From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cathryn Fox comes the scorching Blue Bay Crew series, that follows the sexy, blue collar Owens men who take over their family's construction business in the small town of Blue Bay, CT.
Jamie Owens doesn't trust women. Especially not the rich, entitled women looking for a summer fling with a boy from the wrong side of town. But one look at Kylee Jensen in a tiny bikini, and Jamie decides that some rules are made to be broken.
Kylee is tired of being the obedient daughter, and Jamie-shirtless, in a tool belt-is the perfect opportunity to do something for herself, so she hires Blue Bay Construction to work on her cottage. Their hot summer days turn scorching until it's revealed that Kylee has ties to Jamie's dark past, forcing them to decide if their dreams, and their relationship, are worth fighting for.
Leveled is a steamy page turner with sizzling emotional intensity and an ending that will hammer readers' hearts and never let go!
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Trouble in a bikini.
Yeah, that's what I see from my rooftop vantage point. Trouble in a goddamn bikini, and I don't plan to get within fifty feet of a pretty little rich girl like her. Been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it.
I squeeze my fingers around the hammer in my fist, my thoughts racing back to when I was eighteen, specifically to the day I received the shit-kicking of a lifetime. All thanks to a girl no different than the one below me, spread out on her chair without a care in the world as she tans her hot body under the scorching noonday sun.
What I'd do to come face-to-face with my ex's asshole brothers today. Four against one. Yeah, they waited until I was alone and jumped me. Fucking cowards, really. Too afraid of a fair fight, or of facing off against me and my army of brothers. At least I have the satisfaction of knowing I'd broken a few of their noses and cracked a few of their ribs. I can almost hear the bones crunching now.
"Come on, Jamie, you can't tell me you don't want to tap that," my cousin Ryan says as the blonde shades the sun from her eyes and glances at us before climbing from her lounge chair. I'm pretty sure she just gave an extra shake to her sweet ass as she made her way inside her beachside cottage. Cottage? Okay, more like mansion. Whatever. Doesn't make a difference to me, and she can shake her ass all she wants. That's wasted on me too.
I ignore my twitching cock and with the back of my hand I wipe the perspiration from my forehead and turn to glare at Ryan. "Tap that? No fucking way." I shake my head. Christ, of all the guys — my four brothers and three cousins included — Ryan knows my motto better than any of them: Avoid rich pampered women at all costs. Fuck, man, he was the one who found me in the alleyway and picked my broken and bloodied body up off the ground, all because I messed around with the wrong girl.
A sound catches in my throat. Wrong girl? More like a bored little rich girl who spent the summer slumming with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, only to end up accusing me of rape when her father walked in on us. Talk about a shit storm of courts and chaos that followed me around after that.
To think I was so young and naïve — stupid really — the two of us talking about a future together. Christ, I was such a fucking dreamer back then. Even my father would get on my case about it. How many times did I drift off in thought when Dad was teaching me construction techniques? Too many to count, that's for sure. But none of that mattered in the end. After the charges were dropped, I left Blue Bay, my days of dreaming and trusting over, but a dark cloud still hangs over my head here in the town where I grew up.
The long-term summer vacationers, who continue to come back year after year from all over the states, will always treat me like I'm a fucking criminal, and I would have stayed in New Orleans for good if my brother Sean hadn't insisted I return home to help with the business after our dad died. I'm doing my part, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Truthfully, I don't hate it. I had a hammer in my hand before I could fucking talk. We all did. It's just that I prefer the art of tattooing to construction. At least I have my nights and weekends off, and I was able to buy a small space on the other side of town — where the privileged, self-righteous vacationers never venture. Good. I don't need their business, or their support, when I finally get it up and running.
"She's all yours, bro," I say to my cousin Ryan, who'd also returned home at my big brother Sean's insistence. He was a mechanic down in Georgia, but gave it all up in the name of family. "But take my advice, she's got trouble written all over her, and if I were you, I'd stay as far away from her as possible."
He clucks his tongue and grabs another stack of roofing shingles. He sinks to his knees and pulls a few nails from his tool belt. "Yeah, you're probably right. Who needs that kind of shit in their life, anyway?"
