Authors: Naima Simone
Tags: #Ignite, #Mystery, #kidnapping, #Chayot, #Secrets and Sins, #nightmares, #Romance, #Suspense, #Entangled, #serial killer, #Naima Simone
Some sins refuse to let go.
A year after Aslyn Jericho and two other women escaped a serial killer she is still trying to resume a normal life, despite the insomnia that keeps her awake and the nightmares when she manages to sleep. Now the other survivors have been found dead. The killer is back, and Asyln is the last woman standing.
Months after Chayot Gray’s darkest secret was exposed to the world, he’s struggling to cope with the fallout. Shame and guilt threaten to consume him, and he longs for the anonymous, numb existence he’s known for two decades. Then he interrupts the kidnapping of his neighbor, Aslyn. The pain-filled shadows darkening her eyes call to him, and her loveliness stirs a desire he didn’t know existed. Now Chay must conquer his inner-demons in order to save her from a madman determined to finish the job he started...
Secrets and Sins:
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Naima Bryant. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at
Ignite is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
Edited by Tracy Montoya
Cover design by Fiona Jayde
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition August 2014
To Gary. 143.
Aslyn Jericho swept into her third bow, and energy from the audience danced over her skin like electrical fingers.
She straightened once more, and sweat dampened her hair, face, and body as adrenaline raced through her veins, more exhilarating and powerful than any drug. Her heart pounded a primal beat, echoing the applause and cheers of the people who’d come out to the San Antonio arena to attend her concert. The pulse reverberated in her chest, belly, between her thighs…
Hell, she was a walking, breathing orgasm.
She pressed her fingers to her lips and blew out one last kiss before waving and striding off the stage.
“Awesome performance, Aslyn!”
“Amazing show tonight!”
Maneuvering around the various coils and equipment crates littering the floor of the backstage area, she grinned at her crew’s congratulations. The heavy curtains separating the stadium and backstage areas couldn’t stifle the continued noise of the concertgoers. She had to force herself to keep walking down the hallway toward her dressing room. Either keep walking or spin around and return to that stage, run up to her piano, and play for another hour. She chuckled. While she would love nothing more, the other musicians in the small orchestra that joined her on tour might revolt.
God, nothing in this world could compete with performing in front of thousands of people with her orchestra and playing her music—
. She grinned wider.
And hot damn. She got to do it all over again tomorrow night.
“Wonderful concert, Aslyn,” her manager and oldest friend Liam Ahearn said, passing her a towel.
“Thanks, Liam.” She patted her face and throat with the cloth. “I swear I didn’t want to come off stage tonight.”
“Two encores. I think I figured that out for myself,” he said wryly.
She laughed, accepting a bottle of water. “Hey, did you see Jeremy Sutter in the front row?” Wriggling her hips, she did a fist pump. “The man has been playing hardball, but I think he’s going to accept our offer.”
Liam grunted. “He has a decent reputation, but…”
“Decent reputation?” she scoffed. “The man is a god among agents. And think. With him on board, you’ll have even more time to manage every minute of my life down to a nanosecond.”
“As if you’re cooperative now,” he drawled. “Now, we have to make an appearance at the after party. How soon do you think you can be ready?”
She touched the damp bun at the back of her head and glanced down at her flowing, cuffed white shirt, tight black leather pants, and knee-high stiletto boots.
“Um,” she hummed, lifting the water bottle to her mouth for a deep sip. “It depends. Do I have to dress up for this thing?”
Liam’s eyebrows hiked high. “Well, it requires more than ripped jeans and one of those hideous graphic tees you hoard.”
“So yes on dressing up.” She shrugged. “Forty minutes?”
He sighed as they drew to a halt in front of her dressing room door and the massive tank of a man, Joseph, who guarded it and her.
“I’d prefer thirty, but if an extra ten means makeup, I guess I can’t argue. I’ll wait for you out here.” Liam pressed a quick kiss to her forehead, then pulled his cell phone free to probably begin making one of his seemingly endless calls.
Shaking her head, she grinned at her bodyguard. “Hey, Joe. Has my door been behaving itself?”
The corner of his mouth quirked the tiniest bit, but the aloof expression didn’t alter as he shifted to the side, unblocking the entrance to the dressing room. “I only had to put it in time-out once, Ms. Jericho.”
Turning the knob, she snickered. “You’re such a hard-ass, Joe.” She slipped inside and closed the door. Silence greeted her, enveloped her. The quiet seemed almost jarring after the past hour. She inhaled, held the deep breath, then released it on a long sigh. Rolling her shoulders, she crossed the room and lowered to the chair in front of the brightly lit vanity table. She scrunched her face at the reflection in the mirror. Heavily lashed and shadowed eyes. Scarlet lipstick that made her mouth look double its normal size. Was there any wonder she preferred no makeup when not on stage? Hell, right now she resembled a goth burlesque dancer.
Smirking, she plucked the pins securing her bun free. Long, dark red hair tumbled to her shoulders and back. She groaned, rubbing her scalp. Closing her eyes, she massaged harder.
“Beautiful.” Her eyes popped open, the reverence in the word as startling and terrifying as the voice in a room she believed empty. A cry clawed up her throat as a pale, smiling face appeared next to hers. “You’re so beautiful.”
She screamed, but a hand slapped over her lips, stinging her skin and pressing the tender tissue inside her mouth against her teeth. The makeshift gag muffled the shout to a strangled whimper.
