Authors: Rhyannon Byrd
Titles by Rhyannon Byrd
Take Me Under
Keep Me Closer
Wicked and Dangerous
(with Shayla Black)
Make Me Yours
InterMix Books, New York
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
MAKE ME YOURS
An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Sensation trade paperback edition / October 2013
InterMix eBook edition / February 2015
Copyright Â© 2013 by Tabitha Bird.
Take Me Under
copyright Â© 2013 by Tabitha Bird.
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For WillÂ .Â .Â .
Special Excerpt from
Keep Me Closer
DRIPPING WITH SWEAT AS HE TOOK A LATE NIGHT RUN ON THE
moonlit beach, Scott Ryder had a strange feeling burning through his veins, twisting its way into his bones. One that didn't have anything to do with his grueling pace or the miles of sand he'd already covered.
The feeling had been building inside him for weeks now, making him restless, leaving him in a generally shitty mood. He'd tried to shake it, but he couldn't. Damn thing just kept growing, pissing him off even more. People were starting to go out of their way to avoid him at the station, which was just as well, seeing as how he hadn't been in the mood for conversation. But tonight he'd been forced to attend the retirement party for one of the other deputies in the sheriff's department, and his nerves were still scraped raw. It wasn't that he didn't like Dwight Jones. Dwight was an all right guy who was looking forward to spending his days either out on the golf course or on his new fishing boat and he wished him luck. But Ryder's boss, Ben Hudson, had been at the party with his new wife, and for some unknown reason the sight of them had set his teeth on edge.
He didn't want the sheriff's wife for himself. Reese was more than easy on the eyes and had a killer smile, but Ben had staked his claim the moment she hit town at the beginning of the summer, so she and Ryder were friends and nothing more. But the way Ben kept looking at her during the party, as if marriage made him the luckiest bastard in the world, had made Ryder want to put his fucking fist through a wall.
He knew damn well that his reaction didn't make any sense. Christ, he wanted Ben and Reese to be happy. After everything they'd been through, they deserved it. He just couldn't stomach being near all that cozy, romantic bliss. Not when this itch in his veins wouldn't let off, his instincts constantly twitching, as if he were missing something important and needed to open his damn eyes so he could figure out what it was. He'd had the same kind of feeling before, when he'd worked black ops, and it'd saved his ass too many times to count. But he'd left that life behind. He no longer had to live in constant survival mode. There was no danger here. No one gunning for his life or the people he cared about. Which meant he needed to calm the hell down and learn to relax.
Heading into the last half mile of his run, Ryder repeated a familiar phrase in his mind. His personal mantra now that he'd settled down in the cozy little town of Moss Beach.
Nothing to run fromÂ .Â .Â .
Nothing to run toÂ .Â .Â .
There was a peace and perfection in those simple words. They meant freedom. A new beginning. A new life.
Unfortunately, they were nothing but lies. Because while he might not have anything to run to, he was sure as hell still running
something. He might have decided to stay put in this scenic little beach town on Florida's Gulf Coast, but that didn't mean he wasn't fighting an internal battle every damn day of his life. He'd physically stopped, but his mind was still running at top speed, doing everything it could to forget aboutâ
Shit. Don't even go there,
he muttered to himself. And that thought was swiftly followed by a guttural
Christ, I need a drink.
He spent a lot of time these days telling himself what he needed to fix his head. A drink, a woman, or
when he couldn't be bothered to choose which one he wanted to take home for the night. If he wasn't careful, he was going to develop a reputation in town as the lawman who could screw his way through hoards of party girls without ever losing his breath. At the age of thirty-three, it wasn't a distinction to be proud of. It just meant that while all the other guys were getting on with their lives, he was still acting like an idiot who thought with his prick. Or one who would only touch a woman if she let him tie herâ
No, damn it.
He wasn't going
tonight either. In his current mood, those thoughts wouldn't lead him to any place good.
