Hold On Tight (Man of the Month Book 2)J. Kenner
Hold On Tight
About Hold On Tight
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Hold On Tight
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About Hold On Tight
A hard body. A dangerous past.
Meet Mr. February.
A former reality-TV star, remodeling expert Spencer Dean doesn’t trust women. Not after his fiancée, Brooke, left him at the altar five years ago, breaking his heart and hardening his soul.
Now, Brooke is close to a deal for her own show that will launch with the remodel of a popular Austin bar. The problem? The network insists that Spencer step in as her partner.
He’s tried to forget her—but he can’t deny that he still wants her. More than that, he wants to punish her. And so he agrees, but only on terms that are provocative, demanding, and wildly sensual.
It’s the perfect set-up for extracting revenge. But he doesn’t expect to fall for Brooke all over again…
Revenge never looked so hot.
Hold On Tight is part of a binge read series by New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and #1 International bestselling author of the million copy Stark series, J. Kenner.
Each book in the series is a STANDALONE novel with NO cliffhanger and a guaranteed HEA!
But even so, you won’t want to miss any in the series. Because then you can answer the question…
Who’s Your Man of the Month?
Down On Me
Hold On Tight
Need You Now
Start Me Up
Get It On
In Your Eyes
Turn Me On
Shake It Up
All Night Long
In Too Deep
Light My Fire
Walk The Line
and don’t miss Bar Bites: A Man of the Month Cookbook!
Visit manofthemonthbooks.com to learn more!
Want your own Man of the Month calendar? Grab it now! (While supplies last!)
Hold On Tight Copyright © 2018 by Julie Kenner
Cover design by Covers by Rogenna
Cover image by Perrywinkle Photography
Published by Martini & Olive Books
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination and are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or establishments is solely coincidental.
Spencer Dean stopped his Harley-Davidson WLA motorcycle in front of the driveway that led up the hill to Austin's dilapidated Drysdale Mansion. He'd inherited the classic World War II era bike from Richie, although maybe inherited wasn't the right word. Richie wasn't dead, after all. Just gone.
He'd been gone for almost fifteen years now, and Spence had long ago come to terms with the fact that his brother wasn't coming back. Nobody Spence loved ever came back. And God knew they all fucked up.
With a rough growl of irritation at his own maudlin thoughts, he killed the engine and dismounted, then walked the short distance up the cobbled drive to the gate. It was locked, of course, the real estate agent's lockbox dangling from the wrought iron.
Spencer hesitated, his head tilted back so he could take in the full majesty of the place. Or, rather, so that he could visualize the majesty that he could bring back to the stunning 1876 home. For generations, it had been the residence of the Drysdale family, movers and shakers in early Texas and Austin politics. Located at the end of an exclusive street a few miles from Austin's Capitol building, the four-thousand square foot home represented a stunning example of Second Empire architecture.
Henry Drysdale had overseen the construction personally, determined to build the perfect home for his young wife. As far as Spencer was concerned, he'd succeeded brilliantly, and the Drysdale family had occupied the home until the nineteen seventies when the last member of the family sold the property to a small hotel company for the purpose of a high-end B&B. The company had gone bankrupt, and the house had fallen into disrepair. Since then, it had changed hands dozens of times, but no owner had ever put in the time or the money to bring the place back to its original greatness.
Now the house was a sad mishmash of repairs and damage, failed renovations and odd choices. Spencer wanted to change all that. Hell, he'd wanted to breathe life back into this place ever since he and Richie had broken in when Spence was only a teen. They'd spent hours—no, days—exploring the rundown place. And while they were inside those walls, everything else fell away. It was just Spence and Richie, without the Crimson Eights pushing against them, urging Richie to slide deeper into the gang world that their father had tried so hard to shield them from.
Spencer had been fifteen when Richie had been arrested, and even after Richie was gone, Spence had come here, stealing in like a thief in the night. It had been his private place. A sanctuary. And until Brooke, he'd never brought another soul with him.
They'd made love for the first time in that house. Candles burning behind boarded-up windows. Picnic blankets thick on the floor. He'd been lost in love with her. Her intelligence and ambition humbled him. Her body excited him. Those soft curves and the way she gave herself to him with such trusting abandon.
