Chapter One ~ HOOKED

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Grace

Rain lashes against the windshield, making it almost impossible to see, despite the dull glow of the streetlights. Not that I’m sure I want to. The diversion a few blocks back due to floods had directed me into a neighborhood I’ve never been before, and I’ve lived in Los Angeles for most of my life.

If that’s not bad enough, the car has stalled, and nothing I’ve tried for the last ten minutes has made any difference. I pull out my cell to call roadside assistance, and I don’t believe it—the battery’s dead.

“Stupid piece of crap.” I clutch the phone and try to ignore the panic snaking through my chest. This can’t be happening. I’m the sensible sister, the one who always does as she’s told, who works in the family business and never takes chances. There’s no way I could’ve forgotten to charge my cell last night.

 Except that I finally ditched my jerk of a fiancé and told my parents it would just be me coming to Thanksgiving next month.

Okay, so I had a lot on my mind last night. And now I’m stuck in the middle of a storm on a street that looks as though it’s survived some kind of zombie apocalypse.

I shove my useless cell back into my purse and take a deep breath. I can’t sit in the car all night, and my sister isn’t home, so I didn’t bother to tell her about my last minute plans to crash at her apartment, which means there’s no chance of anyone sending out the proverbial cavalry.

There’s only one thing to do. I need to find a phone and there must be one in that bar I just passed. I rub at the foggy window and peer outside. The bar is across the street, and in the dark it looks kind of menacing. The trouble is, it’s the only place open.

I grab my umbrella from the passenger seat and double check that the canister of pepper spray is still in my purse. Not that I’ve ever used the spray before, but better safe than sorry.

With a final glance along the street, I push open the door and pop up my umbrella before stepping out of the car. The wind catches me unaware, and as I slam the door, the umbrella blows inside out.

The rain hits me straight in the face, and it turns out my adorable boots aren’t the best thing to wear when stumbling into a puddle.

For a few seconds I battle with the umbrella, but it’s hopeless. I’m already drenched, so I make a run for the bar. Oh God, what a dive. Even in this bad light, the peeling paintwork and battered timber are clear to see, along with the less than welcoming sign above the door: Odin’s.

I almost turn round and run right back to the car, but that won’t get me anywhere. I huddle by the door and fork my fingers through my hair, but it’s plastered to my face. So much for enjoying my first day as a single woman in four years, or the sense of achievement at having defied my parents for the first time in living memory by breaking up with the man of their dreams.

Karma sucks.

I push open the door and step inside. The light hits me, along with the sudden silence that falls as everyone in the place turns to stare at me. It’s a blur of guys with huge muscles and long hair, and the testosterone in the air is thick enough to overdose on. Have I just walked into a Viking convention?

My face burns, and there isn’t any way to hide it. Unlike my younger sister, I’ve never enjoyed being the center of attention, but I won’t let a room full of guys know that. I make my way toward the bar, gripping the umbrella for courage. I’m armed and dangerous, so watch out.

***

Zach

I can’t tear my gaze away as the sexiest fucking redhead I’ve ever seen strolls across the bar as though she owns it. She’s dripping water on the floor, her black coat barely covers her ass, and what the hell has she got on her feet? The heels are six inch spikes, and pink ribbons tie around her ankles.

She sure as shit isn’t from round here. Even drenched she gives off a classy vibe, and when I see my cousin Tod giving her the once over from behind the bar, I’m halfway across the floor before I know it.

If anyone’s fucking this chick tonight, it’s me.

Tod backs off as soon as he sees my approach. He might be my cousin, but he’s not my brother, blood or otherwise, and his intent to claim this woman means nothing.

She’s leaning against the bar with her hand raised, obviously trying to regain Tod’s attention. He gives me another sideways glance and then retreats to the other end of the bar. The redhead lets out a disbelieving huh, and puts her umbrella on the counter. “Excuse me?”

I bite back a grin, and Joel, the guy next to her, pulls away to give me more room as I rest my fist on the counter between them. She nearly falls off her damn heels as she rears back and stares up as me, as though she’d had no idea I’d been standing right behind her.

She has the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. For half a second it puts me off my game. “You want something?”

Her gaze travels over my biceps, obviously checking out my ink, before she snaps her attention back to my face. Her cheeks are pink, and my dick’s hard as iron. I know exactly what you want, princess.

“Yes, I—” She clears her throat and gives my leather vest a quick glance, as though she’s never seen anything like it before. Her eyes are dark with lust when she looks back at me, and there’s no mistaking the heat burning between us. “I need to use a phone.”

It’s not the usual line girls give me when they’re after a ride, but I’ll take it. “Cell not working?” I don’t bother to hide my mocking tone.

She presses those lush, pink lips together, and this time when her gaze clashes with mine there’s no mistaking the challenge. “I wouldn’t have left my car if my cell wasn’t dead, would I?”

I don’t know, and I don’t care. She’s here now. “There’s a phone in the back room.”

Her glance flickers to Tod. “Isn’t there one I can use out here?”

“Nah.” There isn’t one in the back room, either.

She eyes me as though I’m about to eat her. You’ve got that right. I offer her a smile that girls assure me make them come in their thongs.

The chick sways toward me, and I’m ready for her. Then she kind of freezes, and grips her umbrella like it’s an anchor. “Can I use your cell? I’ll pay for the call.”

I smirk. It’s been a long time since a girl played hard to get, and I’m kind of enjoying it. “Sure. Let’s go somewhere private. You don’t have to pay me.”

