Boosted Hearts #2
He never planned on falling for the enemy…
Indebted to a local crime boss thanks to their father’s gambling debts, mechanic Joe Colton and his brother have been forced to steal cars for three soul-killing years. But when Joe saves the man’s niece from police – the same deliciously hot-blooded woman sabotaging their efforts to clear the debt – it’s time to negotiate new terms. And discover why, that one night, she burned him with a kiss then ran…
Darcey Connors will do anything to get her baby brother away from the criminals in her family – even screw up a good man’s life. Yet in the midst of tailing Joe, she somehow falls hard for the sexy tattooed car thief. Nothing can happen between them, but she owes him big time, and if he’s going it alone, she is going to help. As long as no one ever finds out – not Joe, her family, the police – or she could lose everything.
Darcey Connors tightened her long dark ponytail, tugged her baseball cap lower, then keeping to the shadows, edged along the brick wall.
She scanned the parking lot again. All clear. Then returned her focus to the reason she was skulking around in the dark.
A sigh escaped her lips.
Good freaking God, the man was a picture of male perfection, even while he was in the middle of committing grand theft auto. His big shoulders moved in a way that advertised the muscles under his shirt as he picked the lock, thick veins bulging along his tattooed forearms. His head was bent in concentration, that strong jaw covered in a thick beard, lips peeled back as he worked. She wanted to touch that beard. He’d grown it thicker recently, and all she could think about was how it would feel against her skin. Soft? Bristly? Would it tickle?
The lock popped and he slid straight into the driver’s seat, quickly disabling the car alarm. The engine turned over a second later. He didn’t hang around. Pulling the door shut, he drove away.
She checked her watch. Fifteen seconds.
He was good. Really good.
Joe Colton was one of the best.
He also hated her guts, and that was a damn shame, since she couldn’t even look at him without getting highly turned on or imagining all kinds of fool things—things that involved white picket fences and happily ever afters.
What made it ten times worse? She knew what it felt like to have his lips on hers. How he tasted. The dirty, hungry sounds he made when he kissed a girl.
The man kissed like she imagined he fucked. Deep, hard, and in total control of the woman on the receiving end.
She gave herself a mental slap upside the head. She had to stop thinking like that. He had a damn good reason for despising her.
She pulled her phone from her pocket and checked for messages. Nothing.
Hitting her step-father’s number, she put the phone to her ear. It rang for a while, then cut off. No goddamn way was he brushing her off again, not this time. She’d keep calling until the asshole answered.
“What the hell do you want?” he growled down the line on her fourth try.
“You know what I want.” Giving Len attitude right now was not the brightest of ideas—not when he held all the cards—but she was getting desperate. “When can I see my brother, Len?”
Len Ramirez had married her mom seven years ago, when her brother Noah had only been six months old. Now her mom was gone, Len had custody of her brother, and Darcey was tied to one of the biggest crime families in LA.
“When I fucking say you can.”
The knot in her gut got tighter. “It’s not right, keeping us apart like this.”
“You think I give a shit? And don’t go calling Al, either. He sure as fuck won’t help you.”
He hung up.
She squeezed her fingers around her phone, barely resisting the urge to fire it across the lot.
Al, the head of the Ramirez family and Len’s slimy, older brother, pulled the stings. And when he’d decided Darcey would be useful to him, right after her mom died, she’d had no choice but to comply.
If she wanted to see her baby brother, she did what she was told. End of story.
Now he owned her—like a pet that he didn’t really like much but kept around anyway just so he could put the boot in every now and then, for his own sadistic enjoyment.
This meant when he’d ordered her to make sure the Colton brothers didn’t meet their deadline—so he could add interest to their debt—she had to do whatever necessary to prevent them from delivering those cars on time.
But following Joe and his brother—watching them boost cars for Al—quickly became a bit of an obsession. Okay, Joe became her obsession.
So much so she’d taken to tailing him other times, times he was obviously not about to, or in the process of, boosting a car. This became a problem for Darcey when she followed him into a bar about a month ago and saw him in action, picking up some random bar bunny to take home. She’d hated it with every fiber of her being. Which was irrational. Completely ridiculous.
But the next week, when he’d gone to that same bar, she hadn’t been able to merely stand back and observe. No, instead of sticking to the shadows, she’d gone right on in. The idea of watching him go home with someone else had been unacceptable, because as messed up as it was, Joe Colton had somehow become hers. A man she’d never once spoken to, had never even been within touching distance of.
A man she’d been screwing over.
