Authors: Tiffany Patterson
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #United States, #African American, #Women's Fiction, #Romance, #Multicultural, #Multicultural & Interracial
Jessica Watkins Presents
THIS IS WHERE I SLEEP
Copyright © 2016 by Tiffany Patterson
Published by Jessica Watkins Presents
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Without limiting the right under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form by means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
I cannot believe this is book number 4! I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun. I never wouldhave made it to my fourth book without the support of many others. So first, I’d like to thank my family for always encouraging me, sharing my books with their coworkers, friends, nail technician
and others. Second, Jessica Watkins and my JWP family. You all are busy authors who have lives of your own, but still find the time to support one another. That is a gift in this industry. I also want to give a shout out to my betas for taking the time to read my manuscript and give me honest feedback. I truly appreciate it, and it has helped me write a better story. Lastly, thank you to everyone who has read one of my books, left me a message, shared one of my books on social media, shared my stories with friends of family, etc. Words aren’t enough to express how truly grateful I am to you all.
Thank you all so much and without further ado I present to you, This Is Where I Sleep. Happy Reading!
Like shards of broken glass scraping my insides. So this is what a broken heart feels like.
Now I know as I read the letter in my hands.
I can’t do this.
That’s it. Three lines. That’s all he left me with. The one person I trusted with my whole heart and soul. The one who knew me inside and out, knew my deepest fears, and promised he’d never leave me.
My best friend.
He left anyway.
Was this a dream? I hoped it was just a dream, a figment of my imagination. I’d wake up, and Li would still be here. But I knew it was not a dream. The stickiness between my thighs told me that I hadn’t imagined all the things we’d done last night and well into the morning. The reddish-purple half-moon shaped marks on my breasts and inner thighs were further proof that Li was here. And the wetness that dripped from my cheeks onto the paper gripped tightly in my hand further confirmed this wasn’t a dream. After all the shit I’d been through, this moment right here is my worst nightmare.
Li was gone.
The finality in his note told me he was not coming back.
I laid back on the bed and let the painful realization consume me whole.
Ten Weeks Later
I hated hospitals.
The incessant beeping of the heart rate monitor had me ready to toss it out of the eighth-floor window. The barren nature of these rooms brought back too many memories of being nine years old and seeing my mother lying in a hospital bed surrounded by nothing but white, sterile walls.
I hated it.
“You want to watch the news?” my cousin Quincy asked.
I sighed and looked over at him. He was the only person that helped me hold it together. He was still pissed at me for not letting him tell the rest of the family that I was here in the hospital, but I didn’t need their sympathy or their questions.
I shrugged and pushed my hands through shoulder-length relaxed hair, which was a matted, unruly mess from my days’ long hospital stay.
“Yeah, sure,” I responded to Quincy’s offer. He turned on CNN, and the coverage was of some American arrested in Iran for hiking. Both Quincy and I grunted at that, knowing damn well hiking was code word for spying. America would deny it though.
“I bet she was hiking. And leaving a damn trail for the rest…” Quincy began.
This was safe territory for us. I half listened as he talked about weapons of mass destruction and warheads that may or may not be in Iran. I was sick of hearing about all that shit. I’d fought enough battles over those wars. Unfortunately, this discussion did bring up a decision I needed to make regarding one of two choices for my career. I could complete my contract with the Army for the next two years, or take the other offer, which would let me out of serving my final two years; but it would have me changing hands from one government entity to another…an entity that was an even deeper one than my current position.
“And in business and political news, the son of billionaire oil tycoon, Richard Bennett of Texas is engaged…”
My head snapped to the flat screen television mounted on the hospital wall as the reporter continued to fill the viewing audience in on the engagement between one Michele Price and Liam Bennett, or as I called him, Li.
He was my former best friend and the man that I was in love with.
I heard my own heart beating wildly in my chest. I blinked away unshed tears as images of Li’s six-foot-three frame, draped in a perfectly tailored dark blue suit stood beside the perfect blonde who proudly displayed what looked to be a three-karat Tiffany diamond on her left hand. She was dressed in a white floral dress as if practicing for the big day already. She looked like a beauty queen poised next to Li. And she didn’t just look the part of a beauty queen; she actually was a beauty queen—Miss Texas in 2005. She was Li’s ex, the one who was so perfect at everything that it made my teeth itch.
When Li turned his emerald green eyes on her and placed a kiss on her rose colored lips, I gripped my abdomen from the physical pain that his display of affection caused.
