Authors: Tess Oliver,Anna Hart
Copyright© 2015 by Tess Oliver & Anna Hart
Cover Image by
Kruse Images and Photography
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All Rights are Reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Jade dropped her arm around me. “Amy and I have decided you can’t go to Alaska.” Her words were a little stretched from drink, which, for Jade, meant two beers instead of one.
Amy grabbed my arm on the other side. “That’s right. We’re going to tie you up and keep you hostage.”
I lifted a brow at her. “I like where this is going. And if you weren’t married to my very scary big brother, I would be completely turned on right now.”
Amy released my arm and smacked it. “Oh my god, you can turn any conversation dirty.”
“Yep, a skill I’ve had perfected since I was fifteen when the only thing occupying my brain was girls and making out.”
“Then I guess that makes you mentally stunted at fifteen.” Jade laughed but her smile faded quickly. “Seriously, couldn’t you just stay here and continue working for that big ruddy-faced Captain Dill or Dell or whoever?”
Amy took a sip of my beer. She was sliding over to the long, slow words side of drunk too. “I guess the probability of being maimed or drowned isn’t quite high enough on a small fishing trawler. Slade prefers the threat of a horrible death to hang over him. Gives him a fucking hard on.”
Again, I lifted a brow at her. “Look who’s talking dirty now.” I lifted my arms and placed one each around Jade and Amy, a move that would have gotten any of the other guys in the bar a sound pummeling from Hunter and Colt. I’d grown to love them both like sisters. They were worried about the possibility of me working on a crab fishing boat on the Bering Sea. It made me smile to think about. I couldn’t ever remember anyone, not even my parents—especially not my parents—being worried about me. It felt nice.
“First of all, I only went for the interview. My fishing experience isn’t that tight. There’s a good chance I won’t even get the position. But if I do, the money is a lot better up there. Yeah, it comes with some danger, but I didn’t earn the nickname Bolt for nothing. My reflexes are fast like lightning, and I’m a Stone. I’m tough as fucking granite.”
Amy finished the last drops of my beer. “No one calls you Bolt.”
“They don’t?” I pretended shock. “Well, they fucking should. Maybe you should start the tradition, and others will follow. Look, Street, everyone is moving on here. You’re a friggin’ bar owner now.” I waved my arm around Lazy Daze. Six months after she’d married my brother, Hunter, she’d bought the bar. Jack, the owner of Lazy Daze, had given her a great deal on buying the place. She’d gotten insurance money after her mother’s house burned down, and she’d sold the lot it sat on too. She’d already made some improvements and even expanded the place to add a pool hall, a place where Hunter spent most of his free time. I squeezed Jade on the other side of me. “Jade is selling real estate.”
“I haven’t actually sold anything yet,” she said.
“You will. Colt and Hunter are doing their thing with fixing up that old house to sell. For me, I love working on the water. It’s the only trait I inherited from my old man.”
“Thank goodness for that,” Amy said.
My dad had been one of the worst assholes to ever walk the planet, but there was no way to deny that he’d been a good fisherman. If nothing else, people could say
“If I get the job, I’ll only be gone for a few months in fall and winter, and I promise to come home alive and with all my limbs.”
Jade leaned forward to look at Amy. “Do you know what this boy needs?”
“A steady girlfriend?” Amy replied.
I leaned my head back against the seat of the booth. “Holy shit, here we go again. You girls don’t get it. I’m perfectly happy on my own. I’m a free fucking spirit, and I intend to keep it that way.” I kissed each girl on the forehead. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, Jessica Grimly promised me an extremely raunchy good time, and I see her winking at me from across the room.”
Amy slid out of the booth to get back to work. I followed her. “Hey, Street, can I borrow the key to that little room in back?”
“This is not a brothel, buddy.”
“No cash will be involved. I’m only going to be paying for this with my sweat and my—”
Amy pressed her hand over my mouth. “Shut up. No details. The key is in the office, and don’t you dare break anything in there.”
“Me? What kind of a sex-crazed maniac do you take me for?”
“You don’t really want me to answer that, do you?” Amy patted my chest. “Besides, Jessica makes you look like a damn monk, so tell her to keep the screaming down to a mild roar. This is a respectable drinking establishment.”
