—Cara McKenna, author of Willing Victim
—Tiffany Reisz, author of The Siren
He tempts her, but kindness and a few mindblowing orgasms aren’t enough to put her back together again. Allie has no hope for a real relationship. Two years ago her best friend betrayed her in the worst possible way – she’d be stupid to trust a man again. Besides, she has her daughter to think of, the only good thing to have come from that dark night.
But when her rapist returns, threatening her sanity and custody of her daughter, Allie turns to Colin. Under his protection and patient touch, Allie begins to heal and learns to hope. Colin’s no saint, though, and his criminal past draws danger of its own. Allie must fight to protect her child and the man she loves, hoping her newfound power will be enough to save them all.
Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: dubious consent.
“The book is well-written, keeps you guessing, has you on the edge of your seat, and throws in plenty of surprises. I found it really engaging, and was rooting for Allie and Colin throughout.”
“The spark and love between Colin and Allie is unforgettable. And with the steamy love scenes, what more could you ask for?”
“Even though the characters from Giving It Up are extremely complicated with a lot of heavy issues… they were fascinating, kept me completely engrossed, and had me dying to know what was going to happen next.”
“This isn’t your flowery, happy-go-lucky fairytale, not at all. The sex is raw. The story is heart wrenching. The characters captivating.”
“Dark, gutsy and deeply emotional; this is a story of two wounded souls finding solace with one another. Ms. Lin deftly handles the intricate psychological aftermath of rape and violence, of betrayal and forgiveness.”
“Dark, edgy yet sensual and hopeful. Raw, intelligent and well-written, with a suspense element thrown in, and an unexpected twist. This is a well-crafted contemporary romance, dealing with some distressing issues and yet written with such affecting realism that Giving It Up was very hard to put down.”
“This is not your average cute and sweet feel-good book. Rather, it’s a dark and edgy story about flaws, vulnerabilities, hope and real life. To say that I loved Giving It Up would be an understatement.”
There’s a certain sultry walk a woman has when she’s bare that can’t be faked. No hose and no panties. The nakedness under my skirt was as much about keeping me aroused as it was about easy access.
I’d perfected the art of fuck-me clothes. A surprising number of men asked me out, even at a grungy club on a Saturday night. Cute little college girl, they thought, out for a good time. I saved us all time by dressing my part.
Tonight’s ensemble consisted of a tight halter and short skirt with cheap, high-heeled sandals, bouncing hair, and bloodred toenails. The scornful looks of the other women didn’t escape me, but I wasn’t so different from them. I wanted to be desired, held, touched. The groping fingers might be a cheap imitation of intimacy, its patina cracked with rust and likely to turn my skin green, but they were all I deserved.
My gaze panned to the man at the bar, the one I’d been watching all night. He nursed a beer, his profile harsh against the fluid backdrop of writhing bodies. His gray T-shirt hung loose on his abs but snug around thick arms.
His expression was unreadable, but I knew what he wanted. What else was there?
He glanced over but didn’t hit on me. I didn’t know why I kept tabs on him either. I wasn’t exactly discerning. I was trolling for sex, not a life partner. There were plenty of men here, men whose blackened pasts matched my own, who’d give it to me hard.
A woman approached him. Something dark and decidedly feminine roiled up inside me.
She was hot. If he wanted to score, he probably couldn’t do better, even with me. I tried not to stare. She walked away a minute later—rejected. I felt unaccountably smug. Which was stupid, since I didn’t have him either.
Maybe no one had a chance with this guy. I was pretty enough, in a girl-next-door kind of way. Common, though, underneath my slutty trappings—brown hair and brown eyes were standard issue around here.
I glanced up to see a cute guy wearing a sharp dress shirt checking me out. Probably an investment banker or something upstanding like that. Grinning and hopeful. Had I ever been that young? No, I was probably younger. At twenty-two I felt ancient. The world had already crumbled around me and been rebuilt, brick by brick.
“Sorry, pal,” I said. “Keep moving.”
“Aww, not even one dance?”
His puppy-dog eyes cajoled a smile from me. How nice it might feel to be one of the girls with nothing to worry about except whether this guy would call tomorrow morning. But I was too broken for his easy smile. I’d only end up hurting him.
“I am sorry,” I said, wistfulness seeping into my voice. “You’ll thank me later.”
Regret panged in my chest as the crowd sucked him back in, but I’d done the right thing. Even if he were only interested in a one-night hookup, my sex was too toxic for the likes of him.
