With every book, it takes a village to bring it from a spark of an idea to what you’re reading today, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have an awesome village. Special thanks goes out to:
Angela Smith, the best PA and friend an author could be blessed to have, for being with me every step of the way on this crazy journey.
Rachel Brookes, my amazing critique partner and friend, you have no idea how much I value the gift of your insight and time.
Angela Marshall Smith and Pam Berehulke, editors extraordinaire, for helping to wrestle this story into submission (not that Lucas would ever submit) and polishing it until it shone.
Chasity Jenkins-Patrick, kick-ass publicist, for talking me off more than one ledge and always pushing me in the right direction.
Sara Eirew for shooting a fab cover pic, and Sarah Hansen for creating yet another gorgeous cover.
My mom, for being the most supportive parent a daughter with crazy dreams could ask for. I love you.
The Meghan March Runaway Readers Facebook group, for being the most fabulous collection of ladies I’ve had the pleasure of (virtually) meeting. Hope to hug you all at events soon!
All the book bloggers who take the time to read and review this and any of my other books. Your time and dedication is truly appreciated.
My readers—you’re the reason Lucas’s story is laid out on these pages. Thank you for loving this series, and I hope you enjoy what’s coming next.
SWEAT DRIPPED INTO MY EYES as I bounced on the balls of my feet. Someone had to be calling out how much time was left in this round soon. My pride was on the line, and there was no way I would hand it over to Con Leahy. He’d already gotten the girl, and I wasn’t about to let him humiliate me in the ring in this piece-of-shit New Orleans gym too.
My muscles burned, but that was nothing compared to the heat of victory—or the sting of defeat. What had started out as a boxing lesson had quickly transformed into an all-out brawl for dominance and respect.
Only you would pay a million dollars to get your ass kicked, Titan. The voice in my head mocked me as I bobbed and weaved. But I hadn’t paid a million to get my ass kicked. I’d done it because that night at the charity auction I’d been drunk, pissed off, and determined to prove a point—he might’ve gotten the girl, but I was still the one with the power. I got a sick sense of satisfaction that every time Con bought something for his gym and these kids, he had to think of me.
I swung with another right hook. The blow connected with Con’s jaw and snapped his head to the side.
Yeah. That’s right. But my mental cheer came a moment too soon, and pain exploded in my left side.
Shit, that’s going to hurt tomorrow.
I stumbled back but threw myself forward again, shooting out my fist with an uppercut that knocked Con back a step. This was how it had gone for the last several minutes—trading punches and circling each other.
There was no love lost in this ring, that was for damn sure, and I was ready for this to be over. I would walk out of here with every bit of the respect I was owed. Fuck anyone who thought otherwise.
Con moved toward me and the circling started again. The cheers and chants from the crowd surrounding the ring in the old warehouse gym seemed to grow every time I glanced beyond the ropes. A flash of blond hair caught my eye as I stepped left and Con shifted to the right.
She threw her head back and laughed at something said by her redheaded friend, Elle. I turned my attention back to the man in front of me, but my focus wandered again when a huskier, sexier laugh echoed through the room.
My eyes strayed from Con for a second too long as I tried to track down the source of the laughter. Pain burst through my jaw, catching me by surprise, and I stumbled back into the ropes. Using their momentum, I shoved off to the side, my pride stinging from my momentary lapse in concentration. Embarrassed and now thoroughly pissed off, I surged forward and attacked.
One punch. That was all I landed before the bell rang, signaling the end of the round and my very expensive “lesson.”
I pushed off Con, and my knee might have slipped as I stepped back . . . and caught him directly in the balls. It was probably an accident. I huffed out a chuckle, but Con didn’t share my humor.
“Goddamn it!” he roared. “Are you fucking serious?”
It was like stabbing a bull with a matador’s sword, but I was ready for him. I jumped out of the way as Con charged, and shifted into a defensive stance when he swung.
“Should’ve expected a cheap shot from you, motherfucker.” Unrestrained anger flashed over his face as every shred of coaching mentality fled, along with that smug superiority he’d been giving me.
Good. You aren’t better than me, Leahy. I could buy and sell you a hundred times over.
He might’ve gotten the girl, but I wasn’t going to let him get away with her clean. I wanted blood.
“Should’ve expected you to strut around this ring like a fucking cock of the walk,” I shot back.
Con feinted and swung again, but I’d been studying his movements. I bobbed and weaved, and got the hell out of the way.
I threw my own punch as soon as I had a clean shot. It landed just below Con’s left eye, splitting the skin over his cheekbone and sending blood spattering everywhere.
The taste of victory was sweet. “First blood,” I said under my breath.
Apparently my words weren’t quiet enough because Con’s head snapped up and he glared at me with disgust, as if I needed to be put down like a rabid animal. “This ain’t a fuckin’ duel, you piece of shit.”
“It sure isn’t a friendly competition either.”
“Paid a million to get that cheap shot in, didn’t you?”
My lips twisted into a mocking smile. “I sure didn’t pay a million to have you show me up.”
Con dropped his hands and shook his head. “Just when I thought you weren’t a complete fucking asshole.”
“You were wrong,” I replied, turning for the ropes.
Con’s fists lifted and before I could react, one connected with my cheekbone. The instantaneous gush of blood told me I’d have a scar to match his, but it didn’t matter. One more scar wouldn’t hurt my banged-up face.
I roared as I charged, but I didn’t get the chance to retaliate. Shouts filled the room, and beefy arms wrapped around my body, holding me back.
“You’re not half bad when you’re not being a shady rich prick,” Lord’s voice said in my ear.
I lunged toward Con, but Lord’s grip only tightened. “Get your goddamn hands off me,” I growled at him.
Leaning closer to my ear, he lowered his voice. “When you calm the hell down and realize you’re making an ass of yourself in front of a bunch of kids and women.”
I glanced out to the crowd and read disgust on so many faces, including Vanessa’s. Like it mattered what a single goddamn person in this gym thought of me. I could buy and sell them all.
Lord was still holding me back when Con came toward us. He yanked his gloves off and wiped at the blood still dripping from the gash on his face.
“You’re also not half bad when you’re paying attention—and when you’re not throwing a knee into my nuts. But I think you’ve overstayed your welcome.”
I jerked at the arms trapping me. “Call off your dog, and I’m gone.”