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Twisted Saga Aftermath (book 2 of 3)

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Warning to readers: Twisted Saga Aftermath contains scenes with graphic material unsuitable for some readers and anyone under 18. Please beware there are scenes with violence and sexual content some readers may not be comfortable reading. Nearly eighteen years have passed since everything fell apart in Josh's life, but now things are much worse than he ever imagined. Chaos, destruction, and the threats of "Southern Sugar" control the streets. The conspiracy is controlled by a suspected toxic environment buried deep within the government at every level. Not only does he have to contend with a traitor handing over information, but Josh still has to deal with the crumbling pieces of his life when it comes to his heart and soul. Stretched beyond his means, Josh is reluctant to recruit his team. All the personal issues continue to be the subject of debate, but this lethal drug has nearly killed a loved one. The team forgets their vendettas of the past. Add in a natural disaster, and things begin to fall in place. Nearly everything is put to bed with only one subject still heavy between Josh and his former best friend, Alex. The team returns to their childhood home to gather their final member. That is when the Angel King wants to draw Josh out of hiding to end his presence on the case.

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Chapter 1 – On the Case

Nearly Eighteen years have passed since the day Josh left home. Those were the final days when everyone considered each other as family.

Since those days, so much has changed. Indeed, breaking the trio plus Alex apart was the best decision at the time. They’ve each gone out to make a name for themselves in their respected careers.

James lives the fat cat life in Chicago. However, he makes his life look much better than it appears. He enjoys rubbing it in Josh’s face when they are forced to talk.

Josh, on the other hand, is now the lead investigator for the DEA. He’s one of the agency’s finest, but his latest assignment finds him struggling to land any balance in his life.

Across the country, things are becoming worse with a deadly drug gripping the nation by storm. It’s a drug commonly called Southern Sugar, a highly addictive substance that’s able to be injected into the body in several ways. Most people choose to snort or smoke it, but the quickest way to hit the high is to inject it with a needle.

There is one way to tell when someone goes to overdose from this deadly drug of choice. The signs include a red-like substance dripping from the victim’s eyes, making it appear that they’re crying blood.

On a night when Josh believes he can finally break through the barrier to the distributor, he sends in an informant arrested a few nights earlier who cooperated to make a deal.

While his informant makes his way into a house where he swears a well-known trafficker keeps plenty of product.

“Alright, there goes our scumbag,” Josh says, beginning to feel nervous.

“Good thing is we can hear everything on the digital bug we planted on this scumbag. I’m telling you, man, this contract with INSIDE is making waves.” Josh’s partner Dave indicates listening over his earwig.

“Glad I was able to convince my old friend James to hook up the department with state-of-the-art stuff. Granted, we don’t see eye to eye anymore, but he’s not about to let our old personal issues get in the way of doing our jobs.” Josh explains, pushing against his earwig to listen for the signal and send in the agents surrounding the house.

The tension inside the SUV is at an all-time high when Josh’s cell phone rings.

“Hello,” he answers, trying to keep his attention on his earwig.

“Dad, for real, you got to come to get me! I want to come home!” Connor tells his father, wanting to escape from his summertime visit with Momma Cline.

“Connor, son, I don’t have time for this right now. I will call you in the morning, and we’ll discuss it. You know momma loves it when you come to visit. Now I have to go, son; I’m sorry, but I will call you back.” Josh scolds him before closing his phone before he drops it in the cupholder.

“Kids…” Dave states, waiting to listen for the signal.

Josh shakes his head for a moment, but then the keyword comes across the wire out of nowhere.

“I got a set of cards in play, and the hand is stacked.” The informant says.

“Alright, you all heard the man; that’s the signal, everyone! Move in right now!” Josh orders the eager agents, ready to bust down the doors.

They swiftly make their move, kicking in both the front and rear doors. A couple of agents break the windows and toss in a few flashbang grenades and wait for them to explode before rushing the rest of the way into the house.

Josh and Dave get out, fixing their DEA caps as they jog up close to the house, where a distress call goes out over the wire.

“All agents abandon the house now!” An agent screams into his wire seconds before a massive explosion erupts from inside, shattering everything within a thirty-foot distance.

