Savaged Illusions Trilogy, Book 3
Jennifer Lyon Books (November 9, 2020)
Liza Cade won’t be safe until the disgraced former rock star who tormented her for a decade is captured or dead. All of her dreams died the night Gene Hayes swore to kill her, exposing her husband’s desperate lie and resulting in the loss of their baby. Liza is heartbroken and leaves, but can she walk away from her marriage and the powerful love of Justice?
Rock star Justice Cade learned the hard way love is more important than fame, and he’s determined to win back his wife. But just as he convinces her to give him a year to prove his love, he’s forced to go on an extended international tour to use his fame to ruin Gene Hayes. He won’t let physical distance, broken hearts, savaged vows or a vicious enemy come between him and his beloved Beth again. He fights with everything he has to regain her trust, will she forgive him?
In the stunning conclusion to the Savaged Illusions Trilogy, Liza and Justice’s powerful love triumphs over tragedy. But their happily ever after is threatened by the man who has nothing left…except his vow to destroy Liza.
Savaged Devotion is the 3rd and final book the Savaged Illusions Trilogy.
Read an Excerpt
Liza Cade sat in the limo as they passed throngs of screaming rock fans and media held back by security outside the cemetery. For five long months, she’d avoided the media—and her husband—as much as possible. She wanted no part of that life anymore. Not the fame, the pressure, or the reminders of what she’d lost.
Stop it. Today wasn’t about her, it was about the man they were gathering to say goodbye too. Her heart ached at the loss of Drake Vaughn. He’d saved so many boys no one else cared about through his mentoring program. But he couldn’t save himself from cancer.
As the car slid to a stop at the drop-off site by the graveside service, Liza steeled herself. Do it. Get out of the car. Drake had done so much for her, so she’d damn well do this for him—show up and say goodbye with dignity.
The security detail hired for the funeral opened the car door, and Liza forced herself out of the gloom into the bright sunshine of San Diego, California. The air was heavy with the scent of flowers, grass and earth. A few yards away, a huge awning had been erected. Beneath it, some mourners were seated in the rows of chairs, while others stood and talked in small clumps.
When she got closer, she spotted the gleaming, dark casket covered in a spray of white flowers, with more floral arrangements spreading out on both sides.
Drake was in there.
Her vision blurred, and pain pierced the shroud of numbness around her heart. Hot sorrow rose like a monster wave threatening to drown her. Not just for Drake, but also for her baby, and her marriage. For the family she’d so desperately wanted, the one she’d dared to think she deserved.
What a fool she’d been to believe that.
“Ma’am,” the bodyguard on her left said. “Are you all right?”
She’d frozen in the grass like a statue. People were beginning to turn and notice her. Crap. Her goal was to slip in quietly, not draw attention. “Yes, thanks. I—” Her words stuck in her throat.
A thick group of men parted, and her husband strode out. The sunlight caught the natural blond highlights in his untamed brown hair and the raw determination in his eyes. His face was leaner, the bones more pronounced as if the claws of grief had sharpened them. The scar through his eyebrow was a stark reminder of the night their daughter had died, when Justice had left Liza asleep in the hospital and tried to kill Gene Hayes.
His blue dress shirt open at the collar, the sleeves rolled up and tucked into slim black pants. Damned if he didn’t look more tortured and sexier than ever. Seeing him yanked at too many raw, festering places. She backed up a step, desperate to keep the distance between them.
He stopped at her retreat, leaving a few feet hovering between them. “Beth, come sit up front with us.”
She ignored the nostalgia of hearing the nickname he always called her. The mourners were settling into seats. In the first row were Sloane and his girlfriend, Kat, along with John Moreno and his wife, Sherry. Seated behind them were the other four members of Justice’s band, Lynx, Gray, Simon, and River.
Her stomach clenched. Memories poked and prodded.
“No. I’m here for Drake.” Liza made a wide circle around Justice and headed for the last row of seats. She could hear security scrambling after her. Out in the open like this, Liza was a target.
She’d always be a target as long as Gene Hayes was out there, instead of rotting in a cell. She’d rather risk her life than her heart. She’d been down that road, and it led to shattering emotional devastation.
She sat in a chair on the end of the row, hoping he’d pass her by to the front row.
He stopped by her shoulder. “Beth, I don’t want you back here alone. Please—”
His words were cut off when a smooth voice announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming out today. If everyone will take their seats, we will begin the service to commemorate the life of Drake Vaughn.”
Liza stared at the minister to avoid her husband.
After a few seconds, he sighed. “We’ll talk later.” Justice walked away stiffly as if he had to push his muscles to obey.
Guilt nagged at the ice around her heart. She should have told him how sorry she was that he’d lost Drake, the man who’d helped change Justice’s life after he got out of juvenile hall. But how could she get the words out when she couldn’t look at Justice without the terrible, clawing grief threatening to crack through her numbness? If that happened, she’d break and shatter.
