Down & dirty, p.1
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       Down & Dirty, p.1
 

         Part #1 of Lightning series by Tracy Wolff
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Down & Dirty


  Down & Dirty is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  A Loveswept Ebook Original

  Copyright © 2017 by Tracy Deebs-Elkenaney

  Excerpt from Hot & Heavy by Tracy Wolff copyright © 2017 by Tracy Deebs-Elkenaney

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

  LOVESWEPT is a registered trademark and the LOVESWEPT colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

  This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book Hot & Heavy by Tracy Wolff. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

  Ebook ISBN 9781101883631

  Cover design: Lynn Andreozzi

  Cover photograph: cyano66/iStock

  randomhousebooks.com

  v4.1

  ep

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Chapter 1: Emerson

  Chapter 2: Hunter

  Chapter 3: Emerson

  Chapter 4: Hunter

  Chapter 5: Emerson

  Chapter 6: Hunter

  Chapter 7: Emerson

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9: Hunter

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11: Emerson

  Chapter 12: Hunter

  Chapter 13: Emerson

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15: Hunter

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17: Emerson

  Chapter 18: Hunter

  Chapter 19: Emerson

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21: Hunter

  Chapter 22: Emerson

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24: Hunter

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26: Emerson

  Chapter 27: Hunter

  Chapter 28: Emerson

  Chapter 29: Hunter

  Epilogue

  Dedication

  Acknowledgments

  By Tracy Wolff

  About the Author

  Excerpt from Hot & Heavy

  Chapter 1

  Emerson

  This can’t be happening. Not today. Please, please, please, I’m begging you, not today.

  I’m not even sure who I’m pleading with. God, the universe, fate…anyone and everyone who might take pity on me and make my damn engine turn over.

  But fate is a fickle bitch—no one knows that better than I do—and so is the universe, apparently, because all Suzanne does when I turn the key for the fifth time in as many minutes is wheeze a little. Then cough. Then die all over again.

  Of course she does. Of fucking course. Why wouldn’t my ten-year-old piece of shit Corolla choose today to die? It’s not like it’s my first day at work, not like I need to make a good impression. And it sure as hell isn’t that I need this job or anything.

  Oh, right. I do. I really, really do—at least if I want to avoid going into default on my student loans. Not to mention pay my rent. And eat. I mean, sure, my ass can stand to lose five pounds, but actual starvation’s not the way I want to accomplish that. Just saying.

  “Please, please, please, Suzanne.” It’s my mantra as I turn the key again. And again. And again. All to no avail.

  “Goddamnit!” I grab my bag, then slam out of my car in a rush. A quick glance at my phone tells me I’ve got exactly twenty-three minutes to get to work. Which, if an Uber magically appears at this very second, I just might make. But since my fairy godmother has been taking a break for pretty much ever, I doubt that’s going to happen.

  For a second, I think about calling my best friend, Sage, but at this hour she’s probably in the middle of teaching a yoga class at her mom’s studio.

  So, in the end, I pull up the app and order an Uber anyway—a guy named Rajiv accepts the fare. I can’t afford it, but if I lose this job, I won’t be able to afford anything. And desperate times call for desperate measures. It says six minutes to arrival, which is six minutes too long, but again, it’s not like I have a choice. As usual. Lately my whole life has been one lack of choice after another.

  It’s getting really, really old.

  I spend the next eight minutes pacing back and forth in front of my apartment complex, willing the damn Uber to just get here. It’s drizzling out—because why wouldn’t it be—and already I can feel my curls frizzing as they escape, one after another, from the tight ponytail I slicked them into this morning. I consider running back to my apartment for an umbrella, but I’m afraid I’ll miss the damn Uber if I do.

  How is this my life? I mean, seriously, how is this my life?

  I’ve always been a success, always managed to do whatever I put my mind to. At school, in relationships, in life…at least until I graduated from college with an art degree ten months ago and got stuck in the real world. Now I feel like I’m floundering almost all the time, and those times when I’m not floundering…it’s only because I’m drowning.

  I gotta say. Adulthood sucks. It really, really sucks.

  Another glance at my watch says it’s ten minutes and counting.

  Stupid, late Uber.

  Stupid, temperamental Suzanne.

  Stupid traffic.

  And most of all, stupid me for not leaving earlier…considering what my hair probably looks like right now, I really shouldn’t have bothered spending all that extra time on it today.

  The Uber finally shows up at twelve minutes and counting, and I pretty much throw myself into the car. “Go!” I all but shout as I slam the door and reach for my seatbelt all at the same time. “I need to be at work in eleven minutes!”

  The driver doesn’t move. Instead, he just sits there watching as I practically hang myself on his seatbelt. Sometimes it really sucks being short—who but me would actually get strangled by a seatbelt in a Prius, for God’s sake?

  “Did you hear me?” I demand, pointing to the clear road and stoplight that is somehow magically green in front of us. “You are Rajiv, right? I have to be downtown in eleven minutes.”

