Size: 8x5 in
The biker gangs passing through Lobo Norte don’t scare Ofelia anymore. All those men are the same: scarred, homeless, and broken…just like Ofelia. They’ve become a blur of forgettable faces watching her strip. She takes off her clothes, takes their money, and wipes them from her memory instantly.
But Trouble is different. A biker with a wolf tattoo and tortured eyes, he sees beyond Ofelia’s tough disguise to a more fragile woman within. She’s drawn to him like she’s never been drawn to a man before–at least, not since she survived hideous torture at the hands of her ex-boyfriend that left her scarred physically and emotionally. She can’t forget Trouble. And she definitely can’t push him away.
There’s magic between them that neither understands. But maybe if Ofelia and Trouble can find the truth, they can release each other from the chains that bind them to Lobo Norte, to the Fang Brothers biker gang, and to the dark secrets in their pasts…
Publisher: Red Iris Books
Trouble barely fit into my twin bed. He was too lanky. His muscular arms and legs spilled off the sides, dwarfing all my furniture, making my bedroom look like it belonged to a little girl.
Somehow, I managed to pile him up on top of my comforter. He was going to get his stink on all of my belongings. I thought that should probably annoy me, but it didn’t.
He began to stir when I wiped him down with a damp rag, but the struggle toward consciousness was slow. Judging by how thoroughly he had been chewed around the shoulders and back, it looked like he had lost his fight against the wolf the night before. It chilled me how similar his wounds were to mine, though they had been inflicted by completely different tools. I hadn’t been mauled by a wolf. My attacker had been something much worse.READ MORE
Strangely, Trouble’s wounds—though bloody—looked like they were already halfway healed. The skin was trying to close.
It didn’t surprise me at this point. I didn’t think anything would surprise me ever again.
I took the quiet minutes where he began to rouse to explore the rest of his body: the large wolf tattooed across his chest, the stubble near his navel where he needed to shave his happy trail again, the silvery scars over his ribcage. Those scars were the most interesting. I could only see them if I tilted my head the right way. They were big, too—four long gashes.
I spread my hand over the scar and fitted my fingertips to them. Whatever had delivered that wound had been twice the size of my hand.
My skin brushed his. Trouble’s fist clamped on my wrist.
I sucked in a hard breath, trying to pull back, but his grip was iron. His eyes opened and there was no struggle for consciousness within him now. He was awake. And he looked angry.
If he didn’t want me pawing his scars, then maybe he should have thought twice about falling down on my doorstep. “Let go of me,” I snapped, twisting my hand and jerking my arm toward me. I escaped the circle of his fingers. “You don’t touch me like that. Not ever again. You hear me, Trouble? I’m not a piece of meat for the Fang Brothers to chew on.”
He said, “Cooper.”
“Cooper,” Trouble repeated, and it occurred to me that I had never heard him speak before. His voice was pleasantly gravelly. His accent was American, probably western side of the country, maybe even Californian—where I had come from originally. “My name’s Cooper.”
I tried the name out on my tongue, rolling it between my teeth. “Cooper.”
He gave a low growl, rumbling so softly through his chest that I wasn’t initially sure that it was coming from him. Fire sparked in his golden eyes.
There was something intimate about saying his name. Those simple syllables. I felt like he had just shared a secret with me, something dark and illicit that I wasn’t meant to know.
He lifted his hand toward my shoulder, and I jerked in anticipation of a violent touch. He froze at my reaction. Watched me closely. Waited to see if I would move.
After the previous night’s passion, it felt so strange to hesitate now. I didn’t want to fear him. My whole body ached for him, like I had become lost in the desert for days and he was the oasis on the other side of an impassible canyon. I wanted to throw myself across that distance.
But Pops, my grandpa, hadn’t raised a dumbass. I could be a dumbass sometimes, granted, but that was despite his best efforts. He’d drilled as much sense into me as I could take. And Pops’s girl wasn’t dumb enough to allow herself to get bitten twice.
I scooted back on the bed. Just an inch. I might as well have put a whole prison wall topped with barbed wire between us because Cooper’s expression shuttered and anger furrowed his brow.
Dipping the towel back into my bowl of water, I forced myself to concentrate on the ugly flower pattern rimming my dishes, not the pain in my chest that told me to surrender to all of Cooper’s whims.
“Now, here’s how the rest of the morning is going to play out, Trouble,” I said, carefully choosing not to use his real name. “I’m going to clean you up a bit because you’re making a mess of my house. While I’m doing that, you’re going to tell me exactly what happened last night, starting with the moment you came into my bar and ending with your collapse on my doorstep. And if you think you can skip anything in between, you’ve got another thing coming.”
I washed the blood off of his left shoulder. It was a safe place to touch, relative to his abs and everything below that.
He didn’t start talking.
“Well?” I prompted.
When he remained silent, I dared to glance up, meeting his eyes.
His gaze stabbed through me.
My hand had stopped moving and I wasn’t sure when it had happened. My knuckles were brushing his hip. He was so very warm, radiating heat like the sun-baked earth at mid-afternoon. “What are the Fang Brothers doing here?” I asked, but I didn’t manage a lot of conviction in that question.
“This is where they find the new guys,” Cooper said.
My eyebrows climbed my forehead. “The new guys? You mean, the new…” I stuttered over the word. I felt stupid even thinking it. “Werewolves.”
He nodded slowly, like it pained him.
“Are you new at this?” I asked. Another nod. That little gesture chipped away at my resolve and let the maternal warmth come creeping back. Silly to want to protect such a big guy. Probably outright stupid. “Did you know you were going to change last night?”
