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'Til Death Do Us Part_JK Short Reads

J. Kenner

  Table of Contents


  About “JK Short Reads”

  About ’Til Death Do Us Part

  ’Til Death Do Us Part

  Excerpt from Tainted

  Excerpt from Down On Me

  Excerpt from Release Me


  Also by J. Kenner

  Also by Julie Kenner

  About the Author

  A final note from JK

  ’Til Death Do Us Part

  JK Short Reads

  J. Kenner



  About “JK Short Reads”

  About ’Til Death Do Us Part

  ’Til Death Do Us Part

  Excerpt from Tainted

  Excerpt from Down On Me

  Excerpt from Release Me


  Also by J. Kenner

  Also by Julie Kenner

  About the Author

  A final note from JK

  ’Til Death Do Us Part


  J. Kenner

  Writing as Julie Kenner

  Learn more at:




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  Text JKenner to 21000 for new release announcements!

  About “JK Short Reads”

  Sometimes, you just don’t have time for a long story, but you want the satisfaction of diving into a compelling story, whether it thrills you, scares you, intrigues you, or pulls at your heartstrings.

  As an author, I want the same. Moreover, I enjoy writing shorter pieces, especially as it gives me a chance to play in genres I might not normally write in. But then the question is, what do I do with the stories once they’re done?

  The answer? I created JK Short Reads. Each story gives you a chance to dive quickly into another world and experience the romance or the thrill or the mystery that surrounds the characters.

  Every story is a bite-sized read that offers big satisfaction. They’re perfect for lunch, waiting in the elementary school car line, hanging in the dentist’s waiting room, or just any time you want a fast escape!

  I hope you enjoy!



  PS … be sure to keep reading after the story! Included later in this book is link download a FREE title from me!

  About ’Til Death Do Us Part

  Honeymoons can be hell…

  Tom and Elizabeth discover the darker side of marital bliss when their romantic honeymoon trip is sidelined by a madman who forces their car off the road in a deserted part of Texas.

  But nothing is what it seems on this dark night, as the newlyweds learn when events spin out of control, culminating in a horrifying conclusion.

  This thriller short originally appeared in the International Thriller Writers’ anthology, Love Is Murder, edited by New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown, under the title, The Honeymoon.

  ’Til Death Do Us Part, originally published in the anthology Love is Murder as The Honeymoon copyright © 2013 by Julie Kenner

  Down on Me excerpt copyright © 2017 by Julie Kenner

  Release Me excerpt copyright © 2017 by J. Kenner, published by Bantam Books, excerpt included with permission

  Tainted excerpt copyright © 2017 by Julie Kenner

  Cover art by BigStockPhoto/EpicStockMedia

  v. 2017_12_14

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination and are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or establishments is solely coincidental.

  ’Til Death Do Us Part

  "There," Elizabeth said. "We need to get off there!"

  Tom batted her hand away. "Hey! Hey! Driving is not a community property experience!"

  "But that's the cut-off to Balmorhea, and—Oh, shit. Now you've passed it. Turn around, Tom. We need to go back."

  He kept his hands at the ten and two o'clock positions. "We said we'd get to Van Horn tonight. It's only, what? Another hour?" He glanced sideways at her. She was rubbing her temples and had that expression she got just before they had an argument.

  Not that they had many. And he loved her even when they argued. That was the point of marriage, though, wasn't it? To make it through the arguments and get to the good stuff.

  "We didn't say that? When did we say that?"

  "This morning. You were in the shower and I was brushing my teeth and I said we should get as far as we could today."

  "And in case you hadn't noticed, today's over. We're into tomorrow now. So let's stop at Balmorhea."

  "We can make it to Van Horn. Balmorhea's off the highway. We have to go out of our way. The interstate goes right through Van Horn. Besides, you agreed."

  She opened her mouth, then closed it again. "You do that, you know. You start whole conversations when I'm in the shower and I don't even know what I'm agreeing to."

  "Clearly, you need to pay more attention to your husband."

  She scowled.

  He lifted his hands off the wheel for a second. "Just kidding."

  "Even if I did, we don’t have to stick to the plan like glue," she said.

  "But the whole point of driving to Disneyland was so that we could watch America roll by outside. And trust me when I say that this part of Texas is better in the dark. My dad used to take me hunting in West Texas. It's a whole lot of nothing."


  "Hey, Texas boy here. Handguns and rifles and an oil well in the backyard."

  She laughed. "You're so very typical."

  "Nah, just lucky. Anyway, if we make it to Van Horn, then most of tomorrow is New Mexico and Arizona. And those deserts are much prettier."

  "I'm a Texan now, too, remember?" Her fingers brushed his hair, and when he looked over the expression was gone, replaced by that sweet, vulnerable face he fell in love with. "That means I love every part of your state, even the dusty, dry parts."

