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Forever Mine: Mine By Default Mini-Series, #6

Forever Mine: Mine By Default Mini-Series, #6

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Forever Mine: Mine By Default Mini-Series, #6

Length:
268 pages
4 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Nov 17, 2018
ISBN:
9781386340294
Format:
Book

Description

*SERIES FINALE, Approximately 59,000 Words, Full-length Novel*

Eli is a man conflicted. Confused. Scarred. Traumatized by his childhood. Deceived by his family. Broken.

All he has is her: Natalie.

He tries to love her. No, he DOES love her. More than anything. More than himself. She deserves better, no matter how much she says otherwise, she does. He's keenly aware of it, and when he can no longer justify holding her back from living her BEST life, he does something about it - he lets her go - an act that causes him more pain than any wound he's ever suffered at the hands of injustice. But when he realizes letting her go was a mistake, it may be too late to win her heart again. 

Cadence, Natalie's sister, tries to be there for her during this difficult period in her life. But she's so focused on Natalie, she can't see her own life passing her by, that is until Gary Kincaid makes it clear to her. For the first time, in a long time, she finds companionship with him, but will interfering in her sister's life disrupt what could be a wonderful relationship with Gary?

* * * 

The 'Mine By Default' Mini-Series is a cliffhanger series full of romance and suspense. Each book will be a continuation or a 'new episode'. For the best reading experience, you will need to read this series in order. 

Book 1 - Been In Love With You 
Book 2 - When Hearts Cry 
Book 3 - You Belong To Me 
Book 4 - When I Call You Mine 
Book 5 - Who Do You Love? 
Book 6 - Forever Mine

Publisher:
Released:
Nov 17, 2018
ISBN:
9781386340294
Format:
Book

About the author

TINA MARTIN is the Amazon #1 Bestselling author of over 70 romantic suspense novels, novellas and short stories. She currently resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. For more information, visit www.tinamartin.net


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Forever Mine - Tina Martin

Chapter One

Natalie’s heart drummed in her chest as she sat in the small sardine-can-of-a-room for the last thirty minutes. Bright, fluorescent lights hung from the white ceiling. Light gray cylinder block walls gave the interrogation room a jail cell feel. On one of the walls, there was a two-way mirror. She could feel someone watching her.

Hello! she yelled, standing. She paced the floor for a few moments before sitting again at the small, black rectangular table, about the size of a table you’d find at a coffee shop. Except this table was dirty and bolted to the floor with a pair of handcuffs locked around one of its legs. There was a chair opposite of her. She wondered if they were holding her here because of Eli, or if someone was actually going to interrogate her.

Hello! She stood up again, walked over to the mirror and banged hard on the glass, screaming, Let me out of here! Let me out!

The click of the door had Natalie looking there to see a white, blonde-haired woman standing in the doorway wearing a New Orleans police officer uniform – looked just like Eli’s uniform.

Ma’am, you need to calm down, she drawled out.

Natalie glared at her. The officer’s hair was slicked back in a ponytail. And she didn’t even look threatening. Looked like her police belt weighed more than she did. The only threatening thing about the policewoman was the gun she toted.

"I need to calm down? Natalie yelled, taking a few slow steps towards the officer. You...you tased my husband, locked me in this room like an animal, and I need to calm down?"

I didn’t tase your husband, ma’am.

You did. You’re one of them. You’re just as responsible as they are.

You need to have a seat. I’ve been given orders to watch this door.

Where’s my husband?

Have a seat.

I need to see my husband.

Have. A. Seat. And if you bang on that window again, I’m gon’ have to handcuff you to that table. I don’t want to, but I will. You understand?

Natalie reluctantly took a few steps back from the door. She returned to the table, sat there and buried her face in her hands, keeping her eyes closed. She gasped, quickly opening her eyes again when she saw a repeat of Eli being tased at the restaurant, his body trembling, then going limp. Eyes rolling back in his head. She hadn’t seen him since they were, what she considered, unlawfully whisked away by Federal Agents and forced into black Denali SUVs. Made her feel like she was living in a third world country. Someplace where crime ran rampant. Where people turned blind eyes to criminal activity and government corruption. But no, this was no third world country. This was the good ole U.S. of A. – land of the free – well free until you’re hauled away in black, unmarked government vehicles and not given any explanation as to why you’re being taken into custody.

