FOUR red-hot stories about the bad, wicked and twisted characters of Briarcrest Academy, featuring a dirty-talking gym owner, a football player, a sexy rock star, and a British bad boy.
“I’d like to sleep for a hundred years, wake up and try again.” – Nora Blakely
“Drop the paint and turn around slowly with your hands in the air.” The loud command was said with a deep voice. “I’ve got a gun, asshole, so move nice and slow.”
I bent over and placed the can on the pavement. I started to turn when— “I said put your hands in the air!” he yelled.
I yanked my hands up and eased around to face the owner of the voice.
He was about ten feet away from me, standing six feet and then some. He was missing a shirt but wearing a pair of black athletic shorts and flip-flops. Judging by his disheveled dirty blond hair and bloodthirsty eyes, I’d have to guess this might be the owner of the Escalade.
And I’d just woken him up.
He came closer to me, and my eyes were immediately drawn to his green-and-blue dragon tattoo. Like a giant snake, the scaled body of the dragon wrapped around his forearm and bicep with the neck coming down from his shoulder and the head resting on his broad chest. Red flames poured from its mouth, between laser sharp teeth.
This guy looked medieval.
I pictured him as a rugged Viking, wearing a horned helmet and gripping a spear instead of a gun. Maybe holding a shield instead of his flashlight and definitely wearing some of those laced-up leather boots. The word berserker (from round two of the famous spelling bee) came to mind, and I rolled the syllables around my tongue . . . ber-serk-er. Yep, that was him alright: one pissed off Norse warrior.
I grinned at my amazing analogy because, well, I was trashed.
“You think this is funny, son?” he snapped.
I shook my head, suddenly aware that this was really happening, that I’d been caught, and an angry car owner was pointing a gun at me. And he thought I was a boy.
“That’s what I thought. Now, what the hell are you doing out here messing with my car?” he said, biting out the words through clenched teeth.
I said nothing.
“You’ve got twenty seconds before I call the cops,” he said, stepping closer.
And then it happened.
Everything clicked in my head, and I knew him. He was the one, the gorgeous guy from the open house whose gaze had been the glue that held me together in the parking lot. I forgot about the gun and got tangled up in my thoughts, remembering the countless times I’d played out the memory of our eyes clinging to each other, how I’d wanted to jump out of my car, get into his and just drive away. I flicked my eyes back at the Escalade, dimly remembering he’d driven a black car. I really hadn’t paid much attention to it that day because all I’d seen had been him.
“Ten seconds,” he yelled, blasting his light full in my face until bright spots were floating in front of my eyes.
“Get that off me,” I snapped, swaying a little.
He lowered the light a miniscule bit. “Drunk and disorderly plus vandalism are two misdemeanors. Looks like you’re going to jail.”
“S’kay with me. Put me in jail,” I said weakly. But even as I said the words, I knew I was lying. I wasn’t a minor anymore, and I could kiss Princeton goodbye if I got arrested.
Nausea reared its ugly head and my stomach began to roll.
“Five seconds,” he retorted.
I bent over and hurled, missing my shirt but not my adored cowboy boots. After that, I dry heaved, and the force made my legs buckle, making me take a header straight on the concrete, the side of my face slamming into the wet pavement. My ball cap fell off in the craziness, my long hair spilling out over the wet ground.
“Holy shit,” he muttered, easing the gun down, “you’re a fucking girl.”
“Last time I looked,” I whispered, running my tongue across my teeth to check for chips. I scooted myself away from the mess I’d made and reached up to touch my face to see if I was bleeding. There wasn’t any blood, but I could feel my temple swelling. I put a hand on the car and pulled myself up. My knees were on fire, and when I looked down, I saw the concrete had ripped through my jeans and blood was dripping down my legs.
He cursed, pulled a phone from his pocket and dialed a number. “Sebastian, it’s all good. No, no cops. Yeah, come on out here. I might need some help.”
A door slammed, and a younger version of the man, probably around my age, came around the corner, his long legs striding briskly. He stopped in front of the graffiti I’d drawn and whistled loudly. “Oh baby, those pretty hearts and flowers are rocking your ride, Leo.” He chuckled and then stopped when his eyes took me in. “Whoa, she’s bleeding. Did you beat her up?”
