Fighting to Be FreeKirsty Moseley
Your support knows no bounds,
and I absolutely do not deserve you.
There are so many people I want to thank, so please bear with me!
First and foremost, to my amazing family. You all have no idea how much your support, encouragement, and belief in me helps, so thank you for always having my back. To Dad, cheers for not ringing me while I was working. To Mum, thanks for not letting Dad ring while I was working. To Toni, you’re still a nugget but you’re my nugget. Special shout out to my husband, Lee, for never being mad that I spend hours on end at the laptop and neglect him (and the housework, but that’s nothing to do with writing, I neglected it before). As I said in my dedication, I absolutely do not deserve you. Another special mention to my son for being the most amazing and supportive little boy I could ever dare hope for. I adore each and every one of you!
Secondly, to my agent, Lorella, thank you so much for championing Jamie and Ellie from the get-go and for all of your hard work in turning my dream into a reality. You’re amazing and I’m lucky to have you. Your passion for your work and clients is aweinspiring. Hugs. x
Stephany, my US agent, thank you for your support and hard work! Drinks are on me when I come to your side of the pond!
I have to shout out to my own personal cheerleading squad who are always on the end of a message when I need them: Chloe Meyer, Kerry Duke, Natasha Preston, Terrie Arasin, Adelaine Saria, and Hilda Reyes. Also to my Facebook street team “Moseley’s Minions” who are an incredible bunch of girls (and one man, mustn’t forget Darrell), I’m privileged to have you all!
To all bloggers, yes, all of you, you guys are my rock stars. Thank you for all of your support over the years, it means more than I can tell you. x
To the readers of Wattpad, whose feedback, messages, and comments helped shape it into the book you’re reading today. You guys rock and always have done. x
Special thank you must go to the team at Forever, especially to the design team that absolutely smashed it out of the park with the stunning cover for the book, also to the editors, formatters, and everyone else behind the scenes, thank you for everything. Special mention to Megha, my editor at Forever, for falling in love with Jamie and Ellie and seeing their potential. Also to Anna at Piatkus, my UK publisher, thank you for loving my words.
And lastly to you, dear reader, thank you for picking up this book. I really hope you enjoy it and the journey within. Remember to always fight for what you want every single day. xxx
THERE ARE SIGNIFICANT moments in life that shape the way you see yourself. Some sort of shift in the balance, a throwing off the equilibrium. Moments that, in hindsight, you can look back on and pinpoint as exactly when things changed either for better or for worse. This was that moment for me. Everything hung in the balance; everything was uncertain, undecided, and unwritten.
This was my second shot, my chance to come out of the darkness and into the light. With every cell in my body I was planning on fighting to be free of this life, even if it killed me.
The trouble was, it was out of my hands. Maybe I would try my hardest but wouldn’t be accepted; maybe I would never be good enough. Society had its ideals, and a guy like me didn’t fit in with those at all.
Every now and again something comes along that ignites your desire to be the person you strive to be, the better person. When I stripped everything else away, peeled off the dirty, raw, and damaged layers, all that was left was hope. Hope for a better life, for a brighter future. Just hope for a chance.
Suddenly, with that fire in your belly, a what if becomes a possibility. What if you threw ideals out the window? What if you dismissed everything you ever knew? What if the bad guy could be the hero of the story for a change?
I guess what it all boils down to is this: My name is Jamie Cole, and I’m a murderer.
TAKING A DEEP breath, I stepped tentatively over the threshold, leaving the place I vowed I would never return to. I was free; finally, after serving just over four years in juvie, I was free to start over. Stuffed deep in my pocket, so it wouldn’t get lost, I had just under two thousand dollars—my wages for working kitchen duties while I carried out my sentence. Nestled next to it was the address of the rooming house that my parole officer had arranged for me to stay at, some sort of shitty convict rehabilitation accommodation block by my understanding.
As the door slammed shut behind me, panic set in for a second because I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to be free. But that was when I saw it. Outside. Not the exercise yard, which was the only “outside” I usually got to see, but freedom. The January sun was shining, there were no walls with barbed wire on the top, just a clear, open view of a road and a yellow cab parked a hundred yards away, obviously waiting to pick me up and take me to my new place. Nervous excitement built in my stomach.
I shouldered my bag, which contained the only possessions I had to my name: a few sets of clothes and one photograph of my little sister, Sophie. As I took the first few steps away from the gates, my heart was beating out of my chest; it felt weird to be walking away from the place I’d considered home for the last few years. I was waiting for the alarms to sound and someone to tackle me to the ground and start smashing me with a baton. They didn’t. I walked quickly toward the waiting cab. I didn’t look back; I’d never look back. This was my fresh start. This place had saved me, and I was hoping that it had changed my life and had at least given me a fighting chance. I didn’t want to go back to the life I’d led before all this happened; I couldn’t live like that any longer. I was determined to change.
“Hey, Kid!” someone shouted just as I pulled the cab door open.
I turned around, and my heart dropped down to my feet as I spotted a familiar figure just getting out of a shiny black Mercedes that was parked across the road and down a little way.
