Trashed, p.2
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       Trashed, p.2

         Part #2 of Stripped series by Jasinda Wilder
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And he still has my wrist in his hand, not letting go, just holding, gently but firmly.

  I swallow hard, blink, and then jerk my hand free. I step away from him before I combust, or do something utterly idiotic, like agree to whatever he’s about to ask me.

  “Have real dinner with me. ”

  “No. ”

  “Yes. ”

  I stare at him. “Um. Not sure you’re getting how this yes and no thing works. ”

  He just grins at me. No, it’s not a grin. It’s…a smolder.

  I remember sitting in the living room of my last foster home in Southfield, visiting with my favorite foster-sister. She insisted that I watch Tangled with her, so I did, and the main character, Flynn Ryder, has this moment where he goes, “I didn’t want to have to do this, but you leave me no choice. ” Then he looks at Rapunzel with this meaningful look in his eyes and says, “Here comes…the smolder. ” And he does this cute little grin that’s obviously meant to be knock-em-dead sexy.

  Page 4


  This is that kind of smile.

  But, unlike Flynn, this one works for him. Like, really works. The way his lips just slightly curl at the corners, the way his eyes narrow to intense, piercing slits, the press of his lips against each other, those lips, just begging to be kissed…it works. God, does it work. I can’t look away. I’m trying, but I can’t.

  He’s just so fucking hot.

  And it works, because I want to say yes. I want to have real dinner with him. I want to pretend that this ripped, famous, gorgeous hunk of a man could actually like me, and want to spend time with me.

  He starts walking, pulling me with him, and again he’s gentle but totally and irresistibly powerful. I’m pulled into motion behind him, and somehow my hand is in his, clasped palm to palm. Our fingers aren’t tangled together in that intimate way of holding hands, he’s just holding my hand and pulling me behind him, and I can’t help but follow, watching his long, tree-trunk thick legs move in his khaki board shorts, his sculpted calves rippling. Even his calves are muscular. It’s totally ridiculous. I didn’t think guys this built actually existed in real life.

  Yet here he is, pulling me, walking ahead of me, larger than life and holding my hand.

  What the actual fuck is going on? What’s happening?

  “Where are we going?” I manage to get intelligible English words out, arranged into a grammatically correct sentence.

  “Dinner. ” He’s leading me, and I’m wondering if he knows where we’re going, since he’s got us headed in a direction away from the restaurants.

  “But I said no. ”

  He glances back at me. “Yeah, so?”

  “Which means I don’t want to have dinner with you,” I say, sounding reasonably firm.

  That’s a damned dirty lie, but he doesn’t need to know that, and I’m not going to admit it to him. Or to myself. Because going to dinner with Adam Trenton is a bad idea.

  He’s going to expect something from me that I won’t be willing to give.

  He stops, and then somehow he has both of my hands in his, and his eyes are sliding down to mine and searching me and reading the lie in my heart. “Do too. ”

  I may be many things, but I’m not a liar. “I’m in my work uniform. And I’ve been outside all day, sweating. ”

  He leans toward me. “Sweaty is sexy. ” He says this in that leonine purr of his, and manages to make it sound promising and dirty all at once.

  It’s hard to swallow or even breathe, because he’s so close to me you couldn’t fit a piece of paper between my chest and his, and his presence is overwhelming, dominating, blocking out the island and the clip-clop of a horse-and-carriage trotting past us and the caw of a seagull overhead.

  “Nice line, asshole. ” That was good. That sounded like I’m unaffected.

  He ignores that. “It’s just dinner. I’m only here for the weekend, okay? What can it hurt?”

  “Just dinner?”

  He nods. “Just dinner. Promise. ”

  “Okay. But let me shower and change first. ”

  He grins, and follows me as I lead the way to the co-op dorms I stay in for the summer.

  Did I just agree to have dinner with Adam Trenton?

  This is a bad idea.

  I know it is, but for reasons I can’t fathom, I’m ignoring my gut.

  Chapter 2

  I sit on the front step of her building, wasting time on my phone while she gets ready.

  I still don’t know her name. That’s kinda fucked up, actually. I’ve licked fudge off her thumb. I’ve been so close to her that I could almost feel her heart beating, I could see her pulse drumming in the strong curve of her throat. I’ve gotten her to agree to go to dinner with me, yet I don’t know her name.