The guy called Leo rubbed his scruffy jaw. “I don’t hit girls. She fell.”
“She’s hurt,” the young guy stated, frowning. He stared at me with a puzzled expression and then grinned and slapped his leg. “Hot damn. It’s her,” he said in a loud whisper. “You know? Nora? From registration?”
“Yeah. I see that,” Leo said, his eyes searching my face.
“I see no official introductions are necessary. Everyone knows me now as the girl with the potty mouth,” I said, leaning completely against the car, smearing the yellow paint everywhere.
The younger one came to my side. “You okay?”
I focused on him and decided I liked him. He had an open face that made me think he laughed a lot, so when I felt myself swaying again, I reached out to him.
“Watch it,” he said gently and grabbed my shoulders to steady me.
Leo walked over and loomed beside me, a disapproving look on his face as he watched us. I shifted closer to the one he’d called Sebastian, but stumbled and lost my balance, falling down again on my knees. Shit. This night had gone downhill fast.
Sebastian kneeled down next to me and looked over at Leo. “Hey, how ’bout I carry her inside so she can get cleaned up?”
Leo let out an exasperated breath. “Ridiculous,” he muttered. “She ruins my car, and you want to invite her inside? You’d feel different if it had been your Beamer, Sebastian.”
Sebastian gave my shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “She’s my classmate, bro, and I think she’d just drunk.”
Leo let out a grunt. “Whatever. Fine, I’ll get her, and you get the backpack. And don’t forget the spray paint.” He walked over and glared down at me. “If I call the police later, we’ll need the evidence.”
Then, without any effort at all, he swept me up, his hard arms slipping under my knees and around my back as he scooped me off the ground.
And just like that, the night caught up with me, and I nestled into his bare chest, feeling like I had come home. He smelled so good, like--
“Butterscotch,” I mumbled, turning my nose into him.
“What?” he grumbled, carrying me inside the glass doors.
I didn’t answer because I was too busy laying my cheek against his hot skin and staring into the crystalline eyes of his dragon.
He took me down a long hall with several doors on each side and past a large workout room with treadmills, ellipticals, and free weights. “Hold on,” he said and adjusted his grip on my legs and started up a wide staircase that opened to a spacious loft area. He carried me past a den area and a kitchen and into a large white-tiled bathroom. I suppose I was too wet for any other room. And I wasn’t exactly a welcome guest.
He sat me on the toilet seat, made sure I was steady, and eased away from me. Maybe he wanted me to sit, but I didn’t. I jumped up, went over to the sink and turned the water on. He stood there, his broad shoulders tense, watching me as I splashed cool water on my face and rinsed out my mouth. I grabbed a hand towel and dried off, wishing I wasn’t intoxicated.
“Tell me why you vandalized my car,” he stated, crossing his muscled arms and spreading his legs, his stance making it obvious he was pissed. The tension heightened in the small room as we stared at each other, and I tore my eyes from his to sit back down on the toilet seat, not knowing how to answer him. I would only sound crazy.
He tapped his fingers against his legs. “What’s your parent’s phone number? And don’t think of lying because I can always look it up online. I know who you are.”
“There’s no point in calling them. They aren’t home. They never are,” I said, grabbing a wad of toilet paper and cleaning off my boots. My throat tightened painfully at the thought of my parents, and I soothed myself by counting the tiles on the floor.
He didn’t speak and several seconds passed, and I tensed up more, fearing that like Mother, he excelled in using silence. But no one was better than Mother, who’d once refused to speak to me for an entire month when I’d come in second at a debate competition. During the first week of that horribly quiet time, I’d followed her around, begging her to talk to me. She’d ignore me and say to my dad, “Silence is golden.” As the weeks had progressed, I’d learned her silence was her speech, her way of saying I was worthless.
“Please don’t call my parents,” I added, hiding my shaking hands behind my back.
He tightened his mouth. “Fine, who can I call to come get you?”
“Don’t hold it against Portia from the bakery across the street, but she’s my aunt. I’m staying with her.” I dug my phone out of my wet jeans, scrolled down to her number, and handed it to him.
Our fingers brushed when he took my phone, and I jerked, shocked at the unexpected sizzle of heat sweeping over my body. He pocketed my phone and then opened the medicine cabinet, gazing into it for a long time without moving, like he was considering what to do next. I watched him warily, wondering what he had planned for me. Finally, he sighed and pulled out hydrogen peroxide and a handful of gauze.