“That motherfucker,” I heard Quincy growl at the same time he pointed the remote to turned off the TV,
“No, Quincy! Don’t!” I yelled. I needed to see it. I needed the images burned into my brain, to remember why I was where I was, while Li had just announced to the world that he was engaged to someone else only weeks after telling me I was the love of his life.
I felt the sharp edges of my broken heart again. I had been numb since that initial night. Now, the pain had returned tenfold. But I didn’t cry. Not this time. Instead, Li’s decision forced me to make a decision of my own. Since he had decided to move on with his life, it was time for me to do the same. I took one last look at the screen to remember the heavy weight in my chest and the feeling of betrayal.
“Hand me the phone,” I said to Quincy.
His dark, questioning brown eyes turned to mine. “Coral, you can’t call him. He—”
“Fuck him. This has nothing to do with him, Quince. I need to make a phone call in private.” It was a partial lie. While I wasn’t calling Li, in truth, I’d already tried a few times, but his numbers were all disconnected. The call that I was making was about my future. “Quince, the phone,” I repeated when he just looks at me. He met my glare with a dark scowl that might’ve intimidated others, but not me.
Finally, he relented and handed me the phone as I asked.
“I need some privacy,” I reiterated, picking up the receiver.
He nodded and stood to leave. “I’ll be back in the morning,” he said before strolling out of the room.
I won’t be here, I thought, as I watched him walk out the door. Picking up my clothing from the chair on the side of my bed, I flipped through my wallet until I found the card I was looking for. I dialed the number without giving it a second thought.
“Yeah,” a deep, gravelly voice answered.
“You’re in? Just like that?” he asked, skeptically.
I sighed. “I said I’m in. You’ve spent months trying to recruit me. I know you still want me. I said I’m in.”
“You know there’s no take-backs. No do-overs,” he advised. “Once you’re in, you’re in.”
His words gave me pause. Was this the life I wanted? My eyes shifted back to the TV screen where another image of Li and his new fiancé was displayed. This time, it was a picture of them on a beach in Cabo. It was a few years old. The camera then flashed to present day image, zooming in on the sparkling rock on Michele’s finger.
“Okay, I’ll be by in a few hours to pick you up.”
“I’m not home. I’m—”
“At Memorial Health, room 811,” he said, finishing my sentence.
I should have known he’d know where I was.
“I’ll be ready,” I said.
After looking at the screen one last time, I flicked the power button on the remote, and the screen went dark.
“Goodbye, Li,” I mumbled before standing to pack my things. It was clear that the chapter of Liam and I was over. That’s life. It had never been too kind to me before, why start now?
I turned left off the dirt road, deep in the Virginia woods to see the small cabin I’d been expecting to see. I slowed down to a creep, sure that as soon as I entered the property, there would be guns trained on my rented sedan. I knew my every movement was being watched on video feeds. I would’ve expected nothing less. This was not a social call. I was there to get much-needed information.
I pulled up a few feet away from the cabin’s rear entrance, and then shut off the ignition as I had been instructed to do. Moving slowly, as not to cause alarm, I opened the door and exited, holding my hands up to show I only had my key in them. Of course, my piece was tucked in my back, which I was sure they were aware of. I looked from left to right to take in my surroundings. I didn’t see any movement, but I wasn’t too worried. Once I approached the cabin’s door, I tapped a few times with my steel toe boots. A few seconds later I was staring into a pair of dark, soulless eyes.
“You’re late,” he grunted.
I looked down at my wrist to find that it was a few minutes after one. I wasn’t even five minutes late.
I raised an eyebrow. “It’s not like this is the easiest place to find.”
“Whatever, venga,” he said, stepping aside to wave me in.
I entered the cabin and was immediately met with a familiar smell. It was a mixture of blood, urine and…fear.
“Has he been cooperative?” I asked.
Dark Eyes gave a sinister grin that would have made a lesser person shiver. “He’s been quite cooperative since we came to a mutual understanding,” he said, cracking the knuckles of his beefy hands for emphasis.
“I bet,” I mumbled, shifting my gaze to take in the rest of the cabin. There wasn’t much in the room, besides a small wooden table with two chairs and a small television, perched on a window ledge. Towards the back of the room, there was a hallway that had two doors on either side. I assumed one was the bathroom and the other a bedroom.
“Which one is he in?” I asked, nodding towards the back rooms.
“The right. You’ve got ten minutes to get what you need,” he curtly said before moving towards the table to sit down.
“I doubt I’ll need that much.”
I quickly moved towards the door on the right, wanting to get this over with and be on my way. I was hoping this meeting would provide me with the answers I’d been seeking for close to two years.
