Gemma Ward, an outgoing and strong-willed wedding photographer, goes through men like she goes through thongs, forever looking for a guy who can handle her. She's about given up on love when she meets Declan, the sophisticated father of one of her clients. He's perfect for her, if only she can convince him she's not too young and inexperienced to meet his singularly erotic tastes.
Then, like an answered prayer, Walker Kincaid shows up, looking for a place to stay while he investigates allegations surrounding the death of his SEAL brother, Liam Prescott. If anyone can tutor her in the art of the kind of power play Declan wants, it's Walker, her best friend and partner in crime since high school.
But what starts as friendly lessons in forbidden pleasure soon turns into something more
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"Want to go back to my place before you head back to Charleston?"
I size up the videographer I've spent all morning and half the afternoon flirting with. He's cute in a hipsterish way, with soulful brown eyes behind thick, black-framed glasses, floppy brown hair, what appears to be a well- toned and potentially hot body, and an unmistakable bulge for me in the crotch of his slightly baggy, faded jeans. I waver.
On the one hand, he's not my type. He's younger than I prefer, probably about my age, and in my experience, younger guys don't know how to please me. Or rather, they try too hard to please me, and in the process, they miss the whole point. Probably because I run my own wedding photography business with my two best friends, I don't want to be in charge of everything else too. I want a man who knows what he wants and isn't afraid to take it. And younger guys are way too in touch with their feelings, inevitably wanting to talk about them. Don't get me wrong — I'm all for a guy telling me how he feels. Like, "Baby, your pussy feels so good," when he's buried balls deep inside me, pounding me into oblivion. Call me old- fashioned, but I don't want a sensitive yes-man. I want a guy who'll manhandle me, who's not afraid to rip my panties off and growl in my ear all the wicked things he's going to do to me. Dammit, I want a man who makes me feel like a woman. Unfortunately, if he's out there, I certainly haven't found him.
On the other hand, I do have a few hours to kill before my flight home, and if this guy is bold enough to suggest a random hookup with a girl he just met, maybe he's got some potential. Also, I haven't gotten laid in months, so what have I got to lose? It certainly beats the bar at the airport.
"It's up to you." He turns to finish packing up his booth, which was next to mine at Manhattan's biggest bridal expo. "But I'd love to be balls deep in you instead of knee deep in work." He looks back at me with a cute grin and a wink, and it's a done deal. I love a guy who can talk dirty to me.
"Mmm ... a sweet talker." I roll my eyes, but I'm smiling.
Five minutes later, we're groping each other in a cab, and by the time we get to his high-rise, I'm eager and ready. His apartment is surprisingly nice, and I wonder briefly if I've made a mistake living in Charleston instead of a bigger city like New York or L.A. It might be more lucrative, but then I wouldn't have my own business, which I love, or my two best girlfriends, McKenzie and Charlotte, whom I love even more.
He takes me by the hand and leads me into his bedroom, closing the door before pushing me up against it and leaning in for a kiss. We kiss hungrily, our lips grinding together with the fervor of barely contained lust. He slips his tongue in my mouth, and I suck it enthusiastically before biting his bottom lip.
"Ow!" He pulls away.
"Oh my God. I'm so sorry. Are you okay?" Is he bleeding? I look at his lip, but it seems to be fine.
"Yeah. You just caught me off guard, I think." He touches his lip gingerly with his forefinger before looking back at me with a slow smile. "Be gentle with me."
I laugh as I lean back in, close enough to feel his breath. He's a funny guy. "Tell me what you want." My voice is a seductive whisper as I run my hands up his back.
"Um. I thought we were going to have sex."
"Well, yeah. But tell me how. Tell me what you want to do. Talk dirty to me."
He hesitates for a second, and then he feathers kisses up my jaw to my ear, grasping the lobe between his teeth and sucking lightly. "I want to fuck you," he whispers in my ear.
Now that's more like it! I thread my fingers through his hair. "How are you going to fuck me?"
He pulls back and looks at me with confusion in his brown puppy-dog eyes. "In the vagina, I guess."
Is he fucking serious?
"Look, maybe this was a mistake," I say.
"No!" He pulls me toward the bed. "I can make you feel so good, baby." He kisses me again, his lips soft, and I slowly relax into the kiss. He smiles at me as he pulls away and then grabs the hem of my dress and pulls it over my head, tossing it onto the bed. His eyes are hot as he takes in my cleavage in the lacy, black Victoria's Secret bra I'm wearing. He runs a finger reverently over the top swell of my breast. "You are a goddess," he breathes. He fumbles with the back of my bra, finally managing to unclasp it, and it falls to the floor as I lift my eyes to meet his. His gaze is fixated on my chest, but he doesn't make a move to touch me. The air-conditioned room is cool, and my nipples tighten, aching for his hands on them.
"C-can I touch you?"
I roll my eyes. "Of course. It's kind of hard to have sex without touching."
He chuckles. "True." He grabs my breast and squeezes it rhythmically, as if he's milking a cow.