Colt and Hunter were just coming out of the pool room as I walked out of the office with the key.
“Where are you headed?” Colt asked.
“Back room with the very willing and very wild Jessica.” I looked back across the bar. Jessica licked her bottom lip and winked. I turned back to my brothers. “She used the words raunchy and punishing. You know I’m all about that. But I’ve got to remind her about her fingernails. I hate the fucking fingernails.”
“Then I guess a game of pool is out,” Hunter said.
“No, of course I’d much rather shoot colorful balls across felt than tie that hot little sweetie up and give her the spanking she’s been begging for all night.”
“Hey, boys,” Jessica’s sultry twang sounded behind me. She turned to me. “I just heard that you are heading up north to work on one of those crab fishing boats.” She stepped in between Hunter and me. “First Colt gets snapped up. Then Hunter gets hitched. And now the last of the hunky Stone brothers is shipping off to Alaska. You guys just threw cold water on every local girl’s fantasy.”
“The fantasy is still standing right here.” I pounded my chest like Tarzan.
She smiled. “No, I meant the fantasy of a foursome with all the Stone brothers.” She punctuated her words with a nice purse of her lips.
Hunter looked at her. “You mean all of us at once?”
“Yep.” She tucked her hands in her back pockets to give us all a nice view of her ample tits. “All three of you in bed at once wearing just those famous Stone smiles and your tattoos.”
We glanced around at each other, and a simultaneous look of disgust crossed my brothers’ faces.
“Shit, yuck, that’s fucking never going to happen,” I said. “Here’s the key, Jess. I’ll be right there.”
We watched her sashay away. “Damn,” I muttered, “I guess if I leave, and with you two wearing your powder blue, old man sweaters waiting for your little women to serve you meatloaf in front of the television, the women around here are going to be wandering the town dazed and horny and wondering how the hell such a dark shadow fell over our little town.”
“First of all, the day I show up in a powder blue, old man sweater is the day someone needs to put a bullet in my head,” Colt said. “And the fishing gig would only be a few months. Just think of the welcome home you’d get.” He patted my shoulder. “But, if you do get the job, it’s not going to be the same around here without you.”
I turned to Hunter. He hadn’t said much yet. “Well, big brother? What are you thinking about with that massive, ole hard skull of yours?”
He shrugged. “I was just thinking powder blue goes nicely with my coloring.” His expression turned serious. “You still sure about this? I hear it’s really fucking gnarly out there. I know you’re tough as steel but—well, just fucking be sure, eh?”
“I don’t even have the position yet.” I knuckled him on the shoulder. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, someone needs a spanking.” I headed to the back room. When Captain Dell, the man I’d been working for, mentioned he’d heard about a greenhorn position opening on a crab fishing boat, I’d leapt at it. I flew to Alaska to interview for the job. I needed something more solid than the occasional crew member on a local fishing boat. With my brothers both in serious relationships, which, in turn, had caused them to give up drug running for more legitimate pursuits, I’d become a fifth wheel. I needed to get my own life going.
I tapped on the door.
“Come in,” Jessica answered.
I opened the door. She was stripped down to just a lacy black bra and her high heel shoes. I stepped inside and shut the door. “Do you know what I love about you, sweetie?”
“What’s that?” she asked in a silky voice that made my cock harden even more.
“When it’s time to get down to business, you don’t waste any time.” I walked over to her.
A wicked grin curled her pink, glossy lips as she lifted a pair of handcuffs with one cuff already secured around her wrist.
“Carrying your own handcuffs. I love that about you too.” I wrapped my arms around her waist and pulled her against me. “Now—about that spanking.”
I walked inside, dropped my bags and blinked back the tears. Just when I was sure I couldn’t feel any lower, my mood sank more. The room was even shabbier and more depressing than I’d imagined, but a weekly rate motel room was better than living in the car. Or, at least a little better.
The carpet smelled weird, and I decided it was best if I didn’t try and puzzle out the odor. I could only imagine what previous tenants had done within the yellowing walls of the cramped space. There was a small stove and a stained coffee pot but no refrigerator. The manager had told me they used too much electricity. I would have to buy an ice chest.
