Renegades Book 2
Sassy, smart, and sexy, former supermodel-turned-tech guru Rubi Russo has it all—looks, money, confidence and freedom. Her life is a whirlwind of fast cars and fleeting affairs—and she likes it that way. With a past like Rubi’s, forever isn’t part of her vocabulary. So when studly Renegade stuntman Wes Lawson wants to take their friendship to the next level, she’s all out.
Raised a simple country-boy, Wes knows the brazen Rubi isn’t his type. But after spending time with her, he discovers she’s everything he’s ever wanted in a woman. To win her wild rebel heart, he’ll have to prove he sees behind her smokescreen to all the goodness she tries to hide. Then it’s just a matter of crushing her fears, shattering her barriers, and convincing her that loving him is everything she’s been missing in her life, too.
Piece of cake.
Read Chapter One
(Then listen to Chapter Two!)
Rubi Russo whipped her brand-new Aston Martin onto the set of the new Bond film and into a parking spot reserved for the film crew. Even though Los Angeles traffic kept her from pushing the legendary sports coupe anywhere near its top speed of two-fifty-one, she’d enjoyed her first ride off the showroom floor.
She shut off the engine and grabbed her purse from the passenger’s seat. Through the window, her gaze halted on the charcoal four-wheel-drive Ford F150 parked nearby, and her mind veered toward its owner. He’d become a permanent fixture in her mind—those wide shoulders, that lazy stance, his cocky grin.
A giddy, tingling lust tightened her insides. Eye candy always enhanced a girl’s mood, and there was no better place to grab a little sugar than among the studs of Renegades. But she’d come to prefer the company of one stud in particular.
She smiled down at the collection of notes she kept in the ashtray—ones he’d started leaving on the windshield of her car at different times of the day, almost every day, for the last two months. Because they always made her smile, she’d transferred them from the Ferrari when she’d traded it in. Sometimes the note of the day was a cartoon or a joke. Often it was some funny reference to physics, something they talked about regularly since she’d started designing a series of stunt apps for the Renegades.
Today’s had read:
I’M AMPING THE PUCKER FACTOR TODAY.
YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS THIS THRILL RIDE.
Which had been the first she’d heard of a stunt running today. Confirmation of a stunt had come from the owner of the Renegades in a phone call later that morning.
She grabbed her phone and notebook and stood from the car, turning her face up to the midday Southern California sun. Warmth bathed her skin, draining some of the morning’s tension from her shoulders. It felt good to be out of the house, away from all that computer code, like a real person with real friends. Which was one of the major benefits of creating these apps for Jax—she got to hang with this dynamic group of adrenaline junkies.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that she and Jax had agreed that in exchange for building the applications for use on devices such as iPads and iPhones, she would be free to sell them, as she did her other apps and programs. The power she planned to incorporate into these apps with detailed physics calculations and mathematical equations for every aspect of every type of stunt, no other apps out there could even compare. She’d make a decent chunk of change once she put them out on the open market.
The rumble of a motorcycle engine drew her attention down the long strip of concrete known as the Sixth Street Viaduct. The man made cement canal guided the Los Angeles River through the heart of the city, but was now cluttered with all sorts of machinery, cameras and props.
She started toward the action, smoothing her hands over the filmy skirt that rode too high on her freakishly long legs. Tried to tug at her halter’s bottom edge exposing a bare inch of skin, but ultimately couldn’t hide the diamond stud at her belly button without exaggerating her cleavage. Oh well.
Finger-combing her hair off her forehead, she sauntered toward a group of tall, well-built men loitering near one of the cameras. She spotted Jax Chamberlin, the owner of Renegades and her best friend’s new love, gesturing as he spoke to Daniel Craig’s costar on the film, Jason Bolton, and the director. A couple of younger men Rubi knew as production assistants hung at the edge.
She passed one of the site’s security guards, who grinned and saluted. Rubi returned the gesture.
She approached the set and focused on Wes Lawson, Renegades’ top stunt driver, where he straddled a cherry-red Ducati—the world’s fastest motorcycle. There was no outward sign the man covered in black from helmet to boot tips was him. It could have been any of the other Renegades’ stunt men who rode motorcycles, which was, of course, all of them. But what gave Wes away completely—beyond the studly build she’d memorized—was his impatience. He navigated a slow, tight pattern around the group, like a circling shark. Occasionally, he revved the engine, smothering their conversation with the bike’s growl.
He maneuvered dangerously close to Jax on each pass, the action surely designed to either annoy Jax or hurry him up. Maybe both. Rubi grinned at his antsy behavior—ever the kid who couldn’t wait to reach the playground. Every last one of the Renegades she’d met was a kid at heart. A smartass, feisty, too-sharp-for-his-own-good kid inside a hot man’s body. But Wes was the most mischievous, most daring and, by far, the sexiest of them all.
