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Down To Ash

Down To Ash

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Down To Ash

Bewertungen:
4/5 (12 Bewertungen)
Länge:
231 Seiten
3 Stunden
Freigegeben:
Feb 23, 2021
ISBN:
9781094414539
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

She's his best friend's baby sister, and he's too broken to deserve her.

Victor Yang spent six years in the Army as a bomb tech, and when he came back from war, he was half out of his mind and completely dangerous to anyone who got too close to him. His friend saved his life, and now he's repaying that debt in the worst way possible.

He shouldn't fantasize about Ashley's touch, her taste. Definitely shouldn't act on those urges. But he doesn't half-ass mistakes. One explosive night later, he's learned how sweet her forbidden fruit tastes, and is coming back for seconds. And if his friend finds out Victor knows exactly how Ash's skin feels beneath his tongue, his best friend will kill him.

Freigegeben:
Feb 23, 2021
ISBN:
9781094414539
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Melissa Blue’s writing career started on a typewriter one month after her son was born. This would have been an idyllic situation for a writer if it had been 1985, not 2004. She penned that first contemporary romance, upgraded to a computer and hasn’t looked back since. Outside of writing, Blue works as a mail clerk for the federal government, has a paralegal certificate (that she has more use for as a dust pan) and is a mother of two rambunctious children. She lives in California where the wine is good and, despite popular belief, is not always sunny.


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Down To Ash - Melissa Blue

him.

1

~Gamer Truth: The key to any race is finding all the shortcuts. No one has ever won by staying on the path.~

Victor Yang jabbed a button on his steering wheel and said, I literally just spent the last six hours of my life turning computers off and then on .

Not exactly his usual greeting, but he'd just settled into his truck after a long day at work when his dashboard speaker had announced, Call from Porter Hicks.

The soft throb in his temples threatened to turn into a full-blown headache. I need beer.

Porter's snort blasted through the truck's speakers. His friend always found his grouching amusing. Rain check on that drink, man.

Technology didn't lessen the signature laid-back demeanor. Not much shook Porter or pissed him off.

His friend added with only a slight trepidation in his deep timbre, I need a favor though.

Sure, Victor agreed without hesitation. He owed Porter his life. There wasn't much he wouldn't do for him.

Your job is by the fairgrounds, right?

Victor glanced around the sedate commercial district. Practically every car his gaze caught on was some variation of a fuel-efficient Prius. With the truck's door propped open, the early fall breeze snaked inside, both cool and warm depending on the shift of wind.

Yup, Victor said. Down the street on Garden Road.

That's what I thought. If I wasn't at work, I'd do it myself, but...

That was when Victor started to have misgivings about the favor, because there wasn't much Porter wouldn't ask of him—a fact they both knew. So the hesitation meant his friend really didn't want to unload this responsibility. There was only one person in Porter's life who commanded that weight—the only person who could piss him off or shake him.

Dread filled Victor's stomach like rancid bile. He knew the favor, knew he couldn't back out with a lie or even reply with anything but, I'm right on it. Any other answer, and suspicion would follow.

They had a brotherhood and that meant there were just certain lines one didn't cross. You never left a brother behind. Never let him make an ass of himself—unless it was being recorded or would be funny as shit to recount in vivid detail for anyone willing to listen. You never slept with a brother's girl or someone he had a thing for.

And—I need you to pick up Ashley, Porter said, the wince clear in his tone. Some asshole stood her up, and apparently she's drunk now.

And, yeah, never fuck a friend's baby sister.

For close to twenty years Victor had avoided that particular trap. Forty more years, tops, and he could relax. He'd be dead, but he wasn't one to complain about ironclad solutions.

Where is she? Victor asked, resigned.

He couldn't refuse the favor. Couldn't even deny that a small part of him craved to see her, to be allowed in her space. It would be a mix of both pain and pleasure. He was fucking twisted to want it even a little bit. Even worse to want it when he was sleep deprived. Almost a year had passed without a single PTSD episode, but lack of rest was a trigger.

And Ash? Ash was the epitome of everything he couldn't have and needed to protect. She was every goddamn cliché about forbidden fruit wrapped in one lush, soft package—and he had to pick her up.

It's not that far, Porter said, completely unaware of the lion's den he was throwing his sister into. His friend spouted off the location, so damn trusting.

But the implicit trust wasn't foolhardy. Victor would cut off his limbs before he hurt Ash. And, really? Did he trust some random cab driver to get her home, unmolested? Either he accepted the responsibility or he'd worry about her.

Got it, he muttered and then typed in the address on his phone.

He pounded out the information with his forefinger as though that small physical outlet could ease the tension crawling up his neck. He had a two-minute drive to lock away any and every emotion that wasn't brotherly concern.

He said, Text her and let her know I'll be there.

I'll owe you a few. Porter didn't hang up though. There was another pause in the strained silence before his friend added, You might want to bring a bucket or something. She sounded drunk as fuck.

Victor glanced around his new Ford truck, a touch of apprehension settling in his gut like lead. He'd never dealt with a drunk Ash, but he had borderline PTSD memories about a too-drunk Porter. If not being able to hold their alcohol was a family trait...

