Excerpt One

“RAISE YOUR MUTHAFUCKIN’ GLASS TO THE ONE, THE ONLY, MY GIRL, JADA ALEXANDER!”

Caroline, my best friend since childhood, is screaming at the top of her lungs. She's standing on top of the bar, her shot glass raised, and somehow, she’s more sober than I am. She's managed twelve, count them twelve tequila shots. I'm a lightweight by nature and stopped drinking after the first round. I'm celebrating—quietly, I might add—until Caroline thinks it’s a grand idea to start telling everyone, and I mean everyone at the bar that I need to get laid.

Fuck my life.

“Wait! Wait,” my best friend shouts. Her hands wave wildly, and what alcohol is in her shot glass splashes on the bar and me. I look down at the table, shaking my head.

“Wait up, hold on! Correction!” she yells. “Raise your muthafuckin’ glass to the one, the only, Special Agent Jada Alexander, ATF's newest S.E.E.K. graduate!”

Caroline screams, yes, screams this information out into the crowd. This is my life. I’m starting to look forward to leaving Sulphur, Louisiana. Gateway to the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road, with a side of Sabine National Wildlife. I like to think of Sulphur as the gateway to hell.

My father agrees with me on that. He's ex-military, and the only man I've ever loved. Okay, there was Jaden, but he’s a nasty piece of work. And back then, I sorely lacked in the self-esteem department. I'm two years sober of the man, and drama free. I got my shit together and saw the sleaze for what he was. An emotional and mental abuser.

“Stand up girl, take a bow. Let them see what could be the greatest lay of their life!” Caroline hollers.

“All right, you've had enough. It's time to leave,” I advise.

I stand and try to maneuver around the barstool. Let the record show, I'm never clumsy. Like, ever. My life is a series of straight lines, right turns, and no curves. I tried that once, jumped on the wild ride of what people deem my shining moment. It's not. It was my worst because I ended up with Jaden. Never again, I vow. I don’t crave the attention or the extra flare. Give me a book and my two fur babies curled next to me, and all is right in my world.

When I stumble, I don’t just try to catch myself before I ass-plant onto the dirty-ass floor, nope, I fall into the strong arms of a stranger. I know he's a stranger because I cased the entire bar at least three times. I always pay close attention to my surroundings.

There are cords and cords of muscle wrapped around my waist, and a tribal tattoo on an arm that goes all the way to a manly wrist. The other arm is bare and free of ink. The stranger’s fingernails are black from oil, and my mind supplies his occupation.

Mechanic.

“You all right?”

My body freezes. He has an accent. His r's roll in such a way, I shiver involuntarily. Please let him be ugly, unattractive, a gazillion warts all over his face. Please, please, please. I internally chant.

“Jada!”

Great. Caroline. She’s screaming my name over the noise in the bar like a child who’s lost their mother.

I still haven’t looked up at my would-be rescuer. Truth be told, I’m scared. His hands gently steady me, and he scoots past with a polite, “Excuse me.” I could listen to his voice for hours. As he walks through the crowd, I catch a glimpse of his retreating form. Everything, and I mean everything, I see is ah-mazing. If his front looks half as good as his back, I’m a goner. My previous take on abstinence will fly right out the door.

“Jada! Honey, come back and do some shots with us. I see your future ex-baby daddy right here.” She points to one of the guys we went to school with. Everett Mullins. That would be a big hell no. He’s all right, but he isn’t my type. After my last relationship, I don’t think anybody is my type. My ex, whose name shall never be mentioned or thought of again, is an ass-hat. Controlling, bad-tempered, and an all around creepo.

“Don’t want a future anything, Caroline. What I do want is to go home,” I yell back. Someone who’s clearly had too much to drink boos at me.

“Ah, pooh. You’re being a party pooper.”

Caroline jumps down from the bar, and the guys join in as she makes faces at me and proceeds to pout and complain. I love her, but I want to be more than just awake for my drive to Dallas tomorrow. Good thing we took separate cars. Dali and Poe are spending the night with my aunt and uncle, who live in Houston. I know my fur babies miss me. I miss them, too.

Caroline pulls me in for a hug.

“I’m gonna miss you, Jada girl. So much.”

“Well, come see me in a few weeks,” I say, hugging her back.

“You bet your sweet ass I will.”

Don’t I know it.

We walk out to our cars, and I realize I don’t have my keys. I also make sure Jada calls an Uber. Her drunk ass isn’t driving anywhere.

“Go ahead, Cara. Call an Uber. You can pick your car up tomorrow. I gotta find my keys.”

“All right. Text me when you get to the hotel.”

“Will do.”

