Vince Cappelleti had never been anyone’s fool, but as he stood out on the tarmac waiting for the private jet to land, he felt like the biggest jackass ever born.
What the hell was he doing here?
He rubbed his jaw as he surveyed the “men” around him. Jeremy Winslow–Vince didn’t even want to contemplate the white bred, prep school cadence of that name–stood to his left, dressed in ragged jeans and a biker jacket. The blond man’s hair was cut like a politician and his smile gleamed so bright that Vince figured every tooth in the man’s head had to be a cap.
Jeremy was to play Brendan Tucker, DEA agent who was trying to infiltrate the biker gang he suspected of killing his brother.
The only thing Vince suspected Jeremy wanted to infiltrate was Bobby Sloan, the guy who was supposed to play Harry Braxton, biker leader.
It was enough to make him laugh.
The ten actors around him were too neat and clean to be the kind of men they portrayed. Men he’d known all his life. The kind of guys who lived hard and if they were lucky, died young.
“The plane’s on its way in,” Jeremy said, smiling that capped tooth smile. “I’ll head out and meet up with you guys later. Ta-ta.”
Vince ground his teeth. Ta-freakin’-ta? What the hell was that? Man, in the Staten Island neighborhood where he’d grown up, they would have eaten this pack of guys for breakfast and used their bones to pick their teeth.
Suddenly the idea of handing himself over to Gino Martelli started to look appealing.
What were a few bullet holes and torture when compared to this?
“Okay,” Bobby said, turning to face them. “Remember, we are Hell’s Angels and we’re supposed to be dark and deadly.” Bobby nodded at Vince. “Follow Vince’s lead. He has the look down to a fine art.”
If the kid only knew.
Vince’s menacing presence wasn’t from practice. It was from growing up hard on the streets where any weakness was quickly found and either exploited or eliminated.
In Vince’s case, he’d eliminated his before he’d started kindergarten.
He watched as the actors fell into their roles. Each man on the island had been handpicked to lead a double life. Every place and person here had but one function.
They were to make someone’s dreams come true.
And as hokey and stupid as it sounded, a part of him admired Z for what he’d accomplished.
Even more so because Z had done it to honor Susan. Only she could have conceived of something this preposterous and God love Z for having loved her enough to carry out her dreams of helping other women.
Susan had held a heart unlike any person Vince had ever known. His sister had been as good as he was bad.
All their lives, she’d tried to explain to him that it was wrong to use people. That other people’s lives, no matter how insignificant they seemed, mattered.
He’d never understood that until one night eight months ago when he’d come face to face with himself in the backroom of a Portuguese restaurant down in the Ironbound in Jersey.
In one instant, he had seen himself for what he really was”â€ a cold-blooded killer who had sold himself to the devil.
Now he was trying to buy his soul back, only the devil didn’t seem real keen on the thought of letting him go.
So here he was, hidden on an island paradise where he hoped no one would ever find him again. No one except a bunch of odd actors who were pretending to be characters out of a book.
Just what kind of crazy fantasy was this anyway?
“Go with it, Vince,” Z had said. “All you have to do is add flavor to the group. Ride around for a week on a Harley and just look like your normal, ruthless self.”
Vince still didn’t know how Z had talked him into this. But then talking people into stuff was what Z did best.
The plane landed.
Vince wasn’t sure what to expect from the woman who had won the sweepstakes. Even though he’d been on the island now for eight months, he had yet to meet one of the winners.
He imagined most women who read romances to be like his mother who’d always been addicted to them. Older women who kept their books sandwiched between plastic covers so that no one would know what they read.
If he was right and some matronly woman stepped off that plane, then Bobby and Jeremy certainly had their jobs cut out for them. They were about to earn every cent of their exorbitant salaries.
And the more he thought about it, the more he hoped the woman on the plane was some matronly grandmother. That he could cope with.
God help him if she were attractive. It’d been almost a year since he’d last had a woman in his bed and he was seriously getting tired of going without. Damn, Z for not having women on the island. The only ones he’d seen to date had been Z’s two sisters and as hard up as he was, he wasn’t about to trespass there. Shanna and Aislinn were definitely knock-outs, but touching them would be like dating his own sister.
He shuddered at the thought.
The stairs came down and out of the plane emerged a woman.
Vince cursed as soon as he saw her. “Someone grab a gun and kill me,” he muttered under his breath. This wasn’t fair. No doubt this was God’s way of getting back at him for the life he’d been living.
The woman coming down those stairs was the very thing a fannullone like him didn’t deserve to even look at.
She was blonde and curvy like a wholesome dairy maid from some middle American state such as Wisconsin. Hell, he half expected her to have a quart of milk in one hand and a piece of cheese in the other.
Her long blonde hair was braided down each side of her face and she had the biggest pair of blue eyes he’d ever seen.
Sweet. That was the only word to describe her. And he desperately wanted to take a bite out of that lush, luminescent skin to see if she tasted as good as she looked.
His cock hardened instantly, straining against his fly in a demanding need to sample some of that dairy-maid’s cream.
