Andi Stone is a strong, smart and independent woman, thanks to the help of a famous boxing trainer, Mack, and his protégé, Shane, who have respectively been like a father and brother to her. But that wasn't always the case. Andi never knew what a “normal” life was like. Having been raised in foster care from the age of six after the death of her parents, Andi became emancipated at 16 after an especially horrible incident forced her into a psychiatric hospital.
Luke Woods, the family black sheep and street-brawler, is determined to be a successful professional boxer despite his family’s protests. He needs Andi’s help to get there. The wedge between him and his family over his past relationship issues and career choices is not easily overcome. Luke must learn to face the past mistakes, fears and demons that constantly plague him.
Fireworks and passions quickly ignite between Andi and Luke in the midst of the chaos that surrounds and threatens them. She never revealed the secrets and lies that have plagued her, but when she publicly inherits her family fortune, the living, breathing past comes back to torment her and threaten all that she holds dear. For the first time in her life, Andi must learn to rely on someone else to love and protect her or risk losing the man she loves.
Sometimes love isn't enough. Sometimes it’s all you need.
Recommended for 18+ due to sex, violence, language and adult themes.
This restaurant was such a bad idea. The dark, intimate atmosphere is so not what I need with my friend right now. That’s what he is – he confirmed it for me last night. I had to ask if he would still be part of my act tonight. Part of me really hoped he’d say no and make up some excuse. It’s hard to see him and not want more from him. Part of me was really glad when he said yes because it’s hard to not see him at all. I’m so screwed.
Our damn waitress isn’t making things easier for me, either. She can’t take her eyes off him and I swear she’s trying to slip him her number every time she walks by our table. Her last attempt, during our salad and while refilling our drinks, really pushed me over the edge. Besides just being damn brazen, it’s rude. I’m sitting right here beside him at a restaurant that is not meant for friends or siblings. I mean seriously, she knows we’re here together. Even if we’re not together.
On her last attempt, I snatch the note from her hand and thank her sweetly before saying, “How sweet. Bless your heart.” Which, in this case, is Southern speak for you are a complete dumbass. She got the hint and quickly left our table. I scowl after her and crinkle the note in my fist before I realize what I’m doing. I want to hold her stupid little note over the lit candle that’s sitting in the middle of our table and watch it burn to ashes.
Luke is not even trying to hide his smile at my blatant act of jealousy. “Something wrong, Andi?” His cavalier attitude makes me want to tear into him but I know I must refrain from fits of jealousy, rage and insanity in public.
“Sorry about that. That was just rude of her to keep doing that in front of me. Here you go,” and I hand him the little slip of paper that has her name and number on it, along with a crookedly drawn heart. How ridiculous. He looks at the note in my hand then back to my eyes, obviously confused at my actions.
Luke quizzes me, “Why would you want me to have her number?”
It seems I’ve unintentionally showed my hand. I’m not good with these damn games and I really just want to be honest with him. I take a shaky breath and look down at the white linen tablecloth, apparently longer than I realized because his warm hand covers my hand, the hand that still holds the waitress’s phone number. I look up and see concern in his eyes and remind myself it’s only friendly concern.
“Because you told Brandon we would never be more than friends. So if you’re interested in her, I won’t stand in your way.” I can’t even begin to describe how much that hurt to say it out loud to him. But I’d rather get it all out now and get it over with than go another day like the last twenty-four hours have been.
“Let me guess. Brandon called and asked you out so you’re ready to kick me to the curb, right? Fine. That’s just fucking fine.” Luke is really pissed now and I have no idea what he’s even talking about.
I reply just as forcefully, “What the hell are you talking about? Brandon didn’t call me and I wouldn’t go out with him even if he did ask me.”
This gets his attention and adds to his confusion, “You wouldn’t go out with him?”
Now I’m confused. “No, I wouldn’t. No offense to him - he’s a great guy and all….,” but that would just be too weird since I’ve fallen for his brother.
