Cold, arrogant, and demanding Lord Henry Eldridge, Marquess of Riverton, would never dally with a mere servant. A tale to keep everyone behaving nicely as though they were children who needed to be told how to walk in a straight row.
Until he woke up one late autumn night because his ribs ached from coughing and saw orange flame surrounding him. His first thought was that he really should have been on better terms with the local vicar. His second thought was accompanied by relief—he was sitting on his bed, in his bedchamber at Blakewood Hall—he wasn’t in hell, at all. The valet told the surgeon that the marquess had been struck on the head and rendered unconscious. He turned away sadly, prepared to tell the servants and the handful of houseguests gathered outside that the worst had happened.
Firefighter Jackson Hart is back in Brooklyn and on the hunt for the girl who’s kept him burning for ten long years. So, yeah, he’d have to make sure he didn’t go and do something stupid that would haunt him for eternity.
Transferring into the company, he’d known it would be an uphill battle to gain their acceptance. The tips of O’Rourke’s ears burned brighter than his hair, and the guys roared with laughter. Becca Mancini watched silently as Jax and his buddies celebrated, fist bumping one another and having a grand old boy’s night out.
The familiar heat simmered in her belly, bubbling up from her gut with a thousand emotions she’d thought were long extinguished.
Smiling seductively, Becca squared her shoulders and sauntered over to where Jax was positioned near the end of the bar. Sidling up to the bar, Becca wedged herself between Jax and one of his cronies, which proved surprisingly easy. Shaking the thought from her brain—because she would never go on a real date with this jerk—she studied her unwitting target.
Solidifying her resolve, she reached out, resting her palm on his bicep—his rather massive, rocklike bicep—and proceeded to curse herself for noticing.
Kat MacGregor has forty-eight hours to settle the twenty thousand dollar debt her deadbeat ex-boyfriend owes a crime boss. Aiden scanned the room of the rowdy backwoods bar and studied the various stages of inebriation of its patrons: drunk, really drunk, and totally shitfaced.
The crowd had hit its peak, but Kat MacGregor, who went by the ill-fitting alias Sydney Carter, kept pace between the bar and her tables without any problems.
Since finding her, Aiden had gotten himself hired as a cooler for the bar and allowed to put together a small team. The hardest part had been teaching Johnny and the others the difference between a bouncer and a cooler. Xan and Aiden had to shadow them the first couple weeks to show them what they were supposed to look for as coolers. As he moved through the land of the inebriated, he searched for signs of trouble and kept one eye on the spunky redhead. The first time he’d run interference for Kat with a less-than-polite customer, she’d stared at him incredulously.
Then, one night after he’d “escorted” a guy out in a chokehold for grabbing her ass, she stalked up to him outside with narrowed eyes and fists planted on slender hips. Aiden hadn’t considered that the waitresses got tipped better if they let the men flirt or paw at them.
Fighting the urge to pull her into his arms and chase away the ghosts he saw in her eyes, Aiden shoved his hands in his jeans pockets. Every day, though, it was getting harder and harder to disguise the heat he suspected simmered in his eyes when he locked sights with her.
He located the two already in a heated argument, but his phone vibrated on his hip before he even took a step in their direction. He didn’t know the specifics of Kat’s situation except that she’d asked Vanessa for help with something major before disappearing from her last known place of residence. But a couple weeks was going on three months of watching out for Kat, whether she liked it or not. Aiden pushed off the desk and clenched the phone hard enough to do some damage if he kept it up for long.
Unable to get past the tightness in his throat to say anything else, Aiden disconnected the call. With a disgusted sigh, she whipped the towel down from her shoulder and strode toward the bar.
The three other men voiced a chorus of, “Karl said he was payin’,” and, “I ain’t got nothin’ on me.” Aiden kept the money and the tab.
