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Extras Category: Bonus Scenes

Bonus Scene: Love and Lace, an alternate PoV scene for Whisper and Wishes

For 200 reviews on Whispers and Wishes, I offer you an alternate viewpoint to a scene from the book. The guys are all very different as are their relationships with Frankie, so when they take pivotal steps, it’s sometimes as much of a surprise to me as it is to them!


As birthdays went I’d never particularly looked forward to mine as much as I had this year. Frankie dating all of us—well three of us at the moment, though Bubba looked to be improving his chances—and after the disaster of Homecoming, it was more important to me than ever to share tonight with her.

Yes, we would have lots of other nights. But those rare nights where she was just mine were something I would treasure. I could share, I would share, and I loved that she was happy but I also liked being a little selfish, too.

The fact Rachel had popped around to help her with her make-up and hair amused me. Dinner with Grandpa probably wasn’t high on Frankie’s list of dinner dates for my birthday, but spending it with her and Grandpa? The only thing that would make it better was Nana being there.

Also, Frankie had a rule—what the birthday boy wanted, he got.

By the time she emerged, she looked like a million dollars. While I loved seeing her all dressed up, she was just as beautiful in a pair of cut off shorts and a tank top as she was in a silk dress. My favorite was nothing at all, but I didn’t relish sharing that view with anyone besides the people currently present.

Even Rachel got a pass.

Sort of.

Coop was a dick laying a kiss on her after he pinned her to a wall and removed nearly all of her lipstick. The fact he’d made sure to get a lot of fun pics of Frankie and me together with him only photo bombing one or two helped alleviate the need to punch him.

I added the shots to my locked folder of Frankie images. I’d started the collection not long after we met and it wasn’t about creeping. I’d even had a couple printed and framed in my room—it was for way more than spank bank material. Far more. Nana had all these huge photo albums and when I was younger, she would pull them out and go through them.

“Why?” I’d asked. We didn’t know hardly any of the people in those pictures. Well, I didn’t. Even the ones of Edward as a kid didn’t really register as being my father.

“Because, they’re memories. They’re my memories and every one of these pictures reminds me of a moment and they make me happy.”

“Like the one of baby me on the mantle?” She had a picture of me from each year I’d been alive. Several in fact, but the infant picture taken just minutes after I’d been born when I was red-faced and screaming was her favorite. She had it in a frame with a lace doily around the edges. She said it was a handkerchief, but it looked like a doily.

Anyway, she said it was her favorite because it was the moment I came into her life. That would be one she would always treasure. The handkerchief held her tears of joy. I thought it was kind of hokey, but I wouldn’t argue with Nana for anything in the world.

Until I saved that first picture of Frankie, I hadn’t quite understood what she’d meant. Now I did. Every single picture I had of her also held a story, a moment in time, a slice of emotion. Even when we’d been only friends—she was someone I would always treasure and I never wanted to forget a single instant.

The minute Frankie returned, I led her to the backdoor and called, “Don’t wait up for us, I might not bring her back until tomorrow.” In fact, I had zero intention of bringing her back before the next day.

We had a suite booked at a hotel and we were going to have it all to ourselves. I was going to get to spoil my girl in style.

Once we were in the car though, Frankie put a hand on my arm. The thrill that went through me at the contact never got old. Seriously. There were times when she stunned me now almost as much as she had that first day I met her.

“Before we go, can I give you your presents here?” The offer sent a pulse straight to cock.

Hell, even before I’d buried my face in her pussy and had her pulse around my dick as she came, it would have. Now? Well, now my dick and I both knew what we’d love our present to be.

“Right here?” I said, trying to ignore my rapidly stiffening cock. She’d also just finished fixing her lipstick. Course, she could leave a ring of that around my dick—I wouldn’t argue. “Cause the seats aren’t the best for it, but I’m totally game to try.”

“Not that and not here, perv.” She rolled her eyes and I just grinned. Playful Frankie was amazing. I adored the fact that just because we were dating didn’t mean I got a free pass. It was a hell of a lot more fun to have to earn it anyway.

“Damn. Though after the other night, you’re really going to need to work it to match that as a present. I still get hard thinking about it.”

A hot flush crept up her neck and flooded her face. It just added to her beauty and made me want her more if that was possible. “Archie. Let me give you your present.”

“Fine.” I sighed and mimed zipping my lips. Birthday boy might get what the birthday boy wanted, but I’d give it over to Frankie every damn time.

“Thank you.” She pulled out her phone. “Do you mind if I pair this with your car?”

Like I’d tell her no. It took me no time to get her phone paired with the sound system. Curiosity was like a restless beast in my system, it wanted to unwrap the present and devour her right there.

“Have I mentioned how hot I find it that you’re giving this moment a soundtrack?” I grinned at her and she wrinkled her adorable nose. Yeah, yeah, I was supposed to be quiet.


Obedience was not my strong suit. Leaning back in the seat, I eased the pressure on my dick and moved him over a little in my pants leg. Excitement or nervousness or maybe both seemed to shimmer over her skin. The first notes began to play through the speakers and I nudged the sound up a bit. I was way more rock and roll, but I assumed she had a point here.

Then a voice joined the piano music.

Frankie’s voice.

“The first step was the hardest one. You walked in and I invited you to sit and talk. I smiled at you and you joined in. You were a stranger then you were a friend.”

Holy shit, she recorded a song for my present.

“The second step was harder still. You wanted me and I was blind. Whispers and wishes, so many misses. Dancing. Playing. Laughing. Crying. You were the one who wanted to take my dreams flying.”

My heart pounded so hard, it threatened to drown out the music and I didn’t want to miss a note. I took her hand. No wonder she’d been nervous. She didn’t think she could sing…

“The third step and we fell off. My whispers became shouts and my wishes so many doubts. You were there every step of the way and when I tumbled you had to have your say.”

Sitting forward, I locked my gaze on hers. The leap of her pulse under my fingertips before I caressed her cheek told me that it had definitely been nerves. She was terrified and embarrassed and she’d—she’d recorded this for me.

“But here we are, crash and burn, rise and fall, song and singer, friends and lovers…” The last word trailed off. “If I have my way, this is where we’ll stay but I want your whispers and your wishes every day.”

The music rose again and then trailed off. 

“Happy birthday, Archie. I always want your wishes to come true. So whisper them or shout them, but this song? It’s just for you.”

As it ended and she bit her lip, I lunged forward and kissed her. Every ounce of emotion she’d poured into that song flooded me and I was desperate to share it with her. She clung to me as I thrust my tongue against hers. Everything I asked for she gave and gave and gave.

“God, I love you,” I admitted between one pause for breath before kissing her again. I didn’t need oxygen. I needed Frankie. I’d loved her for so long.

Truly loved her.

The words were right there and the easiest declaration I’d ever made. This was another moment I planned to never forget and I was keeping that song.

And I was keeping her.


© 2021 Heather Long

Bonus Scene: Perspective, a bonus scene for Savage Vandal

Congratulations on reaching 300 reviews on Savage Vandal! I appreciate it so much! So maybe that should read “thank you!” So, thank you for reading Emersyn and the Vandals’ story. Thank you for rooting for them. Thank you even more for loving Freddie. Especially Stephanie Heinritz, hot dogs and all.


It was late when I got back to the clubhouse. Juggling two different jobs had seemed like a good idea at the time. Paying off debts while not hitting up the guys or having to listen to anyone tell me to go to college was the goal. The problem with two jobs was they paid shit for wages, bored the fuck out of me, and meant I got like no goddamn sleep.

Lack of sleep, in turn, meant that when I got pulled over for losing lane position on my way home—bear in fucking mind no one else was on the damn street—I’d forgotten my wallet with my license in it and I’d borrowed one of the extra cars and there was no insurance in the glove box.

Instead of cutting me a break, the pig made me get out and walk a straight fucking line. Like I was drunk or stoned. I wished. Apparently, wrong thing to say. Who knew the dude didn’t have a sense of humor? Which was the roundabout way the car got impounded and my ass ended up in jail.

A place the pricks I call my brothers fucking left me. Asses.

Of all the fucking people to bail me out, Liam had been the last one I pictured showing up. He didn’t even say anything. Just ordered me to get in the car and follow him. After he bought me dinner, he sent me back to the clubhouse.

That was that.

Well, that and he told me I needed to shower cause I smelled like shit. Three days in a fucking jail cell would do that. I made a beeline for my own room as soon as I was back. Granted, I didn’t usually care what most people thought but when I was beginning to offend myself, there was definitely a problem.

A shit, shower, shave, and shampoo and I was damn near a new man. I even shaved back the sides of my hair. The dye I’d thrown in it to cover up the purple I’d fucked around with had left it this dull ugly ass brown. Maybe I should shave the whole thing off.

I’d just finished brushing my teeth when doors slammed down the hallway. Hawk’s roar was not an unfamiliar sound. At least it wasn’t me on his shit list. I mean, I probably was on his shit list, but it wasn’t my door he slammed open. Curiosity, however, had me wandering out and following the snarled sounds of Hawk ripping into someone.

The thump of fists and the sound of bodies crashing into a wall weren’t that unusual either. We all fought. Some of us more than others.

Some of us a lot more than others. A headache brewed behind my eyes and my stomach growled. They didn’t know I was here yet. I could just go back and eat my food and crash out to some music for a few hours. Pretty sure I had a couple of downers hidden away. They’d make sure I got some sleep.

“Don’t fucking touch her.” Definitely Hawk.

“Are you trying to hurt her?” Holy shit. Doc? I frowned at the answering growl in Doc’s voice. Doc never snarled at anyone.

Well, Hawk did cause Hawk could be a dick to just about everyone. Except me—for the most part.

