Ex Marks The Perfect Spot

July 26, 2022 – Wilde Ways – Wilde Ways, Book 16

He can’t be the hero.

One moment, Chelsea Ember is sitting on a gorgeous, tropical island and sipping a cute drink, but in the next instant, she’s being tossed in the back of a van and spirited away. She’s terrified, desperate, and sure that she will never see her family again…then he rushes to her rescue. Her ex. Her gorgeous, hyper-controlled, heartbreaker of a former lover, Colt Easton.

He isn’t the lover she remembers…

Suddenly he’s knocking out bad guys and showing a dangerously brutal edge that she never expected. He’s fierce, vicious with the enemy, and there is no sign of the polished and cool businessman she knew before. But the attraction she felt for him since the very beginning—that scorching, consuming desire—is still there. Even if Colt does seem to be a complete stranger.

Trapped in paradise, all their secrets will be exposed.

Colt met Chelsea while he was working undercover. She never had an opportunity to get to know the real man beneath his mask, and he’s tracked her down because he wants a second chance with the woman he can’t get out of his head. When Chelsea is taken, he knows a boring, good guy won’t be able to help her. But the real Colt can. Time for Chelsea to see just how wild he can be.

A lot can happen on a hot island night.

Danger stalks Chelsea from every turn. And her best bet of getting off the island alive? Her ex, the most unlikely hero ever. A man who is proving to be a complete badass as they trek through the heart of the island and dodge the foes on their trial. He’s savage, rough, and definitely not a civilized gentleman, but Colt is exactly what she needs in order to stay alive. As they fight to survive, Chelsea realizes that she might just be in danger of falling for him all over again…

Author’s Note: When you’re trapped in paradise, you need just the right hero to help save the day. Sometimes, the “right” hero is dangerous and deceptive, and he’s also down to do anything to protect the woman he wants. Prepare for some hot island fun and for two lovers who are about to scorch the tropical night with their passion. A second chance, a lover in disguise, twisting secrets, and some edgy danger are inside EX MARKS THE PERFECT SPOT.

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Chelsea Ember shifted in her seat and sent an apologetic smile to the hovering waiter. “I’m sure he’ll be here any minute,” she said. A statement she’d already given five other times.

The waiter didn’t look convinced. Probably because he thought she’d been stood up. Chelsea felt red stain her cheeks. This wasn’t the first time that her date had kept her waiting. In fact, Colt Easton was starting to make her feel way too much like Lois Lane. Always sitting around, waiting for Clark to show up. But Clark had been a superhero, out saving the day.

Colt was an accountant.

And he was twenty minutes late. Again.

Sighing, Chelsea started to stand—

“So sorry.” Colt appeared in front of her. Tall and crazily muscled for a man who spent so much time behind a desk. His skin was a sun-kissed gold, and his apologetic grin held mega wattage as he inclined his head toward her. “Work was killer.”

She sent the waiter a quick, See-I’m-not-alone glance, then quickly refocused on Colt. “It’s okay.” But it wasn’t. An ache had lodged beneath her heart. He had been late for most of their dates. And she honestly did not know why she was putting up with—

“You look beautiful.” His lips took hers.

A surge of electricity coursed through her body.

Oh, yes. Right. This would be the reason I put up with his lateness. The man could kiss—she was talking serious talent. He could have her toes curling and her body aching with just a touch of his lips. He kissed with clever, passionate skill. Always controlled, always restrained, but Chelsea swore she could feel a fire blazing beneath his surface.

A fire she wanted to break free.

He slowly eased away. Stared at her with his deep, bold gaze. Brown, with flecks of gold. Such an intense gaze behind the lenses of his glasses. One that seemed to promise…

Passion. Pleasure.

