Dangerous Desire, Book 2
Published 2016 by Book Boutiques.
Copyright © 2016, Lexxie Couper.
All rights reserved.
The second worst thing I’ve ever done?
Fall in love with Veronica Underwood.
The worst thing I’ve ever done?
Telling her I loved her meant she finally revealed she felt the same about me. Had for a long time. The second I knew she loved me back, everything changed.
For one fucking incredible week, I forgot the shit life I’d protected her from. For one amazing week, I forgot how shit that life was—a criminal life, a violent life, a life of gang brutality, underground MMA fighting, illegal gambling, and corrupt-as-fuck cops.
Seven days of existing in a euphoric state, subconsciously fantasizing that this was now my reality.
Seven days safe inside the walls of the home I’d built for her, the sanctuary where I knew no harm from my shit life could come to her.
Seven days of losing ourselves in the pleasure of each other’s bodies.
One incredible week.
And then I woke up from the pleasure-fogged delirium of being in love with Ronnie, the euphoric state of knowing she loved me back, when she suggested we go for a walk along the nearby beach.
How did I deal with the reality of Ronnie loving me, knowing the life I’d left behind could one day hurt her?
It was easier when I’d thought she hated me.
See what I mean?
Worst decision I’d ever made was telling her how I felt.
The fucked-up thing was I wouldn’t take it back. Not at all. I just had to figure out how the hell to move forward from this point.
Ronnie was sitting in the middle of our bed, dressed only in one of my T-shirts, her hair a tousled mess from days and nights of fucking, her cheeks flushed, her breasts rising and falling with ragged, post-orgasm breaths. She looked at me and smiled. “Beach? Walk? Fresh air?” Her eyes danced with a mischief I would never tire of. “Sound doable?”
We hadn’t left the security of the house apart from a brief sojourn to the local police station a week ago to make a statement about Detectives Dewey and Kitchner—two of the corrupt-as-fuck cops I mentioned earlier. We answered questions about them. Questions like, “Why did you feel the need to cable-tie Detective Dewey to the gym equipment in your basement, Mr. Pratt?” And, “How did Detective Dewey come to have a broken clavicle, scapula, left humerus, and right patella, Mr. Pratt?”
We’d been outside in that week, of course. The house had a pool, and we’d swum in it often—as well as done other things that took on a whole new sensation when weightlessness is involved.
My chest tightened at her playful question. Was Ronnie going a little stir-crazy? She’d never been one for staying cooped up inside. Even when she’d been sick with the mumps at the age of seventeen, she’d spent the days sitting on her parents’ back deck, reading and drawing in a battered sketchbook, soaking up the sun’s rays, a contentment on her face she was most likely unaware of.
She’d also—most likely—been unaware I’d watch her during those moments, aching for her, longing to go to her, to take her in my arms and show her—
“Do I get the feeling you don’t want to go to the beach for a walk?”
I dragged in a slow breath at her question. Something told me this wasn’t going to go well.
“What if I order in pizza?” I suggested, trying like hell to keep my voice calm. “And we can find the worst movie ever made on Netflix?”
Her eyes narrowed. She contemplated me for a long moment, head tilted to the side a little. “What do you think is going to happen to me if we venture beyond the walls of this compound?”
Compound? A hot lump filled my throat. Yeah, this wasn’t going well.
“I have no idea what will happen beyond the walls of this compound.” I met her steady gaze, forcing a languid looseness to my body as I moved to the bed. I pressed one knee to the mattress, pausing long enough to hook my fingers beneath the hem of my shirt. “But I know exactly what’s going to happen if we stay inside it.”
Ronnie did exactly what I wanted her to do—look down at the strip of my stomach I’d exposed to her. “Stop trying to distract me with sex, Lucas,” she complained. Her gaze, however, didn’t return to my face. Instead, she watched as I slowly inched my shirt up over my abs.
A hitching sigh fell from her. Her lips parted. Her breasts—those glorious tits I worshipped nightly—heaved.
At the sight, my already semi-hard cock turned into a full-blown raging boner. Hard. Rigid. Engorged with blood and hungry for her.
Ronnie always had this effect on me. The very first time I saw her I’d fallen in lust with her. Instant lust. Fuck-my-hand-raw-every-night lust. It was the day my mom moved into the house beside hers, when I was seventeen and Ronnie was sixteen and about to go to a Halloween party dressed as Harley Quinn from the Batman comics and looking like every sexual fantasy I’d ever had.
A few days after that, we’d actually spoken, and I knew there and then it was so much more than lust. Looking at Ronnie, her emotions playing over her face, real and true and honest… Fuck, she turned me on. In every way.
Watching her now, reacting to my underhanded distraction, the tip of her pink tongue swiping over her bottom lip as I pulled my shirt higher up my torso… Watching her squirm on the bed as I yanked it over my head, her hands moving between her thighs to press against the heat of her fucking incredible pussy… Watching her catch her bottom lip with her teeth as I tossed the shirt aside, her gaze roaming my now bare upper body…
“You don’t play fair, Lucas Pratt,” she murmured, her gaze flicking up to me as I began to crawl towards her.
