Wydawca: Lisa Lang Blakeney Kategoria: Obyczajowe i romanse Język: angielski Rok wydania: 2017

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Opis ebooka Cousins: The Complete Box Set - Lisa Lang Blakeney

Our passion is incredibly intense. The connection between us borders on the possessive. Our feelings are absolutely forbidden. We're cousins…The question now is…what the f*ck are we going to do about it?After Elizabeth Hill is brutally attacked in her apartment by an intruder and then unceremoniously dumped by her ex-boyfriend, she moves in with her wealthy aunt and uncle who assign her older cousin the task of keeping an eye out for her. All she remembers about her cousin Roman is that he was the moody mean boy who played a cruel trick on her when she was just six years old; but soon learns that he is now a complex and multi-layered man who has the ability to protect her, ignite her, and challenge her like no one ever has before.Wealthy Roman Masterson makes his fortune by fixing celebrity problems for big money and by any means necessary. He is a foul-mouthed, bad-tempered, manwhore who doesn't have the time or inclination to babysit a gullible little brat from the suburbs…until he unknowingly spots her in the middle of a crowded dance floor and decides right then and there to claim every one of her orgasms from that moment on. Little does he know that the woman he's laid claim to is his…cousin.Authors Note: This steamy series contains explicit love scenes and a lot of swearing. Recommended for ages 18+. Please note that the couple in this story are NOT blood related. This box set includes all three books. The series is complete. Enjoy!

Opinie o ebooku Cousins: The Complete Box Set - Lisa Lang Blakeney

Fragment ebooka Cousins: The Complete Box Set - Lisa Lang Blakeney

Cousins

The Complete Box Set

Lisa Lang Blakeney

Writergirl Press

Contents

Cousins Book One

License Note

Praise For Cousins

Books By Lisa

Introduction

1. Elizabeth

2. Elizabeth

3. Elizabeth

4. Elizabeth

5. Roman

6. Roman

7. Roman

8. Elizabeth

9. Elizabeth

10. Roman

11. Elizabeth

12. Roman

13. Elizabeth

14. Elizabeth

15. Elizabeth

16. Roman

17. Elizabeth

18. Elizabeth

19. Roman

20. Elizabeth

21. Elizabeth

22. Elizabeth

23. Elizabeth

24. Roman

Acknowledgments

Cousins Book Two

License Note

Introduction

1. Roman

2. Elizabeth

3. Roman

4. Elizabeth

5. Elizabeth

6. Roman

7. Elizabeth

8. Elizabeth

9. Elizabeth

10. Roman

11. Elizabeth

12. Elizabeth

13. Roman

14. Elizabeth

15. Elizabeth

16. Roman

17. Elizabeth

18. Elizabeth

19. Roman

20. Elizabeth

21. Elizabeth

22. Ethan

23. Roman

24. Elizabeth

25. Elizabeth

26. Elizabeth

27. Roman

28. Elizabeth

29. Elizabeth

Acknowledgments

Cousins In Love Book Three

License Note

Introduction

Prologue

1. Elizabeth

2. Roman

3. Roman

4. Roman

5. Elizabeth

6. Elizabeth

7. Roman

8. Roman

9. Elizabeth

10. Elizabeth

11. Elizabeth

12. Elizabeth

13. Elizabeth

14. Elizabeth

15. Roman

16. Jade

17. Roman

18. Elizabeth

19. Elizabeth

20. Roman

21. Elizabeth

22. Elizabeth

23. Elizabeth

24. Elizabeth

25. Elizabeth

26. Elizabeth

27. Roman

28. Elizabeth

29. Sloan

30. Roman

31. Roman

32. Elizabeth

33. Elizabeth

34. Roman

35. Elizabeth

36. Roman

37. Elizabeth

38. Elizabeth

Epilogue

Claimed By A King

Bonus Scene

Afterword

Acknowledgments

Gunslinger

Books By Lisa

Cousins Book One

To Aunt Ruby

LISA LANG BLAKENEY

Thank you for purchasing Cousins. Please join

MY MAILING LIST

To be notified of new releases in the Cousins Series as well as other upcoming new books, teasers, giveaways and ARCs!

Copyright © 2015 Lisa Lang Blakeney.

All rights reserved.

Published by: Writergirl Press

Edited by: Marla Esposito

Cover by: Writergirl Press

License Note

If you found this book for free online, it means the author was not compensated for it.

This book is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real events, people, or places is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without the permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations used for review.

The author acknowledges the trademarked status of products referred to in this book and acknowledges that trademarks have been used without permission.

This book contains mature content, including graphic sex. Please do not continue reading if you are under the age of 18 or if this type of content is disturbing to you.

NOTE: All characters in the book are 18+ years of age, non-blood related, and all sexual acts are consensual.

Praise For Cousins

Praise For The Cousins Series…

"Intense. Explosive. Panty Melting. Raw. Exposed. Angst. Multifaceted."

- Snuggled Up With My BFF

"Cover to cover, page by page every word was amazing.  This author is amazing and her work is even more amazing. She really can get all the details and words to sound great together.Yes I want more and crave more I just couldn't get enough of Roman and Elizabeth. "

- Whispered Thoughts Book Blog

"As soon as I picked up book 1 I was addicted to this series. I couldn't wait for this one to come out! I absolutely love Roman and Elizabeth together!"

- Badass Betties Book Blog

"I definitely recommend this series to readers. Cousins was the first of its kind that I have read, and I was not disappointed. 5 Stars!"

- Booksessions

Books By Lisa

THE COUSINS SERIES

Cousins: An Alpha Bad Boy Romance (Book 1)

Cousins: An Alpha Bad Boy Romance (Book 2)

Cousins In Love: An Alpha Bad Boy Romance (Book 3)

Cousins Boxed Set (Limited Edition)

THE KING BROTHERS SERIES

Claimed By A King

Indebted To A King

STANDALONES

Gunslinger: A Sports Romance

Introducing COUSINS, book one of the forbidden and passionate Cousins romance series by Lisa Lang Blakeney.