And, okay, fine, with the glasses he did kind of give her a Clark Kent vibe but…

Colt eased into the chair across from her. He issued a quick drink order to the waiter, then eased back to stare at her. As always when Colt’s stare lingered on her, Chelsea felt a surge of nervousness. Weird. Her date shouldn’t make her nervous, and honestly, it was more a sense of being on edge than actual nerves. It was more like she was being—


No, that was crazy, that was—

“I have something to tell you,” Colt announced in his deep, rumbly voice.

She licked her lips. “I have something to tell you, too.” Tonight is the night. The night they crossed the line. The night she finally went past just a few kisses—kisses that made her need cold showers and that had her fantasizing about him touching her—everywhere. Dreaming about him taking her. Touches that had her waking up in tangled sheets and wanting him. “Tonight, I want us to—”

“Tonight, I have to leave town,” he said at the same time.

She blinked. Tilted her head. “Excuse me?”

“I can’t stay for dinner.”

Her heart hit her stomach. Uh, then why did you show up?

“I wanted to see you. Needed to tell you in person…” His gaze drifted over her face. Heated. “Such a fucking tangled mess.”

“Excuse me?” Chelsea queried again. It sort of seemed like that was the only thing she was capable of saying in that moment. She swallowed, twice.

His hard jaw—lined by the most careful edge of stubble—clenched. “I’m being called away on business. There’s an emergency, and I have to leave immediately.”

Her body had gone completely still. “An emergency?” At least she hadn’t said ‘excuse me’ again.

A jerky nod.

“An…accounting emergency?” Just to be clear. He was leaving her—leaving right this instant, rushing away from their big date—for an accounting emergency. It wasn’t even tax season.

His gaze shot away. “Yes.”

You are lying to me. “I see.” She could feel the burn in her cheeks. “And when will you get back?”

“I…” He ran a hand over his face. “Things are complicated.”

No, they aren’t. In fact, she thought things might be crystal clear. He’s lying, and he’s ditching me.

The pain inside surprised her with its sharp edge. Sort of like a knife stab.

So much for finding a good guy. So much for the silly dreams she’d started to spin about Colt. Talk about feeling foolish. When they’d first met, she’d been almost spellbound by him. When she’d looked into his eyes, she’d experienced such an odd sense of safety. There had just been something that told her she could count on him. That he wouldn’t let her down.

And she’d wanted him. The kind of instant, panty-melting attraction that you read about in books or saw in movies, but when it came to real life? Nope. When it came to real life, she’d never instantly gotten hot for someone. Until him. Only—

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Apparently, she was a shit judge of character. I will not be fooled by any other intense brown eyes. No more soulful stares.

And to think, she’d worn her sexiest underwear for him. Total waste. Anger bubbled and began to cover the pain inside.

“I’m not sure when I’ll be coming back,” he added, a little roughly. “But I will be back for you, I swear it.” His soulful eyes were in full believe-me mode.

“Oh, don’t do that.” She pulled some cash from her bag. That would cover her drink and a tip for the waiter who was surreptitiously watching from close by. “Don’t go making a promise that you don’t need to keep.” Chelsea pasted a smile on her face. It might not hold his mega wattage, but it was good enough.

Colt’s gaze darted to her smile, then back up to meet her eyes. “What’s happening?”

“Not the amazing sex I had originally put on the agenda, that’s for sure.”

The waiter dropped the drink he’d been carrying. Yep, he’d definitely been listening. Chelsea lifted her chin. “That’s off the table, obviously. Your loss, by the way. Because I had such amazing, mind-blowing plans.” Okay. Lie on her part, but so what? Not like he’d ever be finding out. She’d planned for sex. Not exactly big, swinging-from-the-chandelier acrobatic acts, but she’d had high hopes that they’d both leave the night feeling satisfied.


A muscle flexed in Colt’s jaw. “Chelsea…”

“There is no accounting job out of town.” She was certain of it.

“Things are complicated.

Oh, God. “Are you married?” Low. Accusing. “I do not get involved with married men. Not ever and—”

“There is no one else. Only you.”