The click of Rubi’s heels drew the director’s attention. The rest of the men followed his glance—all with the same stupefied expressions. All except Jax.
“What the fuck are you wearing?” His voice tilted toward resigned frustration, one Jax often used with Wes. “You can’t come out here dressed like…like…” One hand lifted, gesturing the length of her body. “Like…that. Guys are working here, Rubi. I can’t have them off in porn fantasy land while they’re running stunts.”
He swung one hand toward a pile of crumpled cars down the length of the viaduct, burned out and still smoking, huddled in a haphazard heap as if they’d recently crashed.
She stopped several yards away, crossed her arms, and smiled indulgently. “I’ll take that as a compliment, Jaxy-boy.” The irritated press of his lips made her grin. He hated the nickname she’d given him. “I’m taking your girl to lunch today, remember? And you didn’t tell me you were running a stunt or that I’d need to be here to watch? So I made other plans this morning—and dressed accordingly.”
She’d been negotiating a sale price for the Aston when he’d called, and estimated the outfit had saved her at least five grand.
The Ducati revved, and Wes shot the bike between the group and Rubi. She pulled up short with a gasp. Heat from the bike whooshed over her body.
The helmet hid his mouth, but those deep gray-blue eyes crinkled at the corners with his smile.
“Don’t listen to him.” His deep voice was muffled behind the gear. “You look perfect. And you’re just in time. We’re going to run the real thing.”
That giddy electricity in her belly intensified. She lifted her sunglasses to the top of her head and worked up her easy, sexy grin. “Wes, if you run over Jax’s toes, he’s going to take away that pretty toy between your legs.”
He laughed, his head falling back. The sound was so rich, so damn happy it trilled through Rubi, leaving her body a sizzling mess of carbonation. Then he released the Ducati’s handles, letting the bike idle while he pulled off his helmet.
His hair fell all over the place as it came free. Light gold on top, wheat-colored underneath, it gleamed in the sunshine. Static electricity from the helmet’s padding grabbed a few strands and pulled them into the air.
Rubi reached up to finger them back into place. Only when the soft, warm, sweat-dampened strands slipped between her fingers did she realize the misstep. A wicked craving kicked deep in her body. Delicious, languid desire tightened her throat.
And, shit, she’d floated over that damn no-touching line again—a line he had a way of making her forget all about.
She told herself to pull her hand back, but it had been such a long time since she’d done something as simple as touch a man’s hair. Okay, maybe not that long. Maybe it had been a long time since she’d touched a man’s hair with a purpose other than fisting it during sex.
An image of her hands fisted in Wes’s hair, his hands and mouth pleasuring her body, flashed in her mind. Heat exploded at her core and spread. Quick. So damn quick, she almost didn’t catch herself from a headlong fall straight into him. Her gaze lowered to his mouth, those lush, masculine lips she wanted to taste. To know.
He propped the helmet between his legs and leaned forward. The teasing heat in those smoky eyes had deepened. “Trying to distract me? ’Cause it’s working.”
“Not really. But as long as I’m here…”
He let his gaze skim down her body again with an I-gotta-have-every-inch-of-that-now-or-I’m-gonna-chew-my-arm-off groan. “As long as you’re here…”
“Wes,” Jax called as he walked toward another camera, “we’re going again in five.”
“I’m so ready,” Wes said without taking his eyes off Rubi. He definitely wasn’t talking about the stunt, and his voice sounded as decadent, sinful as dark chocolate.
She lowered her gaze to ease the unsettling current growing between them. His body armor, tucked into pockets of the neoprene, covered his most vulnerable areas—shoulders, elbows, chest, hips, package… A very nice package she’d noticed on more than one occasion.
The thought forced her gaze back to his square jaw dusted with golden stubble, then higher. Avoiding those stormy gray eyes, she inspected his new haircut, shorter on the sides, longer on top.
“I like the cut,” she said, holding back from another suggestive comment.
Wes didn’t show such restraint. “Feel free to sink your hands in anytime.”
She pretended the words didn’t vibrate in her belly. “Did you go to Sterling Shears?”
“And saw Julie, just like you suggested.”
“I knew she’d do you right.”
His grin heated, eyes sparked. “I’d rather you did me right.”
The low vibration of his voice made her tingle everywhere. And he just kept smiling into her eyes, as if he really saw her. Saw beneath her looks, her attitude, all her smoke and mirrors. Her throat tightened.
She’d been operating under the one-night-stand-only guideline for years, and that safety net worked for her. But she didn’t throw friends into the pool of possible sex partners. She only had to remember the hearts she’d damaged to remind herself she either did friendship or sex—not both. Never both.
