Coming Friday 7 pm PST. Author of: WRONG FOR ME - Jackie Ashenden SEE EXCERPT
7 pm PST.
After eight years in prison, Levi Rush is finally out and back on the gritty streets of Detroit to claim the future he was owed. A future that includes the one woman he’s wanted for years—his former best friend Rachel. She’s the reason he went inside and if getting her to do what he wants means buying the building that houses her tattoo studio and using it as leverage, then that’s what he’ll do. Because if there’s one thing he’s learned inside it’s that if you want to win, you have to play dirty.
Rachel Hamilton is a tattoo artist and one hell of a tough girl. Detroit is her home, and she’s determined to make it a better place. But her plans are threatened when her old friend Levi reappears and gives her an ultimatum: she gives herself to him body and soul, or else she and her business are out on the street. Levi’s got no room in his heart for anything but anger and the lust he’s been carrying around for so long. But the only thing stronger than the secrets of their shared past is their fiery attraction to each other . . .
It was difficult to think with Levi leaning over her like that. In fact, it was next to impossible. Because not only did Rachel have to contend with the shock of what he’d said, she also had to contend with the fact that he was pretty fucking close. And that she could feel the heat from his body for the second time that day, and it was pouring off him, hot as a goddamn furnace.
She could smell him too, an unfamiliar, woody, smoky scent that seemed to ignite something inside her. She didn’t remember him smelling like that before and it was…God, so good. Because under that smoky scent was a smell she did remember. Masculine and warm. The one that reminded her of friendship, easy smiles, and easier laughter. Levi.
She blinked. His muscular arms were on either side of her, the fascinating black rings of those tattoos banding them, and she had the almost uncontrollable urge to touch the tattoos, trace them. And then maybe to touch the soft cotton of his T-shirt, follow the ridges of his abs, see whether they felt as hard and as hot as they looked…
What the hell are you doing?
Good question. Because she sure as hell had no idea. She’d wanted him once before, but that had been before she’d really understood what it was that men and women did together. And then she’d found out, and then…
No. She wouldn’t think of that. Anyway, looking at him like that was the last thing she should be doing, especially considering the other thing he’d said. About kicking her out of her building.
His building now.
The thought was an electric shock, making a shudder go right through her and breaking the weird physical paralysis that was gripping her.
She turned her head, meeting his ferocious gaze head on.
No, she wasn’t going to talk about his threat to throw her out of this beautiful building and destroy the business she’d built with so much blood, sweat, and tears. Or about the fact that he’d wanted her for years, something she’d used to dream about when she’d been younger and far more innocent. Her mind simply shied away from that, and she just couldn’t deal with it.
Instead, she stared at him, ignoring everything he’d just told her, focusing on his handsome face instead. “What happened to your eye?” she asked bluntly.
He didn’t even blink at the question. “I had the shit beaten out of me. One of my pupils is permanently dilated.”
Her insides twisted. Oh, Jesus. He’d been beaten hard enough he’d sustained a permanent injury?
What? Jail’s not exactly a party; you know that. Just like you also know who put him in that jail to start with.
She forced that thought away too because that was another minefield she didn’t want to enter. “What about the eyebrow ring? I thought you didn’t like piercings.”
“I don’t. I keep it as a reminder.”
“A reminder of what?”
He moved his hands on the back of the couch, shifting back a little... “Of what happens when people fuck with me.”
She shouldn’t have asked her next question; she really shouldn’t. But she couldn’t help herself. It just came out. “And what happens when people fuck with you?”
He smiled, and it was terrifying. And a completely separate part of her could only watch in confusion because it was so very, unlike the Levi she knew. That Levi had never looked dangerous. Oh, he’d always been very certain about what he wanted, very sure. He’d possessed a kind of confidence in himself that had bordered on arrogant, but it had never bothered her. In fact, she’d found it oddly reassuring. With her own life full uncertainty, Levi’s lack of uncertainty had been comforting.
Still, he’d never had this…edge to him. This aura of contained violence and barely leashed menace. A wildness that thrilled something inside her right down to her most basic level.
Maybe that was why it was so terrifying. Because wildness was the last thing she wanted, and certainly not now, not when she’d finally gotten some stability in her life.
“What happens?” Levi lifted one hand from the back of the couch, and, before she could move, he took her chin in his hand, holding her tightly. She stiffened, trying to pull away because for some reason his fingers felt like they were burning her. But he only firmed his grip. “What happens is this,” he said and leaned forward.
And covered her mouth with his.
She froze, unable to believe what was happening.
Levi was kissing her. Levi was fucking kissing her.
Adrenalin surged like the tide, and she sat there absolutely rigid, because it had been twelve years since anyone had kissed her, and she still remembered what that had been like. Wet. Uncomfortable. Unpleasant and wrong.
Because the last person to kiss her had been Evan.
So it was a shock to find that there was nothing unpleasant about this. Nothing uncomfortable or wrong. Levi’s mouth was firm, decisive and yet soft, warm.
It was so unexpected she couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t move.
He ran his tongue along the seam of her lips, then pushed inside, and all of a sudden, a prickling wave of heat swept over her skin, leaving her almost shaking.
God, what was happening to her? Because this was Levi, her friend. And she’d kissed him a thousand times before, chaste kisses on the cheek or the forehead. But nothing like this.… Slow and lazy and achingly hot.
This is what a kiss should be.…
Something inside her rebelled, at the same time as something else surrendered, and she shuddered, her mouth opening under his as he began to explore her more deeply, holding tight to her chin. And it felt like his fingertips were imprinting themselves on her skin as if every whorl and ridge would be marked there when he let her go.
He tasted like peppermints, but with a dark, alcoholic flavor underneath, like bourbon or maybe rum, and it was so…good. She could feel her body begin to belatedly wake to life, her skin getting tight, an ache between her thighs.
Evan made you feel good too, sometimes.
An old, half-forgotten instinct kicked in, and suddenly she was ripping her chin from his grip, knocking away one of his arms, and propelling herself up, the gun slipping sideways off her lap and onto the cushions as she got off the couch.
He let her go, saying nothing as she took a few unsteady steps, putting some distance between them, her back to him. Her heartbeat was hammering in her ears, and her mouth felt weird, all full and swollen. She couldn’t seem to get enough air in her lungs.
“Get out.” A faint huskiness edged her voice, the frayed edge of a fear she thought she’d long put behind her. “Just get the hell away from me.”
Jackie is currently published with St. Martin’s Press, Kensington and Random House. She writes dark, emotional stories with alpha heroes who've just got the world to their liking only to have it blown wide apart by their kick-ass heroines.
She lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her husband, the inimitable Dr. Jax, two kids, and two rats. When she's not torturing alpha males and their gutsy heroines, she can be found drinking chocolate martinis, reading anything she can lay her hands on, wasting time on social media, or being forced to go mountain biking with her husband.
To keep up to date with Jackie's new releases and other news, you can sign up to her newsletter at www.jackieashenden.com.
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