Carly Chase is building a new life for herself, day by day, when a faceoff with an irate man at work brings up memories of a trauma she’s barely recovered from. She’s shaken and in need of something to make her feel better. That something arrives in the form of gorgeous, sexy cop Sam Rollins who appreciates her curves and knows exactly how to distract Carly from her problems – for a while.
But soon Carly finds herself caught in a web of criminal conspiracy. Innocent but panicked, she turns to Sam for help. He can’t resist the pull of the plus-size beauty and seems willing to risk his career to protect her and find the truth. But their risky partnership is under constant threat. Not only by the forces they battle, but by secrets from her past and his present as they are revealed.
In a fast-paced race to survive, Carly has to do something she swore she never would. Trust her safety and happiness to a man she barely knows. Can she overcome the violence and damage in her past to forge a new future with Sam, or will a final intimate betrayal end everything?
This book is also available in serial format of three novellas:
“He didn’t really say that.”
“He did. The words ‘keep up, chubs’ actually came out of his mouth.”
“Did you punch him?”
“Of course I did. You’re my one phone call from jail. Do you have bail money?” I laughed, relieved to discover I still could. For all his hard work at it, The Slug hadn’t managed to completely destroy my soul yet.
“I’m broke as hell, but I will sell anything you need if it means that jerk finally gets what he deserves.”
“Don’t I wish. And you know what the worst part is? Aside from the rudeness and insults? Five minutes later when we were in the store room he was calling me ‘sweetheart’ in that gross way he does and staring down the front of my shirt.”
Anna giggled. “Did he say ‘nice jugs, chubs’?”
I cackled in response, my whole body shaking with laughter. I knew my best friend would cheer me up, and Anna had obliged wonderfully. It was a shame we didn’t work together anymore. Two years slinging pizzas together had been a blur of laughter and fun that was sorely missed since I got a so-called real job that paid slightly better and made me five times as miserable.
When I could finally speak again, my voice was wistful. “I miss you, A.”
“Silly, I saw you two days ago.”
“I mean I miss spending all day with you, shooting the shit and everything.”
She snorted. “What is it you think we’re doing right now? Stop being so sappy.”
“Fine, fine. But you know what I meant. I’m tired of being the only girl here. Most of the guys are impossible and don’t get me started on the smelly locker room.”
“Nasty. Note to self: do not visit Carly at work.”
“I don’t blame you.” I looked around the room, frowning. The tiny reception area held my desk, a pair of threadbare chairs and stacks of dusty boxes I’d spent most of the morning lugging up from the aforementioned store room. My boss, Mitchell Douglas, or “The Slug” as I usually thought of him, had sneezed after the first trip and bailed, claiming he had an urgent appointment.
“Tell me again why I took this job?”
Anna’s sweet, bell-like voice sang over the line. “No more pizza burns and sore feet. Health insurance.”
“Oh, right. I’m not sure it’s a good trade-off.”
“Girl, come back then. Angelo has your apron still hanging on your hook.”
“Don’t tempt me. I swear, if-” My sentence was interrupted by the door slamming open. A short, scrawny man stomped in with a weirdly dragging gait, scowling. “-Gotta go, someone’s here. I’ll call you later.” I hung up and pasted a wide fake smile on my face.
“Welcome to Courier Express. How may I help you?”
The man’s scowl deepened as he approached the desk, his arm swinging against a precarious pile of boxes that swayed ominously. “Where’s Mitchell?”
“Mr. Douglas is out of the office at a meeting. Did you have an appointment?”
“No.” He sneered at me over the high back of my desk that served as a counter. “I was in the neighborhood and figured I would drop in on my old buddy. Will he be back soon?”
“I’m not sure, but I’m happy to take a message for you.”
He shrugged, his gaze sliding over the room and back to me. “I’ll wait.”
“Um, okay. Have a seat. Sorry about the mess.”
He didn’t move, but nodded at the boxes. “What is all this shit? Ain’t it a fire hazard or something?”
