SERIES READING ORDER
You met Dr. Jaxon Ray in all his evil glory in Amnesia, now it’s time for Xander to testify.
When everything is based on a lie, can the truth set them free?
Xander Barrett had it all.
Until he fell victim to a dangerous game of cat and mouse and it cost him his life, his lover, and his freedom.
He thought it was over—that he was doomed to perish in the darkness. A forgotten pawn lost in a cloud of greed and deceit.
Then, an unsavoury proposal promised the escape that he needed. But in order to win, he had to sacrifice his morals and strip himself of all semblance of a conscience.
Luckily, it was a price he was willing to pay.
Because when everything is hidden by lies, one man’s testimony can bring the truth to light.
Attest is part two of the Centrifuge Duet. The first instalment, Amnesia must be read first to truly understand the story.
An erotic, psychological thriller filled with intrigue, deception, and revenge, Attest will leave you thoroughly disturbed and barely holding onto a fading hope that the good guys might win in the end.
Devour the thrilling conclusion to the Centrifuge Duet today.
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READ AN EXCERPT
I’d always thought everyone had a conscience. That even the worst type of people had one—they were just adept at ignoring it. However, the past couple of years have forced me to reassess this.
Why? Because I no longer have the nagging voice in my head or that hollow feeling in my gut that I used to get when I did something wrong. The two things that I associated with my conscience are gone. Poof. Like a puff of smoke, they up and left me sometime between the first time I was arrested two years ago and tonight, when I watched a man I didn’t know bleed out over his desk after I’d slit his throat. While I was inside prison, it was easy to ignore how much I was changing. It’s my newfound freedom that’s driven home exactly how much I’ve lost. My conscience. My morals. My innate goodness that doomed me to always be one of life’s losers.
Once upon a time, I believed that the good guys always one in the end. Nowadays, I don’t believe that enough people possess a conscience for that to be true. There’s too many people willing to throw their own granny under the bus for a dollar for me to hang onto the idealistic view of the human race that I cherished for the first thirty-two years of my life. In this current incarnation of the world I inhabit, a conscience is no longer the asset I need if I want to win.
It’s a liability.
Ever wanted to see the love of your life getting fucked six ways to Sunday by the asshole she chose over you?
Nah, me neither.
Unfortunately, I don’t get a say in the matter. Not when each afternoon at precisely three o’clock, I’m hauled out of my cell, dragged down a long, white hallway, and handcuffed to the table in one of the dank smelling private visitation rooms provided by the prison. The flat-screen TV mounted high in the corner of the room is turned on and I get a ringside view of my fiancée being reamed by her new husband.
I say “reamed” not because I’m being a prick. I say it because that’s exactly what it is. He drives his cock into her like he’s trying to brand her from the inside. Hard. Fast. And, furious. He’s always fucking furious. There’s a deep rage burning in the gaze that Dr. Jaxon Ray always manages to send straight down the barrel of the camera. If I was prone to flights of fancy—which I’m definitely not—I’d say that he does it deliberately in some sick determination to let me know that he knows how I feel watching them.
It’s a clear message anyway.
I won. You lost.
Keys rattle in the door of my cell. They herald the start of another free porn show. Bile rises in my throat, the sickening churning in my gut commencing like clockwork.
Here we go again. Another epic fucking day in the freak show that is currently my life.
“Barrett.” A cursory glance in the direction of the man who speaks tells me that the guard is not one I’ve met before.
I ignore him and remain lying on my back on the lumpy mattress, one arm behind my head in an attempt at a laisse fair posture while the other is hidden by my side with my fingers curled into a fist ready for whatever this change in guard’s may bring. The flaky grey ceiling above me has two distinct dark shadows on it. One is mine, unmoving and unwilling. The second is the guard. The latter black blob moves toward me, the handcuffs he holds jingling ominously with each step he takes.
“Move your ass, Barrett.”
“Fuck you.” My response earns me a boot to the gut. I hear the second guard enter my cell, his chuckle of enjoyment giving away his identity. It’s the prick who usually escorts me. The one who likes to wait with me and narrate the carnal display as it unfolds on the screen. My nostrils flare when pain blooms from the connection of the first guards foot with my stomach. I roll into a ball. My mouth is shut—my lips sealed through sheer willpower.
I’ll swallow my tongue before I give them a reaction.
“I’m not kidding.” The threat precedes a follow-up kick that has me rolling away until my knees hit the wall at the far side of the bed. “Your visitor doesn’t like to be kept waiting. I’d move my ass if I was you. This might be your only chance to get out of here.”