“She’s all skin and bones and bruises. I don’t want to do anything to her.”


Jail had meant I’d missed going to the show and I hadn’t been there to back Hawk up nor had I gotten to see her. Was she here? No, they wouldn’t bring her here?

Would they?

I followed the sounds of the fighting into Kellan’s room. The door to the little room between his and Rome’s was open.

“You want to think about that, Jasper,” Doc said in a calm voice as I nudged the door a little wider. Oh, Jasper had a gun tucked under Doc’s jaw.

That was bad.

It could be worse. He could have fired the gun already. Then I glanced past the two to the gorgeous girl standing in the doorway. Bruised. Battered. Pale as a ghost. Dark hair and huge dark eyes.



It was her.

“Did I miss the party invite?” I asked, the grin as automatic as breathing. Get everyone’s attention on me and maybe they wouldn’t kill each other. Still, I didn’t look at the dick measuring contest. Jasper was the biggest prick of us all, dick size notwithstanding. If he wasn’t distracted and soon, he might actually shoot Doc and that would suck for all of us. So I latched my gaze on the bruised beauty. Why was she so fucking hurt? “Well hello, gorgeous. I definitely missed the party invite, or I’d have been right up to see you. You’re looking a little rough. The guys do like to throw their girls around, get all dominant and shit. Now me? I’m a slow and easy ride, I’ll take you real gentle like.”

I kind of wanted to wrap her up in a blanket and just cuddle her. Maybe give her an aspirin. Why the fuck were they fighting over her?

“Freddie, fuck right the hell off,” Jasper snarled. “She is not here for your entertainment.”

“Well, no shit, Boss, I can see that. Though I think you should be a little easier on the ladies. Just ’cause we pay ’em don’t mean we need to slap them around.”

Yep. That got their attention. They both whirled on me and I grinned. Seriously, assholes, she was shivering so hard she looked almost blue under the bruises and her poor little nipples were puckered almost painfully. The fact she had that smooth pussy was sweet, but again, why weren’t they looking after her?

What the fuck could be so important they were fighting while she looked like that? Maybe I should take her back to my room. I could at least feed her half my sandwich.

Maybe all of it.

“Out of curiosity, do you laser or wax?” I asked when Thing One and Thing Two didn’t do anything but glare at me. “I mean, that’s the smoothest pussy I’ve seen in a long time.”

Some of the fear in her eyes vanished and she stared at me like I’d sprouted a second head. I could have, I supposed, but I kind of objected to hitting on women who looked like they’d been through hell.

Besides—she was—she was her.

“Put some fucking clothes on,” Jasper snapped at her. Wow, he sucked. Or maybe he was just horny and hating himself. Either way, dick move bro. Dick move. She gave him a look that made me grin. Oh, there was a fighter in there.

I liked her already.

“Yeah, you do whatever you want, Boo-Boo,” I told her, still grinning. “I don’t think I’d want to put on clothes over any of that, either. If you want, I can just shuck my clothes, then we can be naked together. Solidarity.”

Her laugh was a goddamn gift. Still she wasn’t that steady on her feet and I started forward. So had Doc, but Jasper cut us both off.

“For fuck’s sake,” he snarled as he grabbed her bag and tossed it on the bed before giving me a shove. “Get out. You too.”

“I think I’ll wait.” Doc told him coolly. “I still need to rewrap her ankle and she needs help…”

If looks could kill, these two would have obliterated each other already. “I could help,” I said just as Jasper shoved me back into Kellan’s room. The other two were glaring at each other. Vaughn appeared in the open doorway to the hall and he glanced at me then the door.

When I made a face, he rolled his eyes but he didn’t slow down as he strolled in there. I blew out a breath as Vaughn just took over and ignored all of them. Boo-Boo took all of his focus and I sagged. Fuck me, I was gonna go eat. Then I’d sneak back in and see if she needed anything.

I barely made it to the hall before Jasper and Doc came barreling out. The two of them glared at me, but Jasper at least gave me a once over and just muttered later before the two of them took their argument somewhere else.

Fine by me.

Back in my room, I closed the door and walked over to the bed. The burger and fries were both cold when I opened the wrapping, but I didn’t care. Food was food. I ate it as I lay there on the bed and I stared up at the poster on the ceiling. It was one of her flying in silks. I’d gotten it from one of the gift shops by the theater. I’d planned to save it for Raptor, but I’d pinned it to my ceiling instead.

No matter how long I stared at that ethereal girl on the ceiling, I couldn’t reconcile it with the bruised and battered Boo-Boo in the other room. Nor did I like how much of myself I saw in her eyes. I shoved the food into my mouth and reached over to the nightstand. There were a couple of pills in a little envelope taped up against the lid. Harder to find.

I popped them both.

I’d need them.

The last thing I wanted to see was where that darkness went. Right now, I’d take whatever escape I could get.

Bonus Scene: Disorientation, a bonus scene for Vicious Rebel

Wait, you’re getting another Freddie PoV? Are you reading that right? Yes, yes you are. Mostly cause you hit 400 reviews on Vicious Rebel and I am so excited to give you a little glimpse behind the curtain. So buckle up cause here we go! This takes place before the guys find him at the beginning of Vicious Rebel, so if you haven’t read Vicious Rebel, wait to read this later 🙂



A fist caught me in the side of the head and I rocked in the chair. Laughter bubbled up inside of me as I blinked through the watery eyes to find the pair of 19 Diamonds who’d jumped me glaring as bits of blood and spittle hit them as I laughed. Now they looked like speckled diamonds and that was funny as fuck.

I was high.

“Have you ever felt like nobody was there?” I asked. Granted it was a mostly rhetorical question.

“Shut up asshole.” He backhanded me and more blood flew from my lip. It sprayed across the tile and the girl who’d offered to suck my dick let out a squeal. I wonder if this was what they meant by spotted dick. Another laugh escaped me.

“I told you to make him talk,” another voice intruded. That dude sounded like a real asshole.

“You said get him here,” the spotted dick responded and there were tears in her voice. This time when flesh struck flesh, the spotted dick let out a cry.

“You know I’ll be found right?” I said. Hitting chicks was so fucking lazy. Besides, I was right here. 

“What?” The guy whirled on me and he got right down in my face.

“Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?” I asked, blinking away the fresh wave of tears his Shrek-level onion breath dragged out of me. “And have you ever heard of a breath mint?”

He snarled, sadly exhaling more of that nasty breath into my face, and hit me square in the stomach. I would have puked, ‘cept I didn’t have anything in my stomach so I laughed.

“They want answers or pieces,” a new voice said. Yeah I couldn’t see that one cause they’d knocked my chair over and I was lying on my side on the floor. This was kind of nice. Spotted dick rubbed her face and threw me an apologetic smile. Yeah, I knew better than to chase free pussy.

Still…shit, I tried to smile but all I could taste was blood so it probably came out some gruesome Freddie Krueger shit—Freddie Krueger.

Oh shit.

I laughed.

The air wheezed out of me.

“What the fuck are you laughing at?”

The chair was yanked up and the world swayed as it righted itself.

“Have you ever felt like you could disappear?” I asked, I was flying. At some point, this shit was gonna hurt, but not right now. This was awesome.

“We’re not gonna get shit out of him like this. She gave him too much.”

“Like you could fall and no one would hear,” I said with a sigh. But they weren’t listening. Nope, they were arguing and fuck that, I closed my eyes to shut them out. I didn’t need to hear that shit when I liked people, sure as shit didn’t want to listen to a bunch of spotted dicks fight.

You know—unless they were gonna beat the shit out of themselves…that would be sweet.

The minute I closed my eyes though, I saw Boo-Boo’s face. Fuck. I was supposed to get Boo-Boo something to eat and I’d totally gone to get her something special and then…yeah, then I got lost cause that was what I did.

The song burned in my chest cause the louder the fight grew the more it harshed my buzz. I needed the buzz. The buzz was the good stuff.

Yeah I was high.

Flying high, like Boo-Boo.

And yeah, when the dark came shining in—I’d be found.

The lyrics didn’t make much sense, but I loved the fucking song so I just sang it for all I was worth. It warbled and bounced off the walls. I got popped a few more times, but it just made me sing louder.

“Fuck my life, shut him up!”

Okay, I cackled at that. Funny as hell, but even as they hauled me out of the chair and dragged me next door and up some stairs, I kept singing. I even gave the big bruiser hauling me a smacking kiss on the cheek.

He all but threw me in the room and rubbed at his face like a maniac. So fucking funny. Taking a deep breath, I wheezed and coughed and waited—where was I with the song? Shit. I forgot.

Oh, I knew—I channeled my inner Anne Hathaway and sang about when I had a dream and it wasn’t long before the guys with me slammed the door on their way out. Head back, I stared at the cracked ceiling and tried to picture Boo-Boo doing that silk dancing to the song.

That would be cool.

I could fly with her like this.

But the song had one thing right—they tore our hopes apart.

Bonus Scene: Turtlenecks and Teasing, an alternate PoV for Hangovers and Holidays

So, here’s a quick look at the Ski Lessons from Jake’s PoV and why he and Archie decided to take over with Frankie. *winks* Enjoy your bonus PoV from Hangovers and Holidays. Woot to hitting those review goals.


The sky was vivid blue, the air crisp, and the snow fantastic. From the moment Archie mentioned this trip, I’d been dying to get out on the slopes. Okay, I’d been dying to be with Frankie and get out on the slopes. First things first, get Coop and Frankie a ski lesson. “You guys don’t have to stay,” Frankie said, grinning. She looked fan-fucking-tastic in the red ski clothes. Honestly, she looked good in them and even better out of them, but I was definitely enjoying the view.

