The peer and the puppet, p.39
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       The Peer and the Puppet, p.39

           B. B. Reid
 

  “You smell so good,” he praised once I was resting safe and satisfied in his arms. He’d just finished cleaning me up after spilling on my skin in the nick of time. The close call seriously made me consider birth control.

  I lifted my face from his chest and frowned. “I smell like sex.”

  His perfect teeth flashed behind his feral smile. “You smell like me.” He lowered his head, and instinctively, I lifted mine to meet his lips. “Every male within a hundred-mile radius will know that you’re mine,” he growled against my lips.

  I began to squirm as the throbbing intensified and heat pooled between my legs.

  “Do you think we could get Patty to bottle that?”

  “Don’t you dare ask her,” I hissed. “You nearly gave her a heart attack with that check you wrote her.” I shook my head against his chest. “I still can’t believe you asked her to make that soap exclusively for me.”

  “Why would I want someone else smelling like my woman?”

  “We’re going to have to discuss this possessiveness of yours.”

  “No.”

  “Then at least tell me how you got your hands on that kind of cash? Those were a lot of zeroes.”

  He shrugged as if he wrote ten-thousand-dollar checks every day with a perpetual monthly supply order. “I stole my dad’s checkbook before we left.”

  “So what you’re saying is that you plan these displays of male dominance in advance?”

  “Sleep, baby,” he mumbled with his eyes closed. He sounded half asleep himself.

  I wanted to close my eyes and join him on the other side, but there was still one worry keeping me away.

  “What are we going to do about Gruff coming to Blackwood Keep? The Montgomerys are also having dinner with us.”

  I replayed in my head what followed Jamie’s latest diabolical stunt:

  The moment Gruff was out of earshot, Ever was across the room with the front of Jamie’s coveralls bawled in his fists. “What the hell is your problem?” Ever growled. “You know why Gruff can’t come to Blackwood Keep!”

  Jamie didn’t even try to free himself as his eyes narrowed. “Let me ask you something, cousin. If I knew Four was in trouble, but I kept you in the dark, what would you do?”

  Ever didn’t respond, but his backing off said everything. “If I could tell you what’s going on with her, I would, Jamie.”

  Jamie relaxed, too. “I know,” he said while actually appearing apologetic. “But that doesn’t mean I have to accept it.”

  “I’ve got it covered,” Ever bit out.

  Rather than take his word, Jamie shook his head. “I don’t trust anyone but me to protect what is mine. Would you?”

  “I’m not sure,” Ever answered, drawing me back to the present. His eyes were open once again, and for the first time ever, he seemed worried even though he tried to hide it. He didn’t know that his mask no longer worked on me. Freeing my bottom lip from my teeth he kissed me and said, “But whatever happens, I choose us.”

  I sighed as worry fled, and my eyes closed involuntarily. Slowly, I drifted to sleep, the rhythm of his heart my lullaby. Knowing every beat belonged to me, I whispered, “I choose us, too.”

  KEEP READING

  FOR A SNEAK PEEK OF…

  THE MOTH AND THE FLAME

  THE FLAME

  “GROSS.” I LOOKED AROUND IN disgust. “What is this place?” The trees were green and tall, the roads were clear of garbage, and because of the absence of smog, the sun shone making it all bright and shit.

  “What do you mean?” Wren questioned from the driver’s seat of his sick-ass Impala.

  I couldn’t wait for the day he finally let me drive this beast. I knew it wouldn’t be anytime soon, though. Whenever I asked, he pitched a fit.

  “It’s clean and…quiet. Where are all the rats and homeless people?”

  “You mean your so-called family?” he sneered.

  “There’s no place like home,” I chanted with a click of my heels. “There’s no place like home.

  “You don’t have a home,” he reminded. “Hence, why I brought you here.”

  I lifted my camera from my lap and snapped a couple of pictures. “Who did you say lived out here?”

  “I didn’t.”

  I sighed. “Why won’t you tell me?”

  “Will it matter?” He slowed and turned down a well-groomed path. “You don’t have a choice either way.”

  My retort got stuck in my throat when a house bigger than I’d ever seen came into view. “Fucking shit!”

  “Language,” Wren scolded as he parked the car.

  I rolled my eyes, hating how seriously he took his self-appointed big brother role.

  “Please tell me we’re robbing the place.” I bounced up and down in my seat.

  He didn’t answer as he opened his door and slid his long body from the car. I quickly followed suit and met him at the front of the car, but the fierce mask he now wore stopped me short.

  I knew that look.

  I loathed that look.

  It was a reminder of the person he tried to keep hidden from me. The boy standing next to me now was not Wren, my friend and protector. He was Harlan, Exiled commander.

  A few feet ahead, three vehicles were parked—one of them was a vintage-looking motorcycle.

  “I thought you said you were taking me somewhere safe.”

  “I am.”

  “Then why are you looking like that?”

  “Because I’m not sure I can trust him.” His voice softened when he said, “Especially with you.”

  Pretending my best friend didn’t just make me swoon, I said, “Is he Exiled?”

