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Aug 20 2017 11:00am

Cathryn Fox Excerpt: Demolished

Cathryn Fox

Summer Wheeler is on the run. Hiding from the men who killed her father, Summer is on her way to her childhood cottage in Blue Bay when she runs into Sean Owens, the forbidden bad boy from her past. After giving him a fake name, she gives in to one steamy night with him, never expecting to see him again.

Sean isn’t sure why Summer is pretending to be someone she’s not, but he’ll play her game if that means he can indulge in one of his oldest fantasies – a night with Summer. He’s shocked to see her when he returns to Blue Bay, and even more surprised when Summer offers him a job renovating her old family cottage. Hot workdays turn into hotter nights, but when Summer’s secret catches up with her, she’ll have to decide if she can trust Sean with her heart—and her life.

Get a sneak peek at Cathryn Fox's Demolished (available August 29, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

Chapter One: Summer

Cheeseburger halfway to my mouth, I sink farther into the crispy vinyl booth and glance at the diner door for the hundredth time. Relax. He doesn’t know where you are. I suck in a quick breath and exhale slowly to calm myself, then tear into my meal like it is the first of the day, which, of course, it is. No time to eat when you’re on the run from Southern California to Blue Bay, Connecticut.

I dip my greasy fry into the ketchup and toss it into my mouth, my stomach rebelling after being hollow for so long. As I chew, I do another slow sweep of the near-empty establishment, avoiding eye contact with the sleazy guy in the corner who keeps staring at me over the rim of his tumbler. I can’t help but wonder if he’s the Dick in “Dick’s Driving Inn and Diner” on Route 5. Talk about the perfect name for a seedy, out-of-the-way hotel.

The sound of rusty hinges groaning in protest draws my focus and my gaze flies back to the heavy wooden door in time to see it swing open. It hits the wall with a thud and my heart jumps into my throat when I glimpse the tower of solid muscle walking into the place like he owns it. No way. I blink, sure I’m hallucinating. But when I open my eyes again, there is no mistaking the man darkening the doorway. Sean Owens. Blue Bay’s poster boy for authority issues, and the man who put the “O” in Owens. Not that I know that firsthand. I don’t. But what I do know is he’s the toughest, roughest guy from my childhood, and lethal to me in entirely different ways.

I swallow my fry, and drop the grease-soaked bun onto the plate, my attention now on the beautifully sculpted face that I’d recognize even if I hadn’t been watching him on the motocross circuit for years with my dad—before his death six months ago. Would Sean recognize me, too? I sure as hell hope not. After overhearing my ex-boyfriend on the phone, and discovering my life is in danger, I have no idea who I can trust. My father’s warning words ring in my ears—Trust no one.

But this is Sean Owens. Blue Bay’s hottest, sexiest motocross racer who always circled me in a bubble of safety when I was a kid.

Dressed in a leather jacket that had to be custom made to fit those broad shoulders and hewn muscles, he rakes thick dark hair from his face, those big strong arms of his gaining my attention. I remember those arms, the way they’d pulled me from the water when I’d nearly drowned.

My focus moves to his mouth, to lips that quirk at the waitress as he walks up to the bar and throws one solid, jean-clad thigh over the stool. He moves with a grace a man his size shouldn’t possess. Unable to tear my gaze away, I look him over. His hair is too long. Unruly. Like him. And those lips. God, those lips. I once felt them moving over mine, but at fourteen years old, when he was giving me mouth-to-mouth, I was far too young to appreciate them fully. After that near-drowning incident I followed him around like a lovesick puppy. But being two years my senior—a hot, legendary troublemaker who tore up the side streets on his motorbike—I could never catch him.

He drops down onto the stool, a tense, restless energy about him, as he orders a beer. It arrives, and he takes a long pull from the bottle, gulping it back like he’s had a hell of a day. I can relate. The bottle hits the bar with a thud. He twirls it, then slowly raises his head like he senses me staring. Heavy, pensive eyes turn on me, and a bolt of heat rushes through my body, lighting up every erogenous zone along the way.

What the hell? How can I be aroused at a time like this?

