Fake was the first Nicki Sosebee book I wrote after Bullet blew up and went nuts, demanding my attention. I’d tried writing it in early 2013 after Bullet, but the words weren’t flowing. I knew, though, that my Nicki readers were desperate for the next installment, and so I got it done. There is one scene in the book (involving Nicki and both Sean and Jesse) that was a first for me…but I’ll let you read it and figure that one out. The book, whether readers knew it or not, set events in motion that will drive the story arc to the end of the series.
But enough of that! I’m still writing the Nicki series (three books to go after Lies), and here’s a little taste from book number nine.
Nicki has come to realize that she can’t fix everything wrong with the world, at least not by confronting the bad guys head on, so she intends to educate people by tackling one small problem at a time. Now, there’s a woman running for city council who’s growing a little too big for her britches and stirring up trouble in Winchester, dividing citizens into two clear sides—her side and the other—and Nicki plans to expose her for what she is. In the meantime, Nicki hurts Sean and risks losing him for good.
Chapter One from Fake (Nicki Sosebee #9)
NICKI SOSEBEE SMILED and leaned back in the chair. It had already been a long though enjoyable evening, and the fun didn’t seem ready to end anytime soon. Nicki looked over at her boyfriend Sean, sitting at the same small table she was, but he was pinching his nose between his fingers, his elbow resting on the table. Nicki and Sean had been together for over three months, probably the longest steady relationship Nicki had had in nine years. And while some of his behavior had made her edgy of late, she was still grateful for him.
He shook his head and looked at her, a slight glimmer of pain clouding his deep blue eyes. He forced a smile, flashing his white teeth, and Nicki subconsciously took in the details of her boyfriend, the ones that got her hot without much thought—his trimmed soul patch, flared sideburns, purposely messy dark blonde hair that hung just over his eyebrows. “Fuck…I can’t watch this. I’m gonna get another drink. Can I get you anything?”
Nicki looked at her glass on the table. “Nah, I’m good.” She looked to her right where one of her besties, Jillian, sat at the small table next to theirs. “Want anything? Sean’s heading back up to the bar.”
Jillian shrugged and stretched, running her fingers through her black hair that now reached her chin in a flattering bob. “Yeah, I guess so. Another rum and Coke?”
Sean nodded. Before he stood, he took Nicki’s face in his hands and kissed her deeply. It caused all her muscles to tighten as she felt his promise of a night that would just get better and better. “Be right back, sexy.”
She stroked his cheek and felt tiny whiskers poking out. “Better hurry.”
He winked. “Don’t be surprised if I’m not back till this song is over.”
Nicki shook her head as Sean walked away. She looked over at Jillian and smiled. The table next to her friend was empty. The two women’s other BFF, Brandy, who’d been there with her husband Kevin, had left a few minutes earlier. Brandy had told them she was tired and needed to hit the hay. Nicki had enjoyed having them all together for a while.
In the meantime, the chair next to Jillian that separated her and her friend was empty because its inhabitant had just taken the stage. Jesse, Nicki’s old boyfriend and Sean’s best friend, was getting ready to sing a karaoke song for the fourth time that night.
This song wasn’t metal, though, unlike the other songs Jesse had sung, not even light metal, which was apparently where Jesse believed his vocal talents lay. Nicki recognized the tune but couldn’t quite place it. It was an eighties pop tune with kind of a dance beat. Jesse had had a lot more to drink since his last song, and Nicki knew that’s why Sean didn’t want to stick around. He’d thought Jesse was going to embarrass himself.
But watching him now, Nicki didn’t think he was embarrassing himself at all. She placed the tune—INXS’s “Need You Tonight.” Jesse was feeling the music and moving in a sexy way, reminding Nicki of just one or two of the reasons why she’d fallen for Jesse in the first place. He had a lean body that he’d been sculpting over the last few months, preparing for his job as a firefighter. He was almost catlike in his movements, and he felt the beat. Nicki was afraid maybe she was staring too hard as he approached the mike, and she glanced over at Jillian to see if her friend was giving her a dirty look. But no…Jilly was captivated too.
Nicki couldn’t help herself as Jesse started almost breathing the words into his mike. His voice was sexy as hell. His dark brown hair hung down over his brown eyes, shadowing them, but Nicki had always loved everything about the way Jesse looked…his tattoos, including the one she could see on the hand gripping the mike, the one with her name; his piercings—in his eyebrow, nose, and now lip, plus a couple in each ear and the secret ones on his nipples that Nicki’s fingers remembered.
As Jesse practically made love to the mike with his voice, Nicki felt her temperature rise, and as soon as she realized it, she felt guilty as hell. Sean was just a few feet away…Sean, the man she’d yearned for and loved for most of her adult life, and here she was, lusting after an old boyfriend who’d frankly just been a short blip on the radar of her love life.
Well, no, that wasn’t fair. Not by a long shot. Jesse had had a profound effect on Nicki, had made her realize there could be a life without Sean. And he was one of the sweetest men she’d ever known. So to call him a short blip was to downgrade his true status.