The explosion is powerful enough; it sends Josh and Dave soaring back onto the street, where Josh smacks his head off the blacktop rendering him unconscious. Unaware that the person responsible for the house going up walks up, glaring at him.

“The game is only beginning. There’s so much more to come.” The man stands over Josh, and Dave says, then strolls away as sirens roar in the background.

Unconscious for nearly a day, Josh wakes up to a semi-friendly and familiar face waiting for him to reenter the world. He stirs at first, squinting his eyes due to the severe pain compliments of another concussion.

“Ugh…” he stirs, trying to lift his head slowly, “did anyone get the number to that truck? If so, I wanna kick that guy’s ass.” He mumbles and slurs, wiggling in the hospital bed.

“Hey, relax and sit back. I got you, Josh, so take it easy. I’m here, babe.” A gentle voice says in a soft low tone to keep him comfortable.

“Gweny, is that you?”

“Yes, now relax; you have about fifteen dissolvable stitches in the back of your head right now. I flew back to DC for business, and when I saw the news, I knew it was you since you weren’t answering my calls.” She explains, brushing her hand gently through his hair.

Josh begins to feel every stitch, but after a few minutes, the pain dulls down enough to help him focus on the fuzzy images moving about the room.

“Kids, you’re here!” Josh lets out as they pace around the room, mostly thanks to boredom.

“Daddy!” Emily calls out, rushing over to hug her dad’s neck at last.

She’s not much younger than her brother and sister, Aaron and Brooklyn. Emily looks nothing like her dad, with her red hair reaching down to the middle of her back. She’s in athletic shape. Her pale blue eyes help her stand out with her fair skin and freckles scattered around her face.

“Hey there, Pop; okay, mom, he’s fine. Can we go now? Paul’s going to leave without me, and I still wanna go with him to Cali.” Aaron says with a hateful look in his eyes.

Unlike Emily, he is the spitting image of his father except for his blond hair but mixed in with his deep blue sea eyes is a shared trait of gold around the pupil.

Josh sits there heartbroken that his oldest son remains ever so angry at him for being gone over the years due to a chaotic work schedule. Gwen sees that disappointing look in his eyes and sends the kids out of the room.

“Why don’t you all head down to the cafeteria and see if there’s anything decent to eat. I need to talk to your dad.”

Aaron and Emily do what they’re told and exit the hospital room. Once the doors shut, Gwen nudges Josh to scoot so she can sit on the bed next to him.

“I take it the boy still hates my guts?” Josh begins while he goes about, popping his neck.

“He doesn’t hate you. He can’t because he barely knows you. Lord, I’m surprised Emily and Connor know you at all. Speaking of Connor, where is that little troublemaker?”

“I sent him down to Momma C for the summer. She’s been remodeling the house, and he’s not playing football this year, so he’s down there helping her and learning about good old fashion hard work.” He explains, leaning up against Gwen.

“Don’t get fresh now. My divorce isn’t final for a couple more days. After that, we’ll go back to how things were between us.” She reminds him while she tries to fight her urge to be close to him all over again.

“I still feel awful that it’s ending because of our night together before you got married to that jackass.”

Gwen playfully smacks Josh on his arm. When they’re together, they still feel like teenagers at times.

“You did nothing wrong sweet pea. His jealousy over you and the kids and how close we stay because of our past just drives him crazy. Add in the fact that I didn’t want to get pregnant again was the final straw. I will say this, marrying that greedy, money-hungry prick is only one of the few regrets I have in this world.”

The desire to make a move increases, but before they can act on their want, the door flies open.

“Can we go already? Come on, mom, we’re hungry, and this place sucks!” Aaron says with an angry teenage stare.

“Yes, and watch your mouth before I wash it out with soap.”

She turns back to Josh once the kids are out of sight.

“Call me when you get home. I have tomorrow to finish up my hearing trying to regain some Native American lands out West.”

Gwen leans in for a hug, but before her arms can go around his neck, Josh makes his move planting a kiss on her. Rather than react with a slap, she doesn’t hesitate to give in. They continue to kiss until the door flings open, with Brooklyn barging into the room.

