Escaping With Eve
Escaping With Eve
A full length, stand alone, romantic suspense thriller.
Mysterious and riveting.
Justin Ross is old enough to know better. Five years have passed since his team took down the violent cult that raised him, but Justin still feels haunted by his unusual childhood and hurried adolescence.
Now, a college graduate and an established Private Investigator, he’s tired of his past defining his future. Ready to start his own life, on his terms, a young woman shows up on his doorstep desperate for help.
Shylo is no ordinary woman and her twin sister, Eve, is no runaway. Willing to risk everything to take her case, Justin defies his own rules and follows his heart, spiraling out of control for the first time in his life.
Justin willfully ignores the advice of his team and risks everything on the case of this mysterious missing woman. When the evidence points him in a direction he knows he has no business investigating alone, he finds himself in danger, with nowhere to go but through the darkness he once fought so hard to escape.
Entrusted with an unstable new mother, her baby, and the radicalized twin-sister of the woman he loves, Justin must come face to face with the devil himself to save them all.
It was almost too easy now. Picking up young, vulnerable nubiles was getting boring. Not that he’d ever tell Jace that, but every single one of them had the same haunted look in their eyes, same broken smile, same chip carried on their thin shoulders. Eve was no exception—easy to spot, easy to get close to, easy to convince. Jace would love her. She was exactly what he wanted. “Go out there and collect those that the Goddess has lost.”
Not that he completely understood everything Jace did, but he knew that the man was magic, tuned in, spiritual. Jace alone was in line with what the Goddess wanted for them. And he also knew that their entire way of life—the only way to live a real life—all of their future plans, the very purpose for even being alive, all hung precariously in the wind... completely dependent on how well Reed did his job.
Well, not entirely on Reed. He knew that there were others that did what he did. But still, Reed was a soldier, forging out in the wild on his own, living amongst the dead, a seeker for the Goddess. He knew Jace had his reasons and he didn’t need to know what they were—his job was to bring in these women, so that’s what he did.
It’s not like he was stealing them from their lives—he was bringing them home. Without him, they would remain lost and languish out here among the non-living. Jace alone understood the power these women had; he knew how to get them in touch with the Goddess, and how to change the world with their power. If not for Jace, these poor women would be lost forever. In truth, they would all be lost without Jace’s guidance.
He’d seen it firsthand—how Jace could take a seemingly lost woman, what looked to Reed like a total basket case, and turn her into an enlightened being with a direct line to the Goddess. Hell, Reed himself had been lost and at war with the entire world when Jace had found him. But it was Hera that was living proof of Jace’s teachings and connections. Hera was once just as lost and vulnerable looking as Eve. In fact, she was so much like Hera that Reed knew he would be rewarded for bringing her in.
“So, where are we going again?” Eve’s haunted greenish-brown eyes turned to him. Her dirty blonde hair fell in messy waves just to the top of her perky breasts. High cheekbones and slightly hallowed cheeks gave her the appearance of a model—frail, with big ruby lips that made her look like she was pouting most of the time. But it all clashed with the tough girl act she tried to pull off.
“To my family. I want you to meet my family, they will love you.” Reed glanced her way while driving lazily with one hand.
Eve couldn’t believe her luck. Just when she was at the end of her rope, end of the line, when everyone had turned against her, even Shylo, Reed walked into her life and had changed everything. Who needed her sister’s approval? Not Eve. Twin or not, Eve just didn’t need it.
So she wasn’t the perfect one with a clear path to success; didn’t mean she was a waste of time. Ha! College was for the birds, other suckers who wanted to be stuffed inside a box and willingly submit to thought control all day.
And Shylo wasn’t perfect. My God, Shylo was so far from perfect it made Eve’s blood boil! But, would anyone believe that perfect Miss Shylo had flaws like everybody else? Nope. Their fates were set in stone years ago. No matter what happened now, Shylo would always be the perfect one and Eve would always be a disaster.
But Eve knew—Shylo was just as messed up as she was, but man, could she lie like the best of them. Their last fight had really been too much for Eve.
“Get your shit together, Eve!” Shylo had screamed at her. “You need to stop falling in love and start taking your life seriously.”
Eve was no longer listening to her twin. Shylo was just as guilty of falling into bed with unrepentant men as she was. What a hypocrite! Shylo slept with her professor for a good grade, but when Eve goes out on one date with her TA, she’s the one who needs to get her shit together? Screw that!
Reed had found her at her worst. When the thought of living another day in this mundane existence was so overwhelming, she was ready to jump off a bridge just to feel the water hit her skin and remind her that she was alive. After she met Reed, finishing the semester didn’t seem important. In fact, living in the rat-race seemed absurd.