A few minutes have passed, and still I can’t find my keys. I don’t carry a big purse, so I know I must have dropped them somewhere. By the time I’m done searching the parking lot of the bar, Caroline’s Uber has arrived.

I watch as she gets into the back and the driver takes off. The taillights dim in the darkness before I turn around. I never make it into the bar. My keys are dangling in front of me, in the hands of the accented male.

“You dropped your keys.”

I’m speechless.

My tongue is ten times its normal size and gets stuck in my mouth.

I’m just plain mesmerized.

He is fucking beautiful. Eye candy to be sure, and he's staring straight at me with my keys in his hand. For the love of the old gods and the new. Please let him be real. Don’t let this be one of those moments where he looks good in the dark, but is bum fuck ugly once the lights are on. Manners, Jada, manners, I scold myself.

“Um. Thanks?”

 It comes out more of a question than an actual “Thanks.” Why doesn’t the ground just swallow me whole? Please! Right the fuck now; just kill me. He's at least nice enough to not call me out on my awkwardness. I feel like I should buy the guy a drink, something. He did, after all, return my keys.

“Can I, um, buy you a drink for returning my keys?” A ghost of a smile starts at the corner of his lips, and great Valhalla, he's got a beautiful smile. What little glimpse of a smile he does offer me, reaches all the way to his eyes, and fuck me on a Friday, they're gorgeous. Long lashes, the slash of a manly brow, and the palest blue irises I've ever seen. They set the tone for his sun-kissed skin. It’s almost as if they’re glowing. Why, Freya? Why must you do this to me? Of course, my geekiness comes out in the form of internal blabbering. Get used to it. I can go on like this for hours. I take another long look. I never used to be a girl who went for a guy with hair longer than mine, but his long, dark locks are pulled back away from his face and in a bun. A freaking man-bun, and he has at least two days’ growth on his face.

“What does that say about me, if I let you buy the drinks?” Does he really want me to answer that? Open your mouth, Jada, let words come forth with sound.

“I don’t know. What does it say?” He full-on smiles now, and it’s a megawatt smile, meant to drop panties. Hundreds of thousands of thongs, with and without lace. Cute little bows where the ass starts. Okay, I need to stop. Like now. How long have I been staring at his mouth? Did he notice? His eyes are laughing. Yeah, he knows. But I stand there anyway, waiting for his response.

“It says I'm no man if I let a beautiful woman buy me a drink.”

 Holy shit, Batman! He called me beautiful.

I'm in way over my head. Like for serious. I need to cut my losses, throw in the towel, and go back to my motel. I need to drive to Dallas tomorrow. Dali and Poe are sure to be driving my aunt and uncle nuts. No, you need to saddle up and take him out for a spin. No. No. And just…well, okay, maybe?

“Okay. Wait, you are buying the drinks?”

''First and only round on me. Then you can drive home, and I'll forever remember the beautiful goddess I met by way of Sulphur, Louisiana.”

Sold!

To the lady on fire.

Now would be a bad time to quote anchorman and invite him to the party in my pants, but dammit, Gina, I'm down. Who are you and what have you done with Jada Alexander? Good question. No fucking clue really.

But I reach out my hand. “I'm Jada.” His eyes spark momentarily with what I think may be recognition. My mind must be playing tricks on me because there is no way we know each other.

“Nicklaus.”

I’m in love. I'm in love with Nicklaus the hottie. Someone save me now. Before I throw myself at him. Nicklaus’s walk has major swag, like, off the charts swag. And why do I keep noticing? This isn’t going to be a hook-up. No, it’s a drink, a simple nightcap. As I make my way through the crowd, some of the locals are staring me down. I never leave with a man. I don’t walk in with any either. Not since idiot van dickums.

“So,” I stumble. “What shall we drink to?” Nicklaus looks down at me, like down. Did I forget to mention his height? Like he could be Thor's older, much hotter brother, Vidor, Asgardian God of the Hunt. Yes, and hell yes. Nicklaus definitely has some Norse blood running deep in those veins. Well, I don’t actually know what Vidor looks like because there are so many different variations of him, but if I had to describe him, it would be Nicklaus.

“Let's have a drink to chance meetings.” Nicklaus signals a waitress, who all but eye fucks him as she takes our orders, and okay, I get it, he's hot. But I called dibs the moment he sat with me at the table. Our drinks arrive quickly, like the waitress, I think her name is Sandy, has been dying to get us, or should I say Nicklaus, a cold one.

“To chance meetings,” I toast.

“To chance meetings.” He watches me the entire time, and I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s like he's looking at me as if we’ve met before. There is an undeniable attraction between us; at least I hope there is. It could be all one-sided, but who really cares at this point? It’s just a drink, Jada, slow your roll.

