From the author of the New York Times bestselling Bad Boys novels comes the first in a dark, sexy contemporary trilogy.
Is she strong enough to trust the most dangerous man she’s ever met? And is he strong enough to let her?
How would I describe myself? Well, I’m Muse Harper. I’m a twenty-something painter who loves red wine, quirky movies, and men with a fatal flaw. But that was before I met Jasper King. He became my fatal flaw. Eight months ago, I had a choice to make—abandon everything I’ve ever known to protect my family, or stay and risk someone getting hurt. I chose the former. My plan was working just fine until I found out my father had gone missing.
That’s when I met Jasper. A bounty hunter with the eyes of a tiger and the nose of a bloodhound, he was supposed to help me find my father. What I didn’t know was that meeting him was no accident. Hunting people isn’t all that Jasper does. And helping me was only part of his plan. I just wish I’d found out sooner, before my heart got involved. But even then, I don’t know if I’d have done things differently.
Now, I have another choice to make—trust the man that I’m falling in love with and hope that he’ll do the right thing, or run as far away from him as I can get.
About the Author
C. J. Bloom is an actress and voice-over artist. She can be heard on commercials, video games, and promos. C. J. comes to narration with a passion for performance along with the capability to span several genres, from romance to children's literature and thrillers.
Joe Arden's narration has been described as "sensual," "sexy," and "hot." His recordings range from sweet and romantic to steamy and raw. In his spare time, Joe raises and trains rescue pitbulls and restores vintage motorcycles.
Read an Excerpt
Seventeen years ago
“What’s he gonna do, Mom?” I try to wriggle away from her, but she holds me too tight. I feel like something bad’s gonna happen, but I don’t know why. “Maybe I can make him not be mad. Let me go!”
“Shhh, baby. It’ll be okay. You have to stay here with me or he’ll take you, too.”
My heart’s beating so hard it hurts, like it did that time when Mikey Jennings punched me in the chest. Not even my mother’s arms around me makes the pain go away, and her hugs usually make everything better.
My eyes water as I stare out the window. I can’t blink. I’m afraid to. I don’t want to see what Dad’s going to do to my older brother, Jeremy, but I can’t look away either.
The longer I watch, the less I can move, like my feet are glued to the floor and my arms are strapped to my sides. It feels like I can’t even breathe. I can only stare at the cold, gray water and the two shapes moving closer to it.
I see Jeremy’s fingers clawing at my dad’s hand where it pulls him by his hair. It’s not doing him any good, though. Dad isn’t letting go. Jeremy’s feet sometimes drag along the ground, his ratty tennis shoes kicking up mud and grass, but my father never slows down. I can tell by the way his other fist is balled up that he’s mad. Madder than usual, maybe.
Jeremy got in trouble at school again today. They called Dad at work instead of Mom, so she didn’t even know until Dad brought Jeremy home. By then it was too late.
“No kid of mine’s gonna act like a monster. There’s something wrong with you, boy,” Dad was saying when they walked through the door. Jeremy was in front of him. Dad pushed him so hard, my brother fell and slid across the kitchen floor.
There really is something wrong with Jeremy. The doctor said so. He said Jeremy needed medicine, but Dad doesn’t care. It just makes him mad, makes him lose his temper with Jeremy even more.
I was standing at Mom’s side when Dad stopped in front of her. He put his finger in her face until it almost touched her nose. His eyes were that red color all around the edges like they are when he’s getting ready to whip Jeremy. “You’d better hope this little shit doesn’t turn out the same way.” He slapped me in the side of the head when he said it. It made my ear sting like a bee got me, but I didn’t even say “ouch.” I didn’t say anything. I knew better than to open my mouth. “One’s enough.”
Dad went and grabbed Jeremy by the back of his shirt, pulled him up to his feet and threw him out the kitchen door. Jeremy fell again, but that didn’t stop Dad. He followed him into the yard.
“Get up, you worthless little asshole,” he yelled. There was something not good in Jeremy’s eyes when he looked up. Then I saw him spit on Dad’s work boots. I knew he shouldn’t have done that. I knew it even more when Dad kicked him in the ribs. Now we’re watching my older brother get dragged away for punishment.
Rather than stopping at the old stump that he bends Jeremy over to whip him, Dad keeps walking right out into the lake. He doesn’t even stop at the edge.
My eyes hurt while I watch, but I can’t close them. Something about this time looks different. Feels different. Something about the hot tears streaming down my face tells me that this time is different.
Dad’s boots splash through the shallow water. He drags my brother behind him like he does a bag of trash when he’s loading up the truck to go to the dump. Jeremy falls and gets back up, falls and gets back up. He’s fighting for real now. He’s kicking and hitting. I see his mouth open wide like he’s screaming, but I can’t hear it. The only thing I can hear is my heartbeat. It’s like drums in my ears, it’s so loud.
Dad stops when the water is up to his waist. He pulls Jeremy to him. I see his face from the side, my father’s. It’s so red it looks purple. Veins are standing out all down his neck. My brother’s face is almost white, like he’s wearing ghost Halloween makeup. His eyes are dry, though. He stopped crying over the stuff Dad does to him a long time ago.
Dad yells something at Jeremy, his mouth stretching so wide it looks like he could eat him. Like a snake, just swallow him whole. Jeremy just stares up at him with his pale face. Dad shakes my brother hard enough to make his head snap back, and then he dunks him under the water.
I suck in a breath. I’ve never seen Dad do this before, no matter how mad he gets at Jeremy. Something in my chest burns while I watch Dad hold him under, like I can’t breathe either. Like air is stuck in there, burning. Just like I’m stuck in here. Hurting.
I taste salt from my tears. I lick them away, ashamed to be crying. Something starts pecking the top of my head. A wet trail, like snail slime, slides down the side of my face. I wipe it away and look at my hand. It’s just water. Warm water.
Tears. But not my tears. They’re Mom’s.
I count. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi. I wonder how long Jeremy can hold his breath. My head feels like it might explode.
Four Mississippi, five Mississippi, six Mississippi.
Air and sound push past my tight throat to make a weird garbled scream. It lands in the quiet room like a crack of thunder. It’s the only noise I make. It’s the only noise I can make.
I watch Jeremy’s hands, beating against my dad’s wrist. Dad never budges, though, never lets up. His arm is straight and ruthless, holding my only brother under the water.
Mom’s arms squeeze me tighter. It’s getting even harder to breathe.
Seven Mississippi, eight Mississippi, nine Mississippi.
I count, even though time stopped moving. When I get to twenty Mississippi, I start over at one, start over for Jeremy, to give him more breath. To give him another chance. But he doesn’t use it. He can’t. His time already ran out. Like his breath did. I know it when I see his hands drop away. They fall into the water and float, like there’s nobody attached to them. Like my brother just . . . left.
Dad lets him go. Sort of pushes him out into the deeper water. Jeremy just drifts there, like he’s playing dead. Like he used to do when Mom took us swimming on summer afternoons when our father was at work.
I don’t watch Dad walk out of the lake. I don’t watch him walk across the yard. I don’t even look up when he walks through the back door. I just watch Jeremy, waiting for him to move, waiting for him to wake up.
“Get your purse. We’re going out to eat. The boys can have a sandwich here.”
Boys? Does that mean Jeremy’s okay?
I start toward the door, but Mom grabs me. “Jasper, be a good boy and get my purse for me, sweetie. It’s beside the front door.”
Her eyes are different. They look scared and they make me scared, so I just go get her purse and bring it to her like she asked. When I hand it to her, she takes it and pulls me against her. I feel her arms shaking and when she lets me go, she’s crying. But she’s smiling, too, like she’s not supposed to cry. None of us are supposed to cry.