Eli, where are you? Where are you?

Natalie’s throat tightened as she struggled to withhold tears. Even when she heard the door open, heard people talking, she didn’t look up.

Should I handcuff her? she heard the policewoman ask. She’s been banging on that window.

No. That won’t be necessary, the man said. I’ll tap on the door when I’m done.

Natalie frowned. She knew that voice. The man’s voice. When she looked up, she connected that voice to a familiar face – Gary Kincaid – Eli’s former patrol partner. With him was another man, one of the agents who escorted her and Eli from the restaurant.

Gary! Natalie jumped out of her chair, ran up to Gary and said, Did Eli call you? Where is he? They took him. They tased him, Gary. Can you get us out of here?

Natalie, we’re going to need to take this one step at a time. Right now, I need you to sit down with me for a moment.

Confusion washed over her face. What?

And I need to inform you that this conversation will be recorded, Gary told her.

Blood drained from Natalie’s face as the pit of her stomach fell to the dirty floor. Gary?

Natalie, have a seat, please, Gary said.

Speechless, Natalie sat down, her mind drowning with thoughts until she felt her head swell to contain them. Was Gary playing Eli the entire time? Pretending to be his cop friend, but from the looks of things, he was just like Solomon – an undercover agent. A liar. Another person Eli thought he could trust, but turns out, Eli couldn’t trust any of them.

Natalie massaged her temples, hoping to lessen the pressure that pooled there, but so far, her method wasn’t working. Her head would explode any minute now.

I need to ask you a few questions, Gary said.

Don’t bother. No way I’m talking to you. Traitor. She kept on massaging her temples. Her eyes puddled with tears of anger.

Natalie—

He trusted you, Gary, she angrily interrupted. You were supposed to be his friend! We invited you to our wedding!

"I am his friend. That’s why I’m here, actually."

Natalie blinked away tears.

Listen, Natalie...the reason I was partnered with Eli was to investigate him and protect him.

Natalie stared down at the table, zoning out, trying to mentally distance herself from this conversation. She’d had enough of this. What was the big conspiracy all about? Why did the people in Eli’s life, people he thought he could trust, the very ones secretly betraying and investigating him? He couldn’t trust Solomon. Now, Gary? Who was next?

Natalie.

I’m not talking to you, Natalie said, staring down at the table.

Natalie—

I said, I’m not talking to you.

If you want to help Eli, you will.

"Oh, don’t give me that First 48, reverse psychology crap."

Natalie, you need to—

"I need my husband. I don’t need this, she said, her arms flying up in the air. And I especially don’t need you lying to my face. You work for the FBI. You lie for a living, and I’m supposed to believe you? I know how this works. You want to get me to say something to incriminate my husband, right? Well, I’m not, so screw you, traitor."

Gary leaned back in his chair. Getting through to Natalie was going to be much harder than he had originally anticipated. Can I get you some water or something to make you more comfortable, Natalie?

With a frown still ridged across her forehead, she said, No. I don’t want anything from you.

You need me right now, Natalie. I’m the lifeline between you and Eli, but I need your cooperation.

Then let me see him. I need to know that he’s okay.

And I have your word that you’ll talk if I let you see him.

Yes. I don’t know what you need me to talk about, but I will.

Okay, Gary said, standing. You can see him in the viewing room, but I can’t let you go inside of the room with him.

A look of surprise glowed on Natalie’s face. I don’t care. I just want to see him. I want to be sure he’s okay. I want to see for myself.

Okay, then if you’re ready, let’s go.

Natalie stood up. Okay.

By the arm, Gary led her a few doors down a long hallway to another room – an interrogation viewing room with a two-way mirror just like her room. Upon stepping inside, she saw him, Eli, sitting alone with a bottle of water in front of him. His arms were crossed and he was slumped down in the chair.

Oh, Eli, Natalie said sadly, placing her hand on the glass. Tears fell from her eyes. Is he okay? she asked, her voice cracking as she did so.