The man and his small posse didn’t waste any time following orders, and that was one more problem solved for the night. Aiden put in the last bit missing so it wouldn’t come out of Kat’s wages, then gave the money and the bill to the bartender for settling. So instead of taking the risk, Aiden simply held out the twenty dollar bill between them until she accepted it. Two states, six months, and a fake name since her previous encounter with them, and they’d still managed to find her. The paper placemat sporting beer stains and a hastily scrawled note shook in her trembling hands. It also told her she was being watched, and Sicoli had already managed to compromise at least one of Alabaster, Louisiana’s finest. Fighting to keep the acid in her stomach where it belonged, she cursed herself six ways to Sunday. Digging through her purse, she desperately searched for the keys to her shit-brown 1984 Chevy Celebrity, needing to feel the modicum of safety its rusting frame would offer.
However, the situation they’d barely escaped in Nashville half a year ago had gone from merely frustrating to life-threatening.
They’d gotten the hell out of Nashville after Sicoli’s guys gave Lenny a reality check message—’cause nothing says “pay up or else” like putting a guy’s girl in the hospital with a few cracked ribs, a concussion, and a swollen face to rival the final scene in a Rocky movie—and ended up in the Podunk town of Alabaster. But even as shitty as it was, Alabaster had proved to be decent as far as a place to lay low. Since he’d started his stint at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, Kat decided to save every penny she could and leave town—and Lenny—before he got out of prison. Finally, she felt her keys and pulled them out, only to fumble them in her shaking hands and drop them in the dirt and shadows at her feet.
Taking a deep breath, she grabbed her keys, stood up, and turned to face Rick, one of the triple-regulars at Lou’s. Instantly, the nightmares she’d kept locked away for years flooded her memory and her old defense system took over. Aiden pushed through the heavy steel door in the back of Lou’s as he lit the cigarette already pinched between his lips. He’d lived in Boston all thirty-two years of his life and hated winter every time it came around. He took a long drag of the cigarette and watched the cherry burn brighter in the dark as it ate its way through the tobacco and paper. As he exhaled a stream of white smoke, he heard the mumbling sounds of a conversation coming from the back of the dirt lot. Aiden knew some of the waitresses did more than just get some of the customers their drinks. Having no desire to witness anything he might need bleach to wash his eyes out with later, Aiden dropped his cigarette and turned to head back into the bar. He ran toward the couple, counting his strides along the way to remind himself to keep his temper in check. Instead, he grabbed the guy by his neck, yanked him back, and roared as he sent him flying a good six feet to land in a misshapen heap with a loud thud. His gut churned at the thought of anyone, especially Mullineaux, pawing at her like a piece of meat. Channeling Mary Catherine with the kitten, Aiden eased up behind her, hoping to coax her out of her metaphorical corner. Seeing her now, with her back plastered against the car and her eyes wide with fear, Aiden wanted to crush Mullineaux’s windpipe with his bare hands something fierce.
So instead, he held his hands up with palms facing out and prayed the talking part of Mary Catherine’s method worked better than the petting had.
A man whose blue eyes could make her feel naked and protected all at the same time from a single glance across a crowded bar. Relief started in her toes and worked its way up her body, reawakening her nerves and chasing away the subconscious paralysis she hated more than anything. Dropping her chin to her chest, she said honestly, “I hate that name.” Not that it wasn’t a nice name, but since she was forced to answer to it instead of her own, it put a bad taste in her mouth. Because she was looking at the ground, she saw his hand coming and didn’t startle when she felt a finger under her chin, lifting her gaze to his.
Her eyes darted around the back lot, searching the corners cloaked in pitch for any signs of lurking figures with watchful eyes.
