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

Previous: Chapter One
Next: Chapter Three

Chapter Two


Anna was so lost in the moment she couldn’t seem to stop giggling. She wondered if it was all those shots of tequila or if it was just Hawk.

Damn, the man could move. He wasn’t a flashy dancer but he knew just how to work his lithe, manly body to meet her own steps which were getting more sensual by the minute. She couldn’t seem to help it. Around Hawk, she just felt like a different person.

As song rolled into song she twisted her torso and rolled her hips in ways she’d never dreamed she could move. She raised her hands high and swayed fluidly to the beat, feeling Hawk’s hands fall on her slender waist.

He was looking at her with heat in his eyes and she found herself giggling once again. For goodness sake! She couldn’t stand girls who giggled and she definitely was too old to be doing so but well try telling that to her silly little heart.

She’d forgotten how good it felt to dance with a handsome, virile-looking guy who couldn’t seem to tear his gaze from her body. She was glad now that she’d let Bertha convince her into wearing her slinkiest black dress tonight.

Normally conservative, Anna wasn’t much for wearing the sexy look. But for their night out, she’d felt confident around her girls to put on that daring number every girl’s closet usually had. The one left at the back of the rack because you were sure you’d never have the nerve to wear it out. But tonight, she had. And she’d never felt sexier, especially with the way Hawk’s eyes were pinned to all he wanted to do was peel the dress off.

Even in the high, equally daring black heels she wore, he still towered over her with his six foot plus frame. And he seemed happy to put his hands on her every time the chance presented itself. Her hands, her shoulders, her hips. Anna couldn’t deny being guilty of the same tactic...she couldn’t count how many times she’d planted her hands on his chest for balance. And loved the sensation of his broad solidness beneath her fingers.

Hawk Malone was gorgeous. He had virility wafting from his very pores. She tried to put his age at late twenties but he could even be younger. He certainly had the kind of body that was youthful, hard and fit as a rack.

His hands on her waist tugged her closer, and as Anna felt her hips bump into his, she instinctively rocked her body in an unconsciously seductive motion. She heard Hawk groan deeply.

“Babe, you’re really turning me on,” he moaned, his eyes heavy lidded. Anna gulped and then stiffened. Her face flushed deep pink and she placed her hands against his shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” she half-giggled nervously, wondering why she was apologizing since he didn’t seem to be complaining. “I guess I’m getting a little carried away. But I haven’t danced like this in ages...”

Making to push away to a safe distance, Anna found that his hands on her waist held her fast. Her breath sucked in at his closeness which was having the strangest effect on her. 

“Neither have I,” he put in, his hips grinding into hers for a moment before he put some reasonable space between them. But Anna couldn’t seem to stop blushing.

What on earth is happening to me?

“Oh? How come?” Anna asked curiously, trying to keep her mind off the hormones raging out of control. Knowing that this totally gorgeous man found her sexually attractive was making the room spin even faster around her.

“Well, considering I’ve been off in Afghanistan for months at a stretch, clubbing and dancing at bars weren’t exactly the usual pastime.”

His words made Anna’s eyes brighten in surprise. “Are you in the military?”

Hawk nodded, grinning at her expression. “Marines. Why? You got a thing for service men?”

Do I ever, Anna thought, with an inner quiver. Could tonight be even more perfect? There weren’t any of her friends who didn’t share her deep admiration for any kind of armed force personnel - and Anna definitely had secret fantasies that had a lot to do with hunky guys in the Marines.

It seemed incredible that Hawk fit the bill in every single way. He certainly looked the part with his tight, toned body evident even in his suit jacket, polo shirt and pants. His blonde hair was close-cropped and she remembered how he’d walked in like he’d got the place staked down. Was it still a wonder why she was all in a tizzy?

There was the adrenalin rush from the music, the alcohol...yes, true. But there were also a lot of sexual vibes coming from this handsome stranger who seemed to switch on all her lights without really trying. Just dancing with him was turning her into that alternate person that she could normally only be in her head. There was that Anna that she always had hidden; that part of her that had never had a chance to thrive, not with her deadbeat ex-fiancée Aaron.

Suddenly, she felt the need to stop holding back especially during this dance. And there was no harm in dancing, was there? It was a healthy, fun activity – and with the right person, it can even be exciting enough to get the blood pumping faster through every vein.

Truth to tell; dancing with a man like Hawk would make any normal woman’s heart race, her head spin...and all those things that happened to a woman’s senses when a man’s magnetism made its impact. And he’d said she turned him on? If only Hawk knew the thoughts running through her mind about him right then...

“You could say that,” Anna finally replied his question, her eyes fluttering up at him. 

He grinned broadly and Anna had to catch a breath. That flash of gleaming white spurred another few twinges of arousal through her melting core. Oh no. For the first time in a long while, she was having the major hots for a guy. In the way she’d never felt for her ex.

