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Things We Left Behind by Lucy Score


Things We Left Behind

by Lucy Score

Published by Bloom Books

Book 3 in the Knockemout Series


There was only one woman who could set me free. But I would rather set myself on fire than ask Sloane Walton for anything.


Lucian Rollins is a lean, mean vengeance-seeking mogul. On a quest to erase his father’s mark on the family name, he spends every waking minute pulling strings and building an indestructible empire. The more money and power he amasses, the safer he is from threats.


Except when it comes to the feisty small-town librarian that keeps him up at night…


Sloane Walton is a spitfire determined to carry on her father’s quest for justice. She’ll do that just as soon as she figures out exactly what the man she hates did to—or for—her family. Bonded by an old, dark secret from the past and the dislike they now share for each other, Sloane trusts Lucian about as far as she can throw his designer-suited body.


When bickering accidentally turns to foreplay, these two find themselves not quite regretting their steamy one-night stand. Once those flames are fanned, it seems impossible to put them out again. But with Sloane ready to start a family and Lucian refusing to even consider the idea of marriage and kids, these enemies-to-lovers are stuck at an impasse.


Broken men break women. It’s what Lucian believes, what he’s witnessed, and he’s not going to take that chance with Sloane. He’d rather live a life of solitude than put her in danger. But he learns the hard way that leaving her means leaving her unprotected from other threats.


It’s the second time he’s ruthlessly cut her out of his life. There’s no way she’s going to give him a third chance. He’s just going to have to make one for himself.



Genre


Triggers

Violence, death, memories of domestic/child abuse, alcoholism, unlawful imprisonment


 

I have been waiting for this book since being introduced to Sloane and Lucian in book one.

It did NOT disappoint.

Seriously.

Things We Left Behind was emotional, gripping, and one of the hottest books I've ever read.

Tension.

Insane chemistry.

Witty banter.

A secret history.

It just all blends together into this delicious story that I couldn't get enough of.

It's not a short book, and yet I finished it in 48 hours.

The story itself was perfect. There was just enough chapters that bring you back to Lucian and Sloane's friendship as teenagers that gives you a solid foundation as to how close they were, and what happened to make these two people seemingly hate one another, but it didn't take away from the overall story in the present. It tied up the storyline that began in book one nicely - if a bit rushed. Afterall, there was a lot going on in this book.

The characters, as always, were the ultimate highlight of the books. Before I get into Sloane and Lucian, I have to mention how much I love how Lucy brings the other couples, and side characters, into the story. They don't overpower the main couple, but they add so much to the book. Knox and Nash's brotherly love - and aggression - is the perfect balance to Lucian's seriousness. Naomi and Lina are great supports for Sloane. One of my favorite parts of the entire series is everyone at the dinner table after Knox secretly decides that Sloane and Lucian need more incentive to behave. The fact that the thirteen year old gets to decide when to punish the repeat offenders - perfection.

When I say I laughed so hard I cried, I mean it.

Back to Sloane and Lucian - after learning everything, I both understand, and am frustrated with them for the years of bitterness and anger between them. Their individual feelings on what happened in the past, and between them, made sense.

And let's be honest here. While their friendship before the event was all kinds of adorable, let's not pretend that the tension and anger between these two didn't make their relationship explosive.

They even argued while having insanely hot sex. AND IT MADE IT HOTTER!

Lucy Score is amazing at writing enemies to lovers.

Because it wasn't just the sex that made this couple the best of the series.

It was everything combined. The back and forth antagonizing, while secretly admiring one another.

The best parts, in my opinion? Despite the happily ever after, they still have loads of banter and give each other shit.

And the one with the most issues between them - Lucian - is the one chasing her in the end. Convincing her.

I love a man who goes after what he wants.


If you love a true enemies to lovers, with heaps of sexual tension you will love this book.

Love.

It.

Seriously, this series might be one of my favorites to date. I can't wait to read more of Lucy Score's work.



 



 


The pudgy, grumpy cat I’d inherited along with the house slunk onto the porch looking judgmental as always. The half-feral fleabag had been given the regal name Lady Mildred Meowington. Over time, it had been shortened to Milly Meow Meow. Nowadays, when I had to yell at her for the eighteenth time not to claw the back of the couch, it was just Meow Meow or Hey, Asshole.


Sloane: “You know,”

I said to the baby,

Sloane: “my dad would probably love it if your brother accidentally dumped his ashes today. He’d think it was hilarious.”


God, he was beautiful. Supernaturally molded by the gods beautiful. He would make gorgeous little demon babies.

