• Grace A. Johnson

BAD Sneak Peek #5


To be honest, I was darn-tooting that this would be my sixth sneak peek, but it ain’t. You can, however, go back and read peeks 1-4 here, here, here, and here!

Or you can just read my summary of them.

In May of 2020, I shared my first-ever sneak peek of BAD. At the time, I was 12 chapters and 40k through. I shared a tentative synopsis, my favorite (and only) quote at the time, and my theme song for the story, “Storm” by Lifehouse.

Come August, I was 71k and 21 chapters in, and I shared my favorite (at the time) spiritual moments.

In November, I shared the deleted prologue scene that introduces you to Keaton and Rina’s first ever meeting! I didn’t share my progress, but I was about 28 chapters and 93k through—which was the really romantic part!

And in January, my last sneak peek was when I was at Chapter 31 and the 120k mark—and when I got some amazing revelation on grace. And y’all know what I promised you? Suspense and romance.

Five months later, and I’m on Chapter 45 and about 150k in—only 15 chapters and 45k away from my goal of 195,000 words and 60 chapters!

In layman’s terms, I’ve got a LOT of suspense and romance to share!

That being said, I want to save the good stuff for closer to the finish line, so we’re going to stick to some non-spoiler-y sneaky peekies for now!

About the Book


They had all thought it past. Yet now the storm has returned.


Atlantic Ocean

1686

A wicked twist of fate—or perhaps the hand of God—has landed Captain Rina Bennet in the most precarious situation yet. When her husband and the father of her twin boys leaves at the behest of a family friend, she is left to take charge of the ship she has not sailed on in two years, accepting the responsibility of a dwindling crew, half of which don’t even know her as captain. Saddled with two toddlers, she struggles in vain to erect some form of normalcy and order upon her ship…

Then the past suddenly appears to haunt both her and her quartermaster Keaton, in the forms of an old friend and an old life.

Rina has to make a judgment call when the ghosts come knocking, a call that could mean either life or death—for both an innocent girl and herself. The storm has returned.

The Romance


Hey, here it is! Y’all’s first glimpse at the through-the-roof romance in Bound and Determined! This book is actually divided into three parts (instead of the usual two), and Part 2 is what really begins the romance! Part 1 is character and plot development, and Part 3 is ACTION!

Anyway, y’all enjoy this edited, non-spoiler-y excerpt from Chapter 35 (from Keaton’s POV):

This time, I didn’t wait for her smile, that open invitation, but I did take my time. I leaned in, drawing in a deep breath of the lemon scent of her hair, training my eyes on hers to alert her of my intentions. As if they weren’t obvious.

My hands trembled as they scaled her face, trailing through those luscious curls of creamy silk. My body cramped with the need to hold her, to touch her, to show her how beautiful she was and just how much I loved her. If only she would believe it. I wasn’t like everyone else, seeking something that was not mine, desiring a moment’s fleeting pleasure no matter the cost.

I buried my face in her hair, my throat swelling shut as the backs of my eyes began to burn. Every inhale was ragged and shallow, each exhale a gasp. Her own body shook, twitching violently when I began my descent.

Her skin smelled like spring, the wildflowers and honey I’d find in the fields back home. It was…revival, awakening. The life to my longing for home.

She was my home.

Guys, as I was scrolling through, looking for the perfect scene to share, I stumbled upon this one, and I knew y’all would enjoy this taste of my heroine’s inner struggle. *cackles maliciously* It’s very poetic and actually gets kind of dark after this little part—but, trust me, the light breaks in eventually!


He was everywhere. Everything all at once. His was the voice inside my head, beckoning with a gentle come. His was the hand that reached for mine, tugging me away from all the doubts and into the beautiful light of his love. His was the mouth I caressed, the touch I reveled in, the body I craved.

In one kiss, he was the sun, the moon, the stars. And I was the earth, orbiting ‘round about him, savoring his overwhelming power and soaking in his rays.