Using a lifetime of feigning things she didn’t feel, she pulled up the corners of her lips and showed her teeth. She didn’t wait for his response, just slammed the door, started her car, and got the hell out of there. Logan McCade arrives at his best friend’s wedding overworked and in desperate need of a vacation, only to discover his best man duties have been…expanded. Socializing has never been web designer Sophie Brooks’s strong suit, but she’s determined to shed her wallflower image and embrace the “New Sophie”—a feat made easier with the supremely sexy Logan McCade tempting her to explore all her forbidden fantasies. Sophie’s sweet, sexy, and delectably awkward demeanor brings much-needed calm to Logan’s hectic life. Logan McCade never considered himself an ass man, but the heart-shaped one packed into snug black jeans practically begged to be kissed, licked, bitten, and quite possibly spanked. Still, the soaring ceilings, dark wood beams, and huge river-rock fireplace of the resort’s lobby couldn’t compete with the tight, round handful traveling in close company with toned legs that gave the impression of going on forever. As she finished speaking, she rocked down on her heels and took a half step back from the desk. Keep walking, he told himself, because thanks to a call from his CFO about some issues they’d hit with a potential acquisition, he was already late to the official kickoff dinner for Colton and Kady’s epic week of wedding fun.
A shower of light from the chandelier splashed auburn streaks through chin-length dark hair that had been ambushed by restless hands a few too many times. She whirled to face him, and he fell into a pair of big brown eyes he remembered belonging in the slightly rounded face of a girl…teenager…whatever.
Thing was, he hadn’t earned an economics degree and an MBA, and founded his own outdoor adventure gear company without picking up a few problem-solving skills along the way.
He found the unwilling grin flirting across her lips ridiculously gratifying, and her reply more revealing than she probably intended. Even as a crazy part of her wished he could really be hers, she imagined shouting, “Calm down. Anxious to escape what felt like a glaringly bright spotlight, she made her way to an empty chair in a quiet corner, sat, and tucked her card key into the back pocket of her new skinny jeans. She looked up to find Logan standing over her, smiling like a co-conspirator, and momentarily lost her powers of speech. But when Henry is injured in a horrible fire, his pretty housekeeper Cassandra nurses him back to health, throwing them together day and night. His close brush with death has opened his eyes to his self-imposed emotional isolation…and has urgently reminded him of his duty to marry a well-bred lady and produce an heir.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. His sleep-addled mind assumed the worst had happened—he’d died and gone straight to hell, which, unfortunately, wasn’t mythical, after all. The servants had managed, through sheer exertion and force of will, to blockade the fire and extinguish it, but Lord Riverton was stretched out in one of the undamaged guest chambers, lifeless. The fiery beam had fallen on one side of his face, a spark from it alighting on his sleeve and setting his nightshirt ablaze. The unpleasant scent of charred flesh wafted toward the surgeon, making him cover his nose. Jax turned his head, finding O’Rourke staring straight at him, arms crossed over his puffed out chest, a bottle of Brooklyn Lager dangling from his meaty fist.
The little pink valentine she’d tucked into his backpack had seemed harmless enough at the time.


When they’d first jostled their way up to Stout’s seventy-five foot bar, she hadn’t paid much attention. That naivete had come back to bite her in the ass when he stood her up on their first date.
Doing her best to downplay her interest, she scanned the last of the happy-hour crowd, noting the bar’s cobblestone floor had disappeared under the crush of bodies pouring in from The Garden.
Get out of here.” She hugged her friend and slipped into the crowd, promising to say five Hail Marys when she got home. She needed to remain focused, drawing on every last drop of confidence she possessed to avoid making a colossal ass of herself.
She really did have an early start in the morning and didn’t want to spend all night screwing around with a guy who wasn’t even man enough to make the ex-hole list. Then, tapping into her inner vixen, she stroked his bicep, relishing the way his muscles rippled at her touch.
When his friend calls in a favor that sends him south to check on family, Irish figures he’s got nothing to lose. It had only taken a couple days of observing the damage caused by nightly bar fights to sell Lou on the idea.
They kept thinking that their job was to step in once an issue became a problem, which was the job of a bouncer. They did their best to contain things before they became problems, ensuring the bar stayed busy, if a little on the rambunctious side.
Once they got the hang of it, though, there was a lot less broken shit to clean up at the end of the night. When the people of Alabaster blew off steam from their workweek, the bar became a hotbed for trouble.
