He doesn’t ask their names.
He doesn’t deserve to know them.
Ransom Riley Hale's friends think his life is charmed: first string as a freshman on a championship-winning college football team. A father with two Super Bowl rings. A mother with platinum albums and multiple Grammies under her belt. But that brilliant shine on the surface hides the darkness beneath; it's all Ransom has ever known.
Despite the shadows he walked in, once there was a blinding light fracturing the darkness. It brought the promise of hope and happiness. He’d been careless, filled with pride and stupidity and lost that light. Ripped it from the world.
Now, the shadows are dimming again. Aly King surges into his life threatening to pull him from the darkness. She is everything Ransom can never be again. Her light feels too warm, promises him that there is more waiting for him beyond the shadows.
But the shadows are relentless, resurfacing when he thinks he is safe, and Ransom knows he must keep Aly from them too before he pulls her down into the darkness with him.
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“I love your family.” My gaze slipped up to meet hers, but I didn’t speak, struck silent by her confession. “A month in and I’m completely stupid over your folks and Koa.”
That tightness pulling the muscles around my mouth lessened and I nodded, understanding what she meant. “They’re easy to love.”
She agreed, moving her head once. “And, well… I get that the dance, the music, um, sometimes all that sensation can be overwhelming.”
In the back of my mind, could hear the voice whispering awful things, terrible things, about Aly and her intentions. Things I knew were not true. She wasn’t scheming. She didn’t have agendas and wasn’t a gold-digger. When that voice grew louder, I blocked it out by staring at Aly’s mouth and tried to concentrate on what she was saying.
“I love reading to Koa because he’s so young he doesn’t know doing character voices isn’t cool.” She hadn’t stopped tapping her thumbs together and looked down at them like she needed something other than my stare to focus on. “I like listening to Kona talk about CPU when your parents were kids there and all the stupid shit he pulled his first season in the league.” A small smile then and I leaned back, not thinking about why my gaze wouldn’t move away from all those long waves. “I love hearing Keira play her guitar or talk about the places she’s seen, the people she’s met and how at the end of the day none of that is as fascinating to her as watching Koa sleep or hearing you laugh.”
Aly turned her head to look at me. She wore pale pink lipstick and that bottom lip gleamed against the console light.
“The thing is, I wouldn’t want anything to screw this up.”
She ignored me then, looking out of the window until I reached over with one hand and stopped her thumbs from tapping, forcing her to glance back at me. “I like you.” She moved closer and I didn’t take my hand from her thumbs. “I like that you’re so willing to help me out and how you see that the audition, the dance, are so important to me. But it’s not just me, I know. You help your parents, and Leann and Tristian–hell, I know you’d do anything for him. And I…”
I couldn’t resist any longer. I reached up and threaded a finger through one of the loose waves of her hair. Aly immediately stopped talking.
“And you don’t want anything to screw that up.” Her chin moved down and she settled back into the seat, eyes lowering again as I watched a few strands fall against my palm. “You think me kissing you would be what, exactly?”
“Um…a…a start to all the good getting screwed up.” I barely made out her words and wasn’t conscious of her hesitation. I only knew that those pink lips were wet, that the thick, soft hair between my fingers felt like silk and Aly smelled like something so delicious that my mouth watered.
We both unconsciously leaned in as though some invisible line pulled us closer and closer together. I was almost at her mouth, had my hand on her face, could feel the warmth of her small breaths that smelled like mint. I wanted to nibble on that bottom lip just to see if it tasted as good as it looked.
“We… me zanmi you smell good, but…we have to be friends.”
“Friends?” That yellow caution light went up and I didn’t even tap my breaks. Hell, I’ve always been a “yellow light, go faster” kind of driver. “You want to be my friend, Aly?” She made a noise that could’ve have been a no, probably was a yes. Then her breath got faster and I didn’t take my hand from her face. “Just my friend?”
Then I kissed my friend Aly right on the mouth, not stopping to think about it, having no control over my body as my teeth smoothed across her bottom lip. And when that small, soft tongue slipped against my lips, I released a sigh, all desperate and hungry, that I hadn’t expected. Right then, I forgot about guilt and shame and the fact that Aly was supposed to be someone I knew, not someone I wanted. I guided her face up, loving how she tasted like peppermint and felt like cotton candy.
“Friends…Ransom,” and she kissed me back like she couldn’t control herself, like someone else was making her lips work against mine.
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Eden Butler is an editor and writer of New Adult Romance and SciFi and Fantasy novels and the nine-times great-granddaughter of an honest-to-God English pirate. This could explain her affinity for rule breaking and rum. Her debut novel, a New Adult, Contemporary (no cliffie) Romance, “Chasing Serenity” launched in October 2013 and quickly became an Amazon bestseller.
When she’s not writing or wondering about her possibly Jack Sparrowesque ancestor, Eden edits, reads and spends way too much time watching rugby, Doctor Who and New Orleans Saints football.
She is currently imprisoned under teenage rule alongside her husband in southeast Louisiana.
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