“We’re fine, Babe,” Archie told her. “Besides, we want to be here.”

Coop smirked at us. “Right, you just want to hang out.” Yeah, he got it. We wanted the time with her. Besides, I also wanted a good look at the instructor to make sure he had some clue of what he or she was doing. No one was risking my baby girl.

I resisted the urge to flip him off. Jerkface should appreciate the fact we were looking out for him too.

“Hey there—I’m looking for Coop and Frankie?” At the sound of the guy’s voice, I pivoted to see the college guy staring at my girl with a hint of pleasure in his eyes.

Oh. Fuck. No.

“I’m Frankie,” she said, taking his hand as he offered it. “This is Coop.”

Coop just lifted his chin in hello. Okay the guy shook her hand super brief and she had her gloves on. We could do this.

“Great. Neither of you have skied before?” He double-checked then glanced down at their booted feet. “Okay, we’ll start with the skis and go from there.” He gave Frankie a fucking once over.

Bubba gripped my shoulder.

“Right, let’s get you both outfitted.” He shot us a grin. “You boys joining us?”

“Oh, we’ll be following,” Archie told him. “Lead the way.”

Good plan, get him going first. Instead, he fell into step with Frankie as he took her over to the ski hut. The whole time he got them kitted up, I glared.

“Dude, you’ve got serial killer eyes,” Bubba told me.

“I’m keeping an eye on our girl.” And on the guy who was right on her there walking her through putting her skis on and off. Frankie wasn’t an idiot. Nor was Coop. But he repeatedly walked them through locking the skis on and getting them off—including using their ski poles to trigger the release.

We headed out together and he walked them through putting their skis on and then went over the basics. I kept my arms folded and my gaze pinned on him as he explained wedging and turns. They walked up the half little bump—at the base of the bunny slope and to the side—put on their skis and then had them ski down.

“It’s all about momentum. Downhill skiing means gravity does a lot of the work, but you also have to control your descent. Wedge, wedge… that’s better.” After a few passes at that, he directed them over to the rope pull to head up to the top of the slope. Frankie shot us a nervous look and I summoned a smile.

That died right about the time the asshole—Josh—skied up to her where she struggled with the rope and braced her as he gripped the rope and up they went.

“Did he just…”

“He sure the fuck did.”

“Guys,” Bubba said. “Take it easy, she was having trouble. He just helped her.”

That was fine. I dropped my skis into the snow and stepped into them. Archie was doing the same, Mister Handsy needed to keep them to himself. If she needed help on the rope pull that would be us. Frankie and Coop came flying down the hill. Coop had the wedge but Frankie nearly crashed. I winced for her, but she was laughing.

Before we could get to her, Josh was there giving her hand. “Okay, beautiful, I can tell you what you did wrong. Can you?”

She grinned. “I thought I was wedging, but I couldn’t angle them right.”

“You just have to engage your ass and there’s gonna be a pull down your thighs and you shift your weight to the outside of your feet as you angle the ski tips together. Don’t cross them.”

He stood right behind her, hands on her hips as he urged her to lean in a little.

“And I’m done,” I said bluntly as I headed over.

“Me too.” Archie was right behind me. Bubba, it should be noted, didn’t object.

“Tell you what, Josh,” I began as I reached them. “You focus on Coop and Arch and I will take over with Frankie.”

She blinked at me with a frown. “Guys, I didn’t do that bad.”

“You didn’t do bad at all, Babe,” Archie assured her but Josh took a hot minute to get his hands off her hips. He backed off, hands raised. He better back the fuck off. He should retreat to the other side of the damn mountain.

“Come on, Baby Girl. You get two skill teachers for the cost of one.” I grinned at her, but she just rolled her eyes.

“I can get this wedging thing down.”

“You absolutely can,” I assured her and Archie and I got her moving back to the rope pull. I helped her go up this time and she glanced at me.

“Are you mad?”

“Nope,” I promised. I wasn’t. Not anymore.

“You look kind of mad.”

I grinned. “See? Not mad.”

“Uh huh.”

Arch and I spent the next few minutes taking turns with her. Wedging took a couple of passes. Experience was the best instructor. Way better than Josh and his wandering eyes and hands. If he looked at her ass one more time…

“Woot! I did it.” Pleasure flooded Frankie’s voice and I shot a look over to find her holding her arms up. Fuck, I missed it.

“Okay, let’s do it again,” I said and tried to put Josh out of my mind. I wasn’t missing another thing with my girl. Mr. Turtleneck was way too preppy. I bet we could strangle him and that turtleneck would hide it all.

“You’re growling,” Frankie said as I braced her and gripped the rope tow to get us up there. She kept struggling. Arch, Bubba, and I took turns helping her. Josh wasn’t putting his hands on her again. Not unless he wanted me to rip them off.

“You’re hawt,” I retorted. “Makes me hungry.” Then I growled against her ear and she burst out laughing.

There we go. Much better. 

© 2021 Heather Long

Bonus Scene: Rage and wRath, a bonus Ian scene for Keys and Kisses

Bonus scene for Keys and Kisses. Look at y’all go. You’re slaying it with the reviews! The following bonus scene takes place over time both in the hospital and after in the scenes between the end of K&K and the beginning of W&W.


The whole time I sat in the hallway outside of her hospital room, I replayed the scene in my head of walking in on Mitch looming over her. The fact her eyes were so dilated. How limp her hands had been. The fact there was a whimper in her voice. They haunted me through the conversation with the cops, the interview, the questions. It played on a loop when a nurse wanted to look at the bloody wreck of my knuckles.

The scene echoed when I went back to her place to feed the cats and get her a change of clothes. Frankie filled these rooms with her presence, a sweetness and a kind heart that had been so badly treated. It just flooded me with fresh rage at Mitch all over again.

His jaw had broken. I knew that much. Every single time I flexed my bruised knuckles, I could feel the way his jaw cracked when I slammed my fist into it. I wish I’d broken his skull open and then pissed in the hole.

The sheer violence threading through my veins each time the thought of his name came up was bad enough. Yet, it intensified whenever I caught the flash of the bruises on her face. I couldn’t bring myself to go into her room at the hospital. She needed the guys. She needed their steadiness, their devotion, and the fact they had been there for her.

It was my damn fault I hadn’t been the official date. I’d tried and failed to communicate what I was trying to do and I had no one else to blame for the situation than myself.


And Mitch.

As much as I despised her mother for the things she’d done to Frankie, I’d never hated anyone the way I hated Mitch.

If I’d been even five more minutes.

Or worse—I hadn’t found them at all.

Homicidal didn’t cover it.

Dad spent my whole life stressing how to resolve with my words and not my fists, but right now I didn’t have the words to express the depth of my rage that she had gone through this. I told myself that night as the music etched itself into my soul that I had to find the right words. Each note a hard chord that drew blood as it was struck.

It didn’t take away the need for vengeance or to hunt him down. Not when Dad counseled me to take a step back. Not when Mom asked me to take a breath and let the law work. It didn’t curb the bloody dreams of ripping him apart or from listening to Jake as he detailed how badly he wanted to eviscerate him.

On that subject we were in perfect accord. Yet, the words weren’t there. The first night Frankie woke us sobbing, the chords grew heavier and darker. I stared up at the ceiling as Jake held her or Coop comforted her or Archie murmured until she went back to sleep.

Every night, when the dreams came, the notes fell into a bleak riff that ripped my heart open. With every tear, long look into the distance, and dark dream—the notes grew in strength and force. I could hear the song every single waking hour.

The first time I picked up my guitar though, I couldn’t play it. I didn’t dare let it out. If I did, I might never be able to bottle that rage and the next time I saw Mitch, I’d kill him. Playing the “what if” game was as dangerous as Russian roulette. It didn’t stop the notes from coming.

A week.

Seven days.

And it wasn’t until she napped in the other room while the guys were at school and I knew she was safe that I played it for the first time.

The full measure of the song. Every single blood-drenched half-note, treble, clef, and sharp. The rage boiled in the music, crackling and popping like kernels of corn in a fire. The eruptions came in a series of violent notes that descended back to something like a baseline of normal.




Rage again.

She woke the last time I played it, but I put it away when she came out of the room. “Just practicing something,” I told her and there was a faint smile on her lips at those words. Later, when she would ask me to play, those notes quieted. They would return when I woke each morning.

Every day, with my pulse as the metronome, I refined the notes. Until I could finally add lyrics to them.

The rage was in the music, the wRath in the lyrics. I never sang it. Not once. Occasionally, I pulled it out and looked at the song sheets, I’d created. It was a rock song filled with pathos. A threat and a promise.

One day, Frankie found the notebook with that song in it. When she asked me what it was, I told her the truth. “Just working out some stuff. Not sure we need to use that one.”

“Okay,” she said and smiled. Her smile was back. That let me put the notebook away, and keep the song sheets filed. She had her smile again.

But the song sat there, a Pandora’s box for my fury. One day, when I was ready, I’d either let it out or I’d burn it.

Today, however, was not that day.

Bonus Scene: Fathers and Families, a bonus Kelly PoV for Defiance and Dedication

Bonus scene for Defiance and Dedication. This one is brought to you by special request. *winks* Thanks for loving these characters and this story as much as I do.


“Dad,” Alec said, staring at Hank across the table. For his part, Hank had been doing a fantastic impression of a professor reading through papers though he hadn’t turned a page in twenty minutes nor made a single mark with his pen.


“What if I don’t like her?” The question was delivered in Alec’s very sober and serious manner, concern radiated off of him. This wasn’t a flip attempt at being funny or a taunt in order to get his father’s attention. The genuine reflection in the words made my heart ache for our altogether far too grave son.

