Authors: Dee Tenorio
The Lonnigans, Book 2
Lucas Lonnigan thinks he’s finally gotten the best of his twin brother, until he discovers his half of a date-swap is none other than metal artist Belinda Riggs. A leather-dipped Goth queen who considers him a cross between a pin cushion and a science project—and the woman he’s loved forever.
Belinda isn’t exactly overjoyed to see him, either. In her opinion, love means becoming a punching bag, and she won’t be anyone’s doormat. Lucas is too dangerously tempting to allow within striking distance of her heart, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting.
After one blazing night of passion, Lucas finds himself locked out of Belle’s life with seemingly no chance to get back in. With nothing left to lose, Lucas makes a final play and appeals to the one thing Belle can’t say no to—a dare. Winner take all.
Lucas may think this crazy game will decide their relationship, but she sees it as her chance to finally set him free—and maybe indulge in the sexiest goodbye of her life…
Warning: Story may sizzle your undies off. Includes pigheaded hero with a cranky heart of gold, bitchy heroine with a flamethrower, massively inappropriate behavior, make-up / break-up sex of the sinful kind…and a puppy!
They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
577 Mulberry Street, Suite 1520
Macon GA 31201
All or Nothing
Copyright © 2010 by Dee Tenorio
Edited by Jennifer Miller
Cover by Scott Carpenter
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
electronic publication: July 2010
All or Nothing
For Maya Banks, who held her breath for this series almost as long as I did. Thanks for all the support…and for not committing justifiable homicide. No one would have blamed you. :)
It was all Lucas Lonnigan could think, standing in front of Vino’s Italian Bar & Grille. At best, the grill provided pretty good steaks, maybe some chicken, but mostly happy-hour food for strong drinkers, serious sports freaks and the occasional wild party.
At worst, it was about to become his idea of hell.
The woman waiting inside would make sure of that. Unfortunately, common decency required him to walk in and let his “date” hand him his balls in a sling.
Kyle is going to die.
A long, torturous death, too, involving fingernail removal, hot metal and some liberal use of acid, if Lucas had any say.
He swore again. Bitterly. Lucas had come—even dressed up in a suit jacket—prepared to look for the date his twin had described. Never one to rush into a situation, particularly when Kyle made the arrangements, he looked through the glass door of the building, hoping to have an idea of where to direct his attention. Brunette, Kyle had said. Long legs, he’d said. Smarter than you, he’d added with a smug grin that only now began to make sense. The only woman sitting alone in the entire restaurant who could fit that bill was the last woman he should be expected to sit politely at a table with, least of all in public. Belinda Lynn Riggs: childhood tormentor, teenage fantasy girl, adult wet dream. More succinctly, the scourge of his existence.
He didn’t rate particularly high on her list, either.
Belle sat in a booth, smoking a cigarette despite the clear signs she wasn’t allowed, her ebony hair styled forward into her face with enough product to defy jet-wash. It gleamed all the way across the room, catching his eye in an instant. He hadn’t seen her in a few weeks. He should have expected she’d cut it again. Fat layers of the fine strands were sliced at jagged edges in large chunks, looking like she’d colored it with magic marker instead of hair dye. Knowing her, ink was a distinct possibility. One of these days, he fully expected her to turn up shaved bald as a baby and call it style. In his opinion, it would be an improvement.
He stayed outside the glass door, standing in the shadows, staring into the bright room beyond, unwillingly mesmerized by the way she stared forward and sipped her longneck beer. For all her brashness, her nearly feline grace never failed to make his body leap to attention. Even when she was flipping him off, he had to force his brain not to remember just how dexterous she could be with those hands.
She was mostly dressed tonight, he realized with a start. A black sleeveless shirt clung to her skinny form, outlining her small breasts, probably right down to the minute swell lifting the surrounding circles of her nipples. Even after all these years, he could still remember how soft they felt against his lips. The flavor of her in his mouth… He closed his eyes, hating the pull in his gut, wishing he couldn’t remember so well. That ship had sailed years ago.
Plus, she’d tear him a new one if she caught him starting at her breasts like some sex-obsessed teenager. It wouldn’t matter that when it came to her,
weren’t exactly inappropriate. But allowing himself the luxury of remembering her naked—or at the very least, half-naked—was not his smartest move. He’d only spend hours aching because of it. Then again—he sighed as he slipped his hands into his pants pockets—everyone needed a vice. It just so happened Belinda Riggs was his. Always had been, always would be.