Our passion is incredibly intense. The connection between us borders on the possessive. Our feelings are absolutely forbidden. We're cousins…The question now is…what the f*ck are we going to do about it?

After Elizabeth Hill is brutally attacked in her apartment by an intruder and then unceremoniously dumped by her ex-boyfriend, she moves in with her wealthy aunt and uncle who assign her older cousin the task of keeping an eye out for her. All she remembers about her cousin Roman is that he was the moody mean boy who played a cruel trick on her when she was just six years old; but soon learns that he is now a complex and multi-layered man who has the ability to protect her, ignite her, and challenge her like no one ever has before.

Wealthy Roman Masterson makes his fortune by fixing celebrity problems for big money and by any means necessary. He is a foul-mouthed, bad-tempered, manwhore who doesn't have the time or inclination to babysit a gullible little brat from the suburbs…until he unknowingly spots her in the middle of a crowded dance floor and decides right then and there to claim every one of her orgasms from that moment on. Little does he know that the woman he's laid claim to is his…cousin.

1

Elizabeth

I NOTICE THAT ETHAN HAS an unusually glazed look in his eyes when he pops his head up from under my tangerine strapless sundress, which he has leisurely pushed up right above my hips. He has been licking and lapping between my legs for several minutes in a grand effort to get me primed for what is to come next, and he looks like he is definitely ready to give it to me as soon as I give him the go ahead.

"You like that Bitsy?" His mouth turns into a goofy grin. One that I've always been unable to resist. Although I thought I had made it perfectly clear that I hadn't waited all this time to have sex with Ethan just to give it up casually, unplanned, or on a whim. Yet somehow I find myself spread eagle, on top of my brand new tufted pink comforter, panties God knows where, and nervous as all hell. I know full well that having sex will change everything between us, which is why I've been especially careful about the when and the where ... up until now. We weren't even suppose to be here tonight, but Ethan's car was acting funny; so it was either chill at my place or end the night early.

"Don't pull your top off yet," he whispers in my ear as an attempt to sound seductive. Unfortunately Ethan's attempt at being sexy comes off somewhat awkward, and his request for me to keep my top on seems just wrong.

"Why?" I ask while lowering my arms from above my head. "You haven't even touched my boobs yet."

"Don't need to touch 'em right now. Relax and just trust me."

Don't need to touch them? What the heck was he talking about? Ethan had been rubbing, kneading and sucking on my breasts since we started going out, getting me ready for what I guess was this very moment. Usually when we played around in his dad's old Audi after one of our dates, he couldn't keep his hands off of the girls, and I loved it. I thought he did too. I know he chugged down a beer or two when we were watching television earlier but something seems off with him. I'm just not sure what it is. Yet when he says those last three words, "just trust me" and flashes me a smile with his lips still moist from earnestly eating me out, my decision is already made.

As far as boyfriends go, I know that I've hit the jackpot, at least among my small inner circle of friends. I've known Ethan since my freshman year of UPenn, and girls have always fallen all over themselves when they're around him. Not much has changed since graduation; they still do.

When our friendship started to evolve into more during our senior year, I made the decision to take things super slow, because I am quite aware of Ethan's sexual history. Not wanting to be just another one of his conquests, I've been making him wait for over a year to have sex with me, and he's been quite patient, but I'm not sure how much longer he's going to wait for me. Truth be told, I'm not sure how much longer I can even wait. I mean I'm not a virgin. I'm just very selective about who I give it to, especially since I seemed to have picked so badly in the past. My high school boyfriend was a Grade A jerk.

"Okay," I murmur softly. Wait over.

I lower my lids in an effort to do as he asks and simply relax and enjoy the moment, but Ethan's cell phone starts ringing for what is the third time in the last 15 minutes. He stops touching me and reaches over the side of the bed to check the screen. Immediately I imagine the worst, and I think he notices the distrust written all over my face. While Ethan has been a pretty good boyfriend to me, being with him has made me the target of dirty looks from girls we went to school with and beyond. He's definitely good looking, but he's also a very promising swimmer who is training for the next Summer Olympics. Many girls see fame and endorsement dollars when they look at him, and I know that many have the capability of being downright ruthless in order to get who and what they want. So I keep my eyes and ears open. Constantly. It's exhausting sometimes, but my mother once told me that every man has their Achilles heel, and my fear is that the vagina is Ethan's.

"It's just Thomas. I'm going to turn it off," he tries to assure me in an effort to keep me present in the moment.

"That was Thomas who called you all three times?" I ask knowing good and well it was probably that slutty girl Penny from my old Econ class calling him. A total sorority slut, she was notorious for throwing what was between her legs at every halfway decent looking boy on campus, and I'd heard that she was just as busy with the graduates. Especially jocks like Ethan.

"Yeah but he doesn't want anything. I'll call him later. We're busy, right babe?"

I assume that question is Ethan's not so subtle way of checking to make sure I'm still on board, so I nod my head in agreement. He smiles and continues his seduction by slowly gliding the palms of his smooth hands up my thighs while pushing my dress up even further under my breasts to deliver a few feathery kisses around my navel.

Just when I think he is going to actually take my dress completely off and continue with his leisurely stroll around my body, he skips ahead and makes his way to my lips, shoving his tongue inside, rapidly moving it back in forth in my mouth. Kissing Ethan is typically a nice experience, but like I said, something is off. His kisses seem sloppy and amateurish, and as he is getting more excited, I am starting to feel smothered under the weight of his large body and the faint smell and taste of beer on his breath.

"You ready for me Bitsy?" He asks using my nickname in his deepest baritone voice.

