Read an Excerpt
A Crossing the Line Novel
By Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Tessa Bailey
All rights reserved.
Henrik could only get himself off in the shower.
Something about the white noise of liquid pelting the plastic curtain, the bathtub floor. The gurgle of the drain as it sucked down blood-tinged water, courtesy of that evening's underground fight. He was removed from the world when he stood inside the shower stall that barely allowed for his height and bulk. Even now, as Henrik stroked the erection he'd been sporting since the match ended, his elbow occasionally slammed into the hollow wall. If he kept this pace up, there would be a hole in the tile by the time he finally climaxed.
Now, that would be an interesting one to explain to his landlord.
His torment could be over in seconds if he pictured the girl. The girl. The fucking girl. Always with him, like fingertips whispering over his skin.
A flash of red hair and hazel eyes filtered through his mind and Henrik groaned, the flesh in his hand swelling to the point of agony. This time, the pleasure-pain was laced with guilt. The prevailing reason he escaped to the shower every time he needed to relieve the pressure between his legs. He had no right using the single memory he'd created in her presence to find completion. Not only did it make him a depraved human being, but it didn't exactly speak well of his sanity.
One sentence. She'd spoken a mere ten words in that light, melodic voice and that alone — that single encounter — had been enough to make him throw his career as a Chicago police officer away. Given the option of prison time or working with a team of ex-convicts formed by his captain to stop crime from the inside, Henrik had signed his soul away to that group of six devils, of which he was now the seventh.
Ailish O'Kelly hadn't asked him to destroy the evidence that implicated her in the crimes of her father, but he'd thought of the beautiful yet fatigued girl walking in the park. Thought of her in that conservative green dress, the way she'd taken his measure with just a hint of feminine appreciation. And he'd been unable to watch her take the fall. Mentally incapable. Physically repelled. No way could he see that girl in handcuffs.
So he'd burned anything that could put her behind bars. Hell, he'd taken sick pleasure in the task. Protecting her. Even if she'd never know it.
But what if she did know?
This was where his depravity kicked in. Henrik wasn't a man who thrived on accolades. Shit, he'd joined the dark side with his eyes wide open, knowing the potential outcome. Losing his badge, his livelihood, everyone he called a friend. Even the respect of his family. Yeah, gratefulness was never something Henrik required, but a grateful Ailish O'Kelly? His body responded to that notion in a fast, fluid rush.
He braced his left hand on the slick wall and quickened the pace of his strokes, the choking circle of his hand traveling from heavy balls to engorged tip roughly three times per second. Hell, if jerking off were an Olympic sport, he would have taken home enough gold medals in recent months to fill every closet in his apartment.
"Jesus Christ," Henrik gritted out, wishing he could finish without what came next. If he could orgasm just once without thinking of Ailish, maybe he could fall asleep that night without feeling like an unredeemable son of a bitch. But no, no, the weighted sack suspended between his thighs wouldn't be coaxed into emptying without thinking of the sweet redhead.
He always pictured them in the park, the one and only place they'd ever shared oxygen. This time, she came toward him with a knowing look, her eyelids drooping low to cover half of those bright hazel orbs that defied their plain four-letter name. Eyes. No, this girl didn't simply have eyes. She had torture devices. They held intelligence and inexperience at the same time, enough of both qualities to stun him silent. Closer. She was closer now. Running slender hands up and over her swaying hips. As always in his fantasies, she knew what he'd done. Knew he'd protected her name, her life. Knew he would never ask for anything in return.
But she wanted to give it to him anyway.
Henrik groaned as moisture pearled on the tip of his dick and was quickly washed away by the raining shower. No going back now. She'd reached him on the sidewalk at the park's edge and the world around them had suspended its animation. Everything frozen but the two of them, even the street sounds and characteristic Chicago wind. She stopped an inch away and slipped those delicate hands up his stomach, his pecs.
"I've been thinking about you," Ailish murmured.
The very idea of him appearing in her head sent a jolt of need to his loins, forcing him to tighten his fist and pump with more force. Apparently, his imaginary self was easy like that. "You have?"
The gorgeous redhead gave him a shy nod. "You protected me." Her eyes raked up and down his body. Liking what she saw? Since this was his fantasy, Henrik was going with hell yeah. "If I needed protecting again, could you keep me safe ... with your body?"
"Yes," Henrik rasped, the sincere affirmation bouncing off the shower walls. "I'd do whatever was needed. Nothing could stop me."
Black eyelashes swept down to hide her eyes before revealing them once more, the impact almost knocking him back a step. "Could you show me right now?"
Henrik's bracing hand curled into a shaking fist on the shower wall as the second self in his mind stooped down and picked up Ailish. One forearm beneath her ass was all it took, her lips parting on a whimper as both feet left the ground. She clung to his shirt collar, seeming a little unsure. But ah fuck, then she sneaked her thighs up around his hips, all slow and mischievous. Not quite snuggling his cock, but close enough that her heat reached through his fly and sucked.