People walked around him to get into the bar, no one seeming to notice the woman alone in the booth. It was probably driving her crazy. Even as a little girl, she’d hated being ignored. She hadn’t known then that people didn’t see her on purpose, unwilling to take responsibility for the bruises and scuffs she shouldn’t have had on her face or her arms. She knew it as an adult though, and she took every opportunity to make sure everyone saw her now, wearing her sexuality like a suit of armor while she declared war. It was the only explanation Lucas could figure for the way she dressed. He hated it, but he understood it.
Tonight’s mask of choice was Modest Industrial Goth. Her shirt was typical, ripped across the midriff to make the young bucks think they had a prayer with her. God forbid she let a day pass without exposing her pale belly to the undeserving masses. Her pants were leather, the front connected to the back at the two-inch wide waistband. The sides of the legs were woven together with tiny leather lacings, baring her flesh all the way down her side. Good, quality leather, fitting her like the skin it was, traveled the near endless path of her legs before disappearing into the knee-high boots she wore.
Jack boots, she’d once told him, modeling them with a smirk, no doubt thinking he hated them. Covered with crisscrossing buckles, they were her only boots with a stiletto heel. All her others could be used to climb mountains or frighten midgets. He let her think he hated them. It meant she wore them more often.
Tonight, she wore them for Kyle, having no idea Lucas’s dumbass brother had sent
She turned her head, her dark eyes finding him outside the door as if there weren’t a single person milling around between them. He felt her gaze. He always did. She’d changed his life with that glare as often as she could. Probably
She gave nothing away, no surprise, no disappointment. She stared at him, pulled her cigarette to her darkened lips and inhaled with a nod. Her way of accepting what happened and letting him come to her.
He didn’t question her understanding. They rarely had to speak, always knowing what the other meant with a look or an expression. She fought it, as loudly as possible, but it was a fact they couldn’t get away from, no matter how they tried. Lord, how they tried.
He’d known her since second grade, when her family moved in next door to his parents’ suburban home. Back in those days, her nose was still pert and straight, her hair was the color of sunlight and she wore pink ribbons in it every day, with pink ruffles on her dresses and pink saddle shoes on her feet. The mulish look on her face was about the only thing that hadn’t changed.
“The punk backed out on me, didn’t he?” she asked when Lucas reached her table, putting her cigarette out in a glass of water. On the one hand, he was grateful. Ripping it out of her mouth and smashing it under his shoe always seemed to start them out on the wrong foot.
On the other hand…it was
Lucas levered himself into the booth, less concerned about hurting her while he fit his legs under the table than he was about ripping his pants on her boots.
“Traded you,” he corrected. He pushed the soiled water glass to the wall edge of the table next to the saltshaker.
She lost her practiced look of boredom. “Come again?”
Wouldn’t I like to?
Lucas hitched a shoulder. “We traded dates for the night. Sent each other out with just a place and a description of who we’d be meeting.”
“Kyle set us up.” Impressive move, actually, for a man Lucas regularly referred to as a moron. He reached for a chip of her Irish nachos, stealing the black chili beans and sour cream with the flick of his hand. Her eyes followed the theft, probably measuring to the milligram how much he owed her.
“Why would he do that? He knows we don’t do well when we’re left alone together.”
“He’s not completely stupid, Belle.” Despite most evidence to the contrary. But Kyle knew the score between Lucas and Belinda. Probably better than they themselves did. His only mistake was thinking he could force them to deal with their issues.
Some day Kyle would realize he needed an act of God to make them work out anything.
Lucas held no hopes for the night. He knew it was likely she’d yell at him, rail at him, possibly even smack him a time or two, then she’d leave him in need of an ice pack and go on about her day. Business as usual. But it didn’t change the hunger he felt for her. Nothing cured that.
She glared at him, the black make-up beneath her eyes adding some death to the blades she included in her stare. “Why’d you go along with it? Aren’t you worried he’ll steal your goody-two-shoes girlfriend?”
He snitched another chip, nonplussed. “She’s not my girlfriend. And no, I’m not. Jessica is more likely to cut him off at the knees and leave him bleeding in the street than fall for his line of crap. Kyle can stand a bruise or two.”
