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Gwendolyn Kidd has met the man of her dreams. He’s hot, he’s sexy, and what started as a no-names-exchanged night of passion has blossomed into a year and a half-long pleasure fest. Sure, it’s a little strange that he only appears in her bed at night, but Gwen is so sure he’s the one, she just can’t turn him away…
Hawk Delgado knows more about Gwen than she could ever imagine. She’s gorgeous, headstrong, and skittish about relationships. But Hawk is facing his own demons, demons that keep him from connecting with anyone. Yet when Gwen is drawn into Denver’s lethal underground scene, Hawk’s protective nature comes out full force. The problem is, when Gwen gets a dose of Hawk’s Alpha attitude in the daylight, she’s not so sure he’s the one anymore.
Table of Contents
An Excerpt from Own the Wind
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THE NEXT MORNING I was sitting at my computer in my home office.
I should have been working. I had three deadlines over the next two weeks and I'd barely begun the work. I was a freelance editor. I got paid by the hour and if I didn't work that hour, I didn't get paid. I had a mouth to feed, my own. I had a body to clothe, a body that liked all sorts of clothes, it craved them, so I had to feed the habit or things could get nasty. I had a cosmopolitan addiction, and cosmos didn't come cheap. And I had a house I was fixing up. Therefore, I needed to get paid.
Okay, that wasn't strictly true. I wasn't fixing up my house. My dad did some of the work. My friend Troy did the rest. So I should say that I had a house I was guilting, begging and emotionally blackmailing others into fixing up.
But still, it needed fixing up, and cabinets and tile didn't march from Cabinet and Tile Land into my house and say "We want to live with you, Gwendolyn Kidd, affix us to your walls!"
That only happened in my dreams, of which I had many, most of them daydreams.
Like right then, sitting at my computer, one heel on the seat, my chin to my knee, my eyes staring out the window, I was thinking about my Mystery Man, the Great MM. I was daydreaming about changing our first meeting. Being smarter, funnier and more mysterious. Being more alluring and interesting.
I'd hook him instantly with my rapier wit, my flair for conversation, my ability to discuss politics and world events intelligently. I'd tell my humble stories of expansive charity work all wrapped up with enticing looks that promised a lifetime of mind-blowing orgasms, making him declare his undying love for me.
Or at least tell me his name.
Instead, I was drunk when we met, and definitely not any of that.
I heard my doorbell go, a chime then a clunk and I started out of my elaborate daydream, which was beginning to get good.
I got up and walked through my office into the upstairs hall making a mental note, again, to call Troy and see if he'd fix my doorbell for a six-pack and a homemade pizza. This might mean he'd bring his annoying, whiny, constantly bitching new girlfriend though, so I changed my mind and decided to call my dad.
I got to the bottom of my stairs and walked through my living room, ignoring the state of it, which was decorated in Fix-Up Chic. In other words dust rags, paintbrushes, power tools, not-so-power tools, cans and tubes of practically everything, all of it jumbled and covered in a layer of dust. I made it through the area without my hands going to my head, fingers clenching my hair and mouth screaming, which I counted as progress.
I got to the entryway, which was delineated by two narrow walls both fit with gorgeous stained glass.
Two years ago, that stained glass was my undoing.
Two years ago, approximately six months and two weeks prior to meeting my Mystery Man, I'd walked one single step into this ramble and wreck of a house, saw that stained glass, turned to the Realtor and announced, "I'll take it."
The Realtor's face had lit up.
My father, who hadn't even made it into the house yet, turned his eyes to the heavens. His prayer lasted a long time. His lecture longer.
I still bought the house.
As usual, I should have listened to my dad.
I looked out the narrow side window at the door and saw Darla, my sister's friend, standing out there.
Shit, shit, shit.
I hated Darla and Darla hated me. What the hell was she doing there?
I searched behind her to see if my sister was lurking or perhaps hiding in the shrubbery. I wouldn't put it past Ginger and Darla to jump me, tie me to the staircase and loot my house. In my darker daydreams, this was how Ginger and Darla spent their days. I was convinced this was not far from the truth. No joke.