“Never have,” I answered, snatching one of her ankles with a firm grip to spread her legs apart. “Never will.”
She let out a breathy squeal as I swooped between her now-parted thighs and swiped my tongue over the seam of her pussy.
“Lucas,” she protested, even as she buried her fingers in my hair and clung to me.
I sought out the button of her clit with the tip of my tongue, flicking at it with teasing pressure a few times before raising my head. “What?” I asked, turning the melodramatic innocence up to ten.
“We can’t stay locked away for—”
I didn’t let her finish the word forever. Instead, I sank my middle finger into her tight slit and stroked her inner walls.
A raw groan fell from her. Her eyelids fluttered closed. She dropped back her head, widening her parted thighs as she did so.
“Tell me you want me to stop, Ronnie,” I said, knowing damn well she wasn’t going to. When it came to sex, to pleasure, she was insatiable.
“B-beach…” she stammered, the word little more than a whimper.
I chuckled, dipping my head to torment her clit with my tongue once again.
She moaned, thrusting her hips upward. An unspoken demand for more that turned my already hard cock harder.
Fuck, I’d never get enough of her.
With a gentle nip at her clit, I lifted my head to look at her again. “What did you want to do, babe?” I asked, twisting my wrist just enough to slid my index finger inside her. I scissored my two fingers together, seeking out the spot I knew would bring her the greatest sensation.
“Tell me you want to go to the beach—” I watched her face contort with pleasure, “—and we will.”
“V…vitamin…D…” she moaned, arching her spine as I wriggled my fingers deeper inside her.
I made a noncommittal noise before stroking my tongue once more over her clit.
She moaned again, wrapping one long bare leg around my back to hold me where I was.
My cock throbbed, reveling in the uninhibited way she gave herself over to the moment. I ached to slam into her, to bury myself to the balls in her tight pussy. I wouldn’t. Not until I made her come at least twice first.
“As far as persuasive arguments go—” I withdrew my fingers slicked with her cream and slipped my hand up the shirt she wore until I encountered her full right breast, “—it’s a bit weak.”
I trailed my fingertips over her puckered nipple before giving it a pinch.
“Oh God, Lucas…” She groaned, opening her eyes for a moment to find my gaze.
Fresh blood surged into my dick at the pleasure burning in them. I bit back a hungry growl. “Lucas, what?”
She whimpered, the sound becoming shaky when I closed my hand completely over her breast.
Ronnie is wild in the sack. She doesn’t hold back. I’m not complaining.
“Lucas, what?” I repeated, dragging the tips of my fingers over her flesh. “Lucas, I want to waste time walking on a beach? Or Lucas, I want you to fuck me until I can’t stand up?”
Her eyes fluttered closed and she groaned. And then a low, throaty chuckle fell from her. “Beach. Let’s go to the—”
I fisted my hands at the neckline of the shirt she wore—one of my favorites—and tore it apart.
Ronnie squealed, the sound part shock, part carnal delight.
I captured her nipple with my mouth and sucked on it. Hard. Drew its beaded form deep into my mouth.
“Holy fuck!” Ronnie slammed her hips upward and clawed at my back.
Pain lashed through me, hot and delicious and intoxicating. I sucked harder on her nipple, squeezing her other breast with a far-from-gentle hand.
She cried out, grinding the curve of her pussy to my jeans-imprisoned cock.
The punishing friction detonated an animalistic craving in me and, before I could stop myself, I sank three fingers into her pussy. I needed her juices on my skin.
“Fuck,” she rasped, her voice raw and strangled.
I moved my mouth to her other breast. Bit at its heavy swell. Branded the delicate flesh beneath her nipple with a hickey that marked her my property.
Mine. She was mine. And I was hers. Completely and utterly.
She was my weakness, and it scared the shit out of me that someone from my fucked-up past could use her to get to me.
So as much as Ronnie wanted to go to the beach for a walk, I couldn’t let that happen. I’d been a dangerous, violent, brutal animal once. I’d become that animal again in a heartbeat if something happened to her.
Keep her safe. Keep her protected. That’s what I had to do.
And I would do that by fucking her brains out every day. I would do that by flaying away any desire to be anywhere else but in bed with me.
I would do that by giving her nothing but orgasm after orgasm after orgasm.
Still feasting on her nipple, I wriggled my fingers inside her wet pussy, faster and faster.
“Oh God, Lucas.” She arched into my rough touch. “I’m going… I’m going to come. I don’t…not yet…I want…”
She reached for my wrist.
With my free hand, I snared hers and rammed it to the bed beside her head, increasing the speed of my thrusting fingers as I did so.
She whimpered, her sex contracting, her breath ragged.
I released her nipple with a pop and then bit, nipped, and sucked a path up to her ear. “You think you can stop me making you come, Ronnie?”
