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Extras Category: Bonus Scenes

Bonus Scene: Guys and Games, a Frankie bonus scene for Hangovers and Holidays

The best part of vacation is the games we play. This scene naturally contains spoilers for the series up through Hangovers and Holidays.


Making up our own rules to play the various board games had been hilarious. We’d done everything from strip poker to kiss trivia—I was pretty sure my lips were a little bruised from Jake’s earlier winning streak at the trivia game.

“Why are we playing this one?” I asked as I looked at the stack of question cards they’d put in front of me. Also, I wasn’t gonna comment on the “Frankie Trivia” game that Archie had added to the back of every “card.”

“Cause it’s fun,” Ian said with a slow smile. “And some people can’t decide whose turn it is to sleep with you so we’re wagering on it.”

Laughter bubbled up through me. “Maybe I should get to pick and we don’t sleep in my bed, I come sleep in one of yours.”

That got me more than one interested look, but Coop just winked. “Nah, this is more fun. I mean we all know you’d pick me cause I’m your favorite.”

Giggling, I enjoyed the pair of pillows that winged right at Coop. He managed to catch Jake’s but Archie’s smacked him upside the head. Not even missing a beat, Coop settled both pillows next to him.

“Mine now.”

“Right,” Archie said. “For that, you get skipped in the first round.”

“Seconded,” Jake said with a smirk and Ian hid a laugh.

Coop flipped them both off. “Like I said, I don’t need to ‘win’ her affections, I’ve already got them.”

I reached for my coffee and took a sip as they mock-glared at each other. “Speaking of which,” Ian said, raising his voice just enough to talk over them. “Who is going first?”

“If we go by age, it’s Jake for youngest,” Archie suggested. “Or you for oldest.”

Before this could devolve into wrestling or more, I raised two fingers. “Why don’t I just go first with asking the questions and you guys get to write down the answer? Then reveal it at the same time.”

“That’s ridiculously fair, Babe,” Archie said with a slow grin. “You sure I can’t bribe you into something more slanted in my favor.”

“Nope,” I teased and he laughed.

“Fine,” he gave a mock sigh and then they were passing out the little whiteboards Archie had found in the game closet. Grandpa Ted had stocked this place well. I glanced around the cabin, I almost hated the idea that we would have to leave it at some point soon.

I loved it here.

The fire crackled in the hearth and the scent of pine from the tree just added to the overall effect. Touching my tongue to my teeth, I flipped over the first question and giggled.

Coop’s handwriting. No wonder he was certain he had an edge.

“What is my love language?” My face warmed as I read the question. It had nothing on the scorching heat in their eyes.

One by one, they flipped their answers.

Archie’s just said, “Coffee.”

I burst out laughing.

Coop’s read, “Acts of service.”

Ian had written, “Patience and forgiveness.”

Jake wrote, “Your huge ass heart.”

“Technically,” Coop retorted, “We all said the same thing.”

“Archie said coffee,” Jake argued.

“Which is an act of service for our lovely girl here.”

I couldn’t help it but laugh. “You all get a point. Next question…”

There was grumbling but they erased their boards in prep. I caught the twinkle in Ian’s eyes. I got the feeling he was enjoying the grumbling as much as I was.

“What is the most romantic thing I have ever done for you?” The flush on my face went to my neck on this one, but I was also curious as hell.

They flipped their boards at the same time. Every single one said the same thing.

“Forgave me.”

Now I was going to cry.

“Ah,” Archie said as he leaned forward. “No tears. It was romantic as fuck—the second most romantic thing you ever did was say yes to a date. I’d say that was first, but it took a while to get you to notice we were asking.”

I sniffled, my tears fading some into a weepy laugh. “Fine, everyone gets a point. This is a terrible game.”

“I like it,” Jake said, nudging my leg. “You need to hear things like this more often.”

I stuck my tongue out at them but their expressions remained indulgent. “At this rate, we’re all five going to be sleeping in the same bed.”

“Told you, I’d win,” Coop said, his grin firm and smug.

“Next question.” I blinked at this one then re-read it. The handwriting was definitely Archie’s and his grin spread. He had to know. Such an ass.

Adorable ass, but still.

“What is my favorite food?”

Groans and laughter greeted the question. They answered with varying forms of coffee, chocolate, coffee and chocolate. Coop added “me” to his and I laughed so hard, he gave himself an extra point.

There were another five or six questions and the guys were neck and neck. Arguably, even when their answers were different, they weren’t wrong. I had a feeling this was not going to solve our” who was sleeping in my bed tonight” conundrum and I didn’t mind it.

Maybe we could all camp out down here again.

“Last question,” I said because we were on the last card. “What is my favorite memory of our relationship so far?”

The briefest of hesitations as the guys glanced at each other. “Individually or as a group?” Archie asked.

As one, Coop and Jake said, “Group.”

They nodded then started writing. I took another drink of my coffee as I watched the four of them, the fire warming the room, their faces flushed from laughter and their eyes bright.

I didn’t doubt their answers, but right now? This was my favorite moment. My favorite memory.

My favorite guys.

© 2023 Heather Long

Bonus Scene: Payback and Pals, a Rachel bonus scene for Songs and Sweethearts

Congratulations on hitting 500 reviews on Songs and Sweethearts. The funny thing is after a while it does become a challenge coming up with bonus scenes for these guys cause we’ve covered so much. So I did a little sidestep over to Rachel, cause who doesn’t love our girl? Christmas, a trip home, a blast from the past—good times, right? Also, this might be a little spoilery if you haven’t read S&S. But only a little.


Christmas in Texas was an experience. One not everyone appreciated. A part of me enjoyed getting away from the bitter cold in New York. You got on the plane wearing layers, stripped most of them away after you landed. Texas was not New York.

I had to cover up some other layers while I was here. Visits home on the holidays could mean a lot of things. Fights. Tears. Tears and fights. Drinking. Cold, unforgiving silence. Laughter, music, and boozy fun. You just never knew what it was going to be. So for a few days, I could pack away my personality and just make peace.

At least I had an exit strategy these days. A timetable. The light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t four years and a graduation away. Uncle Basil greeted me in baggage claim. His bloodshot eyes were a concern, but he didn’t smell like a distillery. So—improvement?

“Hey,” I greeted him with a hug. “Where’s Mom?” Yeah that was a loaded grenade of a question but Basil just gave me a kind of careless shrug after he kissed my temple.

“Your cousin is pregnant,” he warned me and the disdain beneath the words feathered out.

My cousin? “Basil, I have fourteen different cousins. Can you be more specific?” I shouldered my camera bag more tightly. My wallet, cash, phone, and more were also stored in my purse which was in my carry-on. Since I got two, I made sure my camera bag was with me.

He gave me one of those looks that had me grimacing.

“She’s fourteen.”

“Fifteen on her last birthday,” he said with a sigh. “Old enough to be messing around, too young to understand the consequences. She’s so damn proud of herself. Gonna marry her pimply-faced baby daddy and raise kids. That’s now her goal in life.”

Kill me. I could hear it coming…

“Your mother has gone to try and talk some sense into her sister—” Dorothy Ann was also his sister, but I didn’t correct him. Dorothy Ann and Basil didn’t speak. As far as I knew, they hadn’t exchanged a single word in my hearing for most of my life. They didn’t even mention each other by name.

“Besides being a grandmother, what sense does she need?” I spotted my bag and went for it. Basil followed along amiably, taking a hold of my carry-on bag by the handle so it bumped along with us.

“Oh the usual melodrama,” he said, his tone so filled with disgust it was hard to ignore. “Her life is over, she’s failed her, and she disowned the girl already.”

Fuck. My. Life.

“She threw her out?”