Victor shuddered. Great. I'm picking up a potentially pukey drunk when my car still smells like new car. Thanks, you fucking bastard.

He ended the call while Porter continued to bray like a jackass. The silence that followed weighed a ton. Victor rolled his shoulders to try and shift the nagging sensation. He could act unaffected by her. Dealing with Ash without showing any hint of his true feelings was second nature. But, fuck, it normally took the kind of preparation that seemed to meld his spine into a steel rod.

This time, Victor would have to persevere without preparation and remain on his best behavior. No question, no doubt. One of his best friends needed reassurance his world wouldn't upend again. Everything Ash did involved high-octane emotion with the same potential to implode. An affair with her would be no different. If Victor had a relationship with Ash that ended badly, Porter's world would definitely not be the same. How could it be? People chose sides and that created tension.

In that light, saying no to his baser needs wasn't asking for much. Porter had dealt with Victor's crazy for the past four years without complaint. And who was he to say Ash even wanted him?

Victor had reminded himself of all that often enough over the years that the half-truths washed over him like a balm. He wasn't happy to see her. It was going to be a chore. He did not love the way she smiled.

Balm.

Lies.

Taking another second to batten down any emotion, wayward or not, he clenched his jaw and started the truck.

In exactly one hundred and twenty seconds, he pulled up to the restaurant. The medium-sized building screamed upscale from the lack of a neon sign announcing its name, to the expensive cars decorating the parking lot and the fact it warranted a valet.

A scowl cracked across Victor's face the moment he saw Ash in a tight, short red dress.

She was leaning against the building and chatting up one of the valet staff. The September sunlight turned her honey-brown skin golden, and there was a lot of golden skin not covered by that dress. Her thighs, her arms, her cleavage...all so very lickable and exposed.

She'd straightened her hair and cut it into some kind of uneven bob since he'd seen her a month ago. Whatever the style was, the dark strands draping her face highlighted her soft cheekbones...and her full mouth.

His knuckles popped as he gripped the steering wheel for moral support. Fifteen minutes was all he had to suffer through. Then she'd be home, in bed and, he would be far away from her.

He sucked in a breath, bracing himself, and then punched the horn.

Both Ash and the valet looked in his direction. She lifted her arms, and waved them like a toddler who had just spotted their favorite person.

Vic! She faced the valet. I love that guy.

Shit. Bubbly, impulsive Ash had thrown liquor onto her personality, and she had to be trashed if that was her unfiltered reaction to him. On the best of days, Victor was a harbinger of disapproving frowns.

Maybe in her drunken state she could only remember the days he had to fight a smile. Not his fault. If anyone could make him laugh, it was her. For a woman who was off limits, he’d shared a lot of laughs with her over the years.

And his inability to be stone cold with her was the problem.

Fuck me, he muttered as the valet put a hand on her arm and escorted her over.

After she was settled and buckled into the seat, Victor tried to tip the man. The staff just shook his head and laughed as though to say spending time with Ash was his pleasure and not work at all.

Yup. The man had experienced Ash, for however long she'd stood outside, without a filter. She had the ability to make anyone feel like being within her gravitational pull was an experience they should pay for.

Out of excuses, he focused on Porter's sister—a designation he forcibly kept at the forefront of his mind. She beamed. Her face was flushed and her light brown eyes filled with more mischief the longer she held his stare. Her fragrant peaches-and-cream perfume wrapped around him. A warm, happy woman was piled into his passenger seat.

Go ahead and try to ignore that.

Of course he couldn't. If she were anyone else, he'd flirt, knowing every answer would reveal the truth and expose the woman's deepest desires. He'd poke into her backstory to learn everything about her.

What didn't he know about Ashley Hicks?

That silent question thrummed in his veins, because there wasn't anything about Ash, just her as a woman, that turned him off. She loved what she loved and took what she wanted. She went through men like fashion trends, cussed, chose sensual femininity over ladylike and gave zero shits what people would say about her for any of it. That turned him rock hard when he let himself think about it. She was his type.

Or maybe my type is her.

He shook his head since he hadn't even lingered over her physical attributes yet.

Victor broke the eye contact to glance at the rest of her. The red dress clung to every interesting and lush part of her body. She'd crossed her legs at the ankles and had exposed another inch of supple brown thighs. Black spiky heels adorned her feet.

Any red-blooded man would have looked at the straps constraining her ankles, the sharp points of the heels, and would have immediately imagined her legs spread wide and pointed to heaven while she chanted fuck me, fuck me, fuck me.

Whoever had stood her up was an idiot. And fuck Porter for giving him this problem.

Where was a crossroads demon when you needed it?

He needed to survive the next fifteen minutes without losing his control. Already, his blood felt thick and slow as it pumped much more readily to his dick than his head.

Reaching back into his military training, Victor looked at Ash as though she was an unstable bomb. Touching her could kill him. Ash was the bright colored wires. Porter, the explosives.