The question pulled his father away from worrying so I focused my attention on dinner and let Hank and Alec discuss this. Alec often went to one of us when he needed to figure something out, and in this case, Hank was the better one to answer. In fact, I was fairly certain the man I loved so much needed to answer this for himself as much as for Alec.

“Well, that’s a possibility,” Hank said slowly, not dismissing Alec’s concerns in the slightest. I had to keep my back to them to not betray my smile. “I suppose, she may not like you either. That would be challenging.”

“I hadn’t thought about that,” Alec admitted. “Chloe and Craig are way more annoying.”

It took everything I possessed to not laugh. He didn’t even mean it in a cruel way, just that they tended to be loud and playful to his far quieter demeanor.

“You know,” Hank said, the chair creaked as though he stretched. He had an office that was way more comfortable for grading, but instead, he sat at the tall table in our kitchen that we used more for homework and food prep than eating. He did it because he wanted to keep me company in the evenings. “The only thing we can do is keep our fingers crossed. She doesn’t seem the type to dislike someone just on principle.”

“That seems reasonable,” Alec said. “And if she’s taking over as the eldest, she will have to be patient.”

I waited for it, because there was no mistaking where this was going.

“That means I don’t have to be…” The barest suggestion of slyness echoed in that trailing sentence.

“True,” Hank agreed. “But it doesn’t mean you should be impatient or try to push her to see how much you can get away with. Unlike you, she hasn’t had younger siblings—or any siblings for that matter—she’s been alone. Far too alone.”

The last three words were a hushed exhale like he hadn’t meant to say them.

“You did say that before,” Alec admitted. “That’s kind of sad even if the twins are a pain in the—”

“Alec,” I said in the exact same breath as Hank. I turned away from the spaghetti boiling on the stove.

“I was gonna say butt,” he informed us, but the gleam in his eyes betrayed his amusement.

“Uh huh,” Hank clucked and then pointed his pen at him. “I’m wise to you, Mister. Is your homework done?”

“Yes, sir,” Alec said. “May I go play the X-Box while you finish getting dinner ready?” That question included me.

“I don’t mind, but don’t taunt your brother.”

“I won’t,” Alec said, pivoting on his heel. “I won’t have to. I’m breathing. That’s taunting enough.”

I barely survived not laughing until the door closed behind him leaving Hank and I in the kitchen. When my gaze met his, he chuckled softly and I had to press a hand to my mouth.

“I blame you for that,” Hank said with a smile. “That dry, dry sense of humor is all you.”

“Bullshit,” I murmured. “That’s all you. You forget, I have met your mother.”

He gripped his chest as if my verbal arrow had lodged a hit. “And here I was thinking you’d liked Mom.”

“I adored her, but I also know where your sense of humor comes from.”

“I can accept that charge,” he admitted, then glanced back at the paper. For a moment, bewilderment creased his expression as if he didn’t even remember reading to where he was. With an exasperated sigh, he raked a hand through his hair before he flipped back to the beginning.

“She wouldn’t be coming if she didn’t want to meet us,” I reminded him gently.

“She’s put it off all summer,” he said, worry rustling with each word and his gaze fixed on the paper.

“Yes, but what did you tell me?”

“Her mother is a raging narcissist with delusional issues. She’s been through an emotional ringer. She and the boys she is dating—boys—”

He groaned and I bit back another smile as I went through the motions of draining the spaghetti. The sauce and meatballs were all ready, but I still needed to get the garlic bread into the oven.

“I can’t believe I wasn’t there for the first date or the first dance or the first—” Anger decorated the deep sadness present in his regrets. “I should have pushed that—bitch when she called me the first time.”

“You didn’t know,” I reminded him. “You told me then that if her child was yours…”

Hank turned in his seat and I paused mid-butter on the french loaves I’d separated.

“You didn’t,” I repeated. “You told me when she called. You offered her everything she needed to do the DNA test and then you sat by the phone and waited for a week.”

“And she still didn’t tell me the truth.”

“No, but your daughter did. Granted, she reached out via her attorney.” I offered him that opening and Hank smiled in a way that told me he knew exactly what I was doing.

“She had every reason to be cautious of a complete stranger she’d never even heard of,” he said, his defense immediate and absolute. “Of course, then said stranger just showed up on her doorstep.”

“And as uneasy and nervous as she was, what did you tell me?”

“She’s so damn smart, Kelly. There’s so much intelligence in her eyes and more, so much compassion. She’s—she reminds me of my mother and my grandmother. There’s a kindness in her, but also a wit. The hurt is there, you can see it, lurking below the surface. The expectation of pain and disappointment. If I’d been there…”

“If you’d known,” I said, leaving the bread for the moment and wiping my hands on a towel. Crossing over to him, I tapped his nose. “You, Mr. Jackson, are one of the most dedicated and conscientious men I’ve ever known and you are an amazing father who makes me fall in love with him every single day for how much you love our children. Frankie is going to be no different. You love her, you’ll be patient, and she’s coming. Give her time, give yourself time…”

“What if she doesn’t like all of us?” There it was, so much like Alec. That heart of his so damn ready to just embrace everyone but at the same time, worried he might smother or chase her away.

“Impossible,” I reminded him. “We’re amazing. We have to be, to keep up with you.”

His snort made me smile for real. When he tugged me to him, I hugged him. The comfort he needed right now just made me love him more

“Families adapt,” I reminded him. “When we had Alec, we had to adapt to not just being the two of us and then the twins.”

He chuckled against me. “They were a surprise.”

“Yes, they were.” No one had realized it was even twins—somehow—so Chloe or Craig, we’d never figured out which had covered for the other. Sneaky little darlings. “But we adapted. Even Alec, who worries so much.”

Hank had worried too, his light squeeze reminded me of how he’d not slept for a week. The twins had been smaller because there had been two and had needed time in the NICU. Hank was there every single night, looking after them, spending time with them, and me. Then with Alec, he’d been a gift, involving him in everything—including the planning to prep for two when we’d only readied for one.

Pressing a kiss to the top of his head, I said, “That’s why you and the kids have spent the whole summer, bit by bit, trying to put a room together for her.”

“You gave up your sewing room for her,” Hank said with a sigh.

“I gave up nothing. I can sew just as well downstairs in the basement as I can upstairs. This just means Frankie has her own space here and that’s important. All of our kids need that.”

Tilting his head back, Hank smiled. “Mrs. Jackson, I do believe I am not the only one burdened with a huge heart.”

“Oh, darling, it’s not a burden except that you haven’t let me go down there and just hug that child and drag her back here where I can look after her properly.”

He laughed. Truly laughed. “Baby steps, Kel. You’re way more mom than she’s used to.”

I sniffed. “I’ll fix it.”

“I believe you.”

But some of the worry had drained from his face and I dropped another kiss on his lips. “Good. Now, try to grade at least one paper, dinner will be ready in ten.”

“Yes ma’am.”

He sat a little straighter in the chair, focused a bit more, and the cloud of concern hovering over him had lightened. Like Hank, I wished we’d known about Frankie a lot sooner. I couldn’t wait to meet that young lady. She’d utterly charmed Hank, I had zero doubts she’d charm the kids. Chloe was already her biggest fan.

The fact she was as worried as her father about how they would all do told me it would all be fine.

Families adapted.

Ours already had. Frankie would figure that out soon enough.

Bonus Scene: Clash, a bonus Raptor PoV for Vicious Rebel

Five hundred reviews on Vicious Rebel (and still climbing)! You guys take my breath away. Here is the long-awaited Raptor PoV.


I didn’t say a word when I checked out where they were going to be. The next show was clear across the country. But I could make the drive in a couple of days. I’d get there the same day they did. Gas money and a few hundred dollars socked away for a rainy day. Her birthday was coming up. Well, the birthday she celebrated anyway. And I wanted to see her. I was also being selfish as fuck.

For the first time in a long time, I didn’t care. I just—needed the break. A break from everything. I needed to see her and have a breather. Leaving a note for the guys, I told them I’d be back in a few days. It was better to slip away unseen or someone would take it upon themselves to follow me. Or just climb in the car.

Once on the highway, I exhaled a long breath. The agitation in my blood cooled. The tension in my spine unknotted. Music cranked, the cool wind blowing through the windows, and my foot on the accelerator as I left Braxton Harbor in the rearview mirror. I didn’t run away. Didn’t think I was now. Just—this damn urge to see her. I trusted my instincts. When I ignored my gut, bad shit happened.

With every mile I put on the car, I relaxed more. This was the right call. The guys would be fine for a few days. They could handle it. If they didn’t—well, I’d deal with it when I got back. The drive took took just under two days, a little over thirty-seven hours including a four hour nap I took in the car at a rest stop.

I made it to Orlando in time to see her walking into the hotel. It was pure luck that I guessed the right one. Well, luck and the fact I knew their troupe had used that hotel before. She looked dead on her feet. The bitch walking with her looked like a bitch. I didn’t know who the cunt was—wait—yes I did. The chaperone. Okay, maybe a chaperone should look like someone smashed her face with a brick to create that expression.

Still…not a fan.

I followed them inside, made a show of checking the wall with all its pamphlets of local attractions while they checked in. Ivy looked so damn tired, but then it was still early and they’d been traveling.

“Since the venue is tied up with the riggers,” she said while they waited on the hotel desk clerk to sort out their rooms—multiple. So, Ivy had her own room. How—lonely. Then again, maybe she wanted privacy. Having grown up with the guys all sharing the same room most of the time, I craved personal space but it could also be too damn quiet. “I’ll just do stretches and use the gym here.”