I couldn’t get enough. It were as though rain clouds had taken up residence over me and he was the only beam of sunlight. He kept moving, dodging, leaping, dancing across the surface of my face and merely skimming the plains of my body.

But he was so still, remaining just where he had been before, gently fondling my mouth as though I were his sun, his prized plunder, his coveted treasure.

And I was the one moving, writhing away as the light…became flames. Flickering and sparking, catching on my hair, my fingertips, my skin. Coursing through my veins and pounding in my temples.

The flames burst into an inferno, barely contained by the furnace I’d erected around the fire. Fingers, long and lithe, made of living embers closed around mine, tugging—nay, wrenching me into the fathomless depths. Into the feather-soft nothingness that creaked and groaned and pitched with the waves outside.

What I love the most about these two excerpts (from the same moment, but different perspectives) is that it shows the difference between Keaton and Miss Sharow (the name y’all will know her by until I finally decide to reveal her fully), especially when it comes to their relationship.

Keaton sees too much good in her, believes that she’s better than she really is. And when he kisses her, it’s not to harm her or because of lust—although his guilt makes him think so. He adores her and wants to show her in the tenderest of ways how lovely she is—on the inside, in her soul and spirit.

On the flip side, Miss Sharow automatically reverts back to her old life of sin, and can’t comprehend someone treating her with respect, loving her for who she really is, desiring her instead of her body. Her survival instincts clash with Keaton’s gentle wooing, and that results in some very messy arguments.

This couple...y’all, apart from Kit and Chloe, they are DEFINITELY my all-time favorites. I’m sure that will change as I write more books, but for now, I am so in love with their love story! I actually don’t like Miss Sharow all that much (she annoys the crap out of me), but I’ve gotten very good feedback on her character. Keaton, however? UGH! He is my perfect baby.

I wish I could marry him, but I think we’re a little too much alike.

Oh, yeah, and he’s not real. I guess that would be a deterrent.

The Suspense


Ah, now for the suspense. I left y’all hanging with the epilogue of Prisoner at Heart, so I kind of pick up on that and let the bone-gnawing suspense carry me through BAD...until these moments…

From Chapter 41, in Crimson’s POV (yes, I’m bringing her back!!!), read the moment before Elliot entered the kitchen at the end of PAH:


The stench of burning eggs assailed my senses. I swallowed against the bitter, smokey air emanating from the stove, where Mother had abandoned the morning meal for the sheet of paper in her hands.

The smoke died away, replaced with startling clarity.

The letter. The one we had forgotten.

I crossed the room in three quick steps, peered over Mother’s shoulder at the trembling scrawl across the ink-stained page. She jumped at my presence, her eyes hazy and unfocused until she turned them on me and blinked away the fog. Her hands shook as they placed the letter in mine, her fingers slick with sweat and steam.

“Mother, what is it?” Panic gripped me, freezing me to my spot to keep me from reading the letter that would only make the urgency that seized my heart fifteen times worse.

She thrust a finger at the letter. “Read it. I-I don’t know. You must...you must read it.”

Oh, Lord...oh, no. What could it be?

Well, there was no use wondering about it. I pushed the worry away, trapped it in a closet in the back of my mind, and began to read the letter.

It took me three tries to read over the first sentence, and five guesses to recognize the poor handwriting.

Keaton. And it was dated a week ago.

Unlike the past two times he’d written us, Keaton’s hand was stilted and jagged, as if it were etched in wood instead of painted with pen and ink. And usually the letters sent from Jamaica didn’t reach us until sometimes two or three weeks after the date.

It had to be urgent, then, or else they were very near.

And it had to be bad, if Keaton were lacking composure.

I carefully deciphered each word, my recently acquired literacy skills no match for Keaton’s hurried scrawl. When the message was finally revealed, my heart had sunk to my stomach.

Nay. No, it couldn’t...it can’t be true.

Only three sentence, only few words, and yet with them my entire world crumpled. Mine and Elliot’s lives—the lives of our sons—quaked.

