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K.J. Jackson

Dangerous Exile, An Exile Novel 3 (EBOOK)

Dangerous Exile, An Exile Novel 3 (EBOOK)

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A titan of the underworld with a forgotten past. A damaged lady that needs to disappear. Can a chance reunion unlock long hidden secrets in this steamy historical from USA Today Bestselling author K.J. Jackson?

On the run from the man that nearly killed her.
Bruised and battered, Nessia Docherty is in desperate need of a safe haven and she finds one in one of London’s most notorious gaming hells. Somewhere safe to heal, to recover, if only she can convince the owner of the club, Talen Blackstone, to let her stay—a man she is astounded to find she knows from her childhood.

He rules his area of the underworld with wits and fists.
Talen Blackstone earned his reputation the hard way, with grit and determination and bloodied fists. Feared in his area of the rookeries, he keeps his powerful empire in tight order and the unwelcome arrival of a beaten young chit in his office cannot be tolerated. But favors must be repaid, and taking in Ness satisfies one favor he’d like to erase from the books.

A lost past exposes long hidden secrets.
Ness is positive she remembers Talen from long ago, but he insists he isn’t the boy she remembers. Not that he actually remembers his past. But he cannot deny the heated sparks between the two of them, and when a vicious threat from Ness’s past appears, he’ll do anything—including facing the past—to gain the future he’d never imagined. A future with Ness.


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{ Chapter 1 }

London, October 1826

It sat white.

Across the street, a gleaming wall of marble in the midst of wretched, dirty chaos.

The whole of London havoc. So many people. So many horses, carriages, carts, wagons. So many sounds. So many smells.

So many jarring collisions smacking into her broken arm.

So much pain.

But there sat the Alabaster. Or so it had to be. What else would be on this street, named for the very white mountain of stone it was? Five stories. White marble from street to sky. Each window lined with gauzy white curtains that only peeked at shadowed darkness within.
White on the outside. Shadows on the inside. What had she been expecting?

Her right fingers unclutched from holding her left arm in the only position that didn’t aggravate the pain, and Ness reached out to touch the shoulder of a passing girl, maybe twelve, dirty and disheveled but easy enough to stop.

“Please—is that the Alabaster?” Her voice a whisper, she couldn’t speak any louder. The last of solid air had left her lungs a day ago, leaving only tattered wisps of breath.

The girl’s wide orbs of eyes looked to Ness’s face, then at her left arm hanging unnaturally at her side. The girl’s eyes went wider, the whites of them swallowing the top half of her face. “It is, ma’am.”

The girl hopped quick steps away from Ness. Not that a broken arm was contagious. A broken spirit, maybe.

This was it, then.

Her gaze found the white wall with its neatly symmetrical windows. There. A door. One door, painted black.

But odd. No one walked in front of the building.

Decrepit piles of brick buildings stood on either side of the structure, where people were gathered all along the street. Hawking wares. Carrying baskets. Dumping pots into the street. But if they were walking, every single person would venture to the edge of the white building, then step out into the street to move in a wide arc around the front of the place, then would veer back onto the walkway to continue onward. Almost as though a curse sat at that black door, taunting anyone that dared to step too close.

Ness attempted to focus on the street—wagons, horses, and carriages crisscrossed in front of her, going in and out of focus. Ten more steps was all she needed. Make it across.

There. Open space in front of her.

She darted forward, her feet tripping, stumbling in the muck of the street. Sliding, leaning forward. Forward with enough momentum to hit the door.

Agony seized the left side of her body as her left arm got between her and the hard wood.

Her right hand grasped onto the golden handle, the only thing that held her upright. With the side of her head, she banged on the door.


She tried the handle, tried to open the latch. It was frozen in place, immobile. She slammed into the door with her right shoulder, only to suddenly realize the door lacked hinges. It would never open. The whole of it—the door, the handle—it was nothing. A façade. An entry to nowhere.

Her grip on the handle loosened and she slid down, crumbling onto the wide front stone step, everything draining away.

Hope. Energy. Willpower.

Her eyes slid closed, her body too parched to even offer up tears.

“You can’t be here, lass.”

Her eyelids cracked open to find a large form drifting above her, swallowing what little light the London clouds allowed. Her hand went up, reaching for the handle of the door. The door that didn’t open. With strength she thought long gone, she wedged her feet under her, pulling herself upward, her blurry gaze on the darkness that was a man above. “Blackstone. Talen Blackstone. I need to talk to him. Only him. Juliet sent me. Only him.”

The last of the words left her tongue and every speck of determination that had gotten her this far abandoned her, leaving her to fall, slip downward, consumed by blackness that swallowed her whole.