He’s still unsure as he asks, “Then why did you say that?”
“Because I heard you say those very words to Brandon last night. Outside, at your parents’ house. I was cleaning up and I heard you when I came around the side of the house. You were pretty loud, so I know I didn’t misunderstand you.”
I had no intentions of blurting this out to him – ever. I’m really at my wits end with trying to decipher his male code to find out if he wants more from me than friends or not. For most of the night, I really thought he was ready to take a chance. But I felt like a complete fool when I heard what he said to Brandon. If he only wants to be friends, I will be friends with him, but I can’t keep up this kind of relationship with him any longer.
And handing him that damn waitress’s number? That just plain hurt. So I know without a doubt that I couldn’t stand hearing about his dates like I do with Shane. Shane and I talk openly about his dates and there’s not one bit of jealousy or hurt feelings. I laugh at Shane’s exploits – he always has an interesting story to tell about his latest conquest. Knowing that Luke would want that with someone else, but not with me, would be unbearable.
So, I’m sitting here uncomfortably waiting for Luke’s response. He has to know he can’t deny saying it – I recited his words back to him basically verbatim. I really fell for him too fast, so I can’t blame him for not feeling the same way about me. I can’t be mad – I have no right to be, I know that. I just don’t feel that.
When he doesn’t respond for what feels like an eternity, I feel the need to fill in the uncomfortable silence.
“Look, we can be just friends. You told me you’re not a relationship kind of guy and that hasn’t changed. It’s ok. After tonight’s performance is over, we won’t have to spend so much time together.”
The more I talk, the more it hurts, but someone has to say something. All this time together hasn’t changed his mind and I refuse to be his friend with benefits. Not judging anyone else – that’s just not for me. I obviously get too attached, too easily, and too fast. Otherwise, I could have wild monkey sex every night. This is my curse, though.
Well, fuck me.
First, she ignores my texts from last night. Then she goes all day without calling, texting or coming to the gym. I’ve been worried about her all day and couldn’t wait to see her. I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night for thinking about her and how she acted when she got out of my truck. Then after I sent her all those texts last night and she didn’t respond when I told her I wanted her, I was sure I had crossed the line and she didn’t want me after all.
Then I find her at the club, dressed to the damn nines and looking sexy as hell. She didn’t even hear me come in but if she’d been meeting some other guy I was damn sure going to put a stop to it. The past few weeks of hanging out with her have been great and I wasn’t about to let some other fucker step in and mess up my good thing.
But when she tried to give me the waitress’s note just now, my first thought was she was trying to get rid of me. Everything added up to that until she repeated the words I said to Brandon. My blood was fucking boiling, thinking my brother had called her or made a move on her. I would beat his fucking ass and I wouldn’t care what my family thought about it.
Then she said she heard me say it, and right now I’m sure being sucker-punched in the gut couldn’t hurt worse than this feeling. I can’t even blame Brandon for this – this is all my fault. All my doing, because I wouldn’t be a man and say what I really wanted.
How do I come out of this without looking like a weak-ass punk? I sigh heavily and think to myself, “You don’t. You deserve what you get.”
I take her hands in mine and look deeply into her eyes, keeping my gaze glued to hers to hopefully show my sincerity. I’m eternally grateful for how this restaurant is designed. Rather than having the table separate us, the seats are designed for couples to sit intimately beside each other, sharing food and spending quality time together. She’s so close, the sweet scent of her perfume invades my senses every time she moves.
“Andi, first of all, I’m sorry I ever said that to Brandon. It’s not how I really feel at all. Brandon and I have a difficult…..history….and, I didn’t want to say anything to him before I’d even talked to you about it. I really hate that you heard that.”
She looks at me with blatant skepticism and I don’t blame her. I’ve given her so many mixed signals and if I’m completely honest, I don’t even know that I can do this. But what I do know is I don’t want to go another day like today - without seeing her, hearing from her and thinking I’d lost her. My concentration wasn’t for shit today and if it hadn’t been for Shane, I probably would’ve left the gym to go find her.
