Ruin Me by Bella Love-Wins and Shiloh Walker is NOW LIVE!
But I don't.
Chapter One - Angel
The low voice, full of innuendo and sensual warmth, came from my left. I sighed, turning my head to meet the pale blue eyes behind a pair of hipster-cool frames.
The guy was good-looking.
He was also not my type. I needed no more proof than the way he was smiling about my name.
My best friend Tamika leaned in, nudging me, and I recognized the signal. She’d already been on me for shooting down every guy I met. I’d told her I was fed up with the lines and the lame come-ons and the idiots who thought that just because they took off their wedding ring, it meant I couldn’t see the strip of skin where it usually rested.
But…maybe she was right.
Maybe I was too critical.
And hey, we were in Vegas, right?
My one last wild vacation. I’d planned to throw it all to the wind before I headed down to Mexico to work at an inner-city school for the next two years. It was considered a family tradition, being all socially conscious, although my parents had freaked out when they heard I was going to teach in Mexico.
We didn’t do things like that.
The Halliwell family volunteered at hospitals, and they led literacy initiatives, and sometimes, on rare occasion, they might volunteer at a homeless shelter or a home for battered women.
But actually going to an inner city in another country?
That had befuddled my parents. I think it also terrified them. I was their only child, and they’d redefined overprotective.
I’d been very clear in my determination to continue as planned.
I was looking forward to getting out from under the near-oppressive blanket of their love and affection. Granted, it was a love and affection governed by very specific rules of behavior, but Phillip and Evangeline Halliwell did love me.
They also didn’t understand me.
It was going to be fantastic getting away from those confused eyes and puzzled looks for a while.
It was going to be stellar to get away from arranged dates and not-so-subtle oh, have you met so-and-so’s son…at every dinner party or charity function that we attended.
Months of freedom stretched out in front of me.
And before I kicked it off, I planned this week of partying, shows and gambling here in the bright neon lights of Las Vegas.
The man who’d approached me was still waiting for an answer. I managed a casual smile. “Yes. It’s Angel.”
“It suits you…because you really do look like one.” He smiled, showing off perfectly straight white teeth.
An orthodontist’s dream smile. I should know. I had one myself—or I’d had one, up until an impromptu game of football with some friends in college had sent me tumbling to the ground. A rock had claimed one small chip from my right front tooth, and once the swelling had gone down from my mouth, I’d decided I liked it.
My smile no longer looked like an ad for a toothpaste commercial.
Again, my parents had been confused.
“Just what do angels look like?” I asked, sipping from the watered-down cocktail I’d been nursing for the past hour.
Nonplussed, he gave me a puzzled look. Apparently deciding he’d heard me wrong in the loud bar, he leaned in closer. “Why don’t you let me buy you another drink?”
“You know what…I don’t think so. Have a good night.” I swiveled on the stool back to Tamika. She was talking to a guy with a fantastic smile—bet he wasn’t making stupid jokes about her name.
“Hey, come on, honey…”
A heavy hand fell on my shoulder.
The guy hadn’t left.
Shrugging it off, I met his gaze and said, “I told you no. I’m not interested.”
He opened his mouth, then closed it. After a second, he curled his lip and said, “I take it back. You don’t look like an angel. You look like a fuckin’ bitch.”
He turned to go and ended up crashing into a broad, massive wall of muscle.
“Hey, man, why don’t you…oh. Hey. My bad.”
Leaning against the bar, I watched as Mr. Suave patted the big guy’s arm and said, “That was all me. No harm, no foul.”
The big guy, wearing a pair of dark sunglasses here in the club, studied him for a long moment before shifting his attention up. And even though I couldn’t see his eyes, I had no doubt he was looking at me. The condescending smirk that twisted his lips tugged a smile out of me.
Somehow I knew that smirk wasn’t directed at me.
“Sure, kid,” the man said, his voice deep, matching his size. “No harm, no foul. Why don’t you just head on out of here now?”
