Battered Not Broken
By: Ranae Rose | Other books by Ranae Rose
Published By: Ranae Rose
Published: Dec 19, 2012
ISBN # 9781624886980
Published By: Ranae Rose
Published: Dec 19, 2012
ISBN # 9781624886980
Word Count: 110,000
Available in: Epub, Adobe Acrobat, Mobipocket (.prc)
DescriptionWar and violent crime cut deep – can love for another person run deeper than the scars left behind?
Ryan Moore forged his own path when he defied his wealthy family’s expectations by joining the United States Marine Corps as an enlisted man. After a period of service that’s cut short by an IED explosion, the lingering physical and mental effects of war result in an isolated struggle to exist in the civilian world. He throws himself into competitive MMA fighting – the one thing he’s still able to excel at, even if every match is a risk he can’t afford to take.
His first encounter with amateur female fighter Ally Rivera ignites a spark of desire he hasn’t felt since before a bomb left its marks on his life and his body, but his flirtation with her turns out to be anything but harmless. She’s struggling to hold together a family ravaged by violence – a feat that isn’t easy when her father has been imprisoned, leaving her vulnerable to relatives who run a local gang. Can two unrelenting fighters overcome challenges they couldn’t defeat alone, or do the wounds of war and crime run too deep for even love to heal?
Reader Rating: (7 Ratings)
Excerpt:It was a smell that woke Ally up. One that made her mouth water. She swallowed a sudden flood of excess saliva as awareness set in.
Her stomach was in knots before she even opened her eyes. When she did, she wasn’t surprised to see the interior of Ryan’s apartment. She was, however, already cursing herself inside her head. At some point, Ryan had risen without her noticing. The light filtering through the kitchen window made it obvious that she’d slept through the entire night on his couch.
Her tiredness was instantly replaced by alarm as she rose from the cushions, ignoring the stiff and achy muscles in her back.
“Morning,” Ryan called from the kitchen, where he’d stationed himself in front of the stove. He still wore his jeans from the night before, but he’d shed his jacket and the shirt he’d worn beneath it. The sight of his bare back greeted her, broad shoulders, tattoos and all.
Still wearing everything from the night before, from her jacket to her shoes, she walked into the kitchen.
“I didn’t want to wake you up,” he said, still facing the stove. “I tried to keep the noise down.”
“It was the smell that woke me up,” she said, inhaling another lungful of bacon-scented air.
He used a fork to flip a line of sizzling bacon strips. “How do you like your eggs?”
“Sunny-side up,” she said, her gaze drifting to a cardboard carton of eggs that waited, open on the countertop beside the stove.
Cautiously, she stepped to his left, craning her neck for a look at his face. “How’s your head?”
He finished flipping the last piece of bacon and faced her. “Fine.”
Whether or not he really felt fine after the previous night’s blow, the butterfly bandage had held up. The sight of it doing its job eased the knots in Ally’s stomach just a little. “Your migraine is gone?”
“Yeah.” He turned on a second burner, where an empty frying pan waited. Before he cracked several eggs over its edge, he greased the inside with butter. “Sorry about last night. Guess I put you through hell.”
“It’s all right.” If she’d been in hell, it was only because she’d been afraid for him, not to mention agonizingly unsure of how to handle the situation.
“It wasn’t how I envisioned our second date ending. If you’d told me yesterday that I’d be cooking breakfast for you in the morning, I would’ve assumed things had gone a lot better.”
Something fluttered inside Ally’s chest as his words settled over her. Until then, she’d been so wrapped up in the lingering haze of the previous night’s ordeal that she hadn’t considered the very different set of circumstances that usually led to the kind of morning she’d woken up to. “I hope you don’t mind that I stayed. I didn’t know what else to do.”
“I’m sorry I ruined our date,” he said, turning away from the stove to face her fully. “But I’m not sorry you’re here.”
She was struck silent for a moment as she took in the sight of his bare chest. Did he have any idea what it did to her? He probably thought that since she saw him that way at the gym all the time, it was no big deal. Standing that close to him in the privacy of his apartment, it certainly felt like a big deal. “Neither am I.”
Seeing him fully coherent and apparently healthy again was unraveling the bonds of anxiety that had threatened to choke her the night before. If she’d gone home, she wouldn’t have been able to sleep. Fear for him and guilt over leaving would’ve kept her up all night. As it was, his improvement lifted her spirits, even if his eyes were red-rimmed. How long had he been up?
He seemed to be on the verge of saying something, but turned to face the stove after a moment’s pause. “Two sunny-side up eggs coming right up.”
She considered asking him if he wanted help, but something told her he wouldn’t appreciate being babied. So she took a seat at the nearby table and watched him cook.
