Book One in The Hellbound Brotherhood

Find out why New York Times bestseller Maya Banks hails McKenna’s books as “A nonstop thrill ride…”

He’s a ticking bomb…

Eric Trask is counting the days before he blasts out of Shaw’s Crossing forever. He and his brothers were raised at GodsAcre, a mysterious doomsday cult deep in the mountains. GodsAcre was destroyed years ago in a deadly fire and Eric and his brothers were the only survivors. The townspeople see them as time bombs just waiting to blow, but as soon Eric makes the money for a fresh start, he’s going to prove those bastards wrong. He’s an ex-Marine, fresh off a tour in Afghanistan, working three jobs and barely sleeping. Utterly unprepared for Demi Vaughan’s dazzling green eyes, lush pink lips and sexy curves. She’s the town princess…he’s a dangerous outcast. It was a sure recipe for disaster.

But the closer he gets to Demi, the more impossible it is to resist…

Forbidden fruit is the sweetest…

Demi Vaughan has a big plan for life post- college. A summer job at a sandwich shop back home in Shaw’s Crossing is part of that plan, so when Eric Trask, notorious bad boy with a complicated past, saunters in for lunch from the construction site next door, she tells herself he’s just eye candy. Tall, ripped, sweat-slicked, smoldering eye candy, nothing more. She knew the stories, she’d heard the rumors. Eric was damaged. Marked by violence and tragedy. He’d be the ultimate bad boyfriend, and right now she was too busy even to shop for a good one. But his hot eyes and hard body, his sensual smile and that rough, scratchy voice of his shook her resolve. After all, she was leaving this place forever. One little taste of heaven…what could it hurt?

But Shaw’s Crossing has deeper, darker secrets than Eric or Demi could begin to guess. The evil that destroyed GodsAcre is lying in wait…and it will stop at nothing to keep Eric and Demi apart…

Hellion, Book One, ends on a cliffhanger, but it leads right into Headlong, Book Two, Demi and Eric’s continuing story, dated seven years later.

The other titles in The Hellbound Brotherhood series are connected, but each book features its own couple and has its own HEA.

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Chapter One

Demi didn’t need to turn around from the frozen yogurt machine to know that Eric had made his grand entrance. The muffled squeals and excited whispering from the other girls behind the Bakery Café’s counter gave it away. Lame-brains. They’d been teasing her about that guy for weeks. Ever since he started coming in here for lunch.

Yes, folks, Eric Trask had entered the building.

Even if she didn’t look around, the effect on her was the same. The ambient temperature shot up ten degrees, whoosh. The earth shifted on its axis, ka-chunk.

Crap. Blushing again. Rosy red right down to the edge of her tee-shirt. Her damn cleavage was blushing.

Stop this bullshit. He’s a cute guy. Eye candy. Not earth-shattering.

The frozen yogurt overflowed the cup and glopped out onto her hand.

Demi cleaned up the mess and sidled over to the crushed Oreos and colored sprinkles without turning around. She was playing it cool. She had no idea he was there. Who? She didn’t even notice him. Why should she? She was working. Busy, busy Demi. Working toward her goals. She couldn’t be bothered with this nonsense. She had no time to waste with—ouch.

She’d smacked her hip on the corner of the ice-cream toppings table.

Eric Trask loomed in her peripheral vision as she deposited the frozen yogurt on the tray full of sandwiches. She made change and smiling chit-chat, having no idea what she was saying. Executive function in her brain was totally AWOL.

He hung back from the counter, ostensibly studying the sandwich board while he waited until she was free to wait on him. Kaia and Tammi leaned over the counter, their boobs practically spilling out of their shirts in their eagerness to take his order.

“Can I help you?” Tammi sang out.

“Still thinking, thanks,” he replied, eyes fixed on the menu.

Ahhhh. His deep voice was scratchy and rough. More smothered giggling from Tammi and Kaia. Grow the fuck up, ladies.