  “Not anymore.”

  “Is he a friend?”

  He seemed to ponder the answer for a moment. “No.”

  “Then if we’re not going to rob him, I say we leave.” I was never thrilled about getting dumped in some stranger’s lap, anyway. Wren and I had been on the run for days, and I never once minded being alone with him. He, on the other hand, seemed eager to get away from me all of a sudden.

  “We can’t leave, Lou. There’s nowhere else to go.”

  Before I could respond, the front door of the house opened, and a girl stepped out wearing a blue blazer and a tan skirt and clutched in her right hand was a helmet. She seemed vaguely familiar, but judging by the looks of her, I had no idea why. My circle didn’t exactly include the one-percenters.

  A few seconds later, the door flew open, and a boy with a vicious scowl emerged wearing an identical uniform. He swaggered over to the girl already straddling the bike and buckling her chin strap and pulled her off.

  “He doesn’t even fucking notice us standing here,” Wren muttered with an annoyed shake of his head. He’d spoken too soon though. A second later, the only person known to ever penetrate Wren’s thick skin besides me glanced over, and I could tell by the promise of pain now painted on the guy’s face that he wasn’t happy to see us standing here.

  “Wren?” I called as the boy pushed who I assumed was his sister behind him and charged.

  She shouted his name, and when he ignored her, she ran back inside the house. Just who the hell was Ever?

  “Yeah, Lou?”

  “Something tells me we’re not welcome.”

  My suspicions were confirmed when Wren pushed me out of the way as the boy, who I could now see was insanely hot, reached us. Pretty boy swung without a single word spoken between them. Wren managed to duck in time and quickly threw his weight into him, sending them both crashing to the ground.

  The guy wasn’t pulling any punches, and neither was Wren as the sound of grunting and pounding flesh grew more intense. I just hoped there wouldn’t be too much bloodshed. Wren brought me here, which meant he was either desperate or he didn’t have as big of a problem with this frenemy as he made it seem.

  I leaned against the hood of the car and smiled knowing that Wren would lose his shit if he caught me smudging the paint. My smile, however, quickly fa
ded when the front door flew open, and the girl returned with another one of her brothers.

  And for the first time, I wished I’d never snapped that picture. Because then Nathaniel Fox wouldn’t want me dead, and Wren, the boy I’ve loved since I was fifteen, wouldn’t have been forced to turn his back on his family.

  COMING SOON!

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  Mama! I’ve come to realize that not everyone is blessed to have such an amazing, supportive, and dedicated mother. I don’t appreciate you nearly as much as I should. And if I was a bitch to you at any point while writing this book, remember that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. You probably deserved it.

  No, don’t drive up here, Mama! I’m kidding!

  Friends and family! As always, I’m going to group you all together because there are so many of you, and I can never remember who I neglected the most. Love you!

  Rogena! I know the wait was hard for readers, but I think I tortured you the most with this story. Thank you for putting up with me! I’m a shitty client, and you still continue to take my money. I’m not even sure the money is worth it at this point which means… you’re an angel.

  Colleen! Thank you for agreeing to work with me. If I came off needy and unorganized, I assure you it’s completely true.

  Amanda! As always, I never know what I want or even why I want it, but you make it happen. If it weren’t for you, my covers and marketing would look like a kindergarten project. I’m also grateful to have a designer who lets me be my sarcastic, needy self without taking offense or filing for a restraining order.

  Stacey! Thank you for such beautiful artwork and not dropping me as your client while I got my shit together.

  Ivan! My precious, spoiled kitty cat. Thank you for not running away all those days I was so busy writing that I forgot to feed you. I remember those howls of hunger like it was yesterday. Because it was.

  Tijan! Girl, if it weren’t for you encouraging me and asking for this book every day, I would have trashed it a long time ago. You’re my idol and my inspiration. I really hope you enjoyed it, and if not, it’s your fault for rushing me.

  Just kidding!

  Shanora! You’re the first person I run to when I need to vent and cry and have someone pull my hair because I’m too lazy to do it. You also give great girl talk and inspire me to be better. Also, I saw you a month ago, so I think we’re due for another face-to-face meeting in about eight months. Don’t be late.

  Reiderville! You’re my safe place and the only ones I can count on to laugh at my corny jokes. Thank you for waiting so impatiently. You really pushed me to turn off Netflix every once in a while.

  Betas! You came in at the last minute and made this book whole. Thank you for the hard questions and the necessary challenges. Anyone who falls in love with this story has you to thank as well.

  If I forgot to acknowledge anyone, just remember…there are too many flavors for you to be salty!

  Translation: I love and appreciate you.

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  B.B. Reid is the author of eight novels including the hit enemies-to-lovers Fear Me. She grew up the only daughter and middle child in a small town in North Carolina. After graduating with a Bachelors in Finance, she started her career at an investment research firm while continuing to serve in the National Guard. She currently resides in Charlotte with her moody cat, Ivan, and enjoys collecting Chuck Taylors and binge-eating chocolate.

 


 

  B. B. Reid, The Peer and the Puppet

 


 

 
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