“You sit right there in front of the television, okay? Don’t you move a muscle.” Her voice is warning me about something. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m afraid. She’s afraid, too.
I turn on cartoons and sit on the couch until I hear Dad’s truck start. When I do, I get up and run as fast as I can, through the kitchen, out the back door and across the yard toward the lake.
It’s raining now and the grass is slick. I fall twice before I can get to the edge of the water. When I do, I holler at my brother.
“Jeremy!” He doesn’t move. He just floats on the surface like my green turtle raft does. “Jeremy!”
I look back at the house and then back to my brother. I know nobody can help me. Nobody will stand up to my dad. Not even my mom. If I don’t help Jeremy, he’ll die.
My hands are shaking and my knees feel funny when I step into the water. It’s so cold it stings my skin, like when I fell off my sled last winter and snow went up my pants leg. I couldn’t get it out fast enough. It was so cold it almost burned. But this time, I keep going no matter how much it hurts.
When the water is up to my chin and my teeth are chattering so hard I bite my lip, I think about turning back. Jeremy is so far away, I can barely see him and I can’t catch my breath enough to holler for him.
“J-J-Jer—” I try again.
I paddle out farther. My arms and legs weigh so much I can hardly move them through the water. It’s like trying to run in cold, thick soup. I fight to keep my chin up, gulping down the water that laps into my mouth.
I swim and swim and swim, watching the back of Jeremy’s head until he’s close enough for me to touch. It’s raining harder now. Big, fat drops are splattering on the back of my brother’s neck, and it’s running down my forehead and into my eyes.
I grab a handful of his dark hair and raise Jeremy’s face out of the water. His eyes are open, but they aren’t looking at me. They’re looking at something else, something I can’t see. I take his arm. It’s cold and feels kind of like that fish Dad brought home and made Jeremy skin.
My stomach hurts and my eyes burn. I feel like somebody’s squeezing me around the middle, squeezing me so hard I can’t even cry.
I take my big brother’s hand and I pull him toward me, toward shore. He floats pretty easy, so I swim a little and tug, swim a little and tug.
After a while, it gets harder and harder to move, harder and harder to keep my face above the water. The shore, the grass, the back door of my house . . . they’re all getting farther away, not closer. I’m scareder than I’ve ever been before. Even scareder than that time Jeremy made me watch The Evil Dead.
Jeremy seems heavy now, like he’s trying to drag me down every time I pull on him. “Swim, Jer, swim,” I mumble through a mouthful of water. “Please.”
I go under. When I try to scream for help I know won’t come, water goes down my throat. I try to cough, but I can’t. There’s no air.
I can see light above me and I use my heavy arms and legs to crawl toward it. When I finally get my face out of the water, I grab for my brother’s hand. I hold on to it tighter than I’ve ever held on to anything before, even my favorite G.I. Joe soldier.
I paddle as fast and as hard as I can, pulling Jeremy behind me until I can touch the squishy bottom of the lake. I pull and tug and drag me and Jeremy to the shallowest part of the water and I roll him over.
His lips are blue and his face is still so white. But it’s his eyes that scare me the most. They don’t look like he’s awake. But they don’t look like he’s asleep either. They sorta look like mine feel—scared. Like he saw something that made him want to hide, but he didn’t get away fast enough and now he’s just . . . froze.
I shake his shoulders. I scream my brother’s name. I cry even though I don’t want to.
I give in and pound on his chest. I know that if he gets up, he’ll punch me in the back of the leg until I say “uncle,” but I don’t care. I just want him to get up. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t get up. He doesn’t move at all. He just slides in the mud until he’s back in the water.
I try to reach for him, but my feet slip and I almost fall in. That scares me so bad I scream my head off. I can’t go back in. I won’t come back out if I go in the water again. I just know it.
Don’t make me go back in! Don’t make me go!
But what about Jeremy? What about my brother?
I cry as quiet as I can as he floats away from me again. I watch his white ghost face until the only thing I can see is black. And nothing else.
I shake out the three-hundred-dollar sweater I just folded for the third time and I start over. Somehow keeping my fingers busy seems to calm my brain. It gives me something to think about other than the man I’m waiting on and how worried I am about taking this step.
When the icy blue cashmere is folded perfectly—for the fourth time—I lay it on top of the others in the stack and check the time on my phone again.
“It’s almost noon, damn it!” I mutter, as if my friend Tracey Garris can hear me all the way across town. She’s the one who knows this guy. I should’ve gotten more information from her, but she was in a rush this morning and she’s in a meeting now, so I’m stuck waiting. Information-less. I only know what she muttered so briefly before she hung up, something about a guy coming by and his name being Jasper King.
I let out a growl of aggravation and grab another sweater, flicking it open with enough force to cause one sleeve to snap against the table like a soft crack of thunder. For some reason, I feel a little better for having taken out a bit of my frustration on something, even if that something is an innocent piece of very pricey material.
Rather than climbing right back onto a ledge of frustration, I purposely tune out everything except the words of the song playing overhead, “If I Loved You.” It always reminds me of Matt, the guy I left behind. The guy who should’ve hated seeing me leave. The guy who would’ve hated seeing me leave if he’d loved me like I wanted him to. But he didn’t. He let me go. Easily. And now, even after eight long months, it still makes my heart ache to think of him.
I don’t shy away from the pain. In some twisted way, I bask in it. Like most artists, I welcome all kinds of emotions. Good or bad, they inspire me. They color my life and my work like strokes of tinted oil on pristine white canvas. They make me feel alive. Sometimes broken, but still alive.
After I finish the sweater, I move through the store, lost in thoughts of my ex and how much it hurt to say good-bye. I’m straightening a rack of ties when the chime over the door signals the arrival of a customer. I catch movement in my peripheral vision and absently throw a polite greeting in that direction. “Welcome to Mode: Chic,” I say, feeling both resentful and relieved at the interruption.
I get no response, so with a deep sigh I even up the last row of ties and smooth my vest before turning to find my visitor. When my eyes settle on the interloper, all thoughts of Matt and the past and every trouble in the world melt away for the time it takes me to regain my breath.
A man is standing behind me. I didn’t hear him approach, didn’t smell cologne or soap, didn’t sense the stir of the air. He was just coming through the door one second and looming right behind me the next.
He’s tall, very tall, and dressed in black from head to toe. Other than his lean, dramatically V-shaped physique, that’s all I notice about his body. It’s his face that captivates me. From an artist’s standpoint, he reminds me of a bronze sculpture, something strong and ancient that was carved by the talented hands of Michelangelo or Donatello, Bernini or Rodin. From a woman’s standpoint, he’s simply breathtaking.
His face is full of angles and hollows—the ridge of his brow, the slice of his nose, the edge of his cheekbones, the square of his chin. Even his lips are so clearly defined that I find myself wanting to stare at them, to reach up and touch them. Find out if they’re real. If he’s real. But it’s his eyes that I finally get stuck on. Or maybe stuck in. They’re pale, sparkling gold, like a jar of honey when you hold it up to the sun. And they’re just as warm and sticky, trapping me in their delicious depths.
Despite all my worries, worries that have consumed me for several days now, I am only aware of the raw, primal power that radiates from him like heat from a fire. He doesn’t have to say a word, doesn’t have to move a muscle to exude confidence and capability. And danger. Lots and lots of danger.
I don’t know how long I’ve been staring at him when I become aware of his lips twisting into the barest of smiles. It’s minimally polite, but somehow anything more would seem a betrayal of the intensity that oozes from his every pore. The tiny movement is potent, though, and I feel it resonate within every one of my female organs like the echo of a drumbeat in the depths of a hollow cave. God, he’s gorgeous.
