Dangerous Desire, Book 1
Published 2016 by Book Boutiques.
Copyright © 2016, Lexxie Couper.
All rights reserved.
I was dreaming about Liam Hemsworth. I remember that. Naked and panting, Liam Hemsworth had entered the bakery where I work—I’m a final-year pastry chef apprentice, which translates to I make fuck all money, do most of the work and constantly smell like croissants. In my dream, the delicious Australian had hurried over to the counter, sought me out with those killer-blue eyes of his and said, “Ronnie, I need four bear claws now. And then I need to eat you.”
That’s the kind of dream any girl is going to enjoy, unless Liam was a cannibal in my dream, but by the hard-on he was sporting when he’d entered the bakery, I’m pretty certain eat meant oral sex.
I remember being very happy in the dream. Very ready to accommodate his needs. I’d just made the most incredible batch of bear claws as it were and had no issues at all with him eating them and me.
I was about to inform him of that when something woke me.
Something hot and hard.
Something suddenly on top of me, all solid and growly and panty.
A something that turned out to be a someone.
My MIA, bad-boy neighbor who I hadn’t seen for over three months.
Lucas fucking Pratt.
He was naked.
I could feel his incredibly muscled body that I’d spent six years trying not to notice sliding against my also naked body. I could feel his muscular thighs and chest and stomach rub against my thighs, my tummy, and my breasts.
I could feel his cock and balls grinding at my inner thigh, dangerously close to the place his cock and balls should never be close to.
His cock, my startled, befuddled brain was telling me, was hard.
My body thought that was goddamn awesome.
“What the hell are you doing?” I burst out, writhing and bucking and wriggling beneath him in the dark.
His hot breath fanned the side of my neck as he tangled his hands with mine in the sheets. He made a sound, a growl-slash-groan that sent shivers of something very much like hungry desire through me, and then his groin slammed to mine and his hands pinned my wrists to the bed beside my head.
“What the fuck have you done to me?” he snarled the words in that same growl-slash-groan as he ground my wrists to the mattress.
I still couldn’t see his face in the darkness of my room, but I could hear the slur in his question. And I could smell the coppery tinge of blood on the air. Along with his sweat and something that may have been whiskey on his breath.
Was he drunk?
I’d never seen him drunk.
If he was drunk, what the hell was he doing here? In my bed?
Trying to…do whatever the hell he was trying to do to me?
“Lucas.” I thrashed beneath him, trying to dislodge him. His naked body slipped and slid over mine. My brain registered the fact my nipples were dragging against his chest. My body registered the fact his cock—suddenly much more rigid than it had been a second ago—was grinding at my sex.
I wanted to scream.
Not in fear, in anger.
The trouble was all I could do was pant his name and writhe beneath him. This was not how I’d expected to be woken.
I should give you some backstory. Here’s the crib-note version.
1. Lucas’s family moved in next to door when I was sixteen and Lucas was seventeen, six years ago. Our families had been close ever since.
2. Lucas had been in trouble with the law before then. He had a juvvie record but I had no clue for what.
3. Lucas mocked me every time we saw each other because he didn’t believe I was bi—I’d been bisexual since I met my best friend at fifteen. We hadn’t lasted as girlfriend and girlfriend, but we had stayed BFFs.
4. Lucas would disappear frequently, with no word. Would turn up days, weeks, months later. Every time he did, he was bruised and looked more menacing than he had when he left.
5. In my last year of school, there were rumors he was making money as some kind of paid muscle for a motorcycle club.
6. The police would inevitably pay a visit to our house looking for him during every one of his mysterious absences.
7. He always had money to burn. And I mean, serious money to burn.
And 8. He would often confuse the hell out of me by randomly baking the most delicious brownies in the world and bringing them over to our house…usually after I’d had a crap day at school or work, and leave them with me without anything more than a silent nod and enigmatic smile.
That was my life with Lucas fucking Pratt as my neighbor.
There were joint camping trips to deal with, neighborhood barbeques in the summer, Thanksgiving Day dinners spent together. He had this unique ability of making me feel like he was sneering at me even when he wasn’t even looking at me. Any boyfriend or girlfriend I brought to any event spent most of the time under his intense, brooding snarl of a glare. That glare was intimidating. And unfortunately, fucking sexy as all hell.
When I was sixteen, all my friends wanted him to fuck them. Everyone thought he was dangerous and brooding and arrogant and hot.
Even I had to admit, he was incredible to look at. He was all sinewy muscle and broad shoulders and perfect six-pack. He was chiseled jaw and piercing blue eyes and tattoos that seemed to somehow emphasize the sculpted form of his biceps and triceps. When I talked about him to my friends I used the term “walking cliché” with dripping sarcasm. When I was with previous boyfriends, I fought hard not to compare them to Lucas. That was a difficult thing to do. None of them had looked like him.
And I’d never been woken by any of them in the middle of the night. Naked. Groping me while they were obviously sweaty, drunk and bleeding.
That’s not the kind of thing a twenty-two year old girl should get turned on by, right?
So why the fuck was I turned on? By Lucas? My neighbor. My male neighbor. Who I despised.
What the hell was going on?
Struggling against his grip on my wrists, I bucked upward. Not a smart move, given we were both buck naked, slicked in sweat and his rigid cock was rammed to my waxed-smooth pussy.
I swear to God, I felt the tip of his erection part my lips for a moment.
For a moment, my head spun and my heart smashed like a hammer in my throat.
“Lucas,” I shouted, wishing to fuck I didn’t prefer to sleep in pitch blackness. If I could see his face, I’d feel like I had some kind of grasp of the situation.
He didn’t sound…right.
He sounded…dangerous. Really dangerous.
“Get off me,” I snarled, thrashing wilder.
His grip on my wrists grew painful. His face mashed to my cheek. His knee rammed to the inside of mine and shoved my thighs wider. His cock nudged harder at my pussy.
“What,” he growled, his breath hot on my face. “Have you done. To me?”