The chaperone nodded. “Do not go down to the gym without me.”

Ivy rolled her eyes.

I bit back a smile. I swore she gave the woman a look that just radiated “bite me.” Kind of bratty, but I appreciated it. Rules were there to chafe, but also to protect. Or so Miss Stephanie often reminded us. The rules were also there to be bent carefully with just the right amount of pressure.

Pre-law had given me a lot of insight on that one.

As soon as they had their rooms and keycards, I made a note of which floor and let them disappear into the elevators before I asked the clerk about whether they had a room available. Unfortunately, my plans had been blown at the last minute and the girl behind the desk blushed when I smiled at her.

I got a room on the same floor with Ivy and the clerk’s phone number. Maybe I’d make this a vacation of my own. She said she’d be off the clock at three. Good to know. She also worked nights sometimes. Even better. The credit card I used wasn’t the best idea, since it was for emergencies only. But I’d make do for now.

Instead of going straight up to a room, I went out to move my car and grab a bag. The hotel nightly fee included parking—thank fuck. Even with Sarah Jane’s discount, it was still pricey. On my way back through the lobby, I winked at her on my way past. Her smile grew and mine might have made an appearance as I stepped into the elevator.

Getting laid hadn’t been the original plan, but what the hell. It was still really early. I was just stepping off the elevator when the battle axe said, “Stay in the room, order room service, and catch up on your assignments from the tutor. You have my number.” Then she was bustling up the hall.

“Whatever,” Ivy called after her and the door slammed. I sidestepped the woman as she got to the elevator. She was on the phone before the doors opened.

Our gazes met briefly as she said, “Yes, three days—it’s about time I had a break from the brat.” Her look practically screamed fuck off as she jabbed the elevator button and the doors closed behind her.

What. A. Bitch.

She was just leaving Ivy here? Alone?

Irritated as fuck, I made my way to my room which was just up the hall from hers. I glanced at her door, probably staring a little too long. We weren’t directly across from each other, more caddy cornered. But when I checked through the viewfinder, I could see her door.

Well, the desire to be here fueling my blood made sense. The cunt and I were going to have words. Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath. Violence needed to serve a purpose. Carelessness was one thing. The woman was a chaperone, not a caretaker. She probably saw nothing wrong with leaving Ivy secured in a hotel room.

She was almost twelve by her standards with Emersyn’s birthday the following week. Even if she didn’t look much older than eight. I was here. Here I would fucking stay, the guard dog at the goddamn door.

Every time the elevator dinged, I got up to check the door. The first was room service. Ivy opened the door, but she didn’t let the delivery person in. Just asked them to leave the tray and she’d get it in a minute like she needed to get dressed. At least the sound carried from the hall easily enough. The minute the elevator dinged that the guy was gone, she pulled the door open and wedged it with her foot.

Dressed in a t-shirt and shorts and apparently having showered since her hair was wet, she looked even younger. She picked up the tray and grinned. Really grinned. The door closed before it occurred to me I should have taken a picture.

Fuck, I was creeping on my own sister. Shaking my head, I returned to the bed and dropped on it. I was a light sleeper. The doors opened and closed in the hall. The sounds of families passing by, running kids, murmuring parents, even the occasional crying baby. All of this registered, but none of it was Ivy or a door close to mine.

The sudden fierce knock on a door had me upright and across the room before I’d even processed I was moving. A young girl stood outside Ivy’s room. What the fuck? The door opened and Ivy stared out, her mouth fell open in shock.

“Lainey!” I hadn’t heard that squeal in years. It catapulted me back as Ivy threw the door open. The girls gripped each other in a tight hug, all but dancing before Ivy dragged “Lainey” into the room. “What are you doing here?”

Whatever the answer was, the door closing cut it off. Fuck me.

Adrenaline flooded my system. After emptying my bladder, I splashed water on my face and brushed my teeth. Every hotel room came with its own coffee maker so I brewed a cup. It tasted like ass, but caffeine was caffeine and I’d had way worse.

I’d barely downed two swallows when the door across the hall opened again. The girls were coming out. Ivy had put her hair up in a ponytail and wore sneakers. She also had a purse strung crosswise across her body. Where the hell were they going?

“I still can’t believe you’re here!” Ivy’s excitement punctured my anger so deftly, I damn near forgot why I’d been annoyed.

“I’m so fucking grounded,” the other girl said with a laugh. “Worth it.”

Then arm and arm they headed for the elevators.

Son of a bitch.

I stuffed my feet into shoes. I was still in jeans and a clean t-shirt. It would have to do. I snagged a baseball cap out of my duffle and shoved it on my head. Wallet in my back pocket, I downed the rest of the scalding coffee in one swallow and headed for the stairs. I made it to the lobby in time to see them spill out of the elevator in a mini-crowd of people. It didn’t take them long to separate over to the concierge desk.

The two girls, both possessing an unnatural poise, kept breaking up into giggles that had me grinning. Tickets to the parks purchased, they followed the concierge’s directions to head out the doors. Why did the guy just sell them tickets? Then again, I hadn’t heard exactly what they said to him.

I crossed to him and handed him the credit card. Fuck the cost. “One ticket to the parks.”



The guy opened his mouth to ask me another question and I just fixed him with a look. This wasn’t a social call. “Of course, one moment.” It took two, agonizingly long minutes. “Here you go, the hotel offers a shuttle to the—”

I didn’t wait for him to finish that part. I’d already caught the bus idea. Relief swarmed me when I got outside and found the girls waiting with a group of others for the bus. It was easy enough to drift into the crowd. I surged on behind them, sunglasses keeping my eyes hidden. They sat together, still giggling and as much as I wanted the seat right behind them, I took a couple more rows back.

At the park entrance, the thronging crowds worried me but they also provided camouflage. I was just another kid on his way to the park. I didn’t have a bag, but I also didn’t set off the metal detectors. I’d left my knife back in the room. And I hadn’t brought a gun. To see Ivy? I didn’t think I’d need one.

For the next few hours, I soaked up both the park and the girls’ reactions to it. There was no artifice. They laughed. They played. They bought each other t-shirts. Ate ice cream. Rode the rides. I did actually manage to land in the same conveyance with them more than once. They never noticed me. They didn’t pay attention to anyone. I even managed to get a picture or two when they found a couple of villains including the wicked looking chick from Alice in Wonderland.

They made no move to leave as the park segued into evening. There was a huge Halloween party and you needed a special ticket. Turned out, I’d gotten one from the dick at the hotel. Go me. They trick or treated around the park, laughing and playing madly. When the parade came through, they were right at the edge of the curb. The darker it got, the closer I drifted.

By the time the fireworks lit up the sky, I’d forgotten about the driving need to be here and just enjoyed their pleasure at it all. Then it was closing time and we were all leaving the parks. The lines to get back on the buses were long. It didn’t look weird at all to be standing with them and about a thousand other people.

I didn’t let anyone jostle them and this time, I parked my ass right behind them on the bus. Maybe I was being selfish, but I’d already figured out this was a birthday present from Lainey to Ivy. I hadn’t realized she had such a good friend. Stupid, right? Of course she had friends. But she’d been constantly traveling the last three going on four years. I wondered if she had anything “normal” in her life.

They planned together in laughing giggles everything they were going to do back at the hotel. More food, then a movie, and a sleepover. No adults. Just them. Perfection.

Good, once they were tucked into their room, maybe I’d give Miss Sarah Jane a call and —

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.” The snarl in Lainey’s voice snapped me out of my plans and I narrowed my eyes at the two men standing between the girls and the hotel door. They weren’t small, but they were pissed. Ivy was already cutting in front of Lainey like she was going to take them on.

Fuck that—

“Ignore him,” Lainey ordered.

“Who is he?” Damn good question, Ivy.

One of the pair glared at Ivy briefly before transferring that look to Lainey. Personally, i was about to pluck his fucking eyes from his head. “Do you have any idea how long it took me to find you?”

“Not long enough,” Lainey told him. “And this is my mother’s lover’s son, or as I like to refer to him the human version of period cramps.”

The guy behind him burst out laughing and Mr. Period Cramps glowered. My lips twitched because that was a damn good nickname. In fact, little Miss Magpie there just started forward like she was going to plow through.

“If you wanted to come see your friend,” Crampy said finally. “You should have just said something.”

“Adam… I don’t have to tell you anything. ….let me be clear, you’re like a cloud. A big, dark, ugly storm cloud and when you go away, it’s a beautiful day. So, buh bye.” Lainey’s voice kept dropping like she was fighting for the poise they’d abandoned all day.

Awareness of the pair kept my muscles coiled. I was gonna draw attention just standing here staring, but I sure as fuck wasn’t leaving them behind. The girls almost reached his laughing friend when Adam whatever the fuck said, “We came all this way and we’re not leaving until your ass is in the car with us and on the way back to school.”

“Sorry, my ass doesn’t detach—unlike your personality. Maybe you should put a bag over it or something.” With that, she stormed past them, Ivy in tow. The pair shadowed them all the way to the elevator and I was right behind them.

“Six in the morning,” he ordered. “Meet us down here and don’t try to sneak off somewhere.”

“Six?” Lainey snorted. “Too bad your brains don’t match your looks. I’ll be down by ten.” She waited until the elevator doors almost closed and for a split second her gaze locked on mine and then she added, “Maybe.”

As one, the pair pivoted to face me.

“What the hell do you think you’re looking at?” the laughing man asked.

“Good question, been trying to figure out why two jackasses are harassing little girls. Only pervs do that.”

“What the fuck did you just say?” Adam the period cramp demanded.

“I said,” I told him as I stepped right up to him. “Only pervs harass little girls.”

