Bet in the Dark

Yay!! Teaser Tuesday and I'm actually getting it right. I'm so proud of myself.

My brain isn't complete mush.

Well, at least not today.

Ok, well at least not about this one thing today.

I'm sure there's more stuff I've forgotten, but um.... I've forgotten it.

Anyway, I thought I would post the first chapter to Bet in the Dark. Since it comes out next month and all.

If you don't know Bet in the Dark is my contemporary romance novel that I'm squeezing in between my paranormal series. It's like my take a break book. My breather book. But it's also so much more than that!!!

It's in the back of The Rush AND in the back of Down N' Derby by Lila Felix. But just in case you haven't read either of those.... here it is!

It's my pleasure to introduce you to Ellie and Fin!

Bet in the Dark chapter one.

 I blamed this on Kelly Clarkson.
 On Kelly-Freaking-Clarkson.
The angry man standing across the kitchen island looked like he was about to throttle me. I had visions of large hands gripped firmly around my neck shaking me like a rubber chicken. His eyes flashed with frustration and I cursed Kelly Clarkson straight to the grave.
Things started out so good this morning, so unbelievably, unnaturally good. I should have known better. But at the time, I woke up in my bed to the powerful chords Kelly Clarkson was belting through my radio alarm, and laid there for the length of the song just to let her words sink in.
In fact I started to think Kelly Clarkson was a genius. And like maybe we were these soul sisters that had survived something awful but came out on the other side of it stronger. I started to think maybe she got me…. 
 Because the bed did feel warmer.
 I did dream in color.
I wasn’t lonely when I was alone.
 And best of all I was standing taller.
 Well “was” as in the seriously past tense because with monster-man looming over me, pissed off and yelling about money he wanted and I definitely did not have, I wasn’t standing taller anymore. I was more like shrinking slowly into what I assumed would soon be the fetal position.
But this morning, even as the warm sun sifted through my bedroom window and heated my exposed skin, everything seemed possible. I felt strong enough to get out of bed today and conquer the world- or at least the closest Starbucks and my econ class.
Which come on, that’s close enough right?
 And even though last week I missed a seriously important pop quiz in my post-break-up-cowering phase and now my grade was in some trouble…. and then it started raining and I happened to be wearing a white t-shirt and red bra. Who does that by the way? Me apparently, in my Kelly-Clarkson-gave-me-the-strength-to-be-a-skank-mood. And then even after I came home to my roommate on her way out, for what at the time she promised was just a bite to eat even though she was two months behind on her share of the rent, I believed today was the start of better things to come.
All thanks to Kelly Clarkson.
After setting my purse down on the kitchen counter because the entry hall table that I usually placed it on had been moved, I started to wonder if maybe Kelly Clarkson lied to me.
 Well, Ok, that’s not exactly true. First I wondered if I was hallucinating. And then I ran through the possibility of being robbed, but my roommate’s casual departure quickly negated that idea.
 I blinked. And blinked again. And then blinked so hard tears formed in the corners of my eyes and I felt like I was trying to be the second coming of I Dream of Jeannie. If I willed all of my furniture and belongings to reappear, they would.
 But they didn’t.
 And that was just the start of my disappointment.
 Then there was the letter…. The one calmly explaining my roommate had a clinically diagnosed gambling addiction, and was thousands of dollars in debt. She explained that she had to sell the furniture, my furniture, to pay for rehab. Her family was insisting on it. She had a real problem. A real problem. And I needed to understand that anything she had done to hurt me was her addiction and not the real her.
Well her addiction wasn’t going to replace all of my furniture.
Her addiction wasn’t going to come up with the other half of my rent!
And her addiction really wasn’t going to explain to the man across the kitchen yelling at me that no matter who he thought I was, I did not owe him seven thousand dollars!!
 I picked up the handwritten letter of crazy and with a shaky hand and held it out to him.
 “What’s this?” He paused in his tirade to take the half sheet of torn notebook paper. I noticed my biology notes on the back of the paper for the first time. Seriously, she couldn’t even use her own paper???
 “Um, see? I’m not the one that owes you money,” I sounded confident, but inside I was a trembling, terrified puddle. And on second thought, maybe I didn’t sound quite so confident….
 “Who’s Tara?” he grunted after skimming the note quickly.
 “My roommate,” I said simply and then thought better of it. “My ex-roommate. She’s moved on to group therapy and the twelve steps apparently.”
“And who are you?” he asked carefully. His eyes swept over me and suddenly I felt very vulnerable.
 Ok, more vulnerable.
 And that was a hard emotion to feel since he had elbowed his way in here not even ten minutes ago and started shouting at me and threatening all kinds of legal action and at times bodily harm.
 “I’m uh, wait a second! Who are you? You’re in my apartment!” I dug deep for some courage. I slammed my fists to my hips and tilted my chin in my best I-mean-business pose.
“Don’t get cute with me.” He sneered. I wanted to explain that I wasn’t being cute, I was being tenacious but decided to stay silent when his full upper lip curled in frustration and his dark, chocolate brown eyes narrowed. “I’m the guy you owe seven thousand dollars!”
 Ugh, he was still stuck on this!  I cleared my throat and tried again, “How could I possibly owe you seven thousand dollars? I’ve never even met you before! I don’t even know you’re name.”

