|“He’d finally found her, and he’d be damned if she once again|
slipped through his fingers.”
Tough Road is the prequel to the new Shakedown series! I am soooo excited to share with you the secret world of this burlesque club where ex-cons and ex-gangsters are fighting for their second chance–and for the women who challenge them.
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Rachel Grant worked her fingers to the bone after her fall from society’s grace, thanks to her sudden poverty and connection to ex-fiancé Trick Masters who was convicted of embezzlement.
How dare he show up after being released and accuse her of framing him.
How dare he look so good, so put-together, so infuriatingly handsome.~
“Order up, Rachel.” Gabe nodded at the row of martinis he’d set on her tray. “You outdid yourself with this suggestion.”
“Thanks. They look great.” She adjusted a sprig of lavender on one of the martinis du jour she’d “invented” with Gabe’s help.
“Same Red Hat ladies this week?”
“They do love their surprise cocktails of the day.” She lifted the tray. “Guaranteed thirty percent tip.”
Her heart jumped into her throat at the sound of that voice. She set the tray down on the bar just in time. His voice was rougher, deeper than she recalled, but there was no mistaking who that rumble belonged to. She slowly turned and blinked a few times. Trick Masters. The floor underneath her threatened to give way, and she stepped back, crashing into the pass-through door.
Jesus, he still looked good. But, then again, he always had.
“Rachel Grant. As I live and breathe.” He reached around and grasped the side of her tray to prevent the three lavender martinis from crashing to the floor.
His suit coat brushed her arm, and just as if a lit match touched a puddle of gasoline, a searing pain flashed in her rib cage. That familiar humiliation she’d fought to release years ago threatened to devour her. Her therapist’s words flooded her brain.
Visualize a stop sign whenever bad feelings arise. Stop the negative thoughts and pictures.
“Rachel, you alright?” Gabe’s voice echoed distantly against the rush of blood in her ears.
Alright? Hell, no. A tickle rose inside her nose. Her breath burned hot in her throat, and her eyes pricked. She had to stop this cascade of emotion threatening to let loose.
Do not cry. Stop sign. Do not cry. Stop sign.
She sucked in a breath. That same woodsy aftershave he loved rushed in, and it was too late to stop anything. Her heart was going to split open, spill every secret wish she’d sobbed into her pillow over this man.
“Can I get you something else, sir?”
Gabe’s voice likely saved her from doing the unthinkable—shedding more useless, wasted tears over Trick Masters.
“Another club soda.” Trick leaned his elbow on the bar and stared at her. “Gabe, no offense to you, but Rachel’s got some interesting mixology ideas. You should put her behind the bar. She’s good at dishing out fantasies.”
His words snapped a lid on her useless nostalgia, and red-hot heat flared through her limbs. Good. Anger was better than longing and sorrow over what should have been. Maybe it’d cauterize the crack that threatened to rend her heart in two. She lifted her tray and, with sheer willpower, lowered her shoulders. She would not give him the satisfaction of seeing her come undone.
“Rachel, I need to talk to you.” The heartless thief peered down at her with those same blue-gray eyes she’d once thought so kind—but weren’t. He flashed that same charming smile—which she now knew hid a thousand lies.
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