“Only me.” She paused. “And the lies you tell me.”

His lips pressed together. Colt didn’t deny lying.

Her stomach dipped and twisted. She’d wanted a denial. A denial would have been amazing. But…He was simply staring at her. Behind the lenses of his glasses, his dark gaze seemed to have gone ice cold. She almost seemed to be looking at a stranger.

Oh, wait. I am. “Goodbye, Colt.” Chelsea rose. Stood a little unsteadily on her two-inch heels. Again, she’d been going for sexy by wearing them. So much for that plan.

She took a step forward.

His hand flew out and curled around her wrist. “I will be back.” A growl.

Chelsea looked down at his hand. Despite everything, his touch sent awareness and arousal careening through her. It was unnatural to want someone so much. Especially since she now understood he was a man she could not trust. “I will not be waiting.” She pulled free…

And walked away.

Since she didn’t look back, he never saw the tear that streaked down her cheek.

Maybe she should make a new dating rule. From here on out, no more nice guys. Nice guys just broke your heart. She’d only date badasses. At least with them, you could get one hell of a wild ride out of the arrangement.

Chapter One

The waves crashed into the shore. The ocean breeze slid lightly over her face, and Chelsea stretched a bit on her lounge chair as she soaked in the sun and—

A man—large and muscled—moved to stand in front of her. His broad back was to her as he peered out at the roaring waves.

Frowning, Chelsea sat up. She waited a bit for the man to move along. To be on his merry way and not in her space. The minutes ticked past. His dark hair blew in the breeze.

He didn’t move along. And there was something familiar about him…

She pushed her sunglasses up a bit higher on her nose. “Excuse me,” she said, voice polite, “but you are in my sun, and I—”

He turned toward her.

Her words stopped.

He was definitely familiar.

Chelsea shook her head. “No.” Not happening. Not possible. Not real. She must be dreaming. Or having a nightmare. Maybe even a hallucination? Had she been out in the sun that long?

“Hey, sweetheart.” He smiled at her. The gorgeous smile that somehow still slipped into her dreams. He wore sunglasses to shield his gaze. Dark swim trunks that showed off his toned and seriously muscled body. And he was—

“No.” The one word that she kept saying. “You aren’t here.”

He couldn’t be there. She’d just escaped to the most amazing tropical paradise in the world. A small island in the Caribbean that promised hours of fun and relaxation. She was far, far away from her life in Atlanta. This could not be happening. He could not be there.

Her ex, Colt Easton, could not be standing on the beach in front of her. Blocking her view and her sun. And bringing her amazing vacation plans crashing to a screeching halt.

“Surprise,” he said.

She shot out of the chaise lounge chair. Nearly fell into the sand but righted herself quickly. “You were not in the brochure.”

A faint furrow appeared between his brows, sliding up over the edge of his sunglasses. “What brochure?”

“The one I was given at the check-in desk. The one that said this place was supposed to be paradise. I was promised massages, free drinks at sunset, and all-you-can-eat buffets.” She whipped out her cover up and pulled it over her body because she did not want to have a face-off with him in a bikini. “Nowhere did it say anything about having to see my ex on the beach.”

“Ex on the beach.” A nod. “Isn’t that a drink?”

“No. That’s sex on the beach.”

“I’m down if you are,” he murmured, voice dropping even more and taking on a sensual note.

Chelsea sucked in a breath. “I am not down.” She was not.

Colt stepped closer. Towered over her. Her own reflection stared back at her from the lenses of his sunglasses. “You sure about that? Don’t you remember what it was like between us?” His hand lifted. Slid over her cheek. “I miss kissing you. I miss touching you. I miss—”

She jerked back. “What are you doing here?”

“Told you I’d be back.”

She could only shake her head. “This isn’t Atlanta.”

“Nope. Better view.” He glanced over his shoulder and gazed at the pounding surf and the bright blue water.

