For the past couple years Laurel's been coasting, hiding in the backseat while her life drifts off course. Then one summer afternoon a tall, built bruiser named Flynn strides in and steers her straight into an infatuation she never saw coming.
Flynn introduces Laurel to things she's never imagined--to the violent but exciting realm of the underground boxing circuit, to rough sex and even rougher role-playing, and to an attraction she craves even as it intimidates her. As Flynn invites her deeper into his world and his life, Laurel has to make a choice--let fear keep her holed up where it's safe, or take a chance and fight for the man who makes her feel more alive than she'd dreamed possible.
Reader Advisory: Although all sex acts are 100-percent consensual, Willing Victim contains role-playing scenarios that may upset some readers who are sensitive about rape, even in a simulated capacity.
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Ellora's Cave Publishing, Incorporated
November 13, 2009
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Adobe DRM EPUB
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Excerpt from Willing Victim by Cara McKenna
"Why you wanna lie to me?"
Laurel gritted her teeth, stared down at the book in her hands, the paragraph she'd been trying to read for the past five minutes. The afternoon had started out idyllic--a perfect July day in Boston, sunny with a cooling breeze, a prime, shaded bench all to herself off the waterfront's beaten tourist path. A pleasant escape from her un-air-conditioned apartment and the glares of her bar exam-obsessed roommate.
Then the couple had arrived.
They'd been arguing even before they'd taken up residence two benches down from Laurel. Young, probably early twenties, with accents that suggested both had grown up in the area. Every fifth word that left the man's mouth was a nasal "fuckin'". Ya fuckin' mothah. Ya fuckin' sistah. My fuckin' douchebag boss. Laurel sneaked a glance. The guy was white but dressed as though he'd prefer to be Puerto Rican like his girlfriend. That stereotyped look--baggy black jeans, pristine work boots, awful pencil-thin chinstrap facial hair and a white undershirt, which in this case looked as if it deserved the nasty nickname "wife beater". The girlfriend wore a similar top but her jeans were two sizes too small, the crazy-low-rise style girls constantly fussed with to keep their ass cracks from peeking.
Laurel tried her damnedest to block them out and focus on her book but it was like ignoring a wasp in her ear. The antagonism escalated.
"Don't you call me a liar," the girl shouted and stood, shouldering an elaborate gold purse.
The guy hopped theatrically to his feet. "Then don't lie to me."
The girl tried to argue back but he just kept chanting, "Don't lie to me. Don't lie to me. Don't lie to me," over and over, drowning her out. His tone was half threat, half jeer, and he came nearer with each repetition until their faces were frighteningly close.
"You need to back the fuck off," the girl said, holding her ground but looking rattled.
"An' you need to tell me the fuckin' truth."
Laurel's heart pounded. She wanted to find the balls to say something, to do the right thing, but she was afraid of the guy. He had a mean, dog-fight look about him and the fact he was posturing made him seem even more likely to snap. A walker entered her periphery and Laurel's cheeks burned, embarrassed to be here, acting as if she couldn't see what was going on. The walker, a middle-aged woman dressed for the office, gave them a wide berth, also pretending to ignore the fight.
The altercation paused until the woman had gone, then escalated.
"Why you foolin' with me?" the guy demanded, shaking his girlfriend by the shoulders.
Laurel's meekness dissolved. "Hey!"
The guy turned to give her a cursory study. "Mind your own fucking business."
"Don't touch her like that," Laurel said, hoping she sounded assertive, glad her voice wasn't as shaky as her hands.
The woman crossed her arms and cocked her head. "What d'you know about it, bitch?"
Oh awesome. Laurel gave them each a disgusted look and pretended to go back to her reading, praying she'd at least embarrassed or annoyed them enough to prompt a relocation. No such luck.
"I know you fucked him, so just admit to it."
"I didn't fuck nobody," the girl said.
Laurel's body buzzed, hot and chaotic. She felt powerless and pissed and worthless, probably just how this obnoxious girl felt.
"Fuckin' liar," the guy said.
Laurel heard the squeak of a sneaker and whipped her head around as the guy grasped his girlfriend by her fleshy upper arm, rough enough to bruise. Laurel grabbed her bag and fished for her phone, ready to announce her intentions to call the cops, but steps interrupted her--heavy, purposeful footfalls on the wooden walkway.
Laurel turned as a huge man passed in front of her, striding toward the fighting couple.
The girl said, "Holy shit," but her boyfriend had his back to the other man and didn't see it coming when a big hand closed around his neck, turned him and backed him up against the wall behind them.
The man dwarfed the young thug by a good six inches in height and fifty pounds of muscle. He was built and dressed like a construction worker--jeans, steel-toes, tee shirt, big arms smeared with gray dust. He held the guy against the bricks by the throat until the kid's face turned purple, ignoring the slaps and punches thrown at his arms.
"Let him go!" the girl said.
The man gave the guy's neck one last squeeze, a motion that thumped the back of his head against the wall, then he released him and stepped away.
The guy doubled over a moment, coughing. His voice returned as a faint squeak. "What the fuck, dude?"
The construction worker took a few sideways steps in the direction he'd been heading, casting the kid and his girlfriend a warning squint. "Both of you, grow the fuck up and buy some pants that fit." With that, he turned and continued down the walkway.
Laurel shoved her book in her purse and went after him. At least fifty percent of the impulse was her desire to get the hell away from the couple.
She jogged to flank the man, having to crane her neck to meet his eyes. Six-three, she bet. "Hey."
"Can I help you?" His tone was tough to place--impatient or just no-nonsense. He had the accent and the look of textbook working-class Boston Irishness, as though he'd come from a long line of coal shovelers or bricklayers or cynics.