Reluctantly I shake my head yes, although all the flashing signs in my head are telling me to STOP! I don't want this to be my first time with him. Not here, not like this, but then I consider what would happen if I attempted to stop him. Would he be angry with me? Would he want to end things? Would he tell his friends that I'm frigid? Would he start taking Penny's calls? Wouldn't it just be better to get it over with? Rip the band-aid off so to speak.

Trust me, I am seriously considering slapping my own self for having these sorts of insecure thoughts, but I have little control over what pathetic things pop into my head at any given time. I know that these are totally the wrong reasons to have sex with someone, but is there ever truly a perfect moment? There hasn't been one yet. Maybe I'm over thinking this whole thing.

Ethan stops and looks wildly in my eyes for a moment. I've never seen this look before. It's as if he needs me in a way that he never has. I've been pretty quiet this whole time, and God knows he's waited a long time for this to happen. So I decide to go ahead and give him the assurance he needs.

I touch the right side of his face gently with my palm. "Go ahead Ethan."

His face relaxes since that seems to be just what he needs to hear. He reaches in his back pocket and pulls out a condom, opens the foil packet, and rolls it onto his long but rather slender penis. I do my best not to ruin the mood by asking him why he even has a condom so conveniently on his person. I can't imagine that he thought that this was going to definitely happen, but I don't want to sound like the insecure girlfriend.

I worry for a split second about pregnancy because the condom seems really thin, like it could easily snap like an old rubber band pulled too tautly. But maybe that's how all condoms look. I never really watched the only other guy I've had sex with put his condoms on. I was in high school and too embarrassed to really look. Obviously I had no business having sex with him either.

Ethan lowers himself back down and gently starts kissing the side of my neck. It feels relaxing, but as he starts to slowly poke and prod his way into my opening, the muscles in my neck and shoulders begin to tense up. I'm not sure why this hurts so much, like I said I've done this before, but I am seriously thinking about pushing him off and running the hell out of my own bedroom. I feel like a virgin all over again. Yet as soon as I go to open my mouth to say the word wait, he kisses me deeply and mutters in my mouth, "Hold on tight Bitsy."

So I do.

As he pushes further inside me with several hard thrusts, I flinch from the unfamiliar fullness, but he doesn't notice my discomfort because his head is burrowed so far into the side of my neck now. He groans while methodically pumping and pushing inside me for a few more minutes, then he speeds up for a few seconds, right before he completely collapses on top of me. He's so frackin' heavy.

"Oh shit!" he cries out. "Bitsy you're amaz–"

Before I can even process whatever that anticlimactic moment was that just passed between us, we both jump at an unexpected loud crash. It sounds like someone has just rammed their head completely through one of my front windows. Ethan jerks his head up, leans his torso over the side of the bed, and reaches underneath for his phone.

"Fuck!" he starts furiously texting someone.

I'm frozen in place as quick, thunderous footsteps are moving towards our direction while Ethan quickly pulls up his sweatpants and fixes my dress. They're moving so quickly down the hall, I know it's just a matter of seconds before they reach us.

"Hide in the closet!" Ethan frantically orders.

My heart pounds with brute force from fear.

They're inside the room, before I have a chance to move.

A man in an all black sweatsuit and wearing a Shrek Halloween face mask (of all cliché things) bellows the words, "Don't fucking move."

I freeze in place and so does Ethan. There are two other men, also dressed in all black with black knit ski masks standing next to the one doing all the talking. They are silent, but the two of them are holding sleek metal gray handguns aimed at Ethan's head.

"Sit," Shrek orders.

I'm not sure who he's talking to, but I immediately sit straight down on the edge of my bed with my mouth closed and my legs shut. I smell like latex and sex, and my body trembles with fear when I take a brief glance up at the intruder's face. Even behind his mask, I can tell that Shrek is dead in the eyes. His cold glare makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and shiver.

"Where is my shit?" Shrek asks Ethan.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he replies without enough fear in his voice in my opinion. Does he know who they are?

"I don't know what you're talking about," Shrek parrots back in a sing-song voice. "Oh yes the fuck you do know what I'm talking about. You're high on my shit right fucking now, and if you don't give me ALL my product and I do mean all of it in the next five minutes, I'm going to have to hurt your very pretty girlfriend over here. And I promise you that she won't be pretty no more after I'm done. Then you're next."

I'm silently crying at this point and paralyzed with fright. I strangely consider all of the crime and cop shows that I have mindlessly watched all my life and wonder what the victims would do in this situation. I've always thought that if I were to ever find myself in a compromised situation, that I would be smart enough to save myself. Yet now that the time is upon me, I'm not sure what the hell to do. Should I make a run for it? Should I beg for our lives? Where's my cell phone? Hell, I'm really frightened, and I have no idea how to get us out of this. I'm just seriously praying that Ethan will give these guys whatever the hell it is they want so they'll leave. I'm very much invested in living another day with my face intact.

Ethan puffs his chest out. "Like I said man, I don't know what you're talking about."

Shrek grins sinisterly.

"That was the wrong answer Aqua Man."

And that's when a black leather covered fist cracks me square in the jaw.

Then everything fades to black.

2

Elizabeth

Three Weeks Later

VIBRATIONS OF BASS HEAVY techno music pulse throughout my sweat covered body as I twirl and gyrate my body in the middle of the dance floor. I'm a pro at this, so I'm careful not to spill a drop of the merlot that swishes around in my wine glass as I get my groove on. I just hold the glass high and close to my ear while my hips and feet do all the work of keeping to the monotonous but primal beat that is driving all the demons right out of my soul. It's been three weeks, give or take a day, since I woke up with the worst headache of my life and my life in shambles. For just one night though, I don't want to think about any of that. For just one night, I want to dance.