As much as I enjoy the rubbery feel of my legs, the tingly fizz in my stomach, I pull myself out of the moment. Not necessarily because I want to, but more because I have to. I’m at work. Men don’t come in here to be ogled. They come in here to be outfitted.
Unless they come here to see me. The thought hits me like a slap. Could this possibly be the bounty hunter Tracey was telling me about?
“Pardon me,” I eventually manage, taking a step back as reality and worry and purpose crash back into my mind in a multi-colored tidal wave. “How may I help you today?”
Dark head tilts. Tiger eyes narrow. Silence stretches long.
I wait, part of me hoping this is the man who will help me, part of me praying he’s not.
When he finally speaks, it’s with a voice that perfectly mirrors what he physically projects—dark intensity, quiet danger. “I need to be measured for a suit.”
I let out a slow breath, oddly more disappointed than relieved. “I can do that for you.” I take yet another step away, clasping my hands together behind me, determined to find some equilibrium in his presence. I glance at Melanie, the other person working the store today. She’s the owner’s daughter and for the fourth hour straight, I find her holding down the chair behind the cash register, typing into her phone. I should probably tell her that I’ll be in the back getting measurements, but I obtusely decide to let her figure that out for herself when she can’t find me. It won’t take her long to realize I’m gone when someone else comes in and I’m not out here to do her job for her. “This way,” I say, turning toward the rear of the store.
All business now, I ask questions as I make my way toward the dressing rooms. Even though his rich, velvety voice warms my belly, I find it easier to concentrate when I can’t see the man following quietly along behind me. He answers all my queries politely, seemingly oblivious to the way he affects me.
I take him to the larger dressing room, the one with a platform that rests in the center of a crescent of mirrors. It has enough space for a desk and computer to one side, so we use this room to measure for tailored clothing. That and for special fittings like bridal parties and other groups.
I glance to my left as we enter the scope of the mirrors. My gaze falls immediately on the figure behind me. I look quickly away, but not before I notice the lithe way he moves. With the fluidity of the jungle cat his eyes remind me of.
Like a tiger. Surefooted. Silent. Deadly.
Without turning, I sweep my arm toward the dais. “If you’ll stand there, I’ll get the tape and be right with you.” I don’t doubt that he’s following my instruction, even though he doesn’t respond. I still can’t hear him, still can’t even detect a disturbance in the air, but now I can feel him, as though my body has become perfectly attuned to his within the five minutes he’s been in the shop. It’s beyond ridiculous, but it’s the absolute truth. I’ve never been more aware of a man before. Ever.
I busy myself gathering the cloth tape, a small notepad and a pencil, doing my best to keep my mind on the task at hand until I’m able to control my thoughts to a small degree. Those wayward thoughts scatter and my mouth goes bone-dry when I turn and see him standing on the platform, muscular arms hanging by his sides, long, thick thighs spread in a casual stance. It’s not his posture that catches me off guard. It’s his eyes. Those intense, penetrating eyes of his. He’s watching me like a hunter watches prey. I feel them stripping me bare, asking all my secrets, exposing all my weaknesses.
“Ready when you are,” he murmurs, startling me from my thoughts.
“Right, right. Okay,” I say, dragging my gaze from his and focusing on his body. As disconcerting as it is to appraise him so openly, it’s not nearly as disturbing as eye contact, so I go with it.
As I take him in, I realize that he’s a magnificent male specimen. I’d wager that his dimensions are perfect for every kind of clothing, from formal to sleepwear. And, dear God, I can only imagine what a striking figure he’d make in a tuxedo. He’d look like a model. For guns, maybe. Or bourbon. Something dangerous and thrilling or smooth and intoxicating.
I clear my throat as I approach, careful of my feet as I step up to stand beside him. I sense his eyes on me as I move, making me feel clumsy and slightly off balance.
I lay the pad of paper on the thin podium to my right and I clamp the pencil between my teeth as I stretch the tape out straight. With movements that I’m relieved to find swift and sure, I measure his neck and over-arm shoulder width, his chest and arm length. I jot down the numbers then make my way to his waist, cursing the fine tremor of my hand when my knuckles brush his hard abdomen.
I note his measurements, mathematical proof of the flawless way he’s put together. What I don’t write down are things that no numbers could convey. I don’t need to. They’ll be seared in my brain for all eternity, I think.
Wide, wide shoulders, the kind a girl can hang on to when she’s scared. Strong, steely arms, the kind that can sweep a woman off her feet. Long, hard legs, the kind that can tirelessly chase down what he wants.
It’s when I get to his inseam that things get . . . tense. Surprisingly, despite all the other worries that hover at the back of my mind, I can’t overlook the heaviness that presses against the back of my hand as I measure. My belly contracts with a pang of desire that rockets through me. Good Lord almighty!
I snap into a standing position, turning away to write down the last of his measurements before he can see the blush that heats my face. Normally, I’d love all these “feels,” but not now. Not today. Not like this. It seems like a betrayal.
Without another word or glance, I take my pad and step off the platform, moving to the computer to enter them into a New Client form. My pulse settles more and more the longer I keep my eyes to myself. “What’s your name, sir? I’ll set up a profile for your order.” Still, I don’t glance back at him. I keep my gaze glued to the lighted screen.
“King,” he replies, his voice so close that I jump involuntarily. I don’t turn when I feel his hulking presence behind me; I just stiffen.
I type in the name. It’s as I’m hitting ENTER that it clicks. King. The last name of the bounty hunter Tracey told me about.
I whirl to face him, ready to pin him with an accusing stare, but I stop dead when I see that he’s not looking at me. He’s looking down at what he’s holding. Between his fingers is the pencil that was stuck between my teeth. I can see the tiny bite marks as he rubs over each one.
I watch him move his thumb over the indentions, gently, slowly. Back and forth, like an intimate caress. It’s hypnotic. Erotic. A fist clenches low in my core, causing me to inhale sharply at the sensation. It feels as though he’s rubbing me with those long fingers. Touching me, arousing me. It’s so physical, so tangible, so real that I have to reach back to steady myself against the edge of the desk.
“What sharp teeth you have,” he says quietly, Big Bad Wolf–style. When he glances up at me, his eyes are a dark and serious amber. “Do you bite?”
“No,” I whisper. “Do you?”
“Only if you ask nicely.”
I watch her lush lips part, her breathing already shallow. She’s off-kilter. Just the way I like. “Are you Tracey’s friend?” she asks, finding a coherent thought and clinging to it.
“I am,” I reply, reaching around her to lay the pencil on the desk. The action brings my face to within an inch of hers and our arms brush. I hear the soft gasp of her inhalation.
“Why didn’t you just tell me? You didn’t have to pretend to be a customer.”
Anger. It rushes in to clear away the cobwebs. I can see it in the way her sleepy green eyes start to flash like two fiery emeralds.
“I wanted a few minutes alone with you before you went on guard. Like you are now.”
“Why? Am I being interviewed or something? I thought I was the one hiring you.”
“You are. But I like to know who I’m working for when I take a job like this.”
While the look on her face says she doesn’t approve of my tactic, she’s too curious to let it go. “And?”
“And what did you find out? What do you think you figured out about me in ten minutes of silence?”
I hold her gaze for long, quiet seconds before I speak. I sense how uncomfortable it makes her. I’m used to it. Such directness makes most people uncomfortable, but that doesn’t stop me. Keeping others off balance is always a benefit to me. “I don’t need to interrogate you to learn things about you. Being with you is enough.”
“Yeah, right,” she scoffs, trying for casual.