No. No. Nope. Absolutely not. My biological downward spiral was not going to make me look at Lucian Rollins as a potential mate.


Simon: “Place is looking better,”

Simon had told me when he wandered in through the open garage door.

I’d been covered in sweat and dust, sledgehammering my way through drywall and ghosts.

Lucian: “Is it?”

my twentysomething self asked. It looked like an explosion had hit the kitchen.

Simon: “Sometimes in order to build things back up, you gotta tear them down to the studs. Want some help?”

Just like that, the man who’d saved my life picked up a hammer and helped me raze the ugliest parts of my past.


Simon: If I could have chosen a son in this lifetime, it would have been you. Take care of my girls.


Emry: “I would also like to point out the irony of you encouraging me to start dating again.”

Lucian: “Marriage is right for some people. People like you who can’t stop burning casseroles and need a nice woman to force you to stop dressing like a 1980s sitcom star.”


Knox: “It’s a tough loss. She held up today after Luce here force-fed her a burrito.”

Nash’s eyebrows rose as he cut a look in my direction.

Lucian: “Not a euphemism. It was a literal burrito,”

Knox: “Sloane would break his euphemistic burrito in half,”

Knox predicted with a smirk.


Lina: “Let us in before we freeze our asses off,”

Lina yelled through the front door.

Naomi: “We brought hugs and tequila,”

Lina: “Naomi brought hugs. I brought tequila,”


Stef: “Well, well, well. Who does this beauty belong to?”

Stef demanded, stroking a hand over the cashmere. Shit.

Sloane: “No one,”

Lina: “Is that Burberry?”

Lina asked, reaching for the label.

Lina: “Please tell me you’re sleeping with someone who has really good taste.”

I should have just left his damn coat on his damn kitchen counter. Naomi buried her face in the fabric.

Naomi: “So soft! And it smells amazing.”

Her head came up, a frown pinching her mouth.

Naomi:" “And familiar.”

Stef, Jeremiah, and Lina each took a whiff.

Stef, Jeremiah & Lina: “Lucian,”

All eyes returned to me.


Naomi: “Is there anyone in town you’d consider dating?”

Naomi asked, pen poised over paper.

Sloane: “Where did you get that notebook?”

Stef: “She carries it in a thigh holster,”


Stef: “What about Suit Daddy?”

I opened my fingers over my eyes to glare at him.

Sloane: “Not in this lifetime.”

Stef: “Give me three good reasons why,”

I dropped my hands.

Sloane: “He’s unbelievably rude. He’s selfish. He’s so stubborn and controlling that everything has to be done his way or he loses his damn mind. He’s got the whole rich and powerful thing going, which means he’s absolutely corrupt. He’s involved in politics. And not in the ‘I want to make a difference in the world’ way. But in the ‘I want other rich, powerful jackasses to owe me favors’ way. He can’t connect with other human beings because he’s a soulless robot out to make the biggest pile of money for himself so he can hoard it all like some kind of goblin king.”

My audience was blinking at me.

Lina: “Anything else?”

Lina asked, trying her best to hide her amusement.

Sloane: “Yeah. That stupid coat is worth more than my Jeep,”

I said, pointing at the coat closet.

Sloane: “I googled it.”

There was another long stretch of silence.

Naomi: “So we’ll put Lucian in the no column then,”

Naomi said before writing something down in her notebook.


Stef: “I don’t want to make any assumptions. Is Mr. Right definitely a Mr.?”

Sloane: “As much as I would have zero qualms making out with Alicia Keys after she serenades me with a ballad, I can’t live without the dick.”

Naomi: “Man with penis,”

Naomi said out loud as she made another note.

Naomi: “What else are you looking for in a man?”

Sloane: “Um, I guess he should be funny and kind and generous. And it would be nice if he was into gardening to help me keep up with the backyard. Obviously he should like kids…and books.”

The cat pranced into the room. I patted the arm of my chair. Meow Meow shot me a look of derision and flounced out as if I’d insulted her.

Sloane: “And bad-tempered cats,”

Lina: “Anything else?”

Sloane:" “Good in bed. Really good in bed. Oh, and I’m kind of into reading glasses.”

Stef sighed approvingly.

Stef: “Hot nerds are so hot.”

Naomi: “You’ll have beautiful little nerd babies,”

Naomi predicted, hugging her notebook to her chest.


All four of us watched his excellent rear end as he exited the room.

Lina: “Really nice catch,”

He sighed.

Stef: “I know.”


I sat next to him and watched his big hand move the pink pencil over the sheet. Leave it to Lucian Rollins to make math sexy.