He'd cleared the various nests and debris out of the fireplace, and they'd made a fire one winter night, risking discovery for the sake of romance. Her golden hair had gleamed in the firelight, and when she'd slowly pulled off her dress and stood before him naked and beckoning, he'd known that no man on earth had ever been luckier.
He’d never understood why she loved a guy like him. As far as he was concerned, it was a goddamn miracle. But she did, and that night he'd sworn that somehow, someway, he'd remake this house, then present Brooke with a bright, shiny jewel of a home. A mansion that was equal to her beauty. Just like Henry Drysdale had done for the woman he loved.
That dream, of course, had died five years ago.
So what the hell was he doing here now?
Wasn't that the question of the hour? He was here because this house was his great white whale. It was what he wanted, what he craved. To own it. To breathe life back into it. And, by doing so, to prove that he de
served to master it.
He'd stood in this very spot six months ago. One week after he'd moved back to Austin. And he'd decided at that moment that somehow, someway, he'd make it happen. And the fact that his finances were a goddamn mess wasn't going to stop him.
After a quick glance behind him to make sure no one was looking, he pulled out the jackknife-style lock pick kit that Richie had given him the week before the cops had taken him away. All things being equal, Spencer would rather have his brother, but as the lock on the gate clicked open, Spencer had to admit that there were times when the skills his brother taught him came in handy.
Richie might be a screw-up, but he'd always had Spencer's back. He'd been the one who'd fought to get Spencer into Trinity Academy on a full scholarship, pushing and prodding their father to fill out the applications and find recommendations. He'd taught Spencer to ride a bike and to pick a lock. Helped him frame his first house when Spence was only fourteen. Taught him how to lay brick. Richie always had been damn good with his hands.
Too bad those hands had held a gun. Wrong place. Wrong time.
Richie may have fucked up his own life, but he'd always been a champion for Spencer. Always watched his back.
Except where she was concerned.
For years, he'd forced every thought of Brooke Hamlin out of his mind. Lately, those thoughts were fighting back. She was in his head. And, dammit, he couldn't seem to banish her.
It was because of the house, of course.
And here he was again, his mind still debating if he should buy the damn place.
Was he considering the purchase in spite of her? Or because of her? To prove he was worthy, even if she never even knew he was doing it?
No, he told himself sternly. He was doing it because he loved the house. Its bones. Its essence.
And, yes, he loved its memories.
With one quick glance toward the street, he slipped through the open gate, confident that no one had noticed him in the fading light. The house might be located near downtown, but it was the last house on a dead-end street, and the gate off the driveway was shadowed by a massive oak tree.
He pulled the gate shut behind him, making a mental note to oil the hinges once the place was his, then followed the stone path past a weed-choked garden to the kitchen door. It was locked as well, but in this case, there was no need to pick the lock. The breakfast area windows had been boarded over, but it was easy enough to pry one away from the framing, now rotten from lack of care and exposure to the elements.
He slipped inside, using his phone to illuminate the area. He'd stood in this very spot with Brooke, their hands clasped tight as rain pelted the building and flashes of lightning revealed her sweet, innocent smile.
Back then, he'd thought that pretty picture was real. Soon enough, though, he'd learned she wasn't innocent at all.
Damn her. And while he was at it, damn himself for continuing to let her fill his mind.
With a stern order to put her aside, he moved slowly through the house, seeing everything with an expert eye. The dull, scraped parquet floor. The sturdy doorway arch marred by chipped paint and various dings and gashes. The dust-covered wood of an intricately carved banister. The broken glass that littered the floor. The water stains and buckling floorboards. The wires that hung empty from the ceiling. The peeling wallpaper revealing long, brown stains.
For a moment, he simply stood there on the spongey floor, anger boiling in him that something so beautiful had been left to fade.
And that was it. The kicker. The defining moment.
No more wavering. No more considering.
Whatever deal he had to cut, whatever promises he had to make, this house was going to be his.
He turned off the flashlight feature on his phone, then pressed the button to speed dial his agent.
"They're interested," Gregory said, without preamble.
Inside, Spencer was doing mental fist-pumps. Outside, he forced himself to remain calm and business-like.
Yesterday, Spencer had told Gregory to feel out Molly and Andy, the executives in charge of his former show, Spencer's Place. After the debacle with his asshole financial manager, Brian, Spencer had walked away from the show, leaving enough footage for them to finish the season, but refusing to do another season until he was well and clear of the rat bastard who'd screwed him so bad financially.