“Nothing, you prick,” I snapped back. “Except put up with your shit for years.”
He grew still. His hands on my wrists loosened. He lifted his head. “Ronnie?”
Confusion filled his voice. I noticed once again he was slurring.
I shifted beneath him. His cock was still nudging my sex, inching a little deeper with every move we made. “Yeah?”
With a speed and strength that was both impressive and scary, he shoved himself off me and then off the bed. “Fuck.”
His mutter tore at the darkness in the room a second before I scrambled across the mattress and smacked my palm against the switch of my side lamp.
My bedroom exploded with light.
Lucas hissed, squinting against its harsh assault on his eyes. He raised his hand to protect them against the light, giving me a very clear view of his body.
“Jesus, Lucas,” I breathed, staring at him, my heart thumping fast. “What the fuck happened to you?”
He dropped his arm, the charged energy I was used to seeing in him suddenly turned up to a million. His blue stare locked on mine. His fists bunched at his sides.
I ran my gaze over his torso, too stunned to do anything about covering my own naked body.
Angry purple bruises the size and shape of fists peppered his ribs and abs. Cuts and gashes that could only come from knife strikes did the same, some weeping fresh blood that trickled down his body. Over his hips, down to his—
Fuck, he’s huge.
Jerking my stare up from his erection, I let out a gasp at the battered state of his face. His jaw and lips were as pounded as his body. A deep cut ran the length of his cheekbone below his left eye and also trickled blood.
It was his eyes that messed with me the most, however.
His eyes had always mesmerized me. There was a secret world of danger and violence in them I’d never been able to comprehend. I had even admitted to Mads one night, when we were sixteen and tipsy on my Dad’s secret bottle of Wild Turkey, that his eyes were sexy.
Right now, his eyes looked crazy. Scary crazy.
“Are you on drugs?” I asked.
There were a lot of things about Lucas that made him fall into the bad-boy category, but using had never been one of them.
Lucas liked being in control too much. I knew that.
But his eyes…
He stared at me, his chest heaving, his eyes…
Bright red fresh blood began to flow from his nose, and suddenly he staggered sideways.
“Jesus, Lucas,” I burst out, clawing myself off the bed.
I grabbed at his arm before he could collapse to the ground, steadying him with a flat palm on his chest—right above the tattoo of a raven inked over his heart. “What have you been doing?”
His gaze found mine. For a second, they were as direct and piercing as always, and then they fogged over with what I assume was pain but might be…something else.
“Ronnie?” he mumbled, raising a hand—bloody-knuckled, I noticed—to cup the side of my face. “What are you doing here? I’ll fucking kill them if they’ve hurt you.”
I frowned, alarm bells ringing in my head, my blood roaring in my ears. “We’re in my bedroom, Lucas,” I said calmly even as my tummy knotted. “You woke me in my bed. What happened to you?”
He brushed his thumb over my lips, fresh blood oozing from his nose. “Ronnie. I’ve wanted you since I first fucking saw—”
His eyes rolled back into his head and he crumpled to the ground.
I couldn’t stop him. He was too heavy, too solid. Too boneless.
By the time my brain registered he was going down, and that I was still gripping his upper arm with a firm hold, he hit the floor, taking me with him.
We hit it hard. I heard a sharp crack as his head smacked the floor. My right knee did the same and pain shot up my leg. I tried to bite back a gasp, but it escaped me before I could stop it. I’ve had surgery twice on my knee for anterior cruciate ligament damage, the last operation only a year ago. Suffice to say, my bare knee striking my floor wasn’t fun.
“Goddamn it,” I muttered, wincing at the shards of pain spearing my reconstructed knee as I tried to shift Lucas onto his back, or at least get him into a better position on his side.
Worry ate at me. Worry and fear.
I hadn’t seen my mysterious bad-boy neighbor for three months, and this is how he turns up? And who were they? Who did he think had me? And what had they done to him?
Ignoring the screaming agony in my knee, I finally managed to move him into a position I hoped was more comfortable. I stole a second to run my gaze over him.
Jesus, he was beaten black and blue. There wasn’t a part of his body not bruised or cut in some way.
I tentatively feathered my fingers over the worst-looking wounds, uncertain what to do.
Did I call 911? I had no idea how injured he was. What I did have was an idea about how often the cops came looking for him in our house during the times he was AWOL. If I called 911, would he hate me for it? Would I be putting him in more danger?
Should I ring his folks?
I needed to ring someone. Jesus, if I could afford it, I’d call a doctor at least. Someone to come check him out.
Frowning, I ran a gaze over him again. The fact he was at my house tightened something in my stomach I didn’t expect, something I hadn’t experienced since the night I’d realized I really, really wanted to go down on my best friend and make her scream my name.
That thing in my tummy tightened some more, radiating a heat lower into the place between my thighs that hadn’t reacted to a guy for a long time.
What the hell?
Was I seriously getting aroused? By my neighbor?
My unconscious, mysterious bad-boy neighbor who’d spent years teasing me and driving me all kinds of crazy?
What. The. Hell?
“Screw this,” I muttered with one last look at Lucas as I began to climb to my feet. “I’m calling 91—”
A hard fist wrapped around my wrist, jerking me to a halt.
“Ronnie,” Lucas’s hoarse growl scraped at my fraying state of mind.
My stare snapped to his face. He looked up at me, his eyes clear, bright. Too bright. Too intense.
“Lucas,” I said, tugging with pathetic force at his grip on my wrist. Or maybe I whispered his name. I don’t know. I felt…confused. My heart was racing. My head was roaring. “You need—”
“You,” he snarled, the word thick with hunger, before he yanked me downward and captured my lips with his.
He took savage possession of my mouth, his tongue and teeth wild. He fisted his hands in my hair with painful pleasure, and before I could stop the whimper of unexpected rapture vibrating in my throat, he flipped me onto my back and pinned me to the floor.
All without surrendering ownership of my lips.
In fact, his kiss turned hungrier.
