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Darkest Perception: A Dark and Mind-Blowing Steamy Romance
Author:Shari J. Ryan

Darkest Perception: A Dark and Mind-Blowing Steamy Romance

Shari J. Ryan




To Josh.

For giving me the fuel and ideas to jump down the rabbit hole with this story.





Acknowledgments





Linda - Thank you for keeping up with my crazy mind and taking 90-degree turns with me everything I get a new idea. I love working with you, and I treasure our friendship.

Julie - I literally don’t think I could survive without you anymore. You pick up all my little breadcrumbs and remind me to breathe on a daily basis. I don’t know what I would do without you or our friendship.

Samantha - Thank you for your blunt pointed finger and for jumping in to help me with this book. I feel like we need a fisheye pic for the after party I’m having in my head haha.

Lisa - Thank you for giving me another pair of eyes and the time and attention to my words, as always <3.

My betas - You knocked this one out of the park with me this time, and I’m so grateful for each one of you. Thank you for pushing me to finish this book after two years, and thank you for keeping me laughing and entertaining me daily. I love all of you!

ARC Readers - Your support means everything to me and seeing the same names for each of my books makes my heart feel so full. Thank you for sticking with me!

Readers - you are the fuel that keeps this fire growing. Thank you for finding me, following me down the strange roads I often take, and especially for sharing my books with others. I love you all!

Friends - You know who you. We may be close in distance or on opposite sides of the world, but knowing you have my back through thick and thin carries me through the hard days, and has me twirling through the good days. I love you!


My family - You make me feel like I could conquer the world and you have always given me the motivation to go further than I ever thought possible. I love you all! Mom, Dad, Mark, Ev, Lori, my sister—best friend, my first memory, the other half of my imagination, my reason for laughing out tears or snorting water out of my nose, life gets busy, but I feel like you’re always sitting next to me with your undying support.

Boys—Bryce and Brayden, you’re a little bit devious and I don’t think you need any more crazy ideas, so please put this book back down. Thank you. I love you xoxoxo!

Josh—the love of my life, my other half, and the one who puts up with my crazy brain—this is your fault. Love you !!! Xoxox





Praise for Shari J. Ryan





"5+ STARS FOR DARKEST PERCEPTION!! AMAZING is all I can say!!! OMG, this author can write any genre and turn it into a 5 star read. I absolutely loved this story, it kept me on the edge of my seat and turning pages. Harley and Axel's story was full of deceit, secrets, pasts and so many feels. If you love romantic suspense you will want to 1-click this book, it is so good. I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book.”

Rhonda, Top Goodreads Reviewer





"Ryan has always wowed me as a reader. She has proven over and over again she can write the funny, witty rom com, the sweet tearjerker romance, the thought provoking heartfelt tale and now she’s delivered a mind blowing, twisted suspense with The Darkest Perception.”

Emily, Southern Vixen’s Book Blog





"WOW! I couldn’t put this book down. I was on the edge of my seat through the twists and turns. Lies, deceit, love and suspense are a few things going on in this story. I love the characters. This story keeps you guessing. I received an advanced reader copy for an honest review.”

Jenny, Magic Beyond The Covers Book Blog





Prologue





After eight years of studying for my psychology degree, I was offered the opportunity to help suffering patients and work alongside the man I had idled throughout my education. It was a proposition I didn’t need long to consider. I was destined to help the mentally ill—it was my way of fostering my parents’ life accomplishments, and I would do what it took to make a difference in the lives of those who needed help.

When I was asked to sign a paper, endorsing my commitment, I hardly let the ink dry before handing over my agreement.

I signed my life away.

That was less than a year ago and now my dreams look as if they’ve been shattered. I’m standing in the doorway of the lab I have spent countless hours at, researching, developing, and implementing. The tables are broken, the glass from the windows are in millions of shards, scattered across the ground. Our laptops are gone. The whiteboards have been torn from the walls. Each filing cabinet has been broken into and emptied. Everything is gone.

"Mason, what happened?" I ask, walking up behind him. The shock on his face mirrors what I feel, but he looks terrified at the same time.

"I don’t know who would have done this," he says. "Listen to me." Mason grabs my shoulders firmly and stares me square in the eyes. "Run. Get the hell out of here as quickly as you can. Whatever you still have on you from our research, hold onto it—never let it out of your sight."

I stare blankly at Mason, waiting for the punchline to this sick joke, but the sight of our lab being trashed is more indication than I need to know how serious this situation is. "What happened?" I ask, spinning around slowly, assessing every piece of damage I didn’t initially notice.

"I made a mistake," he said. "I need to go now!"

"What? No! What about me?" I plead with fear, needing an answer to what’s going on.

"You don’t want to rot in prison with me. I have to take the fall, so just forget whatever you learned from me. Forget me altogether, as a matter of fact. Just get of here while you can."

"How can I just forget you?" I ask, feeling a pain in my chest. I’ve looked up to this man since I started at Boston University. He understood the direction I wanted to take my life and has mentored me throughout my years here and now he’s telling me to forget everything, including him. "You’re not making any sense, Mason. This is ridiculous. I’m sure this is just a break-in and a misunderstanding."

"I wish it were that simple," he says. "Please, just listen to me. Go find something else to do with your life and take care of yourself. As long as you stay out of trouble, you’ll be fine. I promise."

"This isn’t over," I tell him as he shakes his head at me, disagreeing.

"Good-bye." He runs out of the lab as if it were on fire and maybe I should be doing the same, but I feel frozen with shock. What am I missing here?





1





Harley





A Year later





With my key in hand, I slip the metal into the lock and twist, but there's no give. Shit. No. Please, no, no, no, no. Not today.

"Hey." A man interrupts my failed attempt at unlocking my door. Familiar with his voice, I turn around with a defeated sigh. He's gawking at me like everyone else has been lately. Maybe it’s the weight loss, or the lackadaisical look pouring from my eyes "Harley, this is it. I feel bad for you, kid, I do, but I have applicants on a waiting list to get into this building, and you're not paying the rent. I wanted to do your old man a favor and help you out as long as possible, but … I'm sorry." The ever-so-convincing man he spoke to a year ago wasn’t my dad, but he can think that if he wants to.

"No," I grunt, inhaling sharply through my nose to avoid the tears that would burn over my raw, ruddy skin. "You don’t understand. I have nowhere to go. I’ll be on the street, Marcus. Just give me a little longer. I’ll find something soon."

"I'm sure you got a friend or sumthin’, Harley. Come on, don't make this harder than it has to be, okay?" I can see a touch of empathy within his sagging eyes, but the furrowed skin of his forehead tells me my luck has run out.

I can’t just give up though. "You don't understand," I beg. "I'm trying my hardest to find a job, but no one will cut me a break."