Pleasure contorted her face. Her pussy squeezed in tightening pulses.
I flicked my tongue into her ear and then bit her earlobe. “If I want you to come, you’ll come, babe.”
Twisting my wrist, I rolled the pad of my thumb over her clit.
A choked cry burst from her. Her hips bucked upwards. “Lucas…”
“Do you really want to go to the beach, Ronnie?” I asked, reveling in the concentrated pleasure on her face, in her moans and pants.
Her eyebrows knitted as I rolled my thumb against her clit again.
I nipped at her jaw, her chin, her bottom lip. “Do you?”
“Hell yeah,” she moaned. My body reacted to the lust and desire and challenge in the words. “Right now.”
I shook my head, pressed her wrist harder to the bed and increased my fingers’ thrusts inside her. I could feel the beginnings of her orgasm tremble in her body. She writhed on the bed, one long leg wrapped around my hip, her pants and pleas for me to fuck her harder and faster torturing my control…
“Come for me, babe,” I ordered, on the edge of oblivion. My cock throbbed in my jeans, straining against the zipper. The metal teeth dug into my stretched flesh, torture threaded through raw pleasure.
Any hard-on I got for Ronnie was perfect, even one I refused to relieve.
Not yet. Not until I made her come. Twice.
“Fucking erupt all over my fucking hand, babe,” I commanded against the side of her neck, shifting on the bed. I loomed over her, trapping her to the mattress, my weight on her thigh.
“Oh God, Lucas…”
The sound of my name leaving her lips on a breath of sheer hunger sent fresh blood to my dick. Flooded it. Turned it into a pole of rigid agony.
As always, when Ronnie turned me on, I suffered the most exquisite pain and pleasure a guy can. Addictive pain and pleasure.
The very second I allowed myself to sink into her, I would explode. The battle over the beach—and what it really stood for in my head—made that inevitable.
Knowing I had turned her into a prisoner of my love, my fear for her, turned this fuck into something dark.
Christ, the good girl in my bed had no clue who she’d fallen in love with. Who loved her. A man who would kill for her.
A dangerous man.
A dangerous man made weak by her.
“Come for me, babe,” I ordered again, trying to soften the demand. To take its ruthless urgency away. I moved my mouth to her breast, capturing her nipple with punishing hunger. Sucked.
“Beach first,” she moaned, digging her heel into the small of my back.
Every move she made, every breath belied the statement. Her juices trickled from her sex, over my fingers, into my palm. Her free hand—the one I wasn’t pinning to the bed with inescapable domination—raked at my back, my shoulders. Was she drawing blood? Possibly.
I almost cracked at the thought. My dick pulsed, a thick spasm jerking it in the prison of my jeans.
Thank fucking God I’d put them on after I’d showered. If I was naked now, if there was nothing separating Ronnie’s pussy from my cock, I’d be balls deep in her now.
I pressed my thumb harder to her clit, rubbed it back and forth. “Come,” I growled, watching pleasure twist her eyebrows into a frown.
“For.” I abandoned her clit, returning to the rapid stimulation of her G-spot. She whimpered and arched beneath me, her blunt nails gouging at my shoulder.
“Me,” I whispered, before withdrawing my fingers, dipping my thumb into her sodden slit, and pressing one cream-slicked fingertip to her anus.
“Oh God!” She came, her pussy growing wetter as her release flowed from her. I didn’t stop fucking her with my fingers. I wanted this orgasm to render her defenseless to me, to the orgasms to follow. I wanted her incapable of even thinking about the beach, let alone anything else but me making her come over and over.
I wanted her drunk on pleasure and rapture.
“Lucas!” she cried, writhing as I moved my thumb back to her clit and sank my fingers into her pussy once again. “I can’t…too much…too…”
She thrashed against my weight, my grip on her wrist. I let her break free, the idea of her trying to stop me make her climax again a wicked craving I couldn’t fight.
She grabbed at my wrist, squeezing its girth in an attempt to still my hand at her sex.
I chuckled against her cheek and quickened my thrusts. “I told you, babe, if I want you to come, you’ll come.”
She moaned, her grip on my wrist growing lax.
“And I want you to come again,” I whispered.
“Oh God,” she moaned. “I do too. Oh God, Lucas, make me come again. Make me come a—”
I slipped my hand free of her heat, hooked my arms beneath her thighs and yanked her ass up off the bed, and plunged my tongue into her pussy.
The sweet saltiness of her release coated my tongue and lips. She cried out, her heels thumping against my back as I worshipped her clit and sex with my mouth. I opened my eyes, wanting to see her incredible breasts jiggle, wanting to see the pleasure on her face.
Her eyes were closed, scrunched tight as she gasped over and over.
My trapped cock strained harder against my fly and, incapable of enduring the exquisite agony any longer, I rested Ronnie’s legs on my shoulders and tore the zipper open, lashing my tongue over Ronnie’s clit as I did so.