“Daddy, daddy, daddy! You’re alive!” She screams, running over to his bed, clinging to his neck. “I’m sorry I couldn’t come in here before. I was too scared to see how bad you were hurt this time.” She squeezes his neck with all her might. She stood out in the hallway, thanks to fear.

“Brooky honey, you’re killing daddy here, sweetheart.” He mutters to say with a scratchy voice.

After he coughs when she releases her grip, Brooklyn stands there with a concerned look on her face.

“I’ll be fine, Brooky, I promise; once I get out of here and finish this case, I’m finished this time, and I mean it,” Josh informs her in the hope of easing her fear.

A frown lingers on the face of his oldest daughter. She stands there almost eighteen years old, but Josh still sees the little girl he first held after returning home from his time in the service. He can’t see her, almost five feet and eight inches tall with his dark hair but her mother’s eyes and athletic build.

“Brooklyn, hey Brooky, let me finish up with dad, and we’ll head back to the hotel,” Gwen mentions trying to get her daughter’s attention.

“You want my keys to the house instead?” Josh interrupts.

“I’m stuck in here for at least a couple more days, but you’re all more than welcome to crash there and save some money. I’m sure Emily would love the company. I’d rather know you’re there with her than leave her there alone.”

“Wait, you leave her there alone? You leave them both there alone?” Gwen says, startled to learn that fact.

“Not always, just when I work late nights and when I’m stuck in these damn beds. Another reason why Connor is sitting in West Virginia right now. Emily is nearly eighteen, like our two kids. Speaking of which, do you want the key to the house or not?” Josh babbles on, trying to explain the chaos trapped within his home life.

That’s when Gwen transitions from the loving and caring stare to a glare that she gives him when Josh screws up. In response to her intense scowl, Josh points to a cabinet where patients’ clothes are stored.

“Just get the keys and tell Aaron to stay out of the garage this time, please!” Josh instructs with a hint of sarcasm in his tone.

“Ugh, fine, whatever, Josh, but we’re not finished with this conversation! When we get the chance, I’m ripping you a new one. This time there won’t be a doctor able to patch you up.” Gwen forewarns him shaking a closed fist in his direction.

With a roll of his eyes, Josh sits there, crossing his arms. He realizes that he needs to be more involved in their lives, but it isn’t easy with his career choice.

“Do what you gotta do, Gweny dear. I’ll come out that way once I’m freed from here. I have a way that might get me to close this case, but I can’t say yet. I’ll see you soon and drop the keys off with me if you leave before I’m discharged. Oh! One more thing, please, take Emily home with you. I’d rather see her go with you than sit at home alone or out joyriding in my car.” Josh explains, hoping he can get some time alone.

Gwen nods her head before she struts over to the cabinet scouring for the keys to the house. Once she finds them and slips them into her pocket, she goes back to Josh, giving him one more kiss before wiggling her hips out the door. Gwen blows him a kiss and a wink goodbye.

“Damn, she’s still hot!” Josh tells himself after the door slams shut.

It doesn’t take long for him to become bored all over again sitting in the room alone.

After Gwen and the kids arrive at the house, she calls the hotel to cancel her reservations; she also checks the refrigerator to see it is nearly empty during the call.

“Uh yes, hi, this is Guinevere Storm, I have two rooms reserved, and I will need to cancel them, please.” She listens as the associate reads off the cancellation number.

“Yes, that’s all I need. I have other accommodations but thank you.” She hangs up the phone and calls out to Emily.

“Hey Emily, why is there barely anything in this frig? Doesn’t your dad get groceries?”

Emily strolls into the kitchen, where she rests against the counter.

“Not really, we mostly eat take-out, or we go over to the Lewis’ place sometimes. When dad does go to the store, I’m usually the one cooking and leave him a plate in the microwave. He’s been gone more than ever with this case.”

It breaks Gwen’s heart in half to hear how much time the kids spend alone. She takes out her phone again, dialing information for the nearest Thai restaurant.

“Tell you what, we’ll do takeout tonight, and once I get back from my hearings, I’ll bring in something fresh, and we will make dinner as a family. I feel horrible that you must experience this kind of life.” Gwen explains, waiting on an operator.

On the other hand, Aaron ignores his mother’s warning as he strays out into the garage. As the door creaks open, he sneaks a peek around the edge to see vintage early 1970s candy apple red Ford Torino GT fastback.

