Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Teaser Tuesday: Joker by Harley Wylde @harleywylde @RABTBookTours @changelingpress

 

Dixie Reapers MC, Book 19


Motorcycle Club Romance, Age Gap, Suspense, 2nd Chances

Date Published: February 23, 2024

Publisher: Changeling Press


 

Cleo -- My family put me through hell, and I escaped the only way possible… by marrying a biker locked up in prison. Joker gave me his name and a way to hide from my family. Until the day they find me… Now it’s time I return to the husband who doesn’t want me and hope he doesn’t find out all my secrets -- because if he does, I have a feeling he’s going to make me leave.

Joker -- She seemed sweet and innocent. Marrying her wasn’t a big deal. Then I managed to obtain my freedom, and with it, I decided to set her free as well. Only one problem. She doesn’t want a divorce. Now Cleo is living with me, and my club has accepted her as part of our family. None of us realized she was hiding something that could destroy us, but at the end of the day, she’s mine and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe.

 

WARNING: Joker is intended for adult readers 18+ due to bad language, violence, and adult situations. There’s no cliffhanger involving the main characters. There is a slight cliffhanger involving secondary characters, which will be resolved in the next book. Guaranteed happily ever after, and no cheating!

 

 

EXCERPT

Copyright ©2024 Harley Wylde


Joker

The clanging of metal bars and shouting inmates jolted me awake. Another day in this hellhole. I blinked against the harsh fluorescent lights as the guard banged his baton against my cell, barking at me to get up. My joints creaked in protest as I slid off the thin mattress onto the cold concrete floor. I’d wasted away in this cage for over a decade, my youth fading with each endless day.

“Mail,” the guard said, thrusting a letter into my cell.

Only one person wrote to me. Someone I’d never met in person, though she’d sent me a picture one time. Out of boredom, I’d signed up for a pen pal program, not expecting much. To my surprise, I’d received dozens of letters -- all from women. One had stood out. A teen girl named Cleo.

I’d been hesitant to respond. At forty-eight, I’d felt like it was wrong to reply to her. My morals might be questionable, but I still had a line I wouldn’t cross. In the end, I’d answered her, and we’d been writing to each other ever since. She’d needed a sympathetic ear, and I’d needed a distraction.

I opened Cleo’s latest letter, her looping cursive filling the page. My light in this darkness. She saw the man beneath the cut, the heart behind the grim fa├žade. Her letters were a glimpse of the world outside these walls. She shared her dreams, her troubles, her very soul. And I confessed things to her I’d never uttered aloud. The abandoned boy who turned to the club for family, the gnawing loneliness beneath the swagger. She understood. We were both fighting our own demons.

The guard slammed the bars again. “Chow time, Joker! Look alive!”

I tucked Cleo’s letter into my pocket, close to my heart. I’d survive another day in this concrete tomb just to read her words again tonight. And someday, somehow, I’d be free. I wasn’t sure what would happen then. We were worlds apart in a lot of ways. Once I left this place, Cleo would come to be a part of my past. It would be dangerous for us to keep in touch.

I shuffled into the cafeteria, the din of inmates engulfing me. I kept my head down as I grabbed my tray of slop and found an empty table. Solitude was survival in this jungle. Placing my arm around my tray, I shoveled food into my mouth. In this place, you had to protect what was yours.

My thoughts drifted to Cleo as I forced down the cold mush. She hadn’t written in weeks. Her family was poison. From what I’d gathered they were all rotten to the core. She only hinted at the horrors she’d seen, but I sensed the fear beneath her brave words. At seventeen, she shouldn’t be worried about surviving. She should be having fun with her friends, enjoying her high school years, and figuring out where she wanted to go in life. I hated not being able to do anything for her, except listen.

My fists clenched, rage simmering through my veins. If they touched one hair on her head, I’d kill them. She was too pure for this world, an angel who deserved so much more. I had to protect her, no matter the cost. Except… the shackles binding me went deeper than this prison. I owed my club my life and my loyalty. I couldn’t do anything without talking to them first, and I hadn’t heard from any of them in a long-ass time. I’d fucked up, and it had felt like they all turned their backs on me.

The guards herded us to the yard, the sun blinding after days under flickering fluorescent lights. I found a shady corner and waited. Breathing in the fresh air meant nothing without freedom. I’d only traded an interior cage for an exterior one.

A hush fell over the inmates. The warden stormed across the yard, his face like thunder. He stopped in front of me, his eyes hard. Well, shit. Had I done something wrong again? It wasn’t often he came in person. Then again, I wasn’t always nice to the guards. Maybe he was simply protecting his men.

“You’ve got a visitor, Joker.”

My pulse quickened. No one had come to see me in years. What the fuck was going on?

The warden didn’t like me. In fact, we’d frequently butted heads during my incarceration. It had to piss him off that I had a visitor. The man would do anything to keep me from even one moment of happiness. I knew if he could, he’d keep me locked up for the rest of my life.

I followed the warden through the maze of fences and gates until we reached the visitation room. My breath caught when I saw her. Even though I’d only seen one picture of her, I recognized her right away.