  I expect to be sitting here for a while because, in my experience, chicks invariably take hours to get ready. Yet, barely twenty minutes later she’s coming out the door wearing a pair of tight, faded blue jeans with rips in the thigh. They don’t look like the type of expensive designer jeans that come pre-ripped; rather, they seem to be actually that old and worn and faded that the rips are from age and wear. I hear her before I see her, so the first thing I see is her feet, in a pair of Chucks. The white stripe of rubber around the base of the shoes on both feet have been colored with a black marker into a checkered design. These, as well, are the kind of shoes you just know she’s had for a long time. My eyes travel up her legs, encased in those tight, faded jeans, and Jesus the girl’s legs are absolutely fucking killer. She’s got mile-long legs, but not the skinny tall-girl legs. These are curvy with muscle and flesh.

  God, I look up at those legs and in that moment I want nothing more than to feel her wrap those legs around me and hold on tight. It’s a hot, hard, intense thought, and I can’t shake it.

  I’m staring.

  And then my gaze travels farther, up to the plain black V-neck T-shirt she’s wearing. My mouth goes dry, and I’ve got to stand up and turn away and adjust myself discreetly, because the image of those powerful legs wrapped around my waist is only the beginning.

  Tits. Jesus, just…Jesus. I can’t look away. The shirt is molded to her body, the V-neck baring an expanse of deep, tanned cleavage that hints at a glorious pair of breasts. And then I force myself to make actual eye contact, because I’ve been ogling her far too openly for far too long.

  And I’m stunned into a breathless, speechless stupor.

  Let’s be clear about one thing: I’ve been on set with some hot women. I’ve been to parties with some of the most beautiful and famous women on earth. I dated Emma Hayes for nearly two years, which is an eternity by Hollywood standards. And Emma is…stunning. I can’t take that away from her, no matter how big a bitch she is.

  But this girl, in old ripped jeans, inked-up Chucks, and a cheap black V-neck…she’s drop-dead gorgeous. I don’t think she knows it, either. She can’t have any clue how intensely, heart-stoppingly beautiful she is. She wouldn’t be sweeping up fucking trash on Mackinac Island if she did.

  She’s put on makeup sparingly, just a hint of eye shadow and mascara to highlight those big brown eyes, some color on her cheeks and lips.

  Mmm, those lips. Plump and red and begging to be kissed.

  Even her ears are beautiful. She’s got detached earlobes, a single small diamond stud in the lobe, with three hoops climbing up the shell on both ears.

  And her hair…. my god. So thick, so black, so long. My hands twitch, itching to bury my fingers in those ebony locks, feel them slip like silk between my fingers and pull her against my chest and kiss the ever-loving shit out of her.

  Page 5


  “Take a picture, dude. It’ll last longer. ” She’s got a wry smile on her lips, somewhere between amused, baffled, and flattered.

  I hold up my phone and swipe up on the lock screen, opening the camera app, and snap a picture of her. She’s
got one hand tucked into the back pocket of her jeans, the other hanging casually at her side. Her hair is loose, a mass of black framing her face, a few strands fluttering in a breeze. She’s got that wry smile, and a sharp, piercing gaze.

  As soon as I snap the photo she lunges for me, grabbing at my phone. “I didn’t mean actually take a picture, you dumbass! I wasn’t ready!”

  She reaches for my phone, which I hold out of reach. Most girls, if I hold something above my head, it may as well be on Mars. This girl, this nameless beauty, she’s so tall that she’s able to hop and get my hand in both of hers, and holy shit is she strong. She’s pried my phone out of my hands before I know what’s going on.

  “Hey!” I snatch it back before she can delete the picture. “It was a good photo, no reason to freak. You wanna see it?” She lunges for me again, and I dart out of reach, laughing as I bring up the picture and hold the phone so she can see it. “Look. ”

  She frowns. “It’s horrible! The angle is all wrong. You can’t take a picture of a girl with the camera pointing up like that. Don’t you know anything?”

  “So quit trying to steal my phone and I’ll retake it,” I say.

  Surprisingly, she complies. She puts her weight on one leg, the other knee bent, her torso twisted and her hands buried in her hair, her head tilted back slightly. It’s the perfect pose for her, accentuating her hair and her height. I snap several, put a filter on it, and then show it to her.