“Oh, wow, that’s an awesome car!” He whispers to himself, battling the urge to get any closer. “I need to get closer!” His foot barely touches the concrete step leading down to the garage floor when he’s stopped.

“Aaron! Mom said you couldn’t be out here!” Brooklyn reminds him in a low tone.

He waves her over to peek at their father’s restoration.

“Take a look, it’s something cool, but it confirms what Paul has said. That dad is a pitiful redneck; still, a bible clinging, classic car building hill jack!”

That comment causes Brooklyn to slap her brother, knocking him down as he stumbles into the garage.

Emily and Gwen overhear the commotion from the kitchen. They head over to see a glowing handprint on Aaron’s face.

“Let me guess, he repeated what Paul has said about your father,” Gwen says with her hands on her hips.

“Yes, mom, and it’s like really mean this time! I can’t wait to get rid of Paul. I want daddy to come home! He needs to be at home with us every day!” Brooklyn yells, ready to smack her twin brother again.

Emily stands there with a look of shock on her face. The divide between brother and sister with their mother seems unreal to her. Brooklyn listens when it dawns about her dad’s stress and the effects of his work with the DEA. The strain of it all crashes throughout her body, which forces a breakdown in tears.

Gwen hears the sniffling mixed with short breaths seconds before Emily suffers her first panic attack. Gwen rushes over to help guide Emily to a chair and push through the attack between her short, shallow breaths.

“It’s okay, sweetie. Try to take a couple of deep breaths. You’re okay, I promise; relax Gweny has you, sweetie.”

“I-I-I-I c-c-can’t b-b-breathe!” She struggles to get out of her quivering mouth.

“I-I-I-I-I-I-I’m s-s-s-s-s-s-sorry mom…”

That comment blows Gwen away. The instant Emily calls her mom brings out a new emotion of wanting to keep Emily for herself.

“You called me mom; I like that and follow what I do. It’ll help, I promise.” Gwen tells Emily when she begins to breathe deep and slow, with Emily slowly mimicking her.

Together they get her attack under control. The other two young adults stand in the house to give their mother the space to help Emily calm down.

“Thank you, Gwen. I’m sorry, I don’t know why I called you mom.”

“Don’t be sorry, and hey, pack up for some fun. You’re going back home with me in a few days. Just sit here and relax for a little bit longer. You’ll be fine in a few minutes, I promise.” Gwen tells her with a wink and a gentle hand placed on Emily’s shoulder.

Emily sits there collecting herself, and once she’s able to get to her feet without feeling woozy, she joins the others in the living room when the Thai food arrives. Emily returns to the kitchen, gathering plates and bottles of water.

“Thanks, sis,” Brooklyn says, taking a plate to dive into the cartons of food.

“You’re welcome,” Emily replies after inhaling a deep extended whiff of the steaming food, waiting to dig into the food.

Gwen sits back in Josh’s recliner, observing as the kids begin to joke and play around. She finds joy in something. Like Josh’s life, hers is almost as chaotic, but her legal career has room to allow the twins to travel with her.

“Good God, Josh, this kid’s life is falling apart, and you’re not here to help her pick up the pieces.” Gwen sighs between her thoughts. “I knew you were in deep but not this deep. As much as I love you, I’ve got to get you to leave this life behind. If not, you’re dooming these kids and yourself.”

Once the shenanigans cool down, Gwen sends the kids off to bed, and she nestles down in Josh’s room. When she sits on the bed, she’s surprised by the musky scent on the sheets. At a glance, she sees Josh’s picture with a much younger Emily and Connor with his late fiancé with them.

“Wow, she was stunning!” Gwen tells herself, staring at the light brown-haired beauty with hazel eyes and a nearly flawless figure.

“God, what a sad story. I can see why he’s closed himself off after her.”

She frowns with a couple of tears forming in her eyes when she sees how much of Connor comes from the lady she’s staring at intensely.

After a couple of prolonged deep huffs, she lays her head on the pillow and eventually falls asleep.

In the blink of an eye, she gets up and ready in no time. She calls to check up on Josh and then heads out the door where she’s prepared to battle as she does for the rights of others.

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