He spoke with a rich, rolling accent. Definitely with French undertones. I was sure he was Cajun because it made me think of sultry, dark bayous, honeysuckle and magnolia blossoms. Everything I’d seen, heard, smelled, touched, and tasted during my trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras one year. It was the kind of voice a woman would just love to hear whispering in her ear at night. At least, this woman would.
Mr. Suave gave a jerky nod, then disappeared into the crowd.
And then the big guy moved up and straddled the stool two seats down from me. He shot me a look. “Was he bothering you?” he asked politely.
“Nothing I’m not used to,” I said honestly.
A frown twisted his lips. He had an absolutely beautiful mouth. “That’s pretty shitty. Shouldn’t have to get used to it.”
“You’d be amazed at what a person can get used to.” I swirled my straw around in my glass, wondering if this was the ideal time to ask if I could buy him a drink.
His eyes slid to mine.
I couldn’t make out anything behind those mirrored lenses, but I knew, as sure as I was sitting there, he was studying me. One corner of that sexy mouth quirked up in a smile, and he shook his head. “No. I wouldn’t.”
It caught me off guard. I wondered if maybe he was reading my mind—no, I wouldn’t buy him a drink…?
He shrugged, and the movement highlighted something that didn’t need highlighting, heavy muscles under the close-fitting, long-sleeve t-shirt he wore. “I wouldn’t be surprised by what a person can get used to…Angel.”
The bartender approached, but before I could ask if I could maybe buy him a drink, she put one down in front of him. They nodded at each other, a gesture of old familiarity, then she glanced at me, a bright, customer-pleasing smile on her face. “Need a refill?”
She turned away without asking what I’d been drinking, a sure sign of a good bartender, and I looked back at the big guy.
He was pondering his drink.
“Why is it you wouldn’t be surprised?” I asked him.
He didn’t even look my way this time. “Because I’ve had to get used to more shit in my life than most decent folk can probably fathom.”
He nodded to me, one big hand closed around his drink. “Enjoy your night, Miss Angel.”
The words were delivered in a slow, lazy drawl that stroked across my skin, up, down, all around, as if he’d actually touched me.
He turned away while I was still processing my seriously crazed reaction to him and I huffed out a sigh. I could either stay here or look desperate and go after him.
Looking desperate didn’t seem all that bad, then.
But a man like that wasn’t going to react well to being chased.
So I blew out a breath and turned back to my drink.
At least I had some serious fantasy material to take to Mexico with me. That was good, right?
* * *
“Well…if it isn’t Angel.”
Key card in hand, I paused at the sound of the voice behind me and turned slowly.
Tamika, lucky bitch, had hooked up.
So I was on my own, walking back to my hotel room at Casino Torrid. I’d been to Las Vegas any number of times and had hiked around the city alone at all hours—practically—without issue. They said New York was the city that never sleeps, but I had to wonder if whoever coined that line had ever been to Las Vegas. Hard to be too concerned when there were still people out in droves even as late as three or four a.m.
It was only a little after midnight when I’d decided I had enough alcohol, and enough of walking around in the stilettos I’d decided to wear with my dress.
I should’ve been more aware of my surroundings when I left the main floor of the casino to head up to the escalator. The suite I shared with Tamika was on the concierge level. I could take the express elevator if I wanted to circle around and head to the front of the hotel. I didn’t want to circle around. So I’d taken the escalator and was walking down the hall to the next elevator bank when he spoke from behind me. This section of the hotel, I’d found, was almost always quiet this time of night. Two of the hotel’s three live shows were located on this floor, and once the shows were over, it was practically a ghost town.
Which was great to avoid crowds.
Not so much when it came to needing help.
When I turned to see Mr. Suave from earlier, it was just him and me.
Not something that pleased me a lot, I had to say.
“You lost, pretty Angel?”