He just gave me a tired look. “She had sex out of wedlock and is now pregnant. She’s stained the whole family with her heathen behavior.”

Kill. Me.


“Where is Rain now?” Why was I even asking? His bushy eyebrows went up. She was at home. “Fuck, she’s staying in my room, isn’t she?”

He gave me a sorrowful sigh. “We’ve got some of Ohio down…”

“Thank you for the warning. They opened a new hotel, right?”

“Already booked your room. Making your mother pay for half of it, I got the other half.”

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“No, we did. I’d have booked my own room if she’d let me get away with it. No need for both of us to drown in the madness.”

The temptation to see if I could just fly back to New York was strong, but—it was the holidays. Frankie deserved some time with the guys by herself and I had to visit family to shut them up for a few months.

This was what I did. I’d just rent a car while I was here. And honestly, Christmas in a hotel sounded way preferable to all the family drama. I’d probably rescue Rain for part of it though. Make sure she actually had time to think with everyone shouting at her about what she had to do.


Fuck that.

Three days later, I was sitting in a booth at Mason’s, drinking a shake and reading on my digital tablet. I’d spent the morning finishing my Christmas shopping for the family in between taking Rain to a doctor’s appointment. Afterward, she’d asked me to take her to her boyfriend’s place.

Yep. My house had become ground zero and she just wanted to see the pimply-faced kid she was dating. I got a good look at him too. Granted, not my type, but his genuine happiness at seeing her hadn’t been faked. But they looked so young it just made me want to bang my head against the table.

Her words of this is what I want circled endlessly in the back of my head, so I went for the dirty, dirty smut of gang bangs and enemies to lovers to just get away from it. Just because it would not be my choice, didn’t mean I could disrespect hers even if I wanted to shout but you’re a baby too!

The door jingled and I spared it a brief glance like I did whenever anyone wandered in on the quiet afternoon. Mason’s wouldn’t be hopping with the after school crowd when school was out. The glance up and then down again had been automatic, but I blinked as I tried to refocus on the screen in front of me before glancing up again.


Fuck. I hadn’t imagined it.

“Sharon,” I said in as neutral a tone as I could muster. Two plus years past all that shit in high school and I still had no fucks to spare for her. This cunt had made Frankie’s life hell and she was grinning at me like we were long-lost pals?

“Oh my god, look at you!” And of course, she crossed right over to my booth then invaded my side of the booth in a cloud of eye-watering perfume and breath mints. She gave me one of those awkward size-squeezes of a hug. “You don’t mind if I join you? I mean I can’t stay for long. I just slipped in for a drink before I headed to the mall.”

Yay me.

She didn’t wait for me to answer before sliding into the seat opposite me. A waitress who looked as painfully young as my cousin wandered over and took her order for a diet coke and onion rings then wandered away. I took a drink from my shake and Sharon shook her head.

“You aren’t worried about the freshman fifteen?”

I snorted. “Not a freshman.” And with all the walking I did in New York? No, it wasn’t a concern. Besides, I let myself have cheats when I wanted them. Starving yourself just made you hangry and bitchy.

Not that Sharon needed help.

“That’s true,” she said with a sigh, then the waitress was back with her soda. After she left, Sharon stripped the paper off her straw. “How is—where did you end up going?”

“Away,” I said succinctly. “Where you should consider going now.”

She laughed. It was uneven and a little hollow, but she laughed. “You always were a blunt thing. I promised I wouldn’t stay long, but we haven’t caught up in ages. We used to be friends, remember?”

Was she legit scolding me right now? For fucking real?

Thankfully, the waitress brought her the greasy onion rings. Now, if I were a real petty bitch, I’d give her shit about the deep-fried foods.

While I might be a bitch, I wasn’t that petty.

“We were never real friends,” I corrected her after the waitress left. Poor thing would probably curl up and die if someone looked at her cross-eyed. Better to keep her out of the line of fire.

“Now that’s just bullshit.” She actually looked offended. “We were all friends, you, me, Maria, Patty, Cheryl—”

She broke off on the last.

There was a name missing from her list.

Among many others, but a very specific name.

“I just want to be polite and catch up.” Now the note in her voice went more than a little strained.

“Okay, let’s catch up then, but let’s not pretend we were friends, Sharon. You were a social climbing, backstabbing, selfish, overbearing, and mean fucktwat in school. Most of those are fine, I’m definitely a little selfish and more than a little mean. I’ve even been known to be overbearing, but I never tried to deliberately stab a so-called friend in the back or climb over her to get to a guy.”

Nor would I ever.

“And furthermore,” I continued, cutting her off when she would have interrupted and pointed a fry at her. “You tried to terrorize someone you once called a friend. Trust me when I say you don’t have the first fucking clue what it is to be a friend. Fortunately, you were unsuccessful in all your little attempts to character assassinate and drive a wedge between Frankie and her guys.”

All pretense of politeness fell away from Sharon’s face and her lips compressed. “We don’t need to discuss her.”

“Oh, but we do, you see—she is my friend. She has been a better friend to me than I was to her at times. She put up with a lot shit, a lot. And all you did was capitalize on her misery and try to make it worse. Thankfully, you failed. But you did give them a lot of meaty material.”

“What…?” Confusion clouded her gaze.

Like I said, I wasn’t a petty bitch. “Bound Hearts? Surely you’ve heard them. Great album. The group is touring right now. All the rage on TikTok with clips from their debut.”

“Yes,” she said slowly, and I just grinned before I took a bite of my fry. Comprehension took a minute but watching it slowly ripple over her face was really delightful. Totally improved my day.

“Meaty material, and they’re happier than ever. Maybe we should thank you for holding their feet to the fire.” I made a show of thinking about it. “The guys really closed ranks around her the more you tried to tear her down, the more they lifted her up.”

Her smile was sickly thin and quickly fading.

“Nah, scorpion is gonna scorpion. But she’s happy and in love and they adore her and you’re—well—you.”

Without a word, Sharon slid out of the booth and left her onion rings untouched and her soda barely drunk.

“Aww,” I said with mock-concern. “Leaving so soon? I thought you wanted to catch up.”

“You’re such a bitch.”

I grinned. “Yes, I am.” She only scowled in response and stalked toward the door. Guess I was getting stuck with the bill for her food. Excellent investment. At the jingle of the door, I called out, “Merry Christmas!”

With a glare, she all but stomped out to her car and I cackled to myself. Not petty in the slightest. That felt good. Even money said she would listen to every single one of their songs and try to dissect which part was a reference to her. That was gonna live rent-free in her head for a while.

I pulled the onion rings over and took a bite out of one before turning my tablet back on to resume reading. The holiday was already looking better.

Bonus Scene: Radiant and Reunited, A Bonus Scene for Changes and Chocolates

Congratulations on hitting 500 reviews for Changes and Chocolates all of you! And in honor of Stephanie Heinritz’s birthday, I saved this bonus scene just for her. Jake coming back from Germany was a great moment for Coop and Frankie (Jake too) reuniting the three of them once more. It’s not a long scene, but it is a fun one. 


Summer heat rose in radiant waves from the sidewalk and black-topped roads before it was even ten in the morning. We’d barely gotten our bags unzipped and the new beds set up so Louisa and Becca could get their naps in before I’d asked Mom if I could take my bike over to Frankie’s and Coop’s apartments.

“You should probably wait another couple of hours,” she told me and I stared at her. “They’re still at school.”

Oh. Right.


Thankfully, I didn’t spit that last word out. They still had another week of school before summer break here. “I forgot.”

