From the best-selling author of The True Reign Series—Jennifer Anne Davis—comes a dark and twisted love story with characters you will fall for and others that you will want to murder in their sleep.
WARNING: This isn’t your average love story. The Power to See is dark, gritty, and not for the faint of heart. This book includes mature content.
On the outside, twenty-two-year-old Brianna’s life seems perfect and totally envy worthy. But inside, she’s a twisted-up hot mess. She is sick of playing the part of Daddy’s little girl. Now she’s all grown up and tired of keeping her family’s deadly secret.
When two men from opposite worlds enter Brianna’s life, ready to fight for her heart, she finds herself playing a high-stakes game that will ignite a battle between family, loyalty, love, and survival. Unfortunately for Brianna, she knows that girls like her rarely get a happily ever after. When she finds herself being played as a pawn in a ruthless and deadly game, will she be able to get out in time… before she loses herself and her heart in the process?
Watch the trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWGHo60klaE
Add to Goodreads TBR list.
Warning: This book is intended for readers 17+ due to some explicit language and mature themes.
The Power to See
by Jennifer Anne Davis
** Chapter 1 **
The large crowd erupted with applause as the graduating class threw their caps into the air. Dominic Bennett watched as his cap paused for a moment before returning to him. When he caught it, reality sunk in. He had just graduated from UCSD with his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. And to think, only four years ago he hadn’t even wanted to go to college. Without his mother’s constant pushing, he wouldn’t be here today.
Dominic spotted his family in the distance. Walking toward them, he realized his father had really aged lately. Richard Bennett looked like a grandfather, with his gray hair and expanded waistline. It was actually comical to see Richard next to his mother, Marie. She was the opposite of Richard in every way—tall and slender with black, curly, shoulder-length hair. Standing next to his parents were two of his three sisters, Brittany and Cameron.
“Glad you could make it!” Dominic said, hugging everyone.
“We wouldn’t miss it for the world!” his mother exclaimed, beaming with pride.
“Yeah, Dom, congratulations. Now you can get a real job and work like the rest of us,” Cameron joked as she ran her hands through his thick black hair, messing it up. Dominic was about to put her in a headlock when someone called his name.
“Dom!” his roommate yelled as he approached. “Today’s the big day buddy! Nervous?”
“I haven’t told my family yet,” Dominic said, shaking his head.
“Oh, sorry. Thought everyone knew. Well, good luck and let me know if you need anything! See you later!”
“What’s going on?” Marie asked.
Dominic was afraid to answer—his mom was going to be disappointed. “I’ve decided to propose to Claire. I figure she’ll never expect me to pop the question tonight.”
Marie’s eyes widened. “I thought you decided to wait until after you found a job and started working. Why the rush?” she asked.
Dating someone for two years was hardly rushing into anything. Dominic wanted to get his own place, but he couldn’t afford one without a roommate. He and Claire practically lived together already. He was always at her place and didn’t want to live with anyone else.
Besides, Dominic loved Claire and she loved him. Marriage was the next logical step. He had spent four years at UCSD, with more than his share of parties and one night stands. When he met Claire, he knew he’d found the one—the girl you marry. She was perfect for him in every way. They liked the same movies, books, and food. They could talk for hours and never run out of things to say, or get bored. And she was pretty. Dominic loved her long blonde hair and gray eyes. Claire was grounded in family, like he was, and she had a love for life that was contagious. Dominic wanted to get a ring on her finger as soon as possible.
“Mom, you know we’ve been talking about getting married. We don’t have to do it right away—we can have a long engagement.”
“Marie,” Richard joined in, “let the boy be. He loves Claire, and we all like her.”
“That’s not the point,” she said, resting her hands on her hips. “He spent all of this time going to school, and now he needs to focus on his career—not getting married.”
“Mom, don’t worry. Claire just graduated and needs to find a job. We won’t rush into anything. Please, Mom, be happy for me,” Dominic pleaded.
“I am. You just took me by surprise,” Marie said, waving her hand dismissively.
“How are you going to propose?” Brittany asked.
Beaming, Dominic told them his entire plan. He was going to take Claire to Roy’s, her favorite restaurant, and then to the University Town Center Ice Arena. There, on the ice, he would propose, at the place where they had first met.
“Where is Claire?” Cameron asked.
“She’s probably looking for me right now,” Dominic said, searching for her.
