The Truth About Us (The Truth Duet Book 2), p.1Aly Martinez
The Truth About Us
Copyright © 2018 Aly Martinez
All rights reserved. No part of this novel may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted without written permission from the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. If you would like to share this book with others please purchase a copy for each person. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.
The Truth About Us is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and occurrences are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, events, or locations is purely coincidental.
Cover Designer: Hang Le
Photography: Wander Aguiar
Editing: Mickey Reed
Proofreader: Julie Deaton
Formatting: Stacey Blake
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Table of Contents
Prologue of The Darkest Sunrise
About the Author
One minute before I lost her…
A hotel room. That’s where I was leaving Cora.
A fucking hotel room with shitty commercial carpet that made my skin crawl. Sure, it was a nice place with full-time security, and I’d made sure we were on the top floor, but the idea of leaving her in a goddamn hotel room had turned my blood to sludge.
It was the only way. I needed her out of that apartment building for a night—and then forever.
I stared at the side of her face, her lips parted in slumber, and committed each and every curve to memory. Her smooth skin, her long lashes, even that tiny mole below her lip.
All of it was mine.
She was mine.
And in order to save her, I had to let her go.
I could give her the money. I had enough. But as long as the Guerrero brothers were still sharing the Earth’s oxygen, she’d never be free.
They would find her, manipulate her, punish her, and I had not one doubt they would ultimately kill her.
And while I was out exacting revenge for a woman I’d loved but hadn’t been able to save, the cycle would repeat itself.
We all had choices in life.
I could have stayed.
I could have kept Cora.
I could have taken her and River away, put them up in a fancy house with private security, but they’d always be looking over their shoulders.
That wasn’t freedom. That was moving them from one prison to another.
And it would have solved nothing.
Thomas Lyons, the very man who had ordered my wife’s death, was a part of Cora’s world. From what I could tell, she was helping his wife, Catalina, and his daughter, Isabel, hide from him. One day, he’d find out and come after Cora too.
My worlds had officially bled together, and Thomas, the city’s beloved district attorney with the perfect record, was the source of the wound.
So, at the end of the day, I had no choice at all.
The only thing I could do was keep the blood off her hands.
Even if that meant stabbing myself in the heart and disappearing from her life altogether.
She’d be okay.
She’d recover, move on, make a life of her own.
I wouldn’t. Not ever. But I’d at least be able to rest at night, knowing she was safely sleeping under the stars.
One in. One out.
I closed my eyes, pressed a kiss to her forehead, and then filled my lungs with all things Cora Guerrero.
Her kind heart.
Her selfless nature.
The way she loved.
The way she gave.
The way she’d brought me back to life.
“Truth,” I whispered against her temple. “I love you.”
She didn’t budge as I crawled out of bed.
She didn’t budge as I waged war with my body in order to force my legs to carry me away from her.
And she didn’t budge when the flames of hell finally devoured me as I stepped into the hall and silently pulled the door shut.
“You ready?” Drew asked.
I’d texted him the minute her breathing had evened out. Though I’d probably kept him waiting longer than I should have.
I ground my teeth to cover the emotion. “Swear to me you will take care of her.”
His fierce, brown eyes locked on my blues. “Swear to me you will kill those motherfuckers and then come back alive.”
I extended a hand in his direction. “Done.”
He grinned, clapping his hand with mine. “Then you have my word.”
We started toward the elevator on the same foot, my entire body screaming as I left her there. I had known that it was wrong the minute I’d decided to do it. But my back was against the wall.
“I don’t feel right about letting her think I was stealing the money,” I told him.
His hand snaked out, catching my bicep, stopping me mid-step. “You have to do that. Do you hear me? You are not another man she needs to spend thirteen years pining after. You get her money, put it in your toolbox, and make it look like Dante and Marcos just happened to show up as you were taking off with it.”
“She won’t believe that, Drew. She’s gonna see straight through this.”
He stepped in front of me, his eyebrows furrowed, and stabbed a finger in my chest. “Then make her believe it. I’ll help on my end, planting that seed as best I can if she doesn’t jump to the conclusion on her own, but I’m not about to spend the next six months consoling a woman who thinks her poor, sweet boyfriend was torched while trying to protect her honor. She will not recover from that, Penn. She will spend the rest of her life blaming herself for getting an innocent man killed and you know it.” He poked at my chest, punctuating every sentence. “Be the bad guy. Take the fall. Let her get pissed. Break her fucking heart. And help her let you go.”