Chelsea got a very, very bad feeling. “You did not follow me here.” But her assistant had known where she was going. Had Harvey told Colt?

“I came here for a vacation. Same as you.”

That wasn’t really an answer as to whether or not he’d followed her.

“There are no distractions this time,” Colt told her in the deep and rumbling voice that she would never be able to forget, no matter how hard she tried—and she had tried. Hard. “It’s you and it’s me,” he continued darkly, “and I can finally show you—”

“There is no me and you.” She grabbed her oversized bag. A pair of shorts and a t-shirt nestled in the bottom of the bag, and she shoved her towel and sunscreen inside, too. “Thought that was clear when we broke up in Atlanta. You know, because you kept being late to our dates—or not showing up,” because he’d done that a time or three, “and then suddenly telling me that you had to go out of town.” She’d been left hanging too many times. Didn’t matter how gorgeous the man was or how great of a kisser he could be…

I moved on.

“I want a second chance.”

Oh, no. Her breath stuttered. She shook her head. “Bad idea.”

“Chelsea, things will be different this time. I’m not the same man I was before.”

What was that supposed to mean? She slung her bag over one shoulder. Her gaze swept over him. Lingered for a moment on what looked like truly lickable abs—she was only human, after all. “You look the same to me.” Not exactly the same. Normally, he wore more clothes. Lots more clothes. Business suits. Expensive ties. Polished shoes. She’d never seen him quite like this, and her fingers carefully swiped over her lips to make certain that she wasn’t doing anything embarrassing, like drooling.

How is he so built? Accountants should not look like Thor.

“Chelsea, I want to explain—”

“Oh, there he is.” She picked a man at random. A fellow about twenty yards away, wearing a white t-shirt and blue swim trunks. Almost as big as Colt, but not quite. “On my way!” Chelsea called cheerily as she waved at the stranger.

“What in the hell?” A growl from Colt. “Who is that?”

“My new boyfriend,” she lied without missing a beat. Have to get away. Because where Colt was concerned, she had an unfortunate tendency to be weak. “It’s been two months, Colt.” Two very long months. Not that she’d counted. It was just easy to keep track of time. A natural thing. No big deal. Not like she’d been nursing a broken heart. Or sobbing into her chocolate stash late at night. Nope, not her. “I told you I wasn’t waiting.”

“New. Boyfriend?” Each word was bitten off.

The man in question—the, ah, boyfriend—looked behind him, as if he expected that Chelsea was waving to someone else. She really hoped that Colt didn’t notice that movement. She waved again. Smiled broadly. “Yes. We’re here together, and he is extremely jealous.”

“Know the fucking feeling,” Colt muttered as he glared at the man in the white t-shirt. “I…I didn’t realize you were seeing someone new.”

I didn’t either. Neither did the poor, confused man down the beach. “Enjoy your time on the island,” she said briskly. Then she did what she had to do.

She walked away. And with every step…

OhGod, OhGod…he’d come after her. Was that supposed to be romantic? Stalkery? She did not know. Chelsea just knew that she had to get away because when she was around Colt, she didn’t always think clearly.

Actually, she tended to stop thinking altogether, and she just wanted to jump the man. This is a no-jumping vacation. Get away from him.

Sand kicked up in her wake as she rushed for her “boyfriend” as he waited with a frown on his face.

“Hi,” she said softly when she was finally close enough to be able to talk to the stranger. “Ahem. I had you confused with someone else. My apologies.” Chelsea darted a look over her shoulder. Found Colt staring at her.

A shiver slid over her body because his expression…

“Confuse me with anyone you want,” the stranger invited.

Her head whipped back toward him.

He smiled at her. “Want a drink?”

Um…What she wanted was to get off that beach, but a drink? Yes, she could certainly use one of those. “Sure.” They headed for the bar. Probably looked like a couple as they left, and she figured their walking away together would certainly seal the deal in Colt’s eyes.

