BRUISED COVER, BLURB and FIRST CHAPTER!

Guess what? BRUISED, the third book in the Brody Brothers series, releases Thursday, May 23rd!!! *throws confetti*

I think it’s time to share the blurb, don’t you?

BLURB:

“You’re coming with me.”

When Killian Brody showed up at Dallas Faircloth’s work with news that her half-brother might die without her help, she never expected the oldest and sexiest Brody to freaking kidnap her to seal the deal on her cooperation.

The scandalous affair between Dallas’s mother and Killian’s father made everything inside Dallas revolt at the Brody name. It was because of a Brody her world had been left in ruins at the age of eight, and she’d had to rebuild all on her own. She hated the Brodys. Which was too bad, really. Killian Brody was take-charge, arrogant and so damn sexy she would have climbed that rugged cowboy like a tree if it weren’t for that last name of his.

Her mother had proven the men in the Brody family were as dangerously addictive as any drug, and Dallas didn’t want to get hooked. But when Killian turns his sights on her and makes her believe she’s the one he can’t live without, she has a choice—play it safe, or dive in headfirst and risk falling in love with a Brody man.

85,000 words

***This standalone contemporary romance contains multiple sex scenes. Also contains an Alpha with serious impulse issues, a spicy heroine, a felonious kidnapping that may or may not count, and one teeny little spanking. No cheating, no love triangles, no cliffhangers. HEA guaranteed. Due to adult language and sexual content, this book is not intended for people under the age of eighteen***

But wait! There’s more! I’m sharing the first chapter as well! Feel free to read on…

Chapter One

“Two orders for a shot and a beer chaser, and one Bud Light in the bottle, uncapped, for the table by the jukebox.” Dallas Faircloth set her tray on the bar that ran most of the length of The Dive, and gave the pockmarked man behind it a spectacular side-eye. “By the way, the assholes over at the snooker table will be filing a complaint with the management, or so I’m told.”

Manny Espadero, owner of The Dive, crossed himself. “Fuck me, D, what’d you do now?”

What’d you do now was probably going to be engraved on her headstone, but whatever. “I should be praised for what I didn’t do. I didn’t dislocate the thumb of the hand that groped my ass. I came close, but I didn’t. You’re welcome.”

“Yolanda never had this kind of trouble.”

“According to you, my predecessor had to retire because her varicose veins and arthritic hips made it impossible for her to do this job without the use of her scooter.”

“Look around. Do I got room for a scooter?”

Annnnd, there went the point, flying right over Manny’s balding head. It was a wonder he hadn’t felt the breeze. “No one’s going to grope the ass of someone who just became a great grandmother. Or if they do, they’re total sickos,” she thought it prudent to add. “You don’t want sickos in here, do you, Manny? What kind of place are you running here, anyway?”

“Every conversation I start with you, I somehow wind up being the bad guy and feel like I have to apologize for shit I didn’t do. Order’s up,” he added, slamming the drinks on her tray and shooing a hand at her. “Get outta my hair before I lose any more of it.”

“You got it, boss.” Checking her tray, Dallas scanned the bar with a critical eye. The Dive wasn’t the worst place she’d ever worked, but it wasn’t winning any awards, either. Dark and moody with reddish lighting that tended to make everything look like it belonged in hell, there were exactly fourteen tables crammed into a space that had once been a carriage house, then a three-car garage-slash-workshop. Manny had bought the building a decade ago, got himself a liquor license and hung out a sign.

Since that sign read “The Dive,” Manny obviously hadn’t been aiming for any Michelin stars.

But it wasn’t horrible. Manny was a twenty-year Army vet, and that weird meticulousness the military instilled in its soldiers had stuck. Everything in the bar was old and worn, but absolutely spotless. Arguably the only piece of junk to be found was a stand-up piano crammed in next to the snooker table. Every time she saw it, her fingers itched to play. She’d played it only once, but the poor thing was so out of tune it instantly sent her in search of a tuning wrench and hammer. When Manny demanded to know what she was up to—and she’d explained she’d once apprenticed at a piano-making workshop—he’d rolled his eyes and called her a bullshit artist.

She’d cop to being a bullshit artist. It was one of her many, many talents.

But she still knew how to tune a damn piano.

There were other attractions besides the piano. A flatscreen TV—not high-def—was placed over the bar and tuned into whatever boxing matches or baseball games Manny could find. The snooker table was set up in what had once been some sort of machine shop, and the faint scent of oil still hung in the air. The ‘50s-style jukebox by the door had an amazing collection of records, from the 90s dating all the way back to the days of Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.

