Excerpt: Reckless Curves
Book 1: Drive Me Wild Series
Beverly Hills, July 2008
Kendra Black stood on the terrace in her parent’s back garden and lifted her face to the sun. Six months in remission and she was in love with the world once more. Excitement engulfed her. Who would have believed at sixteen she had a life in front of her again, filled with possibilities? Determined to decide for herself what she wanted to do with her second chance at life, she looked forward to each morning.
She wanted to take risks, and face her fears. She’d faced the biggest fear anyone should have to face and kicked ass. The world was there for her and she wanted to conquer it.
“Come inside, Kendra, you’ll catch cold.”
Her smile faded. “Mother, it’s 82f out here.”
Her mother started to argue through the open French doors so Kendra walked down the steps into the garden until she couldn’t hear her mother’s words. Instead she heard her older brother’s voice. At twenty, Marcus had just earned his first ride in formula two with Honda. He’d even been given his first personal head mechanic, a guy the same age called Thomas Lorde. Tom was staying the weekend. She’d yet to meet him but then she didn’t have any interest in cars.
Kendra looked over her shoulder ensuring her mother wasn’t chasing after her with a coat, and followed the sound of her brother’s voice. They were in the pool.
She rounded the corner of the garden and stopped as if an invisible wall blocked her way. Her mouth dropped open and her body flooded with heat. A near naked bronzed Norse God with fair hair, which at the moment due to her chemo was longer than her dark locks, was standing under the outdoor shower five feet from where she stood. He hadn’t seen her and she drunk in the broad shoulders, strong thighs, ripped stomach. But what made her mouth water was the tattoo of an eagle in flight covering his chest. It was a work of art. Every time his pecs moved the bird looked as if it was soaring.
“Are you going to swim or merely stand there staring?”
She started, heat invading her cheeks at being caught staring. His voice was gravelly and fluid, like rain falling on a tin roof.
“My mother would freak.” She pulled her eyes away from watching a drop of water slide down his crooked nose. “I’ve been sick and my mother insists I don’t over exert myself.”
He turned off the shower and walked towards her, water running down over his body and she’d never wanted to let her fingers follow the flow on any boy—man—before.
“I’m Tom Lorde, your—”
“I know who you are. I’m Kendra—”
“I know who you are,” he said with a sexy smile. He stopped before her with a genuine look of puzzlement on his face. “Marcus told me you’d beaten the cancer.”
“I have. Eight months clear. I’m in remission.”
He eyed her up and down. “You look pretty healthy to me.”
“I am,” she said proudly.
“So, what’s stopping you? If you want to swim get in.” When she hesitated, he moved so close droplets of water dripped on her clothes. “Swim or don’t swim I don’t care, but if I had ever let anyone stop me from doing what I wanted to do, I would not be going to formula two in Europe with your brother.” His attention swung to the pool house as Marcus emerged with two beers in his hand. “Marcus tells me you’re a fighter, Kendra. So don’t surrender just as you’ve won a great battle.”
“I can’t blame my family for caring too much.”
“No. You can’t. And you shouldn’t. But you can blame yourself for letting them decide for you.”
With that he sauntered off to grab his beer.
Kendra looked at the water and let the anger build. Thomas was right. This was her life and she’d fought hard for it, given everything she had, and even now she knew there were strong odds that she’d have to fight again.
Fight. It was a tough pill to swallow as a teenager. To learn that life was a constant battle. Six months ago she’d been tired but now…now she was ready to fight for what she wanted.
She wanted her hard-won life on her terms.
She turned and looked at her brother and his hot, oh, so hot, new friend.
She might not know what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, but right now she knew what she wanted—and he was sitting on a lounger ten feet from her.
Los Angeles, eight years later….
“Yo, Tom! Catherine’s working late and told me to tell you that you’ve got company in reception, dude.”
Tom pushed himself out from under the car he was replacing the muffler on and stood. No client would come to the auto shop this late. Bad Boy Autos clientele were too wealthy to hang around what was essentially a chop shop, be it a high-end chrome and glass garage on Sunset Boulevard filled with Maserati’s, Ferrari’s, and Porsches’. Tom loved customizing the dream machines as he called them, and was thankful their rich clients were prepared to pay handsomely for their services.
