Rough Around the Edges by Ranae Rose - Romance>DramaSometimes love is enough. Other times, you have to fight for it.
Raw, real romance from an all-male point of view.
For Ryan Moore, the choice to fight is like the choice to breathe - necessary. After being wounded in war and discharged from the United States Marine Corps, competitive MMA fighting is the only thing he's still able to excel at. Every round is a risk he can't afford to take, but time spent outside of the cage is purgatory, until he meets female fighter Ally Rivera. For the first time since an IED blast destroyed life as he knew it, he wants something - someone. And she wants him, but the lingering effects of war might just tear them apart, if the gang violence that plagues her family doesn't kill them first.
Rough Around the Edges is Ryan's side of the love story told in Battered Not Broken. It's not a sequel, but a separate novel written for those who want to experience the story through Ryan's eyes. Read Battered Not Broken first or simply dive right in and enjoy an erotic romance novel told completely from a male point of view. It is not necessary to read Battered Not Broken first.
Reader Rating: 5.0 (1 Ratings)
Excerpt:“Morning,” he called as her footsteps sounded on the carpet and then the linoleum, the only sound besides the sizzling bacon. “I didn’t want to wake you up. I tried to keep the noise down.”
He finally understood the meaning of the expression ‘pins and needles’ as he stood there with a fork in hand, mindlessly prodding the bacon as he waited for her to say something – anything.
“It was the smell that woke me up.”
She didn’t sound mad. She didn’t sound anything, really, other than tired. Suspended in uncertainty, he continued jabbing at the bacon. He was practically stabbing it now, poking the crisped meat full of tiny holes. “How do you like your eggs?”
“Sunny side up.”
She hadn’t left yet – that was something. In fact, she’d come close and was practically standing by his side.
One more step and she was there, her arm almost brushing his. “How’s your head?”
“Your migraine is gone?”
“Yeah.” His stomach clenched, as if he might puke again. But there was nothing left inside it, and he willed the feeling to pass as he cracked several eggs over the second frying pan. “Sorry about last night. Guess I put you through hell.”
“It’s all right.” She sounded just like she had the night before – sure. She didn’t move as she stood beside him, watching him instead of watching him cook.
He could feel her gaze on the side of his face but couldn’t meet it. Not yet.
A bubble of wry humor rose up inside him. “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.”
“I hope you don’t mind that I stayed. I didn’t know what else to do.” For the first time, there was a note of uncertainty in her voice.
“I’m sorry I ruined our date.” He finally stopped messing with the bacon and faced her. “But I’m not sorry you’re here.” Even though a part of him wanted to be, he wasn’t.
For a few seconds, she just stood there, holding his gaze. He knew exactly what her eyes looked like, had practically memorized the color the first time he’d met her. They still took him by surprise. There was just something about waking up and looking into them after spending the night with her, even if the night had been a disaster.
“Neither am I.”
He turned away then. He had to. Not just because the eggs were in danger of burning on one side, but because the truthfulness in her eyes had seared him, scared him. Why wasn’t she sorry?
It didn’t make any sense. She didn’t make any sense, and that just made him want her more. But how long could that last? She wasn’t irrational. She was smart. This couldn’t be what she wanted. “Two sunny-side up eggs coming right up.”
She took a seat at the nearby table and he was able to breathe and think. Not that it did him much good. Inhaling the aromas rising from the frying pans only made him ravenous and there was no making any sense of Ally’s motivations, unless he considered that she was some sort of saint.
An angel, maybe. Her hair was mussed from sleeping on the couch and a halo of fine, unruly curls rose up around her skull, catching the light and glowing like a golden-brown aura around her head.
He made her a plate and carried it to the table. “Here you go.”
He relaxed a little when she accepted the plate and began to eat. It meant she’d stay a little longer, and he couldn’t deny he was glad.
A minute later, he joined her, a second plate in hand. “I’ve got coffee brewing. It’ll be ready soon.”
He didn’t mean to touch her, but his knee brushed her thigh as they ate – that was just how small the table was. He’d bought it because it’d been cheap and he hadn’t needed anything bigger. In that moment, he wouldn’t have traded the crappy little fold-out for anything.
Of course, breakfast would eventually end. He’d be better off not getting caught up in a fantasy that involved laying her across the table, pressing his lips against hers and tasting her mouth … for starters. There were a lot of things they could’ve done on the table if it’d been a little sturdier. A counter would probably be a safer bet. “Do you want me to drive you straight home later, or to the gym?”
She stopped chewing and her eyes widened, lending her a look of mild surprise. “To the gym, I guess.”
Did she really think he still wasn’t capable of driving? Shit. “Great. That way I’ll be there for sure to help you practice those kicks.” She’d see that she was wrong, that he was fine when he wasn’t reeling from a brutal headache. Mostly.
“You don’t have to do that. After last night, you’d be better off getting some rest.”
