Dangerous RushS. C. Stephens
* * * *
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products, bands, and/or restaurants referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2017 by S.C. Stephens
Cover photography by Claudio Marinesco
Cover design © Hang Le byhangle.com
Editing by Madison Seidler Editing Services
Formatting by JT Formatting
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This one is for Addy. Keep fighting the good fight.
Table of Contents
Preview of Furious Rush
About the Author
Also by S.C. Stephens
First off, I’d like to thank everyone who read the first book, Furious Rush, and messaged me, clamoring for more! I had so much fun writing this sequel, and I hope you had as much fun reading it! And now on to book three!
A huge thank you to my agent, Kristyn Keene of ICM Partners, who was a tremendous help in putting this book together. Hugs to everyone at Forever/Grand Central Publishing, who have done such a great job promoting the series. Much love to Holly and Katie, for beta reading this for me. Your input was greatly appreciated, and thank you so much for fitting me in at a moment’s notice!
Thank you to my editor, Madison Seidler, my formatter, Julie Titus of JT Formatting, my cover designer, Hang Le, and my web designer Lysa Lessieur of Pegasus Designs. I would be lost without your help! And to all the numerous blogs, readers, and authors who have supported me over the years—from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much! I wouldn’t be able to continue in this business without your kind words and (sometimes daily) encouragement.
4 years ago
“Here you go, Hayden...the best shit your money can buy.” Hookup handed me a manila envelope, and my fingers twitched as I took it. There was supposed to be an engagement ring inside, and not just any ring, but a ring fit for a queen. Fit for my queen.
Once I had the envelope in my hands, I was hesitant to look inside. Hookup wasn’t that great with matters of the heart—his interests tended to revolve around making money—so I wasn’t sure what to expect. He could have messed this up in so many ways, and I really couldn’t afford to buy a ring like this twice. But when I’d told Hookup my plan to propose to my girlfriend, Felicia, he’d assured me that he knew a guy who knew a guy who could get me something I’d never be able to afford on my own. I was fairly certain I was holding stolen property.
Inhaling a deep breath, I pulled back the envelope flap to peek at the ring nestled in the crevice at the bottom. My eyes widened in surprise at the size of the rock Hookup had nabbed. It was so big it was almost gaudy. Pulling the shiny adornment out of its hiding place, I studied it for any obvious flaws that would proclaim it a knockoff; I couldn’t find any. “Damn, Hookup. I don’t want to know where you got this, but it’s perfect. Thanks, man.”
I clasped his shoulder in a quick hug; my cheeks were beginning to hurt, I was grinning so hard. “No problem, dude. Just remember, when you finally knock up Felicia, you’re having a boy and you’re naming him Tony, after me. Izzy already took care of naming a girl after me with Antonia. Speaking of which, we should get going. You know Iz will kill us if we’re late.”
Nodding, I stuffed the ring into my jacket pocket. “Yeah, let’s go.”
As we walked to our vehicles—a black, souped-up Acura for Hookup, a super-fast Suzuki for me—Hookup pointed to my pocket. “So, you gonna give that to Felicia today?”
Just his question made me feel lightheaded and dizzy. I’d been thinking about doing it today, and, of course, every time I thought about it, I felt like throwing up. But today was the perfect day to ask Felicia to marry me. In addition to being Antonia’s third birthday, it was also my nineteenth birthday. Everyone I cared about was going to be at our joint birthday party. And to make things even better, timing-wise, Felicia was turning eighteen in another month. We’d both finally be free.
As I felt the hard ring in my pocket, I told Hookup, “Yeah, yeah, I think so.” My gut twisted again, but I ignored it. The diamond resting in my jacket was the perfect embodiment of my relationship with Felicia, and it belonged on her finger. We’d known each other forever, but we’d begun dating when I was fourteen years old, and sure, maybe nineteen was a little young to settle down with just one girl for the rest of my life, but she was no ordinary girl, and the two of us had never had an ordinary life.
Both of us had been taken from our biological parents when we’d been about Antonia’s age. We’d bounced around the system, floundering for someone or something to replace everything we’d lost. Instead of being handed what we’d needed to survive, the two of us had fought tooth and nail for every scrap. We were a team; we had each other’s backs, and there was no one else I wanted by my side. Why wait another ten years to get married, when I already knew I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life? Always had, always would. She was my destiny.