The DJ picked that moment to fire up a slow number for the next song and she instinctively stepped back with a nervous start.

“No,” Hawk said softly, his hand in the small of her back as he drew her back into the circle of his arms. “Stay. Dance with me some more.”

“I don’t think...”

“Good; don’t,” he said, a slant to his smile. “Look...this may seem crazy, but I feel like you belong here, right in this bubble, with me. I’m probably days away from being called back, and I don’t see anything wrong in two adults just living in the moment. One more dance, babe. That’s all I ask.”

Goodness, when he called her ‘babe’ like that and looked so deep into her eyes she felt he could look into her very soul...Anna just didn’t have the heart to say no, not to him. He pulled her close and she didn’t demur, twining her arms around his neck. It took her moments to accustom herself to the sensation of being held by a strong, potent man. There was no denying it was a long time – if ever, she’d had the chance to rest her chest on pectoral muscles that felt so hard and toned that every nerve-ending she possessed tingled.

Hawk cradled her in the bowl of his arms like she was the most precious thing he’d ever held. Anna’s heart thrummed with a need so strong it made her gasp soundlessly. How could she feel a desire she’d never even known existed? It burned deep inside and made her sizzle and it was all coming to the surface just because this unknown, thrilling stranger held her close.

No question, Hawk Malone was a dangerous man.

Dangerous enough to make the music and the crowds fade away. Make her forget the fact that she’d cried herself to sleep every other night since her break-up. Make her feel...alive, really alive, for the first time in, well, since she could remember.


He said her name and even before she looked up from his chest, she already knew what that deep timber in his voice meant. Her gaze lifted to his and as she saw the blue flames his eyes had become, she felt sure a secret part of her started to liquefy in response.

“Do you want me, babe?”

Anna blinked, tilted off her feet by his softly worded question. “I don’t know what you expect me to answer to that,” she breathed, her whole body screaming yes.

“The truth,” he replied firmly, his hands lifting to cup her face as he gazed deep into her wide eyes. “When I came home after being months out there, witnessing the carnage, being a part of it...I was so sure nothing could every make me see the bright side of life again. But then I walked in tonight and there you were. There was that look on your face when our eyes met and I just knew...I knew that no matter the cost, I had to have you. Now all I can think of is having your legs wrapped tight around me, pulling me in deep, deep where we both need me to be. The only problem is-if you’ll have the guts to admit the same to yourself.”

“Hawk, please,” Anna breathed, unable to keep the uncertainty from her voice. “I’ve never...I mean this is just happening so fast. I...”

“Tell me no, and I’ll let you go. I’ll walk you back to your friends and that will be goodnight. But say yes...and then we’ll sink into the mist together. We’ll leave right now and take the road passion leads us on.”

He held on to her face like he didn’t want her to look away, or even glance around. Like he didn’t want her to get distracted from the purpose. His purpose.  The intent to claim her was so strong on the square lines of his face that she could almost read it in words. I’m going to make you mine, Anna. But you have to take the plunge with me. This has to be what you want, too, his blistering blue eyes seemed to say.

She couldn’t seem able to blink, feeling almost hypnotized by him. “I’ve never met a man like you before,” Anna confessed. “But for some strange reason, I’m not afraid. I want this, Hawk. I won’t deny it. But wanting and then letting myself have it are two different things. I’m sorry...but I can’t.”

Anna tried to read his expression but there was nothing there. Was he disappointed, irritated? She couldn’t tell. But he merely nodded. “Believe me, I understand,” was all he said.

The dance was over. Anna almost stumbled as he took her hand and led her off the dance floor filled with swaying couples entwined closely. He drew her close to his side in support and she strained into him, almost as if she wanted to steal this last bit of proximity from him before he walked out of her life for good. Anna looked ahead and could see the faces of her three friends.

She could almost swear that she could read their minds as they turned to see her approach with Hawk in tow. Was it pity she saw on their faces, in their bright smiles? Maybe not. It didn’t matter, because she wasn’t thinking about them. She was thinking of the many lonely nights she’d had almost since her adulthood began. Staying in the same, dull relationship because she didn’t believe she could find better. But now, Anna decided she’d stopped seeking, needing. She didn’t want to be the predictably upright woman who’d deprived herself of real passion because she’d been afraid. Tonight, that particular side of her had to go, for good.


Her hand tugged on Hawk’s, managing to pull him to a stop just as they were yards away from the table holding her friends. He turned to her with a lifted brow, and her chin squared as she held his quizzical gaze.

“I’ve changed my mind. Let’s go,” she said calmly, and had to keep herself from quivering at the dark, almost feral look of pleasure that crossed his lean, handsome face. His eyes held such tempestuous promise she melted inside.

He didn’t say another word, but was instantly steering her in the other direction – to the exit. Anna was just in time to catch the shocked looks on the faces of her three friends before she was practically yanked out of the crowded venue by the long-striding Hawk.

Previous: Chapter One
Next: Chapter Three