“Dude, you’re asking to die,” his friend warned, but I ignored the laughing idiot and kept my gaze on the guy right in front of me. Anger rolled off him like a storm.

“Go send them a cake,” Adam ordered. “Tell them they don’t eat enough. You—outside.”

I chuckled. “Oh, what’s the matter big boy? Did I wound your pride?”


“Fuck off, and do what I said.” Then Adam went back to glaring at me.

It’d been a while, but this was a nice place—with cameras—so I just stepped to the side and motioned for him to take the lead. No way was I giving either of these assholes my back. Adam McDouche tried to shoulder check me and missed. His friend groaned, but he cut away from both of us toward the hotel desk. I followed Adam right out the doors.

He didn’t slow until we were on the far side of the building and half in the shadows. I expected the next move and avoided the hard drive of his right fist. His left came up damn near as fast and I took a glancing blow from that. The dick had moves.

So did I.

A hard uppercut slammed his teeth together and I took the next blow on the shoulder and the kidney shot that followed it but he took an elbow to the face for his trouble. Blood sprayed the pavement and the scent of copper filled the air. More familiar than mother’s milk at this point. His fierce expression showed zero signs of giving up.

Our next clash was just bare boned bashing. Fuck, I took one shot to the eye that was gonna sting like a bitch, but the clap I delivered to his ear sent him staggering. The swift flow of feet was my warning that his buddy had arrived and I barely moved my head in time to avoid the fist he would have caught me with. As it was, it slammed him into his friend.

And I laughed.

They went down like some bad physical comedy.

When they got up. They were pissed.

“Come on pretty boys,” I told them. “Let’s see if you can take me two on one.”

The laughing idiot charged me like a freight train. I took the blows, blocking a couple and then had to fend off Adam as well. It was like fighting the twins, only without the coordination. When I head butted his friend, I saw stars for a split second then Adam caught me in the jaw and I stumbled backwards, falling over a goddamn curb.

I rolled, managed to not hit my head or leave myself to get curb stomped when there was suddenly a little girl between me and them.

“What are you doing?” Lainey shrieked.


I backed off, panting and shot a look around for Ivy. But only Lainey.

“Get your ass back in the hotel,” Adam growled at her, but like me, he kept his distance. Even the idiot had slowed down. We were all bleeding and bruised. I hurt, but they were going to be hurting worse even if I could barely see out of my right eye.


Arms folded, Lainey glared up at him.

“Excuse me?” He growled at her and took a step forward and I went to meet him. At my motion, he froze. For one long second, we just glared at each other. If he took another move in her direction, I’d kill him.

His expression promised much the same.

“You heard me,” Lainey yelled at him. “Have you lost your mind? Fighting out here? Why are you guys beating this guy up? Do you want to get arrested? Cause if you want that, I’ll call the cops. Right. Now.”

The laughing idiot started laughing—again. “Fuck me, Lainey don’t be such a little bitch.”

Adam swung around, only this time, his fist slammed into his friend and knocked the asshole down. He didn’t say a word to him, just looked at me then at Lainey.

“Fine. Get back in the hotel,” he said.

“Not without you two. I apparently can’t trust you and I came down to thank you for Emersyn’s cake. I was going to actually ask if you wanted to join us but you’re not going up there all bloody and gross.”

A half-laugh escaped me.

That snagged me the angry bird’s attention and she glared at me. “I don’t know who you are or where you came from. But now is the time you go—while I have them distracted.” She paused. “Oh my god, what did you do to his pretty face?”

Adam snarled when she would have taken a step toward me, halting her in place. Smart man didn’t touch her though. “Lainey. On the count of three, if you aren’t moving in the direction of that hotel, I’m throwing your ass in our car and going home. One…”

She made a face. “Jerk.” Then shot me an apologetic look. “Sorry, I never get to see my best friend.” Then she turned.


“You really are period cramps,” she snapped.

The asshole looked right at her, pulled out some bills from his wallet and tossed it at me. They fluttered into the wind and scattered around us. “For your trouble,” he said, then looked at Lainey. “Now. Go.”

She went and he grabbed his friend, hauled him to his feet, and said, “Don’t ever let me see you again, Mister.”

I chuckled. “Or what?”

He stared at me.

“And keep your money, dick. I’m not for sale.”

With that, I walked away from them, awareness of them keeping me on alert. I made it back into a side door of the lobby, avoiding the main portion. Last thing I needed was cops coming after me. I made it back to my room pausing only long enough to hear Lainey’s laughter in there along with Ivy’s before I let myself in the room.

Fuck, my bruises had bruises. I stopped dead when I found Sarah Jane lying on my bed.

“Oh my god, are you all right?” She sat up, concern all over her face.

“Getting better,” I told her and threw the security lock on the door.

Bonus Scene: Initiation, a Rome alternate PoV scene for Ruthless Traitor

Ruthless Traitor rocketed to 200 reviews! You guys are absolutely amazing. So for your first bonus PoV, I thought we’d slide into Rome’s head. Fair warning, if you haven’t read Ruthless Traitor, the following will contain spoilers.


Liam’s message said Vaughn had picked her up. So rather than go to Liam’s, I just went back to the clubhouse. Probably why he told me. I didn’t bother to check with the rats working or anyone else. I wanted to see her.

Since the shooting at the club, I needed to be where she was and by extension, where Liam was often. The need had grown into an obsession, one that gnawed at me when too long passed without them. I didn’t question it, just followed the lines back to where they converged with them. It was better when they were both in the apartment.

I was halfway to Kel’s room to get to Emersyn’s when I doubled-back to Vaughn’s. The door wasn’t locked, so I let myself in with a brief knock. Old habits. While not even locked doors could keep us out, the unlocked door was an invitation I accepted. The soft whispery groan that greeted me couldn’t prepare me for the sight of my starling, straining upward as she sat on Vaughn’s face.

The flush to her cheeks just added to the perfection as she glanced over her shoulder to meet my gaze. I didn’t like looking in other people’s eyes. It wasn’t comfortable. But I loved her eyes.

I loved the way she moved. The soft sounds she made. I loved even more how she would look at me and how she never demanded anything.

Except my name.

She’d needed my name.

I’d give her anything really.

What was my name in the grand scheme of all that? I shut the door behind me and locked it. Vaughn left an invitation. I didn’t want to leave a second. Not right now. Not while heat flooded my body and something stirred deep within.

“Hi,” she greeted me on a breathy groan that stiffened my cock in a way that had grown increasingly familiar around her. Especially when she moved like she was now, her hips rolling and Vaughn’s hands gripping her.

I moved to the bed and knelt on the edge of the mattress. The constant torrent of soft, muted sounds escaping her were a balm and a provocation. I wanted to hear all of them. “Starling,” I said, but she dropped her head. I brushed my fingers against her chin, helping her to lift her head so I could see her. The flush to her cheeks deepened. Her eyes were huge pools of starlit darkness. I wanted to dive into them and never leave.

The transformation of her expression, as she opened her mouth and released the first notes of a keening cry, was an enchantress’s song I couldn’t ignore. I wanted to taste that pleasure in her. I wanted to taste her pleasure. The stroke of my tongue against hers sent an uncontrollable shiver through my whole body.

Her kiss was the sweetest candy I’d ever sampled, a dark narcotic that instantly addicted me. I needed more. I cupped her chin, licking, sucking, teasing, and tasting as the soft sound of her cries grew in intensity. Every single one a lightning bolt to the voracious craving gripping my system. When she clasped my free hand and moved it to her breast, I sighed against her lips.

The smooth, suppleness of her skin was so fucking soft. Her nipple was taut and beaded hard. I tested the texture against my fingertips. It pebbled even tighter, the little bumps demanded exploration. When she didn’t reject my stroking, I pinched it, giving the faintest twist.

Not a stereo knob. The conversation the guys had a long time ago floated out of my memory. A disconnect from that moment and this, but it suddenly made sense. Not a radio knob. No, so much warmer, softer, and eager. She pushed against my hand, her back arching.

I had to release her mouth to kiss a path to that nipple. I wanted to feel it with my tongue and my teeth. Would it be as sweet as her lips. I sucked it against my teeth, careful not to bite and her strangled cry just made me increase the suction.

Her reaction coupled with the oddness of how it felt pushed me to suck harder. I wanted more. I wanted more of her.

“Shift,” Vaughn ordered and I lifted my head as he pulled her from me. My objections died when he didn’t take her away so much as move her to her hands and knees as he slid out from under her.

His whole face glistened. It sent my gaze to where he gripped her hips. What would she taste like? Could I paint myself with her like he had?

“Hands and knees, Dove. Look up at Rome.”

“Fuck her mouth, Rome,” Vaughn said. “She likes the taste of cock, don’t you Dove.”

“Yours,” she admitted. “I like yours. I like Jasper’s” Then she stared up at me. “Can I suck you off?”

I could deny her nothing and I didn’t want to deny her. The question made my cock throb with a kind of painful pleasure. The pain was familiar, I’d needed it to make my art before, but this was different. This wasn’t about making anything or anyone happy except her.

And maybe me.

I slid off the bed and shed my clothes. Nudity had never been a struggle for me. I didn’t care if I was naked or someone else was.

The first body I’d ever seen that I wanted was hers. And I loved her all naked and soft, the golden light of the room kissed every single one of her curves. It painted her like she was the moon, basking in the light of the sun.

I wanted to capture the whole moment. I wanted to paint her just like this. But not out in the city.

No, this would be for me.

“May I?” The whispered question feathered her breath over my cock even as she drifted her hand out as though to touch me. The fact she hadn’t made me want to strain forward. I wanted her touch.