Demi finally allowed herself to look. She had to work up to it slowly, the experience being a full frontal assault on her senses.

He was ridiculously tall, to start with. At least six-three. Broad, too, but lean and tapered. He looked dusty and hot, his tee-shirt stretching deliciously tight over the defined muscle bulges. She loved the way his sleeves strained over the swell of his biceps. She wanted to run her fingers over every contour. Nature’s ultimate sculpture.

Hoo boy. It was a struggle to keep her mouth firmly closed.

His dark blond hair had sported a jarhead buzz-cut before, as befitted a Marine recently back from his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, but it was starting to get a little shaggy on top. His face still had that deep, weathered desert tan. His eyes were a piercing pale gray against his sun-browned skin, like glints of shining chrome. The eye-crinkles around them made him look older than his twenty-four years. Two years older than her.

His eyes had always made him look older. She’d noticed it back in high school, from the first moment she laid eyes on him. He’d been sixteen, she’d been fourteen. He hadn’t noticed her. He’d seen too many things he was desperate to forget. The GodsAcre story was blood-chilling, and people never got tired of chewing over it.

That sadness in his eyes had given her a hot, shaky feeling even then. It had made something inside her chest become soft, achy. Made something melt that should have stayed solid.

She wasn’t the only one melting for the Trask boys. With their muscular good looks, daydreaming about them became a widespread recreational pastime for all the girls at Shaw’s Crossing High School, in spite of the stories about the crazy mountain cult where they grew up. According to the gossip, GodsAcre had been a hotbed of drugs, brain-washing, sex orgies, Satanism. It was even whispered that the Trask brothers were psycho killers trained by Delta Force soldier Jeremiah Paley, GodsAcre’s leader, also known as ‘The Prophet.’ That the three brothers had set the fire that had destroyed GodsAcre themselves.

So. There were possible mass murderers, sitting right there with the rest of them, taking notes in AP Chemistry or Spanish or English class just like normal teenagers.

Normal aside from the fact that they were considerably hotter, that is.

Her granddad had been horrified when his old Marine buddy and longtime friend, Police Chief Otis Trask, had announced his intention of taking in the GodsAcre boys. They needed a home, Otis had argued. They needed to stay together. It was dangerous to leave them to themselves, and Otis didn’t see anyone else stepping up.

Bad idea. Everyone said so. Those boys belonged in a reformatory. Granddad had tried so hard to dissuade Otis, anyone listening would have thought the three boys were fire-breathing demons from hell. Demi remembered him ranting about how damaged and maladapted they must be. How irresponsible it was for the school to let them mix with normal kids after their bizarre upbringing. How it was begging for disaster.

But Otis held firm. The boys moved in with him, and enrolled in the high school.

Crazy rumors hadn’t stopped her from staring at Eric whenever she got the chance. His cheekbones, his broad shoulders, his strong jaw, his sensual lips. He was even handsomer now than he had been back in high school. Bigger, taller, thicker, harder.

His gorgeous smile had become a grin. His teeth were so white. Deep smile grooves cut into his lean cheeks. Like dimples, but longer.

“…everything okay?” He sounded like he was repeating himself. She could feel the heat coming off his body. Damn. That mind-wiping storm wind of testosterone was putting her into a fugue state. She forced herself to breathe. Air helped.

“Ah…ah, yes. Of course. I’m fine.” She smiled back at him. “What’ll it be?” She hoped that she hadn’t already asked him that. Perhaps even gotten an answer.

That grin widened. “Surprise me.”

“Is that a challenge?”


She looked down her nose at him. A neat trick, at five-foot-four. It took lots of attitude, tiptoes, and hiking her chin way up high. “Game on.”

Kaia sidled past Demi as she grabbed a couple of slices of rye bread and headed to the sandwich bar. “Surprise me?” she said under her breath. “I’d surprise that guy right out of his clothes. Any time, any place.”