It was all temporary, I assured myself. I’d save enough of each paycheck to get a down payment for my own place.
were such scary words, yet they gave me a sliver of hope. I was alone for the first time in my life. Completely alone. Someday, I’d get past this horrible, dark period in my life. Someday.
I picked up my bags and carried them to the small closet. A few hangers dangled on the bar, and a small dresser was shoved inside the space. I wasn’t going to unpack. If I unpacked, it would mean I was planning to stay for awhile. And I most definitely wasn’t.
My phone rang. It was the call I’d been waiting for. “Hello.”
“Yes, this is Mr. Towne. You left a message about the house rental?”
“Yes, I did. But, actually, I was just hoping you could tell me where your last tenant, Damon Rathmore, moved to. He had some of my sister’s things with him when he moved out.”
An irritated pause followed. “I don’t keep information like that,” he said sharply. “I’m very sorry, Miss Henley, but I can’t help you.” He hung up. I’d expected it. But I wasn’t about to give up. I needed to know what’d happened to my sister, and Damon was the person with the answers. I wasn’t completely sure how, but I was going to track him down.
“So, Slade, was I telling the truth or what?” Cleveland poured the last of the beer into his glass. He was a large, soft-as-pudding looking guy who had hair sprouting out of just about every inch of his face and arms. He reminded me of a big, doughy werewolf, but he was a decent guy and he’d taught me a lot about working on a fishing boat.
I finished my last drops. “The beer is tasty and cheap. I’ll give you that.”
“And?” he prodded. “The women?”
I patted my pocket. “Yep, I got some promising phone numbers.”
“And you’ll send the extras my way. That was part of the deal, remember? Although, I’m pretty sure that girl with the little pink streaks in her hair already wanted me. She kept eyeing me while she was talking to you.”
“That might have been because of the way you were looking at her. Dude, you’ve taught me a lot about fishing, so let me give you a few pointers in my area of expertise. Don’t show desperation. Even if your cock hurts just looking at them, don’t stare at women like you’re going to eat them for dinner.” I circled my hand in front of him. “You’ve already got the whole werewolf thing going on, so cool it a little with the whole licking your chops expression.”
“Right. I won’t lick my chops.” He leaned back against his chair. “Still no word on the greenhorn position in Alaska?” Cleveland had been traveling to the Bering Sea every fall and winter for three years. He’d given me a lot of tips on how to get hired on a crab fishing crew, and he’d encouraged me to give it a try.
“No word yet. Do you think that means I didn’t get it?”
“Nah, it’s only August. The captains are working on getting their boats and equipment ready for the season. They aren’t worried about crew members yet. You’ll hear soon enough.”
I glanced around the Cuckoo’s Nest Saloon. It was a decent sized place with a small dance floor near the jukebox and a row of dark green stools running along the bar counter. There was a mix of people inside, including some who looked as if they’d driven out from the city after a day in the office and some who looked as if they’d spent their entire week doing more questionable things than working. Cleveland had talked me into trying out the place, but I still felt guilty being there.
I turned to him. “Just remember, I was never here with you. I won’t hear the end of it from Amy.”
“Feeling like a traitor, eh?” Cleveland lifted his beer. “You need to stretch your horizons. Now that Hunter is married and Colt, it seems, is not far behind, you’ll be the last Stone standing.”
Loud, obnoxious laughter roared up from the farthest corner of the bar. Three guys had been sitting there all night getting completely wasted and being, in general, fucking annoying. People were walking a wide berth around the table just to avoid them. Even the servers seemed to be taking turns so that the burden didn’t fall to one person. I’d been avoiding making eye contact with them all night because I was pretty sure any interaction with one of them would lead to trouble.
Cleveland glanced their direction. “Those dicks are regulars here on Friday nights. Not completely sure what the hell their stories are, but they ride around on motorcycles and bully people.”
“Are they in a club? I don’t see any cuts.”
“Nah, just a bunch of wannabes.”
We were close enough to the door to feel the cool night air float in every time someone walked inside. A petite girl strode in purposefully looking about as angry as someone with an incredibly pretty face could look. Her dark brown hair was cut in one of those short pixie styles. It stood up in spikes in some places, a look that worked for her. With her big brown eyes, tiny button nose and perfectly shaped lips, she was nothing short of beautiful.
