Trust no one. Barrett Gilmore survives by that creed. She learned it the hard way. The tough times are mostly behind her now. And if she’s not really happy, at least she’s at peace.
Until Michael Falco storms into her life. Sure, she’s grateful he stepped in when she was attacked on the street, but she never asked him to play the hero in the rest of her life. She doesn’t need rescuing.
But still he pursues her. He wants her. Barrett knows there’s an angle. A man with his wealth could only want one thing from a woman like her. And she’s not for sale.
She doesn’t trust him, but worse, she doesn’t trust herself around him.
Barrett knows how to survive. But with Michael, she’ll learn how to live.
A split second before someone grabbed her from behind, she sensed it was going to happen. The air went electric. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. But that instant's warning wasn't enough. A pair of arms wrapped around her, squeezing her arms against her body, thrusting the air from her chest.
It was the skinny dude from the steps. He was stronger than he looked. "I don't want your shitty burgers, bitch," he hissed in her ear. "Give me your money. I know you got some."
Her mind went blank before muscle memory kicked in. Then, grabbing his arms, she bent her knees in a crouch, brought the weight of her body low, dragged his arms down. Then she stomped his left foot hard and kicked back at his knee.
It was enough to force him to loosen his hold and let her break free, but it had been too long since she'd had to defend herself. She was off her game. The dude grabbed her again, this time by the hoodie. She should have done the smart thing, slip out of the garment and take off, but she was too fucking pissed. Who was this asshole to put his hands on her? She aimed a fist at his face, but only grazed him. They both toppled to the pavement.
While Barrett and the mugger grappled on the sidewalk, she vaguely came aware of the screech of tires, shouts, and pounding footsteps. One second she was peeling the dude's fingers off her neck, and the next second he was gone as though vaporized.
A face stared down at her. A different face. "Are you all right?"
"Uh…" Was she? She'd had the wind knocked out of her, but otherwise didn't think she was hurt. Before she could say more, strong hands were lifting her to her feet.
She found herself looking at a man not much taller than her own five-eight, whippet-lean, with sharp, hungry features. "Did he hurt you?"
"No." She'd be bruised tomorrow for sure, but other than that… "I'm okay." When she tried to pull her hand from his, pain lanced up her right arm. She winced. Damn it, she must have twisted it in the scuffle.
The man's eyes narrowed, catching her hiss of pain. "He did."
"I'm okay." Her own stupid fault for tangling with a guy who was high, desperate, or both.
"No, you're not." The man held her by the left elbow as though he had no intention of letting her go. "What the hell were you thinking, coming alone to this part of town at night?"
Though she'd been kicking herself just a moment ago, anger sparked at the thought of this stranger lecturing her. Even if he had come to her aid. "You're here, aren't you?" Ever the smart-ass.
He blinked, as though he wasn't used to back talk. It was then she noticed his fancy suit and tie and the cut of his long coat. At the curb sat a sleek black sedan. He was money. The kind used to giving orders and having them obeyed.
About the Author
Nona Raines became hooked on romances when she first picked up “The Flame and the Flower” by Kathleen Woodiwiss (and she’s not telling how long ago that was). Romances may have changed since then, but her love for a good love story has not. She’s been writing off and on for years, but it was only when she joined the Central New York Romance Writers Association that she finally gained the support and confidence she needed to complete a manuscript.
Nona lives in upstate New York with her many pets and is currently working on her next novel. A former librarian, she enjoys reading books of all genres and discussing them with others. She is thrilled to finally be able to call herself an author.