“Probably.” I tucked a lock of hair that had come free from my ponytail behind my ear. “Just some things from storage.”
“Uh huh.” He stared at me a little too long. “So, you got coffee or something?”
“Oh, sure.” I stood up quickly, sliding my feet back into the too-small shoes I always kicked off as soon as I sat down. “Cream and sugar?”
“Black’s fine, honey.” He grinned, and it was somehow worse that the scowl.
I nodded and scampered over to the kitchenette in the hallway. It was rare for someone other than employees to be in the office for more than a few minutes and something about this man made me uncomfortable. He had a similar greasy, slimy look as The Slug himself, but with an undercurrent of something even worse.
I noticed there was only a thin layer of tar at the bottom of the coffee maker and groaned. “Sir, I’ll need to make a fresh pot, I hope you don’t mind waiting a-” I turned and saw the man was now behind my desk, scrolling through the calendar on the computer screen. “Hey!”
I dropped the packet of coffee into the sink and rushed back over. “Sir, you can’t do that.”
“Oh no? Who’s gonna stop me, you?”
“Please. If there’s some information you need I am happy to provide it.”
“Settle down, little mouse. I’m just checking to see where your boss is. Won’t be a minute.”
I bristled at the comment but pushed it away and tried to slide between him and the computer. “I told you, he’s out at a meeting.”
The man crossed his arms in a gesture she figured he thought was intimidating, but was actually kind of funny. His arms were really short, like T-Rex short, and could barely cross correctly in front of his body.
I stifled a giggle, but felt my muscles relax and my heart beat returning to something closer to normal. “Please, if you’ll just go sit back down I’ll make the coffee and you can wait for Mr. Douglas.”
We stared each other down for a long moment before he relented. “Fine. Whatever.” He brushed past me and shuffled back around the front of the desk. “Ferocious little mouse, aren’t you.”
I bit back a retort. In size or temperament I was no mouse, but he was finally getting out of the way which was all that mattered.
“Thank you, sir.” I backed up towards the coffee maker, wanting to keep an eye on him and put some distance between us.
“So polite, little mouse. What are you doing working for a scumbag like Mitchell?”
I’d often wondered the same thing myself. “This is a good job, sir.”
“Sir, sir, sir. I like that, little mouse. A girl with good manners and big tits is a rare combination these days.” He chuckled and leaned against the counter, clearly enjoying the look of horror on my face.
I didn’t know what to say to that. He seemed to be calming down from his anger a bit, so if crude comments was what it took, I’d let him say whatever he wanted. But I did take a moment to turn around and tug the top of my blouse up. It was impossible to hide my cleavage completely in anything but a turtle-neck, but showing a little less skin felt suddenly important.
After getting a pot of coffee brewing I turned back to the man and found his hand digging through a pile of files on my desk.
“Sir, please! If you insist on rifling through my desk I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
His hands froze and he grinned at me evilly. “You do that, little mouse. I’d like to see that.”
“I…if you refuse to leave I’ll call the police.”
He laughed at this and dropped the files. “I’d like that even better. Explain to your boss why the cops are crowding into his office. Here’s the phone,” he continued, pointing. “Have at it.”
My legs felt watery. I’d expected my false bravado to work, send the guy out the door. But now that he’d easily called my bluff I wondered if he wasn’t an even bigger threat than I’d feared. In my experience the only people unafraid of threats of police involvement were either perfectly innocent or guilty as sin, and I was pretty sure he’d left innocence behind long ago.
“Please,” I nearly whispered. “Please just go. I don’t want any trouble.”
“Oh, I like how you beg, little mouse. Why don’t you come over here and ask me again. If you’re real nice I might do it.”
One look at his leering face told me getting any closer was the last thing I wanted to do. Whether it was anger or fear, he seemed to like getting any reaction from me, and to be no hurry to leave. I hated feeling powerless like this, intimidated. Every flash of fear fueled my anger and it was getting hard to control. The world probably, and certainly the city was full of jerks like this guy. Losers who got their rocks off scaring good people just trying to live their lives. It sickened me. But I was smart enough to know not to do anything about it when I was stuck alone with him. Indignation only went so far. And so, blood boiling, I just stood there, ignoring the way his beady eyes bored into me and the smug look on his face.