He leaned forward slightly so that I could wash around his shoulder blade. He didn’t even flinch when I touched his healing wounds. “Yes, but I smelled you, and I couldn’t stay away.”
“You were calling for me with your body.”
Heat flushed my cheeks. Was it possible that he could smell my body when I danced? That I had somehow put some kind of sexy pheromones out into the universe, and that he had responded?
Somehow, I wasn’t surprised by the idea, or even all that weirded out by it. If I were to be honest with myself, I had been calling to him. Not just my body, but my mind and heart.
I’d been calling to him since the first moment I saw him. Maybe I had always been calling for him, even before we met.
The Devil, number fifteen, flashed through my mind again. The grinning satyr, the naked lovers.
I didn’t know what to think about that line of conversation, so I didn’t think about it. I wiped across his chest. Up his neck. Behind his jaw. There was blood caked under his ear but I didn’t see a wound.
He kept staring at me like that as I cleaned him, as if I were saying something immensely interesting, even though we sat in silence together. He didn’t move as I sponged a path from his clavicle down to his abs again. He wasn’t bloody there, but he didn’t protest at my touch, either.
Something about the stubble down there was kinda cute. One little flaw to humanize an otherwise flawless body.
“Why are you smiling?” he asked.
“You don’t seem like a shaving guy,” I said, squeezing the towel out in the bowl. The water was rusty brown.
He shrugged one shoulder. Even that small gesture seemed to take a lot of effort. “It’s one way to…” He struggled to find a word, searching my face as if I might have all the answers. “It’s how I keep control.”
My fist clenched on the rag. “Because you grow fur on full moons.” I ran the cloth over his chest again, watching the water course down his pectorals and become redirected by the natural channels in his abs. I thought about tracing that path with my tongue.
How quickly I was willing to forget the terror of his fangs against my tender inner thigh.
“Tell me how it happened,” I said. “Tell me how you became a werewolf.”
Guess I wasn’t real surprised that he remained silent, but I was disappointed.
The pain in his eyes was palpable. The darkness.
I traced my fingertip around the edge of the scars again, careful not to touch them. “It looks like it must have hurt.”
He flinched. “It did.”
I was done cleaning him. I’d washed every inch that I could touch without crossing my newly discovered boundaries. If I went any farther south than his navel, I wasn’t going to be able to control myself anymore—I could already feel that insane, intense need that had driven me the night before clawing at my gut.
Setting the bowl aside, I dried my hands on my pajama pants. They were patterned with Christmas penguins. Yeah, I wear them year ‘round, even when it’s hot. The penguins are cute. “Is Big Papa your…uh… I don’t know the word. Leader?”
“Alpha,” he said. “Sorta, yeah. It’s hard to explain.”
I guess I didn’t really care anyway. “He was the wolf.”
That meant that Big Papa might have saved me. I didn’t like the thought that Cooper would have hurt me, nor did I like the idea that I might be indebted to the one-eyed leader of his biker gang, but it seemed like I at least owed the man a drink.
“I think maybe next time you know you’re going to change, you stay out of my bar,” I said, keeping my eyes lowered. “I can’t do anything about you and your gang being in Lobo Norte. We need your business. But I don’t need your business on those kinds of nights, so you keep your distance.”
“Then don’t dance,” Cooper said.
I clenched my hands into fists. I’d known that it would come to this—that he was going to be pissed I’d danced for Mad Dog. “Nobody tells me what to do. If you’re going to get all jealous of me, then you need to stay away from my bar every night, because that’s how I make my living. And you can just deal with that.”
“Just not on the moons,” he said.
“Yes, on the moons. On any fucking night I want.”
“You don’t get it,” he said with sudden heat. “I don’t care if you dance for Mad Dog. I don’t even care if you dance for Papa. You dance whenever you want for anyone you want, except on the moons, because that’s how you stay safe. And when you dance, you remember that you’re still mine.”
Those were the most words I had heard him string together so far. And it had been to declare me his property.
I liked the sound of that. I liked it a lot.
Too much, actually.
“I barely know you,” I whispered.
His fingers dug into my wrist and turned it, exposing the tender flesh on the underside of my forearm. Still watching my eyes, still so very careful, he lifted my palm to his lips. His breath was hot on my hand. His stubble grazed that delicate flesh as he drew a line from my pulse point to the inside of my elbow.
Cooper paused at the junction between forearm and bicep. He pressed a warm kiss there. His nose brushed my shoulder as he pulled me just a little closer, leaning forward to place a second kiss on the side of my neck.
“Mine,” Cooper said. “I knew it the moment I smelled you.” His hand cupped my head. A whimper escaped my throat. “And you do smell…amazing.”
Fighting against the urge to climb on top of him made my whole body tremble. I wanted to melt together. Make our bodies one piece. “What does it mean?” I asked, barely able to breathe.
He drew back. Trouble looked…troubled. “I don’t know. I’ve never felt like this. But I’ve never been a werewolf before, either.”
“It scares me,” I said. It just slipped out. I hadn’t meant to be honest.
“Good,” he said. “What is this?”
His hand brushed over my shoulder, and I realized that he was looking at my scars. I pulled away from him.
“Nothing,” I said.
He had to have known I was deflecting the question, but he didn’t bother arguing with me. Cooper stood. He kissed the top of my head—a strangely tender gesture. And before I could think of how the hell I was supposed to react to that, he left.COLLAPSE