And, that rat-race was keeping them apart. Reed seemed to never want to be apart from her. He would wait for her outside her classes, his brown eyes looking so relieved every time she found him outside her door. Eventually, she started to feel so bad for him that she just stopped going to class.
She knew he was gorgeous by the looks the other girls gave him on their way out of class, but Reed never even glanced their way. Not once. Sometimes, Eve would wait and watch him. She wasn’t stupid, she’d been duped before. Reed was the real deal.
The phone sitting on the center console rang. They both glanced at the screen only to see her own face stare back at them with the name Shylo across the top.
“I should get this.” Eve moved to pick up the phone.
“Don’t let her derail your joy, Eve. Remember, we talked about this. Don’t let her steal your energy.” He looked over at her, his face full of concern and empathy.
She simply nodded and picked up the phone, “Shy, what’s up?”
“Eve! I’m so glad I caught you. I’m sorry we fought.”
Shylo waited for her to respond, but Eve didn’t take the bait. She was getting better at being her own person already!
“Right, so I just heard you skipped out on your last final. I talked to Mr. Ingles and told him you were sick. He said I could make it up tomorrow—well, you can.”
“You pretended to be me?”
“Yeah! Well, I didn’t mean to, but he just assumed I was you, so I went with it.”
“Ha! That’s awesome. Maybe you could take the final for me.” Eve couldn’t believe her twin sister did that for her. That was never her ‘thing’.
“I’m not taking your final for you. Where are you? I can come pick you up and we can study,” Shylo said, with what sounded to Eve like fake enthusiasm.
“Uh, no. I’m going on a road trip with Reed to meet his family.”
“Eve, no! Reed? That guy you just met? This is exactly what I was talking about. You are one final away from your degree. Just tell Reed to wait one more day. If you had taken it yesterday, you would be done already.”
“Stop. I’m not listening to you. I’m my own person. I’m not letting you derail my joy. Reed is perfect and I’m going to meet Jace.”
“Derail your joy? What are you talking about? Dad is going to kill you. Please, Eve, just tell me where you are. I’ll talk to Reed; if he has to leave, you can join him later—like in twenty four hours!”
“Shylo! I’m doing this. You can take my finals or not. You can’t steal my energy. I’m with Reed now—after all the hell I went through over the years, I can’t believe you’re not supporting me.” Eve almost stomped her foot with impatience. Why couldn’t her sister just be happy for her? Why did she have to be such a killjoy all the time?
“This is the biggest mistake you have ever made. I can’t believe Reed would do this to you. Twenty-four hours—just tell him you can leave tomorrow. Please don’t do this, Eve. Please,” Shylo begged her sister through the phone.
Eve was starting to listen to her, Shylo had always been over-protective, but there was something in her voice that made her want to listen to her. Until she felt Reed’s hand on her hip and his breath on her neck. When Reed touched her, everything else faded away.
“Say good night,” he whispered seductively in her ear.
“Shylo, tell Dad not to worry. I’ll see you in a few weeks.”
“Eve! Eve, wait!” Eve could still hear her sister while Reed sucked on her ear and rubbed his warm hand on her inner thigh.
Reed’s kisses made everything perfect in her world. Suddenly her phone wasn’t in her hand anymore. They weren’t in the car anymore, they weren’t even on the road. When Reed touched her, she was transported to another world entirely, a place where they were the only two people alive.
“You better watch the road, mister,” she finally said after she tuned back in.
“I’m going to pull over,” he growled in her ear once again before sitting up.
Smiling, Eve started getting excited about where they were going—to meet his family. So soon! Okay, so it wasn’t a blood family, but the way Reed described them, it was better. These people all chose to become a family, they weren’t just thrown together by a freak act of destiny. Just a biologic anomaly—a malfunctioning ovary dropping two eggs. These people were committed to each other.
“I told Jace all about you and he really wants to meet you,” Reed said, interrupting her thoughts.
“Jace? Right—he’s like your father, but not your real father.” Eve looked around, her sister’s words bouncing around in her head. “I have to take that final tomorrow.”
“My beautiful Eve. You don’t need to take a final. I need to take you back to my house and make love to you. I need to be inside you. That’s real need, babe.” Reed leaned over and kissed her neck—sending shivers down her spine once again.
But not enough to truly shake off Shylo’s phone call. She knew she hadn’t been to her classes in a while, but knowing that she could have taken her finals still made her question the timing of her departure. Was she really making the right decision?
