Cat Thomas has never been the kind of girl to stick. A self-professed infatuation junky, she latches on the newest, hottest guy on the block, then finds a reason—real or imagined—to dump him. When she accepts a dare to rekindle her high school flame and jump in bed with her brother's best friend, Shane Decker, she knows she's in trouble. She can't resist the man, even after all these years apart, and that just won't do.
Shane has come back to town for a couple reasons. The biggest one? He's tired of living away from those he loves, including Cat. But now she's spooked and will do anything to drive a wedge between them, including trying to fix him up with other women through an online dating service.
What does he have to do to make her see that settling down doesn't mean settling, and he's ready to spend a lifetime proving it?
Each book in the Dare Me series is STANDALONE:
* Down for the Count
* Down and Dirty
* Down the Aisle
* Down on Her Knees
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Down and Dirty
A Dare Me Novel
By Christine Bell, Kerri-Leigh Grady, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Christine Bell
All rights reserved.
Cat Thomas eyed the couple playing tonsil hockey across the black lacquer table and snorted with mock disgust. "Gross. Get a room, would you?"
They broke apart, cheeks flushed, and Cat swallowed a grin. She still wasn't totally used to her best friend and her brother pawing each other, but for all her bitching, she was frigging stoked. They were a great couple — which, to Cat's mind, was as about as common as a two-headed snake — and later this year, she'd be walking down the aisle as Lacey's maid of honor. Again.
"Sorry. Your brother is a perv," Lacey confided with a smile. She slipped off Galen's lap and back onto her own barstool, which was emblazoned with the face of quarterback Peyton Manning. If her friend had to sit on a Manning's face, Peyton was obviously the better option, but the decor of this particular sports bar seemed poorly thought out. Not that it had stopped Cat from spending ten minutes searching for a Tom Brady seat before finally agreeing to sit on Mark Sanchez. He couldn't throw for shit, but he sure was pretty.
"Yeah, I'm the perv," Galen said to his fiancée with a satisfied smirk. "You're the one who had me tie you to th —"
Lacey slapped a hand over his mouth and squealed. "Oh my God, shut up! You're totally going to embarrass your sister."
"Not likely," Cat said. "I won't be thinking too hard about it or anything, because ew. But I'm really glad to see he's loosened you up a little." She eyed her laughing friend and shook her head in amazement. Less than a year before, Lacey had found her groom, Marty, in the linen closet of their reception hall, balls-deep in one of her bridesmaids, a lifelong friend of both Cat's and Lacey's. That still made Cat stabby when she thought about it, but she managed to keep her wrath under wraps. Not because of her forgiving nature, but mainly because Lacey was blissfully happy now and settled with her childhood crush, who also happened to be Cat's brother, Galen.
Who woulda thunk it? Not Cat. In fact, the incident between Marty and Lacey had only confirmed what she'd always known: most relationships were far more trouble than they were worth. If Lacey hadn't caught Marty in the act, she'd probably still be with the loser, having the life sucked out of her.
That would never be Cat.
She took a long pull from the lukewarm beer she'd been nursing and glanced around the semi-crowded bar.
A man ... no, a giant had just stepped into her peripheral vision and derailed all coherent thought. She twisted in her Mark Sanchez chair to get a better look. The guy's head was turned, so she could only see his face in profile, but damn, that and the full-frontal body shot were more than enough. She sized him up with a practiced eye, calling him an easy six-three, two-twenty. He wore a threadbare white T-shirt that should've been as noteworthy as a bowl of oatmeal. Instead, it clung to his chest like it had aspirations of taking over for his skin. Hell, she'd have the same life goal. His chest was a dream, the contours clearly defined by the soft cotton. She could totes cling to him for a night.
In spite of her flight-prone ways, she'd never had a true one-night stand, and it was top ten on her bucket list. Maybe ...
She took a quick glance at the guy's face to make sure he hadn't caught her staring, then sent her gaze downward to size up the rest of the package.
And speaking of package, oooh mama. His jeans were as old as the shirt and had worn down in all the right places, clinging to his thick thighs and what appeared to be a sock ... no, a bunch of socks stuffed —
"Shane!" Lacey yelped, launching herself off her stool and scurrying toward him.
No way. There was just no. Frigging. Way.
But apparently there was a way because the sexy behemoth turned to face them full-on, and there he was.
He and Galen had met in high school when Galen was a sophomore and Shane was a freshman. They'd bonded over football and had quickly become the best of friends. The four of them had spent a lot of time together the summer before Galen went off to college, so Lacey had stayed in touch with him.
Cat had not.