I stroke my knuckles across her cheek and feel a twinge of electricity move through me. I open my hand and place my palm on her cheek then push my fingers into her hair while my thumb lightly strokes along her neck. She closes her eyes for a moment and leans into my touch and I’m captured again by how beautiful she is.
“You’re so beautiful, Andi. You literally take my breath away when I look at you,” I whisper to her. “Please just….forget I said that to Brandon. He was trying to rile me up and I just wanted to block him.”
I watched as she swallowed hard but her eyes were still averted from mine. She nodded and turned away from me. She reached for her glass and I noticed the trembling in her hand.
“Talk to me, Andi.”
She took a minute but she finally answered. “I’ve never been one to hold in my feelings, Luke. I’ve always believed it was best to just put them out there…..to be up front so there’s no confusion. But I’ve went completely against that with you because I….well, I wanted you to come to your decision on your own. Without any pressure from me. But I can’t do this anymore.”
My heart just stopped beating. I’m sure I’ll keel over in the floor any second now. When she finally looks at me, the pain in her eyes is so evident, I almost wish I would just fall over.
“I can’t pretend that I only want you as a friend. I meant when I said I don’t do one night stands or friends with benefits though. If you think you want anything more than friends with me, you have to be sure because I can’t do this back and forth anymore. Decide what you really want, Luke, and do it soon….or I’ll make the decision for you and it’ll be final.”
Well, shit. Did she just really give me an ultimatum?
“If you only want a friend, that’s fine. I will be friends with you but nothing else. No flirting. No touching. No more mixed messages. Just friends. And I’ll move on. Just….decide.”
I nodded and before I could say anything, the flirty waitress returned, much more subdued this time since Andi embarrassed her, and placed our dinners in front of us. We somehow made it through the meal with idle conversation and went back to the club together. Several of our friends were already there and we made our way through the crowd to join them at our usual table. Just as we sat down, I looked up and saw Brandon moving through the crowd towards us.
Isn’t this night just getting better and better? Yeah, because he wasn’t even looking at me. He was making a beeline for Andi. Ah, hell no! Andi saw him and stood to hug him and I couldn’t withhold my sarcasm.
“Well, look what the cat dragged in.”
Andi, sweet as ever, kept her eyes on Brandon and said, “Have a seat!” So, of course, the bastard sat in the empty chair beside Andi, forcing me to lean up and look around her to see him.
“What are you doing here, Brandon?” I demanded rudely.
“Alicia mentioned Andi was singing tonight and we wanted to hear her,” Brandon answered coolly, not even bothering to take his eyes off Andi while he answered me.
“We? Who is we?” I asked sardonically before I saw Alicia and her husband, Greg, making their way to our table. Shane and Will grabbed a couple of chairs for them and I made introductions all around the table.
I made the stupid mistake of removing my hand from the back of Andi’s chair and Brandon’s arm quickly took up the empty space. I took Andi’s hand in mine and asked, “Dance with me?” She nodded and I shot Brandon a warning look as I stood up.
A slow song came on when we got to the dance floor and I pulled her in tight against me, brushing a kiss on her cheek. I felt a small shudder run through her as her body molded into mine. We started moving with music and I tightened my arms around her just a little more.
“Andi,” I murmured in her ear then pulled back so she would look me in the eye. She looked up at me from under her long lashes, with a hint of shyness about her that sent a sudden protective impulse through me.
Before I could say anything else, someone came up and tapped Andi on the shoulder, “You’re up in ten minutes.”
Andi nodded at the rude moment-stealer and looked back at me. “You ready for this?”
I nodded at her and looked around the club as she took my hand to lead me backstage. Holy hell – there’s a lot of people here tonight!
I’m not over-analyzing why Brandon is here. Or why Luke seems so pissed about why Brandon’s here. I’m not even going to think about what Luke was about to say when Mitch came up to tell me my song is coming up soon. I’m just going to get in character, sing my song, and have fun with a bunch of great people tonight.