She knew how to handle herself and, unlike the other waitresses, never called on the coolers for help.
If his presence alone wasn’t enough, a well-worded threat against the family jewels usually did the trick.
He’d only managed to stare back, unable to find his words with those light blue eyes turned on him, before she spun on her heel and stormed off.
Couldn’t tell her that his reason for leaving his home on the South side of Boston for Bumfuck Nowhere had started out as a favor owed to a friend and ended up as something else entirely. A flash of something he couldn’t identify crossed her face, and then she darted back inside.
They’d hired a PI, who’d managed to locate her in Alabaster, but Vanessa wasn’t convinced she wasn’t still in trouble of some sort. He periodically reported in to Jax or Vanessa to maintain the ruse that he’d stayed for them and not for reasons of his own he didn’t care to examine. Pushing his way through the crowd, Aiden approached the four men in the booth, placing himself between the mouthy one and Kat. In one stride, he reached the booth, yanked the bastard out by the front of his shirt, and held him so his toes barely scraped the floor.
His eyes were so wide he looked prepped for eye surgery and his head was drawn back so far on his neck it looked cartoonish. He waited to make sure she wasn’t obeying her stubborn Scottish streak that no doubt wanted her to come back and stand her ground.
From the corner of his eye, he saw Kat walk down the hall toward the back office and the employee bathroom. He was afraid his “Hey, how was your weekend?” would end up as something entirely different.
Winding his way through the crowd, he couldn’t help but hear Jax’s parting words echoing in his head. As far as Aiden was concerned, he’d lost that right on the rainy streets of Boston five long years ago. Chancing a quick glance around the barely lit employee parking lot behind Lou’s Riverview, she stared at the words again, praying she’d read them wrong. It might be a piece of crap, but it was the only thing constant in her life from when she left home at the age of seventeen. She’d known he wasn’t going to amount to anything when they were dating her junior year in high school, but it hadn’t mattered. Lenny screwed up bad when he got himself twenty grand into debt to the biggest crime boss in Tennessee.
That was until last month when Lenny got arrested for “possession with intent to sell” a fairly large stash of crystal meth.
For the first time in ten years, she’d enjoyed her freedom, the chance to live without worrying about what sort of crap Lenny was up to. Cursing, she bent down to retrieve them when she heard a loud shuffling sound several yards behind her. She slipped her keys between her fingers and made a fist, creating the self-defense move she’d named after one of her favorite Marvel characters: the Wolverine.
Before he could lay a hand on her, she reacted, slashing the keys down his cheek, leaving bloody scratches in their wake.
She’d pushed him with enough force to send him backward…where he bounced back from the truck parked next to her and pinned her between his beer gut and the Celebrity, his hands brutally gripping her hips. She could feel herself checking out, slipping into that dark void in her mind where nothing existed. All that was left was to hope that when the bigger animal was done toying with her, there’d still be enough left of her to drag home afterward.
The stifling August heat smacked him right in the face and the humidity was so thick his lungs felt like they took on fluid with every breath.
But he was starting to appreciate the idea of a snowstorm over Louisiana’s suffocating summer. It was times like this when he wished he could unwind from the long night with a cold beer.
Though he wasn’t fond of the idea, he stayed out of their business, just like they stayed out of his.
Just as his hand grasped the handle, he heard the man shout in anger, followed by the sound of a scuffle, stopping him cold. When he got close enough to be sure of what was happening, he clenched his fists so hard his knuckles cracked.
She hadn’t even turned her head to see what had gone down or where her attacker had disappeared. Physically, she had the look of young innocence and natural beauty, which put her at odds with her surroundings.