“Shh.” Metal glinted in the vanity’s bright bulbs. Terror crawled through her veins, freezing her blood. He lowered his hand, and she watched, paralyzed, as it stroked her lips in a depraved parody of a kiss before settling at the base of her neck. “We wouldn’t want anyone to interrupt us. Now that we’re finally able to meet face-to-face.”
He leaned farther down, and his free hand cupped her chin in an implacable grip. Cold, dry lips pressed to her temple, slid down the side of her face to her jaw. His tongue flicked over her skin like a snake’s forked tongue, tasting her. Nausea churned in her belly.
“I told you my love would find you,” he murmured, a frightening warmth in his soft gaze.
My love would find you…
As soon as the name bloomed in her head, shivers coursed through her body. Her number one fan, as Quinton Lakes claimed to be, had closed every one of his letters with the same phrase:
My love will find you
. Over the past year, those five little words had come to spark an instant deep terror. After thousands of letters, a barrage of calls to her record label and Liam’s office, and an attempted burglary at her Los Angeles home, she’d believed the restraining order issued a week ago would finally grant her a reprieve.
God, how wrong she’d been.
“Mr. Lakes,” she rasped. Stopped. Swallowed and wet her parched throat and mouth. “Mr. Lakes, what are you doing here?”
“So formal, Aslyn.” He chuckled, his mint-flavored breath teasing her nostrils. The acid in her stomach roiled faster, harder. “There’s no need to stand on ceremony. Not between us.”
She cleared her throat. “Mr. Lakes—”
“Quinton,” he snapped, his grip on her face tightening. “Say it.”
“Quinton,” she whispered. “W-why are you here?”
“For you, of course.” His smile returned, and the only thing missing from his explanation was the “silly.” As if she should’ve expected him to show up in her dressing room. “I know your lawyer and manager were responsible for filing that restraining order against me. At first I believed it was your idea, and I thought I’d have to punish you. But then I realized, no, you were innocent. But I still have to remove you from their negative influence. They can’t be allowed to continue to control you and try to keep us apart.”
. He sounded so sane. So reasonable. Her heart thudded in her chest.
Calm. You have to stay calm
“Quinton, I can’t leave right now. I have a concert tomorrow.” She tried to smile, to reassure him, but the mirror confirmed she failed miserably. “People are depending on me—”
“Users. Takers,” he spat. “Every one of them. All they do is pull on you, suck you dry. They’re parasites. That’s why I’m taking you away. Someone needs to take care of you for once. Someone who loves you.” He smoothed a hand down her hair, his touch glancing off the top of her breast. She shrank from the caress, bile racing for the back of her throat. Yet Quinton didn’t seem to notice her aversion. With an adoring regard that scared the shit out of her, he buried his nose in her hair and inhaled. Sublime pleasure etched his plain features, curved his thin lips. “Someone like me,” he murmured.
“Please, Quinton.” She licked her dry lips, and cringed when his pale eyes tracked the movement with avid interest. With his deranged mind, he’d probably decipher the nervous gesture as an attempt at seduction. “I-I appreciate your concern…I do. But I can’t leave with you. It’s impossible…”
“You’re going,” he said, voice flat and matching the flint in his unblinking stare. His fingers curled under her arm and tightened in a cruel grip. He hauled her to her feet, his hold surprisingly strong as he steadied her, when the heel of her boot caught on the chair rung. “Don’t make me hurt you, Aslyn,” he murmured, whirling her around. “I don’t want to, but for your own good, I will.”
Every self-defense move she’d learned flashed in front of her eyes, but her body didn’t respond to the screaming demands of her mind.
Push! Kick! Block!
Instead, she remained frozen. Paralyzed. Terrified.
“Please, you don’t have to do… Oh God, no.” A low moan escaped her, and her knees buckled at the macabre image in the corner of the dressing room. She closed her eyes. “Please, God, no. Please, God,
.” But when she reopened them, the same grisly sight stared at her. Horrified her.
Jenna, her personal assistant for three years, lay slumped against the far wall, blue eyes blank and frozen open. Crimson splattered her chest. Dripped from the deep slice in her neck. An animalistic cry scraped Aslyn’s throat, and she scrabbled at her own neck as if trying to ensure the skin was intact.
“Shh, shh,” Quinton hushed, petting her hair. “I didn’t intend to hurt her, but she surprised me. She would’ve tried to keep us apart. I had no choice.”
Mute with terror, Aslyn shook her head.
Rage twisted his thin lips, narrowed his eyes. “Let’s go, Aslyn.” He gripped her arm again, his other hand brandishing a knife, making agitated slices through the air.
“Aslyn.” Liam swung the dressing room door open and strode inside, his attention focused on the object in his hand. “Cara sent over this dress for you. I’ll leave it—” He screeched to a halt. His wide, stunned gaze jumped from her to Quinton. “Joe!”
Her bodyguard charged into the room, almost knocking Liam out of the way. With an outraged scream, Quinton leaped behind her, the deadly edge of the blade at her throat.
“No!” he shouted, sounding almost as if in the throe of a temper tantrum. “No, no, no!” He dragged her backward. She stumbled over his feet but quickly recovered her balance. “She’s mine. She’s mine!”
Fire. Freezing, biting fire pierced her back. Seared her flesh. Excruciating pain bloomed, consumed her.