The Keys to Jericho

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Love ruined Jared Beckett. Now, it’s his turn to devastate. I’m not one to mince words. I only have one use for females, being burned one too many times. I wasn’t always this way. In high school, I thought I met The One, but she stomped on my heart. I never recovered. Returning to Annapolis, my past heartache slams into me, dredging up the bitterness. I’m an expert at building walls, figurative and literal, but when she needs my help, I’m all in. Giving her the keys ensures I’m in control this time, even if she’s in the driver’s seat. I’m only in it to hit it and quit it, crushing her this time, no matter how much she begs for mercy. And she will because I refuse to be her victim again. She created this broken and vengeful monster, and my relentless payback is years overdue. The Keys to Jericho was chosen as an “Official Selection” in the Romance category of Apple Literary’s 2017 Annual Book Awards.

Romance / Other
5.0 1 review
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

“I love a man with a good-morning hard-on.”

The unfamiliar voice and invading hand on my cock instantly force my eyes open into the glaring and judgmental sunlight. I’m rudely awakened by both the morning and the nameless female beside me. Hastily gathering my bearings, and much annoyed, I shove her hand off before I sit up. Rubbing my eyes with the heels of my hands, I groggily snap, “I thought I told you to leave last night.”

“I fell asleep. You wore me out, baby.” She loftily sighs, and my fingers clench into fists, causing me to have to severely restrain the impulse to kick her off my bed. The image of her falling off and rolling out of the room calms me. Somewhat.

“Don’t fucking call me that. What time is it?” Dropping my hands and rapidly blinking from the reemerging light, I squint at the alarm clock, and my eyes immediately fly wide open. “Shit! The movers are going to be here any minute.” I jump out of bed, and she laughs, pissing me off even more. I swing my head around until I spot the box on the floor labeled clothes, amid the mess, and I make a beeline for it.

“Movers? Is that why you look homeless? You’re moving?”

I make the mistake of glancing over at her, which she takes as encouragement. Tossing her red hair over her shoulder, she smiles brightly and pushes her chest out further. Irritated at her, but mostly with myself for bringing her home, I openly scowl and look away as I hurriedly drag a T-shirt out of the box. What in the hell even turned me on about this bitch? I’ve got to raise my damn standards. “Brilliant deduction. Get dressed. I need you gone.”

Her own irritation becomes evident as her voice falls. “Well, good morning to you, too.”

Spinning around, I yank a pair of jeans from another box. “I’m not kidding. Get up and get out.”

“Are you throwing me out?”

I roll my eyes in exasperation and refuse to look at her again. It’s like talking to a damn child. “Yeah, I did. Last night. Go.” I jerk my head to the door as I find a pair of socks and then hunt for my shoes.

“What the hell is your problem?”

Finding my sneakers underneath her pile of clothes, I kick her shit off before picking up my shoes. Disgusted with how close I let her get to me, I sit at the foot of the bed to put on my socks, wanting to set the damn thing on fire to get her out of here. “I told you.”

“You have movers coming. So what?” Is she fucking serious?

While I heatedly tie my shoes, I raise my voice so she’ll maybe finally get it, repeating my argument. “I said I didn’t want you spending the night!”

“I don’t remember.”

“Of course, you don’t, but I do.” I can’t believe I was so desperate to get laid that I hooked up with this drunk shit last night. I blame my two so-called best friends for this. They both deserve a punch to the nuts with the claw end of a hammer.

“So, I’m good for you to sleep with, but not to actually sleep with?” When I don’t answer her, she probes, “Why wouldn’t you even kiss me last night?” I guess she remembers some.

“I did.”

“No, you didn’t. Not once did you kiss me.” I glance up at the wall in front of me, wishing she’d spontaneously combust. “On my mouth. You kissed my neck. Once. That’s it.”

Looking back down to finish tying my other shoe, I mumble, “So?”

So? Do you have something against kissing me?”

I shrug and roll my eyes that I’m answering this question. “I don’t like kissing females I don’t know.” Any, for that matter.

“You’re into men?” I blurt out a laugh and shake my head, and that only seems to incense her even more. “Not only am I not good enough to sleep next to, but I’m not even worthy enough for you to kiss me? Who are you? Vivian Ward?” she yells, which echoes in my almost empty room.

I peer over my shoulder but avoid eye contact with her. “Who in the hell is that?”

As if I’m stupid and the answer is obvious, she pounds the mattress. “Julia Roberts! Pretty Woman! She was a prostitute who wouldn’t kiss any trick on the lips!”

Again, I roll my eyes at the wall and lamely drone, “Oh.” Impatient with her stalling tactics, I stand, continuing to not look at her. “Up. You have five minutes.”

She shrieks, “That’s it, then? You’re finished with me? Am I dismissed? Now, I feel like the damn hooker.”

Stooping to grab my wallet from the jeans I wore last night, I sardonically laugh. “Hey. You are the one who referred to yourself as a trick.” I practically hear her gaping mouth, so I take another dig. “I didn’t see a clearance tag hanging from your tits.”

“Go to hell!”

Thankfully, the doorbell rings. Glaring down the hall, refusing to give her any more attention than needed, I angrily repeat, “Out!”

Leaving my room, I hear more arguing, and I deeply regret bringing this Class One doorknob back to my place. I’m such an idiot for falling asleep before making sure she was gone. I don’t usually bring women home with me. On the rare occasion I do, I don’t partake in awkward and tedious morning hello/good riddance chatter. It’s so much easier to get rid of them at night.

