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Little Jack (Hell’s Handlers #6)
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Holly Lane has spent her life under the crushing thumbs of her cop father and controlling mother. Now, well into her twenties, she’s finally getting a fresh start and moving into her own apartment. Breaking away from her parents should be easy, but how can Holly begrudge their overprotective nature when their other daughter was murdered by an outlaw biker years ago?
With his brand-spankin’ new patch, Little Jack has a satisfying life in the Hell’s Handlers MC. Sure, the town’s new sheriff is messing with his club, but it’s nothing they can’t handle. Life only gets better when LJ’s dream woman walks out of his fantasies and into the vacant apartment next to his. Holly is sweet as sugar, curvy in ways that make LJ’s mouth water, and the woman can bake like no other. Personal demons keep LJ from chasing a long-term relationship with any woman, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a little fun with his hot new neighbor.
Holly is pretty sure life is finally on the right track when she meets LJ on her first day in town. Incredibly tall, bearded, tattooed, and strong enough to unload her car without breaking a sweat, her new neighbor just might be perfect.
With outrageous chemistry and a genuine liking for each other, Holly and LJ seem destined for an explosive encounter until a tornado rolls through their budding relationship in the form of Holly’s father. As the new town sheriff, her father only has one item on his agenda: eliminate the Hell’s Handlers MC.
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STARING AT HER own face on a corpse in a coffin topped the list as the most surreal experience of Holly’s twelve years. So bizarre, the shock overrode her grief. A truth she wouldn’t have thought possible when she woke up that morning, eyes swollen and tear stains on her pillow. Or when she finally fell asleep the night before, with a crater in her heart.
But it was true. Holly was so stunned by the sight before her, she forgot to be sad.
She closed her eyes and softly counted aloud to ten. Tightening her grip on the edge of the unforgiving wooden pew, she opened her eyes only to find herself gazing at her own image once again. Her shoulders sagged as all the air left her body and the hole in her heart seemed to grow in size. As it had at least a hundred times over the past two weeks, the exercise proved futile.
Reality hadn’t changed.
Holly still had a front-row seat to exactly what she would have looked like had she died instead of her twin. Her best friend. Her other half. The person she loved most. And the sentiment was mutual.
Or it had been mutual. Now, Holly was left loving Joy just as much, but not having that love returned. Because Joy was gone.
“Joy,” she choked out on a sob as pain once again exploded its way through her body. She hadn’t thought anything could hurt more than that time she’d cracked a rib trying to catch a baseball her older brother threw to her. Instead of catching it with her mitt, the ball slammed into her body. This made that experience seem like getting hit with a cotton ball.
Some funeral worker had wound Joy’s hair into two long, tight braids that lay over her shoulders and ran halfway down her torso. Her favorite hairstyle. Both their favorites. Neither wanted the hassle of dealing with long hair, but their mother insisted they not cut it. Braids at least kept the too-long locks from being totally annoying. Other than wearing far more makeup than Joy would have been allowed or would have wanted in life, she looked like herself, but peaceful. As though she were sleeping. But Joy never slept on her back. She was a stomach sleeper all the way. Not Holly, she much preferred to sleep on her back. Like a corpse, Joy used to tease. Now the sentiment had new meaning, and Holly would probably never sleep that way again.
Though nearly impossible to tell apart by sight, their personalities couldn’t have been more different. Joy was outgoing, brave, rebellious, and so much fun to be around. The embodiment of her name. Holly was far more introverted. Happy to spend her free time in the kitchen baking instead of out causing trouble. “Holly and Joy,” their mom always said. “Two different cookies shaped from the same cookie cutter.” That’s right, born on Christmas Eve, her parents named their identical twin girls Holly and Joy.
A fact that used to make Holly gag, but now that Joy was gone both literally and figuratively, she’d give anything to hear someone chuckle over their names.
“Could have been worse,” Joy had always liked to say when Holly complained about the cheesiness of their names. “If we were boys, we might be Frosty and Rudolf. Or they coulda called us Jingle and Belle.” The ridiculous argument always led to them trying to one-up each other, thinking of the most outrageous Christmas themed names their parents could have dreamed up.
“Fuck,” Holly whispered as a sharp pang pierced her already battered heart. Thankfully, her parents were out by the funeral home’s exit, seeing off the last of the mourners, so no one was around to hear her swear. Mamma Lane didn’t abide by her pre-teen daughters cussing. Nothing pissed her off more.
“I’m so sorry, Joy,” Holly whispered. “I should have gone with you. Maybe if we’d both been there—” She shuddered, unable to finish that sentence as guilt once again swamped. Even though it’d been a constant emotion over the past few weeks, the crushing feeling still killed her. The logical side of her knew that had she been with Joy that day, there could be two coffins side by side at the front of the room. But the part that loved her sister beyond reason blamed herself for not saving Joy.
Maybe whoever kidnapped, and eventually murdered half of Holly’s heart would have been deterred by the prospect of going after two kids instead of just one. Or maybe she could have fought off the attacker while Joy ran for help. Or maybe she could have done…something, anything to prevent sitting in a room with her sister’s corpse. The maybes and what-ifs had torn her apart over the past few weeks and probably would for the rest of her life.