Everything for Us Page 1

Author: M. Leighton

Series: The Bad Boys #3

Genres: Romance , New Adult

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ONE

Nash

It’s always the same. The dream starts out with the feeling of a weight being lifted from my arms. That’s how I know what’s coming, that I’ll look down at my feet and see my hands pulling away from the box of supplies I was carrying, the box that now rests on the faded planks of the dock.

I straighten and take my cell phone from my pocket, flicking my thumb over the button that brings the screen to glowing life. I hit the camera app and raise the phone until I see the girl framed perfectly inside the lighted square.

She’s lying on the top deck of a yacht across the way. It’s swaying gently against the dock at the marina. It’s a great boat, but it’s not the boat that I’m interested in. Not at all. I’m interested in the girl. She’s young, she’s blond, and she’s topless.

Her skin is shiny with tanning oil and the sun glints off the firm, round globes of her tits. They’re the perfect handful, the kind that begs to be squeezed until she moans. The breeze picks up and, although it’s warm, her ni**les pucker against it. They’re pouty and pink and they make my dick throb.

Damn, I love the marina!

Someone bumps my shoulder and I lose the girl in my viewfinder. I turn and glare at the old man who’s ambling off down the pier. I bite back the snide comment that’s hanging on the tip of my tongue. Cash wouldn’t bother. He doesn’t hold his tongue for anybody. But I’m not Cash.

Ignoring the old man, I turn back toward the yacht, back toward the topless girl with the great rack. But before I can find her again, something else catches my attention.

There’s a man standing at the end of the walkway, at the edge of the shore. He’s lounging against the back wall of the little shack that sells basic grocery items and gas for the various watercraft that use the marina. He looks casual enough, but there’s something about the way he’s dressed that seems . . . off. He’s wearing slacks. Like, dress slacks. And he’s pulling a thin rectangle out of his pocket. For the most part it looks like a cell phone. Only it’s not. With the magnification of my camera, I can see that it’s just a plain black box with a little red button on top.

I see his thumb slide easily over the button just before something slams into me so hard it knocks me off my feet and into the water behind me.

Then there’s nothing.

I don’t know how many minutes, or hours, or even days have passed when I wake up in the water. I’m floating face up as my head bumps repeatedly against the nubby, barnacle-covered pier.

Achy, I urge my muscles into motion and roll onto my stomach. Stiffly, I ease into a slow swim toward one of the several ladders that dot the length of the dock. I climb, dripping wet, out of the water and look around for whatever caused the loud explosion I heard just before I was thrown into the water.

When I turn toward where my family’s schooner was tethered, I see a cluster of people gathered there. It takes a full thirty seconds for my mind to interpret what I’m seeing—an empty boat slip, pieces of flaming wood peppering the dock, bits of splintered furniture scattered throughout the water. And smoke. Lots of smoke. And whispers, too. And, in the distance, growing closer, sirens.

I come awake from the nightmare with a start, just like I always do. I’m sweating and breathing hard, just like I always am. My face is wet with tears, just like it always is. It’s been so long since I’ve had the dream, I forget how devastated and empty and . . . angry it leaves me feeling.

But now I remember. I remember with perfect clarity. And today, it’s like pouring gasoline onto a raging fire.

I sit up in the bed to catch my breath. My side twinges in pain, reminding me of what happened last night. All of it comes rushing back, further fueling my fury.

Until a small, cool hand touches my shoulder.

I turn to see Marissa sitting up behind me, leaning on her elbow, looking at me through sleepy, sexy blue eyes. Before I can even think about what I’m doing, all the bitterness, all the anger, all the pent-up aggression gets channeled into pure lust. The need to devour something, to lose myself in something overwhelms everything else and I dive in. To her.

Spinning, I roll onto Marissa, pressing her warm body into the mattress. I hear her soft gasp as I crush her lips beneath mine. I swallow it—the sound, the fear, the hesitant desire—taking it in and letting it feed the animal inside me.