He’d been standing at the bar when she walked in, elbows resting on the surface, thick, long fingers curled around his beer. Those jeans he always wore hugged his ass and long legs, T-shirt stretched over his wide shoulders. She’d wanted to walk up to him and pull him down for a kiss. Stake her claim. Had wanted to be the one to run her hand over his cropped hair, feel his beard against her skin. After watching him for weeks, she’d felt as if she knew him, could feel a…connection between them, and he didn’t even know she existed.
She’d wanted that more than anything, for him to know her, to see her.
So she’d taken a stupid risk and approached him.
Joe had looked down at her when she’d taken the vacant space beside him—while her heart pounded like a frightened rabbit’s in her chest—with unmistakable interest in his extremely dark eyes. They’d talked, laughed. Something she hadn’t done in a long time.
The dream had become reality.
And when she’d grabbed his hand, he’d let her lead him outside, followed her behind the bar, those intense, hungry eyes never leaving her. He’d been completely on board when she pushed him against the wall and climbed that long, lean body like a tree trunk, wrapping herself around him the way she had been dying to since she’d first seen him.
He’d growled in her ear, spun her around, and taken over. Covered her mouth with his and owned it. Owned her. Joe had been everything Darcey imagined. More. Perfect.
But then she’d remembered why she shouldn’t be there—why she couldn’t be there—and what was at stake…right when the tips of his rough-skinned fingers had slid under her shirt. They’d ghosted over the bare skin of her belly while his erection had pressed deliciously between her thighs.
And she’d had no choice but to shove him away—leave him high and dry.
To walk away from the man of her dreams, away from his exquisite kisses… The addicting scent of pine and motor oil that filled her head, making her dizzy. His worried, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” still ringing in her ears. As if he’d somehow hurt or upset her and would do anything to make it right.
But there was nothing he could do. It was all her fault.
Everything damn thing.
Then a week after the make-out session to end all make-out sessions, Joe had turned the tables on her. Followed her after she beat him to the punch, stealing a car he’d marked, a car he needed desperately to get free of Al.
God, when he’d shoved back her baseball cap and seen her face, recognized her as the head case from the bar. The chick who’d come on strong, gotten him hard, then flipped out and ran off…
Shit, she’d never forget the expression on his face.
She forced the image away.
Yeah, he’d used her carelessness to get his brother out of the arrangement with Al. But then he’d taken that debt on himself.
So no, Joe Colton hadn’t saved her ass because he gave a shit what happened to her. And why would he? If she hadn’t gotten in the way, he’d be free of Al by now. But whatever the reason, he’d saved her from a stretch in prison, from being away from her brother for months, and she was determined to repay the favor.
Even if he didn’t know she was doing it.
Since he’d taken that debt on himself, he had no one to cover his back.
Well, Darcey had appointed herself the position.
She just had to make sure that Joe—and Al—never found out…
Shoving her hands into her pockets, head down, Darcey headed back to her car. But instead of going to her crappy apartment, she made a detour across town.
It didn’t matter that Len said she couldn’t see Noah. She couldn’t stay away.
She pulled up across the road from their three-story monstrosity a short time later.
It was a nice neighborhood. Expensive cars, manicured gardens, big fancy houses with designer dogs peering out windows.
She glanced up to the second floor. The curtains were drawn, but she could see the light on behind them. Bright enough the racing cars printed on the fabric were visible from the outside. Noah would be in bed, reading. Clutching one of his books, letting the story take him away to somewhere wonderful, somewhere he didn’t have to live with a prick of a stepfather and an equally wicked stepmother. Somewhere Noah and Darcey could be together again.
A stray tear surprised her, streaking a hot path down her cheek, and she dashed it away.
Tears were pointless.
Until she could think of a way to get Len to let her have regular visits with her brother, she had to rely on Al and the control he had over their stepfather. She had to stay under Al’s thumb.
She blew a kiss toward his window, started her car, and got out of there before Len saw her and lost his shit completely.
“Night, Noah,” she whispered.
Joe Colton could feel those dark, bewitching eyes burning into the back of his goddamn head—like two laser beams trying to drill their way into his skull and fry his brain. She was doing a fucking good job of it, too. How the hell was he supposed to concentrate with her parked across the street, watching his every move?
Darcey Connors had become the bane of his existence…
“Ow! Motherfucking shit!”
Adam turned to him and snorted. “You’re supposed to use a wrench to undo the bolt, not smash your thumb to pulp.” The prick took the wrench from Joe’s hand and held it in the air, demonstrating. “See? It’s easy.”
“Eat shit.” Joe snatched it back and ignored the irritating bastard.
In the last few weeks, Adam had become more annoying than normal while his brother Hugh had been walking around like he had fucking clouds for shoes. Shay, his new fiancée, had his brother whipped, and the idiot loved every second of it.