His hips ground to mine, his rigid cock damn near penetrating my pussy. My heart leapt into frenzied life, slamming into my throat as his thighs slid over mine. He swept his tongue into my mouth, over and over, seeking out mine.
I want to say I bucked him off and scrambled away. I want to say I lashed out at him with my feet. He was my bastard bad-boy neighbor, after all, and I was not in the market for the kind of insanity being kissed by him would bring.
I want to say all those things, but I can’t.
A need crashed through me so powerful, so absolute I couldn’t resist it. A ravenous craving to surrender to the unexpected pleasure consuming me at Lucas’s rough domination of my body and mouth.
I whimpered again, louder this time, and shoved my hips upward, aching to feel his hard cock part my folds and slam into me. I clawed at his back, lashed at his tongue with my own.
He groaned in return, dragging one hand from my hair and down over my shoulder until he reached my breast.
He closed his fingers over its swell, rubbing his palm at my distended nipple, moving his mouth to my jaw, my throat, up to my ear.
“Ronnie,” he rasped against my temple. “I thought I’d never see you again.”
I arched beneath him, in part because his fingers had found my nipple with pinching flicks that detonated wicked sensations in my very center, in part because I desperately wanted to feel more of his cock sliding past my pussy lips.
“I don’t…” I began, but he silenced me with a kiss more hungry and savage than the first.
And as before, I had no hope of denying how my body reacted to it. How every fiber in my body craved more.
I’d never had this kind of overwhelming, intoxicating, body-rocking reaction to a kiss before. This was nothing like anything I’d experienced before.
Wild. Animalistic. Carnal. Insane.
I never wanted it to stop.
But it did.
Lucas tore his lips from mine and, as my raw moan of dismay filled the room’s silence, he lowered his head to my breast and claimed my nipple with his mouth. Sucked on it.
“Oh God!” I burst out, gouging at his back with my nails. “Oh God, Lucas.”
He didn’t stop. I didn’t want him to.
Instead, he shoved his hand down between our naked bodies—now slicked with perspiration—and plunged a finger into my sex.
“Fuck!” I bucked beneath him, thrusting my hips up into the exquisite invasion. “Fuck, Lucas, what are you—”
He crushed my lips again with his, smothering my exclamation in a kiss I didn’t even bother to resist. I wanted him to kiss me. I wanted him to fuck me with his finger.
I wanted him to fuck me with his fingers, his tongue, his cock.
I wanted him to completely take me in every way.
Which should have unnerved me to no end.
Instead, it drove me to roll my hips harder to his, taking his finger deeper into my pussy.
He growled into my mouth, his tongue battling mine as he stroked my G-spot.
Concentrated pleasure sheared through me. I pulled away from the kiss, incapable of holding back my cry, needing to let it tear from me as what felt like an orgasm began to throb in my core.
Oh God, I was about to come.
I was about to come and my asshole neighbor was the one responsible for it.
How did this happen? How?
Lucas stroked his finger faster inside me, fisted his other hand in my hair again and ravished my throat with branding bites, working his way down to my breasts once more.
He licked and bit and sucked my nipples, first one and then the other, his erection rubbing high against my inner thigh.
“Oh God, Lucas,” I groaned, tossing my head side-to-side. “I don’t…I don’t…”
Want you to stop.
Both fit. Both ended the sentence perfectly. Both didn’t come close to describing my state of mind. My mind was lost to the pleasure of his touch. My body was equally adrift, burning up with the wicked sensations consuming me.
I erupted in an orgasm more brutal than any I’d had before. It tore through me, a potent, fierce wave of concentrated pleasure that swept aside any control or decorum I had. I cried out, arching and writhing and bucking beneath him.
And as I did, Lucas yanked his fingers from my pussy and replaced them with his tongue, penetrating my seam with wild strokes, licking at my clit with flicking stabs.
Another orgasm crashed through me. I bucked again, every fiber in my body thrumming with wave after wave of incredible pleasure.
I clawed at the top of his head, at the floor, my heels skidding and slipping on the polished wooden surface as I tried to ram my sex harder to his amazing mouth.
He growled against my flesh, grabbing my butt and jerking my hips upward, his tongue on my clit as he pulled my lower body, my back off the floor.
I whimpered, my shoulders driving against the floorboards, my thighs suddenly draped over his broad shoulders.
For a moment, a split second of rational thought had me wondering how he could be so rough, so strong, when he was so beaten, and then he nipped at my clit, and I couldn’t think of anything else at all except how good it felt.
My third orgasm tore a wild, groaning cry from me. I whimpered his name, over and over, undone by it all.
He didn’t stop fucking me with his mouth. Not until I rolled my head and slapped my hand weakly on the floor, too drained to do more. “Lucas,” I panted. “I can’t…no more…”
He removed his mouth from my pussy and captured my inner thigh with his lips, sucking hard on the flesh there.
I cried out, arching once more, stunned at how I could still experience pleasure after such a mind-shattering orgasm. But I did. Lots of pleasure. As he branded my thigh with his mouth, I moaned and whimpered his name.
“Lucas…oh God, Lucas…”
He lifted his head from my thigh, blew a fine stream of air on my bruised flesh and then crawled up my body. Covered it with his.
His thick, hard cock nudged at my pussy lips. Parted them.
My breath caught in my throat. I froze beneath him, clinging to his shoulders, my thighs hugging his legs, our groins completely aligned.
I knew what was going to happen next.
I knew it was wrong.
I knew I had to stop him.
I knew all these things.
Knowing, however, meant nothing at that point in time.
All that my brain, my body, my heart hung on, was the exquisite sensation of his cock inching into my sex. His flesh penetrating mine.
“They will never hurt you, Ronnie,” he growled, his face bare inches from mine, his fingers tangling in my hair, his cock parting my folds more. “I will kill them before they—”
His eyes unfocussed. Just like that, his eyes lost all clarity. The lucidity vanished from his stare and, with a sharp groan, the rigidity left his body and he slumped on top of me.
