Terms of Surrender
Stories of love and redemption, trust and second chances…
ER nurse Harley Jane Davis has dedicated her life to helping others. Now she’s the one in trouble, and the only person she can rely on is Gage Toryn—the man she’s secretly been in love with for years.
Gage would do anything for Harley, except give in to the hungry passion that sparks between them. He’s hiding a terrible secret, one guaranteed to destroy any chance at a relationship. And even though Harley haunts his dreams and makes him want to be a better man, he knows she could never love him if she learned about his ugly past.
When a situation with Gage’s brother endangers Harley and his nieces, Gage offers them refuge in his home—and the battered pieces of his heart. But can he overcome his fear of commitment and open up about the past? Or will his secret destroy his last chance to have a relationship—and a real family—with the only woman he’s ever loved?
Ebook available at: Amazon
Complete Character List:
- Harley Jane Davis: Dedicated nurse who took care of Jessie’s mom in Always Remember.
- Gage Toryn: Calgary city cop determined to protect those he loves…even if it means protecting them from the dark side of his personality.
- Laura and Lisa Toryn: Harley and Gage’s four year old mischievous twin nieces.
- Mike Toryn: Gage’s brother. Harley’s brother-in-law. Mike lost his wife a few months before the story opens.
- Hannah Toryn: Mike’s wife and Harley’s twin sister. Hannah died of cancer.
- Frances Toryn: Gage’s mom who is hiding a terrible secret from her son.
- Bill Toryn: Gage’s dad, a recovering alcoholic
Extras & Tidbits: Want to get the inside scoop on this story? Then check out the blog posts below.
Terms of Surrender is finally here. This is book 2 in my Rocky Mountain Romance series and I'm already hard at work on book 3. As the mother of two boys, I always thought my youthful secondary characters would mirror my children. I mean, I love the male species,...read more
It took me three days to rewrite the major love scenes for Terms of Surrender, my upcoming October release. Three days of pouring over every word, rearranging body parts and character thoughts, and fixing everything in between. As I tried to bring emotions and life to...read more
I'm at the moment in my latest mess-in-progress when everything sucks. The plot is filled with holes. The characters are a crazy mess. I've thrown everything into the story pot and it tastes like chicken soup gone bad. Yes, the first draft of Terms of Surrender is...read more
TERMS OF SURRENDER
Reduce anger. Establish rapport. Don’t shoot the SOB until the victims are in the clear.
Gage Toryn sat on the kitchen floor of the SOB’s house, and concluded that Cochrane, Alberta was smack dab in the death throes of one of the hottest, craziest summers ever. Since early June, when the non-stop sweltering temperatures had hit town, everyone he encountered seemed out of sorts and off balance.
With his back slumped against the fridge door, he wiped the sweat from his brow and gave an impatient tug on the lightweight, bulletproof vest that protected his chest. “Damn it, Henry. I’m dying of thirst here. How ’bout if you toss the rifle and we go get us a couple of cold ones?”
The half-intoxicated, fully agitated young man paced the confines of the tiny kitchen, an automatic rifle clutched in one hand and a beer can in the other. “So she can run the second my back’s turned? No way, man.”
The accused party, the perp’s very pregnant and very pretty wife, cowered against the corner of the kitchen cupboards, one hand pressed protectively against her bulging belly, her jaw locked in pain.
Since midnight, Gage had been inside the house, getting down and dirty with Henry’s personal gripes, using every tactic he knew to defuse the volatile situation. But after two hours cooped up in the stifling heat of the small kitchen, with the smell of the perp’s sweat nearly suffocating him, he wondered how much longer this could go on.
Hell, another hour or two and he’d lose control.
And it was all because of the second woman in the room, Harley Jane Davis, his 911 caller…the one woman in the world he was determined to avoid.
Focus splintered, muscles tensed, he steeled himself against the rush of memories and the gut-punching impact of a pair of familiar mocha eyes.
From the long length of her dark brown hair and the pixie-like quality of her features, to her bare feet and bright pink toenails, she represented everything he’d once so desperately wanted and everything he knew he could never let himself have.
Family. Future. Forever.
Dressed in blue scrubs, she crouched on the kitchen floor near the pregnant woman, quiet and obedient and so still, he wondered if she was even breathing.
Gage ripped his gaze away from the dark fear in her eyes and the deliberate blankness of her features.
As long as she remained calm, he could keep himself under control. But if Henry even suspected they had a past, things would go downhill fast.
Gage swiped a hand down his face.
The clamminess of his skin had less to do with the escalating temperature of the room and more to do with the fear that crawled up his spine like tiny pin pricks on tender flesh. He planted the soles of his boots flat on the linoleum floor and rested his forearms on his raised knees.