Or at least, not intentionally. Once Galen had gone away, Shane had appointed himself as her official guardian and unofficial conscience. For the majority of her junior year, every time she'd tried to have a little fun, he'd shown up with a disapproving frown and an offer of a ride home.
Except that one night.
The memory — with edges far crisper than they should have been after all these years — rushed forward, and her face went hot. When Shane met her gaze over Lacey's shoulder, the half-smile stretching his firm lips had her itching to look away, which was silly. She was a grown-ass woman now. She could handle him.
She met his gaze head-on and willed the blood in her cheeks to chillax. It had been a while since she'd seen him, and the years had been kind to the lucky SOB. Generous, even. He looked fantastic, aside from those stormy blue eyes. Like him, they'd always been a little too intense, like he could see inside people's heads and read the thoughts they tried to hide.
"Hey munchkin, how's it going?" He gave Lacey a bear hug, and Cat tried not to stare at his biceps as they flexed.
Galen stood and grinned. "I thought you weren't coming." He yanked his longtime friend into a one-armed man hug. "Did you make it in time to catch any of the fight?"
"Come on. You send me a ticket to your last bout before you retire, and you think I'm not going to show? Not unless there was a monsoon somewhere."
A couple hours before, Galen had defeated Manny Hermosa for the heavyweight belt in a third-round knockout. Even though Shane's job as a search-and-rescue specialist took him all over the world, Cat should've known he would make every effort to get here. He and Galen were like brothers, and that bond had held strong through the years in spite of them living on opposite coasts. Clearly his arrival was a surprise, though. No way would Lacey have left her in the dark on this.
"You were on fire out there. You sure you're ready to hang it up?" Shane asked, giving Galen that searching look that used to make Cat squirm when it was aimed at her.
Galen nodded and slid an arm around Lacey. "I'm old enough to have had a good, long career, and young enough that I'm going to walk away one hundred percent healthy with my melon fully intact. Not something a lot of fighters can say."
Cat doubted that was all there was to Galen's decision, but Shane seemed satisfied with that answer and turned his attention to her. "Mary Catherine."
He tipped his head but didn't move in for an embrace. That didn't surprise her. The handful of times they'd seen each other since he'd left town after high school, they'd circled each other like boxers in the first round of a fight, giving wide berth, sizing up their opponent's strategy. Sure, she covered her anxiety with bravado because ... well, because that was how she rolled, but being near him was unnerving at best. He threw her off her game, and she didn't like it one bit.
She took a sip from her glass to whet her suddenly dry whistle. "Hey, Shane."
"Still sewing clothes and breaking hearts?" he asked.
She clenched her hand tighter around her beer, quashing the urge to toss it at him. "Still playing superhero and boring the ladies?" she shot back. Why was it that whenever she was around him, she regressed ten years?
His response came slow, after a long look that made her wish she'd just kept her trap shut for once. "Well, definitely the latter. As for the former, I do what I can."
His self-deprecating response made her feel like a shrew for slapping back at him, but impulse control had never been her strong suit. Especially when it came to Shane Decker. That annoyed her even more, but her brother was eyeballing her hard now. The last thing she needed was another inquisition about why things were always so tense between the two of them. She blew out a sigh and vowed to keep things light and friendly. "Actually, not doing a whole lot of sewing anymore. I have my own line with Nash and Company now. Daytime separates and casual evening wear."
He waited, brows raised, for her to continue, but she pursed her lips, silently daring him to ask about her breaking hearts again. She'd been getting a lot of flak for her inability to commit lately, so him putting her on blast in front of the two people leading the charge? Made her want to stomp on his foot. She refrained, but it was a close thing.
Light and friendly.
"You planning to stay for the whole weekend?" she asked, trying not to look too interested in his answer. Due to his job, Shane rarely stayed in one place for long. Maybe this was just a quick drive-by show of support for Galen and tomorrow, he'd be on his way again. Please, God, and thank you.
"I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get away today until the last minute, so I don't even have a room yet. But no, I'm going to leave tomorrow afternoon." Relief rushed through her, but he continued, "Then I'm actually going to be staying in Rhode Island for a while."
Cat's heart thudded and she could feel Lacey — the only other person who knew about her and Shane's little hookup — staring at her, searching for a reaction. Determined not to give her one, she took a slow, measured sip of her beer.
"You're coming home?" Galen crowed, the delight plain on his face.
Shane nodded, casually snagging one of the stools from the next table and folding his big body onto it. "For a month. It's been a while, and the last couple times I've only managed long weekends, so I took a leave. My parents' thirtieth anniversary is coming up, and Mom's been hounding me about spending more time with the Reign of Terror. I had a ton of unused vacation days, so it seemed like a good time to do it."
