Love isn’t supposed to be an addiction. It isn’t supposed to leave you bleeding.
Kona pushed, Keira pulled, and in their wake, they left behind destruction.
She sacrificed everything for him.
It wasn’t enough.
But the wounds of the past can never be completely forgotten and still the flame remains, slumbers between the pleasure of yesterday and the thought of what might have been.
Now, sixteen years later, Keira returns home to bury the mother who betrayed her, just as Kona tries to hold onto what remains of his NFL career with the New Orleans Steamers. Across the crowded bustle of a busy French Market, their paths collide, conjuring forgotten memories of a consuming touch, skin on skin, and the still smoldering fire that begs to be rekindled.
When Kona realizes the trifecta of betrayal—his, Keira’s and those lies told to keep them apart—his life is irrevocably changed and he once again takes Keira down with him into the fire that threatens to ignite them both.
Somewhere in their brief discussion, Keira noticed her fingers had moved from his temples to his thick hair. It happened absently, without her thinking about it, without his complaints. It took several moments before Keira realized they were staring at each other. There wasn’t anything significant in that moment, no weighted energy passing between them. There was only comfort and casualness and the curious thoughts they kept to themselves.
“Maybe Arthur’s love was too thick,” Kona said. “Or maybe Guinevere’s was. She was into them both—Arthur and Lancelot. Maybe she loved them both too much.”
“No, I don’t believe Guinevere loved either of them. With Arthur, it was power. With Lancelot it was lust. Both are thin love.”
“And thin love is bad?”
“That’s what Sethe tells Paul D, remember?”
Kona nodded, eyes shifted away from her face as he seemed held up by his own thoughts. “’Thin love ain’t love at all.’”
Kona’s gaze moved back to Keira, but he didn’t speak. The look he gave her expanded in the quiet of her room, stirred by his eyes growing darker, by the slow, constant rake of her fingers through his hair. He lifted his hand, stopping her fingers and held onto her wrist, eyes unblinking. Then something happened in that brief pause. The look they shared sharpened and the pull between them rose.
Kona sat up, slow, cautious and Keira watched him, watched unable to react, to respond, until Kona leaned toward her, until she could smell the drugging scent of his skin and feel the soft outline of his mouth. It was the pause of everything, a kindling of heat that Keira did not know how to contain—Kona’s soft lips against hers, his airy breath moving behind the hint of tongue—at once Keira felt drugged, controlled and manic.
Keira’s mouth worked against her will, a reaction, a gut feel of movement that she did not control and Kona seemed to love it, pulled her closer, guided her hands around his waist, up to that massive chest and Keira did not stop him.
She loved the sound of his throat vibrating, those low, delicious growls he made when her tongue touched his, when her mouth moved faster, harder. Before she realized what was happening, Kona leaned over her, had her caged against the pillows. Behind her closed eyes, Keira allowed only the sensations of touch and taste to filter into her mind and she knew, unconsciously, absolutely, that she wanted Kona Hale. She wanted his hands on her back, lowering; his mouth, tongue, down her neck nibbling. All that sensation, the fiery spark of their bodies connecting consumed her, made her feel drunk, wanted, beautiful. Cherished.
The sensation was overwhelming, consuming and Keira found she could not breathe, could not keep hold of her senses—the protective instinct to run from the sudden terror she felt.
She scrambled to her feet, stepping several paces away from Kona. “What are you doing?”
“Keira, if you don’t know—I mean, I get it, I do. You’re not used to attention, from guys. I get that.”
That’s what he thinks? That’s why he wants me?
She saw the hint of it in his eyes, that hungry scrutiny that told her it was the challenge to take her that had him wanting a taste of her. She felt like she had been doused with a bucket of ice water. She understood now. She got Kona’s interest in her and despite how disgusted it made her feel, Keira laughed.
“You think I’m a virgin, Kona?” When he only managed to look away from her, jaw clenching, Keira’s laughter grew, bubbled so that the sound was obnoxious and loud. “I might get nervous around guys, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been with anyone. And why are you changing the subject? You kissed me.” Keira chose to ignore the part where she had responded eagerly to his kiss. With Keira’s admission and her accusation, the large vein on Kona’s neck that stuck out when his temper flared was pumping against his dark skin like a drumbeat. “I told you this wasn’t a date.”
“I know that.”
“Then why did you kiss me?”