I turned back to the guy at the bar. He caught my eye, looking—if possible—surlier. Cold and mean. Perfect. I wouldn’t taint him, and he could give me what I craved. Since Tall, Dark, and Stoic hadn’t deigned to make a move on me, I would do the pursuing. A surprising little twist for the night, but I could go with it.
I squeezed in beside him at the bar. Up close his size was impressive and a little intimidating, but that only strengthened my resolve.
“Hey, tough guy,” I shouted over the din.
He looked up at me from his beer. I faltered a bit at the total lack of emotion in his face and fought an automatic instinct to retreat. His eyes were a deep brown, almost pretty, but remote and flat. Dark hair was cut short, bristly. His nose was prominent and slightly crooked, like it had been broken. Maybe more than once.
He looked mean, which was a good thing, but I was used to a little more effort. Even assholes provided a fake smile or smarmy line for the sake of the pickup. There was a script to these things, but he wasn’t playing his part.
My club persona and beer from earlier lent me confidence. Whatever was bothering him—a bad day at the construction site or maybe a fight with the old lady—I didn’t care. He was here, so he needed this as much as I did.
I planted my elbow on the bar. “I saw you looking at me earlier.”
He raised an eyebrow. I shrugged. He was making me work for it, but I found myself more amused than annoyed.
“Buy me a drink?” I asked.
He considered me, then nodded and signaled the bartender.
The beat of the club reverberated as I took a sip. “So do you talk?”
His lips twitched. “Yeah, I talk.”
“Okay.” I leaned in close to hear him better. “What do you talk about?”
He ignored my question—or maybe answered it—by asking, “What are you doing here?” Almost like he was asking something deeper, but that had to be the alcohol talking.
“I’m trying to get laid, that’s what I’m doing here.” I pulled off a breathy laugh I was pretty proud of.
He didn’t react, didn’t appear surprised or even interested, the bastard. He just looked at me. “Why?”
I decided on honesty. “Because I need it.”
He seemed to weigh the truth of my words, then nodded toward the exit. “All right, let’s go.” He got up and threw some cash on the bar.
His easy acceptance caught me off guard, just for a moment. But it shouldn’t have surprised me, because…well, because men always wanted sex. That’s what I liked about them—they didn’t even bother trying to hide it. It was worse when I hadn’t seen it coming, when it had sneaked up on me— Now wasn’t the time to think of that. It was never the right time to think of that.
He tucked his hand under my elbow, guiding me. He used his body to maneuver us through the crowd, almost as a shield. The whole thing was so gentlemanly, given what we were about to do, that I wondered if he’d heard me right. Maybe he’d want to get coffee or something, and wouldn’t that be awkward all around?
But he was a man, and I was a woman wearing fuck-me clothes—this could only end one way.
When we exited the club, I couldn’t help sucking in several deep breaths. Even the faint smell of street sewage was refreshing, washing the stench of smoke, alcohol, and countless perfumes from my lungs. I never liked the crowds. The press of bodies, the mingling smell of sweat, the small bumps from all around. Tiny violations that were somehow okay since everyone did it.
As my heart rate settled, he inspected me as if he could read me. He couldn’t. “What’s your name?” I asked to distract him.
“Nice to meet you, Allie. Your place or mine?”
I was comfortable again. I knew this play: horny girl who can’t wait to get naked.
“We don’t need to go anywhere. Let’s get started right here.” I let a soft moan escape me and clasped myself to the brick wall named Colin. Never mind that I was dry as a bone. He wouldn’t notice. They never did.
He raised his eyebrows. “In the parking lot?”
“Or in my car. Whatever. I just want you to do me.”
“I’m not fucking you in a car. It’s forty degrees out.”
I was hardly in this for comfort. I’d done it in colder weather just this past winter. “I don’t mind.”
“Well, I do.”
“Fine.” I was willing to give him so much. Why couldn’t he take it the way I wanted? “Then we can go to the motel over there. You’re paying.”
He didn’t look happy. I wasn’t either, but I couldn’t budge on this. Going to an apartment might be the norm for hookups, but my hookups weren’t normal.
Going to their houses where they might do God knows what was out of the question. And I wasn’t about to bring one of these guys near Bailey.
“Not there,” he said. “I’ll pick the place.”
I followed his truck in my car to a motel about ten minutes away. When I pulled in, he waved me to a parking spot next to his truck and went into the office.
The place wasn’t fancy, but the manicured shrubbery and freshly painted building proclaimed this was an entirely different kind of establishment than the dump by the club. No renting rooms by the hour here.
The sign out front advertised $119.99 a night. A typical price for Chicago, but I sweated the cost. The extravagance of my six-dollar drink from earlier paled in comparison.