“For instance, you’re a hard worker who takes her job seriously, even though I don’t think it’s really the job you want to be working. You’re good at this, but you’re not quite at home here, which tells me that this isn’t permanent. You looked sad and distracted when I came in, like you might be missing someone. Maybe that is where home is. And then there’s the fact that you’re trying to hire me. I’d say that accounts for the worried frown I keep seeing between your eyebrows.”
Her mouth drops open for a few seconds before she snaps it shut. “Is that all?” she asks sarcastically, pulling her vest tighter around her middle like she feels naked. I’m used to that, too. No one likes to feel exposed, like their secrets aren’t theirs to keep anymore.
“No, that’s not all, but I doubt you want to hear the rest.”
She eyes me warily for a few seconds before she raises her chin, eyes locked bravely onto mine. “Of course I do.”
She’s courageous. Ballsy. I like that.
“Well, just off hand you have a good eye for color, which makes me think you’re artistic. Artists are usually very . . . emotional. I’d say that when you’re not consumed with concern you have a tendency to throw yourself into the way you feel regardless of potential outcomes.”
“You can’t possibly know that.”
“I can. And I do. Just like I know you wash your hair in something that contains lilac.” Her eyes widen, but she says nothing so I continue, leaning in ever so slightly. “And then there’s the fact that you’re attracted to me. You don’t want to be. You probably even think that you shouldn’t be, but that’s like catnip for you, isn’t it?”
She’s shaken. Visibly shaken, but I don’t back off. I don’t give her a centimeter of the space I can see that she needs. I want her this way—off balance, uncertain. She’s the kind of woman who would rather feel than think if she has a choice. And that’s good for me. Not only will it serve my purposes very well, it’s also sexy as hell.
Her cheeks blaze with a rush of blood and I think about running my finger over her skin to see if it’s as silky as it looks. But I don’t. At this point that would be too much. I’m nothing if not intuitive. And controlled. In my line of work, I have to be.
I actually smile when she steps out from between the desk and me. I can see by her expression that she’s choosing to ignore my assessment altogether. It’s much easier than trying to deny the truth.
“You, um, you said ‘take a job like this.’ A job like what? I thought this is what you do.”
I cross my arms over my chest. “My jobs aren’t exactly like this, but they’re close enough. The main thing is that I . . . find things. And I’m damn good at it. So tell me, beautiful, what can I find for you?”
His voice, his intensity . . . God! Is he really just asking me an innocent question? Because it seems like he’s asking me so much more.
“Uh, it’s not a ‘what.’ It’s a ‘who.’”
He nods once. Slowly. His eyes never leave mine, constantly boring, examining, searching. “Okay, then who can I find for you, Muse?”
Goose bumps spread down my arms as though he touched me when he said my name. He didn’t, of course, but he might as well have.
Who the hell is this guy? And what the hell is wrong with me?
Maybe the stress has finally driven me over the edge. Or maybe it’s just been so long since I’ve connected with someone—really connected—that I’m making more out of this than there actually is. Either way, it’s not a good thing. I can’t be thinking like this, feeling like this. There are more important things I need to focus on.
I clear my throat, mentally shaking off the spell that his eyes are weaving around me. “A man.”
One dark brow shoots up. “A man, huh? Who is he?”
“A . . . friend,” I hedge, not wanting to give him any more information than I absolutely have to. It’s too dangerous.
He nods slowly again. “And does this man know you’re looking for him?”
“Probably.” Surely my father would know that I’d come looking for him when I didn’t get a response.
“And does this man have a . . . significant other that I should know about?”
I frown. “A significant other?” I’m confused.
“Yes. Wife, girlfriend? Boyfriend?”
“No, but why would that matter?”
“Just wondering if I’m likely to run into an angry lover along the way.”
“What?” And then it dawns on me what he must think. “No! God no! It’s not like that.”
“No? Then how is it?”
“This guy is older.”
Jasper raises his hands in surrender. “Hey, I don’t judge.”
“No, no, I mean . . . He—he’s not that kind of a friend.”
He watches me wordlessly, neither refuting nor accepting my explanation. “I’ll need some information, of course. A place to start.”
“Okay. Whatever you need.”
He glances around. “Is now a good time?”
As much as parts of me would like to, I can’t hide in the back forever. Melanie probably still has no idea I’m gone. “Well . . . not really. Can we, uh, can we meet after work?”
Jasper glances down at a chunky black watch. It looks like something a Navy SEAL or someone like that would wear, something that tells time in a million countries and can synchronize with a death squad. “I’ve got some things I need to do. Can I come by your apartment later?”
I find myself frowning. Again. “How do you know I live in an apartment?” Jasper gives me a withering look that says, Really? “Oh, right. I’m sure you . . . looked into me first.” On the one hand, the thought makes me feel a tad violated, like my privacy has been compromised. But, perversely, on the other hand I find it a little thrilling to think that he might’ve been by my place, that he might’ve watched me from afar. Were my blinds not fully closed? Did he see me eating breakfast or getting dressed?
I shiver in response. That’s twisted, but no more twisted than the way I’m reacting to the mere thought of being stalked by the likes of him.
I doubt that’s the case anyway, what with all that information being obtainable via the Internet, but still . . . it’s possible.
“Tonight then?” he prompts.
“Oh, uh, yeah. That would be fine. I’ll be there.”
“I’ll see you later, then.”
I give him a tight, cool smile, anything to belie the jittery, anxious, excited feeling that’s jumping from synapse to synapse.
I watch Jasper as he walks away, noting everything from the liquid way he moves to the way the light gleams off his short, inky-black hair. My entire being seems to slump when he disappears from sight, the absence of him bringing an empty chill over me.
I’ve never met someone more stimulating and handsome and intriguing than Jasper King. I’ve never met someone who makes me want to ask so many questions. And I’ve never met someone who makes me feel like I’ll never get any of the answers.
Lilac. I smell it as I raise my hand to knock on the closed door of her apartment. It’s like a delicate shroud that surrounds her, permeating the air wherever she is. It reminds me of a small town that I traveled through just outside Paris. It had somehow remained untouched by most things modern, a single white thread in an otherwise dingy, yellowed tapestry.
It takes Muse almost two full minutes to answer the door. She flings it open and glares at me, pulling her flamboyant turquoise and pink robe tighter around her waist. She’s angry again. Not only can I see it in her eyes, it’s there in every rigid line of her body as well.
She starts in without preamble. “You’ll have to excuse the way I’m dressed. Silly me, but I just assumed you’d come by at a decent hour.”
“Are you always like this?” I ask.
Another frown. “Like what?”
Her mouth drops open in aggrieved surprise. “I am not high-strung.”
To this, I say nothing. I like that I throw her off yet she still grapples for control. I like that she’s so rigid around me when everything else about her screams that she’s dying to let go. I like that she fights. I like that a lot. And I like her fire. Everything about my life is cold and calculated. Sometimes fire feels good.
“Well, as to your complaint, I can still be decent at this hour, but if you feel the need to be indecent, don’t let me stop you.”
“I didn’t . . . that’s not what I . . . grrrr. Just come in,” she snips, standing to one side of the opening. When I walk past her, I inhale her clean, floral smell. It’s definitely lilac, but there’s a darker, muskier undertone that takes it from innocent to seductive. I can’t imagine a scent more perfectly suiting a woman, suiting this woman, with her brisk mood swings and complete inability to hide what she’s feeling. She’s hot and cold, fire and ice, sexy and wholesome. She couldn’t be any more different than me if she tried, and I find it oddly refreshing. For the most part, people are predictable, but not this woman. I get the feeling she’s anything but predictable.