“Make that sandwich really tall, girl,” Tammi cooed as she swept by with a drinks order. “And don’t skimp the sauce. You want it really juicy, so that that thick wad of hot, salty meat can slip right down, you know what I’m talking about?”

“Shut…up!” Demi whispered savagely.

“What do you think, Kai?” Tammi said to Kaia. “Mayo? Or herb vinaigrette?”

“Oh, ranch, for sure. Long, strong squirts of it.”

“Piss off, both of you,” Demi snapped. “I’m busy.”

“I just bet you are, you lucky girl.”

Demi blocked them out of her consciousness by concentrating on making the sandwich for the ages. One worthy of fueling a body that gorgeous. Rye bread, grilled in herbed dill butter, piled with pepper rolled roast beef and thick slabs of melted pepper-jack cheese. A few draped pieces roasted red pepper, juicy slices of crimson heirloom tomatoes, some tender green Bibb lettuce. A towering stack of home fried potatoes and a scoop of her own specially tweaked coleslaw. A bottle of an herbal tea and fruit infusion.

“Don’t forget the pickle, girlfriend,” Tammi sang out. “A nice, fat one.”

Demi gave her the finger over her shoulder as she bopped the swinging door open with her hip and carried out the tray with her creation on it. Not blushing this time, oh no. She’d been slaving over a hot griddle. She got that tomato-red color from honest toil and no one could say she hadn’t.

She laid the sandwich down in front of him. “Here you go. A Demi Vaughan special. Billed by the till as a roast beef and cheese, but I tarted it up for you. And a green tea, lime and goji berry cocktail to wash it down. It’ll balance your heart chakra, flood you with antioxidants and replace lost electrolytes.”

His silver-chrome eyes flicked up and down her body. “Looks incredible.” His deep, throaty rasp brushed tenderly on every nerve. “Thanks for keeping it special. My heart chakra is getting all excited just from looking at it.”

She smiled, fishing for something cute and witty to say. Came up blank.

He started again. “Hey, I just wanted to ask you—”

“Demi!” Raelene, her boss, hollered from kitchen, cutting off his words. “Demi, get back here for a second!”

“Be right there.” She backed awkwardly away before she realized what she was doing and turned around to walk away with some dignity. Like a normal human being.

In the kitchen, Raelene, a skinny lady with a graying crown of braids, handed her a clipboard. “I want you to do some inventory in the storeroom,” she announced.

“Inventory?” Demi glanced back toward Eric before she could stop herself.

Raelene caught the look. “Tammi or Kaia can ring him up. You’ll need to do boring crap busywork when you’re running your own business, you know. Get used to it.”

“Of course, but during the lunch rush?”

“I’ll help the other girls up front if they need it. And I know it’s not my business, but that boy is a dead end. Don’t conduct your flirtations on my clock, Demi.”

Demi bristled. “I’m not! I have never wasted time on the job.”

Raelene’s mouth tightened. “Stay away from him. He’s bad luck. Bad news.”

“It’s nobody’s business, and I don’t see why you would even—”

“The Prophet’s Curse got my brother. Did you know that?”

Demi stared at the older woman, appalled. “Raelene. Please. You don’t mean you actually believe those old rumors? That’s just a vicious, crazy story. An urban myth.”

Raelene shrugged. “Fourteen people dead in twelve days,” she said. “And it happened right after Darryl refused to give Jeremiah another building permit for his compound. The old bastard wanted to build right in the middle of an elk run. Darryl said no. And the next day, he was dead. Is that an urban myth, you think?”

“Natural causes,” Demi said.

“Right,” Raelene said. “Like all the rest of the people the Prophet was pissed with. That’s a whole lot of natural causes crowded together in a very small time frame. A very small geographical area. Too small.”

“But…you think Darryl was poisoned?” Demi said hesitantly. “Or are you saying that it’s an actual curse? Like, black magic, or something? You’re not serious.”

She studied the other woman’s face. The realization dawned slowly, with a sickening chill.

Raelene was dead serious.