He’s okay, Gary responded. Look at me, Natalie.

Natalie looked at him with sad eyes. Eli is lucky to have a woman like you. It’s obvious to me that you love him. Now, I need your cooperation. I promise you Eli is safe and no harm will come to him.

Okay.

Gary escorted Natalie back to the interrogation room. He instructed the police officer guarding the door to bring two bottles of water. Then he sat down at the table across from Natalie, watching her bat tears away from her eyes. He hated the sight of a woman in tears, even if he had no emotional connection to her. I know the story of how you and Eli met, and I must say it was mighty brave of you to do what you did that night to help him.

That night...

It was the night that had forever changed her life. She closed her eyes, frowned a little when she remembered flashes of that night. The blood. Shattered glass. Holding Eli in her arms while trembling in fear, scared that he wouldn’t survive. What did you see that night?

Natalie blew a breath. That was a long time ago, Gary, she said, trembling.

Are you cold?

With a quivering bottom lip, Natalie didn’t answer.

Gary stood up, took off his jacket and walked around the table, draping it over her shoulders. Better?

Yes. Thanks.

Gary sat down again. I know this situation happened four years ago, but you need to try hard to remember.

Why not just pull the police report from that night? I remember giving a statement. Don’t you think my statement, back then, would be more accurate than my recollection of events four years later?

Maybe. And I did pull the reports. I read your statement. Now, I need to hear you recount what happened that night.

Natalie tapped her nails on the tabletop.

Okay, Natalie. Let me put your mind at ease. Nothing you tell me is going to incriminate Eli.

How do I know that?

I’m on your side here. On Eli’s side. That’s why I was his partner. I was assigned to work with Eli in order to investigate him as a part of a new cold case initiative—a collaboration with the New Orleans police department and the local FBI. The murders of Jahzara Gibbs and Maynard Gibbs were first up on my radar.

Natalie’s eyes narrowed. Who are they?

Gary squinted at her. You don’t know?

No. Never heard those names before in my life.

And you’ve known Eli how long?

Over four years, but I’ve never heard those names before.

Well, let me enlighten you – they’re the names of Eli’s parents.

Oh.

Gary rubbed his chin. So you knew his biological parents were deceased?

Natalie nodded. I knew Persinna and Oliver adopted Eli. Solomon told me. I confirmed it with Persinna before talking with Eli about it since he hadn’t bothered bringing it up. I couldn’t believe he’d keep something like that from me. And then, Solomon told me that Eli shot his biological parents—

Jahzara and Maynard, Gary said.

Yes. Said he killed them when he was six years old.

Do you believe that?

Natalie adjusted the jacket on her shoulders. No. Eli is not a violent person. At six years old, I think he was an easy target for someone to pin a murder on. After all, he was in an abusive household.

Gary nodded silently.

Do you believe Eli killed his parents, Gary? Natalie asked.

"No. I don’t. In fact, I know he didn’t do it. There was no gunshot residue on his hands or clothes, which means someone wiped the gun clean of prints before putting it into his hand. At that age, I doubt if he even knew how to shoot a gun, let alone land such precise shots."

Makes sense to me.

And to clarify something, Jahzara Gibbs was indeed Eli’s biological mother, but Maynard Gibbs was not his biological father.

He wasn’t?

No. Let me give you a little history on Maynard Gibbs. The man had a rap sheet long enough to circle this room. He was in and out of jail – robbery, drugs, theft, communicating threats – don’t know how Jahzara got mixed up with him. Anyway, after I ruled out Eli as their killer, I thought that maybe this was a murder-suicide. There’s been a rash of those recently. I figured that maybe Maynard finally lost it and shot Jahzara before turning the gun on himself, but that would be impossible with the angle in which the bullet struck him. And Maynard didn’t have gunshot residue on his hands.

So, who killed them?

"I think Eli’s real father grew tired of seeing his son abused day in and day out, and he finally snapped—decided to do something about it. He went over to the house, took Maynard’s gun and shot him with it. The bullet that hit Jahzara was an accident. Maynard was the target."

Natalie covered her mouth with her right hand. Oh my gosh.

