For a limited time NYGHT'S EVE will be on sale for $0.99 on Amazon. This is the second book of my Breakers' Bad Boys series. If you haven't read it yet, now is the time to pick it up!
The sale will be going on from 12/8/15 - 12/13/15.
“You’ve got to be kidding me…”
Daryk Nyght scowled as he looked around the Fight Hard gym. He’d just arrived in Breakers after a long drive, and the last thing he wanted was to be somewhere he was surrounded by people…even if half of those people were scantily dressed women.
God, something had to be seriously wrong with him.
Despite the view, he couldn’t help feeling irritated by the barrage of noise coming from all around him. Daryk—or Dare as he preferred to be called—had expected the general noise of a working gym. The grunts and sounds of boxing gloves meeting flesh coming from the sparring rings didn’t faze him. No, what had him mentally cursing was the cheerful sound of feminine voices drifting over from the far side of the room.
Good Christ, were those women giggling?
Hitching the strap of his backpack further up on his shoulder, Dare stalked toward the mountain of a man with a shaved head who was watching the group of women. The giant stood like a sentinel at the edge of the mats with his hands braced on his hips. Coming to a stop next to him, Dare continued to frown at the sight on the mats.
“If you tell me you put in a spa, I’m fucking leaving.”
The man turned and a wide grin spread across his face. “Nyght!”
Dare tried to brace himself, but still had to grimace as Jared “Hammer” Caufield wrapped his massive arms around him and squeezed the breath right out of his lungs. At six foot two, Dare was a big man, but Hammer easily had a few inches on him, and also a good thirty pounds in muscle mass.
Even with his piss poor mood, Dare was glad to see his friend. He and Hammer had met while they were stationed at the same army base in Iraq, and had become good friends. Dare had been a trauma surgeon, while Hammer had been in the Rangers. When Hammer left the Army to begin his career as an MMA fighter, Dare’s life had taken a far different path.
A far more dark and dangerous path.
Hammer pulled back, taking a good look at his friend and frowned at what he saw. Instead of the buzz cut they used to have in common, Dare’s black hair had grown out into a dark array of shaggy locks. With several days beard growth, and wearing a beat-to-shit black leather jacket with a pair of worn jeans, Dare almost looked like a hard-ass, dangerous biker…or some sort of wild animal. But what really showed Hammer the change in his friend was the hard gleam in Nyght’s dark-grey eyes that hadn’t been there last time they’d seen each other. It was the lethal look that soldiers developed who had seen too much hard shit…who had done too much. Hammer knew because he had often seen that look in his own eyes, before he’d found peace.
“Damn good to see you, bro.”
“Back atcha.” Dare looked around the large gym and had to grin. “You did a good job with this place. Last time I was here it was nothing but a big pile of shit.”
Hammer laughed. “I remember. We’d just torn down that old warehouse and I was wearing that stupid brace on my knee.”
“Looks like you’ve completely recovered.”
“I have. Damn, Dare. It really is good to see you. I’d introduce you to my fiancée, Kali, but Sam might kill me if I interrupt them in the middle of class.”
“That’s the physical therapist that kicked your ass back in gear after your surgery, right?” Both men turned back to watch the women on the mats. Dare glanced at the stacked woman with light-brown hair running the class that he’d met after Hammer’s surgery. He knew that Sam used to be a fighter pilot in the Air Force until she was shot down on a mission. She must be a pretty tough woman to have made it out of enemy territory alone and injured. Unable to fly anymore, she’d gone on to become a physical therapist, using her military training to beat people back into shape.
“Yep. I figured if she could scare the crap out of me, she’d be able to run the rehab center upstairs no problem.”
“She was a good choice then.” Dare paused, then shot a glance over at Hammer. “I have to ask…when did you start holding chick classes here?”
The big former MMA fighter scowled and crossed his arms over his massive chest. “Don’t even start that shit.” He lowered his voice so no one else would hear. “You know they actually call this class girl fight?”
