Looks can be deceiving.
I knew that most people took one look at the ink and the impossibly big and strong body it covered and decided I was a brawler…a bruiser…a beast. However, I was hardwired to be a thinker, not a fighter.
I should have chosen to use my brain and talents to be one of the good guys, a hero, a man with dignity and worth.
I turned my back on dignity and sold my soul to the highest bidder, deciding to dance with the devil, instead.
I couldn’t figure out how to help myself, so there was zero chance I knew how to save someone else.
That someone else was Noe Lee. She was the unkempt, unruly thief who was just as smart as I was and twice as street savvy. She was annoyingly adorable beneath the dirt and grime, and she was in trouble. In way over her head, I told myself it wasn’t my job to keep her from drowning. In the Point, it was sink or swim, and I wasn’t the designated lifeguard on duty.
I shut the door in her face, but now she’s gone…vanished…disappeared without a trace. It took less than a second for me to realize that I wanted her back.
When a woman comes along that melts all the frozen, hard things you’re made of; you’ll do anything you have to, to bring her home.
What you see is not always what you get…and with a man like me, what you get is more than anyone ever bargained for.
I was dragging ass when I took the stairs up to Booker’s unit. Typically, I could run up the three flights and not even get winded, but I was running on fumes and the last traces of adrenaline. My brain was fuzzy, and my normally sharp thoughts felt scattered and unruly. The past and the present were at war in my mind, and the battle for which one made me feel worse was raging.
I made my way through the quiet loft listening for any sound that would indicate Noe was up and moving around. When I got closer to the bedroom, I heard the shower running and swear words chasing the steam out of the open door. It was going to be painful for a while when the water sluiced over her wounds. The thought had me squeezing my eyes closed and clenching my hands into fists. Just because tough things didn’t break didn’t mean they couldn’t be damaged, dented, and scratched. The fact Noe was currently suffering so much wear and tear because of me scraped across my skin and dug into my belly like sharp knives.
I was turning to walk out of the room so she could finish in peace when the running water went silent and her swearing ramped up a notch. I heard her banging around in the bathroom and then she yelled, “Booker, I need a towel! I’m dripping all over your floor.”
I opened my mouth to tell her Booker was gone and that I would go find her one. I didn’t need her poking through his stuff and running across a submachine gun or a rocket launcher. My brain was ping-ponging between annoyance that she’d called for Booker instead of me and the unrelenting image of her, naked, wet, and dripping onto the tile. I wasn’t a guy prone to fantasy, but damn if I didn’t get all kinds of caught up in the thought of her pretty olive skin glistening with moisture from head to toe. I needed to get away from her. I needed space so I could find a way to wrap armor back around all the soft parts of me she exposed.
I was shaking my head to marshal my thoughts back in order when I heard her swear again. Suddenly, like I conjured her out of a dream, Noe was standing in the pocket doorway of the bathroom wearing nothing more than a scowl of irritation and shimmery, shiny water droplets. Her midnight-colored eyebrows shot up to her hairline, and a bright pink flush stained the top of her chest and crawled up her neck into her face. She didn’t lift her hands to cover herself. She stood as still as I was, not moving at all under my furious and hungry gaze.
I wanted to be polite and look away. I told myself it was rude to stare and that the last thing she needed was some guy she barely knew gawking at her like she was a priceless work of art on a museum wall. I berated myself for this invasion of privacy but none of the lecturing or preaching did any good. The only way I could have torn my eyes off that petite frame, with it’s perfectly perky breasts and slightly rounded hips, was if someone slapped them out of my head. I couldn’t blink. I was scared to breathe. I felt like if I moved at all she would bolt like a startled deer, and I needed another second, another minute, another hour, to memorize every single part of her.
She was small, but all the parts added up to perfection. Seeing her like this, stripped bare with nothing to hide behind, I couldn’t believe I’d ever been stupid enough think she was a boy. Everything about her was delicate, feminine, and soft. The hollow of her neck, the elegant curve of her shoulders, the flare of her hips and the fullness of her ass. Her legs weren’t long, but they were toned and shapely. She was the very definition of good things coming in small packages and all I wanted to do was wrap her up and put her on a shelf that was too high and too hard to reach for anyone but me.
Choking on possession and a surge of lust unlike anything I’d ever felt, I belatedly turned my back on her and muttered thickly, “I used all the towels in there last night when I cleaned you up. I’ll go find where Booker keeps the extras.”
She moved. I felt it. The current that ran between us pulsed and throbbed with something hot. I heard her bare feet on the carpet and it took every ounce of willpower I possessed to keep my feet planted and my back turned. She was naked in a room with a very big bed and I was a man who never had such a visceral reaction to anyone…ever. If I had a switch, Noe Lee was the only person who had ever come along and flipped it. I was the actual definition of turned on when I had been off for most of my life.