“So, Jada, you come here often?” I can’t help it. My smile is a mile wide because it’s the cheesiest line ever, but I actually think he's serious.

“Why, Klaus, you wound me with your pick-up line. I thought for sure you were better than that.”

He’s still staring at me, and now the look on his face is incredulous. Like no one, and I mean no one can call him Klaus but those nearest and dearest to him.

“Can you say that again?” he asks. This time, his voice is soft, barely above a whisper, and if I hadn’t already been all up in his beautiful face watching his lips move and his throat work, I may not have heard him.

“What would you like me to say? The entire sentence again, or just your name?”

“My name.”

“Klaus.” I say it slowly, hold the ‘s’ a little longer than necessary, and watch, fascinated, as he closes his eyes and dare I say…groans. This guy is too good to be true. It’s like someone up above in the heavens knows this is the kind of man I’d take my clothes off for. Now, I don’t normally say what I’m about to say next, but I’m young, I’m safe, and well, if this guy is a serial killer, I know several ways to disarm a man. But I’m feeling the buzz and I’m totally feeling him. So, what the hell. Here goes nothing.

“Why don’t we finish our drinks and head back to my place.”

“My place” is a motel room that I’m only staying in for one night, and I’ve never had a one-night stand before. And I have to admit, I’ve bashed plenty of my college friends for indulging. But here I am, about to go for the gusto. Full speed ahead, Steam Boat Willy style. Only, I’m not a mouse, and I can’t whistle for shit.

“You want me to come back to your place?” he asks, and I swear his accent is melting my panties. If I weren’t made of sturdier stock, I’d be a pile of goo right here in my goddamn chair. By the moon of the goddess, I’m one horny girl. Don’t get nervous, Jada, I’m coaching myself now because I’m a nervous wreck. I kid you not, at this very moment, I’m comparing him to every comic book superhero I ever wanted to bone me; and for some reason, Thor’s older brother is forefront in my mind. Again. Aaaaah, the God of the Hunt. Vidor, you lucky bastard, you’re about to get laid.

I want to laugh out loud because, yeah, that shit is funny. Maybe not to anyone else who had the pleasure to—or maybe not so pleasurable—walk through my warped mind, but who cares. I’m taking this Viking god home with me tonight, and I plan on doing all sorts of dirty things. I mean, things that shouldn’t be done to a man but every man wants done to him. Or, I could totally flip the script and let him have his wicked way with me.

No!

I gotta play it safe, be demure and not too pushy. Men don’t like pushy women. Shit! I already asked him to my room. That right there is more than forward, it’s a direct line to, ‘if you ask a guy to your room on first contact, you’re probably a whore.’

“Never mind, I don’t know what I’m saying.” I try and recant.

But Nicklaus is having none of that. He has a determined look on his face, and it’s the kind of look that says he’s a bit hesitant. Like I’m the serial killer, but he’s intrigued enough to give it a go anyway.

SCORE!

“No, it’s fine, I’ll follow you.”

“Sure.” Not gonna turn down the opportunity for a hot fling with a Viking god. I’d be crazy. All the gods and goddesses above sitting high and pretty in their kingdoms will surely curse me if I don’t take advantage of the male across from me.

I grab my keys, slap some money on the table, and remind Nicklaus that it’s the tip since he offered to buy the drinks. We make it outside, and my phone starts going off. Ugh, Caroline. She always has a way of texting or calling at the most inopportune times. Once, she texted while I was in the middle of my S.E.E.K. final, and that was just the other day. Needless to say, my commanding officer didn’t like that at all. Not one bit. I got a ten-point drop for not putting my phone on silent, and I know he went easy on me because he’d once failed a guy for answering a text message.

I jump in my car, turn it on, check my mirror, and see he’s on a bike. Not some little Ninja Kawasaki either, he’s on a straight-up man’s bike. I’m talking a Dyna Low Rider, 103 twin cam engine. And…now you’ve spotted the gearhead in me. Not only do I dig comic books, I also have a lady boner for bikes. Klaus flashes his lights at me, and that’s my signal to get a move on. It’s time to do the damn thing and do it well.

The motel isn’t far. It’s down the street, around the corner, and half a mile up the road. There is no pretense; the moment I hit the door, the hard wall of his body is caging me in as I go for my key card. He’s mumbling something in his native tongue; and fuck, it’s a language I do not speak—and I speak six. But not this one. It does nothing but spur me on to find the key card that has been swallowed by my not-so-ginormous purse. It’s like he’s saying a prayer, and I want to say one too, because I can feel the hard, and I mean rock-hard, length of his cock against my back.

That’s all mine, I think. All mine.