“I know,” Hammer sighed. “We started holding the class on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. I originally did it for Kali and a few of her friends, but more women just kept signing up. We have over twenty in the class now, off and on. It’s good for business, and more men seem to plan their workout schedules around the women’s classes.”
“I can see why,” Dare murmured as he watched the women bend over in unison. “Let me guess, the cute little redhead with ‘Hammer’ stamped across the back of her pants is yours?”
Hammer grunted. “Damn right. I’ve ordered all kinds of Rough and Tough apparel with my name on it for her to wear. I need to make sure everyone knows Kali belongs to me.”
“Well, marking her ass with your name is certainly one way to do it,” Dare remarked dryly, then he squinted to get a better look. “And Jesus, is that a hammer tattooed on her shoulder?”
Grinning, Hammer nodded. “That was all her idea. It saves me the trouble of knocking heads together when people know she’s taken. Since we started this damn class I think there have been more hook-ups beginning here than at The Fox Hole,” he added, mentioning the local biker bar in town.
“That’s it. I’m outta here.”
Hammer laughed as he reached out to grab hold of Dare’s arm, holding him in place. “Calm down. I think you’re safe, considering you look like some sort of crazed mountain man.”
“I’ve been busy.” Dare absently scratched at his beard. Damn, he really did need to shave. He almost lost his balance as Hammer’s hand came down on his shoulder.
“Come on, Nyght. I’ll give you a tour of the place.”
Dare gladly followed Hammer out of the gym, up to the quiet second floor of Fight Hard where the rehabilitation center was located. Hammer had spared no expense, having outfitted the rehab center with high-end medical and training equipment. Dare asked a few questions as Hammer showed him around, and he had to scoff as he saw some of the Pilates equipment that hadn’t been in the original plans. Hammer explained that Sam and the other physical therapists had been very successful using the equipment to help rehab their clients. To Dare’s amusement, Hammer also muttered about a few Pilates classes being taught there during the week, but said he tried to avoid the upstairs area whenever those were going on.
Overall, Dare was pleased to see that the Fight Hard Training and Rehabilitation Center was a world class facility, and knew it was a place Hammer could be very proud of. When he’d had told Dare he wanted to open a gym back in his hometown of Breakers after his injury, Dare had thought it was a damn good idea. With Hammer’s mixed martial arts training, it seemed like a perfect transition. With the addition of the rehab center that catered to vets and other athletes, it made Dare want to get involved.
Even though Hammer had made enough money as a Cage Fighting League champion, both Dare and their other friend, Adam Rever, wanted to support his new business venture. Hammer had allowed Dare and Rever to invest, while he kept controlling interest of the business. Hammer did a good job keeping them informed about what was going on with the gym by email, but Dare knew he and Rever weren’t really necessary to the business. They were mainly there to support their friend.
And the truth was, a part of Dare had never really expected to live to see the gym finished.
“You did a good job with this place, Hammer.”
As if he knew what Dare was thinking, Hammer stopped and looked at him with sober eyes. “How are you doing, Dare? Because I gotta tell you…you look like shit.”
“Seriously, man. We expected you last month. I thought you were resting up at that cabin in Colorado? You don’t look that rested or relaxed.”
Dare turned away, staring across the large room as memories plagued him. No, he wasn’t rested. In fact, he felt like he was damn close to losing his mind. Being a trauma surgeon in the Army had been hard. No, it had been fucking brutal. Sure there were days that he’d done the basic monotonous doctor shit on base, but there were other days that had been filled with the screams of injured men and women that would haunt him till the end of his days.
And he felt the loss of each and every patient under his care.
What he couldn’t tell Hammer was that the last few years he’d been working with an international anti-terrorist agency that very few people even knew existed. Tired of always seeing his friends in danger, Dare had jumped at the chance to join the elite taskforce to help stop the threats before they turned into mass violence. What he hadn’t realized was that being at ground zero would be like walking into hell.
And not many men could come back from that.
Dare could tell Hammer what he couldn’t say to anyone else. Even though there were details he couldn’t tell his friend about his clandestine work, dealing with the aftermath alone wasn’t a good idea. He'd tried that over the last few months and it had been an epic failure. That was why he had come to Breakers. To try and figure out what to do with his life now that he had retired.