It took me longer than it should to wriggle out from beneath him. I was worried. No, more than worried. I was scared.
Scared he had life-threatening internal injuries that were surely killing him.
Scared of the raw desire for him crashing through me like a tsunami.
Scared of what he’d said before he’d fallen unconscious. Who will never hurt me? Why would he think someone wanted to hurt me?
It was too much to handle.
Finally free of his limp weight, I snatched up the phone and called 911. I had no other choice. I had to do what I thought was best, and what I thought was best right at that very second in time was keeping him alive.
Dispatch answered on the fifth ring—yes, I counted them. It was a way to try to make myself calm down and not panic that I may be doing the wrong thing.
I asked for an ambulance, gave my address and told them to hurry, all without taking my stare off Lucas where he lay motionless on the floor.
When I was asked what was the nature of the emergency, I answered as honestly as I could. “My neighbor has been beaten up. He’s unconscious on my bedroom floor and his injuries are really bad.”
When I was asked for his name, I didn’t give it. Instead, I urged them to hurry.
I had no idea what was going on with Lucas, but I figured it was better not to give his name out. Not on the phone.
“Your name is?”
“Ronnie,” I answered, staring at Lucas. Shit, was he still breathing? Was he? “Hurry up and get the fuck here.”
I disconnected before I could be asked anything else that might make Lucas furious with me. As it was, I suspected he was going to kick my ass when he regained consciousness.
Tossing my phone onto the bed, I crouched down beside him and pressed my fingers gently to his throat.
His pulse beat against my fingertips in a weak throb. So faint, so slow it scared me all over again.
“If you die on me, Lucas Pratt,” I muttered, “I’m going to be pissed at you.”
I straightened to my feet. I had to get some clothes on before the paramedics arrived.
I’d just pivoted on my heel to hurry away when a tight grip clamped around my ankle.
Stupidly, I let out a yelp.
Heart smashing up into my ears, I spun back to Lucas, my head roaring.
“Don’t…trust…” he mumbled, eyes closed, lips barely moving. His grip on my ankle grew slack.
And then he was silent and motionless again, his hand falling completely free of my ankle.
I stood frozen. Had I thought I was scared before?
Don’t trust? Don’t trust who?
What the fuck was going on?
Who the fuck was he?
He didn’t stir.
I crouched down again, searching once more for a pulse.
There. Weak, but there.
“You’re scaring the shit out of me, Lucas,” I scolded him on a whisper before straightening and hurrying for my closet.
No tight grip halted my progress this time. No mumbled warnings.
I snatched the first pair of shorts and tank my hands encountered. Yanked them on. I could do without a bra and panties. Finding them and putting them on would only slow me down, and I needed to…to…what?
I don’t know. Get back to Lucas’s side so I could prod him if he stopped breathing? Get him ready for the paramedics?
Lucas’s ominous, unfinished warning scraped at what little calm sanity I still possessed—not a lot, I’m ashamed to admit.
Pulling a steadying breath, I rubbed my hands on my butt and studied my unconscious neighbor. I noted his chest still rose and fell ever so slightly with breath.
Good. That was good.
Now, I had to do something about him being naked.
Where are his clothes?
I ran a quick gaze around my bedroom but couldn’t find sight of them. Maybe the living room?
A heavy pressure clamped my own chest at the thought of leaving Lucas alone. Where he was going to go when out of my sight, I didn’t know.
“Don’t move,” I ordered, pointing my finger at his inert form before stepping over him and almost running from my room.
Every second I spent searching for his clothes in the rest of the house felt like a bomb was ticking in my gut. My parents were off on a cruise, so I had the house to myself for the next two months. Interestingly enough, Lucas’s mom and stepdad were on that same cruise.
There was no sign of Lucas’s clothes anywhere. Not in the living room, the kitchen or the spare bedroom I used as an office-slash-dumping ground for stuff I didn’t know what to do with. Like I needed an office. Yeah, right.
What I did find was the window above the kitchen sink open, pushed up high enough to allow a man—a big, muscular man—to climb through.
I stared at the window, my pulse pounding in my ears. Lucas knew the spare key to our house was kept in the potted azalea. Just like I knew where his family’s spare set was hidden. If he knew where the key was, why hadn’t he used it?
I hurried over to the window and slammed it shut. For some reason, it being open made me nervous.
Turning back toward the direction of my bedroom, I screamed.
And then I pressed my hand to my mouth and almost buckled over with relief.
Lucas stood before me.
He’d wrapped himself in the blanket from my bed. His eyes were still clouded with pain. I could tell he wasn’t truly functioning properly. But at least he was conscious.
“Lucas.” I frowned, closing the distance between us until I was but a foot from him. “Can you tell me what is going on?”
“Did you call 911?”
I nodded, his question and the hoarse rasp on which it was asked tightening the knot in my belly.
A muscle ticked in his jaw. “Did you give them my name?”
I shook my head.
“Did you give them yours?”
“Not my full name. Not even Veronica. I just gave them Ronnie.”
That muscle ticked again. Pain etched his face for a second and he scrunched his eyes shut, hissing as he turned his head to the side.
I stepped closer to him, resting my palms on his chest with gentle pressure. “Lucas, please tell me what’s going on? What happened to you? Who did this? Why do you think I’m in danger? Who am I not meant to trust?”
He swung his head back to face me.
His eyes locked on mine, clear and intense and completely focused. “We have to go. Now.”
I blinked. “Go? Go where? A second ago, you were unconscious. An ambulance is on its way. You’re injured. Like blood-spurting-from-your-nose injured. We can’t go anywhere.”
A dark tension filled his eyes and he grabbed my upper arms. The blanket fell from his shoulders, revealing his body and all its bruises and cuts. I wanted to wave my hand at them and say see? But I was too stunned to do anything but stare into his eyes.
“Ronnie, you’ve got three minutes to throw some clothes into an overnight bag and put some shoes on. If you’re not ready, I’m throwing you into your car and we are out of here. Comprende?”