A few minutes later, Hookup and I pulled into the parking lot of Izzy’s apartment building. Being a single mom was hard on Izzy, but then again, having a baby at fifteen had been hard on her. The douchebag who’d knocked her up had bailed on her the minute he’d realized she wasn’t just gaining weight, but was actually going to have a child. Having him split had been a walk in the park in comparison to having a kid when she was still a kid, but we—Hookup, Felicia, and I—felt like Antonia was ours, too, so we did everything we could for Izzy. And man…that kid… Antonia was something special. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for her, and hell if I was going to let her have a childhood like mine. If it was the last thing I did on this Earth, she would know what having a father felt like. And, in a way, thanks to her, I knew what having a daughter felt like. I was there the day she was born. I’d changed mountains of diapers, fed her gallons of formula. I was the o
ne who’d taught her how to walk, and my name was the first thing she’d said. Well, technically, it was “Hay,” but I was claiming it. That kid meant the world to me…which was why I was starting to get really concerned about her. She’d been sick a lot lately—run-down, tired, nauseous—like she’d caught something she just couldn’t shake. Izzy was freaked out about it, so we all took turns reassuring her that Antonia was going to be fine. And she had to be; she was just a toddler after all. How bad could it be?
I had a huge bag full of toys for Antonia strapped to my back, the focal point of which was one of those American Girl dolls. I swear the thing cost as much as Felicia’s ring. Thank God I was making decent money street-racing for Hookup. He’d turned Felicia and me onto it before we’d even been old enough to drive. That fact had never concerned me though. Since all of it was illegal, being underage had hardly seemed worth worrying about.
God, I loved racing, and I was good at it—damn good at it; I hardly ever lost. Beating someone to the line…it ignited something in me, something thorny and dangerous. Hope. Hope and dreams. And the more I competed, the more I began to believe that maybe one day I could race motorcycles for a living—legitimately. I couldn’t think of a better life for me, and there was certainly nothing I wanted to do more. Felicia could probably race professionally, too, since she was top-notch. Yeah, the two of us racing for a team together…it sounded perfect.
Hookup caught up to me at Izzy’s door. Banging on the hard wood once, I turned the knob and walked right in. Warmth and laughter greeted us as we stepped inside, and the first thing that drew my eye was seeing my girl, standing by a window, drenched in sunshine, smiling at me. Fuck, she was gorgeous. Long, dark brown curls cascaded down her back; huge, deep brown eyes glinted with playful mischief; full, pouty lips that I could suck on for days. God, just thinking about kissing her was exciting me. How long did we have to stay here before we could quietly slip away for the night? Because I’d really love to end this birthday with those arms and legs wrapped around me.
“Hey, babe,” I said, sliding up to her side.
“Hi Hayden,” she purred in return. “Happy Birthday.” There was a gleam in her eyes that told me she wanted to end the night the same way I did, and from the heat I saw boiling in the dark depths, she was going to do things to me that were going to leave me walking funny in the morning. Sweet Jesus. We were leaving after cake.
Just as I thanked her for the acknowledgement, a tiny pair of arms wrapped around my waist. “Unckey Haydey!”
Felicia laughed in amusement. “Haydey…I like it. I’m using it.”
I gave her a frown before bending down to scoop up Antonia; she was limp in my arms, almost weightless. Antonia looked just like her mom and Hookup, her biological uncle. She had their tan, Hispanic skin, tiny frame, and their dark eyes and dark hair, but right now, Antonia was pale, with deep circles under her eyes. She looked like she was about to drop from exhaustion at any minute. Squeezing her tight, I kissed her head of thick hair. “Hey, kiddo. Happy Birthday.”
She sighed contentedly, snuggled into my arms, then didn’t move. It took me a minute to realize she’d fallen asleep. Icy fear tightened my chest, but I shoved it aside. Izzy had taken her to the park this morning, and she was just tired from the long day. I’m sure it was close to her naptime anyway. It was nothing to worry about.
Looking around for Izzy, I spotted her standing next to the cake table with Hookup. She looked irritated, and I wondered if Hookup had told her about the ring. I knew she was excited about the idea of Felicia and me getting married, so that wasn’t the problem, but Izzy hated Hookup’s…extracurricular activities, and was probably ticked that the ring was hot property. She’d get over it, though. Izzy forgave Hookup a lot.
“Hey, Iz,” I said, walking over. “Someone’s done for the day.”
Izzy swung her head my way, and, for the millionth time, I was taken aback by how young she looked. No matter how hard I tried to see her any other way, she always looked twelve to me. Probably always would. It made the instinct to protect her that much stronger. Blood or not, Izzy was my sister.
She frowned as she stared at her passed-out daughter. “I don’t get it. She shouldn’t be that tired. She didn’t even go on the playground, she just wanted to cuddle…”
Her eyes watered with worry, and I tossed her an untroubled smile that I hoped looked believable. “She’s fine, Iz. Just sleepy.”
Looking a little comforted, Izzy held out her hands. “Guess I’ll put her to bed.”
Hookup frowned as I transferred Antonia to her mom. “No, wake her up, Iz. I want her to see what I got her.” He rubbed his hands together and grinned like he was about to win an award for best gift-giving.
With a subtle glare, Izzy shook her head. “She’ll open it later, Tony. Right now, she needs rest.”