Standing in her graduation gown, holding her cap, Claire scanned the crowd. Just as her eyes spotted Dominic off in the distance with his family, she heard someone clear his throat behind her.
“Claire?” a man’s voice asked.
“Yes,” she turned around to face a guy dressed in a black suit.
“I’m here about our arrangement. Follow me.” She was escorted into a black Mercedes-Benz. Sitting in the expensive car, Claire could feel money oozing from the gentleman in the driver’s seat. Paying all of her mother’s medical bills, along with her student loans, was probably nothing to him.
He slid a briefcase onto her lap. Her hands shook as she opened it up and stared at the hundred dollar bills stacked neatly inside. Claire quickly closed the briefcase and stole a glance at the man. His eyes never deviated from the windshield.
“That’s the remaining money,” the man said. “Five hundred thousand dollars total. Remember, break it off today and absolutely no contact after that.”
“I know,” she responded in a faint voice. Clutching the suitcase, tears streamed down her face.
“And don’t forget what we talked about—what to say when you break up with him.”
“I won’t.” She exited the car and walked away, not only from the vehicle but from her old life as well. Claire had no choice but to take the deal she was offered. If she refused, her mother wouldn’t continue to receive the treatment she needed, and her family would lose their house as a result from the soaring medical bills. The deal meant she would save her family but lose her future one. But there would be others, right? Certainly there wasn’t only one person out there for each of us.
Dominic headed back to his dorm to get ready for the big night. When he entered the old, run-down room, he found Claire sitting on the edge of his bed, waiting for him.
“What are you doing here? I’ve been looking all over for you.” He walked over and kissed her cheek.
“Dominic, we need to talk,” she whispered.
“Can’t it wait until tonight?” he asked.
“Everything all right?” He could tell that something was wrong by the look she gave him. She had that air of unease she got when her mother took a turn for the worst. Maybe something had happened to her mother. She had been in and out of the hospital a lot lately, battling cancer.
“Dominic, for some time now, I’ve been thinking about and considering our future, or lack thereof,” she said.
“What do you mean?” Dominic asked, confused. They had been talking about their future. They had been talking about looking for their own place to rent and moving in together, about getting a dog and what they would name him, even about getting married. He knew what their future looked like—they even talked about having kids. He knew they would be very, very happy.
“Now that you’ve graduated, you have a ton of debt and no job. I just graduated, and I need to find a job, too. There’s no way I can focus on a relationship with you and begin a career at the same time. I’ve worked too hard for this, and I want to excel.”
Dominic was confused. Claire’s voice was robotic and unemotional, like she was reading from a script. Claire wasn’t a career-minded person, and she certainly didn’t care about money. That was one of the things he loved about her. They both came from similar backgrounds and both wanted the same thing—a family.
“You can have both, plenty of people do. Don’t worry,” Dominic pleaded.
“Dom, listen to me. We have no future.” Claire’s eyes glossed over with tears.
“What are you saying?” Sensing everything they had dreamed about was suddenly on the verge of falling apart, Dominic decided to grab hold of what he could. He got down on one knee, “I wasn’t going to do this until tonight but . . . will you marry me?” He searched desperately through his pocket and found the engagement ring. When he reached for her hand, she quickly pulled it away.
Claire wouldn’t even look at the ring. “No. I can’t possibly marry you. You have no job, no money, and no future,” she said coldly.
A tear slid down her cheek and she brushed it away with the back of her hand.
“But I’ll get a job and it will all work out. I don’t understand.”
She jumped up off the bed, putting space between them. “I’ve met someone else. He doesn’t have loans, and he has a really good job. He has his own place, his own car, and a nice one, too. I can have a future with him. I’m sorry, Dominic. I can’t be with you. I want more from life. I won’t struggle and be poor.” She moved to the doorway.
“Claire, wait! Don’t go. We need to talk this through. This doesn’t sound like you. Wait!”
She paused, not looking back. “Good-bye, Dom,” her voice cracked. “Don’t try to call me or get in touch. I don’t ever want to hear from you again. Like I said, I’ve met someone else. I’ve moved on, and I hope you will too.”
A knife sliced through Dominic’s heart. Did Claire say she met someone else? How could that be? They’d been serious for two years. The thought of someone else looking at her and loving her revolted him. Claire was his girlfriend. And what in the world was that garbage about being poor? Claire had never cared about money. Sure, Dominic didn’t have a job yet, but he would find one. Everything would work out—he would take care of her and provide for her.