I'm starting to think the deejay is my soul mate or a simply brilliant human being, because when my favorite part of the song comes on he performs a variety of scratches on his computerized turntables to extend that portion of the song, and I frackin' love him for it. I throw back my wine glass and take a long final sip, placing the empty glass on the nearest littered high-top table; and then I begin to truly offer myself like a Santeria sacrifice over to the music. All I need is a long white flowing dress and a live chicken.

Unlike some of my body thrashing counterparts who basically lose their minds when the computerized beat comes on, I close my eyes, raise my arms high above my head, and slowly sway my very pear shaped hips to the bottom of the song. The bass. As I do, I can feel the vino traveling intravenously through my veins relieving me of all my anxiety and insecurities. It feels good. No it feels great.

Unfortunately my euphoria comes to a screeching halt, when I start to feel the large body of an intoxicated stranger slowly dancing up behind me. Initially my body tightens in fear, but because I don't want to overreact in public, I decide not to respond immediately to his presence. Not every stranger is out to hurt me. I need to remember that if I'm going to live in the world.

I consider the fact that in a club where most dancers are moving at the speed of a Zumba class, my dancing can appear more slow and sexual than the average person's, and that's why I make the decision to cut the drunk guy some slack. Plus this is the best part of the song. I want to finish enjoying it. Unfortunately the dickwad takes this as some sort of approval to move things a step further, and that's when I feel the drunken stranger up on my ass.

I know his hands are probably going to be next.

Sure enough, I feel a hand firmly start to grip the left side of my hips, and can feel one of his sweaty fingers touching the exposed skin above my waistline (thanks to the halter top I'm wearing). So I stop dancing, turn around, and see the red-nosed face of a kid who probably isn't even twenty-one yet and hasn't quite learned when he's reached his limit. I use my pointer finger to call him over even closer so he can hear me. He doesn't seem to understand that I'm annoyed, because he has a wide grin plastered across his face, when it's blatantly obvious that I don't.

"Are you drunk?" I ask him like I'm his older sister.

"Not yet gorgeous." He says in a drunk, flirty voice.

"Well listen junior, this is a solo gig," I tell him in his ear. "I don't need a partner."

The look on the kid's face is priceless. He's embarrassed, and I think he starts to look around to make sure that no one heard what I just said to him. As if someone could actually hear me over the high decibel level of the music or even see us in this dim lighting. He's not a jerk about what I just said to him though. He gives me a slight head nod, turns, and walks off the dance floor. Confrontation averted.

It's at that exact moment that I consider just for a moment that maybe the kid had it right. Maybe someone was watching us, because I swear that I can feel the stare of a faceless shadow in a far corner of the club. To the left of the main bar. You would think that I wouldn't notice a shadow based on the many moving bodies around me, but that's the thing; people are dancing, laughing, talking, ordering drinks, walking around. Even people at the bar are fidgeting, adjusting their seats, talking to whoever is next to them or trying to grab the bartender's attention. Everyone in the whole place is moving. Everyone but that one solitary faceless shape in the corner.

A chill runs down my spine and I turn away. I'm a little freaked out, but I know that I need to shake it off. Ever since the attack I've been jumpy and on edge. What I need is another drink. That will calm me down.

Now that I am entirely out of my zone and know that the deejay will be changing the song soon, I decide to head back over to the bar and straight towards the handsome bartender in the white tee. I spotted him earlier and liked the looks of him. He looks safe. I grab the last remaining stool and scan the crowd for my partner in crime, Sloan. I have no idea where she has wandered off to and while we're both grown, I think it was breaking the girl code for her to just leave me to fend for myself inside a club. Especially after everything that I've been through over the last few weeks. I take another quick glance to look for the creep in the corner, but notice that whoever or whatever it was is no longer there. I'm relieved.

"He took you out of your groove huh?"

I raise a curious eyebrow, because I mistakenly think the bartender is talking about the shadow in the corner, but soon realize that he's referring to the beer boy from the dance floor.

"Here you go. Another glass of red on the house. I don't know where these club virgins are coming from all of a sudden. They're ruining the vibe in here. The doorman isn't doing his job. That kid doesn't even look old enough to be in here."

Another glass of wine? Oh I am definitely headed into hangover territory, but I smile, accept the drink, and start slurping it down as if it were my first of the night.

"Thank you umm–"

"The name's Marco and you are?" He asks showcasing a set of pearly white teeth while wiping down the bar top. Was he flirting? Hell, I don't know and I don't want to know. I'm sure he's just being friendly like most bartenders. Men are completely off the menu for me now.

"Elizabeth."

"You're not here alone are you?"

"No, I came with a friend."

Some friend. Where the hell is she?

During the cab ride here, my best friend Sloan bragged for twenty minutes that she was bringing me to the uber-exclusive Club Lotus. Per her words, it was, "beyond the red velvet rope." There was no rope. In fact there was only an inconspicuous looking gray metal door that you knocked on, which was then answered by a very unhappy looking man who asked very gruffly for your ID. Three minutes later the man either let you in the door or he told you to scram. Sloan's ID must have checked out, so we were permitted inside once he jotted down my driver's license information inside a red, leather covered journal. Another thing that gives me the jitters, but which Sloan assures me is totally safe. Once past the forgettable gray door, I couldn't believe the unforgettable and intoxicating world that we stepped into.

Club Lotus is a beautifully designed dance club, housed in a hundred-year-old but expertly renovated center city bank, with broad, polished mahogany bars, massive pillars, and intricately carved high ceilings bathed in soft champagne colored chandelier lighting. It is everything that I imagined it to be. The grandness. The sexiness. The exclusivity of it. While there are definitely cozy little seating areas and an elevated VIP section, it doesn't seem like an overly pretentious club, although I know that most of the people in here probably make at least six figures or better. I'm fascinated watching many of the high-powered corporate women enter through the metal door and walk straight back to a large locker room, where they hang their very expensive designer suits and change into their very small, body conscious dresses for the night. Most of the men look like new money as well. Powerful but definitely not uptight.