Darla's eyes came to me at the window. Her face scrunched up, making what could be pretty, if she used a less heavy hand with the black eyeliner and her blush, and if her lip liner wasn't an entirely different shade as her lip gloss, not so pretty.
"I see you!" she shouted.
Then I went to the door because Darla would shout the house down and I liked my neighbors. They didn't need a biker bitch from hell standing on my doorstep and shouting the house down at ten thirty in the morning.
I opened it but not far and moved to stand between it and the jamb, keeping my hand on the handle.
"Hey, Darla," I greeted, trying to sound friendly and pretty pleased with my effort.
"Fuck 'hey,' is Ginger here?" Darla replied.
Totally spent her days looting.
It took effort but I stopped my eyes from rolling.
"No," I answered.
"She's here, you better tell me," she warned then she looked beyond me and shouted, "Ginger! Bitch, if you're in there you better come out here, right fuckin' now!"
"Darla!" I snapped. "Keep your voice down!"
She craned her neck and bounced on her toes, yelling, "Ginger! Ginger, you crazy, stupid bitch! Get your ass out here!"
I shoved out the door, forcing her back and closed it behind me, hissing, "Seriously, Darla, shut up! Ginger isn't here. Ginger is never here. You know that. So shut up and go."
"You shut up," she shot back. "And you get smart. You're helpin' her…" She lifted her hand, pointed her finger at me, thumb extended upward and then she crooked her thumb and made a gunshot noise that puffed out her cheeks and made her lips vibrate. I would have taken a moment to reflect on how good she was with verbal sound effects if the serious as shit look in her eye wasn't scaring the crap out of me.
So, instead of congratulating her on the only real talent I suspected she had, I whispered, "What?"
She dropped her hand, got up on her motorcycle-booted toes so we were eye to eye, and said in a soft, scary voice, "D-e-a-d, dead. You and her, you don't get smart. You get me?"
Then I asked a stupid question because the question was asked often and there was always only one answer. The answer being yes.
"Is Ginger in some kind of trouble?"
Darla stared at me like I had a screw loose. She lifted her hand, did the gun thing with the sound effect, finger pointed at my head. Then she turned around and walked swiftly down my front steps.
I stood on my front porch staring at her. My mind absently noted that she was wearing a tight tank top, an unzipped, black leather motorcycle jacket, a short, frayed jean skirt, the wearing of which was a crime in several states for a variety of reasons—both fashion and decency—black fishnet stockings and motorcycle boots. It was around forty degrees outside. She didn't even have on a scarf.
The rest of my head was caught up with my sister and Darla's sound effect.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
* * *
As I drove, I kept trying to tell myself this was a good plan. Knowing that my first plan, the one where, after Darla left and I went back into my house, I walked directly to the phone and called my father, was the right plan and this plan was garbage.
But my father and his wife, Meredith, had disowned Ginger a while ago. It was approximately ten seconds after they came home from a vacation to Jamaica and lost their happy, island holiday mojo when they saw their daughter. She was on her knees in the living room, her head between the legs of a bare-chested man, his jeans opened, his head lolled on the back of the couch because he was passed out. Ginger was so whacked on whatever she was taking she had no idea her activities were getting her nowhere.
And, incidentally, the living room was a disaster, as was the rest of the house.
As you can probably see from this story, I was loath to bring my father into another situation involving Ginger. Especially since this wasn't the worst story I had, it was just, for Dad and Meredith, the last. They were currently living a carefree, Ginger-free existence and I didn't want to rock that boat.
Therefore, I didn't call Dad.
Instead I thought of Ginger's boyfriend, Dog. Dog was a member of a biker gang and Dog was as rough as they come. But I'd met Dog. I liked Dog. Dog was funny and he liked my sister. She was different around him. Not a lot, but at least she was palatable.
Okay, so Dog was likely a felon. As ironic as it was, he was a good influence on Ginger and those didn't come around very often. As in never. Not in twenty-five years. So, since I was getting the hint from Darla, Ginger's one and only friend, that Ginger's trouble was a little worse than normal, I needed firstly to do something about it. Secondly, since this was Ginger, call in reinforcements or better yet, lay the problem on their door.