I wait for her to shut the door and I follow Muse into a cozy living room. The palate of the room is surprisingly bland with its dark hardwoods and grayish furniture, but it makes her use (and obvious love) of color that much more noticeable. From the bold red throw pillows to the various sizes and shapes of vibrant paintings scattered all over her walls, I’d wager that Muse has bled all over this room, right from the bottom of her soul.
I cross to a fireplace that apparently hasn’t worked in some time. The cool cavern of its interior is clean and holds a couple dozen ivory candles rather than wood. But that’s not what draws me. It’s the painting that rests above it, propped on the mantel to lean against the wall.
The piece depicts a tree, one simple tree, but it’s the way the branches list to one side and hang downward that catches my eye. When I look closer, I see that pale yellow raindrops trickle from the dark leaves like tears, falling into puddles on the ground. Those shallow pools reflect a half-full moon suspended in a midnight sky. The image, while stunning in its use of contrasting color and shadow, is poignant and somehow tragic.
I turn to find Muse watching me. She doesn’t look angry anymore; she looks . . . nervous.
“What’s the matter? Afraid I’ll see too much?”
She raises her chin and tries to act nonchalant. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Do you still feel this way?”
“The way you felt when you painted that?” I ask, nodding toward the mantel.
Her eyes widen and her mouth drops open for a tenth of a second before she snaps it shut. “How . . . how did you know that I . . . ?”
“But . . .” She glances at the canvas behind my head as if searching for what gave the artist away. What she probably can’t see, what probably no artist can see, is that she is all over that painting. All over it and all in it.
“Do you?” I prompt, returning to my question.
Her eyes flick back to mine and she shrugs with one shoulder, her toes digging rhythmically into the plush pile of the area rug. “Sometimes.” Her voice is quiet. Small. She looks quickly away from my eyes.
“What made you feel that way?”
“I miss the people I love.” Her eyes make their way back to mine, a ghost of a frown floating across her forehead. “Doesn’t everyone?”
It’s my turn to shrug. “I guess if you have people you love.” Before she can say anything else, I get down to brass tacks. “So, tell me about this man you’re hoping to find.”
She takes a deep breath. Sighs. “His name is Denton Allen Harper. He lives in Treeborn, South Carolina.”
“He’s retired from the military. He consults for some private security firm now and then, but . . .”
“What is his relationship to you?” Her lips thin. She doesn’t want me to ask personal questions. And that only makes me want to ask them even more. “Look, if you want me to find the guy, you need to be honest with me.” When she still hesitates, I add, “It’s not like I’m a cop or anything, if he’s into something illegal.”
“It’s not that. He’s not a criminal, for God’s sake!” she defends. “He’s a good man.”
“You sure about that?”
“Of course I’m sure. He—he’s my father.”
I nod. “How long has it been since you’ve talked to him?”
“A month. A month ago Friday.”
“Just a month? I take it that’s unusual.”
“Yes. We have a . . . routine, sort of. We talk once a month, like clockwork.”
“A month ago Friday. Obviously you’ve tried calling over the last five days.” She nods. “You’ve tried his friends, associates, people who might know where he is?”
“Ummm, not really. I mean I can’t really . . . I can’t . . . It’s complicated, but I know that if everything was okay, he’d have been there when I called.”
“Been where? At home? On his cell phone? Where?”
“Where he is when we talk.”
“Which is . . . ?” She doesn’t answer. I study her in silence for two full minutes, long enough to make her fidget uncomfortably. “You realize that the more you keep from me, the less likely it is that I’ll find him.”
“I thought you could find anyone. In fact, didn’t you say you were damn good at it?”
“I did. And I am, but I’m not a psychic. I still need something to go on.”
“And I gave you that. I’m telling you everything I know that might help you find him.”
“Where do you call once a month?”
She breathes out noisily, obviously perturbed. “We use pay phones, but they’re all in different places around Treeborn.” Muse shakes her head, her thick hair teasing her shoulders. “Look, that’s not important. What’s important is that he wasn’t there when I called and he always is. Something is wrong and I want you to find him.”
“Why not just call the police? Place a missing persons report? It’s been long enough.”
“I can’t . . . We . . . That’s just not an option. That’s why I’m hiring you. You do this for a living. You should be able to find him, right?”
I pause. “Yes. I can find him. It just might take me a few days.”
“A few days? Is that all?”
“Yeah, I think so. Doesn’t sound too complicated. That’s after I get there, of course.”
“Which will be . . . when? Will you fly out tomorrow?”
“No, I’ll drive.”
“Drive? You’re going to drive from San Diego to South Carolina?”
“Yes. Is that a problem?”
“I . . . No, I don’t suppose. I’m just . . . surprised is all.”
“Does it matter how I get there?”
“No, not really. It’s just that . . . the thing is, I want to go with you.”
This I wasn’t expecting. Maybe she really is unpredictable. “And why is that? If I need something from you, I can call.”
“Because I need to see him, I need to talk to him. Face-to-face.”
I say nothing for a while. I couldn’t be happier with this turn of events, but, obviously, I can’t let Muse know that. Finally, I speak to lay down some ground rules. “I’ll agree to that on a few conditions.”
She arches one smooth brow. “Which are?”
“I work alone. If I let you tag along, don’t expect me to include you in details, conversations, or sources. Don’t expect me to answer a bunch of questions or explain why I do the things I do. Just trust that I’ll find your father. I’ll find him and I’ll take you to him. If you do that, let me do my job, no questions asked, we won’t have any problems.”
I can tell by the expression in her green-green eyes and the twitch of her full-full lips that she wants to say something. Probably argue. But she won’t. I have the upper hand and she knows it. Normally, she’d probably have a lot to say, but she’s controlling herself for the sake of finding her father.
“Okay. I can do that.” A pause. “What about money? How much do you charge?”
“A thousand-dollar retainer. We can talk about the rest when I find him.”
She blanches a little. “Okay. I . . . That’ll be fine.”
I don’t feel guilty for taking her money. It’s not like I’ll be keeping it.
“Look, I know it’s late. Why don’t you jot down the target’s last known address and telephone number so I can get to work and you can get back to . . .” I glance at what’s playing on the television. “Whatever that is.”
“It’s Dirty Dancing.”
“Am I supposed to know what that is?”
“It’s a classic,” she defends weakly.
“By whose standards?”
“Mine. And every other woman, girl and child who has ever seen it.”
“Whatever you say,” I rejoin mildly. “While you’re at it, I’ll need the make and model of his car and where he spent his last vacation. And the names of any companions he spends time with.”
What People are Saying About This
Praise for the novels of M. Leighton
“Incredible tension, hot chemistry, and…intrigue.”—New York Times Bestselling Author Samantha Young
“Insanely intense.”—The Bookish Babe
"Freaking' hot!"—Nette's Bookshelf
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I had the absolute pleasure of receiving an ARC of Strong Enough by M. Leighton for review! I absolutely loved it!!!!! I am so happy I had the pleasure to read this book. Everything from the characters to the plot line was written to absolute perfection. The characters were described beautifully and the plot line was dynamic and detailed. This is a HUGE 5 star read!
Muse has lost contact with her dad. Her friend Tracy sends Jasper King to help her find her dad. Sparks fly immediately between Muse and Jasper but Jasper has a dark past. Jasper is a bounty hunter that can find anyone at any time. He does find Muse’s dad for her but that just opens another can of worms. Muse is bringing light to Jasper’s life where he never had light before. Jasper is so broken and feels like he is just a monster like his father. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Jasper leaves Muse and makes it possible for her to start a new life. Jasper knows he is no good for Muse but the heart wants what the heart wants. Muse knows that if Jasper really loves her he will find her. Loved their story and couldn’t put it down.