Eli was there. It is my belief that he witnessed some of what happened, if not all of it, which brings me back to the night you found Eli beside the road.

You think the two incidents are related somehow because Eli thought the same thing.

I know for a fact they are related. So tell me, Natalie, the night you pulled over to help Eli...

Natalie squeezed her eyes tight, trying her hardest to remember. Yes, um, I saw a man running back to a white car. Eli and Avery were both on the ground. Avery was face down. The man from the white car took off. I remember sounds. Remember hearing the tires screeching when the guy fled. I remember the sound of glass crackling underneath my shoes.

You were on the ground assisting Eli at some point...

Yes. I dialed 911...told the operator that two police officers had been shot. Officer Singleton didn’t have a pulse. I moved away from him and went to help Eli. Told the operator he’d been shot in the face and chest. The operator told me to apply pressure to his chest wound to slow down the bleeding. Natalie took a moment to clear her throat and dab her eyes, then continued, I tried my best to help him. I applied pressure, talked to him to keep him alert but he was out of it, so close to death. His eyes were opening and closing, rolling about. I thought—

Natalie’s lips trembled. I thought he was going to die in my arms.

Gary glanced over at the agent sitting next to him, then back at Natalie. We can stop to take a break if you want.

No. Natalie sniffled. I’m okay.

Do you and Eli ever talk about that night?

Natalie nodded. Today, while we were having breakfast, he explained what happened that night. That’s what we were talking about before we were whisked away by you guys.

What did Eli say happened that night?

He said they, he and Officer Singleton, were on a normal patrol. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until they got a call about a suspicious vehicle across town. Officer Singleton suggested they take the call. Eli said it was odd for Officer Singleton to jump on a call because he was one of those lazy cops. He didn’t volunteer to do anything, but this particular time he did. What made it even more peculiar was that the call wasn’t in their precinct. Still, since Officer Singleton radioed in that they would take it, so Eli drove there. To the bridge.

So, Eli was driving that night.

Yes.

Then what?

Um...he said he pulled up behind the suspicious white car and a black guy got out....said something about he was having tire problems and waiting for a tow. Eli said he remembered standing there baffled, wondering why this call came in and that’s when he heard gunshots, not from in front of him, where the guy was, but from behind. The only person behind him was Officer Singleton. Instinctively, Eli grabbed his gun and turned around...saw Officer Singleton on the passenger rear of the cruiser with his gun aimed directly at him. Officer Singleton fired more shots at him. Eli fired back, and it was in this exchange that they both were hit. But don’t you see, Natalie said, brushing tears away from her eyes. It was self-defense.

Yes. I understand that. I know it was self-defense. What I’m trying to piece together is, why would Officer Singleton shoot at his own partner?

Natalie shrugged. I don’t know.

I have a theory, but to exonerate Eli and put the right person or persons in jail, I’m going to need Eli to tell me what happened that night as well.

What’s your theory, Gary?

Well, first off, did you know that Officer Avery Singleton and Solomon went to the FBI training academy together?

Natalie’s heart sunk in her chest. No.

They did. Avery dropped out, which makes perfect sense. Eli said Avery was an underachiever.

If Avery and Solomon know each other, do you think—?

Do I think Solomon has something to do with the assassination attempt on Eli? Yes, I do.

Natalie frowned. Seriously? I mean, I knew Solomon was questionable, but I didn’t think he would try something like that. I know they’re cousins, but they grew up as brothers and brothers usually have stronger bonds.

Natalie, they’re not cousins.

Natalie’s head flinched back. Okay. Now, I’m confused. Persinna told me herself—

Forget what Persinna told you. She’s either hiding something, or just so blind that she can’t see what’s been going on right under her nose.

Which is?

Eli and Solomon are brothers. They have the same father. Different mothers.

Natalie felt a chill run through her and it had nothing to do with the air conditioning in the room. That can’t be.

Trust me, it is. Oliver Leaumont is Eli and Solomon’s biological father and, in my book, the prime suspect in the murders of Jahzara and Maynard.

Natalie’s heart raced. Throat went dry. Her mouth opened, but nothing came out.

I know this comes as a shock to you, but—

Shaking her head, Natalie

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