It was hard for him to breathe.
She came toward them hesitantly. He could tell by the uneasy way she moved that someone had dressed her in a pair of leather pants and jacket with a white t-shirt. She didn’t wear those clothes comfortably. Rather they were like an alien skin.
But he had to admit that she looked damn good in them. Especially the jacket. The rough leather edges of it rubbed up against her nipples, making them hard and obvious underneath the thin cotton tee.
He swallowed as he imagined taking one of those hard nipples into his mouth and sucking and teasing the taut edges of it with his tongue until she came for him.
Better yet, he would love to taste her orgasm. To watch her head rolling back and forth on a pillow as he drove himself deep inside her sweet, round body.
His erection throbbed with a predator’s need.
This wholesome piece of pie was nothing like the confident women he’d known in his life. Women who had been users like him. Women who were after a better life, or a quick lay.
The dairy-maid just looked like…
Peaches and cream. Most of all, she was unattainable and that made some inner part of him shrivel.
She chewed her nail nervously. He shifted his feet, trying to alleviate some of the pain of his engorged cock. Did she have any idea how sexy she looked when she did that?
Her guileless blue eyes said that she was completely clueless.
“Harry?” she asked, her voice tinged with a southern lilt that shivered like electricity down his spine.
Bobby stepped forward. “Hi Robin. You ready to ride?”
She might not be, but Vince most certainly was ready to ride.
Her smile flashed a set of dimples. Oh man, now that was truly cruel. Damn you, Z.
Vince ground his teeth as she climbed up on the back of Bobby’s bike. The leather cupped her ass in a way that should have been illegal.
Oh yeah. He stared at her with an aching hunger he hadn’t felt in a long, long time.
All too easily, he could imagine walking up to her and running his hands over her hips, sliding those leather pants off until he had her naked in his arms.
Better still, he imagined her spreading her legs and sliding up over his seat…
Vince hissed in appreciation.
This woman stirred the predator inside him. The part of him that was willing to do anything to get what it wanted. It was a part of him that scared him because he knew exactly how far he would go when he saw something he lusted for. And the last thing a woman like her needed was to be sullied with something like him.
No. Dairy maids and farm girls with smooth southern drawls belonged to clean-cut prep boys like Jeremy and Bobby. They didn’t belong with an ex-Mafia hit man whose life would be forfeit as soon Gino found the right person to bribe or torture.
Vince slung his long leg over his black Harley and kickstarted it as he watched her wrap her arms around Bobby’s waist.
Envy stabbed him.
At the end of the day, Vince was still nothing more than that half-starved kid standing out on the street corner, looking up at the rich brownstones owned by the private school kids.
The kids who got to go to the prom in limos and wearing tuxes that didn’t come from Uncle Sal’s mortuary.
He’d dreamed then of being rich enough to one day walk down those streets without decent women crossing the road to avoid him, or nervous housekeepers eye-balling him from the windows, afraid he was casing their places for a hit.
What he’d found was that all the money in the world had never erased the taint of what his father had been.
What Vince himself had become.
Z had been lucky. He had somehow managed to escape their blighted past. Vince never had.
And he never would.
Allison was simply giddy as they rode over the beautiful island. It was like something out of a dream.
Even though it was fall, everything was still lush and green. Not too hot. Not too cold.
Just like the biker she rode behind.
Don’t anyone pinch me, because if I wake up from this, I’m going to punch someone’s lights out.
She laughed as they rode into a parking lot that was filled with more motorcycles. The roadhouse club was a dive. Complete with rundown boards that had been spray painted and a sign exalting its exotic dancers.
It was just like the book.
She had to remind herself to get off the bike slowly and to saunter after Harry.
He led her into the dark bar where there were more bikers dressed in leather and denim. Some sat at the bar drinking. Others sat at tables and booths where they were playing cards and eating while others were playing pool or just lounging. There were no women anywhere to be found and every guy there was absolutely stunning.
Jackson, the bartender was at the counter, using a rag to mop out glasses. He snarled at Harry who in turn grimaced back.
Allison beamed. This was better than a movie. Oh how she loved it.
Harry led his men to the vacant tables in the back corner. Tables that were always left open in the event they showed up”â€ that’s because in the book everyone was afraid of Harry. It was rumored he had killed a dozen DEA agents who were trying to bust him for running drugs.
And two of them because they had looked at Robin with lust in their eyes.
Allison had to admit the man playing Harry didn’t look like he could even step on a cockroach without having guilt, never mind kill a man, but he was cute. There was something about him that vaguely reminded her of her ex-boyfriend, Gary.
She sat down at their table and watched as the rest of their gang filed in. The guys inclined their heads to her respectfully. In a strange way, they reminded her of Boy Scouts.
Until she saw the one pulling up the rear.
Now he looked deadly.
And he made the blood pound through her veins. Standing just over six feet, he had long hair as black as jet. His tanned, masculine skin was stretched tight over one of the most beguiling bodies she’d ever seen in her life.
