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Chelle Bliss Books

Broken Arrow Paperback

Broken Arrow Paperback

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Open Road Series Book 4

Annie Hancock is finally following her dreams, studying for her graduate degree to become a professional artist. But when someone starts to leave threatening notes around her studio and dorm, Annie can’t help but wonder…who’s after her and why? She doesn’t know who to trust or keep herself safe.

Arrow has been grinding for years as a bounty hunter and private investigator. After setting down roots and opening his own office, his business doesn’t take off the way he’d hoped. Just when he’s about to change course, a beautiful woman is in desperate need of his services.

But what starts out as a simple assignment becomes more complicated when they’re forced into hiding. And as the threat gets closer, and the attraction becomes hotter, they’ll need to decide if what they have is real or driven by danger.

Signed copy of Broken Arrow by Chelle Bliss.

All books are not personalized unless requested otherwise in the notes section during checkout.

SERIES READING ORDER

1. Broken Sparrow

2. Broken Dove

3. Broken Wings

4. Broken Arrow

START READING

Annie

“Annie, may I have a word?”


The hairs on the back of my neck rise at the sound of her voice, but even worse are her five-inch heels spiking their way across the linoleum floor.


I turn quickly, my long ponytail whipping against my bare shoulders, and put on a bright, fake smile. “Hey there, June. Hi. Of course.”


June stomps through the studio lobby with her aviators pulled down as if all the glass in the lobby is letting in far too much sun. And to be fair, it kind of is.


I loop the backpack that’s been hanging off one shoulder over both my arms and secure it on my back, mostly so I have something to do with my hands. I grip the straps and rock back and forth on my heels. “Is there something you need?” I ask, anxious to get up to my studio.


June extends a hand toward me. “As a matter of fact, I have something I think you might need.”


I squint at what she’s holding and immediately recognize the colorful
lanyard. It’s mine. At the sight of it, I swing the backpack off my back and check the zipper. Neither the lanyard nor the carabiner clip I use to fasten my keys and ID to my bag are there.


Instead of feeling grateful that she found it, I feel my tummy drop at the reality that they were missing and I didn’t even know it.


Without it, I might have been locked outside of someplace I wanted to get in. And the way things have been the last few weeks, the idea that I might be outside needing to get in someplace and not be able to… I feel almost dizzy at the thought.


I swallow hard and try not to let her know that this is in any way a big deal. “Oh wow. Thanks. I would have missed these when I got upstairs and couldn’t get into my studio.” I take the lanyard and keys from her. “Where, uh, where did you find them?”


June pushes up her sunglasses, using them to hold her severe black bob away from her face. She purses her perfect red lips and waves a hand at me dismissively. “A custodian found them and saw you were a grad student. He brought them to me, and now I’m giving them back to you.” She turns to walk away but singsongs as she leaves, “You’re welcome.”


“Thank you,” I mumble again under my breath, not sure if I should be grateful for her help or worried about where my ID was all the time I didn’t notice it was missing.


I’d skipped breakfast in the cafeteria, but I’d grabbed a coffee and swiped my card then.


After getting coffee, I’d drunk it by the fountain and talked to my dad. Then I’d run off campus to a local thrift shop. I’d left my backpack in the car and just brought in my wallet and phone. At worst, my ID and keys had been floating around campus for half the morning. Where anyone could have found them and done anything to them.


Sh*t.


Just as my mood starts to go from worried to pissed, I remind myself to focus on the positive.


A custodian found them and turned them in to the one person who would know where to find me and return them. I should be grateful June took the time to bring everything to me.


As soon as I’m in my studio, I’ll log in to my student account and make sure nobody went on a shopping spree. If the custodian found them right away, I’m sure everything is fine.


Everything has to be fine.


Unless it isn’t.


In which case, my already shit month is about to get a lot more complicated.


Today should’ve been a normal day for me, too.


I’ve got the opportunity of a damned lifetime.


I’m in the grad program of my dreams. I’m being trained for a career that most people could only dream of. A career that until about eight weeks ago, even I could only dream of.