Sloan fits right in. She's on the fast track as a pharmaceutical sales rep for one of the biggest companies in the country and makes a great living. I don't fit in as much, but I strive to one day. I can't wait to blend into the shiny and slick fabric of the city and it's people, and to be able to afford to buy five dollar lattes everyday, although it feels like nothing is clicking into place for me these days.

I continue looking for Sloan as I take several more sips of wine, but she is still M.I.A. Fortunately the deejay is doing a fantastic job of keeping me distracted and begins interplaying two songs that are calling me back to the dance floor, but I have an off feeling that I just can't shake, so I decide to stay put and flirt with the sun-kissed bartender. After about ten minutes of polite conversation between us he asks me, "So you're not going back out there gorgeous?"

I grin. "Nah, I'd rather sit here and enjoy the music."

"Hard day at work?"

"Not exactly ... more like a hard week. A bad break up."

Marco nods in understanding and then a text comes in from my mother. I don't feel like reading it, but I figure I have to because well, it's from my mom.

Mom: Where are you?

Me: I'm out with Sloan.

Mom: That means you're dancing very inappropriately somewhere.

Me: That's very possible:)

Mom: I've come up with a solution to your situation.

Me: Really?

Mom: I called your aunt.

Me: Aunt who???

This topic really deserves a phone conversation, but there is no way I could have a meaningful conversation with my mother, half-drunk, in a noisy club. I'm surprised she's actually this good at texting. They're coming in fast and grammatically correct.

Mom: You know who I'm talking about smarty. Aunt Juliette. The aunt I told you to give a call three weeks ago when you decided to stay in that godforsaken city after almost being murdered.

Me: When did u learn to txt like this mom? I'm impressed.

Mom: I didn't. I speak into the phone and it translates what I say into a text for me.

Aaah, of course.

Me: Very nice mom.

Mom: Her number is 215-555-7890. Call her tomorrow. She has room for you until whenever.

Whenever I come to my senses and move home she means.

Me: It won't be long. I'm figuring things out and will have a place soon.

Mom: Is business doing better?

Me: Yep.

Mom: Are you really okay Bitsy?

Me: Yes mom. Don't worry.

Lies.

First of all there is no way on God's green earth that I'm going to admit to my mother that I am scared shitless after being brutally assaulted by my boyfriend's frackin' drug dealers. She doesn't even know everything that happened. She'd literally drive down to Philly, pack up my stuff, and force me to come home if she did.

When I woke up in my bedroom three weeks ago, Ethan and the assailants were gone; my head hurt like hell, and my apartment had been completely ransacked and robbed. I'd been saving tip money for over two years from my part-time job at The Tavern and storing it all in two empty tampon boxes under the bathroom sink. (I've got an issue with paying bank fees.) It was over seventeen thousand dollars, and my plan was to use that money to live on while I worked on building my business full time; but now that money is gone and I need a Plan B.

I was too frightened to call the police when I finally woke up, so the only person I called was Sloan, who promptly took me to the emergency room. Physically I had only suffered a minor concussion, but emotionally I was ruined. My home had been violated, I couldn't concentrate on work, I was scared to be alone, and my boyfriend's phone was going straight to voicemail. His father, who I had only met once before, finally called me a few days later and told me that Ethan was fine and resting in a drug rehab in Arizona.

When I told him everything that transpired that night, then asked him (politely) why his son saw fit to leave me unconscious on the floor of my bedroom without even a 911 call, his father totally sidestepped my question and blatantly offered me twenty-five hundred dollars if I remained quiet about everything.

To add insult to injury, he also said there was another twenty-five hundred in it for me if I refused any and all of Ethan's calls. Something about codependency, blah, blah, blah. Needless to say, I turned down his highly offensive offer and told him to go fuck himself. I didn't need to be paid off to avoid having any contact with Ethan, considering that he had been ignoring all of my calls and texts for days anyway.

Assholes.

Both of them.

And as far as my business is concerned, that is laughable at best. About eighteen months ago, I built and launched a smartphone application that helps connect college students with scholarship money. I named the application School Bucks, and I charge ninety-nine cents per download for it. The app generates about three hundred dollars a month, which is a pretty decent start, but it doesn't pay the bills. I need to make some major improvements to the app and develop a marketing plan to make some traction in the marketplace, but now that my entire frackin' savings is completely gone, I'm going to have to come up with a Plan B.

All of this on my brain is what has brought me here tonight. I'm trying to forget about how I can't get a decent night's sleep in my own home, because I'm too afraid to close my eyes. I am also trying to forget how any little bit of money I earn now has to go to bills, not savings, and that I don't have enough money to put down a security deposit and first month's rent on a new place. So I guess living at my aunt's house would be a great way to feel safe for a moment and stack some money while I figure things out. Work on my Plan B. Maybe I do need to bite the bullet and accept some help, regardless of the source. It's not like I have a lot have options. It's either this or go home to my parents and start all over again.

Oh hell no.

Me: What would she charge me to stay there?

Mom: Nothing you're family.

I wasn't exactly comfortable with that. I'm not a deadbeat.

Me: I'll call her to discuss it. I gotta go.

Mom: Call me after you two speak.

Me: I will. Bye mom:)

I finally have a nice buzz and am totally fine bobbing my head seated right where I am. I don't mind hanging around and flirting with Marco either. It's easy. While I am not quite sure if he likes men, women or both, I definitely enjoy his company as he talks about his childhood in Miami, his dream of visiting family he's never met in Cuba, and why he moved to Philadelphia. He is totally taking my mind off the fact that I may be moving in with a family, that I haven't seen since I was a kid.

"Damn." Worry lines begin crinkling Marco's forehead.