  "I'm very glad to hear it." He smiled at her, still not quite able to believe she was his wife. Wife. Man, his parents were going to shit bricks when they found out. "Let me see it."

  She cocked her head. "Tom."


  She shook her head, then released an indulgent sigh as she held up her left hand and wiggled her ring finger.

  "My mother's going to want a big wedding, you know," he said.

  "Seems silly since we're already married."

  "Married by a judge in Austin doesn't cut it for her."

  "If it's good enough for the great state of Texas..."

  He laughed. "I'm just warning you. She's going to love you. But she's going to want to get you in a frilly white dress with flowers and a preacher and a huge reception afterwards. I'm pretty sure magnolias will be involved. And a cake."

  "Hey, it's your family's money. If she wants to spend it on a big party, then more power to her. Just so long as we're clear that the white dress is the traditional style and not a statement as to my purity. Because, sweetheart, if I wasn't already completely impure, I plan on seriously kicking it up a notch once we reach Disneyland."

  He feigned shock. "But it's a family resort."

  "I'll tell the kiddies to divert their eyes." She was silent, then, and he glanced over to find her looking at him, a
curious expression on her face.

  "What is it?"

  "I was just thinking. About vows. 'Til death do us part, and all that. Do you think we'll go to Disneyland when we're eighty and using walkers?"

  "Count on it."

  "Do you think we'll still be having sex?"

  "God, I hope so."

  Her laugh filled him as much as it filled the car. "But you realize that was kinda my point," she said, when her giggles stopped. "It's going to be, what? Almost two before we even get to Van Horn. And what if we can't find a room? What then? It's another long haul to the border, and I do not want to crash at dawn at some shithole motel in El Paso or Las Cruces." She leaned over and pressed her hand on his thigh. "Shithole motels really don't get me in a honeymoon kind of mood."

  He had to at least silently concede that she had a point about the motel. He'd been driving for ten hours already today, and the thought of going past Van Horn was making him a less than happy puppy.

  "Do you really want me to turn around?"

  She let out a long sigh, then shifted in her seat, looking out at the stretch of highway lit by their headlights in front and the wall of black behind them. "No, we're already a million miles from the turn-off and we'd have to find someplace to double back."

  "On we go, then. Tunes?" He had some classic Lyle Lovett in the CD player and cranked the volume. "Why don't you go online and see if you can book us a room," he suggested, as Lyle crooned about M.O.N.E.Y. "You can do that, right? Wasn't that the point of buying that thing?" He nodded vaguely in the direction of her purse that sat on the floorboard at her feet.

  "That," she said, "is a Coach bag. And the point was to look awesome." She flashed a model-quality smile and he laughed.

  "Well, it works."

  "Thank you very much. This," she added, pulling an iPad out of the bag, "is for checking my Facebook page on the road, thank you very much."

  "You're very welcome."

  She smirked, and he laughed. She'd bought it before they set out on the road, her first purchase as his wife. "I guess I don't have to say thanks anymore, do I? I mean, now it's community property."

  "Yours, mine, and ours. For richer or for poorer, so don't buy too many of those toys or we'll be hitting the poorer side of that equation." Not exactly true. He had his trust fund money plus the cash he'd got when he'd sold his stock options at the height of the tech boom. He was barely past thirty, had a beautiful wife, and never had to work a day again. Life was good.

  She ran her finger up the inside of his thigh. "It's not the things I'm interested in. It's you. When we get to Van Horn and I'm dead tired, just remember who insisted we go on."

  His cock twitched, and he tightened his grip on the steering wheel. "You're evil. You know that, right?"

  Those fingers worked some sweet magic. "I know," she whispered.

  He cleared his throat. Forced himself to concentrate on the road. "Besides, I have a feeling I can wake you up."

  "I'm sure you can." She eased back to her side. "Just for the record, I'm getting a massage before we ride any rides, sing It's a Small World, or have breakfast with Mickey."

  He laughed. "Fair enough."

  "Let's see what I can find, then." She tapped on the iPad and the screen illuminated the interior of the car in a glowing blue. The light flashed in his rear view mirror, and he flinched.


  "Sorry. I—" He rubbed his eyes.


  "The light's playing tricks on me. I thought I saw a car behind us."

  She shifted in her seat. "It's pitch black back there. Doesn't Texas have the money for a few lights on their highways?"

  "Like I said—middle of nowhere. And it must have just been a trick of the light. Any luck with the room?"

  "There's no signal. It's a great toy, but it's not connecting to the internet, and we're not making phone calls. So don't get a flat, because there's no way we're getting through to Triple A."

  "The car's fine. Don't be paranoid. People drove across the country long before cell phones were invented."

  "And iPads and CDs. Can you imagine? Eight track tapes? I mean, what kind of world was that?"

  "My dad had an old eight track player in the garage," he said. "I used to—Fuck!"

  Lights flashed on behind him—right behind him. Filling his rear view mirror and getting bigger by the second.