Finally the man sighed, stood up straight and started to walk towards me again. “I’m getting bored, little mouse. How about a little entertainment while we wait?”
“No,” I said lightly, even as my hands shook. “It’s time for you to go.”
“Now why would I do that?” He grinned again, revealing a mouth full of mismatched teeth, shape and color varying widely.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I curled my fingers into fists, trying to prepare for whatever came next.
The man sniffed the air as if he could smell my fear. He lowered his head and continued his strange, slow walk forward.
My hand reached back and grabbed the still filling coffee pot without looking away from him.
Our eyes met, intent translating wordlessly from one to the other and back again. The time for playing was over.
But just as I braced to defend myself from an inevitable attack of some kind, the door slammed open and a pair of young men strode inside. I gasped with relief, amazed that the bike-riding slackers were, for the first time ever, a truly welcome sight.
“What’s up,” asked Braden, tall and skinny with sandy hair that was always falling in his eyes.
“Boss man bail again?” This was from Darius, Braden’s opposite in appearance. He was small and dark with a shaved head and, from what I’d seen since he started, an empty one too.
“Yes,” I replied, voice a lot steadier than I felt. “This gentleman was looking for Mr. Douglas but I explained I don’t know when he’ll be back.”
“Sorry, man,” Darius said, clapping the stranger on the shoulder, oblivious as usual. “Ole Mitch never tells us shit. Just comes and goes like a fart in the wind.”
I watched the stranger’s eyes widen in confusion, unsure what to do in the face of the pair of men. In their work gear, t-shirts and shorts that displayed their lean but well-muscled bodies, either one was more than a match for him physically. Together they could do a lot of damage. I saw every stage of his thought-process happen, and sighed a little when he clearly gave up.
“Tell Mitchell I’ll be back and he better be here.”
“Of course, sir.”
He clomped over to the door, glaring at all three of us. “Fucking bullshit.”
Once he was gone I took a deep breath and sagged against the wall, relieved but shivering as adrenaline drained from my bloodstream.
“Nice guy, huh?” Braden shrugged and walked around me to grab a cup. “This fresh coffee? We’re just in time.”
I nodded. He had no idea how right he was. “You guys need something?”
“Nah, we just left our stuff in the back. Take a load off.”
“Okay.” I sat down at her desk and dialed Anna’s number.
“Carly, thank goodness. I thought you were going to have to actually do some work.”
“Sorry about hanging up like that. Something came up.”
“No worries. Hey…are you okay?”
“Uh huh.” I twirled a lock of hair around my finger nervously, not wanting talk about it yet.
“You’re the worst liar ever. What happened?”
“Nothing. Um…I’ll tell you all about it later. I need to get out of here.”
“You sound weird.”
“I feel weird.”
“Carly, you’re scaring me. What’s wrong?”
“There was just a creepy guy here. He just spooked me a little.”
“More than a little I’d say.”
The familiar sound of my friend’s worried voice was soothing.
“It wasn’t a big deal. Just another asshole.”
“Look, I don’t like how you sound. Why don’t I come over to your place?”
“Don’t you have to work tonight?”
“I’ll call in. Tell Angelo it’s a female problem.”
I smiled. “Does that still work?”
“Every time. Say yes.”
I didn’t want to admit how much I needed just that, a night of fun with the person who knew me best in the world. “Okay.”
“Excellent. I’ll meet you there.”
“We can order something and watch a movie or whatever.”
“Or whatever. Don’t you worry about that, I have the perfect evening planned.”
“Planned? You just thought of it.”
“Oh honey, I’ve always got a night of fun working in the back of my mind. You know that.”
“Yeah, okay. See you at my place in half an hour.”
“I’ll be there with bells on, as they say.”
I shook her head. It wouldn’t surprise me if Anna did show up at my door wearing bells. The girl was out of her mind in the best way possible.