  He grins, and—not going to lie—it’s a little creepy. He’s trying too hard and showing too many teeth for my liking and for a moment I consider getting right back out of the car. But the seconds are ticking away and if I lose this job, I won’t have anything to live for anyway. Or, more importantly, any way to live. And since running home to Mommy and stepfather number four isn’t an option I can live with, I really, really need to get to work.

  I settle for scooting all the way against the door, putting one hand on the handle and shoving the other one into my bag where my canister of pepper spray is attached to Suzanne’s currently useless key ring.

  “Welcome,” he tells me in a barely discernible accent, his hands sweeping wide in front of him. “Welcome to my car. I am Rajiv and it is such a pleasure to drive you today.”

  “Umm…thank you.” So, not serial killer creepy, I decide as I relax my grip on the pepper spray. Just Zen master crazy. I should be relieved but something tells me this is going to be so much worse.

  “Please,” I reiterate as he checks his mirrors for the fifth time in as many seconds, still idling at the damn curb. “It’s my first day. I can’t be late.”

  “I’ll do my best,” he promises in a voice so sincere it sets my teeth on edge. “But the GPS says twenty-four minutes from here. And the GPS is seldom wrong.”

  “God, please don’t tell me that,” I moan as he finally pulls into traffic—only to get stopped at the light half a block up. The light that takes forever and is rarely ever green at this time of t
he morning. The light that was green for nearly two minutes while Rajiv sat there making my blood pressure shoot through the roof.

  I check my own GPS app, and sure enough Rajiv is right. Shit.

  Seconds drag into minutes as we wait for the damn light to turn green and I can feel myself starting to sweat. It’s not that hot out—with the light rain, we’ve barely made it up to the mid-seventies that is usual for San Diego at this time of year—but my nerves are going nuts as I can’t be late, I can’t be late, I can’t be late runs through my mind like a clock-maker’s mantra.

  Not to mention, it feels like Sage’s hot yoga studio in this damn car. Seriously, it has to be ninety degrees in here.

  The light finally turns green—thank God—and I all but scream, “Go.”

  Rajiv just shakes his head and gives me a vaguely disapproving look. “You need to remain calm,” he tells me in a slow, deep voice. “We will get there when the universe wants us to get there. There is no use in struggling against our fate.”

  Oh my God. Ohmygod. OH MY GOD. How is this happening? HOW did I somehow manage to get the one Zen Uber driver in all of freaking San Diego?

  Fuck. My. Life.

  “But there is something we can do about it,” I tell him as I jab my finger at the dashboard like some kind of self-obsessed lunatic. “We could go. We could go right now. It’s green! The light is green!”

  “Calm,” he repeats as the car finally starts moving. “All will go as it should go.”

  “Me getting fired is NOT how this should go!”

  “You won’t get fired,” he says as he flashes me that big, creepy grin again. “I have a good feeling about this.”

  “Well, that makes one of us,” I mutter as I pull my now sticky blouse away from my skin in a futile effort to cool down. I’d ask him to turn the heat off, but now that we’re finally in motion, the last thing I want to do is distract him. He doesn’t exactly seem like the type who can walk and chew gum at the same time…

  “Trust the universe, Emerson. Trust the universe.”

  “Yeah, well, it hasn’t exactly done anything to make me trust it lately.” Except get me this job, which I’m about to lose.

  “Today that will change,” Rajiv tells me in a fortune-teller kind of voice, all slow and mystical. “Today will be a good day for you. I promise.”

  “I hope so.” I really, really hope so.

  As we make our way toward downtown in the steadily worsening rain, I debate whether or not I should call my new boss and tell her what happened. But when Kerry hired me, she told me she was always a little late to the office, so if luck is with me—and if Rajiv will actually get the car up to the speed limit in this century—maybe I still have a chance of beating her to work. Please, please, please, let me make it to work before she does. This might be a crappy job, but it’s the only one I’ve been able to get and I can’t lose it.

  I just can’t.

  Twenty-seven excruciating minutes later, Rajiv pulls into a parking spot at the front of the real estate office I’ve been hired to work at. I’m exactly sixteen minutes late to my first day of work, but at least I’m here. That’s something, right?

  “Thanks, Rajiv!” I call over my shoulder as I fling the car door open and dive out. There’s a huge puddle in the street, so I aim for the sidewalk—and the colorful overhang directly above it. Considering I’m wearing a white blouse, the last thing I want to do is show up wet. I’m praying late won’t be a deal breaker, but late and looking like a contestant in a wet T-shirt contest…let’s say the odds won’t exactly be in my favor.

  Why, oh why, didn’t I check the weather this morning? Oh, yeah, I was too busy trying to tame my hair. Total wrong move there. But in my defense, it’s San Diego. Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s blue skies and seventy degrees. The fact that it’s raining today is obviously just another sign that I have somehow offended the universe.