Blackness in itself, a gift.


Standing at the front of his desk, his knuckles resting on the worn wood, Talen Blackstone stared at lines in a ledger with a decided frown stretching his face.

Expanding his empire into Hoppler’s territory in the rookeries had been proving trickier than he’d imagined when the opportunity had been presented by Hoppler himself. An offer born of respect, as Hoppler was currently attempting to disentangle himself from the most sordid enterprises currently in his realm.

Talen had to make some hard choices about what ventures to keep, and what to set free into the world to fend for themselves. It was a risk. The businesses he cut loose could very well rise up under a new hungry cutthroat ready to set war upon him for territory.
He already knew what he wanted to set free. But the numbers didn’t agree with his assessment.

His hand ran across his eyes, clearing the jumble of blurry numbers from his sight. The whole of it exhausting. Change was coming and he didn’t care for change. Steady. Straightforward. That’s what he liked. That’s what he excelled at. Not grey areas. Not attempting to predict the future.

The door behind Talen opened without a knock and Talen shoved off from the desk, turning around. Only one person entered this room without knocking.

Declan moved into his office and at his side…shit.

Talen froze, his body and limbs suddenly cast in stone he couldn’t break free from. A familiar terror raced through his bones—a terror that he worked damn hard to never have to feel in his life.

“Tal.” Declan closed the door behind him.

Talen didn’t look to him, couldn’t shift his eyes off the pitiful being that Declan had just ushered into the room.
If a portal to hell had opened, snatched this woman from the earth, sank her into the depths of torture, then spit her back up atop the dirt, she would have fared better than she currently did.

The devil had nothing on the hell that already existed in this land. Demons of men. And the destruction that one of those demons had obviously wrought upon this woman was almost too much to bear.

A face beaten to mush. Black, swollen skin on every part of her body that showed. Cuts, lines of dried blood snaking across every surface.

The petrification of his muscles eased and Talen puffed out a sigh, looking from the swaying woman in a dark cloak in front of him, to his best friend and partner. “Why are you bringing me this, Declan?”

Declan lifted a hand to the woman to prop her up before she fell over and the instant his fingers wrapped around her upper left arm, a squeak came from her bruised lips.

She jerked out of Declan’s grasp and lost her balance, teetering, her slow feet not able to keep up with her momentum.

Talen’s hand flung out, clasping around her right shoulder to force her back upright. Lots of cloth, little meat under his fingers. Easy to push.

His gaze landed on her face for the smallest second and he quickly looked back to Declan. “Why?”

His same height, Declan met his gaze, unruffled by the annoyance in Talen’s voice. He shrugged. “She would only talk to you. She faded out, outside, and the only thing she spoke when I nudged her awake was your name.”

“I didn’t know that request would gain just anyone access into my office.”

His office was sacred.

He could count on one hand the only people that had ever been allowed in this room. From his vantage in his office, he could see down onto the main room of his gaming hell, the Alabaster, from the windows that lined one wall. He looked down, a dark figure in the shadows, and it only magnified the mystery of his persona that he’d cultivated over the years. No one looked up. No one got into his office. He wasn’t to be trifled with.

Declan didn’t squirm under his glare. “Madame Juliet sent her.”

That made him pause.

It made the woman pause as well, as her battered face turned to Declan. Talen assumed surprise was in her eyes, if he could see her eyes through the black, swollen skin that fully swallowed her left eye. But her right eye showed definite shock.

Her face turned back to him and the distorted line of her lips opened, the tiniest voice squeaking out. “Juliet Thomson. Hide me.” She gasped a breath, her voice fading as if each word was taking her last shards of strength. “Selkie South Brothel.”

With that, she crumpled downward. Not falling forward, backward, to the left or right. Straight down, her body disappearing into a pile within her dark cloak, the hood covering her face.

Dead? Possibly.

But not likely with his luck.

His body still, Talen took a measured breath, concentrating on the air going into his lungs. His look shifted to Declan and he pointed at the lump of her body on the floor. “You brought her in here. You get to bring her out.”

Declan shook his head, his arms threading across his chest. “You can’t be thinking the street, Tal. You see the state she’s in.”

His scowl sliced into his friend. “I’m not an ogre, Declan. I’m also not stupid. If Madame Juliet sent her, this is serious. Put her upstairs in the Blue Waters room.”

Declan nodded, then moved to pick up the woman. He glanced over at Talen as he stood with the girl draped over his arms. “You’re paying attention now?”

Talen looked to the tiny form swallowed in the cloak in Declan’s hold. “Aye. I’m paying attention now.”

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