The nickname Shane had given his twin five-year-old nieces was a perfect fit. Despite their plump cheeks and wide blue eyes that perpetually avowed innocence, they were a handful. Shane's sister and brother-in-law were awesome parents to the precocious pair, but most days, it was no easy task.
She conjured up her brightest smile and leveled it at Shane. "Yeah, I agree with your mom. More time with the twins is exactly what you need."
Lacey shook her head at Cat and muttered, "You're so bad." She reclaimed her seat across from Cat and turned her attention back to Shane. "So we get to keep you for a while! It's going to be wonderful having you back."
"I'm looking forward to it."
A flicker of something on Shane's face caught Cat's attention. Was there something more to this leave of absence than he was letting on? Maybe there was, but it was none of her business. She needed to focus on staying out of his way for the next month. It wouldn't be so bad. She'd run into him around town and probably a couple times at Galen and Lacey's, but she could use work as an excuse to stay scarce until he was safely back in California.
"And we're really glad you were able to make it for the fight. I know it goes without saying, but if they don't have any rooms left tonight, you can bunk with us," Lacey offered with a smile.
"That's okay," Shane said. "If not here, they'll have one at Caesar's or something. No worries."
Galen gave him two thumbs up paired with a grin that was all male. "Thanks, buddy."
Lacey smacked his arm and blushed. "You're going to make him feel unwelcome."
"Babe, I've followed the prefight no-sex regimen for ten days now. I'm pretty sure something's going to pop if I have to go another night. We can make him feel welcome tomorrow. Or," he glanced at his watch-free wrist, "in like fourteen minutes if we go up and start now."
"Be still my heart," Lacey said, face still flaming.
Cat rolled her eyes and Shane barked out a laugh.
"Seriously, though, if you can't find a place ..." Galen's expression was sincere. In spite of his razzing, Cat knew — hell, they all knew — he would give his friend the shirt off his back if Shane needed it. They were like family, and family took care of one another.
Guilt pricked at her. Her brother had just won the last fight of his career. A career that Cat wasn't certain he was truly ready to give up. Surely he deserved to spend a little quality time alone with his fiancée to celebrate?
Lacey cleared her throat, eying her pointedly, and Cat glared back.
All right, all right. "Let's not get all in a tizz," Cat said, the world's fakest smile stretching her lips. "First, let's see if we can get him a room." She shot off another unspoken prayer, this one complete with mental gesticulation for good measure, and continued. "If not, I have two queen beds in mine. He can stay with me. No big deal."
No. Big. Deal.
Except when Shane looked at her, it felt like a big deal. The sound of the jukebox faded away, muffled by the beat of her heart in her ears, and the memory came again, unbidden. The drag of that mouth along her neck. The warm water lapping against her breasts. A full moon, fat in the sky, lighting his face. Clenched jaw, bodies rocking, Shane pulling away, with a whispered no.
"Yes!" Lacey smacked her hand on the table.
Cat jerked back, tearing her gaze from Shane's to face her friend.
Lacey's eyes were bright with excitement. "Awesome idea. Now that's settled, let's get another drink." She leaned back with a satisfied smile and raised her hand to flag down the blonde cocktail waitress in a purple bustier. "Shane, beer for you?"
"Sure." His voice was suspiciously husky and Cat wondered for a crazy instant if the whole mind-reading thing wasn't so far-fetched, but he seemed to recover quickly, turning his attention to Lacey. "Whatever's seasonal on tap is good."
The waitress took the rest of their orders and then made her way to the bar. The others chatted amiably about Shane's job and updated him on the latest family news and town gossip. Cat took the time to regroup, and when the waitress returned with the drinks, she was back on track. Shane was there. Big frigging deal. Whatever had transpired between them was old news. So why, all these years later, was she still acting like a teenager after a Bieber sighting? It was going to stop, here and now.
She threw back her shoulders, ready to dive into the discussion and behave like her witty, charming self, but she was saved the effort when some fans approached their table asking Galen for an autograph. Once the floodgate was opened, there was no closing it, and over the next hour, dozens of people stopped by for a picture or a high five. Her brother handled it so well and seemed genuinely honored each and every time, which made them love him even more. Invariably, once the female sect realized that Galen was very taken, they turned hot eyes on Shane and asked if he was a fighter, too.
"Nope. Just a regular Joe," he'd drawl.
