Authors: Mia Hoddell
Table of Contents
BET ON ME
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are the creation of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organisations is entirely coincidental.
Bet On Me © 2016 by Mia Hoddell
Edited by Melissa Ringsted
Cover Design: Mia Hoddell @
Cover Stock © DepositPhotos
ABOUT THE BOOK
It’s all a game until they’re betting with their lives.
Alaya Matthews is in search of freedom. Tired of her mundane life, she packs everything she owns into two bags and heads for Europe. Her plan is simple: see the world and be adventurous, don’t get tied down, don’t settle for less than her heart’s desires, and never fall in love.
However, Alaya didn’t plan for Cole Ashford.
Drawn to her love of life, Cole wants to know how to live again. For seven years he’s been dead inside, and the numerous threats hanging over his head have finally caught up with him. What Cole doesn’t realise is accepting Alaya’s help will mean confronting every part of his tainted past. Alaya is desperate to know what haunts him, and she’s so certain he’ll reveal it she invents a bet he can’t refuse.
One is never enough though, and as they grow closer together, the more daring their wagers become. Neither of them will back down from a challenge, but the stakes are being raised. Gambling on Cole may cost Alaya her heart, or even worse, her life.
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For all of the dreamers and adventure seekers out there.
BET ON ME
August 1st, 8:00 a.m., England
My foot twitched and my leg bounced up and down impatiently. With every second ticking by the more frantic my movements became. It was lucky so much noise surrounded me as I sat on the rusted metal bench. The bustle of workers moving around in swarms, talking on phones, and going about their daily rituals before work drowned out the incessant tapping of my foot against the dirt-crusted tiles.
My gaze fixed on the single line in front of me. The thick, waxy paint would have once been a vibrant buttercup yellow. However, due to the constant movement of shoes, it had become chipped and sullied.
Not that it lessened its symbolism.
I couldn’t wait to cross the line. It represented my freedom. On the other side lay my dreams, which were about to become a reality, and my chance to begin afresh.
Glancing up at the clock, I puffed the air from my cheeks.
Only fifteen minutes to go.
I forced myself to lean back against the cool bench, which had yet to be heated in the summer sun. My leg still bounced with anticipation as I tried to focus on the people around me and not the clock.
Fifteen minutes and no one would be able to stop me. I didn’t expect anyone to, but there was always a possibility until I safely boarded the train.
“Excuse me, miss?”
The voice of the middle-aged, blond man next to me startled me from my thoughts. I swivelled in my seat to regard him with a polite, but questioning, smile.
I furrowed my brow and he raised a hand to point at my bag.
“Your bag, it’s vibrating. I wouldn’t normally say something, only this is the fourth time in a row. I thought it might be important.”
Icy dread seeped into my veins and worked its way throughout my body. Automatically, I glanced up at the clock, only to find I still had thirteen minutes until I could cross the line. My pulse started to increase and my mouth became dry. Forcing myself to swallow the cannonball of emotions rising in my throat, I lowered my gaze to the man regarding me with curiosity.
“Sorry, I was miles away. Thanks for letting me know.” I rummaged in my bag—one of the two I had with me—with shaky hands, and tucked a strand of hair that kept falling in my eyes back behind my ear. A part of me didn’t want to confirm who I knew was on the other end of the phone. I didn’t want to deal with them until a good hundred miles separated us.
I withdrew the device from my bag and my heart sank at the word “home” lighting up my screen. Moving my finger over to ignore the call, I went to put the phone down, though as soon as it disconnected it began ringing again. Buzzing in my hand, it sounded like it was laughing at me … taunting me with the only word it knew in that moment.
I ignored the call again then switched off the mobile with a frustrated breath. Dropping it back into my bag with slightly more force than necessary, I fought with the zip to seal it in. It couldn’t bother me if I locked it away.
“Are you okay, miss?”
I hadn’t noticed, since I’d been distracted by my phone, but the man still watched me.
“Fine, it’s nothing.”
“Are you sure? You seem a little agitated.”
“Family can do that to a person.” I chuckled, only the sound came out humourless.
“You’re not in any trouble, are you? Because running away isn’t the answer if you are.”
I tightened my hands into fists on my lap. My nails dug into my palms and my jaw locked in annoyance. Why did random strangers think they had a right to interfere?
“I’m not running away. Why would you think that?”
