Down and Dirty
Coming May 22!!
Published by: Romance Rebels Publishing
Cover Artist: Sinfully Sweet Designs
Get in, get down…and get filthy with these sexy, hardworking, blue-collar heroes who don’t mind when things get a little dirty at work or at play.
This collection of 22 brand new stories from USA Today and International Best-Selling authors is full of scorching hot romance tales that will be sure to leave you breathless for more. These men work hard and play even harder.
From cops to mechanics, miners to brewmasters, they aren’t afraid to go all in. At the end of the day, when they find the woman who completes them, they learn love and life can be as messy as their day jobs…and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Featuring stories from: Lori King, Maia Dylan, Sarah Marsh, Elena Kincaid, Cecile Tellier, London Saint James, Bella Settarra, Rose Nickol, RL Merrill, Ashley Malkin, Lucy Felthouse, Scarlett J Rose, Sydney Lea, CR Moss, Samantha A. Cole, Danielle James, Ava Campbell, Eva Moore, Kimberlie L. Faye, Sabrina Sol, Nikki Prince, and Mia Hopkins
Lockdown by Mia Hopkins
For the past year, my life has been a raging trash fire. Right now, a house sitting job sounds perfect—one long summer, alone in someone else’s mansion with nothing but my stupid broken heart. Everything is going fine…until I find the key. Until I find him.
I’m the only locksmith in the city who can crack this lock. It’s a complicated job, made even more complicated by the gorgeous, mysterious woman who hired me. She lives here alone, haunting this house like a ghost. What is her story? And why can’t I get her out of my mind?
She’s right. This feels good—so good.
I break the surface and take a deep breath. I rub my hair out of my eyes and tread water, laughing. I can’t remember the last time I went swimming.
Alice splashes me with water. “Race you to the other side?”
“One, two, three, go!”
I do some kind of weird freestyle-butterfly stroke until my lungs are busted, but it’s no use. A 38-year-old sack of lead has nothing on a 23-year-old mermaid. She reaches the end of the pool three seconds ahead of me.
“Again!” she says. “The other side. One, two, three, go!”
I swim with one arm ahead of me, making sure not to smash my face into the concrete. It’s pitch black out here. I come to realize this is a long, narrow pool, like a business envelope, meant for laps. We criss cross it two more times with Alice winning every race until I have to call a time out, my old man lungs wheezing and burning while she cackles with delight.
“Chan takes the gold!” she hollers, apparently not winded at all. She puts on a sports announcer’s voice. “Mendoza nabs the silver. Not a bad showing for the former locksmith turned extremely unlikely Olympic swimmer!”
I can’t help it. I start laughing like a little kid.
To catch our breath, we swim a lazy backstroke back and forth across the pool. Even after my eyes adjust to the darkness, it’s a crescent moon—too faint to see Alice’s face, even though she’s less than a foot from me.
“Do you swim out here a lot?” I ask.
“Every day. It’s my favorite thing about this house.”
“It’s a nice perk,” I say. “Do you swim at night? Alone?”
“Every now and then.”
“Seems like it could be dangerous. Out here by yourself. Something bad could happen.”
“Something bad could happen anywhere. At least here it’s peaceful.” When we reach the middle of the pool, she stops swimming. “Here, try this. Just float on your back and close your eyes.”
I do as she says. I lie on my back and float so that only my face is above the surface. With water in my ears, I can hear only my own breathing. I close my eyes and I feel weightless, like I’m flying. Drops of water cool on my skin. Inhale, exhale. In the stillness, I can hear my own heartbeat, slow and even. Is it always like this? As loud as this? Am I just too distracted to ever listen to it?
“Okay,” Alice says quietly. “Now open your eyes.”
The chlorine stings just a little, but I blink it away. When I look up, the only thing I can see is the night sky. My eyes, accustomed now to the dark, discern a whole field of stars, some bright, some faint. Far from the city lights, out here in the mountains, the stars are dazzling. And suspended in the swimming pool, my body tricks my brain into believing I’m flying, weightless.
“Wow,” I say. “Amazing.”
“That’s so cool. Did you discover this?”
“A long time ago,” she says.
We float together among the stars for a long time. I listen to the rhythm of my breathing and my heartbeat. Two fancy beers and I’m feeling good. A warm breeze blows across my face and chest and I get goosebumps.
Working the hours I’ve been working, pushing as hard as I have, I don’t get a lot of opportunities to be still.
In that moment, Alice and I drift together, bumping each other’s forearms.
She stops floating and begins to tread water. “Oops.” She gives a little laugh. “Collision course.”
The pool is shallower here, so I get to my feet. Because of her height, Alice can’t reach the bottom. She puts her hands on my shoulders and I lead her up the slope of the pool until she can stand up on her own. But when she does, she doesn’t let go of my shoulders. My skin tingles where her fingers grip me. Blood rushes through my body.
It’s been two years since a woman’s touched me.
I’m grateful—grateful for the darkness and the way it’s hiding the embarrassing way my body is reacting to this.
Alice steps closer to me. I don’t know which urge to fight—the urge to throw my arms around her or the urge to pull away. I’ve shied away from contact like this for a reason. I don’t know how to withstand it. I barely survived one woman. I don’t think I could survive a second, no matter how fun and meaningless something like this is meant to be.
Alice steps even closer. I hold my breath.
In the starlight, I can see the faintest outline of her cheekbones, her chin. I can feel her soft breath on my lips. She wants me to kiss her. When she runs her hands from my shoulders down to my chest, her palms brush my nipples. I almost jump out of my skin.
My brain pings everywhere. Suddenly I feel like a high school student, messing around with a girl while her parents are away. Everything about this screams adolescent fantasy—skinny dipping, underage drinking, a young woman who’s making all the moves for me. I’m confused. Was it ever like this in reality? High school was twenty years ago, but I’m pretty sure this didn’t happen to me back then.
“Ivan,” she whispers. “Are you okay?”
With cupped hands, Alice pours water over my bare shoulders and chest. She touches my face. The smooth skin of her hands brushes my unshaven jaw and she runs her thumb back and forth over my mouth. My nervous system threatens to blow like an electrical panel. My brain is a crazy, confused bird bashing itself to pieces inside my skull.
Is this what it’s like to be seduced? I’ve never been seduced in my entire life. Do men get seduced?
“Are you okay?” she asks again. “Is this okay?”
“Sure, it’s—I mean…it’s just…”
I stop talking, take a deep breath, and force myself to regain control. Under the surface of the water, I rest my hands on her hips and take a half-step closer to her. In the dark, in the water, hidden by starlight, I can imagine she’s just a dream. It feels safer that way.
“This is okay,” I whisper. “I’m okay.”
Softly, I kiss her forehead. Her skin is cold, and the chlorine tastes bittersweet.
Remembering her pale brown freckles, I kiss her right cheek, then her left.
I copy her movements and brush my thumb against her mouth. Her lips are parted, and her warm breath washes over my skin.
When I lean down and kiss her at last, my eyes close tight. She wraps her arms around my shoulders and kisses me back, this strange young woman, this bit of starlight, this mermaid, this dream.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mia Hopkins writes lush romances starring fun, sexy characters who love to get down and dirty. She’s a sucker for working class heroes, brainy heroines and wisecracking best friends. She lives in Los Angeles with her roguish husband and waggish dog.