Cold air enveloped my cock as it jutted free of my open jeans. Risking my sanity, I wrapped my hand around its engorged length, pumping it so hard I knew it would bruise my already swollen balls, punishing myself with pleasure even as I refused to let myself come.
Control. Over my desire, my pleasure. Over Ronnie’s.
“I need you inside me, Lucas,” she begged.
I lifted my head from between her thighs, hitched her legs higher on my shoulders, and met her stare. “Not yet.”
She choked back a whimper of protest. “When?”
“When do you think?” I wanted her to say, After you’ve made me come again, Lucas.
“After we go to the beach,” she said, a dark challenge dancing in her eyes.
Something just as dark stirred inside me. I ground my teeth. “I’m going to make you suffer for that, babe.”
Before she could respond, I took possession of her sex once more with my mouth. I flicked at her clit over and over. Every time she was close to coming, I lifted my head and blew on the tiny nub of sensitive flesh. Every time I did, she pleaded with me to make her come.
Every time she did, I told her I was in charge of her orgasms before nipping at her clit with my teeth.
I can be a macho caveman bastard when I want, and my girl was pushing me there now.
Ronnie was my woman, and I had to protect her.
“Holy…holy fuck…” She panted, fisting her hands in the duvet beneath her. “Lucas…oh God…Lucas…it’s too…too…”
I moved. There’s a reason I’m a nightmare for my opponents on the underground MMA circuit. I’m fast. Very fast. And fucking strong.
Before Ronnie finished saying good, I levered her off the bed, my face buried between her thighs, her legs wrapped my head, my hands flattened to the small of her back, keeping her exactly where I wanted her.
Her shocked yelp echoed around our bedroom. My cock jerked with a thick spasm of impatient hunger.
Just as Ronnie came a second time, I slammed her back to the bed, driving my tongue deeper into her wet folds.
“Oh fuck, yes,” she cried, gripping my head tighter with her thighs. “Yes!”
Two orgasms down. How many more before she forgot about the beach? About anything else but being here with me? Safe?
I couldn’t stop a smug smile stretching my lips.
Her hair spread around her head in a wild mane of tousled hair. Her eyes burned with rapture. Her cheeks were pink. Her breasts rose and fell with rapid, shallow breaths.
“I fucking love the way you taste, babe,” I said, kneeling between her spread legs to smooth my hands up over her belly, her ribs. I palmed her breasts, drawing my head closer to hers.
Our gazes clashed. My balls throbbed from the sated pleasure in hers.
“I’m quite partial to the way you taste as well,” she answered. “Fancy letting me tie you to the bed so I can give you a blowjob?”
Hot lust surged through me. My cock turned to an aching pole. Fuck.
I’d been tied up twice in my life, both times by corrupt-as-fuck cops. I’d sworn the second time I broke free that I would kill the next person to even think about doing it. But the thought of being tied up by Ronnie…of being completely in her hands…at her mercy.
If only I didn’t know what I knew.
“I’m not that easily fooled, babe,” I said, planting my hands on either side of her head, the tip of my cock nudging at her slick pussy lips. “The second after you tie me to this bed, you’re at the beach.”
She laughed, a throaty chuckle that almost made me erupt. “Busted, I guess.”
I drew in another breath, this one slower. Deeper. “Very busted. And now, about to be punished.”
Uncertainty flickered in her eyes. Her tongue darted over her bottom lip. “Lucas, as much as I’m enjoying all the sex, we can’t stay locked away from the rest of the world forever. We need—”
I silenced her with a brutal kiss.
I wasn’t gentle. There was nothing tender or romantic. I kissed her to show I was in charge. To show her I was in control. To make it clear when it came to her safety, I would not be distracted.
Would not be dissuaded.
Until I took care of the unfinished business of my shitty past life, Ronnie was where I wanted her to be and nowhere else.
She’d fallen in love with a bad boy, and it fucking tore me apart that that love was bringing out the bad in me, even as it gave me hope I could one day be the man she thought I was—a good man.
Could I ever be? Was that possible?
Snaring her wrists, I pinned her arms above her head to the bed with one hand, cupping and kneading her breast with the other.
She groaned into our kiss, arched into my rough caress.
I plucked at her nipple, rolled its distended form under my thumb as I ravished her mouth with mine.
She locked her legs around my hips, forcing my cock closer to her spread pussy. A wave of lust rolled through me as I dipped into her wet heat, the rim of my cockhead enveloped by her lips. One fierce, fluid thrust and I would be embedded in her.
She broke the kiss with a growl, her wild breaths fanning my lips as she looked up at me. “Fuck me, Lucas. Now. Hard. And I won’t mention the beach again today. I won’t—”
I sank into her. To the balls. No mercy. No hesitation.
“Yes,” she cried, thrusting her hips upward, taking me deeper still.
She was playing me. As much as I was playing her. I knew Ronnie well. Better than anyone. I’d spent years watching her. She wasn’t stupid. She wasn’t a submissive pushover. It was one of the reasons I loved her. Our battle about her safety wasn’t over. She knew it, and I knew it.
