Can their love give her the strength to overcome the tragedy in her past?
When police officer Seth Colter sees the delicate, shabbily dressed beauty in line at the soup kitchen where he’s serving, he’s gut shot over the idea of her being on the streets cold and alone. More baffling is the dark, possessive instinct that tells him she belongs to him.
For Lily Weston, home is a secluded nook in a back alley—until Seth offers her a place to stay. She’s wary of his offer, but even one night out of the cold is too much temptation to resist.
Seth is convinced Lily is his. The problem is, when his brothers lay eyes on her, the same primitive instinct comes roaring to the surface. The Colters never imagined they’d follow the unconventional path of their fathers, but they can’t ignore their mutual need to offer Lily their protection—and their love. But before Lily and the brothers can forge a future together, they must heal the deep wounds of her past.
Please note: The following excerpt is an unedited excerpt, since we’re still working on the final copy edits of this book.
The door to the pub swung open, and she yanked her gaze in that direction, surprised when a tall, muscular man with tattooed arms, a backward baseball cap and an earring dangling from his ear sauntered inside.
She didn’t know whether to be frightened or fascinated, but he hadn’t seen her yet, so she shrank against the counter, content to watch him from a distance.
He was a big man. Lean-hipped but broad at the shoulders. His tight T-shirt showed off a solid wall of muscle for his chest and the short sleeves cut into his bulging arms.
Intricate tattoos snaked down both arms and wrapped around his wrists. Other than the earring, he wore no jewelry or adornment, and his hair, which she might have expected to be long, was barely visible beneath his cap.
He was…delicious. That was the word that popped into her head before she could ponder the absurdity of the observation. Delicious and fascinating with vivid pale green eyes surrounded by lashes that would make a grown woman weep with envy.
Then he turned and saw her. Their gazes locked, and her lips parted in surprise—at what, she wasn’t sure. She felt immediately anxious, though she didn’t fear the man. Maybe she should, but Seth was in yelling distance.
The man cocked his head and studied her as intently as she studied him. Then he smiled, and she was mesmerized by the dimples on either side of his mouth. Perfect, straight white teeth gleamed and he winked at her.
“Hello, sweetness,” he said as he walked over to the bar.
Then he caught sight of her sling and a ferocious frown locked into his brow.
“What the hell happened to you? Are you all right?”
She glanced down at her arm having totally forgotten that it was hurt at all. “I was shot.”
“Get out! Are you serious?”
He plopped onto a stool next to her, his big frame taking up so much more space than she did.
“What are you doing in here, anyway? Is there something I can do for you?”
“Not unless you have some ibuprofen,” she said ruefully as she raised her arm for reference.
He frowned. “I sure as hell do. Let me get you something to take them with. How about some OJ?”
She blinked in confusion. “Do you work here or something?”
“Or something,” he said as he walked around the counter. “Actually I own it. I used to think I ran it until my sister barged in and sort of took over. I’m currently indulging her.”
Lily’s eyes widened. “You must be Dillon,” she blurted.
He stopped in mid-pour. “Yeah, that’s me. How did you know? Are you a friend of Callie’s?”
“I haven’t met Callie.”
He shoved the glass of orange juice across the counter and then shook several ibuprofens into his palm. “Here take these so you feel better.”
As she swallowed them down, he leaned forward on the counter until he was awfully close. He stared at her like he could see behind the layers and defensive walls straight to her heart.
She should look away but found herself mesmerized. He was just so darn cute.
“You have me at a disadvantage, sweetness. You know my name but I don’t know yours.”
She swallowed. “Lily.”
“Very pretty,” he murmured. “Now, Lily. Tell me what you’re doing here? A gorgeous woman like you shouldn’t be sitting alone in an empty pub. Someone should be taking care of you and that arm.”
“I came with Seth. He’s talking with Callie. I think.”
Dillon frowned and then straightened, his palms resting flat down on the curve of the countertop. “Seth’s here?”
“Why am I always the last to know these things?” Dillon asked in an exasperated tone. Then he rested his gaze back on her, stroking over her skin like a paintbrush dipped in fire.
“Are you Seth’s? And if so, why the hell isn’t he taking better care of you?”
She blushed to the roots of her hair, but she felt compelled to dispel his belief and to also defend Seth.
“I’m not anyone’s. What an absurd way to put it. Like people are belongings. And Seth has taken very good care of me. I have so much to thank him for.”