“I know, help me unpack the stuff for the kitchen and as soon as school is out, you can ride right over there.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Oh, and Jake?” She motioned to the fridge. “Remember I need to go shopping, tomorrow we’re going to the junior high. They said you can try out for the football tea—”

I crashed into Mom and hugged her. I half-picked her up. “Thank you!” She’d promised she’d reach out to them to see if there was a chance for me to try out for the junior high team even though it was late into the spring and they’d begin practices over the summer.

Her laughter was a sweet sound, one we didn’t get to hear that often anymore. She kissed me on the top of the head and I hustled into the kitchen. A lot of our gear and stuff had been left in storage when we’d gone overseas, so Mom had it delivered the day we came in.

It took me almost the whole two hours to get the full kitchen unpacked. Fortunately, I remembered exactly where Mom liked everything. One thing I could thank the military for, I could pack and unpack in nothing flat. I was already changing my shirt when Mom said school was out. They had to take a bus home so I would have time to make it the mile and a half to their places on my bike.

“You sure you don’t want me to drive you?”

“I’m good,” I told her. “You don’t want to drag the girls out anyway.” I kissed her cheek. “Is it cool if I stay there for dinner?”

“As long as you don’t invite yourself.”

“I won’t!”

New keys in my pocket, I was out and on my bike before she could change her mind. It was weird how familiar everything was. We’d been gone almost three years. Almost. But I knew exactly where to go and I picked up speed as I raced along the sidewalks, crossed streets, and then along a back way to where they lived.

I didn’t even question that they were still there. They had to be. Frankie was probably going to punch me in the nose and Coop was going to make fun of me. I caught sight of the yellow bus ahead and kicked up the pace.

Cutting across the grocery store parking lot, I found the little alley that cut right through their back fence into the apartments’ parking lot and I skidded to a halt right in front of the back stairs that led up to Frankie’s apartment. Ahead of me, at the top of the drive, I caught sight of golden blonde hair as she bounced off the bus.

Coop was right behind her. She pivoted without missing a beat, walking backwards and from the way her hands were moving—she was giving him hell. I dropped the bike and started up the hill. They were about fifteen steps away when Coop’s head jerked up, he stared right at me.

“Holy shit—”

Spinning around, Frankie stopped almost as abruptly as Coop did. I grinned at them. How mad was she going to—

I barely had time to finish the thought before she slammed into me at speed. The hug actually knocked me back a step. Man, she’d gotten taller. So had Coop. All arms and legs, Frankie squeezed me. Then she pulled back and wow—the blow caught me right in the cheek and my eyes watered.

“You asshole,” she said.

“Yep,” I said with a wince. “That’s me.”

“I missed you.”

“Nope, I can pretty much tell you that you didn’t.” I rubbed my face but she hugged me again and all was forgiven.

“So,” Coop said as Frankie checked my face then pulled away again. “We were just arguing about pizza and movies since her mom is working late and my mom is gonna be late cause Trina has scouts tonight.”


“Yep,” Frankie said, then grimaced. “Sorry about the punch.”

“Nah, I deserved it.”

I really did. I hadn’t written them. Not once. I was an asshole.

“You did, but I am still sorry.”

I hooked an arm around her shoulders and dragged her to me. “Pizza and movies?”


She bounced against me and Coop laughed.

“Welcome home,” she told me, then gave me a quick kiss to the cheek. “I’m gonna go feed the cats and change. Meet you guys at Coop’s!”

Then she was gone, running like we were chasing her. I stared after her for a minute, a stupid grin on my face.

“She’s still my girl.” Coop informed me.

“I’ll get her back,” I promised.

He laughed, then punched me in the arm. “Good. She’s missed you.”

I’d missed them too.

Bonus Scene: Inked, a bonus PoV for Vicious Rebel

1000 reviews. 1000! That’s a lot. I love how much y’all love Vandals. Truly. I can’t tell you how much I love writing this series. So, for your reading pleasure and because you voted over in Team Mad for more Vaughn (or all the Vaughn is what I think you said), here is your bonus scene. This will contain some spoilers for Vicious Rebel, clearly. So do not read if you are not caught up. Also, this is likely going to fall into the NSFW category. coughs You’ve been warned.


Dove’s harsh breath and the slam of a door knocked some of the glorious haze off my release. Hers too apparently because one moment she was wrapped around me and the next she pushed those tiny hands to my chest to get me to move. With a groan, I dragged myself to the side. Leaving her slick cunt was not my idea of something to hurry, but she slipped out of bed and hurried to the door.


I hauled myself up, but she was already out of the room naked with my cum dripping down her thighs. No way in Hell was she rushing out there alone so I got my shit together and was a half-step behind her.

“Easy, Sparrow,” Kel said as he caught her. While he didn’t drag her back, he did pick her right up off the ground and turned her from the door.


“I know.” He used his soothing voice, one he would rely on when Jasper was too close to the edge but Dove’s crushed expression shredded my fucking heart. Yeah, I came to apologize and yes, we’d had sex. None of that was something that should ever make her feel bad. “Let him go for the moment.”

“He’s right,” I told her and ignored the brutal look Kel shot my way. Yeah, he blamed me for some of this. While he wasn’t wrong, I didn’t actually care what they all thought right now. Dove was the important one. Those doe eyes cut to me and a glimmer of tears flashed in them. Yeah, I couldn’t handle the crying right now. Especially if we were the ones making her cry. “C’mere, Dove.”

“Vaughn…” That was misery. Pure and simple. I hated hurting my brothers too, but Jasper needed to calm the fuck down. His possessiveness had gotten out of control.

“I know, c’mon.”

When Kel set her down, careful of where he’d put his hands, I just scooped her up. Ignoring Kellan for now, I carried her right back into her dark room and kicked the door closed. First, she was already shivering from the cooler temperature out there. Or maybe it was just a reaction to the overwhelming emotion.

We needed to dial this shit back before we really scared her off.

“Put me down,” she ordered as soon as I had the door closed.

“I will,” I promised, but I didn’t set her down until we reached the bed. Then I turned on the light. Because some conversations were meant for the dark. This was not one of them.

“I need to get dressed,” she told me before she scooted to the end of the bed.

“I wish you wouldn’t.” I could pull a Jasper and order her, but I wouldn’t. As it was, I took a seat on the bed and got out of her way. Her reaction down in the warehouse over the fight said a lot more about her strength and her fragility than anything else. The urge to wrap her up was right there, but we couldn’t smother her.

No matter how much we wanted to do it.

“I have to go after him…”

“No,” I said. “You don’t.”

Whirling, she glared at me. “You didn’t see his face.”

“I don’t have to have seen his face,” I told her, focusing on the fire in her eyes. “I know him, Dove. I know how angry he probably was.”

“Then why are you so calm?”

“Because he’s Jasper. Anger is his love language, sometimes.” I sighed. “That sounds bad. He’s very possessive where you are concerned. Finding you here—with me? Probably drove home the point that he doesn’t get a say in what you do.”

“Or who?” The dry challenge there pulled a reluctant smile from me.

“No, he doesn’t get to decide that Dove. If you want me, I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere.”

“And if I want him?”

“I won’t deny you what you want.” I spread my hands, but at least she wasn’t trying to get dressed anymore. She just stood there with the t-shirt in her hands. “Or who.”

Shock rippled over her face. “Why?”

“Why won’t I deny you?” Cause I wanted to be sure what she was asking.

Something frustrated and helpless flickered over her face as she spread her arms. “I don’t understand you guys.”

“Come here, Dove.” I held out a hand to her and curled my fingers in invitation. For a moment, she hovered there—suspended between action and inaction. The need to help her was a knot in my gut. But she needed to reach out to us. The shirt fell from her fingers as she crossed to the bed.

When her palm glided over mine, I wrapped my hand around hers and gave her a gentle tug. She came right to me and I pulled her onto my lap. She framed my thighs with her own as she straddled me. The dampness from earlier left us both sticky, but I didn’t give a damn about that.

