Boosted Hearts #1
He’ll risk it all for one more night…
When Hugh Colton’s father ran off, leaving him with a pile of gambling debts and a crime boss demanding repayment in stolen cars, his options were limited. Now his life’s on hold, and the last thing he needs to be worrying about is a distressed redhead in a Poison Ivy costume. He sure as hell shouldn’t be rescuing her in the car he’s just boosted—or asking her to come home with him. But a thief like him can’t offer more, no matter how much he wants to.
Everyone either leaves or is taken away, at least that’s all graphics designer Shay Freestone has ever known. And after a confidence shattering, career destroying break-up, she’s sworn off relationships forever. So it’s a good thing this raw, bearded, mountain of a man isn’t her type. Yet as one reckless hot night leads to another, their casual, no-strings affair starts to feel like so much more.
Can two hearts with too many secrets dare for a future?
Shay Freestone cursed her ridiculous, flimsily made Poison Ivy costume for the gazillionth time when Batman stepped in front of her, blocking her exit and fingered one of her leaves. She slapped away the creep’s hand.
Kayla owed Shay big time for this. Her best friend had shoved her into the embarrassing ensemble two hours ago, quoting Section Two, Item Four of their Best Friends’ Handbook, drafted when they were in the seventh grade, after Shay refused to go to the school dance—which meant they both didn’t go—and in her friend’s absence, Rob Dunkirk, the love of Kayla’s life, had danced with April Gunson the entire night. The section in question stated that Shay Freestone and Kayla Green agreed to do whatever necessary, whenever required, in the pursuit of securing love for either of the aforementioned.
But this, this was going above and beyond.
Batman moved closer, a bead of sweat sliding down his temple from under his now askew black mask. “Come on, Ivy. Don’t go yet. The party’s just getting started.”
Gag. She tried to slip by, but he kept coming until his protruding belly—which was straining his utility belt dangerously—bumped into her, forcing her back a step.
“I really have to go.”
He licked his fleshy, cherry-red lips and leaned in. “First, I need to find out if your kiss really is poisonous.”
Is this cretin for real? She leaned back farther. Why on earth had she let Kayla drag her to this ridiculous party? Best Friends’ Handbook, be damned. So what if Shay’d been a hermit the last few months? That was preferable to standing in a corner by herself the whole night, feeling like a complete idiot, while her traitorous friend, in the pursuit of love, was probably getting naked with Wolverine—aka Kayla’s ex-boyfriend, James, and the reason she and Shay were here—back at his place. The couple had disappeared a little while ago. Her friend had bailed on her. Again. Kayla had conveniently forgotten that section of the blasted handbook. Now Shay was stranded without her wallet, phone, or the keys to her trailer since she’d stashed them in her friend’s bag.
Maybe her gran had given a spare key to Edna next door? The pair had been thick as thieves before her grandmother passed away and left the place to Shay.
Batman’s heavy breathing cut through her thoughts. His fingers moved lower. “So tell me, are you a natural redhead?”
Ew! She gave his hand a slap-shove combo. “I don’t think—”
“How about we go upstairs, and you let me find out?”
Oh, dear God. Shay ducked under his arm, but he still had hold of the leaf on her costume, and she felt it tear free as she made a dash for the door.
“Hey! Hold up. Wait for me,” the idiot called after her.
Shay shoved open the door and burst out onto the street, the cool, LA midwinter breeze hitting her bare skin, seeping through the cheap fabric from all sides. She sucked in a startled breath. Her coat was also in Kayla’s car. So not only did Shay have to walk home in the cold in a Poison Ivy costume with half her butt hanging out, she had to walk home in a cheap, crappily made Poison Ivy costume with missing leaves that, thanks to Batman, was now falling apart at the seams and losing more by the minute.
Speaking of The Caped Crusader, he stumbled out of the apartment building, spotted her and started in her direction. Fast… Faster than she would have thought possible with the sway he had going on.
She’d had her fill of creeps, enough to last her a lifetime. She didn’t need this right now, dammit.
Okay, there’d only been one creep, in particular, but his creep factor had been abnormally high… So high, the guy easily equaled, like…a thousand creeps, at least. Not-so-old hurt and embarrassment reared up, hitting her in the face, heating her skin to excruciating levels.
