The Closer You Come (The Original Heartbreakers #1)
March 31, 2015
Just released from prison, Jase Hollister has a dark and twisted past. And now, he has only one goal: stay out of trouble. Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma, sounds like the perfect place for him and his two brothers-by-circumstance to settle down and live a nice, simple life. But model citizen isn’t exactly this rugged bachelor’s default setting—especially when it comes to a certain hot-blooded Southern beauty…
Brook Lynn Dillon has always been responsible. Not that it’s done her much good. The down-on-her-luck waitress is broke, single and fun-deprived. Until Jase comes along. He is dangerous, stunningly protective, breathtakingly sexy and as tempting as sin, and the passion sizzling between them is undeniable. But can it melt her resistance? After all, the right kind of trouble might be just what they both need.
Gena Showalter is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty books in paranormal and contemporary romances, as well as young adult novels. Her series include White Rabbit Chronicles, Angels of the Dark, Otherworld Assassins, Lords of the Underworld, Alien Huntress and Intertwined.
Her novels have appeared in Cosmopolitan Magazine, and Seventeen Magazine, and have been translated all over the world. The critics have called her books "sizzling page-turners" and "utterly spellbinding stories", while Showalter herself has been called “a star on the rise”.
“Pay attention, honey,” Jase said to Brook Lynn. “This isn’t a lesson you’ll want to learn twice. You throw a tantrum in my room, you get wet.” Jase tossed the little wildcat into the deep end, hoping to calm her down.
Jessie Kay beat at his arm, screeching, “Idiot! Her implants aren’t supposed to be waterlogged. She’s supposed to cover them with a special adhesive.”
Please. “Implants are always better wet.” He should know. He’d handled his fair share.
“They aren’t in her boobs, you moron. They’re in her ears!”
Well, hell. I’m on silent, she’d said, the words suddenly making sense. “Way to bury the lead,” he muttered.
Brook Lynn came up sputtering. She swam to the edge of the pool and climbed out with her sister’s help, then arranged her hair over her ears before glaring up at him, reminding him of an avenging angel.
He’d hoped the impromptu dunk would lessen her appeal.
He’d hoped in vain.
Water droplets trickled down flawless skin the color of melted honey. The plain white button-up and black slacks she wore clung to her body, revealing a breathtakingly erotic frame, legs that were somehow a mile long, breasts that were a perfect handful…and nipples that were hard.
Those traits, in themselves, would have been dangerous for any man’s peace of mind. But when you paired that miracle body with that angel face—huge baby blues and heart-shaped lips no emissary from heaven should ever be allowed to have—it was almost overkill.
Damn, I picked the wrong sister.
Well, what was done was done. Another piece of broken glass in his conscience. Another memory to leave a sticky film on his soul, like a spider determined to catch flies.
“I’m sorry about your hearing aids, or whatever they are,” he said, “but catfights aren’t allowed in my room. You should save all disputes for the next JELL-O Fight Night.”
She watched his lips. Her eyes narrowed, an indication she’d understood him.
Without looking away from him, she said, “Jessie Kay, get in the car. If I have to start counting again, you’ll regret it.”
For the first time that evening, her sister heeded her command and took off as though her feet were on fire.
West and Beck arrived a second later and scoped out the scene: a gorgeous woman who was soaking wet, probably chilled, stood as still as a statue, her hands fisted at her sides, while Jase couldn’t seem to look away from her.
“What the hell happened?” Beck demanded, running a hand through his hair.
“This is between him and me.” Brook Lynn pointed to Jase. “You guys go inside.”
“Your hand is bleeding.” West frowned and reached for her.
“I’m not your concern.” She stepped away, avoiding contact, and would have toppled back into the pool if Jase hadn’t caught her arm.
With her sex kitten curves, he was surprised by the slenderness of her bones. Even more shocked by the soft silk of her skin, the warmer than melted honey temperature. She wasn’t chilled, after all, and the longer he held on, the more electric the contact proved to be, somehow cracking through the armor he’d spent years erecting around his emotions, until he practically vibrated with the desire to touch all of her…to hold her…
What the hell?
He released her with a jolt and widened the distance between them. His inner armor wasn’t something he maintained just for grins and giggles. It was for survival. As a boy abandoned by his parents and sometimes mistreated by fosters, he’d learned emotions were a weakness that could be used against him. To feel something for a person or object meant he’d placed value on it—whether for good or ill.