The pain in my stomach leaves immediately. I struggle to sit up, swinging my legs over the edge of the bed once I’m facing them. Apprehension pumps through my veins when I meet their smug gazes.
“Visitor?” The raspy quality to my voice is less than optimal. Clearing my throat, I try again, this time with some authority in my tone. “What visitor? I don’t have anyone approved.”
The closest guard—Mr. Chatty Porn Lover—answers first. “No shit, Sherlock. Who said anything about her being approved?”
His companion shrugs, then holds the cuffs out to me. “She might not be approved, but I think you’ll want to see her.”
My heart lurches in my chest, skipping a beat before it settles into a frenetic pace that has me sweating like a fat kid at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
A glance in the direction of the guards tells me that I won’t get any further answers out of them. I swallow my growing curiosity and the overwhelming desire to knock out the two pricks who separate me from the woman who owns every functioning cell of my body. I know acting on my urgency will only slow the damn process so I force myself to cooperate.
Standing, I hold out my arms with the wrists parallel. He snaps the handcuffs on and then follows the chain that connects them until he’s squatting at my feet. Sharp, efficient movements have the other set of larger steel cuffs secured around my ankles. Once I’m trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey, the guard yanks on the chain that joins my bound hands and feet in a silent command to follow him. I shuffle along, one guard in front of me and one behind, watching me like I’m the convicted murderer I’m purported to be.
When we pass the visitor’s room that I’m usually led into, I almost let my curiosity get the better of me and ask where the hell we’re going. Thankfully, answers are provided before I give them the opportunity to shoot down my question.
The door that leads into the room next to the one I normally occupy is opened by the guard who’s leading me. I stand as tall as I can, shoulders back and head held high, determined to resemble my old self as much as I can when I come face to face with Amber for the first time in almost two years.
It takes a ridiculous amount of resolve to stop the shaking that threatens to take hold of my body as I lift my head to greet my woman. Our eyes meet. I blink furiously, unable to believe what I’m seeing. Playing it cool is no longer an option. Not with the guard behind me blocking any opportunity for escape. Instead, I let my mouth fall open before I verbalise the question that’s beating a thunderous cacophony of confusion around my skull.
“Why the fuck are you here?”
“Such rudeness is unbecoming from a man in your position.” The woman seated at the table in the middle of the room sniffs, her annoyance with my lack of manners clear. “Considering I’m your new boss and your passport out of this establishment.”
She stands, smoothing down the front of her black skirt, before she gestures toward the table that separates us. I stay where I am. There is no way on God’s green earth that I’m staying in here with this woman. She’s on par with the fucking devil to me—and the smile on her perfectly made-up face tells me that she knows it.
“Seriously, Xander?” An immaculately manicured eyebrow is lifted as she poses her question. “Aren’t you even a little bit curious as to why I’m here?”
Without a word, I lift my right shoulder then let it drop back into place, a nonchalant half-shrug that reveals all my contempt for this woman. That’s as close to rude as I’m going to get in our current situation. I might not want a bar of her, but I’m not stupid. This woman is worse than a cockroach, especially since they both appear to be the only things that could’ve survived the nuclear bomb that Jaxon Ray set off in our lives. One wrong word and the deadly glint in her eye tells me that she’s happy to rip off my head and shit down my throat.
“If you take a seat, I’ll give you a hint.” With a toss of her long hair, she settles back into her recently-vacated seat. An exaggerated crossing of her long legs follows—a la Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct—and the guard behind me moans. She does nothing for me, except raise my blood pressure every time I imagine my hands around her bloody throat.
“I didn’t traipse all the way down here to have you ignore me.” Apparently, my lack of response is pissing off the evil bitch. Let’s chalk that up as a small victory. “I have a deal to make with you. It’s in your best interests to hear me out.”
“There isn’t a circumstance in this world that would see me make a deal with you.” Turning on my heel with as much grace as man whose wrists are cuffed to a chain connected to his ankles can—ie: none—I take a step toward the door and end up chest-to-chest with the guard behind me. My top lip curls when I eyeball him and snarl, “Get me the fuck out of here before I give into the temptation to do what I was convicted of doing.”
He baulks at my hostility, then looks over my shoulder, seemingly in search of instructions about how to respond to me. I watch his face for clues, bunching my restrained hands at my sides when it becomes clear that I’m going nowhere.
“Xander, I’m not a patient woman and I do not respond well to deliberate provocation. People get hurt when I become angry.” My heartbeat thuds in my ears, quickly picking up pace when she pauses, and the sound of fingernails being drummed against a metal table fills the room.
