Cruz Zaffino leaves prison after a serving a decade for a crime he didn’t commit. With his life all over the internet, there’s nowhere he can go to avoid his illicit past. Involved with one of Chicago’s toughest gangs, he made enemies bent on ruining everything he has. Nowhere is beyond their reach.
Every day, Rosie Marlow lives with the scars from the worst mistake of her life. It’s the one secret she has in her tiny, gossip-fueled town. When Cruz walks into her bar, covered in tattoos and dangerous attitude, she’s captivated. His rough sexuality makes her melt, and his harsh experience calls to her own broken soul. But her story is private and buried so deep, she’s never had the strength to share it.
She’s the unexpected light to his darkness, yet he knows she’s hiding something. Sultry summer nights in each other’s arms weaken her resistance and taunt her with the idea of forever. But as his adversaries draw close, can she love him enough to let him go?
Rosie dropped her own hand on top of Cruz’s, tracing small circles on his skin. “You make it sound so easy. How do you do it?”
“I know that if they won’t look past the surface, then I don’t have time for them. They’re not gonna change.”
“You’re right. People are pretty set in their ways. Whether that’s good or bad.” She slowly moved her fingers up his arm, tracing his tattoos. Her touch was tender yet so tempting. Did she realize the effect she had on him? “Didn’t mean to get in tizzy over that. What Thalia said about those guys, it could be nothing.”
“I might like your tizzies.”
“I can’t hide my emotions too well, I guess. Not a good poker face there.”
Turning back onto the main road, Cruz hit the gas and chuckled.
“Though if I was playing for real, then watch out.” She made a sweeping motion in the air in front of her face. “No one knows what I’m thinking.” What did she just say? He swung a glance to her. “You play poker?”
“For real?” That was the last thing he’d expect from his little country girl. “Where’d you learn?”
“Shane taught me.” She twisted in the seat so she was nearly sideways, facing him. “After my accident, I had months of recovery where I just sat around. I read tons of books and watched movies, but I got to a point where I needed something else to do.”
“So he taught me, and when I got good enough, he’d bring friends over and we’d all play. For chips, of course. I had no income.”
“You keep surprising me, Rosie-girl.”
“Why? Do you play?”
“Well then, there you go.” She made a satisfied mm-hmm. “That may be the first thing we have in common.”
He laughed, because she was right. Well, almost. He had a hunch about one other thing, which he hoped to pursue ASAP.
“Wanna play?” she asked softly, reaching to idly caress his bicep.
They were almost at her driveway and her hands were magic on his arm. He’d played poker when everything he had was on the line, both before prison and inside. “I’d have to go easy on you.”
She sucked in a breath. “You did not just say that. Cruz, I’d whip you so bad, this truck would belong to me.”
“Oh really?” He turned into her drive. “Those are fighting words.” He turned to find her eyes locked on him in a playful challenge.
“Damn straight they are.”
He slid his hand from her knee to her smooth thigh. “All right. You’re on, pretty girl.”
“Yes!” She straightened as they neared her house, and he instantly missed her hands on him. “Hmm. What should the stakes be?” She tapped finger on her chin.
He reached the front yard and threw the vehicle in park. Fucking hell. He knew exactly what the stakes should be. He got out and met her as she hopped out and stood by the truck.
“Money? Dinner?” She tilted her head as he moved in close. “Something else?”
He laid both hands on the metal behind her, caging her in his arms. “Something else.”
“Yeah? Like what?” Blue eyes flashed with a delighted spark. “What do you feel like losing?’
His body had set its cross hairs on Rosie the day they met. He brushed one hand along her shoulder, stopping at the straps of her doubled-up tank tops. He tugged gently. “Our clothes.”
Sharon Kay writes award-winning fiction and can never get enough reading time. She loves winter and black coffee, and is endlessly inspired to write kick-ass heroines and the men strong enough to capture their hearts.
Sharon lives in the Chicago area with her husband and son, and one weekend the idea for her Lash Watchers and tough leading ladies formed in her head, refusing to stay quiet until she put pen to paper. Her characters tend to keep her up at night, as they banter, fall in love, and slay endless varieties of power-hungry demons.
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