Hitting the five-mile marker, Ryder finally slowed to a walk and pulled off his damp T-shirt, using it to wipe the sweat from his face. He headed across the sand toward the beachfront duplex he rented from an elderly couple who had retired there after living in New York for the past forty years. The house was designed with an entrance to each half at the sides of the duplex, bougainvillea-covered trellises creating two pathways that sheltered the entrances from the street, with matching archways in the back that you could walk through if coming up from the beach. The profusion of flowers was a little fanciful for Ryder's taste, but his sister had gushed about them when she came for a visit last month, claiming the trellises gave the house “Southern charm.”
Wondering if he'd finally be able to chill enough tonight that he could sleep, Ryder had nearly reached his front door when he sensed a slight movement to his left, in the shadows of the trellis, and he reacted before he'd even given conscious thought to the possible threat. That's what over a decade of black ops training could do to you, and despite being out of the game for a few years now, his reflexes were as lightning quick as ever. Dropping his shirt, he reached into the shadows, snagged a feminine arm, and yanked the woman into the moonlight, the shrill scream on her lips quickly shifting to an outraged snarl as she brought her other arm around to strike him across the face. He quickly blocked the move, catching her wrist and pinning both arms behind her back, while she flailed in his hold, kicking at his shins with her sandal-covered feet.
“Who are you?” he growled, quickly assessing that she wasn't a physical threat. Her hair covered her face as she struggled to free herself from his embrace. But despite her efforts, there wasn't a chance in hell she could break free. He knew how to counteract every one of her defensive moves, which only infuriated her more.
Narrowing his eyes, Ryder carried out a quick visual check on the female. She had her head down so he still couldn't see her faceâbut what he
see of her made his mouth go dry. Waves of silky strawberry blond hair. Her miniskirt and short-sleeved, button-down shirt revealed creamy skin and a body that was slight but deliciously feminine. So familiar it was almost too good to be true. She had the right shade of hair. The right frame. The right shape. The right fucking everything, ripped right out of his goddamn memory to torment him.
He could hear a roaring in his ears, drowning out the rational voice in the back of his mind shouting for him to move away from her. Instead, he continued acting purely on instinct. On the raw, powerful lust that ripped up through his insides the instant he realized he had someone who reminded him of
in his arms. The very woman he never allowed himself to think about, let alone fantasize. But this was like a gift from fate. The bastard had never been kind to him in the past, but at the moment Ryder just didn't give a damn. The only thing he had to worry about was convincing the little hellcat that there was something a hell of a lot better they could be doing together than fighting.
His breathing got deeper, nostrils flaring as he pulled in her light, purely feminine scent, the autumn night warm enough that the air was still sultry and damp from an earlier rainstorm. His body had already reacted to the feel of her wriggling against him, a serrated groan on his lips when her belly brushed against his erection, making her gasp. She went instantly still, but not with fear. It was more likeÂ .Â .Â . surprise, and he knew the exact instant her anger flared into lustâand he was done for. In that moment he couldn't have walked away from her if his goddamn life depended on it.
For all Ryder knew, the woman was a thief who'd been getting ready to clear his house out, but he didn't care. She smelled like Lily, had that same gorgeous hair and sexy figure, and he was too fucking starved to resist. One second they were standing on the walkway in front of his door, and in the next he had her plastered against it, wishing like hell that he'd replaced the blown bulb in the outside light so that he could get a better look at what he was tasting. His mouth had instantly settled against the base of her pale, slim throat, his tongue fluttering against her hammering pulse as he grabbed the front of her short-sleeved top and ripped. By the time Ryder could hear the shirt's buttons pinging against the ground, he already had his mouth buried between her beautiful breasts. Any concerns he might have had that she wasn't on exactly the same page as him were shattered by the low moan she gave when he ripped the silky cups of her bra down and curled his long fingers around the firm, delicate mounds, covering one of the hardened tips with his mouth. She cried out as he suckled her, her short nails digging into the bunched muscles in his shoulders, and it was like losing himself in a fever dream, her wild response to his aggression only adding fuel to the fire.
