Los Angeles, Four Years Ago
Kendra slowly eased off the pedal as she sped down Hollywood Boulevard, least she speed her way into a ticket. She didn’t want anything to kill her buzz today.
She was driving like her brother Marcus Black drove on the race circuit. Speed kills you idiot. She laughed out loud. She was on a natural high from her successful meeting this afternoon and she knew it. Finally, she understood why her brother craved speeding around a race-track—the adrenalin. The feeling was addictive.
Even with the negativity from her parents, she’d gone ahead and auditioned as a backup singer for James Tan, the latest boy singing sensation’s California tour.
Her father was pushing her to go to law school mainly because her brother had walked away from university to become a formula one racing car driver. There had to be at least one lawyer in the family, and as the only other child, she drew the short straw. Law bored her silly. And life was too short to be bored. She should know.
She relived the audition in her head and a shiver of joy raced through her. No one had believed she could do it. But she hadn’t spent most of her teenage years combating, and beating, cancer without learning that in life you had to fight to reach your dreams.
She had much bigger plans than going to university and sitting in an office for the rest of her life. Music had always been the love of her life—well—the second love of her life. Unfortunately, the first love of her life, Thomas (Tom) Lorde spent most of his time pretending she didn’t exist.
Tom was her brother’s best friend and head mechanic on the racing circuit, which meant he spent most of the year in Europe, with Marcus, racing. It was almost as if Tom relished his job just because it took him far away from her.
They flirted all the time but, damn it, he would not cross that brotherly best friend line. Yet!
The light up ahead was turning green so she didn’t even slow down as she drove to Porter’s bar where she was meeting Stella to celebrate her audition. Stella was more excited than her at her signing, and was already lining up for an introduction to James.
She pushed down the fear churning in her stomach at having to tell her father, but what he didn’t know couldn’t hurt him. Maybe he didn’t have to know. She could still go to University and sing. Music isn’t a career. Only 1% make a living… She pushed away the darkness of her father’s disapproval ringing in her head. She had one year to prove that she could make music a career, just like Marcus had done with driving. Perhaps then, her father wouldn’t shout the roof off when she told him she was dropping out to sing full time.
For some reason her father was much tougher on her than he’d been on Marcus. Tougher on her for two reasons, probably because there were no other children after her, he’d watched her beat cancer, and now seemed to think he had to watch her every minute of the day. Worse still, her father had visions of her carrying on in the family law firm as if she’s beaten cancer just to fulfil this role.
She reached across the passenger seat and patted her bright pink Alexander McQueen The Story tote bag with her fake ID safe inside. Tonight, of all nights, nothing was going to stop her getting into Porters, the hippest club on the boulevard. She had plans for this evening. Special plans. It was her day and she was going to make it her night too.
Marcus and his racing buddies would be drinking at the club, and there was one person in particular she’d set her sights on, hell, it was her birthday after all—twenty today. She glanced in the rearview mirror and smiled. She’d just signed her first paying music contract and tonight she could do anything, and what she wanted to do was Thomas Lorde.
Her body shivered. It must really be her night she laughed, as she was able to find a park not far from the bar and when she flashed her ID at the bouncer, he simply waved her through. If only everything in life was this easy. She of all people knew how tough life could be. She’d spent years battling leukemia, and had finally been given the all clear four years ago. Pride saw her straighten and walk tall. She wasn’t a quitter, she was a fighter, and as she stared across the bar at Thomas, Tom to his friends, that fighting spirit rose to engulf her.
He’ll be mine tonight.
As Kendra made her way toward her friend, she noticed guys glancing her way with appreciative looks on their faces, fantastic for her confidence. Except there was only one guy she wanted glancing at her with such a look on his face. She mentally willed him to turn around, her eyes spearing him, and wow she was on fire, because he looked over his shoulder and watched her every move as she drew near.
For once his eyes didn’t look away. She’d dressed just to illicit this very reaction. His eyes flared with heat as he took in her skimpy pink halter top resting just above her ‘fit like a glove’ white capri jeans, showing off her Californian tan. Her pink stilettos made her legs look as if they went on forever and she wore her long black hair lose. It had taken her almost a year to grow her hair back after her chemo and she hadn’t cut it since.
“You work it girl,” Stella said when Kendra reached their table just behind where Marcus and Tom stood at the bar. She hadn’t taken her eyes from Tom and he certainly hadn’t taken his eyes off her either.
This was the night… she could feel it in her bones.
Giddy with excitement she took a seat facing Tom and lifted a shot Stella had waiting for her. “Here’s to your first music contract,” Stella exclaimed clanking their glasses together as they downed their shots quickly.