“Did Catherine say who it was, Zip?” Catherine Beckett was the office manager, accountant, and the gorgeous face of the company. She was also a partner in the firm. She handled the money. She had a brain like Einstein but she also dazzled the clients with legs to her armpits, a body that could be seen in any Playboy spread, and a face that had men looking at her rather than their cars.
Zip Chang, the mechanic they’d hired last month just grinned. “You’ll see. You go see her and I’ll finish up.”
“Taylor wants another 1000 horsepower under his bonnet so we need two more mufflers on the right. Thanks, Zip.”
Tom wiped his hands on a rag and headed towards the plush reception area of Fast Boys Cars. Dealing in high-end cars didn’t feel like a job but he hated the glitz and glamor that went with it. With his background, he’d never been comfortable around money even though he now had plenty of his own.
For over five years he’d been the number one mechanic on the formula one racing circuit and he’d earned plenty. Six months ago he’d invested in Bad Boy Autos with his best friend Marcus Black, the racing car driver who’s back was so badly injured in a crash twelve months ago that he could no longer drive professionally.
Catherine waved at him through the glass partition and pointed to the luxury reception area.
He hoped whoever this woman was that she’d be a pleasant diversion from the crap day he’d had. His dad had come through the surgery and was doing well so far. Tom had stayed at the hospital a lot longer than he’d intended since his brother Sam had guilted him into hanging around until Vincent had returned to the recovery room. He was still angry with Sam. Tom didn’t owe his father anything. Not after the upbringing he’d had.
He knew coming back to LA was a risk. The European circuit meant he didn’t have to see his father or revisit his past. He’d been back barely a month before his past came calling. His father needed a new liver. No surprises there. He’d drunk himself to the point of death.
This morning Tom had come directly to work from the hospital with no sleep and found out that one of their parts suppliers had mucked up an order. It had put them behind schedule for the day, which was why he was still working at eight o’clock this evening dead on his feet. Zip had volunteered to stay to help and Tom had been happy to give him the overtime.
The smile on his lips died as soon as he saw Marcus’s sister, Kendra Black standing by the counter. She was still a princess and he was most definitely still the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. She was more beautiful than ever with her long, sleek black hair, olive-green eyes, and the sweetest, softest lips he’d ever kissed.
Even after all this time, he still remembered the way she’d felt against his mouth, his skin, and the sounds of pleasure that had come from between them. Reining in his libido, he walked closer.
“Kendra. Zip said that someone was here to see me, but I think you must want Marcus—”
Her eyes glittered like green glass. “No. I have come to see you.”
Tom’s eyebrows rose and a prickle of unease slid up his spine. Normally Kendra Black avoided him and he was relieved. It hurt just looking at her. He still wanted her as much as he ever did, but she was still Marcus’s little sister and still off limits, especially now she had a kid and he was in business with her brother. Marcus was still feral over the fact Kendra protected the man who’d done this to her. Tom had even offered to kick this guy’s ass when they learned the truth. How dare this guy treat Kendra like this, let alone a little boy? He’d only seen Connor a few times but he was the spitting image of Kendra with jet-black hair.
He thanked God every day Marcus never learned of his one big fuckin’ mistake. Tom knew to stay well clear of Marcus’s little cancer survivor sister. But that was funkin’ hard when she’d pursued him as if he was her favorite treat. Finally, four years ago, on a break from the racing circuit, he’d finally given in to his desire. She was a beauty he had promised to leave alone but when had he ever adhered to the rules?
The night he’d slept with Kendra was burned into his brain. He should regret it but he couldn’t. It was on her twentieth birthday, and it was the best night of his life.
But happy families was not for him. He didn’t want to be in a relationship. In his experience people let you down. Marriages never lasted and you simply ended up hating each other like his parent’s.
“We need to talk,” she said.
“Has something happened to Marcus?”
“The world does not start and end with my brother. No, this is about you and me.”
“There is no you and me,” he said looking around wishing she’d keep her voice down. Catherine was watching with interest.
“Really? Okay, the past you and me then. Or have you forgotten our one night together, perhaps you have, as it was almost four years ago.”
Forget? It was burned in his memory.
When he said nothing, her eyes narrowed. “I suppose it’s hard to keep track with all the women who throw themselves at you. Let me refresh your memory. You screwed me once and tore out of there afterwards like your ass was on fire.”
Tom remembered everything. He especially remembered back further, eight years back, to the day when he’d first met Marcus and laid his eyes on Marcus’s little sister, Kendra.