“You’re really going to stick with this whole doe-eyed-innocent act?” he scoffed unkindly. He walked forward and placed two meaty hands on the kitchen counter slowly, like he was weighing his strength against a fragile surface. His broad shoulders tensed and stiffened and his entire body went rigid with frustration. I almost felt bad for him.


But then I remembered I was not that person anymore. No more pity for people that didn’t deserve it. No more sacrificing my time and money and energy for people that would just screw me over when they got what they wanted. This was the new me. The stronger me. The me that was soul sisters with Kelly Clarkson. The I-get-what-I-want-me! And right now, I seriously wanted this guy out of my life, or at the very least out of my apartment.

“I’m not innocent,” I spat back with my arms crossed firmly against my chest and my hip jutting out. I realized maybe that wasn’t my best defense but I pushed forward. “And I’m not doe-eyed!”

His face suddenly opened up in some shock and his lips kind of twitched like he was holding back a laugh. “I can’t believe this.” He rubbed two hands over his face in a sign of exhaustion and turned his back on me.

With his body more relaxed I saw him almost in a new light. He was less macho-Neanderthal in
this posture and more holy-sexy-back-muscles-batman. Obviously the disaster that was my last boyfriend did a number on me if I was checking out the confused hit man pacing back and forth in my kitchen. I mean seriously, fantasizing about what his back could potentially look like under his thin t-shirt was practically clinical right? Maybe Tara wasn’t the only one that needed medical observation and group therapy.

“I think there has been some miscommunication,” I ventured, seeing how he was now
somewhat relaxed. “You think I am someone that owes you money, but I am not. Do I look like a drug addict to you?”

He swung his head back around to face me. “You think I’m a drug dealer?”

“Seven thousand dollars is a lot of money,” I sniffed.

“Yes, it is. And you think the only way to go that much in debt is by drugs?” His eyes widened in
 Now that he was even calmer I noticed his face wasn’t necessarily so menacing, but more chiseled and dignified. Actually when his dark eyes weren’t bugging out of his head in rage, he looked more like a Calvin Klein model than Tony Soprano…. And his hands weren’t so much meaty as they were just large and connected to very defined arms. And Ok, originally I was under the impression that his neck was the size of a redwood, but now that I was really paying attention it was more like just a very strong, carved out piece of art, attached to an equally and artfully sculpted body. And then to top it off, he had great hair. I just needed to admit that. He had amazing hair. Hair that I was instantly jealous of! Dark, rich coffee colored hair that matched his eyes. Short on the sides, and just a little bit longer on top, it was stylish and trendy, not at all ex-military-renegade-private-security like I originally associated him with.

Wait a minute, I didn’t think I liked that he was attractive…. more than attractive, hotter than hot attractive. When I finally took in the scruffy growth across his jaw that partially hid too full lips, I wanted to roll my eyes. Who was this guy?

“Well, it’s one of the ways,” I huffed impatiently.
 He cocked his head back, seemingly surprised with my answer. “I actually have no argument for that. You’re right, drugs is one way to go into that much debt.” I smirked at him, momentarily satisfied until I realized he was really a drug lord and he thought I was his client! A client that owed him money! “But that’s not why you owe me money. I’m not a drug dealer.”

Oh whew. Sure, I knew that.