"What?" I ask.

"Those two over there." He points. "See the one blond in the dress. They're arguing. When those two argue, the shit always ends badly."

"Who are they?"

"They usually come on Sunday nights. That's a whole different crowd. Younger. More hip-hop and radio. Not as exclusive of a crowd. They must not have realized that tonight is techno night. Stay here for a minute, I need to go grab Larry. I wonder how they got in here tonight?"

In the short time I've been chatting with Marco, he's explained to me the entire employee dynamic of Club Lotus. Larry is the weekend manager of the club, the younger brother of the owner, and an absolute no nonsense prick. Marco doesn't seem to like him very much, but admits that he does a pretty decent job of running the club.

My glass of merlot is beginning to settle in.

All the telltale signs are there.

My lips and tongue are beginning to feel numb, my eyes are becoming a tad more sensitive to the intricate lighting caressing the dance floor, and I have a permanent goofy grin on my face. I'm a little past buzzed but not quite plastered. Amazing. I thought for sure that this third one would set me right on my ass. Maybe I'm building up a wine tolerance; which I guess isn't something necessarily to brag about.

As I bob my head to the rapid fire beat of the latest song, I can't help but watch the scene unfold out of the corner of my eye towards the end of the bar. The woman Marco mentioned, a strikingly beautiful blond woman with a horrendously tacky turquoise colored dress on is arguing with an average looking redhead. The redhead has on a pair of ultra skinny jeans (way too small for her) and some sort of weird, retro flowered top. Both women are clearly out of their element. Their clothes seem really cheap and overall they just appear to be oddly out of place. Even more so than myself or beer boy. At least I dressed the part tonight with Sloan's help.

The music is blasting entirely too loudly for me to understand what is being said, but sometimes you don't need to hear the actual words to understand what is transpiring between two people. If I had to guess, I'd say that they were "frenemies" for some ridiculous reason that goes way back to high school, and that they were looking for any excuse to argue with each other. A couple of drinks and loud music has a way of creating an atmosphere ripe with negative possibilities. In this case, it was a high possibility that someone was going to get their face smashed in. My money was on the redhead.

I spot Marco talking to Larry and then the two of them start fast-walking towards the two women. It was actually hysterical, because I don't think I've ever seen two men walking across a club with arms and elbows pumping like that. I decide right then that Marco more than likely likes boys and was in no way flirting with me earlier, unless the wine is making me a little judgy.

As if everything is unfolding in front of me like a movie in slow motion, I continue to watch the two women arguing. The level of their voices seems to be rising as I watch their facial expressions grow increasingly animated and contorted. I still can't make out what they are saying, but the one with the itsy bitsy jeans on starts moving closer and closer towards the other woman's face. I whip my head back towards my right and watch as Larry and Marco continue to move toward the scene, trying to draw as little attention to themselves as they can, but also trying to get to the girls as quickly as possible. Larry's eyes seem to now be fixated on one particular point. The beautiful blond's lap. I watch as she reaches into her silver clutch, which is lying across her lap, and she pulls out what looks like to be a clunky set of car keys.

Thanks to the wine, I am still swaying and bobbing in my seat to the pulse of the music as the whole scene plays out. The music basically serves as a soundtrack for the drama unfolding in front of me. I am just waiting for the first punch. I know it's brewing. I can see it in itsy, bitsy's eyes. Like I said, my money was on her.

Larry and Marco are sprinting across the club at this point. Gently elbowing their way through the writhing bodies on the dance floor, making their polite "excuse me's" as they do. I'm not really sure why they are so frantic about reaching the two women. No blows have been thrown yet, and as far as I can tell, it all seems to be a lot of loud name-calling and neck rolling. Total girl shit.

And that's when it happens.

Pure pandemonium.

3

Elizabeth

I AM CHOKING AND GASPING for breath. The air around me is thick and heavy. Tears start to pool in the corners of my eyes, because the burning sensation of the chemicals is so overpowering. I reactively blink and squeeze my eyelids tightly to stop the stinging, but all that does is start to give me a dull headache at my temples.

I'm not sure what to do with my hands first, as I indecisively alternate between rubbing the corners of my eyes and grasping at my throat, almost breaking the delicate gold chain hanging around my neck. I desperately need fresh air, but my lungs are being denied what they crave most and like the idiot I am, I haven't paid any attention to where the exit doors are located. This is exactly what I deserve for not listening to my inner voice. My instincts. My gut. The voice that told me to just keep my ass at Sloan's, eat ramen, and watch Netflix.

Panic starts to swell inside of my chest. Was it those girls that did this? Although I know that a little pepper spray never killed anyone, I am also well aware of the pandemonium that spraying it in a confined location can cause. I wonder if people feel this type of dread right before they meet death, like in the final five seconds before a fatal car collision or a plane crash.

While I can't see very much, especially at a distance, I can definitely hear the quickening click-clack sounds of women's stilettos and the growing chant of deep male voices straining the words, "Push! Push!" in unison. After a few high pitched screams, I realize that the hysteria around me is starting to mushroom, and I am certain that the shrieks are coming from young women being pushed and crushed not only at the front doors but through the other exit side doors as well. Without consideration of others, people are running, pushing, and stepping on top of other people's bodies to get out of the club as fast as they can.

Not. Good. At. All.

The level of danger in the room is starting to rise at an accelerated pace, and I realize that I need an exit plan and fast, because getting out of the club through the main doors unscathed doesn't seem to be in my immediate future. I don't see her at first, but am relieved when Sloan grabs me from behind by the shoulders.

"It's me Bitsy."

"Thank God," I exhale.

Sloan coughs a bit while spitting out her idea of an exit plan. "We'll get trampled if we stay by the bar or if we try to leave now. Let's hide behind the speaker over there. When it thins out we'll leave."