“Raelene,” Demi said. “Even if Darryl really was murdered somehow, and even if it actually was Jeremiah’s fault, he’s dead and gone. It wasn’t Eric or his brothers who caused any of that stuff to happen. They were only kids at the time. It can’t be their fault.”

“I didn’t say it was their fault,” Raelene said stiffly. “I don’t understand what happened back then, but it was sick and bad, and I don’t like to see a nice young lady getting mixed up with it. Neither would your mother, as I’m sure you know.”

Demi felt her back prickle. “He’s not a criminal, Raelene. He’s a veteran, he works, he’s not in any kind of trouble, so I don’t understand why you—”

“We’re not having this conversation on my dime. Get to work if you still want this job. If you don’t, you know where the door is.”

Raelene marched out of the kitchen, rubber-soled trainers squeaking aggressively.

Demi was speechless. Her first instinct was to walk out. Screw this crap. Raelene had no right to preach or pass judgment about Demi’s private life and personal choices.

But she couldn’t afford to throw a tantrum. Her parents were already angry and disappointed with her. They’d been angry ever since she changed her major to restaurant management, rather than business administration, and they got even angrier when she refused the internship at the Shaw Paper Products distribution center in Tacoma. Or at any of the other SPP centers scattered over the western US, for that matter.

Dad had used his most sneering tone. The little princess is too good for the family business? You’d rather wait tables and carry catering trays than take a shot at a grown-up job? A sandwich shop is your goddamn life’s ambition now?

She’d hoped for a summer job in her field for those last few weeks before her internship in Seattle started. The internship was a hard-won prize, and she could hardly wait to start. Eight weeks working closely with famed chef Maurizio Altamura at the renowned restaurant Peccati di Gola. In the meantime, she wasn’t too proud to sling hash at the Bakery Café in Shaw’s Crossing. It was food prep, and therefore relevant to her future plans. Somewhat. And this way, she could save on rent for a few more weeks.

But her parents, and Granddad, had been horrified. So she couldn’t bail on the Bakery Café the first time she got huffy with the boss. Not in her shaky position.

Demi resisted the urge to peek and see if Eric was still there. She couldn’t let him see her do that. It would look desperate and fawning and childish.

Besides, he was probably back at work. Maybe drinking what was left of his green tea and goji berry cocktail. Maybe holding the cool, sweaty bottle up against his hot face. Putting it to his lush, sensual lips, throat working as he drank. Until a single drop of condensation from the bottle trickled slowly…sexily…down his strong, tanned throat.

Whew. One would think that the dull task of counting cans and bottles in a pantry would chill an overheated girl right down.

Think again.

Chapter Two

Eric drove slowly past the sandwich shop for the fourth time.

He wasn’t going back inside today. Not after the death-ray stare from Raelene Muir. He’d make problems for Demi. Probably already had. Looked like she’d been banished to the back room for the crime of speaking to him.

Raelene had kept up the sphincter-mouthed glare the whole time he was eating his sandwich. He was used to it, so it didn’t affect his appetite, but damn, that shit got old.

He shouldn’t be eating at the Bakery Café in any case. Dropping seventy bucks a week for fancy sandwiches and overpriced beverages was stupid right now. He was busting his ass to save money for developing his app, and he could make an entire week’s worth of perfectly good lunch sandwiches for the cost of a single meal at that place.

But still, he kept going back. Just to ogle Demi Vaughan’s sparkling green eyes and shapely ass. And those luscious, gravity-defying tits that made his fingers buzz with lustful curiosity. Her velvety alto voice made him sweat. He heard it in his dreams.

She acted like she could care less, but her hot blush gave her away.

Finally, she emerged. Boyd Nevins followed her out of the café. Boyd had gone to high school with them. He’d been in Eric’s class. He’d heard that Boyd now worked for Demi’s family’s paper packing materials company over at Granger Valley.