"I sure as hell don't," I say. "Not again." But when I hear a loud shriek coming from the neighboring house — the hot blonde's cottage — every muscle in my body tightens.
"What the fuck?" Ryan asks. He stands and walks over to the edge of the roof with me. Shoulder to shoulder, we go still and listen, but when another loud cry sounds, it prompts me in to action.
"Son of a bitch." I kick my leg out and hurry down the ladder. Ryan's boots echo on the metal rungs as he follows, and he stays tight on my heels as we race to the cottage next door. I peer through her screen door, and even though every instinct I have warns me to run the other way, I was raised better than that, and when push comes to shove, it's not in my nature to turn my back on someone who might need my help. Pampered rich girl or not.
"You okay?" I ask from the other side of the door, and count to three as I wait for an answer. When none comes, I exchange a quick look with Ryan and pull on the handle. With my luck I'll probably get accused of breaking and entering, but I yank it open anyway, worry for the girl's well-being gnawing at my gut. The hinges, rusty from the saltwater spray, groan as I stretch them. "Hello," I call out, and step into the house, which smells like coconut suntan lotion — a scent that takes me back to my days in bed with the girl who fabricated a lie that will forever haunt me.
A loud bang, like something — or someone — is being smashed against the wall, reverberates through me, and without thinking I hurry toward the sound, my work boots scuffing on the polished wood floor. But I'm seriously fucking worried she's being attacked, and I'm not about to stop to take my boots off to save her precious oak from getting damaged. I turn the corner, stop at a bedroom to do a quick scan, but all I see is a sewing machine, a dummy with a dress draping off it, and spools of threads and material everywhere. I continue down the hall and stop at the second bedroom. I grip the doorframe and air leaves my lungs in a whoosh when I see what all the commotion is about.
Fuck. Me. Hard.
I want to turn. I should turn. Actually, I should bolt, leave Blue Bay, Connecticut, for good this time, and never look back. But I don't do any of those things. How the fuck could I possibly think of running when I'm staring at the hottest, most gorgeous naked body I've ever set eyes on? Unable to help myself, I give a fast sweep over her nakedness, taking in her long legs, curvy hips, and small breasts that would fit so nicely in my big hands, or better yet, my mouth.
"Jamie," Ryan says, crashing into me, pushing me a little farther into the bedroom. I stumble and quickly right myself, but not before I get a whiff of the girl's scent. I breathe in her sweet floral aroma, and it strokes my thickening dick, teases and tortures my last working brain cell. Why again is it I don't do pampered rich girls?
"Oh, shit, sorry," Ryan says, when he glimpses the girl scrambling for her robe, and my thoughts come crashing back to the present.
This time I do look away, and grab Ryan's shoulders to turn him too. "Sorry," I say quickly. "We heard a scream. I thought you were in trouble. Didn't mean to walk in on you like this."
"I ... it was a spider," she says, her voice as sweet and seductive as the woman herself.
Get your shit together, dude. She's everything you vowed to stay away from.
The whoosh of silk fills the silence as she dresses, and I can't help but envy that robe as it gets to touch her body, shape her curves, slide between her legs.
I'm envying a fucking robe?
"You can turn now," she says quietly.
I slowly inch around, and her blue eyes are wide, alarmed, as her gaze goes from me to Ryan, back to me again. I take a minute to see the situation through her eyes and can understand why she looks so frightened. She's just a tiny thing and both Ryan and I are big men, over six feet and covered in tattoos. We're dressed only in jeans, boots and tool belts, and we're blocking her bedroom doorway. Fuck, if I were her, I'd be scared shitless too. But she has nothing to worry from us. Despite our reputation — poster boys for authority issues — we know right from wrong.
Her gaze leaves mine and travels downward, raking over my bare chest like a hot caress. The fear in her eyes changes to appreciation, and my dick twitches again. Fuck, man, I wish she wasn't looking at me like that. It's making it harder and harder for me, and yeah, when I say harder, I'm talking about my dick. Needing a distraction, I glance away and see shattered glass on her floor.