I didn’t argue. I had no idea what was going on, but I didn’t argue. It was pointless. He’d already proved he could overpower me when he was semi-conscious. He looked far from that state now.
Holy crap, he looked scary.
It took me less than the three minutes to get a bag together. I had no idea where we were going or for how long. I threw in two pairs of panties, a bra, however many pairs of shorts I grabbed in my wild handful: ditto with my shirts. Thankfully, I always keep a toiletry bag packed and ready to go.
I ran back to the living room. A worried part of me expected to find Lucas unconscious on the floor. What would I do if that were the case? He obviously didn’t want the paramedics to see him, but I still didn’t know why.
Another part of me considered the possibility he was insane. No one knew what he got up to when he went missing. Maybe he had a split personality and the Lucas currently in my house was a delusional psychopath. Of course, if that was the case, the delusional psychopath had tongue-fucked and finger-fucked me to the most incredible orgasms of my short life, so I didn’t really know how I felt about that.
An even smaller part of me pondered the notion—in the few seconds it took me to run from my bedroom to the living room—that this was all a big prank Lucas was playing on me. That when I arrived in the living room, he’d be laughing and wiping away the bloody wounds from his body with a tissue. I could almost hear him say “Gotcha, Ronnie. You sucker!”
He was neither laughing nor unconscious when I arrived back in the living room, but to be honest, I had my doubts about the psychopath part—delusional or otherwise.
He’d killed the lights in the room, plunging it into darkness. It was only the fact my DVD unit had the world’s brightest LCD display, thereby throwing the room into a dim blue hue, that I could make out what was going on.
He stood at the window, one finger parting the drapes barely a sliver, watching the world outside. He was still naked. Despite the surreal moment I found myself in, I couldn’t help but notice the way the LCD’s light emphasized the sculpted hardness of his muscular body.
When this was over, I was having a damn good conversation with myself about the way I was sexually reacting to him.
Stepping a few feet into my living room, I opened my mouth to tell him I was ready, but before I could utter a sound, he released the drape and turned to me.
The darkness made it impossible to see his eyes. If he really was delusional, I had no way of knowing.
“Let’s go,” he said, although it definitely sounded more like an order.
He didn’t answer. Instead, he strode past me, scooping up the blanket he’d worn earlier as he did so. I heard what sounded like my car keys chink, and then he was at the door leading into the garage.
“Oh,” I muttered, hitching my bag farther up my shoulder as I followed. “We’re going there? I always wanted to go there.”
“Of course you have, Ronnie,” his low response came to me from the darkness a split second before he opened the door.
A moment later, we were in my car, Lucas wrapped in the blanket behind the wheel, me buckled into the passenger seat, frowning at him with a mix of frustration and concern.
Turning over the engine, he threw me a grin. By the light of the dashboard, I could see his eyes had that same scary and yet at the same time sexy as all hell intensity they’d had inside when he’d told me I had three minutes to get ready to go.
I snorted, my tummy knotting. “Sure.”
His grin stretched wider. “That’s my girl.”
“I’m not your fucking girl,” I snarled.
He drew his head closer to mine. “You’ve been mine, Ronnie, since the very second we met.”
Before I could tell him what I thought of that statement, he crushed my lips with his.
The savage kiss made my head spin and my pussy throb. By the time he pulled away, I was giddy with breathlessness. Or something far more disquieting—concentrated lust.
He chuckled, as he threw the Camaro into reverse. “Buckle up.”
I had a split second to think, shit, the garage door, and then we were speeding backwards and out of the garage.
I blinked. When had he opened the automatic door? While he was kissing me? Had he pressed the button while he was kissing me? While I was drowning in lust and aching with hungry, debauched need, was he pressing the button on the remote control?
The thought sent a hot, dark lick of anger through me.
He wasn’t kissing me again. In fact, the second we stopped, I was getting out and leaving him.
Screw this. I didn’t have to stick with him. He was no one to me. Just a bad boy who’d moved in next door to me and proceeded to make my high school years hell. Sure, he was always wonderful to his parents and mine, but he used to laugh at me over and over. And then confuse me with those freaking brownies. And those enigmatic smiles… Dammit, I owed him nothing. He had—
The screaming wail of an ambulance cut my surly resolute thought dead. Or maybe it was the way Lucas propelled my car into speeds I don’t think it’s ever been driven before. Certainly not while I was behind the wheel. Just because I owned a muscle car, didn’t mean I drove it like I was in NASCAR.
But Lucas found the grunt in the Camaro’s engine. Found it, whipped it into a lather and proceeded to find more. He gunned the engine, red-lining the RPMs as he flew through the gears.
Before I could take stock of the situation, my home was long behind us, not a sound of the ambulance’s siren to be heard.
“Lucas,” I began, pretty certain I was going to break my nails clinging to the dash as hard as I was. I didn’t want to break my nails. It had taken a long time to break my habit of biting them, and only two days ago, I’d spent a ridiculous amount of money on my very first manicure. “You need to tell me what’s going on. Now.”
He flung us around a corner so fast I think my poor car went up on two wheels. He made doing so look easy.
The blanket he wore was pooled around his waist, leaving his upper body bare. The wounds peppering his torso continued to seep blood, but he didn’t seem to care.
Nor did he seem inclined to answer me.
“Lucas,” I snapped, that dark anger I’d experienced earlier over the garage door flaring up to epic proportions now. “If you don’t fucking tell me what’s going on, I’m going to throw myself from this car and go to the cops.”
He shot me a quick look, his eyes and expression unreadable in the muted light from the dash.
“I mean it,” I said, closing the fingers of my right hand around the door handle. “Now spill.”
He eased back on the accelerator. A little. Not a lot, but enough for me to not feel like we were participating in an insane race.
The trouble was, a part of me suspected we were, with an unseen pursuer more menacing than even Lucas. And right now, he was incredibly menacing.
“The less you know, the better,” he finally answered, just as I was about to repeat my demand.