Dominic’s second knee fell to the floor. How could this be happening? His head began to spin. It must be a dream. There was no way that Claire just broke up with him. He heard her words over and over again in his head. I can’t be with you. I want more from life. Gasping for air, Dominic let out a ragged scream.
** Chapter 2 **
Brianna Salazar stood in the middle of the kitchen, fidgeting with her necklace. If only her father had given some clue as to why he wanted to see her, then she could adequately prepare. But he always liked to catch her off guard, keeping the upper hand.
The doorbell rang, pulling Brianna from her thoughts.
“I got it,” Ben said, running to answer the door.
Of course he did. While her other two bodyguards managed to remain out of sight, Ben was always hovering nearby.
Derek entered with a mocking smile, “You’re not working? I can’t believe you aren’t curled up on the couch buried in one of your cases. It is Friday night, isn’t it?”
“I know, shocking,” Brianna said. She didn’t want to tell him that she was a nervous wreck because her father insisted she visit him this weekend. Derek already thought she was enough of a freak, what with her crazy work schedule and her three male “roommates,” she didn’t need to add fuel to the fire. Ben passed through the family room adjacent to the kitchen and headed down the hall to his bedroom.
“Did you ever date Ben?” Derek asked, nodding his head toward Ben’s room.
Brianna didn’t want to have this conversation. She couldn’t possibly explain that Ben was really her personal bodyguard. That wasn’t normal. Changing the subject, she said, “What are you doing here? Don’t you have a baseball game or a date with one of your blonde groupies?” Since he was a professional baseball player for the Padres, girls were always throwing themselves at him. It was pathetic.
“We leave tomorrow for a road trip. Four game series at Philly.” Derek gently ran his hand through her brown, silky hair. “Want to open a bottle of wine?” His green eyes pierced hers.
“Sure.” Brianna got a bottle from the wine rack and set it on the kitchen counter. When she reached up to grab two glasses from the cabinet, Derek’s arms wrapped around her waist.
“Do you mind?” she teased. Personally, she liked the feel of his strong hands on her hips, but if Ben saw, she’d be in trouble.
“Not at all.”
She could hear the amusement in his voice. Turning around, they were face to face. Derek gently took the glasses from her, setting them down. Then his hands slid around her again.
“What are you doing?” Brianna whispered. He was so close his warm breath caressed her cheek. There was a shuffling noise coming from the family room. She glanced behind Derek and saw Ben pick up a magazine from the coffee table before retreating back to his room.
“Poor Ben,” Derek sighed. “It’s obvious he wants you, and he can’t stand the fact that I’m the one you’re interested in.”
“Who says I’m interested in you?”
“I do,” Derek flashed a devious smile. “Just like I know Ben’s jealous of me. I get that a lot. You know, baseball isn’t my only talent.”
“You are so full of yourself.” Brianna pushed Derek away and reached for the bottle of wine. Before she could touch it, Derek leaned in and brushed his lips across hers.
“What was that for?” she asked. They’d been neighbors for months, and while they often flirted, that’s all it was—harmless flirting.
“Don’t get overly excited—it was just a friendly kiss. I probably won’t see you for a week. Actually, if it’s going to be that long, I should give you a proper one.” Derek lowered his head and his lips engulfed hers. With one swift motion, Derek lifted her onto the counter, not breaking the kiss.
Brianna was shocked. Even though she was twenty-two years old, it had been awhile since she’d had a boyfriend. When was the last time she kissed someone? The last time someone touched her? Her legs wrapped around Derek’s body, pulling him closer. His hands slid down her sides, stopping at the top of her jeans. Then he slowly glided his hands under her shirt.
The phone rang.
“Let it go,” Derek whispered in her ear. His lips moved to her neck while his tongue danced across her skin.
When the machine answered, Brianna heard the cold and distant voice of her father, “Brianna . . . pick up the phone. I know you’re there.”
It was like a bucket of ice water was dumped on her head. “Shit.” Brianna shoved Derek away, jumped off the counter, and grabbed the phone. “Hi, Dad. I was in the bathroom. Sorry I couldn’t get to the phone sooner.” There was no answer, “Dad?” Complete silence. She hung up.
“Now where were we,” Derek chuckled, reaching for her arm.
“This isn’t a good idea.”
“It’s complicated. All I can offer you right now is my friendship. Nothing more—I’m sorry.” She stepped away from him, out of his reach.