I clear my throat and hope her gaze stops at my tool belt. No need for her to see my hard-on and get the wrong idea that I might want her. I don't.
"Did you get it?"
"Get what?" she asks, her voice sounding more breathless.
My gaze meets hers again. "The spider."
"Oh." She turns toward the glass. "I hit it with my figurine."
A figurine that probably costs more than I make in a week.
"All right. Everything seems good. Glad you're okay. We'll get out of your way."
I turn, and Ryan is grinning at me. Little fucker knows the girl is getting to me. I give him a shove to set him in to motion, and he walks back into the other room. I'm about to follow when she says, "Can I get you a drink? You look hot ... I mean, it's hot out and you've been on that roof all morning."
I swallow against a dry throat. "No, I'm good."
I nod and walk out to the main room, but Ryan is long gone, leaving the two of us alone. Motherfucker. I'm going to kill him.
"And you are ... ?" she probes.
I scrub my chin again, and as much as I just want to get the hell out of there, I was raised with manners. I know one wouldn't think it to look at me. Christ, I hung out with the toughest bastards in New Orleans, fought alongside the meanest gangs, yet I still don't want to be rude to this girl.
"Nice to meet you, Jamie. Thanks for coming to my rescue."
"Jamie Owens," I say and wait for a reaction, for it to ring a bell. In two seconds I expect a light bulb to go off and her to shove me out the door.
"Kylee Jensen," she says instead.
Guess she doesn't know the Owens boys' reputation. I suppose that shouldn't surprise me. This cottage just sold, and she's new to the area. She's awfully young to own such a big, expensive place on the ocean, though. Either she has a high-paying job, or Daddy bought it for her. I'm going with the latter. And soon enough she'll learn who I am. When all the regular vacationers return next month or so, she'll be warned away from me and won't dare shake her ass at me or invite me into her house again.
Until then, however ...
What the fuck?
Until then, I still plan to avoid her.
I just hope Grandma Nellie doesn't take it upon herself to invite the newcomer to any Sunday dinners. She's been known to do that. If she does, I plan to make myself scarce.
Kylee steps up to me and zeroes in on my sugar skull tattoo. She puts her finger on my body and I flinch. Her eyes go wide again and she pulls her hand back fast.
"Sorry." She shakes her head. "I shouldn't have touched you."
She eyes me for a second, then puts her fingers back on me. Sweet fuck, her fingers are so goddamn warm and soft as she traces the skull tattoo, I can't help but want them on my dick.
"This one is really nice," she says.
"Thanks. I designed it for a client when I owned my shop in New Orleans. Liked it so much, I gave myself one."
Why the fuck am I telling her that?
Her hand drops to her side, and she puts it on her hip. "Wow, a real artist. I'm impressed."
"You should be."
She grins, and despite myself, I grin too. "Modest, I like that," she teases and tightens her robe around her sweet curves. "I almost got a tattoo when I turned eighteen, but my father, the all-powerful Jack Jensen, threatened to disown me."
I nod. "Fathers are protective like that."
She angles her head and her soft curls fall down her slender shoulder. Jesus fuck, what I'd do to twist those long strands around my palm as I fuck her bent over her sofa.
"You sound like you know firsthand."
"I've had a few come into my shop, ready to kill me after inking their daughters. But I don't ink underage girls, and they have to be sober. Still, some fathers want to challenge me."
She frowns, and the deep sadness on her face is like a punch to the gut. What did I say to upset her? And why the fuck does seeing her upset bother me so much?
"That's what my father would have done." She wipes away the sorrow and smiles, but it's forced. Ah, I get it. Daddy issues. All the more reason for me to keep my distance. "He's a bit overprotective." Her big eyes race over my naked chest again.
"There are ways to get around that, you know," I say.
My gaze drops, lingers at the juncture between her thighs. "Places to ink where he'll never see."
What the fuck am I doing?
When my gaze returns to hers, there is a pink flush on her cheeks. It's been a long time since I've seen a girl blush. Damned if it isn't sexy as fuck. She looks over my body again, her eyes questioning.
"What?" I ask.
"I ... uh ... was just wondering ..." She shakes her head. "Nothing. Never mind."