  “Is that better?” I ask.

  She shrugs. “Sure. It’s okay. ”

  “Okay?” I shake my head. “You’re nuts. It’s an awesome picture. You’re insanely photogenic. I know some photographers who would love to get you in front of their cameras. ”

  She tosses her hair and rolls her eyes. “Yeah…okay, sure,” she says, sarcasm thick in her tone. “Tell me another one. ”

  I shove my phone in my pocket and move so I’m in front of her and walking backward, then stop so she bumps into me. “You really don’t know how gorgeous you are, do you?”

  She shoves me away hard enough that I trip and have to catch my footing. “I’ve already agreed to have dinner with you, so you can lay off the flattery, all right?”

  I don’t think she realizes who she’s pushing around. I move fast, darting toward her and putting my shoulder in her stomach, lifting her off the ground and running three long steps, and then I set her down and press her back to the wall of a building. She doesn’t even have time to protest or wiggle, and I have her up against the wall. I grab her hands, both of them, and press her knuckles to the siding, my fingers tangling with hers. I pin her hips in place with mine, and I’m drowning in the clean scent of her skin and hair, in the crush of her tits against my chest, her breath coming in short, sharp gasps of surprise.

  “It’s not nice to push,” I murmur, my face inches from hers. Her eyes are wide and I can feel her trembling. “Listen to me. You think I’m going to waste my time on flattery? I don’t fucking think so. ”

  “I just—”

  I don’t let her finish whatever bullshit she was going to say. “Now. Before either of us takes another step, I need one thing from you. ”

  She’s shaking all over, her eyes wide as saucers, brown and deep and dark and rife with thoughts and emotions I can’t decipher. “What’s that?” she asks, her voice shaky and small.

  “Your name. ”

  “Des. ” Her voice is a whisper. “My name is Des. ”

  “Des what?”

  “Ross. Des Ross. ”

  “Des. ” I draw the syllable out, accentuating the ‘z’ sound at the end, tasting her name, rolling it on my tongue. “Is that short for something. ”

  “Just Des. ”

  I can’t resist any longer. I just can’t. I release one of her hands and slide my palm past her ear, into the thick mass of black hair. It’s cool and silky and still damp. Her mouth falls open slightly, and I’m a breath away from claiming those red lips of hers, but I don’t, I save that, save the kiss. I look at her, try to read her, but she’s just breathing, her lips parted, her eyes searching mine. She’s not moving into me, not trying to take the kiss I’m holding back, but she’s also not pushing me away or trying to escape. She’s shaking though. The fingers I’ve still got twined in mine are trembling as if she’s barely holding back some powerful emotion. Is it nerves? Desire? Or fear?

  The wind has picked up, blowing strong through the alley, carrying a heaviness with it. It’s not a cold wind, not this time of year, but it’s a wet one, a thick, damp wind.

  I force myself to let her go, to back away from her, and when there’s space between our bodies, she seems to go limp, deflating, letting out a long, harsh breath. She straightens after a moment, visibly composing herself, and glances at the sky. “It’s going to rain, I think. ”

  I follow her gaze skyward, and see that low, angry gray clouds have rolled in suddenly, covering the blue sky and the sun. It’s dark now, and cooling off quickly. My skin prickles, and a deafening clap of thunder splits the air, accompanied by a blinding flash of lightning streaking across the sky, stabbing and then gone. There’s a drip, a drop, two and three and four, and then before either of us can even move, the clouds have opened up, releasing rain in torrential buckets.

  “Holy shit!” I grab her hand and pull her into a run. “Where the hell did this come from?”

  She’s running with me and laughing as the rain pounds on our heads, soaking us to the bone within seconds. I have no idea where I’m going, I’m just running, and she’s following me.

  “Where are we going, Adam?”

  “I don’t know!”

  We’re at an intersection and she jerks me to the left, pulls ahead and leads down a short street that dead-ends at Main Street. She’s opening a door and leading me into an old bar, low ceilings and aged wood floors and thick beams, sports channels on TVs, a dartboard on one wall, a small bar with eight or ten stools. There are two or three rooms to the bar, several tables and booths in each, with the bar itself in the corner as the centerpiece. It’s a warm, dark, and comfortable place, the kind of bar I can imagine the handful of year-round locals drinking at when the tourists have all gone home.