Marcus had caught him eyeing up his little sister, his recently recovered little sister, like the man-whore he was, and had made it crystal clear that his sister was off limits. He’d vowed to his best friend he’d keep his zipper up around her. That vow had been ripped to shreds when four years ago he’d been weak, and he’d given into temptation, betraying Marcus and totally screwing up with Kendra.
Tom forced his attention back to the present and shook his head. “That night was a mistake. I think we both agree about that. Why bring it up now?”
He was further startled when her jaw clenched and she banged a pretty fist down on the counter.
“A mistake? Well, some mistakes have consequences and it’s about time you faced up to yours whether you like it or not.”
Her breasts rose and fell under her black tank top, making it hard for Tom to think with his brain instead of where his blood had started to flow. Shit. Only two minutes in her presence and he was ready to back her against the wall and…
“I don’t know what you mean,” Tom said. “I only left that night because I had an early flight out. I had to get back to Prague and the racing circuit. I mean, yeah, I was a little freaked about the condom breaking, but—”
“A little freaked out?” Kendra hurled at him. “Maybe that’s why you left that night, but what about the rest of it? You never answered me about anything! I emailed and left a bunch of voicemails, but you never got back to me.”
Tom hid his guilt behind a stony expression. “Look, it was just one night and I warned you that I wasn’t into relationships.” He shrugged. “I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings, but I figured that a clean break was best so I ignored your messages and emails. I’ve been back in America for almost a year. How was I to know that you’re still pissed about it?”
She came closer and the enticing scent she wore hit him like a ton of bricks. Heat roared through his body and he cursed the fact she still affected him so strongly. The instant arousal took Tom completely off-guard and he staggered back a step.
“You think I’m still pissed about you not wanting more? You’re more conceited than I thought. Think for a moment. Why might I have been chasing after you so hard?”
Tom’s second sense rose to the surface like it had back in the day whenever his drunken father was around. His insides clenched. “What are you implying?”
Her eyes never left his. “What kind of man ignores a woman’s pleas?”
“Pleas?” But spots began to dance behind his eyes. It was as if his body knew what she was about to say but his mind could not grasp the implication.
“What kind of man knocks up his best friend’s sister and doesn’t even want to acknowledge his son’s existence but is happy to go into business with her brother?”
Her statement was like a sucker punch to the groin and Tom couldn’t move. “What?” he asked softly.
“You got me pregnant and left me to face the music alone,” Kendra said, tears shimmering in her eyes. “I begged and begged you to come be with me, to help me, but you wouldn’t. Obviously, you didn’t want anything to do with me or Connor.”
A buzzing started in Tom’s brain and he shook his head to clear it. “Connor? What the hell are you saying, Kendra?”
“Like you don’t know!”
“No! I don’t know!” Tom shot back.
Kendra said, “You’re Connor’s father! I told you in all those emails I sent!”
Tom could barely get his words out. “What? No, I’m not. Emails?”
She searched Tom’s face as if looking for any sign of deception. “Did you get my emails?”
Tom nodded. “I got them, but I never opened them. I deleted your voicemails before I listened to them.” He knew if he’d opened even one, he’d be tempted and the racing team was on the cusp of victory. He couldn’t let anything destroy Marcus’s chance. He’d promised Marcus to stay away from Kendra—but if he’d known… He looked at her hurt face and knew she spoke the truth. Finally he understood why Kendra had refused to reveal the baby’s father to her brother.
It was to protect him.
Guilt hit hard and fast. “You should’ve come and told me in person as soon as I moved back to LA.”
“I thought you already knew and didn’t want us.”
He ground his teeth. If Kendra had been a man, he’d have punched her out for implying he’d treat any woman, let alone a child that way. Did she even know him at all? How could she? He’d never let her get that close. “I didn’t know.”
Kendra folded her arms. “Really?”
Tom’s expression tightened. The hits kept coming. “I can prove it to you.” Striding around behind the counter, he went to the computer. “Come here.”
Kendra followed him and stopped by his side. She watched him bring up his email account and log in. His hands were greasy but that didn’t dim her sudden desire to feel them on her body. She’d loved the way his calloused palms had pleasantly scraped along her thighs while he’d held her down so he could pleasure her with his tongue.
She jerked back to the present when he turned the computer monitor and pointed at an email folder with her name on it. “See that? I put all of your emails in here, but never opened them.” He clicked on the folder and a list of over twenty emails lined the screen. Every single one of them was still bolded and they were in the right date range.