“Please,” I said as I faced him. “Why don’t you take your canned come-on lines and try them on somebody who hasn’t heard them a thousand times?” Then, with a snap of my fingers, I gave a small laugh. “That won’t work, will it? Men aren’t allowed to date sixth graders, are they?”
His brows came together over his eyes as he edged closer. “Why do rich bitches like you always got to act so high and mighty around a guy when all he’s doing is being friendly?”
“High and mighty?” I shook my head. “It’s called not interested.”
“Girls like you are always not interested when it’s just some average guy.” He sneered and raked me up and down with a look that I knew was supposed to be offensive—intimidating, too—but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction. “You dress up like that, get a man all worked up and then it’s a cold shoulder.”
“Newsflash, ace. Women don’t always dress up in a cute skirt and a pair of heels to get a man’s attention.” Waving a hand at him, I motioned toward the stairs. “Now why don’t you toddle off elsewhere? You can probably find some cute little coed who might be impressed with your stupid posturing. I’m not.”
He leaned in. “Then why do you dress like that?” he asked, grabbing my upper arm as I went to back away.
“Oh, you want to take your hands off me now,” I warned.
“Yeah?” He grabbed my other arm. “And if I don’t?”
I drove the spike of my heel down into the top of his foot. Then, as he let go in surprised pain, I jerked backward and turned away, intent on making the best use of my long legs as possible.
The odd, curious sound as his words were cut off had me pausing, then glancing back.
I didn’t quite turn around in time to catch the full show. He was already pinned against a wall, his feet dangling several inches above the floor, face going a vivid shade of red. I assumed it was because he had a massive forearm shoved against his throat.
“Didn’t we already have this talk?”
It was him. Big guy from the bar with the sunglasses at night. Big Shades for short, as he didn’t stick around long enough to tell me his name.
Please tell me he hadn’t been following me, too…I thought despairingly. But even as that thought started to sputter to life, a couple of people moved up to flank him—one even came my way.
My gaze landed on the badge that said security.
“Ma’am, are you alright?” the big, broad, bass-toned man in front of me said. He was massive—broad enough to block my view of Big Shades. And I decided I didn’t like anyone that could be so cruel as to obstruct my view of my savior.
Sidestepping a little, I continued to watch as the sexy piece of work from downstairs growled at a much more cowed Mr. Suave. He was, by the way, far less suave now than ever before.
“I’m all right,” I said, reaching out to pat the security guard on the shoulder. “Is he…”
Big Shades abruptly stepped back and let his prey go. The smaller man hit the floor so suddenly, his legs almost crumpled. That didn’t happen, probably because his shirt front was caught in big hands.
“If I see you in here again, I’m going to do you serious damage. As it is, I’m sending images from the security feed tonight out to every joint on the strip,” Big Shades said in a friendly voice. “Every casino’s security department from here to Reno will know your face, and if you go pulling stunts like this anywhere else? You can expect to be banned—and don’t ever set foot in this establishment again.”
“You can’t do that!” His voice cracked.
“Arnie.” The big man’s voice rumbled like thunder. “Can I do that?”
“Absolutely, sir.” One of the men behind him smiled, looking quite amused by the entire scene.
“Thank you, Arnie. Now if you and the team would show him out…” Big Shades stepped away.
“It’s fine, Arnie.” Big Shades looked at them, his sunglasses firmly in place.
Had he had them on earlier? I couldn’t remember. But I was still floundering from the speed of the events.
As he came toward me, my tongue tried to unglue itself from the roof of my mouth.
“I…uh…” Clearing my throat, I gestured toward the man who was still arguing. “Well, thanks.”
He didn’t say anything as he came to a halt.
“You know, for a minute, I thought I had two guys following me around tonight. I’ve had some shitty luck before, but that…?” My laugh came out sounding way too high-pitched, way too forced. “But…well. I guess you work here. Security?”
Chapter Two – Mac
She had to be joking.