I take a nice deep breath and thank my lucky stars that my dad finally had a change of heart. Two months ago, I was half asleep, answering phones at the law offices of Hancock & Engler. My dad is Ellis Hancock.


I was only nine when Dad decided to pick himself up and get over the loss of my mom.


Hell. We’ll never get over losing her. He knows that. I know it.


But we’d been a team, Dad and I, for almost three years, until one day Dad told me that he was going to do something new with his life. Something he never believed he could do, but he’d decided life was far too short to keep dreams tucked away in his back pocket.


We both knew life was far too short. That became crystal clear the day we’d found out Mom wasn’t just sick, she was dying.


Dad seemed to give up on life when he lost Mom, but one day, we toured a school that catered to nontraditional students. They had a childcare center on-site, so Dad didn’t have to leave me alone.


The day Dad went back to school was the day that changed both of our lives forever.


I’ll never forget the day that Amanda Grace, one of the childcare workers,
brought in a white trash bag filled with old clothes, buttons, skeins of yarn, and needles and thread.


“What’s all this?” I’d asked.


It wasn’t always Amanda Grace who watched us, but she is the one I
remember best. She was wild and colorful, always wearing homemade
clothes and the brightest colors on her fingers and toes.


She was my first real role model other than my dad. And she was the one who made me believe art wasn’t just something to stick on the walls. Art was living, breathing, wearable, usable, recyclable, and real.


I was reborn as an aspiring artist. But like most childish dreams, my passion didn’t last for long. By the time I was sixteen, I needed a job, and my art wasn’t making any money. Dad needed a receptionist, and the rest, as they say, was history.


I went to college but only studied art as a minor. I hadn’t fully bought in to my ability to create art and support myself. My degree’s in English just in case I ever decide to go to law school like my dad.


I’d thought my life was set in stone. I answered phones for two years after graduating from college. But that all changed this summer. And now, I’m unemployed and pursuing a master’s degree at one of the most prestigious private art colleges in the state of Florida.


I should be savoring every second. Soaking up the opportunity. Dreaming of the day when I can sell my work, display in galleries, teach private workshops… But since school started a month ago, nothing, and I mean nothing, has gone the way I expected.


First, things with Dad have been odd, to say the least.


Then there’re the notes.


Thinking about them makes the hair on my arms stand on end. I take off down the hall, wanting to get upstairs to my studio, lock the door, and get some work done. And hopefully put some of the weird shit that’s been happening lately out of my mind.


But the atmosphere in the Arts Building isn’t helping me find my happy place. The slap of my flip-flops against the tile seems to echo too loudly. Like my own shoes are alerting everyone that I’m here.


I’m fine, I think. I’m not alone. I’m safe. Nothing can happen with all these people around. Even with everybody in the classrooms, I’m fine.


I head toward the elevator, but then notice a guy I don’t know, hustling like he’s hopelessly late for class, blast through the front door. He rushes past me, passing by so close I feel the heat of his body. My heartbeat picks up, and I squeeze my hands into fists. He skids on a well-worn pair of skater shoes up to a closed classroom and starts quietly apologizing to the room for being late.


“See?” I mutter under my breath. “Everything is fine. Just calm down.”


But my worry senses won’t settle down. Every time I’ve received one of those weirdo letters, it’s happened in this building. Whoever has been leaving the letters for me not only has access to this building when it’s open, but they probably know when I’m here.


I can’t help the clawing feeling that crawls up the back of my neck as I press the elevator call button.


I’m alone.


But I’m fine.


No one is out to get me.


The notes are stupid.


They’re probably pranks.


I won’t get another one.


Everything is fine.


I have to believe that.


Weird shit like this happens to people all the time, right? In a few months, this will be a distant memory.


In the meantime, I need to go deep into what I’m here to do.


The ding of the elevator arriving breaks me from my thoughts. I step in and press the button for the second floor, but just as the doors start to close, a hand slips between them.


“Sorry.” An older guy walks into the elevator, giving me a tight smile. “Thanks for waiting.”


I have no idea who he is or where he came from.


Chill the f*ck out, Annie. Nothing is going to happen between the first and second floors. I’ll be getting off in a second.