What if it was too much money? I might not be worth it.
I kept watch on the frosted office door like he might disappear. Eight minutes later, he came out. My stomach clenched. He flashed a key and nodded toward the back before getting into his truck. I followed him in my car and pulled up beside him again.
It was dark back here. Deserted. The only light came from flickering, yellow lamps dimmed by tiny hordes of bugs. Scattered buildings slumbered around us like a nest of dragons, their snore the low drone from the appliances. It wasn’t exactly safe. Technically that was what I wanted, but the allure of danger only worked up to a point.
He didn’t come to my car. Instead he opened the motel room door and waited.
I could drive away. He probably wouldn’t even come after me. Even if he could, if I drove somewhere safe—assuming there was such a place—there’d be nothing he could do.
But his solemn patience gave me the courage to open the car door and join him.
The stale air and harsh edge of cleaning supplies softened me. I’d ridden along with my dad in his 18-wheeler once. He usually slept in truck stops, but with me he’d gotten motel rooms. This was just an empty room, but it felt strange to use a place for casual sex that I associated with childhood memories.
Once inside the room, I set down my purse on the floral fabric chair.
Colin reached out and trailed his finger along my jaw. His eyes, almost black in the dark motel room, searched my own. I thought he was going to fuck me then, but he said, “I’m going to make coffee.”
I blinked. Shit, coffee. “Okay.”
He went to work at the coffeemaker. Unsure of what to do, I sat down in the chair, clutching my purse in my lap like I was waiting for a doctor’s appointment instead of rough, dirty sex.
He poured a cup of coffee, adding the cream and sugar without comment, and handed it to me. I took a few sips. It soothed some of the skittishness I hadn’t realized I had. He didn’t take any for himself.
Enough of this.
I set down the cup on the cracked countertop and stood to kiss him. I started off light, teasing, hoping to inflame him. This was all calculated, a game of risk and power.
He kissed me back softly, gently, like he didn’t know we’d started playing. He held his body still, but his mouth roamed over mine, skimming and tasting.
It wasn’t a magical kiss. Angels didn’t sing, and nothing caught fire. But he wasn’t too rough or too wet or too anything, and for me it was perfection.
I rubbed against him, undulating to a rhythm born of practice. His hands came up, one to cup my face, the other around my body.
He walked me backward, and we made out against the round fake-wood table, his hands running over my sides, my back. Avoiding the good parts like we were two horny teenagers in our parents’ basements, new to this. I shuddered at the thought. This was all wrong. His hands were too light. I was half under him already, my hips cradling his, so I surged up and nipped at his lip. Predictably his body jerked, and he thrust his hips down onto me.
Yes. That’s what I need. I softened my body, surrendering to him.
“Bed,” he murmured against my lips.
We stripped at the same time, both eager. I wanted to see his body, to witness what he offered me, but it was dark in the room. Then he kissed me back onto the bed, and there was no more time to wonder. The cheap bedspread was rough and cool against my skin. His hands stroked over my breasts and then played gently with my nipples.
My body responded, turning liquid, but something was wrong.
I’d had this problem before. Not everyone wanted to play rough, but I was surprised that I’d misread him. His muscles were hard, the pads of his fingers were calloused. I didn’t know how he could touch me so softly. Everything about him screamed that he could hurt me, so why didn’t he?
I wanted him to have his nasty way with me, but every sweet caress destroyed the illusion. My fantasy was to let him do whatever he wanted with me, but not this.
“Harder,” I said. “I need it harder.”
Instead his hands gentled. The one that had been holding my breast traced the curve around and under.
I groaned in frustration. “What’s wrong?”
He reached down, still breathing heavily, and pressed a finger lightly to my cunt, then stroked upward through the moisture. I gasped, rocking my hips to follow his finger.
“You like this,” he said.
Yes, I liked it. I was undeniably aroused but too aware. I needed the emptiness of being taken. “I like it better rough.”
Colin frowned. My eyes widened at the ferocity of his expression.
In one smooth motion he flipped me onto my stomach. I lost my breath from the surprise and impact. His left hand slid under my body between my legs and cupped me. His right hand fisted in my hair, pulling my head back. His erection throbbed beside my ass in promise. I wanted to beg him to fuck me, but all I could do was gasp. He didn’t need to be told, though, and ground against me, using my hair as a handle.
That small pain on my scalp was perfection, sharp and sweet. Numbness spread through me, as did relief.
The pain dimmed. My arousal did too, but that was okay. I was only vaguely aware of him continuing to work my body from behind.
I went somewhere else in my mind. I’d stay that way all night.
At least that’s what usually happened.