They were known as the ‘Rush Boys’, wards of the State throughout their teens, expected to die young or fall into a life of crime. Instead, they became men who follow the footsteps of those who gave them hope. Wild, maybe a little reckless, but each and every one willing to sacrifice their own lives to serve and protect.
Nate McCall wanted to forget the boy he was in the Priestley Boys home, the young man he’d been for years after. After a decade as a State Trooper, dedicated to his badge and refusing to let himself focus on anything besides his next case, he’s forgotten how it feels to love anyone so much that he loses himself to them. Actually, after being left behind by, Colin Tain, a man he all but worshiped, he’s done his best not to feel anything at all. But the death of his close friend, a fellow trooper, has Nate’s attention shifting from the daily grind. Anger and grief keep him driven, but more unexpected feelings slip in when he meets Ashlyn Coffey.
Lust. Tenderness. Desire.
Maybe that part of him isn’t dead after all.
When Ashlyn hears Nate’s voice in the diner where she works to pay for nursing school, she wonders if the officer remembered her. The youngest child in a family of all boys, she’d been a wild teenager, but she’d changed so much and a few moments with him is all it takes for her to want to prove she’s not the same girl he hauled in to the station. There’s something magnetic and intense about Nate, and the ‘good girl’ she is now doesn’t know how to handle him.
But he knows exactly how to handle her.
From the beginning, Nate takes things slow. He has secrets, but he reveals them to Ashlyn, earning her trust as he finally shares the last piece of his past, his love for another man. Colin is the reason Nate has such a hard time letting anyone in, and she could hate him for it, only he has no place in the future she’s building with the man she loves. Except, she’s not sure she can give Nate everything he needs no matter how often he insists that she can.
All that changes when Colin finally comes home.
His smile vanished abruptly. His eyes darkened. “Do. Not. Call me ‘Sir’.”
“Just don’t.” He dropped a wad of cash on the table, way too much for his order. “And forget I asked.”
She should let him go, not question the generous tip or his odd behavior. But she reacted without thinking, grabbing the bills and stuffing enough for the breakfast and coffee into the pocket of her apron. Matching his steps, she followed him to the door.
“Sir—Nate!” She almost slammed right into him when he stopped. She held out the crumpled bills. “Please, I can’t take all this.”
Brow arched, he turned to her, drawing her aside so they didn’t block the customers trying to leave. He looked down at the bills. “You don’t want a tip?”
“No, I don’t—I mean . . . ” Damn it, she wasn’t making any sense. He hadn’t made an offer and clearly didn’t intend to. Which shouldn’t bother her at all. But it did. The wires in her brain were all crossed and that was all his fault. “You should go.”
His lips twitched and he latched onto her wrist, nodding at someone behind her before backing out the door into the parking lot, holding her gaze until they’d reached the secluded area beside the diner. “You don’t want me to go.”
Her back hit the wall and her eyes went wide.
What am I doing?
She had no idea, but he’d trapped her. And she’d let him. She’d practically begged him not to leave things as they were.
“How is Brent?” Nate braced his hands on the brick wall by her shoulders, leaning close so she had to tip her head back just to meet his eyes. “Did he ever get that football scholarship?”
“You know he didn’t.” She pushed against his chest, relieved when he backed up a little, yet at the same time, almost disappointed. Being good had worked very well for her until now. Now she wished she was the girl who’d roped in the hottest guy in her school. Who’d kept him for months, stealing kisses behind the Coffey barn and holding out for the right time to give him more.
“I do know. But I always worried you’d be one of the girls he got knocked up and left behind.” He brought one hand to her cheek to tuck her unruly red hair behind her ear. “You weren’t like the others.”
“I wasn’t?” She closed her eyes as his fingers traced her jaw, then her lips. “I don’t understand.”
“You were the only one who was really scared. You did everything you were told. You cried when your daddy came to get you and he didn’t even yell at you.”
“He didn’t need to. I disappointed him and that was enough.” She let out a breathless laugh. “I aim to please.”
“Fuck!” Nate curved his hand around the side of her neck, lowering his forehead to her shoulder and groaning in a way that made her shiver. “Don’t say things like that to me.”
All the places he touched her were blazing hot. She whimpered as he pressed his lips to her pulse. “Why?”
“Don’t ask. Just tell me you’ve been a good girl.”
“I’ve been very good.” She remembered he was a cop. He might not be acting like one, but he wouldn’t be interested in the wild child she’d been. And she really really wanted to keep him interested. “My daddy always knows where I am. I don’t pass the speed limit. I-I haven’t done anything illegal since—”
“So you stayed away from boys like Brent?” His tone was rough and he’d moved even closer. His hand settled on her waist and his thumb stroked her belly though her shirt. “If you were my little girl, he wouldn’t still be breathing.”
“I’m not a little girl anymore.”
“I can see that.”
Her knees almost gave out. She fisted her hands in his shirt, pressing her eyes shut as he lay soft kisses along the length of her throat.
“Not a little girl, but still so innocent.” He took a deep breath, lifting his head so his lips hovered over hers. “You should stay away from men like me too.”
She licked her lips, wondering if the years of following all the rules were finally catching up with her. Because the man who’d set her straight had her wanting to break each and every single one. Him telling her to stay away had her pressing against him, giving into the temptation of his body and whispering against his lips. “I’m not afraid of you, Nate.”
“I can change that.” He teased her lips with the tip of his tongue, his fingers delving into her hair and tugging to tilt her head. As his lips covered hers, she gasped, letting him in deeper. The way he claimed her mouth sent chills up and down her spine. She felt herself bursting out of the protective cocoon she’d hidden in since he’d first strode into her life. Almost as though she’d been waiting for him to return and set her free.