I relinquished the letter to the hand that closed around mine, my body swaying against Mother’s when I no longer had the solid support of reality the paper had given me. There was nothing around me, nothing in me but air. Air and water—heavy, strong water pulling me down, down, down into darkness.

My mind couldn’t wrap around it.

Not until Elliot spoke the words I couldn’t: “Rina’s to be hanged.”

From Chapter 36, in Rina’s POV:


You’re fooling with the wrong—Ah!” Something struck the small of my back—another gun, its barrel nestling so far into my flesh that I wouldn’t be surprised if it stuck out the other side.

The man behind me twisted my arm, digging the pistol deeper. Pain radiated from places I never knew existed, splitting to pursue every muscle and joint like fiery arrows. I was quick to recover, yanking my shoulder enough to loosen the man’s grip and redirect the gun—but not quick enough.

As soon as my focus shifted, my hand grew weak. The officer lifted his sword and, with a mere flick of his wrist, knocked the flintlock from my grip and sent it flying to the ground, landing at just the right angle…

It fired, rending the hustle and bustle of the Cuban streets with a deafening crack, wood splintering and potatoes tumbling as the bullet lodged itself in a nearby cart. Smoke ascended, billowing around us and drowning out the startled cacophony within the marketplace.

The moment’s interruption could have been enough for me to move, but these officers were cheeky blighters. Something snapped, popped, broke—I was sure—as my other arm was jerked behind me and bent into a manner I knew was wholly unnatural. I couldn’t feel anything for a long moment, couldn’t hear much either, until I suddenly felt my arms going limp from the pressure and the pain, granting free reign to a crippling ache. My knees gave out next, buckling as I stumbled backward.

This was it then, wasn’t it? After thirteen years, the day had finally arrived.

Even my mind began to crumble at the weight of the realization. The officer behind me secured me to his chest with a rock-solid arm around my waist, shoring me up as waves began to crash over me, silencing the excuses. Silencing the moans. Silencing the refusal. Silencing everything except for the three little words I’d never wanted to hear but always knew I would…

“You’re under arrest.”


#suspenserules Anyway, y’all chew on that for a while.

The Spiritual


I’ve shared a lot of spiritual moments with y’all up to this point, so what I want to do this time is share something I’ve learned—a message I’ll probably put into my author’s note.

To be honest, I’ve had a lot of struggles with Bound and Determined. This story...it’s deep. It’s not my deepest story, because I have a lot of really deep, spiritual messages in books I just haven’t written yet...but it’s one of my darkest, one of the most controversial, one that no one understands. The message of faith and grace and salvation in BAD is what separated the Protestants from the Catholics, the Armenians from the Calvinists.

And I’m writing a book about it.

I’m most thankful for having read The Cost of Discipleship while writing BAD, because Bonhoeffer put grace into perspective. He took the best of the Catholic and Protestant teachings and showed you what parts of them come from the Bible, how the Bible unites the two theologies (or how the two different doctrines have separated from the Bible). He shows us what grace—true, costly grace—really means, and that’s something I’ve been translating into Bound and Determined.

But I wonder how people will perceive. Will I be able to affect them, or will their preconceived notions and the way they were taught keep them from understanding? Will they be turned off by how deep and dark the story gets? Will they close their eyes to the light, simply because it’s so dark? Questions, questions, questions.

Then I read Romans 14:23. The last line of the verse hit me right in the heart, and, y’all. God has given me the perfect answer to all those questions. Paul says “[W]hatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Or, if you read the ESV like I do, it’s phrased “whatever does not proceed from faith” (emphasis added).

That was my reassurance, my confirmation. I got a lot of that from Romans, actually. God keeps pushing me to write this story, because every time I start to doubt again, He shows me something—a blog post, a verse, a book review, the amazing gushing of my bestest friend Sophia. And that gives me the confidence to write this story I know nothing else will.

Let me explain.

My heroine is a prostitute.

She’s also a Christian.

Yes, you read that right. She’s saved, a born-again Christian, and yet she sells her body every night, has been for about three years now.

How…how do you reconcile that?