With one large hand rubbing the back of his neck, Kona made a strangled sound in the back of his throat. “Shit, Keira, there was a moment. Don’t pretend like you didn’t feel it. You did kiss me back. And don’t act like you didn’t feel it that night you were mugged.” He walked toward her and Keira found the room had grown smaller, that somehow she’d forgotten how large Kona was, how much space he took up. “There’s something going on between us and it’s got nothing to do with Legends or old musicals.” Kona stood in front of her and Keira wasn’t sure how she’d ended up with her back against the door and him looming over her, staring down at her like he was hungry, like he was hungry only for her.
She felt her pulse skidding against her neck, could feel that warmth that always radiated from Kona’s huge frame as he leaned toward her, as those enormous hand lay flat against the door, right next to her cheek.
“I never said there wasn’t something here.” She pushed back when he moved, eating up the small space between them. She fought the pull that threaded them together. It took strength. It took restraint she didn’t know she had, but Keira pushed against his chest to keep him off of her. “I also never said I was interested in finding out what that something is.”
“Bullshit.” Kona’s voice was thick and Keira didn’t like how smug he sounded. That sweet, contemplative boy from a few minutes ago was gone. Now only the entitled jackass remained and the attitude quickly reminded Keira why she’d been hesitant to be alone with him.
“No, it’s not bullshit.” Keira could feel her anger sharpen like a prick of needles against her stomach. It wasn’t the first time Kona had irritated her temper; just being near him seemed to invoke some sort of raw nerve that made her anger sharp and pulled swiftly to the surface. She hated his smirk and the stupid way his expression told her he thought she was being ridiculous. Condescending, her mother would call that look and that niggling voice echoed in her head, laid fuel on the simmering spark of her temper. “Why do you do that shit?” She pushed against his chest and he seemed caught, shocked by how high her voice had risen. “You’ve got this attitude like you know what I’m thinking. Like you think I’m seconds away from ripping your clothes off.” Keira pushed him again, but Kona didn’t budge and, to annoy her more, he smiled at her. She still managed to spit out, “I’m not. Trust me, I am so not.”
“You know, when you get pissed, you turn into a wildcat.”
“I have a temper, asshole.” Another push and Kona grabbed her wrist and held her hand against his chest.
“Why am I an asshole?”
Keira jerked back, trying to take a breath so that when she spoke again, her voice would be calm, even. “I’m not interested in you like that, Kona. The girls you’re with, I’m nothing like them. I don’t do hookups.”
The smile left his face and Keira could see his disappointment. She knew this was him; the casual attitude toward sex, the quick release, the heat, the passion, that was all he wanted. He wanted to touch, to taste. Kona didn’t want to feel and for Keira, that was all that mattered.
She had felt very little for so long. Her father’s death, her mother’s cruelty, it had left her vacant and open. She wanted that void to be filled, not just tapped off and quickly emptied again. She wanted the finish line, not the chase.
In that exasperated sigh and the quick eye roll, Keira knew Kona would never give her what she needed. “Well what the hell do you do?” Back again was the straight set of his shoulders, the defensive stance of a boy ready to fight.
“I don’t do thin love, Kona. I’ve seen what it does. I’ve seen how pathetic it is my whole life.” Keira caught a quick memory of her mother and stepfather from three weeks ago, sitting at the dining room table quietly taking their meal. They never looked at each other and in six years, Keira couldn’t remember them touching once. She was baring more of herself to Kona now, slipping him secrets she knew he’d only forget, but she wanted him to understand, to see what she needed. “I don’t want easy. I want the impossible. I want love so thick, I drown in it; it’s the only thing worth having and, I’m sorry Kona, you’re a nice guy when you’re not acting like an entitled jackass, but I really don’t think you’re capable of being anything more than that.”
Kona’s reaction was swift; a jerk back from her as though she’d leveled a quick fist into his stomach and he grabbed the doorknob. Keira saw the tension instantly return to his face. She guessed the headache had reemerged, that her words had erased any comfort her fingers had given him. But Kona didn’t complain, didn’t do more than open the door, funneling his anger away from her as he stared into the hallway.
“You don’t know me, Keira, and you don’t have a fucking clue what I’m capable of.”
Eden Butler is an editor and writer of New Adult Romance and SciFi and Fantasy novels and the nine-times great-granddaughter of an honest-to-God English pirate. This could explain her affinity for rule breaking and rum. Her debut novel, a New Adult, Contemporary (no cliffie) Romance, “Chasing Serenity” launched in October 2013 and quickly became an Amazon bestseller.
When she’s not writing or wondering about her possibly Jack Sparrowesque ancestor, Eden edits, reads and spends way too much time watching rugby, Doctor Who and New Orleans Saints football.
She is currently imprisoned under teenage rule alongside her husband in southeast Louisiana.