Cleo.

She looked small and fragile in the plastic chair, her fingers twisting a tissue. Bruises shadowed under her eyes, barely hidden by makeup. My heart clenched.

I sat down, picking up the phone. Her eyes flooded with tears as she did the same.

“Joker,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry…”

“What happened?”

She glanced around quickly before answering. “My brother found out about the letters. He was furious. Said no one in the family should associate with your kind.”

My jaw tightened, fury rising. My kind, huh? Seemed like her brother wasn’t any better. “Did he hurt you?”

“It doesn’t matter --”

“The hell it doesn’t!” I snarled. “You listen to me. I’m getting you out of there, you hear me? We’ll leave town, start over somewhere new.”

“How?” Her voice trembled. “You still have years left of your sentence.”

I placed my hand against the glass. “Marry me.”

Her eyes widened. “What?”

“Marry me,” I repeated. “You just turned eighteen, right? So you don’t need your family’s permission. I know the warden hates me, but… I’ll convince him somehow. He’ll do the ceremony right here. Then when I get out, we can start over -- together, if that’s what you want.”

Tears spilled down her cheeks. She put her hand against mine, even though the glass separated us. “Yes. I’ll marry you, Joker.”

“I’ll find a way to get word to you. If your brother is angry about us talking, then I can’t send it to your house. Find someone willing to help you and send me their address. I’ll correspond with you through them.”

She nodded and wiped away more tears. We talked for another minute, then our time was up. I watched her walk away and hoped I’d made the right choice. If this came back to bite me in the ass, it might end up harming her too.

* * *

It took two weeks to convince the warden. In the end, he only agreed in order to help Cleo. I stood in a dingy room, still cuffed and wearing my prison-issued jumpsuit. It wouldn’t be the wedding of her dreams, but hopefully it kept her safe.

Cleo entered the room in a simple white dress, holding a small bouquet of daisies. Her smile nearly blinded me. I didn’t know why she looked so happy. It made me wonder what she thought about this marriage. I had to admit, she looked beautiful.

We exchanged brief vows. No kiss or embrace could seal our union. It ended nearly as soon as it had begun. The guards escorted her from the room and sent me back to my cell. I could only hope changing her name from Cleo Lathem to Cleo Clemons would help her in some way.

My heart ached, knowing she had to return to that abusive household. I felt powerless, stuck in this damn cell while she suffered. I slammed my fist against the concrete in frustration. They couldn’t legally force her to do anything, but people like that didn’t care about the law. She’d have to disappear to avoid the danger of living with her family. At least with her name changed, she’d have a chance to get away. Hopefully, it would take them a while to figure out she’d gotten married. I only wished I had some money to give her too.

The next visiting day, her eyes were puffy from crying as she picked up the phone. “It’s time. I’m leaving this week. Today will be my last visit with you.”

I hadn’t expected her to ever come here again. Seeing her one last time was more than enough. I nodded, letting her know I understood.

“Go as far as you can and don’t look back,” I said.

“Will you be okay?” she asked.

“Don’t worry about me. I’ve survived this place this long. I’ll be fine. Protect yourself, Cleo, whatever it takes.”

I hung up the phone, forcing her to leave. This was for the best. She needed a clean break. As much as I’d enjoyed her letters, I hoped she didn’t write anymore. It was time for her to start living. I’d miss her like hell. She’d been a bright light in this dismal place. Without her words to carry me through, I wasn’t sure what would happen to me. Didn’t matter. I’d possibly die in this place. Even if I got out, my life was probably halfway over. Assuming I didn’t get shot, stabbed, or die in some other fun way long before I became an old man. Cleo was just getting started. There was so much of the world for her to explore, and I hope she got the chance to see it all.

For me, days passed. Then weeks. Months. I didn’t hear from Cleo again. Time blurred. I lived one monotonous day after another. Wake up, work out, eat, work, eat again, sleep. Wash, rinse, repeat.

My thoughts constantly drifted to Cleo when I wasn’t occupied. Was she eating enough? Getting any sleep? Staying safe from her family’s crooked dealings?

I wondered where she was now. How far had she gone? Was it a big enough distance her family couldn’t find her? Part of me wondered if we’d ever bump into each other again in the future, once I put this place behind me. It ate at me, not knowing if she was safe or not. Had the plan worked? Or had I married her for no reason?

 

 

About the Author

Harley Wylde is an accomplished author known for her captivating MC Romances. With an unwavering commitment to sensual storytelling, Wylde immerses her readers in an exciting world of fierce men and irresistible women. Her works exude passion, danger, and gritty realism, while still managing to end on a satisfying note each time.

When not crafting her tales, Wylde spends her time brainstorming new plotlines, indulging in a hot cup of Starbucks, or delving into a good book. She has a particular affinity for supernatural horror literature and movies. Visit Wylde's website to learn more about her works and upcoming events, and don't forget to sign up for her newsletter to receive exclusive discounts and other exciting perks.


Author on Facebook, Instagram, & TikTok: @harleywylde


Publisher on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok: @changelingpress


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