That had been a year ago, and the network had been hounding Spencer ever since, telling him that they wouldn't consider him in breach of contract if he did another show. But the idea of another season in front of a camera didn't interest Spencer at all. All he’d wanted was the work, and Hollywood even sapped the fun out of that.
Spencer had never wanted to be recognized in the grocery store or discussed in the tabloids. He didn't want his personal tragedies shared on social media. He wanted to wash his hands of all of it.
And he'd gone so far as to discuss with Gregory what it would take to buy out the rest of the contract. Unfortunately for Spencer, it would take every dime left in his now-meager bank account.
Then six months ago he'd moved back to Austin, and the Drysdale Mansion had loomed before him, its potential promising him a way out along with a way to make the house his.
So yesterday, he'd called Gregory and pitched the show. Mansion Makeover. The terms were simple. Spencer would pay the mortgage on the house, but the show would fund the renovations.
It was a long shot, Spencer knew. And yesterday, he was prepared to walk away from the Drysdale Mansion if the network said no. Today, however, rejection would slice right through his heart. If the network declined, Spencer had no idea what he'd do; all he knew was that he'd have to figure out another way to claim the house as his own.
Which meant that Gregory's announcement that the network was interested in Spencer's proposal was pretty much the best news that Spencer had ever heard.
"They understand that title will be held in my name," he asked. "And that if they want me to do the show, they need to either fund the renovation themselves or find a sponsor for the materials and tools. I'm talking flooring, tile, glass, appliances, plumbing. The full meal deal. They understand that, right?"
"They understand," Gregory confirmed. "And they're on board."
"But?" Spencer pressed because he knew his agent well by now, and he'd heard the instant of hesitation in Gregory's voice.
"A minor detail," Gregory said, his tone suggesting it wasn't minor at all.
"Don't pull that shit with me, Gregory. Don't try to handle me or tell me what I'm supposed to think of the network's bullshit demands."
"They'll give you the show," Gregory said. "And you'll get clear title to the house."
Spencer felt his gut tighten. "But?"
"But they want Mansion Makeover on a new contract."
"A new contract? But I already owe them a show. Why not—"
"Because they already know what show they want you to do. And if you don't agree, they don't green light the mansion project."
"The hell with that," Spencer said. "Talk them out of it."
"How long have I been working with you? Come on, Spence, don't make me out to be an asshole. You know I've already tried that."
Fuck. "What show?"
"No idea. Just that they have a short-season show for you to do with a co-star, and it centers around remodeling a local bar. So it's there in Austin. Makes it easier."
"Dammit, Gregory. You know how I feel about all this. I want out. You want to represent me on a book deal, knock yourself out. But I'm done with being a pretty face on television."
"Then unless you have some serious dollars squirreled away, you can say goodbye to the Drysdale Mansion."
"So you're saying I'm screwed." He drew in a frustrated breath. "Shit. All I want—"
"I know what you want. I also know the situation. You don't have the money to buy out your contract. You're staring at a house that's a shithole but has the potential to be fucking amazing. And a
ll you have to do to get that house is a short season with a partner. I don't see that as screwed, my friend. I see that as golden."
Spencer opened his mouth to argue, then closed it again. It wasn't ideal, that was for damn sure. But maybe Gregory was right. Maybe it was worth it.
"Talk to them. They're in town, and they want a meeting tomorrow. Come on, Spence. It's a small price to pay."
"Fine. I'll talk to them," he said. "What's the location? And for that matter, who are they setting me up with?"
"The location's a bar called The Fix on Sixth," Gregory said, and Spence grunted with approval. "You know it?"
"Solid place. I've gone in a couple of times for drinks and appetizers. The building's got good bones, but there's definitely room for improvement."
"Well, there you go. Something you can sink your teeth into. I'll tell them you're—"
"Who?" Spence asked, the firmly stressed syllable underscoring the import of the question. "Did they tell you who they're pairing me with?"
"Does it matter? You need this, Spence. If you want to restore the Drysdale Mansion, we both know this show is the only way it'll happen."
Warning bells sounded in his ears. "Who?" Spence repeated.
"Just go to the meeting, and—"
"Tell me who the fuck they want me working with."
"Brooke Hamlin," Gregory's voice was barely a whisper. But the name cut as sharp as a sword, and at least as deadly. "They want you to work with Brooke."