Having a fling with your boss was stupid enough. Period. But having an affair with your boss then having to quit that job because you overheard him bragging and mocking you to his buddies around the water cooler, was a whole new level of mortification. Not to mention the hit to her bank account. Her two part-time jobs and the occasional graphic design gig she managed to pick up barely covered living costs, let alone the debt left by her grandmother. She’d been forced to take out a loan, using the trailer her gran had left her as collateral.
She slammed the door on those thoughts as quickly as they came. Not now.
Spinning on the heels of her boots, Shay speed walked down the street. There weren’t many people around, but enough she was thankful for the thick green pantyhose she had on, which hid a goodly amount of cellulite and were tight enough to provide a small amount of wobble control. The idiot behind her kept coming, calling out for her to, “Wait up.”
With her only thought to lose him and get home as fast as possible, she ducked down the next street.
Only it wasn’t a street, it was more an alley-slash-parking lot. Cars surrounded her, filling the reserved parking spots for the expensive-looking restaurant beside it. Crap.
She spun around as the Dark Knight rounded the corner, blocking the exit. “Ivy, why are you running from me?”
She backed up until she bumped into the car behind her. The cold steel chilled her, lifting goose-bumps all over her skin. The guy wasn’t overly tall, but he was heavily built and kind of intimidating. She expected the car alarm to start wailing instantly—the vehicles parked around her looked high end, like sports cars and, um…stuff like that—but no such luck. Screw it all. The damn thing stayed silent.
She held up her hands to ward him off and shook her head. “All right. The fun’s over. Why don’t you head back to the party?”
He kept coming, licking his over-abundant red lips until they shone like candy apples; only these were gross, icky candy apples she seriously did not want to taste. The fool kept up the Batman persona, clutching the ends of his cape, lifting it up and down like wings. “I’ve come for my kiss, Ivy.”
“If you come any closer…”
He came closer.
“Back up. Now.”
“Just one kiss.”
“Yes.” He puckered up, crowding her.
“No!” She gave him a shove…
Gravel scraped behind her, loud enough that Batman heard it, too. He stopped his descent, lifting his head. She watched the guy’s eyes go wide, jaw unhinging. The sound of boots moving closer came next and had her whipping around to see who it was. She gaped like a dying fish.
A huge mountain of a man rounded the trunk and walked right up to them. He stared down at the creep in front of her and growled, “You got ears?” Yes, growled. Like a lion, or a bear, or some other wild beast.
Batman stared up at the man, slammed his mouth shut, looked at her, then back at the mountain. “Um…y-yes?”
“So you heard the lady tell you ‘no’,” her rescuer said, his eyes going kind of wild and scary.
“Well…um…I…” Batman was suddenly at a loss for words. He also seemed to have sobered up rather quickly, the glazed look gone from his beady eyes.
The mountain crossed his muscled arms, heavy biceps straining the sleeves of his faded black tee, veins bulging along his corded forearms in a rather interesting way. Then, with his eyes still locked on his target, he said quietly, “Go.”
His voice sounded soft and rough all at the same time, and set off some serious tingles—like, they were doing a high-energy gig up and down her spine. No, he hadn’t shouted the word, but there was no mistaking the danger behind the order.
Batman finally snapped out of his stupor and started backing up, nodding rapidly. As soon as he hit the entrance of the parking lot, he spun on his boots and sprinted away, cape flying out behind him from the sheer velocity of his escape.
The mountain watched the creep go, then his head swiveled on his muscled neck, and he dipped his chin so he was looking at her. “All right?” he rumbled.
Holy Hell. Her belly flipped. The guy was kind of terrifying. He was also extremely handsome in a scary, rough, mountainous kind of way. His hair was a little shaggy, and he had a full beard, but it wasn’t the Grizzly Adams, shaggy kind of beard; it was trimmed and neat and suited the heck out of him. He was also tall. So tall, she was a good couple of inches shorter than his shoulder.
His dark brown eyes, which were surprisingly warm and kind, and ringed with thick, black lashes, locked on hers. “You okay, babe? He hurt you? You look kinda freaked.”
Babe? Eeek. Her nether regions did a highly inappropriate but extremely happy little quiver at that deep, gruff voice. Which was crazy, because not only was she usually shy around men—especially attractive ones—but this guy was so far from her type it wasn’t funny. “Ah…yes, I mean, no. I mean, I’m fine…now. T-thanks to you. You know…for coming to my rescue.” Jeez, spit it out. She sounded as if she had a serious speech impediment.