A gleam entered Dillon’s eyes. It was carnal and predatory. She sucked in her breath and shifted back on her stool only to unbalance herself.
Dillon’s hand shot out, and he grasped her uninjured arm to steady her. For a moment he held her across the counter and then he eased away, his gaze never leaving her.
“So you aren’t Seth’s.”
“I didn’t say that either!”
She glared at him, her cheeks warm with exertion. He grinned back at her, melting her exasperation with the warmth in his gaze.
“Come on, Lily, give a guy something to work with here. Are you taken? Otherwise involved? You fascinate me. How did you get yourself shot? And if you aren’t Seth’s, did my brother lose his dick when he got himself shot?”
Her mouth popped open and then she burst into laughter. She wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand and then laughed harder.
“You’re a terrible flirt,” she accused.
But even as she reproached him, the realization that she hadn’t had this much fun in a very long time buzzed through her consciousness. And so did the guilt over the carefree way she’d laughed and enjoyed the small moment.
She looked down and then away, hating the helplessness that held her in its grip. She was tired of feeing like she’d never be happy again. When was enough…enough?
A firm hand gripped her chin and turned. Dillon had moved around the counter and now he stood a mere breath away, his body crowding into her space, filling it with heat.
“What’s wrong?” he asked bluntly. “Are you hurting?”
“Just get Seth for me. I’m ready to leave.”
“I’m not ready for you to go.”
Her gaze swung upward, and she had the insane idea that he wanted to kiss her. Did all the Colter men go around kissing women they barely knew? The real question was why did she let them?
“Yes?” she asked in a husky voice.
“I want to kiss you. I should warn you I tend to do things I want. I’m spoiled that way. So while I’m telling I want to kiss you, the thing is I’m going to.”
She tried to back away but he palmed her nape and held her in place as his mouth hovered invitingly over hers.
“I am. Just remember. I warned you.”
Before she could say anything else, his lips found hers. It was as aggressive and electric as he was, but also as playful. He danced around the corners of her mouth, pulled her bottom lip between his teeth and nipped before soothing the soft skin with his tongue.
“You taste every bit as sweet as you look,” he murmured into her mouth. “Kiss me back, Lily. Taste me. Show me I’m not the only one going crazy here.”
“This is crazy,” she whispered. “Dillon, we can’t. I just met you. You don’t know me. I’m here with your brother…and Michael.”
Dillon frowned. “Michael? What’s Michael got to do with this?”
“He kissed me too,” she muttered, hoping Dillon would be put off by that information. Instead he leaned back and took a seat on the stool next to her, intrigue flashing in his eyes.
“You kissed Michael, but not Seth, who is apparently taking care of you?”
She flushed until her entire face burned with embarrassment. “Seth kissed me.”
“I’m hearing a lot of they kissed me but nothing about you kissing them.”
“This conversation is ridiculous,” she protested. “They kissed me. I kissed them. It’s all crazy. They wanted to take me here.” She gestured around out the window toward the town as she spoke. “We stayed at Michael’s last night. They say crazy stuff like they want me to stay, but we only just met. I shouldn’t have let either of them kiss me and I damn sure shouldn’t have kissed them.”
“If they were feeling even half of the insanity I’m currently experiencing, there wasn’t a damn thing you could have done to keep them from kissing you.”
She sucked in her breath until the room swam around her in bouncy waves
“Yeah, Lily, that means I’m going to kiss you again. And I hope to hell you kiss me back.”
He placed both palms on her cheeks, sandwiching her face between his hands. Then he lowered his mouth and devoured hers. Hungry and so sensual that her pulse bounded out of control.
He lapped the inside of her lip with his tongue and then thrust inward, warm and sweet, stroking over her tongue and over the roof of her mouth.
She swayed on the stool and reached out to grab onto his chest for support. It was like meeting with a brick wall. Her fingers dug into his muscles, and she found herself tracing the dips and caressing the bulges.
When he pulled away, he put both hands at her waist to hold her in place. His breaths came in ragged bursts and his eyes had lightened to crystal green with shimmering sparks of awareness.
“You may not belong to Seth, but you’re sure as hell going to belong to me, sweetheart. From now on, I’m going to be the only man kissing you and damn sure the only one you’ll be kissing back.”
She slid off the stool and took a step back, prepared to either go find Seth or just go outside. Anywhere but here with this gorgeous, playful man who made her want to do crazy things like laugh. And kiss him back until he begged for air.
She’d been too long without a man. It was the only explanation for her reaction to the Colter brothers. Or maybe she’d react this way to any group of men who suddenly showered her with warmth, affection and…passion.
“Drink the rest of your OJ,” Dillon said gently. “I didn’t mean to frighten you away. I want you to stay. Make yourself comfortable.”
“I’m going to take a stab at this one,” a woman said from across the bar.
Lily yanked her head up to see Seth standing next to a petite brunette with flashing blue eyes.
“Judging by the look on my bonehead brother’s face, I’d say you no longer just have Michael to worry about when it comes to your woman.”
Crimson enveloped Lily. She could literally see the red as it crawled across her face. She was beyond mortified. She put her palm down and pushed away from the counter, only intent on escaping the awkwardness of the scene.
Dillon wrapped his arm around her waist as she tried to maneuver by and gently brought her against him under the shelter of his arm.
“Callie, girl, you know I love you dearly, but you seriously have to work on that mouth of yours before it gets your ass into trouble.”
His sister grinned at Dillon like she didn’t really give a damn what he had to say.
“I see you’ve already met my younger brother, Lily,” Seth said. “This is my sister, Callie. The baby of the Colter family.”
Lily nodded in Callie’s direction, unsure of whether the other woman really was kidding or if she was ready to tear a strip off Lily’s hide.
Callie smiled though and crossed the room to take Lily by her good hand. “It’s so nice to meet you, Lily. Seth was just telling me about you. I’m glad you’re here.”
The throb in Callie’s voice made Lily wonder just how much Seth had told his sister. Lily could hear the pity in Callie’s voice and it discomfited her.
“Thank you,” she said because she couldn’t think of anything else to say.
Still nestled in Dillon’s firm grip, Lily tried to twist away, her gaze doing to Seth’s. But Seth didn’t look annoyed or even jealous. He looked intensely focused on Dillon, studying his every movement down to his facial expressions.
Dillon tightened his grip on Lily, not allowing her to move away, all the while carrying on a conversation with his siblings that Lily had promptly tuned out the moment she tried to escape.
“We need to talk, Dillon,” Seth said in a quiet voice.
“Yeah, it seems so,” Dillon said tightly.
“And Michael. This involves Michael as well.”
Callie wrinkled her nose and then proceeded to pry Lily away from Dillon’s side. “I’m going to suggest that I take Lily out to the house. Mom will love having another chick to cluck over and I can get the dads to cook us some lunch. That way, we won’t be swimming in testosterone when these buttheads have their little talk.”
“I think that’s an excellent idea, Callie,” Dillon said. “Have Adam look over her arm while you’re there. I’m still dying to know how the hell she got herself shot, but I’m sure Seth will explain it all to me, won’t you, Seth?”
Seth scowled. “Lily stays with me. She’s not going anywhere.”
“Oh come on, Seth. Do you really want her present when you three start bitching and moaning and having your pissing contest? I wouldn’t blame her if she ran screaming all the way back to Denver.”
“You’ll take care of her, Callie. I’m charging you with her safety. Make sure she stays with you.”
Callie cocked her head. “For God’s sake, Seth. She’s a grown woman. She doesn’t need a babysitter.”
“Do it for me and my piece of mind, Callie,” Seth insisted. “Okay? I need to know she’s all right and more importantly that she’s not off on her own somewhere.”
Callie shrugged “Well, okay. I’ll try not to overexert myself wrestling down a tiny little thing with one arm tied to her waist. I mean I’d hate to hurt myself.”
“Sarcastic little wench,” Dillon muttered. “Is it any wonder I love you so much?”
Callie reached for Lily’s hand and squeezed reassuringly. “Come on. I’ll drive you out to the house. I guarantee you won’t want to be around for this. Things are about to get messy. Men talking about their feelings are never a pretty sight.”
Lily stifled her laughter at Callie’s irreverence, but she also had a very real concern over what would happen in her absence. She wasn’t entirely certain what was going on, but she knew it involved her, and the last thing she wanted was trouble between the brothers because of her.
“I’ll pick you up later, okay, honey?” Seth said.
Lily nodded but as she walked away, she looked to both men and felt the strangest flutter deep in her chest.
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