Twenty-one-year-old Karlie Augustine is a survivor. She’s smart and tough, but she’s in too deep with a bad boyfriend who isn’t above breaking her spirit—or her body. Luckily, help arrives in the form of a leather-clad, motorcycle-riding hunk on the right side of the law. Lucas Lafontaine is pure muscle, a Corpus Christi cop who ignites something primal deep within Karlie. And when he offers her room and board in exchange for housekeeping, she finally starts to feel safe again.As their arrangement turns deliciously decadent, Lucas gets hooked on Karlie’s killer body and fighting spirit. He wants to heal the pain he sees behind her eyes, but to protect her he needs to keep her close, especially now that her psycho ex won’t take a hint. Even as Lucas fights his own battle for custody of his young son, he knows that what he’s found with Karlie is real—and that he’d do anything to protect the woman he wants to take to the finish line.
This guy is too good to be true. Not only did he manhandle Connor, he makes me laugh. And I can’t stop staring at his perfect face and body. Oh. My. God. He dwarfs me—at least six foot three, shoulders as broad as a Viking’s, and his eyes are chocolate. But it’s his full lips that keep pulling me in—the way they move when he talks, his lopsided, arrogant grin, that pouty lower lip that I just want to nibble on. Totally kissable, and undeniably hot.
He catches me staring again and I quickly avert my eyes. What am I thinking? I just broke up with my boyfriend and I’m already scoping out this guy. What if he thinks I’m a little slut? I’m not; it’s just been so long since I felt butterfly wings flutter inside my stomach because a guy smiled at me. Too long.
Don’t I deserve to feel warm and gooey inside? I want to feel pretty again, desired, and certainly like I’m worth some effort. I don’t know when or how things deteriorated between Connor and me, but I’ve been taken advantage of for too long. Connor hardly notices me anymore, but he used to and I had fallen in love. I guess I stuck around because I believed that if I could help heal his broken heart, things would change. We connected in so many ways—we had both even grown up without fathers—and I truly thought I could give him a reason to be happy. That whole “two broken hearts heal each other” bullshit . . .
Alcohol and drugs robbed me of any chance of getting through to him. He’s numb, so volatile, and snaps at the slightest thing. Like a good puppy, if he kicked me, I came crawling back, begging for a little love and attention.
“Wine cooler or Bud?” Brandon asks.
I return to the present and look at him. “Wine cooler.”
He hands it to me.
“Let me.” Lucas gently removes the bottle from my hand and opens it. “Here.”
A complete gentleman, and just like that, I feel another flutter inside. Shit. “Thank you.”
“So do you have a last name?” he asks.
“Karlie Augustine,” he repeats my name. “Vitals?”
That’s an odd question. “Want my height, weight, and bra size?”
I get a roguish grin. “Only if you’re volunteering.” With that, his gaze flicks down to my breasts.
“I’m a full-time student at Texas A&M.”
“How did you end up with a piece of shit like Seville?”
I knew it would come up eventually and he deserves an answer for rescuing me. “We met at a nightclub a year and a half ago,” I say. “Danced and talked all night. Nothing epic, just a big mistake. Racers have big egos and high expectations.”
“Not all of us,” he assures me.
I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. “And you?”
He sighs. “Really want to know?”
I bite back a smile, half expecting him to say he’s a drug dealer or Special Forces. “Sure do.”
“Corpus Christi Police Department.”
“A cop?” I squint at him, picturing him in uniform. It fits. “No wonder you wrestled Connor to the ground like he weighed nothing.”
“It doesn’t bother you?”
“Should it?” I’m hopelessly focused on those lips again. What’s wrong with me? “Do you abuse your power? Take bribes?” I try to keep a straight face.
“Depends what you’re offering, Karlie.”
My eyebrows pinch together in total shock. He’s flirting with me. “Um . . .” My cell chimes and I take advantage of the diversion, searching for my backpack.
“Right there.” Lucas points.
I kneel, unzip it, and fish out my phone. Marie? I answer.
“Don’t say my name out loud,” she warns.
Like a dummy, I look around us to see if I can spot her. “Where are you?”
“Close enough to see you and the hottie.”
“Notice the way he keeps staring at you?”
My eyes dart to Lucas; he’s drinking his beer.
“Don’t ask me that; he might hear me.”
I look up again, and there’s a shit-eating grin on his face. “I’m hanging up now.” I disconnect.
“Where’s Marie?” Lucas edges closer.
I feel like an awkward teenager. “Not here.”
“No,” he agrees. “But that was her on the phone.”
He’s standing right in front of me now and I’m staring at his hard chest, wondering what it would feel like to run my hands over his muscular body. “Yes.” I can’t lie to a cop. “Stop using your superpowers on me.” When he’s close, I have to throw my head back to meet his eyes. Shameless as it is, I’m enjoying the banter.
“Not superpowers, just good instincts.”
“Well, quit using those, too.”
He laughs. “You’d have me stripped down to bare bones if you had your way.”
“Maybe stripped,” I say without thinking. I cover my mouth, shocked and ashamed by my own frankness. “Oh God, ignore that last comment.”
His heated gaze sweeps over me, his lazy smile replaced by something sexier. My knees instantly weaken.
“Do I detect sarcasm?” he asks. “Or don’t I want to know?”
“Oh, you’d want to know.”
That elicits a roar; his whole body is convulsing at my expense. “Are you always that spontaneous, Ms. Augustine? Because if you are, you should see the look on your face right now.”
“Let’s just say I’ve always gotten into trouble for speaking my mind so freely.”
“I rather admire it,” he admits. “But I also understand the hazard of being so honest. You’d make a shitty poker player.”
“I’d make a shitty lots of things.”
“Hey.” He snatches my hand, his thumb caressing my palm. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Didn’t your parents teach you self-respect?”
“I don’t have parents,” I say, matter-of-factly. “You’re looking at a foster-system kid, raised by the State of Texas.”
His features soften. “Sorry, darlin’.”
“Don’t be,” I say, finding my confidence again. “Taxpayers are funding my college tuition.”
He studies me for a long moment in silence; somehow he manages to weave his fingers through mine. “You have delicate hands.”
I nod. That’s always been one of the physical disadvantages holding me back from being a better racer—weak wrists. And my height. “I think big.”
Our gazes meet. “I bet you do,” he says.
writing since childhood. Struck with an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age,
she wrote short stories illustrated by her best friend and sold them in her
neighborhood. Rand enjoys outdoor activities, music, reading, and losing herself in the world she brings to life in the pages of her stories. The only thing she loves more than writing is her wonderful relationship with her husband.