Sloane: “Wow. You really are smart,”

I said when he circled the answer. His mouth curved ever so slightly at the corners.

Lucian: “Don’t tell anyone.”

Sloane: "Your secret is safe with me,”

I promised.

Lucian: “Your turn,”

he said, handing me the pencil. He smelled good. Which made me paranoid that he could smell me. It took me three tries and an infinite amount of patience from Lucian, but I finally got it. I got the next problem on the second try. And when I nailed the right answer on the third problem in one take, I jumped up and spiked the pencil like it was a football in the end zone.

Sloane: “Yes! Bite me, math!”


He backed away. Desperate for just another minute with him, my mind raced for something to say.

Sloane: “Hey! I hate to be that girl, but you still haven’t apologized for the rock,”

I pointed out. He flashed that little half smile, one foot on the porch, one foot on the top step.

Lucian: “Guess I’ll have to do that next time.”


Sloane: “Would it kill you to be polite every once in a while? Or do those suits leach the humanity out of you?”

Lucian: “I’m surprised you didn’t order the glitter pancakes off the children’s menu to go with your mug of granulated sugar.”

Sloane: “Have you ever even had the diner’s hot chocolate? Oh, wait. I forgot. You’re violently allergic to fun and happiness. When are you flitting back to your depressing vampire lair of seriousness?”

Lucian: “As soon as I make it through this breakfast with you.”


I wrapped my hands around the mug and closed my eyes to prolong this tiny pocket of perfection. When I opened them again, I found Lucian’s eyes on me, his expression…complicated.

Sloane: “What?”

I asked, releasing the straw.

Lucian: “Nothing.”

Sloane: “You’re looking at me like it’s not nothing.”

Lucian: “I’m looking at you and counting down the seconds until this meal is over.”

And just like that, we were back on an even keel.

Sloane: “Bite me, Lucifer.”


Sloane: “We used to get along.”

I don’t know why I said it. We had a tacit agreement never to discuss that time in our lives. His gaze slid to my right wrist peeking out of my sleeve. I wanted to hide my hand in my lap but stubbornly kept it in plain sight on the table.

Lucian: “We didn’t know any better then,”

he said, his voice hoarse.

Sloane: “You’re infuriating.”

Lucian: “You’re irritating,”

I gripped my straw like it was a weapon capable of stabbing.

Lucian: “Careful, Pixie. We have an audience.”


Sloane: “Look. Since you’re too stubborn to leave and you’re not inclined to tell me why you and my mother are besties, let’s find some topic of conversation that we can both agree on to get through this interminable breakfast. How do you feel about…the weather?”

Lucian: “The weather?”

Sloane:“Yes. Can we agree that there appears to be weather outside?”

Lucian: “Yes, Sloane. We can agree that there is weather.”

His tone was so condescending I wanted to take the ketchup squeeze bottle from the stainless-steel carrier and empty it all over him.

Sloane: “Your turn,”

Lucian: “Fine. I’m sure we can agree that you dress like a deranged teenager.”

Sloane: “Better than a moody undertaker,”


Bean: “Here’s your breakfast,”

He slid steaming plates onto the table with forced cheer and then oh so casually slid both butter knives into his apron pocket.


Between Petula, Nolan, and Lina all being blatantly unafraid of me, I had concerns the rest of the employees would follow suit and start doing things like knocking on my office door for “a quick chat” or suggesting I host an office holiday party.


She narrowed her eyes and brought a manicured finger to her jaw.

Lina: “Hmm. It’s almost like you want me to bring Sloane into your inner sanctum.”

Lucian: “You’re annoying me. Go home before I fire you.”

Lina: “Be nicer to her,”

Lucian: “Or else what?”

Lina: “Or else I’ll make your work life as miserable as possible while still doing my job. And I’m really, really good at miserable.”


Lina: “Oh! Look! Sloane is here. I’d better go greet her.”

Her long legs wrapped in designer denim ate up the pink carpet between us.

Lina: “Help me. I feel like I’m suffocating in taffeta,”

she hissed, pulling me in for an awkward and unexpected hug.

Sloane: “You must be terrified. You’re voluntarily hugging me.”

Lina: “I’ll voluntarily make out with you if you help me pick a dress in the next ten minutes so we can get out of here. I’m breaking out in hives.”


Stef: “It’s not an excuse. Closet space is very important to a relationship, and the man just doesn’t have enough. It would never work. My wardrobe and I have been through a lot together. It deserves a beautiful, spacious home. Not a few rolling racks next to pieces of an actual motorcycle that he took apart in the living room,”

he said with a shudder.