I laughed; a dry, sarcastic bark of a sound I’d never made before. “No. The less I know, the worse for you. At this point in time, I can’t decide if you’re deranged and I need to check you into a loony bin, or if you’re unhinged and I need to call the police.”
He surprised me by uttering his own laugh. If it wasn’t for the fact it disintegrated into a coughing fit that ended with bubbles of blood on his bottom lip, I think I may have hit him.
Instead, I almost gasped with worry.
Wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand, he frowned briefly at the blood and then returned his focus to the road. “The cops aren’t who you want to call, Ronnie. Not now.”
I swallowed. He sounded…shaky.
He coughed again. No blood this time, thank God, but a lot of wincing. What made a person cough up blood? I don’t know. But whatever it was, it couldn’t be good.
“You need to get to a hospital,” I said, unable to keep the concern from my voice. Damn it. I wanted to say angry with him. When I was angry, it was easier to forget how scared I was. When I was angry I forgot about those times when he would intimidate the shit out of the school’s quarterback every time the jerk tried to feel me up in the lunch hall. “And you need to tell me what’s going on.”
He didn’t answer. Not straight away. What he did do was keep flicking glances in the rearview mirror.
Finally, as if satisfied we weren’t being followed, he slowed a little more—to a speed somewhere in the vicinity of the posted limit—and shifted in his seat.
Once more, I frowned. “Who are you, Lucas? Where do you go when you disappear? Who beat the shit out of you? Why did you turn up naked in my bed, and who do you think is going to try to hurt me?”
A ragged breath left him, the sound becoming a gurgling cough. He slid a quick look my way. This time I couldn’t hold back my gasp. Whatever adrenaline he’d been running on, whatever dogged determination to get us as far away from my home as possible, had left him.
If a freshly dug-up corpse had been driving, I would have been less dismayed. Less concerned.
“I’ll tell you everything,” he answered, the words close to a mumbled slur, “when we’re safe.”
My eyebrows lifted. “And we’re not now?”
He shook his head, an action that didn’t help my current state of mind at all. “Not yet.”
“Where are we going?”
He gave me an address I’d never heard of before but knew was somewhere upstate.
“And you think you’re going to drive us there?” I asked, incredulous.
Once again, he shook his head. “No,” he rasped. “You are.”
And with that, he slumped sideways in the seat, his head lolling, his eyes closing.
Lunging from my seat, my seat belt digging into my chest and tummy, my stunned shout tearing at my throat, I caught the steering wheel just as Lucas’s hands slipped from it.
Heart racing, I navigated the Camaro to the shoulder, thanking freaking God it was two am in the morning and the streets were deserted.
“Lucas,” I said, giving him a shove with one hand.
The car stalled to a halt as the soft thud of his foot falling from the accelerator filled the cabin.
It took me a long time to get him out of the car. Fighting with the blanket and his extreme weight—who knew muscle weighed so much?—I dragged him around to the passenger seat and lowered him into it, the effort giving me a stitch in my side and burning lungs.
I really needed to start working out. That was the trouble with being naturally skinny. There was no incentive to exercise, so when you found yourself on the run from an unknown threat with your scary, sexy and highly secretive neighbor, you struggled.
Finally getting him back into the car, I spent a good few seconds longer than I probably should have checking his body for fresh blood.
Some of his wounds seemed to be seeping more than they had when I first saw them. God knows how much extra damage I’d done moving him the way I just had. The thing was, I didn’t have a choice.
I had to believe we were in danger. I had to believe Lucas was trying to get us—or him, at least—out of danger. And I had to believe him when he told me not to trust…
Yeah, that instruction still hadn’t been finished. I’d have to take him to task over that when he regained consciousness.
If he regains consciousness.
I ignored the niggling question, draped the blanket of his groin—Jesus, were those cigarette burns on his inner thigh?—and ran back to the driver’s side, buckled myself in, entered our destination into my maps app on my smartphone and floored the accelerator.
It was time I drove the Camaro like it was meant to be driven.
Lucas didn’t regain consciousness when I stopped for gas three hours later.
By that stage, the sky was starting to turn a pinky gold with the approaching dawn.
If the gas station attendant noticed the shirtless man with a bruised and bloody face slumped against the passenger window in my car, he didn’t show it when I paid.
I made sure I paid with cash. I also made sure I was relaxed and normal. I didn’t want him to get suspicious about the nervous, jittery woman paying for gas in the wee hours of the morning if someone happened to question him at some point. As an added precaution, I covered my hair with the baseball cap I always kept in the car for days I found myself needing protection from the sun.
If I’d had a spare pair of reading glasses in the car, I would have put those on as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I realized I’d also left my glasses back home.
Hopefully, I wasn’t going to need to do any serious reading while on the run with Lucas.
On the run.
God, I wish I knew what I was on the run from.
It took another tank of gas and a pee break—during which I spent the entire time straining to hear what was going on outside the public bathroom in fear whoever was after us was going to get to the still-unconscious Lucas slumped in the car—to get to our destination.
When I did pull into the driveway of the address he’d given me before passing out, I wondered if I’d heard him correctly.
The place was…was…
Not at all what I thought a hideout would be.
A very expensive-looking split-level home made of glass and steel built into the side of a cliff overlooking a long stretch of empty beach. It was surrounded, not by other houses, but by dense forest. The high sun glinted off the east-facing windows and steel railings like diamonds.
There was no sign of anyone moving around inside.
What there was, was a gate directly in front of me.
It looked locked.
Fuck. What did I do now?
Taking my foot off the accelerator, I moved it to the brake.
And blinked when a soft chime sounded from my glove compartment a second before the gate began to slide open.
What. The. Fuck?
Beside me, Lucas groaned.
I let out a soft cry, the unexpected noise dialing my jitters up to a gazillion. Gripping the steering wheel so tightly my knuckles felt like they were going to pop, I squinted at him.
The sun outside cast him in a glaring, color-bleaching light. It didn’t, however, hide how ashen his skin was.
