When Glenna had appeared on her doorstep several months earlier, pregnant and heartbroken, Fiona had done everything in her power to take care of her.
Fiona had failed her.
They lived in a small apartment that was falling apart and in a bad neighborhood.
What little heat they managed to coax from the small radiator quickly escaped through the cracks in the window and doorframes, which also let the frigid air in.
Even with both of them working two jobs, there hadn’t been enough to eat.
Fiona went without, knowing Glenna and her growing baby needed it more.
With no insurance, Fiona barely scraped together the money for doctor bills and prenatal vitamins, along with second-hand clothes that would fit Glenna’s swelling body.
Her sister didn’t even have a coat that fit around her belly, because Fiona hadn’t been able to find one.
Leland Moran and Joe Diablo obviously loved Glenna, and the child she carried, which they both claimed as theirs.
Fiona didn’t understand how her sister could be in love with two men, but Glenna’s love for them, and theirs for her, couldn’t be denied.
Glenna had cried in her sleep on several occasions, and Fiona had heard her call their names.
Fiona had wanted to contact them, but Glenna had become so upset that she’d relented.
Fiona felt confident that they would make sure Glenna had everything she needed, and more.
They’d wanted to take Fiona with them, but she wasn’t about to accept their charity.
She’d gotten herself into a mess, and she’d get herself out of it.
After locking the door, Fiona made her way to the worn sofa, the last of her energy draining away.
She’d lost her job at the fish market earlier that day because she’d passed out during her shift.
She’d lost her other job at the donut shop when the owner hired his nephew about two weeks earlier, but she hadn’t told Glenna about it.
She’d spent the time looking for another job but, so far, hadn’t been able to find one.
She had seventeen dollars and twelve cents in her pocket and hadn’t eaten in three days.
After turning the overhead light off to save electricity, she dropped onto the saggy sofa that had come with the apartment and let the tears she’d been holding back fall.
God, she was tired.
She knew it had a lot to do with not eating, but thankfully she’d gone past the point of feeling hungry.
She’d just take tonight to rest and would get back to looking for another job first thing in the morning.
For a few minutes, though, she could allow herself to fall apart.
She didn’t know how long she cried before she wore herself out and didn’t care.
Wiping her tears on the sleeve of her sweatshirt, she pulled the afghan one of their elderly neighbors had made for them around herself, but the wind had picked up, and she couldn’t get warm.
Staring out the window at the only unbroken streetlight, she started crying again, too tired to bother wiping away the fresh tears.
Dropping her head against the back of the sofa, she let the tears fall and curled into a ball against the cold. At some point, she drifted off, waking several times due to the cold.
She automatically shoved the afghan aside to go check on Glenna, only to remember that Glenna was no longer there.
The sense of loneliness nearly overwhelmed her, tightening her stomach until it hurt.
Wrapping herself in the afghan again, she went back to sleep, repeating the process again and again through the night.
When she woke up again, daylight streamed through the thin curtains, and the air had gotten cold enough inside the apartment that she could see her breath. Remembering that she didn’t need to get up to check on Glenna, she pulled the afghan tighter around her shoulders, struggling to clear her head.
Blowing out a breath, she rubbed her gritty eyes, wanting nothing more than to curl into a ball and go back to sleep again.
Considering it a show of willpower, she shoved the afghan aside and got to her feet, closing her eyes and clenching her jaw against the dizziness.
She had to get a job. She had to get enough money to make her way back to North Carolina so she could be closer to Glenna in case her sister and the baby needed her.
She’d be glad to live someplace a little warmer.
She hated the cold, and winter in Cleveland threatened to be more extreme than she’d ever experienced.
Opening her eyes again, she took a steadying breath and started toward the kitchen with the intention of making herself a cup of the chamomile tea she’d bought for Glenna.
She hadn’t taken two steps before a loud knocking at her door froze her in her tracks.
Someone intent on causing trouble probably wouldn’t show up at that hour and sure as hell wouldn’t knock.
“Who is it?”
“I’m Joshua Evans. Leland and Joe sent me.”
She raced for the door, her hands shaking as she struggled with the locks. “Is Glenna okay? Did they get into an accident?”
Flinging the door open, she found herself staring up at the biggest, meanest-looking man she’d ever seen.
Dressed entirely in black—black jeans, black T-shirt, black leather jacket and boots—he stared down at her, his eyes widening and glittering like black onyx.
His nostrils flared as he stared down at her in disbelief. “Son of a bitch!”
Fiona gripped the edge of the door, her head spinning. “Glenna?”
She saw his lips move, but the roaring in her ears made it impossible to hear what he said.
Terrified that something had happened to her sister, she fought dizziness but lost the battle.