“Ok, are you a bill collector then? Because I don’t even have a credit card. Well, I have one credit card, but it’s for emergencies only and I’ve never used it. Besides, it only has like a fifteen hundred dollar limit on it.” I was growing more impatient the longer he stared at me. It was like all of the anger that propelled him into my apartment to begin with had evaporated somewhere between drug dealer and bill collector. Now his chocolate eyes were lit with amusement and his mouth was doing that annoying twitching thing again. “And my roommate gets calls from debt collectors all the time. Phone calls- have you heard of those? You seriously did not need to come all the way over here; I could have explained this to you over the phone.”  

“I’m not a bill collector either.”
This time I could tell he was laughing at me. The corners of his eyes crinkled with humor and he held his hands up, palms out as if to stop me from guessing anymore. But I wasn’t finished. If he wasn’t a hit man, drug dealer or bill collector but wanted seven thousand dollars from me that left only one option.
I gasped, “Oh my gosh, is this about prostitution? Oh my goodness, are you a pimp?” I shrieked and backed up three steps.
“What?” he burst out in a bark of confusion. “Are you into prostitution?”
“What? Me? Do I look like a prostitute?” I was back to being angry, narrowed eyes, hands cocked on my hips, scowl tightening my expression.
“Well, no, honestly, you look more like a missionary,” he shrugged a casual shoulder and let his eyes travel over me.
“A missionary!” I spit the word out like it burned my tongue. I clutched at my gray infinity scarf that covered my black and white cowl neck long sleeve tee. Ok, maybe my outfit was a little conservative…. but he seriously did not need to confuse modesty with missionary.
 “Would you rather look like a prostitute?” He asked, his stupid dark brown eyes laughing at me.
“Why on Earth would you think that?” I demanded. This conversation had the disorienting feel that we were going backwards instead of forward and I started to feel dizzy from all the circles and the way his mouth quirked up when he was trying not to laugh.
Wait, scratch that. I was only dizzy from the conversation!
“Listen, honesty, I don’t care what you are, I just want my money,” some of his amusement faded and a wave of exhaustion flashed across his face.
“So this isn’t about prostitution?” I asked, just to clarify. It was kind of important that it wasn’t about prostitution.
“If you’re not a prostitute and I’m not a pimp how in the hell could this be about prostitution?” he rumbled.

“Well, I don’t know, I just need to be…. sure,” I finished lamely.
 He ran a hand over his face again and growled out a frustrated sound. Then he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and checked over the screen. “This is taking up too much time. I just want my money and then I’ll be gone. I won’t bother you anymore. I promise. Although I strongly suggest that you stay away from anymore poker games. You are obviously not nearly lucky enough to be as careless as you are with your money.”
That got my attention. “Wait,” I held up a hand like I was asking him to stop his vehicle. But then I didn’t know how to go on. Gambling? This sounded way too convenient…. way too coincidental. A man comes to my door, demanding a seven thousand dollar poker debt minutes after my crook of a roommate robbed me blind and then headed off to rehab for a gambling addiction? “Ok, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but why don’t you just tell me who you think I am. That might make things easier.”