Oh my, I’m one lucky girl.

“Got it!” I say, excited that I finally found the keycard. His fingers are in my hair, which is up in a ponytail. I didn’t have time to condition it this morning so it’s thick and a little dry, but an easy fix once I get out of the shower. But first, a little one-night-stand-a-la-hottie. The door pushes open, and before I even have a chance to get a grasp on what’s about to happen, Nicklaus has me turned in his arms and latches on to my mouth. Quite magnificently, too. His lips are warm and soft, and his tongue tastes like his drink mixed with mine, and that is not a bad thing. I moan into the kiss and give just as good as he does, but I’m hoping it’s better. Because kissing is one of my things. I may be a nerd, but I’m a great kisser. I could give you a list of references, but I’d rather just think about what’s going on right now.

His hands move to my waist, and they’re hot against my skin. Except for the cool metal on his ring finger, on his left hand. What. The. Fuck. No, no, that’s not right. I decide it’s a trick of my mind, but I feel the ring again as he roams my ribcage, and this time, I can’t mistake it. There’s a fucking band on his ring finger, of his left hand. Whatthewhat! No, no, fuck, no! This isn’t happening!

I pull back, panting, and grab his left hand, bringing it up to my face. I’m eyeing him, then I’m eyeing the ring. I’m pissed off because Nicklaus is an excellent kisser, he had me revved and ready to discard all my clothes, skipping over the foreplay and heading straight for ecstasy. I was willing, primed, but the man standing in front of me is fucking married. Married! How I wish Long Duck Dong were here to clarify that this is not really true and instead just a language barrier, and that my Jake—who is actually Nicklaus—is in fact not married. And, somehow, someway, Molly Ringwald—although I’m way taller, and darker of skin, though I have a flawless pair of lips just like her—is in fact inside the church, trying to grab my bitch of a sister’s train. And Nicklaus is waiting for me, not in his cherry-red Porsche, but on his Dyna Low Rider, helmet-head and all. Wait, Long Duck Dong said I’d be the married one. Only I’m not. He is. Fuckity fuck, fuck!

“You kissed me on the mouth!” I screech.

He takes a step back and looks at me like I’ve lost my mind.

“I let you, a married man, kiss me on the mouth,” I say again. “The fuck is wrong with you?” I yell, pointing towards the door. “Out. Get out, right now!”

I normally get flustered during confrontations. But I’m hyped on alcohol. I know it because I can still feel the slight buzz, which is now a whaling roar inside my skull.

“Jada, please, let me explain.” He’s pleading, and he looks so remorseful, but I can’t be bothered with that. Oh, hell no, I’m not going to listen to the excuses of a married man. No way, no how. NO. CAN. DO.

“Klaus, you need to leave, or I’ll make you leave, and you won’t like how that goes down.” I go to stand in front of my nightstand because if he doesn’t move, I’m creating my first official Internal Affairs investigation ‘cause I’m going to grab my gun and pump two into his body. One in his hand, and the other in the appendage I was just about to let pound into me.

Damn it.

I really wanted him to work out all my kinks.

“If you’ll let me explain…”

“Nope.” I shake my head dramatically and go for my gun in the drawer.”

He must know what’s about to happen because his eyes get wide, and he starts to back up towards the door. “I’m sorry, Jada, truly sorry.”

“Yeah, you better be sorry. Now get the fuck out.”

He opens the door, and the sound of it clicking shut after he leaves deflates me. I’m done. So mad and hurt. I was really hoping he was going to be a good guy. Someone I could really get into, even if just for one night. He’s just like my ex-boyfriend. Fake ass motherfuckers. That’s what men are.

 

 

Special Agent Jada Alexander has a great life working for the ATF’s S.E.E.K. unit, but she wishes her nights were filled with more than just Netflix marathons with her fur babies. She yearns for companionship, and while her quirks and fandoms keep her utterly entertained, it’s not the same as having someone to come home to.

When a blast from her past comes back into Jada’s life, she’s thrown for a loop, especially when both Dali and Poe act nothing like the dog and cat she’s come to know and love. They immediately accept the irresistible Nicklaus, and she begins to wonder if she has found her soul mate, her very own Viking god to warm her dark nights.

Until Klaus shatters her heart and tells her that he only wants her as a friend, that he’s not ready for a relationship. The problem…she’s already half in love with him, and now their lives are so intertwined, she might lose more than just the guy she was hoping to have forever with. She may lose all of her friends from Dallas Fire and Rescue, as well.

Jada’s life becomes much like the movies and songs constantly cycling through her head, but the question is, will she get her happily ever after with the matching ballad soundtrack, or will it be a tragedy with a death metal score?