Black jeans hugged long legs and his black t-shirt only emphasized the width of his shoulders, and the definition of his well-developed pecs and abs. A pair of dark glasses obscured his eyes, but they only accentuated the sharp, clean cut of his face.
This was the kind of guy you might find on a soap opera, except for the fact that he seemed more sinister than a cobra lying across your foot.
And the way he moved…
Sinful and decadent.
He moved like a man who was at home with himself. Like a man who knew his way around a woman’s body and how to get what he wanted out of life.
She was completely captivated by his deadly predator’s swagger. Allison swallowed.
Unlike the others, he didn’t glance at her. He just slid with refined masculine grace into a chair and propped one booted foot up on the vacant seat across from him.
The other guys didn’t seem friendly toward him and he didn’t seem to care. He pulled his sunglasses off, displaying a face that would make an actor weep with envy. She’d never seen a man more attractive. His eyes were a beautiful hazel green that contrasted sharply with his olive skin.
But what riveted her was what she saw inside those eyes. They looked lethal and cold as they assessed everyone and everything in the bar as if it could be a possible threat.
Boy, this man certainly had his part down. He should be the one playing Harry. There was no doubt he could kill someone.
She blinked as she realized Harry was speaking to her. “Excuse me?”
“Would you like a beer, Robin?” he asked again.
Allison smiled. In the book, Harry ruled Robin like a true alpha jerk and would never have asked her opinion about anything. She had to admit, she was grateful this Harry was kinder. “Sure, whatever you have that’s light.”
The hair on the back of Allison’s neck stood up, letting her know someone was watching her intently.
She glanced over to find those deep hazel green eyes focused on her with interest.
He didn’t look away.
Instead, he boldly swept her body with his gaze. One corner of his mouth lifted as if he enjoyed what he saw.
An unexpected rush of lust burned through Allison. It was potent and hot, and it made her want to have the guts to get up from her chair, walk over to him and kiss those finely shaped lips of his.
Better yet, she would love to give that man a naked lap dance.
Still he stared at her.
Allison shifted nervously as her body heated up even more. Her body clenched and throbbed, aching for him to do something other than look.
What would it be like to make love to a man like him? He was all sinuous power. All masculine beauty.
“Hey Vince,” Harry snapped angrily. “Get your eyes off my woman, or we’re going to have a talk.”
The man staring at her laughed at the threat. “Sure, Harry. God knows, I wouldn’t want to tangle with you.”
Allison would have needed a Ginsu knife to cut through that sarcasm.
Vince paid the waiter as he brought him his beer.
“Who is he?” she asked Harry.
“He’s just a straggler we picked up. Don’t know much about him really. No one even knows his last name.”
Allison wondered how much of that was true. For some reason, she didn’t doubt any of it. She thanked her waiter as the man handed her a beer and watched as Vince got up and left.
From behind, that man had the best butt she’d ever seen in her life. He cut a very intimidating and striking pose as he strode from the bar.
Before she even realized what she was doing, she followed after him.
He was heading back toward their motorcycles.
He paused and turned to face her. “You need something?”
“Are you the man, Mr. Zimmerman told me to contact if I had a problem?”
He took a swig of his beer before he answered. “Why? You got a problem already?”
“No, I was just wondering.”
“Yeah. I’m the lucky bastard.”
She forced herself to move closer to him. If Mr. Zimmerman had designated this man to oversee the others, then he couldn’t be as fearsome as he seemed.
She held her hand out to him. “Allison George. Nice to meet you.”
He looked at her hand, then swept his magnetic gaze back up to her face without taking her hand in his. “Nice meeting you too.”
He turned away from her.
“Wait. You’re not going to shake my hand?”
He faced her and the hot, lustful look in his eyes burned her all the way to her toes. “Look lady, I’ve been stuck here on this island for far too long without seeing anything as scrumptious as you are. If I touch your hand I’m going to kiss your lips. If I kiss your lips, I’m going to run my hands all over your body. And after I get tired of running my hands over you, then I’m going to strip your clothes off and lick on you until you scream. So unless you want to have sex with me, I suggest you keep your hands to yourself and just let me go and find a cold shower.”
Heat exploded across her face. “Are you always this outspoken and crude?”
“If you want a refined college boy…” he glanced at the bar, “those are inside. If you want a man…” He gave her a wicked grin that set fire to her blood. “Then baby, I’ve got what you need. You just give me a yell whenever you’re ready for it.”
Allison shivered at his words as he sauntered away from her.
Never in her life had she felt temptation like this. She didn’t know Vince at all, but part of her craved him powerfully.
Robin would already be after him, her hands caressing those broad, muscled shoulders. She would be pulling his tight t-shirt off his body and licking his hard, defined abs.
Allison would run for cover and hide.
It was time for her to make a decision.
Was she going to be a lioness or a mouse? A frightened wimp who had never dared reach for what she wanted, or the wild woman who lived in her heart?
Allison took a step, then heard a motorcycle roaring down the road.
That would be Brendan approaching.
Brendan– the hero from the book.
She looked back at Vince and his deadly, dangerous walk.
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
What should she do?