A smug smirk turned his mouth and he said with confidence, “Eleanor Harris.”
That caught me off guard. Because he was right. “Um, Ellie,” I corrected before he stuck to calling me Eleanor. Ugh! Even if he were here to murder me I would make him call me Ellie.
“Fine, Ellie Harris.”
“Ok, you know my name, but you don’t know anything else about me. Like for instance, I don’t owe you any money!” I argued, still wondering how he knew my name.
“Alright, let’s see, you’re a sophomore, originally from farther up north. You transferred to Lacrosse spring semester last year. You were originally at University of Madison but you wanted to be close to your boyfriend who turned out to be a cheating douche bag. He broke up with you two weeks ago for another girl and since then you’ve gone from being a straight A student with a nearly perfect attendance record to skipping all of your of classes, doing your best to fail out of school and now you’ve apparently acquired a gambling addiction with a side of pathological lying.”
 “What!” I would have made a terrible reporter. “I am not a liar! And I have never gambled a day in my life! And I’m not trying to fail out of school! A girl is allowed to take a few sick days after her two year relationship ends! How can you possibly know so much and so little about me at the same time?”  This was possibly the most exasperating conversation I had ever had.
 “I make it a point to know all my players, Ellie. Especially ones that come into the game waving money around like you did,” he explained patiently with that same cocky smile on his face.
I had the strongest urge to smack him.
 “Clearly you have me confused with somebody else because I have no clue what you are talking about!”
“That is not going to work on me!” the anger was simmering under the surface again, his eyes turning almost black with emotion.
“Ok, Ok, Ok,” I backtracked quickly. “I can see that. So, just for fun, how about you explain to me exactly how I came to owe you all this money and then we can figure this out together. I want you to get your money just as badly as you do, I promise, alright?”
 He seemed to think that over for a minute, his face relaxing back to movie-star-stranger instead of serial-killer-hit-man. It didn’t take a genius to figure out which version I liked best.
 “Alright, fine. We can do this your way. Especially if you promise you’ll help me get my money,” he said evenly and then waited for me to answer.
“Yes, I promise. I mean, I know I don’t owe you the money. But if there is any way I can help you get it, I’d be glad to help.” What I didn’t say was that as long as I didn’t have to shoot, stab or bury somebody I would be glad to help. Really, I meant like a stern, authoritative letter I could put a stamp on and mail for him. Plus, these were mostly just empty promises until I could get him out of my apartment, lock the three deadbolts and then call the police.
“About a week and a half ago, you contacted me about joining the game. I had heard your name around campus and knew that your request was entirely out of the ordinary for you. So I started to ask around about you and that’s when I found out you just got dumped. It made sense then, why you would want to play. Even if I didn’t think it was a good idea, I’ve been dumped before, I guess I could relate in a way.”
 You’ve been dumped?” I scoffed before I could stop myself. He was gorgeous, all testosterone and muscles, standing in the middle of my kitchen with his gray t-shirt, loose jeans and flip flops that fit him well enough they could have been a perfectly tailored tux. Plus, he was more than just a little intimidating; I could hardly believe a girl found enough courage to break up with him.
 He seemed to find this more amusing than anything and actually broke into an eye-twinkling grin. Yes, his eyes twinkled. I was so shocked by the expression I had to look away. He was more dangerously good looking than ever and a strange heat lit a fire in my belly. So I cleared my throat and pretended that never happened.
 “Sure, I’ve been dumped,” his smile turned wicked and I suddenly felt like he was laughing at an inside joke. “So I know what it’s like to do something reckless after the heartache.”
 I snorted. “There wasn’t that much heartache. Trust me. You were right when you called him a cheating…. uh, you know.”
 “Douche bag?” he questioned.
  “Yes, that,” I blushed a deep red. I wasn’t a missionary. But Ok, sometimes curse words made me uncomfortable. Which was kind of surprising since I grew up with three brothers that basically existed with “R” ratings attached to them: strong language, violent behavior and excessive sexual content.
 He actually let out a soft chuckle at that. I was becoming unending entertainment for this guy and I was suddenly hit with a flash of irritation. He didn’t know me!
Although… he kind of did know me. Or at least a lot of random facts about me and it was definitely weirding me out.
 “Anyway, when you proved you had the buy-in, I decided to give you a chance. I mean, who was I to judge your methods of coping, am I right?” he asked and actually waited for my agreement.
 “I guess so,” but an ugly foreboding feeling started to unfurl inside my chest and I suddenly found it hard to breathe.
“In fact, if you remember, I even advised you to hold back some since I didn’t want to see you lose everything at once.”
“And you advised me how?” I clarified, trying to piece this together. Except I wasn’t even sure what he was talking about. Buy-in? Game? None of this was making sense.
“Private message,” when I gave him a blank look, he continued, “online.”
“Online,” I repeated.
 “Yes, online. But you didn’t listen to me. And then you got in way over your head, lost and now you owe me seven thousand dollars.” He finished arrogantly and I almost expected him to bow.
 “I lost in a game of….” I prompted slowly, so afraid of the answer my hands had started to tremble.
 “Texas Hold ‘Em.” When I continued to just stare at him, he finally added. “Poker. Online poker.”
 “Oh my goodness,” I winced. Suddenly the puzzle was pieced together and in front of me. I was going to be sick. I was going to be really sick. I reeled in a circle, desperately searching for a place to sit down, but all of my furniture was gone. Another wave of clarity rippled through me and my stomach actually lurched this time. I took off for the kitchen sink and gripped the stainless steel basin. I ignored the anal retentive voice inside me screaming about germs, not because I wasn’t worried about them, but because thinking about them was making it worse. I choked on a gag and then dropped my head forward so I could breathe in and out deeply through my nose.
 “You’re not going to….? Are you going to be sick?” the guy asked from behind me. He didn’t sound concerned, just really grossed out.
 I waved an aggravated hand behind me, hoping he would get the hint and just leave.