“Sebastian has a change of clothes you can borrow, and you’ll need an ice pack for your face. It’s going to leave a bruise,” he told me as he bent down to touch my temple with his long fingers. He cleaned my face with cold water and then dabbed it with the hydrogen peroxide, his touch surprisingly gentle even though I could sense his anger just under the surface.
In the bright lights of the bathroom, I let my gaze run over him freely, taking him in, not missing how beautiful he was. He had an unyielding face, with a jaw line that looked like it could chisel granite, matching his well-built, defined body. Yet even with all the hotness in front of me, the one thing that made my heart fly was his icy pale-blue eyes. This close up I could see how the light, almost transparent color contrasted with his tan face, making his eyes glow like the precious opals I’d studied about in science. And right now they were focused entirely on me as he scrutinized my bruise.
“Is this your gym?” I asked, trying not to wince as he patted my temple.
“Yes,” he said, tossing the used gauze into the trash, his arm muscles rippling. He stood up and raked a hand through his wavy blond hair, holding it there as he studied me with those piercing eyes. I returned his look, my breath kicking up a notch at how sexy his naked chest was, how his dragon tattoo seemed to slither and slide over his chest as he moved. My eyes moved down to his taut abs and the way his shorts barely hung to his lean waist, hinting at what was underneath.
Of course, while I’m buzzing, I remembered my bad list and grew curious about having sex with him. Would he be gentle or demanding? Would he like me on top or would he get behind me? Would I enjoy it?
But it didn’t matter if I got off as long as he made me forget.
Forgetting was the important part.
It had been months since I’d had sex with someone. Not since that wild weekend in New York with Drew. Even though our relationship had ended badly, I still remembered the sex and how good it had felt to be held by someone. Like I wasn’t alone, like someone cared about me.
I needed a night like that again, to lose myself in sex. I wanted this Viking.
I gave him a fake smile. “Leo’s a great name. Guess you know it means lion. It also means bold one. Are you bold?” I said in a low tone, reaching out to stroke his arm.
He jerked away from me, like I’d scalded him, but it didn’t deter me. True, I was a little younger than him, but what guy would turn down a no-strings-attached night? Drew hadn’t.
I stood up and toed my boots off. “How old are you?” I asked.
“Too old for you,” he quickly retorted.
“I’m not a virgin, you know. I’ve been with other guys, some good at fucking, some not.” I let my eyes run over him slowly. “You’re older which means more experienced. I bet you’d blow them right out of the water,” I said, putting it all out there and letting bad Nora take over completely.
“I don’t care how many douchebags you’ve fucked,” he said with a hard face, his eyes gleaming with distaste.
I felt some of my false bravado slip away, but not enough to stop. He was what I needed tonight. I began unbuttoning my shirt, and his eyes followed my progress. “You tell me your age and I’ll tell you mine,” I said in the best teasing voice I could muster.
I undid the last button and shrugged out of my shirt, relieved I’d worn the black lace bra. “You like?”
He yanked a towel from the shelf near the door and tossed it in my face. “Cover up, Nora. I don’t do spoiled, rich girls.”
I caught the towel and held it against me, ignoring that remark. Those types of insults never affected me.
Not when you hear them every day.
“If you won’t tell me your age, I’ll just have to figure it out on my own. And I’m guessing you’re at least twenty-five, maybe twenty-six?” I said.
He shook his head and clenched his fists, not answering me.
I took a deep breath, dropped the towel to the floor and unclasped my bra, letting my size C breasts fall out. Even though I’d been a pudgy most of my life, I’d blossomed into a girl with generous curves. He seemed to like what he saw because he didn’t look away. I glanced down at my erect nipples and lightly touched one with my fingertip, surprised by the desire I felt. I brought my eyes back to his face, imagining his tongue on me.
A muscle jerked in his tight jaw.
I dropped my hand and steeled myself to keep on toward the goal. “Of course, it’s getting harder to tell someone’s age now because people take better care of themselves, like you with your tight abs. But, if you study someone long enough, you’ll find out their secrets.”
“I don’t have any,” he ground out, tearing his eyes from my body.