She reminded him of the time he and Mary Catherine had found a tiny kitten hiding in a corner behind their school. He’d managed to keep his temper locked down, and now he hoped he didn’t totally fuck up the calm and gentle thing. It had been years since he felt the urge to pull a woman into his arms for reasons other than satisfying the basest of sexual needs, but in the past several months, he found himself wanting to just hold Kat and offer her comfort for whatever she might need. But he couldn’t give in to the urge for multiple reasons, not the least of which was his refusal to get too close to her. A man who, despite his reserved personality, always seemed to be at her side whenever a customer got grabby or even too bitchy—whether she wanted him to be there or not. She started feeling somewhat normal…until she noticed Rick sprawled on the ground behind Irish, and her pulse spiked again. Less than a foot separated them, and at this proximity she was reminded of just how massive he was.
The idea of any man using an affectionate name with her—especially the man whose deep, raspy voice gave her goose bumps every time he spoke—was so foreign that a short, nervous laugh burst out before she could bite it back. All she wanted to do was get to her shitty apartment, down a few glasses of Jack Daniel’s from Lenny’s abundant supply, and sink into an inebriated oblivion where reality ceased to exist. He must coax Colton’s little sister out of her shell so she doesn’t hide in her room all week. With the nuptials only days away, Logan is forced to face the possibility that his favor to a friend might have become something else entirely…and that he’s not willing to let Sophie go.
The distraction in question snagged his attention as he approached the Beaver Creek Resort concierge desk, which made all of the above highly unfeasible. A nice illusion, considering the woman leaning against the marble-topped counter looked about five foot nothing in her flat black sandals—even when she rose onto her tiptoes to speak to the resort manager. Now that she wasn’t leaning on the counter, the hem of her oversize white shirt settled below her hips, curtaining the world’s most bitable backside. As best man, he ought to be on time for shit like that, but something about the damsel in distress talking to the concierge—and, okay, maybe it was her sweet little ass in those clingy pants—had him detouring to the desk. Not a full-grown woman with high cheekbones and an actual jawline—both of which a man could spend days sculpting with his fingertips, or his tongue.
What’s up?” Holy shit, besides your dick.You’ve been fantasizing about giving your best friend’s shy, adorable, strictly off-limits little sister an ass hickey. She had the bolting thing down cold, because he couldn’t remember seeing her at all last night when Colt and the rest of the groomsmen had invaded Kady’s bachelorette party. Not only was she trying to use the laundry glitch as an excuse to back out of tonight’s dinner, she was aiming to back out of being a bridesmaid. I couldn’t.” She freed her hands and tucked them behind her back, which made her look like a little girl with something to hide until he noticed how the front of her button-down shirt stretched across her chest, revealing generous, incredibly distracting curves beneath the thin white cotton. I’ll be the only one dressed like a salesgirl from the Gap.” She actually took another step away and he had a sneaking suspicion if he blinked, he’d open his eyes to find a vortex of empty air where she now stood…maybe one sandal halfway across the lobby.
Watched every female in the vicinity discreetly or not-so-discreetly check him out as he passed, and tried not to squirm when those same sharp gazes cut to her and she inevitably became the object of baffled, disbelieving, or outright rude looks. You have not fallen into some parallel alternate universe where the impossible becomes reality.
Jeans she’d bought on a whim, and packed on an even bigger whim, and was pretty sure now she should have waited to wear in public until she’d lost another five pounds. She could land back in her hotel room, or, as long as she was dreaming, back in her little walk-up apartment in West Hollywood, sitting on the postage stamp of a balcony she shared with her incredibly hot neighbor, Mark. He hadn’t even noticed her last night when Colt and his groomsmen had crashed the bachelorette party. Well aware her face was on fire, she forced her eyes back to his, and swallowed to ease the dryness in her throat.
As he slowly heals from his burns, their friendship blossoms, and the class walls between them start to crumble.
Determined to do right by his family name, he immediately begins searching for a suitable bride. The servant had managed to drag the marquess from the bed before the flames consumed his whole body, but violent burns marred his arm and shoulder and half his face.
Raised by a deadbeat father whose existence was predicated solely on staying one drunken step ahead of the bill collectors, Jax’s childhood had been anything but stable. He’d moved back to the city for the job, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t see about a girl. In her haste to get this little revenge game started, she hadn’t exactly taken the time to think through her plan.
Their eyes met, and he smiled at her, a sexy grin that hooked up on the left playing across his full lips. Kat’s halfway out the door when a sexy new guy walks into the bar and insists he’s there to help.
Usually three or four on weekends, depending on when the full moon came around because the crazy seemed to flow like the beer on those days.
Not that a night at Lou’s Riverview was anything close to calm and uneventful, but it was a lot less volatile than before.
Kat made waitressing look like an art form, simultaneously weaving her way through the crowd, delivering trays of drinks, and beating back the locals with her sharp wit and even sharper tongue. Around these parts, the “family” kind was all they had and they tended to prefer them intact.
That happened a few more times: him stepping in, an awkward staring contest, and a silent retreat. That from the moment he saw her, his promise to make sure she was okay for her sister’s peace of mind came second to his own inexplicable need to watch over her.
After that, she never spoke to him again other than a quick thank you with her eyes whenever he helped her. To outsiders, Jax seemed deceptively calm and laid back, but those lucky enough to call him friend knew the guy had boundless energy that he put into three things: fighting, surfing, and his relationship with Kat’s older sister, Vanessa.
That’s when he’d gotten the call from Jax, asking him to head down to Louisiana for a couple weeks to see what Kat was up to and if she was okay.
It’d been hard distancing himself from them over the last several years, even though it was for their own good.


That opening his mouth to say anything would let out all the things he couldn’t let himself say. Feel what it’s like to have your pussy squeeze my cock as you come and breathe you in until you’re the only thing inside me. Roughly translated, it said Antony Sicoli wanted his money in the next two days, or she could look forward to another up-close-and-personal tour of the local ER.
She should have dyed her strawberry hair an inky black, maybe hacked off a good twelve inches so it fell to her chin. He had the Celebrity and was willing to take her far away from her house and the shit that went on inside those four walls.
Hell, Sicoli was probably the only crime boss in Tennessee, and Lenny had still managed to get mixed up with him, of all people. But now, ironically, the EHCC might as well be a safe house for him while she was stuck out here in the real world with guys who wanted something she couldn’t deliver.
Her heart raced and the air whooshed out of her lungs at the thought of actually facing Sicoli’s thugs, until she heard the drunken rendition of an Alan Jackson song that accompanied the footsteps.
Considering she’d just worked a double, she was tired, her feet ached, and the muscles in her upper back burned from strain. Which is in the front parking lot, by the way.” Then, hoping he’d take the hint, she turned away from him to unlock her door.
He actually preferred the carcinogenic smoke circulating in his lungs to the swamp water–filled air.
Though, he supposed when combined with not having to look his past in the face every damn day, even a hellhole like Alabaster was a step up.
But not a drop of alcohol had passed his lips in five long years, and that’s the way it would stay. He’d had to prevent four fights tonight and that wasn’t including whatever Xander’s count had been.
No easy feat for an Irish Southie with a temper, who used to earn his living as a professional MMA fighter. He couldn’t make out much more than shadow figures, but one was definitely a female, and judging from the sloppy movements of the slouching silhouette, the other a drunken patron. It had curled itself into a quaking little fur ball, hiding its face like if it couldn’t see the threat, it wouldn’t be real. It had served him well in his professional fights, but outside the cage he’d always punched first and asked questions later. As soon as his palm flattened between her shoulder blades, she gasped as though breaking through the surface of the Boston harbor in February. Before she could do something stupid like swoon over what was most likely a meaningless phrase, the last part registered in her brain. One minute you’re cowering in the corner, the next, hissing and scratching.” He shrugged one heavily muscled shoulder. Broad shoulders and a thick chest tapered to a narrow waist somewhere way below her line of sight.
It was more a question of whether or not they chose to use it, and around here, a lot of people went the way of Madonna and Cher. Logan figures he can handle one introverted bridesmaid, but he’s not expecting how much he enjoys “handling” Sophie…or how much she enjoys being handled. He couldn’t see her face from this angle, but he heard the resort manager reply, “…our sincere apologies, Miss Brooks.
The only plump thing about her face was her full, unpainted lips, currently parted in what he figured to be surprise at his interruption, but his imagination whispered, This is what she looks like when she comes…cheeks flushed, eyes wide and dazed, and those soft pink lips parted.
He was an unrepentant flirt, but she could handle flirting with him and all his equally hot, equally gay friends. Admittedly, she hadn’t stuck around long after the guys had arrived—long enough to witness two of the bridesmaids enter into a pact to bed the groomsmen of their choice, and of course, Logan had topped their lists. Instead he wore an olive-green T-shirt that molded to the hard planes of his chest and turned his hazel eyes to jade, paired with wash-worn khaki cargo shorts that left his tanned calves bare.
Cassandra is surprised by glimpses of a kind and thoughtful man beneath her employer’s hard facade—and even more surprised when she develops tender feelings for him.
One instant he was awake and struggling to get free, the next instant, the burning wood swung toward him like something from a nightmare.
The valet had pressed his fingers against that still throat, had listened and felt for a sign of life. He took a pull on his beer, letting the icy cold draft slide down his throat as he studied the rowdy, testosterone-fueled men encircling him.
The two years he’d spent hanging out in the Mancinis’s kitchen had been the best of his life. Or that the girl who gave it to him would haunt his dreams for years to come, her shy smile the last thing he thought about each night before drifting off to sleep. There hadn’t been much to bring from Boston, and if he planned to make a life for himself in New York, something permanent, he was going to need some essentials.
Odds were good he was the same self-centered douchebag who stood her up on her very first date. He’d always been tall, but as a kid he’d been on the skinny side, always in a need of a good meal according to her mother. This was the same boy who’d broken her heart and left her crying into her pillow more nights than she cared to remember. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him, but breaking her trust will cost him the most important fight of his life: the one for her heart. The bar owner ended up making out in the deal, since he didn’t have to keep replacing beer glasses and tables.
The entire scene was underscored by the classic rock and country music blaring through the sound system. Nonverbal communication was fine with him, so he always responded with a look of his own, hoping it said, you’re welcome, and not, Goddamn you’re gorgeous, or, I’d give anything to bury myself in you for a night. Her pixie-petite frame and subtle curves were highlighted by her short and tight uniform, and it was all he could do to not mentally undress her. He needed to focus on getting through the rest of the night, and then he’d go home and work out till he passed out or at least became too tired to think. Not to mention the ability to break him in dozens of different ways if the notion happened to strike. The last thing he wanted to do was deflect any of that onto her, but thanks to dipshit Karl, he was hanging onto his control by a thread. Aiden set the man down, glanced at the amount scrawled on the paper tab, and thumbed through the bills—mostly crumpled singles with a few fives. Should have covered her freckles with caked-on makeup like the other lost souls working at Lou’s for shitty tips and lewd comments.
So what if his idea of a job was gambling while she worked random waitressing gigs to make sure they had enough to scrape by?
There wasn’t anything white or translucent about the place, but rather a palette of greens and browns in the muddy water swamplands of the Mississippi. When she’d finally gotten him to agree to stop gambling, she never thought in a million years he’d get into selling drugs. His instincts fired commands to his muscles to Superman-punch the asshole into next week, but his brain managed to rein him in just before he lost control. After moving the guy to the edge of the parking lot to sleep it off, he left to go check on Kat. Her standard-issue short black skirt was still in place, but the fitted white T-shirt had been pulled from her waistband. They clearly showed she was haunted by her past, and in that respect, she fit right in with the rest of life’s misfits who found themselves at Lou’s. He remembered how Mary Catherine had crouched in that corner, petting and whispering to the tiny thing until it finally felt safe enough to come out. He towered over her five-foot-seven-inches frame and the bad lighting off to their side made his features all harsh lines and hollowed shadows.
