Brody Minton has loved Scarlett Harris for years. But she's his best friend's wife, so he's worked hard to keep his distance. Hearing the marriage is over shouldn't change anything. Only an ass would make a move on a friend's ex... Except Scarlett wants help getting back in the dating game, and Brody's torn. If he helps her out, he can keep an eye on her and guard her vulnerable heart. But having the woman he's longed for for years in arms' reach is hell on a man's restraint, no matter how iron strong his will.
But loving Scarlett is only half the fight.
All Scarlett Harris wants is to get away for a while and rethink her life after filing for divorce from her lying, cheating bastard of a husband. The gorgeous Bahamas sounds like the perfect escape, except she's booked in very resort Brody "The Iron" Minton is staying at for his sister's wedding. Now her ex's best friend is dogging her every move, and is a witness to her first pathetic attempts at flirting in years. If Brody isn't going to leave her alone, then she'll just recruit him to help get her reacquainted with her single self.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.52(d)|
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Knocked Out by Love
A Love to the Extreme Novel
By Abby Niles, Robin Haseltine, Liz Pelletier
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Abby Niles
All rights reserved.
Brody "The Iron" Minton leaned one elbow against the polished wood of the outside bar and watched the beach performers dance to the unique beat of steel drums. This was the first time he'd been able to capture some peace and quiet since he'd arrived at the resort six hours ago. He was going to have to steal a lot more of these moments, or he wasn't going to make it through the next week.
"Impressive," his cousin Blake muttered as he motioned with his beer bottle toward the large flame erupting from a young man's mouth, brightening the humid summer air.
"Definitely." Hell, the whole damn place was impressive.
Too bad his youngest sister had about driven him batshit crazy with her fretting, and he hadn't been able to enjoy any of the perks the resort had to offer yet. He wasn't grasping her crazy right now.
It wasn't like her soon-to-be millionaire husband wasn't forking out the big bucks for the lavish destination wedding, including a top-of-the-line event planner to worry about all this shit so his sister wouldn't have to. But his sibling couldn't relax and just enjoy what was supposed to be one of the biggest days of her life. Nope, she had to have herself involved in every damn detail and, in the process, drive everyone else fucking nuts.
Oh well. He hadn't paid a dime for this trip, so she could be as psychotic as she wanted. As long as he stayed off her warpath, he'd enjoy himself. Fuck knew he needed some downtime.
Things with his coach had been going south for a while now. He needed to think about what his next move was going to be when he got back home.
Taking a swig of his beer, he eyed his cousin. Blake was the only other member of his family to join the MMA circuit. Their moms had been close sisters, so he and Blake had spent a lot of time together growing up, which included training as they got into their later teens. As they got older, they went their separate ways, but had always kept in touch. Blake had recently moved back to Atlanta to help his mom out after his father died, and had joined Mike's facility — one of the best MMA gyms in the industry.
"How are things over with Mike?"
Blake shrugged. "He's a moody son-of-a-bitch."
So he'd heard, but the man's reputation spoke for itself. His gym housed two title holders in the biggest MMA circuit around, Cage Match Championship — CMC. Dante "Inferno" Jones was the reigning welterweight champion and Tommy "Lightning" Sparks was the light heavyweight.
"What about you?" Blake asked.
As much as he'd love to share the shit he was dealing with, he wouldn't. The fighting industry was too small. Not that he thought his cousin would run off at the mouth, but one word in the locker room would spread like wildfire and take on a life of its own. He wasn't ready for all that. "Word has it Greg's got himself a new game changer on his roster."
Brody tightened his grip on the bottle. The new "game changer" was exactly why he was forced to contemplate his future with the industry. "Yeah. Randy Boss."
"Yep." Brody took a swig of his beer.
"That causing any friction for you, being heavyweight yourself?"
Of course it fucking was. "Not at all. The kid doesn't hold a goddamn candle to me."
Blake smiled and saluted him with his beer bottle. They turned their attention back to the performance. At least he could still talk a convincing game to his cousin. Two heavyweight fighters in the same house shouldn't be a big deal — in theory.
In reality, it was a huge pain in his ass. Since that cocky little prick had waltzed into the facility with Greg fawning over him like some kind of love-struck dolt, Brody's training had gone to complete shit.
Yeah, the kid had an impressive record. Sure, he seemed untouchable, the next Dante "Inferno" Jones of the heavyweight division. And Greg was over the moon at having him in his gym. At finally having a shot at a belt. Talk about a kick-in-the-balls moment — he'd nearly seen stars.
So he wasn't a spring chicken anymore. Thirty wasn't anything to sneeze at, especially in the heavyweight division. The reigning champ was thirty-four. But Randy's age was why he was such a hot commodity to Greg. A young heavyweight with a damn good record meant Greg would get a lot more wear out of him.
Blake turned to him. "Have you been slotted for your next fight?"
Brody's stomach clenched as he took a measured swig off his beer. Not a topic he really cared to discuss. "Yeah."
