Against the Cage (Worth the Fight #1)

Against the Cage
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

A Loveswept eBook Original

Copyright © 2014 by Sidney Halston
Excerpt from
Full Contact
by Sidney Halston copyright © 2014 by Sidney Halston

All rights reserved.

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

L
OVESWEPT
is a registered trademark and the L
OVESWEPT
colophon is a trademark of Random House LLC.

eBook ISBN 978-0-553-39096-4

Cover design: Georgia Morrissey

This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
Full Contact
by Sidney Halston. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

www.readloveswept.com

v3.1

Chapter 1

“Fan-freaking-tastic!” Chrissy slammed her fists into the steering wheel of her piece-of-crap ten-year-old car.

The red and blue lights flashed behind her. Annoyed, she pulled over to the side of the road. Not even an hour ago, she had broken one of the heels of her favorite red stilettos when she ungracefully left the courthouse and stumbled on a crack on the sidewalk. She then hobbled to her car; it was listing to one side, which she foolishly ignored. Of course, the lopsidedness was a flat tire, which became painfully evident a few minutes later as she was driving down the highway. She then called AAA and waited an hour for her tire to be changed. Now, the icing on the craptastic cake was making his way toward her car. Suddenly a blinding flashlight pointed right into her eyes. All she could see was black spots floating around her line of vision and an outline of a tall man outside her window.
Just great!

As soon as she began rolling down the window, the Florida heat and humidity flooded into the car, causing sweat to trickle down the nape of her neck and her hair to stick to the sides of her face. And, yes, she rolled it down manually because her crappy car didn’t have electric anything.

“License and registration,” said the husky voice from outside.

Still seeing spots, she let out a loud sigh and shifted her body away from the window to grab the heavy oversized mess of a purse that sat on the floor of the backseat. Her hands shook slightly and her eyes squinted as she looked for her license in what some might consider small carry-on luggage rather than a purse. She felt her pulse accelerate; she hated dealing with police officers. Who didn’t?

God, where was her license? As soon as she got her life together, getting her purse organized would be the first order of business, she thought, berating herself for being such a mess. When she finally found her driver’s license in the black hole she called a purse, she let out a triumphant “Aha!” Then she reached toward the glove compartment and began throwing out papers in search of the elusive registration. After organizing her purse, the glove compartment in her car would be next on her to-do list.

“Anytime now, ma’am,” he said as his fingers drummed on the roof of her car. It was annoying.

She groaned.

“Did you just growl at me, ma’am?”
No, stupid. I groaned, not growled
.

She groaned again.

“Lady, I’m speaking to you.”

After the day she’d had, all she wanted was to get the hell out of this Podunk town, which just happened to be the town where she’d grown up. Not having returned since she was eighteen, she regretted the moment she’d answered Slade’s phone call that morning asking her to bail him out of jail.

For eleven years she had avoided Tarpon Springs, Florida. Eleven long drama-free years. And now, after the series of events that had transpired during the last twelve hours, she realized why. This town brought out the worst in her.

“Here it is!” she squealed victoriously, and without looking, she hastily swung her arm toward the open window to hand the officer her documents. Instead of a hand meeting hers, she found herself ramming her paperwork right into a bulge. A very large bulge.

A moan and an “ugh” was all she heard before he crumpled.

“Oh, my!” She clasped both hands to her mouth, mortified. “Oh my God, Officer, I’m so sorry. I didn’t—”

“Shh!” he snapped at her from the ground.

Unable to open the door because he was crouched against it, muttering something she couldn’t make out, Chrissy unbuckled her seatbelt, stuck her head out the window, and looked down.

“Please tell me I didn’t just hit you in the …” She was too humiliated to say the word.

“In the balls? Yes, lady, you punched me right in the balls.”

“I’m so sorry, Officer. It was an accident. I’ve had a terrible day. My purse is a mess, which made me nervous ’cause I wasn’t sure where my license was—and, by the way, you tapping your fingers on the roof of my car wasn’t helping, not that I am using your incessant tapping as an excuse, but really, it didn’t help—and anyway, AAA took forever, and then you blinded me with your lights, I couldn’t see, and then—” Okay, now she was rambling a mile a minute. She shook her head frantically, as if that would stop the verbal diarrhea from spewing out of her mouth. “Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I am so, so sorry. I’m a doctor—let me help you.”