The nipple in Ryder's mouth was tight and sweet, the intoxicating taste of the woman's skin cranking his lust up to a primitive level. That irritating voice was still shouting in the back of his mind, warning him to snap back to reality and think about what he was doingâbut he was too far gone, and she was too damn hot and willing. Her hands were already fisted in his hair, holding him to her as he switched to the other breast, her thigh riding his hip as she arched against him, as if she was as desperate for this as he was. And he was beyond desperate, his dick so hard he could have hammered through the fucking door with it. And the longer he touched her, the harder he got. Not that she was complaining. The woman was grinding herself against the front of his running shorts, riding the hard ridge of his cock, the husky sounds spilling from her lips the sexiest damn thing he'd ever heard.
He didn't have a condom on him, which meant he couldn't fuck her until he got her inside. He might be aching for it, but he wasn't stupid. He'd always been religious about suiting up with latex and had never screwed without it. But this hot little stranger made him damn tempted.
“We need to move this indoors,” he rasped against the soft skin just under her right breast. Gripping her hips, Ryder dropped to his knees and kissed his way down her flat belly, until he'd shoved her skirt up and had his face buried against the silky front of her pantiesÂ .Â .Â . then lower, between her legs. A rough, guttural sound crawled its way up from his chest as he caught the hot, mouthwatering scent of her cunt, the sexy underwear already damp with her juices. And then she had to destroy the whole goddamn thing with the soft, whispered sound of his name.
Ah, Christ. No one fucking called him that but
and it hit him like a bucket of ice water in his face.
He should have listened to his gut, to that damn voice that had been shouting in the back of his mind, because this woman didn't just
Lily Heller. She
No. No way. Not her. Not Lily. Couldn't be. She was just someone who reminded him of her. Someone he could still touch and get his fill of. Someone he couldâ
He tried, but he couldn't do it. Couldn't buy his own bullshit. The lie had been blasted into a million tiny fragments and now he was going to have to pay the fucking price for being an idiot. No doubt with his sanity.
Jerking back to his feet, Ryder gripped her shoulders as he locked his sharp gaze on her face for the first time in three years.
“Son of a bitch,”
he grated under his breath. Big green eyes with lashes that were long and thick stared back at him. Rosy lips parted for her panting breaths. Moonlight spilling down on those firm breasts, her pink little nipples still glistening from his mouth and tongue.
He was shaking so hard she was jerking in his arms, but he couldn't stop, unable to believe what was right in front of him. The girl he'd left his life and career forâthe one who had been the object of his most dangerous obsession for far too longâwas trapped between his body and his front door, blinking up at him with those big, bright eyes while she tried to catch her breath.
Lily Heller, daughter of his ex-boss and goddamn thorn in his side, in the flesh, staring back at him as if she could eat him alive, with her perfect tits out and her skirt hiked up around her waist.
Ryder rubbed a rough hand over his mouth, wondering how he could have let things go so far. What the hell had he been thinking?
He hadn't. Which was the problem. He'd shoved rational thought to the back of his mind and focused on what he wanted. Instant gratification would screw you over every time. Damn it, he knew that. Had an IQ that said he was way too fucking smart to make that kind of mistakeâbut his dick had apparently failed to get the memo. And now, thanks to this royal little screwup, he would have to go through life knowing
how right it felt to have her under his hands and mouth.
“Fuck!” he ground out through his clenched teeth, shoving away from her. At six-three, he towered over her, even though she wasn't a short woman. Maybe five-six or five-seven, though she seemed more petite because of her build. She was slim, but feminine as hell, and he wanted nothing more than to take her back into his arms andâ
He couldn't do it. Because if he did, it was going to goddamn destroy him when he had to walk away. And he
walk. He didn't have any other option. He never had where this girl was concerned. Yeah, she might be twenty-five now, but he still thought of her as the gangly, innocent teen she'd been when he first met her all those years ago.
Before he could get his mind wrapped around this new reality in which Lily Heller had suddenly popped back into his life, she shoved her skirt down, yanked the sides of her shirt closed, and glared up at him. “Do you mind telling me why you attacked me?” she snapped.
His jaw tightened. “I didn't attack you. You're the one who tried to hit