But this is particularly awful because I can’t be a bridesmaid without the bridesmaid dress.” She paused as the ramifications of her words sank in, and then her tense expression cleared into a look of pure relief. He found the transformation of the cute, quiet Sophie of his memory to the Sophie in front of him so unsettling it took him a moment to get his head back on what she was saying. The girl who’d passed out attempting to deliver her single line in her kindergarten class play didn’t have the nerve to engage in a public outburst at a posh hotel. Hanging out with them was the very definition of looking for love in all the wrong places, but it was completely safe.
But that hadn’t stopped her from developing an immediate and lasting crush on him the day she and her mom had dropped Colt off at college and met his freshman year roommate. Seeing one of the girls swipe his room key had been her cue to leave, and slipping out unnoticed hadn’t been difficult. His rock-climber’s physique boasted a truly mind-boggling collection of hard-etched muscles.
She had an adventurous side—one she’d recently set a specific goal to nurture—and it had itched to speak up last night, deal her into the bridesmaid pact, and stake a claim to Logan.
But anything between lord and servant is impossible…and besides, as a widow, she knows love only leads to heartbreak. Contrary to everything he’s been taught to believe, he realizes his lovely housekeeper might just be his perfect match. Heavy bedclothes tangled around his body from his fitful slumber, trapping him, weighing him down as his skin turned slick with sweat.
Because what she doesn’t know—yet—is that Jax isn’t the kind of man to give up when he wants something. Xander was the only one there who knew his real name—and his secrets—and he intended to keep it that way. Since she hadn’t hauled off and kicked him in the junk yet, he figured he’d done okay so far.
Giving her a quick nod of acknowledgment, he moved out of her way but stayed within earshot.
He might be a man of few words, but that didn’t mean he didn’t say everything he needed to get his point across. Not that she’d expected him to get an upstanding job this side of the law—after all, that’s why he kept her around—but drugs? Total opposite from the high-powered, high-maintenance, airbrushed-to-perfection corporate types surrounding him most days, and he found her lack of artifice refreshing as hell. Even now, fourteen years later, she still reverted to the tongue-tied preteen she’d been whenever she found herself in Logan’s presence. Not that she’d been lucky enough to make a personal inspection, but she’d spent hours studying a memorable Climber’s World article featuring Logan hanging from Half Dome, wearing nothing but electric-blue Defy Gravity flex shorts. Instead, she’d opted out under the guise of avoiding putting her brother in the awkward position of having his little sister hook up with his best man during the wedding week festivities. Much to her chagrin, his shoulders were broad and well muscled, stretching his worn Rangers T-shirt to the limit as it hugged the taut muscles of his back. Growing up, she often played the role of “mom” to him and their baby sister, Mary Catherine, when their mother was at one of her two jobs.
Impressive as his body was, most of those lean, limber muscles stayed hidden under his clothes.
They’d taken him in when his own father hadn’t cared enough to make sure there was food on the table. She cringed at the memory, taking a sip of her beer in a failed attempt to dull the ache in her chest. His appeal sprang from something deeper than thick black hair and mood-ring hazel eyes staring out from the kind of bone structure a male model would kill for. In reality, well…she’d set fitness goals, too, and stuck to them, but logging her three miles every morning was never going to turn her into an elite marathoner. He’d never let on how bad things were at home, or that the meals the Mancinis provided were often the only ones he’d eaten. Sure, he looked good enough to eat, but he was probably one of those lunkheads who spent endless hours at the gym and whose biggest fear in life was running out of protein powder.
Going head-to-head against those other girls for Logan’s attention constituted the sexual equivalent of Olympic-level competition.
Shopping scared him more than a five-alarm blaze, but if that was the price of stability, he’d gladly pay it.



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Comments to «Entangled publishing llc location»

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