Her words hit him like a blow to the gut, one that left him feeling vaguely nauseous. When he frowned, the motion tugged at the corners of his head wound and the butterfly bandage that held it shut. The twinge of pain was nothing compared to the agony of her treating him like an invalid.
“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.” The only way to make her realize that he was fine was to show her that he was fine, and there was no way in hell he’d let her talk him out of doing that.
She glanced down at her nearly clean plate. “Sorry. I wasn’t trying to be bossy. Have you been living with those migraines for long?”
“Almost a year.” He pressed his lips tightly together. They were treading dangerously close to exactly what he didn’t want to talk about. Not yet. It would be better to tell her exactly why he was so fucked up later, when the memory of him crumpled and bloody at her feet on the kitchen floor wasn’t so fresh in her memory. He just couldn’t take another one of her well-meant suggestions to rest, or her sympathetic looks. And she was so nice that she’d be bound to give him both if he confessed.
“That’s too bad. I’m sorry you have to deal with that.”
He worked his lips far enough apart to form a response. “Yeah.”
She let it go, and the burden of impending confession slid from Ryan’s shoulders as he picked up their empty plates and placed them in the sink.
As he turned, she excused herself to the bathroom, leaving him alone in the kitchen.
He reclaimed his chair, sinking down onto the cushionless seat and propping his elbows on the tabletop. Though she was in another room, his thoughts clung stubbornly to her. He no longer felt sick, but his stomach churned with a potent combination of guilt and longing. She’d been fucking wonderful. He knew that, it was just hard to think past his pride and admit it.
He couldn’t for the life of him figure out why she’d stuck around so long, but she had, and her selflessness shook him to his core. He could still feel her fingers at his hairline, gently wiping away the blood and securing the bandage that still lingered there, holding his broken skin together. He’d thanked her, but only briefly. She deserved more than that – what, exactly, he wasn’t sure.
The bathroom door creaked on its aged hinges and his heart rate began a slow climb at just the thought of her. When he actually laid eyes on her face, his heart slammed against his ribs and stayed there, beating hard against bone and flooding his veins with a longing so severe it almost crippled him.
“Ally…” He had to say her name, had to hear her say something back.
She stood in the kitchen, near the edge of the linoleum, but still close enough to him that he could see the way the sunshine coming through the kitchen window lit up her eyes. “What is it?”
It only took two steps to cross the space between them. When he reached her, he placed his hands on her sides and slid them down, caressing her and pulling her close at the same time. She tipped her head back and he lowered his, crushing his mouth against hers. He didn’t hold back this time, like he had in the theater parking lot. They’d gone way beyond normal dating patterns and progress. For better or for worse, they’d never go back.
She wanted him too – he didn’t know why, but it was evident in the way she responded, leaning into him and parting her lips, and it was intoxicating. He thrust his tongue inside her mouth, refamiliarizing himself with her taste.
He demanded her attention and she gave it, slipping her tongue along the length of his and past his lips and teeth. When he slid his hands lower, down onto her hips, she opened her mouth wider, keeping nothing from him.
He moaned and pulled her so tight against him that his dick pressed into her belly. She wasn’t exactly soft there by normal standards, but compared to the steel rod his cock had become, she was. And she was so, so warm.
He broke the seal of their kiss and leaned back so he could get a good grip on her and lift her without hurting her. She was light and her body was pliant in his hands – lifting her was simple and felt right. Gripping her by her hips, he lifted until she was a little above his eye level.
She wrapped her legs around his waist, and for a split second, he was breathless, paralyzed. He could feel his pulse in every inch of his body, or was that hers? She was so close, right up against him, her thighs exerting hot pressure on his sides.
He turned, facing the island countertop at the edge of the kitchen, and lowered her onto it. It was the nearest surface, and sturdy enough to hold up to just about anything.
He kept his hold on her hips and stood between her thighs. The counter put her hips level with his and the perfect height and angle filled his head with thoughts so intense it felt like he might spontaneously combust if he didn’t get inside her.
But he’d take his time, even if it killed him. He could do anything if it meant not fucking up their first time, because the thought of it being their one and only was unbearable.
Pressing his mouth to hers, he unzipped her jacket and peeled it from her body, letting it pool on the counter behind her. Her long-sleeved tee was soft and gloriously thin. Her body heat radiated through it and he could feel the solidness of her ribs underlying flesh so tempting he wanted to rip the fabric away.
Instead, he ran his hands up her sides, the skin on the back of his neck prickling with pleasure as his fingertips met the lower swells of her breasts.
Holy fuck, she was wearing a bra, but it was paper-thin. Lace, judging by the faintly ridged texture. Lace so insubstantial that his fingertips dented her flesh and he could feel her heartbeat. Her nipples were as hard and easily-felt as pebbles. He rubbed his fingertips over the stiff buds and couldn’t stop. Taking his time, he massaged them, his dick growing harder by the nanosecond.