I look away and bite into my soggy hamburger, even though my appetite has long ago raced out of the diner. As my throat tightens, I swallow and reach for my soda to wash down the lump.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

A body shadows my table. I glance up to see the creepy guy from the corner standing over me. He takes a swig from his tumbler, and moves closer. His stale breath falls over me, and my gag reflex kicks in.

“No, I’m good,” I say, swallowing again in an effort to keep my dinner from making a second appearance.

He sways, the amber liquid in his glass spilling over the sides. “Come on,” he insists, his voice slurring. “Let me buy you a drink.”

I gesture toward my soda. “I already have a drink.” I let my hair fall forward to avoid eye contact, and silently will him to leave. It doesn’t work. The shadow over my table grows, thickens, claws at me as he rocks against the brass ledge. Metal table legs shift on the grimy floor and I cringe as the sound goes right through me. I continue to ignore him but he still doesn’t get the hint.

“Yeah, but a pretty little thing like you should never drink alone.”

A stool squeaks, followed by heavy motorcycle boots thudding on the cracked and pitted floor. The sound of each stomp roars like a souped-up two stroke in my ears as Mr. Sex in a Leather Jacket winds his way around a few tables. An intoxicating scent of the open road and something uniquely Sean permeates the air with each determined slide, chasing away the foul scent of whiskey and sadness.

Sean stops behind the man, towers over him. “Take off.”

“Wha—” The guy turns, stumbles a bit, and squares off against Sean. Clearly alcohol has impaired his judgment. Either that or he has a death wish. Not that I think Sean will deck the guy. The fight wouldn’t be fair, and while Blue Bay’s toughest bad boy has trouble written all over him, I don’t take him for the kind of guy who likes to play dirty. At least not outside the bedroom.

Stop thinking about Sean and sex.

A muscle in Sean’s jaw ticks, so tense I fear it could snap out of place. “I said take off.”

Stale breath grumbles, “I just got here, man.”

Even in the dimly lit bar, I can see Sean’s green eyes darken.

“And now you’re leaving.”

The creep’s gaze bounces back and forth between Sean and me like he’s some kind of bobblehead. “What, is she with you?”

Sean’s gaze slides to mine and holds. Dark. Dangerous. Sensual. “Yeah, she’s with me.”

The guy shifts from one foot to the other and glares at Sean. Sean stands deathly still. His big hands, one still holding a beer bottle, sit idle at his sides—a contradiction to his predatory stance, the tightness in his jaw. A wild wolf poised to pounce.

Damn . . .

The creep must realize the danger before him. He turns, grunts something unintelligible and slinks back to his stool.

“Thank you,” I murmur and lower my head, hoping Sean will take the hint and walk back to the bar. He stands there, silent for a long agonizing minute, towering over me like six feet of pure testosterone. My stomach flutters at the weight of his gaze.

Double damn.

“You lost?”

Lost? No, but I can get why he’s asking me that. I’m dressed in my usual work clothes—all I could grab at a moment’s notice—and this establishment is one up from a dive, a place I wouldn’t normally frequent. All the more reason for me to stay here. Never in a million would my ex think to look for me at Dick’s Driving Inn on Route 5. Yet here is Sean—his body broken and scarred from years on the circuit—hovering close and making me feel safe, yet vulnerable, a mixed bag of emotions that is confusing my thoughts. As a frisson of nervousness prowls through my blood, I lift my head, meeting his crotch face on.

“Ah . . . no. Not lost,” I manage to get out. Damn, way to sound convincing. But how the hell am I supposed to pull off composed when I’m staring at his package, which just happens to be bundled tightly in worn jeans that hug him in all the right ways. A garbled noise sounds in my throat and I disguise it with a cough and lift my head, forcing my eyes to his.

Pull yourself together, girl.

