Book: Tough and Tender (Bad Boy Romance Box Set)

Previous: Epilogue
Next: Chapter Two


By Dez Burke

Chapter One


His name was Hawk.

Anna couldn’t help staring into his stirringly blue eyes. She’d known the minute he’d walked in that he was just her type. He didn’t even need to open his mouth. He made his way into the bar with the stride of a man who knew his purpose in all things. He certainly looked like a man of purpose as he caught her gaze, smiled slightly, and then headed straight for her.

He’d simply come up to where she was seated with her friends and said, “Hi. I’m Hawkins Malone. But friends call me Hawk.”

Anna Jackson had never been the flirty type. In fact, she knew as much about attracting men as she knew about deep sea fishing. She’d just been through a very messy, hurtful break-up that still had her reeling from shock. But one smile from this blue-eyed Greek god called Hawk and she was suddenly forgetting all her worries.

For some reason, he had eyes only for her. He’d barely even glanced at any of her friends seated with her at the table. All three of her closest pals had been giving him giggly once-overs since he appeared, but he didn’t seem to notice. And all Anna could do was stare into his face for a few moments before she came to grips with the fact that he was actually talking to her.

“Oh?” she asked, shocked by the way she seemed to switch into sex-kitten mode. Her head tipped to the side and she felt her upper body perk up as she folded a hand beneath her chin. Her lashes were virtually batting at him and she heard the smoky invitation in her voice as she added, “So if your friends call you Hawk, what should I call you?”

He swept those blue, blazing eyes over her, his gaze lingering a few seconds more on the jutting fullness of her breast, before he looked up into her pink-flushed face. “Babe, you can call me anything you like.”

Anna wanted to melt in a puddle then and there.

She was a grown woman and ran her own successful florist business. She’d have been married last month if her crazy ex hadn’t suddenly decided he wasn’t ready to shackle himself to a wife just yet. They’d been each other’s “firsts” and Aaron, her high school and college sweetheart, surprisingly realized for himself that his wild oats needed sowing. Or something. The only sure thing was that Anna had been devastated by the unexpected split. So she should be wiser now, not swooning the first time a gorgeous guy shows up and speaks two sentences to her.

But something must have come over her because she was still smiling coquettishly at the hunk named Hawk as she introduced herself and then her three pals Bertha, Janice and Rebecca. He was charming enough to the other females but when, moments later, he was taking Anna’s hand and asking her three friends if he could steal her off to dance, they all could tell he obviously couldn’t wait to get their starry-eyed friend all to himself.

Anna had just a second to send her three friends an incredulous smile of glee before she was all but swept off to be wrapped in the strong, warm arms of her new admirer.

The three friends turned to each other with relieved smiles. Rebecca was fanning herself dramatically. “Bertha, you did tell me that Hawk was a gorgeous specimen, but I wouldn’t have believed he’d be so hot! I think I’m starting to get really jealous now.”

“Don’t tell me you need fixing up too,” Bertha said with a grin, her eyes following her friend Anna and the tall, handsome man pulling her into his arms in the middle of the dance floor. They were surrounded by throngs of gyrating people as the music flowed from concealed speakers.

“Do you think she’ll suspect anything?” Janice asked. She looked dubious, as she too watched the couple moving together in time with the music.

“I doubt it. Look at her,” Bertha said, waving her hand in Anna and Hawk’s direction. “I haven’t seen her look so happy in months. And Hawk was very convincing; he played the part of smitten admirer quite well.”

“Too well, I’d say,” Rebecca said. “I actually thought Anna was going to faint! Damn, I could barely remember to breathe and he wasn’t even looking at me!”

Bertha was smirking. “Well, you do know my cousin Marcus has a whole platoon of fellow Marine pals for us to choose from. They’ll be deployed to the Middle East sometime soon but I know one or two others apart from Hawk who’re around, single and looking to mingle.”

“If they look anything like this Hawk fella, girl then you better hook me up!” Rebecca said jokingly. Bertha and of course Janice knew she had a boyfriend she totally adored. In fact, they all did. Except for Anna.

“Here’s to making our girlfriend smile and feel attractive again,” Bertha said, holding up her glass. The other two ladies shared the toast with murmurs of assent, before taking sips from their drinks.

“So...,” Janice began hesitantly as she placed her glass back on the table, “They dance, he flirts outrageously with her and hopefully raises her seriously bashed self-esteem, then what?”

Bertha shrugged. “I didn’t really plan that far ahead. We all know Anna is hardly ready for another relationship right now. I was shocked that she even agreed to dance with him.”

Rebecca was chuckling, swishing her dark brown hair over one shoulder. “Trust me, Hawk didn’t give her the chance to refuse. Knowing her, she’d make her excuses after a dance or two and scuttle right back here to safety.” She shook her head regretfully.

“Let’s not be so sure about that,” Janice was saying slowly as all three turned their eyes to the couple in question.  They seemed shocked to observe Anna now dancing so uninhibitedly with her handsome partner. They’d never seen her act with so little restraint especially not with a strange guy. As the three women turned back to each other it was clear from their expressions that they were wondering in what other ways their normally shy friend would let go before the night was through.

Previous: Epilogue
Next: Chapter Two