The hit of alcohol didn’t stir her as much as Tom’s sexy grin.
For once Tom wasn’t hanging off Marcus’s every word, his mouth hung open watching her as if he wanted to eat her all up. Fine with me.
Tom’s smoky grey eyes held her hostage. He was drop-the fuck-dead gorgeous with scruffy, shoulder length surfer blond hair framing a GQ model face. He had that hint of danger about him, as if life hadn’t been easy. Yet his clothes screamed money. He was tall, and had powerful arms. She briefly closed her eyes remembering the huge eagle tattoo on his chest. Having a swimming pool at your home did have some advantages. She’d seen just about every inch of his perfect body.
Stella leaned over and whispered, “You did it girl. You’ve got Tom’s attention. How about I go and ensure Marcus’s attention is elsewhere.”
“Did I ever tell you how much I love you,” Kendra said to her friend as she picked up another shot and drank it. And still Tom was watching.
She didn’t really even notice Stella leave the table to distract Marcus but Tom must have because he sauntered toward where she sat as if he knew she loved looking at him.
“You look different tonight,” he said as he took the chair Stella had vacated.
“I’m celebrating.” At his raised eyebrow she added, “Today I signed to be a backup singer for James Tan.”
His grin widened. “Way to go. I knew you could do anything you set your mind to.”
She wanted to hug him just for those words. At sixteen when she’d been declared in remission, he’d been the one to tell her, that you shouldn’t let anyone stop you from reaching for your dreams. He’d never treated her as the sickly, weak, fragile girl most people saw when they looked at her.
He signaled for the waitress. “A bottle of your finest champagne.”
She couldn’t help herself. “Aren’t you scared Marcus might see us talking.”
“Even he won’t mind me helping you celebrate such a milestone. Besides he looks as if his mind is elsewhere.”
She tore her gaze from Tom and looked at her handsome brother. Yip, Stella was working her magic. Her best friend could make guys beg for just a smile and it appeared Marcus was no different.
“I’m waiting for Marcus to see you are here, and wonder how you got into the bar.” Her face heated. “I suspect with you looking like that the bouncer didn’t really look at the ID very closely,” Tom added with a naughty grin on his lips.
“Are you going to tell on me?”
He leaned closer. “I’d be stupid to do that. I’d rather ask for a reward for not ruining your evening.”
This time it was her turn for her lips to form a naughty grin. “Reward?”
Tom winked. “A kiss should seal my lips.”
They had flirted like this hundreds of times before. Tonight, she wasn’t going to back down. “For the kiss I’ll give you, you most definitely want your lips unsealed.”
Tom threw a glance over his shoulder. She followed his gaze and saw Marcus was no longer standing there. Nor was Stella.
“I like how you think,” and he took her chin between his fingers and slowly lowered his lips to hers.
OMG he’s finally going to kiss me. She held her breath.
When his lips touched Kendra’s, her whole body caught fire. She moved closer, lifting her hand into his hair, bringing them closer so their chests touched. He deepened the kiss, slowly parting her lips, before driving his tongue into her mouth, sweeping and swirling his tongue with hers. She’d never experienced a kiss like it. She’d dreamed of kisses from Tom … reality blew her imaginings out of the water. His kiss was filled with such passion, if she’d been standing her legs wouldn’t have held her up. She put her whole self into returning fire with fire, showing him what was in her heart.
When they parted, she knew one kiss would never be enough.
“Be mine for tonight. Only tonight, that’s all I have,” he breathed in her ear.
She couldn’t talk, speechless with victory. She merely nodded.
“Let’s get out of here,” and with her hand swallowed by his very large one, they left the bar.
This was her night.
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 that appeared to never end. Cat had a body that could rival any in a 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. “She’s hot, I’ll tell you that, but then every woman who turns up here looking for you is hot. You have a type when it comes to women, smokin’ hot. Envy, man.”
He shook his head at Zip’s words. Shoot him. He liked hot women, what man didn’t, but he never led them on. Never promised more than he could give. But when they were with him, he treated them like princesses.
He hoped it wasn’t Trina, or was her name Katrina, from the other night. While he loved women, a lot of women, he didn’t do love—one on one. Ever. Life had shown him that love meant loss. Relationships between men and women were always doomed to fail and the fall out wasn’t worth the risk.
“Just tell me who she is.”
Zip laughed harder. “You’ll see. Just 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 Bad Boy Autos. Dealing in high-end cars didn’t feel like a job, but one side of the job he hated was the glitz and glamor that went with the clientele they procured. Men and women who spent more on a car than some people spent on their houses. Maserati, Porsche, and Mercedes. With his lowly 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. A share of the drivers prize money and a salary that was seven digits, coupled with a great investment advisor, meant he never had to worry about money again. Six months ago he’d invested in Bad Boy Autos with his best friend Marcus Black, the formula one race car driver who’s back was so badly injured in a crash eighteen months ago that he could no longer drive professionally.