“No problem.” He stared at her for a few seconds, as if he was waiting for something. When she didn’t say or do anything, because she couldn’t move, let alone make her mouth work, he added, “Think you’re good to go. Guy’s long gone.”
“Um…” She stayed rooted to the spot, gaze fixed on the hulk in front of her. Bizarrely, it wasn’t fear keeping her in place…it was that she was struggling to leave the big man’s orbit; his gravitational pull was that strong.
What the heck is wrong with me?
His lips quirked up, just a little on one side, then those stunning eyes did a full-body sweep. The quirk turned into a grin. “What’s with the outfit?”
Her face heated instantly. She’d almost forgotten she was wearing the stupid costume. She stared down at herself and cringed. Her wobbly bits were all on full display—butt, thighs, belly, boobs. Perfect. “I was at a…a costume party.”
Her face got hotter. “Poison Ivy.”
He frowned, brow scrunching in obvious confusion.
“She’s a villain. Batman’s nemesis…in a comic book.”
He kept his gaze locked on her, and his eyes started dancing. “Right.”
He was more than likely laughing at her, but right then, she didn’t care; that sparkle in his eyes just made him more appealing. Again, her reaction was completely insane. The men she usually found herself attracted to were business types—they wore suits, were clean shaven, were…smaller. Less imposing. But the scary, hard gaze he’d wielded like a weapon was long gone now. In fact, she felt safe standing there with him.
Without realizing what she was doing, she shuffled a little closer, drawn by that magnetic pull that seemed to surround him. He also looked warm and snuggly, and now the excitement had past, she was starting to feel the cold.
He watched her, something moving over his features, something that got those inappropriate tingles riled up all over again. Her hair rested over her shoulder, and he reached out, touching it with his index finger, as if he was testing her reaction.
“I like the hair.”
“It’s real,” she blurted for some stupid reason, probably because of Batman’s lewd suggestion that the carpet didn’t match the drapes. Not that she wanted this guy to see her carpet. No, that would be wrong, wouldn’t it? They’d only just met.
He continued to stare at her, eyes still dancing in that highly attractive way. He also didn’t answer, so she babbled on in an attempt to explain herself.
“I mean, it’s not part of the costume. Though, Ivy does have red hair…it’s just…it’s not a wig.” Then, out of nowhere and just to make her humiliation ten times worse, she added, “I like your beard.”
Okay. She had no idea why she gave in to the urge to share that. She dropped her gaze to his big black boots, to hide the fact that the temperature of her face had skyrocketed by at least a thousand degrees.
“You do, huh?” His voice was rougher now, and God, the sexiest thing she’d ever heard.
She glanced up. His grin was wider, a full-blown smile. Wow. He looked good smiling. Like, really good.
“You want a ride some place?”
She blinked up at him. “Um…” For some crazy reason, she wanted to say yes, she wanted to go with him, this complete stranger, this huge, bearded, mountain man. “I, ah, I can walk. It’s not that far.”
His brows drew together. “How far’s not far?”
“Just a few blocks.” More like a million.
His brown eyes did another sweep of her body, and she shivered.
“You’re practically naked. It’s cold”—his gaze went to her hands—“you got a phone?”
“My friend accidentally took my things when she left the party.”
“She bailed on you?”
Why was she telling this total stranger she had no money and no phone…was essentially stranded? She had no idea. Still, she answered. “Yes.”
“I’ll give you a ride.” There was no question in his voice this time.
“Oh, no. I couldn’t…”
He moved to the next car along and opened the passenger door. “Yeah, you could.”
Then he looked her in the eyes, and what she saw made her tummy…and lower…melt deliciously.
“Babe, you’re in no danger from me. Just don’t like seeing assholes fuck with innocent women. Brings out my grumpy side.”
For some crazy reason, she trusted him. Heck, she wanted to get into the car with him. Maybe she was more her mother’s daughter than she wanted to believe, because she said, “Okay,” the word popping out of her mouth before she could think better of it.
His smile returned, wide and yummy, straight white teeth surrounded by sexy beard, and her heart did an erratic thump.
He motioned to the open car door. “Let’s go.”