With light fingers, she explored my chest and the ink on my shoulders and my arms. “I don’t like that I’m the reason he’s hurting.”

“You’re not,” I told her and when she kept her gaze on my chest, I slid a finger under her chin and lifted her eyes to me. “You are not the reason. Jas has his own issues. Those aren’t on you to fix or to apologize for.”

“But—” She broke off and went back to staring at my tattoos. When she moved to the shield, I shifted my arm so she could run her fingers over it. “But he looked so hurt.”

“I imagine he did. He wants you a lot. He wants you to want him.” I took a breath. “I think he wants you to want him only.”

Those dark eyes lifted to mine.

“I want you,” I told her. “I’ve made no bones about that.”

“Well…” The barest hint of a smile curved the corner of her mouth.

“Bone, Dove,” I teased. “Not boner.” She bit her lip, but it didn’t keep her smile from flashing over her face. “My point is—I want you. I’m okay if you want him too. Jas will be—eventually. Just let him get out of his own way.”

“Vaughn…” There was no mistaking the troubled note in her voice. “This is all very—different for me.”

“So we figure it out.” Because while I’d never been opposed to sharing with the guys, it was definitely different for all of us to want one girl. We did. Whether they owned up to it yet or not. We all wanted her and we’d wanted her for a long time. Maybe that level of intensity was too much for her.


But Jas—we needed Jas to get to this realization on his own. She needed him. Hopefully it wouldn’t involve me having to knock his head in to get some sense in there.

“Just like that?”

“Just like that,” I confirmed. The brush of her fingers dancing over my tattoos pulled my attention to my chest again. “Do you want me to tell you the stories of these?”

“Yes.” No hesitation.

I grinned. “Before or after, I make you ‘bone’-less once more?”

It was a gamble, but the tension vibrating off of her made the spot between my shoulder blades itch. When I cupped her cheek, she leaned right in and then her mouth was on mine.

Good answer.

©2022 Heather Long


Bonus Scene: Brothers and Boyfriends, a bonus scene for Legacy and Lovers

Congratulations on hitting the 200 review mark, Heathens! Here is your first bonus scene from Legacy and Lovers. Please note that this scene contains spoilers for L&L.


We waited for the waitress to finish taking our order and moving away before we focused on each other. Jake had been the last to arrive, but he had practice and then had to grab a car to come uptown. Archie had his phone in his hand while Bubba drummed his fingers against the side of his cup, eyeing Archie’s phone and whatever he was searching.

“Do I need to start?” Jake asked before draining his glass of water. I nudged mine over to him. I wasn’t planning on drinking it anyway. He lifted his chin in thanks.

“I don’t think you need to,” I told him in between sips of coffee. The diner was one of our favorite spots. Normally, we’d have this kind of discussion at home, but Frankie was still resting and we wanted to avoid arousing any suspicions. Especially if she misinterpreted anything.

Honestly, sometimes, it was funny. The rest of the time? Not so much. And I’d personally slug the first one of us, myself included, who made her cry.

“No?” Jake asked when Bubba and Archie kept their attention on the phone. “Then it’s just you and me planning this?”

“Fuck off, Jake,” Archie said without glancing up. “We’re trying to find the right one. I know I saw what I think will work and we’re going to need to do a custom order, but I want to show you what I was thinking.”

I hid a smile at Jake’s faint smirk. “Just making sure you were still paying attention.”

“Stop trying to bait him,” Bubba said with a brief glance at us. “That doesn’t help.”

“Man, you used to be fun.” The mock pout did what the bitching didn’t, they laughed and my grin deepened. “Fine, while you two sad sacks search, let’s talk about how we want to propose.”

“I had a thought on that,” I said, putting the coffee cup down. “I’ve been thinking about this for a few years.”

“Of course you have, Mr. Well-Adjusted.”

“Don’t hate, you’ll get there when you grow up.” That earned me a middle finger, of course, when I added, “if you ever do,” he just snorted and shook his head.

“Got it.” Archie made a little fist pump of triumph. There was more animation and engagement to him recently. The past year had been hard on him, Frankie had worried and so had I. Hell, all of us had, but he was making his way back toward us and for that, I was damn glad.

The waitress returned with plates loaded with burgers, fries, and fresh drinks all around. She even brought the Coke I’d ordered to have with my meal and I drained the coffee.

No sooner did she leave than my phone pinged with a message. So did Jake’s. I pulled it out of my pocket and thumbed the screen open so I could look at it.

“This one is in three parts, but we can customize one to be in four,” Archie said. “I say we work it so each one has two diamonds and then whatever other stone we want to add to it, that way it’s balanced, then we have them work the loop in.”

The infinity loop, like our tattoos. Not a bad plan. Jake munched on a fry as he studied it.

“We have a lot of options with metal, but how big do we want it—I mean she can’t have more than a half-inch at best between her knuckles and the first joint.”

“We can talk to the jeweler,” Archie said, waving off the concern. “I’m thinking titanium or something as strong. Just because that’s what the commitment is. But also, we can have matching rings crafted when we’re looking at the bands part.”

“Are we going to discuss how we handle the legalities now?” Bubba had taken a bite of his burger to punctuate the question and I glanced back at the ring.

The idea of interlocking rings where we each gave her one that would then form a whole held a lot of appeal. This conversation was almost as funny as it had been inevitable, really.

“No,” Archie said after a moment, his tone more thoughtful than confrontational. “That’s a conversation we have to have with her.”

“Agreed,” I injected. “This is about asking her, planning how we ask her and making it clear that we’re all committed to this.”

“You think she doubts that?” Jake considered, his eyes narrowed.

“No,” Bubba answered with a sharp shake of his head. “She doesn’t doubt us. I’ll be honest, even when she thought we were being dicks, she didn’t doubt that we cared. We’ve made this work for the past four years and we’re going strong.”

I agreed with all of that.

“No, Frankie doesn’t doubt us. The tour put a lot of things into perspective.”

“Fuck,” Archie said with an exhale. “Did it ever.” He finally set aside the phone. “I’m all for you guys going platinum, but next time, I’m just coming along.”

“Same,” Jake muttered. “I fucking hated being five thousand miles away when she needed us.”

Agreed, but I didn’t have to throw that in. “We handled it.” I pointed to Bubba with a french fry. “More, Bubba handled it. He kept us looped in, we were there on the phone and on video calls. Granted, while not ideal, we were there. We’ve made this work and we’re even balancing the more hard-headed personalities among us.”

I didn’t even glance at Jake or Archie and they still flipped me off, but Bubba laughed. “Good point.”

“Fine, we’re saints.” We were so not, but Archie’s exasperation was funny. “Who asks first?”

“Not you,” I said with Bubba and Jake’s echoed comments piling on top. “No offense,” I said, continuing as Archie seemed torn between insult and amusement.

“I’ll let you know if I need to take it.”

I grinned. “The point,” I pressed on before Jake or Bubba could jump in. “Not you because I think we all should have a carte blanche on our own proposals. We have our own relationships with her, then we have the one we built as a family. You,” —I pointed a fry at Archie— “will absolutely go over the top with whatever you do and that means it’s a good capper. Mine is likely to be a lot more personal.”

“Are you saying mine won’t be personal?” Sometimes, I enjoyed Archie’s needling and other times, I just wanted to throw food at him.

“No, dickhead,” Jake answered. “I’m saying your idea of personal is a whole orchestra and sky writing. It’s definitely got style, don’t get me wrong. You’re also exceptional at planning the big things that knock her right off her feet. But Coop is right, I want my own proposal. I want to plan it, propose, and make it personal. Then maybe cap off all our proposals with a big group one.”