He scrubs his chin, and I like the sound it makes. In fact, I like everything about this guy. Always have. He stares at me for a moment, his gaze dark, scrutinizing. Something flashes in his eyes. Is it recognition? As a sliver of dread takes hold, I shift in my seat, the vinyl crackling beneath my backside. I glance heavenward and give a silent prayer. Please don’t let him remember me. Not that I think he, or anyone in Blue Bay will recognize me now, which is one of the reasons I chose the seaside location as a hideout—that, and of course, the key to the cottage was in a lockbox Dad had given me months ago. Heck, it’s been thirteen long years since my family and I summered in the once sleepy town, and I’m no longer the gangly little pigtailed blonde with sun-kissed freckles. Well, that’s not entirely true. I still have the freckles. But my hair has darkened over time and my once lanky, boylike body has grown curves. Today I’m the antithesis of that young girl, completely unrecognizable to the townsfolk—to Sean.

After Mom’s death, the winter just before I turned fifteen, Dad and I boarded the place up, locking years of fond memories behind lumber and nails. We never talked about the place, yet Dad couldn’t bring himself to sell it. Now, with limited funds and resources for survival, I’m glad that he kept it in the family.

Sean shifts his stance to catalog the room. I almost breathe a sigh of relief when my face is no longer inches from his crotch. Almost. Because now I’m one-on-one with his ass, and oh what a perfect ass it is.

“You don’t sound too sure about that,” he says, his voice deeper, more grown up, despite his strikingly boyish good looks.

“Positive,” I counter, injecting more assurance into my voice as I drag my focus from his perfect backside. “I’m just passing through on my way to catch up with an old girlfriend.”

“Girlfriend?”

“She’s a girl and a friend, I’m not . . .”

He grins and takes another long pull from his bottle. A drop of beer forms on his mouth, and he swipes his tongue over his bottom lip. My thighs quiver, and it’s all I can do not to spread them and tell him to take me already.

“Yeah, I’m just passing through, too,” he says.

Chances are he’s on his way to another motocross event. Good. Right now I don’t need the distraction of Sean. Not when my life is in danger. No, right now I need to hide out, and figure out where my father hid a ledger that my ex Jack wants so badly he’s willing to hurt me for it? Jack is a United States naval officer and served under my father for years, and he has way more resources and connections than I do so I really shouldn’t be talking to anyone, or drawing any kind of attention to myself. By rights, I should end this conversation with Sean right now, get in my truck and drive straight through the night until I reach the boarded-up cottage.

Sean leans closer, crowding me. “Is that your truck out there?”

“Ah, why?” Does he need a lift or something?

“Just asking.” He shrugs, his gaze dropping to my mouth. He fixates on it as his voice slides across the shell of my ear, the heat behind it speaking volumes. O-kay . . . Obviously I should have gone with the something, because clearly it’s not a lift he’s after. No, what he wants from me is far more intimate, and teases parts of my body that have been dormant for too long. Yeah, that’s right, dormant. Closed off. Inactive. Total hibernation.

The truth is, I’ve dated Jack for six months—he practically lived at my condo toward the end of it—but we hadn’t been intimate in a long time. I’d wanted to break it off. Tried to break it off, actually. But he clung, refusing to let me go. He must have sensed my restlessness and impatience with the relationship; otherwise he wouldn’t be ready to “apply pressure to get the ledger once and for all.” His words, not mine—ones I overheard during a private phone conversation he was having with God knows who. I have no idea where that ledger is, or what information it contains. All I know is I need to keep a low profile and find it before he does. Even though my dad’s death was ruled an accident, my gut tells me otherwise. If Jack is willing to hurt me to get answers, what the hell did he do to my father?

At first it stung to learn that Jack had been using me all this time. But as soon as I clued in to what “apply pressure” meant, fear quickly overrode pride. Perhaps the hurt, the betrayal, and fear are the reasons I’m so affected by Sean. Or perhaps it’s simply because this is Sean.

Images of me between the sheets with the stack of muscle towering close, his protective hands shaping my body as he reacquaints those sensuous lips with mine rush through me. I tremble. Why shouldn’t I go for it? Why shouldn’t I forget about the real world and lose myself in him for a few short hours. I ignore the million reasons clanging around inside my head, and stare at his big hands as they push his hair from his forehead, a familiar habit.

“Yeah, it’s my truck,” I finally say.

“You’re a long way from home.”