Still…she had no right thinking about him in any way other than as an ex. She sat up and cleared her throat, downing her glass. Maybe she should’ve asked Sean to get her another drink after all.
Jillian moved over and sat in Jesse’s empty chair, then leaned over so Nicki could hear her. “Holy hell. Is he dating anybody right now?”
Nicki felt her hackles rise. She could see why Jillian was intrigued, but she was still married, even if she was separated from her husband, not to mention Jesse was Nicki’s ex, and that would be uncool. Yeah, Nicki was jealous, but she also didn’t want Jillian hurting Jesse either. Jillian was currently residing in rebound and/ or just-want-sex-and-don’t-give-a-fuck territory. Nicki just said, “Bad idea.”
Jillian rested her chin on her hand, not looking at her friend. “Yeah, I know, but why couldn’t I be bad for just one night?” She finally broke her gaze from Jesse. “Didn’t you say he was really good in bed?”
Nicki was dumfounded. She had no idea what to say, and she was afraid her jealousy would trump anything else she could possibly tell her friend. Fortunately, Sean showed back up, placing a drink in front of Jillian and sitting next to Nicki, draping his arm over her shoulders. “This one doesn’t sound too bad,” he said, “but I still can’t fucking watch.”
Nicki wasn’t going to say a goddamn thing, and in her mind, she was pleading the fifth.
The song changed gears, moving into the second half, a song called “Mediate,” which Jesse handled just fine in spite of the alcohol raging through his system. The song was cool but not sexy, and Nicki was grateful for that.
Sean wound up watching the rest, and Nicki could tell it didn’t bother him as much as he’d thought it would. When Jesse stepped away from the mike, he got more applause than anyone else had the entire evening. Nicki glanced around. Lots of those cheers came from the female portion of the crowd. She wasn’t surprised. As Jesse approached their tables again, his grin was wide, and he picked up his bottle of beer.
Sean grinned and shook his head. “Man, you got balls.”
Jesse started laughing and sat on the other side of Jillian. “You should try it. It’s fun once you stop bein’ a pussy about it.”
Nicki let out a breath of air. Sean and Jesse were great guys but crude when they were together. Nicki was pretty sure she’d never heard Jesse call another guy a pussy the entire time they’d been dating. Or maybe she’d been so enamored of him she hadn’t noticed.
Of course, it didn’t even phase Sean. “Not gonna happen. I don’t need to get up on a stage to feel validated.”
Jesse raised his eyebrows, and he looked angry at first. Then he smiled and sat down, picking up his beer bottle again and drinking what was left. Jillian leaned over and Nicki had to strain to hear what she was saying…and that’s when she realized Jillian wasn’t talking to her or the group…only to Jesse.
Down, green-eyed monster. Down, damn you.
She managed to hear Jillian saying something, though…something about having too much to drink and could she maybe get a ride home with Jesse?
Oh, God, this was not good. Nicki had no right to feel jealous like this. No right at all. And she could blame it on not wanting Jillian to cheat on her husband, but she knew better. She knew that wasn’t it at all.
And no way could she say a single word.
So she did what any good girlfriend would do…she turned to her boyfriend and smiled. He looked at her, a small smile lighting up his eyes, and she brought her hand to his neck. He leaned over, expecting Nicki to say something, but she instead brought her lips to his. After immersing him in a kiss, she said, “I think I’ve had all the fun I can stand.”
Sean smiled. “Well, when you put it that way…”
Before they could even stand, though, Nicki heard Jesse. “I think we’re both outta here. Gonna give Jillian a ride home, so you guys don’t have to worry about it.”
Nicki wanted to hear it from her friend with her own ears. As she stood, she asked, “What about your car, Jilly?”
Jillian stood and shrugged. “I’ll just get it tomorrow.”
Jesse’s tone was matter-of-fact. “I’m giving her a ride…just to be safe.”
Nicki was growing angry with herself that she was letting any of it bother her…and she was also upset that part of her felt relief and happiness that Jesse didn’t seem interested in her friend.
Sean stood and grabbed Nicki around the waist, pressing against her from behind. “We were getting ready to leave too. I just wanted to make sure Mr. Rock Star here would be all right with that.”
Jesse gave him a look, then flipped him off. Sean laughed and held out his fist, still behind Nicki. Jesse bumped Sean’s fist with his own and then asked Jillian, “Ready?”
“Yeah.” As she started to follow Jesse toward the front door, she turned to Nicki and smiled, shrugging her shoulders and grinning from ear to ear, indicating her glee.
Nicki could feel something dark and nasty simmering in her gut. She didn’t like it. It wasn’t like her. So she focused again on the wonderful man whose arms were wrapped around her. She turned and placed her hands on his chest. “What the hell are we waiting for?”
“I was getting ready to ask you the same question.”
He kissed her and then picked up his drink and slammed the rest of it down, leaving just a few cubes of ice clinking in the glass. “Let’s get out of here.”