Sloane: “You’re right. Closet space is definitely more important than being in love and sharing your life with someone. I’m sure you can cuddle up to those suede leopard loafers at night just as easily as you can Jeremiah. You probably won’t even notice the difference.”

Naomi grinned.

Naomi: “See? I told you.”

Stef sniffed.

Stef: “Wedding dress shopping makes you two mean.”


Bonnie: “Are you having premature ventricular contractions?”

Lina rolled her eyes.

Lina: “No, Mom. I’m falling in love with a damn wedding dress.”


Naomi: “Well, I’ve always wanted to see where he works. Does he really have a throne made out of the bones of his enemies?”


Nolan: “Find a dress?”

Lina nearly sprained an elbow reaching for her phone.

Lina: “I did. And bridesmaid dresses. What’s Callie wearing for your beach ceremony?”

Nolan reached for his phone, and the two of them put their heads together over wedding dresses.

Lucian: “You’re giving me regrets about hiring you both,”

Lucian said irritably. Lina looked at Nolan.

Lina: “I think he’s feeling left out.”

Nolan: “You’re right,”

They sandwiched their grumpy boss between them and began scrolling through their photos, explaining each in excruciating detail.

Lucian: “You’re fired,”

he said as he extricated himself from the huddle.

Lucian: “Enjoy your visit,”

he told Naomi, then headed for the glass doors without sparing me another glance. Lina gave a satisfied sigh.

Lina: “That was fun.”


Naomi: “Everyone here seems so happy,”

Naomi said, trying to switch to a more positive subject.

Lina: “It’s hard not to be. The pay is well above fair. The benefits are generous. And the boss is a beautiful beast of a man who no one wants to disappoint.”

I sniffed.

Sloane: “I guess if you’re into the whole fire and brimstone thing.”


Sloane: “Hey. You can’t go. You still haven’t apologized for the rock last spring.”

Lucian: “Next time,”

It was our refrain. Our promise that I’d be back.


Lucian: “What are you doing?”

I asked as she tucked a pillow under my arm.

Sloane: “I’m building a nest. This is how I sleep,”

she explained, fluffing the two behind me.

Lucian: “You sleep with forty-two pillows every night?”

Sloane: “It’s six, smarty-pants. And don’t judge me until you’ve tried it.”


Lucian: “You don’t look broken up about it,”

She shrugged.

Sloane: “She just wasn’t very nice. You could do better. But if you did do better and you were with someone nice, I guess we wouldn’t get to hang out like this. And I kind of like our secret little friendship or…whatever.”

Friendship didn’t describe what I felt for her. I was friends with Knox and Nash Morgan. But I sure as hell wouldn’t curl up with them in a pillow nest to listen to music. Hell, I wouldn’t do that with Addie either. Maybe Cindy Crawford.

Lucian: “I like us too,”


Sloane: “It’s okay. You can hang on to me. I won’t break.”


Ugh. I really needed to make some changes in my life. I wanted to be the one making my friends uncomfortable with over-the-top PDA. I wanted to be making plans for the future with my hot life partner with a large penis. A salacious memory of Lucian’s trouser-covered erection immediately appeared in my mind.

No! Bad, brain! Bad. Lucian was not life partner material.


Lucian: “What has you spoiling for a fight, Pixie? Did another squirrel get stuck in the book return?”

Sloane: “You’re hilarious. So funny. I’m so glad we had this time together. Why don’t I open this second-story window and assist you out of it?”


Sloane: “I don’t know how to react when you’re nice to me,”

Lucian: “If you didn’t make it so difficult, I’d be civil more often,”

Sloane: “It’s probably better this way. You might sprain something pretending to be human.”


Sloane: “I met Holly,”

I blurted out, going for the first topic that didn’t involve us touching each other.

Sloane: “She seemed very grateful for the job. Lina told us how you hired her. Maybe you’re not a complete asshole.”

Lucian: “No one gives a compliment like you, Pixie.”


Lucian: “I don’t have time for this. For you.”

Sloane: “Like I said, no one asked you to play delivery boy.”

Lucian: “And I didn’t ask you to get involved and end your softball career,”

Sloane: “Clearly, we’re even then,”

I joked.

Lucian: “As always, you’re infuriating, irresponsible, and immature.”

His tone was flippant, as if I were barely worth the effort to insult.

Sloane: “And you’re a mercurial pain in my ass,”

I pointed out, feeling the sting.