Dallas adored it.

At the moment, The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” was warbling out as she counted heads. Several stools at the bar were occupied by The Dive’s regulars. Imogene, who was clearly sweet on Manny, nursed her one light beer. Then there was the trio of ranch hands who usually came in smelling like they’d mucked out every stall in Texas. Then there was the grocery store manager from Abel’s Market, the hardware store guy who learned not to make a pass at her early on, and Bitterthorn’s high school principal. She wasn’t sure what the school board would do if they knew the principal of their one and only high school got semi-shitfaced every night at The Dive, but she wasn’t about to tell anyone about it.

Why would she?

It’s not like she lived in Bitterthorn.

Besides which, the customers at the bar weren’t her problem. They belonged to Manny. She had the table section, which was awesome tip-wise, considering The Dive had good crowds just about every night. There was just one downside to her current part-time job—all the touchy-feely jerks who thought she was there to serve them something else besides drinks. Thankfully, they were learning. After a month of serving drinks at The Dive, just about every guy who walked into the joint knew that while she might be the daughter of Delphine Faircloth, she wasn’t the freaky, home-wrecking woman her mother was.

Pfft. Like that kind of crap was genetic.

Mr. Grabby-Hands had taken his wounded thumb over to a corner table, looking sullen as he muttered to his snickering, bearded friend. In the far corner her official babysitter, Gus Anders, kept his nose in his book—a Larry McMurtry novel, by the look of it—and pretended he wasn’t even there. It didn’t surprise her in the least that good ol’ Gus hadn’t lifted a finger when Mr. Grabby-Hands did his thing. Watching over her to make sure she didn’t run was one thing. Helping her was another.

Not that she needed help.

And she had no intention of running. She was exactly where she wanted to be—Bitterthorn, Texas, her birthplace, and the backdrop of all her crazy, wake-up-screaming nightmares.

Her attention slid back to Grabby-Hands and his buddy. Their glasses were empty, which meant one thing—fate hated her, because life was nothing more than a never-ending string of shit she didn’t want to go through, but had no other option.

So what else was new.

Gritting her teeth, Dallas held her tray in front of her like a shield, glanced at Gus—who slumped even further behind his book—and headed in their direction just as the door squeaked open. When the general volume suddenly fell so that only the TV and jukebox could be heard, Dallas’s stomach clenched. Not now, she silently prayed while continuing toward Mr. Grabby-Hands. I don’t need this hassle now.

“The fuck do you want?” Grabby-Hands looked up from his sullen examination of his thumb, which Dallas had pushed back sharply against its socket the moment the perv had made contact with her ass. She hadn’t applied enough pressure to pop it out of joint, but he was acting like he’d been crippled, the pussy.

“I see your glasses are empty.” Gamely trying for a neutral tone, Dallas was still smart enough to stay out of reach. “Need a refill?”

“Fuck you,” Grabby-Hands rejoined. Clearly, being captain of the debating team wasn’t something that was going to be found on his résumé.

“Uh-huh. How ‘bout you?” Turning to his bearded friend, Dallas raised her brows. “Want a refill?”

“Um, yeah, I guess. I’ll have—”

“Fuck, no, he don’t want nothing from you, bitch. We’re ordering nothing until you give me a fucking apology.”

Forget the debating team. It was a wonder this dude could tie his shoes. “If you’re not going to order anything, hit the bricks, pal. The sign on the door of this fine establishment says No Loitering. If you’re not drinking, you’re leaving.”

Grabby-Hands made a weird choking sound. She’d bet her tip money that he’d just stopped himself from asking what the word loitering meant. “We’ll order something when you apologize.”

“Apologize for what?”

“For almost breaking my thumb, you dumb cunt.”

What a baby. “It wouldn’t have happened if you’d kept your damn hands out of dangerous places, fool. So I guess I’m sorry you’re so stupid you didn’t expect any consequences when you shoved your hand up my skirt and groped me. How’s that for an apology?”

“You fucking whore.” He shot out of his chair like he worked on a spring, and Dallas braced herself, flipping her tray, edge-out, so that she could smash it against his Adam’s apple. But before he reached her, a huge, muscle-padded arm shot out from behind her, and an equally huge hand planted itself in the middle of Grabby-Hands’s chest in a textbook stiff-arm.

What…?

Grabby-Hands bounced back like he’d hit a wall made of rubber. He flew—holy crap, flew!—back into his chair, sitting back in it so hard it would have tipped over backwards if it hadn’t been braced up against the wall.