There are many different ways to excuse or explain this spiritual anomaly. Maybe she lost her salvation. Maybe she committed the unpardonable sin. Maybe she was never really saved. Maybe, because she’s a slave, it’s not the same thing as actual fornication. Maybe, since she’s doing it to support her sister, it’s justified.

Or maybe, just maybe...she can rely on God’s grace and keep living that way.

Biggest lie EVER.

And she knows that. She struggles with it so bad, especially in this scene here (which is really long, so bear with me):

Why now? Why was it now, when I was free, that I failed so? Why hadn’t I felt this way before? Why? Oh, God…

“Why? Why? Why? Why?!”

I crumpled. Splayed out over the floor, my arms unable to hold myself up. “God…I don’t know why. Why I failed You. Why I-I keep stumbling. I’m so wretched, I...” I—what? God knew how wicked I was, how weak, how hypocritical. He knew I was unworthy. He knew I was the worst of sinners.

And yet I dared to come before Him.

“I don’t deserve You, Lord.”

“None of us do, niña.”

I jerked my head up, only half certain I’d heard the voice, the heavily accented English. I blinked through tears and found the warm brown eyes of the priest, floating toward me on billows of thick robes and cloaks.

“None of us deserve our Lord’s mercy and grace. All have fallen short, but He offers it anyway. You have only to accept it.” He smiled, taking in my tattered dress and mussed hair. He knew. He knew exactly what I was. But he didn’t rear back or pull away. His soft grin remained, even as he said, “His love makes you new.”

I swallowed down the rise of sobs, averting my eyes from the priest’s probing gaze. He might have known what I was...but he would never know who.

“You do not understand, Father. You cannot.”

He chuckled. “I have heard this many times, sí? But it is you who do not understand. Even I was sinner before Christ.”

“So was I.” Fear gripped my heart, wringing out the thought that if I had told him everything, he would recoil. If he realized that I was not just another lost soul, he would be ashamed or worse—furious. I could hear the curses now…

He took my hand in his, firm yet gentle fingers enveloping mine, and tugged my attention back to his face. “Not even a priest is holy, niña. No one is good, say the Scriptures, no, not one. But Christ in us is the hope of the glory to come. He is within you, so have hope!”

“Tis not that simple. I’ve nothing to hope for.”

“Do you? Surely there is something. Something you want to be freed from, sí?”

I shook my head, even though my soul cried yes! “I thought there was...but it has become a part of me. There is no freedom if I have bound myself.”

When the priest remained silent, brows pulled low in contemplation, I felt compelled to explain. If only to help him understand that I was beyond saving.

The words came all too easily, without emotion or infliction. I told him my whole pitiful story, and when I was done I stared back unabashedly at the him, daring him to speak, shame drowned out by the rush of blood in my temples. If he rebuked me, I half expected me to defend myself.

“Did you ever—” he choked out the words, face aflame “—enjoy partaking in sin?”

Had I? Did I?

I had to mull this one over. When it boiled down to my actions and intentions, had I done so for the sake of my sister...or had I done so for myself?

Until today, I had been convinced that everything had been for her. But then I had almost fallen right back into it, with no incentive but my own sinful desires.

Why?

Because I had wanted it.

I cracked a rueful smile. “Sometimes.”

The priest remained unaffected, apart from the telltale signs of blush tingeing his dusky cheeks. “But...you recognized it as sin?”

“Aye, of course I did. I was raised better than to think otherwise. I merely...justified it, for a time. I sold myself. I did so to save my sister. I thought I was being kind and loving, rescuing her from prostitution, but now I see that I cannot impede fate.”

“Fate is not what work in our lives, niña. We wrestle against principalities and powers—Satan and his demons. The devil is the one to blame, and God is the One to run to. You no see? Something greater is happening around you, and God sees it. He knew the path you chose before it was presented to you—it was He Who offered you a way out. It was He Who gave you conviction. It is He Who offers you grace and mercy, no matter the condition of your soul.”

“Perhaps you do not understand, being Catholic and all, but I can’t rely on grace. I can’t keep living this way, stopping at the confessional on my way back to the brothel.”