“I’m tired,” Dare said quietly after a long minute. “I’m really fucking tired.”
Hammer sat down on one of the benches and watched him with more sympathy than Dare was comfortable with. “Can you tell me?”
“Some, but I don’t think I’m ready to just yet. I’ll just say that my stay in Colorado wasn’t as restful as I thought it was going to be. I took my time coming here to clear my head...” He paused for a moment before he said, “Before that I was in Spain.”
Hammer sucked in a harsh breath that sounded overly loud in the silence of the room. Dare knew that the news had been filled with the bombings that had happened in Spain for weeks now. A terrorist group headed by a fanatical leader had targeted several churches in a brutal self-proclaimed war. The taskforce Dare worked with had taken down the group, but the terrorists had blown up two churches before they had put a stop to their senseless violence.
And the experience had left Dare with chilling memories that would haunt him forever.
“Jesus. That’s rough,” Hammer said softly. “Listen, I was gonna suggest we go grab something to eat, but why don’t you just take tonight and settle in? You know you’re always welcome at my place—”
“Which is what I thought you would say,” Hammer responded with a soft chuckle. “So, I booked you a room at my cousin’s boarding house. Open ended for however long you want to stay.”
Dare frowned at him, not liking the sound of that. “I can just go to a hotel or—”
“It’s not what you think. My cousin Evie converted Beaumont Manor—her old plantation house—into a sort of bed and breakfast for service men and women who need a little peace and quiet before they go back to their real lives. Some of our rehab patients also stay there. You remember my stepbrother Hunter, right? He lives in an apartment on the main level. It’s a good place. I think you’ll like it.”
He wanted to decline the offer, but found himself nodding. “That works…thanks.”
“I’ll call ahead and make sure someone meets you with the keys.” Hammer paused for a moment. “I'm really glad you're here, Nyght. I hope you’ll consider staying.”
“I can’t think that far ahead right now.”
Hammer nodded in understanding. They said their goodbyes and Hammer paused for a moment. "use months and it had been an epic failure. Dare breathed a sigh of relief as he left the Fight Hard building, stepping out into the cool evening breeze. After Hammer had given him the directions to the Beaumont estate, Dare promised that he’d stop by the gym again after he’d gotten some rest. He just wasn’t in the mood for friendly visitations at the moment, even if Hammer was like a brother to him.
Hell, he hadn’t been fit for human interaction for weeks now...and still wasn’t.
He straddled his Harley and started it up, pleased by the low, throaty growl the engine made. Driving out of town, Dare let his mind drift. Since he’d been back in the States, he’d been traveling light. He’d made the mistake of going home to Atlanta when he’d first come back stateside. It had been good to see his mother, but it had been the same old story with his dad and brother.
The Nyght’s were a powerful family that traced their lineage back to medieval Scotland. They had been one of the wealthiest families to settle in the new world, and Dare’s father, William Nyght, took their heritage very seriously, going as far to hang the family crest in a place of prominence in their mansion located in Atlanta. Dare’s great-grandfather had been a founding partner in one of the world’s largest international law firms, and it had become tradition for all of the Nyght men to join the practice.
William was a man who stuck to very strict ideals of what it meant to be a Nyght, and joining the military was not acceptable to him. Dare still remembered the heated argument that had taken place when he told his family that he had enlisted and had decided to go to medical school instead of studying law. His mother had done what she always did. She agreed with whatever her husband decreed. She loved her life too much the way it was, and Dare had learned to accept that she would never be strong enough to stand against William.
The divide between Dare and his father had gotten even worse when his younger brother, Peter, had enrolled in law school and prepared to join the family firm like a proper Nyght. When William finally realized that Dare would never fall into the family fold, he had disowned him, ruthlessly cutting him off.