A speck on the floor caught his attention—a dribble of juice near the fridge door—and he wondered what Henry would do if he realized his perfectly immaculate house wasn’t perfectly clean.
He’d lash out at his perfectly incompetent wife, maybe pull the trigger and finally put her out of her perfectly miserable existence.
Gage planted his boot over the spot, hating every moment he had to play pretty with a piece of crap like Henry. But if lying, cheating, or pretending to be the perp’s best friend got the bastard off the street long enough for his wife to get help, Gage would do it.
He’d smile through gritted teeth. He’d guzzle a beer or two with the son of a bitch. He’d even call Henry his new best friend, at least till the perp was locked behind bars.
With a sweep of his thoughts, he raised his gaze and refocused on the man who currently held all the power. “This isn’t the way to save your marriage, man.”
“What’d’you know about marriage, cop? You got a wife? A kid in the oven? A mother-in-law who hates your guts?”
“Sure I do, Henry, but I’d never hurt any of them.”
“How about a banker demanding a mortgage payment you can’t make?” Teeth bared, Henry shifted his attention and the physical threat of his presence toward Harley, who pressed her back closer to the wall. “Maybe it’s not any of them I wanna hurt. Maybe it’s this interfering bitch.”
The tension inside Gage escalated.
Right about now, anything physical sounded like a better plan than the patience and understanding required to sweet talk the rifle out of the perp’s hands. Why should he be excluded from the insane desire to do something stupid, like smash his fist into Henry’s face or charge him like a rabid dog?
He forced himself to remain seated on the floor and met Harley’s gaze.
Be still. Be quiet. Be obedient. Lessons he wished he’d had time to teach her before she’d gotten herself into this crazy mess.
Something inside him cracked and the memories he thought he’d buried long ago pulverized his objectivity.
Fourteen-years-old. Same hands-and-knees position on the floor. Same frightened look in his mom and brother’s eyes. Different SOB holding the gun.
Gage blinked away the memory and silently cursed Harley’s presence. She’d always scrambled his brain and made it hard to think.
The perp feathered the barrel of the rifle under her jaw, her terror apparent in the stiffness of her body, the wild light in her eyes. “If it wasn’t for my interfering neighbor here, I wouldn’t be doing this.”
Disengage or everyone dies.
Gage shut down his emotions and forced himself to concentrate. “Don’t blame your problems on someone else. You need help, Henry.”
“Not her kind of help.” Without warning, Henry crunched the beer can with his hand, tossed it into the sink, and backhanded Harley across the side of her face.
For a stunned instant, Gage remained still, the silence in the house broken only by the thump of her head against the wall and her hastily swallowed groan of pain. Then he lunged to his feet, a growl of rage locked in his throat.
Henry swung the weapon back on him, the barrel pointed at his chest. “Don’t move.”
Gage willed his feet to stay put, kept his attention on the perp, and hid his fury. The barrel of the rifle inched upward, past the bulletproof vest, until it was pointed square between his eyes.
“What’s she to you, pig?”
“She’s nobody. Nothing.” He glanced her way. Everything. A bead of blood trickled from the edge of her hairline, down past the hollow of her cheek, and dripped onto her uniform. Gage fisted his hands at his sides. Nobody would die here today, unless maybe it was the bastard with the rifle. “She wanted to help your wife understand you better, that’s all.”
“You lie. I heard them talking. The bitch wants my wife to leave me.” Henry started to swing the rifle back toward Harley. “Nobody takes my family away from me.”
The receiver in Gage’s ear crackled to life. The mike pinned to his uniform sleeve squealed, capturing Henry’s attention and arresting his move toward Harley. Gage’s partner, Adam Durango, spoke through the connection.
“Toryn, what’s your status? Over.”
Gage cautiously raised his left hand to shoulder level, pointed to the mike clipped to his vest, and struggled to contain the anger vibrating deep within. “You know the drill, Henry. I gotta check in or they start shooting.”
Swaying slightly on his feet, Henry nodded, the tension in his shoulders and the grip on the rifle both easing. Out the corner of his eye, Gage saw Harley shift an inch closer to the pregnant woman. Determined to keep the perp’s attention off the women and on him, Gage clicked the button on the mike and smiled at Henry. Be the perp’s best friend. “Toryn here. Over.”
The receiver in his ear crackled, faded, cleared. “What are his demands? Over.”
“Me out of his house. You out of his yard. Personally, I’d prefer a six-pack on ice. Over.” With the edge of his t-shirt sleeve, he wiped the sweat from his forehead. “How ’bout it, Henry? A couple of cold beers sound good, doesn’t it? It’s hot enough to fry eggs on the floor.”
