Sourcebooks Casablanca (April 7, 2015)
“Fifty Shades of Grey meets Fight Club.”
—RT Book Reviews on Against the Ropes
Ray wraps his arms around me and holds me tight as if something terrible has happened and he doesn’t want to let me go.
Full Contact. This is how Ray speaks when his emotions overwhelm him. I melt into his stillness. His body is hot and hard, his breath warm on my neck. He smells of leather and sweat, sex and sin. Nothing can tear me away.
When you can’t resist the one person who could destroy you…
Sia O’Donnell can’t help but push the limits. She secretly attends every underground MMA fight featuring The Predator, the undisputed champion. When he stalks his prey in the ring, Sia is mesmerized. He is dominant and dangerous and every instinct tells her to run.
Every beautiful thing Ray “The Predator” touches he knows he’ll eventually destroy. Soft, sweet and innocent, Sia is the light to Ray’s darkness-and completely irresistible. From the moment he lays eyes on her, he knows he’s going to have to put his dark past behind him to win her body and soul.
“Winner of the 2016 HOLT MEDALLION for outstanding literary fiction in the Extra Spicy/Erotic Category”
Read an Excerpt
Except for the White Buffalo’s cover of “House of the Rising Sun” playing in the background, there is no sound except the rasp of Ray’s breath as his chest rises and falls under my hand. Although I’ve done shoulder and pec tattoos countless times, the intimacy of this position sends a shiver through my body. Longing grips me hard and fierce, and I scramble to regain some semblance of control. Maybe a little conversation.
“So, did you catch your bad guy?”
“No. Still after him.”
When I look up, Ray is watching me. He is so close I can see the stubble of his five o’clock shadow, the thickness of his lashes, his eyes deepening to an azure blue. I force myself to look into them and swallow hard. “Everything okay?”
Apparently not. Jaw tight, muscles quivering, he captures me with his glance. “Your hair.”
I give my head a slight shake and my ponytail swings back and forth. “What’s wrong with my hair?”
“Take it down.” He fingers a loose tendril beside my ear, his authoritative tone sending a wave of heat raging through me.
“I keep it up so it’s out of the way.”
“I’ll have to take off my gloves first, and then I’ll have to…” My words die in my throat when he strokes his hand over my hair, front to back. With one sharp jerk, he tugs out my ponytail holder and my hair tumbles around my shoulders.
Trembling, painfully and desperately aroused, I pick up the razor and shaving gel from my tray. “I…have to shave you.” My voice drops to a throaty whisper, and if that doesn’t tell him what he does to me, nothing will.
Another curt nod. But then he’s not a talkative type. I’ve never seen him hanging out with the other fighters after the gym closes for the night, and not once has he ever joined us for drinks after a fight.
Taking a deep breath, I steady my hand, then smooth the gel over his skin. But when I dip the razor, Ray tenses, his fist clenching and unclenching beside my hip.
A smile tugs at the corner of my lips. “Don’t worry. I’ve never cut anyone. I’ll be gentle.”
“Man lives the life I’ve lived, he’s not used to gentle.”
Tilting my head to the side, I meet his gaze. “You never had anyone be gentle with you?”
“I usually scare the gentle ones away.”
“I can’t imagine why.” My hand relaxes and I stroke the razor across his skin. Stroke and dip. Stroke and dip. The rhythmic movement calms my fraught nerves, but with every touch, tension builds between us until it is almost a living, palpable thing. “You’re not so scary.” I tease the blade around his nipple and Ray sucks in a sharp breath.
“Sia—” He chokes off his words so I continue talking, keeping my voice low and even, soothing the savage beast trapped in my chair.
“I have to admit, in the ring, you’re pretty terrifying. You have so much power and yet you keep it so tightly leashed. But when you let it go”—I look up and my cheeks heat—“I think it’s thrilling. But you keep it in control. You never go too far. That’s where I see the beauty.”
Ray stares at me as if entranced, heaving his breaths, his gaze focused, intent. Even when Slim walks past to grab some supplies and then heads back to the private rooms, Ray doesn’t take his eyes off me.
“Slim ink the butterfly too?” He leans forward and lightly touches the butterfly tat on my shoulder. I yank the razor away in case he becomes my first ever casualty.
“Yeah he did. I have one on the other shoulder too. Slim’s a real master. When he was finished with the roses and thorns, I felt like something was missing. I wanted hope and freedom. And yellow, because it’s my favorite color. He came up with the butterflies.”
“Would have thought black was your favorite color.” He gestures to my clothes. “You always wear black.”
“Yellow is my secret favorite color.” I give him a half smile. “Not many people know.”
Ray gives a grunt of satisfaction, and I feel a little tingle at the thought that I’ve pleased him. He traces the outline of the little butterfly and pleasure ripples through my body.
“Looks just like a butterfly I caught when I was a kid. I watched it for hours. Learned a hard lesson that day. I wanted to touch it and I was too rough. Must’ve broken its wing. When I let it go, it couldn’t fly.”
“You can touch me. I won’t break.”
His jaw tightens, and I curse myself for being so flippant about what was probably an upsetting moment in his childhood. What the hell is wrong with me? He shares an actual piece of personal information and I show no sympathy at all. Not only that, but now I’m begging for his attention.
After a few more strokes with the blade, I wash him off, then I spritz him with disinfectant. In my zeal, I spray not only the area to be inked, but the rest of his torso as well. Damn klutz side strikes again. “Sorry. Forgot to reduce the nozzle.” Grabbing a sterile cloth, I dry his chest then work my way over his rippled abdomen. His muscles quiver beneath my touch as I pat along the soft, dusky trail of hair, following it down to his belt. Imagining where it might go.
He tenses when I near his buckle and gives a strangled grunt. “S’good.”
My gaze drifts below his belt, to the bulge in his jeans. He is fully erect, his shaft straining against his fly. A naughty thrill of excitement shoots through my veins. He’s aroused because of me.
“Um…do you want to take a break before I apply the stencil?”
He shakes his head, then leans forward and sweeps his hand through my hair, letting the strands slide through his fingers. A sigh escapes my lips as delicious sensations sweep through my body. I am on fire. And although I’ve been with men before, I’ve never been immobilized by a single touch.
“So soft.” He runs his hand over my hair again, this time trailing his fingers along my shoulder. His thumb glides over my throat and he curls his hand around my neck. “So fucking delicate.”
I am burning. Consumed by fire. A burst of need drives a whimper up my throat, and I choke it back as his thumb circles the sensitive hollow at the base of my neck. Firm. Unyielding. Dominant. With one squeeze, he could break me. The way I was broken before. The way he broke the butterfly. And yet nothing could tear me away from this moment.
“Sia.” He says my name softly, drawing out the last syllable in a gravelly murmur, almost like a prayer.
My brain fuzzes with lust, and I surrender to the thrill of his touch, the pounding of my pulse in my veins, the desire that has haunted me since I first saw him in the ring. My head falls back, my lips part, and I drown in the depths of an azure sea.
With a low groan, Ray turns sideways in the chair, dropping his legs to the floor. With his hand still cupped around my neck, he pulls me between his legs, the casters on my stool squeaking in gentle protest. I circle my arms around his neck and my breasts rub against his bare chest. The press of his erection against my stomach sends a rush of moisture to my sex.
“Jesus Christ.” His voice drops husky and low. “You’re killing me.”
He leans down and sweeps my hair behind my shoulder, then nuzzles my neck. Sensation sears through my body and I tilt my head to the side to give him better access. So unprofessional. What if Slim comes out? Overcome with the fulfillment of a year’s worth of longing, I can’t bring myself to care.