I drove to the auto supply store on Broadway and found a spot on the street. Even before I knew Dog, and thus figured out this was probably a front for a biker gang's nefarious dealings, I knew about this store.
It was called Ride, and I'd shopped there mainly because I could find an excuse for shopping anywhere. But Ride was awesome. It had cool stuff in there. I bought my windshield wiper fluid there. I bought new car mats there last year and they were the bomb, supreme car mats, the best I'd ever had. And when I was in my twenties and going through one of my many phases, in an effort to pimp my ride, I went there and bought a fluffy, pink steering wheel cover and a glittery, pink Playboy Bunny thingie to hang from my rearview mirror.
Everyone knew Ride had a triple-bayed garage in the back but it wasn't for normal cars and motorcycles. It was for custom-built cars and motorcycles, and it was world famous. They built cars and bikes and they were extremely cool. I'd read an article in 5280 magazine about the place. Movie stars and celebrities bought cars and bikes from there and, from the pictures, I could see why. I wanted one but I didn't have hundreds of thousands of dollars so that was a bit down on my List of Things I Want, right under a Tiffany's diamond bracelet, which was directly under a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes.
I got out of my car and walked down the sidewalk to Ride hoping my outfit was okay. I'd put my hair in a girlie ponytail at the top back of my head, I was wearing low-rider jeans, low-heeled boots and my biker jacket. Mine wasn't like Darla's. It was a distressed tan leather, had a bit of quilting around the high waist, was lined with short, warm fur and had a six-inch tuft of fluffy fur at the sleeves. I thought it was hot and the deal I got on it was hotter. However, I wasn't sure about the fluffy fur. I didn't think bikers were concerned with animal rights. I thought they'd think it was an affront to their brotherhood and they might garrote me.
Welp! Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I straightened my shoulders, walked into the cavernous store and turned direct to the long counter at the front. It held one cash register even though sometimes the place could get packed. Since I didn't have his cell, my intention was to ask if someone there knew how I could get hold of Dog. I didn't expect to see tall, broad, inked-to-the-max, long-blond-haired Dog standing at the other side of the counter. There was one big, rough biker guy on his side of the counter, three on the outside, and all of them turned to me the minute I walked in.
"Hey, Dog," I called on a smile, walking toward him but stopping dead when his eyes sliced to me.
His eyes narrowed and his face didn't get near to hiding the fact that one look at me made him extremely pissed off.
"Do not shit me," he growled. I took the nanosecond before I peed my pants to try to remember the moves I'd learned in the one half-hour self-defense class I took.
When I made no response and didn't move, Dog repeated, "Do not come in here and fuckin' shit me."
"I'm not shitting you," I told him because, well, I wasn't.
His brows flew up. "That cunt sent you?"
Uh-oh again. Dog was using the c-word. I suspected that the c-word wasn't worda non grata in Biker Club Land like it was in the rest of the English-speaking world but still, it said a lot.
Before I could speak, Dog did. "She sent you. Jesus, Gwen. You got one warning, woman. Get your head outta your ass, turn that sweet tail a' yours and get… outta… here."
Wow. Dog thought I had a sweet tail. He was scaring me but he wasn't entirely unattractive so I thought that was kind of nice.
I focused on the matter at hand, took a deep breath and walked forward. All of the bikers went on alert or, more accurately, scary biker guy alert, so I stopped moving.
Then I said to Dog, "Ginger didn't send me."
"I'm bein' cool with you, babe, go," Dog replied.
"No, really, she didn't. Darla came around this morning and she freaked me out. She did this." I lifted my hand up and did the gun thing with the sound effect thing and my gun blast was nowhere near as good as hers but I forged ahead. "She seemed serious so I thought I'd check in with you, make sure Ginger is all right."
"Ginger is not all right," Dog returned instantly. "Ginger is far from all right."
I closed my eyes. Then I sighed. I did the sigh thing loudly. I was good at that since my sister made me sigh a lot and I had practice. Then I opened my eyes.
"I take it you two aren't together anymore," I surmised.
"No, babe, we are not," Dog confirmed.
"What'd she do now?" I asked.
"You don't wanna know," Dog answered.
"Are the police after her?"