“Or…” Bubba said slowly, before taking a drink of his soda. “We propose, but we ask her not to answer. Not immediately. I like the idea of keeping it personal, one thousand percent. But I also want her to know for damn certain we’re coordinating this. That we are asking her as individuals, but we’re all in this together. We all want to marry her.”

“Brother Boyfriends unite,” Archie said with a grin and Bubba just chuckled.

“So we propose, in our own ways, on our own schedules. But we also set a timetable so that we can go in order.”

“You already know the order, don’t you?” Archie asked even if it sounded mostly rhetorical.

“Sure, but I’m open to discussion. After all, I proposed to her already.”

“You were five.” Jake flicked a french fry at me.

“Still counts and she said yes long before she met you bozos. So, I think we go in the order we fell for her.”

“Which means in the order we met her,” Bubba said and nodded.

“That means I’m definitely last.” Instead of being remotely irritated, Archie seemed pleased. “Since every proposal is personal, I get to do whatever I want—right?”

“Why do I think this is going to be both hilarious and cringe-inducing?” Jake threw in, but then he bumped Archie’s shoulder with his fist. “Short answer, yes, you do whatever you want.”

“Are you going to incorporate the group ask?” I was curious because that could go either way.

“I think so,” Archie said. “Let me do a little more mental planning. Jake, do you have graph paper?”

“Yep.” He pulled it out of his backpack and set it on the table, then passed over a pencil. Archie pushed his plate out the way and started sketching.

“Do you think we should ask her dad?” Bubba mused.

“Nope,” Jake said even as Archie shook his head.

“No, I think we tell him. Like if we want him involved at any point in the proposal, but as much as I like the guy and Frankie adores him—he doesn’t get to make this decision for her. No one makes this decision for her.”

We all agreed.

“Fair deal,” I said, tackling the next uncomfortable part of this whole thing. “Custom designed and built ring is going to be expensive and before you say you can cover it, I want to pay for my own ring for her.”

“Same,” Bubba said.

“Yep.” Jake gave a thumbs up as he leaned toward what Archie was drawing. “We need to budget for it.”

For once, Archie didn’t mumble a complaint. He just nodded. “Equitable, well-balanced, and committed.”

“How very mature of you,” I teased and he snorted, before he snagged a fry of Jake’s plate and flung it at me. I caught this one and just ate it.

“So that just leaves when do we ask?”

“When the rings are ready,” I suggested. “That gives us all the time to plan out what we want to do.”

Agreement reached, we ate and watched Archie draw with Jake adding some suggestions. Bubba and I also offered up some ideas, but by the time we finished lunch and ordered cheesecake to take home to her, we had a basic ring design and a budget.

And I already knew exactly how I was going to propose.

I couldn’t wait.

Bonus Scene: Stapled, an alternate POV bonus scene for Dirty Devil

This is not a drill. It’s really not a drill, it’s a stapler. Just—stay with me here. It is April Fool’s Day and we are counting down to the release of Book 11 of Untouchable, but I thought we’d show the emotional support stapler a little love. They are, after all, the hero we not only need, but we deserve. Please be aware that this “bonus” scene may (definitely) contain spoilers for Dirty Devil.


Not much to say about my life, really. It started where most lives start—a factory. I was all bits and bobs. They put them together, then bing, bong, bam, Bob’s your uncle and I’m a stapler. Made it through quality assurance, inspection, got branded with the company logo and then whisked off to a life of darkness for who the fuck knows how long.

Eventually, I ended up in some office supply store with scores of others. Most of them were my kind, but there were a few others—you know the ones that aren’t industrial strength. They’re more civilians. Sleek. Sweet. Pretty.

Yeah, they left faster than me, but this was my lot and I was stuck in it until a mass purchase came in. Then a whole cadre of us were shipped off somewhere else.

That was my life before the jackoff who ran this joint put me on his desk. Why do I call him a jackoff? Well, let’s put it this way—I’ve seen things. Like really, bad things.

Can we leave it at that? Cause talking about it is just gonna make me ill and I’ll be spitting bent staples for days. Then someone will bang me on the desk like that’s supposed to make me work better.

Trust me, no one banged on this desk ever seems better for the experience.

Right, so, been on the desk for a hot minute or year—years. I dunno, I can’t tell time. Clock does that and he’s a grouchy bitch that periodically just stops to make someone tickle him and put his hands in the right place. The calendar changes regularly enough that the latest one doesn’t even sit on the desk.

Fact was, I didn’t know where that calendar was kept. Elitist bastard.

But I digress…

I’ve been on this desk awhile. I’ve seen some shit. Kind of glad staplers don’t need therapy, pretty sure no one would believe me. Cause, truth is always stranger than fiction.

Right, back to the subject. I’ve buried my staples in scores of papers, banged them good and hard. Secured them. Then sat there ignored for what seemed like forever.

I was there the first time she was in his office.

Then the second.

Thankfully, nothing really worth commenting on happened then. The third time though? That was enough to make a stapler wish it could be tossed out a window.

So the fourth time she showed up, I knew it wasn’t going to go well. I wanted to tell her to get out, take off, just run for it. But—well, no matter how hard I bang anything or I’m banged, fuck if I can say anything.

So imagine my surprise when she wrapped that silken hand around my handle, jerked me off the desk, and swung me like a mace.

Talk about a life-changing experience. Literal. Life. Changing. Experience.

I wasn’t a stapler.

I was a wrecking ball.

The delicious crunching of bone was the best fucking sound ever.

Course, it was over in a blink and I didn’t have words for what happened. Like, had we really just done that? Was I an accessory? Or like—the actual accessory?

Fuck my life I was going to be stuck in some evidence locker forever. Don’t get me wrong, definite step up from this gig and probably a lot cleaner, but…

Oh, dude, she was taking me with her.

Yep. Cool.

So, while I might be an accessory, I was going to be her accessory. I liked that.

Thankfully, she did give me a bath or maybe it was one of the others. Bits of flesh and brain weren’t good for the hardware.

My new lodgings involve a quiet room and a companion. Not that he says much, he just hangs out on the bed and stares at the wall like it’s a damn masterpiece.

Course, he’s a raggedy looking fellow, his fur kind of roughed down and his eyes a little mismatched.

Right, I got pet, but I didn’t get banged or have to bang anything. I was still fully loaded though. So, watch your step.


Watch your staplers, too.

We are legion after all.


Bonus Scene: An Alternate PoV Scene for Whispers and Wishes

Congratulations on hitting 500 reviews for Whispers and Wishes. It took me a minute to slide back into this moment in time for the characters. Can you believe that it’s been more than two years since this book came out? June of 2020 seems ages ago and at the same time, not. Still, as I sat down to figure out what bonus scene to pull from the pages, I had to revisit the story and see where we all were not only in their heads but also in terms of the overall tale. It left me a little nostalgic for these days, particularly with one of my favorite installments of their tale coming in the next book in the series. But I digress… As always this scene might contain spoilers if you haven’t read up through book 4 of the Untouchable series, but here we go!



“Shh, we’ve got you. You’re safe.” I sat on the edge of the bed, smoothing the hair back from her face as Coop hugged her from behind. The flicker of troubled emotion in her expression never failed to send a fresh surge of anger through my system. If only we were in one of those sci fi or fantasy movies we loved so much. I’d love to slide into her mind and just defeat the bad dreams for her.

But we weren’t.

“You got her?” I checked with Coop.

“Yeah.” He yawned. We woke him while we were getting ready to go. It had been more impulse than anything else, but the minute Archie brought up running, I was in. I needed to burn off some steam. The last week had left all of us more than a little restless. Frankie didn’t need our restlessness on top of her own issues.