“Check out the little wood sprite in tight ripped jeans and a sweatshirt. She just needs a pair of silvery wings.” Cleveland pointed her out as if there was any way I could have missed her. She was tiny, but she’d swept into the bar like a fucking meteor shower, a breathtaking meteor shower.
She stopped in front of our table and looked around. Her brown eyes darted angrily about the room.
“What’s the matter, Tinkerbell?” I asked. “Did you lose your magic fairy dust?”
Her gaze flitted toward the three loudmouths in the corner, and she marched toward them.
Cleveland laughed. “Did my eyes deceive me or did a member of the female gender just ignore Slade Stone?”
“It happens.” I lifted a finger at him. “But it’s rare, trust me.”
A simultaneous gasp sucked the air in the room silent. Only the jukebox was still cranking along with a Johnny Cash tune. All eyes were on the girl. That’s when I saw the glint of a gun barrel under the copper pendant light dangling overhead.
“Shit, the wingless pixie has a gun,” Cleveland muttered. The other patrons ducked for cover, and full shocked silence extinguished all the energy from the room. The three assholes who had been loud and annoying were now frozen in fear. She’d picked one of the guys, in particular. He was a big dude with a shaved head and a beard. He leaned back hard against the seat of the booth as if that could get him out of the gun’s path.
“Where is he?” she said sharply. There was a slightly raspy sound to her small voice, a little honey mixed with sand, and, warped asshole that I was, I couldn’t help thinking how good that gritty voice would sound in the heat of a good fuck.
The guy put up his hand. “Look, Brit, I don’t know where the hell Damon is. I haven’t seen him since Perris died. I’ve got nothing to do with this.”
She pressed her second hand against the gun in an attempt to make it look as if she was serious about shooting the guy, but I’d glimpsed a tremble in her gun arm. She was using the second hand for support. “You’re lying, you asshole. Just tell me where the hell he is, and I won’t shoot you in the face.” She stepped closer, and the guy’s eyes bulged.
The other patrons had all ducked behind chairs and tables and corners to watch from a safe distance. The jukebox was between songs and you could just about hear everyone’s heartbeats in the dead quiet of the room. Cleveland and I watched from our table as if we were watching a movie.
She pushed the gun even closer to his face.
“You crazy, fucking bitch, get that thing away from me. You’re not going to shoot me.”
“Try me.” I heard the gun cock.
The guy’s face went white. I’d been busy watching the girl with the gun and hadn’t noticed that one of his buddies was diving from his chair. He outweighed the girl by a good hundred pounds, but he still tackled her like they were on a football field. The gun flew out of her hand. She moaned in pain as her body slammed against the floor. The tackler landed directly on top of her. He pushed to his feet, and the guy she’d had the gun pointed at flew out of his seat and grabbed the back of her sweatshirt.
I was out of my chair and across the room before my head had even told me to move.
She screamed and pummeled his arm as it tightened around her waist. As he lifted his hand to hit her, my fist plowed into his face. He dropped the girl and fell back hard. The tackler came at me. I kicked my leg out, hitting him squarely in the knee. As the third friend tried to get up from the table, I jammed the table edge into his chest.
I’d rendered all three off balance, but I knew it would be short-lived. I swung around and took hold of the girl’s hand and dragged her through the bar.
“Let me go,” she cried and yanked her hand free. She flew back in the direction of the three guys, who were just recovering and now looked far more pissed at me than the girl.
I lunged forward and wrapped my arm around her waist. “Come on, Annie Oakley, we’ve got to get you out of here.” She struggled in my arms as I slung her over my shoulder. From the corner of my eye I could see Cleveland lifting his hands in question as I carried her out the door.
She pounded my back soundly as I carried her into the dark parking lot. “Put me down. I’m not going back in there. I promise.”
I lowered her feet to the ground. She ran toward the three motorcycles parked next to each other in front of the bar. “Assholes!” she screamed as she shoved the first bike. It tipped over, and, in a classic domino effect, the others followed.
The door to the bar flew open. I raced to her and, once again, grabbed her hand. “All right, hot-tempered Tinkerbell, you’ve made your point, and I’m not in the mood to take on three guys at once. I came with a friend. Where’s your car? Please tell me you didn’t fucking walk here with that loaded gun.”
Loud footsteps pounded the asphalt behind us. She glanced back. “Shit, they look really pissed.”