I will not think about how seductive this song is or how my body will react to singing it to Luke in front of the entire club.
I will not think about it.
I will not.
Shit, that’s all I can think about.
I lead Luke backstage and show him to the dressing rooms since we didn’t have time to do it after dinner. He doesn’t really need the dressing room since he’s already wearing his “costume,” well, except for the Lone Ranger-type mask that he’ll be wearing. I may have forgot to mention that to him before because he’s not looking real happy as I hand it to him.
“Please? It’ll work, trust me,” I console him as innocently as possible. He huffs and puffs a little but finally concedes.
His consent earns him a kiss on the cheek. “If I’d known you were going to do that, I would’ve turned my head and made you plant it square on my mouth,” he seductively chides me.
I playfully tell him to behave before adding, “Give me just a minute to change and we’ll get set up on the stage.” He nods and waits outside the dressing room door for me. I may have also forgot to mention to him that I’ll only be wearing a man’s button down shirt onstage.
Yeah, I definitely forgot to mention this little fact. When I open the door and casually say, “Come on, Luke,” he quickly grabs my arm and twirls me around to face him.
“Where the hell are the rest of your clothes?” He is literally growling the words at me. I mean, I’ve read about how men “growl” out a response, but I’m almost positive he’s about to turn into some kind of man-beast right in front of me.
“This is it – this is my costume.” My eyes are big and innocent, like I have no idea what he’s referring to. His eyes narrow to mere slits in his face, which by the way, has turned into a lovely shade of scarlet red due to the high volume of blood rushing for the top of his head.
“The hell you say! You are not going out there like this!”
“Yes, I am. This fits the scene, Luke.” I stay calm, knowing that yelling right now will only delay us getting the stage even more.
“Whose. Shirt. Is. That?” Each word is pointed, sharp and holds deeper meaning that he will even say out loud.
“Shane’s.” This answer visibly relaxes him for a split second.
“WHY THE HELL IS IT UNBUTTONED?” He’s just now realized this little fact.
“It’s not unbuttoned,” I start but his stance becomes increasingly menacing, “all the way. The last two are buttoned.”
He is about to go nuclear when Mitch saves me as he calls out, “Andi, you need to be onstage now.”
“OK!” I happily rush towards the back entrance to the stage and call over my shoulder, “Luke, put your mask on and get in position.”
Luke has no choice but to follow me now and he knows he has to be quiet because the previous performer isn’t quite finished yet. I take my place at the table with the wine and roses while Luke crouches down to hide behind the bed. When the curtains open and the music for my song starts, I’m transformed into another world and I forget all about Luke being pissed off about my lack of clothing.
The microphone is fit snugly over my ear so I can use both hands freely and move about the stage. I’m singing Familiar Taste of Poison, by Halestorm, tonight. Love is the familiar poison. The wine is a metaphor for love and her lover urges her to consume all of it, until she becomes consumed by him but apparently he doesn’t need her as much as she needs him.
The music starts off slow and ominous, but seductive and alluring at the same time. My voice is soft as the song starts. After the first couple of lines, I pick up the wine glass and empty wine bottle and move to the front of the stage as Luke stands up behind the bed, wearing all black and holding a long-handled sickle in one hand. I sing the next few lines of the first verse and begin the chorus.
As I sing, I sit on the floor of the stage and lay the empty wine bottle down beside me. I then take a small capsule filled with a white powder, break it open and pour it into the wineglass, as I finish the last line of the chorus. The music continues while I drink the wine with the imaginary poison in it. I put the glass down and stand back up, leaving the empty bottle and glass lying on the stage floor well in front of me and out of the way. Luke, playing the part of death, lays the sickle down, steps out from behind the bed and stealthily moves to the front of the stage, standing just behind me.
I look over my shoulder at Luke as I sing the first line of the next verse.