My tongue slips easily into her mouth. She tastes sweet, like honey. I push my knee between her thighs and they part, allowing me to settle my h*ps against hers.

It’s not until I push my hand under the edge of her shirt that I realize she’s stiff. I lift my head to look down at her. She’s staring at me with wide, surprised, slightly terrified eyes.

TWO

Marissa

Nash stops kissing me just as I was about to lose myself to him. That would’ve been a disaster.

Wouldn’t it?

I hold my breath as he stares down at me. Even in the low light, I can see the awareness come back into his black eyes. Something else had hold of him. And something in me liked it, which is totally not like me at all. But, then again, nothing seems to be the same since I was abducted. Why should I expect this to be any different?

I wonder absently if my life will ever be the same again. And if I even want it to be.

I feel slightly bereft when Nash moves off me and flops back onto the bed, flinging his arm over his eyes.

“You should probably stay away from me.” His voice is a low rumble in the quiet darkness.

“I know,” I reply in a moment of bald honesty. And I do know. He’s right. I should stay away from him. But I also know, deep down in some newly unearthed part of me, that I won’t. That I can’t. I’m drawn to him like I’m drawn to water or air. I don’t know why and I’m not entirely comfortable with it, but I’m smart enough and rational enough to admit it, to recognize and to realize that I need to deal with it. The question is: How?

After a few seconds of silence, Nash jerks his arm away from his face and turns his head to glare at me. “Then what the hell are you still doing here?”

I stare into the fiery, furious depths of his eyes and still, despite the danger I know lurks within them, within him, I can’t bring myself to get up and walk away. To distance myself from him. I can’t. Not just yet.

“Because I need you,” I say simply. And I do. To make me feel protected. Safe.

Nash opens his mouth as if he’s going to reply, but no words come out. He just looks at me, looks into me with those cold-and-hot-at-the-same-time eyes of his. They’re so much like Cash’s, like the Nash I thought I knew, but they’re also nothing like them. Nothing like anything I’ve ever seen before.

Seen or felt.

After a long pause, he finally speaks. “I’m trouble.”

“I know.”

Another pause.

“You’ll probably get hurt.”

I gulp. I know it’s true, but hearing the words, out loud, acknowledging them, is something else entirely. “I know,” I admit.

“Then you can’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“I know,” I say again, wondering if I’ve lost my mind as well as my vocabulary.

After a few more seconds of staring at me, Nash turns gingerly onto his unwounded side. “Roll over,” he says gruffly.

I’m not sure why, but I do as he says without asking questions. It makes me pretty certain that yes, I have lost my mind.

On my side, facing away from him, I fold my hands under my cheek. My mind races with questions that have no answers and images that haunt me from the darkness. Just as a sense of panic starts to creep up from my chest and lodge in my throat, Nash drapes his arm over my waist, pulling me toward him, snugging me up into the curve of his body. He does it roughly, almost grudgingly. I don’t get the feeling that he’s giving me comfort so much as giving in and getting some for himself. It’s almost as though he resists the help, the emotion of other people. He’s a loner, stranded on an island of anger and bitterness. He needs rescuing. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Regardless of his motives, the effect is still the same. In fact, the thought that he might need me as much as I feel like I need him intensifies it. Instantly, my mind stills and the panic quiets. That’s the moment I realize that yes, he is trouble. And that no, it won’t keep me away from him. Nothing will.

And I don’t know why.

* * *

When next I open my eyes, I can see streaks of daylight peeking beneath the edge of my curtains. I listen to the sounds around me.

Nash’s breathing is deep and even where it fans the side of my neck. A chill runs through me at the feel of his hard body pressed against my back.

I don’t know what has gotten into me. I’ve never reacted to a man this way. Not even close. And I dated his brother, for God’s sake! But it was nothing like this. This is something more, something wild. Something . . . different.

I hear the click of a door shutting. It sounded like it came from Olivia’s room. One of them must be up.

Olivia.

Guilt washes through me when I think of her. How in the world she could be so kind to me, to risk so much to save me when I’ve treated her so badly, is truly beyond my comprehension. It makes me want to be worthy of that generosity and sincerity, although I doubt I ever could be.

