Author: A.O. Peart
Series: Change Me #1
Release Date: August 30, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Mystery
More Info: Goodreads
Purchase: Amazon US
Purchase: Barnes & Noble
Purchase: Amazon UK
One fateful morning changes everything.
Lisbeth Anderson, the lone eyewitness of a shocking murder, believes the FBI witness protection program may be the only way for her to survive. But when a powerful explosion reduces the safe house to ashes, killing all of the FBI agents on duty, will she turn to a perfect stranger for help?
Ethan McCoy, an ex-Marine-turned-firefighter, has never really cared for any woman. He lives his life to the fullest, enjoying the bad boy stigma and cultivating a particular taste for dominant sex. Girls come and go, allowed to stay only long enough to satisfy Ethan’s wild appetite.
One morning at dawn, Ethan’s fire brigade is called to a fatal house explosion that levels the structure. When he pries open a trap door to the hidden panic room under the house, he finds a gorgeous, though disheveled brunette. Lisbeth instantly turns Ethan’s world upside down, and he’s overcome by the burning desire to protect her, no matter the consequences.
“It might be a bit slippery down there, so careful.” Ethan indicated the damp soil by the collapsed tree.
That little rasp in his voice was distracting. It stirred something in me. Again. Something I shouldn’t have felt now. And his touch—his large, long-fingered hand, grasping mine. He emanated some raw power and decisiveness. This was too much to handle, too confusing. Maybe it was just me? No doubt I was confused and weirded out by all that had happened recently in my life. How could I even think straight anymore?
With a long breath, I concentrated on stepping down from the log. I didn’t want to think about that soothing warmth surging from Ethan’s skin into mine. As soon as I was back on the ground, I pulled my hand back and put both of my hands in my pockets. I looked up at the blue sky visible between the treetops. A few white wisps of clouds were stretched over our heads. They were slowly shifting and reshaping, some of them breaking into smaller pieces.
A distant, sweet memory resurfaced: ten-year-old me, lying in a warm grass, watching similar, wispy clouds constantly change shapes. There was a rabbit, a boulder, a flower, or a jumping cow. I recalled how happy that made me, but now I knew it was only because my imagination took me away from reality of my sad, lonely childhood. Nevertheless, watching the clouds slow-dancing in the sky above me brought those beautiful memories back. And I was thankful for remembering them.
I wanted to feel this enjoyment of freedom and simple pleasure forever. All the worries that bogged me practically every moment of each day have suddenly disappeared. It was as if some distant door opened at the end of a long, dark tunnel, and I was instantly transported into a happy place; as if I stepped over a threshold and onto the sun-filled spot that emanated such positive and soothing energy.
My eyes still closed, I breathed the air fragrant with a tree sap and damp moss, my face upturned to the sky, the sunrays warming my skin. This was what I needed—a moment of a complete quiet, the worry-free feeling that finally uplifted my spirit. A distraction.
I don’t know how long I stood like this, but when I looked around, Ethan was sitting on the log a few feet away, watching me with the tiniest smile on his lips. Did he understand what I was feeling? And just like that, for a flitting moment I believed that we actually gazed into each other’s souls.
He slowly stood up, his eyes locked with mine. Taking a few slow steps, he came very close to me. There was something predatory in his stride, but that didn’t frighten me. Instead, it made me long for his touch. I didn’t move. Ethan’s hands gently ran over my arms. His smile disappeared, and his handsome, masculine features rearranged into an intense, possessive look.
This alone—his expression and his caress—left me breathless, my heart pumping. I froze in anticipation. My lips parted. His right hand came to the back of my neck. His fingers wrapped in my hair, gently tugging my head back until my face upturned toward his. His other hand pressed on the small of my back, bringing our bodies dangerously close.
He kissed me, and I truly welcomed that kiss. No, I actually embraced it.
At first, it was tender, as if he wasn’t sure how I would respond. When I didn’t pull back, his lips skillfully explored mine. His tongue darted from between them, teasing me, testing my reaction. I parted my lips and let him in. He took my mouth with such hunger as if he wanted to kiss me forever.
His sharp intake of breath, send a wave of hot desire through me. I’ve never been kissed like this—so tenderly but intensely and adeptly at the same time. He tasted of mint toothpaste and smelled of a delicious mixture of soap, something musky, and something very male.
I moaned into his mouth. He inhaled again, and his tongue licked deep inside my mouth, sliding over mine, possessing me. This was the sweetest torment I’ve ever experienced. I was lost in this kiss; I was lost in this moment. The feel of serenity and peace I felt just seconds earlier was quickly replaced by the sexual tension; by the pure, shameless desire.
Ethan pulled away, panting slightly, his expression laced with longing and pain. It sobered me in an instant, and I stepped away from him. I hung my head, taking deep, calming breaths. This wasn’t the way. This shouldn’t have happened.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I should’ve never done that. It won’t happen again.”