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Lessons in Corruption (The Fallen Men #1)
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0995065071 (ISBN13: 9780995065079)
He was eighteen.
There was no way I could get involved.
Book One in The Fallen Men series. A standalone.
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“For so I created them free, and free they must remain.”
John Milton, Paradise Lost.
I saw him in a parking lot when I was picking up groceries. Not the most romantic place to fall in love at first sight but I guess you can’t choose these things.
He had grease on his face. My eyes zoomed in on the smear of motor oil, the aggressive slash of his cheekbones protruding almost brutally under his tanned skin so that they created a hollow in his cheeks. His features were so striking they were almost gaunt, nearly too severe as to be unattractive, mean even. Instead, the softness of his full, surprisingly pink mouth and the honeyed-coloured hair that fell in a touchable mess of curls and waves to his broad shoulders and the way his head was currently tipped back, corded throat exposed and deliciously brown, to laugh at the sky as if he was actually born to laugh and only laugh…none of that was mean.
I stood in the parking lot looking at him through the heat waves in the unusual late summer heat. My plastic grocery bags were probably melted to the asphalt, the ice cream long gone to soup.
I’d been there a while already, watching him.
He was across the lot beside a row of intimidating and gorgeous motorcycles, talking to another biker. His narrow hips leaned sideways across the seat of one, one booted foot propped up. He wore old jeans, also with grease on them, and a white t-shirt, somehow clean, that fit his wide shoulders and small waist indecently well. He looked young, maybe even a few years younger than me, but I only guessed that because while his structure was large, his muscles hung on him slightly like he hadn’t quite grown into his bones.
Idly, I wondered if he was too young.
Not so idly, I decided that I didn’t care.
His attention was drawn to the group of college-aged kids who pulled up in a shiny convertible, their brightly coloured polo shirts and wrinkled khakis dead giveaways even if their gelled hair and studied swagger hadn’t given them away already. They were chuckling as they reached the two motorcycle men I’d been watching and it struck me that compared to the newcomers, there was no way the sexy blond I’d been lusting after was young. He carried himself well, regally even, like a king. A king at home in a grocery store parking lot, his throne the worn seat of an enormous Harley.
I watched without blinking as he greeted the crew, his expression neutral and his body relaxed and casual in a way that tried to veil the strength of his build and failed.
There was something about his pose that was predatory, a hunter inviting his prey closer. A couple of the college kids fidgeted, suddenly uneasy, but their leader strode forward after a brief hesitation and extended his hand.
The blond king stared at the hand but didn’t take it. Instead, he said something that made the fidgeting increase.
I wished I were close enough to hear what he said. Not just the words but also the tone of his voice. I wondered if it was deep and smooth, an outpouring of honey, or the gravel of a man who spoke from his diaphragm, from the bottomless well of confidence and testosterone at the base of him.
The kids were more than nervous now. The leader, one step ahead of the others, visibly shrank as his explanation, accompanied by increasingly more agitated hand gestures, seemed to fall on deaf ears.
After a long minute of his babbling, he stopped and was met with silence.
The quiet weighed so heavily, I felt it from across the lot where I lurked by my car.
The blond king’s sidekick, or rather henchman seemed like a more fitting word for the frankly colossal, dark-haired friend beside him, stepped forward.
Just one step.
Not even a large one. But I could see how that one movement hit the college crew like a nuclear blast wave. They reeled back as a unit; even their leader took a huge step backwards, his mouth fluid with rushed words of apology.
They had obviously fucked up.
I didn’t know how.
And for the first time in my life, watching a potentially dangerous situation unfold, I wanted to know.
I wanted to be a part of it.
To stand beside the blond king and be his rough and tumble queen.
I shivered as I watched the men before him cower, his loyal friend at his back. Slowly, because he was clearly a man who knew the impact of his physique and how to wield the sharp edge of power like a literal dagger, the blond king rolled out of his slouched position on his bike and into his full height.
The sight of him unraveling like that made my mouth go dry and other, private, places go wet.