Lucian: “Always so charming. It’s such a mystery why you’re still single.”

The man wielded sarcasm with the dexterity of a master manipulator. I had the urge to pat myself down and search for physical wounds.

Sloane: “You’re late for your next ritual sacrifice, Lucifer. You’d better be going.”

He smirked.

Lucian: “Thank you for reminding me why our relationship is what it is. Every once in a while, I manage to forget what you really are.”

Sloane:“Is that so? And just what do you think I am?”

Lucian: “Dangerous.”

I flashed him a saccharine-sweet smile.

Sloane: “Do you think you can find your way out, or do you want me to help you down the stairs face-first?”

Lucian: “I think I can manage.


Knox: “I don’t think you’re hearing me. Naomi has decided you both can’t be invited to the same social shit. Which means she’ll schedule twice as much social shit to make sure both of you pains in the ass get the same amount of quality fucking time with us. And I don’t want more social shit. I don’t want more quality fucking time. I want you two to put aside your petty ‘we have a secret feud that we won’t talk about’ bullshit and make my wife forget that you can’t stand each other.”

Lucian: “This is ridiculous,”

Knox: “No. You’re fucking ridiculous for making me do this. So either you both go in there strapped up to these toys, pretend to be adults for the evening, and make my wife happy, or you both go the hell home and think about how stupid you must be for making me the fucking voice of reason in this scenario.”

I glanced down at Sloane, who seemed to be weighing the ridiculous options.

Sloane: “What’s for dinner?”

she asked, eyes narrowed in calculation.

Knox: “Tacos.”

Sloane: “Dammit,”

she muttered and grabbed one of the TENS units.

Lucian: “You’re joking.”

Sloane: “I’m hungry, and I’m proving to the bearded barber here that I’m a better friend than you are,”

Sloane announced. She pulled up the hem of her turtleneck, baring her smooth stomach.

Lucian: “I’m not doing this,”

Knox: “I’m not forcing you. You know the choices and the consequences. But I meant what I said. It’s both of you or neither. And if I go back in there and have to tell my wife that you two couldn’t even agree to not be assholes for however long it takes to shove a bunch of tacos into your face, she’s gonna be upset, and that’ll make me fucking furious. I’ll have no choice but to make it my mission in life to destroy you both,”

Sloane: “What’s the matter, Lucifer? Afraid of a little pain or afraid you won’t be able to control yourself?”

Sloane taunted with a challenge in her eyes. Swearing, I yanked my belt free and untucked my shirt.

Lucian: “For the record, these better be the best tacos I’ve ever had, because I’m not convinced this friendship is worth it.”

Sloane’s green eyes skimmed over the skin I was baring as I slapped the two adhesive pads to my abdomen.

Knox: “Get it out of your system now, ’cause Waylay is sitting between you two. If my girl catches you being dicks to each other, she gets to shock the shit out of you.”


Sloane: “I didn’t insult him, you little punk,”

Sloane hissed to Waylay.

Waylay: “You were baiting him. That’s just as bad. Trust me. I’m basically the queen of trash talking on the soccer field,”

Lucian: “You have to have my unit dialed up higher,”

I accused. It had felt as if my insides were in danger of exiting my body.

Waylay: “Actually you’re only at an eight. Knox and me figured Sloane had an advantage seein’ as how she’s a girl and has had her period for a few decades.”

Sloane: "Exactly how old do you think I am?”

Sloane asked, then shook her head.

Sloane: “Never mind. Just tell me what mine is set at.”

Waylay: “You’re a nine.”

Sloane punched the air in victory.

Sloane: “Yes!”

Naomi was watching us again. I held up a taco and gave her a friendly nod.

Lucian: “Take me to a ten,”

I told Waylay when Naomi looked away.

Waylay: “I don’t know. Knox said the girls aren’t allowed to use level ten at the bar anymore since Garth Lipton almost pooped his pants.”

Lucian: “Take me to ten,”

I insisted tersely.

Sloane: “There’s nothing heroic about shitting your pants, Rollins,”

Sloane said under her breath.


Sloane: “I’m just looking out for you. You could barely handle an eight. I’d hate to see what a ten would do to you. I mean, I’d love it. But I’m being the bigger, more mature adult here,”

she whispered back.

Lucian: “Just because you can’t handle a ten has no bearing on my endurance. I’ll be fine.”

Sloane: “I am a woman. Two weeks ago, I had cramps so bad I had to lie down on the floor of the public restroom at the mechanic’s garage. And then I had to get back up and go do my job for eight hours. I was born to handle a ten.”