I try to reassure myself, but then the stranger presses the already illuminated button for two, and it hits me.


My floor. He’s going to my floor.


There is no way in hell I’m riding up with him. I slip past him and get the
heck out of the elevator before the doors have a chance to close again.
“Crap. Forgot something. Sorry,” I call out, glancing over my shoulder
to get another look at the guy.


The man gives me a dark look as the doors close.


I take a ragged breath and hope he’s gone when I finally do make it up there.


Alone again, I let my shoulders sag, convinced I’m losing my grip. I can’t
live like this. Afraid of who’s watching me. And, even worse, wondering why. How the hell am I going to get through this semester?


“Annie Hannie. Wait up, babe.”


This time, the voice that calls to me makes me feel instantly at ease, and I chuckle. Only Neveah, the graduate resident adviser, would make up such a silly rhyme for my name.


Getting to know people like Neveah is one of the things I love most about being here. She dresses the part, and talking with her makes me feel like the world is beautiful, colorful, and safe, which is exactly how she sees it.


That’s how I saw it too—at least until recently.


She marches up to me wearing secondhand men’s boots and a flowy patchwork dress that looks like it was cobbled together with scraps from someone’s grandmother’s sewing bin. She’s got her long, dark curls knotted in a bun. Her bracelets clang against one another as she holds out her arms to me.


“You off to your studio? Take the stairs with me. I ate a boatload of cafeteria French toast and could use the exercise. I’m going to be fighting those carbs for days. Let’s burn some bread off these thighs.

”
He may be up there.


“You okay, cupcake? You look like you just stepped in a turd wearing flip-flops.”


I giggle at the comparison, shaking off my paranoia. “No, nothing that
bad,” I tell Neveah, trying to put a smile on my face. “I’m just anxious
to get some work done.”


“Same, girl. Same,” she says. “If I take any more time to finish that commission…” She whistles between her teeth, the sound echoing sharply through the quiet hall. “Gloomy June is never going to recommend me for paying work again.”


I have to chuckle. Our thesis adviser is as gloomy as her hair is dark, but Nevaeh has a decent relationship with the woman. Unlike me. I see every glare and snide remark from June as a personal attack against me. I always get the feeling that she thinks I don’t deserve to be here.


And if the notes are to be believed, she’s not the only one.


Together, Neveah and I head to the stairwell and take the two flights up to the second floor.


Neveah is fanning her face with a hand by the time we reach the door. “Who needs a gym on this small-ass campus when we get all the cardio we need just taking the stairs.”


I grin, not quite as out of breath as she is, but I’m wearing shorts, a tank, and flip-flops, compared to her combat boots, maxi dress, and shawl.


Nevaeh’s studio is the closest to the stairwell, so she fumbles in her crocheted purse for the key and lets herself in. “Call me if you need a lunch buddy,” she says. “But no more carbs today. Salad buffet or smoothies,” she says, disappearing behind the metal door.


I’m already calmer after just a few minutes with Neveah, so I step right over the piece of paper that’s been shoved under my door. It’s not until I set down my backpack and turn to lock the door behind me that I see it. I immediately recognize the handwriting hastily scrawled on a piece of notebook paper folded in half.


Annie.


My heart nearly stops in my chest when I see it. With trembling fingers and knees shaking so hard I can hardly stand, I bend and pick up the note. I hold it in my fingers like I might get hurt just touching it.


I consider throwing it away. Crumpling it in a tight ball and pitching it in the trash. Anything but reading it and the f*cked-up messages I don’t understand.


Lighting anything on fire in the studios is prohibited, or I’d find two sticks and rub them together to spark a blaze and burn the note before I have to look at what’s inside.


But if I don’t read it, I won’t know what the hell this person wants. I won’t know how much worse it is. Or maybe, how much better? How long can whoever this is keep up this stupid game?


The question hammers between my ears, and finally, I unfold the paper.


I have to read it.


I have to know.


No matter how much scarier this gets, I have to know.


I know it was you, Annie. I know what you did. The next message will have instructions. Be ready. You’re going to pay.

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