Jake’s Redemption by Jamie Schulz
** Award-winner in the 2019 Global Ebook Awards ***
An imprisoned cowboy.
An empowered woman.
When true love is forbidden, opening their hearts could destroy them both…
Chained and enslaved, Jake Nichols is convinced he’ll die alone. In this new order where men are stripped of all power, he endures brutal torture at the hands of his female captor. But when he’s hired out to build a ranch home for an outspoken beauty, his dreams of escape transform into visions of passion.
Monica Avery struggles to fill her heart in a loveless society. With marriage outlawed and romantic partners reduced to pawns, she’s given up hope of finding her soul mate. But watching the rugged rancher hard at work on her shelter awakens her deeply buried desires.
As the project comes together, Monica discovers a kindred spirit in the tenderhearted Jake. But despite their growing attraction, he still belongs to a cruel woman who’d rather see him dead than free.
Can Monica save Jake, or will their love lead to a tragic tomorrow?
Jake’s Redemption is a full-length book in the Angel Eyes cowboy dystopian romance series. If you like scorching-hot chemistry, clever post-apocalyptic worlds, and star-crossed love stories filled with suspense, then you’ll adore this captivating tale.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 4 – R Rated
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I first thought of the premise for the series during a high school history lecture. It was discussed at lunch with my friends for several days and I brought up other twists to the ideas, which brought up more conversations that eventually led to the start of this series.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
All of my characters are loosely based on real people. Sometimes they're movie stars or musicians, sometimes bits and pieces of family or friends or enemies. There is no one character who is all one person, however. They are a mix of parts of them, parts of me, and parts of my imagination.
JAKE NICHOLS KNELT in defeat on the cold ground of the mountain meadow, directly beside his best friend, Bret Masters. Defenseless, with their fingers laced together behind their heads, their eyes scanned the surroundings for any escape from the Raiders who had attacked their camp in the early morning hours.
Both men scowled up at their captor, a woman Bret had foolishly—and against Jake’s repeated warnings—loved to distraction. Jake risked a quick glance at his friend, knowing the pain Bret must be suffering in the wake of her betrayal. He felt the bite of it too, only for a different reason. Bret was family, and what hurt him, hurt Jake. His protective nature made him long to shield Bret from the misery this woman inflicted.
“I don’t care for you,” Amy had said only moments ago, indifferent to the devastation Jake saw in every line of Bret’s granite-hard face. What made her confession even worse was the bit she added about only wanting to use his body.
“You do have such a pretty face, but no brains in your head,” she went on, and then laughed at Bret’s seething look. His expression made Jake ache for his friend, and he silently hoped she had nothing more to torment him with. But Amy wasn’t done with Bret yet.
“How could you think any self-respecting woman would want you for anything more than your gorgeous face and hard body?” she asked, not waiting for a reply. “A decent woman would never accept you as an equal. Any woman who would is worse than the slave you will shortly become.”
A deep growl rumbled up from Bret’s chest, and to Jake’s surprise, Bret lunged to his feet and attacked her. Seeing an opportunity, Jake and all the other prisoners immediately joined him in a last, desperate attempt to gain their freedom. Their female adversaries, however, had a new genetic advantage. It may have taken a few seconds for the hysterical-strength to kick in, but once it did, the fight, strength-wise, was no longer in the men’s favor.
The skirmish didn’t last long, but in a brief moment before it ended, Jake turned to see Amy about to drive a long-bladed knife into his best friend’s back. Jake didn’t think, he moved, tackling Amy as her weapon plunged downward from its high arch. Amy tried to wiggle away from him, but he held on, desperate to keep her from harming Bret.
“Run!” He heard Bret’s frantic shout. “Run!” The sound of pounding feet and continued battle assaulted Jake’s ears. He tried to roll away from Amy, but now she held on to him. On his hands and knees, he jerked his arm to shake her loose and follow his friend into the forest, but she wouldn’t let go.
Pain bloomed sharp and bright in his ribs as a booted foot slammed into him—once, twice—and he fell. The boot kept coming. He curled up, protecting his vulnerable areas, but his assailant still landed several blows to his head and back.
“Enough!” Amy’s voice rang out, and the assault ended. Jake spit blood from his mouth and struggled to catch his breath. The dizziness in his head and the stabbing ache in his side told him getting to his feet might be harder than it was a few minutes ago.
Definitely broke a rib or two, he thought, tonguing his split lip and rapidly cataloging the pain in the rest of his body.
“How many do we still have?” Amy shouted to someone nearby.
“Ten got away,” a woman said. “With this one,” Jake assumed she was pointing at him, “we still have twenty-seven men, along with some traitorous women and children too.”
“Is there a tall man, black hair, green eyes, very good-looking, among those we recaptured?” Amy asked, describing Bret to a tee.
“That sappy, pretty-boy son of a bitch,” Amy swore, undoubtedly meaning Bret. “I should’ve known he’d try something like that.” She cursed again.
“You know their hiding places now,” the other woman said. “We’ll catch them and their friends too.”
Jake and Bret had come across Amy by accident—or so they had thought at the time—almost seven months before as they traveled the mountains, hunting for food. She’d been hungry and in need of aid. Unsurprisingly, she took an immediate interest in Bret. Although he had a mistrusting nature, she spared little time wrapping his love-starved heart around her finger. Jake had never liked her and the two friends argued about her more than once, but despite his misgivings about Amy, Jake refused to alienate his boyhood friend. Yet as a result of her relationship with Bret, she now knew the location of most of their woodland hiding places.