Hookup grunted, clearly annoyed, but he didn’t say anything else. Felicia twined her fingers with mine as we watched Izzy disappear with her daughter. “I hope she’s okay,” Felicia whispered, leaning into my side. She smelled like her favorite Jasmine perfume, something that normally would have ignited my senses, but her words cooled my jets.
“Yeah, I hope so too.”
Hookup waved an irritated hand at both of us. “She’s fine. Kids get sick, it’s what they do.”
Without saying anything, Felicia and I looked at each other at the exact same time. She raised a brow, and I rolled my eyes, then we both let out a laugh. It drove our friends nuts, the way we communicated without words.
Hookup glanced at us, then returned his attention to the cake table. He stared at the two cakes for a solid ten seconds before finally saying, “Oh shit! It’s your birthday, Hayden! I always forget you and Antonia are twins. So, where we goin’ tonight to celebrate?”
I waved a hand at the room overflowing with balloons, streamers, and large, toddler-friendly confetti. “We are celebrating.”
Hookup gave me an unamused, blank stare. “I meant after this, jackass. Go to a strip club, go down to Mexico, what do you want to do?”
“I want to be with Felicia, and since she can’t do either of those things—”
“Or wants to do either of those things,” she smoothly interjected.
Smiling at Felicia, I finished with, “So we’re staying here. And besides, I’ve got that thing I was gonna do later.” I stressed the word “thing” as hard as I could, but I really didn’t know if Hookup got the hint. How he’d forgotten my plans to propose to Felicia in such a short amount of time was beyond me.
“Yeah, okay, fine. I was thinkin’ of meeting up with Grunts later anyway. He’s got a tip on an underground fight club that we’re gonna check out. You guys want to place a bet if we find something?”
Felicia and I both said no at the exact same time. Placing bets with Hookup usually wasn’t a good idea. If he did happen to win the bet, he usually took a pretty generous cut of the winnings. He called it a commission.
Hookup pursed his lips and shook his head, like he thought we were idiots for missing out. “Whatever. I’m gonna call Grunts, find out what time that shit’s going down.” He pulled out his phone with one hand, trailing his other finger along the edge of the cake. Smiling, he stuck the glob of frosting in his mouth as he walked away.
Finding myself alone with Felicia with an engagement ring in my pocket made my heart start to pound. Was now a good time? With Antonia sleeping and Hookup making plans? Should I wait until everyone came back together? Or maybe I should do it tonight, when it was just the two of us. Fuck, I didn’t know, and I hated not knowing what to do.
Possibly sensing my turmoil, Felicia laced her arms around my neck. “You look nervous. That have anything to do with this ‘thing’ you’re doing tonight?” Her lips twitched, like she was trying to contain a smile. Did she know what I’d been planning for the last two weeks? Probably…she knew me better than anyone.
With a casual smile plastered on my face, I told her, “I don’t know what you’re ta
Leaning in, she placed a light kiss on my lips; she tasted like chocolate, and I wondered if she’d swiped some frosting too. Great, now I wanted to smother her in chocolate and lick her clean. “You sure about that?” she murmured, her lips returning to mine. She sucked my bottom lip into her mouth this time, and a small groan escaped me. God…maybe we wouldn’t stay for cake after all.
“Uh…pretty sure…no special plans…just hanging with you…”
With a small, seductive laugh, she brought her mouth to my earlobe. After trailing her tongue up the edge of my ear, she said in a low voice, “Really? So you weren’t reminding Hookup about something…important?”
The sensual movement made a pulsing rush of desire go through me. God…what was she asking about? “Um…well…” I was just about to spill every single secret I had, when the shrill ring of a telephone cut through the air. Regaining my senses, I took a step back. Nice try, Tucker.
Felicia looked both amused and annoyed as she saw my defenses quickly reforming. Izzy rushed into the room as I unlaced Felicia’s arms from around me. It would be easier to not spill my plans if we weren’t touching. That girl could undo me so easily, it was embarrassing.
Izzy hurried from Antonia’s room to pick up the phone handset. “Hello? Yes, this is Isabel. Do you have Antonia’s test results back? Do you know what’s wrong with her?”
Flicking a glance at Felicia, I heard Hookup hanging up with Grunts. Izzy had mentioned that the doctor had run some tests the last time she’d taken Antonia to see him. If they had some information for Izzy, maybe it would put her mind at ease.
All three of us turned to watch Izzy as she nervously chewed on her lip while she listened. After a second, her brows creased. “What do you mean you can’t tell me over the phone?” She was silent a moment, then said, “No, I don’t want to come in tomorrow and talk to the doctor, I want to know what the hell is wrong with my daughter right now!” In a quieter voice, she added, “If you know anything, please, tell me. I don’t want to wait. I can’t wait.”