  Once I’m safe on the sidewalk—and only a little damp—Rajiv toots his horn and waves before pulling back into traffic. I spend a couple seconds straightening my red pencil skirt and getting my excuses in order. Then I paste a huge, fake smile on my face and take a step toward the office door.

  But that one step is all I get before a huge black truck veers quickly into the parking spot Rajiv just vacated. As it does, the front tire hits the puddle I just managed to avoid and sprays me with water from the tips of my rapidly frizzing hair to the hem of my now spandex-tight skirt.

  Fuck. My. Life.

  Chapter 2

  Hunter

  “Are you serious right now? Are you freaking serious right now?” the curvy little redhead squawks as I let myself out of my new truck. I’m not sure if she’s talking to me or the sky—her head is tilted back and her arms are out like she’s questioning the whole meaning of life—and I’m not sure if she knows, either.

  Normally I’d feel like an ass for spraying her like that, but what kind of idiot stands that close to the curb on a rainy day anyway? Besides, she looks really good dripping wet. Really good. She’s got a hell of a rack on her and with her shirt plastered to her like that, I can see not just her lacy bra, but her breasts and her hard, rosy nipples, too.

  Not to mention the way that polka-dotted skirt is now plastered to her shapely thighs makes it really hard to regret that puddle.

  “Sorry about that, sweetheart,” I say as I hit lock on my key fob and step onto the curb. “But it’s a great look on you.”

  Her eyes grow wide at her first sight of me, her mouth opening and closing though no words are coming out. I get that reaction a lot, so I just grin and give her a little wink as I walk up to the front of the real estate agency where I’m scheduled for my third appointment in five days. Which is a damn shame considering I’d rather stay out here awhile and flirt with Little Miss Raspberry Nipples. At this point it seems a much better use of my time than going from one inappropriate house to another, which is all I ended up doing during the last two appointments.

  But I need this house even if I don’t want it—and since I have to close ASAP, the sooner I find one that meets my specs, the better. As the reason for the urgency settles over my shoulders, I quickly lose the good mood afforded by my early morning peep show.

  I hate that it’s come to this, hate more that there’s nothing I can do about it. I have more money than I can spend in three lifetimes, but what the fuck does that matter if it doesn’t change anything? What the fuck does any of it matter?

  I’m just reaching for the door when Little Miss Raspberry Nipples finally finds her voice. “Are you freaking kidding me?” she screeches, and this time she grabs on to my arm just to make sure I know she is indeed talking to me and not God, the universe or some imaginary friend of hers. “You just ruined my whole outfit—because you can’t park, I might add—and all you’ve got to say to me is, ‘It looks good on you’!”

  “To be fair, that’s not all I said. I did apologize first.”

  “You called me sweetheart!” she all but spits at me. “That negates your very lame attempt at an apology.”

  “Really? Because I kind of thought it made the apology. There are a lot of women in the world who’d do anything just to hear me call them sweetheart.”

  Her mouth drops open at that, and as I stare at the plump pink lips that are currently forming a perfect O, I can’t help thinking about how good they’d look wrapped around my dick. Or about how good she’d look on her knees in front of me, my hands twisted in all those red curls as I fuck down her throat.

  It’s probably not what I should be thinking right now—especially considering the way her blue eyes have gone all dark and dangerous. But what can I say? I live for danger. Besides, everything about this girl screams red-hot sex and I’d have to be a monk not to notice.

  And a blind monk at that.

  Since I’m not, and because fantasizing about her is taking my mind off my reason for being here, I reach into my back pocket and take out my wallet. Then I pull out a hundred-dollar bi
ll and hold it out to her. “But if my words weren’t apology enough, let me pay for your dry cleaning. It’s the least I can do.”

  I don’t expect her to take the money, figure instead she’ll try to work this whole scenario into a dinner invitation like every other woman I meet these days. Which is exactly what I’m angling for here. I certainly won’t mind spending a couple of hours across the table from this little sweetheart as long as it ends with me spending a couple more hours between her very toned thighs.

  I don’t normally make the first move anymore—I don’t have to—but she intrigues me enough that I’m about to save us both the whole song and dance when she reaches out and snatches the money from my hand. “Damn right, it’s the least you can do. Asshole.”

  She shoves the money into her purse then pulls the door open so hard and fast that I have to take a quick step back just to keep from being hit by the thing. My hand snaps out of its own volition—call it reflex or shock or just pure intrigue. Whatever it is, I slam my palm into the edge of the door and shove the thing shut again.

  “Did you just take the money?” I ask. I know I sound shocked, but come on. No woman ever takes the short and easy route. Not when she has my attention. And definitely not when she thinks she has a shot at a whole lot more.

  “Of course I took the money,” she answers with a sneer. “If you didn’t want me to, you probably shouldn’t have offered it. Sweetheart.”

  Fuck, she’s got a mouth on her and fuck if I don’t like it. Besides, sparring with her is so much better than getting lost in my own head. Which is why, when she reaches for the door again, I keep my hand where it is, pinning it closed—and this time I actually put some muscle into it.

 
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