Don't ask, dude. Don't ask. Just leave.
"Just ... where did you put your girl's name?"
I hook my thumbs into my tool belt, needing to restrain my hands before I do something I could only regret later. You know, like pull her to me and see if those lips taste as sweet as they look.
"Nowhere." I don't elaborate, don't tell her ink is permanent and relationships aren't — at least for me they aren't. I'm an Owens. The kind of guy a girl fucks, not one she brings home to Daddy. Especially a protective one like hers.
She toys with the silk belt on her robe. Jesus, one tug and she'd be naked again. "You sure you don't want a drink? It's the least I could do after you ran to my rescue."
"I'm good." Good? No, not really. I got a fucking monster boner, and that's not good at all. I'm all about fucking, just not girls like her. Jesus, man, I need to get back to work and get back to minding my own business before things take a turn for the worse and I act on my fucking urges. Seems to me like she wants me to, though, from the way she's eye fucking me and all and asking if I have a girl. But I'm done with bored women looking to spice up their dull lives with a little danger. I don't trust her, but more importantly, I don't trust myself around her.
"I better get back to work," I say.
"Before you go, can I ... ah ... show you something?"
Yes, please ...
I open my mouth, afraid of what's going to come out — yeah, all the blood is in my dick — but I pinch my lips shut when she points toward the ocean. "I was thinking my back deck needs to be replaced. It's pretty weathered. Hang on." She darts to her kitchen, her sweet ass dragging my focus, and comes back with a piece of paper. "I was thinking something like this."
I take the paper from her and look at the drawing. "You sketched this?"
She nods. "Impressed?"
"You should be."
I can't help but smile. Beautiful and witty. A dangerous combination.
Like I said, trouble in a bikini, and I'd be wise to remember that.
I tug a business card from my back pocket and hand it to her. "My brother
Sean will check it out and give you a quote."
She reads the print, then flicks the card against her hand. "Blue Bay Construction. Concise. To the point. I like that."
Yeah, and I like her.
Fuck me twice.
"Sean will find the right man for the job."
"Oh, I thought you —"
"Busy next door," I say, even though the job is almost done. "But if you want my opinion, I'd go with composite next time. The salt water is a bitch, and you'll end up replacing the wood in another ten years."
"Good plan. Thanks. I'll give your brother Sean a call, or maybe I'll stop in to see him. I have to run to town anyway." I turn to leave, and she says, "See you soon, Jamie."
Not if I fucking see her first.
I stand in the living room, unable to tear my eyes off Jamie Owens — his broad back and perfect ass, to be precise — as he exits through the screen door. He disappears around the corner, out of my line of sight and I suck in a breath to refill my collapsed lungs.
The guy is all rough and tough, so freaking sexy in a tool belt, my knees wobble and my damn ovaries are seconds from exploding. They sure as heck don't make them like that back in Atlanta, and once I go to work in Daddy's law firm come fall, the only men I'll face off against will be wearing suits and ties. Not that there is anything wrong with suits and ties, but shirtless in low-slung jeans and a tool belt, well, that trumps white-collar any day. Honest to God, Jamie is alpha male personified. The antithesis of Trevor Jackson, the suit-andtie guy my father has been trying to set me up with for some time now. I went on a few dates at my father's insistence, but there was no chemistry, no connection, but my father is still pushing him on me — and Trevor has yet to let up. He wants what Dad wants.
Excerpted from "Leveled"
Copyright © 2018 Cathryn Fox.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Jamie,
Chapter Two: Kylee,
Chapter Three: Jamie,
Chapter Four: Kylee,
Chapter Five: Jamie,
Chapter Six: Kylee,
Chapter Seven: Jamie,
Chapter Eight: Kylee,
Chapter Nine: Jamie,
Chapter Ten: Kylee,
Chapter Eleven: Jamie,
Chapter Twelve: Kylee,
Chapter Thirteen: Jamie,
Chapter Fourteen: Jamie,
Chapter Fifteen: Kylee,
Chapter Sixteen: Jamie,
Chapter Seventeen: Kylee,
Chapter Eighteen: Jamie,
About the Author,
Also by Cathryn Fox,