One less worry.

Her fake boyfriend—he introduced himself as Brian—ordered her a tropical knockout. Chelsea had no idea just what that might be, but she made polite conversation with Brian while the bartender—a guy dressed in a colorful, Hawaiian shirt—created the lovely concoction. In moments, the bartender slid her a bright blue drink with a cute little umbrella sticking out of the top. Absolutely adorable. If she’d had her phone, she would have snapped a pic of it. But the phone was in her room because she’d been trying to unplug and relax. Cautiously, she sipped the tropical knockout, and wow, the alcohol content was strong. A punch in a pretty package. No wonder it was called a tropical knockout.

She curled her fingers around the drink, thanked him and politely excused herself from Brian, then began her meandering walk back toward her room. It was a walk that took her beneath swaying palm trees and away from the crowd and—

“Not going to cut out on me so soon, are you?”

It was her fake boyfriend. He’d followed her.

She turned to face him. “Ah, I think I got too much sun. I’m heading to my room, but it was nice to meet you, Brian.” A polite dismissal. She had no interest in pursuing anything with Brian.

Especially when all she could think about was her very troubling ex.

Colt is on the island. Probably staying in the hotel. What will I do when I see him again?

Brian put his hands on his hips. “You made me.”

“Made you?” Made him do what? Order the drink? That had been his choice, and the drink had been free, part of the whole happy hour bonus at the hotel so—

“Should have known the minute you showed me to the bastard on the beach.” He heaved out a breath. He didn’t look nearly as friendly any longer. “So much for doing this the easy way.”

Chelsea scampered back a step. “I do not understand what you’re talking about.” But she had a very, very bad feeling in her gut. She extended the drink toward him. “Why don’t you just take this—”

He reached out. But he didn’t grab the drink. He grabbed for her. “The deal was that I take you.

She screamed and threw the drink in his face.


A fucking boyfriend?

Colt jerked on his shirt as he stood on the beach. He’d waited too long. He should have known that a woman like Chelsea would have some asshole sniffing around her.

I used to be said asshole.

From the first moment that he’d seen her, he’d wanted her. He’d broken all of his careful rules to get in her life. But he’d lied to her. He’d been pulled away. He’d have to leave for another case…

I came back for her.

Because there were some things in this world that a man just could not give up. Not without one hell of a fight.

Jealousy burned through him as he left his shirtfront hanging open and started marching back toward the hotel. They’d gone to the bar together. Chelsea and the blond asshole who’d been grinning like a loon at her. What in the hell did she see in that guy?

And has he fucked her?

Colt’s back teeth ground together. This was not the time to beat the shit out of some stranger. This was supposed to be the time to charm Chelsea. To let her get to know the real Colt.

And the real me wants to beat the shit out of—

Chelsea wasn’t at the bar. Neither was the blond jerk. The jealousy inside of Colt flared even hotter and harder. I should have never left her. But it had been a life-or-death mission, and he hadn’t been clear to tell Chelsea what was really going on. Or who he really was. She thought he was some buttoned-up accountant, and he’d tried his best to play that role with her. He’d held onto his control every time they were together when all he’d wanted to do was grab her, push her up against the nearest wall, and take her until she screamed with pleasure.

Hardly civilized. Hardly gentlemanly.

But it’s more like the real me.

He stalked away from the bar. He needed a new game plan, ASAP. Because he had to find a way to get back in Chelsea’s life. He wanted a second chance. He wanted—

“Help!” A wild, desperate scream. One that chilled his blood because it was a familiar voice doing that screaming. It was Chelsea.

He took off running, lunging down a narrow path shaded by twisting palm trees. He kicked a plastic cup and a little umbrella out of his way and barreled around the curving path to see—

Chelsea. Fighting the blond bastard. Fighting him as that SOB shoved her into the back of a van. She tried to lunge away from him, and the guy—

Hit her.

