Cover & Excerpt
The Underground Book One
Lauren Schneider has been hiding from the Russians for six months. She’s stir crazy and finds it difficult to believe anyone is still hunting her. After all, the leader of the mob, Anton Yenin, who had her kidnapped in the first place, is behind bars. Why would he continue to pine over her? And then there’s Dmitry. That man is smoking hot…with his shaved head, tattooed arms, and bulging muscles. If he doesn’t make a move for her soon, she will self-combust.
Dmitry Volikov is a member of Anton Yenin’s stable of fighters. However, he secretly rescued Lauren from the Russians and has done everything in his power to keep her sequestered and therefore safe. His motives aren’t purely altruistic. He’s been in love with the gorgeous Lauren for over half a year. He and his partner, Mikhail, work hard at construction sites during the day, still managing to work out in the early mornings and fight for the underground MMA circuit on Friday nights. They’re supporting not only Lauren, but Mikhail’s sister, Alena.
Lauren is done hiding. When she sneaks out and gets a job at a local bar, Dmitry becomes frantic worrying about her safety—and by default his. If anyone finds her, she’s dead. If anyone finds her with him, they’re both dead. But Lauren is hard-headed. There’s no stopping her. Even their bourgeoning steamy relationship isn’t enough to keep her from defying logic. In the bedroom, she enjoys Dmitry’s dominant ways, but when it comes to the rest of her life, she’s hell on wheels.
Yenin won’t be in jail much longer, so time is running out. When he’s released, there’s little doubt he’ll round up his fighters. Paranoia sets in for both Dmitry and Lauren. Anyone could be following them. Or maybe they’re being ridiculously cautious. In any case, Dmitry is facing the fight of his life. He can’t leave Lauren at home, and she’s a moving target in the crowded underground venue. He has no choice but to rely on his close friends to keep her safe during the fight, but when all hell breaks loose, will it destroy their world?
Genre: Contemporary RomancePurchase link(s): Amazon ARe Smashwords Kobo
Content/Theme(s): MMA, BDSM, Sports, Suspense, Mixed Martial Arts
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Publisher: Hartwood Publishing
Excerpt & More
Lauren almost giggled as she pushed through the entrance to the apartment building for the second time since they moved in. She took the elevator to the sixth floor and then kicked off her heels to carry them the rest of the way down the long hall.
She was going to need to work out more starting now, or she’d be exhausted at the bar by the time it closed. What little exercise she’d gotten over the last six months had been almost futile in the apartment. There was only so much a girl could do with no steps, no equipment, and no reasonable shoes.
The one time she asked Dmitry to bring her a simple small trampoline, he’d lifted a brow and curled up his nose. “Woman, you don’t need to be working out. You need to be eating more. You’re skin and bones.”
And then he’d stomped out of the apartment in a huff, leaving her exasperated but shocked to have heard a full three sentences from him, in a row, on the same day.
Lauren didn’t have a key to the apartment, of course, and she knew Mikhail and Dmitry wouldn’t return until the wee hours of the morning. It was Friday. They never got home before almost dawn on a Friday night.
The arrangement she’d planned for several weeks had been perfect. Alena had gotten the clothing through Mikhail, Lauren studied the on-line want ads for local waitress openings, and the men left that evening carrying their usual gym bags that indicated with almost certainty one or both of them would return drunk with fresh cuts and swollen eye sockets.
Plenty of time.
Lauren knocked on the door, content in the knowledge Alena would open it seconds later as they’d discussed.
The door whipped open far faster than she expected, and she nearly swallowed her tongue to find Dmitry filling the frame with his enormous body. Her gaze roamed up from his thighs to his pecs to his face.
She winced and took a step back when she met his gaze. His right eye was swollen. Not a shocker. And there was a fresh cut above his brow, held together with two butterfly Band-Aids. Also, not a shocker. Without altering his facial features, however, his gaze told her he was pissed.
Dmitry grabbed her by the arm and yanked her almost too hard into the room, slamming the door behind her hard enough to make the wall shake. His fingers wrapped all the way around her biceps, startling her at the contact of his warm hand against her cooler arm. He so rarely touched her. “What the fuck were you thinking?”
She swallowed, blinking at the rage she saw in his eyes. Well, eye. She couldn’t count the one that was swollen almost shut. What she hadn’t expected was for him to be home so early—and sober.
She sucked her lips in between her teeth and jerked her arm free of his clutch. “You’re hurting me.”
Dmitry jumped, glancing down at his hand as if he’d burned it, or burned her with it. “Shit.” He backed farther from her and ran both hands over his shaved head. His face softened for a second, and then he furrowed his brow and stared at her again.
Lauren glanced around the great room. Everything looked normal—just like it always did—glass kitchen table with all four chairs pushed in and placemats in their spots, white bar stools lined up along the pass-through to the galley kitchen, black leather sofa and matching arm chairs with the glass coffee table perfectly between them. Yep, everything in its place. The only thing out of whack was the atmosphere. Ominous. Foreboding.