The two men from the moving company who were at my apartment yesterday stand on the stoop, and I obligingly smile as they enter my apartment. From upstairs, I hear stomping and slamming. Normally, I try to steer clear of the crazy women, but I was on a high last night. One of my best friends, Rio Duquesne, was actually allowed to rejoin the land of the living to celebrate my new job. His girlfriend, Liberty, is a stingy, snotty bitch, never letting him off his leash and hating me with every wretched breath she takes. The feeling is undoubtedly mutual. He’s such a pussy-whipped asshole for letting her control his every damned move. I swear she even holds his hand when he takes a piss.

Everything is coming together for me. I’m a licensed engineer, and I just scored a new job. In two months, I’ll be a structural engineer in Philadelphia for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I’ll be leaving the fair city of Baltimore for the City of Brotherly Love, so they say. From what I’ve seen, it’s the city of Get the Fuck Out of the Way Before I Slit Your Throat While Eating My Cheesesteak.

My kind of city.

In the meantime, I took my last two weeks’ vacation and left my current job here in Baltimore. I’m packing up and throwing all my shit into storage. Before I can become a full-fledged resident of Philadelphia, I have to wait for my apartment to become available. Awesome.

Therefore, I’m homeless since my lease is up at the end of this month. Meaning, Jared has to go live with Daddy for two months in Annapolis, Maryland, where I was born and raised. I could’ve opted to take my friend Dash’s couch, but why when I can sleep in a bed?

These two months ought to be a fucking blast. Adam Beckett and I hardly ever see eye-to-eye. About a lot of things. He’s such a goody-goody—always willing to help anyone, no matter the cost to him. Hell, my mother turned and burned without him knowing beforehand. If he had known, he probably would’ve helped her pack. Not to get rid of her, but because he’s always Mr. Helpful. My mother wiped her muddy shoes on him like the doormat he often is. Adam Beckett is a better man than me. I don’t let my heart ever get involved.

Why should any of this matter? Well, it doesn’t since my name isn’t Hadley Bliss Beckett—the angel child. That’s my older sister. Though, she is practically a foot shorter than me, something I love pointing out when I see her, which isn’t often anymore. We used to be close. Growing up, we went through a ton of shit together. We were stuck living with our boring, uninvolved grandparents most of the time. Hadley and I were each other’s best friend. We were close until I hit high school. Now, she’s a legal secretary or something at an accounting firm in Richmond, Virginia, I guess. Nevertheless, my dad thinks she invented damn rainbows.

Then there’s me. The prodigal son returning to the nest. My dad continually rides my ass for any little reason, even though I’ve proven myself, graduating with honors and an engineering degree. I also just scored a high-paying job. There’s no pleasing that man, and we clash. Because of that, I moved out of the house straight after high school graduation.

I don’t get attached in relationships, including family. Instead, I have two best friends, Rio and Dash. Those sound like names of golden retrievers, I know. Sometimes I wonder. Rio lives in Baltimore, and Dash still lives in Annapolis. He and I are usually into something on the weekends since Rio is always up Liberty’s ass.

That’s one thing I have no interest in, love. Zilch. Nada. Nil. None. Zero. Hell, no. What the fuck do I need love for in my life? Just ask my mother. She sure doesn’t think so. Hadley and my grandmother are the only women I care about. Other than those two, all other females are useless to me. Well, almost useless.

The movers, Ted and Hal, I think their names are, return to the kitchen for the last of that room. Not much left since my sole appliance, my microwave oven, has been tagged and loaded. The rest of the boxes consist of paper plates, plastic utensils, paper cups, napkins, and some hand-me-down crap my grandmother forced upon me. I guess I never got around to buying my own dishes.

“You’re out of toothpaste, asshole.”

Rolling my eyes in irritation at her borrowing my personal things and knowing full well that I’m not out of toothpaste, I turn to face her, hoping it’s the last time. “I can only imagine.”

She sneers, “Don’t even dream about me.” What an airhead.

“Yeah. That’s not what I meant.”

She stomps her foot. “You think I’m some stupid bimbo!”

Laughing, I fire back, “You did sleep with a total stranger.”

“So did you!”

“But I was sober.” Was not. “You were stupid enough to get drunk and get into a car with a random guy.”

“You don’t even know my name!”

I shrug. “Does it really matter?”

“Thanks a lot, ignorant dickhead!”

Shaking my head, I counter, “Nope. Not my name. See? You don’t know mine, either.”

“It’s Jared!” Well, shit. She puts her hands on her hips. “How could you not know my name or kiss me but were all too eager to shove your dick into me with no problem?”

I give her a dead look and state the obvious. “I keep it wrapped. No touching. Just fucking.” She glowers at me as I open the door to usher her out. “Anyway, maybe next time you’ll think twice about hooking up with a complete stranger. Don’t you know what kind of world we live in? I could’ve been terrible in bed!” I scowl in mock horror.

Her horror isn’t so fabricated. “Fuck you.”

Leaning my arm against the edge of the open door, I retort, “Been there. Done that. I’d rather not have another go, but maybe one of these guys moving my furniture will give you a whirl.” I smirk at her, and she smacks me across the face before moodily storming down the walkway.

That was uncalled for, but with an amused smile, I rub my stinging cheek.

Though, my smile evaporates when I walk into the bathroom to see the tube of toothpaste emptied all over my toilet seat and the tube floating in the piss she left for me.

She was right. Fuck me.

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