“We all do.”
He rubbed his hand across his mouth as his eyes swept over my breasts again. “You don’t know jack about me.”
I studied him, my brain picking through what I’d observed tonight. “Well, you own your own business, so you’re a responsible person. And, I bet you a new pair of boots you’re the guardian of the young man out there, who has to be your brother because he looks just like you. I think your parents are out of the picture.”
I unsnapped my jeans, shimmied them pass my skinned knees, and tossed them in the trash. “You’ve also shown self-control tonight that’s impressive. Someone less in control might have shot me on sight. In a nutshell,” I said, taking off my black panties, “you’re well-off, take care of a younger brother, and keep your emotions on a tight leash. Am I right?”
He glared at me, his entire body frozen up, like a tiger poised to pounce. Like he was going to jump on me and devour me. I wondered if he’d eat me the way I wanted.
I couldn’t stop talking. “I’m good at observing people: body language, mannerisms, how they talk, style of clothing, everything. It’s a puzzle I like to put together. It’s better than Facebook stalking,” I said with a forced shrug, trying to be casual when inside I was freaking the hell out. What was I doing?
Why was I trying to seduce this guy?
He didn’t want me.
No one did.
His eyes burned like blue flames. “What kind of girl strips for a guy she just met?”
A girl with no self-respect, I thought.
I shrugged. “I need a shower, which involves me taking my clothes off.”
He narrowed his eyes at me. “You could have waited until I left.”
I flicked my eyes at his crotch. “You’re hard for me. You’re bigger than a tree trunk in those shorts,” I said. “And you haven’t walked out of this bathroom. I think you’re a little fascinated with me. I think you like watching me take my—”
“Fuck!” he barked out and spun around to go.
“Wait, wait,” I called out, reaching out to make him stop, needing him. Please stay, I wanted to say.
He turned back with his fists held tight by his side and spat out his words. “You’re a naked girl, and I’m a grown-ass man. I’m walking out of this room while I still can.”
But he made no move to leave, and it gave me a tiny bit of hope.
“I . . . I just wanted to know how old you are.”
“Twenty-five. I’m twenty-five,” he muttered, “and you’re jailbait and not my type.”
“What type is that?” I asked.
“Girls who aren’t in high school. In other words—not you.”
And as we stood there, facing each other, I waited for him to make his move, to snatch me up and take me to his bed like I wanted.
But he didn’t, because I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or smart enough.
I was never enough.
I cleared my throat and powered on. “Eighteen isn’t jailbait.”
We stared at each other and the longer our eyes held, the more I knew my boundaries were gone. It seemed like there was nothing I wouldn’t say to him. Even though my insides were quaking with nerves, I went over to him until our bare chests were only inches apart. I was five feet ten inches, and he was at least six inches taller, making him the tallest guy I’d ever stood next to. Not only that, but his body was built like an NFL football player, with lethal yet lickable muscles. I liked being near him. I felt safe, like no one would ever hurt me again.
My eyes caressed the dragon on his chest, and I wanted to trace it with my tongue. I thought about how warm his skin would be, how it would feel to have his strong arms wrap around me as I kissed his sensuous lips. When his breathing accelerated along with mine, I knew I wasn’t completely alone in my feelings. I searched his eyes, surprised at the new sensations coursing through me.
I pressed myself against him completely, and he hissed at the contact. “Don’t you want to touch me?” I whispered, rubbing my breasts against his chest to get some friction.
He gripped my arms and shoved me away from him. “You’re playing with fire. You think you want this?” He laughed darkly. “Buttercup, you can’t handle me.”
And with those words, he pivoted around and stomped out of the room, slamming the door hard behind him.
New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Ilsa Madden-Mills writes about strong heroines and sexy alpha males that sometimes you just want to slap.
She's addicted to all things fantasy, including unicorns and sword-wielding heroes in books. Other fascinations include frothy coffee beverages, dark chocolate, Instagram, Ian Somerhalder (seriously hot), astronomy (she's a Gemini), Sephora make-up, and tattoos.
She has a degree in English and a Master's in Education.
When she's not pecking away on her computer, she shops for cool magnets, paints old furniture, and eats her weight in sushi.
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You can stalk her on her website as well as get signed books: http://www.ilsamaddenmills.com