He’s behind me but my movements mimic his, as if I’m his puppet on his string while he’s seducing me until he completely owns me. He’s so close to me, his front to my back, as death continues to seduce me and I sing the rest of the verse.
My voice becomes a little louder and more forceful as I repeat the chorus. After the first line of the chorus, Luke’s arm snakes around my waist. Because my shirt is unbuttoned, his hand slides inside the shirt and is warm against my skin. He pushes himself closer into me from behind and tightens his grip around my front.
At the end of the chorus, Luke moves around to my side and I turn to fully face him, our profiles to the audience. The crescendo of the music and my voice hit the high point of the song. The pull I feel to him is intense. We didn’t rehearse it this way, but I can’t help but be drawn into him. My arm reaches out to him, encircles his neck and our faces are mere inches apart as I sing the next verse to him, oblivious to the throngs of people watching.
My hands are on his face and our eyes are locked in place, on each other, never wavering. I feel his muscular arms move down my back until they rest just under my ass. Suddenly, he lifts me up and my legs wrap around his waist. I’m still singing to him but we must look like we’re making love on stage. And I don’t even care because I am so lost in this man right now.
As I sing the last repeat of the chorus, he begins walking back to the far side of the bed, so he can lay me down on it but not block the audience’s view of the show as I continue singing to him.
My legs are straight and my arms are folded over my chest, as if I’m now dead, and Luke leans in and deeply kisses me, sliding his tongue in my mouth, gently caressing mine. Just as the music starts to fade away, he stands erect and holds the sickle again, as if death itself is now standing over my lifeless body. The curtains close and the crowd erupts in thunderous applause. I open my eyes and Luke helps me stand up off the makeshift bed as he takes his mask off. The curtains open again and we take our bow at the front of the stage.
I’m the first one to turn around and head backstage. My feet quickly carry me towards he dressing room. My body is still humming with electricity from Luke’s touch and his kiss. I can’t even think straight but I can feel him behind me, close on my heels. I march into the dressing room but I can’t turn around just yet. I hear him come in behind me and slam the door shut.
Before I can blink, I’m spun around and up against the door. Luke lifts me and my legs instinctively wrap around his waist. He leans in and greedily takes my mouth with his. The kiss is furious and feverish, like neither of us can get enough. His obvious erection is grinding into me and every thrust is excruciatingly delicious through the flimsy silk panties I’m wearing under this shirt. The shirt that is now being pushed off my shoulders as Luke’s mouth moves down my neck and onto my collarbones.
If anyone had told me that karaoke could be considered foreplay, I would’ve told them they were full of shit and obviously not doing it right. That is, before tonight, while I was onstage with Andi and had to use every bit of my restraint to not make her totally and completely mine in front of the whole damn club. Especially when she climbed up my body and wrapped her legs around me.
We did not rehearse that at all, but when she moved into me while singing that song, it just felt so natural. Of course, while we rehearsed our parts, she wasn’t actually singing the song. We just played the original song over and over. But holy hell, Andi singing it while staring into my eyes made me seriously afraid I was going to embarrass myself onstage.
I really didn’t like her wearing just that button down shirt and her sexy bra and panties onstage. But I have to admit, it really did fit the scene she created. And I really appreciate it when my hand slid under the shirt and across her silky smooth skin. Speaking of silky smooth, I about lost my shit when I slid my hands under her ass to lift her up to straddle me. But she’s never wearing anything like that on stage again. EVER.
Now I’m following her to the dressing room and she’s moving through the people milling about back stage like a fucking freight train. I don’t know if she’s trying to get away from me or trying to get alone with me, but I’m not giving her one damn second to push me away. Enough’s enough – we are good together and we’re going to give this attraction a chance.
I close and lock the door behind me and grab her up before she can overthink it. She’s so responsive to me that I’m not sure who initiated the kiss but it’s awesome. I have her pinned against the door and her legs are around my waist again. She feels so damn good, like she’s made for me, and I haven’t even got inside her yet. It’s all I can do to break the kiss and move down her neck to other interesting areas.