Waylay: “You two aren’t saying mean things, but your tones are getting kinda snippy,”

Waylay warned.

Lucian: “Take me to a ten,”

Sloane: “Fine. Tens all around. I’ll show you how to handle it,”

Sloane snapped.

Waylay: “I hate to point this out because I’m definitely having fun here, but I think you guys are losing sight of the reason Knox is letting me electrocute you.”

First Knox, now Waylay. The voices of reason were getting less likely as the evening wore on. Sloane glared at me over Waylay’s head. I glared back.

“Bite me,she mouthed at me.

“You’re not my type,” I mouthed back.

Naomi: “Is everything okay down there?”

Naomi asked, sounding nervous.

Sloane: “Fine except for Lucian scowling at me like a—”

Sloane grunted, her face contorting in pain.

Sloane: “Worth it,”

she wheezed.

Lucian: “You’re such an idiot,”

I told her. And then I was doubling over, my face hovering over my plate of tacos as an excruciating current of pain tore through me.

Lucian: “It’s in my kidneys.”


Naomi: “Knox Morgan! Why is our daughter electrocuting our guests?”

Naomi shrieked. My friend held up his hands.

Knox: “Daze, there’s a perfectly logical explanation for this.”

Nash: “Jesus. I don’t know which one to arrest first.”


Lina’s eyebrows arched.

Lina: “I’m sorry. Are you trying not to get laid?”

Sloane: “What are you talking about?”

Had I accidentally uploaded the wrong picture? Maybe someone had hacked my account and said I was into ritual sacrifice and attending spelling bees.

Naomi: “It can’t be that bad,”

Lina turned the screen in her direction, and my friend winced.

Naomi: “Okay. She’s definitely self-sabotaging.”

Sloane: “What exactly is so wrong with my profile?”

I demanded, struggling with the dead weight of the snoring basset hound.

Lina: “Let’s ask the experts,”

Sloane: “Don’t you dare!”

But it was too late. The men, who had obviously been eavesdropping again, appeared in the doorway.

Nash: “Someone say experts?”

Nash asked with a charming grin. Lina held up my phone.

Lina: “Tell me why you wouldn’t click on this profile.”

The Morgans leaned in and then out again in unison.

Knox: “Jesus, Sloaney. What are you trying to do, repel dicks?”


Naomi: “Look at that. You’re practically married already,”

On a low growl, Lucian abruptly left the room.

Knox: “What the hell crawled up his ass?”

Knox wondered as he stole Waylay’s spoon and helped himself to some of her cobbler.

Waylay: “Maybe he had to fart,”


Lucian: “Did you just stomp your foot?”

Sloane’s comfort with expressing anger had always intrigued me. But I guess one was free to express their anger when one could control it.

Sloane: “I was picturing your foot under mine,”


Sloane: “Fine. You can come in. But you can’t glare or growl or roll your eyes. And definitely no speaking.”

Lucian: “May I breathe?”

Sloane: “I’d prefer if you didn’t,”


Lucian: “There are some things we never get over. Some things we hide from the light,”


She fluffed her hair out of the neck of her cardigan. It made the generous curves of her breasts threaten to spill over the top of her shirt.

Swarthy Massimo was going to take one look at her and do or say something stupid, and then I was going to have to ruin his fucking life.


Server: “Your crunchy soup, sir,”

the server said, setting down a bowl of soup filled with at least nine packs of crushed-up saltines.

Euge: “Cool, man. I’ll make sure this pretty lady with the awesome rack tips well. What’s your name again? S Loan?”

Sloane: “Oh my God. Okay, that’s it,”

I said, throwing my napkin down on the table.

Server: “If you’re going to punch him, can you try not to get any blood on the tablecloth? The last couple that sat here was on a blind date too, and she dumped an entire bottle of wine over his head. I’m out of fresh linens.”

The bell on the door jingled, and in strode Lucian Rollins, looking just as beautiful as he had when I left him less than an hour ago. Every woman in the place, including the lesbian couple and the ninety-second birthday attendees in the corner, stopped what they were doing and stared. I too fell under his spell as he swept toward me. His eyes were all silver fire. His mouth was pressed in that mean, firm line that made women vie for a smile. His coat today was charcoal gray and billowed behind him like a superhero cape. His trousers were a lighter gray and fit extremely well in the crotch. I hadn’t noticed that at the prison.

Euge: “Man, these guys make a good crunchy soup,”

Euge said through a mouthful of saltines.

Sloane: “Huh?”

I said, not bothering to tear my eyes away from Lucian.