I mutter under my breath, "I can't breathe."

And frankly I don't really like her exit strategy. Hide in the middle of a chemical apocalypse? So at this point I am freaking out, but I also don't have any other better ideas, especially with the three drinks I've consumed clouding any coherent judgment I have left. Since I don't want to compound the issue by totally losing it, I take a few deep yoga breaths (not easy since the air is filled with pepper spray), while I continue to consider her suggestion. I can feel Sloan carefully studying my face. She knows I'm on the verge of a melt down.

"I can't see the exit Bitsy," she explains slowly to me like I'm an idiot. "But I definitely hear people getting mashed. Trust me, the best thing to do is to wait this out. We'll be fine. Take shallow breaths and hold onto me." She pats my shoulder in an attempt to calm me. I'm pretty sure she can see the fear all over my face and oozing out of my pores. I hate who I've become since that night. I reluctantly offer a soft, "ok" in agreement and follow her lead. Both of us moving low to the ground.

Sloan's plan to get us out of the club in one piece includes having us, much to my horror, crawl on all fours to hide behind a huge sound speaker that I pray is unplugged or blown out, so that I'll still have my hearing by the end of the night. In my favorite and only pair of two-hundred dollar jeans, a halter top, and platform heels we start our trek towards the speaker by crawling our way across the gritty, sticky, concrete floor of one of the most exclusive clubs in the city. Or so I've been told.

Sloan turns her head. "Don't stare at my ass Bitsy. I'm going on a Paleo diet on Monday."

I grin at the fact that Sloan is either trying desperately to make me laugh or that she's extremely delusional. There is nothing fat about her ass. I wish I had that ass.

As we hesitantly creep across the floor of the club, we discover all sorts of disgusting surprises with the palms of our hands. Flattened pieces of chewing gum, small puddles of beer, droplets of wine, bits of paper, grit and dirt. Really gross stuff and somewhat surprising considering where we were, plus it wasn't even that late yet. How can all this crap be on the floor already? I just pray to myself that no one has spit on the floor.

That would be IT for me.

"I can't believe this nonsense." Sloan stops crawling for a moment still slightly coughing. "I can't believe I paid a hundred bucks a piece for this."

Sloan mentioned in the cab ride over that there was a pretty steep cover charge to get inside the semi-exclusive club, but that there were always plenty of attractive men inside to buy us drinks to offset the cost. Her words not mine. She didn't tell me how much the cover charge was, because she was treating me to a night out to cheer me up, plus she makes a lot of money selling some sort of generic version of Viagra to doctors. Two hundred bucks for a night out is normal for her, but regardless of that she's right. This is nonsensical. Who pays through the nose for a night out only to end up having to scramble around on the floor like we're in the middle of some drunken frat party?

I nod my head in agreement and agree with her. "Yep, this is real dumb."

We finally make it to our destination and crouch behind the gargantuan black sound speaker. Luckily the sound seems to have been cut by the deejay, so I'm relieved that we will at least still have our hearing when this is all over. I decide that it won't hurt to say a little silent prayer to myself, and that God will forgive the fact that it is something that I haven't done in a long while. Between the pepper spray burning my eyes, the drinks fogging my brain, and the sounds of pure terror all around me, I'm getting pretty close to losing it. Someone is definitely going to get hurt tonight. I just hope like hell it isn't me. I can't afford another hospital visit.

As if on cue, in the middle of my "amen," I hear a very clear and distinct set of heavy footsteps advancing towards us. Whoever it is, isn't panicked like the rest of us. He or she (no it was definitely a he) is moving calmly and very deliberately towards our direction. I experience a brief moment of alien-like movement in my stomach warning me of something. I'm not sure what. Maybe to be on guard or perhaps to run. Suddenly I feel five very warm, strong, and calloused fingers grasp my upper left arm and pull me up on my feet.

"Stand up," the deep voice orders with a rumble. His lips just inches away from my ear. His breath smells of peppermint, chocolate and cognac. A yummy mixture. It's familiar. Reminds me of Christmas.

His distinctive voice reverberates throughout my body, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, and then settles in as if making a home in between my legs. I'm shocked at my body's reaction and frankly embarrassed. Typically I would never blindly follow the commands of a stranger, but this isn't a usual circumstance I find myself in. So for once I decide not to over think things (like he may be a serial killer) and instead just follow his lead.

With his hand still firmly clasping my upper arm, he notices that my feet are unsteady and quickly adjusts himself to place his other hand loosely around my middle to balance me as I stand. His massive hand almost spans the entire length of my torso and although my clothing serves as a barrier, to me it feels like I have nothing on. His thumb nearly grazes my breast, which sends my nipples into a hard alert, while his pinky finger comes dangerously close to the waistband of my panties. I am so overwhelmed by all the sensations of him touching me, that my body probably feels heavy to him, as I inadvertently sway slightly forward and allow him to bear more of my weight. My heaviness doesn't seem to be an issue though, as he effortlessly guides me upwards onto my feet with one sweeping movement.

"Easy." He murmurs softly by my ear.

Even with all hell breaking loose in the club, that one word, the stranger's raspy voice, and his unforgettable hands are all I can concentrate on. His touch feels personal, careful, and intimate, as if we already know each other or as if we are definitely about to. As he continues to direct me, his commands all of a sudden turn somewhat clipped, almost like he is annoyed with me for some unknown reason.

"She with you?"

"Yes."

"Grab her hand too."

"Wait I-" I start to protest. His terse tone throwing me off.

"Grab her." He orders again.

As he continues to hold onto me, to help me keep my balance, I reach down to grab Sloan's arms and lift her up with me. "Come on Sloan."

"Walk." Is all the stranger says next.

And we do.