"Squeeze my nipple," I say, my voice guttural.
He grasps it between his forefinger and thumb and exerts the slightest amount of pressure. When I arch into him, he squeezes a little harder and I moan.
"Oh, sorry. I got carried away."
Before I can assure him it was more than okay, and in fact, he could squeeze a little harder, he quickly strips out of his clothes and then wraps his arms around me, kissing me softly again. I have to admit, he is a pretty good kisser. Without breaking the kiss, he eases me onto the bed, his long, lean body over mine as he pulls my panties off. He slips a finger into me and starts pumping in and out. I could use a little more preamble, but I focus on my favorite fantasy — the one where my hands are pinned above my head as a faceless but commanding guy with killer abs owns me with nothing but his mouth. Just when I'm starting to get into it, he pulls his finger out and rolls over to grab a condom from the nightstand drawer next to him. He rips open the wrapper and quickly rolls it onto his cock, which is a little on the small side, but adequate enough, provided he knows what to do with it.
I encircle him with my hand, stroking a few times before guiding him into me.
"Oh, baby, you feel amazing." His face is wreathed in smiles as he thrusts into me several times. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about him. I barely feel anything! After a few more minutes, I decide it's time to change tactics. "Fuck me from behind," I whisper.
"Um ... sure." He pulls out, and the problem is instantly apparent. His cock is only half erect, looking sort of pathetic encased in the condom.
He looks at me apologetically. "Mr. Peen doesn't like condoms."
I stare at him blankly. "Who?"
"My dick. My main man. He doesn't like to be restrained. He likes to be free."
"Well, that's not an option," I say flatly.
"Of course not," he says quickly. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that." He pulls the condom off. "But maybe you could ...you know ..." He gestures at his limp dick.
"Give you a blow job?"
He sighs with relief. "Yeah. That might help."
The thought of taking his spermicide-flavored dick in my mouth is slightly repulsive, and I hesitate, trying to choose my words carefully. Although why the hell I care is beyond me. This is clearly not going to be the fuck I was hoping for. I sigh. Unfortunately, they never are. But this one will go down in the books as one of the top ten worst.
"Or, maybe I could, you know, go down on you if you'd rather?"
"Sure. Why not?"
He plants himself between my thighs and takes a deep breath, then starts lapping at me like a dog with a licking problem. "I'm going to get so dirty with you," he mutters.
A martini at the bar at LaGuardia would be a hell of a lot dirtier, and definitely more satisfying, than this, but I figure I'll give him one last chance. I close my eyes and focus on my fantasy. In my mind, my faceless guy is opening my thighs like he owns them, his fingers parting me as his tongue teases me ever so gently before ...
I'm vaguely aware of the door opening, and then an audible gasp.
He jumps up guiltily.
"Mom! What are you doing home?"
"Mom?" Horrified, I stare at the well-dressed, chic-looking woman with perfectly coiffed blond hair standing in the doorway, the shock on her face mirroring mine. Then she clears her throat and visibly relaxes her features into a cool mask of studied nonchalance. "I was going to see if you wanted dinner, but it appears you've already eaten."
The door closes again with a soft click, and time seems to stop as he and I stare at each other for a long minute. Fuck. My. Life.
Time resumes, and I scramble off the bed, grabbing my clothes from the floor.
"Wait. You don't have to go," he says.
"Oh, yes. Yes, I do. You still live with your mom?" I can't keep the disbelief, or the disdain, from my voice. "How old are you?" I demand.
"Twenty-four. I could get my own place, but New York is expensive. I'd have to live in a studio apartment!" He says it like it's a fate worse than death. "It works for me living at home."
"Right. I can see that." Taking my clothes, I go into the luxurious bathroom and close the door, locking it firmly. I have to get out of here. And I am never, ever going to date again. Or have sex. I'm going to devote myself to work and building my business and spending time with my friends, and one day, I'll buy a house and get some cats and an epic collection of sex toys. I'm used to taking care of my orgasms myself anyway, since no guy seems to be able to get me off. I'd thought it was a flaw, but with my new no-dating plan, it's actually evolutionary genius.
When I emerge from the bathroom, he's lying on the bed naked, his cock once again standing at attention, and I wonder if he's been stroking himself while I was in the bathroom.
"How about that blow job before you go?"
"Are you fucking serious?"
He scrambles to a sitting position, his cock slowly wilting. "Maybe?" He gives me that lopsided grin of his again, and it takes every ounce of self- control not to deck him. Or burst into tears. Without saying another word, I turn, open the door, and march out of the bedroom. His mother is sitting on the sofa with a glass of wine in her hand, speaking on the phone in a hushed voice. She stops talking when she notices me.
"Sorry I can't stay for dinner, but I'm stuffed." I grab my bag and portfolio from the hallway with as much dignity as I can muster. Holding my head high, I march out of the apartment.