But there was nothing false about this, about the intensity of our fucking. This was real. This was animalistic and wild and everything a guy could want.
Ronnie was everything a guy could want. And she was mine.
The thought—absolute and powerful—undid me. My thrusts grew faster, almost erratic. I wanted to drive her to another orgasm long before my own, but the reality was when it came to Ronnie, I had little restraint over my body.
I loved her too much. Wanted her too much.
“Oh God, Lucas,” she moaned, moving beneath me with uninhibited desire. “That’s it. Harder. Harder.”
I did as she begged, slamming into her over and over. With every savage stroke, my body burned hotter with pleasure. Every nerve ending sparked. My head swam, my heart raced.
I fought for control. Thought of my sixth-grade teacher with the hairy knees singing the National Anthem. Thought of anything I could to stop the inevitable.
Staring down into Ronnie’s pleasure-contorted face, hearing her moan over and over… I knew I was fucked. There was no stopping it.
I fucking erupted at the exact moment Ronnie bucked her hips upward and clamped her legs tighter around my hips, her scream of release tearing from her throat, her pussy contracting around my cock.
We came together.
I rode the waves of my orgasm, pumping my seed into Ronnie, her whimpers in my ear.
Finally drained and spent, I slumped onto her. Rude? Yes, but something Ronnie got off on.
Releasing her wrists, I buried my face into the side of her neck, supporting as much of my weight as I could on one elbow, hip, and thigh.
She lay beneath me, trailing her fingers over my back in abstract patterns that sent delicious ripples across my sweaty skin. “I love you, Lucas,” she murmured. “You need to stop being scared for me.”
I swallowed without raising my head. “I know.”
I couldn’t. The day I did was the day I stopped protecting her. And I would protect her with my life. It was only Ronnie’s existence in this world that kept me turning into the violent animal I could so easily be. I was a dark, dangerous creature without her. I could live with that, but I couldn’t live with myself if she was hurt because of me.
I would never stop being scared for her. Not of the dangers I’d stupidly brought into her life. Not of the danger I’d brought into her bed.
Fuck, what did I do now?
I should have been prepared for what I found when I woke up.
More to the fucking point, I shouldn’t have fallen asleep in the first place.
I pushed up onto my elbows, squinting around the dimly lit room. Weak afternoon light filtered through the window, the sky a grey stretch of thin clouds behind the wafting curtains.
Something wrapped around my calves, stopping me from moving my legs freely.
I jerked up from the mattress, twisting to see what bound me. My lower back protested at the abrupt hyperextension and the sharp shard of pain shearing down my legs and up my spine.
Jeans. Just my jeans. Still half on, the waistband stretched taut against my calves. Christ, I’d fallen asleep with them around my legs?
Shifting on the rumpled bed, I yanked them completely off and then scanned the room.
Ronnie was not there.
A hot lump settled in my throat.
Silence answered my call. Nothing to get too freaked out about. Our home wasn’t small. Perhaps she was downstairs in the living area or kitchen. Or in the gym on the bottom floor.
Maybe she was in the private shooting range on the same level. During the last seven days, I’d shown her how to fire a variety of small handguns. Maybe she was honing her skill. And skilled she was. If I didn’t know the truth of the matter, I would have bet good money she was a practiced marksman already. She rarely missed her target with any gun I gave her, except for a Glock. For some reason, there was something about a Glock that fucked up her aim.
Heart thumping faster than I liked, I climbed off the bed and hurried from the room.
“Ronnie?” I yelled, striding along the hallway. Perhaps she was in the room I’d set up as an office, ordering pizza on my laptop.
What time was it anyway?
I glanced at my watch. Fuck. After four. I’d slept for over three hours. Christ. She could be anywhere by now.
The taunting thought scraped at my tenuous calm. I ground my teeth, glaring at my empty office. I thought I’d fucked the rebellious notion of venturing beyond the walls of our home from her. If she was at the beach… If she was exposed…unprotected…
“Fuck,” I muttered, spinning on my heel to head downstairs to the living area. “Ronnie?”
My voice bounced around the silence.
The living room was empty. So was the kitchen. An empty glass sat upside down in the sink, the only sign Ronnie had been there at some point. She’d had a drink of water before going wherever she went.
I clenched my jaw. Goddamn it, when I found her, I was going to turn her ass red with my hand. And then fuck her senseless.
She wasn’t in the home theater room. Or the laundry.
The lack of sound in the gym told me before I even reached the lower level she wasn’t there.
“Fuck,” I ground out again.
Okay. Time to get some clothes on and go looking for her outside.
I took the stairs three at a time, launching myself up into the living area again, gaze flicking towards the glass doors leading out onto the deck, and froze.
In the bushes.
Chest tight, limbs loose—ready to coil—I crossed the living room, my stare fixed on the dense garden beside the grassed backyard.