Strong Enough tells the story of Muse, who after having her military father go missing hires Jasper, a bounty hunter, to find him. As the journey to locate her father begins to kick into high gear and the story unfolds, it begins to become clear that there is far more to this tale than just a missing man. Let's discuss our main characters. Muse as a character is incredibly likable. That's probably one of my favorite things about Leighton's writing is that she crafts these fantastic female character's. She's strong and independent which is so refreshing to read especially in today's book landscape where so many women are painted as weak and silly. Jasper isn't bad as a character either. He's mysterious and sexy, and all the things you want from a leading man. Naturally, Muse and Jasper have lust at first sight. As a reader this is not my favorite thing in a book. I need build up to a relationship, and to me, sideways glances don't qualify as that. The scenes between the two were most definitely hot and filled with sexual tension, but it felt like it came barreling at me out of left field. They're snipping at each other one minute then they're making out the next. As separate character's I think they worked amazingly, but the fact that they went from 0 to 60 so quickly was what my real issue with the relationship was. The underlying story of Strong Enough was what really saved this book for me. This is book one within a series of three, and Leighton did a fantastic job of laying the ground work for what is to come next. I've read everything this author has put out in the adult contemporary genre and this feels the closest to what got me reading her in the first place, her Bad Boys series. In fact, several character's from that series make cameos in this so fans should keep their eyes peeled. Also, this book has one of the most startling prologues I have ever read in my life. It stayed with me days after I read it. Whole books have effected me in that way, but I have NEVER had a book be able to do that in 10 pages of less before. There are a lot of people who see a three star review and go, oh that must have been a bad book. For me though, that's not the case. While I wasn't completely sold on the character's arc, taken as a whole, I think the book read well and the storyline was solid and I will definitely be reading the next book in this series to see where it goes.
4.5 stars--- STRONG ENOUGH is the first installment in M. Leighton’s adult, contemporary Tall, Dark and Dangerous erotic, romantic suspense series. There is a slight cross over between Tall, Dark and Dangerous and her Bad Boys series. This is bounty hunter/hired assassin Jasper King, and painter Muse Harper’s storyline. You do not have to have read Leighton’s BAD BOYS series to follow the premise. Told from dual points of view (Muse and Jasper) STRONG ENOUGH follows Muse and Jasper as they go in search of Muse’s missing father. When their monthly phone call to one another goes unanswered Muse hires Jasper King to help in the search for the only family she has left in the world. What ensues is a cross country trek where Muse will discover Jasper’s dangerous secrets; his abusive past; and the truth about his agreement to help find her father. Jasper is a man with a dark past that has formed the ruthless and brutal man that everyone sees. His history is tainted with abuse, murder and desolation; his future may be as short as the next twenty-four hours. Muse is a young woman in hiding. Her father shipped his only daughter away but circumstances have brought Muse back into his life and now everyone will be targeted in a plan to keep secrets from being exposed. Jasper is not the only gun for hire-there are others searching to destroy the woman with whom Jasper has fallen in love. The attraction between Jasper and Muse is sexually charged. Jasper is model worthy material and with it comes the $ex appeal and dangerous bad boy persona that attracts men and women for miles around. But Jasper has eyes for only one woman and Muse is in more trouble than she could possibly imagine. The $ex scenes are erotic, sometimes aggressive but always consensual and seductive. The world building focuses on the past, the present and the future: the who, the what, and the why. Jasper’s connection to Muse goes much deeper than an assignment to find her father-Jasper is looking for her father as well. We are introduced to several supporting and secondary characters including Jasper’s former military team as each member is targeted in a game of murder and revenge. Keifer Rogan’s story is next. The storyline prologue is raw, emotional, heartbreaking and intense but sets the tone for the entire story. STRONG ENOUGH is a passionate storyline about two people whose lives are about to collide; their ill-fated love story will spiral out of control when the truth is revealed leaving a broken hearted Muse on the run and alone without the man that she loves. The premise is full of suspense, mystery and drama; the characters are dark, dangerous and charismatic; the romance electric and intense. M. Leighton will captivate your imagination with the introductory storyline to her new TALL, DARK AND DANGEROUS series.
Is she strong enough to trust the most dangerous man she’s ever met? And is he strong enough to let her? How would I describe myself? Well, I’m Muse Harper. I’m a twenty-something painter who loves red wine, quirky movies, and men with a fatal flaw. But that was before I met Jasper King. He became my fatal flaw. Eight months ago, I had a choice to make—abandon everything I’ve ever known to protect my family, or stay and risk someone getting hurt. I chose the former. My plan was working just fine until I found out my father had gone missing. That’s when I met Jasper. A bounty hunter with the eyes of a tiger and the nose of a bloodhound, he was supposed to help me find my father. What I didn’t know was that meeting him was no accident. Hunting people isn’t all that Jasper does. And helping me was only part of his plan. I just wish I’d found out sooner, before my heart got involved. But even then, I don’t know if I’d have done things differently. Now, I have another choice to make—trust the man that I’m falling in love with and hope that he’ll do the right thing, or run as far away from him as I can get. Review: This story took me totally by surprise. I read the blurb and though I was intrigued, I did not hold out a lot of hope this story. The blurb does not do this book justice. This story was intense and not just in a sexual way but in an emotional and suspenseful way and you don't know what is going to happen next. I really thought this would be a straight romance, but it the whole package, intrigue, action, drama, etc... I have to say most stories I can figure out what is going on, but I was really guessing what Jasper was really up to and why he seemed to be targeting Muse. The prologue was intense and gave us a back story and some inside into how and what Jasper is today. Lets say it. Jasper is messed up! He is all alpha-male-sexy, but that boy is warped by his father's actions as a child and how Jasper tried to deal with him. I liked him, I really did, the man, once he comes to terms with this mission and Muse, you can see his potential. A lot of times, the woman changing the flawed-man for the better is a bit cliche, this is not one of those times. Muse is another case, Muse is either a little naive or the men in her life are really good at keeping secrets, I am on the fence about that one and Muse. Now, Jasper and Muse together intimately is erotic and very well-done. I have not read this Author before and was impressed with her story-telling and the gritty way she presented it to us. I will definitely be looking for the next story in the series. Awesome, gritty and raw romantic suspense story! 4Stars *Received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review*
5 - "You'll either kill me or heal me." Stars! It has been a while since I have read a book by Michelle Leighton, her Bad Boys series is, and will most likely always be one of my all-time favorites, and I think that is one of the reasons that Strong Enough turned out to be such an enjoyable read as well. Written similarly to that series, this book pulled me in from the prologue (which also made me ugly cry) and kept me hooked until its end. Jasper and Muse are pretty much polar opposites, one dark to the others light, one closed off whereas the other is painfully open. The one thing they do have in common is that not everything is as it seems from initial assumptions, the only difference between them being is that one of them knows that fact, and the other is completely unaware of it, well at the beginning anyway. We all hide our real selves behind some kind of mask. The other thing I liked about this book, and again this is something that the author does so well, is that what you originally believe the path the story is going to take, then actually turns out to be nothing like the route it then follows. It keeps the reader on their toes, and the excitement at a constant fizz. ”What I offer, I excel at providing.” I have a massive soft spot for broken bad boys, and Jasper King epitomizes everything that I love, he is dirty, and sexy and he does it so well he is sooooo good to the point that he is bad in that respect. A dirty talker who backs up his words with equally dirty actions, and someone who isn’t bothered with societies perceived rules and regulations on what is right and wrong, my heart was just as aflutter as Muse’s was for most of the book. I liked his unpredictability as well, it keeps you on your toes as a reader when you have no idea what a character is going to do next. We also get to meet the rest of the men from the Tall, Dark and Dangerous series in Stong Enough, and Rogan is up next in Tough Enough, due November 2015, and Tag gets his story told in Brave Enough due April 2016, being ex-special forces and Jasper's team-mates, you just know that these two guys are going to be just as sexy, dirty and imposing as Jasper is, and that their stories are going to be just as heart-grasping and breathtakingly engrossing as well. ”Do you really want to know what it feels like to play with a monster?” The strongest thread of this story is actually about Jasper and his team being double crossed, and although Strong Enough is based around the building of the relationship between Muse and Jasper, I can see a lot of thrills and spills coming in the following books as Tag and Rogan try and figure out who is targeting them and the reasoning’s behind it. Like a tiger. Surefooted. Silent. Deadly. The potential for this series is huge, the author alone and her immense talent ensure that, and I am whole-heartedly looking forward to the ride. ARC generously provided via Badass Marketing, it was my absolute pleasure to provide the above honest review.