  Beside him, Elizabeth yelled, reaching out to steady herself with a hand on the door. "What the—oh my god. He's crazy. He's right on your ass!"

  "I know! I know!" His heart was pounding in his chest. He told himself this was no big deal. The guy was drunk. He was being an ass. But all they had to do was let him get by and they'd have the road to themselves again.

  He lifted his foot off the accelerator.

  "What are you doing?" Her voice was high, terrified.

  "I'm slowing down. Letting him pass."

  "I don't think—"


  They both jolted forward as the car behind them—no, it was a truck—tapped the rear bumper.

  "Jesus, Jesus," Elizabeth said. "Do you have a gun? A weapon?"

  "I don't have shit." He had his knife, like always. A folding blade that was springloaded and pretty much lived in his pocket. But that wasn't much good against a crazy pick-up truck. "Fuck. Call 9-1-1."

  "There's no cell service! I just told you!"

  Wham! Tapped again, and this time from an angle, so that his sweet little Mercedes shifted a bit to the right. "Just fucking try again!"

  "Do not yell at me." Her voice was tight, and it sounded like she was going to burst into tears at any moment. "Don't do it, Tom. Do not yell at me."

  "Babe, I'm sorry. I'm freaked is all. Okay, look. I'm going to floor it." He did as he was talking. "We're small and fast, and see? We're already pulling away. So just watch the phone and the second you get a signal, you call. Okay?"

  She nodded, and he kept his hands tight on the wheel and his foot flat on the floor.

  And for a second—one beautiful, wonderful, fabulous second—he thought it was going to work. And then the gap started closing. Those lights started growing bigger. And soon the truck's headlights consumed the small back window of the Mercedes.

  Tom tensed. Waiting to feel another smack against the bumper. But none came. The truck just tailed him. Ten, maybe fifteen inches away from the back of his car, tracking him as they whipped down the highway.

  The minutes sagged by.


  Beside him, Liz shook her head, her eyes wide and terrified.

  "Restart the phone. Sometimes it finds a network when you restart."

  She nodded and rebooted the phone.

  "Do you think it's over? He's just going to tail us all the way to Van Horn?"

  "It's at least a half an hour away," Tom said, which technically didn't answer her question. "But he's stopped hitting us. Maybe he's just drunk."

  "I bet he's drunk as a fucking snake. Bastard."

  "So, we just drive, and we breathe in and out, and we will be fine."

  The lights behind them snapped off, leaving a gaping black chasm behind them.

  "Is it—Did he—?"

  Tom reached over and grabbed her hand. "I don't know."

  That's when he heard the sharp crack.

  "What was that?" Elizabeth asked.

  "I don't know."

  Another crack, and that time Tom figured it out, because the car skidded, then started to fishtail. He tried to steer into it, which was easier said than done, but they just kept skidding in a circle, right off the road until the car tumbled sideways into a ditch.

  His right arm was thrust sideways across Elizabeth's chest, a protective cage. She was breathing hard, her fear filling the car along with his.

  "He shot out the tire," he whispered. "The crazy son-of-a-bitch shot out the tire."

  "What do we do?"

  "Stay here. Maybe he's had his fun. Maybe he'll just go. Is there a signal yet?"

  "Oh, God." Panic made her voice raise. "I dropped it. Oh, shit." She bent over and scrabbled on the floor board. He could hear her murmured, "Please, please, please." Then, "Shit. No signal."

  "This is what we're going to do. We're going to stay in the car. Simple. Straight-forward."

  "Do you see him?"

  He twisted in his seat, scouring the darkness behind them. "No, I—"

  And there he was.

  Not some drugged out kid, or some bearded, wild-eyed desert survivalist. Just a dude. In a white button down over a denim jacket and jeans. He had a crooked grin and he didn't look the least bit psychotic.

  Tom didn't move a muscle.

  "Hey!" the Dude called. "Are you okay? Shit! That fucker blew your tire right out!"

  Tom glanced sideways at Elizabeth, who was staring at past him at the Dude, her mouth open as if she couldn't quite believe this.

  "You—you saw it?"

  "Shit, yeah."

  Tom swiveled in his seat, trying to see through the oily darkness. "How?"

  "My car," the Dude said, pointing vaguely behind them. "I was sleeping—too much driving, you know—and I saw the crazy bastard rail down on you."

  Tom rolled the window down—but only about half an inch.

  "You—you saw him? Where did he—"

  "Floored it right on by while you were spinning. Man, he's probably in New Mexico by now."

  "Do you have cell service? Can you call a cop? A tow truck?"

  "Signal picks up in about five miles. Right now, it's like the wild, wild west."

  "Could you—I mean, would you drive ahead? Call someone?"

  "Sure thing." He took a step back, then stopped. "Or, you know, I could help you change the tires. This ditch ain't so deep, and this car's not even as heavy as my sister."