Then she glanced down at my chest—not just checking it out either, although she’d done that a time or two earlier at the bar. She frowned, looking perplexed, then met my eyes.
I figured out the problem as I realized I had one myself—she thought I was an employee here. Shit, Sly and LeVan would love this. I might even call them and tell them--
No. I could call Sly maybe, but LeVan was back home, visiting his family and making plans with the girl he’d hooked back up with after so many years.
And I doubted I’d tell them anyway because if I opened my mouth about Miss Angel, they’d figure out my recently discovered problem.
The one named Angel.
I’d done my damnedest to ignore her then in the middle of a loud crowd. Harder now with just the two of us here on the theatre level.
“No. I’m not security,” I said.
I waited for her to figure it out.
“Oh. Okay. Management, I guess.” She licked her lips.
I didn’t need her doing that. Earlier, she had on a rich, wine red lipstick slicked across that gorgeous, bow-shaped curve, but at some point, she either chewed it off, or it had worn off. Her naked mouth was just as alluring. Maybe more so. She looked softer without that bright gloss, but I’d seen how she’d handled that dickbag patron, driving a vicious-looking stiletto down into his foot without breaking a sweat.
At least she didn’t seem like she’d broken a sweat.
Adrenaline can hit hard, and sometimes not until a few minutes after.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
She reached up and pushed her hair back. Her hand was rock steady.
“I’m fine.” She rolled her eyes and lifted her shoulders in a shrug. “Okay, maybe I’m pissed and a little uneasy, but I handled him—I would’ve handled him even if you hadn’t shown up. I’m glad you did, though.”
Something about the way she said it made me think she might have done just that. Handled it.
“If you’re sure you’re okay—” I should get away from her anyway. I was standing so close, I could smell something delicious on her. Or maybe it was just her. It was enough that it made me want to find the source and taste it.
“Actually, I could use a drink.”
Her words, mixed right with my line of thought, hit me a little sideways and I narrowed my eyes as I studied her face. “I thought you were okay.”
“I am.” She rolled her eyes. “Well, mostly. But I’m jumpy. My roommate went off with someone. I’m definitely not up for going back out and risking running into a jerk like that again.”
She glanced past me with narrowed eyes that could shoot hot fire at him. Her blue eyes turned dark, almost startlingly so as her mind seemed to return to her would-be attacker. And she got pale too, staring in that direction. It was clear to me that whatever the idiot said or did before I got there had affected her.
A bit of color returned to her skin after a short time. She had the kind of skin that would burn in an instant under the Nevada sun if she didn’t slather her stunning self down with sunscreen. Her eyebrows were only dark from the bit of makeup she’d applied to perfection. I was pretty sure they were as blonde as her hair when she wore no makeup at all.
Those dark eyes all but shot fire as she glanced at the hall as if she was still seeing the asshole who bothered her.
“Anyway…I really don’t want to drink alone.” She lifted her shoulders and sighed, the movement pushing generous breasts against the silky material of her dress.
“If you’re not going downstairs, how are you expecting to get a drink, much less some company?” Stop checking out her tits, Mac. Just stop.
“I’ve got scotch in my room. You could be my company.” Then, pulling her lips to the side in a lop-sided frown, she said, “But that might be a problem…I’m sorry. I’m not thinking straight. You work here. I don’t want to get you in trouble. I’m sorry.”
She turned to go, walking down the hall. I think maybe, if she hadn’t said the last few lines, I could’ve just gone back into one of my offices and ignored her. Instead, I took a step forward and said her name.
She looked back at me.
As I drew closer, I couldn’t help but notice the poster filling the wall right next to us, advertising one of the three headliners that played here in the hotel.
Angel, it seemed, was unaware.
“You don’t even know my name,” I said. Maybe it was a challenge.
Her brows lifted slightly, and a blush broke out over her cheekbones. “Um…wow. You’re right. I’m…uh…well…” She laughed, and the sound was one of embarrassment. Shaky…and real. “You’re right. What’s your name?”