Boyd was leaning in toward her, working his dimples. The guy was tall and blond. Good-looking, he guessed, and he could turn on the charm when he exerted himself. But Eric and his brothers knew first-hand that Boyd was a conniving shithead and bully. At least, he had been back in their school years.

Demi kept smiling and shaking her head, and Boyd kept talking. She backed away, still smiling. He grabbed her wrist, pulling her back toward him. Demi’s smile faltered.

She tried to pull free. Boyd held on tight. Dickhead. He hadn’t changed.

On impulse, Eric rolled down the passenger side window. Very carefully, to keep the damn thing from coming loose and falling down inside the car door, as it often did.

“Hey, Demi,” he called. “Sorry I’m late. You ready to go?”

It was a risk, but giving her an escape hatch from Boyd was an opportunity he’d be an idiot not to take. Then again, if Boyd was a frying pan, she might think that Eric was the fire.

Demi’s eyes flicked to him, blank and startled for a second. “Hey,” she said back. “Ah…yes. Yes, I am, actually.” She wrenched her arm free. “Later, Boyd.”

Boyd glared at Eric as she got into his car. Eric gave him a big smile and pulled out into the street.

“Hope you didn’t mind me pretending we had a date,” he said. “I didn’t like the way he yanked on your arm. Thought I’d give you an out.”

“I was okay. Boyd isn’t a problem for me. But I do appreciate the thought.”

He took a deep breath and went for it. “Can I make our fake date a real one? We can grab something to drink. Iced coffee, a shake, a beer. Whatever you’d like.”

Her rosy lips opened slightly and stayed open as her color deepened. “I’d love to, but I can’t tonight. I promised to get dinner on for my mom. She’s at the library board meeting tonight, so I have to head back home. I’m really sorry.”

He let out a silent sigh, crestfallen. “Okay,” he said. “Some other time, maybe.”

“Yeah, sure.”

He hesitated for a moment, and tried again, because what the fuck. “But since you’re already in my car, can I at least give you a ride home?”

Demi’s soft pink lips curved. She barely hesitated. “That would be great.”

The Monster coughed, burped and died at that moment. He started it up again, embarrassed. His creaky old Frankencar was made of salvaged parts from defunct vehicles. Only his considerable skill at keeping engines alive kept her running, but aesthetically, the Monster was a zombie nightmare, with most of her upholstery rotted away. “Keep your leg away from the car door,” he advised. “If that old exposed glue gets stuck to your jeans, it won’t ever come off.”

She angled her shapely leg away from the door. “Don’t worry about it.”

He drove for a few blocks, racking his brains for an opening. He wanted badly to ask if Boyd made a habit of bothering her, but that seemed too possessive a topic to open with right off the bat. So he went with the next random thing that popped into his head.

“I’m sorry you disappeared at lunchtime,” he said. “I was going to ask you out for a drink then, but I missed my chance.”

Demi snorted. “Raelene got a bee in her bonnet about having me do inventory.”

“Bet that urgency went away once I left, am I right?” He turned onto the street that would take them onto Lakeshore Drive, a more leisurely and roundabout way to get over to Osborn Grade, the road that led up to the Heights. Demi didn’t object.

So far, so good.

She slanted him a sly look through her dark, curling eyelashes. “Are you one of those guys who thinks that every single thing is about them?”

He laughed. “No, I am not one of those guys.”

“Good,” she murmured. Her smile was mysterious. “I’m sorry I’m busy tonight.”

Exultation bubbled up inside him. “I didn’t have a lot of time to spend anyhow,” he said. “I have to be at my next job at eight o’clock. But I didn’t want to wait.”

“Another job? Where?”

He slowed to a crawl on Lakeshore Drive, brazenly pushing his luck. “I’m the night janitor up at the Fair Oaks Care Home,” he explained.

“All day at a construction site, and then a night shift? Yikes. When do you sleep?”

“I don’t,” he admitted. “Not much, anyway. I get a couple hours from four to six AM. And I try to nap for a few minutes in between shifts down in the park by the Falls.”