Lucian: “Sloane,”

he greeted me with that gravelly rasp.

Lucian: “Hi.”

Euge turned and found himself face-to-crotch with Lucian.

Euge: “Your pants look expensive,”

Euge announced to the entire restaurant. Lucian shot me a smirk.

Sloane: “Don’t you smirk at me. Apparently his mother made his profile.”

Euge: “Dude, I’m kinda in the middle of something with Rackety Ann here. We’re vibing.”

Lucian: “Rackety Ann?”

Server: “He’s talking about her chest,”

the server offered helpfully. Lucian rolled his eyes and clenched his teeth. He reached out and grabbed Euge by the collar and hauled him out of his seat.

Sloane: “Don’t get blood on the tablecloth,”


Nurse: “Girl, I don’t know what’s happening right now, but I’m a nurse and if you don’t go home with Tall, Dark, and Tight Crotch, I’m gonna check you for head trauma.”

The man next to her nodded.

Husband: “I’m her husband, and even I think Suit Guy is fucking hot.”

Sloane: “Noted,”


Sloane: “That was the worst first date in the history of first dates,”

Lucian: “You’d be surprised,”

Sloane:. “Oh, please. You don’t date. You pick up a rich-guy-trophy-girlfriend takeout menu and place an order. This is different. This is humiliating and a total waste of time.”

Lucian: “What did you expect?”

he asked, looking amused.

Lucian: “Also, where can I get a copy of the rich-guy-trophy-girlfriend takeout menu?”

Sloane: “Don’t be funny or nice. I don’t want your pity.”

Lucian: “I’m not pitying you, Pixie. I’m enjoying your misery.”

Sloane: “Well, you’re doing it too nicely. Be meaner.”


Sloane: “I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but thank you for riding to my rescue…twice today.”

He arched an eyebrow.

Lucian: “I’m impressed. You said that without wincing.”

Sloane: “I was wincing on the inside.”


Lucian: I’m fine.

Sloane: My phone has this cool bullshit detector app, and that “sorry, wrong answer” buzzer noise just went off. It scared the cat.


Sloane: “It’s not them ghosting me! Well, except for that one guy. But that was more literal ghosting. Do you even know what ghosting is?”

Lucian: “I work with a twenty-two-year-old who insists on talking all the time about things I don’t care about. Not only do I know what ghosting is, I could name all the Kardashians if pressed.”


Sloane: “What? No ‘You’re so undesirable men fake their own deaths to get away from you’ jokes?”

Lucian: “Too many punch lines. I froze,”


Sloane: “I mean, you don’t have to tell me. Even though I just spilled my guts to you about my very personal, humiliating dating life. Don’t feel like you owe me anything.”

Lucian: “I gave you a pretzel.”

Sloane: “Half a pretzel,”


Nolan: “Did that guy just bow to you?”

Lucian: “It happens,”

He shook his head and sighed. Nolan: “To walk in your shoes for just a day.”

Lucian: “It’s not nearly as entertaining as it looks,”

Nolan: “Oh, I’d find a way to have some fun,”

He probably would.


Nolan: “You want me to stick around and make sure you don’t need help disposing of a bunch of bodies?”

Lucian: “No. Go away.”

Nolan: “I’ll have Petula ready with bail money,”

he said, putting his empty glass on the bar and tossing me a salute.


Sloane: “What is your problem, Lucifer?”

Lucian: “The answer is always you.”

She slid off her stool and marched up to me.

Sloane: “I have an idea. Why don’t you go fuck yourself and leave me alone with…what was your name again?”

she asked, looking toward the man who obviously didn’t know any better.

Porter: “Porter,”

he said with a thick Southern accent. Porter. I rolled my eyes. He was too eager, too “aw shucks, ma’am.” And I hated the fact that he made Sloane smile.

Lucian: “I’ll make you a deal, Porter. I’ll pay your bar tab—including the drinks you’ve already bought my wife—if you leave in the next ten seconds.”

Porter: “Y-your wife?”

Sloane: “I’m going to murder you with an olive skewer,”

Sloane hissed.


A man in Armani sidled up behind her and leaned on the bar. Sloane, sensing new quarry, peered over her shoulder. She flashed him the sunny smile that I never got out of her. The idiot looked as if he’d won the lottery, then glanced at me.

Lucian: “No,”

I said coldly. I held his gaze and stroked my thumb over the middle of the damp spot I found on Sloane’s underwear. She jolted, nearly knocking over her drink. To steady herself, she gripped my arms.

Sloane: “You sneaky son of a bitch,”

she hissed. Her knee was now pressed firmly against my balls.