“Yep. Putting a gun in a man’s face will do that.”
“This way.” Now she was pulling me. Her little Subaru was sitting at the far end of the lot. Our three friends had already righted their bikes, and they were firing up the motors. We reached her car.
“Is this a five speed with some kick?” I asked about her car.
“Cool. Give me the keys.”
She tossed me the keys, and we climbed inside. I threw it into first and left behind some rubber as we took off toward the highway.
She looked back. “They’re following.”
“Thought they might.” As I drove up the onramp, an eighteen wheeler was rumbling along in the slow lane. I pressed my foot on the pedal and nodded with approval. “Nice. Never driven one of these. Hold on.” I raced ahead and slipped in front of the truck just as the yield lane ended. I glanced up in the rearview mirror. The three headlights disappeared behind the truck. I zigzagged around the cars until it seemed we’d lost our triple-eyed tail.
The girl faced the front, leaned back and crossed her arms. “I could have driven.”
“I know. I’ve just always wanted to drive one of these. Too bad it’s not raining. I could try out a few of my drifting moves.” I smiled at her.
She didn’t smile in return. She blinked her big, fawn eyes at me. One small, very bitable ear had no elfin point but there was a long row of tiny gold hoops running down it.
“Some people would consider thanking me for saving them from three big bullies.”
She shrugged. “Some people might, but I was on a mission and you fucked it all up.”
“If your mission was to get pummeled by a guy who outweighed you by about a hundred pounds, then you almost succeeded. You were looking for the dude’s brother?”
“Yep.” She pulled her feet up, jammed her purple high-top sneakers onto the seat and hugged her knees to her chest. Her heels moved up and down nervously as if sitting still wasn’t an option.
“You’re a little wound up,” I said. “Are you high on something?”
She grunted at the insult and reached down into the console. She pulled out a big can of energy drink. It was empty.
“Ah yes, I guess a big can like that going into a little person like you would cause some nervous energy.”
She squeezed her legs again. Her knees stuck out through the holes in her faded jeans. “I drank two.”
“Damn. Those little legs must be hollow.” My phone buzzed, and I grabbed it out of my pocket. “Hey, Cleveland,”
“Stone, what the hell? Where are you?”
“Uh, we’re heading down the highway right now. Don’t worry about me. I’ll hitch a ride back home or something.”
“Hell’s fucking fire, Stone, you are something else. Gotta say, you flew so fast across that barroom when they grabbed her, I didn’t even see you move.”
“Yep, that’s why they call me Bolt. I move like fucking lighting.”
“Who calls you that?” Cleveland asked.
“Well, no one yet, but I keep throwing it out there hoping it’ll stick. Listen, Cleve, I see the bikes are gaining on us, so I’ll see you Monday.”
A headlight flashed in the side view mirror. I leaned my head to the side to get a better look.
My caffeine pumped passenger wriggled in her seat. “I will probably have to pee soon.”
“Two cans? I’d say so. Hold on, Tink, our friends are back.”
She looked back over the seat. “God, what stubborn fucking buttheads. The damn gun wasn’t even real.”
I laughed. “Looked pretty fucking convincing clutched in those shaky fingers of yours.”
I sped up and dashed in front of a minivan that was moving along at a good clip in the fast lane. The three bikes pulled up next to us. The guy in front had a side view mirror that was dangling and flopping in the breeze like a chrome colored flag.
“Ha! I broke the jerk’s mirror.” My daring sidekick rolled down her window, stuck out her hand and raised her middle finger at the guy. She sat back and rolled up the window. “Damn, it’s cold out there. I’ve got a motel room off the Tatter Lane exit. You can take me there.”
“I’ve got to lose these guys first. Otherwise, all we did was postpone the fight.” I headed to the next exit.
She looked over at me. “But the motel is still a few miles ahead.”
“Yeah, I know. But there is a sweetly curved stretch of coastal highway off this exit, and I wanted to see how this baby handled.”
“Seriously? We’re taking a detour so you can play race car driver?”
“Race car driver? I like the sound of that.”
She glanced back. “They are following us.”
I pushed in the clutch and shoved it into fourth. “Then, my pretty little accomplice, I guess it’s a good thing I have a plan.”