I opened the door, and the smell grew even more potent. It no longer turned my stomach when I saw the battered man in the bath tub.
I thought to myself
. Easier to clean up the mess when they're done
His once golden skin was littered with purple and blue bruises. His right eye was swollen shut, and his nose was bleeding and broken. He’d been stripped down to a pair of boxers that were soiled with blood and urine. His left leg was contorted in a way that was unnatural. One look at this guy and I knew he’d been through the ringer. If the visual wasn’t enough, the low moans of agony coming from his throat told the tale of his pain. It was almost enough to make me feel sorry for him.
But I knew this guy was far from innocent. He’d been a notorious sex-trafficking ringleader in Central America for years. I’d spent months trying to track his elusive ass down. I also saw pictures of and spoke with some of the young girls and women abducted on his orders, then tortured and sold off into a life of hell. So, this slime got no sympathy from me.
“What’s the matter, Emilio? Not feeling well?” I whispered into his ear.
His one good eye popped open. The fear was evident.
“Por favor! Ayúdame!”
I squatted down next to the edge of the tub. “I’m not here to help you. But you’re going to help me.”
“Who are you?” he queried.
“Just call me Scorpion.” His good eye widened in shock when I gave my name. “But my name isn’t important. You have information I need. Who’s your Bogota supplier?”
I got straight to the point. I studied his facial reactions carefully for the answer to my question. The bruising and beating he had taken could make it difficult to read his micro expressions as clearly as I was usually able to. Still, I was able to make out a slight rise of his eyebrows, and parting of his lips. The look lasted for less than half a second before he covered it up. Most people missed the micro expressions. Not me. I registered the look as surprise. He wasn’t expecting my question. The next look I saw was fear. That look told me that he knew something.
“Come on, Emilio. I know you know what I’m talking about. I’ve already talked to a former employee of yours who said you get your drugs out of Colombia. Give me a name.” It really wasn’t an employee of his. It was actually a former trafficked girl, who was part of a ring my team had broken up a while back. When I asked for information on Emilio’s partners she was eager to share what she knew.
He dismissively turned his face away from me. “No sé nada.”
I leaped up and extended my left leg into the tub. “You don’t know anything, huh?!” I stomped down on his awkwardly contorted leg.
“Please! Please!” he screamed in agony.
? You ready to talk now?”
“Okay, okay,” he vigorously nodded.
I removed my foot. “Talk.”
“I d-don’t know much. I’ve never seen or spoken with him directly.”
I nodded. “What’s his name?”
“I don’t know his name. Not a real name. I just know what everyone calls him.”
“Come on, Emilio,” I demanded, growing impatient.
“He’s hard to track down. No one even knows what he looks like. Some say he’s not even from Bogotá, but from America.”
That was a bit of a shocker, but I didn’t let Emilio see my surprise.
“They call him Ghost. That’s all I know. I swear.”
I looked at his face and knew he was telling the truth. Hearing he might be American was a surprise I wasn’t expecting, but maybe I should have been. This was another piece to a puzzle I’d been trying to put together for a long time.
“Thank you, Emilio. You have truly been helpful.” My tone was laced with mocking sarcasm. I stood and moved towards the door.
“Wait! Please! They’re going to kill me. You have to help me!”
Before slipping out the door, I turned and gave Emilio the same answer he had given me earlier. “No sé nada.”
I shut the door behind me. “He’s all yours!” I called to the man still sitting at the wooden table.
“You get what you need?”
“Yeah. You guys softened him up for me. You know anyone named ‘Ghost’ working out of Colombia?”
His dark eyes pondered for a few seconds before he shook his head. That response wasn’t surprising. He was Mexican and worked for the government. Despite our current location, this guy was actually on the side of good. He wouldn’t be tied up with any drug lords.
“You will tell Mr. Salazar you were accommodated as he asked, yes?”
I nodded. “I will as soon as I see him later tonight.”
“Good. What do you have against this Ghost anyway?”
I tossed the words, “He tried to kill me,” over my shoulder before strolling out the door and back to my vehicle.
I sat back on the king-sized bed as I heard the shower in the bathroom turn on. I’d rented a suite at the Marriott for the evening. As my guest finished showering after the workout we just had, I lay on the crumpled sheets in my robe and thought back to what I learned earlier in the day. What Emilio revealed in that tiny cabin hadn’t been much, but at least I had a name to begin asking around about. What I’d said back at the cabin was true. Ghost, whoever he was, had tried to kill me in Bogotá. Unfortunately for him, he missed. Usually, I didn’t take someone trying to kill me personally. It was the nature of what I do, or at least what I used to do. But instead of simply missing his mark, this Ghost killed two of my team members. Two people who were under my charge never made it home.