I studied him. Then I asked, "But that's not why she's in trouble?"
"Ginger's got all kinds 'a trouble, babe. But if the cops are after her, that's the least of her worries."
"Oh boy," I whispered.
"That's about right," Dog remarked then his eyes shifted over my shoulder.
I was turning to see what he was looking at when I heard a deep, gravelly voice ask, "Who's this?"
Then I saw him.
I wasn't into biker dudes but I could seriously make a turn to the Harley side for this guy.
He was tallish. He was broad and ripped and there was no "ish" about either of those. He had a lot of tattoos up his arms and neck that I instantly wanted to examine, up close, to the point of cataloguing them and maybe writing books about them. He had salt-and-pepper hair, mainly pepper, black pepper, and it was long with a bit of wave but not too long or too wavy. Ditto with the pepper in his salt-and-pepper goatee that hung a bit long at his chin in a biker way that was mammoth cool. His cheeks were a couple days' past needing a shave, which looked good on him too. He had spikes of pale radiating in the tan skin around his blue eyes.
There were only two words to describe all that was him: Biker Yummy.
"Hey," I whispered, and his eyes went from over my shoulder, looking at Dog, to me and my whole body did a shiver.
Then his blue eyes did a body scan and it shivered again.
They locked on mine and his gravelly voice growled, "Hey."
"Tack, she's cool. She's with me," Dog stated. My body did a lurch and I turned to see he was around the counter and heading my way.
"I am?" I asked, and Dog's gaze pinned me to the spot and said without words, "Shut the fuck up!"
I shut the fuck up and turned back to Biker Hottie.
"Sheila know about her?" Biker Hottie asked.
I turned to look at Dog who was standing next to me. "Sheila?"
"How many bitches you need?" Biker Hottie went on.
"She's not my woman, brother, she's a friend. She's cool," Dog answered.
"All right. So who is she?" Biker Hottie, otherwise known as Tack, pushed.
"Her name's Gwen," Dog answered. Tack looked at me and I froze.
Then I watched his lips move to form my name softly.
I'd always kind of liked my name. I always thought it was pretty. Tack saying it made me freaking love it.
"So who are you, Gwen?" he asked me directly.
"I'm, um… a friend of Dog's," I told him.
"We established that, darlin'," he informed me. "How do you know my boy here?"
"She's Ginger's sister," Dog said quickly. Tack's entire, powerfully built frame went wired instantly and it was so damned scary, I forgot how to breathe.
"Tell me she's here to drop the money, brother," Tack whispered in a voice that was as scary as the way he was holding his body, if not more.
"She and Ginger aren't tight," Dog explained. "Like I said, she's cool. She's good people."
"She's blood of the enemy, Dog," Tack whispered.
I didn't want to be blood of the enemy, not anyone's enemy, but especially not this guy's enemy. He was hot but he was also freaking scary.
Time to sort things out pronto.
I pulled my purse off my shoulder and tugged it open, muttering, "Ginger. A pain in my ass. A pain in my ass since the day she cut off all the hair on my Barbies. She was three. I was too old for Barbies but they were mine. She couldn't leave them alone? What's with cutting their hair?" I looked up at Dog and said, "I think that's what psychos do. We should have known then. She's three, wielding scissors and causing mayhem and heartbreak." I kept blabbing as I dug in my purse, found my checkbook and then kept scrounging for a pen declaring, "She was always, always a bad seed."
I yanked out my checkbook, flipped it open, clicked my pen smartly, put the point to the check and looked at Tack.
"All right, how much does she owe you?" I asked irately, not happy to be bailing Ginger out again, especially when money and angry bikers were involved.
It was at this point I noted that Tack was staring down at me and he wasn't being scary anymore. He was looking like he wanted to laugh. It was a good look.
I didn't want to see his good looks, not his expressions or the rest of it all over his face (and hair and tats and body). I wanted to go home, whip up a batch of cookie dough, and eat it. All.
"Well?" I snapped.
"Two million, three hundred and fifty-seven thousand, one hundred and seven dollars," Tack answered. I felt my jaw go slack and his white flash of a smile surrounded by his dark goatee dazedly hit some recess of my brain. He finished with, "And twelve cents."