The problem was I didn’t want her to let me go. But I couldn’t take her with me. For a myriad of reasons, I needed to put as much distance as I could between Cora Guerrero and Thomas Lyons. The biggest being that, if and when my true identity was linked to Penn Walker, she would be either his next target or a suspect in his murder. So far, I—Shane Pennington—was free and clear. Those hundreds of thousands of dollars I’d spent buying a new identity had paid off. For her sake, I needed to keep it that way. But I couldn’t leave until I was positive she was as far removed from this entire clusterfuck as I could get her.
Or, as it turned out, as far away as Drew could get her.
I clipped him with my shoulder as I marched past him to the elevator and then jabbed the button.
Drew wasn’t done with his lecture yet. “I swear to God, if you try to stray from the plan, I will find you and kill you myself. You are not the good guy anymore. She is going to be a wreck when yo
“But that’s just it. That’s all she’s ever been given. Shit, shit, and more shit. And, now, I’m adding to that shit.”
Suddenly, he was in my face. “I’m not going to be there to save your ass if this goes south. You get the money, put it in your toolbox, and then you leave it on the seat of the truck. The cops shouldn’t search it since it’s in my name, but if they do, I’ll produce the bank records where Shane Pennington gave his best friend who just got out of jail a loan. Cora won’t have to know about that. And if she finds out, I’ll lie and say my money burned up in the fire. We have thought out every possible angle to put her at the least amount of risk. Do not go off script now. This is not one of those times you can play loose. You gotta stop obsessing over the shit you can’t change and focus on actually surviving this bullshit. Taking down not one, but two Guerreros is not going to be easy.”
My bones ached like they were being snapped in two. “I promise you it’ll be easier than leaving her.”
“Probably. But I’d prefer to hear you crying about a woman any day of the week over putting you in the ground. So I’ll repeat: Focus. There is plenty of time to cry into your cornflakes later.”
I shot him a scowl, but the levity did start to ease the pressure in my chest. “Right.”
“Now. Are you sure I can’t go with you? I’ve been jonesing to throw a match at Dante’s feet for quite a while.”
The elevator dinged. “No. You stay with her. If something really happens to me…you—”
He gave my shoulder a squeeze. “I got it. One million, one hundred, a fuck-ton of other numbers, and ninety-nine cents.”
Holding his gaze, I swallowed hard, a mountain of unspoken words dividing us. Drew had been my best friend for seventeen years. He’d become my family when I’d married his sister. And when we’d lost her, he’d become my partner in a quest for vengeance.
And, right then, there was a very solid chance that I wasn’t leaving just Cora that night.
“Don’t you dare. You get your ass out of here. Do your thing. We’ll have a beer and catch up in a few months when this is all said and done, yeah?”
“Yeah,” I whispered.
“Now, go. Get out of here before you get all emotional and your dick falls off. You just recently got it back. I’d hate to see you lose it again.”
I barked a laugh. Goddamn it. He was a good man.
With one last tip of my chin, I walked into the elevator and stared at the floor as the doors slid shut.
On the way down to the first floor, a lot of things happened:
My mind cleared.
My resolve clicked back into place.
And that all-too-familiar numbness washed back over me.
Penn Walker climbed onto the elevator that night, but when the doors opened at the bottom, Shane Pennington walked out focused, determined, and fueled by more pain than ever before.
The problem was, only a few hours later, I realized they were both irrevocably in love with Cora Guerrero.
Four years earlier…
“Chrissy!” I yelled, banging on the door to her apartment. I glanced over at Angela, who was standing in the walkway, chewing on her bottom lip. “You did the right thing.”
“We’ll see,” she muttered, turning her nerves onto her fingernails.
I started searching through my key ring. “Ang, listen to me. If she brings a john here, it puts us all at risk. At risk of the cops finding out. Or Dante or Marcos. Or, hell, even Manuel. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to hang my ass out on a limb for Chrissy to make a couple bucks on the side.”
“No. I know. It’s just I feel bad. She’s my girl, ya know?”
I shoved the key into the lock. “If she was really your girl, she wouldn’t have put you in this position to begin with.” I didn’t have a chance to turn the key before the door swung open.
Chrissy appeared in the entryway wearing a black nighty. Her thick, dyed dark hair was disheveled, and her lipstick lined the outer rim of her mouth. “Would you stop filling her head with bullshit?” She leaned out to glare at Angela. “I’m gonna fucking sew your mouth shut.”
Angela’s back straightened and her eyes flashed wide before she slunk into her apartment.
“Do you have to be such a bitch all the time?” I asked.
Chrissy grinned, all toothy and yellow. “I could ask you the same question.”
I scoffed. “I’m the bitch? You bring a john here, putting every woman in this building in danger, yet I’m the bitch? Jesus, Chrissy. Pull your damn head out of your ass for a minute and think about someone other than yourself.”