“You keep your ass glued to that fucking chair, you little weed, or I swear to Christ I’m gonna see how far I can shove your beer mug up your ass,” came the feral baritone voice Dallas had been hoping against hope she wouldn’t hear. But when had she ever been cut a break? Long ago, some unseen jerk in charge of her fate had decided she was going to be the butt of every joke in the universe. Big laughs for everyone.

Except her.

“What the…” Grabby-Hands flailed like a muppet in the nearly tipped-over chair, before grabbing the edge of the table to stabilize himself. “Who the fuck you think you are?”

“Killian Brody.” One stride of those long legs brought him into the space of Grabby-Hands, a man who Dallas suspected might be the stupidest human being on earth. “Any other brilliant questions, asshole?”

If it had been quiet in The Dive before, that name dropped it into mausoleum-like stillness. Even Dallas found herself holding her breath, and she again glanced at Gus, only to find the older, bowlegged man beating a hasty retreat out the nearest exit. No surprise there. She didn’t remember much about her birthplace of Bitterthorn, Texas, but even she knew not to mess with a Brody. Worse yet, Killian wasn’t just any Brody. He was the Brody. The biggest. The oldest. The smartest. And, oh yeah, the baddest of all the infamous Brody brothers. He was the visionary who’d rocketed the family from millionaires to billionaires in less than a decade. Crossing him was akin to shoving one’s head into the mouth of a hungry lion. Depending on his mood, he was a benevolent god among men or the Devil himself, bent on ruining lives without even trying.

And, of course, he was her kidnapper.

Grabby-Hands’s eyes widened to the point where she half-feared they’d pop out of their sockets. “K-Kill…”

“My bothers call me Kill. You’re not my brother.” He leaned down to semi-whisper the words to Grabby-Hands, and Dallas was sure she wasn’t the only one who shivered at the lethal sound. “You’re nothing, weed. Nothing but a piss-poor excuse of a man who has to bully women just to feel even a little bit superior, so don’t think a piss-poor weed like you gets to say my name.”

“Bully?” The idiot shook his head in protest, clearly oblivious to the fact that keeping his mouth shut was his safest bet. “Y-you got it all wrong, man. That crazy redheaded bitch attacked me outta nowhere. Suddenly grabbing my thumb and, like, shoving it so hard I thought she was gonna break it—”

Killian stilled. “Did you say… thumb?”

Oh, boy.

“You idiot,” she sighed, and actually felt the faintest hint of pity for Grabby-Hands. “Now you’ve done it.”

“Yeah, see, me and my friend were just minding our own business, not bothering no one. Then without any warning, that fucking ginger cunt comes up to where we were playing some snooker and she, uh… Um, she somehow gets a hold of my thumb, right? And then she—”

The tall tale Grabby-Hands was spinning didn’t get a chance to go any further. With a muted roar, Killian grabbed him by his shirt front—and a fair amount of skin as well, if the way Grabby-Hands screeched was any indication—picked him up like a wrestler readying a body slam, and headed for the door. One kick had it almost flying off its hinges before Killian tossed the man through it and out into the parking lot.

“You’d better go, too,” Dallas drawled to Grabby-Hands’s friend, who was sitting so still it was like Elsa had come along and frozen him to his chair. “Unless you want to be airmailed out of here like your pal.”

She got out of the way as the man did an impressive dash straight from his seated position.

Wow. Not bad.

If sprinting out of a chair ever became a thing, that dude would definitely win a medal.

“It’s called a finger-lock or a thumb-hold in self-defense, you fucking weed,” she heard Killian bellow at the man whom she assumed was now splattered all over The Dive’s parking lot. “The only reason she would’ve gotten a hold of your thumb was if you put it on her—exactly where the fuck it doesn’t belong. You took your dirty fucking hands and you put them on her. That means you need to get the fuck out of Bitterthorn and never come back, weed, because I will never let you rest here. If I ever see your sorry ass again, I’ll bury your piece-of-shit body where no one can fucking find it.”

“Nice,” Dallas muttered, shaking her head before wandering back to the bar to slap her tray down in front of Manny. “Death threats where everyone and their dog can hear them. A real brain trust, that one.”

“Fuckin’ Brodys don’t care, D. They’re like kings of the world, but like any patriotic American, I hate the idea of kings.” Manny sent a surly look at his poor, abused front door even as Killian headed back through it. “You’re paying to have my door fixed.”

Killian’s black glare put Manny’s to shame. “I paid for the table I broke last week, didn’t I? I’m good for it.”

