Author: A.L. Jackson
Series: Bleeding Stars #5
Release date: January 23, 2017
(Sub)genres: Contemporary Romance
I’m Ash Evans.
The life of the party.
Hot. Rich. Charismatic.
A tattooed rock star with the world at my feet.
I burn through women faster than the strike of a match.
I’ve embraced my lifestyle and live it to the fullest.
Until the day my lifestyle caught up to me.
Willow Langston found me at my lowest.
Facedown in a puddle of my own blood.
I owe her my life and I have three months to repay that debt.
What I never should have done was touch her. Kiss her. Take her to my bed.
Love wasn’t supposed to be a part of the equation.
I gave up that nasty complication a long damned time ago.
Now I want her more than my next breath.
But she doesn’t know what I know.
Do I leave to protect her? Or can I face my demons and ask her to Stay?
She stared back at me with big chocolate eyes.
Her gaze washed over me like lava.
Burning up everything in its path.
“You are so beautiful,” she said, voice hoarse.
“Peaches,” I whispered as a warning. Wasn’t sure I trusted myself with her right then.
“You are. Did you know…did you know the first time I saw you…when you were lying covered in blood and you opened your eyes and looked at me, that I saw it? Something so beautiful and raw and powerful. Even when you’d been broken. The way you looked at me shook me straight to my bones. And then tonight…what you did for me…I don’t…”
I roughed a hand through my thrashing hair, a perfect mirror to my thrashing heart. “Peaches.”
I didn’t deserve the way she was looking at me. Like I was good and right when I was no better than the bastard we’d left lying back there on the floor.
So slowly, she reached out, shaking fingers gentle as she traced them along the scar that marked that night beneath my eye.
A tremble took me whole.
Energy pulsed and shivered and shook.
I gripped her by the wrist and pressed the underside to my nose. “You’re killing me, darlin’.”
“And you’re saving me.”
A hard frown hit me. “It was you who did all the saving.”
Sitting back a fraction, she shook her head. “If it weren’t for you, I’d be home tonight, hiding in the dark.” Her tongue darted out to sweep across her lips. “I never would have been brave enough to go there or to stand up to him. To say those things.”
“But that’s where I think you’re wrong, darlin’.” This time it was my turn to reach out and touch her. I cupped the side of her face, glancing between her and the road. “I think you’re so much braver than you’ve been giving yourself credit for. I see it there. Feel it every time I look at you. You’re incredible, Willow. Every time you walk through my door, I know it. So good that I know I shouldn’t be doing whatever the fuck it is I think I’m doin’ with you.”
She was still panting those breathy pants, and she leaned into my touch.
“I…” she attempted before she looked down, averted her gaze. Even with her head downturned, there was no missing the blush creeping to her cheeks. She hesitated before she spoke. “When you kiss me…it doesn’t feel like pretending. It feels like the best thing I’ve ever felt.”
I swallowed hard, crossing a line. Pushing into the boundaries that should have been firmly set in place. “That’s because when I kiss you? It’s not pretend. When I tell you you’re gorgeous—the best thing I’ve ever seen? I mean it. And when I look at you…”
I touched the center of my chest, feeling ripped open wide. Exposed. Maybe telling her the truth when it wouldn’t do either of us any good was wrong. But there was no hiding when this girl was looking at me that way. “I feel it right here. We might be pretending, but you can’t fake this.”
Like she didn’t trust herself, she pressed farther against the door. “You make me want things…things I know I shouldn’t want.”
“And what is it you want, Peaches?” I prodded low, knowing full well I was pointing us in the direction of no return. “Told you when I came into your store that I’d give you anything.”
“I want…” She tucked her bottom lip between her teeth, nervous or unsure whether to give me the truth.
Blood pounded mercilessly through my veins. Thickened with lust. All of it clouded my judgment, knocking loose my center of gravity.
Because I knew the look on her face. Desire was written across her like a musical score.
The way her body rocked and trembled and silently pled.
Desperate to be played.
I knew I should close my mouth. Shut this down. Drop her at home. Instead, I let the words slide free. “Tell me, Peaches.”
The needy rasp fell from between her lips. “I want you to touch me.”