Fighting to Be Free Read online





  For Lee

  Your support knows no bounds,

  and I absolutely do not deserve you.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  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

  PROLOGUE

  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.

  CHAPTER 1

  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