From the author of Ricochet and Backfire comes a dark erotic suspense serial …

Episode Three: In the underbelly, trust is everything, and Dylan will soon discover that Ripley trusts no one. With the return of an old threat, loyalty is on the line, and betrayal could mean the end of everything for both of them.

Series Synopsis:


They call me RIP.
I’m a killer. A murderer. A psychopath.
In the eyes of the righteous, I’m a monster, born of sin and depravity.
I want to protect her, but I’m not a good man.
I want to love her, but I no longer feel.
She gets under my skin, though, and has awakened something inside of me.
Something I’d kill for.
I’m not her savior—not even close. In fact, I’m worse than the hell she’s already suffered.
I’m her vengeance. Tit for tat, as they say.
And if she’s not careful, I’ll be her ruin.


For months, I’ve watched him.
I’ve fantasized him as my savior, my lover. My ticket out of the hell I’ve lived in for the last six years.
I never dreamed he’d be my nightmare.
Had I known what he really is, I’d have never gotten in the car that night, but life is full of cause and effect.
And sometimes the choice on offer isn’t a choice at all.
It’s the result of something already in motion, and we’re merely left to survive the ripple effect.

*This is an erotic suspense/erotic romance not recommended for readers under the age of 18 due to graphic violence and sex

I sit on the edge of the bathtub, breathing through my nose to keep from throwing up whatever’s left in my stomach.  An incessant tremble runs beneath my skin, stirring up nausea in my gut.  
“It just … came out of nowhere.  I felt sick.”  The glass of water passed to me diverts my attention, and I glance up at Ripley’s massive form looming over me, arms crossed.  “That smell.  Something about the smell on your hands.”
“Were you cleaning something?”  I take a small sip of the water, nervous that I might not be able to keep it from coming back up.
“Blood,” is all he says, as if I’m not supposed to ask.
To hell with that.  I’d rather talk about what he did than focus on my embarrassment, because I have no explanation for why I freaked out.
“Your blood?”
“I could really use the distraction right now.”  Dropping my shoulders, I sigh.  “Humor me?”
His jaw shifts, and maybe I wasn’t supposed to ask him about his work.  Maybe it’s all classified or the hitman equivalent. Whatever.  I know Ripley’s not a good man.  That he does bad things. But I’ve come to the understanding that no one in the underbelly is good.  So I really don’t give a shit if I’m not supposed to ask.
“I killed a man.”  His eyes are trained on me—one blue and one hazel, neither of them so much as flinching with his confession.
The line of tension that stiffens his shoulders sags, and he smiles down at me.  “Is that where we’re at now, Bandit?  You’re so comfortable around me to ask the details of my kills?”
“You don’t have to give me details.”  I don’t even realize I’m fidgeting until I look down to see the red streak where I’ve scratched my knuckles.
“Shot him.  Square in the skull.”
I keep my gaze glued to my hands, imagining the scenario.  Ripley’s big menacing body standing over the man who begs for his life.  Horrible.  Yet somehow it takes me away from whatever nightmare I suffered moments ago.  “Did you burn him with acid?”
“No.  He was a merciful kill.”
“Merciful?  Are any of them worth mercy?”  The sneer in my voice takes me by surprise and tipping my head back, I just catch the shake of his head.  “If you were going to kill me, how would you do it?”
Ignoring my question, he jerks his head toward the glass of water in my hand.  “Are you feeling better?”
My cheeks warm with embarrassment, and I’m glad he doesn’t answer.  It was a stupid question.  “Yeah.  It went away.”
“What exactly was it?”
The nervous vibration still skitters along my bones, but I shrug.  “I wish I knew.  Ripley?  Are you going to throw me out?”
“Why are you asking that?”
“Because you’ve … not asked me for anything.  Is the deal off?”  I lodge my fingers though my hair, gripping tight to my skull.  Teetering on the line of sobriety has fucked with my head and I’ve become deathly afraid of what I’d do for those pills outside of these walls. “I know I screwed up with the drugs.  And I wasn’t … I didn’t want to steal from you.  But I can’t go back on the streets.  I can’t.  I already know I’ll die out there.  I don’t know what was up with the bleach, but it has nothing to do with drugs.  I promise.”
A good ten seconds of silence follows before he says, “Deal’s not over yet.”