, I did take that personally. And I wouldn’t rest until I got payback.
Not only did I need retribution for my former team, but I felt like I had a target on my back ever since. Even though I now worked with my two cousins in our own security and consulting business, I still couldn’t shake the shadow of my past. I knew someone from my former life had it out for me, and that made everyone around me a potential target. It was the reason I kept my distance from my family.
I was rarely in Savannah, Georgia where our home base was. I couldn’t remember the last time I had spent more than a few days with my sister in Atlanta. I was constantly working, either on cases with our firm or traveling to South America looking for answers. I hadn’t told my cousins about what happened in Bogotá, nor did I plan to. I knew they’d want to help, and that would make them even more of a target. So instead, I kept my distance.
I pushed out a heavy sigh.
“What are you thinking about?” a deep, baritone voice asked from the bathroom doorway.
I was so deep in thought that I hadn’t noticed the shower turn off or him standing there watching me. I looked over at six feet of beautifully sculpted muscle, encased in light caramel skin. A white towel was wrapped around his waist. I moved up his frame to find light hazel-green eyes staring back at me. The man had the whole Michael Ealy vibe happening.
“I was wondering how long it would be before you got your ass out my shower.”
He chuckled. “Oh, if that’s what you were thinking about, I must have some work to do. I’m not sure I put it down well enough earlier.”
He smiled down at me as he reached the bed and pulled me up by my upper arms. At my full height, the top of my head reached the top of his chest.
I smiled back as his lips hovered a few inches from mine. “No, Senator Roberts. You definitely put it down earlier.”
“Have I told you how much I like it when you use my official title?” Those hazel eyes were swimming with mirth and a small amount of mischief. He placed a quick peck on my lips then moved lower to my neck.
“Mmm, as good as that feels, I have to shower and get ready, and you need to head out,” I said, pressing my hand to his firm chest, halting his movements.
He sighed and stood to his full height, peering down at me. I knew what he was going to say before the words came out of his mouth. I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from cutting him off.
“We could have just gone to this damn thing together.” There was a hint of irritation in his voice.
“We’ve been over this,” I said, moving out of his embrace and stepping around him.
“Then let’s go over it again. Why can’t you be my escort to the USO Gala tonight?”
I rolled my eyes before turning back to him because I didn’t feel like getting into this discussion again. “You know why not,” I responded.
What we had was casual. At least that’s what I thought. We saw each other when convenient, had great sex and left it at that. Public appearances weren’t a part of the deal. Not to mention, an event like the USO Gala would cause all types of talk. Nathaniel Roberts was the youngest Senator in the U.S. Senate, representing the great state of Massachusetts. He was extremely popular in his home state and making waves in Washington, and had good looks to boot. He had made the top of almost every ‘most eligible bachelor’ list there was. His political astuteness had many talking about him running for President in another five to ten years. He was already being touted as the next Barack Obama. The only thing missing was the wife and perfect family. But, I was nobody’s Michelle.
“Right, I know why. You don’t do relationships. But maybe that’s bullshit. Maybe you’re just scared.”
Very little in this world scared me. I looked death in the face too many times to be intimidated by much, but I nearly scoffed at his statement.
“When we started this, we agreed that this wasn’t anything serious. Why are you trying to change that now?” I asked, my impatience growing.
“Maybe I want more now. Maybe I want to change our agreement.”
I shook my head. “That’s not possible.”
“Because I’m not the woman you marry and have the two point five kids with. I’m not the woman you run for office with at your side, smiling and waving for the cameras. It’s not who I am.”
“Then who are you?” he challenged.
I smiled mischievously and strolled over to him, lifting on tiptoes to put my arms around his neck. “I’m the woman you fuck until the right one comes along,” I said, looking up into his eyes. I took a nip of his bottom lip before releasing my hold and stepping back to head to the bathroom to shower, but I was stopped by his grip around my waist.
“We’ll see,” he said before pressing a kiss to my lips and a smack to my firm ass.
I smirked and shook my head. There were times I wished I could be
woman. There was a time I thought my life could be different, but not anymore. Nathaniel was a great guy. I’d known him since my days in the Army. He would undoubtedly become President someday with his charm, superb intellect, and political savvy. I just wouldn’t be the woman on his arm when he got there.