Feel nothing. Want nothing. Need nothing. For the most part, the motto had served him well. There had been times the armor vanished, the darkest of emotions consuming him…pushing him to do things he shouldn’t. Trouble had always followed.
She scanned the yard—and finally found the source of the banging. Jase, with a hammer. Shirtless Jase. Muscles honed from intense manual labor bulged as sweat glistened and trickled down tanned skin and more tattoos than she’d realized. One of his arms was fully sleeved, the colorful ink wrapping over his shoulder and covering his pectoral. On his other side, his ribcage and torso were etched with intricate designs. A handful of what looked to be letters rose above the waist of his shorts.
Am I drooling? I’m probably drooling. Wow. Just wow. He was major man-candy. Gourmet. The house specialty. He radiated the most sublime sex appeal, the kind that shattered the most ingrained resistance and battered the staunchest inhibitions, and he would definitely satisfy even the most intense sweet tooth. He worked the hammer with masterful expertise, like he could fix anything, anywhere, anytime, and she had to admit it was total girl porn.
How she longed to close the distance and study every inch of him more closely. Study, yes…
He paused to wipe his face with a rag, and she almost moaned at the increased deliciousness of him. If almost was the new word for loudly.
He looked up and stilled.
“Brook Lynn.” His sunglasses were light enough that she was able to watch his gaze travel over her slowly, leisurely.
Her body reacted as though physically caressed, tingling and aching in her most intimate places. Heat flash? Maybe. Probably.
“Good morning,” he said, his voice a husky rasp just as sexy as the rest of him.
“Morning.” She gulped and wiped her hands on the side of her wrinkled shorts. Don’t gawk at his chest. Certainly don’t glance lower. “My phone. My keys. Shoes.” Making words should not be this difficult. “Do you know where they are?” Better.
“Phone and keys are in the kitchen. Shoes are in your car.”
She must have been too focused on the noise—and then the food—to notice the phone and keys. “Well, then. Thank you. For everything,” she added, only to hesitate. “But, uh…I’m a little confused about why you didn’t just take Jessie Kay and me to our home.”
“Two reasons.” He set the hammer aside. “I didn’t have permission to enter your residence, and Jessie Kay had had too much to drink. She needed to be monitored, so…” He shrugged.
So he’d acted like the gentleman he’d once claimed he wasn’t. “Well, thank you. Again,” she said, and turned to retreat inside. Only then, with her gaze off him and a little distance between them, was she able to breathe.
How did he affect her so strongly? And how could she make it stop?
“You didn’t eat,” he said, coming in behind her.
Her eyes widened as she rounded on him, her breath hitching when she discovered he was close enough to touch. Close enough to press against, male hardness to female softness, if only she leaned forward the slightest…little…bit. No! Bad Brook Lynn! Bad!
Then his words hit her. “That feast is for me?”
His nod was slow, and his gaze hot on her, as if he’d sensed the direction of her thoughts. “Your sister, too.”
Needing no further encouragement, she sat at the table and dug in, soon caught up in a whirlwind of different tastes and textures, moaning with rapturous delight. Yes, she would have added a few other spices to take the flavor to a whole new level, but all in all the meal rocked her socks.
When she finished, she dabbed at her mouth with a napkin. Oh, now I’m ladylike? She looked up to find Jase had removed his sunglasses, but hadn’t pulled on a shirt…and he was staring at her as intently as she’d stared at him. It was disconcerting. Especially since his features were blank, and she couldn’t read him.
A blush burned her cheeks, and she cleared her throat. “Don’t judge me.” Or my new food baby.
He arched a brow. “Is that what I was doing?”
Surely. “Well.” She cleared her throat again. “Anyway. My compliments to the chef.”
“That would be Beck.”
Never would she have guessed the pretty boy had a skill that didn’t involve a mattress and a panting partner. “Did he train at the Institute of Divine Cuisine and Hellish Addiction?” Jessie Kay had often accused Brook Lynn of sneaking into classes.
“More like the Institute of That Was Fun, But Now It’s Time For You To Go.”
Nice. “You guys and your one-night stands,” she said, and rolled her eyes.
“Is that judgment I hear, angel?”
Angel? The endearment proved a thousand times more personal and tantalizing than “honey,” shocking her to the core. Of course, he’d meant nothing by it. She figured he probably used the words interchangeably with every female he encountered—even with her sister. But…
I’m still reeling.