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Keri Lake is a married mother of two living in Michigan. By day, she tries to make use of the degrees she’s earned in science. By night, she writes dark contemporary, paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Though novels tend to be her focus, she also writes short stories and flash fiction on the many occasions distraction sucks her into the Land of Shiny Things.

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Preface: This review covers all four episodes in this series. I’m trying to be as vague as possible and to keep it spoiler-free so that those who haven’t read all episodes yet can enjoy the full experience. 

Sometimes I like to venture into the darker corners of my mind with the help of a super talented author. When I hear Keri Lake has a new book coming out I’ll hand over the reins and let her take me out of my comfort zone. I trust her to make me squirm uncomfortably…and still have a good time.

Dylan is only a few weeks away from her 18th birthday and it can’t come quick enough. At the hand of her uncle she suffers unmentionable abuse which she only bears in a drugged up stupor and barely remembers what happened afterwards. Her mother died of a drug overdose, or that’s what authorities want her to believe, and her father committed suicide. Dylan’s only tether to a semblance of normalcy and the one being she cares most about is her dog Charlie. After another horrific experience with her uncle she has had enough and flees the filthy apartment. Having no money to get by is a problem so what’s a girl to do?

Ripley is a hitman for one of the mob families competing for power in Chicago. When he follows one of his targets he observes a girl getting into the car of the man he is supposed to kill. He saves her from being raped and killed…and is bemused. Rip doesn’t *save* people. He tortures them, makes them beg for a merciful death without remorse. This girl, though, is an enigma to him. She is innocent and yet she isn’t, she is naive and still streetwise. Ripley doesn’t need witnesses yet he sends her off on her way…but…he can’t stop thinking about her. So what’s a guy to do?

If you think loving a man like Rip is impossible let me tell you – it isn’t. In some twisted logic Keri Lake makes you believe that this cold blooded, obviously psychopathic killer is deep down a good man. He is ruthless, twisted, charismatic and single minded in his focus on his target. Dylan brings out the tender feelings inside of him he didn’t think he had. Is he gentle with her? Far from it. Their love is raw, violent and volatile.

And as much as I fear that my demons will ultimately tear her apart, the disturbing reality is, they’d probably get drunk with hers and have a fucking orgy together.

Dylan is a contradiction of naiveté and experience, innocence and jadedness, toughness and vulnerability. She fascinates the cruel Ripley and soon he finds himself entangled in a relationship with an expiry date. The more time he spends with her the more he obsesses about her and the more possessive he gets. And can I say he is HOT? Because, damn, he is!

“This is what fascinates me about you. Doesn’t matter that you’re tied to a bed in a basement, facing all variety of gruesome outcomes, you never lose that spitfire attitude.”

Dylan is probably my favorite heroine by Keri Lake as of yet. She is strong with enough softness, sweetness and vulnerability to make her relatable. She has a youth about her that belies the darkness inside her. I don’t think I would have survived the atrocities she experienced in her young life. Together Dylan and Rip are explosive but if you look closely there is a gentle side to their relationship that comes unexpected. I adored how they took care of each other, how these two broken souls fell in love and made sense despite their darkness.

Merciless and merciful. Wild and broken. He’s a raging fire, with the inclination to destroy whatever gets in his path, and I’m nothing but a small scrap of kindling. Yet the way he stares at me with such reverence, makes me feel like I’m the one holding the match. 

Keri Lake’s gritty writing is flawless as usual. She tackles a very real and uncomfortable subject and passes with flying colors. The mood is intense. Sinister, brutal and raw and not for the faint of heart, yet in the end you’ll find yourself deeply in love with a brutal killer and the love of his life.
If you haven’t read a book by this author yet and love grungy and gritty tales I urge you to pick up one of her stories. You won’t regret it.

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