She rolled her eyes, propping her shoulder against the jamb, grinning like I’d told a joke. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s no man here.” She swung her arm out, inviting me in. “See for yourself.”
With less than zero interest in trudging through her trashy apartment in search of an even trashier man, I snapped, “Get him out. Now.”
“There’s nobody here.” She pouted her lips and drew an invisible X over her heart.
Then a woman’s voice I didn’t recognize came from behind me. “Uhhhh, because he’s right there.”
Spinning around, I caught sight of a half-naked man sprinting out of the parking lot. Luckily for me, it was the lower half that was covered. Though, after having witnessed his fur-covered stomach bouncing in the breeze, I wasn’t sure luck was the right term.
“Oh, would you look at that,” Chrissy breathed in mock disbelief. “You know, you should really have a chat with Angela. I saw her sneaking a guy in earlier, but I didn’t want to rat her out. You know being that we’re girls and all.”
I swung my burning retinas back on her. “Are you fucking kidding me, Chris? You of all people know better than—”
“Who the hell is she?” She jerked her chin toward the parking lot.
On reflex, I looked over my shoulder and found a tall, leggy brunette standing just inside the breezeway. She was wearing pink shorts that hugged her thin figure and a white silk camisole that didn’t show nearly enough cleavage for this profession but entirely too much for her to be a Jehovah’s Witness come to save my soul.
“Can I help you?” I asked just before Chrissy’s door slammed shut. I let out a groan, vowing to deal with her later. Though, short of calling in a Guerrero—which, no fucking way—there wasn’t much more I could do.
The woman smiled, revealing what had to be a small fortune in childhood orthodontics and a diet of clouds.
She pointed a manicured nail at Chrissy’s door. “She seems nice.”
“A real prize,” I replied, giving her another once-over. “What can I do for you today?”
“Oh, right.” She walked over, forcing me to crane my head back to see her.
I was short, but she had to have been at least six feet tall in those strappy, nude wedges.
Warm, brown eyes stared down at me as she asked, “I’m looking for Dante Guerrero.”
I curled my lip. “Well, that’s unfortunate. He doesn’t live here.”
She cocked her head to the side like a confused puppy. “But he owns the building, right?”
“That he does.” I opened my arms, waving them around, doing my best impression of a The Price Is Right model. “But, somehow, he manages to resist the urge to make this luxurious palace his primary residence.”
“Do you, um…know how I could get in touch with him? He told me to meet him here, but I didn’t get his number.”
The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as panic flooded in my system. “Shit! He’s coming here? Today?”
“Um… Well, not today, today. He just gave me this address and told me to come over whenever I…um… had the chance. So here I am.”
I blew out a loud breath, patting my chest as if I could manually slow my racing hea
“Sorry,” she whispered sheepishly.
Up close, she was even prettier. She was older than I was, maybe thirty, but she had good skin and a nice, subtle hand with makeup. She wasn’t the kind of beautiful that would grace the pages of a magazine, but she was definitely pretty enough to think that maybe she could. The thought made me cringe.
“Can I ask what kind of business you have with Dante?”
“Oh, um…” Her eyes lit. “I answered an ad online—”
“For a model?” I finished for her.
I sighed. How the hell he managed to find this many desperate women was beyond me. And one that looked like this? Forget it.
“Listen. You seem nice. So I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.” I leaned in close and lowered my voice to a whisper. “It’s not what you think. It’s a…scam. Go home and forget about it. You do not want any part of this.”
I started to turn away, but she caught my arm.
“I got nowhere to go. I used the last of my money I had to catch a cab over here today. Look, I know what happens here. I got clients of my own. Rich ones. I’m just shifting teams. That’s all.”
Jerking my arm away, I stared at her in mock awe. “You’re from another stable?”
She nodded repeatedly.
“You got johns of your own?”
She nodded again.
“And Dante gave you this address?”
More with the bobble head impression.
I eyed her warily, searching for the truth in her big doe eyes.
There was none to be found.
“You’re so full of shit. We don’t run that kind of business here. Get the fuck off my property.”
“Okay, fine! I’m not from another…stable. But I’ve got experience.”
I rolled my eyes, giving her my back as I started toward the stairs. My phone started ringing, and after I’d dug it from my back pocket, Manuel’s number showed on the screen.
“No. No. No. Wait!” she cried.
But I ignored her, knowing better than to let his call go to voicemail. “Hello.”
“She’s fucking pregnant!” he boomed.
The Truth About Us (The Truth Duet Book 2) by Aly Martinez / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes