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It’s not rocket science to understand the business I’m in.

You don’t need a PhD to comprehend I’m an independent contractor.

I do the dirty work that people want to ignore.

I receive a message.

I check the offer and time frame.

Research comes next.

I hunt.

And prey.

I stalk.

And then I kill.

Freelance contractor is the technical name.

But in layman’s terms, I’m a hitman.

My Slavic-Italian father is a winemaker in Napoli. His father was a farmer in the same fields my father now owns for his grapes. He’s a good man who hasn’t done anything wrong in his life.

You can justifiably question where the fuck I got the thought or the inclination to become a hire to kill man, but it’s quite simple really.

I was in the right place at the wrong time, or in my case, the right time.

Things happened. People I knew needed a dirty job done without their M.O. left all over it.

Intending to be one job. One turned into two. My reputation preceded me and word of mouth spread like wildfire that I was the man to hire.

I have very little scruples, hardly any morality and I like money.

I enjoy being rich. You could say it’s my second biggest love of my life.

No one likes eating ramen for dinner every day.

Well someone I know does…but I do not.

Everything I do in my life is in excess.

I enjoy being gluttonous and having things that please me.

I won’t apologize for who I am and I don’t deny myself the things I want if it’s in my power to own it.

Nevertheless, there’s specific rules and I live by them to the letter.

These are my own rules and they are:

I never target kids of any kind.

I won’t go after someone’s kid to teach an asshole a lesson.

I’ll target the asshole for free.

I won’t kill Donata because she won the Tiramisu contest last year and Silvia can’t get over it. Bitch, take care of that yourself by poisoning her macadamia cookies. Or fuck Donata’s husband as payback.

Everything else is fair game if the price is right.

Just like a supermodel, I don’t get my arsenal out for less than fifty grand and that’s rock bottom price to retain my time, the real price comes if I accept. I flew to Dubai to deal with a little fraudulent issue an oil tycoon was having. He deposited a cool five million into my account for my ass to get on a plane.

It’s not a bad life.

I might end up in the blazing pits of Lucifer’s fortress, but I’ll do it in good threads and a Cuban cigar in my hand.

Of course I have a day job.

All good hitmen need a front, but that’s my business and only a few people in the whole world know my true self.  Sure, people whisper about me. There’s always rumors surrounding who I am and what I can do. But no one truly knows unless I want them to know.

I rarely accept a job in person unless I know and trust them already. Everything I take is over the phone or through messages. There is never a paper trail leading back to my name.

Keep your enemies close and your real enemies closer like you want to bone them.

Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, I adjust the tie before folding down the collar to my crisp white shirt. My own image looking back at me.

I see what everyone else sees.

My Italian roots staining my hair ink black, brushed off my face. Navy blue eyes against my natural tan.

I work out consistently every morning. Have you ever seen an overweight hitman who can clamber up the side of a building because his mark lives on the twenty-ninth floor?

Burgers are nice to eat. Money is better in my bank, so I exercise.

Plus, I like seeing my dick when I look down and not a beer gut. My dick is not happy as I zip up the black pants. It’s the reason we’re getting gussied up in a Dolce and Gabbana tuxedo today.

Business as usual.

Only, today is a little different and it has my rib cage expanding with the amount of breaths I’m taking.

This hit is not the same, in that the mark has proven elusive for far too long.

While I accepted other assignments, this task was dormant in the file and that shit did not sit well with me.

Quitting isn’t in my blood.

It’s the reason I required the big guns to get involved and my fucking gut is on fire for what will happen today.

I haven’t been able to get close enough to the guy.

He’s surrounded by more protection than the Pope.

You would think a crime boss wouldn’t be scared all the time.

But I’ve finally gotten around it.

I hope anyway, or the rest of my goddamn life is going to be miserable.

An hour later I’m sliding into the low slung Maserati GranTurismo in Magma Red. Chosen especially today to arrive at the church across Manhattan. It’s a lavish affair. Already the press are outside. Barriers of security checking invites and wristbands to the guests allowed inside the church.

The prick covered all his security bases.

I tried earlier that week to get a birds-eye view from the roof opposite to keep as plan B. I do my hits with less flare and not with a high-powered rifle that will land my ass on America’s most wanted.

No, this has to be up close and personal.

Choosing my seat at the back of the church, my eyes are razor sharp. The hush comes over the vast crowd of crime families and celebrities alike.

I know my gaze should be with the aging man at the front, standing with his eldest son. The groom is pushing seventy if he’s a day and looks like he’s lived a hard fucking life. Any decent person would feel guilty knowing they’re looking at a breathing dead man. Knowing within a day he’ll be on a mortuary slab, cut open to find out the mysterious reason for his sudden death.

I don’t have guilt and my eyes are trained to the back of the church.

A whirlwind relationship the press claimed to be the romance of the decade.

Former club dancer who met the love of her life only weeks ago is going to become queen to Manhattan’s Vitali boss. The headlines were splashed over the gossip columns this week.

The Vitali family came from Naples decades ago and set up camp in lower Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. They’re one step down from the actual Cosa Nostra, but it hasn’t stopped them warring with most every crime faction and making deadly enemies.

That’s where I come in.

It was never an ordinary hit that any street soldier could take on. It’s taken careful, methodical planning for far too long and here we are at the end.

Only this job is personal more than most. I feel it in every slow swallow and precipitous heartbeat as the bride enters from outside.

Being orphaned, she’s not escorted by a father. She’s walked down the aisle by Vitali’s consigliere. The raven-haired brat sends a sweet smile to the groom as she sways her hips encased in the Vegas showgirl type white dress, barely hiding her pussy, it’s that short.

The dress looks ridiculous on her, thank god.

My fingers flex. I already know my teeth will ache later because I’m holding my jaw together with sheer willpower to keep myself in my seat and not charge forward.

The church is surrounded with guards wearing designer black.

Even the priest is looking worried.

Why am I so antsy when I’ve done this a thousand times and not broken out in a sweat?

“I love you,” I whisper under my breath as the love of my life walks down the aisle to the man I’m paid to assassinate.

Yeah, that’s why.

My woman marrying this piece of shit crime boss in front of a thousand witnesses and my heart is in a vise within my rib cage.

The ceremony starts.


 

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Once upon a time, Penelope Bridget Astor was deeply and completely in love with a boy who didn’t think of her as anything other than a bratty kid, who creepily followed him around.

And then as all good fairy tales go, he broke her heart.

He went on breaking it until there was barely anything left.

And the even sadder part, he didn’t know he was hurting Penelope at all because he had no idea she was so deeply in love with him.

So, she gave the tiny fragments to whoever wanted them and each time she wondered would this be the one who put her back together, who gave all of her heart back.

And each disastrous relationship ended the same way.

She just couldn’t commit herself.

Because the boy she once loved didn’t know he had her heart and that she was irreparably damaged for anyone else to love.

And now, many years later, she was in big trouble because her dumbass was too upset to check if she was at the right place or not.

Penelope was pretty-damn positive no fairy tale ended with her being held hostage inside a MC. That’s motorcycle club for those not in the know… which she was that person only five days ago.

Honestly, so much slang these men used and got butthurt if she dared question what something meant.

Excuse the hell out of her that she was clueless to this way of lifestyle.

She was brought up in country clubs, not warehouse type clubs that had more than sixty Harley Davidson bikes parked outside.

Or the kind of club where men drank hard liquor directly from the bottle at any time of the day, it didn’t even have to be five o’clock.

So yeah, Penelope was being held to ransom and since she’d burned her last bridge with her parents when she ran out of her wedding, they were unlikely to pay anything.

Even just to get to Colorado she’d used the last of her purse cash for a plane ticket and then a cab to the wrong MC.

That’s how she was in the predicament she was now.

How was she supposed to know there was more than one MC in the area?

Had she known the situation she’d land herself in by running out of her wedding at the last minute, she might have rethought marrying a man she didn’t love.

But at the time she thought it was divine intervention making her overhear Malachai Hunt talking to his bitch of a wife about his twin brother.

Five minutes later, she was shucking up her $19 thousand dollar lacy gown and jumping into an Uber outside of the church.

As hostage situations go, this wasn’t horrible.

She’d seen worse on TV.

She was being properly fed and could even get any snacks and drinks she wanted whenever she wanted them from the kitchen out back.

She had a huge TV and a vast collection of DVDs, plus Netflix to watch.

But it wasn’t ideal.

For one, she was a hostage, that’s never fun.

And for two, she was in someone else’s clothes and they were cutting off her circulation. She picked at the skintight jeans she’d practically had to remove ribs to get into them.

Roux Tucker … the daughter of the man who was detaining her, loaned her a stack of clothes, but Roux was taller and skinnier, more beautiful, not that it mattered when she tried to pull on the jeans, but still… she could hardly walk in them and she was sick of those odious guys staring at her butt.

If they called her sweet bottom once more, she might… she might… well, she was too scared to do anything other than think mean things.

That was the other unpleasant thing.

This MC was full and she meant overstuffed with undesirable men who all thought it was funny as hell to tease her with vulgarity and innocuous staring at her chest and ass.

She’d never been so verbally abused before with sexual harassment.

“Ignore them,” Roux shrugged, unbothered, “the more you complain, the more they do it.”

Penelope noticed not one of those guys ever hit on Roux or said anything offensive.

In fact, they treated her like they were all her father.

Roux explained it was because she was a MC princess and therefore was hands off to every man who walked through the door.

That had to suck for her dating life, Penelope mused.

The men there weren’t terrible looking, some were in fact quite handsome in a rough he chews glass and will kill you sort of a way.

“You don’t find none of them attractive?” She asked the girl sitting at her side in her biker boots and skinny jeans and ripped vintage shirt with the sleeves torn off.

Roux was a rock chick.

“God no.” She laughed. “They’re like my uncles, that would be seriously gross for me.”

In comparison to her new friend, Penelope was the complete opposite, looks wise.

With her mousy brown hair she had to dye to a darker shade every few weeks just to give it some life, otherwise it looked like burnt straw.

She was only an inch shorter than Roux, at 5’6, but she felt dumpy next to the other girl, mainly because Penelope had hips and an ass she just couldn’t get rid of no matter how much lettuce she ate or exercise classes she took.

The chunk just clung on for dear life.

She’d come to terms with her shape which was inherited from her granny.

She did love her green eyes, she received compliments on them all the time.

And her plump lips that were au natural.

She was terrified of needles so would never go for enhancements as her friends loved doing.

“What about the younger boys over here?”

“The prospects.” Roux filled in.

She was learning so many new things she didn’t even know existed.

A prospect was basically a modern day slave who was trying to initiate himself into the MC by doing a lot of crappy menial jobs.

Both girls cast their gazes to the pool table across the room. Around it was three guys, probably around their age or a bit younger. Penelope was twenty-six but could never truly guess someone’s age just from looking at them, another of her flaws.

She wasn’t good at anything, no discernible skills to speak of.

It truly sucked being useless.

Only good for marriage and popping out babies and being seen on the arm of someone prestigious to order foie gras for him coming home after doing his secretary in the coat closet.

“My dad would have a shit fit if I messed around with a prospect. He’d kill the prospect, no questions asked.”

Penelope hadn’t seen much of Axel Tucker these past five days, not up close anyway. After the man in charge informed Penelope she was to be detained until the exchange, he’d handed her over to Roux and told his daughter to keep her quiet.

Charming. Now she truly was a thing.

And that was what she’d been running away from.

Becoming nothing, only known as someone’s wife. His trophy.

Oh, she knew alright. Ronnie didn’t love her, not really.

Their relationship was not something she could in all good conscience live with for the rest of her life. He didn’t love her and she certainly didn’t have those feelings for him.

Her circle of society were big on parties. Nothing like she’d seen in this MC for the last week, it was more for the reason of showing off. Who had a bigger, more expensive car this season. Who got the promotion. Who was jetting off to warmer climates.

If you didn’t have something to brag about in society, then you were a no one.

Penelope was a no one.

She wasn’t ugly, she got a lot of attention from boys growing up, but that was the start and end of her resume. Beauty pageant winner and nothing much else.

She sighed and pulled her lips around the black straw, drinking big gulps of the diet coke.

“Do you know who your dad is expecting to make an exchange for me?”

It wasn’t the first time she’d asked.

She felt pretty calm in spite of the state of affairs she’d gotten herself in.

On the plane ride to Denver, she rightly so garnered a lot of questionable looks sitting in the middle row of the plane in her wedding gown and uncomfortable heels.

But for the first time in … forever, she’d felt like she could breathe freedom.

For once in her life, Penelope planned for herself.

And look how that turned out.

“I don’t know. Your dad I presume.”

That made her tummy churn.

No way would her father pay money to get her back, not after what she’d done. He was the more insistent she go through with marrying Ronnie, after all he worked for her dad in his hedge fund company.

“You might want to stay in my room tonight, there’s a big party. Things tend to get loud and out of hand.”

More out of hand than she’d seen already?

Penelope didn’t think these kinds of places existed, where men openly had sex for anyone to watch or consume vast amounts of alcohol, not to mention smoking drugs. That first night, distraught and a little hysterical, she’d frozen to the floor, with her eyes wide and tear filled, scared and alone, while the MC celebrated her capture…calling her a golden goose. And what she’d seen after that, Penelope didn’t think she’d ever unsee it.

Only with Roux grabbing her arm and dragging her off down a long hallway and into her room saved her from the lewd looks she was attracting.

Without a filter or care for her feelings, Roux snapped for her to stay the fuck out of the main room if she wanted to live.

“Aren’t you going to be around?” She turned worried eyes to see Roux shaking her head.

She didn’t know if the other girl liked her or not, other than the fact she made sure no one bothered her.

But for Penelope, she had some form of Stockholm syndrome attachment to the girl and felt safer when she was around.

“Nah, I have somewhere I need to go.”

“Maybe I could go with you.”

Roux laughed and lifted a shaped eyebrow.

God, Penelope would kill to have her brows threaded, it had been over two weeks. She was one of those unlucky women who resembled a yeti found in the wild if she didn’t maintain her facial hair. That meant waxing her upper lip too. She’d look like Elmer Fudd in a few weeks if she didn’t book an appointment with her waxing girl.

Only, she was no longer in Harrison, NY, with easy access to every hygienic self-care spa.

“You know you can’t.”

“I’ll be with you, what am I going to do, run off? I don’t know anyone here.”

“Not going to happen, Cinderella.”

Ugh, they’d all started calling her Cinderella that first day.

She supposed she was lucky that they didn’t make her clean out the chimneys.

“Fine, but if I get killed, then I hope you feel guilty.”

As a hostage, it wasn’t so bad, but Penelope was afraid once Axel Tucker knew her father would not be paying any ransom, he had no reason to let her live.

She’d heard them talking, they assumed Penelope was going to fetch them a lot of money.

She could have easily told them no one thought that much of her to pay any kind of money, let alone thousands.

Trying to be brave, she kept her mouth shut.

She didn’t even know if she could trust Roux, she was part of this MC, after all.

It had been a colossal mistake to come to Colorado in hopes of finding refuge with the only boy she’d ever known who made her heart hurt.

That was a lifetime ago, he probably didn’t even remember her.

Stupid impulsive decisions never lead to anywhere good.

Penelope found that out far too late.

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It happened on a Thursday, when his life circled back to the very beginning of everything.

Pastor Danny Murphy, of those Murphy’s, originally from the green shores of Galway, Ireland, would remember distinctly it being Thursday after choir practice, if he were asked later on. He’d just finished picking up all the hymn books from the pews when the double doors flew open, as if a great gust of wind had aided the motion from God himself.

He was tired, wanting a beer and his bed but the church was always open if folks were in need.

The cold blew in right after and wrapped around his neck.

What with the snow inches thick on the ground in and around Armado Springs, Colorado, and no signs of it changing any time soon. The weather was terrible and biting every second of the day unless he kept the heating turned to a balmy 70 degrees.

His housekeeper was going to tan his arse when she saw the power bill.

Danny was a little afraid of Cora when she got in one of her snits, which was most every day. Aye, she had a temper, she did.

But the woman could bake like no one’s business and he was a slave to her honied flapjacks.

The blown doors brought in the bitter cold freeze and a person swathed in so much coat it was difficult to discern who or what it was under there.

Only that he knew it was someone looking for refuge from the cold and the Baptist Gospel church was open to all, no matter the time of day or season.

So, he left the stack of song books on the front pew and watched the person struggle to close the ancient wood.

Danny didn’t shudder for the mistreatment of such old, antique historical pieces.

He loved his church, his first and hopefully his for a long time to come, but he loved his community more, and if one was needing help or shelter, he could overlook scratches on doors.

Taking the time to put away his very worn and very well loved fifteen-year-old black Fender guitar in its case, he kept an eye out for his new guest as they slowly made their way down the aisle. Shrouded in white puffy material and a knitted hat pulled low and a scarf wrapped high, only the sway-gait of the person alerted him to the possibility that it was a woman beneath the cloak of clothing.

“Hello.” He smiled in greeting.

Sounds of his home back in Galway threaded through his voice. Sometimes he was told he’d picked up Americanisms from his friends, but it only took one rowdy night of pints of Guinness and manic bouts of darts down at Brannon’s pub to have the Irish flowing through him once more, as if he’d never left the green shores years ago.

You can take the man from Galway, as his da says, but you can’t take the Galway from the man. Aye, to be true.

He would always be the alley-rat from back home, no matter how far he went.

Silver rings glinting on his fingers when he brushed his too-long mop of light brown hair from his eyes, he saw a set of crystal emerald eyes follow his hand, pausing as if she was startled to see him. He smiled again to reassure she was safe here.

“Cold out, aye? I can offer you a hot tea. Me mother says I make the best tea in Ireland, but I’m thinking she’s a bit biased. Nevertheless, it will warm you up.”

He heard a muffled hello. The small lump shuffled forward, and Danny finally got a decent look at his guest. From the threadbare tennis shoes, one missing a lace, to the coat with several rips in both sleeves. Lord above, she’d been out in weather like this, dressed like that?

He felt a lurch of sympathy in his chest.

Moving over to the trolley that Cora always left off to the side with a tea urn, cups, plates and a barrel of homemade shortbread, her own family secret recipe he was determined to wrangle out of her one of these days. He poured a tea and dumped in three sugars, not that the woman was in shock, or that he knew of yet, it was just instinct.

“Is there something I can be helping you with?” He asked over his shoulder, hearing a zipper, he popped open the barrel and fisted four biscuits, placing them on a plate.

Of late he’d felt a sense of—he didn’t want to label it detachment, but aye, that was how he felt most mornings when he pulled himself out of bed and went on his typical 7-mile run. Then saw to the day to day running of his church, before he did his daily visits to those most in need in and around his community.

Danny loved his work, but most days—for the past months, and worse still over the holidays, he felt disconnected from everyone and everything. Going through the motions, oh, his faith ever strong, there was no doubt in that. His friends would say he needed to get laid, his mother would assume he longed for a wife and kiddies hanging off his belt loops.

Being a man about to turn thirty and a man of God no less, came with its own troubles and temptations.

He loved his work and would always offer a helping hand as he was offered many moons ago when his heart was black and full of hate. He had a cousin once who came to these shores before Danny. Connor’s life ended long before his time because he got in with a wrong motorcycle club.

Only with the divine grace of God intervening for Danny, did it thankfully put him on the right path.

The right path for him.

Some would ask what gave him the wisdom to counsel his community as he did for such a young age. No one knew his past, and probably wouldn’t ever hear the tales of a time when Danny Murphy of the infamous Murphy’s of Galway, answered only to his mistress; drugs.

It was the same disconnect in his breastbone he felt from those dark days of trying as hard as he could to die and failing each time.

Even as he smiled, carrying over the tea and snack, he wondered was God of a mind with a new path for the pastor? He knew one thing, he always listened when God spoke to him.

Aye, he wasn’t so daft these days.

The red scarf un-wound from her neck. At least the women felt comfortable enough to take a seat for a while. If she needed a bed, he was sure to find her one, he was well acquainted with the local shelters and no one should be desperate enough to sleep in the snow.

Next, off came the oversized hat and Danny froze where he stood.

The blood stopped circulating inside his veins.

And the shock of what he was seeing—who he was seeing, caused a mass riot within his lungs.

If the devil himself had appeared and started to do the Irish jig he couldn’t have been more surprised at the cascade of blood-red hair that tumbled out of the hat.

Corkscrew red curls fell in rivers over slim shoulders as a face emerged.

A face of freckles dusting over her nose like cinnamon sugar.

He knew the numbers of freckles.

He’d counted them many times. Kissed them a million times and sought them in crowds for years.

Moss green eyes met Danny’s.

Sure, the ground underneath him was rocking because for the first time in a long time, Danny felt unsteady in his own body. He stalled his steps, the cup swaying in his hand. A look of nerves on the woman’s face, she too was stuck in place, but she wrestled with the zipper of her coat, her teeth chattering together to show how cold she was.

“Aoife…” his voice scratched, sure he was dreaming and not standing in front of the girl he’d loved at six. And then at twelve. And at eighteen and every year in between.

The girl who had broken his soul apart at twenty-two.

Memories like a kaleidoscope swept through his vision, he didn’t have one childhood memory that didn’t involve Aoife. The girl he’d loved before he knew what it was to love a person as deeply as he had.

He’d loved her so deeply as a little boy, he’d wanted to be her everything.

Protector and best friend until she only loved him.

Knees just about buckled out from under him.

Aoife here in his church.

What was God doing to him?

The first girl he’d kissed.

The girl he’d climbed trees with and jumped over streams for because she wanted him to capture her a frog. The same girl he hid from her brothers and protected her from her drunk father. The same little girl who would sneak into his house and to sleep in his bed when she was scared of thunderstorms.

The girl who took all his firsts and gave him hers.

The girl he’d worshipped and fucked and lost all in the same year.

And the same woman who had walked away from him and married someone else.

The thump of his disbelief matched that of his heartbeat.

Shaking the fog from his brain, he was a pastor first, a man second.

Oh, she was lovely as ever, he thought.

Her freckles told stories only he would understand.

Though her lips were pulled straight now, he remembered when there was nothing but smiles and whispers of love and temptation on them.

Play with me, Danny-boy.

Touch me, Danny-boy.

I love you forever, and a day, Danny-boy.

She was neither tall nor short. He used to call her height perfect that fit directly under his chin when she curled into his ribs. With a slight build and tempting curves attached to her hip bones. There was not an inch of her body he didn’t know intimately. Once upon a time ago.

Still an artist’s dream come to life as she ever was. With her bow lips and almond shaped eyes and a bone structure he recognized from memory.

“I’ve come a long way, Danny-boy.” She spoke finally.

Sounds of home in her husky tone put heat in his belly.

The love he’d long since locked away started to peek through the cracks in his heart.

Danny cast a look at the ceiling, inhaling rapidly as a dying man would, in his mind he asked; “Lord, how could you do this to me now?” He was sure he could hear laughing.

Her coat unzipped all the way to her thighs, and the mysterious woman he’d first thought was on the thick side, was not at all. Aoife was slender as always.

What bulked out her coat was the baby wrapped around her chest.

A sleeping bairn no bigger than a sack of potatoes that she kissed on the top of its head, and then those bright green jeweled eyes that could once bring him to his knees and make him beg, turned on him.

Razor sharp. Wary. Shocked. Frightened.

Yeah, he noticed that one the most because it hit him square in the chest.

Danny hadn’t moved an inch.

His gaze going from Aoife to the bairn.

“I’m so glad you’re here. I seem to find meself in a bit of a bother, so I do. Can you help me, Danny-boy?”

And that was how Danny Murphy, of the infamous Murphy’s, knew that God was setting him on a new—unknown path once again.

One that would test his faith and loyalty and put him back in a place where his heart ruled … and shite alive, he didn’t have the first sodding clue how to feel when faced with the girl that not only got away but ran far…and took his soul with her.

Copyright © 2017 – 2019 V. Theia. All rights reserved.

1Danny

From Manhattan

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Lachlan

Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Don’t touch the forbidden.
Always do right.
Listen to your elders.
All great rules… if you’re into that stuff.
But the thing is; I’m Lachlan Fierro and rules are always meant to be broken.
I’ve never met a rule that I don’t love to twist.
Call me curious, but a locked door is just an invitation, if you ask me.
I don’t hurt. I’m a lover not a fighter but you better believe I’ll beat your ass down if you hurt my people.
I don’t steal. I have no need to.
And stealing is for the weak—the desperate, I’m neither of those things.
I’m curious.
And inquisitive.
I like to know why and how and better still… can I?
The answer is yes, I always can. I’ll find a way, that’s why.
All rules are meant to be bent to my liking … why else are they called rules?
Don’t do this. Don’t do that.
Fuck that, yes I will.
I’ll do it because it says I can’t.
That’s my problem, you see. I can never resist the forbidden.
Don’t push the big red button.
You can bet your life savings I’ll press that button and enjoy every second of the consequences.
Life is not worth living if there’s no risks involved.
I know the moment I see her, that she’s my biggest risk.
The sweetest, untouchable apple.
Forbidden.
Not for me.
Don’t touch, Lachlan.
But I want her.
Crave her.
There is no risk I won’t take, even if it means I lose everything.
If she loses everything.
There’s a lot to be said for doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It’s a great analogy. If something isn’t working, then change it, do something different, do better.
Love comes with its own set of rules and risks.
I go in blind.
Because I’ve never met a rule I don’t want to manipulate under my hands.
And she’s worth it all.
She isn’t meant for me.
She is worth it.
Because forbidden never tasted so good before.

 

Lachlan3

 

 

From Manhattan

Exclusive first chapter – Manhattan Storm

Theo

I’ve been called a beast in person for my throwing arm. And for other reasons.

I’m not bragging, but in my two years playing football for Clemson University, I’ve been top of my game with only three losses, two of which I was injured, and my replacement took to the field.

Nothing has stopped me from going for my dreams. I’ve lived, breathed and sweated football in order to make the draft as early as I could.

Sure, I party just as hard, I’m no saint, but I’m the first in the training room. I’m the first to run sprints and the last to leave the gym. If my body isn’t burning then I’m not finished.

They hail me as the new king.

A legend in the making, said sports center every week. Theo Fierro, untouchable. Hand of God. With the throwing arm of a missile.

Football is hard, especially being a college athlete when the number one focus needs to be completely on the game.

It seems unreal now that it’s only two years ago I was on the fast track to being part of the NFL and three weeks before declaring an early draft where I was said to place in the top two, but in practice of all places, some jerkoff sacked me like I was doing his mom. One torn rotator cuff later, I was out for months.

Done. Finished. Career over before I’ve even started. Or very close to it.

Footballers are a cut above average.

The name of the game is to be aggressive by nature, we’re required to always be in top peak physical condition in order to endure that dominance.

Quitting is not in our playbook, nor is fear and as much as I’ve lived by those rules for as long as I could hold a football in one hand, there’s a part of me that wants to let the fear creep in. To take over me until I drown in it.

It’s possibly the first time in my football life that I’m going into tomorrow, and the days after that, with no career goal in mind and I’m terrified to admit defeat.

Six months of surgery and intense PT and though they say I can play to a degree; I know I won’t be the king again and no way in hell I want to do something unless I can be my best. After a few thousand test throws, it’s more than noticeable to me and my coaches I’m not up to my own standards.

I’ve always had a rivalry with Tommy Bianchi, don’t ask me why or how it started, I’d have to tap out on that. We just rubbed each other the wrong way my freshman year and since I lived in the dorms that first year, and he was on the same floor as me, we were constantly in each other’s space.

Those guys who are just full of ego and up their own asses? That’s Tommy.

I want to punch him. More so because I have a gut feeling he deliberately ruined any chance I have with the NFL.

The asshole always did want my spot on the team. He doesn’t hide the fact that he hates me being the starting QB. He also didn’t like being a red shirt for his first year, whereas I got all the games—but do I think he’d try to take me out deliberately? I’d bet my Ford Raptor on it. The smirk he gave the day it was announced I was injured and off the schedule was proof enough.

Unlucky for that loser, he still isn’t getting my position.

Small mercies, I suppose. I would hate seeing him in my number.

For anyone who follows football, I’m the name in the collegiate NCAA ranks. Watched by scouts from an early age, offered scholarships to four schools.

Again, it’s not bragging, just stating a fact.

I’m ending the year as a sophomore without a full proof plan of what’s coming next. Coaches and scouts still have their eyes on me. Agents still want to represent me. I’ve worked hard to get back to the position I’m in, but it’s undeniable to myself that I’m anything like the star I was six months ago.

Pain is my best friend, the kind you don’t want hanging around.

Try as I might to feel positive, to listen to my parents when they say I still have a lot going for my future.

I just can’t.

Anyone knows one bad college game can devastate, but an injury can finish you.

Football is all I want to do—it’s in my blood and my skin. Ever since I was a small kid messing around in the yard with my dad. All those years of going to flag football, then playing for a local youth team and then for my high school as the quarterback. Many scouts later led to my full scholarship at Clem.

My future is supposed to be in the NFL—though I fully intend to finish my sports science degree. I want to play, not treat injuries.

With a half empty bottle of beer in one hand and the other scratching through my short, blond hair, a heavy body lands on the sofa beside me.

Bringing me out of my self-induced boo-hoo party of one, I send a glance to my best bud, roommate and all-around pain in the ass, Roddick Fury. Or as we call him; Dakota. No big secret why. That’s where he’s from.

“While you’re over here sulking like a little bitch, king, did you notice the party around you or the come fuck me looks you’re getting?”

I’m too busy drowning in the fact I was All American pick for both freshman and my sophomore years and it’s a huge possibility that I won’t ever get further than this point in football. A has-been. I’m still better than most, but I want to be a rocket not a damn snail. I lift the arm I’m cursing and feel a twinge of pain as I take the bottle to my lips.

“Don’t let me stop you scooping up the fuck me eyes, bro.” I tell Dakota, who even now has his eyes scanning the room of over a hundred people squashed into the football frat house.

“And take your sloppy seconds? Fuck you, man.” He laughs.

There’s no sloppy anything. I doubt I’ve had any of the girls at tonight’s party, though I don’t bother to check.

It doesn’t stop them trying though.

Wherever I go, the cafeteria, hallways, in class and most often at parties, I have girls trying to pull me aside to get into their tiny panties. Trying to pull me into rooms to lock me down.

Coach, in my freshman year warned us all about screwing around too much. Not only because it ruins our focus if all we’re thinking about is getting our dicks wet. But with some girls, their aim is latching onto future sports stars in hopes of hitching their wagon to someone who will earn the big bucks.

I don’t like any girl enough to let that happen, so I don’t form lasting attachments.

Unlike our other friend Wilson, who no word of a lie, found love his first week of school and more shockingly, they’re still together.

It’s only now that Dakota points it out to me that I look around the room and see a lot of couples doing a variety of upright sex on the dancefloor, grinding and popping their bodies together.

The deep bass of the common room music is felt through my sneakers. I would usually be the life and soul of the party, but I feel nothing as I sit there watching the scenes go on—only half listening to my best friend and teammate give details I didn’t ask for, from his laundry room exploits with a girl last night.

My aggravation trumps any enjoyment for partying or his dirty story, so I take the bottle to my lips, drain it and toss it on the table beside me. I might not be playing much ball this season…but I keep to my one beer rule. I’ve seen too many idiots getting into situations they can’t handle, all because they’ve gone beyond their limits.

I like my life be controlled with all my faculties intact.

“You not gonna tap that?” Dakota nudges my shoulder, without realizing it’s the one with the shooting pain stabbing me. I wince but say nothing about it. “Little Red is eating you up with her dirty gaze, man.”

“Not interested, D. Have at her.” Sexist, but true. The guys here are interchangeable for most of the athlete chasers.

“Shake out of it, man. So what you can’t play as you once did, we all gotta stop sometime, right? I don’t plan to play once I finish school.”

I know this. He wants to be his own entrepreneurial boss with plans to move to New York once we graduate. My party animal, manwhore friend has his head surprisingly screwed on right. He even interned with my dad in a few of his nightclubs last summer while I spent the summer training my ass off. And for what? Nothing, it seems now.

I’m a born football player. Without that I don’t know who I am.

Sick of my own whining, I send my gaze across the room, through bodies until I reach the redhead blatantly staring at me, a little smile touching her lips, deliberately making her hip bone jut out of her miniscule short shorts. Her legs go on for miles and I vaguely remember seeing her around.

As hot as she is—and the girl is all kinds of sexy, my dick remains calm inside my shorts. He and I are two depressed morons.

So as not to encourage her before she sashays over and climbs into my lap, I look away and haul myself up. “I’m gonna head out for something to eat, bro.”

“You can’t. It’s early.”

“I’m not in the mood for a party. I’ll bring you a pizza back.” Because food is mentioned and Dakota is a pig, he relents and lets me leave. Even before I’ve made it halfway across the floor he has the redheaded girl in his lap, attached to his mouth.

Whatever dark feelings I harbor, all it takes is the smell of oregano and a lot of cheese and my brain empties, my belly growling as I prowl inside the pizza restaurant that’s a few blocks away from where I live.

I like Nemo’s Pizzeria over anywhere else in this town and I’ve tried them all. South Carolina is my mom’s home state. We’ve always visited every summer, so I’m not new to the small college town. It didn’t stop me being homesick in those first few months, though. Man, that shit got so bad I almost booked a plane ticket home, ready to toss in the towel and admit I was a giant pussy for needing his mom and dad.

It took one call to my dad to calm my shit down. And though I go home for holidays and when I had my surgery, I now love the freedom.

I think maybe I need a weekend home with my crazy family. With a meeting with my advisor tomorrow to discuss the likelihood of my doing my bachelors and master’s degree at the same time, I figure I’ll wait until I have some answers before I hop a plane.

I’m about to be extremely happy for not staying at the party longer in just a few seconds while I wait for my triple pepperoni and cheese pie. Because as I stand at the counter, I hear the sweetest, huskiest voice coming from behind me.

“Hey, can I get by?”

Five simple words and my whole lower belly clenches and in my haste to turn around my elbow connects to a smaller, softer body and I hear her cry of pain, then I see the flair of a pissed off angry woman in her eyes.

I’m mute.

Total meltdown is happening in my body.

Because I’ve just accidentally elbowed my future wife.

One click today: mybook.to/ManhattanStorm

ManStorm4.jpg

Renegade Souls MC

Resurfaced Passion – First Chapter Exclusive

Title: Resurfaced Passion
Series: Book 6 – Renegade Souls MC Romance Saga Series.
Genre: MC Romance
Trope: A love that would never quit.

Universal Link: mybook.to/ResurfacedPassion
Goodreads TBR: http://bit.ly/2DaOuw1ResurfacedPassionGR


“I’d totally date me,” she muttered to herself with little confidence in what she was saying, whittling the corner of her left thumb nail with her teeth in a show of frenetic energy rushing through her veins. Online dating was just not her friend, but she was soldiering on.

She dealt with people on the daily, so she was impervious to nerves.

Unless it was something personal.

Paige Simmons was a baker who liked to watch bad TV, scream at every football game, wear odd colored tights and very high heels and sing badly along with the radio, even if she was in public. She loved anything cheesy and if she saw a puppy, she would 100% get down on her knees and baby-talk to the good boy.

She was also prone to dyeing her hair different shades of pink for no reason other than she felt every woman should dance to her own tune and not follow the masses.

She wasn’t a feminist as such. She liked bras. Bras kept her ample boobs in check and pointing in the right direction, thank you. But she’d always felt as though women could choose to do whatever they wanted. And if that meant marching in rallies, chaining themselves to railings and getting arrested for the greater good, then so be it. It also meant she could dye her hair whatever color she wanted on a Saturday night, while she ate her weight in cheese puffs and not care if the older generation looked at her strangely.

Taking a big gulp of the too sweet lemonade sitting near her right hand, the fizz all but evaporated, she gave another cursory glance to the laptop screen; her own image glaring back at her.

Was she really going to put herself out there, on a dating website of all places? Seriously, had it come to this? Was twenty-seven considered too young to be called a dating disaster?

Lonely. Gah, what a nasty word that was.

That was the word circling her overburdening thoughts over a glass of wine last night, so much so it motivated Paige to open the laptop and start the process of making an account.

Now she was looking at the photo she’d used on her bio and was having doubts in epic proportion. It was supposed to be a little bit of fun, but this didn’t feel like fun at all. Not with her tummy on a spin cycle of nerves.

She hovered the mouse arrow over the delete account button a dozen times at least.

Going over her bio again, she mentally tore it apart. Did men want to know her life goals?

God, she didn’t know.

Maybe she should be honest. Wants a connection and maybe some sex.

She sucked at this dating shit and knowing what men wanted was like learning a foreign language in three minutes.

Hells fire, she couldn’t even get the man she wanted to be interested in her, apart from the weird way they danced around each other, so what chance did she have with a complete stranger?

Hunched over the laptop she hit publish.

There. Her profile was live. Watch those swipes roll in.

With a harried noise, she slammed the lid shut.

She wasn’t bad looking. She had a slim figure and received compliments on her toned legs, even if they were on her small 5’4 frame. She loved her waist long hair and her tight bottom and sometimes she liked her boobs, they weren’t pointing towards her knees yet, so that was a boob bonus.

Just a little clumsy at times and a bit forgetful… ha, now that was funny. But overall she wouldn’t say she was a bad choice to date.

Finding a mate to love and cuddle and do all those mundane, wonderful things, she saw couples doing every day. She was envious of the hand holding, laughing at private jokes together and just knowing someone was there.

She ached for that.

And she’d wanted it with just one man for such a long time, but he’d shown little indication that he wanted anything more than a weird friendship with her.

She couldn’t wait around forever.

Even if her heart said to wait a while longer.

A few more months. A day. A week. A year or two.

Men were slow. All women knew this. Unless they were guided by the hand and taken to their emotional destination, men hardly arrived at all.

But the truth was; Paige wasn’t all that brave.

Where affairs of the heart and sex were concerned she wasn’t bold in the slightest and couldn’t… she would absolutely die of awkwardness if she had to ask a guy out on a date.

Why would Reaper want a plain Jane like her? Whose only discernible talent was identifying every Krispy Kreme donut just from lick alone, when she’d witnessed the kind of vivacious, extrovert, gorgeous women who partied with the bikers.

That was the kind of woman she wanted to grow up to be. One with body sociability and didn’t cringe about asking for an orgasm or five.

Great. With her confidence dipping, she left her place on the couch and decided to do something productive with the rest of the night.

Sure, it was 11:27 pm on a Saturday night, but who doesn’t pull out a tart pan to make a banana crème pie at nearly midnight? It was a new recipe she’d been tweaking for weeks now and was sure this was the one to put in the diner this coming week. Though she was technically just a waitress doing managerial duties, the moment the boss found out she baked, and baked well, he convinced her into making all the pies, on account of the diner cook being great with eggs and hash but terrible with pastry. Then it advanced to breakfast muffins when the pies were a big hit and now it was most all of the desserts on the menu.

She enjoyed it. But she was living for the day she had her own cake shop.

It was a pipe dream, but girls needed a dream or two.

Reaper and cakes. Her two dreams.

One her passion, the other her weakness.

Only one was obtainable. She smiled to herself pulling out ingredients from her pantry and wondered what the unattainable dream was up to right now.

 

* * *

 

Brex Mahoney was the biggest piece of piss walking.

And Reaper, in his thirty-one years of life so far had known at least five dozen.

He hated dealing with the city mayor. He was a braggart and a big mouth, and a goddamn fucking bore to listen to.

Business was business, he kept telling himself as he climbed down off his vintage Harley Davidson and pulled off his leather gloves to shove in his pocket, so he needed to make these next thirty minutes go as fast as humanly possible.

He’d always been the one to deal with Brex, ever since he joined ranks with the Renegade Souls and Rider—his Prez, offered him the patch as Negotiator. It wasn’t a true MC title and pretty fucking funny among the boys, knowing how little Reaper did talk. However, what skills Reaper possessed was the patience of a saint. He could deal with slime balls like Brex, and even the Mexicans on occasion and not lose his cool and slice them in two.

It was why, from day one, Rider sent him out to Brex and many other difficult people they did business with, for the fact there was only a slim chance Reaper would go kamikaze on their asses.

Only one reason would push his buttons and send him into a killing rage and lucky for all concerned, as he took measured steps in his thick soled boots and approached the nondescript building, she was nowhere near here.

Of course, the mayor of the city wouldn’t meet one of the notorious lawbreaking bikers who ran most of their city, in his public office at city hall. That would be too dangerous for the man who wore a devious mask.

How that charlatan kept getting re-elected was anyone’s guess.

He strode through the door, smelled coffee and felt his belly protest that he hadn’t eaten yet. He’d woken late, and that always put him in a bad mood because it meant he had to skip going to the diner and head directly from his two-bedroom apartment and go to the RSMC compound to see what was needed of him today.

If he wasn’t running these kinds of errands, then he worked in the auto shop.

It was the purpose of why he’d put the feelers out to Rider Marinos years back when he arrived in Colorado and needed a job to keep his mind sane. Since he’d worked in his dad’s auto-garage back home in New Zealand from the age of seven, he had the skills to back up his application. What Reaper didn’t know about engines wasn’t worth knowing. He could single handed strip down a wreck of a car and rebuild it into a fucking masterpiece.

Red Light was the only other man Reaper knew who could do the same kind of work. Rider, for a long time had wanted the pair to open up a build shop for the club. Making one of a kind bikes. Because Red Light was a Nomad and preferred the open road, that idea never took flight.

Working in the auto shop kept him mentally ticking over.

Kept his brain occupied when he wanted to descend into misery.

His negotiator skills had been handy for Rider over the years. There was that one lawyer fool who ripped off his clients, hid the evidence in a Souls safe box and became difficult when it came time to paying his bills. A few select words from Reaper had the man handing over the cash without so much as a protest.

“Is he here?” Reaper asked Joseph, the mayor’s aid and right-hand co-conspirator in all things shady. He was a fair-haired kid, all of twenty-three and cocky as one of the Trump’s. He’d need to be, to hold down that kind of high-powered job, so Reaper didn’t hold it against the guy when Joseph smirked and nodded his head towards the open office on the left.

The four-story building was all but empty. He didn’t know what it had once been, only that this was the place he met Brex every few weeks, depending on what the old man needed from the Souls.

“Reaper, son. How’s it going?” The balding man with his overly large gut greeted him like they were old friends. He always got a weird vibe from the way the old man raked his eyes up and down Reaper’s 6’2 frame.

Reaper wasn’t surly by nature; he just didn’t suffer fools lightly and didn’t like two-faced fuckers who would smile at the same time as sticking in the knife.

He’d known a few of those in his time and recognized it clearly with Brex’s demeanor. The man was a snake in the grass. But while he had money to burn, the RS would happily take it from him.

He offered a hand and they shook briefly.

“Can’t complain.” He parked his ass on a table and folded his arms, the leather of his thin jacket creaking, while Brex squeezed his bigger bulk into a leather backed chair. The office space they were in boasted zero windows and was no more than eight feet wide, so he figured they were doing the transaction in a broom closet.

“What do you need?”

“Straight to business. I like that, son.” He chuckled nasally. His watch dog stood outside the door but didn’t step inside.

“Actually nothing. I’m here to close my account, so to speak.”

Reaper arched his brow under his skull cap. Say what now? For as long as he’d been with the Renegade Souls, and it was coming up on five years now, this rat in the garbage paid over the odds to hide all his dirty deeds and secrets in one of the Souls underground bunkers, midway up the mountains.

Impenetrable. Untraceable. And safe from prying eyes and law enforcement, more to the point. Especially those who would bury the mayor for discovering the dodgy deals he was involved in with other politicians. Not to mention the prostitutes he paid into the tens of thousands each year and not from his own pocket.

It was genius when you think about it. No one would ever suspect the upstanding mayor of ever having anything to do with the biker club, not when his officials tried hard to have them closed down.

Anyone in the outlaw lifestyle would see Brex for his true self. The mayor was shady as fuck and slimy with it. Reaper wouldn’t trust the guy as far as he could launch him over a fence.

But he’d take his money.

“Is there a reason behind this sudden switch?”

He smirked. “Let’s just say I was given a better offer of protection.”

With no concrete reason why, the Russians came to mind rapidly.

His gut instinct said it was Grigori trying to undercut, undermine and generally be a pain in the dick for Rider. The bratva underboss didn’t know when to quit or realize he’d been shown leniency to leave on his own two feet and not in a body bag.

Reaper shrugged. He could care less. It was one less fuckwit to deal with. He unzipped his jacket and brought out the padded brown envelope. Held it in mid-air just out of reach.

He waited until Brex brought out his own envelope from inside his blazer and handed it to Reaper.

He wasn’t dumb. He counted that shit first. It was all there. Ten grand on the dot.

“This settles up, correct?”

“Yup.” He tossed over the contents of Brex’s lock box as requested.

Reaper turned on his boots and headed for the door.

“Seems the tides are changing, son.”

Swerving his head he could have told the fat oaf he was not his son and then punched him in the throat. But Reaper was a calm man.

Most of the time.

He stayed silent and waited.

Assholes always had to have the last word.

“With who runs things around here, I mean. Times a changing. It’s no longer the Souls.”

“And it’s not you either, old man. Go back to city hall and push a pen.”

Or go on a fucking diet before your blood pressure kills you.

He strode out, staring at his weasel sidekick who backed up out of Reaper’s way.

All roads definitely pointed to the Russian mafia and Rider was gonna be pissed if Grigori was making new connections instead of getting his ass back to wherever he came from.

The bratva had a US base in Chicago until they’d turned up in Colorado.

Things were not looking good. Firstly, Grigori teamed up with Rider’s dick-for-brains uncle, the former club Prez, who pitched one helluva tantrum when Rider replaced him. And now the man who held the legal rights to the city, was possibly working with Grigori too.

Shit always did attract shit.

As bad as it could get for the club, who had been nothing but welcoming to Reaper in all these years…he still only had one priority; and it was the girl with the pink hair and lavender shaded eyes.

The girl who smiled at everyone.

The girl who baked at 4 am and drove a crappy car and sang out of tune and cried at sappy movies.

The girl who loved animals but wouldn’t get a pet for herself.

The girl who tied his guts into physical knots.

His Achilles heel.

If Paige was the magnet, then Reaper was the metal.

There was no circumstance he could ever think of that would sway him from being drawn to her. Putting her first no matter what, even when she didn’t know it. That extraordinary pull he felt day and night just to be near her grew more monstrous with every ticking second, until he felt the jealous and possessiveness rush through his blood for anyone else who got the chance to spend a minute in her company.

He was seriously fucking screwed.

Damned if he did. Crazy if he didn’t.

That fact alone had kept him breathing.

He didn’t know what he was waiting for anymore. Only that he couldn’t not wait.

He swung his leg over the bike and started it up just like he had thousands of times before. With two destinations in mind, for once he wouldn’t head to the diner first.

Rider had always been good to him and he owed the guy. He’d go to the club first and fill him in.

He then needed to put his eyes on Paige, to remind himself she existed, and she was smiling, and she was okay.

All other shit after that could wait.

Preorder

Uncategorized

Naughty Irish Liar – First Chapter Exclusive

Title: NAUGHTY IRISH LIAR
Series: Naughty Irish Series (author collaboration)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Trope: Second chance for a first time love with a gorgeous, Irish a$$hole.
Release Date: March 15, 2019.
𝐂𝐎𝐌𝐏𝐋𝐄𝐓𝐄 𝐒𝐓𝐀𝐍𝐃𝐀𝐋𝐎𝐍𝐄 𝐑𝐎𝐌𝐀𝐍𝐂𝐄.

 


 

Catie

Some people called me an heiress brat. A socialite of Manhattan with nothing between my skull but hot air and the latest fashion trend. They said I was more acrylic nails than SATs.

I’m none of those things.

I’d say I was decisive. I know what I want, and I work my yoga-built bottom off to get it because if I didn’t, how else would I achieve anything? And while I might technically be my daddy’s heir, I don’t take his money for granted, nor am I living on his allowance anymore.

I’ve decided what I want…wanted for a long time and no matter what, I’m going to make it happen.

But I think my social status has more to do with my family name, being a Clemonte.

You see, I’m Catherine Hope Clemonte.

And I have no idea why we’re categorized as though our name is some big scandal when we’re talked about.

I promise we’re not, far from it.

Daddy is rich beyond belief because he earned it the hard way, there was no inheritance for him, he worked constantly, having grown up poor. He got into property development in the early eighties and now the Clemonte Hotels are all over the world. Celebs and the rich flock to stay there. Movies use them for locations. We hold prestigious events that earn their spot in the society pages of Manhattan. He married mom who instantly became his world, and then they had me. I was ridiculously spoiled with love. They’re those embarrassing type of parents who were incessantly in love with each other and had no bones about showing it even if their mortified teenage daughter had friends over at the house.

I suppose being the only child of the fifth richest man in American might explain why I’m called a brat. It’s what people expect. Us millennials have a reputation.

Who cares? I care a little, I guess.

I’m twenty-two, I don’t need that kind of label this early in my life. Can’t they call me a genius? (Sadly, I’m not. I’m in the last year of college and I’ll be lucky to get my business management degree) or a trendsetting influencer? (But I only have a few hundred Instagram followers, so it wouldn’t seem likely to happen. Plus, I only post pictures of toast and the odd stray cat)

Oh, god. My nerves are so rife I could exorcist-puke along with my rampant thoughts going nuts.

I’ve paced outside so long that a passing saloon car actually stopped and asked how much I was charging.

I hustled closer to the bar entryway, caught how loud it was inside and almost changed my mind about going in at all. I could always choose to do this another day, I reasoned with a croak of nerves tickling my throat.

Did I want to do this with an audience?

I swallowed and ran a anxious hand over my long red hair.

I was not risking humiliation and complete rejection just for scraps, I reminded myself. This was an all-in situation.

I wanted it all. I wanted what my heart had hurt over for five years.

My story wasn’t all that unique. Girl too young fell for the older guy. Guy crushes girl’s hope. Girl longs for guy ever since. It’s what every Lifetime movie is built on.

I was too young back then.

Now I’m not.

The door swung open and three guys ambled out talking to one another, giving me a cursory glance before they headed down the street. I hastily stepped aside and peeked in before the door swung closed again.

I knew already what MacNam’s looked like even before I’d stepped inside because I Googled it so often that if the FBI were to look at my search history on my hard drive it would appear that I was up to some no-good shit.

I couldn’t help myself. I had issues, okay. He’d become my sexy, delicious hobby and when I was obsessed with something I was all or nothing. I didn’t have gray areas.

But he hadn’t made my secret hobby easy that was for damn sure when I discovered he didn’t have one social media account.

And believe it, me and my second-best friend wine did extensive cyber stalking one weekend.

What kind of psychopath doesn’t have Snapchat?

I wanted to believe I was so adult chasing after what I wanted—who I wanted, but let the evidence show I was the coward loitering on the streets of Manhattan just after 9 pm gathering my composure to walk inside and lay claim to a man who would probably take one look at me and then look away. There wasn’t even any guarantees he’d remember me.

For two years after he’d crushed my teen heart I swore blind I hated that man for hurting me the way he did. The cruel things he’d said still rattled around my head dousing me in doubts.

Just because I was grown enough to understand his rejection to my adolescent emotions, it didn’t mean he was forgiven for the shitty delivery. The way the bastard sliced down the middle of me in his sharp Irish brogue like a thousand paper cuts could still send bile into my throat.

He could have let me down gently, but that wasn’t who he was.

I’d hurt him too by lying first…deliberately. The bank of lust that had burned through his beautiful eyes died in those few seconds of realization…my lie ended us before we were anything.

Tonight was about checking if the fires were still there in his eyes when he saw me. It was now or never, I’d told my bestie earlier that same week, when I put my plan into action.

She was annoyed with how often I turned down actual dates because I was hung up on something that never was. And that was one of many reasons I was standing outside his Irish pub freezing my butt off at the end of January. Snow laid crisp on the ground just days ago but thankfully had thawed somewhat. Even still, I was wearing my favorite lucky pair of white skinny jeans, pink leather buckle booties and underneath a fitted V-neck butt-length pink woollen coat, was just a plain white tee.

I was a red-haired woman over the age of fourteen who liked pink, m-kay. I didn’t need to explain my fashion choices.

My pulse skittered like a scared cat as I pulled open the door, a shift of warmth from inside coasted over my frozen cheeks.

I’d rehearsed this through every variable of conversation that could occur. Even the downright painful where he kicked me out on my ass for daring to walk into his domain. Even before he’d made a penny he’d had an ego. It was all part of his arrogant appeal, I suppose.

I had no confusion that he’d be anything less than lord of his fortress once I walked through the golden doors.

Face the man, tempt the ego. Or so the plan goes.

The pub was on a whole entire block. The real high-end section of Times Square. Beautiful red brick with tiny flood lights around the trim of the building, looking like an expensive palace. Everyone knew about MacNam’s.

Inside was just as extravagant and inviting with gold and browns everywhere, wooden tables and chairs, with gilded trim adding to the luxurious vibe. It was unlike any Irish pub I’d ever seen before and I felt the pinch of happiness for what he’d achieved for himself in such a short time.

My eyes took it all in. Nerves still jittering.

Along one wall was a full-length bar lit up and mirrored, every high-backed stool taken. On the other side were tables full of customers, I’d thought for a second I’d find a seat, catch my bearings and then casually ask the bartender if the boss was in tonight.

My thoughts got no further than that, they came to a stuttered halt. I wasn’t even afforded a second to peek up the staircase in the middle of the room to the second level because a pair of eyes so blue appeared in my vision and stole my breath.

Hope grew, and sprang like weeds seeing the surprise etched on a face I’d never stopped thinking about.

Not for a second.

Oh, I’d tried.

I’d hated him at times.

We’d been nothing much at all and still he’d exerted all this power over my poor aching body for the longest time.

Asshole.

My smile melted off my face when his warm eyes turned cold…slit to moody darkness and then he scowled.

Nerves goose-bumped across my skin as I forced my feet to move.

There was nothing funny about the irregular way my heart thumped out of order from within my ribcage. Every step I took closer it became a heavier sound in my ears.

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

No amount of mental rehearsal could have prepared me for how agonisingly real his enigmatic blue eyes felt on me. Sharpe and laser-like.

They were shiver inducing and trained on me, like a hunter would hold a gun.

Deadly and aware of my every step.

Those eyes punctured through me and didn’t waver, not for a second. Not even when a guy came up on his right-hand side and spoke closely to his ear. I watched his mouth move, bringing out words from those lush—vicious lips and still his gaze didn’t leave mine.

There shouldn’t be any reason for the way my insides jumbled up together, tying each organ to my racing heart—but you see, I was looking at the asshole I naïvely fell in love with five years ago…so I was a little out of my comfort zone.

Five long years I’d waited to look him in the eye as an equal—as a badass woman and let him know I was here for him.

Ronan MacNamara.

My everything.

My agony.

The man who had ruined me for any potential boyfriend ever working out.

The main reason I was a virgin, because no one measured up to the flamed feelings he brought out in me.

Oh, yeah, I hated him as much as I loved him, because for a long time I’d wanted to move on from the memory of Ronan. To lose him in a sea of other pretty faces, and yet he always came back. He’d permanently ruled over my heart when I’d tried to remove all trace of him.

What do you need to know about Ronan MacNamara?

He’s a tall boy. Six feet two to be exact. I know this because in my fawning crush back when I first met him, I’d asked all the important questions; age, height and favorite color. (green)

An origin to Dublin he now lived and owned three Irish bars around New York, MacNam’s was synonymous to all things Ireland and success. I couldn’t click on a lifestyle blog without seeing a glowing review for one of his pubs.

He’s not overly muscular. His body is long and ropey strong. He carried himself arrogant and confident, like he was always sure where he was going, and people best just get the fuck out of his way. Clothes always looked perfect on him. Even now in dark-wash jeans with a studded belt, a sweater rolled up his forearms, along with the scuffed worn boots he made my heart skip several beats. That was before I reached his stubbled face, full kissable lips. His haircut had changed from the last time I’d laid eyes on him. Now it was that modern nineteen forties cut, shaved around the sides and swept off to left on top. God almighty, he’d grown even sexier in the interim. His face was ridiculously handsome.

Ronan was a big deal. And not just to my former pubescent heart.

I just didn’t know him all that well. Not the person he was inside, I didn’t know about his thoughts or ambitions, or even his family. Only as far as my long-ago infatuation went and that was mostly softcore daydreams and spying on him through blinds when he came by my house.

But what I knew of him now?

He was a liar.

A sexy, gorgeous, no good Irish liar.

And that’s not me tarring a whole nation with the same brush. I love everything Irish, especially potatoes and Riverdance.

I just know the man I love to be a liar is all, and I firmly believe a woman deeply in love can call her man all the names under the sun if she wants to.

The flapping birds in my belly didn’t give me a respite when I forced my feet to keep moving. Fixated on the turbulent tummy motion just to save my mind from going to dark places that involved his lips and mine.

The expectation now that it was here in front of me tasted weird on my tongue.

Not unfamiliar, but new and dangerous and a tiny bit terrifying.

With no clue how the next few minutes would go, I knew only that I’d come this far and nothing short of a natural disaster was making me turn around.

My stomach was flipping and flopping and generally being a damn nuisance.

Looking at Ronan from across his pub while crowds of people milled around us, his killer blue eyes all over me like gold on a leprechaun, I shuddered inside and willed time to stand still so I could just go on staring at him.

You get nowhere in life if you didn’t take chances, my dad would say. Me chasing down a man? I’m guessing daddy didn’t mean for me to interpret it that way.

No amount of scowling asshole was going to stop me.

Through my nerves I pasted a smile on my face and angled my body through the crowd, closing the gap between us, feeling every bit of the electric energy rushing through my bloodstream.

A girl came from behind, almost sent me flying as she rushed by knocking my shoulder hard enough that it hurt. I saw Ronan’s eyes narrow further, but he wasn’t looking at me this time, his eyes were on the road rage girl who was squealing his name.

“Baby! I missed you!” She declared and launched herself at his chest.

While my own chest deflated of all its air and left me with a weird crash and burn sensation.

The Irish asshole had a girlfriend?

I froze. Hardly blinking. My insides tumbling.

A spoke had well and truly been thrown in my wheels.

My eyes narrowed looking at the cosy scene.

Rude. I thought. How fucking rude. Didn’t he know he was supposed to wait for me to grow up? Hello, here I was fully grown.

I stood there like a deer caught in twin blue headlights. Ronan glaring at me over the shoulder of the blonde woman clinging to him.

Dammit, if I’d known there was going to be a traffic jam of women for his attention I might have gotten my butt inside the pub an hour ago, instead of loitering outside like a creeper.

Heat stole over my nose freckles.

Not because I was embarrassed or disheartened.

Because as I went on looking at Ronan, he was looking nowhere else but directly at me with that scowl and lust.

I saw lust clear as day all over his face and bursting out of his broody eyes while his girlfriend? Lover? Piece of the moment? Tried to climb him like a coconut tree.

 

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