It's almost midnight when I let myself into the downtown Charleston apartment I share with my best friend McKenzie. My flight back was uneventful, but after this afternoon's fiasco, I'm just glad to be home. The apartment is dark, not surprisingly, since McKenzie has been in the Philippines for the last ten days. Ever since her brother Liam died a few months ago on a Navy SEAL mission, Kenzie's been gone more than she's been home. Always a daredevil who believed in living life on the edge and to the fullest, Liam had left behind the ambitious and unfinished bucket list he'd kept since he was little, and McKenzie has thrown herself into methodically checking everything off the list as if her life depends on it ... or like it will somehow bring Liam back. Or keep her from falling apart. Liam was the only family she had left, and I've wondered if the bucket list is just a way to distract herself so she doesn't have to deal with the fact that he's gone.
Kenzie and Liam were close, and I know it's her way of dealing with her grief and feeling closer to him, but some of the stuff on that list is crazy. And if I think it's crazy, it's crazy! Of the three of us — me, Kenzie, and Charlotte — I'm the one who will take any dare, the one who likes to push the boundaries, not McKenzie. Prone to panic attacks, she's always been the careful and cautious one, afraid of what might lie around the corner.
Not that I blame her. Caring for a sick parent for years and then having both of your parents die within six months of each other when you're in high school, one from a long battle with cancer, definitely changes a person. And now Liam ...
Of course, she has me and Charlotte. The three of us have been best friends since our sophomore year at Wake Forest, and after we graduated, we decided to open our own wedding business — Tying the Knot. With McKenzie's design skills, my talent for photography, and Charlotte's ability to organize everyone and everything, we're a good team, and we're quickly building a reputation for ourselves in the business. But we're more than business partners; we're family.
However, Kenzie's made it clear the bucket list is something she has to do on her own, and someone has to keep the business running while she's busy traveling the globe. So far, in addition to sailing around the Philippines and diving in Malaysia, she's jumped off a waterfall in Costa Rica and spent a crazy weekend in Las Vegas, although Charlotte and I did tag along for that one. We couldn't let her have that much fun without us!
I frown, remembering her trip to Costa Rica. It was the very first thing on Liam's list that she tackled, and she was caught in the middle of some sort of gun battle while she was there. She shrugged it off, certain she'd just been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but something about it niggled at me, and I finally asked Walker to look into it, just to be sure. Always a badass and now a certified card-carrying one with the Navy SEALs, my best friend Walker has been fixing things for me since high school. If anyone can get to the bottom of it, he can.
I realize I haven't heard from him since I called him a couple of weeks ago to talk to him about McKenzie, but that's not all that unusual. Although we used to be practically joined at the hip during high school (at least when he wasn't with one of the endless line of bimbos attracted to his bad-boy good looks), we haven't seen each other regularly since he went to BUD/S training and I won an art scholarship to Wake Forest. Since then, I don't think there's been a time we haven't had an entire continent between us, if not an ocean or two, since he's frequently deployed to the Middle East with his special forces team.
I smile to myself. Who knew the boy who was failing out of school when I met him would one day become a platoon leader in the most elite branch of the military? Well, I did. But I was probably the only one, and I'm still incredibly proud of him, even if I'm not surprised.
I don't have to talk to Walker every day, or even every week, to know that we're solid. He will always be my best friend. No one else knows me better, other than maybe McKenzie and Charlotte. Still, he doesn't usually let more than a few weeks go by without checking on me, and when he's in the States, I text him almost every day, even if it's just to tell him the crazy, random stuff going on in my life. I've always joked that he's my guardian angel. He's even responsible for me meeting McKenzie and Charlotte. Freshman year at a fancy school like Wake was hard for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks like me, and I hadn't made many friends.
Walker and Liam had become friends during BUD/S training, and when Walker found out Liam's sister also went to Wake Forest and was looking for a second roommate sophomore year, he introduced us and the rest was history. Last year, the five of us — me, Walker, McKenzie, Liam, and Charlotte — even went on vacation together. I like how all my friends are connected. They make up for the family I never had. My mom doesn't really count. She's always been far more interested in her man du jour than her daughter.
I make a mental note to call Walker tomorrow and see what he's found out. I lock the front door behind me, kicking my shoes off and dumping my bags on the floor of the living room. I don't bother turning on the lights. All I want is a shower and bed. Everything else can wait until tomorrow. I wouldn't even shower, except I have the overwhelming urge to scrub every last reminder of my horrible encounter with the videographer away so I can pretend it didn't happen.
I reflect on my sad love life as the bathroom fills with steam. All I've ever wanted is a man who could handle me, who wouldn't bow to the take-charge attitude I've had to cultivate to survive and thrive, who could be stronger than me, who could appreciate my strength while stripping me of it, allowing me to hand the reins over to someone else, if only for a short time. A man I could trust unequivocally, who would take me in his arms and say, "I've got you, baby," and really mean it.
But no one's come close. And I'm tired of looking, tired of being disappointed.
Excerpted from "Renegade"
Copyright © 2017 Brynley Blake.
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.
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