“For you,” I promised her. I’d made that decision a long time ago. I’d painted her onto my dick. It had taken me several sessions with time to heal between each one. Vaughn insisted on the healing or I couldn’t use his tools. I’d inked her from memory, there was one video of her that had been done that I’d watched so many times. After downloading it to my phone, I could watch the four-minute-and-thirty-second clip anytime I wanted.

I wanted.

A lot.

Every light caress of her fingertips sent liquid heat pulsing into my dick. I’d had to get hard to do the ink. It had never been this hard. Then she traced her tongue over the tip and I wanted.

The hunger struck like a fist to my senses, blacking everything out except her. Gliding my fingers into her hair, the contrast of textures just added to the need burning in my veins.

“Open your mouth, Starling—tell me if I need to stop. I’ve never done this before.”

Her flared pupils seemed to swallow what was left of the brown in her eyes. Her lips went soft and her mouth widened. I thrust my dick against the hot wetness of her mouth and savored how her tongue glided along the underside of my dick until I made it to her throat. The resistance there slowed me. She gagged, but her gaze never left mine.

I’d wanted to dive into those eyes forever and now I plunged in. Liam had told me for years how much I needed to get my dick sucked. The idea never held any appeal.

Until now.

Her body jolted with Vaughn’s pounding thrusts, but I kept control of her hair. If she gagged, I needed to be able to pull out. Then I tested the thrusts. Hard and fast. Slow and deep. Each time I pushed into her throat the sensation was unbelievable. When she added suction and stroking with her tongue, my balls tightened. I wanted everything, but I always wanted to feel everything with her mouth.

My mind splintered, thoughts fracturing like an abstract as I shifted my hips and adjusted her head. She gave me everything I asked for. The vibrations of her cries stroked over my dick with rising intensity.

She gave me everything. I’d pull out with a pop and paint her lips with my cock and then she’d open up to swallow me again. When she cupped my balls, my thoughts stuttered. I had to hold onto her with both hands. The wild need to just pump into her grew. The violence of it. Every little gagging noise, every glistening tear that fell, all of it pulled my balls tighter and tighter.

Unleashed within me, my desire had become a visceral demand. It wanted her. I wanted her.

“Starling,” I warned as the tautness in my balls suddenly expanded to encompass everything and the pleasure-pain of release struck me. I let go and everything came out of me in a rush. She didn’t pull away. If anything she burrowed against my abdomen as she sucked me down.

I swore a piece of my soul went with it. When I finished, I pulled away but only so I could kiss her. I needed to kiss her. Fucking her mouth was amazing, but I wanted to taste her. To taste us on her tongue.

“Play with her clit,” Vaughn said in a guttural voice, as he peeled her away from me. He shifted until he had Starling spread wide in front of him, his dick pumping in and out of her at a speed that made me want to be the one pushing into her.

I stared at the way she glistened and convulsed. The bright pink flush had gone almost cherry red. Her clit strained out from its hood and looked like the most perfect of creations. For a second, the light played over the plastic on her belly and I spotted the tattoo.

I trailed my fingers over her nipples, testing what sounds I could pull from her. Then I kissed the edges of the plastic. The tattoo was so new, so fresh, and it was so perfect against her unmarred flesh. Our marks, not the painful bruises of before.

Then I went to her clit. Testing it, teasing it, stroking it with my tongue. I wanted to kiss all of her. I wanted to wear her on my skin as Vaughn had earlier. His cock kept thrusting, the motion hypnotic and he was in the way, but he also wore her on his skin and every lap of my tongue that brushed him brought more of her taste for me to savor.

Emersyn gave a throaty scream and Vaughn’s whole body stiffened, but I kept licking. I’d thought her lips were her sweetest treat. She had so much delicate decadence here, I wanted more.

“Rome,” Vaughn said in a breathless, wrecked voice. “You don’t have to lick my cock man.”

“It’s in the way,” was my only response. If he didn’t want to move—and I didn’t blame him—then I’d lick and kiss him as much as I did her. Every brush of my lips and tongue drew some reaction from her and from him. They both groaned as she tried to arch her hips, but I held her down and Vaughn wrapped her tight.

The pleasure was all for her and when she thrashed and came, I recognized the orgasm and the heady flavor of it rushed out of her.


I wanted more.

Bonus Scene: Golden and Grateful, a bonus scene for Defiance and Dedication

The following is a little Thanksgiving (and Frankie-versary) present for all of you. It takes place during Defiance and Dedication. Thank you for being my Heathens. Thanks for loving Frankie the last two years. I have had so much fun writing this series! 


“Maybe next year,” Frankie said as she stretched her legs over mine. I ran my hand up and down her calf as she made a face at me. From the hurried chatter I could just make out, Chloe was not a fan of Frankie not coming up for Thanksgiving. The temptation to tickle her feet was right there, but I behaved. A cold front had moved in the day before and there was snow blowing against the windows. It was kind of nice to just be curled up with her in our living room, hot coffee in our mugs, and the cats sprawled out around us while the fire burned merrily.

Granted, it was a gas fireplace but so much better than nothing and Frankie always got tickled when we just turned it on. We’d been debating a movie when her phone rang because today was going to just be us—and Jeremy—but mostly us and we weren’t going anywhere. The only place we had to be was right here.

“I get that.” Frankie’s soft laugh pulled another smile from me. I loved that she loved her new family. Even if she remained a shade reticent and wary. I’d rather we were all cautious until one hundred percent certain. It was so much better for her huge heart, even if she’d already fallen in love with her sister. “Chloe, emotional blackmail will only go so far.”

I raised my eyebrows, should I swoop in and interrupt? But she only rolled her eyes and smiled as she shook her head.

“No, that’s exactly what you were doing. Alec’s right. Uh huh…no, I’m very well aware that it’s sisters before bros, but… uh uh. No ma’am.” Toes curling, she leaned forward to claim her cup and took a sip as Chloe offered up her defense. “Exactly. So, I’ll call on Thanksgiving Day, and we can talk then, but I’m not driving up there this year.”

A moment of silence.

“Because I have plans.”

I grinned.

“No, that’s not code for anything.”

Oh, I could fix that.

As if reading my mind, she jabbed me with her toes.

Chuckling, I cupped her ankle and settled her legs back across me.

“Wonderful, yes, I love you too—go on and help your mom, I’ll call on Thursday.” Another couple of minutes of reminding her she already promised to call and then Frankie hung up with a groan. “Man, little sisters can be annoying.”

If she didn’t sound so fucking happy about it, I might have worried. “Jake and Coop have been telling you that for years.”

“Their sisters are adorable though.”

“According to Coop, so is yours.” I grinned. “I’m actually looking forward to meeting the little spitfire.”

“She’s gonna wrap you around her little finger just like this,” she said with a snap of her fingers.

“Impossible,” I told her as she settled her coffee down and I could shift to pin her to the sofa. “Someone else already has me completely wrapped around her finger.”

“Oh yeah?” She shifted her legs so she could wrap them around me. It was both sensual and comforting. Getting hard around her was as easy as breathing, but having her just wrapped around me was the kind of thing I’d never known I needed.

“Yeah,” I told her, cupping my hands against her head so I could just study her. “Body and soul. I’m sure your sister is cute, but I’m very firmly taken and damn happy about it.”

She laughed. “You are so smooth sometimes.”

“Only sometimes?” I pulled back and stared down at her. “Try all the time.”

“No, because occasionally you are a great big dork who dirty talks his way out of trouble and I let you.”

“You let me?” Lips pursed, I shook my head. “So that’s how it is?”

“Oh yes,” she informed me. “That’s exactly how it is.”

“Uh huh.” As soon as I skated my fingers down her sides, her eyes widened.

“Archie!” Her squeal as she tried to wiggle away made me laugh, but it was too late for her. I had all her ticklish spots memorized.

Unfortunately, she knew mine and retaliated even while she was laughing. It was all fun and games until we nearly knocked her coffee cup over and I froze. Her eyes went comically wide with horror and I eased up, pulling her with me and then with great ceremony handed her the coffee mug.

We were both panting, her eyes sparkled, and her cheeks were flushed from the laughter. I probably wore the stupidest grin on my face. “So,” I said. “What did you want to watch?”

She snickered. “I don’t know—I think that’s where we were when Chloe called.”

True. I reached for the remote and started skimming through the channels until I found the one with all the holiday movies. No matter how much we complained, we never objected when Frankie wanted to watch them. Well, we didn’t complain much.

Halfway through the first one, I was glaring at the screen.

“We don’t have to watch this,” she murmured.

“You like it.”

“Yeah, but you’re clearly not enjoying it.”

“It’s not that.” We had finished our coffee already and I needed to take a break and go on the hunt for more. Only one of the cats had returned to join us after the tickle war and he was curled up in her lap.

“Then what is it?”

“That moron,” I said, pointing at the screen. “He’s too fucking busy for her? It’s about to be Christmas and he sent his secretary to get presents and he hasn’t even noticed she’s not in town anymore.”

Frankie grimaced.

“And that kills me, she’s great and he’s clearly an idiot.” I wrapped an arm around her. “No way in hell would I ignore you at Christmas.”

“Archie, you don’t ignore me at any other time.”

True. That mollified me a little and I pressed a kiss to the crown of her head. “Good. If I do, just slug me.”

She elbowed me gently and I glanced down to find her grinning. “What are you going to do when she falls for her best friend now that she’s back in her little town?”

I considered it for a long moment. “Be glad that your best friend loves you as much as I do.”

“Smooth, Archie, very smooth.”

Chuckling, I just snuggled her closer and we finished the movie and rolled into the next one. Surprise, surprise, the city idiot didn’t know what he had until he almost lost her. That was never going to be me. I knew exactly what I had and what I’d always wanted. She was right here. We were golden.