“Ed?” I hadn’t seen this guy since I was sent down, and I didn’t want to see him now.
Ed jogged over and pulled me into a hug, slapping my back enthusiastically. “Good to see you again,” he greeted me happily.
Ed looked no different than I remembered; he was still a smarmy, overdressed jackass. “What are you doing here?” I asked, flicking my eyes around nervously. I didn’t even want to be seen talking to guys like this again.
“Boss wants to see you.” Ed nodded toward the car about thirty feet away from the cab that I was so desperately trying to get into.
“I can’t right now, I need to go get checked into my new place,” I rejected, trying to think of a better excuse. But I knew it was useless; if Brett Reyes wanted to see me, he’d see me conscious or unconscious.
Ed smiled. “Boss wants to see you now, Kid. You can check into your place later.” He turned and walked off toward his car without looking back.
A scowl slipped onto my face. I hated being called Kid. They had all called me that when I worked for Brett. I guess it was because when I started working for him, that’s what I was. I was eleven years old the first time I did a job for him—dropping a manila envelope full of cash through the window of a parked cop patrol car. Bribe money. The cops turned a blind eye to his activities, and in return they got a nice little payout. Perfect.
I closed my eyes and sighed dejectedly before leaning into the cab and smiling apologetically at the driver. “Sorry, I won’t be needing you.” I didn’t wait for an answer, just slammed the door and followed behind Ed, climbing into the passenger side of the Mercedes.
I felt sick. There was no way out of this. I probably wasn’t going to survive the rest of the day. So much for the fresh start I wanted. I wasn’t even going to see the sun set. To say that my life sucked right now would
be the understatement of the century.
Resting my head back against the expensive leather, I looked out the window, watching the streets change and turn more urban as we headed deeper into New York City and toward, I assumed, Queens, where Brett usually conducted his business. I sighed inwardly and wondered why I’d dared to hope that things could be different. There was no way Brett would let me live, I knew too much about him. The things I knew could put him away for years, but I would never tell. I’d been offered a deal so many times when I was going down: reduced sentence, a high-class juvie instead of the craphole I was sent to, even a cushy little job when I was inside. But I never once considered turning state’s evidence and standing against him, never.
* * *
About forty minutes later, we pulled up to the warehouse that I had spent so much time in as an adolescent. The place hadn’t changed at all. My stomach clenched as I thought about what was probably going to happen to me inside. I just prayed that it would be quick and painless. Brett surely respected me that much, at least.
“Come on then, Kid, let’s go,” Ed urged, climbing out of the car.
The sounds of the angle grinders and welders from the warehouse chop shop were like familiar music to my ears. I’d spent way too many hours of my childhood here, learning how to remove serial and chassis numbers so that we could sell the cars that I stole to order. I was the best car thief in Brett’s organization. People placed their orders, Brett found the cars, and I stole them. Easy. I’d never even come close to being caught. We didn’t steal any old car, though; they had to be top end. We didn’t take anything worth less than a hundred thousand.
“Hey, Kid. Long time no see!” someone called.
I glanced over to see Ray lifting his welding mask from his face. He was the one who’d taught me everything I knew about cars. I walked over and gave him an awkward hug while he patted my back affectionately.
“Hey, Ray. How’s it going?” I asked, discreetly eyeing the silver Porsche 911 on the ramp.
“Things are great. I have a daughter,” he answered proudly, pulling off one of his thick leather gloves and running a hand through his sweaty brown hair.
“No shit, really? Congrats!”
“Thanks. We called her Tia. She’s two,” he gushed, grinning.
I slapped him on the shoulder; he’d always taken care of me, and would make an excellent father. “That’s awesome, man, nice.” Ray deserved to be happy. He was one of the best people I knew.
“Thanks. How you been?” His eyes drifted over me slowly, probably checking for any cuts or bruises.
I shrugged. “I’m good. I’m about to go see Brett. I’ll talk to you later; maybe we could grab a drink or something?” Now that I was trying to go straight, I wanted nothing to do with anyone in this world anymore, but Ray was the exception. I thought of him as a big brother, and would love to keep in touch with him. Well, if I survived the next few minutes, which was highly doubtful.
“Absolutely. Here, I’ll give you my number. Call me and we’ll sort something out. You have a place to stay? You could come and stay with me and Samantha, she won’t mind. You can meet Tia,” he offered, already scribbling his number onto a scrap of paper and holding it out to me.
I stuffed the number in my pocket as I spoke, “It’s okay, I’ve got a place. But thanks anyway.”
“Kid, come on, you know Boss doesn’t like to wait!” Ed called behind me.
Sighing deeply, I gave Ray another man hug before following Ed. I felt like I was taking the long walk to my death.
I thought about my life as I climbed the stairs. My eighteen short years of life. Wasted. A pile of shit. What was the point in even bothering? To be honest, for about fifteen of them I’d wished I was dead anyway, so maybe this outcome wasn’t too bad after all. At least this way I wouldn’t have to try to change. Changing would be hard, probably the hardest thing I would ever have to do. Maybe I should be grateful that I was about to bite it.
I stopped outside the office door, waiting as Ed knocked.