I freeze for a second, then relax. My license plate says California. It doesn’t mean he knows me. “Like I said, I’m on my way to visit an old friend.”

“Kind of a big truck for a small girl to drive halfway around the country, don’t you think?”

Yeah, I do. Too big and too noticeable. But I had no choice. My car was in the shop and my father’s truck was the only thing available when I needed to flee.

“I like things big,” I shoot back, not really sure why I’m going on the defense, but as soon as the words leave my mouth, I scramble to get them back. Good God, why don’t I just come out and tell him that I want to have sex with him, I silently scoff. Like he doesn’t already know. I’ve been eye fucking him since he walked into the place.

The corner of his mouth quirks and a dimple forms. Oh, that dimple. So ridiculously sexy I can barely stand it. “Oh, yeah?” He leans down and whispers against my temple, bathing my skin in warmth and sensual awareness: “Want to get out of here? Go someplace and get something decent to eat?”

His soft words melt my body and brain, not great at a time when I need to think with clarity. My survival depends on it and I have no idea who I can trust.

This is Sean.

I’m not naïve enough to believe it’s a decent meal he’s after, and as fight-or-flight instincts kick in I take in his raw strength, revel in the energy arcing between us. Heat floods my core, but my brain yells at me to say no.

“Yeah, okay,” I murmur, shocking myself. A one-night stand is so uncharacteristic of me. Then again, I’ve been doing a lot of things I’ve never done before.

I make a move to get up, but he cups my elbow and pulls me from my seat. My body molds against his, and his warmth envelopes me. I sag into him, a false sense of comfort overcoming me, something I haven’t felt in the last six months, ever since my late father handed me a metal lockbox containing a huge amount of cash, the key to the Blue Bay cottage, and fake identification . . . just in case.

Just in case what?

I didn’t ask. Didn’t think to. Danger isn’t a part of my world. I’m a chiropractor, for God’s sake. The only threat I face comes in the form of a malpractice suit, and that hasn’t happened yet. How could my father possibly think I’d know what to do when faced with danger? I’ve never walked in his shoes, don’t even know the rules.

That’s why my first instinct was to run after hearing my life was in danger. I didn’t know who to trust or even if I’d be safe going to the police. My ex has a lot of connections, so I just bolted and headed for Blue Bay. Is it possible my father hid the ledger somewhere in the small town? I’m not convinced, since we never talked about the cottage after boarding it up, and it was far too painful to return. But for now, until I can figure out my next move, it’s the safest place I know.

“You okay?” he asks, his breath hot, distracting against my neck.

I study him. God, he is so beautiful. Dark eyes framed by thick lashes, a square jaw dusted with a day’s worth of stubble. A hint of a tattoo flirts with the base of his collar, and I feel a tug low in my pelvis. Tough. Rough. The epitome of maleness. Pleasure unfurls inside me.

“Yeah, sure.” I try for casual and extricate myself from his arms, but instantly miss his warmth, his big arms around me.

He pulls me back, and his erection presses against my stomach. My sex clenches so hard I’m sure if I squeeze my legs together I’ll orgasm. I muffle a cry of pleasure, aching for him to touch me, to slide his hands into my panties and make me forget the real world for a few hours. I suck in a breath, shocked at the intensity of my responses.

His eyes never leave mine. “Then let’s get out of here.”

My pulse pounds at the base of my throat. Leaving with him is stupid. Reckless. But after running for days, who could blame me for wanting to feel comfort in his arms, to feel safe for just one night. It isn’t rational, or smart, but fear is causing me to do unwise things, like fall into bed with a boy from my past when I’m on the way to a town where no one knows my name.

***
Copyright © 2017 by Cathryn Fox.
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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cathryn Fox is a wife, mom, sister, daughter, and friend. She loves dogs, sunny weather, anything chocolate (she never says no to a brownie), pizza, and red wine. Cathryn has two teenagers who keep her busy and a husband who is convinced he can turn her into a mixed martial arts fan. When not writing, Cathryn can be found laughing over lunch with friends, hanging out with her kids, or watching a big action flick with her husband.

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