At first it had hurt, but Dare knew that he’d made the right choice. Being a doctor was what he had been meant to do. He had an aptitude for cutting and had soaked up knowledge like a sponge. Being able to assess a situation instantly and having a steady hand no matter where he was made him an asset in the field. It had been a constant struggle against his commanding officers who had tried to keep Dare on base where he would remain safe, when all he wanted to do was be out where he was needed most.
When the opportunity came to join the elite taskforce, Dare had been ready and willing to join the action. It had given him a sense of pride to know that he was saving lives on a daily basis, but the threat level the taskforce dealt with had been enough to scare the shit out of him despite his training and background. His time working with them had hardened him. Had given him a combat awareness that could only be attained through experience.
But he hadn’t been ready for what happened in Spain.
Dare had waded through the blood of the victims of the two bombings, doing all he could to help the few survivors they’d found. He couldn’t even put the horrors of what he’d seen into words. Still, he had kept a cool head while his heart had wept for the victims. It was such a senseless act of violence that Dare would never understand the levels of cruelty humans could perpetrate on one another. However, dealing with the aftermath of those first two bombings wasn’t what had made Dare decide to walk away.
No, that decision had been made the second he’d been forced to take a life.
For as long as he could remember, he’d wanted to heal people. Dare had taken an oath when he had become a doctor, but doing no harm wasn’t always possible when facing war. Still, he had done his best to fulfill his pledge whenever he could. He had been in firefights before. It was an inevitable reality of combat to draw one’s weapon, and it had never bothered him that much when it was kill or be killed, fighting side by side with his friends and fellow soldiers.
That was until he had come face to face with the terrorist leader who had been fleeing the scene of the third bombing.
The taskforce had discovered the third target of the terrorist group, and had converged on the location in time to evacuate the people inside the church before the bomb could go off. Dare had stayed back in a van filled with medical supplies in case he was needed when he’d seen the leader they had been searching for fleeing the scene. With all the other agents occupied, Dare had chased after the terrorist, and had been forced to take him out.
During his time in the Army, Dare had never had to kill someone while looking them dead in the eye. He had returned fire at a nameless, faceless enemy when fired upon, but this...damn, this had been completely different. The fanatical leader had been carrying a remote trigger for the bomb and had been prepared to use it, forcing Dare to kill him. He knew he had done what he’d needed to. Countless of lives would have been lost if he hadn’t killed the man, but watching the light of life leave the other man’s eyes—knowing he was the one who had taken that life—had done something to Dare.
How the fuck was he supposed to tell people that sight of blood now made him sick?
Dare was a doctor for Christ’s sake. Having an aversion to seeing blood was something he couldn’t afford to deal with, and frankly, it was embarrassing as hell. He knew it was a mental block—one that he would eventually get over as soon as he came to terms with what he had done—but he wasn’t there yet. He needed time. Time to allow himself to heal and clear his mind of the fatigue that had been plaguing him.
Time to figure out what the hell to do now that he no longer wanted to be a soldier.
Following the directions Hammer had given him, Dare rode his bike further from town into the quiet of the countryside. While the rest of the country was dealing with fickle weather conditions, spring had come full force to Breakers, Texas, making the evening drive pleasant.
It was like entering into a different world as Dare turned his bike onto the long road that led toward the Beaumont estate. Tall trees lined the paved driveway, and the large expanse of manicured lawn made Dare absently wonder what poor bastard took care of so much damn land.
Off in the distance he could see a large barn the size of a warehouse sitting on one side of a big pond that glittered in the red and gold rays of the setting sun. There was a massive residence made of stone and glass on the other side of the pond that gleamed in the sunlight, looking like something right out of a fairytale. But what had Dare slowing down was the sight of the large white plantation house he was approaching.
Columns lined the large front porch of both the second and main floors of the buildings, making it look like he had stepped back in time to the grand old south. From the description he’d been given, Dare knew this was the residence that Hammer’s cousin had grown up in. He couldn’t help but wonder why she had given up living in the impressive house in order to use it as a boarding house. Still, he was glad that she had, whatever her reasoning. The quiet atmosphere immediately appealed to him as he pulled into the small parking lot off to the side of the house.
Maybe he would finally be able to get some rest and relax a little.