Oh, the fuck, no. A guttural roar broke from Colt even as Chelsea fell back inside the rear of the van. The blond slammed the rear doors, and his head whipped toward Colt.

You are a dead man. Colt raced forward.

The blond surged toward the front of the van. Jumped inside and took off with a screech of the vehicle’s wheels. The scent of burning rubber stung Colt’s nose as he reached for the back of the van—for Chelsea—and his fingers scraped over the surface before it shot away. “No!” A snarl.

The van didn’t slow. If anything, it sped up even more as it zipped away from the hotel.

Someone had just taken Chelsea. Someone had just taken his Chelsea.

That someone had made a fatal mistake.

He immediately ran for the line of cars parked near the hotel’s entrance. A guy was just exiting his vehicle, and he saw Colt charging toward him. A look of alarm flashed on the man’s pale face. Sunscreen slathered across his nose.

“Valet,” Colt snapped. “Park your ride for you?”

“I, uh—”

Colt snatched the keys. “Don’t you worry, I’ll take care of her. Go have a drink. Maybe four.” He jumped into the vehicle. Had that little Jeep growling and rushing away in seconds. He didn’t have any time to lose. Not like he could rush around to the other side of the place and get his own car. He’d lose the van if he stopped to do that shit.

That couldn’t happen. He could not lose Chelsea.

What in the hell was going on? Why would someone take her?

Colt didn’t know, but until he had her back, the tight fist would remain around his heart. He shoved the gas pedal into the floorboard. Hold on, sweetheart. I’m coming.

Fear and fury flooded through him. He didn’t even have a weapon. Sonofabitch. Not like he’d brought his gun to the island with him.

Colt’s gaze darted to the glove box. What were the odds…Hell, he knew they were slim to none. But maybe there was something in there he could use. A screwdriver, perhaps? But when he jerked open the glove box, there wasn’t a damn thing in there.

Sonofabitch. Looked like he’d be doing some serious improvising. Good thing he excelled in that area.

He would do whatever was necessary in order to get Chelsea back.


The van finally stopped. Chelsea’s breath choked out. As soon as she’d felt the vehicle take off, she’d grabbed for the rear doors only to discover that they wouldn’t open. She’d hit every wall in the back of the van, desperately trying to find a way out, but she’d been trapped.

Only we’ve stopped now. She feared that stopping was a bad—extremely bad—sign.

Like being kidnapped in the first place was a good sign.

Her frantic gaze darted to the left and the right. She still had her bag with her. It had been slung over one shoulder when that jerk Brian had shoved her into the van. And hit me. Her jaw ached. That asshole had messed with the wrong woman.

She reached inside the bag. Not like there were a ton of weapon options, but she did have a can of spray sunscreen. And as soon as those back doors opened…

She would attack.

Chelsea crouched close to the rear doors. And waited. Every breath sawed in and out. Felt painful.

What is happening? Oh, God, is this some kind of sex slave thing? Is he trying to make me vanish? Is he a serial killer? Is he going to cut me up and—

One of the back doors opened with a creak. Light trickled inside. “I don’t want to have to get physical with you again,” Brian declared as he opened the door wider. “So just do what you’re told and—”

She leapt at him. Sprayed that sunscreen for all she was worth and screamed gutturally.

His scream was even louder than hers as he clawed at his eyes and stumbled back.

Chelsea kept her grip on the sunscreen and her bag, and she hurtled out of that van. She raced past Brian and—

And slammed right into someone else. Another man. Jet-black hair. Piercings in his left ear. Wearing a Hawaiian shirt. A shirt she remembered. He was…

“The bartender?” Chelsea gasped. Yes, yes, this had been the man who made her drink. “You’re partners.” She tried to jerk back, but he held her in an unbreakable grip. Oh, damn. Tropical knockout. Knockout. Had that been some sort of code? It must have been.

There was a whole lot of swearing going on behind her. She risked a glance back and saw that Brian was glaring at her. His very, very bloodshot eyes streamed with tears, courtesy of her sunscreen attack. “You bitch!”

This was bad. Worse than bad. She was trapped between two men who seemed like they were about to hurt her, and it looked like she was in some kind of old, dusty garage and no one else was around and—

“Is that any way to talk to a lady?”

Her jaw almost hit the ground.

And Colt Easton walked out of the shadows.

She shook her head. She was as stunned to see him in that instant as she’d been on the beach. “What are you doing?” she whispered.

“Saving you,” he replied as his hands remained loose at his sides. He still had on his sunglasses. His shorts. An unbuttoned shirt. He was even wearing flip flops. This did not look like a man who was there to save the day.

Well, except for those abs…

Otherwise, he looked like…

Someone who was about to get hurt.

“You need to get your ass out of here,” the man holding Chelsea snapped to Colt even as the jerk maneuvered her to the side. The new position let her see everyone clearly, and even more terror filled her because…

Brian pulled out a gun. One that had been tucked into the back of his waistband. “Now,” Brian thundered at Colt. “Get the hell away because this does not concern you!”

A gun. Her heart slammed hard in her chest. He had a gun pointed at Colt. She’d been kidnapped. Somehow Colt had found her—or followed her—or, or something. And now Colt was about to get shot. “No.” She licked desert-dry lips. “Go, Colt. Go! Go now.” He could go. He could get help. He could live.

Worst vacation ever. And it was only day one. She wished she had never, ever left home.

Colt shook his head. “I’m not going anywhere.” His hand lifted.

Brian tensed.

“Easy there, trigger happy,” Colt cautioned in a voice that was oddly smooth and easy. As if he didn’t realize a gun was pointed at him. “Just taking off my sunglasses.” And he did. He slowly lowered them. Tucked them into the pocket of his shirt. His intense, dark gaze swept first over Brian, then over the man who still held her.

The man who—

He jerked her against his body. Looped one arm over her collarbone so that he could grab her shoulder and hold her and with his other hand…

Chelsea felt the edge of something sharp press to her throat. A knife. She didn’t even swallow because she feared he’d nick her with the blade. Terror pretty much just froze her.

Colt shook his head. “That’s a mistake.”

The man holding her shouted, “Get the fuck out of here!”

She wanted to scream the same thing at Colt, but Chelsea was too afraid to speak. She’d never had a knife pressed to her throat before.

She did still have her trusty sunscreen in her right hand, though. Could she spray it in the bartender’s eyes? If she did, would he reflexively let her go? Or would he slice her throat wide open in response? She didn’t want to risk the slit throat, so she didn’t move.

Colt turned his head so that he was looking at Brian. “You hit her.”

Brian took several fast, angry steps toward Colt as he blinked his bleary eyes. “Jackass, I am about to—”

Colt grabbed the gun. Just whipped his hand out in a lightning-fast move and took the weapon away from Brian. Made the movement appear so easy. Like…like taking candy from a baby. For a moment, Brian just gaped. Then he did a double-take when he looked down at his now empty hand and then back up at Colt and—

“Don’t ever fucking hit her again.” Colt drove his left fist into Brian’s face. Brian stumbled back, slipped, then fell. His head hit the cement, and his whole body seemed to go lax.

Is he dead? No, no, his chest rose and fell, so he just had to be unconscious. He had to be. Maybe?

“Hey, asshole,” Colt called out, voice taunting.

The man holding Chelsea—the, ah, asshole in question—stiffened, and his grip tightened on her even more.

“Let her go, or I will shoot you.”

Colt had the gun aimed at the man holding her. Except the man was holding her extremely close. As in, only inches separated their bodies. And if Colt shot, he’d probably shoot her, too. “Don’t,” Chelsea gasped out.

Colt’s eyes narrowed.