Lucian: “Either you and I go upstairs now, or I shadow you for the rest of the night,”

Sloane: “You devious bastard.”

Lucian: “Decide.”

Sloane: “Fine,”

she said with a careless shrug.

Sloane: “I’ll fuck your brains out for one night only. But don’t think this means anything.”


I groaned irritably against his mouth.

Sloane: “Of course you have a big dick.”

Lucian: “And of course you’re disappointed by that fact when I’m about to fuck you with it,”


Lucian: “We have one night,”

Sloane: “Then take your shirt off so we can get started.”

He nuzzled his cheek against my breast, sending arrows of fire straight to my core.

Lucian: “This isn’t the beginning of something,”

His tongue darted out and danced over the other puckered peak. I sucked in a breath.

Sloane: “Do you always talk your dates to death before you have sex?”

Lucian: “I’m simply making sure we’re on the same page.”

Sloane: “I can’t tell if you’re talking to me or my boobs, but frankly, we’re all in agreement.


Lucian: “Christ. How much sex were you expecting to have?”

he demanded, dangling a roll of foil-wrapped birth control over me. I shrugged.

Sloane: “There’s more in the nightstand. I guess I probably won’t need more than one since I ended up with you.”

Lucian pushed my hands away from his dick and rolled on a condom over what had to be a Guinness World Record penis.

Lucian: “You’d be a lot more attractive if you’d shut up.”

Sloane: “Your dick doesn’t seem to mind my mouth,” .


Sloane: “I hate how you feel so fucking good.”

It nearly made me smile through the agony of holding still. I pulled out a few inches, reveling in the slick, wet slide of her flesh against mine.

Lucian: “You’ll hate it even more when you have all of me.”


Sloane: “Yes! More. Harder,”

It was like she was begging me to break her.

Sloane: “God, I hate that you’re so good at this,”

Lucian: “Shut up and take my cock like a good girl,”


Lucian: “Do you still want more?”

I growled. Her eyes fluttered open.

Sloane: “Yes,”

she said without hesitation.

Lucian: “Then ask nicely.”

Her unpainted lips curved in a knowing, female smirk. Her muscles clamped reflexively around my throbbing dick. Yes, Sloane Walton liked dirty talk.

Sloane: “Please fuck me so hard and deep that I have to think about you and that magnificent cock every time I sit down at work tomorrow.”


Lucian: “What’s it’s name?”

Sloane: “Her name is Meow Meow.”

Lucian: “That’s an unimaginative name.”

Sloane: “Her official name is Lady Meowington,”

I said, opening the cheese drawer.

Lucian: “That’s worse. I’m horrified. You’re terrible at naming things.”


I held up two blocks of cheese.

Sloane: “How do you feel about grilled cheese?”

Lucian grimaced.

Lucian: “You eat like a child.”

Sloane: “I’m going to make you the best damned grilled cheese you’ve ever had, and then I’m going to allow you to rub my feet while groveling for my forgiveness.”


Sloane: “Now that your penis has invaded my vagina on multiple occasions, I think you should tell me why you’re so close to my parents. Oh God.”

I sat up straighter.

Sloane: “You didn’t have an affair with my mom, did you?”

Lucian: “I did not have an affair with your mother,”


Lucian: “I’m not above holding a pillow over your face until you stop annoying me, Pix,”

Sloane: “Yes, you are. Please?”


Lucian: “Did you ever have feelings for Knox or Nash?”

Lucian’s question caught me by surprise. We’d mostly lobbed softballs back and forth, participating in a delicate dance around the minefields of our past.

Sloane: “Uh, yeah,”

Lucian: “When?”

he demanded, his grip on my feet in his lap tightening.

Sloane: “Probably right around the time I hit fourteen and they suddenly got hot.”


Lucian: “Do not get emotional about this,”

Sloane: “I’m not getting emotional,”

I insisted even as my voice cracked.

Lucian: “I should have just put the pillow over your face.”

Sloane: “Thank you,”

Lucian: “For what? Not smothering you?”


Lucian: “They’re going to know what you’re busy doing,”

Lucian pointed out, running his hand down my ponytail.

Sloane: “Damn it.”

He was right.

Sloane: “I’ll tell them I’m cleaning the house.”

Lucian: “Naomi will be over here with a truckload of cleaning supplies in five minutes. Pick something they’ll all find unpleasant.”

Sloane: “I’ll go with the truth then. They’ll be horrified,”

I joked. His grip on my hair tightened.

Lucian: “Would you rather sp