So, running it was.

“I got her,” Coop continued. “Go do your sickeningly healthy thing.”

Whether he had her or not, she’d opened her eyes a couple of times and currently seemed to be staring at me. So I leaned my head to the side so I could meet her gaze. “Hey, Baby Girl. Go back to sleep. It’s still early.”

“Where are you going?” The barest hint of a pout decorated her words.

I sighed, more for effect than anything else. “Arch, Bubba, and I are going running.”

“Why?” The absolute disgust she filled that single word with made me laugh. Frankie had never been fond of “regular exercise.” She just liked to do things that were athletic.

“Because they’re getting lazy,” Archie answered. Dick. “And I haven’t gone running all week. Coop’s here, and we’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

“With donuts,” Bubba tacked on.

She made a face and it took everything I had not to laugh at her. “Want to go?”

“No.” Zero hesitation or prevarication. Instead she just burrowed back against Coop. 

“Go back to sleep, Baby Girl.” I couldn’t contain all of my chuckle as I kissed her forehead. After, I made way for Archie and even Bubba to give her a kiss as well. Look at that, he was working his way back in, one step at a time.

It didn’t take long to feed the cats or give Coop shit for calling us pussy-whipped. I mean, we were and I was fucking proud of it, but he got to stay in bed with our girl so he could have a little more shut the fuck up.

Outside, Archie put in his bluetooth headphones and even Bubba did, but I skipped that. I didn’t want music. I wanted to just—run. The one thing about the guys, they didn’t spend a lot of time “warming” up. We just started out slow, then picked up speed.

Not even five minutes from the apartment and the wild tug to go back and check on her went taut. She was safe, I reminded myself. She was with Coop. We weren’t that far away. It took me picking up speed and reciting that to myself mentally a few times to keep from turning back.

More than once, I caught sight of Archie glancing back and so did Bubba. Yeah, I wasn’t the only one questioning our choices. But she needed time without all of us hovering and if I didn’t get at least some of this edge off—well there was a real chance I’d pick a fight with the guys and none of them deserved it.

Anger management annoyed the fuck out of me. But it had helped Bubba and me come to one conclusion, the last place our anger needed to be was around her. So, running it was. We hit the first mile in almost no time and headed for the second. By the time we hit the third, the inexorable pull to go back had slacked. It wasn’t gone, but it wasn’t ripping at my insides.

If anything, Bubba pushed to pass me and that drove me to go faster. Archie had zero trouble keeping up with us. It was easy to forget that he ran constantly. He got up earlier than most to run every day and we didn’t see him doing it, so we didn’t think about it.

I was more winded than normal and Bubba’s face was ruddy with sweat. You could definitely feel our lack of working out this week. But even as oxygen burned in my lungs and my muscles protested until they heated up, there was an edge of euphoria creeping in.

The runner’s high. We were there by mile five and we rode it all the way through the next forty minutes until we were cooling down on our way back. Slower than our usual pace, but fuck that felt good. Not that seeing the apartment didn’t add to that internal sense of glee.

More than ready to be back with her, I was up the steps and unlocking the back door before the others could get up there. Frankie and Coop were both in the kitchen, but more… Frankie was glowing and there was a real smile on her face.

The apartment also smelled like sex. Not overpowering and the stench of our own sweat would probably blot that out in no time. But I didn’t even care that it wasn’t me. In fact, I was fucking glad it was Coop. Not that I’d tell him that, but I was really fucking happy to see that smile on her face.

Beyond fucking happy. 

Bonus Scene: Focused, a bonus Liam scene for Ruthless Traitor

Congratulations on hitting 1000 reviews on Ruthless Traitor. I am so blown away by all of you loving the Vandals, truly. The hold these characters have on me is enormous. I love visiting their world, every dark and twisted moment. Okay, maybe not every one. Right, so, today’s bonus scene is a little look beyond the scope we’ve already visited to look back at where they’ve been and how they got to where they are.


Age 15

“Keep that left up.” As if to prove his point, Jerry’s fist grazed my chin. I was already moving away from him, but he was relentless in his assault. He hammered on my guard, switching up his blows, but I kept retreating. It wasn’t until he tried to corner me in the ring that he saw his mistake. By then it was already too late.

Every movement had been a calculation on my part. I wanted him to pursue, I wanted him to feint, jab, and punch. I’d kept my guard up, but weak. I withdrew as though I was the one who needed a break. Every single choice since I ducked into the ring with my black eye and bruised ribs had been designed to get him into this position.

Ruthless in his training, Jerry didn’t disappoint. When Dad approached him about teaching me, he’d promised that he wouldn’t hold back. As much as Dad disapproved of bloodsports, he’d respected my request.

Which put me here, in this basic gym that smelled of sweat, work, and probably tears. I fucking loved this place. Jerry didn’t just teach boxing or martial arts. He understood several different fighting forms.

What he trained me in, was using all of them to my advantage. The feint with his left knee before he snapped out with his right leg was the moment of truth. I flowed around his motion, caught the leg twisted, struck with my weaker left toward his midsection—not to hit, but to grip—before lifting his leg up and flipping his whole body.

I didn’t let go, the grapple required a close hold and we went over together. The scissor grip of my legs around him as controlled his right arm with a twist kept him pinned. Yes, he had a free arm, but he didn’t have the leverage he’d need to get free before I broke his arm.

Panting, I stared at him as Jerry stared back. Neither of us gave an inch. The one thing he’d drilled into me over the last year had been—you don’t decide when to release the opponent just because you think you’ve won. They have to accept that defeat before, or you just handed them the advantage.

He didn’t relax, even when I shifted my grip on his arm to apply more pressure. Then a slow smile spread across his face and he tapped the floor. But it was just a tap and there was no surrender in his expression.

Another thirty seconds past before his smile became a genuine grin. “Yield, you strong little shit. I yield.”

I released him immediately and rolled up to my feet, ignoring the burning in my chest and the pull of muscles along my back. He clasped the hand I offered him and let me pull him to his feet.

“That was excellent,” he complimented me, as he gripped my shoulder. I didn’t wince. Even if the heavy-handed contact sent a vibration over my aching ribs. “You have been listening, more you’ve been plotting. I like the fact you laid a trap and let me walk right into it. Excellent job, don’t think it’ll happen twice. Now that I know you’re thinking, we’re going to up this training.”

Now I let myself grin as he let me go and moved off. It wasn’t until he ducked out of the ring that I frowned. “We’re done?”

“Unless you want to explain the ribs and the shiner,” he said with a pointed look.

I folded my arms. Not particularly.

“Then yes, we’re done. I told your dad I would train you and I will. I promised you that you’d know everything you needed before we were done. We’ll be mixing it up next week. Come in ready to get your ass kicked, but if the ribs are still bothering you—text me and we’ll skip.”

I’d protest but Jerry wasn’t kidding. He might be thirty years older and a good friend to my parents, but he didn’t go easy on me and I didn’t want him to at all.

Not when I’d learned a hell of a lot. I’d always been a good fighter.

When we were done, I was going to be goddamn unstoppable. “Thanks man.”

“See you next week,” he called. He didn’t have to remind me about my ribs, but I caught him stretching and flexing the arm I’d locked. I grinned. It was usually the other way around. I’d just grabbed my bag when my watch alarm buzzed.

Fuck. It was later than I thought. We hadn’t finished as early as I thought. I showered in the gym, and changed. The driver pulled up at the curb just as I stepped out. I tucked my sunglasses into place and smoothed down my tie before sliding into the back seat.

“Should I take the scenic route, sir?” Tom asked over his shoulder with the barest hint of a smile. “If we get there on time, you might shock your mother and ruin your reputation for always running late.”