I run my eyes over the face of the guard in front of me and a sick feeling settles in the pit of my stomach when he regards me with a steadiness he shouldn’t possess. This wannabe, rent-a-cop is bought and paid for by the bitch who’s determined silence still commands the room. The cadence of her nails against the table gains speed as the walls of the prison close in on me.
My mouth runs dry. My throat refuses to work when I try to swallow. My heart flips in my chest and a heavy foreboding strips the quickness from my pulse as the realisation dawns.
Her statement is correct.
I’m trapped—by the law, the walls of this prison, and my own damn pride.
And, this psycho bitch is my only way out.
My feet are working before my mind makes a conscious decision to turn to face her. They take me past the second guard, stopping once I’m on the opposite side of the table to my tormentor. My ass hits the cold seat, my limbs feeling strangely languid, even as I brace myself for the deal she’s about to offer.
“See? That wasn’t so hard. All this time wasted with your posturing could have been better spent discussing the terms of your release.”
I feel her gaze moving over my face, but I can’t bring myself to look at her. My pride is dented and I can feel the waves of victory she’s emanating from across the damn table. She has me where she wants me because the prize she’s dangling is flawless. The price that I’ll pay if I accept it—well, I just know that it’s going to exorbitant.
And, very painful.
“Now, Mr. Barrett, my research has indicated that you are a man of immeasurable moral fibre. A real saint, if you don’t mind me saying.” A manila folder is slapped on the table and then slid in front of me. Seconds later, a cloud of overpowering perfume fills my nostrils. Cool fingers are placed under my chin and I raise my eyes to hers, letting the full force of my rage at her touch show in my expression.
A splinter of satisfaction fills me when her Ice Queen façade cracks in the face of my fury. It would seem that Ms. Blonde Bitch isn’t as omnipotent as she would like me to believe. The smallest smirk curls my lips and I jerk my head away from her hand. She retracts her limb with an air of offence.
“I wouldn’t call myself a saint, per se,” I reply in an even tone. “I might have a strong sense of integrity and a good handle on what’s fair, but my inability to turn the other cheek when I’m wronged has always come between me and sainthood.”
My barely-concealed threat doesn’t have the desired effect. Instead, a giant grin breaks across her perfectly painted face and she sits back down with a little bounce of delight.
“I was hoping that you would feel that way.” A blood-red fingernail is used to flip open the folder that sits between us. A photograph is pulled free and pushed in front of me. “Do you know who this is?”
A cursory glance is all that I need to answer, yet I can’t tear my eyes away once I’ve looked. From the piece of paper in front of me, Dr. Jaxon Ray smiles back at me with his trademark arrogance. The desire to rip his deceitful visage into shreds has me twisting my hands together in my lap. That motherfucker is responsible for everything that’s currently wrong with my life and this crazy bitch knows it.
“You know I do.”
She flicks her hair over her shoulder and smiles wide at me. Her gleeful expression is filled with too many teeth, mercenary motives, and an almost comic worthy level of malice. If she’s trying to win me over to her side, she might want to rein in the crazy train a little.
“What if I told you that I can have you released from here if you promise to dispatch all of the hurdles that stand between me starting a life with Jax?”
My first impulse is to jump in with both feet and agree to whatever it takes to get me out of here, except the curious way that she frames the question sets the hair on the back of my neck on end. The aforementioned crazy train looks like it’s ready to depart the station at full speed.
Disappointment drowns out the borderline insanity on her face. She sniffs and pulls herself all the way back to her side of the table. A haughty look of dismissal is sent in my direction before she takes hold of the folder and starts pulling various pages free. She slaps them down, one by one in front of me, with a short, sharp motion that telegraphs her growing annoyance.
Like I said, woman might wanna tone down the crazy if she wants me on her team.
“See these people?” She jabs a long, red nail jabs against the first page. It’s a picture of an older couple. A very well-to-do couple if the brooch the size of an ostrich egg on the woman’s blouse is any indication. “This is Judge Brian McManus and his wife. He’s the man behind you being sentenced to life in prison. He made sure that you were put away as per Henry Ray’s wishes. Both he and his wife have invested in the development of Centrifuge which also gave them a vested interest in keeping you behind bars. I guess your incarceration is what you would call a win-win for them all.”
She slides a second photograph closer. This couple I know well. I feel the blood drain from my face as I run my eyes over their expensive outfits and haughty expressions. The resemblance I see to Amber hits me in the chest like a fireball; a burning reminder of all that I have lost. “And, here we have your ex in-laws-to-be. Malcolm and Cynthia St. George. Oh, what a tangled web they weave. Content to sacrifice their only daughter for wealth and notoriety. Can you rest knowing that they are being allowed to get away with their treachery?”