She honestly didn’t recognize me.
“It’s Mac. And I wouldn’t mind a drink.” The name I’d given her wasn’t really a lie. A few select people did call me Mac.
Angel broke into a broad smile and held out her hand. I took it, glancing past her to the poster on the wall. The name, in bold, bloody red, seemed to mock me, along with the words on the rest of the signage.
Illusionist. Trickster. Magician. Liar extraordinaire.
My full name was Devin Xavier MacKenzie Knight. ‘Mac’ to my friends, and most recently, for one sexy blonde named Angel.
We took the next hallway that led to the atrium, the focal point for the theatre floor, along with more posters and paintings that filled the walls.
I was in almost all of them.
Me and my two best friends. Three magicians. Two wealthy kids and one self-acknowledged street rat. We decided years ago that we didn’t want to be headliners at somebody else’s hotel. Instead, we’d bought out the majority interests in a failing hotel and revamped it, made it our own. We were the biggest thing to hit the strip since Criss Angel.
And I was proud to say that because to me, false modesty was bullshit. I’d seen it way too often in my past.
I waited for her to say something. To comment. To notice. And she did say something—lots of somethings—just nothing that connected me to the glaring man on all the posters marked with the giant X.
As we stepped into the elevator, she smiled up at me. The back wall was covered with another piece that advertised the shows, but this was a redhead with saturnine features and a smile as sly as his name—Sly O’Malley. Sylvester was his real name, but he was ready to throw down if anyone called him that.
Right now, the wicked grin on Sly’s face practically taunted me. Dude…you’ll get your ass in hot water over this…tell her who you are, you big dumbass.
Looking away from Sly’s face, I focused on Angel’s.
I was a student in the science of human behavior, and when our eyes met, the first thing I noticed was that her pupils dilated. Then the pulse in the base of her neck fluttered. The faint rush of color filled her cheeks. Of course, that could’ve been attributed to any number of factors.
Any number of things…sure.
But there weren’t a lot of variables to factor in now, considering we were in an elevator alone, and she was looking at me the same way I was trying not to look at her. If I could eat her up in three greedy bites, I just might do it.
But then I’d be sorry, because it’d be over, and there’s only ever one first time.
Curious, I reached up, touched her cheek.
Her skin was soft, smooth under the callused pad of my thumb, and her breath accelerated.
“Can I ask you something, Angel?”
I slid my index finger over to her lips.
Her eyes widened slightly, but she didn’t pull away. “What?” Her lips moved against my finger with the word and my blood drained south. My cock, already half-standing at attention, came to life instantly, demanding her.
“Are we just going to your room for a drink?”
I’d expected something to go along with her blushes.
To my surprise, she reached up and caught my wrist. “Well…I wouldn’t mind a drink. But if you have something else in mind, I’m open.”
The elevator chimed just as my brain started to do a slow, thorough meltdown.
Moving back, I twisted my wrist a bit, breaking her hold. Then I twined our fingers and gestured to the doors as they slid open. “After you.”
* * *
Angel came from money.
I’d figured that out early on and not just because she wore a pair of sexy Prada heels or had gone downstairs in a designer dress that wasn’t exactly something you’d find being sold off the rack. I came from money, too. I knew the look of it. So it wasn’t a surprise to end up on the classy, penthouse level. After she’d set down her purse on the table in the foyer, she shot me a quick, almost nervous look.
“I’m sharing it,” she said quickly. “I’ve got a friend traveling with me.”
A friend. Baggage, there. I wasn’t about to pry. I had baggage of my own. More than enough to last two lifetimes.
“As long as she’s not planning on climbing into bed with us, that’s fine.”
Angel laughed, the sound quick and bright. “No. Oh, man. Don’t ever say that around her. She might actually jump on it…if she doesn’t suggest it first.” A second later, she clapped a hand over her mouth. “I can’t believe I said that.”