“You’ll shoot me,” she added. This was…quite dramatic. Very impressive. She appreciated the rescue more than she could say. So much more. But… “Go call the cops. Let’s…” Her voice seemed squeaky. “Let’s not shoot anyone.”

Colt held her gaze. “Do you trust me?” His voice was low. Growling. Ever so fierce.

And her reply was the same. Low. Growling. Ever so fierce. “No. I do not.” That was why they had broken up. Because he’d never been there. Because she couldn’t count on him. Because she didn’t feel like she really knew him and—

The knife nicked her. She felt the blade cut her and because she was staring straight at Colt, she saw the change sweep over his expression. His face went savage. No other word for it. It hardened. Tightened. His eyes blazed as fury stole across his features.

“Mistake,” he snapped.

She thought he was talking to the man who’d just cut her, but maybe Colt meant she was making a mistake by not trusting him. Either way, his fingers were tightening on that gun, he was going to shoot, and she didn’t want to get hit.

Chelsea screamed, hoping the shriek would distract the man who held her, and then she lifted up her sunscreen. She sprayed it back at him.

“Chelsea!” Colt bellowed.

Her attacker let her go. Just for an instant, and she immediately dropped down. Dropped, fell. Same thing. Then she heard the thunder of a bullet blasting.

She wanted to slap her hands over her ears, but instead, she started crawling forward as fast as she could, still desperately gripping her sunscreen and her bag and just trying to get away—

Colt hauled her to her feet. “Baby?” His fingers curled around her shoulders. “Let me see your neck.”

Uh, she’d rather see them both run. As in, get out of there. “I’m fine.” She thought that was the case, but she could feel blood dripping down her neck. Not a lot, more like a trickle. It was her first knife wound. Ever.

Please, be my first and last.

“Fucking sonofabitch.” One of Colt’s hands moved under her chin. He tilted her head to the left. The right. “Small slice.” His gaze raked her face. “How’s the jaw? How is—”


She actually felt the heat of that bullet whip past her before it slammed into the nearby wall. As her jaw dropped and renewed horror flooded through her, Chelsea glanced back and saw that Brian wasn’t unconscious any longer. His friend with the knife was on the floor, and there was blood near the guy—a growing puddle—and she felt nausea well inside of her. Chelsea thought she might have been sick right then, if Brian hadn’t lifted his gun and aimed it at—

How did he get a second gun? Where the hell had he been hiding that thing?

Colt fired before Brian could get off another shot. “Fucking amateur mistake,” Colt shouted.

What was? And who was the amateur? Her? Him? Their attacker?

Colt’s fingers threaded through hers. “Come on.” He fired, and Brian ducked for cover. Then Colt was running with her, using his body to shield hers, and blasting off a few more shots as they raced out of the garage. The precious sunscreen bottle fell from her fingers, but when she tried to grab it, Colt just lifted her into his arms and ran faster. A few moments later, he pushed her toward a blue Jeep. “Get in and get down!”

She got in. She got down. Apparently, she didn’t get down far enough because as soon as Colt jumped behind the wheel, he pushed her even farther toward the floorboard. Annoyed, she snapped back, “Do you really think that’s necessary—”

There was an odd metal clinking sound.

Her eyes widened. Her mouth snapped closed. A bullet had just hit the back of the Jeep.

“Very necessary,” Colt retorted grimly.

She thought so, too. Chelsea tried to become a ball in the floorboard area as he cranked the engine and raced them away from that terrible place. She heard more gunfire, an angry yell and then…


No, her own ragged breathing, her racing, wild heartbeat, and…silence. The kind of silence that meant some madman had stopped firing bullets at them. She peeked up from her position on the floorboard. Swallowed a few times. Touched the nick on her throat. And gaped at Colt.

A Colt who had one hand wrapped around the steering wheel and another still holding a gun. A gun. The wind tossed back his hair, and his open shirt flew around him.

He glanced down at her. And smiled. His megawatt smile. “Are you glad to see me now?”