“That sounds nice, if it wasn’t for the mosquitoes,” she said.

“They don’t bother me,” he said. “Then I have a weekend shift at the gas station up on the highway. I’m saving up money to go into business for myself.”

“Really? What business?”

“I’m designing an efficiency app,” he told her. “To help streamline workflow in big organizations, like the military. I got the idea on my first combat tour, and I’ve been working on developing it ever since.”

“You mean, on your own? Did you study computer science someplace?”

“Not formally,” he admitted. “Self-taught.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “No shit? You can self-teach that kind of stuff?”

“Sure. I couldn’t afford college, and I was already enlisted in the Marines at that point, so I just downloaded course materials from MIT and Stanford’s computer science classes and used my free time to do the course work. I watched the video lectures, did all the reading and the projects, took the exams. The info’s all online. So I don’t have any degree to show for it, but I have all the skills.”

She stared at him. “Huh. You must be really mentally organized. To do it alone.”

“I guess so,” he said. “That got pounded into me real early, along with a shitload of math. And it’s easy to learn when you’re motivated.”

“But doesn’t it cost a lot to develop an app? Don’t you need investors?”

“It’s less expensive if you do most of the work yourself,” he explained. “I’ve already sketched it out with wire-framing tools, and I’m researching the tech stacking and the programming languages. Right now I’m designing a custom back-end so it can grow and scale. And I’m working on the code. At least I was before I took on the janitorial job.”

“Crazy,” she said. “Who knew you were secretly an egghead computer nerd.”

He felt suddenly embarrassed. Babbling like an idiot, trying to impress her. “I’m hung up on the visual design, though,” he admitted. “I’m no artist, so I’ll have to scrape up some cash and pay someone to help me make it all look good. But the more of the basic code I can write myself, the less expensive it’ll ultimately be.”

“That’s incredible,” she said. “Yay, you. I hope it goes well.”

“Me, too. What about you? What are you doing back here in Shaw’s Crossing? I figured you’d be working in the family business. In Granger Valley, or Tacoma.”

She made a face. “So do my parents, my grandad and absolutely everyone else in this town. They think I’m destined to take over Shaw’s Paper Products. That I’m the scion of stationery supplies. The crown princess of packing materials. But it’s not my jam. To my family’s eternal dismay.”

“Ah,” he said. “So what is?”

“Cooking.” The announcement sounded almost defiant. “I want to be a professional chef.”

He was startled, but he made the adjustment fast. “Of course. Those sandwiches you make are kick-ass.”

She let out a crack of wry laughter. “Don’t judge my skills on the basis of my lunch sandwiches.”

“Why not? They’re excellent.”

“That’s very sweet of you. But yes, that is my dream. I got a degree in restaurant management in college. In a few weeks, I start an internship at a restaurant in Seattle, and after that’s done, I’m headed to the Culinary Institute. Some people get all excited in stationery stores, and I wish that was me, but I get worked up when I see a lump of goat cheese rolled in fresh cut herbs or cracked black pepper. Or lemon infused olive oil, or a really good pickled artichoke. What can you do? That’s just what I’m made of.”

No more delaying the inevitable. Eric turned onto Cedar Crest Drive, Demi’s street, but he stopped well short of the driveway leading up to the huge Victorian mansion with the vast rolling lawn.

Their mailbox was knocked partly over, tilted at a forty-five degree angle to the ground. “What’s with your mailbox?” he asked.

“Oh, that.” Demi rolled her eyes. “That’s Burt’s work. Burt Colby. We have a problematic neighbor who sometimes drives himself home from the bar at two in the morning after a few too many beers. No one’s gotten around to fixing it yet.”

He grunted in disapproval. “That’s dangerous. He could hurt someone.”

“Yeah, he could, but he hasn’t yet, other than our mailbox. Thanks for the ride, and for the nice comments about my sandwiches. Good luck with your app. It sounds awesome. I’m sure you’ll be very successful.”