The sun reflected off the glass of the door, hitting my eyes for a split second. But in that split second, I swore I saw the bush move again. Too high for an animal…
I slid the glass door open. The sounds of birds and nature wafted on the still air. In the distance, waves crashed against the sand. Were those waves streaming around Ronnie’s ankles? Was she down there? Alone?
Chest growing tighter, I narrowed my eyes and studied the garden.
The perimeter fence of the property was imposing. Getting in was not easy. It would take more than just a ladder to scale the walls. Plus, the security system was set to detect any movement. If anyone was stupid enough to attempt to enter the property, an alarm would let me know.
Only two people apart from myself knew the override code—Ronnie and Doctor Lila Winchester. Ronnie was AWOL, and the veterinarian—among other things—was currently in New York at a conference.
Breath held in my throat, I watched the bush.
I let out a ragged sigh. I was getting jumpy.
Turning from the open door, I began walking for the stairs leading up to our bedroom. Clothes. I needed—
The distinct sound of someone diving into the pool filled the silence, followed by more splashing water.
I turned and sprinted to the open door, charging out onto the back deck, ready to launch myself over the railing and down onto the yard ten feet below. And stopped at the sight of Ronnie propelling herself through the water with a relaxed breaststroke motion.
“Oh fuck,” I burst out. Relief crashed through me, hot and prickling and mocking.
Christ, what the hell was wrong with me?
A hoarse chuckle scratched at my throat and I scrubbed at the back of my neck, watching Ronnie swim.
Fuck, she’s naked.
I skimmed my palm down over my stomach to cup my nuts, admiring the way Ronnie slid through the water, her perfection unmarred by bathers.
For a second, I considered shouting out to her, informing her I was going to join her, but I decided to stand back and enjoy the show for a while instead.
And fuck me, what a show it was.
Ronnie cut through the water, lap after lazy lap, her incredible ass bunching with each kick, glimpses of her breasts teasing me as her arms moved with each stroke.
My dick turned to a rigid pole as I admired the view. I massaged my balls, drawing deep, steadying breaths to slow my heart.
When Ronnie began to lap the pool in backstroke, her breasts and nipples breaking the water’s surface, the exquisite curve of her pussy doing the same, I knew it was time to join her in the pool.
I headed for the stairs to the yard from the back deck, and then changed my mind. Not about joining her in the water, but my approach. After the caveman-like fucking I’d given her earlier that day, perhaps it was time for some romance.
I’d never had a desire to be romantic until Ronnie entered my life, and to be honest, I wasn’t very good at it. A life fighting in gangs, a life brutalizing anyone not capable of standing his own against me in the underground MMA cage did not lend itself to nourishing a romantic.
Ronnie was changing that though.
The few times I’d been romantic during the last seven days—making her breakfast in bed, giving her an unexpected foot massage as we watched a movie on Netflix, shampooing her hair in the shower—she’d looked at me with such open love it had damn near stopped my heart.
Right now, in the pool? The perfect time to sweep her off her feet again. To show her I wasn’t just the bastard I knew I was.
I made my way back into the kitchen and snagged a bottle of white wine from the bar fridge. Humming, I chucked some ice into the bottom of an ice bucket, shoved the wine into the bucket, and then grabbed a packet of potato crisps from the pantry. Hey, I never said I was good at the whole romance thing, just that I tried.
I was grinning when I walked back out onto the deck. Horny, naked, and grinning.
I was also completely focused on the pleasure I was about to give Ronnie, which meant it took my brain longer than it should have to process the fact she was out of the pool, reaching for a towel on one of the sun loungers, her stare locked on the tall man standing directly before her.
Gun. Pointed at Ronnie.
The last thought was a shard of ice through my head.
I moved fast, breaking into a sprint, dropping everything but the bottle of wine. That I gripped by the neck, ready to crack the fucker’s head in.
The ice bucket clattered to the wooden deck, the noise like a gunshot in the calm afternoon quiet.
I saw the man standing in front of Ronnie flinch. Saw him swing towards me as I ran towards him.
Saw Ronnie snatch up her towel—and something else, something that looked like a police baton.
Tonfa. She’s got the Chinese melee weapon from the gym. She’s armed herself.
Pride rolled through me, just as she swung her arm upward in a blurring arc and smashed the end of the tonfa into the man’s jaw.
Bone cracked. There was no mistaking the sound. Blood spurted from the man’s mouth in a bright red spray a heartbeat before he lurched backward.
His calves struck the sun lounge. His head lolled back on his neck. His body turned boneless.
Ronnie brought the tonfa down in a sweeping strike, hitting him on the cheek as he began to collapse.
His head snapped to the side under the blow, and he crashed to the ground, motionless, his gun clattering across the pavers just as I reached Ronnie’s side.
I grabbed her, hauling her to my body, enveloping her in my arms.
“Did you see what I did?” she asked, wriggling against my hold. Her voice was high. Almost brittle. She pushed her palms against my chest, her eyes shining with adrenaline. I recognized the light in them. It had been there when Detective Dewey had tried to use her to bring me to heel last week. The whole flight side of fight-or-flight didn’t seem to exist for her. “Did you see?”