The most recent group — this one, all ladies — was clearly out for a good time and didn't mind Shane's lack of pro-athlete status. One dark-haired chick separated herself from the pack and boldly dragged a stool up to sit beside him. "More like a G.I. Joe. Where'd you get all those muscles?"
Her skirt was so short that Cat caught a flash of rhinestones that were either appliquéd onto the front of a flesh-colored thong or part of the girl's attempt at vajazzling. Cat's professional curiosity required her to investigate further — even if she didn't design underwear — so she squinted hard, half-tempted to squat down for a proper look. If she eyeballed the girl's lady parts any harder, she was going to feel obligated to buy her dinner or something.
When she finally looked up, she found Shane staring at her with a bemused smile. She turned away, cheeks hot. So much for playing it cool.
"Well, Joe? You gonna tell me where you got all these fine muscles?" the vajazzler pressed, pouting as she leaned into him.
"Just like to stay fit, is all."
Cat looked at him hard. Was it her imagination or was he leaning away from those gargantuan breasts? Interesting.
The woman seemed to note that, too, and after a few more halfhearted attempts at flirtation, stood with a defeated sigh. "Well, this bar's pretty dead. We're going to find some action. Nice meeting y'all."
She tottered away on her knockoff Pradas and Cat turned to face Shane. "What's up with that?"
"What's up with what?"
Excerpted from Down and Dirty by Christine Bell, Kerri-Leigh Grady, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2013 Christine Bell. 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I want a Shane of my very own. Their first time together was so hot! Loved Cat in Down for the Count and loved her even more in this. Can't wait for the next book!
I was looking forward to reading this book, as I had enjoyed the first one 'Down for the count'. But I just could not connect with the female character Cat. She was a selfish spoilt brat from beginning to end and it just got on my nerves. The guy Shane was great and deserved a medal for putting up with her and forgiving her tantrums once and again. She was always the one making the moves on the poor guy and regretting it and acting like a B right after. Honestly, there is no way a real guy would have put up with that.
Cat is a ball of fun, and her sexy counter part is just that--sexy. I mean, who can resist a guy named Shane? The whole book is amazing, but the ending was so adorable. If you liked "Wife for Hire" and "Down for the Count," you're sure to absolutely love this! I recommend it!
I loved that Christine followed up DOWN FOR THE COUNT with a sequel starring my favorite side character, Cat! It's the combination of funny and sexy that you expect from Christine, but with a very different woman!
This book is a continuation in the Dare Me series. I started it first and got a little confused at the mention of things that happened in Down for the Count,so for me I had to read it first. I would recommend reading them in order. It's Galen and Lacey's story. Down and Dirty is Cat and Shane's story. Cat is determined to stay single and uninhibited by love and romance. She is an ambitious young woman who is ready for adventure all the time. She loves to take risks, and never backs down. But she has one flaw, she is terrified of loosing herself, to someone else's life and plans. Shane is Galen's best friend during high school. Shane took over the job of being Cat's bodyguard and protector after her brother, Galen, went off to college. One night things went a little to far between Cat and Shane. He backed off after remembering his promise to her brother. After high school Shane left Rhode Island for work, and now he is ready to return home to see if Cat has grown up enough to handle a serious relationship. There is romance,drama and lots of hot sexy scenes. definitely a great quick read. Reviewed by Becky for Cocktails and Books
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to get an email from a publicist at Entangled Publishing asking if I would like to read/review this one. I love those sorts of emails especially when they enable me to read more about characters I fell in love with previously. If you haven't read Down for the Count please do so as this one is about Galen's sister Cat and you get to see Galen happy with Lacey. I loved the glimpses of how happy he and Lacey are but this is truly about Cat and Shane. We met Cat in the last book as Lacey's BFF and Galen's sister but we truly get to know what makes her tick in this one. I adore how much stock she puts in her family/friendships but this is a woman who is deeply afraid of commitment and what it might mean to her career or freedom. She's had that one moment with Shane but thought that he didn't really want her plus I mean he's boring right?? Right?? After a dare from Lacey she finds that he isn't boring and she needs to do something to get him wrapped up in another relationship so she doesn't have to give up what she loves. Shane has always wanted Lacey but between a promise made to her brother to keep an eye on her and keep her safe plus his knowledge that she wasn't ready for anything serious made him put a stop to their almost rendezvous when they were younger. He left to become a rescuer but how is back to finally claim what has always been his. When they have the one interlude in Atlantic City he knows she is still scared but he isn't going to let her go without a fight even if it means letting her set him up on an internet dating site. He's very fiercely protective of her but in a way where he wants her to keep being the woman she is and not a meek follower. He loves her for everything she is all warts, quirks and flighty behavior. This was a fun story of two people who are meant to be but one just keeps putting walls and barriers up between them. I only hope we get a story of the doctor next as I want her to find her HEA. Thanks again to Entangled Publishing for giving me the chance to read this… Keep more of these coming as they are wonderfully developed stories about people you can identify with. Their fears, hopes and longings make you fall in love with them and the humor leaps off the page.