Derek sighed and smiled at her. “So am I.” He turned to go.
“Please stay.” Brianna didn’t feel like being alone right now. “We can just hang out and watch a movie.”
“Not quite the night I was anticipating, but it’ll do.”
They settled down on the couch in the family room. Brianna tried to focus on the movie, but she wasn’t able to. Since their passionate kiss, feelings had emerged that she was unaware of. Feelings she’d been forced to ignore.
With her head on Derek’s shoulder and his arm wrapped around her body, Brianna drifted peacefully to sleep. She dreamt of another life, a life where she could love whomever she chose. A life where her father didn’t control every single aspect of it.
The sound of thunder boomed through the condo. Brianna awoke and found five ski-masked men armed with guns rushing inside.
“What the . . .” Derek began to say as he jumped up from the couch.
Brianna grabbed his hand, pulling him back down. “It’s okay. Don’t say a word—I’ll take care of everything.”
“They have guns!” He yanked Brianna off the couch and headed toward the back door.
“Alto!” The men yelled. One of the masked men jumped over the couch, blocking Brianna and Derek’s path. He pointed a gun directly at Brianna’s head.
“I said to stop!”
Brianna and Derek froze. The man motioned for them to back up. “Sit. On the couch. Apurate! Hurry!”
Still holding Derek’s hand, Brianna complied, assuming these men worked for her father and they came to either escort her home, or take her to another location. Two of the men moved toward the couch while the remaining three checked and secured the area. Brianna quickly scanned the room for her bodyguards and realized they were missing.
The men surrounded the couch and pointed their guns at Brianna and Derek. One of the men yelled something in Spanish, and Brianna’s three bodyguards entered the room with their hands on their heads, each being escorted by an armed, masked man in black. She was reminded that this was why she had bodyguards: to protect her from men like this—men who were willing to kill her or use her as leverage to get to her father.
With everything happening at lightning speed, Brianna tried to make sense of the situation. If this was a rival cartel, her death was imminent. Best case scenario, she was shot. Worst case, she didn’t even want to think of the torturous things that could be inflicted upon her.
“I can pay you,” Derek pleaded to the armed men. “Whatever you want, just name your price.”
One of the assailants came up behind Derek and put a cloth over his mouth, while another man tied Derek’s hands. Derek struggled and kicked his legs furiously until another man smashed the butt of his gun against Derek’s knees.
Brianna was too frightened to move. Her heart pounded and her body shook uncontrollably. What should she do? She’d always had bodyguards to protect her.
No one said a word. Brianna found it strange that the men managed to capture all three of her bodyguards alive and without a sound. Her bodyguards were trained by a former Navy SEAL and would die to protect her. The masked men forced the three bodyguards onto their knees in front of Brianna. She saw the fear in each of their eyes.
One of the men put a silencer on his gun. He pointed it at the first bodyguard’s chest and said, “For your disloyalty.” He pulled the trigger and the body fell over, blood pooling on the ground. Before Brianna could comprehend what just happened, her second bodyguard was shot. Then the man turned to her last bodyguard. “Ben, for your loyalty to Salazar, you are spared.”
Another man turned his gun to Derek. Derek’s eyes widened. He screamed through the cloth and thrashed his body. Brianna wanted to say, “I’m so sorry.” But the words wouldn’t come.
She turned to the men and found her voice, “Please, no . . . he has nothing to do with this!”
“He has everything to do with this. Brianna, this is for your betrayal.” The man pulled the trigger, shooting Derek in the chest. Derek’s body jerked violently and his eyes, still focused on her, made him seem aware for a moment—as if he was asking her why this was happening to him. Then Derek’s head rolled forward, and he fell face first on the floor with a sickening thud.
For a moment, Brianna couldn’t see anything. This was the first time she’d witnessed a murder, a death. She felt detached from her body, like a fly on the wall watching a horror movie unfold. It wasn’t until she sensed warm blood on her body that she came to, her head spinning, hands shaking, and feeling nauseous.
Derek couldn’t be dead—there was no way that these men killed him along with two of her bodyguards. There had to be some mistake. She closed her eyes and began to pray silently, “Dear God, please forgive me. I have disobeyed my father. Please forgive me.”
Brianna wished her lunatic father would just kill her instead of playing these games. But that’s why he didn’t; he enjoyed tormenting her and watching her in agony. Death would be too easy.
Add The Power to See to your Goodreads TBR list!!