That clearly was not the best thing to say to pacify Manny. “You keep comin’ in here breakin’ my shit, Brody. I know my dinky little bar ain’t nothing to the likes of you, with your fancy mansions and your airplanes and your fuckin’ jillion-dollar parties. But this dinky little bar is where I rule, you got that? When you show up, people leave and I lose money—and usually some furniture. You’re bad for business, and I’m tired of it.”

“I’m not the one who’s bad for your business, Espadero.” Still wearing an expression that suggested murder was his favorite hobby, Killian slid onto a barstool. Immediately the people already sitting at the bar vanished like Houdini impersonators. “Do yourself a favor and fire Dallas Faircloth. I promise you’ll never see me again.”

“Just like a man,” Dallas gritted out, pumping up the fury so the despair that had been threatening to devour her for weeks now didn’t sink its dark, paralyzing teeth into her heart. “Blame me for your bad behavior, just like Grabby-Hands did. Come to think of it, the resemblance between you and that loser is striking. Are you guys related?”

That swung his ominous attention her way, and she had to lock her spine in place not to cower. At first glance, Killian Brody was every woman’s dream. With his curling black hair waving almost to his massive shoulders, both ears pierced with green-colored studs, and another green-studded barbell piercing in his left brow right through a wicked looking scar, he was certainly the type of man she would have gone for. Several inches over six feet, built like Superman on his best day, a close-cropped beard that framed perfect lips, and eyes that matched the dark green of the body jewelry he preferred, he was just about perfect to look at. When he’d walked into the Sugar Land music store where she’d been working as assistant manager, she’d taken one look at him and wondered how she could talk him into the storage room without getting fired.

Then he’d introduced himself, a frigging Brody, and it was all she could do to keep from throwing up on his highly polished custom-made boots.

From there, things had gone downhill. Fast.

“You’d better explain yourself, woman,” Killian said in that almost-whisper that made her think all he wanted to do was scream like a demon. “What makes you think I’m anything like that fucking little weed?”

“First of all,” she said, leaning against the bar to look him right in the eye, when all she really wanted to do was flee in terror when he spoke in that scary-soft tone, “the weed blamed me for not enjoying the oh-so manly way he slimed his disgusting hand up my skirt to pinch my ass so hard I’m going to be wearing his filthy mark on my skin for at least a couple days. And just now, when your shitty behavior was pointed out to you—”

Ay, Dios mio, don’t make it worse, D,” Manny groaned.

“—instead of manning up and proving you’ve got some kind of spine, your automatic default response was to blame me. For what, by the way? For being here at The Dive? For existing? And secondly… How’s your thumb, Brody?”

The massage Killian had absently been giving the joint at the base of his thumb came to an abrupt halt. “My point—you wouldn’t get touched by unworthy slimeballs like that if you weren’t working here.”

“There you go, blaming me for existing again.”

“Damn it, that’s the last thing I’m saying,” he muttered, shaking his head. “You’ve got the whole victim thing down pat, don’t you?”

God, the arrogance… “What I’ve got down pat is the truth. Do you even know what that truth is?”

“That your idiotic life choices have led you to work in this shithole?”

“Fuck you,” Manny snarled.

“The truth,” Dallas pushed on, refusing to rise to the bait, “is that I wouldn’t have gotten touched if I were still in Sugar Land working my job in the music store where you found me, and not in fucking Bitterthorn. That’s the truth.”

Abruptly he shot to his feet, causing her to jump back and out of harm’s way. His eyes narrowed at her, as if her involuntary movement somehow offended him, before he dug into his back pocket for his wallet. “You’re here in town until you’re no longer needed. End of discussion. For the door,” he added to Manny and tossed some bills onto the bar. It didn’t surprise her one bit to discover he walked around with hundred-dollar bills the same way she walked around with quarters and dimes. “Is she working tomorrow?”

She can answer for herself,” Dallas snapped while Manny scooped up the cash.

“Yeah, she is,” Manny said, shoving the money into his pocket without ever taking his eyes off Killian. “And the next night, and the night after that. You might chase away all my customers, but the moment you’re gone they come back, better than ever. Your family isn’t as popular around here as you think, Brody.”

“That so?” Killian sent a glance around the room. The few patrons who had remained avoided making eye contact, but the hostility in the room was palpable. “It’s funny how you think any Brody man would ever give a shit about that, Espadero. See you tomorrow night.”

***

Ta-da! Talk about a rocky start! How will Dallas and Killian get themselves onto a smoother path? Is it even possible? Find out in just THREE DAYS, when BRUISED releases Thursday, May 23rd! *happy dance*

PRE-ORDER LINKS:

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