Love doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be true.
Isabella—Grady Williams is a national treasure, the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient, America’s scarred superhero. With tattooed arms sculpted from carrying M-16s, this bad boy has girls begging from sea to shining sea to get a piece of his action.
When my father squanders away my college fund, I make a deal with this dirty-talking Devil Dog—I will pretend to be Grady’s girlfriend for the Marine Corps Ball, and my dad will write Grady’s war memoir.
Grady is fearless. Hell, this badass jumped on a grenade to save his fellow Marines! As much as I crave him, I refuse to allow myself to become addicted to a dangerous man who will detonate my heart.
Grady—Isabella Cuesta is an angel who can see beyond my mangled skin, a pawn used to repay her father’s debt, a woman who makes me feel like a man instead of a monster.
But I no longer believe in fairy tales.
She’s mine until our contract ends. I’ll take her hard and rough, listen to all her hopes and fears, lay down my life to protect her.
This beauty will never let herself love a dangerous man like me—a man who has killed, a man who runs towards gunfire, a man who never backs down from a fight.
But without her love, I’m not a man—I’ll remain forever a beast.
Guilt from my initial reaction to his injuries tormented me.
At first I was determined not to stare at his face, horrified that he’d be insulted by my reaction. But the second his face came into focus, I held back a sob, and a lump grew in my throat.
The right side of his face was mangled, taut raw flesh accented with blue and red scars. His jaw was uneven, and his right eyelid slumped, filled with what must’ve been a glass eye. The remnant of his ear was dappled and twisted. But the other half of his face was clean-shaven, handsome and rugged—a bright turquoise eye, strong chin, black hair shorn in a Marine Corps high and tight haircut.
Flashes filled my brain, stored images I must’ve retained from newsreels and graphic war movies. Had it been a roadside bomb? An outmanned firefight? Some type of chemical attack? I wouldn’t ask him. For now, I was content with the trust he had shown me by unveiling his scars.
“I guess I should’ve gone to the party as Two-Face,” he said, his voice somber.
“No, you’re beautiful. You make a sexy Hulk.” I caressed his face, my fingers tracing its divots. “Plus, then you’d be DC, and I’d be Marvel. We would’ve never had a chance.”
He let out a small laugh, but flinched at my touch. “You’ve seen me now. You’re free to go.”
This was my chance to end this night safely and in control.
Or I could get wild—do what I’d only ever read about in my books.
I’d always admired those women who owned their sexuality, like Marisol. Indulged in pleasure without any guilt or shame. I wondered what it would be like to live in the moment.
I was picky, but I still had needs, and right now I needed some action—and sadly these days the warm glow from my eReader was about the closest that I felt to having any heat radiating on my body. But even the artificial afterglow of one hot night with my latest romance hero did little to warm my heart. After all, I hadn’t hooked up with a guy since winter break. I missed everything about being around men—their masculine scents, their non-subtle eye fucks, their rough hands. At least my book boyfriends were gorgeous, witty, and incredible lovers—but most importantly, they wanted more from their heroines than just a one-night stand.
And I was sure this man wasn’t looking for anything more than a hookup.
Isa, put on your clothes and get the hell out of here. This is not you. You are responsible, conservative, and goal-oriented.
Faced with the opportunity to indulge in my fantasy of hot, wild sex with a hunky alpha male, I had to admit that the reality of the situation made me realize how rigid I’d always been.
But somewhere deep in my soul I wanted to lose myself in this damaged man, give him pleasure to alleviate his pain, experience ecstasy and release.
And maybe he could heal me too.
The heat between us rose, and I erased the distance between us, like two magnets being drawn together.
I traced his face with my fingers, running the tips over his lips. Rough, wild, and dangerous. As he remained still, my hands explored his incredible body—rock-hard muscles, deeply embedded scars, and intricate ink. All making him look like the sexiest badass alive.
He bit his bottom lip, his pupil dilated.
His chest heaved, and the sight of this raw, ferocious man before me sent a shock between my legs. I ached for him to relieve the tension that consumed my body.
I pressed my palm onto his chest, the green body paint staining my hand. “I want to stay. I want you.”
Damn, did I just say that? My words betrayed my will.
The left side of his mouth widened into a grin, although his right side remained frozen in time. With one arm, he clutched my ass and wrapped my legs around his waist. I gasped as his mouth covered mine. His lips were neither soft nor sweet—they were hard and hungry. The length of his cock and the hair on his chest let me know that, unlike my previous boyish lovers, I was about to be fucked by a real man.
There was no turning back. I needed this Marine inside me in the worst way.
His kisses were out of control. I’d never been kissed like this before, like I was an oasis in the middle of the desert. His mouth tasted minty and hot, and his manliness intoxicated me. He awoke a latent desire in me, summoning my inner wildcat. I kissed him back, kissed him everywhere. His mouth, his lips, his neck, his scars. My hands explored his insanely ripped body, stroking him like he was my personal sex toy. I gripped his hair and dug my nails into his back, kneading him closer to me, never wanting to let him go.
I’d always been the good girl, living vicariously through my friends’ hookups, only indulging in my fantasies in the safety of my mind. Whether it was from a place of fear or control, I had never allowed myself to fulfill my desires. But tonight, with this nameless sex god in my grasp, I made a silent vow to not hold anything back. I was going to let him fuck me like it was the last night of the world.
Alana Albertson is a multi-award winning author, current President of Romance Writers of America’s Contemporary Romance Chapter and the former President of both Romance Writers of America’s Young Adult and Chick Lit chapters. Alana Albertson holds a Masters of Education from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Stanford University. A recovering professional ballroom dancer, Alana currently writes contemporary romance, new adult and young adult fiction. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, two young sons, and four dogs. When she’s not spending her time playing with her sons, dancing, or saving dogs from high kill shelters through Pugs N Roses, the rescue she founded, she can be found watching episodes Homeland, Devious Maids, or Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team.