Closing the distance between us, I wrapped my fingers around her wrist and tugged her hand away. “Said what?”
Her head fell back. Hair rich and warm as mink spilled down her back as she met my eyes. “I don’t know.” She smiled up at me. “What did I say?”
She licked her lips.
That was it.
But just as I went to taste that pretty mouth, she reached up, touched the frames of the sunglasses I rarely went without.
“What’s with the shades? Are you starring in some super spy movie twenty-four-seven or something? Or are you on the run? A vampire, perhaps?” She could tease me anytime. Angel tugged the frames off and her smile lifted higher as she put them down on the table next to me. “Oh…wow. Has anyone ever told you that you’ve got amazing eyes?”
“Anybody ever tell you that you’ve got a beautiful mouth?” Determined not to talk anymore, I tangled my fist in her hair and kissed her.
She sighed, softening as I licked at the seam of her lips, teasing her at first before finally taking what she offered, deepening the kiss. At the same time, I wrapped my forearm around her waist and pulled her up against me. She was a long, leggy bundle of curves, hollows, muscles and soft strength, the absolute perfect combination. What brain matter in my head that hadn’t already melted was well on its way to destruction.
Angel moaned against my lips, her fingers digging into my biceps. She wiggled against me and my cock jerked in demand as her belly rubbed against it. I stooped lower and braced my forearm under her ass, lifting her.
She broke away from the kiss, gasping. “The bedroom is down the hall.”
I knew where it was. I knew and didn’t care.
Taking a few steps into the darkened living room, I let the light guide me. I’d helped with the layout—in a general way of speaking—for how the rooms on this level would look once they were finished. I’d always liked them. My suite one floor up wasn’t too different. The dining room table was on a level a few steps higher than the rest of the room, the table, a long sleek length of ebony that reflected the lights of the city that shone through the windows. The glass was covered with a reflective coating that let the people inside see out. But nobody could see in.
“The bedroom…” she said again.
“We’ll get there.” I set her ass down on the edge of the table and slid the tips of my fingers under the hem of her dress. “Do you have condoms here?”
A blush rose to her cheeks, but she smiled easily enough. “Yes. Well, sort of. There are some in the bathroom. They were in the cabinet when we checked in. I guess they’re hotel freebies. What happens in Vegas and all that…”
I’d forgotten about those. A free supply was provided to rooms from a certain floor and higher. The penthouses were definitely above that level. Dipping my head, I pressed my lips to the area behind her ear and kissed her. “Wait here.”
She shivered and I felt her nipples harden against my chest.
I wanted to strip off her blouse, get her naked.
But if I did that, I’d forget all about hunting down some protection.
Groaning, I pulled back and forced myself to turn before I lost all sense of control.
“The bathroom is down the hall on the right,” she said from behind me.
I’d already been heading that way, but at the sound of her voice, I paused and glanced back to see her pointing toward it. Giving her a quick nod, I moved on.
Maybe I should’ve told her then.
No, there wasn’t a maybe about it.
I didn’t need her to tell me where anything in this hotel was. I knew it intimately, probably almost as well as she knew her own body. But I had no intention of telling her anything. In a few hours—or maybe in the morning—I’d leave, and this would be done.
A few minutes, maybe a few hours’ worth of an escape from my life.
That wasn’t too much to ask for, was it?
I should know to keep my guard up when this dark, damaged stranger saves me. But I don't.
His tortured soul draws me in for one hot, sinful Vegas night.
Then I learn what he is.
An irresistible liar.
I should back off, but it's already too late.
I've fallen for the one man who'll ruin me.
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She enjoys a happy ever after ending, as well as reading, hiking, the countryside, and traveling to destinations unspoiled by commercial tourism, like Las Vegas. :)
Like so many characters in her novels, Bella gets all hot and bothered for action, romance and unexpected love connections that take her breath away. For the next while, you’ll find her in Toronto, plotting and writing about her latest stories on her MacBook.
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