"Oh my God," I whispered.
Tack was still smiling when he dipped his head to my checkbook. "Think you can get that on one line, Peaches?"
"Oh my God," I repeated.
"You need mouth-to-mouth?" Tack asked, leaning in. I took a step back, clamped my mouth shut and shook my head. "Shame," he muttered, leaning back.
"My sister owes you over two million dollars?" I whispered.
"Yep," Tack replied.
"Over two million dollars?" I repeated, just to confirm.
"Yep," Tack confirmed.
"You haven't made an accountancy error?" I asked hopefully.
Tack's smile got wider and whiter. Then he crossed his big, tattooed arms on his wide, ripped chest and shook his head.
"Perhaps this is foreign currency and you forgot. Pesos, maybe?" I suggested.
"Nope," Tack returned.
"I don't have that kind of money." I told him something I was guessing he already knew.
"Sweet jacket, Peaches, but I was guessin' that," he replied.
Well, the good news was, the tufts of fur didn't turn him off. The bad news was, my sister owed him over two million dollars.
"I think it'll take me a while to raise that kind of cash," I explained then finished, "maybe eternity."
"Don't got eternity to wait, darlin'," he responded, still grinning so huge, if he burst out laughing it would not surprise me.
"I figured," I muttered, clicked my pen, snapped shut my checkbook, shoved both in my purse and lost my mind.
I mean, I had reason to lose my mind and that reason had a name.
Ginger Penelope Kidd.
I looked up at Dog and demanded to know, "Why me? Why? Just innocently being born and seven years later, zap! God curses me with the sister from hell. Is it too much to ask for a sister who giggles with you and trades makeup secrets? Is it too much to ask for a sister who finds a great sale, calls you immediately but peruses the racks to stash great deals she knows would look hot on you, so you'll get a shot at them before anyone nabs them? Is it too much to ask for a sister who'll come over and watch the new Hawaii Five-0 with you so you can both perv on Steve McGarrett and wish you had a Camaro? Is it? Is it?" I ended on a shout.
"Gwen, babe, think you should calm down," Dog muttered, and I could swear I could read on his face that he was wondering if he should knock me out for my own good.
"Calm?" I yelled. "Calm?" I yelled again. "She owes you guys over two million dollars. She cut the hair off my Barbies. She stole the lavalier my grandmother gave me on her deathbed and pawned it to buy pot. She got drunk and stuck her hand down my boyfriend's pants at Thanksgiving dinner. He was straightlaced, went to church and, after Ginger's antics… the hand down the pants was only the culmination, he caught her snorting coke in the bathroom too… he thought my family was insane, possibly criminally insane, and he broke up with me a week later. He might have been straightlaced and, looking back, probably boring but at the time I liked him!" Now I was shrieking. "He was my boyfriend!"
"Peaches," Tack called, and my body swung to him to see he'd moved into my space.
I tipped my head back and snapped, "What?"
His hand came up, fingers curling around my neck, then he dipped his face into mine and whispered, "Baby, calm down."
I stared close up into his blue eyes and instantly calmed down.
"Okey dokey," I whispered back.
His eyes smiled.
My body shivered.
With his hand at my neck, I knew he felt it and I knew it more when his fingers curled deeper into my flesh. Something flashed in his eyes that made me shiver someplace he couldn't see but I could feel. A lot.
Time to go.
"I could probably sell plasma and a kidney but I don't even think that will get me enough money, so, um, can I just leave my sister to deal with this?" I asked politely, wanting to move from the strength of his hand but scared to do it.
"No one takes a blade to you for Ginger," he said quietly.
"Okay," I replied.
"Or at all," he kept going.
"Um…" I mumbled. "Okay." I said this because I didn't want anyone to take a blade to me for Ginger or at all and I didn't want that in a big way.
His fingers curved deeper into my neck and he pulled me up a bit so I was almost on my toes and his face was closer. Way closer. Too close. Shiver close.
"I don't think you get what I'm sayin' to you." He was still talking quietly. "This Ginger shit heats up, you get on radar, you mention my name, yeah?"