“Lucas?” I whispered. No, I don’t know why I whispered either. “Are you sure this is the…”
I stopped myself before I could say right place. Something in my car had just opened the security gate, some kind of proximity activator, I assumed. Of course this was the right place.
Fixing my stare on the sweeping driveway leading up to the glass and steel building, I let out a wobbly breath and pressed my foot to the accelerator.
The Camaro slowly crunched its way up the drive, bringing us closer to the house.
Lucas didn’t make another sound.
I pulled to a complete halt and killed the engine in front of the closed double garage door. The tick-tick-tick of hot metal cooling filled the silence, as did the distant cry of loons beyond the windows.
I studied the house, its rooms clearly visible through the floor-to-ceiling windows for a moment and then, taking a lucky guess, I reached over Lucas’s inert body and popped open the glove compartment.
There, in amongst my normal shit—spare sunglasses with scratched lenses, numerous tubes of lip gloss, parking fines I probably should get around to paying sometime soon, a bag of Hershey Kisses that most likely were melted beyond their cute shape by now—was a small black rectangle with a smaller red button in the middle.
Straightening back into my seat with the strange device in hand, I looked at the closed garage door and pressed my thumb to the red button.
The garage door slowly rose, revealing a bright yellow sports car that my brain told me was a Ferrari but my eyes refused to believe was there, and an empty spot beside it.
Heart thumping faster than ever, I started the engine of my Camaro, drove into the empty spot and closed the garage door behind me.
I turned off the ignition and sat in my ticking car again for a moment, pulse pounding in my ears.
Okay. Now what?
Get Lucas inside. Check his wounds. Then get answers.
I could do that. Sure.
With a determined nod of my head, and a concerted girding up of my loins, I got out of the car, hurried around to the passenger side door and opened it.
Lucas didn’t move. He looked bad. Really bad. But even looking like he was on death’s door, he was still the sexiest fucking bastard I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Letting out a steadying breath, I leant into the car and reached across him to release the seat buckle.
And damn near screamed when he jolted upright, snatching my arm in a fierce grip. “I’ll fucking kill you,” he snarled, stare locked on me.
His eyes were wild. Feverish. His fingers drilled into my arm.
“Lucas,” I yelped. “It’s me. Ronnie.”
Confusion etched his face. His eyes focused on mine long enough for me to see raw pain in them, and then he released my arm and touched my lips with a shaky hand. “Ronnie. I think I’m…”
He passed out. Again.
If I weren’t freaking out of my freaking mind, I’d be pissed. He was making a bad habit of passing out at the most inappropriate times.
It took me way longer to get him out of the Camaro and into the house than I was happy with. If I’d have known I was going to be lugging a 230 pound hunk of man around, I would have spent more time working out. By the time I got him into the living room and onto the closest sofa—if the low, sleek pristine-white leather piece of designer furniture could be called such a modest word—I was puffing and sweaty.
Mercifully, Lucas regained enough consciousness halfway into our hideout that I wasn’t so much carrying/dragging him as I was supporting/dragging him.
His feet moved and his legs supported him—just. He wrapped his muscular arm around my shoulders, his strength wavering.
When I stretched him out on the white cushions—not so white after this, what with the blood once again seeping from his side—he let out a low groan.
“I’m sorry, Lucas,” I murmured, crouching down beside him.
He looked like shit. Sexy shit, but still shit.
Sweat beaded his forehead. His eyes were closed. His hair hung about his face in damp strands. There was a pallor to his skin I didn’t like one little bit.
Crouched beside him, a part of me was aware soft music had started playing the moment we’d entered the house—AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”—another part of me aware said the house smelt like jasmine and Lucas and pine forests. I brushed a clumpy strand of hair from his forehead. “Tell me what to do, Lucas,” I whispered, stare fixed on his face.
“Doctor,” he slurred, eyelids fighting to open. It was a fight they failed.
“Call a doctor?” I confirmed, tummy clenching.
“Winchester.” The name was as slurred at the word doctor.
I think he nodded. I could be wrong. He seemed to have slumped into unconsciousness again.
I pushed myself to my feet and went searching for a telephone directory. None.
Lips twisting with frustration, I pulled my phone from my pocket and googled Doctor Winchester.
The only result that came up relevant to where we were was a veterinarian located in the next county. I studied the man’s website.
Surely he wasn’t the doctor Lucas was talking about?
Stomach a mess of churning butterflies, and with no other option I could see, I hit the phone icon on the website and raised my cell to my ear.
Five rings later, a man with a scratchy voice answered. “Doctor Winchester’s Animal Clinic.”
“I’m not sure I have the right number,” I said, doing my best to sound relaxed but puzzled at the same time. “I’m after the Doctor Winchester who knows Lucas Pratt.”
“Doctor Winchester will be there ASAP,” the scratchy-voiced man said, voice no longer quite so scratchy and far more efficient and alert.
“Excuse me?” I said, shocked and confused.
I didn’t get an answer. Whoever the scratchy-voiced man was, he’d hung up on me.
Blinking at my phone, I huffed out a breath and swung a glare toward Lucas where he lay motionless on the sofa.
“You are so going to get it when you’re not in the middle of dying,” I muttered.
Stomping from the living room, I went looking for…well, something. Anything. I needed to know where I was, who owned this house, and why I had a garage door opener for it in my glove compartment.
After one lap of the floor I was on—there were funky staircases leading both up and down from the living area—I was beginning to think I owned the place.
In the bookcase in the living room were all my favorite books—the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, G.R.R. Martin’s complete works, Stephen King’s earlier books, the Disc World series and a collection of Mills and Boon’s sexy books. Yes, I’d been a romance book junkie since I was sixteen, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Amongst the DVDs shelved beside the bookcase were all my favorite movies—I am a B-grade sci-fi fan through and through.
What the hell?
In the kitchen, I found a bowl of Granny Smith apples, my preferred variety for healthy munching, and more than one packet of Oreos, my preferred cookie for non-healthy munching.
A frown pulled at my eyebrows. What the hell was going on?