For that, I’d always be grateful.

When the phone rang closer to lunch and it was Coop, I paused the movie and answered with a, “Greetings, best friend in the small town, don’t worry, corporate boyfriend is definitely taking care of our girlfriend just fine.”

Frankie dissolved in laughter as Coop hummed. “Someone got sucked into the holiday movies…”

Yeah, see, he got it.

Bonus Scene: Craving. a bonus Liam PoV for Ruthless Traitor

This is a secret Liam PoV bonus scene written for my girls, but since it’s the holidays and we’re celebrating it Heathen-style, we’re sharing it with you. If you haven’t read Ruthless Traitor, this bonus PoV will contain spoilers. 


Taking Hellspawn to the Blue Diamond hadn’t been high on my list. Then again, Emersyn needed a break. Everyone wanted to smother her in protection. She needed it, but she didn’t have to suffocate under the weight of it. Former 19 Diamonds territory might not seem like the best place to take her with a bounty still on her head. Yet that was exactly why I took her with me

No one would be looking for her here. While I owned the place, my involvement had been obscured by shell corporations and other LLCs. I still needed to figure out what to do about her uncle. He’d put the bounty on her and rather than make her—or anyone else for matter—aware, I sat on the details.

Out of the apartment, she relaxed. Not the way she did when we went to train. There she was all focused-energy and compulsion. I swore she lived for the challenge. Not that I was remotely opposed to it. The fact she pushed back when I pushed her made me push her harder.

We made our way through the club to the booth I’d chosen on my first visit. No one was allowed to sit here unless the club was overflowing. She scooted in, but her attention was almost exclusively on the dancers. The fact I had to keep getting her attention to get her moving amused me.

She was laser-focused on the dancers and I wanted to watch her. When Cathy reached our table, I had to talk right into her ear or risk disturbing Hellspawn’s growing fascination with the performance. The girl on the stage wasn’t bad, but she lacked my partner’s lithe physique and staggering amount of control.

Cathy wanted to stay but I sent her for the drinks and food first. It wasn’t unusual for one of the dancers to come straight to me to tattle about something or other. Frankly, I hadn’t owned the place all that long. A few weeks at most, but they all had issues and they came to me to get them fixed.

Easily enough handled.

Through the next few sets, Hellspawn remained riveted on the stage. It wasn’t until she knocked my drink over onto Cathy that I realized she’d been paying as much attention to me as she had the dancers. Not going to lie, the warmth of that acknowledgement settled in my chest. It was a stupid thing to appreciate. Though the last thing I wanted to do was leave Emersyn out here, but Cathy told me about some skimming. I needed to deal with it. An iron fist in a velvet glove was only effective once you’d proven how capable of steel you were.

Cathy rolled her hips in invitation as she led the way toward the doors that would take us into the back where the business office and kitchens as well as storage were kept. Three steps into the back and she pushed right into me. The weight of her breasts on my chest, not to mention the tight grip of her hands on my shirt were a total turnoff.

I scowled down at her, but she misread it entirely and rubbed her body against me as she pressed her lips to mine.



Hands on her hips, I took care not to throw her as I peeled her off me and set her on her feet.

“Liam?” Her lower lip jutted out in what I was certain she thought was a playful pout. Unimpressed, I fixed her with a look.

“I don’t fuck the staff,” I told her bluntly. “The flirting was fine, but this crosses a line.”

Shock rippled over her face.

“Try that again and I’ll send your ass packing so fast, you won’t know what hit you. Understood?”

Anger flashed in her eyes. Enough to tell me she was more insulted than she was hurt. When she folded her arms to hide her breasts from me, I didn’t take the bait and drop my gaze. Finally, she sighed. “Can’t blame a girl for trying…”

“I sure as fuck can,” I said, taking a step toward her and her pouting fled even as she blanched. “If you’re using this place to turn tricks, it stops. You try to fuck with anyone else on the staff, you’re out. You put a hand on me again without my express invitation and you’re out.”

Swallowing hard, she nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“Repeat it back to me. Word for word.”

The shock in her eyes threatened to take a turn into mutiny, but unlike my hellspawn, the waitress couldn’t hold my gaze. Suddenly, she looked everywhere but at me. We stood there for the better part of a minute before she began stuttering her way through a repeat of what I’d told her.

Close enough.

I nodded to her. “Now go away.”

Bypassing her and the waste of time she’d presented, I went in search of the busboy and the cook who had been helping themselves to a portion of the profits from the till and the dancers. Yeah, extortion was extortion in my book.

This was my place.

It took me ten minutes too long to pin both men, extract their stuttering confessions, and deliver a beatdown I doubted either would remember. Frankly, they got off light. I might go and find them later.

Especially if they hadn’t returned every dime they’d taken within the next forty-eight hours.

Oh, and they were fired. One of the other cooks helped me throw them out on their asses via the back.

“Remember,” I told them as they stared, bloody and bruised. “I know where you live. Do yourselves a favor, don’t make me come looking for you.”

That finished, I went to wash my hands before I went back to our table. Only instead of making it to the table, all I saw when I exited back into the bar was my hellspawn, on the main stage, working the pole.

Every breath in my body squeezed out of me in a whoosh. While she wore next to nothing, she wasn’t naked. Didn’t matter. Didn’t matter at all. She was more attractive in her dance pants and oversized t-shirts without an ounce of makeup than any other woman I’d ever met. But riding that pole, writhing and half dancing in the fucking air like it was solid ground.

I couldn’t see anything but her.

Rome had watched her videos so much and so often, I’d obviously seen the appeal. But it had nothing on seeing her in person. Nothing on watching the way her muscles rippled and moved with her.

Fighting with her had given me a real appreciation for the strength she possessed. But this—this was something else. Everything in the room just faded away. The guys whistling and inviting her to come to the edge of the stage, the waitresses weaving in and out, the other dancers at their stations.

No, the only thing I could see was Emersyn and the only thing I could feel was the wild pulse of my heartbeat slamming inside me to the rhythm of the music. I made it almost to her when she landed on the last note of the song. The ease with which she slid into the splits made my cock leap.



When she locked her gaze on mine, she gave me an almost tremulous smile. It held more pleasure than anything else she’d expressed in the last few weeks. In fact, she panted fairly hard as though she needed to catch her breath.

I totally got that. I didn’t think I’d ever get mine back. Then the music cranked again, bursting the bubble and letting all the sound rush in. She was back up on her feet and moving. More guys came up to the stage and held out money or set it out for her when she gave them no notice.

As she reached the end of the next song, she arched herself over backwards and then we were almost nose to nose. Something feral moved in those eyes. Something feral and captivating. Catch me if you can, it seemed to challenge me.

Applause burst out around us, whoops, whistles, and catcalls.

Challenge accepted, Hellspawn. I dragged her off the stage and kissed her. It was the worst idea. It was the best idea.

It was the only thing I could think of to put some claim on her in front of every fucker in this place. They could look, whistle, and clap all they wanted. They’d never get this from her. Never be this close. Never taste the dark passion on her lips or how she arched into it turning it from my possession to her demand. When I clasped her hair in my fist, I had to fight against the urge to grind into her.

My erection was stiff and throbbing. All I wanted to do was throw these fuckers out and spread her out right on that stage and fuck her until neither of us could walk.

Then we’d fuck again.

As it was, I had to force myself to let her go. She was Rome’s. Rome wanted her.

That voice in my head warned me I was going too far. He never wanted anything. But he wanted her. I would not get in the fucking way.

We were both breathing so ragged and sharp when I finally lifted my head. “Hellspawn, you’re gonna be the death of me.”

She swallowed, but the swollen lips and the hot flush to her cheeks were from the kiss even more than the dancing. It was pure torture to set her down, but I was a goddamn glutton for the agony and the punishment.

“I need to get dressed,” she said, as if reminding me that she wasn’t wearing her own clothes.

Yeah. I’d noticed. “Go,” I whispered, still not trusting my voice. “Then we’re out of here.”

For once, she didn’t have some smart ass comment or witty comeback. She just nodded and walked away. At least she didn’t look any steadier than I felt.

“Hey,” a guy behind me said and I twisted to look at him. “How much for the whore?”

How much for the—

I really didn’t process the rest of it. I slammed my fist into his face and he toppled, his glass jaw not even remotely a defense. His buddy tried to come and help, but I snapped his arm and then knocked his ass out. The music cut off for just a second and the whole room froze in a near comical tableau of shock and horror.

“Anyone else want to ask me a stupid question?”

The music cranked and everyone went back to their business. No one bent down to help the assholes on the ground. One of my bouncers came over and I nodded to them.

“Wake them up, toss them out, and ban them for life.”

“You got it.”

I’d just finished that when Emersyn came almost floating out from the backroom. Once more in her sundress, only the faint hint of sweat on her skin betrayed her earlier performance. God, she looked so fucking beautiful. Perfect. Strong. Fierce. Determined.

And I wanted her.

I couldn’t afford to want her.

Fuck me.

“What’s wrong?”

“We need to go,” I told her. We couldn’t stay here anymore. Not when all I could think about was fucking her or killing the next asshole who talked about her that way. The assholes on the floor had begun to stir.

“Did you…?”


“Do I want to…”


We were almost to the door and I’d yanked it open when I spotted the car, the men, and the guns. All a split second too late to slam the door again. The first slug took me in the chest and hit like a hammer. The second was worse, even as I twisted to yank Emersyn down and under me, I pulled out my gun. Firing blind was fucking stupid.

But I’d clocked where the first guy stood and that was who I aimed to hit.