After a night of raw passion with the man Claire O’Briene had been secretly admiring for years, she thought their time together had come once and for all. Fate had finally brought them back to each other, but unfortunately nothing had changed. He was still the same man who ran away from relationships. Against his better judgment, Mason Bradley gave in to the temptation and allowed himself one night with the one woman he’d been too afraid to want … too afraid to need.
Six months after leaving Claire and regretting every minute of it, Mason gets called in for an undercover mission that’s not only dangerous, but brings back a past he spent years trying to forget. A past of fighting … of getting in the ring and using his fists to get what he wanted: money, women, and drugs. Now there are fighters turning up dead, and it’s Mason’s job to find out the truth.
Knowing he might not come out of the mission alive, Mason seeks out Claire to tell her how he truly feels, only to find another man competing for her love as well. Fighting is what he’s good at, and for once he will be fighting not only for justice … but for love.
I didn’t realize how much she despised me until the moment I stepped into the doorway and Claire saw me, and I saw the outright venom in her eyes. From that look alone I knew she wouldn’t take me back, but it wasn’t going to stop me from trying. I came here for a reason and I’m not leaving until I do what I told myself I was going to do. I was going to put everything on the line.
As I watched Claire turn her back on me and walk away, I had the deepest urge to handcuff her to a chair and make her listen to me. However, forcing her would only push her away even more. When I handcuffed her to anything it would be out of mere pleasure, not anger. I was determined to get her back. Rushing out of the house, I grabbed Claire’s arm before she could go any further and turned her to face me.
“Let me go, Mason,” she ordered through clenched teeth.
Her body was coiled tighter than a snake, but when I grabbed her other arm and pulled her closer, I could feel the tension in her muscles loosen and she noticed it, too. I wanted to kiss those lips of hers that tasted sweet like honey with the hint of raspberries, and feel her bare skin on my fingers. Seeing her now only reminded me of how stupid I had been to let her go, and now it was too late. Or was it?
“Please give me this chance, Claire,” I murmured in her ear. “There are so many things I need to tell you. I know you’ve moved on to someone else, and it’s kind of obvious with his name plastered all over your body, but I can’t leave here without telling you how I feel.” I paused and took a deep breath. “I’ve missed you, Claire. I missed you the moment you drove away from me at the airport four months ago.”
“Why are you doing this now?” she asked incredulously, pulling her arms out of my grasp and crossing them over her chest.
She stepped back, one small step after another, and the further she moved away the further I could feel her slipping away. A tear slid down her cheek and she wiped it away, whispering, “Things are finally going good for me, Mason. I can’t have you screwing that up.”
Nodding, I lowered my head and blew out a shaky breath. “I understand, and if you’re truly happy then what I have to tell you won’t matter at all. I have to get this out or I may never get the chance again. Claire, I …”
Unfortunately, that was as far as I’d gotten before the sound of Cooper’s truck coming down the long driveway stopped me. Are you fucking kidding me? When am I ever going to catch a break? It was perfect timing on his part, but terrible for mine. Skeptically, he glanced from me to Claire and then settled his gaze on me with a scowl on his face. It was obvious he knew who I was, and if not it was obvious he didn’t care for me. Claire glanced nervously behind her, and I knew my moment to tell her how I felt was lost. Would I get a chance to before I left? I had no clue, but I had to try. Before Cooper could get out of his truck, I stepped closer to Claire and let her see the seriousness in my eyes.
“Meet me tonight,” I muttered quickly. “You know where.”
Past her shoulder I could see Cooper approaching, but she kept her glistening blue eyes my way. If she didn’t agree to meet me tonight there was still the possibility I’d never see her again. Any time I went undercover was dangerous and I always had to accept the probability that it could be the last mission I ever went on. It was the way it worked.
“I’m sorry, Mason, but I can’t. I can’t risk everything just because you show up on my doorstep. If you want my trust or my heart you need to fight for it … you need to earn it. Until you’re willing to do that I don’t want to see you again,” she uttered boldly.
Cooper finally made it to us and put his arm around Claire’s shoulders, pulling her into his side. “Everything okay?” he asked, gazing down at her before turning a lethal glare my way.
Claire wrapped her arms around his waist and nodded, smiling up at him. “Yes, everything’s fine.” Her smile disappeared when she glanced back at me. “I was just telling Mason good-bye.”
With those last words she turned her back on me for the second time today while Cooper stayed behind. We both watched her climb into his truck and shut the door, keeping her gaze on anything but us.
“What are you doing here?” Cooper asked angrily, crossing his arms over his chest. He was a couple of inches taller than me, but height never mattered anyway. We were almost identical as far as body size, but I knew without a doubt I could take him in a fight.
“Not that it’s any of your business,” I replied with a sly grin on my face, “but if you must know I came to visit my cousin.”
Cooper scoffed. “Well, whatever the reasons are you better stay away from Claire. I know who you are and what you did to her. However, I guess I should be happy that you were such an idiot because now I have her and you don’t. So thank you for that.”
“I don’t think you’ll be thanking me when I get her back,” I warned with a smirk on my face. “I let her go once, but it was a mistake I’ll never make again. I’ll fight for her no matter what it takes. You can count on that.”
I was determined to get her back and of that I was certain.