"No, I just thought that was awesome." Laurel offered a smile and took him in on a primitive level, registering a turn-on she'd never considered before--brutish, vigilante justice.
"Yeah, nothing more awesome than using violence to fight violence," the man said.
"He had it coming. And it was way more effective than when I tried to make them shut up."
His pace dropped to accommodate her shorter strides. His size gave Laurel a thrill, exacerbated by the leftover adrenaline of the fight. She glanced at his left hand--no ring and no pale strip of skin where a ring might live when he wasn't on the job.
"Are you on your lunch break?" Laurel asked, wondering who this bold woman was who'd taken over her mouth and body.
"Maybe." He glanced down at her again--hazel-blue eyes, wary in that standoffish New England way.
"Well," Laurel said, "can I buy you lunch?"
Eyebrows rose, brown like his short hair and sideburns and fresh stubble. "Why?"
"Why not?" She grinned at him, wondering if she looked warm and friendly or utterly psychotic.
"Good point. Yeah, okay." He turned them toward the financial district, up a set of steps and through the tidy alley beside the huge waterfront hotel.
There was something about him...not charisma. Energy. Laurel had hit an emotional wall in the last couple years and being so close to all that aliveness felt good. It felt magnetic, as if maybe she could siphon some of his fuel if she kept her body near enough to his. They strolled in silence a few blocks to a shabby but popular sandwich joint.
"Meatball sub," the man said, letting Laurel head to the back to order for them. She waited by the pick-up counter, stealing glances at the table her companion had snagged for them. He stared out the front window at the passing flow of pedestrians, looking sort of calm, sort of blank, big arms crossed over his chest. The clerk called their order and Laurel snapped out of her trance.
The restaurant was designed to feed people and get them back out the door--the tables were tall and there weren't any chairs, the idea being for customers to stand and for families with small children to find a different fucking place to eat. Laurel carried their sandwiches over, plus two coffees she'd ordered on impulse.
"Thanks," the man said but pushed his cup back across the table. "Don't drink caffeine."
"Oh. Here, mine's decaf." She slid him the other cup and he accepted it with a hesitant face. She'd regret the swap in a half hour when she felt edgy and restless, but she had an odd, ridiculous desire to please this man.
"I'm Laurel, by the way." She offered her hand. He shook it just how she knew he would, quick and firm. "That was awesome, what you did."
"So you said."
She swallowed and unwrapped her turkey sub, picking out the onions she'd specifically asked be left off. "Where are you working?"
"Congress Street. Other side," he added, waving a hand to mean across the bridge, probably in Fort Point, a hotbed of renovation and new construction. "Where do you work?" he asked.
"I have today off, but I work up the street. Near Faneuil." In Faneuil, she corrected to herself but didn't feel like telling such a manly spectacle of townie-ness that she pandered to tourists.
"Where're you from?" he asked through a mouthful of food.
Laurel found it charming. Having a man actively not try to hit on her was strangely alluring. "I grew up near Providence. I've been in and around Boston for..." She did the math. "God, eleven years. You must be from here."
"Yup." She decided to flirt, even if it was doomed to be one-sided. "Say my name."
"What, Laurel?" Larrul.
He smiled back, tight but genuine. "Fine, busted."
"How can you work construction without any caffeine?" she asked, sipping her own watery coffee. "Don't you have to start work at like six a.m.?"
"Sometimes. But it makes me punchy."
The image of his hand around the other man's throat flashed across her mind. "I could see that."
He nodded, focused on his sandwich.
"Are you single?" Laurel nearly clapped a palm to her mouth, so shocked she'd asked that.
He raised his face to meet her eyes, chewed and swallowed before he spoke. "You asking me out?"
You'll never see him again in your life if he turns you down. Just say yes. "I don't know. How old are you?"
"Thirty-two," he said, one eyebrow raised.
"Yes, I'm asking you out then."
"Sorry, but I'll take a pass."
The reply stung her ego a moment but she shook it off. "Why not?"
"I'm not your type," he said and took another bite.
She smiled at him. "And how would you know my type?"
"I'm not any woman's type, practically. That's how I know."
"Are you gay? Wow, you had me fool--"
"Not gay. Just not a big hit with the ladies."
She squinted at him, intrigued. Either he was being serious or he subscribed to a complicated, psychological-warfare style of flirting. "Ex-con?"
He shook his head.
He took a deep, demonstrative swallow of the decaf and Laurel figured a man who abstained from coffee was probably pretty clean.
"Asshole?" she guessed.
He nodded, brows rising again, false smile curling his lips.
"Well, I've gone out with plenty of assholes," Laurel said.
"Then I'm sure you've had your fill." He popped the last bite of his sub in his mouth and crumpled its wax paper, tossed it in a can by the door.
"Give me one good reason why not," she said.
"Redheads make me nervous."
Laurel ran a defensive hand over her ponytail. "It's not my natural--"
"Doesn't matter, and I'm just fuckin' with you... You don't like hearin' no, do you?" He smiled, genuine this time, and the gesture etched cracks all over his tough-guy veneer.
She smiled back.
"Fine." He tugged a napkin from the table's dispenser and Laurel dug a pen from her purse. He scribbled an address in South Boston. "Friday and Saturday nights, eight to one. Tell the guy working that Flynn invited you."
Laurel studied his slanted handwriting. "Okay," she said, wondering if all this newfound impulsivity would leave her by the weekend.
"If that doesn't scare you off," he said, "you can try askin' me out again."
"You take care now. Thanks for lunch."