“That’s true,” Amy replied to the other woman’s comment. She tapped her chin with her index finger as if considering, and then she glanced down at Jake.
He had lain very still during their interaction, hoping against hope they might forget about him.
No such luck.
“And you,” she said coming toward him. “You—”
He didn’t give her a chance to finish; he had a fairly good idea of what came next. Instead, he ignored his dizziness and the pain in his chest as he surged to his feet, pushed her aside, and ran for the trees. He’d made it six feet when he heard a crack behind him. Then something hard and thin snapped around his neck and yanked him backward. He saw stars as his head and back slammed to the ground, sending a new wave of misery through his abused body. He groaned, trying to place what just happened, and then Amy was leaning over him.
She jammed her knee into his chest, and pain shot through his damaged ribs. He lifted his arms to shove her away, but the leathery rope wrapped around his neck yanked at him again, choking off his air. Desperate, needing to get her off him, needing to breathe, he tugged at the cord strangling him. His eyes widened as Amy grabbed him by the hair and tilted his head back to expose his throat. He reached for her again, but the minute the edge of her knife grazed his flesh, his arms collapsed to the ground and he froze.
The binding around his neck loosened and fell away as Amy glared into his face. Blessed air came freely, but the simple act of breathing caused his ribs to twinge more.
With the suffocating rope gone, his hands automatically lifted off the ground to defend himself. Amy’s knife cut a tiny fraction deeper. Blood tickled his neck as the warm liquid trickled over his cool skin, and he froze once more, afraid to even breathe.
“Uh-uh,” Amy warned as she increased the pressure slightly, widening the gash a bit more and digging the point of her blade into his Adam’s apple.
His mouth went dry. Is she going to slit my throat?
“Looks like Bret didn’t value your friendship as much as you thought, huh, Jake?” Amy said with a nasty smile, her dark brown eyes glittering down at him.
Jake cringed inwardly. He knew that wasn’t the case. In the chaos, Bret probably hadn’t even realized Jake had been captured, and wouldn’t until he failed to show at their rendezvous point. But her implication twisted at his guts nonetheless.
A second woman stepped up behind Amy, coiling the long black length of a bullwhip in her hand.
So, that’s what was strangling me…I should’ve known.
“You fucked up my plans, Jake, just as much as your damned friend,” Amy hissed at him when he didn’t respond to her earlier comment. “If it weren’t for you, he’d be mine and you’d both make me rich. Now, I have to settle for you and those other losers we caught today.”
“What’re—you going—to do with me?” He stifled a groan for his halting speech and glared daggers at the woman hovering over him.
“Oh, I think you know what we do with captured men,” Amy chuckled. She tilted her head, and a strand of her amber-blonde hair fell into her face as her eyes raked over him.
“You know, Jake,” she said reflectively, “you’re a good-looking guy. If Bret hadn’t been around, you would’ve been my target. It’s only next to a man like him that you’d seem second best. But then, you were always suspicious of me, weren’t you? Maybe once you’ve been trained, I’ll pay you another visit.”
He clamped his jaws tight and didn’t respond, but his mind was in overdrive. He wanted to fight, but moving meant death. He didn’t want to know what it was like to bleed to death from a severed artery. Instead, he scowled all the more. If he wanted to live, it was all he could do.
The woman beside Amy crouched down, but he couldn’t see what she was doing. The next thing he knew, he jumped as a needle jammed into his hip and something injected into his body.
Ah, shit… He knew what that was; he’d heard dozens of stories about it but luckily had never had to deal with the drug, until now.
It started working almost instantaneously, driving up his anxiety level, making him shake and cringe. A few seconds passed, while Amy’s gaze bore into his, and the effect of the chemical doubled.
Oh, God, this is worse than I thought it would be. He had never felt so weak and vulnerable in his life.
“Now,” Amy said as she removed the blade from his throat and stood. She tucked the knife in her boot and then plopped her rear down on his chest, knowing he would be too terrified, thanks to the drug, to do anything to save himself. “What shall I do with you?” She ran a finger down the side of his face.
He flinched away.
You could let me go, he thought and tried to force out the sarcastic remark, but the substance surging through him wouldn’t allow it.
“I think you deserve a particularly horrible punishment for always interfering in my plans with Bret,” she said, answering her own question while tapping his bearded chin with one finger. The slight contact amped up his anxiety, and he shivered. “He may have listened to you complain about me, but he loved me.” Her derisive tone told him what she thought about that. “He would’ve never turned me out the way you kept telling him to do. And now, you’ve ruined my chance to have him how I always wanted him: in chains. So, how shall I make you pay for all of it?”
Jake’s body shook with fear, both real and chemically induced. Amy was far more lethal than he had once thought.
“I know just the place you should go,” she continued with a bright smile, as if she’d come up with a brilliant idea. “I have an acquaintance near here, a woman who’s exceptionally adept at training men to be perfect little slaves. I’ll bet she’d jump at the chance to make you a willing breeder. You’ll make her a lot of money. Once she pays me a high price for you that is.”
“P-Please…” Jake pleaded involuntarily, the drug wreaking havoc with his willpower. No matter how much he wanted to resist begging, he couldn’t stop now that he had started. “P-Please…” he muttered again, his voice shaking while fighting the drug—and losing. “Let me go…”
“Darla’s going to tear you to pieces, Jake,” she told him, her sinister smile sending waves of dread prickling up and down his spine. “A little bit at a time, she’ll peel away your pride—”
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