An idea strikes me, so I move slowly away from Nash and slip out of the bed, padding quietly to the kitchen. I’m pleased to see that Olivia kept the fridge stocked while I was gone. Pulling eggs from the cubby inside the door, I open the freezer, too, taking out sausage patties and hash browns and laying it all on the counter. I grab a bowl and three skillets of varying sizes from the cabinet and set them on the stove. Looking proudly at my progress thus far, I push up my sleeves, ready to dig in and make a great breakfast for everyone. I jump, startled, when I hear a throat clear behind me.

I turn around, a big smile in place, fully expecting to see Olivia standing in the doorway. The voltage of the gesture, as well as the sincerity, dims considerably when I see Cash poised there instead.

“What are you doing?”

“Making breakfast,” I respond, trying hard to rid my tone of sarcasm as I turn back to the food. “What’s it look like?”

“You don’t cook,” Cash says flatly.

“It’s never too late to start.” I don’t bother to look at him; I keep my attention focused on the eggs I’m cracking into a mixing bowl.

“You can drop the act, Marissa. It’s just us. You don’t have to pretend for me. You forget, I know you.”

“Maybe you used to know me, as much as two people like us could’ve known each other, but that’s in the past. Things are different now.”

“Oh really?” There’s no doubt he feels that’s completely impossible. And that makes me angry.

I whirl to face him, pointing my whisk like an accusing weapon. “Don’t act like you were any better than me. You lied to everyone in your life, everyone you called a friend or coworker. You used me for my position, to get close to my father, to keep your job at the firm. You were more than happy to do whatever you had to do to achieve your goals. Don’t you dare get all pious and spit your righteous indignation at me. Don’t you forget that I know you, too.”

It only makes me angrier that he looks completely unflustered. “True. But that wasn’t the real me. You never knew the real me. Only the person I let you see, the act I put on for everyone else’s benefit.”

“Judge all you want. Justify your actions all you want. I don’t really care what you think, and I don’t have to prove anything to you. I owe Olivia. As long as I can prove myself to her, I don’t give a damn what you think.”

With that, I turn back to my bowl full of raw eggs, diving in with my whisk and beating the crap out of them.

The thing that makes me angriest is that Cash is right. I don’t deserve a second chance. I don’t deserve anybody’s trust or confidence. They’ve all seen what I was like. I’ve made an impression that I may well never be able to live down.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying. At this point, there are few opinions I actually care about. I’ll just have to focus on those and put the rest out of my mind.

I hear the shuffle of Cash’s bare feet as he leaves the kitchen. They stop at the last minute, so I stop whisking to listen.

“I’m sorry for what happened, Marissa. Not even someone like you deserved to be dragged into the shitstorm of my life.”

I say nothing, just listen to the quiet as he waits for a response, gets none, and then walks away. I try to ignore how his obvious distaste for me stings. I don’t really care what he thinks, but it’s disturbing to think anyone feels that way about me. Was I really that bad?

Before I can start down the horrible road of self-loathing, I hear another voice.

“Ignore him, Marissa.” This time it is Olivia standing in the doorway when I turn. She looks tousled and sleepy and sweet, as always. I’m a little embarrassed that she heard what he said. “He’s like a bear with a thorn in his paw this morning. I don’t know what his problem is.” Her grin is kind. I know she’s trying to excuse his behavior, but somehow that just makes me feel worse. Has she always come to my defense this way? And have I always been this undeserving of it?

My stomach curls into a sick knot. I know the answer to that question.

Yes.

“You don’t have to cover for him, Liv. I can only imagine how hard it would be to believe someone can have a change of heart overnight.”

She eases on into the kitchen and perches on one of the bar stools at the island. “That might be true if something so . . . drastic weren’t involved. But Marissa, you were kidnapped. I mean, you had no idea what was going on, that you were even in danger. None of us did. No one thought you might get hurt. Or grabbed. That’s enough to change anyone’s perspective.”

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