Oh no. This didn't sound good. This sounded worse than owing a biker gang two million dollars. And I suspected there weren't a lot of things worse than that but, if there were, Ginger would find them.
"Um… if you're asking 'yeah?' as in 'Yeah, I get you,' then no, I don't get you," I told him honestly because I was thinking with Tack honesty was the best policy.
"All right, Peaches, what I'm sayin' is, you get in a situation, you mention my name. That means protection. Now do you get me?"
"Um… kind of," I answered. "But why would I get in a situation?"
"Your sister has shit where she lived, she's shit where she didn't live, she's shit everywhere. You walked in here and had no clue. Don't bumble into another situation because others…" he paused, "… they might not find you cute like I do."
"Okay," I whispered, liking that he found me cute at the same time regretting my decision not to call my father or, say, get on a plane and fly to France. "If I um… have to use your name… um, what does that mean?"
"It means you owe me."
"Owe you what?"
He grinned but didn't answer.
"Owe you what?" I repeated.
"I gotta get on my bike and get you out of a situation, we'll talk about it then."
"I'm sure I'll be fine," I assured him and said a short prayer in hopes of making that true.
His grin got bigger.
Then he let me go but slid my purse off my arm and before I could make a peep, he dug into it. I decided to let him have at it. He'd already touched me and I wasn't certain I wanted that to happen again. I wasn't certain what my response would be but I was certain that jumping his bones was high up on the list of possibles. I also figured he could best me in a fight for my purse so I was going to let him take what he wanted. My best lip gloss was in that purse but at that point, if he wanted it to give to one of his bitches, I was willing to let it go.
He came out with my cell, flipped it open, his thumb hit buttons, he flipped it closed, dropped it into my purse, then slid it back on my arm.
"You got my number, darlin'. You need it, use it. You don't need it, you still wanna use it, don't hesitate. Now, do you get that?"
I hitched my purse further up on my shoulder and nodded. I got that. He thought I was cute.
I fought back another shiver.
"Nice t'meet ya, Gwen," he said softly.
"Yeah," I whispered, "later." Then I turned to see Dog grinning down at me and I said, "Later."
"Later, babe," Dog replied in a way that made it sound like he'd actually see me later, which made me have to fight back another shiver.
I turned to the silent biker boys behind me, saw them all smiling, found this scarier than them being scary, lifted a hand and called, "Later."
I got a bunch of chin lifts and one "Later, darlin'."
Then I got the hell out of there.
I Keep Tabs
I DROVE HOME with a lot on my mind.
First and foremost, my sister and why I didn't disown her like my father and Meredith had. She wasn't even my full sister. She was my half sister. I'd never found her in my living room giving an unconscious man a blowjob, but she'd done worse to me. Way worse, so, seriously, I should just give it up and let it go.
In a cruel twist of fate, my father married my mother, who was a wild child, then he got married to an angel and they'd created a hell child.
Mom had left when I was three but she came back occasionally, and when she did we had fun. I didn't remember much but I remembered she was a blast. She wasn't about rules or discipline; she was about sticky food that made a lot of mess, fun places and good times.
That was until one visit, while she had me for the weekend, she met a guy she liked and she liked him a lot. She took him back to her hotel, gave me a bunch of candy and sent me outside to sit and wait for her to call me back in.
- "Ashley delivers a deeply emotional second installment of the Chaos contemporary romance series (after Own the Wind)... Punctuated by blistering-hot sex scenes and fascinating glimpses into the tough world of motorcycle clubs, this romance also delivers true heart and emotion, and a story that will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned."—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review, on Fire Inside
- "[Kristen] Ashley captivates."—Publisher's Weekly
- "With Brock's raw side contrasted with Tess's innocence, Wild Man delivers a passionate, opposites-attract romance."—Patricia Smith, Booklist
- "There is something about them [Ashley's books] that I find crackalicious."—Kati Brown, DearAuthor.com
- "I felt all of the rushes, the adrenaline surges, the anger spikes... my heart pumping in fury. My eyes tearing up when my heart (I mean... her heart) would break." (On Motorcycle Man)—Maryse's Book Blog, Maryse.net
- On Sale
- Aug 27, 2013
- Page Count
- 528 pages