The obligation of being a twin had weighed on Eve for years, and for years now, she had wanted nothing more than to be her own person. How could she be her own person with Shylo right there at every turn? Not that it was always bad, they had had some good times for sure. And sometimes, late at night, she regretted fighting with her sister. But Reed was always there in the morning to remind her of how important it was to live independently, to find her true self. To explain how she needed to get away from Shylo and live on her own.
That was what she was doing, right? Finding herself! Whenever she would get scared, she would just remember Reed’s words, “You can’t find your true path with those that want to break you down, keep you in a box. Shylo wants you to be a certain way—her way. You need to find your own way.”
And he was so right. She was free! It felt so good.
Reed pulled into the gas station and Eve jumped out to find the bathroom. They’d been driving for hours and Reed needed to go as well, but first he had an all important task to complete while she was out of sight. Waiting until she walked around the corner before grabbing her phone, he first wiped out her contact list and then pulled the battery out. Moving quickly, he opened a bottle of water and soaked it, cradling the device in his hand, submerging it as best he could. Finally, dumping the water from his hands he dried off the battery as best he could before snapping it back into the phone just before Eve came back from the bathroom.
“Where are we?” she asked looking around, bewildered.
“On our way to paradise!” he said before kissing her quickly on the cheek and checking the gas pump.
“Damn it,” she muttered under her breath.
“What’s wrong, babe?”
“My phone died. I need to charge it. Do you have a car charger with you?” she asked pressing the buttons on her dead phone.
“No, but we can charge it when we get there. Did you turn off WiFi? I’m sure it died looking for Wifi connections en route. That last phone call was just too much for it, huh.” He tsked at her with a smile.
“Yeah, I guess. Oh well.” Eve looked around at the trees and the dark sky one more time before climbing back into Reed’s truck.
Just as they pulled back out on the road, the skies opened up and soaked the roads with a torrential downpour. As the miles wore on, the rain became mesmerizing. As much as Eve wanted to stay awake and watch the scenery, her eyes wouldn't stay open. Soon she was fast asleep in the seat next to Reed.
Reed watched her fall asleep and couldn't be more pleased. They had at least another hour before they got to The Hacienda. With the skies this dark, the rains would saturate the roads, making them nearly impassible. There was no way anyone would be driving on them for at least a week. Eve was pretty smitten, so it would take at least that long before he’d be able to leave again. He didn’t want to abandon her as soon as they arrived. He wasn’t evil. This one needed to be passed off with care.
Walking down the hall, Justin couldn’t believe this was the last time he was going to make this journey. This was the last assignment he needed to turn in—ever! It had been a long five years, but he had done it. It was an awkward feeling finishing his degree, knowing that he wouldn’t be sitting in classes and writing papers in a few months’ time.
Dr. Emery, his criminal justice supervisor, had threatened to fail him if he didn’t get his paper into her hands by 3:30. It was now 3:20. He’d learned years ago that his easy smile, charm, and good looks would not work on this professor. Having come out with a B in one of her classes after getting a zero on an assignment freshman year, he never pushed his deadlines with her again.
Now Dr. Singer, his psychology supervisor, she was a pushover, and he’d been late on almost every single paper ever assigned in her classes.
“Five whole minutes, Justin! Geez, I’m surprised you didn’t stop for coffee.” Dr. Emery stood outside her office door.
“No, Ma’am. You know me, I might be close, but I always make it just in time!” Justin smiled at her, hoping to avoid a lecture on the benefits of being early.
“Just-in-time-Justin.” She shook her head and held out her hand.
He stopped and hesitated. This was it. As soon as he turned this paper in, his tenure at UC Berkeley would be over—he would no longer be a college student. He would need to face his future and figure out what would be next for him. Decide which way to go: criminal justice or psychology. He knew a big government agency would never take him with his past, and his chances at a police department weren’t much better.
“You okay?” she asked him, concern crossing her face.
“Yeah, just wow. This,” he held up the paper, “is my last assignment. This is it. I hand this to you and I’m no longer a student.”
“Ah, the monumental moment when the student becomes an adult. I remember it well.” She sighed and took the paper from his grip. “Do you have plans?”
“I know I’m seeing my mom at graduation.”
Dr. Emory laughed, “No, I meant do you have any life plans? That fancy law firm you work for going to hire you full time?”
Justin smiled. Although he loved working as an investigator for the one of the top law firms in Oakland, he was wrestling with the bigger questions that plagued him. “So far no offers have come in.”
“You’re a damn good investigator and you’d make a hell of a lawyer. You just have to figure out what works for you.”