Henry nodded, and his grip on the weapon eased a fraction more.
Adam’s voice hissed through the earpiece. “You’re supposed to be sobering him up so you can talk some reason into him. Not getting him skunk-faced drunk. Over.”
“Whatever works.” Gage put his index finger against the earpiece as though he was listening to the other side of the connection, and flicked a glance toward the women. Harley had her hand on the pregnant woman’s abdomen, and by the pained expression on the other woman’s face, it looked like he needed to wrap this up…fast. “I saw a liquor store around the corner. Henry’s out of beer, and I could use a cool one, too. Over and out.”
Gage clicked the mike off.
Think quickly. Reason clearly. Maintain discipline.
These components were as much a part of Gage’s training as tactical maneuvers and weapon deployment. With the temperature in the closed room climbing, the pregnant woman straining against what appeared to be another contraction, and Harley’s presence testing his self-control, he needed every bit of restraint he could muster or he’d dive off the deep end himself.
Through the murky darkness, Gage zeroed in on the gunman.
During the two-hour standoff, the shifty light in Henry’s eyes had dulled from a rabid rage to a sleepy wariness. At some point, Gage half expected the man to set down his weapon, curl up in the fetal position, and simply drift off to sleep.
“They’re getting the beer right now, Henry.” Gage worked the tension from his neck muscles with a couple of shoulder rolls. “Why are you doing this, man? Your wife’s about to pop. She’s afraid of you, Henry. She hasn’t moved an inch since I arrived.”
“She’s a good wife. She knows when to be quiet.”
“What about your kid, dude? Is this how you’ll raise him? With the back of your hand in his face?”
Henry’s back stiffened. His finger twitched on the trigger. “It’s how my old man raised me.”
Gage narrowed his focus to the young man standing in front of him. Sobriety would hit in a rush, and the perp would drop the gun and surrender. Unless, that is, he went over the edge and shot everyone in sight. “Sure he did, and that’s why you’re holding a gun on your wife now.”
In an instant, the rage returned. Henry slammed the butt of the rifle against his shoulder and pointed the barrel at the bulletproof vest. “Shut your mouth, pig.”
“Abuse runs in families, Henry. It gets passed down from father to son in a never-ending cycle, until someone finds the courage to break the cycle. You could find the courage. You could do it for your unborn son.”
Henry sighted down the barrel. “Shut up.”
“Someday he could be standing where you’re standing right now. Maybe he won’t be as smart as you. Maybe his anger’ll make him careless so the sharpshooter outside gets lucky. And kapow.” Gage smacked his fist into the palm of his hand and the two women on the floor jumped. “Your son is dead. Shot in the head. His life is over.”
The firing mechanism clicked into place. Henry shifted closer, cutting off Gage’s view of the women. Spit sprayed from his mouth. “Shut your face, pig.”
Gage lowered his voice, no longer bothering to restrain his anger, an image of the wife’s black eye and Harley’s bleeding head firmly implanted in his mind. Truth number one. “You’re just like my old man.” Truth number two. “The anger, the violence, the gun. Every time I’m stuck in a situation like this, I’m reminded of what he did to my family.”
Henry stepped forward and shoved the end of the rifle barrel square between Gage’s eyes. “If you don’t shut up, I’m gonna blow your fucking head off.”
Gage relished the sharp bite of pain because it made him feel as reckless as the man with the gun. He’d been in these situations so many times, told the same story over and over again, till sometimes he couldn’t differentiate between the truth and the lies.
He shifted forward, deliberately crowded Henry’s space. “My old man couldn’t control his temper either. One night, my mom pissed him off for what had to be the umpteenth time that week. She did stupid little things. Left a speck of dust on the mantel. A smudge on the window. A dirty glass in the sink. One sweltering hot summer night like this one, he loaded his gun and blew her brains out.”
“The bitch probably deserved it.”
“Did she, Henry? While my old man sat in his prison cell, the sick bastard finally realized he didn’t hate her. He loved her. Only this time, Henry, he couldn’t make everything okay by bringing her flowers and chocolate. This time, he’d gone too far. Realized it too late.”
Henry swung the weapon wildly, aimed at his wife, at Harley, and finally—thank you, God—back toward Gage.
Heat enveloped the room. Gage’s vision blurred and he shored up his resolve. “Is this what you want for your future? A lifetime in jail? Nothing but regret for company?”
The tension in the other man’s shoulders eased. The barrel of the rifle wavered and Henry backed away. In a heartbeat, the fuzziness in Gage’s head vanished.
This was the moment. He’d either won the battle or lost the war. In the next few minutes, they could all be dead or breathing in the heat of the streets after dark. “Think about it, man. Your wife. Your unborn child. Don’t be a fool and throw it all away.”