“Anxiously glancing at the clock every second, looking up and down the platform in hope. You have minimal baggage and you’re refusing to take calls from home. Whatever’s going on, facing it is always the best option.”
I shrugged, attempting to keep my expression respectful. “Like I said, I’m not running away.”
Thankfully, a train pulling up to the platform halted the unwanted conversation. The screech of brakes and rumble of the engine cut off any response as it drew to a stop in front of me and I exhaled loudly. I bent to grab the handles of my luggage and stood. Throwing both bags over my shoulder, I pulled my tickets out of my pocket and gripped them between my teeth so I could adjust the straps. When I started towards the doors of the train, the man’s voice stopped me.
“I know I don’t know anything about you or your situation. However, if they’re ringing you so much there’s got to be a reason. If I wanted to get hold of one of my kids and they didn’t pick up I’d be fraught with worry, so think about taking their call at some point.”
I refrained from rolling my eyes. He didn’t know anything about my situation and he couldn’t be further from the truth. My lips formed a tight line and with a curt nod I turned my back on him. I already knew the reason for their constant calls, which was why I refused to answer them.
Stepping on to the train, I knew I’d only feel comfortable once I left the country. At that point I’d consider answering my phone even though everything I needed to tell them had been in the note I left. I’d posted it through their letterbox, hoping to be on the train before they had a chance to read it since their post didn’t usually arrive until ten a.m. Still, the nonstop phone calls led me to believe they’d found it earlier than I intended.
I kicked one of my bags in front of me, lugging it into the baggage rack. Giving it a final frustrated punch to make sure it stayed in place, I picked up my other one and went to find my seat.
I knew I shouldn’t have left a note.
The miles of greenery flew past the window and the clear, blue sky stretched as far as the eye could see. Every now and then clouds would drift in and out of view, yet they were rapidly left behind as the train out raced them. With each mile the train ate up the looser the rope around my chest became. The constricting pressure restricting my breathing slackened, like my chains were falling from my body and my shackles were being removed.
Despite what the man on the platform said, and all of the facts pointing to me being a run-away, I truly wasn’t. First of all, to be a run-away I had to be a child … and at twenty-three I could hardly be classed as that. Secondly, there needed to be something to run away from and there wasn’t. I’d been considering my decision to leave for years. It wasn’t a rash thought brought on by a single event, but rather a gradual realisation I wanted—and could have more than—the norm.
There were stages people expected me to follow: high school, Sixth Form College, university, job, marriage, mortgage, and children. And I was giving the finger to everyone who wanted that life for me. Instead of going to university, I’d worked hard for five years solid—the first step of my plan. People called me crazy, but my decision was now paying off.
I was free from debt.
Free from the restraints a degree would put upon my life. And free from a horrendous nine-to-five job that would make me want to kill myself because there was no other work out there.
I was also free of relationship drama. Two of my friends got married earlier in the year and already they were facing the pressure of people demanding grandchildren.
I had nothing against the lifestyle, but it didn’t work for me.
I wanted more from my life because I never looked at a baby with anything other than antipathy, and marriage had never appealed to me either. When my friends cooed over babies, I dreamed of sandy beaches. When they fawned over men and wedding dresses, I created adventures in my head. Settling down wasn’t something that would make me happy.
I didn’t want to be tied to any place or person.
I wanted to live and experience everything possible before I even considered it.
A life free of drama—free of hassle—was my one and only goal. I needed to live as simply as possible and move on whenever I desired without worry. The less ties the better. I didn’t require a materialistic lifestyle.
It was why I packed my whole life into two bags. Everything I deemed unnecessary had been sold or given away. Except for the belongings with me and the money in my bank account, I had nothing left to my name.
It felt fucking perfect.
To be free of all the demands and following my dream was a joy. I imagined it felt somewhat similar to a bird being able to spread their wings and soar wherever they wanted.
The sun caressing my face through the window was the first symbol I was heading in the right direction. I had an eighteen-hour train journey ahead of me to the southeast corner of France, where my boss, and good friend, owned a hotel in Roya Valley. In fact, he had a chain of hotels up and down Europe, and when I told him about my dreams he offered to turn them into a reality. Dalton opened all of his hotels to me. In exchange for working a few hours most days, he agreed to give me room and board wherever I wanted for as long as I wanted.