an Axle Alley Vipers novel by Sherilee Gray
Indulgence‘s new romance is about to make your night a whole lot hotter…
He’s driving her crazy…
Piper West is finally on her own, and it’s time to get crazy. Except that her overprotective big bro has enlisted his ex-cop best friend to keep an eye on his baby sister. With every move monitored and reported back, Piper’s life has gone from “going crazy” to “being driven crazy.” But a searing-hot kiss with her sexy and scarred watchdog is just the game-changer she needs…
Cole Black owes Piper’s brother big-time, but there’s nothing easy about his new assignment. Piper is all feisty sexiness and curves meant to tempt a man beyond reason, and Cole can’t stop himself. Now he’s caught up in a hunger like nothing he’s ever known, and he can’t get enough…
Even if Piper’s the one girl he’s not allowed to have.
Series: Axle Alley Vipers, #3
Author: Sherilee Gray
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 265 pages
Release Date: February 2016
Price listed is for the U.S. digital format. Please confirm pricing and availability with the retailer before downloading.
An Excerpt from:
by Sherilee Gray
Copyright © 2016 by Sherilee Gray. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Cole Black stepped out of the shower, slung a towel around his hips, and limped to the vanity.
How the fuck had he gotten himself into this?
Deacon West, his best friend, was getting married today. Yeah, he was happy Deke and Alex had finally gotten it together—Alex Franco was the only woman the guy had ever wanted. He knew how that felt, knew what it was like to want one woman with everything you had—and to have her out of your reach. But Deke had found a way back into Alex’s heart. So yeah, he was fucking thrilled, for both of them.
But best man at his wedding? Nuts-in-vise torture.
Swiping the condensation from the mirror, he took a hard look at himself. He looked like shit. Full beard, rough as hell. He never would have gotten away with it if he’d still been one of New York City’s finest.
He hadn’t seen his face clean-shaven in close to a year, not since the accident that ended his career.
The accident that ended his partner’s life.
Because of Cole’s carelessness, his lack of judgment, Adam’s wife no longer had a husband. His kid would grow up without a father. What he’d been left with was nothing; nothing he didn’t deserve.
A shudder moved through him. Dammit. He slammed the brakes on that line of thought before it took him places he couldn’t go. Not today.
The facial hair currently covered most of the damage he’d taken to his face, but he knew how bad the angry, jagged scar looked.
He just hoped there weren’t any small children at the wedding. The idea of a bunch of kids screaming in terror while they watched the scary, scarred guy limp down the aisle like Quasimodo after the ceremony made his gut roll.
On autopilot, he picked up a small pair of scissors and started trimming before he changed his mind. This, at least, he could do, especially after everything Deke had done for him. Not only had he stuck around when Cole sure as fuck hadn’t made it easy on him, he’d given him a job, made him manager of West Security.
He owed him, would be indebted to him for the rest of his life.
Foaming up, he started on the right, the undamaged side of his face. Smoothing the razor across his upper lip, his chin, until the skin was clean and smooth.
He tilted his head to the side and sucked in an unsteady breath. Yeah, he recognized that guy. From this angle, he looked like the man he’d once been, before everything went to shit. That guy had been a respected cop, a guy who liked to go out, who had friends, who played sports. That guy had big plans.
But he wasn’t that guy anymore, and his inside now matched the scarred exterior.
It’s just a fucking beard. Come on, asshole, grow a pair and finish the job.
He shook his head. No he wasn’t the same guy, but he could at least look halfway respectable for his friend’s wedding.
A wedding where there would be no chance of avoiding Piper West.
The woman he’d wanted for as long as he could remember. The woman he’d planned to move back to Miami for as soon as he’d gotten the promotion he’d been working toward. The woman he’d planned to make his.
He’d wanted to build a life with her. Have a family. He’d thought he had time, was arrogant enough to think she’d be here waiting for him when he finally came back for her.
When he was younger, he’d stayed away from Piper out of respect for his best friend, then because he’d wanted to be in a better financial position before he told Deacon how he felt about his sister.
If he’d stopped waiting, moved back sooner…
Jesus. He couldn’t think like that. What-ifs didn’t exist for him. The reality was staring back at him in the mirror.