The rifle slipped from Henry’s grip and hit the floor with a bang. He sank to his knees in front of his wife. A single tear slid down his cheek. “Honey, I’m sorry.”
Pay dirt. Sometimes they fell hard. Sometimes, like tonight, they hit the ground without much of a bang at all.
Gage scooped the rifle off the floor, emptied the chamber, and pocketed the shells. Across the room, Henry’s wife shifted closer to Harley and out of his reach. Dry-eyed and silent, she watched and waited for the blow that could still come.
Tonight she’d gotten lucky. She’d had the hell scared out of her, gained an extra bruise or two, but at least she was still alive.
He shot a look in Harley’s direction and instantly regretted it. She wore the same expression as the woman, one he’d seen too many times before. One he’d sworn to never see on her face.
Gage bit back a curse.
He’d pushed her out of his life in order to keep her safe. He’d hedged on the fact that she’d find a man who would cherish her, not terrorize her. So what good had it done when she’d found another way to put herself into danger?
Henry clutched his wife’s ankle. “Sometimes you make me so crazy, I can’t help myself.”
Gage grabbed the perp by the collar, jerked him to his feet and conceded that nothing had changed since he was a kid. It was always the spouse’s fault, never the perp’s. As he maneuvered Henry toward the front door, he peered over his shoulder and saw the woman bend into another contraction. Harley clung to her hand, and even from this distance, he could see her fingertips turn white.
He forced himself to turn his back on her before he did something foolish. Like do a U-turn in the middle of the hallway so he could pull her into his arms. Check every inch of her body in a desperate need to see that she was uninjured. Instead, he shoved Henry forward. “If you don’t get help with your temper, man, one day you’ll push too far. Then all the apologies in the world won’t make a bit of difference.”
Gage clicked on the mike. “Durango, I’ve got the perp in custody. We’re coming out the front door right now. You better send in the paramedics. The wife is ready to pop.”
He pulled open the door and sucked in a deep breath of fresh air. Temporarily blinded by the spotlights set up around the perimeter of the house, he raised one hand to shield his eyes.
Beyond the confines of the house existed another world. Half a dozen squad cars lined the street while a dozen cops maintained control of the area. As he brought his prisoner out, the sound of applause and whistles from his fellow cops reached his ears.
Henry yanked free of his grip, and stumbled down the front steps where an officer waited to handcuff him. Adam stood to the side, his gaze connecting with Gage’s long enough to ensure his partner was fine, before he refocused his attention on the clipboard in his hand.
The perp turned to face him. “Were you feeding me a load of bull in there or were you telling me the truth?”
“The part about passing this from father to son? What do I gotta do?”
Through the weariness and grief that always slammed into Gage following a defused domestic situation, a smidgen of hope broke free. “It’s a cycle, Henry. Get help. Let your wife get the help she needs, too.”
“Did you break the cycle?”
Self-survival jumped to life and Gage motioned for the uniform to take the perp away. “If you love your wife and unborn child, get help before it’s too late.”
Henry wrenched free, agitated, angrier than before. “I asked you a question, cop. Did you break the cycle or not?”
Without a moment of hesitation, the lie rolled off Gage’s tongue. “Yeah, sure I did. You will, too, but only if you get help.”
Moving aside to allow the paramedics access to the house, Gage watched Henry disappear into the backseat of the cruiser. He couldn’t help wondering if—or when—he’d be back to this house.
He looked away.
No good dwelling on it. He’d done his job. The rest was up to the courts, the counselors, Henry and his wife. Jail time would give the perp the opportunity to reconsider his actions and options.
Gage started to make his way down the steps, until the faint scent of vanilla caught him mid-stride. He hesitated. Told himself to walk away before things got complicated. But he couldn’t disregard Harley any more than he could’ve dismissed Henry’s threat to his family.
Pivoting on the heel of his boot, he let his gaze run over the fragile looking woman headed his way. Five-foot-two, delicate frame, enormous doe-like eyes.
Under the dim glow of the front porch light, he bent his head to take a closer look, and saw the pallor of her face was a sickening shade of green. In her rush to escape the house, she slammed her palm against his chest and shoved him aside.
Gage lost his balance and hit the wooden railing with his backside. As he heard the sharp crack of wood, he grabbed for the doorknob, missing it by a millimeter. He toppled backwards off the landing and ended up butt first in the flowerbed.
Not exactly how he’d envisioned the end to a successful negotiation. With a scowl, he clambered to his feet and brushed the dirt off his back end.
Somewhere in the vicinity, a camera light flashed.
Tomorrow’s front page news.
Perfect for keeping the hero-of-the-hour’s ego in check.