Bruised and bandaged or not, he was beautiful. Butterflies soared through her empty stomach. What would it feel like to wake up in his apartment after a night that hadn’t involved blood, bandages or pain? She let her gaze drift from the broad span of his shoulders to his trim torso, all the way down to where the shallow trench of his spine met denim. His jeans were slung low – perfectly low – around his hips, like they’d been made to ride there.
He lifted two eggs from the pan with a slotted turner and slid them onto a waiting plate. A particularly strong wave of bacon-scented air wafted toward her as he removed several pieces from the pan and laid them next to the eggs.
“Here you go.” He carried her breakfast to the table and placed the plate in front of her, like the world’s sexiest waiter, flashing her a half-smile that left her breathless.
When he handed her a fork, she took it and started eating her breakfast, partially because she was hungry and partially because having a full mouth made up for the fact that she didn’t know what to say.
A few moments later, he joined her with a plate of his own. “I’ve got coffee brewing. It’ll be ready soon.”
The table was small. Despite the fact that he was technically sitting at the side opposite hers, his knee brushed her thigh as she ate. The contact brought back memories of their night at the movies. Though reality defied the notion, it seemed like a long time ago.
Maybe that was because the amount of time she’d spent with him so far was roughly equivalent to about half a dozen standard dates. If the relatively unexciting dates she’d been on with other guys were to be used as a plumb line for comparisons, anyway. Sometime between the moment she’d slipped behind the wheel of his car and when she’d fallen asleep holding his hand on the couch, their night together had evolved irrevocably beyond what could be called a mere second date.
“Do you want me to drive you straight home later, or to the gym?”
Ally froze mid-chew. She’d all but forgotten that it was Saturday and what that meant. “To the gym, I guess.” Her fights were that night, and she definitely wanted to get in some practice early enough to leave herself time to rest before the actual event.
“Great. That way I’ll be there for sure to help you practice those kicks.”
Oh, no. “You don’t have to do that. After last night, you’d be better off getting some rest.”
His brows plunged as he shoveled a forkful of eggs into his mouth. The motion caused the skin at the top of his brow to pull slightly at the lowest end of his butterfly bandage.
Ally tried not to wince visibly as she regretted her phrasing. Apparently, he didn’t appreciate being told what he’d be better off doing.
“Look, I’m sorry I freaked you out last night. But I’ve had a hundred of those headaches if I’ve had one. I know what I’m capable of, and I’ll be fine coaching you for an hour or two.”
Her insides wriggled with guilt. “Sorry. I wasn’t trying to be bossy. Have you been living with those migraines for long?”
“Almost a year.” His tone was even, but for the briefest of moments, his eyes seemed to flash a darker shade of blue.
Almost a year. The date struck a familiar chord in her memory. Hadn’t he said he’d moved to Baltimore nine months ago from North Carolina, where he’d been stationed as a marine? Could that have something to do with why he was no longer serving in the military? Or had his contract simply ended, leaving him free to pursue a civilian life? After obviously rubbing him the wrong way with her last suggestion, she didn’t have the will to ask. “That’s too bad. I’m sorry you have to deal with them.”
“Yeah.” It sounded like less of an agreement than a simple acknowledgement that she’d spoken. He took another bite instead of responding further.
When she finished eating, he cleared her empty plate from the table along with his own and deposited them both in the sink.
Ally excused herself to use the restroom. Before she left the small bathroom, she gargled with a capful of mouthwash from the bottle that rested on one corner of the sink. When she finished, her mouth tingled with minty freshness – a true relief after going to bed and waking up without brushing her teeth.
Ryan was still sitting at the kitchen table when she emerged, his elbows propped on its surface as he stared across the room with eyes that were bluer than the sky.
No sooner had she stepped foot into the kitchen than he rose.
“Ally…” He faced her, his eyes reflecting seriousness – and maybe a hint of indecision, if she wasn’t mistaken.
It was the first time she’d seen him look uncertain. “What is it?”
He crossed the space between them in two surprisingly quick steps. When he reached her, he placed his hands firmly on her sides.
Meanwhile, he bowed his head, the butterfly bandage she’d fixed him up with nearly brushing her hair.
Instinctively, she tipped her head back.
He took her mouth in a crushing kiss that made the one he’d given her two days ago beside his mustang seem absolutely chaste in comparison. The heat of his lips against hers swept through her entire being, lighting up her nerve-endings like Christmas tree lights. She’d managed to contain the strongest of her feelings inside some sort of mental lockbox the night before, but it seemed to have broken overnight, leaving her vulnerable to a tidal wave of raw emotional and physical sensation that made her realize how very, very badly she wanted him.
Reader Reviews (2)
Submitted By: ordan on Jan 7, 2014Excellent, beautiful story with very believable, flawed characters
Submitted By: ladytee20019 on Dec 22, 2013I enjoyed this book very much, it was well written and erotic.