Checking the fucker was still motionless on the ground, I kicked his gun into the pool with a slashing swipe of my foot, and then allowed Ronnie a little freedom in my arms.
Fuck, she’d been in danger. Right here. In the safety of the home I’d built for her.
I looked at her, fighting to calm the insane rage building inside me. Whoever the guy was, he would be wishing he was dead when I finished with him.
And then he would be—
“Did you see, Lucas?” she repeated, her fingers gripping my biceps. “I took him out. I freaking knocked him out! I freaking knocked him—” She slid her wide-eyed stare to the unconscious fucker on the ground behind me. “Is that blood?”
The color drained from her face.
She blinked. Once. Twice. And then pressed a shaky hand to her mouth. “Oh God, that’s blood,” she said, the whispered exclamation muffled by her palm.
I stole a moment to cup her cheek in my hand, bringing her focus back to me. “You brought the tonfa out here to protect yourself?”
She barely nodded her head. “Just in case,” she whispered, the words a husky scratch.
“Just in case,” I echoed, love and pride and contempt for the life I’d dragged her into searing through me. Fuck, I should never have spoken a word to her. I should have shut her out of my life years ago. “That’s good, babe. I’m proud of you.”
Her eyebrows dipped. “Thanks.”
Heart racing, I gave her a gentle smile. “Very proud. I want nothing more than to show you how proud of you I am right now, but I’ve got to deal with the fucker you KO’d, and I can’t do that with you here.”
Her eyes grew wider. “What are you going to—”
I shook my head, brushing my thumb over her lips to halt her question. She really didn’t need to hear the answer. “What did he say to you? That’s all I need to know right now.”
She flicked the unconscious turd on the ground a quick look. Distaste and anger twisted her eyebrows. The latter made me want to smile. Anger meant she wasn’t scared. Distaste worried me though. Was it the blood? Or the violence that upset her? Because if it was violence… Fuck, so much of my past life was violent, and no matter how much I wished it otherwise, my gut told me my past life wasn’t done with me.
“Ronnie?” I whispered, the prompt drawing her attention back to me again. “What did he say?”
She licked her lips. Her frown turned irritated. “He kept calling you Tripwire. Why?”
My gut clenched. Tripwire. My old Trinity name. Fuck.
“It was a name I went by in Trinity,” I answered, keeping my voice calm. “What else did he say?”
Her frown deepened. “The idiot threatened to hurt me if I didn’t call out to you. As if I was going to do that.”
I bit back my chuckle, even as a sense of unease settled over me. God, I loved her. “Did he say anything else? A name? Who sent him?”
Who exactly had tracked me down here? The corrupt cops? Were Detective Dewey and Kitchner not the only two trying to fuck me over? Or was Trinity out for blood? I’d cut my ties to the violent gang. Loco, its leader, had declared me dead after I’d saved his little sister from being raped by a rival gang, as a way of showing his gratitude, but there were those in Trinity who would gut me in a heartbeat if they knew I was still alive. Not just because I’d pissed them off, but because it might have become known I was a C.I. Of course, that knowledge could only have come about because of corrupt-as-fuck cops with Trinity members in their metaphoric bed.
Ronnie shook her head. “No. He was just here when I climbed out of the pool, told me he was going to…going to hurt me if I didn’t call out to you.”
Something about the way she faltered over “going to hurt me” drilled a dark point of tension into my chest. “What were his exact words, babe?”
I had to know. So I knew exactly how much to fuck the bastard up.
She looked away, biting at her bottom lip. “He said he would tie me up and fuck me with his gun until I bled.”
The second I heard the depraved threat, I knew who the guy was.
Grub. A sniveling worm with his nose planted firmly up the ass of Trinity’s wannabe leader, Rufie. Rufie was not a fucker to mess around with. Power hungry, ruthless, with a taste for violence that sickened me. We’d clashed more than once when I was a Trinity member. I’d broken more of Rufie’s bones than anyone inside and outside the gang. Loco had despised him but recognized him for what he brought to the gang—the ability to terrorize and kill. There were no empty threats with Rufie, only sincere promises.
He’d promised me once he was going to skin me, strip by strip, until I was dead. Loco had told him to shut the fuck up and back off, threatening to do the very same thing to him. If Rufie was sending his grunt pets after me…if he knew where I was…
Cold fear roiled in my stomach. If Rufie knew I was here, if he knew about Ronnie…
Forcing a languid ease into my body, I gave her a calm smile. “I’m going to have a few words with our uninvited guest, babe. Go inside.”
She didn’t move.
I drew a slow breath, even as an inferno of dark excitement flowed through me. There was a reason I’d been drawn to a violent life. The reaction in me now unsettled me as much as it charged me with adrenaline.
A low groan sounded at my feet, and my heart smashed into my throat. Grub was coming to. I needed Ronnie gone.
