We stood out like a beacon in the darkness instead of blending into the shadows that seemed to come alive at night.
Noble muttered something groggily into the side of my neck where her head lolled. My almost-four-year-old daughter was a champ. She took the move to this hellhole far better than I did. She was excited by the noise, the traffic, the endless amount of colorful characters littering the sidewalks during the day. I was the one crying into my pillow at night, not her. She could sleep through anything, including me hauling her like she was a sack of potatoes while I sprinted the six blocks from my broken-down car to our tiny apartment. I put a hand on the back of her head, letting her dark curls slide comfortingly through my fingers and prayed the rest of the journey home would be uneventful.
She had no idea I was frantically scanning every alleyway I passed. She had no clue my car was dead as a doornail, abandoned on the side of the road, useless and billowing smoke. It was going to have to stay there. I didn’t have the means to get it towed or fixed. Being carless wouldn’t be a big deal if my job wasn’t all the way across town in the more affluent district of the city. I had to have my car to get to work, but I could get Noble to her babysitter by foot in a pinch. It was a slightly scary six-block walk in the daytime; at night it was downright terrifying.
Not that I’d need to worry about getting either of us anywhere tomorrow. Right after the car malfunctioned, Mrs. Sanchez, the lovely older Hispanic woman who watched Noble for me during the week, informed me that she would no longer be able to watch her. It seemed her husband was tired of coming home from work and finding an extra mouth to feed. What she didn’t say was that her husband hadn’t ever approved of her babysitting Noble in the first place. Apparently, he never liked her “privilege” and the fact she wasn’t a child from the inner city. He didn’t like her bright attitude and endless questions. My daughter was very different from the quiet, solemn children from the Sanchez’s neighborhood, and that never sat well with the man. But, instead of crumbling into a hysterical ball of emotion at Mrs. Sanchez’s door, I thanked her for everything she’d done for Noble up to that point and told her we’d be in touch.
I could see her sympathy for my predicament, but her unwillingness to defy her husband did me no good, especially when she patted my arm and told me, “I’m so sorry, Orley. You know how much I love having Noble here.”
The only reason I stopped myself from wilting into a mess of tears and desperation was that I’d already had one breakdown today: my boss at the salon had pulled me aside right before closing and informed me that she had a cousin who needed a job, so she was cutting my hours to accommodate the teenager. Working less than part-time with minimum wage barely kept my kid fed and the lights on in our apartment. Losing a single cent of that moved us into dire straits, but I refused to let my snotty boss see how terrified her words made me. I knew I could get another job, or two, if need be. At least I could have before my car crapped out on the way to pick up Noble tonight.
For the last year, it had been one thing after another. Blow after blow. I couldn’t believe I was still standing. And if it weren’t for the precious bundle clutched in my arms, there was a solid chance I wouldn’t be. There was no way I could stay down when my daughter needed me to get back up after every new hit. I was going to take the damn beating that life seemed determined to foist on me, but I was never, ever going to let Noble see the bruises. It didn’t matter what lengths I had to go to, what lies I had to tell, or what part of this dreadful city I had to hide away in.