Authors: J. S. Scott
ALSO BY J.S. SCOTT
The Billionaire’s Christmas
(A Sinclair Novella)
No Ordinary Billionaire
The Forbidden Billionaire
The Billionaire’s Touch
The Billionaire’s Obsession
Mine for Tonight
Mine for Now
Heart of the Billionaire
The Billionaire’s Salvation
The Billionaire’s Game
The Walker Brothers
The Sentinel Demons
A Dangerous Bargain
A Dangerous Hunger
A Dangerous Fury
Big Girls and Bad Boys
The Curve Ball
The Beast Loves Curves
Curves by Design
The Pleasure of His Punishment: Stories
The Changeling Encounters
Mate of the Werewolf
The Dangers of Adopting a Werewolf
All I Want for Christmas is a Werewolf
The Vampire Coalition
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2016 J.S. SCOTT
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Montlake Romance, Seattle
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Montlake Romance are trademarks of
, Inc., or its affiliates.
Cover design by Laura Klynstra
Cover photography by Laura Klynstra
I think there has been a time in almost everyone’s life where they’ve experienced too many tragedies or disappointments in too short of a length of time. Or maybe losses so grave that it knocks them so far down that they don’t feel like they can ever get up again. Our lives are full of highs and lows, but sometimes there are those really seemingly hopeless periods of time that seem almost impossible to overcome, when it feels like one more blow will destroy you completely.
For anyone who has had to overcome one of those very dark, lonely, painful times, this book is for you.
Tessa Sullivan rushed out of the fancy Boston restaurant, her vision blurred with unshed tears. She was so gutted that she stepped off the curb distractedly, startled when a strong, masculine hand grabbed her arm.
Her head jerked around and she tilted her chin to look up—way up—at a man she’d never seen before.
“The traffic is busy tonight, and I was afraid you were going to keep walking. You look like you’re in another place. It’s hard to believe you didn’t hear the traffic. You must be really distracted. I hope I didn’t scare you. I’m sorry.”
have kept walking if he hadn’t detained her. Her brain was so muddled, her world so silent that she couldn’t hear the cars. “Thank you,” she said quietly. “I’m deaf.”
He was tall, broad, and he definitely had the “bad boy” look going on. But when he grinned at her, Tessa had a difficult time not smiling back. For as tough as he looked on the exterior, his eyes were kind.
“You read lips?” He let go of her arm slowly. She nodded as she took in his black leather jacket and the baseball cap he was wearing. She guessed he was a few years older than she was, but it was hard to really tell. There was spiky, dark hair escaping his hat, and his eyes were the color of milk chocolate and seemed very kind, which for her made him highly likable, since those eyes held an empathy and warmth that was more than welcome at the moment.
“You need a ride? My car is right across the street.” He waved his arm at a limo sitting directly across from them.
She shook her head vigorously. “My fiancé’s car—” She caught herself, her voice shaky. “I mean my
-fiancé’s car is here somewhere.”
“You just broke up,” the stranger guessed, his smile fading.
“Yes.” She thought better about confessing her problems to a stranger and corrected herself. “No.”
Then she looked into the eyes of her rescuer and wondered why she cared about telling anybody the truth. She had nothing to lose anymore. “Yes,” she murmured sadly. “I’m sorry. I guess since it just happened, I’m not quite used to admitting I got dumped.”
The big man took her hand. “No reason to ride with an asshole. Come with me.”
Tessa let herself be led across the street before she had a chance to tell him that Rick wasn’t going with her. A driver hopped out and opened the limo door for her as her mystery man jumped in on the other side.
Looking around frantically, she couldn’t see Rick’s car and driver anywhere. She hesitated like any normal woman would do when a stranger offers her a ride, but she was beyond being cautious. The guy had a driver as a chaperone, and she was fairly certain serial killers didn’t ride in limos, at least not when they were going to commit a crime.
Tessa was still deciding what to do when a group of women across the street started to wave frantically at the car. It was obvious that they were screaming, trying to get the passenger’s attention, but Tessa had no idea why.
Mr. Bad Boy
leveraged his body across the backseat and stuck his head out the door so she could read his lips. “Get in or we’re going to get mobbed. I’m recognizable, and I really don’t want anybody to get hurt. Please.”
His look was so persuasive and urgent that she jumped into the car without another thought, the driver hurrying to close her door and get the car in motion before the women could cross the busy street and descend on them.
The man turned on the light in the back of the limo. “We made it.” The cap came off his head quickly and he raked his hands through his short, dark, spiky hair. After he discarded the jacket, too, he reclined back on the seat, still angled toward her.
Tessa couldn’t help but be slightly amused by the relieved look on his face. “Your fan club?” she questioned teasingly.
“Actually, yeah. A few of them, anyway.” He looked at her curiously. “You still don’t recognize me?”