I checked on Lucas—yay, his wounds had stopped bleeding—and then wandered up the stairs and into luxury I couldn’t have begun to imagine.
Three bedrooms, all exquisitely and yet minimally decorated, two with massive beds bigger than I’d ever seen, and the third with a plush sofa I suspected became a foldaway bed. In that room was a desk. On the desk was a sketch pad and some pencils.
Before I could stop myself, I opened the sketchpad.
“Goddamn it,” I breathed, looking down at myself.
Sketches of me. Of my eyes, my face, my smile. Incredibly talented sketches. Whoever the artist was, they were good. Very good.
Lucas. Who else would it be?
The thought unsettled me, even as a strange ribbon of what I could only assume was excitement unfurled through me. It was like I’d stepped into some kind of movie. I had no clue how to respond to it.
Closing the sketchbook, I found myself back in what had to be the master suite.
Above the headboard was an abstract painting that was strangely peaceful to look at. Above the bed, directly above the bed, fixed to the ceiling was a mirror.
I found that strangely disquieting. And arousing. Which was even more disquieting.
Spinning around, I found Lucas in the doorway, leaning against one shoulder, completely naked. He stood still, radiating a poised menace I didn’t think he was currently medically capable of.
He regarded me, expression enigmatic. But his eyes…they were hot. Not with anger though. With lust. “You found my bedroom.”
I swallowed, shuffling my feet. “You shouldn’t be up. How are you up? How are you even alive?”
His lips curled in a smile that sent liquid electricity pouring straight into my pussy. “I’ve got serious stamina, Ronnie.”
A nervous chuckle fell from me before I could stop it. I shuffled my feet again, scrubbing my palms on the fronts of my thighs. Oh man, why was my clit tingling like it was suddenly filling with eager blood.
Err, because it is? Because Lucas is in front of you, naked and gorgeous and dangerous and he clearly wants—
The doorbell chimed.
Murderous rage flashed over Lucas’s face as he swung his head toward the sound. His fists bunched.
“I called Doctor Winchester,” I blurted out, taking a few hurried steps toward him. “Well, I called a Doctor Winchester. A veterinarian. It could be him.”
Lucas raised an eyebrow at me.
“You told me to,” I said, my nerves kicking up to full-blown freak-out.
He narrowed his eyes.
Before I could say anything, I heard the front door open.
Without thinking, I bolted. Passed Lucas, down the stairs.
I had no idea what I was going to do, but the need to protect him, to confront whoever was letting themselves into our hideout had turned me into some kind of maniacal fighter.
Head roaring, heart pounding, I charged to the stairs, snatching up a table-lamp-sized statue from a console table as I did so.
I was on the second to bottom stair when my stare found our new arrival. My feet stumbled. Enough to make me completely lose my balance. I tripped and scrambled and fought for balance, all the while under the direct gaze of the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.
My cheeks were flaming when I finally found my balance. That didn’t stop me raising the statue over my shoulder and glaring at her. “Who are you?”
The stunning woman’s lips curled. “Doctor Winchester.”
I blinked. “You’re the veterinarian?”
“Watch her, Lila,” Lucas’s voice came from behind me, the words dancing with playful humor. “She’s a feisty one.”
Lila Winchester ran a slow gaze over me. “I can see that.”
I turned, my grip on the statue tight, and glared at Lucas. “Fuck you, Pratt. That’s the last time I—”
Lucas wobbled on his feet, but before he could fall, I leapt for him and grabbed him around the waist.
“Sure it is,” he mumbled, smiling down at me with heavy-lidded eyes before becoming a heavy lump I had no hope of holding up.
Lila Winchester was at my side the second I started to stagger. For a tiny thing, she was incredibly strong.
With blunt, no-nonsense instructions, she directed me to Lucas’s feet. We had his unconscious form on the sofa—yep, there were the blood stains I’d feared earlier—with nowhere near the same panting and grunting as my previous effort.
Wiping her hands together with a slapping motion, Lila leveled her attention at me. “What do you know about his injuries?”
I swallowed. “Not much. He turned up at my place delusional, looking like he does now, and has gone in and out of consciousness since.”
“When was that? What time? Exactly?”
I didn’t know exactly what time and told her so.
She scowled. “Has he done anything energetic in the periods he was conscious?”
My cheeks filled with heat again. God, did I tell her about the wild orgasms Lucas had given me on my bedroom floor?
“So he’s not dying then,” she answered before I could open my mouth.
She ran another inspection over me, from head to toe and back up to my face. “Go have a shower. You look a mess. I’ll deal with Lucas.”
Anger lashed through me. I crossed my arms over my breasts and glared at her. “If it’s all the same with you, I think I’ll watch you dealing with him. No offense, but I have no clue who you are.”
“And Lucas told you to trust no one?”
Jesus, who was this woman?
She grunted at my silent non-answer that was more an answer than any I could have uttered. “You can trust me. Lucas does. I promise I’m not going to do anything to hurt either of you. Here.” She reached behind her back and was suddenly offering me a gun. A big gun. The kind you see on cop shows. “Take this. If you think I’m not doing right by him, you can shoot me with it.”
I gaped at her. At the gun.
She jiggled it about in her hand toward me. “Take it. It’s loaded. The safety is on though, so you’ll need to fix that if you plan to pull the trigger.”
When I didn’t move, she placed the gun on the coffee table beside us and smiled.
God, she had a gorgeous smile. It didn’t, I noticed, reach her eyes though. Not really.
“Now I need to get to work,” she said, shucking her jacket off. She had beautiful, toned arms and shoulders and smooth sun-kissed skin. Her snug white sleeveless shirt made her breasts look amazing. “If you’re not into the sight of blood, you might want to look away.”
“Who are you?” I demanded. “Who is Lucas? What the fuck is going on?”
She made a clicking tsking noise and smiled more. This time it did make it to her eyes. “I’m the doctor who is going to fix him up. As for Lucas? It’s not my place to tell you.”
And with that, she turned to Lucas as if I was no longer there.