The priest sighed, turning his face away at my harsh words. “It is you who no understand, I say. Grace is not a piece of driftwood, supporting you as you float away. It is a raft, a rescue. It lifts you from the waves of despair and deposits you on dry ground, where you can begin living for Christ. Mercy cleans your slate. Grace gives you a new one. You can’t accept it until your heart is ready.” He thumped his chest with a fist. “Make your heart ready. You can do that by praying.” His eyes narrowed as they sized me up again. “When last you pray?”

He took my hands in his again, holding them to his heart. “May I pray with you?”

He prayed in a slow, stilted, heavily-accented English that was hard to follow for the broken quality…but I had never felt so at home, at peace, until I heard his prayer for me.

“You bring healing, Lord God. Bring healing to niña. Show Your love. Your grace...oh, Your grace she no see, Father! Open her eyes. Open her heart. You provide mercy and grace. Provide healing balm to soul. Lift her from ocean, Lord. Save her from waters! You no let her drown. Help her to trust You again. Replenish her faith. Por favor, Holy One, wash her clean again. Make her new.”

Unbidden, scripture arose, filling my mind and soul with the words of God Almighty.

“And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

Lift me from the waters, O God. Save me!

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

All I had to do was surrender.

But like the priest says (yes, I chose a priest for the pure irony of it all), “Grace is not a piece of driftwood, supporting you as you float away. It is a raft, a rescue. It lifts you from the waves of despair and deposits you on dry ground, where you can begin living for Christ. Mercy cleans your slate. Grace gives you a new one. You can’t accept it until your heart is ready.”

As powerful as this message is, I knew so many people would think to themselves, “How does this apply to me? I’m not living like this character is. I’m not a fornicator or a murderer or a thief. I’m living for God, all day, every day.”

Then I read that passage in Romans.

“Whatever isn’t from faith is sin.”

Whatever you do—whether it’s good or bad or helping people or not—that doesn’t come from faith is actually sin. Let that sink in.

Basically, maybe you haven’t done anything as bad as my character has, but if you’re not following God’s plan, you’re sinning in the exact same manner.

This message of grace is an everyday thing. You need grace every single day, because we all fall short. We’re not perfect. We do screw up. Like Paul said, “I do the things I don’t want to do, and I don’t do the things I know I should.” Another verse (I can’t remember the coordinates or the exact phrasing) says something to this affect, “When you’re not doing what is good or what God has asked you to do, you’re basically doing wrong.”

Yeah, I’ve been there.

Without love, without faith, we’re nothing.

Without God, without His foundation, without His calling, we’re all just sinning.

Man. Like Marty McFly would say, that’s heavy.

But it’s also very, very, very hopeful. You know why? Because Jesus said that if you just ask, you’ll receive. Seek, and you’ll find. Knock, and it’ll be opened to you!

You can have that grace to try again, try better, be what God has called you to be, every morning when you wake up and every night when you fall asleep. Just ask. Accept it. Like the priest said, make your heart ready to receive it by seeking God in prayer.

Regardless of what an actual Catholic priest would say, you can go to God at any given moment. At any time of day. At any point in your life. He’ll provide you with His grace, His mercy, and His deliverance.

This is what Miss Sharow says about deliverance: “I’m learning what it means to trust God. To follow His plan. To be delivered. Deliverance doesn’t mean I no longer have the problems or encounter temptation...it means I finally have the strength to combat them, to resist the devil.”

I don’t know, maybe that makes some sense. It does to me, and it hit me so hard that evening when I first read that scripture.

So, yeah. There was your spiritual sneaky peeky for today.


As always, thank y’all for joining me. Thank you for reading this entire post. I hope you enjoyed all of the excerpts. Maybe you even learned something! I know I can’t wait to continue sharing more, so keep your eyes peeled for more sneak peek (preferably shorter ones) as I get closer to The End!

What was your favorite excerpt? How does grace affect you in your daily life? Let me know in the comments!

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