“No! No. Just stay in the vehicle. I think you’ve done enough. Just give me a second to recover,” he grumbled, sounding a few octaves too high.

She settled back into her seat, her cheeks flaming. There she’d been, thinking optimistically that things couldn’t possibly get any worse, and then
bam!
she rammed a
cop right in the nuts. She’d probably get arrested for this. Life imprisonment. It was plausible, considering the kind of day she’d had.

“Officer?” Chrissy stuck her head out the window once again, adjusting the eyeglasses that had dropped to the end of her nose.

“Can you just be quiet for a goddamn minute!” he snapped at her. He was still crouched down, his back to her car. Now that the spots weren’t impairing her vision, she could see the back of his khaki shirt, his shoulders hunched as, she presumed, he clutched his manhood. The shirt looked like it was struggling not to rip down the middle from the strain that went shoulder to shoulder across his very wide back.

“You don’t have to be an ass,” she murmured under her breath. But as soon as the words slipped out of her mouth, she regretted them.

“Did you just call me an ass, right after punching me in the balls? Ya know, I’ve Tasered people for less.”

There it was: domineering alpha male who thought he could go around intimidating women. The precise definition of a cop in her book. She sat back and crossed her arms. “I didn’t punch you in the nuts. Well, I did. But it was an accident. I’m trying to help. I already apologized. By the way, you shouldn’t be so close to the street. It’s night out, and a car could run you over.”

He cleared his throat. “You’re right. That’s what you learn in Traffic 101 at the academy. Although I don’t remember learning the correct protocol for this particular scenario, where a crazy woman punches you in the balls. I’m wondering what the proper procedures should be.” Behind the pain, his voice hinted at amusement.

Ever so slowly, Officer Domineering stood up and turned toward her window, one arm holding on to the roof of her car, bringing her face-to-face with his now-injured male organ. She cleared her throat nervously.

Gingerly he bent down to window level, and for the first time she was able to see his face. Like a lightning bolt, Chrissy’s past—a past she so wanted to forget—collided right into her.

“Holy shit! Fuck. My. Life!” She closed her eyes and thumped her forehead against the steering wheel.

Jack squinted. “Chris?”

“Hi, Jack.”


Now
it all makes sense. You punched me in the balls on purpose!”

“No way! That was completely by accident. But had I known it was you, the results would have probably been the same.”

“What are you doing back in town?”

“I think you know,” replied Chrissy.

“Your brother?”

She nodded. “Yep. The one and only, the notorious Slade Martin.”

“He shouldn’t have called you. I was going to handle it tomorrow,” said Jack.

“Too late now. I’m here. So, now that you know it’s me, you sure I can’t charm my way out of this ticket?”

Jack chuckled. “Charm was never your strong suit, Chris.”

When Slade was five and Chrissy was two, their mother had died, and their father, Richard Martin, had uprooted them from Miami, Florida, moving them five hours northwest to Tarpon Springs. Slade had told Jack how his father thought it would be better to raise his children in the small town, closer to his best friends, Abbot and Joan Daniels, Jack’s parents. As luck would have it, the house right next door to the Danielses had been for sale, and within three months of his wife’s death, Richard had purchased the small oceanfront home. Jack and Slade had met when they both ate sand from the sandbox in kindergarten (and they’d both gotten sick from it), and from that time on the boys had been best friends. Inseparable, really. Three years younger, Chrissy tried to tag along with them everywhere, but she had been nothing but a nuisance. Where she’d always been Chris the Priss, the straight-A do-no-wrong tattletale, Jack and Slade were the always-in-trouble, barely-passing-their-classes menaces of the town. It was a no-brainer that Chrissy would get the hell out of Dodge (or in this case hot, humid, mosquito-infested Tarpon Springs) as soon as she had the opportunity. She’d left a few months after graduating from high school. Jack had never had a chance to say goodbye—one day he’d woken up and Chrissy was gone.

When he’d last seen her, she’d been a frumpy, slightly overweight bookworm with a short black pixie hairdo. She’d always worn glasses, and her clothes were always on the practical side. There wasn’t anything extraordinary about her looks. By no means was she ugly, she was just … Chris. His best friend’s nerdy little sister. Not exactly one of the boys, but she did try to hang around her brother and his friend as much as possible. She hated getting dirty, but tried to play in the mud because Slade and Jack were playing in it. She tried her hand at stickball, but got hurt more times than not. She’d tried so hard to impress them, but always failed.

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