Ailish stared at his mouth. "Can you show me more?" She leaned closer, her tits grazing the front of his shirt. "How you'd protect me?"
Two steps and he had Ailish crushed against the side of his police vehicle, the backs of her high heels bouncing off the doors. Good. Dent them. Henrik didn't give a fuck about anything but the girl gasping for breath in front of him. He savored a second of anticipation before shoving his rigid cock against the seam of her body. The seam that gave pleasure, gave life. Give it all to me.
"You wanted me to show you, Ailish."
He rolled his tongue along the roof of his mouth. "I would keep my body between you and danger at all times. Nothing and no one would touch you but me." Using his hips, he pushed her higher up the car's exterior, mentally recording her soft cry of surprise. "Inside or out."
One of her high heels dropped onto the sidewalk. Maybe his reaction to the lost shoe stemmed from her being that much more naked. Or perhaps her lack of concern for the dropped footwear accounted for the surge of lust. For whatever reason, though, that forgotten high heel pushed Henrik past the line of his defenses, his consciousness whittling down to his wet manhood. Almost there. Almost ...
Ailish beckoned him forward by licking her upper lip. "Henrik?"
She rubbed that single bare foot against his ass. "Will you please touch me on the inside?"
"Fuck!" Henrik shouted as tremors racked his body. "Ailish." Spurts of pent-up need left his cock in what felt like endless rushes of the tide. Forward and back until he was forced to release his flesh to support himself with both hands on the shower wall, while the remainder of his orgasm found its way free onto the bathtub floor.
The shower spray had turned lukewarm by the time consciousness streamed back in. No Ailish in front of him. No police vehicle. All gone. Should he care more about the girl than the fact that he'd never drive another squad car again? No, he shouldn't.
Ailish O'Kelly, daughter of Chicago's ruthless crime boss Caine O'Kelly, had vanished into thin air after the evidence against her had been destroyed, forcing the police to release her from any further questioning. Thanks to the skill set of his new teammates on the undercover squad — a squad made up of criminals like him — Henrik had been in possession of Ailish's location for two hellish weeks.
Two weeks filled with unsanctioned boxing matches. Illegal fights a million miles away from the charity bouts he'd competed in as an officer. He'd literally needed his skull bashed with another man's fists to keep himself from going after Ailish. But his method was losing its effectiveness. A sane man wouldn't consider himself in a position to go after Ailish like some broken-down superhero without a cape. Or a badge. Not after having exchanged a single sentence. It was very likely the girl didn't even remember him.
But he remembered her. And staying stationary when he could have eyes on her in a day's drive? Pure motherfucking torture. If his teammate Polly's information was accurate, Ailish had left town on her own, without the assistance of her father. She could be scared. Or in trouble. Might require help, but didn't know who to ask ... which could lead to her asking the wrong people.
Gut churning, Henrik reared back and slammed his already-battered fist into the shower wall, cracking the tile on impact. No more waiting.
He was going after Ailish.
* * *
For once in her life, Ailish didn't need a single thing from anyone.
It. Felt. Incredible.
No one was required to escort her to the supermarket or approve her chosen attire. Cutting holes in the knees of her jeans had been mission number one upon leaving Chicago. Since fifth grade, when Helen Brady showed up to a school fund-raiser with ripped Free People skinny jeans, Ailish had wanted them, too. Such a small rebellion, but to her, it was on par with, say ... robbing the mob.
Something she knew a little bit about.
She wasn't thinking about that today, however, or what her father's reaction to her disappearance had been. Today was about earning an honest wage. Making money the right way, without dipping a hand into someone else's pocket and leaving them desperate. In debt. For too long, Ailish had been a witness to dishonest dealings that turned her stomach and made her ashamed. Ashamed to be an O'Kelly.
There was no shame in physical labor, however, which was why she'd chosen a farm in Wisconsin as her first stop. She had no itinerary. No plans beyond today, when she would assist the farmer's wife who'd taken a chance on hiring her. Turning soil, planting seeds, working with real live animals. Maybe she should have waited to rip holes in the denim. The manual labor might have formed them naturally. And just what would Helen Brady say about that?
Ailish looked out the tiny window of the guest quarters she was renting on the cheap. Her wage would cover the room and leave her with enough to purchase supplies in town. What a glorious feeling, knowing she could depend on herself for food. That she wouldn't have to touch the bloodstained money wedged inside a duffel bag, beneath the loose floorboard on which she stood, tapping her toe.
Tap, tap ... tap.
