When Kristen Mancuso turned twenty-one she thought she would finally find the freedom she craved. She was wrong.
In spite of the luxury she lived in, Kristen was unhappy, a prisoner in her own home. When her overprotective mother hired Alec Warner to be her personal bodyguard, Kristen rebelled against it, unaware of the true reason why he was needed. She didn't know the kind of danger lurking just around the corner.
Having Alec shadow her every move was the last thing she wanted. Or, so she thought...
Kristen was drawn to the handsome, intimidating Alec. While committed to his job, he refused to allow her to control him the way she did other men. Though their relationship was volatile and explosive from the start, they discovered they had more in common than they ever dreamed. They battled each other while they fought demons from their past and secrets which could tear them apart.
This was a battle where losing could very well give them everything their souls desired...
*Content Warning: intended for mature audiences 18+
I could hear the sound of the galloping horse way before I could see it. I knew it was Alec. No matter what I did or said to him, the man had a stubborn habit of tailing me. He was relentless. In spite of my turmoil, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was as relentless in other areas of his life as well. That focused, determined passion would be irresistible in bed. I quickly wiped my tears off my face, feeling both my cheeks were burning.
He stopped at a considerable distance when he found me and just stared at me, apparently deciding on how to proceed. Alec took his time, approaching me at a slow, cautious pace, as he would approach a small, frightened animal which would dash away at the least provocation.
“I really can’t get five minutes alone?” I grouched, looking at him through speculative eyes.
For a moment he appeared disconcerted, and I felt a sad satisfaction.
“It is part of my job description,” he murmured quietly, stopping a few feet away.
I shook my head, tired of hearing the same old explanation over and over again. “Is kissing me a part of your job description too?” I demanded.
“You kissed me back,” he retorted in a calm manner. Alec never gave anything away, none of what he was feeling. It infuriated me.
“It will never happen again. I don’t want you to touch me,” I managed.
“Oh, really? I could make you beg me to touch you,” he said simply. The smug grin he wore, displaying his perfect white teeth, was the epitome of defiance to me. In a matter of seconds he changed from calm and reasonable to imposing and defiant, faster than a chameleon could change the color of its skin. But instead of anger I could feel excitement sparking through my veins like wildfire.
I jumped to my feet, and I halfway expected him to step back, but he stood his ground. “Why did you do it? What are you trying to achieve? Is this some kind of game to you?” I drew back my fist as if to strike out at him, but he caught it easily. His hands wrapped around my wrists, holding me securely. “Let go!” I cried.
“Be still,” he commanded. His voice was dark velvet, raspy with magic and sex. I stared at him. I didn’t understand the sensations rioting through me. It was frightening. Alec’s jaw clenched. He made a noise—a growl—and suddenly his mouth crushed down on mine and plundered, taking me completely off guard. The kiss warmed me, his tongue tasting until I was panting, furious at myself for wanting more. I writhed against him, trying to escape, but he was too strong and demanding. My struggles resulted in my breasts scrubbing across his hard chest, making my nipples feel swollen and heavy, betraying me. I stilled and he finally allowed me to breathe, but I was trapped in his arms.
Alec was breathing harshly, his eyes clashed with mine, then moved down to kiss my swollen lips one more time. I couldn’t handle it, so I jerked my face away. “I want more,” he groaned, releasing my right wrist. With gentle but firm movements he twisted my hair around his hand until I had no choice but to look at him. There was a heat in his eyes which belied the mildness and candor of his countenance. He had no right to appear so in control when my flesh was tight and achy, and I needed...
Damn him! Mr. Confusing has done it again.
“Say you never want it to happen again,” he whispered a few inches away from me, daring me.
“I...I never want it to happen again,” I replied in a peremptory whisper, ignoring the pulse of need pounding between my thighs.
“Liar...” He freed me from his grip and returned to his horse. He mounted him and then waited expectantly for me to follow him.
I wasn’t sure why I did it, but I fulfilled his silent wish and got up on my horse, joining him. My mind, my emotions, and my heart were in total disarray.
The horses quickened their pace, broke into a trot, then went into a canter side by side.
There were so many unanswered questions swirling inside my brain, but I was afraid to address them to him, afraid of what he might tell me, of what I might discover.
Images of our passionate embrace danced in front of my eyes. I shook my head, but the feeling wouldn’t go away. No matter how much I fought not to allow him to tempt me, I found it impossible to resist him. The more I tried, the more intense the longing grew. Fear twisted in my gut as I realized I was slowly but surely losing control over my own will.
We reached the stables and let John take care of the horses before we started for the house.
“Kristen...” Alec addressed me by my name for the first time, a question and an apology in his tone.
I stopped in my tracks. I had never dreamed the sound of one man’s voice speaking my name could invoke such longing within me.
His hand gently locked around my arm and spun me around. “Look...I’m sorry if I upset you today. I really am. I couldn’t—”
“Don’t. Alec...please don’t tease me. What happened today was wrong. I should’ve never kissed you. We don’t know each other...at all. You don’t even respect me or what I say to you. I don’t know what Mother would say. A bodyguard daring to kiss her daughter...” I dropped my lashes quickly to hide the hurt, trying to picture her reaction.