I trust that he knows where he is going, because I still can't see much. Between the pepper spray up my nose and all the wine that I had earlier, standing up so quickly makes me feel a little light headed. I've been rubbing my eyelids and contact lenses for about ten minutes, but now they are starting to feel like little dry circles of sandpaper scraping against my pupils, so I decide to just pluck them out and toss them as we walk. Things would be fuzzy until I got home, but that was better than the permanent scars I was sure to have on my corneas if I left the little suckers in any longer. It was actually a really gross thing to do since there wasn't enough Purell in the entire state of Pennsylvania to get my hands clean from crawling across the floor of a nightclub, but I just don't really seem to care at this point.

Without saying another word, we walk for about seventy-seven more steps (yes I count the steps, because I do weird counting things like that when I'm terribly nervous) further into the club and then down a short corridor, until I feel a sharp gust of cool evening air blow on my face. The breeze feels absolutely life affirming. That's when I know that we must be close to an exit. We're actually going to make it out of here. I just hope that we have reached an exit door that we won't get trampled walking through.

The stranger positions Sloan and I in front of him as we continue to push our way through the door. When two guys dressed in button down shirts and dark slacks walk swiftly towards us and start pushing us roughly from the side, it takes the stranger only several seconds to wrap one of his massive palms around one of the guys throats.

"Step the fuck back," he growls, and then both of them jump back as high and fast as two high school cheerleaders.

"Sorry man." One of them mumbles.

We finish elbowing our way out the set of steel double doors in front of us, with the stranger's help of course, and I'm actually wondering why there aren't more people at this exit. I really want to round back and tell some of the people inside about the exit doors over here, but I know that Sloan would try and fight me first, before she would let me go back inside Armageddon. And I'm starting to think this guy wouldn't let me do it either.

"Don't stop. We're crossing the street." The deep voice orders while expertly guiding me across the street with his hand ever present on the exposed small curve of my back. The halter top Sloan loaned me gives him easy access, and so with every step I take, my entire body can't help but be laser focused on the spot where his warm hand rests. I don't want to obsess about it, but I can't help it.

Once the three of us make it to the other side of the street, I bend myself over at the waist and rest my hands on my knees, silently grateful for the crisp midnight air that's seeping up my nostrils and down my throat. Utterly relieved that I made it safe and sound out of another life threatening situation ... again. I must have a guardian angel watching over me or a mischievous one who enjoys tormenting me.

"Take a few deep breaths but slowly." The stranger directs both of us while still only touching me. Is he ever going to stop touching my back? It's driving me bat shit crazy.

Finally I begin to feel some real relief from the burning sensations of the pepper spray, and my skin and eyes start to feel better as well. As I stand to a full stretch with my palms clasped together, inside out and above my head, my lungs delightfully begin to fill again with oxygen and then...

I freeze.

4

Elizabeth

I THINK I HEAR SLOAN asking me with worry in her voice if I've bumped my head, but she could be speaking Greek to me right now, because at this moment I am face to face with the most intimidating set of beautiful midnight black eyes I have ever seen. They are bottomless and they move and dance like dark pools of liquid ink. Once those deep-set eyes lock intently on mine, they render me what could be embarrassingly described as "stuck on stupid," because a million thoughts are racing through my mind (mostly dirty ones), which fortunately for me, I am unable to communicate.

I can't talk.

I can't smile.

I can barely breathe.

He's wearing a suit jacket, and not just any jacket, but what looks to be a custom tailored, midnight blue, very expensive looking one with a white Henley shirt underneath, dark jeans that fit him like a glove, and a pair of black Doc Martens. I notice part of an intricate, black tattoo that I imagine swirls and trails from God knows where, all the way up to the side of his neck. What's visible to the eye is the very curved tip of the tattoo, teasing me, as it peeps out from the top of the round collar.

He looks hard and strong, but not steroid beefy, and stands well over six feet tall (my guess is 6'2"), with a broad back and shoulders, a narrow waist and sleek, diamond cut biceps flexing through his suit jacket. He wears his jet black hair in a very short buzz cut and looks like a badass who reluctantly decided to dress up for a night out at the club.

Still mute; I quietly drink more of him in.

I am even more drawn to this man's imperfections, because they make him unmistakably beautiful, as well as a lot more interesting than any other man I've ever seen in my life. Most noticeably, the rather wide and deep crescent shaped scar under his left eye, which I decide to create a story about in my head (which I do often) on how I think he managed to acquire it. Definitely from a fight. A fight that he won of course, because he looks like he hasn't lost a fight since he was about twelve years old. If even then. Adding to his appeal is his strong angular jaw and a nose that looks like it may have been broken once or twice, sort of like a boxer's or a hockey player's, as well as the one deep dimple in his left cheek.

One amazing frackin' dimple.

His magnetic, black sable colored eyes are so deep and intense as they trace the lines of my face, I feel as if I could fall into them and end up somewhere in the land of Oz. He looks weathered, and frightening, and delicious all at the same time. The air seems to have been completely sucked out of the atmosphere, and I feel like I'm going to throw up, but in a good way–if that's even remotely possible.

"You all right?" The stranger asks while softly running two of his knuckles along the side of my face.

I nod my head up and down, speechless from his touch.

"You okay?" He turns to ask Sloan.

Sloan looks a little green around the gills but unlike me is able to find her voice.

"Yes–I just need a minute thank you. You ok Bitsy?" She asks me with one eyebrow raised. I can tell that she's trying to communicate with her eyes for me to, "get my shit together" in front of this man. This god. This man-god.

But that's Sloan. Confident and cool under pressure. Even under duress she still manages to look absolutely flawless. With her modern, auburn-dyed pixie cut which pops against her creamy caramel colored skin, God-given size D breasts, and a killer smile; for a moment I'm worried that the stranger is going to realize that he has his hand on the back of the wrong girl. Any given night of the week if we're hanging out, I'm Sloan's "wingman", never the main chick.