Two years ago, Lorrie’s mother was murdered. But that wasn’t the end of it. Reeling from the tragedy, Lorrie’s father spiraled into alcohol, depression, and finally suicide.
The two most important people in Lorrie’s life are both gone but she’s still alive.
Trying to recover from the tragedy, Lorrie returns to campus, ready to pick up the pieces of her life. All Lorrie wants is to get back to “normal.”
Then she meets Hunter. The man, the legend, “The Hammer.”
Hunter is a cage fighter who takes on every fight like he’s got nothing to lose. His life is a tangled mess of girls, booze, and fist fights. And while it may seem like he’s got a devil-may-care attitude, he’s fighting a private cage-match with a monster he can’t defeat.
Lorrie knows that Hunter is exactly the type of guy she should stay away from, especially in her fragile state, but Hunter has other ideas.
As Hunter and Lorrie grow closer together, will they be able to overcome their pain and heal each other? Or will they both end up wrecked?
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When I stepped into the living room, my jaw dropped at the sight of him naked.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” I quickly turned away but not before the sight of him was seared into my memory. Images of carved muscles and exotic tattoos danced across my mind.
“Wow, that was quick. I thought you’d be in there longer.” I heard him laugh and the subsequent thud of his drenched sweats being thrown into a corner hamper. “You can turn around. I’m not naked, ya know. Unless you consider being shirtless as naked.”
I turned around and noticed he had a white towel around his waist. His torso was still fully bare though. Tattoos ran along the side of his chest and extended down his arm. They were mostly a mix of tribal designs but one tattoo stood out for me. A picture of a large hammer was boldly etched on his upper arm. An unwelcome desire flittered in my stomach as I imagined running my fingertips over the inked lines.
I wasn’t opposed to seeing him shirtless at all. Not. At. All.
I forced myself to make eye contact with him, but was surprised to find him not doing the same. His eyes were wide, and they were roaming down and up my freshly showered body.
When his eyes finally met mine, his lips curved wickedly. “You clean up well.”
My cheeks flushed. “Thanks,” I replied, slightly uncomfortable. “I feel a lot better without all that lake gunk on me. I really appreciate the clothes, although they might be a little big for me.” I gestured to the jeans that were threatening to fall down my hips.
He looked me over again, dark eyes subtly lingering at certain parts: thighs, chest, lips. “No, you look good—real good.” His hand gestured to the couch. “Have a seat. I’ll get you some warm tea and a belt. I can get you back to your place after I wash up.”
He grabbed my wet clothes from me and set them down on the kitchen counter while I took a seat on his couch. I thought it’d be a relief to sit down and relax but I found myself tense and restless, wondering who this guy was and what I’d gotten myself into by agreeing to come to his place.
He went into the kitchen and brought me a cup of tea. It smelled fragrant and spicy and the hot mug felt good in my hands, calming my nerves temporarily. I sipped slowly, enjoying the fluid warming up my chest as he went into his bedroom to search for a belt. Moments later, he returned.
“Thank you so much,” I said as he handed me the belt and sat down on the edge of the coffee table inches away from me.
He, in his shirtless glory, carefully watched me bring the cup of tea to my lips. I brought the edge to my mouth but didn’t drink, too distracted by the desire to touch my lips against the soft skin of those hard pecs right in front of me. I flicked my gaze to his to avoid staring at his chest. The concerned way he studied me with those dark irises matching the color of his damp hair was making me squirm in my seat. Not to mention the peripheral view of that towel around his waist was approaching scandalous. He didn’t cross his legs like I would if I were wearing a skirt and I fought the urge to snag a glance down at that distinctly male area. But it was hard to resist. Was this what it was like to be on the other end of someone trying to cop a peek up your skirt?
“How’s the tea?”
His voice interrupted my thoughts and I hurriedly swallowed a big gulp that burned my throat going down. “Very good, thanks,” I choked. “I feel bad you had to go to so much trouble to make it though. Sorry for being such a burden.”
“. . . Polite too.” He grinned. “Don’t worry about it. It was no trouble at all.” His demeanor was almost the opposite of what it had been at the lake—it was relaxed and warm now. But then again so was mine. The feeling of almost dying must be wearing off for both of us.
“Are you going to have some yourself?” I asked, uncomfortable with how he was just sitting there. Right there. Half naked in front of me with a ‘V’ shaped muscle around his pelvis tempting my eyes to look down to where the slanted lines met. Wasn’t he going to take his shower?
“Probably in a bit.”
Seeing him in no hurry to leave, I wracked my brain for a conversation topic. “So . . .” I looked down at the shirt I was wearing and pinched the lettering to try to end the silence. “Are you in the Air Force?”
He paused for a second longer than I was expecting. “No, I’m just a student. Senior, actually. You go to school here too?”
I nodded. “Yeah, sophomore.”
“Cool. So why did you come to campus so early?”
“I thought it’d be good to have some time by myself to prepare for the semester. You know, mentally prepare and all that.”
He nodded. “Alone time, yeah. Helps to work things out on your own sometimes. People can be stressful, especially at this school where people like to gossip. I swear it’s like every student’s minor here.”
I wondered if his comment was specifically directed toward me and my circumstances. Did he know who I was and my reputation? “Yeah, I’m not too interested in rumors. They’re often wrong anyway.” I shifted my legs and happened to briefly brush against his. I felt my nipples tighten from the unintentional intimate contact.
His eyes narrowed and he glanced at the offending leg. He looked at me for a while, apparently deep in thought. When his eyes glanced down at my chest, I saw an intense flicker in those dark irises—or was it a spark? “Haven’t met anyone here who doesn’t like gossip,” he said smoothly. “You do know you’re at Arrowhart right? Gossip is big here. It’s only normal that you’d be interested.”
“Yeah, I know,” I replied. And boy did I know. “But maybe I’m not normal.”
The smile he gave had an edge to it that made me uncomfortable and aroused at the same time. “I’d say so as well. Seeing imaginary cats and falling into frozen lakes isn’t exactly normal,” he teased, before his voice lowered intimately. “But then again, normal’s boring.”
A heated ache moved through me. Was it my imagination or was he flirting with me? It didn’t seem like he realized who I was. I noticed again how unusually neat the place was. Did he have a girlfriend that cleaned for him? Or his mom? “So do you live here by yourself?” My voice came out huskier than I intended and I cleared my throat, hoping he didn’t notice.
He smiled. “Yeah, I get plenty of alone time here.”
I found that difficult to believe given his devilish good-looks. It would be easier for me to believe if he’d said he had a ticket system for girls lining up outside his apartment door. Maybe even a BYOC policy—Bring Your Own Condom. That could explain the contents of his bathroom trash.
I forced another gulp down my throat, uncomfortable with how being so near him made me restless. “What do you like to do in your alone time?”
“In my alone time?” He cocked a brow and looked at me with curiosity.
I glanced at his sculpted chest because I couldn’t help myself. “Yeah, like when no one’s around, just in private.” I was thinking about how I liked to mope and draw in my alone time and was hoping to find common ground between us. He probably didn’t sit on icy bridges in his alone time but maybe he did something relatable so I could convince him I wasn’t just some depressed girl trying to kill herself.
A glint in his eye, his grin widened. “What do I like to do in my alone time?” he repeated, suggestively. “Oh, just the usual stuff guys do when they’re by themselves. You know, normal stuff.”
Oh no. Was I flirting with him? I’d unintentionally said something that could’ve been interpreted as a reference to his masturbation routine. God, how awkward. This was not my lucky day. I glanced at his towel and noticed a towering bulge that hadn’t been there before. My face flushed. Shit, did I do that?