Catherine waved at him through the glass partition and pointed to the luxury reception area. She often worked late in the office to keep on top of the invoicing. They’d offered to get her some help but she preferred to keep control of everything. Control freak he supposed. But they’d be lost without her.
He hoped whoever this woman was, she would 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 childhood. 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, also the excuse he now used as to why he’d been so shitty to his kids.
This morning Tom had come directly to work from the hospital, and on top of a lack of sleep, had 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 had, but she was still Marcus’s little sister and still off limits, especially now she had a kid and now 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 help Marcus 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 had known to stay well clear of Marcus’s little sister. It was the bro code after all, but that was fuckin’ hard to do 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 ultimately given in to his desire. She was a beauty and though he had promised to leave her alone he couldn’t. But really, when had he ever adhered to the rules?
From the minute of their first meeting by the pool, when she was still jailbait, Kendra let him know she was up for a taste of him. He deserved a medal for his resistance. He’d steered well clear of her until that fateful night four years later.
It helped that he spent most of the year in Europe on the racing circuit. But the down season was the hardest and it finally got him into trouble.
The night he’d caved in to his burning need to taste her, she’d just turned twenty, and instead of remembering Marcus’s warnings, he had slept with Kendra. The exotic memory was burned into his brain. He should regret that amazing night, but he didn’t. He blamed it on her birthday party and her asking for a personal present—a kiss from him. It was the best night of his life. He’d told himself dinner and dancing was it, nothing more — she deserved way better than him anyway. But that first kiss ignited something in them both and it wasn’t long before they moved to his hotel and melted into one another’s arms, wanting way more than kisses. He still wanted more, couldn’t get her out of his mind even all these years later.
But happy families were not for him. He didn’t have any plans to be involved in a relationship. In his experience people let you down. Marriages never lasted and you simply ended up hating each other, just like his parent’s had.
“We need to talk,” she said looking at him coolly. Her voice coated him like a honey glaze. Kendra had a sweet tone with a slight rasp that turned him on. But there was an edge to her comment that made him concerned.
“Has something happened to Marcus?”
“The world does not start and end with my brother. No, this is about you and me.”
“Kendra, babe, there is no you and me,” he said looking around wishing she’d keep her voice down. Catherine was watching with interest. “Aside from friends I mean, or is that what you mean?”
“Friends, really? Okay, the past you and me then. Or have you forgotten our one night together, perhaps you have, as it has been awhile… 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 then tore out of there afterwards like your ass was on fire!”
Tom remembered everything. He especially remembered back further, eight years ago, to the day when he’d first met Marcus and laid eyes on his little sister, Kendra.
Marcus had caught him eyeing Kendra up — his recently recovered little sister who’d been sick with leukemia, though you’d never know it by looking at her now. Marcus had made it crystal clear back then that his sister was off limits, especially as they both had man-whore reputations. 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 up 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—” Tom stopped short from saying anymore because of what came to mind. He vividly remembered the condom incident too, something that may have propelled him out the door. They’d talked about it but she assured him she couldn’t get pregnant.
“That’s it? Surely you remember our conversation about the condom breaking?” Kendra hurled at him. “Maybe that’s why you left that night, but what about after? You never answered my calls, emails, nothing! You never even tried to contact me.”
Tom hid his guilt behind a stony expression. He did feel bad about not staying in touch but he always figured she’d let him know through Marcus if there was a problem. Besides, Marcus would never approve of him hooking up with his sister, so to try to stay in contact was a bad idea all the way around. “Look, it was just one night, all turned out good right? And I warned you that I wasn’t into relationships.” He shrugged, feeling like the gum on the bottom of his shoe. “I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings, but I figured that a clean break was best so I ignored your messages and emails. Maybe that wasn’t the right thing to do, but 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, more between us? You’re even 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, fearing the worse. “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 hissed 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 it all 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! It was in all of the emails I sent you!”
“No! I don’t know!” Tom shot back. Shit, he’d received her calls and emails but never listened or read them…he couldn’t, he missed her too much and he didn’t want to fuck up both their lives. He was just beginning to taste success and Marcus would’ve killed him for sleeping with his little sister, destroying both their chances to make it big. Why bother to cause that sort of pain for something that would never last. Once Kendra got to know the real him, she’d leave anyway. Princesses always got their prince, not the frog.
Kendra said, “You’re Connor’s father! I told you in all those emails I sent!”Return to Reckless Curves