When he failed to elaborate, his cousin drawled, "And?"
Blake's head jerked back, and his eyebrows drew together in confusion. "Raster? Why?"
"Dude, I'd be pissed." His cousin cast him a long glance. "Aren't you pissed? That's a fucking downgrade, cuz."
"It's what they offered me."
Though it felt like having scraps tossed at him.
"But you just fought Mitch Colten four months ago and won, man. You shouldn't be wasting your time with fighters who have a mediocre record at best."
"I barely beat Mitch. Remember the headlines?"
Blake grimaced. "Those fucking reporters don't know a goddamn thing. None of them have faced off with another fighter in the cage. It's pure bullshit to call that win pure luck."
But it had been. Even Brody knew it.
Mitch had dominated him in the cage until Brody, bloody and barely keeping to his feet, had gotten lucky in the third round with strong jab on the sweet spot. Blake was being nice about the headlines, not mentioning the articles that had questioned if Brody was at the end of his career. They'd even gone as far as to say he was washed up. It wasn't long after that Greg had brought in Randy and started completely ignoring Brody.
It just added to his doubts about his career. His last two fights hadn't been easy by any means. Maybe it was time for him to retire. Better to do it on a high note instead of being one of those fighters who stayed in past their prime.
Or maybe he needed a change, a new coach. Someone who trained differently. Maybe it would get him out of this lull.
That was the big question he needed to mull over this week. Did he really want to stay in Atlanta, or get a fresh start somewhere else?
As he brought the bottle up to his lips, he scanned the outside patio and his eyes landed on a blonde wearing a blue and white tie-dyed dress that molded to her curves. A knock hit him in the chest as the lady smiled coyly up at a light-haired gentleman and then took a sip of her drink.
Scoffing at his reaction, he forced his eyes to move on. That hadn't been the first time he'd caught a glimpse of a woman who reminded him of Scarlett. Though it surprised him that this one caught his glance. The woman's hair was much lighter and shorter, and the dress was tighter and more revealing than she tended to wear.
Not even a fucking ocean between Scarlett and him made a difference — he was still always hoping to catch a glimpse of her. Pathetic. And yet another reason why he needed to leave Atlanta.
Coveting his best friend's wife was sick on so many levels.
Then a familiar titter reached his ears, and he stiffened. Slowly, he returned his gaze to the corner. The woman had shifted her position, giving him a clear frontal view of way too much tanned legs and cleavage. His hand tightened on the bottle. The reason the woman reminded him of Scarlett was because she was Scarlett — just a spruced up one.
And that Scarlett was not smiling flirtatiously at her husband.
Instinct said to bolt over and intervene. The example of his parents' thirty-seven years of marriage told him not to jump to conclusions. Right now, she wasn't doing anything wrong. Ryan could be in the bathroom, and she was enjoying having a guy show her some interest. That wasn't cheating.
Scarlett laughed at something the man said and laid her left hand on his forearm. Brody's gaze zeroed in on the third finger — the third ringless finger, missing its two-karat diamond encrusted gold wedding ring.
How would he notice that? He'd used that goddamn ring as a constant reminder to keep his hands off her. What the fuck was she doing? Where the hell was Ryan?
"Excuse me," he mumbled to his cousin as he stormed in her direction. She never once took her eyes off the man she was prowling.
That was the only way to interpret her actions. How could she do this to Ryan? The man lived and breathed for her.
As he sidled up beside her, he said, "Hello, Scarlett."
When she turned her head, he expected to see surprise and then instant panic and guilt. Surprise he got in the widening of her blue eyes, but panic and guilt were nowhere to be seen.
"Brody!" She grimaced, rubbed her forehead and muttered a curse under her breath. "So this is the resort where Tessa's getting married."
So she knew about the wedding, which meant Ryan had mentioned it to her. But she didn't seem happy about Brody's presence.
"Were you hoping it was a different one?" he asked flatly, with a scathing glare at the other man, who shuffled back a space. "I was, actually."
Because Ryan had made the plans and conveniently booked a romantic trip at the same resort where his best friend would be staying? That sounded like something Ryan would do, but the lack of a wedding band still didn't fit.
"Where's your husband?" He put emphasis on the last word to get the jerk-off beside her to back up. And it worked.
"Husband?" the other man asked and then held up his hands. "I'm not looking for drama. Sorry. Nice talking to you."
With that, he turned and walked away.
Scarlett whirled on him. "Mind your own damn business, Brody!" "Where's Ryan, Scarlett?"
She crossed her arms tight across her chest and leveled a defiant glare at him, lips pressed tight.
"He's not here, is he?"
An annoyed brow arched midway up her forehead as her mouth pursed even tighter. Who the hell was this woman? Certainly not the one he thought he knew.
"You picked the wrong resort, huh? Now I'm here, and you can't do what you planned, right?"
Again she said nothing, just continued to stare at him with the same angry expression. What the fuck?
"I'm not going to stand back and watch you cheat on my best friend. I don't work that way."