Mikhail stood in the adjoining kitchen leaning against the island, a beer in his hand. He was never as stoic as Dmitry, but tonight he appeared to have a similar level of aggravation.
“Where’s Alena?” Lauren asked.
“In her room.” Mikhail righted himself, uncrossed his legs, and turned toward the hallway. Seconds later he disappeared into Alena’s room and shut the door.
Sure, leave Dmitry to deal with the naughty girl who dared to leave the apartment.
Several seconds ticked by that seemed longer before Dmitry pointed at the couch. “Sit.”
Lauren narrowed her eyes. “Stop ordering me around. I’m not a fucking puppy, nor am I a doormat.” She stomped to the kitchen, dropping her shoes next to the couch on the way.
Suddenly her denim skirt seemed much shorter, her blouse too tight. She jerked open a cabinet and grabbed a glass. As she filled it with tap water, she considered what to say next.
Finally, she spun. “I’m moving out.” Her hand shook, sloshing the water she hadn’t take even one sip of.
Dmitry gasped. “Like hell you are.”
She rolled her eyes this time. “Are you saying I’m a prisoner here?”
“Of course not. But it’s not safe for you to be seen. You know that. It’s not negotiable.” He was so infuriating. He stomped toward her, his hands balled into fists. “Go take that ridiculous outfit off and put on something less slutty so I can talk to you.”
Her blood boiled. She couldn’t stop herself. She yanked the glass of water upward and doused his face with it. “Fuck you, Dmitry. Go to hell.” Instead of giving him the satisfaction of following his instructions, she slammed the empty glass down on the counter, rounded to a chair in the living room, and plopped her ass down, letting the skirt ride even higher. She knew if she separated her legs, she would give him an eyeful. She crossed her arms under her chest, pushing her breasts up higher to annoy him further.
She’d endured what seemed like a lifetime of scrutiny by the man currently staring at her with his jaw hanging open in shock over her defiance. It was a wonder she still had enough self-esteem to don this outfit and enter the bar tonight to beg for a job.
Dmitry wiped the water off his face with one hand, rounded the couch, and eased himself gingerly onto the corner. He tapped the arm with his left hand and took several deep breaths. “Where were you?”
“I got a job.”
“Where?” He gripped the arm of the couch so tight his knuckles turned white.
“At a bar. Not far from here.” She lifted her chin rebelliously.
“You’re not moving out. Nor are you working in some bar in the fucking seediest section of Chicago like some whore.”
Lauren gasped. He’d stooped to a new low. “Just because I made one fucking mistake in judgment and allowed myself to be lured into the trap of some Russian warlord does not make me a whore. Stuff it up your ass, Dmitry. What the fuck do you care? You clearly can’t stand to be in my presence. I’m a fucking impediment to your life. I’m costing you money you don’t have. You sleep on the fucking couch, for God’s sake. I would think you’d be glad to get rid of me. At least you won’t have to tiptoe around the apartment anymore cringing every time you get near me like I have leprosy.
“It’s your lucky day. I got a job. I’m moving out. You can have the bedroom and one less mouth to feed.”
His face turned beet red. “Is that how you see me?”
She flinched. “How the fuck else am I supposed to see you, Dmitry? You stopped speaking to me months ago. I have no clue why you bothered to risk your life for mine in the first place if I’m so goddamn ugly you can’t stand to look at me.”
His eyes went wide, his mouth falling open. It took him a moment to close his lips, lick them, and then speak. “Lauren, is that what you think? That you’re not attractive?”
She shook her head vehemently. He wasn’t hearing her. “Not at all. Lucky for me I have a shred of self-esteem left over that you haven’t managed to smash into the mud and kill. Lucky for me, I remember that just six months ago men drooled over me when I walked by. Lucky for me, I’ve been told many times in my life that my legs were long and lean and sexy, my waist the perfect width for a man to wrap his hands around.”
She leaned forward. “Most men like my breasts. I realize they’re large, but American guys are into that sort of thing. They also like long, thick hair. I have some of that too, not that you would have noticed. You haven’t looked at me for so long, I’ve forgotten the color of your eyes.” That was a lie, but he didn’t need to know. His dark brown eyes had sucked her into their depths more times than she could count.
Dmitry winced further, not dropping her gaze for the first time in as long as she could remember.
Brown eyes. Dark brown. Well, the one not swollen shut was brown.
“So, no. I’m not the least bit concerned about my looks. In fact, the owner of the place I interviewed hired me on the spot. At least a dozen men drooled when I walked into the bar and marched with my head held high to the back. It’s you who has a problem. Not me.
“And hey, like I said, it’s your lucky day. I’m out of here.” She stood, smoothed her skirt with the last shred of calm she could muster, and headed across the room. As she stepped into the hall, she grabbed the corner of the wall and turned back around. “I would ask that you give me a few weeks to pull together enough money for a down payment if it’s not too much of an imposition. And then you never have to see me again.”
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Be on the lookout for Becca Jameson's future release(s): Sculpt coming December 2015, The Rules series book 2 & 3 coming January 2016, Clinch coming February 2016, and Amanda’s Wolves coming March 2016
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