Loved this story. Shane and Cat are perfect together! I hope there is more to this series bc I want to know more about both couples!
I really loved Down and Dirty. Pretty much read it straight through. First up. I love Shane. Sorry I meant to say I LOVE Shane and I really adore Cat but I wanted to follow Shane around and make him all mine. Cat and Shane have history. Years earlier Shane had promised Cat's brother (Galen whom we met in Down for the Count) that he'd look out for his little sister. One night at a lake when teens, Shane turned down Cat and she took that to heart. Fast forward and they are now adults. Cat's a successful, driven career woman (and thank you Ms. Bell for Cat having a cool career that meant as much to her as Shane's does to him), and Shane's back in town and as much as Cat doesn't want to admit it, the connection with Shane is still there. Shane on the other hand is very aware of his connection to Cat and he wants her, not just her body, but her heart. Cat has commitment issues and I totally related to her pushing Shane away, again and again. But Shane, bless him, doesn't give up and I loved that he didn't. He saw beneath her layers to her insecurity and instead of running for the hills keeps up his quiet pursuit. Sigh. After having hot and happening sex, Cat justifies by thinking it will get Shane out of her system. Wrong. She bolts and Shane tells her to come back when she's grown up. Cat is then pushed on a dare to set up Shane with women way more suited to him than her via a dating website then we watch her burn as he goes out on a date. There are some seriously hot sex scenes, in this book (fans herself) and there is also some deep, beautiful emotion. The scene with Cat and her mom is beautiful and touched my heart. This book is a keeper. I love the humor, the dialogue between Shane and Cat just sparkles. The emotion the hot sex. This books as it all. As an added bonus meeting up with Galen and Lacey again was the icing on the cake.
This was a wonderfully sweet and hot story of going after what you want. I adored Shane all the way through this story. He was a bona-fide hero, down to earth, ever so sexy in his pursuit of Cat. And then there was Cat. She is beyond independent, very fun and eager to do anything, except commit herself to a man. But after a wake up call, she finally got it. That was a little frustrating, but very sweet after. I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher through Netgalley
Cat Thomas has always been a dare devil of sorts, never been one to back down from a challenge... except when it comes to forever. The mere idea of settling down, becoming a happy housewife and mother gives her hives, so anytime any of her relationships show the promise of leading to a commitment she runs. She watched her mother give up her own happiness and lose a part of herself to settle for the traditional happy ever after, and she vowed that she would never lose her own identity to become someones wife or mother. So, when Shane Decker comes back to town ready to sweep her off her feet and make her part of his happily ever after, the hives settle in, and she has an intense urge to run in the opposite direction... but for some damn reason life has other plans for them! Shane Decker has loved Cat Thomas for years, and has always wanted to make his feelings for her known, but she is always busy running in the other direction. Cat isn't to keen on marriage, or settling down, and Shane is certain that it is because she just hasn't had the right man come along. In his heart he knows if she'd give them half a chance, her feelings on love might change, but it's the convincing part that has him uncertain. But he is a determined man, and he wants a future with Cat, so he is going to be daring and go all out... and hope it pays off! This was my first time reading something from this author, and I have to say that her writing totally took me by surprise, and instantly made me regret not reading something by her before now... she completely won me over with this beautifully written story, and I look forward to reading more of her books in the VERY near future!! I always love a good friends to lovers story, and I have to say this one definitely scored a lot of points with me, it had it all, scorching sexy times that left me in need of a fan, tender moments that gave me the feels, and some feisty fueled banter that had me smiling and laughing out loud. I highly recommend this one it's one of those reads that is destined to consume you and have you feeling the words from start to finish! I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this title.
Very cute story, I can appreciate Cat's unwilling to give up her independence but, without giving anything away there are so many other reasons the author could have used for Shane's and Cat's last big disagreement then the one she wrote, I think it made Cat look pretty unreasonable.
Realistic characters, sexy man set on winning the woman of his heart (regardless of her fears).
Great book. Loved every second of it!
Loved the book. It was really well written and had great characters. While you don't have to read the 1st book, I think you should. It was a great read and well worth my time.
Quick and enjoyable read.
Wasn't sure after reading description. But was pleasantly surprised after reading.