  Page 6


  “Jesus, that was fast,” Des says, wringing her hair out. “That came out of nowhere. ”

  I rub my hand over my short, spiked black hair. “No kidding. Sunny one minute, pouring down the next. ”

  How the hell can I be expected to have dinner with this girl now? She’s soaking wet, her shirt plastered to her skin, outlining the cups of her bra and the flat of her stomach and the curves of her back. I can see the erect nubs of her nipples poking through the fabric of her shirt and bra.

  I’m wet too, though, and my shirt is a plain white undershirt. And now that it’s wet, the thin cotton is basically see-through. And yeah, being an athlete and an action-movie star, I’m expected to be in top shape, especially during filming. And I am. I spend hours at the gym every day to retain the bulky physique the producers expect for my role, which is a renegade roughneck superhero. Kind of like Wolverine meets Batman. He’s dark and brooding. He wants nothing to do with his superpowers, though, and avoids using them, until events conspire to force him into action. In the graphic novel on which the movie is based, my character is drawn to be impossibly proportioned, even more so than most superheroes, and when the film people started casting, they knew they had to find someone who was capable of achieving the level of bulk needed to fill the role. The Rock could have played it, but he’s older than they were looking for, and too well known. They wanted a relative unknown, someone who’d done enough acting to pull off the lead role, but not famous enough to be immediately recognizable on a household level.

  That’s where I came in. Marek in Fulcrum was my breakout role, but I’d had supporting actor roles here and there, enough to establish my chops. And I’m naturally big enough that with the right regimen a
nd training, I could bulk up enough to fill the massive profile the character demanded. Which meant that, at the moment, I’m bulked out to the max. Even in my one season with the San Diego Chargers I wasn’t this shredded, and with my T-shirt soaked through I might as well be shirtless.

  Des is eyeing me pretty openly as she wipes the moisture from her face with a stack of bar napkins. “Good thing I just took a shower,” she says.

  “Good thing for you you’re not wearing this shirt,” I joke, plucking at the sopping, translucent fabric.

  “You probably wish I was, though,” Des says, and slides onto a barstool.

  “Damn right I do. ” I slip onto a stool beside her and try to keep my eyes north of her shoulders.

  A slightly awkward silence then, as she probably wonders what I’m expecting from her, and I’m wondering what the hell it is I think I’m doing. The last thing I need right now is a distraction, or media attention. Gareth, the director, and Parker, the head executive producer, have both been adamant that everyone attached to the project keep media exposure to a minimum. We’re shooting the long-awaited and highly anticipated sequel to Fulcrum, which means I’m reprising my role as Marek. Everyone from the big magazines to minor blogs is speculating about who’s in the movie, where the plot is going to go, all the usual chatter. But because it’s been more than three years since the original, and since Gareth, Parker, and I were all vocal about the impossibility of a sequel, the rumor mill is running on all eight cylinders. Which means media attention of any kind has an effect on the shoot, and could lead to possible leaks.

  And apart from the need to keep myself out of the media professionally, I’m in no position to get into anything. After what happened with Em and the shit-storm that engendered, the last thing I need is to be photographed with some other girl. Especially, both of us soaking wet, on what’s supposed to be a fundraiser weekend.

  I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know why I jumped off that carriage, why I’m here with her, why I’m so intrigued by her, why her tough-girl persona has me twisted and heated and hungry.

  I just don’t know.

  And I have no idea what’s going to happen or what I expect from her.

  “So tell me about yourself, Des,” I say, to distract myself from the internal self-questioning.

  She shrugs. “I’m a college student, here for the summer on a co-op program. This is my fifth year here on the island. ”

  “Major?” I ask her, and then turn to the bartender, who has stopped in front of us to get our orders. “I’ll have a Sam Adams and whatever she wants. ”

  “Usual, Des?” the bartender asks. Des nods, and the bartender slides me my Sam Adams, and then pours a vodka tonic, setting it in front of Des.

  “You have a usual here?” I ask.

  Des nods and shrugs. “Sure. I’m here after work a lot. Probably more than I should be, but there’s not much else to do in the evening, you know?” She sips at her drink and then sets it down. “I’m majoring in social work, with a focus on foster care. ”

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