“Ha ha.” Not that he was wrong. “It’s good to be unpredictable.”

“Of course.”

Tom had been my driver for the last three years. In a few months, he’d get a break because I’d have my own license. I already knew how to drive. I literally just waited out the clock on our birthday.

I pulled out my phone to check for messages as Tom drove us to the restaurant. Mom and Dad always invited me to a late lunch, early dinner after my training sessions because I’d already be in the city. Afterwards, Tom would take me back to school.

Most of the time I was late.

The suit and tie would hide everything but the shiner. But it was hardly the first time I came to dinner with a black eye. It wouldn’t be the last either. All too soon, Tom pulled up at Formaggio’s, the Italian restaurant that was Mom’s favorite.

“See you in a couple of hours. You want manicotti or ravioli?”

“Ravioli,” Tom said with a grin. “Definitely the ravioli and some of those little Parmesan bread bits.”

“You got it.” I left my training bag in the car as I slid out. The valet nodded to the doorman who let me into the restaurant. I tugged my sunglasses off as soon as i was in.

“Mr. O’Connell,” Linda the hostess greeted me with a warm smile. She had a grandmother’s demeanor and always smelled like baked bread and sugar cookies. “Liam, your mother is here, it’s your father who is late today.”

“Always has to be one of us,” I told her. “I can get to the table.” I waved her off from escorting me as I tucked my phone into the inner jacket pocket where I’d feel it if it vibrated and headed across the family restaurant to the private booths. We practically owned one since Mom ate here at least once a week.

“Liam!” Surprise and delight filtered through her tone as I reached the table. “You’re on time!”

“I heard Dad was going to be late and didn’t want to leave a beautiful woman like you unescorted.”

“Oh for the love of God,” she muttered, swatting my arm as I braced a hand on the back of the booth to dip my head and press a kiss to her cheek. “You men. Both of you. As if I constantly have to beat off the suitors with a stick.”

“You don’t have to, Mom,” I promised. “We’ll happily take care of it for you.”

A man would have to be blind to not see how Mom looked at Dad and while this was a fun joke, because it never failed to make her blush or smile, I was dead serious.

I’d happily beat the shit out of anyone that looked at her the wrong way. Mom had changed my life. She loved me, she loved my mirror, and she’d always made room for him even if he didn’t want to be there full time.

They were family in all the right ways.

As I took a seat, a waiter appeared with my water and a glass of soda. I didn’t have to order, they always knew what I wanted.

“I suppose if I ask about the shiner, you’re just going to grin and say I should see the other guy?”

“I could,” I offered. “Or we could skip that conversation and you can tell me how your week is going. I know you and Dad were talking about heading over to Paris for fashion week, is that still on?”

“Liam, you couldn’t care less about fashion week.”

“But you love it,” I said. “You care a lot and that means I care about you being happy.”

Her laughter was a reward all its own. “You and your father, kissed by all that Irish charm.”

Sometimes. Or maybe I was just serious. I liked it when Mom was happy. She took the offer and filled me in on their travel plans. While I wasn’t big on fashion or retail, I soaked up every bit of information. Some day, I would take over the business so they could just do the things they loved.

They carved out a place in their world for me and I’d damn well take it and then make sure the world left them alone to do as they wished. I had a plan and they were a big part of it.

My parents. My mirror. My brothers.

The whole damn world would have to go through me to get any of them.

It was why I trained. It was why I studied. It was why I stayed focused.

Bonus Scene: Dresses and Devotion, an Untouchable Bonus Scene for Keys and Kisses

Congratulations on reaching 500 reviews with Keys and Kisses. Funnily enough, this is probably the toughest book for me to come up with a bonus scene for, largely because the first five of the series were getting bonus scenes every 100 reviews and because so many seeds were planted in this book that were then paid off later.

So, after some brainstorming, I decided to do something a little fun. Hope you enjoy it. *winks*


“You have to try the blue one,” Cheryl said. Her too sweet voice was just this side of irritating, but for the most part I tuned her out. My attention was firmly on Frankie. The last place she wanted to be was trying on dresses.

It was almost comical, except she was unhappy. I debated trying to get her out of this. However, as much as she disliked this whole thing, she also craved “normalcy” and what every other high school girl had.

Dates. Dances. Dress-up.

So…if that’s what my best friend wanted, then that was what she was damn well going to get. It was also why I was flipping through a rack of dresses trying to picture her in each one and find one that would make her happy.

“Not really my style,” Frankie answered, her expression a contrast between dismay and confusion. She really didn’t want to be here.

“No, it’s perfect. You have a great body and the ruching hides anything you might think you need to hide.” A half-snort and laugh later, Cheryl added, “Not that you need to hide anything. Does she, Coop?”

That wasn’t even a question. “Nope. She’s perfect.” 

The absolute note of disgust in Frankie’s scoff almost made me laugh out loud, but she held the skimpy blue dress up to her chest and faced me. “Really?”

My dick swelled with approval. But this wasn’t about making me happy. Frankie would look amazing in a paper bag.

And out of one.

Right. Not the time to think with my dick.

I focused on the dress. The blue wasn’t bad, except… “Do they have it in green? It would match your eyes better.”

The “are you for real?” look in her eyes made me grin.

“But this matches Bubba’s eyes, and he may not notice,” Cheryl argued, catching Frankie’s arm to pull her attention away from me. “Trust me, guys don’t notice it consciously when you do it, but their subconscious? It’s the perfect prey, it recognizes the colors, and then they’re drawn in by the symmetry.”

That sounded almost profound coming from Cheryl.


“Right color or not, I don’t wear skimpy dresses.” Frankie glared at her. Well, it wasn’t a real glare. I’d seen Frankie’s real glares. They’d tear the strip off the concrete if you weren’t careful. But she was so disgruntled it was adorable.

“It’s not skimpy,” Cheryl said in an impatient tone. “Just add it to our rack there.”

The rack for their dresses waited, very loaded on one side for Cheryl and with only one for Frankie. A fashion show wasn’t what she had in mind. Okay, time to make this a little easier for her, especially since I wasn’t sure how much of this was real nerves.

Right, I yanked out the next dress on the rack and with the most straight-faced expression I could manage for the nightmarish dress that looked like a bad recital costume for a dance class, I held it up.

“What do you think of this one?”

“I think you’d look great in that,” she deadpanned. It was almost as good as flipping me off.

I grinned as I shoved it back onto the rack.

Cheryl’s giggle was nails on a chalkboard though. “Oh, do we get to dress Coop up, too? Why didn’t you say so!”

“I’m good,” I informed her. The only person I’d let dress me in anything was Frankie. This wasn’t about me. “Let’s focus on Frankie.” Ignoring Cheryl, I went to the next outfit I’d uncovered and this one was—sexy as fuck. “But seriously, what about this one?”

It was a two-piece outfit, a lacy high-neck crop top with a satin mini-skirt. It was almost the exact color of her eyes, the perfect green. She’d look amazing in this.

“Oh, I like that,” Cheryl said. “Find it in blue, too.” She immediately dove into the rack next to me. “We may have found your calling, Coop.”

I didn’t say a word and just got out of her way.

Then she whooped. “Royal blue. This will match Bubba’s eyes, right?” She all but thrust the outfit at me.

“How the hell would I know?”

“Hang on, I have a picture, let me check…”

Now I rolled my eyes. When Frankie shot me a look, I made a face until a flicker of her smile returned. Cheryl consulted her phone and tried to match the dress, but I ignored her as Frankie pulled out a lovely gold dress.

Well, I ignored Cheryl until she said, “No, Frankie. You need to work on your tan if you want to go for that.  Too cold and pale. It will wash you out.”

Ugh, she was cracked. Frankie barely pulled out another dress before Cheryl grabbed it to add to their rack.