Narrowing her eyes, she met his gaze again. “You’re extra playful today.”
He leaned forward, still braced on the helmet, bringing him closer. So close the outer gray-blue ring of his irises contrasted with the lighter center and his spiky golden lashes. “Have dinner with me tonight. Just us. No Jax. No Lexi.” He paused, and Rubi felt the grip of his intent stare at the center of her chest. “You and me, Rubi.”
His mouth was saying dinner. But his eyes were saying the best, eye-crossing, beg-for-mercy sex of your life.
And her body screamed yes with a flare of dizzying heat. But equally dizzying apprehension raised a wall that cooled her down. “Where’s this coming from?” She crossed her arms. “You know I’m not into the dating scene.”
Vulnerability hinted in his eyes and tugged at Rubi’s heart. “Then don’t call it a date. I’d just like to get you alone.”
Oh dear God.
The battle of the Titans warred inside her, and she had to look away to find the strength to do the right thing. She sucked at letting guys down easy. She wasn’t one of his typical nice girls, but she wasn’t the type to use friends either.
“No, Wes, that’s not my game. And I like what we have.” Rubi forced her mouth into a smile, slipping into the flighty, careless cover she’d perfected. “Get to work, Lawson. I’ve got information to gather, and a lunch date with Lexi.”
“I’ll be watching, taking notes, putting it all together for those apps you can’t wait to get your hands on.” She turned toward the camera where Jax bullshitted with the crew, and shot Wes one last grin over her shoulder. “Remember—no major injuries.”
* * * * *
Wes leaned forward, revved the Ducati, and shot toward the bridge, pushing the bike to ridiculous speeds just to burn out this new streak of frustration.
Between the sun, the suit, and running the stunt three times already, he was sweating from every pore. That all would have been manageable if Rubi hadn’t shown up looking like a goddamn Penthouse centerfold. Now his cock rubbed in all the wrong places.
He was done with this all-flirtation-no-action shit. They’d been building up to this for two months. Yeah, it had taken him a while to realize she was exactly the kind of woman he should have been dating for years. And, yeah, he’d been easing closer to her because he also knew she was skittish about dating one guy. But he either had to get her into bed or out of his head.
And both had about the same chance of happening—nil.
He’d pulled every trick, every tactic in his arsenal to tug Rubi over the friendship-only threshold she’d created between them, but she wouldn’t budge. He knew she wanted to cross over. He saw it in her eyes when she looked at him. Heard it in her voice in those rare private moments when they found themselves out of earshot of Jax and Lexi.
And he was no quitter. He wouldn’t give up on her without one hell of a battle of wills. Which meant it looked like he had a real challenge on his hands, because no one challenged him like Rubi.
Slowing the bike and circled back to face the wreckage, pausing beneath the shadow of the condemned bridge for some heat relief. He dropped one foot to the cement and reached up to wipe sweat from his eyes through the opening in his helmet. When he glanced toward Jax and the crew, he found Rubi standing nearby. She had an ear bent toward Troy, one of Wes’s fellow Renegades, and her gaze on the pile of metal Wes planned to annihilate.
If Troy was flirting with her again, it was subtle. His hands gestured as he described the upcoming stunt so Rubi could get all the information she needed to program the apps she was developing for Jax. Her pen moved quickly over the page as she noted Troy’s information.
Wes’s mind flipped back to the way she’d laughed at something he’d said the night before. She’d been sitting next to him at dinner with Lexi and Jax, leaning forward, elbows on the table, chin in one hand, twirling her drink with a straw. But those gorgeous green eyes had been on his, twinkling with happiness. Her smile had been wide and breathtaking. Her light-cocoa cheeks blushed with color.
Fierce want gripped his entire body—the same desire he’d suffered last night—and he groaned.
As if she’d heard him, Rubi glanced up from her notepad. With her sunglasses still on the top of her head, those light eyes were piercing. Her gaze remained directly on him even as Troy continued to talk, and he felt the sexual tension as if they were connected by a wire of electricity.
Frustration spiked, and he revved the bike. “Come on, dude,” he said to Jax through the headset feed. “Wait too much longer and we’re going to have to realign the shot to kill shadows.”
“Hold your dick on.” Jax’s voice pierced Wes’s ear. “I’m putting three more cameras on this take. It’s not like we can run it a dozen more times.”
He rolled the bike back and forth in a restless sway as he watched the key grip—a guy who handled camera placement—run between cameramen. The best boy, a kid who taped down all the electrical wires, worked frantically in the key grip’s wake.
Waiting was one of his least favorite pastimes. Plus, today, every moment of downtime allowed his mind to drift toward his brother, which Wes had been trying to avoid by staying busy, dammit. And, just like every other time his mind had lolled toward Wyatt, his stomach balled into a fist. He’d be out of surgery by now. At least that was Wes’s hope. He hadn’t had a chance to call his mother for a few hours now.