“Come in!” Brett shouted through the door. The sound of his deep, husky voice made my shoulders stiffen.
Ed smiled and twisted the handle. “See you after, Kid. We’ll catch up,” he said, opening the door and slapping me on the shoulder.
“Sure, Ed, whatever,” I replied dismissively, rolling my eyes. Why he was bothering to act like he didn’t know what was coming was beyond me.
Holding my breath, I forced myself to remain calm. My eyes swept the large office; it was still done up exceptionally, just like I remembered. Brett’s overly large antique oak desk still had pride of place in the center of the room. There were expensive vases and statues behind him, and even the houseplant on his desk looked exotic. Brett Reyes liked the best, he always had.
Brett stood up from behind his desk, smiling warmly at me in his expensive gray tailored suit. “Hey, Kid! Good to see you,” he said, coming around the desk and engulfing me in a hug.
“Yeah, you too,” I lied, trying to control the slight tremor in my voice. I knew how this was going to end; I just prayed he liked me enough to do it quickly. A nice shot to the face, or, even better, the back of the head so I wouldn’t see it coming.
Brett pulled back and smiled at me, his blue eyes soft and friendly. He’d aged considerably in my absence. His forehead was lined with wrinkles, and his dirty-blond hair had receded. Although he’d aged quite a bit since I last saw him, he still didn’t look as old as he was. He was easily in his midfifties, but people often thought he was early forties.
“So, how was it?” he asked, gripping my shoulders as he waited for my answer.
“It was okay.” Glancing around, I saw two guys sitting on the sofa off to the side. The older, dark haired one I didn’t know, the other was a guy I knew from juvie. Shaun. He was a real nasty piece of work, and I’d seen him make many peoples’ lives a misery in the year that we were inside together. I myself had had a fair few run-ins with him, the last of which had ended when I’d smashed his face into a table not long before he was released. I held in my groan. “Hey, Shaun,” I greeted him stiffly.
Brett snickered and slapped me on the shoulder as he strutted back around to his side of the desk. “Yeah, I heard you two had some problems inside,” he mused, still chuckling. “Maybe you should kiss and make up.”
I snorted. “He can kiss my fucking ass if he wants,” I retorted, looking at Shaun warningly as he glared at me and stood.
“You little shit … I swear to God, I’ll—” he started, but Brett held up a hand, silencing him.
“Enough! I won’t have you two fighting. Shaun, you’ve been here for the last three years, so I’ve seen how you operate, but trust me, you don’t want to be having a problem with the kid,” he warned.
I clenched my jaw. I didn’t want to get into a fight, but I knew I could defend myself if I needed to. I’d always been proficient at taking care of myself—probably because I’d learned how to block out pain. Of course, I still felt it, but I just didn’t care. Pain made you strong; it meant you were still alive. Pain could be your friend when you thought you were dead inside.
I smiled a challenge at Shaun, daring him to go against Brett’s orders. He sneered at me but sat back down, so I turned my attention to Brett.
“So then, Kid, I’ve set up an apartment for you. I thought you’d like a few days off to get settled, and then come back to work Friday night,” Brett said, rummaging through the top drawer of his desk. He pulled out a set of keys and tossed it to me. “Here, it’s a two-bedroom. We’ll sort out rent and stuff later.”
I set the keys on the desk and shook my head. “Brett, thank you for going to all this trouble for me, but I can’t. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m going straight from here on out.”
He visibly recoiled at my words. “Kid, I need you here. No one can boost like you.” The throbbing muscle in his jaw told me he was growing angry.
“I’m sorry, Brett, I am. But I just don’t hav
e the motivation that I used to. I’m not doing this type of shit anymore,” I replied sternly. I’d made up my mind: Either I went straight, or he would have to kill me. I didn’t need this anymore; the reasons I’d had to do it had died the day I became a murderer. Everything changed on that day: my outlook, my priorities, everything.
His fist slammed down on the desk, making his plant shake from the blow and a pot of pens tip over, scattering across his desk. “You think you can just walk away? For more than three years I looked after you and showed you my business! Three years I spent training you, and you think you can just walk away? You can’t!” he ranted, his loud voice echoing off the walls.
“Brett, I want out of this life. I just want to go straight. I won’t do it, I’m sorry.” I shook my head and looked him right in the eye, showing him I wasn’t going to back down.
He sighed, the muscle in his jaw clenched again, and then he nodded to the two guys behind me. I closed my eyes, waiting to die. In unison, they grabbed my arms, pulling them behind my back as I was slammed face-first into the desk. Someone’s arm went across the back of my neck, pressing down, making it difficult to breathe.
I didn’t open my eyes when something hard pushed against my temple. As the safety was clicked off, I waited for my life to flash before my eyes, or the epiphany you were supposed to see before you died, but I didn’t see anything as the gun pressed harder into my skin, causing my jaw to ache.
“Kid, you know the rules. If you want out, you earn it. You still owe me for all the time I invested in you,” Brett growled angrily.
I forced my eyes open and saw that he was the one holding the gun as he leaned over the desk, glaring at me. I didn’t bother struggling; I was dead either way, there was no way I was getting out of here.