Loved it! I am such a huge fan of all things M. Leighton and can't wait to devour anything and everything she writes. That said, I was beyond excited to be able to read Strong Enough, the first book in her new Tall, Dark, and Dangerous series. Once again, Leighton did not disappoint, and has written another exciting, sexy, and gripping story complete with the to die for "tall, dark, and dangerous" Jasper King. He's the hot, mysterious bad boy that makes up the things girls fantasize about, while being the guy most of us would be too scared to even approach in real life. Thank God for talented authors whose writing provides us with the ability to crawl up in a good romance and live vicariously through the characters that come to life in a really great story like this one. Strong Enough is filled with suspense, danger, action, and yes, the hot romance that Leighton is famous for. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and watching as things progressed between Muse and Jasper. Leighton will have you turning the pages, anxiously waiting to see what is going to happen next, while leaving you sighing, breathless, and fanning your face in between. While Jasper is really dark and really dangerous, Muse is the light that brings all that into balance. His story is heartbreaking. Their story is beautiful. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
I really love M. Leighton's books, and this one is no exception. It is suspenseful and romantic, and I love that combo. This book really kept me interested with the twists and turns of the plot. Jasper and Muse are both quite mysterious, and I was never quite sure what was on the next page. This author has a writing style that I enjoy as well. I can't wait to read the next book.
"What constitutes enough?" "It's enough when you can't bear the thought of life without that person. It's enough when you can't let them go, or when you'd cross an ocean just to be with them. Anything less than that is just . . . less. It isn't enough." Who doesn't love a handsome, dangerous, tortured hero? I couldn't put this book down...it was mysterious, heartbreaking and heartwarming. I can't wait to move on to book two.
M. Leighton knows how to write the books with all the Sizziling Hot Sexy Bad Boys and Jasper King is another "HOT ONE" to add to her list. Strong Enough is a exciting read about our Jasper King hired to help find someone for a woman named Muse. Of course Muse stands her ground against Mr. King and holds her head up high and challenges Jasper at every moment, and this only excites Jasper, yet a man of his background and being a loner shouldn't feel anything towards anyone, remain cold and heartless. This is the beginning of Jasper and Muse and I loved every page of them together, and the sheets were as hot as the pages between them~WOW!! I highly recomend Strong Enough, it's a BAD BOY Trilogy with Tough Enough following, which is my next book.
It's been said that you'll know if you'll like a book within the first few pages. With such a powerful prologue I knew I wasn't going to be let down. Two people hiding secrets, but who's is worse? Loved Muse and Jasper together. Can't say too much without giving anything away but I liked that the main plot can still be carried on throughout the series. I was bummed at first to find out their story doesn't continue in books two and three but by the end it didn't matter, I just wanted more. - One dark brow shoots up, making him look daringly sexy....The kind of way that says he'll crush me, but I'll never be able to fully regret such an amazing ride, no matter how many things get broken.
Loved it, can't wait for next book!
Overall Rating: 4.25 Rockin’ ★★★★ Do you believe that it is possible for a monster to have a heart, that it can feel, love and be loved? Is it possible to find redemption and forgiveness through the love and belief of another person? Or will the darkness that threatens to consume everything inside the monster kill the only good thing it has ever had? In this original novel, Strong Enough by the talented author M. Leighton, we are faced with this dilemma. It a story filled with conundrums and angst. The characters find themselves in a quandary as they work to find a resolution and a future together. His life had been twisted by a psychotic, abusive father. A father that killed his oldest son as his wife and younger child watched him carry out his horrific deed. Has his horrendous past turned Jasper King into the one thing he never wanted to be, a monster like his father? He has been able to control all aspects of his life. Control has allowed him to carry out his missions, complete the jobs he was assigned without feeling anything. That was until a beautiful woman with hair like fire and a spirit that burned into his soulless heart, looked into his eyes. Muse affects him like no one ever has; will she be his redemption or his downfall? Raised by a military father that protected while loving, Muse Harper knows about control, heartache. When her father fails to make their assigned call in, Muse hires a bounty hunter to help her locate him. But the man that walks into her place of business is not what she was expecting. He is beyond beautiful, all male dominance and the electrical attraction flows between them. Can she trust this man to help her find her father? It is not hard to see that Jasper King has many secrets and if she is not careful she may not just lose her heart, it may be permanently damaged. There’s an old saying, nothing ventured…nothing gained, so maybe trust will earn a future if they are both strong enough! Hero: Jasper King 4.25 stars Heroine: Muse Harper stars Steam: 4.25 stars Plot: 4.25 stars Cliffhanger: No
Jasper and Muse find themselves tracking down her father after he goes missing. Muse doesn't understand all the things at play here and blindly trusts Jasper when he agrees to help her. What Muse doesn't know is that there are a lot of secrets being kept from her and she is unable to really piece it all together until it is almost too late. Her father tries to guilt her into not asking questions and doing what she is told but she finally sees through that and starts demanding answers. Jasper knows he is betraying her trust but feels he has to do what he can to find out who is targeting members of their team. When Muse finally gets some of the answers, she is forced to give up on her life and love and move away for her safety. Jasper tries to do the right thing but eventually realizes that she is more important than anything and making her happy is what he needs to focus on. It was well done and I really enjoyed this book.
Beautiful is not the way I would describe Jasper It is, however, the word that comes to mind when I think of the love story of Muse and Jasper. My heart ached in so many places in this story. Jasper, self-proclaimed monster and soft, beautiful, strong Muse. Beautiful.
Masterpiece!!! Suspenseful! Thrilling! Intense! Powerful! Angst! Amazing! and HOT HOT HOT!!! That's what you will get from this book. Michelle at her BEST!!! every part of this story will keep you hanging on the edge. Jasper and Muse will stay in your hearts, you will want no NEED more when your done with this. I don't know what else to say without giving this story away, cause i'd love to do that. so i'm just gonna leave you with this. one of the best stories iv'e ever read.
Spotlight, Review & Excerpt: Strong Enough (Tall, Dark and Dangerous) by M. Leighton http://wp.me/p3d0RZ-2OE Genre: Contemporary Romance Publication Date: August 4, 2015 Reviewed by: Reading in Pajamas/ Cori Rated: 5 Stars REVIEW: I loved this book! I'm obsessed with Jasper and I'm obsessed with the rest of the special ops guys that will be getting their own books later. Strong Enough is the first book in this series and with the series title alone it grabbed my attention. Tall, Dark and Dangerous? Yes, please! Strong Enough starts off with a bang. M. Leighton will rip your heart out, shred it and then sew it back up and hand it back to you all repaired by the end of the book. Jasper and Muse's book is an emotional, beautiful and scorching hot love story. It'll be one of my top favorites of 2015. This is a standalone book and each book in the Tall, Dark and Dangerous series will be about a different member of a special ops team. I recommend you grab a copy of Strong Enough and fall in love with Jasper. I'll be stalking the next book in the series! *Review copy provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review.