“Now you sound like Dr. Singer.” Justin laughed.
“Well, I must admit we’ve talked about you. You’re young, smart, a little mysterious, but you have a lot going for you. Don’t let your demons lead you astray.”
Justin looked around the room. What did she know about his demons? He had never shared his past with anyone, making up some dream childhood and passing off his investigative skills to growing up with a stepdad who was a private eye. He did his senior thesis on mind control and used his own past as part of his research, but never admitted to having grown up in a cult.
That was nobody’s business. That was something he wished he could forget about every day. He didn’t want his past to define his future. He didn’t want to be angry that his past stole his childhood and never gave him a chance to be an adolescent. He didn’t want his demons to be the reason he was questioning his future at this very moment.
“You know me, I don’t have demons!” Justin laughed it off and pulled out his charm.
“Right, kid. You’re one of the lucky ones,” Dr. Emory said, the sarcasm clear, but Justin wasn’t about to acknowledge it.
“Well, I gotta run. Thanks for everything. I’ll see you in a few weeks when I get to walk with the funny cap.”
“You bet, Justin. Take care now.” She smiled one last time before turning back toward her office and shutting the door.
Justin spun on his heel and walked back out of the building. He could hardly believe he was done! It happened so fast. He thought he’d have finals right up until graduation, but all of his final projects this semester were papers—massive, hard research papers that had kept him in the library every night for the past month. But, he did it. It was the beginning of May and he was done!
With no school for the next few weeks, he was looking forward to clearing his caseload and impressing his mentor. Mr. Thornton was a hardass, and Justin had been working harder and harder looking for that nod of approval the man hardly ever gave out. After seeing it a few times, Justin craved it more than he’d ever admit to anyone, even himself.
He jumped in his truck and went back to his apartment. He was one of the few students at Berkeley that lived alone, but for him it was imperative. There was no way he would ever live with a group of people again. Ever.
Honestly, he questioned how Rowan was able to live with Shane. He knew his mom was truly head over heels in love when she willingly moved in with him. It seemed that she had finally let go of the terror of their past, but Justin still checked his closets and under the bed when he got home at night, and kept a go-bag just in case.
Given his unique skill set, he was able to charge a pretty penny for his work while a college student, and many law firms were only too happy to pay. Even with his bold and somewhat cocky attitude regarding his abilities, he did feel lucky that Mr. Thornton’s firm had hired him. It was that steady stream of income that afforded him the luxury of living alone, just off campus.
Berkeley was awesome. He loved living in the chaos, and the weather was so much better than in the central valley where Shane, Rob, and Cody lived. He had had every intention of moving back there to be closer to his mom, and work with Shane, but after almost five years of this weather, he just wasn’t sure anymore. Hell, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to work as a PI anymore.
His phone rang at his hip, interrupting his thoughts, “Yo.”
“Justin, my man! You called?” Cody answered back through the phone.
“Right you are. I’m looking for someone and I thought I’d tap into your resources.”
“Shoot it over, man! I’ll run it through my system.” Cody paused for a second. “You done yet?”
Justin laughed, “Sure am. Just turned in my last paper.” That felt good to say. It was sinking in; he was done with school.
“Well done! When do we get you back?”
Justin froze. The question he’d been waiting to hear for years, and yet dreading more and more for the past few months.
“So about that. I don’t... I’ve got a pretty big caseload at the moment. I’ll see you guys at graduation. You all still coming up?”
“Uh, yeah, man. Of course.”
“I thought I’d still be in school, but looks like I have a few weeks to really get ahead and be done with all of this by graduation.” Justin pulled into his apartment’s parking lot.
“Yeah, alright man. Send me the data and I’ll see if I can at least narrow the search field for you.”
“Thanks, Cody. I’m just pulling up now. I’ll email you in a sec.” Justin signed off and cut the engine.
The feeling in the pit of his stomach didn’t set well with him. He had always asked Cody and Rob for help with his cases, but now it felt... odd. As if he was too old to be dependent on them.
Regardless, he knew Cody’s database was exactly what he needed to track down the required information. And, he knew that Mr. Thornton wanted his cases closed quickly, so he had no choice. Shaking off his mixed emotions, he climbed out of his truck. Time to get to work.
Grabbing his stuff, he locked up and hurried over to the stairs, taking them two at time—only to stop short. A woman was sitting at his doorstep. She looked up at him just as her hand brushed her shoulder length blonde hair behind her ear and wide, pale green eyes pinned him with a hopeful stare.
“Justin?” she asked. “I’m so glad I found you.”