“Okay.” Jax’s voice sounded in Wes’s ear. “We’re set to go.”
The familiar flutter of anxiety that came with every stunt—stronger for some than others—stung his breastbone. Down the stretch of concrete, all but two members of the crew cleared the area. The remaining members tossed lighter fluid on the crashed vehicles, and the fumes flooded his nose even this far away. He didn’t like Rubi so close to that shit.
“Jax,” he said. “Can’t Rubi watch from inside? The fumes are choking me all the way down here.”
“Copy.” Jax turned from one of the cameras and spoke to Rubi. She shook her head, and Jax returned with, “She says she’s fine. You good?”
He should have known she’d do whatever she damn well wanted. But he reminded himself he didn’t have to like her stubbornness to admire it. “Yeah, good.”
Extinguishers filled with foam fire retardant passed through the staff clustered off to the side. They would run out and smother the flames post stunt. If this didn’t take on the first round, it would be a royal bitch and a time suck to set up again.
He glanced toward Jax, but his gaze halted on Rubi. He got that delicious pinch low in his gut again, and instead of envisioning the death-defying act he was about to perform, Wes’s mind filled with the little burst of warmth in Rubi’s eyes when she’d laughed at his helmet head. The glimmer of her perfect teeth when she’d reached up and tried to straighten it out. The feel of her touching him. Yeah, she wanted him. Now, he just had to convince her of that.
He wiped sweat from his eyes one more time before dropping the Plexiglas on his helmet. God, he wanted out of this getup.
A scorching whoosh sounded as the cars went up in flames, dragging Wes’s mind back. His body responded with a sympathetic burst of heat as fire licked the air. That was exactly what he felt like every time Rubi got within ten feet.
A different member of the crew ran into the center of the concrete near the inferno, a slate in his hands to mark the scene and take.
“Ready,” Jax said in Wes’s ear, “Set…” At Jax’s pause, Wes revved the bike. “Action.”
The snap of the slate ricocheted off the concrete surroundings. Wes focused on the stunt, the placement, the timing, and lifted his foot as he shot forward.
“Angle a little east,” Jax said, watching how things looked from one of the cameras. “Yeah, good. Three. Two. One. Hit it.”
Wes shut down all outside thought. His frustration with Rubi, his concern over Wyatt dissipated like vapor, and a familiar, consuming cohesiveness with the universe filled him—brain and body. One making him intensely aware of the road, the air, his body, the laws of physics. The connection made him feel so alive, he vibrated with excitement.
He gunned the bike and shifted his weight backward. The front tire popped into a wheelie, and he kept just enough of his weight off the back end to allow the rear tire to spin against the slippery concrete. Vibrations rocketed through his body. Adrenaline flooded his veins. Acrid smoke spilled off the tire and enveloped him, filling his head with the scent of burning rubber—an instant high. Even after decades of racing and thousands of rides, this shit electrified him every damn time.
With another shift of his weight and a jolt of fuel, Wes accelerated. He lowered his upper body until his chest rested on the fuel tank, until his view of the wreckage was framed in the handlebars, then kicked the bike into high gear. The engine screamed, echoing off the concrete and rattling Wes’s brain. Every cell in his body exploded with life.
“Three… Two… One…” Jax said again, far too soon for Wes. He needed a good long ride—in a couple of different ways. But this was business. “Now.”
Wes slammed the front brakes and threw his weight forward. The bike’s rear tire bucked into the air. With nothing but balance, brake pressure, and physical strength, Wes managed to keep his face off the concrete.
He controlled the bike’s endo for two hundred feet, then clamped down on the brakes and threw his weight again. Bullying the bike to mesh with the laws of physics, Wes spun the opposite direction. He dropped his ass to the seat and the bike’s back end to the ground. Then gunned the machine directly toward the metal inferno.
Hot damn. He’d nailed those moves. This take would scream on screen.
“Start your slide,” Jax said.
Wes leaned the bike toward the ground, guiding the Ducati into a sideways suicide.
“Three… Two… One…”
Jax paused a beat and the pressure of the concrete burned across Wes’s hip, then his thigh…
He gunned the gas and jerked his lower leg from between the concrete and the bike.
But his boot caught.
A flash of fear seared his spine. He gritted his teeth and yanked at his foot.
His leg popped loose. He released the handles. The bike speared toward the flames.
But the unexpected pull of his foot had altered the trajectory. Instantaneous thoughts pinged through his mind.
The bike would hit dead center. The crash would be bigger. The spread of debris wider.
Wes hit the concrete, and all thought vanished.
He bounced. Tucked. Rolled.
Now, listen to Chapter Two!