A sob broke free a second before everything went dark.
Rubbing her slit against him in a desperate effort to relieve the ache, she grabbed his wrist, pressing her breast more firmly into his hand. “Please!”
His fingers closed lightly on her nipple, his gentle tug sharpening the throbbing of her clit. “Talk.”
To her stunned amazement, he released her nipple and gripped the back waistband of her sweatpants, lifting her slightly, yanking them to her knees and plunging a finger into her.
Moving on his finger, Fiona cried out at the pleasure. “My boss wanted to sleep with me, and I said no. His wife found out, and he had to transfer me. He kept calling me. Told me I was the only woman for him. I thought—oh God!”
Joshua withdrew, slapping her bottom cheek. “You thought what?”
Unashamedly pumping her hips, she wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face against his neck, whimpering at the sharp sense of emptiness. “He sent me away. I thought if I stayed away for a while, he would stop bothering me. I moved. Then Glenna came, and we didn’t have enough money to come back, especially when Mom and Dad sold the house. Please. Joshua. Please take me.”
“I’m not taking you in a fucking parking lot.” He plunged a finger into her again, settling his thumb over her clit. “I’ll take care of you.”
“No!” Fiona scrambled to straddle his hips, glancing out the windows. “No one’s around. Now, Joshua. Please.”
The ache spread and strengthened, the heat inside her making her break out in a sweat. “What the hell have you done to me? I’ve never felt like this.”
Cursing, Joshua yanked his black jeans down, cursing again when he tried to get his hand in his pocket. “That’s something else we’ll talk about. Be still!”
The sight of his cock filled her with trepidation, the size of it overwhelming. “Jesus, Joshua.”
She should have known that such a big man would be well-endowed but hadn’t expected the reality of it.
“Be still, damn it! I’ll go easy. I won’t hurt you.”
Fiona gripped him, poised the head at her opening, and began to lower herself. Crying out at the heat and what felt like little vibrations, she ignored his curse and began to take him inside her.
With a harsh curse, Joshua gripped her waist. “I don’t have a condom, Fiona. God damn it!”
Releasing his cock, she gripped his shoulders, digging her fingertips into the hard muscle and took more of him inside her. “Dear God!”
A rush of heat warmed her blood even more, the strange tingling sensation accompanying it urging her to take more.
“Fiona, I have to—son of a bitch!”
She cried out his name, frightened when a sublime pleasure, like nothing she’d ever felt before, took over.
Holding her in its grip, it intensified, stealing her breath.
Aware of Joshua’s curse, she slid her hands to his hair, burying her face against his chest, thrilling at the scrape of his teeth on her neck.
Filled with a sense of vulnerability, she instinctively held on to him, calling his name over and over. “Please. Joshua. Oh God. What’s happening?”
Comforted by his hands moving over her, she sucked in another breath when he gripped her hip with one hand and fisted her hair with the other, just as the pleasure crested.
She whimpered and cried out his name, her body tightening against his.
He made a growling sound and scraped his teeth over her neck again, holding her to him and running his tongue over the spot as if to soothe her.
It was the most intimate and erotic experience of her life.
Tilting her head back, he looked into her eyes with a look of possessiveness that brought tears to her own. “You’re coming for me.” Sliding his hand to her bottom, he controlled her movements, a deep groan escaping as his cock pulsed inside her.
His hand tightened on her ass, and with a long shudder, he pulled her close again, still reeling from the pleasure. “Christ, I’ve never come so hard in my life.” Lifting her from his cock, he set her on his thighs, his lips on her temple. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
It cost him dearly, and only the thought of hurting her made it possible to withdraw from her.
He’d never felt anything like it.
Joshua rubbed her back, inordinately pleased that she still trembled from her orgasm, his chest tightening with pride that she remained slumped against him.
His heightened possessiveness of her stunned him, the strength of his feelings for her alarming.
“I didn’t take very good care of you.” He couldn’t resist running his hands over her breasts before fastening her bra and pulling her shirt down.
Tilting her head back, she opened her eyes and smiled. “I don’t know. That felt pretty good.”
“Pretty good?” His cock twitched at the challenge, his possessiveness growing inside him and taking on a life of its own. “It was damned good, and you know it. You were surprised and didn’t know what the hell was happening. Hell, it even scared you. You’ve never had an orgasm before, have you?”
The thought that he’d been the first man to give her such pleasure delighted him, but the stirring inside him as the beast within him fought to be free filled scared the hell out of him.
Fiona sat up, staring down at his cock and stirring the beast even more. “That’s not a very gentlemanly thing to mention.”
“I’m not a fucking gentleman.” The deepening of his voice couldn’t be contained, and he quickly realized that neither could the beast.