Struggling to pay her college tuition in the wake of tragedy, Evelyn Preston is waitressing at a nightclub where she has more in common with the preppy clientele than her new co-workers. Still, she can’t deny her attraction to the sexy six-foot-four bouncer and ex-army MMA fighter Mateo Tres Santos. Mateo wound up in prison for assaulting the man who harmed his sister. Now he’s feeling the same protective impulse for Evelyn. And he’s determined to find out what nightmares are lurking in Evelyn’s past—even if that means tackling his own to save her.
Every memory Lety Tres Santos has from her childhood comes with a scar. College offers a fresh start . . . until her father finds a way to ruin that, too. Now, after losing her scholarship, Lety is determined to stay in school, and she intends to do it without any help from Brody Quaid: lacrosse star, 4.0 student—and Lety’s ex-boyfriend. Their relationship crashed and burned because Brody couldn’t break through her walls, but with Lety hurting more than ever, he’s desperate to win her back. And that will mean trusting someone more than he’s ever dared.
Sofia Tres Santos remembers a time before her innocence was ripped away, before she began punishing herself with risky behavior and unworthy men. Now, at twenty, she’s ready to rebuild, and she keeps coming back to her childhood friend and longtime crush, Killian O’Brien. When she agrees to work at his gym, Killian seizes the opportunity to train her in his hard-hitting MMA techniques. But as Sofia grows stronger, she challenges everything he believes, showing him that no matter how much he dominates in the ring, the real battle is fought in the heart.
Praise for Cecy Robson’s Shattered Past series
“Once Perfect is exactly that: perfect for fans of sweetly sexy New Adult with a to-die-for protective hero.”—New York Times bestselling author Marquita Valentine
“Sweet and sexy, a perfect combination . . . Cecy Robson delivers pure reading bliss.”—USA Today bestselling author Sawyer Bennett, on Once Perfect
“Brody made it his mission to be Lety’s rock. . . . Cecy Robson created a perfect book boyfriend in Brody Quaid, and many will enjoy his patience, sexiness, and unconditional love for Lety.”—Heroes and Heartbreakers, on Once Loved
“With its skillfully developed characters and scorching sexual tension, Once Loved is a gorgeous second-chance love story you won’t want to put down.”—USA Today bestselling author Lauren Layne
“The sexual tension between Sofia and Killian is super steamy; the passion builds with every page.”—RT Book Reviews, on Once Pure
“Sexy and heartbreaking, Once Pure is an excellent, emotional read.”—New York Times bestselling author Monica Murphy
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“Malibu Barbie. We need more cocktail napkins!”
I stopped wiping the bar booth, torn between throwing my bucket at Sam or at the cluster of bouncers chuckling at his Barbie dig. I still had two more booths to clean before the doors to the Main Line’s infamous Club Excess opened and the real work began. A crowd of spoiled brats―offspring of Philly’s wealthiest families―with too much money and too much attitude already crowded the doors. I should know. I used to be one of them. Except they still had the money.
I had a screaming boss.
“Jesus, Sam, I’m going.” I tossed my towel on the table and stomped across the dance floor in my black thigh-high boots. If it weren’t for the crazy tips the drunk idiots dropped like bowling balls, no way would I work at a place where I had to accessorize tiny black shorts and a skimpy tank with these hooker boots. The white dress shirt tied at my belly was Sam’s way of compromising when me and a few of the other waitresses complained about our new “uniforms.” The more desperate among us tied it closer to their cleavage. I didn’t. Even if it meant less money, I wanted to hang on to what little pride I had left.
My steps slowed as I neared the group of bouncers huddled around Mateo. He was young, younger than at least half of them, and still they looked up to him. Considering Mateo was an ex-con who fought in fight clubs, you’d think the staff would avoid him. I sure did. Hell, I’d barely spoken to him in the six months I’d worked at Excess, using any excuse to keep my distance. That said, there was something about him that made people take notice. His burly arms crossed his chest. Power was inked on one forearm in bold Gothic lettering, Wrath on the other, and black flames crawled up both, disappearing beneath the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt.
My puny shoulders tensed as I drew closer. Mateo had served time for beating some poor guy so brutally the victim had spent two weeks in the hospital recovering from the bashes to his face and body. I watched Mateo, a lot. Every now and then, I’d catch him glancing my way, too. He’d offer me a brief nod or a small smile, but I never offered anything in return. His size, the depth of his voice, and his aptitude for violence scared me, despite his captivating looks. He moved like a panther staking out his turf, ready for anything, his steely hazel eyes taking everything in.
He spoke low and rough as the last of his crew arrived. “Listen up. Keep the drugs and the dealers out. They come in with that shit, you see anyone selling―send their asses out the door. Sam doesn’t want another OD in his place. If those rich pricks want to die, they can do it somewhere else.”
The others answered Mateo with stiff nods, except for Dale, who whistled as I walked by. “Nice ass, Evelyn . . .”
His voice trailed off. I turned to shoot him a dirty look over my shoulder only to catch the death glare Mateo was firing his way. “Leave Evie the heck alone and pay attention, Dale,” Mateo told him. Dale immediately dropped his gaze, allowing Mateo to return his attention to the rest of the group. “With the first week of classes over, these fools are looking to party hard, and the dealers are ready to assist. Don’t go it alone. Call for backup if you need it, when you need it. I’ll take point near the bar. Ant’s my second. He’ll take point left of the floor. If I’m mixed up in some other shit, you call him. Got me?”
The bouncers collectively muttered in agreement. Even Dale.
My heart was thumping against my sternum and I lost my footing. I reached for my ponytail and tightened it fast, trying to pretend that was the reason I’d tripped and not, absolutely not, because Mateo had stuck up for me and shut Dale up on my behalf. Or because he’d called me Evie. Again. No one else had ever called me that.
I slipped behind the bar where Sam was stacking another rack of glasses. “Grab two boxes and make sure they have the new logo―not the old,” he snapped. “Numbnuts spelled ‘Excess’ wrong on the last one.”
“I know, Sam, I know.” I frowned. “You’re bartending again tonight?”
“No. I just wear the apron to show off my man boobs. Of course I’m bartending. I had to fire Joe when he helped himself to the register last week!” He brushed back his crazy hair. I pegged him at roughly fifty, but his snow-white Lion King mane made him appear at least ten years older. “Hurry up, Malibu, we only have twenty minutes before those needle dicks bust down the door!”
“I’d move faster if you didn’t make us wear these boots,” I muttered.
“Quit complainin’. Those boots earned you at least three hundred the first night you wore them. I saw you counting the bills.”