He didn’t, or if he did he ignored it and instead walked over to the fridge and opened it. I heard him rummage through the practically empty appliance; my college sized budget didn’t cover much more than a value pack of Ramen Noodles. I heard the telltale sign of a pop can opening and then the fizzy bubbles of ginger ale were placed in front of my nose.
He placed the can to my lips and then tilted it back before I could protest. I took a small drink and then stood up before he could force anymore down my throat. The carbonated beverage settled in my stomach and coated the nausea with something soothing.
Ok, that felt alright.
 I took the can from his hand, my fingers accidentally brushing over his before I took possession and then sipped another soothing drink.               
 “That wasn’t me,” I finally choked out, squeezing my eyes shut.
 “What?” he asked and I jumped by how close he was.
I took a step back, opened my eyes to meet his and said slower, “That wasn’t me. I didn’t place the bet, or play the game or whatever. It was my roommate, she must have…. stolen my identity! I swear to you, not even an hour ago I found this note that said she had a gambling addiction and she was going to rehab. She owes me money too! “
A long, very still moment of silence stretched between us before he said, “She stole your identity?”
 “Yes!” I squealed. Even I could tell how high pitched and annoying that was, but I couldn’t help it! “And my furniture,” I said with further emphasis.
 “I was actually wondering about that,” he said pensively.
“So you see? It’s not me that owes you seven thousand dollars, it’s her.”
 “But she’s gone? To rehab? With all of your furniture?” His phrases sounded like questions, but they didn’t feel like them. It felt more like he was trying the words out, rolling them around on his tongue and deciding whether or not I was lying.
 “Yes!” I answered anyway, hoping he would believe me.
 “You can see why your version of what happened is hard to believe,” he sighed and if I didn’t know better, or if maybe I wouldn’t have slapped my hands over my eyes, I would have been able to assure myself there wasn’t a hint of amusement in his voice, or the sound of him smiling. Those things were all products of my delusional imagination…..
“Yes, I could see why, but it’s the truth,” I promised, struggling to peek from behind my fingers.
 “Regardless of what happened, your name is still signed on my contract, you still owe me my money,” he stated finally.
 “Contract?” I croaked.
“Online document, your initials were used. Unless you have a way to prove to me that it wasn’t you who signed the document, I have to assume it was. I mean, that’s a lot of money. It’s not exactly like I can just look the other way.”
“But it wasn’t me! I’m sure I can prove it, I just need…. time,” I pleaded, my head spinning with every kind of crazy thought to get out of this.
 His hand went up to cup his chin in thoughtful silence for a while. His eyes roved over me again, taking in every piece of me as if to weigh it on his internal truth scales and decide whether to trust me or not. Finally, after several minutes of quiet, he said, “I’m a nice guy-”
“You’re not a nice guy. You’re a scary guy,” I confessed honestly and probably a little frantically before I could think better of it.
A burst of laughter fell out of his mouth before he could compose himself, “You don’t even know me!”
“You’re right! I don’t even know your name,” I pointed out, suddenly realizing that should have probably been the first thing I found out.
 “Ah,” he stewed on that for a moment and then said, “Finely Hunter.”
I gulped. “Finely Hunter?” Ok, the online gambling thing made sense now. Because Finely Hunter, the senior track star, rumored to go through girls like Kleenex’s during flu season and ditch more classes than he attended, was also rumored to run an online campus gambling site the university had been trying to shut down for three years.

“Fin,” he smiled at me. “You can call me Fin.”
 “You are a nice guy, “I drawled.
 His grin widened to wicked trouble. “So nice, I’m not going to make you give me my money tonight.”
“You’re not?”
“No, I have a solution that will help both of us get what we want,” he announced confidently.
 “You do?” I asked dryly with so much less confidence at the same time I wondered what it was that I wanted.
“Just don’t forget, you promised you would help.” The hard, authoritative look returned to his eyes and a shiver of nerves climbed up my spine.
I nodded because there was nothing left to do. I needed time to think this over, to hunt down Tara and strangle her until dollar bills popped out her eyeballs.


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  1. SO SO EXCITED! I just LOVE the way you write. Can't wait to read the rest!

  2. I am such a huge fan of all your books. Thank you for sharing your gift with us! Can't wait to read Bet in the Dark and all the sequels!!!

  3. I love this book already!!!!! I. Can't. WAIT!