A prickle climbed the back of Ailish's neck. Had that last tap been from her? She remained perfectly still and listened to the breeze whisper outside, laughing and shaking her head when no other sounds met her ears. Paranoia came part and parcel with being an O'Kelly, but there was nothing on this farm that could hurt her. Not unless she managed to piss off the cow. Again.
It was the loose ends she'd left in Chicago that wouldn't allow her to relax completely. With prison time hanging over her head and two dogged cops breathing down her neck in an interrogation room, she'd felt ... freedom. Ironic, sure. Or perhaps that skewed outlook meant she had a screw loose. As a young girl, she'd dreamed of traveling. Swimming in the oceans of faraway places and eating exotic foods. But as her life had progressed and she'd only seldom been let outside the confines of her father's marble mini mansion? Prison had not only been a change, it had represented distance from witnessing her father's violence.
But more importantly, a chance to atone for her part in that violence.
Then all at once, she'd been standing on the sidewalk. Outside the police station, instead of behind the bars of a cell. For once, there had been no one to take her home. No dark car approaching. No meaty paws on her back, shuffling her forward. Without warning, freedom had stretched before her, a swimming pool in which she would sink or swim. So she'd swum ... and swum. Away from her past and family name. No longer was her only option to trade one prison for another. She could finally break free.
Being her father's daughter in certain small ways, she'd assumed there would be surveillance on her after leaving the police station. So she'd done what any girl raised inside the walls of a criminal organization would do. She'd woven through businesses, leaving through back exits and jogging down trash-strewn alleys until she found a parking garage where she could hot-wire a car.
And she'd never gone home.
She had, however, made one quick stop at her father's "office" to procure funds. It had been risky, but entirely necessary, considering she'd had only the clothes on her back and zero job skills to speak of.
Unless you counted the talents that had landed her in the interrogation room to begin with.
Talents that would get her nowhere on a farm. Thank God.
Ailish went still. She knew better than to show any sign that she heard a possible intruder, but such a feat was difficult with your heart punching you in the throat.
Humming the first song that came to mind — "It's a Small World" — Ailish gathered her hair in a ponytail and secured it with a black band. She took the two steps required to enter the tiny kitchen and slowly removed a knife from the drawer, under the guise of slicing a green apple. When she heard another creak from the rear of the guesthouse, she only hummed louder.
It couldn't be the farmer or his wife. They usually arrived with all the subtlety of a fireworks display, shouting her name from the backs of their horses. No, someone was lurking and dammit, she'd only been in Wisconsin for two weeks. Who had found her so quickly? The cops or her father?
Which was worse?
Out of the corner of her eye, Ailish watched the back doorknob turn. Slowly ... slowly. She gripped the knife's handle with such force, it made tiny chopping noises against the wooden cutting board. "Come on, just do it," she murmured under her breath. "Stop playing games."
Ailish got her wish as the door flew open with a bang against the opposite wall. It only took her a split second to recognize the two men — hopefully only two — and hurl the knife. It caught the taller one in his left shoulder, sticking out at an awkward angle.
Tall Man gave Ailish a look of disbelief as he removed the blade and dropped it at his feet. "Oh, you shouldn't have done that."
She inched toward the loose floorboard. "How'd he find me?"
Cautiously, a man in a vintage Cubs cap eased up beside his bleeding crony. "Your father is a very industrious man."
"Don't tell me about my father. I've known him for twenty-one years."
"All right," Tall Man said, gritting his teeth. "Here's what happens now. You get your sweet ass in the car. You don't want to know the alternative."
Ailish listened for a third person outside, heard nothing. They'd made a mistake by coming in the same entrance. "Maybe not. Tell me anyway. I want to recount it word for word to my father next time I see him."
Cubs Cap laughed without humor. "You know, you've gotten a hell of a lot more interesting since taking off. Should be a decent car ride back to Chicago."
"I'm not going anywhere with you."
Tall Man advanced, one hand plugging the knife wound she'd inflicted. Ailish halted her progress toward the loose floorboard and backed toward the front door instead. Dammit. She'd never make it. She had to leave without the money. God, she'd be lucky to escape at all.
No, she would. She had to. This unexpected freedom was too precious, and she'd regret not fighting tooth and nail to keep it.
As soon as Tall Man reached Ailish, she swung her fist, hoping to stun him long enough to get out the front door. It worked. Briefly. She snatched her car keys off the peg beside the entrance, threw open the door — and was caught around the waist before clearing the porch. Operating on instinct, Ailish twisted around and shoved her thumb into Tall Man's knife wound, as deep as it would go, scrambling away once more as he howled.
"Goddammit," the man shouted behind her, his nearing voice indicating that he hadn't stayed down long. Cubs Cap growled an order in the distance. To grab Ailish. Which wasn't going to happen as long as she was breathing. Not going back to Chicago. Can't go back.
Excerpted from Raw Redemption by Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2016 Tessa Bailey. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.