Better to keep her distance and stay in her emotional safe zone by not thinking about the past. Instead, she concentrated on the funeral, especially Sloane’s powerful eulogy that burned her eyes with tears she didn’t want to shed. Lowering her head, she whispered her goodbye to Drake and wished him the peace he deserved. The ceremony closed with final prayers, and guests were invited to file by the casket to pay their respect.
Liza rose with the others but held back. She couldn’t go up there.
Drake’s casket conjured the memory of another coffin, this one heartbreakingly small, white and edged in wings and roses. Icy sweat pricked her skin. She hurried across the grass, aiming for the line of limos to escape.
The familiar voice surprised her enough that she turned before she thought about it.
Simon Bender, the lead guitarist for Savaged Illusions, and the man who’d labeled her the band’s Yoko, jogged up to her.
Why had he stopped her? “What? I’m leaving.”
The scar on Simon’s cheek whitened, and tension practically twanged off the tall, lean man. “You have every right to hate me.”
Why would he say that now? He hadn’t cared about her feelings when he’d convinced the band to ban her from the tour. It hadn’t mattered that she was Justice’s wife or pregnant with his child. She’d been the girl who’d ruined one rock star, and Simon hadn’t wanted her ruining their band too. None of them had.
“I’m sorry, Liza,” Simon said. “So goddamned sorry. I’ve wanted to tell you, but you wouldn’t see me or take my calls. I was wrong. We all were. We should never have banned you, or signed that contract with World Rock Stage once we realized Gene Hayes was part owner.”
She internally recoiled at the name. Hayes had drugged and raped her when she was fourteen years old. Then, during the trial, he’d fled the country and been convicted in absentia. Liza felt like she was the one who’d been branded and judged.
Lynx jogged up, his tats gleaming in the sun. The drummer wore an MMA T-shirt with an old picture of Drake sweaty, shirtless and holding a UFC championship belt over his head in triumph. “I had to catch you. I’m sorry. We fucked up.”
She started to answer when River’s long stride ate up the distance as he closed in on her too. “We blamed you for the things Hayes did. You were the victim, and we made it worse. I regret that every damned day.”
Before she could fully grasp that they were apologizing, Lynx jumped in. “Justice loves you, Liza. I’ve never seen him like this before. He’s wrecked over the baby, and you.”
Gray slid up beside Simon. The pianist wore a perfectly tailored navy suit that set off his blue eyes and blond hair. “Not one of us stood up for you when we should have. We lost sight of right and wrong and were protecting our careers over our friend’s wife.”
She couldn’t handle this. “You didn’t want me there. Didn’t want me in his life or…” What was she doing? No. Just no. She didn’t want to hear it, and she sure as hell wasn’t up to absolving them when she couldn’t even face herself in the mirror. Instead, she told them the truth. “You were right. I was too big a liability to Justice and the band.” She couldn’t even protect her baby. She didn’t deserve to be a mother or have a family.
She spun and headed to the car. Her driver got out and stood by the rear door. When she heard footsteps behind her, she snapped, “Go away, Simon.”
“Beth, it’s me.”
Keep going. Don’t turn. Tremors skittered along Liza’s spine, a recognition that was soul deep. She turned, the pull of the man she’d once loved stronger than her need to stay in the shadows.
“I have to go.” It came out more of a plea than a statement. How did he still have this power over her?
Torment swam in his eyes. “To what? Go back to your condo and sit alone?” He grimaced. “Please, Beth, I need to know that you’re okay. Come to Sloane’s house. We’re gathering over there, eating some barbeque and hanging out on the beach. It was Drake’s favorite place.” He held out his hand. “You don’t have to be by yourself. Drake was your friend too.”
Longing traveling through her to that weak and desperate girl inside her. She’d given in to that girl once, and that had led to utter devastation.
Liza shook her head, drawing away from him and into herself. When he touched her, she remembered their love, and it unleashed a torrent of aching for him. Until she recalled the hours in the hospital, people she didn’t know telling her the baby was dead, and urging her to push. Her beautiful baby girl born silent and still.
All because Liza had done exactly what her aunt had told her not to, made bad decisions by falling in love with a rock star, and having a child with him. Never again. “My aunt was right. I took a stupid risk by falling in love with, and trusting, a rock star. Our baby paid the price. We did that…” It hurt so damned much. “We didn’t protect our baby. I understand why you chose your career over me…you were doing it all along. But you risked her too.” Hot tears tracked down her face, and she hated him for making her feel this.
Liza hated herself more.
“Beth.” He fisted his hands, his face contorting in torment. “I can’t stand when you cry alone. Let me hold you.”