Her incandescent smile struck him speechless. Lush pink lips, the perfect curve of her cheek. That sexy flush lighting up the tanned, perfect glow of her skin.

The window rattled dangerously in the door as Demi opened it. She hesitated, leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. Just a soft, glancing touch, but oh God. Wow.

“Have a good shift at the care home,” she said. “Hope you get some sleep. See you tomorrow, maybe? At lunch?”

“Oh, yeah,” he said, dazed. “I’ll be there.”

Sleep, hah. Like he was ever going to sleep again, with that rush of gimme gimme hormone pumping into his body. Damn right, she’d see him tomorrow. And the day after, and the day after that. And any chance he got, until he felt those lips against his skin again.

The place she’d kissed tingled wildly. Hyper-sensitized. Like it was glowing.

“Shall we get that milkshake you offered me after work tomorrow?” she asked.

“I’d love to, but this is the thing. I’ll be all hot and sweaty, and my janitorial shift is at eight. I need to clean up before I put on the uniform. Usually I go straight to Kettle River Park and take a dip at Circle Falls. I keep a fresh uniform in the car to put on after.”

She bit her lip as she thought it through. “I like swimming,” she said. “And I like Circle Falls. Let’s just go straight there. I’ll bring a swimsuit to work.”

“Yeah?” Exultation threatened to float him right up out of his seat. “You’re on.”

“I’ll meet you outside the Bakery Café. Five o’clock.”

“Great. Can I get your phone number?”

She was pulling out her phone, opening her mouth to reply when the sharp squeak of car tires coming to an abrupt halt focused his eyes beyond Demi’s face, over her shoulder and to the other car.

Elaine Vaughn’s horrified eyes, through the window of her BMW. Demi’s mom.

Crap timing, but he regretted nothing.

Demi looked around. “Oh, shit,” she whispered. “I gotta go.”

“Sorry if I made problems for you,” he called after her.

“Not at all. I’m just late getting dinner started, that’s all. See you around.”

“Yeah. See you.”

Demi cut in front of her mom’s car as she crossed the street and headed up and across the huge lawn, straight toward the house.

Elaine Vaughan just sat as if she’d been turned into a statue. Eric looked patiently back at her, resisting the impulse to lay on the gas and escape, as if he were some lurking thug who’d done something wrong. He fucking wasn’t. So he just sat there.

Besides, it felt vaguely disrespectful to drive off before she did. Like hanging up on someone.

Mrs. Vaughan finally turned straight ahead, tight-lipped. Her car surged ahead.

Well, fuck. He’d definitively ruined Demi’s evening. Smooth move, bonehead.

He’d been trying so hard to walk the line. Head down, eyes forward, pocketing every spare penny to put toward his app. Then Demi Vaughan came into his line of vision, with her glossy brown curls and her hip-swaying walk, and whammo. His better judgment got coshed on the head, tied up and stuffed into the trunk of a car.

This was such a dumb move. On so many levels. He was the Prophet’s spawn, she was a rich girl, the town princess, the college grad. He was practically broke, she lived in the biggest house in Shaw’s Crossing. He was an orphan with a past best not talked about, and she was the granddaughter of the guy whose family gave the town its very name.

That was the girl he got a raging hard-on for. Because evidently he liked to punch up the challenge. Keep it interesting for himself. True to form.

He kept seeing the scene tomorrow, at the river, in his mind’s eye. Demi soaking wet. Clingy, scanty clothes. Her cloud of dark hair floating around her. Nipples tight from the cold.

He hit the accelerator. The sudden burst of speed knocked the wobbling window right off its track, and it fell down inside the car door with a loud, decisive thunk.

Aw, shit.

He could still hear his better judgment back there, trapped in the trunk. Howling, kicking out the taillights, trying to be heard. But he just couldn’t listen to it.

Stay down, you noisy dickwad. I got things to do.

End of Excerpt