Her expression managed to stiffen. “Sounds like you think pretty highly of her.”
He’d think even better of Jessica Saunders if she put the dent in Kyle’s ego Lucas anticipated. “She’s extremely intelligent.”
“I thought you only used that word in front of the bathroom mirror.” She leaned out of the booth, biting her lower lip and whistling sharp enough to break glass. “Vino, I need a JW Black!”
“Sure thing, B. You want anything, buddy?”
“My foot up his ass,” Belinda grumbled, righting herself in her seat.
“Whatever’s on tap. And a steak. Medium-rare.” Lucas shrugged off his brief irritation. Vino never remembered him. Almost no one remembered Lucas, no matter how many times he went anywhere. He must have come to Vino’s with Belle and Kyle more than a hundred times over the years. Still, he was a general “buddy”.
“What was your plan tonight?” he asked, meeting her deadpan stare. “Romantic dinner, seductive conversation and then the rest of the night at your loft?” He tried not to sound bitter. He had no right to be jealous or care who she took to her bed, but the thought of her with Kyle soured his blood.
Belinda wasn’t amused. “So what if it was? It’s not any business of yours.”
It wasn’t, but he still had to force his hand not to crush the chip. Hell, he had to force himself not to grab the table and fling it through the crowd to crash satisfyingly on the street in a rain of glass. She ought to be damn grateful he had that kind of control, but she wasn’t. She never was.
She leaned forward, a predatory gleam in her dark eyes, her body curving over the flat edge of the table while she set her hand over his. “Maybe it should be.”
She always had to push a little harder, take him that much closer to the edge.
tell you what sick little games I had in mind for Kyle.”
Only then, when the whole world knew he was miserable, was she ever satisfied.
“You know, since you’re so goddamned interested.”
The back of his hand burned under hers. She never touched him. It was a rule, with exception only to boxing his ears from time to time. Heat shot up his arm, warming his blood and shocking his heart into a breakneck pace. He pulled back, but she was strong from her daily hours of bending metal to her artistic whims. He proved no less susceptible to her power.
“I was thinking he and I would go back to my place and see how many square feet two people can sweat on in one night.” She dragged his hand closer, her black-nailed fingers pulling him across the table until he was half standing and she was grasping his coat lapels so she could rasp her sex-laden voice in his ear. “There are special swings hanging all over the place. Handcuffs and black leather wristbands on the headboard. I’ve got pillows everywhere. Satin ones. Red with those little black bows you like so much. You know, the ones that get you so hard you can barely walk.”
Damn her. He could feel her breast on his arm. A coat and a long-sleeved shirt had nothing on the round little pebble or her warm breath on his cheek. And she
to bring up that bow.
“You should see it, Lucas. It’s a candlelit friggin’ wonderland. A perfect erotic fantasy built just for
The burst of anger at her words was enough to break him free. He wrapped his hands around her wrists and yanked her loose. “Don’t play with me, Belle.”
Her eyes widened as he gave her a brief shake, which sickened him. Damn it, he hated when she feared him. She must have recognized his remorse because the fear was short-lived.
Fury flared bright in her eyes. “Don’t accuse me of things you know nothing about.”
They stared, a battle of wills because he didn’t want to admit she was right. He
out of line. Probably correct, but still out of line. He let go of her hands and they both slumped back into their respective seats, still staring at each other.
She looked away first. Which meant he got to win…and feel horrible for it. He tried to think up something to say, some way to be as remote from her as he was from everyone else, but that was a secret skill he’d never learned.
“Why do you have to make this so hard?” she asked, her voice a rare fragile whisper. So quiet, so…wounded. As if
were the one who inflicted all the pain in their relationship. Or whatever you could call what they had. “You make
this way and it doesn’t have to be.”
“I wasn’t the one crawling on the table just now.” He looked down at his fists, balled together in front of him. Better to look there than at her. She was angry. Hurt. If he saw it, he’d take the blame. He might deserve it, but damn it, she was cruel with her retribution.
How often were they in this position? How many times over the years had they found themselves arguing over nothing? Unable to connect, unable to separate. Sometimes he wondered if he would be able to take being free of her. What would his life be like, better or worse? All he knew now was how much he loathed this limbo they lived in. Detested how the tables always turned, making him the bad guy. Despised how often he got pinioned into the role, just to keep her fantasies alive.