"Bros before hos, right?" Lowering her arms, she let a nasty snarl curl her lip, taking Brody aback. Everything about this was the opposite of the Scarlett he knew.
"Jesus. What's gotten into you?"
"Nothing yet, but I'm searching for it."
The crass innuendo stunned him speechless. Scarlett never acted like this. She was proper to the point of being a prude sometimes. Not that it had ever really bothered him. The way she would blush whenever someone said something risqué had always been so endearing to him.
"You took vows. I thought those meant something to you. You can't cheat on Ryan."
"I can't cheat on Ryan?" She stared at him for a long moment, hands on her hips, then she closed the distance between them until she was right under his nose, looking straight up into his eyes. "Watch me."CHAPTER 2
Scarlett shoved open the door to her room and felt a second of satisfaction as it banged against the wall. Her best friend Delaney charged in after her, slamming it closed with as much force as Scarlett had opened it.
"What the hell happened?" her friend demanded for the twentieth time since she'd been on her way back from the bathroom and seen Scarlett storm out of the themed beach party.
Scarlett loved Delaney, but talking was the last thing she wanted to do at the moment. She wanted to throw something, rage, and have a completely justifiable meltdown. Alone. No witnesses. Just her and her pent-up emotions.
Damn it, she was entitled to one after everything she'd been through, and Brody and his judgmental comments made the need all the more gripping.
You took vows.
Screw you, asshole.
"Hey," Delaney said in a soft voice as she laid a hand on Scarlett's shoulder. "Who's got you this upset?"
She shook off her friend's touch.
Why here? She'd known Brody's sister was getting married this weekend somewhere in the Bahamas, but this wasn't the only highly rated all-inclusive resort. There were many of them. So freaking many of them.
"I don't want to talk about it. I'd really like to be alone, if you don't mind."
A soft scoff sounded behind her. "Not happening. You weren't this angry when you found out that louse of a husband of yours was cheating on you. I'm not leaving you to destroy this room. Now spill it."
Because his cheating hadn't been the worst of his sins against her. There'd been so much more. Years of "more." The cheating had simply freed her from trying to save her marriage. That's what she'd been doing when she planned this romantic Caribbean trip. Instead, she'd found the irrefutable proof of his infidelity.
Scarlett stared out the sliding glass doors at nothing, and laid her palm to her lower belly.
A positive pregnancy test. The bitch had been in her home. Had taken the test in her bathroom. Ryan had been too stupid to cover his tracks.
Who the hell did Brody think he was? He wasn't her keeper. He wasn't the guardian of her marriage. He had no right to interfere with her healing. She itched to grab something, hurl it. She fisted her hands to resist the urge.
Delaney was right. She needed to talk before she did something stupid. Inhaling deeply, she turned around. "Brody's here."
Six feet four inches, two-hundred and forty some odd pounds of disapproving man. Just what she needed.
A slight widening of her eyes was the only indication Delaney was surprised. "And he saw you talking to a guy."
Scarlett gave a sardonic laugh. Well, Delaney had put two and two together pretty fast. Not surprising. Her friend had always been rather intuitive. "You know what Brody had the nerve to say to me after he ran the guy off?"
"I can only imagine."
"He wanted to know how I could do this to Ryan. Said that I couldn't cheat on his best friend."
Delaney grimaced. "Ouch."
"It infuriated me so badly I told him to watch me."
A spurt of laughter came from her friend. "Well that's one way to put him in his place." A serious expression stole over her face as she crossed her arms. "You have to see this from his perspective, though, hon. From his side, I'm sure it didn't look good."
Deep down, she knew she would've jumped to the same conclusion Brody had. Deep down, she knew his reaction wasn't uncalled for. But that was deep down.
Raging on the surface was the insult of him questioning her fidelity to her husband when he had been the one who'd gotten a piece of ass on the side.
"I really don't care how it looked. In fact, I hope he calls Ryan and tells him I'm down here sleeping with men left and right." Her voice cracked, and she clamped her mouth closed because she couldn't voice the rest. It was too humiliating.
I hope that sorry piece of shit understands that other men find me attractive and exciting in bed.
What kind of karma had she put out in the universe to be rewarded with Brody's presence in a time she needed to be away from everything back home?
She deserved this time to herself. She'd done everything right. She'd fought for her marriage, even at her unhappiest, because that was what a married couple was supposed to do. Fight for each other.
Now she was feeling like she had to explain herself? To hell with that. She was here to take back some of the happiness Ryan had stolen from her over the last couple of years.
The first thing she and Delaney had done after checking in was hit the salon. Scarlett needed to update her appearance. It wasn't that she'd let herself go, really, but she hadn't tried very hard, either. The more bad news they'd received, the more distant Ryan had become. Or worse, the more he criticized her in a way she worried she'd never truly bounce back from.
Excerpted from Knocked Out by Love by Abby Niles, Robin Haseltine, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2016 Abby Niles. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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