Dare parked his bike next to another Harley and took a moment to admire the sleek beast. He also noticed there was a large medically equipped van parked in the lot along with a few big trucks. All but swaying with fatigue, he got off his bike. The last few hours had taken on a surreal feeling that only happened when he finally hit the wall. The drive had felt like he was maneuvering through a video game or something, and he was damn lucky he’d arrived before he crashed.
Fuck, at thirty-four he was getting too old for this shit. As a doctor, he was used to sleep deprivation, but knew he had pushed his system to its limits. It had been foolish to drive while in this condition. He knew it, and was now looking forward to getting some rest. Maybe a week’s worth if he was lucky. Yeah, he’d feel better if he could sleep for a week, surrounded by nothing but peace and quiet.
Shaking off the fatigue for a few more minutes, he unlatched his saddlebag from the back of his bike. He hefted it onto one shoulder, then readjusted as it smacked up against his backpack already secured on his back. Striding toward the building, he looked up and skidded to a halt as the front door to the plantation house opened and a vision walked out.
Sweet Jesus, she was absolutely stunning.
Her long blonde hair shimmered to burnished gold in the fading sunlight. She was tall, around five-eight if his gauge was accurate, and had a face of such classic beauty that it belonged on the covers of magazines. She was dressed in dark jeans with a cream-colored cardigan over a matching undershirt that showed some of the tanned skin of her stomach. Something about seeing that small strip of flesh had Dare’s blood heating and the muscles of his body tensing.
Sure, he loved seeing scantily clad women as much as the next guy, like those women in the gym earlier. He was a man after all. But there was something about the classy blonde standing before him in that stupid sweater set that stirred his interest in a way that hadn’t happened in longer than he could remember. Dare let his gaze drift up and felt a visceral reaction as his eyes met the clear blue of hers as she moved closer.
“Hello, welcome to the Beaumont Boarding House. You must be Dr. Nyght.”
All he could do was blink at the vision standing in front of him and try to remember how to speak. All the blood in his body seemed to have drained straight down to his dick, making it almost impossible for him to think. She had an almost regal bearing as she stood there staring down at him. God, she was the type of woman men went down on their knees for…the kind they dreamed about.
She was one beautiful fucking woman.
Evelyn Beaumont stood on the porch looking down at the man standing at the bottom of the front stairs, waiting for him to say something. He looked like the sort of dangerous guy she would have loved to have let her cousin check into the bordering house, but Hunter was currently at Ink This, the local tattoo parlor where he worked part-time. No matter how scruffy he looked, this man was one of her cousin’s best friends, and she would welcome him to the haven she had created.
God knew he looked like he needed it.
Evie could see the fatigue heavily lining his face, and everything in her responded to the pain she noticed in his piercing dark-gray eyes. Something about him made her want to go to him, to reach out and soothe him. She wanted to tell him that he could heal here, and help him find some peace. But as a woman who ran a rescue center working with feral dogs, she knew enough to keep her distance.
This man wasn’t tamed.
She eyed him warily from the top of the stairs when he remained silent. “Are you okay?”
Dare shook his head as if trying to rattle some sense into his damn head and braced his hand on the railing on the side of the front steps. For a second he had thought he’d imagined the woman before him, but quickly realized that she wasn’t just some dream come to life. She was real…and standing there looking at him like he was fucking crazy.
Maybe he was.
Damn, he really needed to get some sleep.
“Sorry, what? I am. Dr. Nyght, that is. I mean, Daryk Nyght.” Someone needed to shoot him to get him to stop talking, because clearly he couldn’t be trusted forming sentences at the moment. She smiled at him, and Dare was damn glad he was leaning on the railing.
“It’s nice to meet you, Dr. Nyght. I’m Hammer’s cousin, Evelyn Beaumont, but please call me Evie.”
Her smile faltered. “Excuse me?”
“My name. Just call me Dare.”