“No!” She spun away from him. She’d break if he touched her. All the anguish inside her would rush up, swelling so big her skin would stretch like a rubber band. Blood would rush in her ears and crank up and up to a piercing pitch, until all she could think about was escaping.
The word came out a low snarl of pain and compelled her to turn. Lines of regret fanned out around the edges of Justice’s eyes.
“I screwed up and hate myself for signing that contract. I told myself I was protecting you, but it was a lie. I was protecting myself by not telling you because I was scared of losing you. I own that, and I’m trying to be better, to be worthy of you. I’m doing everything I can think of. I bought the safest condo I could find for you when you refused to come home. I’ve told every media outlet I can that you’re a smart and strong survivor of that sick child predator, Gene Hayes. And that I had known the baby was mine from the moment I learned you were pregnant. I always trusted you, never doubted that. Not once.” He rocked slightly, as if so much need pulsed inside him he couldn’t stay still. “What else can I do? Tell me, I’ll do it.”
She closed her eyes, trying to escape his desperation. She didn’t want to relive this. “It doesn’t matter anymore. Our daughter is dead, and I’m done.”
“Done?” His head snapped up. “You’ve filed for divorce?”
She flinched and shook her head.
He wouldn’t give her a break. Liza reached for the limo door, her fingers closed around the edge, needing something to hold on to. “I…” What? She just wasn’t ready to think about that step. Couldn’t. He was her baby’s father, and the man she’d loved more than anything—except her child. Damn it, this was why she didn’t want to near Justice. He made her think. Feel. Remember.
“Don’t file, Beth.”
Facing him, it was her turn to ask, “Why?”
“Wait a year. Give me a chance to prove my love and earn your forgiveness. We can see each other, reconnect and heal. I’m traveling for concerts, and you can come with us. It’ll be good for you to get away.”
A harsh, ugly laugh escaped her. “Did you ask them?” She nodded toward the four other men in his band standing a half dozen feet away. Yeah, they’d apologized, but the hurt ran too deep for her to fully believe it. “Last time you were on tour, I was banned. Told to stay home and keep quiet.” She and Justice had had a few beautiful moments and so much ugliness. “You let them.” Those words slipped out, tearing open more wounds.
“That won’t happen again. I swear it, you’ll be with me, and no one will tear us apart. No one.”
Fatigue and grief a thick blanket weighed her down. There was no going back. “They already did.”
His jaw clenched, and he rocked back as if she’d slapped him. “I can’t bring our daughter back, and that’s a guilt I’ll live with every single day.” Each word was low and rough with heartbreak.
He lifted his head, his eyes nearly animalistic with determination. “I will show her that her dad loves her mom. You, Beth. It’s been you since the day we met. Before that day, I thought music was my everything. Then I met you and discovered the truth that you’re my everything.”
It was too much. She couldn’t bear this. “Justice—”
“One year to show you that you can trust me, that our love is strong enough to survive this. If you need space, I’ll back off for a while. I won’t call or show up at work or your condo. I’ll limit my contact to an occasional text until you’re ready for more.”
The plea was a demand wrapped up in a love so powerful it terrified her. She didn’t deserve this love, didn’t want it nor did she understand. “Why? I thought when I left you in Paris, you’d hate me like you hate your mother. So why?”
He leaned into her. “Because you’re not my mother. She abandoned her child. Me. She never wanted me. You wanted our child. From the day you realized you were pregnant, you fought for Savanna Rose.”
Liza flinched at the name. The one they’d chosen with such love and hope, and the one she hadn’t been able to say since she’d returned from Paris.
Justice went on, “I’m not your family who abandoned you. I love you, Beth. I will always love you. I want you back.”
The anger buried deep within the fog of her sorrow shot up her throat, and she blurted out, “I want Gene Hayes to pay. I want him publicly ruined and exposed for what he is. I want him to feel what it’s like to lose the thing he loves the most.” Damn it, hot tears of frustration stung her nose and slid down her face. “We don’t always get what we want. Hayes keeps winning.”
“Beth—” He reached for her again, his arms opening, his chest as familiar and comforting as anything she’d ever known, beckoning her. She could feel the icy numbness cracking, the utter devastation reaching to swamp her. She’d drown in it.
She turned to escape into the gloom of the limo, but stopped, unable to leave him hanging. She had to give him an answer. “One year. No contact unless we both agree. Then you file for divorce.”
“I’d like to text you once in a while.”
She dropped her head at his soft request. What difference did it make if he texted? She didn’t have to answer or even have to read it. She could delete and forget.
“Fine.” She climbed inside the limo. The door closed, locking her in the cavernous car, all the empty seats mocking her loneliness. It was better this way. Safer.
As the car pulled away, she couldn’t resist looking back. Justice stood there, his shoulders tensed as if carrying more weight than he could bear, his face grim. His band stood behind him, but not with him.
Justice appeared as alone as she felt.