I push the shirt off her shoulders easily – Shane’s a big guy so this shirt swallows her whole. I lick, kiss and bite down her neck to her collarbones and I’m amazed at how sexy they are. I push the shirt down more until her arms are free and the shirt pools around her hips. I pull back to look at her flushed face, lips swollen from our kiss, her breasts moving in time with her heavy breaths and I’m again floored at how beautiful and sexy she is.
I take one of the taut buds of her nipples in my mouth through the lacy bra she’s wearing and lightly tug on it with my teeth. She moans approvingly and her hand tightens into a fist in my hair, slightly pulling on it and driving me into a frenzy. I’m about to tear the bra off her body when the door behind us suddenly vibrates from someone pounding on it.
“Hurry up in there, Andi!” The voice on the other side of the door calls.
Andi drops her head to my shoulder in frustration before answering, “Ok, Sandy, be right out.”
“We will finish this later tonight, Andi.” I am leaving no room for argument. This is killing me to let her go but I am enjoying watching her put her dress and high heels back on.
Once she finishes dressing, I wrap my arms around her and add, “Andi, I don’t want a one-night stand or a friend with benefits. I want to be with you and only you – I want to give us a chance.”
Her answer sends shivers down my spine. “I’m with you, Luke. I’m with you.”
The other girl comes rushing in the room as soon as Andi opens the door and we make our way back to our friends. Alicia gushes at Andi over her performance and everyone congratulates us on the show but I give all the credit to Andi. “This was all Andi’s creativity. I just did what she told me to.”
Brandon’s knowing eyes picked up on a change in me with Andi. “You two sure are good friends, Luke.” I saw Andi tense at his dig and knew she was thinking about my words from last night.
“Yeah, I couldn’t ask for a better friend than Andi,” and her head quickly jerked in my direction as she looked up at me in disbelief, “and I couldn’t ask for a better girlfriend, either.” I smiled at her and watched as her face visibly softened and her gorgeous smile filled her face.
Brandon couldn’t hide his blatant look of satisfaction at my declaration. I admit, I have to consider that my brother is a better man than I’ve given him credit for in the past. I sat down beside him and he leaned over towards me, “Best decision you’ve ever made, little brother.” I nodded thoughtfully, knowing deep down, he was completely right.
We’re hanging around the club until they announce which contestants would move on to the next round. Of course, Andi is one of them because she was phenomenal on stage. Her next round is two weeks from tonight.
Knowing there was nothing else holding us here, I am not ashamed to admit that I ushered my girlfriend out of the club because I have more exciting plans for us tonight. And none of them involve an audience. I follow her back to her house and I absolutely cannot wait to be the one to undress her this time. She pulls into her garage and opens the other door so I can park my truck inside. As the door slides back down, I steal up behind her where she’s about to unlock the door.
I slide my arms around her waist from behind and kiss the side of her neck. She’s struggling to get the key in the door and I’m enjoying the affect I have on her, so I run my fingers up her sides when she suddenly shrieks and tries to jump away from me. Only she’s between me and the door with nowhere to go. Seems I’ve found a ticklish spot on her so I do it again. And again.
Now she’s laughing so hard she can barely hold her keys. She wiggles in my arms until she is able to turn and face me. She holds up her hands in mock surrender and laughingly warns me to stop or we’ll never get in the house. The look of pure happiness and playfulness takes me by surprise. Suddenly I can’t get inside the house fast enough. I smile and take the keys from her hand and step into her, again pinning her between me and door.
The passionate kiss that suddenly erupts is unbelievably hot and all-consuming. I am suddenly so rock hard its painful and only Andi can make it feel better. Without breaking contact, I somehow manage to unlock the door and carry her to her bedroom. We fall to the bed together, never breaking apart, and even though the dress she’s wearing tonight barely covers her ass, it suddenly feels like she has way too many clothes on.
I feel the unwavering and unyielding need to help her with this predicament.