“I’m not afraid of her or anybody else,” he said dryly.
“Perhaps you should be.”
“I’m not. I’m my own man. But it looks like you’re afraid of her. You wouldn’t even breathe if she told you not to.”
“That’s not true.” His words hardened my features.
“Then why do you care so much about what she may have to say in regard to us?”
“There is no ‘us,’ Alec! Whatever this is, it never happened. For your sake and mine, just drop it before it ends badly.”
“Badly...as in you falling in love with the son of a mere bodyguard?”
I trembled. “I’ll never fall in love. Not with you, nor with any other man. So forget it!”
“Never say never, sweetheart.” He took one last long look at me before strolling away. I felt like I’d been run over by a steamroller.
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Ellie Benton lost all contact with her childhood friend, Tyler Stuart, when she moved with her family to New York. For seven years she mourned the loss of the copper-haired boy whom she’d secretly admired her entire life. Saddened by the thought that he’d forgotten her, Ellie carried on with her life, but nothing could fill the void he’d left in her heart.
When an unexpected trip reunited them, Ellie found herself unable to control the feelings she’d fought so hard to keep at bay.
Tyler’s initial coldness made her question if he’d ever cared about her, but soon she uncovered secrets that turned her soul inside out and brought her more joy than she’d ever experienced. Tyler proved to be the man of her dreams, exactly how she’d always imagined him.
But, as they embarked on a passionate relationship—just when she thought she’d finally found her happiness—demons from their past and present threatened to separate them.
*Content Warning: intended for mature audiences 18+
I saw Tyler’s fingers tighten around the glass, squeezing it so hard I feared it might shatter in his hand. It only took seconds. First there was a crack, then his eyes became slits, and before I could react, the crystal glass broke, slicing his palm open.
“Tyler!” Caitlyn jumped, a look of horror on her face.
“Dammit!” Tyler growled and grabbed a towel, pressing it against his bleeding wound. I felt my stomach lurch and my heart beat a hundred miles per hour.
“Son, what did you do? Let me see that!” Alfred was by his side, but Tyler got up from his seat and stomped out of the dining room, causing several heads to turn.
“I’ll go,” I said and rushed after him. “Tyler, wait up! Tyler!” I managed to catch up with him when he stopped to open his door.
“Go back, Ellie. I’m fine,” he said through gritted teeth.
“No, you’re not. You’re bleeding!” I followed him into the bathroom and watched him turn on the cold water, getting his blood all over the faucet.
He put his hand under the clear water and grunted when it poured over his wound. He rinsed off as fast as he could, but it didn’t stop the bleeding.
“You might need some stitches—”
“No, it’s not that deep.”
I opened the medical cabinet on the wall. “At least let me put some alcohol on it. You don’t want it to get infected, do you?” After opening the bottle, I grabbed his wrist to hold him in place and poured a bit on the gash.
Tyler growled, then mumbled all kinds of vile things, half of which I couldn’t understand. He thrust his hand under the stream of water again and waited until it ran clean from his wound. The pain seemed to be subsiding since his body relaxed. He examined the wound closely. “It’s not as severe as I thought it was. It still burns, though.”
“Sit down and let me bandage you,” I said, taking what I needed from the cabinet.
He sat down on the edge of the tub, but stuck his hand behind his back when he saw me grab the bottle. “Oh, no. No more alcohol.”
“Don’t be such a baby. Come on. The faster I finish this, the sooner I’ll leave you alone.” Saying those words hurt, but it was the painful truth. Whatever pain he was feeling, mine was multiplied by thousands of times at the thought that he didn’t want me around him.
His jaw clenched and said nothing in return. I had half expected him to tell me I was mistaken, but he didn’t. Giving me his hand, he let me clean and bandage it. The proximity was killing me slowly, and it took all I had to keep from wrapping myself around him and settling into his arms. I ached to hear that he’d missed me and have the harrowing weight lifted off of my heart, but his lips remained sealed and not one word came out as I attended him. Saddened, I reflected deeply on our past relationship and how much it had meant to me, feeling the poignancy of everything we’d shared in good times and bad. I wondered if perhaps this was the beginning of the saddest time of all, as the torment I felt in all the years we’d been apart was nothing compared to the way I felt now. Holding my breath to avoid inhaling his masculine scent, I tried to swallow the raw pain scraping its way toward my mouth as a scream demanded its exit.
“There...you’ll be okay, but maybe you should let your dad have a look at it—”
“Stay away from that man,” he said and grabbed my wrist unexpectedly. My throat contracted around the emotions which threatened to leap up and out of my lips, my stomach tensed, and my insides felt like they were tied into a knot.
“What?” I barely whispered, glaring at him perplexed.
“You heard me. Stay away from that Andrew whatever.” Tyler was dead serious, his voice dry as bones. Was that what had caused his anger? Him seeing me with the other man? There was a small flutter of hope in my tummy, but I wasn’t sure what to think anymore.