What would she think when she saw him? Would his scar disgust her?
By the time he’d moved back to Miami, he’d grown the beard. She hadn’t seen him without it since before the accident. He’d made sure of it.
Rinsing off the blade, he brought it up and took the first swipe on the damaged side.
If she cringed away from him, if what he’d hidden all these months repulsed her, it could only be a good thing. She was already a million miles out of his reach.
A few more couldn’t hurt.
He stared at himself, at the scar that defined who he was now. It had faded a little, no longer the angry red it had been. Starting at the corner of his eye, it carried on down to the edge of his mouth, puckering the skin, twisting his lips on one side when he said certain words, held his mouth a certain way when he smiled—not that he’d done much of that lately—then it dipped lower, finishing at his jaw.
He barely recognized the man he saw in the mirror.
A short time later, he was in a suit and driving a beautiful classic car covered with bright purple ribbons down Axle Alley…which added a whole new dimension of hell, not to mention unwanted attention. He already felt on display, and his stress increased as he neared Piper’s cottage. The very idea of transporting the three women had his heart slugging erratically against his rib cage.
Jesus, he needed to pull it together or he was a damned panic attack waiting to happen. He hadn’t had one in months, and he wanted to keep it that way. He hated this, this feeling that he was losing control.
He should have been honest, told Deke he couldn’t do it. But the guy already worried enough over his state of mind. The last thing he wanted to do was admit just how fucked up he still was.
You can do this. You have to do this.
The road was quiet, which wasn’t a surprise since it was Saturday afternoon. Other than the cottage Piper and Rusty lived in, well, just Piper now since Rusty had recently shacked up with her new man, there was nothing but businesses on Axle Alley. Businesses that catered to anything with an engine and home to the girls’ classic car restoration business. After Deacon’s father died, Rusty, Piper, and their best friend Alex took over the business, and they were doing a fucking fantastic job.
Being the only residential property on this stretch of road, the cottage wasn’t hard to miss. It also looked like something from a fairy tale with its lemon and mauve paint and quaint little veranda.
Piper suited the place perfectly.
Her pink Corvette was parked outside, curvy and sexy with a whole lot of cute. A description that also fit its owner. He pulled up behind it and shut off the engine.
Gripping the wheel, he let his head drop back and closed his eyes. Breathe. He automatically started the breathing exercises his shrink taught him.
In through your nose, out through your mouth.
His pulse slowed, and the tremor in his hands eased. He could do this.
Mind made up, he climbed out and limped up the path, taking the stairs to the front door. Resisting the urge to swipe his sweaty palms down the front of his trousers, he knocked.
Footsteps sounded behind the door seconds before it swung open. Rusty stood there, smiling up at him, green eyes sparkling. Rusty was Deacon and Piper’s sister, the middle West, and the woman was currently taking him in from head to toe. Her eyes widened when they landed on his face, but she didn’t shrink back. Instead she whistled long and low. “Whoa, you look like some kind of badass assassin in that suit. Nice.”
Heat climbed up his neck at Rusty’s continued scrutiny.
“So,” she said, grinning at him and waggling her eyebrows. “Do you have a concealed weapon hidden under there? I bet it’s biiiig, right?”
He choked out a laugh, surprised by the rough sound that broke free. He’d known Rusty since she was a little kid, and the familiar teasing helped shake off his nerves. “Big enough.”
She shook her head and snorted. “That’s what they all say.” Turning, she yelled into the house. “Let’s go! James Bond is here to give us a lift.”
The nerves he’d had somewhat under control fired back to life, but for a different reason. The prospect of seeing Piper, of getting a glimpse of her, had the usual effect, and he cursed himself for the fool he was. He heard the other two coming, chatting and laughing, before he saw them. Alex came first, stunning in her wedding dress—more traditional than he’d expected—and her hair, which she normally wore up off her face, was down in loose waves.
“You look beautiful, Alex.” She also looked nervous as hell.
She offered up a wobbly smile. “You scrub up pretty well yourself.” The sincere look she gave him made him want to shuffle his damn feet.
“Hang on! I forgot my flowers,” Piper called from somewhere behind the bride.