Kendra looked at all the unopened emails and then into Tom’s eyes. She couldn’t hold his gaze for long, though, because she didn’t want him to see the tears that threatened. He hadn’t known!
She should have confronted him sooner but pride got in her way. She would not beg to have him in their lives. But today when Marianne, a fellow cancer survivor, had shared her terrible news, Kendra’s world became very black and white. Marianne’s cancer was back and it was terminal. Marianne had been in remission as long as Kendra. What would happen to Connor if her cancer came back? Her little boy deserved to know and love at least one living parent.
Lowering her eyes, Kendra said, “Let’s go somewhere and talk about this.”
She walked to the door and was relieved when she heard Tom following her. Anxiety gnawed at her insides as she led him over to her powder blue Honda Odyssey van.
“I can’t believe that Marcus is letting you drive this piece of shit,” Tom remarked.
Kendra’s chin rose. “I won’t let him buy me something else. I depend on him too much as it is. It’s hard to make a car payment on what I make, but I manage…most of the time.”
She’d dropped out of law school as soon as she knew she was pregnant. When her father refused to support her unless she named the father, she’d turned to teaching music and doing backup vocals, mainly for new singers wanting demo tapes. She got by. She was proud she could do it on her own—mostly on her own. Marcus helped when she couldn’t make ends meet but Tom didn’t need to know that.
Guilt and anger flitted across Tom’s chiseled face as he looked down at her and Kendra’s lungs refused to expand for a few moments. He’d been downright sexy when they’d been younger, but he’d matured, becoming even more devastating.
She’d liked his previous long hair, but the close-cropped, almost military style cut he now sported made him look edgy and even more dangerous. The black Bad Boy Autos T-shirt was molded to his well-defined, muscular body. A tattoo peeked out from under the left sleeve, but she couldn’t make out what it was in dark. It must be new. She’d know because she’d memorized every tattoo on his body that one night.
“You want to explain to me what’s going on in that head of yours?” he asked.
The unsure, perplexed look on his face softened her heart a tiny bit. “You really didn’t know, did you?”
“No. And I sure as hell would have helped if I’d known.” He stood looking down at her. “Why did you wait so long? Is it because you’re not sure he’s mine? Weren’t you seeing a guy in your father’s law firm at the time? Marcus is sure he’s the father. He even went and let all the tires down on the dick’s Audi one night, and refused to work on his car once too.”
“When you meet Connor, you’ll know.”
“Now. I want to meet my son now!”
“He’s asleep. Let’s go somewhere and talk about this situation.”
He gave a curt nod before looking across at Catherine. “We’ll go to my place. No one will bug us there. Just give me a minute while I let Zip know I’m leaving.”
Kendra swallowed the panic at the thought of being alone with Tom, at his house, but they couldn’t talk at her place since her neighbor was watching Connor there. “Okay. I’ll follow you.”
He nodded again and walked back into the office. She watched him have a quick chat with Catherine and then he disappeared into the work area.
In her head Kendra went over the sum she’d come to for child support. It was fair and anyway it was an amount Tom could easily afford. He’d had a very successful career on the racing circuit.
She wasn’t greedy. She just needed enough to ensure her son was taken care of. What she really wanted was for Tom to want to know his son, especially if the worst should happen to her. It looked like that would not be a problem.
About five minutes later a whistle pierced the air, he was ready to go, and she watched as Tom strode over to a red Mustang while she got in her van. She started it and tried to get her racing heartbeat under control. Tom had never lied to her. Even if he’d known something would hurt her feelings, he’d always been honest with her. She believed him.
A horn beeped and Kendra saw Tom’s car now faced the road. She put the van in gear and trailed after him as he pulled out and sped away. As she followed him, she pondered the fact that all her emails to him were still unopened and she wondered why he hadn’t bothered to read them.
Why did you wait a year to confront him?
Had he just not considered them important enough? No, that couldn’t be right. You didn’t keep emails unless they meant something to you. You deleted them and forgot about them. But Tom hadn’t just kept them; he’d put them in a special folder. Why would he do that?
Had she been more than just a quick lay to him? Kendra squashed the tiny shoot of hope that tried to sprout in her heart. No way I’m going down that road again, she thought as she kept Tom’s taillights in sight.