He was wearing a T-shirt, and she could see now that he had some very ornate tattoos on his biceps. She generally didn’t care for tats on a guy, but somehow they suited him, and they weren’t done up to the point of overkill. “No. I really don’t. Should I?”
“My name is Xander. I’m a musician. We’re performing here in Boston tomorrow night to a sold-out crowd. Our first album sold millions. I’m working on our next one.”
Tessa pointed at her ear. “Deaf. Remember? I don’t keep up with the music trends much. Besides, I’m a classical-music kind of woman.”
“How do you know I’m not a classical artist?” he retorted.
She looked him up and down a few times. “Okay. Maybe I’m stereotyping, but you look like a rocker. I’m sorry. Do you perform classical? If you do, I’m not familiar with your work.” As an afterthought, she told him, “My name is Tessa, by the way.” She was a little surprised that he didn’t recognize her, either, but the two of them were obviously worlds apart.
He grinned mischievously. “Hell, no. I like all types of music, but I like to rock the house.”
He asked where she wanted to go, and Xander made arrangements with the driver before closing the window between them again.
“So some idiot dumped you tonight, Tessa?” he asked once he had leaned back in his seat again. “Why?”
Before she knew it, Tessa was blurting out the entire story of her and Rick’s breakup, and some of the events leading to the split.
“What an asshole,” Xander commented as she turned into a blubbering idiot. He moved closer and put a comforting hand on her shoulder.
She continued to sob. “He’s right. Things have changed. He signed up for the
, not the
He moved back a little and looked down so she could see his face. “Don’t you fucking dare make excuses for him. When you love somebody, you love the whole person. Losing your hearing shouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference. Yeah. I’d be sad if somebody I loved had something happen to make their life more difficult, but you don’t just fall out of love. I think real love grabs a guy by the balls and never lets him go. Superficial shit shouldn’t matter.”
Tessa wouldn’t exactly call losing one of her important senses superficial, but Xander was validating what she thought love should be. “I think so, too,” she answered softly.
Xander squeezed her shoulder. “He wasn’t the right one. Someday, you’ll grab a man’s nuts and he’ll do anything to keep you.”
Tessa snorted. Xander said whatever he thought in a pretty blunt way, but she was starting to like that about him. Obviously, there were tons of other women in the world who liked him that way, too.
By the time they pulled up in front of Rick’s house, Tessa was feeling more together. Somehow, Xander had made her feel slightly better—in his own unique way.
“Where will you go?” he asked as the car pulled to a stop.
“Home,” she said adamantly. “I think it’s time I find out who I really am.” She needed to find herself again after losing who she really was to be the woman Rick wanted. She was beginning to understand that, somewhere along the way, she’d lost herself.
“Where is home?”
“Amesport, Maine. It’s a small coastal town. My parents still live there.”
Xander shrugged his wide shoulders. “Sounds like as good a place as any to find a good guy.”
She smiled at him. “I need to find myself first.” Impulsively, she leaned over and hugged him.
The friendly embrace wasn’t awkward. In fact, Xander squeezed her tightly before he finally let her go, and Tessa savored the moment of human connection.
“Thank you,” she murmured as the door of the limo opened, the driver standing outside waiting for her to get out.
Xander put a detaining hand on her forearm. “Don’t take any shit from anybody, Tessa. Not ever. You’re a beautiful woman. Any guy would be lucky to have you. Remember that. Find out who you are before you choose your next guy. Let him love the real you.”
She nodded, getting teary-eyed as she got her last glimpse of his earnest face, touched that a complete stranger, a rock star, had listened to her woes and helped her, even though he didn’t even know her.
It was enough to almost restore her faith in the goodness of people.
“Good luck with the concert. Keep rocking the houses,” she told him with a sniffle.
“You know it,” he answered with a cocky smirk. “We always do.”
Her heart was just a little bit lighter as she watched the limo leave. It had been a strange encounter, but he’d made an impact on her life when she’d really needed a friendly acquaintance. It had been a positive experience, one of the first she’d had in quite some time, and she knew she’d never forget it.
Her packing didn’t take long. The messaging to her parents wasn’t easy, but when she left the next morning, Tessa found herself looking forward to going home.
She left the key to the mansion and her enormous diamond on Rick’s bedside table.
He had never come home, so she hadn’t needed to see him again.
The cabbie helped her stow her bags, and Tessa never looked back as they headed down the driveway.
She cried all the way to the airport, her fear of an unknown future and her disappointed hopes still tearing her apart. By the time she got to her terminal, she couldn’t weep anymore. Rick had broken her, but after a sleepless night, she realized that she’d get over being thrown aside because she was damaged.
He isn’t worth crying about anymore.
Tessa left Boston behind her and buried her pain, determined to find contentment in the small, quirky coastal town she’d always loved.