“Okay, Dare. Welcome to the Beaumont Boarding House. Come on in.” She gestured to the open front door and Dare took a strengthening breath before he climbed the stairs and came to a stop next to her. Christ, she smelled like peaches. Ripe, juicy peaches. When he’d been overseas he used to dream of peaches plucked fresh from a tree, still warm from the sun’s rays.
It was a particular weakness of his.
Despite his current difficulties functioning, he still had enough wits about him to motion her inside before following her into the house. Manners had been far too engrained in him from a young age for him to act any differently. He breathed her scent in as he closed the door and followed her through the foyer, down a hall into the large kitchen. He tried to keep his distance so he wouldn’t make her nervous being in the house with a strange man she didn’t know.
A frown settled over his face. She didn’t know him. What the hell was she doing walking inside with him where they were alone? He could be—
Dare’s thoughts came to a screeching halt when he realized that she had been speaking to him again, and was now looking at him with that wary expression again as she moved to stand on the other side of the marble island in the center of the kitchen. Christ, he really was a mess. “I’m sorry…what were you saying?”
“The setup is pretty simple here. Each bedroom has its own bathroom, but the rest of the house is shared space. There is an entertainment area on the main floor with a pool table and a large TV, and there’s a gym in the basement. We usually offer baked goods in the kitchen, but meals are basically up to you. Everyone is pretty respectful of other people’s stuff, but if you have food you don’t want to share, be sure to mark it.”
Evie gestured toward a hallway off the kitchen. “My cousin Hunter lives in the apartment down that hall, but if he isn’t around you can just ask one of us. All of our phone numbers are listed here by the phone. My uncle Tony and his wife Maddy usually stop by every Monday and Friday to check on things, but they’re on vacation right now. You know Hammer’s mother, Madeline, right? Anyways, they’ll be back in a few weeks, but my cousins and I live right down the road, just passed the rescue center if you need anything.”
Dare scowled before he could stop himself. “Rescue center? As in barking dogs?”
He knew he’d made a grave error as soon as those beautiful blue eyes iced over. He belatedly remembered seeing the big barn down the road, and also recalled what he had heard about her the last time he’d come to Breakers. Evie had been out of town, but he’d met her cousins, Beckett, Francesca and Hunter—who were also Hammer’s step-siblings—and they had spoken of the rescue center where they all worked part-time. The rescue center was Evie’s pride and joy…and he had just insulted it.
Damn it, why couldn’t he fucking think before he spoke?
Evie regarded him coolly. “The Beaumont Rescue Center is far enough that you shouldn’t be disturbed by the noise.”
“I’m sure it is. I like dogs. Really, I like all animals.” Rubbing a hand over his face, he sighed. “Sorry, I haven’t slept in…hell, I don’t know. I’m not usually this…”
Evie’s face softened and her eyes warmed with sympathy again. She picked up a set of keys from the counter and handed them to him. “I’ll let you get settled in. You’re in room ten. It’s a corner room on the second floor.” She hesitated for a moment before saying, “There’s a family style meal in a few days over at my house. It’s nothing big…just a barbeque, but we try to do something on Sundays with the family and the workers from the center. Feel free to stop by if you’re feeling up to it.”
She opened the door before he could say anything, and with a cheerful wave, she walked out onto the back patio, shutting the door in his face. Without thinking, he found himself moving to a nearby window, watching as she got into a golf cart. He stood there as she headed across the manicure lawn towards the stone and glass manor down the road.
The princess in the glass tower, he thought as he watched her leave, then shook his head at the fanciful thought. Sweet Jesus, he really needed sleep. With that in mind, he turned from the window and left the kitchen, making his way back to the front of the house. He climbed the grand staircase, absently admiring open space of the large foyer until he reached the second floor.
He turned down the hall, then had to backtrack and go the other way until he reached his room. Using the key, he let himself in, then simply dropped his bags on the floor after he shut the door and locked it. Not even taking the time to look around the well-appointed room, he sat down on the bed and leaned over to remove his boots, almost falling over in the process.
Damn, was he in sorry shape.
Exploring would have to wait. Dare let out a long sigh as he lay back on the bed, and was asleep before his head hit the pillow.