RETURN OF THE BAD GIRL
by Codi Gary
Excerpt by Permission
Gabe walked through the alleyway and took the stairs two at a time. The draw of a hot shower was so exciting, he pushed open the door too quickly and hit the wall behind with the knob.
“Crap, what are you doing?” Caroline yelled as she came around the corner. “I do not want to pay a massive bill at the end of this lease because you come through the door like the Incredible Hulk.”
Gabe didn’t say a word; he simply stared at her as he set the painting down gently against the wall. She looked good all the time—she had been a knockout in that black dress at Buck’s—but tonight . . .
Tonight, she was like a damn siren in a pair of fuck-me heels.
Her long dark hair was swept back and to the side, her brown eyes surrounded by smudgy black eye shadow. Her lush lips looked wet, and it gave him all kinds of ideas of how they’d feel, kissing their way along his body and around a certain part of his anatomy that was suddenly standing at full attention. The dress she had on was royal purple with a light shimmer to it, the heart-shaped neckline creating a deep V of cleavage that made his hands eager to squeeze and test the weight of her breasts. And then there were her shapely legs, sliding down into leopard-print heels. Leave-them-on-while-you-screw-me heels.
He wanted to throw her over his shoulder and carry her back to his room, where he’d strip her out of everything butthose shoes.
Suddenly, it occurred to him she wasn’t dressing for his benefit, and his jaw clenched. It was hard to deny the sudden urge to pound whoever she’d had in mind when she’d dolled herself up, and he knew it was unreasonable. He had no right to be jealous; she was a free agent who could go out with whomever.
He didn’t have to like it, though.
“Where the hell are you going, dressed like that?”
Well, if her pissed-off look meant anything, that had been the wrong thing to say. “I have a part in a Bond movie.”
“It’s forty degrees outside,” he said, trying to gentle his tone and be the voice of reason.
“So?” she said, eyeballing him like he’d lost his damn mind. “I’ve got a jacket.”
“Your tits are going to pop out of that dress if you bend over.”
“Gabe,” she said as she pulled her jacket off the back of the couch, “when you can manage to put your dishes in the dishwasher without leaving food on them, I might take your advice. No, wait, why would I ever take your advice on fashion? You’re idea of style is a T-shirt and jeans.”
He ignored her passive-aggressive criticism. Damn, he liked the way she said his name. He’d like it even better in another, more sultry tone, but he’d take what he could get.
Wait . . . When had he started wanting anything from Caroline?
She was heading right for him, probably so she could escape out the front door, but he was having none of that. Stepping into her path, Gabe asked again, “Well, you have to admit, your girls are popping up and saying howdy in the friendliest way I’ve seen yet.”
“Well, they aren’t saying howdy to you,” she said, moving to his right.
Grinning, he side-stepped with her. “Then who are they saying howdy to?”
Caroline let out an exasperated breath. “Are you trying to irritate me?”
“I didn’t know I had to try. I thought you just woke up, and the annoyance was there.”
“Oh, no, some mornings I wake up thinking, I must’ve imagined it. He can’t be that bad. And then I see you, and it all comes flooding back like a drunken night of idiocy.” When she tapped his chest with a long, glittery purple nail, he resisted the urge to grab it and nibble the tip. “Only it’s not my idiocy I’m remembering.”
When she tried to out maneuver him again, he caught her around the waist and said, “Speaking of idiots, who’s your hot date?”
“How do you know I’m going on a date?”
“ ’Cause a woman doesn’t dress like that unless she’s trolling for a man or going out with one,” Gabe said.
“You don’t know him,” she said, struggling against him.
“What kind of man asks a woman like you out and doesn’t even bother to come to the door?”
“He’s coming to the door. I just didn’t want the first thing he sees to be you,” she snapped.
“Why? I’ll be nice to him,” Gabe said.
“Would you let go? He’s going to be here any minute, and you’re wrinkling my dress!”
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door, and Caroline pushed him away. Gabe leaned back against the couch and waited as she opened the door.
“Hey, Mike,” she said to the guy on the porch.
“Wow, you look amazing,” the unknown guy said.
Gabe’s good humor fled. Heat curled in his stomach, easing out into his limbs until he wanted to punch someone, most of all the faceless guy in his doorway.
That churning in your gut feels a lot like jealousy.
Stepping up alongside Caroline, Gabe leaned his arm on the doorframe and gave the man on the porch his best “don’t fuck with me” glare. “Hey, Mike. I’m Gabe.”
The guy was average height with brown eyes and short dark hair, and instead of being intimidated, he stuck his hand out with a smile. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“You have?” Gabe asked suspiciously, looking down at Caroline.
“Don’t look at me. I avoid talking about you.”
“Actually, Travis told me about you, that you make custom motorcycles. I was thinking I’d come by your shop and see what you can come up with for me.”
The guy was lethal; Gabe would give him that. He’d charmed and disarmed him in five seconds flat. Taking Mike’s still-outstretched hand, he said, “I’m by appointment only until I get all the equipment moved in, but you can usually get me on my cell.”
The two of them exchanged numbers, and as he slipped his phone back into his pocket, Gabe caught Caroline’s irritable expression.
“Do you think my date and I can leave now?” she asked.
“Sure, take him. Get him out of here,” Gabe said, but as they started down the stairs, he saw Mike’s hand move to the small of her back.
Gabe knew what she felt like, right there at the curve of her back, and he didn’t want any other man’s hands on her, even if that man seemed like an okay guy. Then Gabe realized he was halfway down the stairs, ready to remove Mike’s arm from the socket if he didn’t stop touching her, and froze.
Caroline turned a few steps down and looked up at him. She must have heard his footsteps or felt the vibration. “Was there something else, Gabe?”
Damn, there was his name again, but this time it had been spoken softly. Their eyes met, and he wanted to close the distance and claim her.
“I just wanted to know if you need me to feed the vermin.”
The small smile she gave him unnerved him and made him feel like a kid, trying to please his teacher by asking for extra credit. “Only if they cry. I just fed them half an hour ago.”
“All right, then,” he said, searching for something else to say. As they started climbing down again, he called out, “Hey, Mike?”
“Yeah?” Mike said from the bottom, holding his hand out for Caroline. When she slipped hers into his, Gabe almost growled.
“Treat her with respect,” he said.
“Of course, I—”
“If you don’t, I’ll chain you to the back of my bike and drag you behind me until your own mother wouldn’t recognize you.”
New York Times bestselling author Monica Murphy
“Sassy, sexy and sweet, RETURN OF THE BAD GIRL is an absolute must read!”
New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey
“A take-no-crap heroine and a sexy, delicious small town vibe – I loved this book!”