“It’s like watching a hurricane in action,” I commented as I moved to look at the rack she’d been perusing.

“Kind of feels like one. She had a picture of Ian?” The discomfort in her voice was a clarion.

“Yeah.” I’d seen the one she’d been looking at. “It’s just from one of the parties over the summer.” I had no idea when she’d even taken it, to be honest. Pretty sure it was before Ian’s birthday but after the fourth.


It was not cool.

“Frankie…” If I lived to be a hundred, I didn’t think I could feel more like an ass than I did right now. We’d hurt her and we hadn’t even realized we were hurting her.

Now? We were still hurting her.

She was so steadfastly not looking at me, I sighed and looked at the dress she’d pulled out. “That’s beautiful. You’d look great in it. ‘Course, you’d pretty much look great in anything here.” I did a quick scan for Cheryl before leaning in to whisper, “Even the cold and pale colors.”

There. The corner of her mouth curved. “Thanks, Coop.” She bumped my shoulder, so I hip checked her with equal care.

“Anytime. Want me to go add that to the rack?” 

She frowned at the price tag though. Yeah, she didn’t have to buy it to try it on. Right now, I’d sell a kidney to get her what she wanted.

“Come on,” I said, bumping her shoulder again. “Try it on. I bet it looks amazing.”

“You know what…why not?”

“That’s the spirit.” I added it to the collection.

By the time Cheryl declared they had enough dresses to begin trying on, poor Frankie looked like she was ready to flee or to collapse.

Maybe both.

“Divide and conquer,” Cheryl said. “We walk out in every dress. Coop, you are going to be the tie breaker if we can’t agree.”

“Oh. Joy. I was about to offer to get you ladies something to drink.” Or food. Cause if Frankie was really tired and hungry, Cheryl might actually be in danger.

“Nope.” Cheryl pointed me toward the puffy flat square seats. “Park it. You have to give us feedback.”

I checked with Frankie, cause really didn’t want her starving. “You said this would be fun, remember?”

There was my favorite girl. Reminding me that since I got her into this—at least partially—I was stuck doing it too.

I stuck my tongue out at her and she returned the favor, but then she grinned when we both shot our middle fingers at the same time.

Something akin to relief flooded me. It was the most “grounded” and “normal” she’d managed since everything went sideways the last couple of days. If she needed me here, then right the fuck here was where I’d be.

The next couple of hours were a deceptive exercise in sensual torture and entertainment. Despite her uncertainty, Frankie looked flat out fucking amazing in everything. She looked almost too good in some.

Especially the skimpier ones that made her so uncomfortable and would give way too many people a solid look at her ass and her panties.

Yeah, not a fan of those for public events.

Still, by the time she came out wearing the dress she loved, it radiated off of her.

Thank fuck.

Now to get rid of Cheryl and go feed my girl. 

©2022 Heather Long

Bonus Scene: Appropriation, a Rome Alternate PoV Scene for Brutal Fighter

Brutal Fighter hitting 200 reviews seemed awful quick. As I’m writing this, it’s only a little over 90 away from hitting 500. Chances are you’ll be waiting on that NEXT bonus scene as well. That’s fine. I’m trying to stay ahead of the curve here, but I digress.

The first bonus scene for Brutal Fighter was actually pretty easy to decide on. I’d already chosen it before I even released the book. So, if you’re wondering to yourself, Heather—if you decided on the scene already WHY wasn’t it in the book?

Well, there’s a few reasons why some of these scenes don’t make it in the books. Sometimes, they slow the pacing down. Sometimes they aren’t more than fluff and they don’t push the story forward. Sometimes, I just don’t think about it until I’m done.

I’ll let y’all figure out which one this is. *winks* Standard disclaimers here, if you haven’t read Brutal Fighter, this will definitely contain spoilers.


“Do I want to know?” Starling’s eyes were huge. They reminded me of a startled animal trapped by oncoming lights in traffic. I’d never let anything hit her though.

Not as long as I was there to stop it.

“Probably,” Liam admitted with more than a sigh. My other half was tired. But he needed her more than he wanted to confess. It was good that we’d come here. Both for Starling and for him. “Ezra is there.”

“Lainey’s Ezra?”


I almost wished he wasn’t. I’d like to keep Starling here for a while. Let them both rest.

“Does Lainey know?” Worry chased another emotion across her face.

“No,” I answered. Vaughn did. I did. He was Liam’s problem.

“Is he in trouble?”

“To be determined,” Liam said. “Your call, Hellspawn, what do you want to do?” While my brother could be guarded and careful of his thoughts, he made no such effort at the moment.

We wanted her to know us. To trust us. She needed us to trust her. So, no more secrets. I liked that.

Liam and I had no secrets. If I wanted to know, he would tell me. The same for him. Now for Starling. She bit at her lower lip and frowned. I didn’t like when things bothered her. Especially when she seemed on uneven footing.

“We need to go back then?” The question was for her, not for Liam. If Starling said no, we would stay here. He could deal with Ezra or not. The man would be fine where he was in the meanwhile.

At least, he wouldn’t get shot.

She sighed. “We should.” Then she glanced down at her bare feet.

“Go change,” Liam suggested. “We’ll wait for you.” He didn’t glance at me but I heard the unspoken “we need to talk too” but Starling just cast us both a smile, tremulous though it was.


“You’re not getting rid of me,” Liam informed her. “Ever. Get used to it.”

Then her grin turned real and she pivoted to head for my room. As soon as she disappeared, I went into the kitchen. If we were going back, now would be a good time to pack up the coffeemaker.

Like my shadow, Liam followed right behind me. “What happened after I left?” I unplugged the machine and removed the water reservoir. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Starling likes fancy coffee.”

“And?” The testiness in that single word gave me pause and I glanced at my brother.

“She will like having this there.”

He scrubbed a hand over his face. “I’ll buy her one. Put it back.”

“We have this one.”

“We do,” he agreed, taking the reservoir out of my hands. “It’s mine. I like it. She’ll need it when she’s here.”

That was a fair point.

“So I’ll buy her one.”


He let out a laugh, though it sounded more like a groan. “Yes, today.” After he plugged the machine in, he added, “Can you look at me for a moment?”

Though he asked rarely, I didn’t mind meeting his gaze. When he did ask, I always complied. “Yes?”

“You really are okay with me and Hellspawn?”

“She’s ours.” I shrugged. “She always has been. There is nothing to be alright with. You care. I care. She cares.”

It was the simplest answer.

“The other guys?”

“They are our brothers.”

Liam dropped his chin.

“They are,” I repeated. “We kept the truth from them. They know now. They will forgive.”

I’d never liked the lie, but I’d understood. Liam never asked me to lie to them directly, only to not explain and to keep quiet. I hadn’t cared for that either.

“You have a lot of faith in them,” he murmured.

“So do you,” I reminded him. “You protected even when they thought you weren’t. You chose this path.”

“Ouch,” Liam grunted and then backed up a couple of steps. He glanced out the kitchen door and I knew he was listening for her. I was too. “It seemed the right thing to do at the time. Still does.”

“Then trust them. They know. They care about her too. She’s ours. All of ours. We will keep her safe.” Then I spread my hands. “We will keep you safe too.”

“Focus on her, brother mine, focus on her. I can watch my own back.”

The door to my room opened so I brushed past him, but paused only long enough to smack the back of his head. It was a maneuver he did often when someone said something stupid.

I didn’t comment. Didn’t have to.

His laughter was confirmation enough.

“Ready?” she asked.

Yes. We were ready.

Coffeemaker, then Ezra. Maybe we could forget the second.

He wasn’t as important as the coffee.

(c) Heather Long 2022