Joe’s feelings on love and relationships aside, he was ecstatic for the guy. Everything had worked out. Hugh had gotten the girl, and Joe had taken on their father’s debt. His brother and Adam were none the wiser. They could live in ignorant bliss. No debt, no more boosting cars, and no more being tied to Al Ramirez. And that’s the way it needed to stay. Hugh had put himself on the line enough for their family. And Adam… Well, this wasn’t his fight. It wasn’t his useless, waste-of-space father that had left his family drowning in gambling debts.
Joe glanced over his shoulder and gritted his teeth. It was thanks to the deceitful, little saboteur sitting a short ways down the street—watching him from her beaten-to-shit Toyota—that he’d been able to convince Al to lay the debt on him and him alone. Ironically, it was also her fault he still owed that fucker in the first place. Well, Joe had turned the tables on her. He’d tailed her for several days, and when the police had been closing in, minutes from catching her red-handed with her ass in someone else's car, he’d gotten her out.
Al had agreed to his terms. As long as he still had one of the Colton brothers boosting for him, which had been his goal all along, he was happy.
It would be a lot easier without his fucking shadow, though. The woman sucked at stealth. Every job he’d done since, she’d been there, watching him. Why Al still had her following him, he had no idea, but it was starting to make him bat-shit crazy.
The tingle at the back of his neck intensified. Goddammit. He growled, pissed at himself.
Pissed that her gaze wasn’t the only thing he was feeling when it came to her. The memory of her soft body, flush against his, hadn’t let up since he’d had her pressed against that wall. Neither had the sound of her husky moans when he’d thrust his tongue into her sweet-as-candy mouth and fucking devoured it…
“Jesus.” He threw the wrench into the tool box beside him and scrubbed his hands over his cropped hair.
Adam slid out from beneath the car he was now working under. “Yes, my disciple,”
“You realize talking to yourself is the first sign of madness, right?”
“You realize if you say one more stupid comment, I’m going to shove my foot up your ass, right?”
Hugh strode out of the office, brows hiked high. “When the fuck did this happen? Is it Freaky Friday or some shit? It’s like you’ve switched brains.” He crossed his arms, shaking his head. “I don’t like it. Adam’s supposed to be the grouchy, broody one, and Joe’s the smartass.” He pointed at Adam. “Get fucking brooding, would you? And it’ll be my foot in your ass, baby brother, if you don’t crack a goddamn joke in the next”—he glanced up at the clock on the wall—“five minutes. Go.”
Adam scowled. “You can talk. You’re the one walking around like fucking birds and butterflies and girly hearts are floating around your fat head.”
Joe snorted. “You’re whipped, bro. It’s a fucking disgrace.” Joe didn’t mean a word of it, of course. He loved Shay. But he couldn’t ignore his duty as a brother. Giving Hugh hell was all part of the gig.
Hugh grunted. “Bullshit.”
“No shit.” Joe shut the Subaru’s hood. “You’re an embarrassment to men everywhere.”
“You assholes can mock me all you like, but just you wait. The right girl will come along and knock you on your ass. Then we’ll see who’s whipped.”
Adam shook his head. “Never happen.”
“Whatever you say, man.” Hugh smirked. “I was delusional like you once.”
Adam scowled, shook his head, then lay back down on the trolley, and slid under the car.
Joe cleaned his hands on a rag. “I’m going to get lunch. This conversation has moved in a direction I’m not comfortable with. Next you’ll have us discussing flower arrangements for the church.”
Hugh crossed his arms. “We’re not getting married in a church. We thought a fall wedding would be nice, you know, outside, when all the leaves have changed color…”
“Annnd, I’m out.” Joe headed out the front, and through the main garage door.
The crappy, white Toyota was still there, in its usual spot. He took the stairs to his apartment above the garage. He could see her sitting in the driver’s seat, hunched, ball cap pulled low. You’d think being as good of a car thief as she was, she’d make a decent spy. Not so much.
He was close to walking over there and confronting her, but until he worked out Al’s angle—why he had her tailing him—he needed to be cautious. He couldn’t risk getting up close and personal with Al’s little niece. If she went running to her uncle, things could get a whole lot more difficult for him. He didn’t need any more trouble. Things were already on the south side of shitty.
Still, as he took the last step, the urge to go over there, drag her out of her car, press her against it, and demand she tell him what the fuck she thought she was doing, became almost uncontrollable. Not to mention how just the thought of having her pressed up against him again had his dick trying to bust a hole through the front of his jeans.
Christ. He needed to stop thinking like that. Not about that deceitful bitch.
He fucking despised her.
He just wished he didn’t want her so damned much.