All of the Lights
by K. Ryan
Publication Date: August 22, 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance, Suspense
Two households. One secret that will change everything.
I was raised to believe his family was nothing but trash.
I was raised to believe her family was the root of all evil.
I sent his brother to prison.
I should hate her for what she did.
I’ve never fought a day in my life.
I’ve fought every day of my life.
I need him to help me find answers.
I need her to set the record straight.
I should stay away from him.
I should walk away from her.
But I can’t.
But I can’t.
*This book is a standalone, contemporary/mystery romance and is intended for readers 18 and older*
Just as I lean in with both hands splayed out on the bar top, the door opens and hell might as well have broken loose. Because as much as I’ve tried to push Friday night down to the deepest, darkest recesses of my memory where I’ll never have to worry about it again, it’s back with a vengeance.
Or, rather, she’s back with a fiery vengeance if her hair is any indication.
Her green eyes sweep around the bar and, considering there’s just two other people in it, those eyes find what they’re looking for quickly. There’s a determination in them that scares me a little more than it should—I should be the one breathing fire, not her. She’s the one treading on my space and yet, I’m the one ready to run and hide.
And then my memory clears. She played me Friday night, good and hard. Had me right where she wanted me, eating out of the palm of her damn hand, practically begging her to throw me a bone, to give me her number, and all for…what? So she could turn around and brag to all her friends that she conned Jack Flynn on Callahan turf?
It was probably all bullshit anyway. She probably went home to her boyfriend in Back Bay and laughed about me in bed all night long.
Now I react accordingly. Heat rises up from my feet and shoots right up to my chest. I want her the hell out of my bar. I want her the hell out of my sight.
Still, my body is frozen right where I stand as she crosses the short distance between us and tentatively rests her palms against the bar. My lips press into a firm, grim line and animosity pours off me in waves, filling the few feet between us. There’s no good reason for her to be here right now, or ever, and before she finds her way out the door, we need to clear something up first.
“Can we talk?” Rae asks, her voice shaking a little.
Good. She should be scared. She should turn her ass around and never come back.
“No,” I snap. My eyes slice into her and I hope she can feel every inch.
She swallows hard and her gaze shifts anxiously to Cal, who lifts an eyebrow and takes another swig of his beer nonchalantly as if the daughter of our community’s number one enemy didn’t just walk through the door.
Her chest rises and falls one more time and her hands clench around the edge of the bar top so tightly her knuckles turn pale.
“Please,” she tries again, but I’m already shaking my head. “I just need to—”
“You don’t need to do anything except leave,” I cut in briskly and slam the towel down on the bar. “You know, you must really be stupid…showing up here again like this. Do you have a death wish or something?”
“You’re not going to hurt me,” she shoots back in defiance.
No, I’m not.
“Try me,” I growl instead and her eyebrows just lift, unimpressed and unconvinced.
And for a moment, I almost admire the kind of backbone it must’ve taken her to actually get in her car, drive down here, and walk inside our bar. She’s not weak—I could see it Friday night and I see it now, but being strong isn’t going to do her any favors. Not here. Not like this.
I’d never lay hands on a woman, but given everything this particular woman has done to my family, to my brother, the way she just keeps showing up like a cockroach…the temptation itches at me.
She’s lucky I can control myself outside the ring.
Rae leans forward, her pretty face contorted a little too much for my liking and I know where this is going. I’ve seen this look before. Not from her, but other women at other times when they want something. This is exactly why the only woman I’ve ever been able to put up with in long doses is my mom because every other woman is a complicated mess I don’t have the time or the energy to spend untangling.
I might have fallen for her act Friday night, but I’m not biting tonight.
“Please,” she tries again. This time, her voice is softer, more urgent, and that raging determination is at the forefront now more than ever. “I just want to explain and then I’ll leave. I promise. Just one minute—that’s all I’m asking for. Besides,” she waves a hand around my near-empty bar, “it looks to me like you’ve got some time to kill.”
I blow out a deep breath and mull over my options. Unfortunately, she kinda has a point and I have a feeling that she really will leave if I just give her the one minute she’s asking for. Shit. Now I’m just annoyed she was able to convince me so quickly.
A beat later, I tip my chin at Cal.
“Why don’t you step outside for a smoke.”
He just lifts a shoulder, takes one more long gulp of his beer, and pushes off his stool to head toward the door. Once the door shuts behind him, my gaze shifts to the current bane of my existence and I lift an eyebrow at her. The ball’s in her court now.
“You’ve got 30 seconds and then you either get out or I’ll throw you out.”
Rae’s jaw clenches and for the first time since she walked in, she falters. Her hands tremble around the edge of the bar top, she inhales sharply, and if I look closely enough, I could probably see her lips quiver ever so slightly. Then, everything changes again on a dime. Her back straightens, her chin tips up, and her eyes meet mine dead-on. It’s like this girl is afraid of nothing. Jesus, maybe she really does have a death wish.
But when she finally opens her mouth, it’s not to tell me she’s sorry for playing my stupid ass on Friday night.
“I want to get Sean out of prison.”
Wait a minute…what? My head rears back and shakes from side to side. There’s no way I heard her right.
That’s all I’ve got.
She seems to take my response as a good sign, but she’s wrong. If my blood was simmering before, it’s cranked up to a boil now. My head just needs a little time to catch up with my emotions.
“I know he wasn’t the one who…” she trails off, her eyes still blazing green with a grit I just can’t reconcile right now. “I know he wasn’t the one who hurt me. I think I’ve always known it—I just never knew what to do about it until now.”
“You tell the fucking truth from the start, that’s what you do,” I snap back at her.
Rae winces from the impact, but I don’t care. She can’t come up in here and spew this kind of bullshit seven years too late.
“Don’t,” I lean forward as I growl again, inching just close enough so she can read the menace on my face. “You’re not sorry. If you were sorry, you wouldn’t have done it in the first place. Get out of my bar.”
“Please,” her eyes widen and her hands spread out in front of her in a futile attempt at getting any sympathy from me. “Just listen, okay? I know you hate me—”
“Hate you?” I cock an eyebrow at her and fold my arms across my chest. “Sweetheart, hate doesn’t even round the corner of what I feel for you. There isn’t a word in the dictionary for what I feel for you.”
K. Ryan lives in the Green Bay area with her crazy-supportive boyfriend and the best decision of her adult life, a not-so-stray cat named Oliver. When not writing, she’s either binge-watching something on Netflix, running, reading, or cheering on the Packers.
Follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@authorkryan) and Facebook or visit her website,www.authorkryan.com, for updates and news.