Shifting enough to block her view of Grub, I cupped her cheek again. “Go inside, babe,” I repeated, holding her stare. “He’s not going to hurt me. I promise.”
Her eyebrows shot up. “You think I’m worried he is?”
I chuckled, loving her even more. “I’m not going to kill him, either.”
“Okay.” She frowned again. “Do you want me to call Doctor Winchester?”
Not the cops. She wouldn’t suggest the cops. Not after what Detective Dewey had done to her.
“Lila’s in New York,” I answered. “Besides, I need our friend here to be able to report back with a message from me. Lila’s not a fan of leaving walking diseases to the human race like Grub alive.”
Ronnie swallowed. Worry shone in her eyes again, the emotion growing stronger when Grub once more groaned.
“Please go inside, babe.” I brushed a soft kiss over her lips. “And don’t look out the window, okay?”
She gave me another one of those tiny nods and then hurried away. I began to turn toward Grub but stopped when Ronnie ran back toward us.
“I forgot this,” she said, sheepishly grinning at me as she snatched up the tonfa from the ground.
Before I could chuckle, she pivoted on her bare feet and left. She didn’t look back. Her grip on the tonfa was loose, exactly as it was meant to be.
A finger of cold rage scraped up my spine at the sight—the toxicity of my past life was already impacting her. My good girl was already handling a weapon like it was second nature. Christ, what had I done to her?
And was it too late to stop it?
Grub groaned again, the wounded sound louder this time, more aware.
I dragged my stare from Ronnie, a heavy weight on my chest, and turned to the fucker.
He was trying to push himself off the ground, his shoulders wobbling beside his drooped head, his chest barely off the ground. Blood dribbled from his mouth and nose, pooling on the pavers.
Lowering myself into a crouch directly in front of his head, I snagged a handful of his greasy hair and smashed his face hard into the limestone blocks. “Long time no see, Grub,” I said with a conversational tone, raising his head again.
His eyes rolled. Blood and snot flowed from his mashed nose, a grotesque river on his top lip. “Trip…” he mumbled. “I’m gonna kill—”
I smashed his face down into the pavers again.
The satisfying crack of splintering bone accompanied the equally satisfying thud of flesh against rock. Vibrations tickled the bottom of my bare feet through the stone, sending a grim satisfaction through me.
I jerked his head up again, my heart rate slowing. What did it say about me that I was growing calmer the more pain I caused Grub?
Blood and snot oozed from his ruptured face. A glistening white stub on the ground told me I’d broken one of his teeth.
Adjusting my crouch to a looser squat, a distant part of my brain reminding me I was buck naked, I tugged Grub’s head up higher. His arms and shoulders trembled as he attempted to support his weight on his hands. Without a word, I whacked the side of my hand into one of his wrists. His arm shot out beneath him and gravity grabbed at him. I tightened my fist in his hair, jerking his head back towards his spine, turning his neck into a severe backward bow.
“Fug,” he protested, blood and spit bubbling and drooling from his nose and lips. I assumed he meant fuck. “Gonna fuggen kill—”
I slammed his face into the pavers once more.
He wailed, agony clear in the muffled sound.
“Now,” I said, lifting his head up so I could find his eyes. “We’re going to have a talk, you and I. It’s not going to go well for you. But if you do the right thing, you’ll walk away from here with a message for Rufie.” I paused, chewing over my declaration as I adjusted my grip on his hair. “Maybe walk isn’t the best word. But you and I both know that, right?”
Grub tried to nod. “’Kay.” His right eye looked like a jellied Ping-Pong ball shoved into his eye socket. I felt no remorse or guilt at all. He’d set the playing field with his threat to Ronnie. It wasn’t my fault he wasn’t up to the game.
“This is what you’re going to do, Grub,” I said, forcing his head back farther. He whimpered, clawing at the ground for my feet. His own feet drummed against the ground. I pictured the joints of his spine compressing as I forced them beyond their normal flex. “You’re going to tell me why you’re here. You’re going to tell me who sent you—I’m guessin’ Rufie, but you’re going to tell me for certain. Then you’re going to go back and tell whoever it was to not come anywhere near me or anyone I even think about unless they want to start wearing their small intestines as a neck tie. Got it?”
I relaxed my grip on Grub’s hand. A little. Just to see what he would do.
He didn’t let me down. He reared back in a wobbly, unstable lurch and spat a wad of blood in my direction. With the blood came snot and more chips of his teeth.
None of it struck me. Grub was too beaten to expel the energy required.
I chuckled, clamped my hand into a tight ball in his hair once again, and drew my face closer to his. “I applaud your efforts, fuck-knuckle, as idiotic as they are. Of course, it’s only going to get worse for you from here on out. You know that, right?”
Grub’s eyes rolled. He tried to scramble away.
“No,” he gibbered, staring at me. “I’ll dalk, I’ll dalk.”
I chuckled again, nodding. “Yes. You will.”
We began our conversation.