Joel gives a muffled snort of laughter. Prick’s gonna pay for that later but right now all I’m interested in is getting some pussy.

Your pussy, princess.

Her leather coat molds her body like a second skin, and her wet hair and damp face are so fucking hot it’s hard not to just grab her and bend her over the nearest table. Except, for the first time, the thought of fucking a girl with an audience doesn’t have the same appeal as usual.

I don’t want any of my brothers or friends seeing her naked while I screw her senseless. Her ass is mine tonight, and in the morning I won’t give a fuck who else she wants to lay.

“I don’t need privacy to make a phone call.” She’s aiming for ice, but the way her gaze slides over my chest is anything but arctic. Then she glances at Tod. “Any chance of getting a drink around here? Or don’t you serve women?”

I grin and lift one finger. “Whiskey.” Tod’s never moved so fast in his life.

“That’s not my drink of choice.” She fingers the edge of her coat, and I catch a fleeting glimpse of cleavage. It’s like she has no idea she’s playing with fire.

“We don’t sell cocktails.”

“I wanted vodka.” She squeezes a length of her hair and rainwater drips over her shoulder. She shivers, and grips her umbrella tighter.

“Whiskey’ll warm you up.” I lean against the bar so I’m blocking her view of the rest of the room and lower my voice so there’s no chance of the jerk behind me overhearing. “You should get out of those wet clothes and dry off.”

“In the back room, right?” She doesn’t edge closer, or run her finger over my chest, but the hint of huskiness in her voice more than makes up for it.

“Just say the word.” I pick up the glasses Tod leaves on the counter and hand her one. After a second’s hesitation she takes it, and our fingers brush. Christ, who’d think that could be so fucking hot?

“Sounds risky to me.” She takes a sip of whiskey, but doesn’t choke on it like I half expect. I toss mine back in one go, never taking my gaze from her.

“If you wanted to play it safe, you’d never have walked in here.” I don’t know what her game is. Maybe she lost a bet with her girlfriends or something. Because chicks like her don’t have cars that break down or cells that don’t work.

They just have bucket lists, and from my experience, at the top of that list is wanting to fuck a guy from the wrong side of town.

That works for me.

***

Grace

I take another sip of whiskey. What the heck am I doing? The guy in front of me, taking up so much space it’s hard to breathe, looks like everything I’ve been warned against my whole life.

His white T-shirt stretches across his broad chest, and a sexy leather vest shows off his impressive biceps. He’s not huge like a bodybuilder, but I can hardly tear my fascinated gaze away from his muscles. Except it’s not just his muscles. It’s the tattoos.

I’ve never seen anything like them in real life. The head of a magnificent bald eagle covers one bicep. It’s a work of art, and regret stabs through me that I’ve never been brave enough to get even a tiny tattoo.

He’s leaning against the bar, and his dark, chocolate colored eyes are stripping me bare. I clutch the glass more tightly before I drop it. But there’s no getting away from the truth. He oozes sex appeal and a bad-boy vibe that’s seriously messing with my good sense.

I should turn around and get out of here. Except there’s nowhere to go, and even if there were, I have the terrible conviction I’d stay right where I am.

It’s crazy. I’m in a bar where at least eighty percent of the patrons are not only men, but look as though they could bury me under the floorboards without breaking a sweat or having a second thought. No one knows I’m here. I should be petrified.

I rake my glance over the arrogant asshole in front of me. He needs a shave, and he definitely needs a hair cut, but both the stubble and the way his light chestnut hair brushes his shoulders are so damn sexy it’s making me wet just looking at him.

Everything about him shrieks danger. And I’m drinking whiskey with him. My ex would crap himself if he could see me now, and I like that image more than I should.

It’s obvious this guy has only one thing on his mind. He’s not exactly subtle in the way he’s checking me out. Then again, I guess I’ve been doing the same to him. I can’t blame him for thinking I came here to hook up, but the truth is I’ve never had nameless sex in my life.

I take another quick sip of whiskey, but it isn’t just the alcohol that’s causing heat to pool between my thighs. Am I really considering going into the back room with him? That would be the most insane thing ever. He might murder me.

Except it’s not murder on his mind. Even I, with my unexciting sexual history, can see that.

“Sure of yourself, aren’t you?” It’s been years since I flirted with a complete stranger. My ex was kind of possessive that way. I shove his memory from my mind. It’s surprisingly easy, given that I’ve known him all my life. “If the convenience store were open, I’d be in there right now.”

He smirks, as though he doesn’t believe me. “Sure you would, princess.”

What did he just call me? I’m not sure whether he means it as an insult or not. It doesn’t stop me from wanting him.

Okay. I’ve admitted it. I’ll never say the words out loud, though.

Every girl deserves one bad boy in her past. My best friend Leah’s words echo in my head. It’s never been something I’ve craved. Safe and boring, that’s me—at least according to both Leah and my sister.

I’m sick of being safe and boring, of always having to live up to the expectations of my power hungry family. For just one night I want to be crazy and reckless and do everything I’ve never done before. Because if I’m sure of one thing, it’s that sex with this guy will be anything but vanilla.

Before I can talk myself out of it, I take another long swallow of the whiskey and it burns me all the way down to my sensitive clit. One wild fuck then I’ll make my phone calls and be out of here with nothing but a dirty memory.

Lust and shock at my daring pound through me as I tip my head and give him what I hope is a sultry come-hither look. “Okay. I’ll dry off in your back room.”

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Hooked