“No judgment,” she said, and stood. “And now it’s time for me to jet.” Before I do or say something more stupid. “I’m late for work, so…this is goodbye.”
His gaze still locked on her, he stepped closer to her, too close for comfort. She should have backed up, if only out of a sense of propriety, but she remained in place. He crossed his arms over his massive chest, those green eyes heating, burning. A sign of…arousal?
The provocative scent of him filled the air between them; it was masculine, sultry and heady, and it fogged her thoughts. It must have. Why else would she have continued to gaze up at him instead of running away?
Her heart must have heard music her ears couldn’t pick up, because the treacherous organ whipped into a frenzied beat, perhaps even doing cartwheels. Her breaths began to come faster, and shallow. I’m panting. I’m freaking panting. She shifted from one side to the other. He took another step toward her, as if compelled, then another, the last whisper between them vanishing.
He’s the predator, and I’m the prey.
When she’d proudly proclaimed herself healthy, he’d almost pulled her flush against him and kissed her. But she’d looked vulnerable and hauntingly fragile, and he’d found the strength to walk away instead. The need to protect her, even from himself, had proven stronger.
Now, here she was, on the bed, looking as healthy as she’d claimed.
He shut the door and moved into her line of sight.
She gasped with surprise—and pleasure? “Jase!”
He paused long enough to ask, “How are you feeling?”
Warmth bloomed in her baby blues. “Totally racer ready. Just waiting for my discharge papers.”
“Good.” He closed the distance, cupped the back of her nape and pressed his lips to hers.
She opened with another gasp.
No turning back now.
His tongue thrust against hers, and hers reached tentatively for his. A groan escaped her, enthralling him, and just like that, he lost track of his surroundings, his intention to simply taste. His mind centered on only one thing: hearing that sound again.
He urged her to her back, kissing her as if he would die tomorrow. As if she were the last girl he’d ever see. As if her lips held the answer to every question he’d ever asked. Supple and willing, she reclined for him. Her arms wound around his neck, bringing him with her, so that the hardest parts of him were lined up with the softest parts of her. All the while their tongues rolled and thrust in a white-hot tangle.
He tasted mint and cinnamon, a hint of strawberries. A heady combination, addictive when it should not have been. He’d tasted all three flavors before, but they’d never made him feel as though he was floating… melting from the inside out.
He could be locked away for the rest of his life, he decided, but it wouldn’t matter because he’d experienced this one perfect moment. Not even Daphne had affected him this strongly—and with so little. But then, her kisses had been those of a teenager in puppy love. This one came straight from a woman with passions as intense as his own.
Everything he’d felt for Brook Lynn since moment one consumed him, raw and carnal as she arched her back and rubbed her chest against his. Softness without the barrier of a bra, two little beads abrading deliciously…only the thin material of her shirt covering her.
He clutched at her pillow, nearly ripping the material in half, and lifted his head to ensure she could read his lips. “Be still,” he told her. If she kept moving like that, the experience would end in mere minutes. “Please.”
“Can’t,” she rasped, her fingers applying pressure at his nape, urging him back down.
Her eyes were glassed with passion-fever, her cheeks even rosier than before. Her lips were red and swollen, moisture glistening over them.
“Damn, you’re beautiful.”
“And you’re wasting precious time.” She stopped trying to force him down and sat up, thrusting her tongue in his mouth, as if she’d been starved for him and could not live another second without this.
When she fell back, he went with her, her willing captive. Her nails raked down the ridges of his spine, and he cursed the shirt that prevented skin-to-skin contact. The urge to climb on top of her, to pin her down with the full bulk of his weight, teased him. He would put his hands on every inch of her, strip her, caress her nakedness and drive her to the very edge of release. And the sounds she would make…he would swallow them all.
A low, possessive growl rose from deep in his chest. He’d never heard it before. Not from anything human. It should have scared the hell out of him, but it merely urged him on. He put one of his knees on the bed—on the gurney.
They weren’t just in a public place, but in a hospital. Anyone could come in. Anyone could sneak in behind him, attack him.
Jase jolted back, severing contact. His body shouted a protest, his hands closed so tightly he would have sworn he’d cracked the bones. He struggled to catch his breath, to stay in place, away from her. Have to stay away from her. How had she made him forget his surroundings, even for a second?