Drawing in more fortitude, Victor told himself he could do this. He could ignore the slow chug of blood in his dick, the scent of her, her subtle sensuality—her. That was until she leaned toward him, squinting at his face. Ash brought the scent of her with the movement. The fragrance tightened his insides...his everything.

Why do you always scowl when you look at me? Her voice was a sultry caress.

If he looked at her in any other way, he'd burn in hell for one hundred years. You're always doing something that deserves this look.

Victor sounded like a disapproving jackass. Again, he didn't begrudge his means to an end. If his tone ruffled her feathers, all the better.

She clasped her hands over her heart. As always, you're going to be a ray of sunshine, aren't you?

The sarcasm cut so sharp and unexpectedly, only years of practice kept him from chuckling. This was why he liked her. Hell, her sharp tongue was why he could be surly to her—she not only took it, but threw his attitude back at him with cheer. Snipping at each other was their game and they never spoke of the rules. Good thing he’d somewhat prepared himself for battle. She was going to keep him on his toes.

How drunk are you? he asked.

She snorted though he guessed it was supposed to be a full-on laugh. Enough to regret it tomorrow. You should try it sometime.

Direct hit. He glanced out the driver's side window so she couldn't see his smile. And why are you drunk? He looked at her again, because how could he not?

The longer I waited in the restaurant for my date, the more I drowned my sorrows. I mean, does he not know I'm a catch? I'm sweet. Well...sweet-ish. I'm funny. Great in... She met his gaze as though hearing exactly how that sentence would play out.

The smallest flicker of heat in her eyes made him believe she'd finish saying the words in a brazen tone. She'd tell him in exacting detail how she'd rock his fucking world.

Yeah, her gaze seemed to taunt. Look at me, Vic. See me and know I'm incredible in bed.

And the way she sucked in a shaky breath, he couldn't help but think—No. He shut down that line of thinking. Ash was uncomfortable talking about sex with him. That wasn't lust reflecting back at him in her eyes. No reason for him to tense in anticipation.

You were saying? He prayed she didn't finish the sentence. He hoped like hell she'd tell him just how wet and snug her pussy would feel around his cock. Or, fuck, her mouth. Her hand.

She licked her top lip. The nervous gesture drew his gaze to the last place it needed to be—her mouth.

Anyway, she rushed out in a breathless mutter, "by the time likely became a sure thing, I’d had three strawberry daiquiris and the bartender had made them more daiquiri than strawberry."

Just that easily, she cut the tension.

He chuckled as he put the car into drive. Bubbly and honest. Yeah. Ash was the fire, and rum had been thrown on her. She'd only smile if he growled at her today.

Ash, you're drunk. Go home, he said, using the pop culture reference to continue to roll with her light humor.

You're taking me so I'm covered. Vic to the rescue. A sharp edge of bitterness in her tone didn't make that sound like a compliment. Did Porter tell you to give me a lecture?

That tone was exactly what he wanted to hear, yet it didn't make him happy. He told me I should bring a bucket, he said, his voice flat.

She made a drunken pfft sound. "He's the lightweight. I still remember his college graduation. I still have nightmares, she said and then laughed. I just need to eat and probably drink half an ocean of water."

She paused, focusing on his face as though there were just too many of him. Iris, my friend, set up the blind date. She showed me a picture of the guy and he was cute. Dark chocolate skin, hazel eyes. Knowing her, she did the same with me. I don't think that prick thought I was pretty. Do you think I'm pretty?

The innocuous question crawled down his spine and gripped it. She'd been the star of his very first wet dream. So, fuck yeah, he thought she was a knockout, but he wasn't going to answer the question out loud. Ever. Do you have something to eat at your apartment?

Yeah. I can forage. She snapped her fingers and sat up straighter. That reminds me. I've been meaning to call you. Don't you test security for the Internet? Updates... She sighed, shaking her head. I mean, don't you do everything short of taking over every computer and making the world your bitch?

Warmth spilled into him. No one really knew what he could do. His friends knew him, knew he made money fixing computers now, and still they assumed he did nothing but update Windows all day. How in the hell had she noticed? Something like that. Why?

I rec'd you to my boss. We keep getting hit with viruses then we're down for a few days. Our tech left last week on maternity leave and didn't have time to fix it.

He glanced at her, surprised at the offer—warmed by it actually. Victor wasn't exactly nice to Ash, but not only had she recommended him for a job, she’d recommended him for a job where she also worked. She was sticking out her neck for him. Not many people would do that for someone who regularly...The thoughtful gesture said so much about her, and once again proved why he didn't deserve to breathe her fucking air.

Thanks, he said, simply.

She shrugged and then looked down as though touched by the single word. Sometimes you're nice to me, and that leaves me feeling...charitable.

When have I ever been nice to you? he asked, the question sharp.

Usually there's this cold draft from hell right before.

He laughed, couldn't help it. Exactly.

My sophomore year in college.

She didn't have to say anymore for him to remember. He'd been on leave and had gone to Porter's, like always, to spend time with his friend. She'd been there, crying. After working six hours to finish her take-home mid-term, her laptop had died—blue screen of death. He'd spent the rest of the night and too much

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