5+ STARS for another amazing story from M. Leighton!! That Prologue...I was already hooked and crying before the story even began. Muse Harper left her life to protect her father. But now that he's gone missing, she hired Jasper King to help her find him. However, Jasper has his own agenda, a completely different reason for taking this job assignment. From the moment he walked into her store, their attraction was definitely tangible. He's sexy, intense, and dangerous. His dark past has made him into the man that he is today. His job comes first, no feelings, no attachments. Until her. Until Muse. She gets under his skin, makes him feels things, and confuses his mission, but yet he cannot stay away from her. Their chemistry is explosive! Muse is feisty and emotionally expressive. And when she loves, she loves whole-heartedly and unconditionally. She's also smart and strong. But is she strong enough to survive loving a man like Jasper King? M. Leighton knows how to write bad boys that we fall completely in love with. My heart broke for what Jasper went through as a boy and for what he's still going through now as a man, believing that he's a monster and doesn't deserve happiness. It made me love him so much more! I enjoyed the dual POV's. We got to see Jasper's inner turmoil when it came to Muse. And no matter how hard they try to fight their attraction to one another, the underlying sexual current is just too strong to ignore. The sex scenes were sizzling hot! I am never disappointed when I read one of M. Leighton's books. Strong Enough had a wonderful storyline with great depth and well-developed characters. Erotic romance with just the right amount of mystery and suspense. At 80%, I was literally biting my nails, anxious to see how this story will end. I cannot wait for more, for Tough Enough. "Sarò sempre pensare a te."
Feels. That word has been expanded to mean more because of this book. It's packed with FEELS from the prologue to the very end. FEELS. Jasper King is a dangerous man. A product of a painful and heartbreaking youth, this boy will have you from the prologue. My heart ached for him. His heart and his mind is encased in a strong box that doesn't allow anyone inside. He had to create this box to survive. No one gets past it. He does his job. The job always comes first. Nothing gets in the way. Nothing until Muse. Muse is hiding. Trying to protect her dad and stay safe, she's only got a couple of friends in a new city and a new job. But when she doesn't hear from her dad, she hires Jasper to find him. But nothing is a it seems and I do mean NOTHING. Muse has let her father protect her for far too long. She lets him get away with keeping her in the dark but over the course of the book, Muse comes into her own. No more clueless Muse. She wants the truth. All of it. As these two spend time together, the attraction they both feel flares. It's not smart for either of them. But neither can resist. But as the truth starts to come out, things get complicated and the feels come strong. I was pretty surprised with this story. I had so many guesses and they were wrong. I figured out a few things but I was texting my friend, Krista (she was reading it too) with the total freakout response of OMG over and over again. She just laughed at me until she caught up with me and then she understood. I've always loved this author and this book just increases that mad love. She is a master story teller that always makes me happy. While it was an emotional read for me, I loved every moment. If you love M. Leighton, you will want this one. If you just love a great romance that goes from hopeless to happy, then you want this one. If you love the emotional ones that rock the sexy too, you want this one. You want this one.
"You're the only thing I've wanted for as long as I can remember. And the one thing I can't have." Jasper King is like no one that Muse has ever met. Sweeping in with his tiger eyes and raw strength, he is a man of secrets and silence. The two of them will change each other in ways that neither ever expected. Oh, how I love Michelle Leighton. She infuses her books with so much feeling, with heart and soul. And Michelle's men, well, I haven't met one that I don't love. So, enter Jasper King. This man, this self-contained multi-layered man, has absolutely stolen my heart. From the moment I met him in the heartbreaking prologue, I was in love. The product of a horrific past, Jasper has fashioned himself into someone that knows no fear. He's the one that gets things done, tying up loose ends so that others don't have to. When he meets Muse, the attraction is immediate, the chemistry between the two unmistakeable. But Jasper is certain that he has nothing to offer Muse because of who he is. "I'm doing you a favor, Muse. You don't want to get to know me." "Maybe I do. You can't possibly know that." "Maybe I don't want you to," I confess quietly." I hear her huff of frustration before she flounces back in her seat, crossing her arms stiffly over her chest and turning to stare out the window. She's better off not knowing me. She just doesn't know it. STRONG ENOUGH is an action-packed thrill ride, as Jasper does his best to protect Muse from an unknown threat, and to fight his ever-growing feelings for her. Michelle had me flipping pages furiously, swept up in the intrigue of the story, and bowled over by the absolutely combustible moments between these two. I mean, I am talking the kind of heat that jumps off the page. And the feels, this book's got them in spades. Bottom line, I love these characters, I love their story, and, heck, yes, you need to read this one now. 5 'dark, delicious, heartbreaking, heartwarming, add this to your TBR now' stars. "Jasper, I love you. I've loved you from the second you walked into my life. And I never stopped. Not for one minute. Nothing else matters. Nothing. And no one. All I want, all I need is you. Just you..." (P.S. And, hot guy friend alert, the next book in the Tall, Dark, and Dangerous series, TOUGH ENOUGH, is out this fall, and I cannot wait to read it!)
You know what I love about M. Leighton?? I love how each time I open up one of her books I know I am going to get a brilliantly written story with characters that totally incapacitate me. In a day with so many novels feeling that they are so similar, M. Leighton offers us captivating, intriguing reads that push the boundaries of romance. While reading Strong Enough, I dove in and the very first chapter totally hooks you. While Muse is detailing her encounter with this HOT, SEXY fella, you immediately melt in to the pages and know that what is to come is going to be SCORCHIN HOT!! As the story moves on...we are getting to know Muse and viewing the small insights to whom Jasper is...the romance is slowly building, the embers are on fire, they are being stoked....leading us to fall right along with Muse. It is not hard when there is a mystery about him yet he is so mesmerizing...It is like his sexiness just oozes out and you are helpless to overcome it...And lets be truthful...you don’t want to...It’s like...JASPER...TAKE ME...NOW!! LOL!! But, things aren’t always as they seem. Muse thought she hired Jasper to find her dad. But as their journey continues, and Muse begins to get under Jasper’s skin, secrets begin to fall out and lives are ultimately changed. The truth is revealed and boy, can I say I never expected it. The puzzle pieces fit together and WOW!!! And yeah.. There are some moments when you get some "vibes" but when it was all laid out in front of me?? WHOA!!! And that leaves me close to the end of this phenomenal tale...Reeling from the secrets that were revealed and the ache from Muse’s heart break. I cried...Yes...I actually cried...And I don’t really ever cry with books...But this just shows how talented M. Leighton is. To get so invested in these characters and completely FEEL everything they do. Each character struggles and battles their own separate demons during their trek. Both Muse and Jasper grow so much throughout their journey; but does it bring them together at the end?? I am not going to spoil anything for you…. I will say M. Leighton does not disappoint and gives the reader everything they want and more in this book. Truly...5 stars really doesn’t encompass everything that this book gives you. Just saying I loved this book isn’t enough either. I can only tell you that I was pulled in to an amazingly creative world with two dynamic characters that captured my soul. It is a book that left me with a major book hangover and one that still affects me to this day… I highly recommend that you get this book and experience it all for yourself. Yep...You’ll see what I am talking about and will be just as enthralled as me...
Wow great read ...cant wait for more