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When faced with the irrefutable proof she’d been waiting for, Ellie Benton had to make the most important decision of her life—leaving.
Ellie chose to start over in Paris, leaving her broken heart behind with her childhood friend and the only man she’d ever loved—Tyler Stuart.
But even with the huge distance separating them, Ellie couldn’t escape him in her dreams. When Tyler walked back into her life and proved to her that everything she “thought” she knew was a lie, Ellie couldn’t resist the strong pull that had always existed between them.
Just when it seemed they had it all—friendship, love, and most importantly, each other—challenges neither of them had anticipated threw them into a battle for their own survival.
*Content Warning: intended for mature audiences 18+
I barely had time to turn and see Tyler was walking up behind me before his arms snaked around my waist. His hot breath blew down my neck, and I shivered as his chest pressed against my back.
“I see you’re all done in here.” He kissed me on my cheek, his mouth warm against my still cold face. “Mmm, you’ve been outside...without me.” His lips were soft and tender as they brushed along my jaw line. I relaxed into him and enjoyed every bit of affection he manifested toward me. Since he’d been back all of my pain and burdens seemed much lighter. I knew right then I could withstand anything the future held for me as long as he was by my side.
“You were asleep.” I managed, distracted by the bulge pressing into my lower back. “And I needed some air.”
“You think too much, El...” he replied as one of his hands slipped down to the outside of my thigh. “Let me help you relax a little. What do you say?” Sliding his hand back to my waist again, he guided me to turn around to face him.
I nodded, keeping my eyes on him. As I looked into his deep pools of green, everything else seemed to fade into insignificance around us. They were beautiful and they trapped me there. “What’s this?” I asked tenderly when I eventually found my voice, as I lightly traced my fingers up and down the length of his arousal. I loved how his expression darkened whenever I touched him there, his hunger coming through clearly.
He raised his hand and moved it slowly up my back before tangling his fingers in my hair. His other arm wound tighter around me and pulled me closer until there was no gap between us. “Oh, I think you very well know what that is, kitty.”
Him using the pet name he’d chosen for me when we were kids made me swoon. It always brought back the happy memories of our childhood together. Whether he realized it or not, just hearing it made me feel that much closer to him and sparked my need for intimacy.
I had no idea for how long we stayed like that before he started to inch his mouth closer to mine. All I knew was that however long it was, it wasn’t long enough. I wanted to live in that moment forever—just me and him—with nothing and no one to hinder those precious moments we shared.
Holding my breath in anticipation of feeling that sensual contact, I planted my hand on his cheek, closing the distance between us, and then—I was lost. Tyler’s mouth ground against mine and my palms began to sweat as the temperature in the room started to climb. When he parted his lips, his hot tongue poked out to trace my bottom lip before it slipped into my mouth to tangle with mine in a searing, tantalizing kiss that left me hungry for more. In that moment we could have been anywhere—outside in the freezing cold, in the middle of a stampede of wild animals or a crowded interstate at rush hour—I didn’t care. So long as he kept kissing me.
A needy whimper left my lips when he broke the kiss a couple of minutes later, and I tilted my head back to capture his eyes. He was smiling that mischievous smile again as he looked down at me, and I instantly knew he was up to something.
“Enough now,” he said, taking a step back, though his voice was husky and thick with lust.
My sultry, heavy-lidded eyes bugged out in response to his actions and words. “What?”
“I think I’m going to save my energy for tomorrow night.” His grin turned up a notch.
“Tomorrow night? What are you talking about?” I shifted from foot to foot, needing to appease the storm that had started deep within my core.
“You’ll have to wait and see.” He laughed, watching me amused.
“Oh, great job, buddy! Turn me on and then leave me like this.” I pouted. “I thought you were going to help me relax?”
“Hmm...maybe a bubble bath with help?” He suggested playfully.
I blinked a couple of times and nodded in agreement, even though every nerve in my body was screaming for the opposite. I wanted him to put that fire out, not a damn bath, but I wasn’t going to let him know that. “Your loss,” I said as I sashayed toward the bathroom.
Tyler was hot on my trail, so I swiveled around, hands on my hips. “May I join you?” He chuckled under his breath.
“Nice try, Ty. Get out!” I laughed, shutting the door in his face.
“I love you!” he called through the closed door, and I melted against it, my smile so big it made my cheeks hurt.
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Emily A. Lawrence lives in Transylvania with her family, hence her love for anything paranormal. Her passion for writing began in high school, and she hasn't stopped since.
Having her family's support, and encouraged by friends and fellow authors, she pursued her dream of becoming a published author, landing her first contract in 2013.
Emily loves immersing herself in the worlds she creates and giving life to characters readers can identify themselves with. Usually, she writes contemporary romance in three heat levels: sweet, sensual, and erotic. However, she plans to try her hand at other genres, too, such as paranormal or mystery.
When she's not writing, she enjoys traveling and experiencing new cultures, new sceneries, food, meeting new people, or simply reading a good book.