Shit, just the sound of her voice sent ripples of pleasure through his bloodstream. Alex stood in the doorway, so he couldn’t get a good look at the object of his obsession past all the poufy layers of wedding gown.
Rusty fussed and arranged her friend’s dress, helping Alex step onto the porch, and then Cole took the bride-to-be’s arm, leading her down the steps since she could barely see her feet, and escorted her to the car. He went back to lock up—just in time to see Piper moving cautiously down the short hall toward him.
He froze, breath seizing in his lungs. Couldn’t have moved if the fucking porch started giving way under his feet.
Piper stopped a few feet away and ran her hands over the silky fabric of her dress, straightening it over her waist and hips. He sucked in an unsteady breath. The thing clung like a second skin, molded to her extremely curvaceous figure. Yeah, he was far from blind where Piper West was concerned. The woman had serious curves. The kind of curves that could bring a man to his knees. In fact, he’d studied the woman from head to toe so thoroughly, if there was an exam on Piper’s curves alone, he’d ace it.
But he’d never seen her like this. He was used to seeing her in jeans and tanks, grease on her skin from a day in the garage, hair pulled off her lovely face. Shit, she looked hot enough in her work clothes, but this? The mouthwatering dress she had on hid nothing. Not. A. Fucking. Thing. And goddammit, it had his cock rising to attention, painfully so. It should be impossible with the anxiety still battering him, but then this was Piper, and if anyone had the ability to turn him inside out it was her.
Jesus, she looked like one of those sexy fifties actresses, all round and soft with a tiny waist that was only emphasized further by the flare of her hips and spectacular tits.
She grimaced, frowning in a way that was cute as hell, and tugged at the dress a few more times before she carried on in his direction. He tried to move his mouth, to offer up a compliment, to say something, but instead made a croaking sound.
Her gaze shot up, colliding with his, only now realizing she had an audience. Her cheeks turned pink—then her eyes narrowed and she scowled at him. “Cole.” Then she continued on out the door.
Piper was sweet to everyone she met, saw the good in people, liked everyone—but that list no longer included him. She scowled and bitched at him, because he’d done his damnedest to make sure she hated his guts. It was the only way he knew how to keep her at arm’s length. And it had worked. Phenomenally well.
The object of his desire despised him.
She was the only person who had never treated him any different after what happened. Not once had he seen pity in her stunning blue eyes. He’d seen compassion, yes, regret, but never pity. How would she look at him if she knew Adam had lost his life because of him?
He couldn’t bear it if she felt sorry for him. That was the last thing he wanted, especially from her.
He pulled the door shut and turned to follow her. Fucking hell, the rear view did nothing to help the painful throb of his cock. He was pretty sure she wasn’t wearing any underwear. The silky material hid nothing, and not one line marred the shimmery fabric hugging her heart-shaped ass. Those round hips swung provocatively as she made careful progress in a pair of mouthwateringly sexy heels down the uneven path toward the car. He groaned under his breath. Jesus Christ.
The woman was killing him, slowly. Besides occasional morning wood, nothing had roused any kind of interest below the belt since he’d been injured. Except Piper.
The one woman he couldn’t allow himself to have, and the only woman he wanted.
He went back to focusing on his breathing, not only to calm his nerves but to cool his overheated blood. Piper, Alex, and Rusty stood by the car, chatting and laughing, waiting for him to drive them safely to the church, and that managed to do what his breathing exercises could not. A cold wash rushed through his veins, deflating his erection in an instant.
He moved toward the three women, all smiles and misplaced trust.
Opening the back door of the car, he waited while Alex climbed in. Piper moved forward in his peripheral, her intention obvious, getting in the back with her friend. Before he knew what he was doing, he sidestepped, effectively cutting her off, and motioned for Rusty to get in the back with Alex. He heard Piper huff out a breath behind him as Rusty slid in the back, but she didn’t comment as she stalked around to take the front seat.
What he’d done was messed up and more than a little pathetic. But he hadn’t realized just how anxious he’d be driving with passengers, especially these passengers. And right then all he knew was that Piper’s presence distracted him from the fear, from the memories. Calmed him. Gave him something else to focus on, even if she was off-limits.
He wanted—no, he fucking needed—Piper by his side.