With crisp precision, a third picture is presented to me. This one hits hard. A family portrait. The perfect nuclear family. Handsome father, beautiful mother, a toddler-aged son to carry on the family name, and a baby who is the spitting image of Amber.
The picture-perfect life.
A flawless illusion?
Doesn’t matter, it’s still a dagger through my heart.
I extend a trembling hand toward the image. Part of me wants to tear it to shreds in the hope that it will remove the abomination from my reality while a bigger part would like to meld into the portrait and take my rightful place beside Amber.
After the not-so fictional slaying of the man who usurped my position, of course.
“It disturbs me how beautiful I find this.” My tormentor’s voice breaks through my reverie and I snatch my hand back with a rattle of chain that heralds my shame. I’d forgotten that she remained in the room with me—infiltrating my mind with her poison. Attempting to lure me into joining her. “The fruits of his deception should anger me, yet I feel nothing but relief that he has found success in my absence.”
Her cryptic statement sends a chill up my spine that quickly spreads through me. The determined gleam that I find when I meet her eyes turns the cold into ice and I feel my organs freeze inside my body. I thought that losing Amber and being jailed for life for two murders that I didn’t commit were the worst things that could happen. Unfortunately, the woman who stands across the room from me with evil intent written all over her promises otherwise.
I’m being unwillingly recruited into a viper’s den of deception.
“Why are you showing me all this?” I jab the picture of Amber’s parents to emphasise my point, studiously avoiding looking at Amber and her children again. “What the fuck do you want from me?”
A leering grin is my only response. The woman is silent as she bundles the photos back into the file, then folds it shut and pushes it across the cold, metal surface until it hits my chest where I rest against the table. Gritting my teeth, I’m vaguely aware of her heels clacking against the concrete floor while I read the sheet of paper clipped to the front of the folder. The muscle in my jaw screams and I hear one of my teeth crack as what I’m reading sinks in.
NAME: Xander Barrett
CRIME: Two Counts of Murder in the First Degree
CURRENT SENTENCE: Life without parole
PROPOSED NEW SENTENCE: $3,000,000 restitution and parole with strict conditions
PROPOSED PAROLE CONDITIONS: Assassination of Judge Brian McManus and wife, Marigold, Malcolm and Cynthia St. George, Henry and Elizabeth Ray, and Amber, Jaxon Jnr., and Charlie Ray within thirty (30) days of release.
NOTES: This is not a negotiation, Xander. I say proposed when I truly mean “agreed”. Inside you will find outlined a list of methods of persuasion to be employed in the unlikely event that you do not willingly accept this plea deal.
I look forward to working with you,
The door to the visitor’s room slams shut at the same time as I slap my hands down on the table and explode to my feet. My movements are hampered by the chains that bind my limbs; however, I still manage to march to the door in just a few seconds. The guards cross their arms over their chests and refuse to step aside when I attempt to grab the door handle. I push between them anyway, raising my fist and belting the steel door with a fury that threatens to explode from my fingertips.
“Do you think this is funny?” I yell as loud as I can. “You’re already dead as far as everyone is concerned. It won’t strain my conscience a bit to make that a fucking reality.”
When I try to punch the door again, my arms are seized by the guards and I’m wrestled to the ground. They bash my face into the concrete and my nose explodes from the impact. The heaviest guard sits on me, ramming his knee into my kidney for good measure, while the second one opens the door. Then, I’m lifted to my feet and they begin dragging me back down the corridor.
The fight has left me. My head is spinning—not just from the collision with the floor, but in confusion. How daft is this bitch to think that she can propose that I can just up and murder nine people? And, in exchange for what? My freedom? My life? I’d rather fucking die than touch a hair on Amber’s head.
And, her kids? The crazy cunt is dreaming if she thinks I’m capable of murdering two little kids.
My breath is stolen when I’m thrown through the door of my cell and onto the floor. I roll into a ball, wincing when I brush my busted nose against my upper arm. A bunch of paperwork floats down over my prone form when one of the guard’s tosses the folder into my cell after me.
“Use your brains, Barrett.” The gruff voice of the porn-loving guard bounces around my aching skull. “People like you don’t get offered deals like this every damn day. What would you rather? Rot away in here or get paid to off some rich fuckers so you can go free? Seems like a no-brainer to me.”
Blood is dripping down the back of my throat from my bleeding nose. I spit a mouthful onto the floor before I push myself into a sitting position. The guard’s gaze burns a hot trail over me while I gather the contents of the folder together, but I ignore him.
What the hell is there left to say?
He makes it sound so simple.
Except it’s anything but.
I’m just a school teacher.
I can’t kill anyone.