It's been years since she's had a healthy relationship, and the more time she spends with Brock, the harder she falls for him. To protect her heart, she keeps her secret.
Brock Sullivan trusts very few people. Abandoned by his mother and tragically losing his first love, he puts little faith in women. When he meets Cecilia, he is unprepared for their overwhelming attraction. Not only is she a habit he doesn't want to break, being with her forces him to rethink his beliefs.
Even when he learns the worst about Cecilia, he can't stay away. But when push comes to shove, will Brock be able to keep her safe?
Release date: September 1, 2020
Print pages: 308
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Relentless Habit: O-Town Series
Honey, You're a Bad Habit
“Why are you looking at me like that?” I shouted my question to be heard over the bass.
He looked at me long and hard. “Honey, you’re a bad habit for me.”
Not only was that not true, it almost sounded like a pick-up line. See, it was the sixth time I had seen him here. He came with his friends, and they all danced. Actually, no. His buddies did that thing where they moved their hips and shoulders just barely in time with the beat. Harry in When Harry Met Sally mentioning obligatory dancing while performing the white-man’s-overbite immediately came to mind. Totally true of the buddies, but this man could dance. He had an attention-grabbing masculine grace. With his well-defined muscles, the vision of him moving gracefully around that dance floor was fascinating. Especially since when he moved you just knew he knew what he was doing. So damn sexy.
I had watched him during my visits to the club. Many women had approached him, trying to dance with him. Not that I could blame them. The man was the epitome of fine. Thick, wavy brown hair parted on the left, with the sides grazing his ears. He flashed a pearly-white smile at the ladies, but found ways to get away from them. I had thought he might be interested in men, but then two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of dancing with him. A repeat last week, but when he tried to get my number I dodged his questions. The noise of the club made it easy.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested. I simply wasn’t ready.
Tonight, I’d watched him stroll onto the floor, and my roommate all but shoved me toward him. Slinking to the other side of the dance floor had failed, and he’d cornered me.
That brought me back to now, and I shook off my thoughts by shaking my head. “You’re not making any sense. I’m not a bad habit,” I hollered.
With my background, I knew a thing or two about bad habits, and one thing was for sure: I was not a bad habit. I was stone cold sober. In a night club. On a Saturday, after ten hours of making the “Happiest Place on Earth,” one of the happiest places on earth.
Since he didn’t respond, I smiled into the dizzying strobe lights. “Guess I’ll just get out of your hair, then.”
Before I could turn on my heel, his warm hand gripped my hip, turning me back to him…and into him. “Something you should know about me. I like to be bad. My older brother taught me all about being bad.”
I smirked. “Did he now?”
“He’s an outlaw biker, so yeah. He did.”
My eyes widened at that information, but then thoughts of my sister, Tennille, and her fiancé (also an outlaw biker) came to mind. So did thoughts about a disgusting biker from a rival club. I took in a deep breath. Surely this handsome man wasn’t with a motorcycle gang.
Before I could respond, his head dipped to my ear. “Wanna be bad with me?”
Did I ever! His cologne, the yeasty smell of beer on his breath, the solid press of his torso against my breasts, it was heady stuff. The problem was, if I kissed him, I wasn’t sure I could keep myself in check. Sad as it was to say, I was much like that children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, because if you gave me a hint of beer, I would want a cocktail. That cocktail would lead to smoking, and it might or might not be of the legal variety.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had sex without being fully intoxicated and impaired. It was shameful. It was also the reason I moved to Orlando.
The music faded and the DJ spoke. “Been a long time since I hit GILT, but my man Sully talked me into it. This one’s for him.” I lost the scent of Handsome’s cologne because he was gazing into my eyes. His eyes were magnificent. Even in the flashing lights of the club, I knew they were a spectacular shade of blue.
The song began and a man’s voice sang a sultry rendition of “Don’t Stop the Music.” My head reared back as I realized it was Jamie Cullum. Tennille and I loved the guy, but it had been years since I heard his version of Rihanna’s popular song. My reaction did not go unnoticed, and this man’s lips curled in a smile that made my panties wet.
The curl died, and it didn’t take a lip-reader to know he muttered, “Fuck it.”
Those lips landed on mine and I thought I would lose my mind. His hands slid from my waist to clutch my ass. He pulled me tight to him, both our hips grinding as Jamie Cullum sang about being naughty. I parted my lips to gasp, and his tongue slid inside my mouth. He tasted like beer and man, and I craved more. Heat curled from my belly toward my breasts and down to my crotch. My hands went into his hair and, feeling its silky softness, I moaned. I swiped his tongue with mine, igniting something in him. He pushed into me bodily, one of his arms came up behind the small of my back and he arched me backward. As the music neared the end with a frantic piano crescendo, he broke the kiss but grabbed my hand, dragging me to a nearby patio for smokers.
I blinked up at him and realized he had stopped us in a corner away from people smoking. His large blue eyes were locked with mine. “Tell me your name, baby.”
I closed my eyes, debating whether I should do this or not. When I opened them again, his face was closer.
“Cecilia,” I whispered.
“Beautiful,” he murmured, lips tipped up.
He moved closer for another kiss, but I reared back. Not a chance I would kiss him again without knowing his name. “You? What’s your name? There’s no way it’s Sully.”
His head cocked for a moment. “To some I am. Name’s Brock Sullivan.”
I stared at him as his name sank in; it was nearly as masculine as he was.
“Christ. You’re definitely a bad habit.”
I squinted. “Until now, you didn’t even know my name.”
His eyes warmed. “Yeah, but every time you look at me, including just now, it’s like getting a hit. A guaranteed high.”
I turned my head and deep-breathed through my nose. He had no idea how wrong his words were to me, and I knew he had no way of knowing about my issue-ladened past. His warm fingers cupped my jaw, turning my gaze back to his.
“Honey, if you think you’re gonna dodge me like you did last week after a kiss that damn phenomenal, you’re wrong.”
I pressed my lips together, debating on being brutally blunt or taking a page from my sister’s playbook and being diplomatic. Tennille was practically married, so she must know a little something I didn’t. I opted for diplomacy.
“I’m not the girl for you…honey.”
His hands gripped my biceps, and I was treated to him throwing his head back with laughter. Like the rest of his body, his neck was thick and strong, and his tipped-up chin made his Adam’s apple enticingly prominent. Watching him made me smile, and then it made me fidget because it turned me on.
“Another sign you’re a habit. I fuckin’ love hearing you call me ‘honey,’ but that was pretty damn funny.”
“I wasn’t being funny,” I said, shaking my head.
His chin dipped. “You were, because I could’ve sworn you said, you’re ‘not the girl for me.’” His right hand moved, and he tapped my nose with his index finger. “Except, only I decide who’s the girl for me and who isn’t.”
I smiled. “Just to say, only I decide who’s the man for me and who isn’t.”
Brock nodded once. “I imagine that’s true, but you wouldn’t have danced with me again last week if you weren’t interested. Not sure about your cat-and-mouse shit, but it doesn’t matter.”
“Nope, because I’m gonna put an end to it. Mainly because I’m gonna be your bad habit, too.”
“Doubt my counselor would approve,” I muttered. Then I yearned to pull those words back or turn time backward by a minute. Since neither option was possible, I chanced a glimpse of Brock’s steely blues. Yep, the damage was done.
“Counselor?” he asked, his voice as steely as his eyes.
My lips thinned, I shook my head, and peeled his hand from my arm. “Yeah, I have a counselor. Anyway, it was a damn fine kiss, but I’m gonna head ho––”
His hand turned in my grip as he took control, raising the back of my hand to his lips. “Oh no, you don’t. One question, yes or no. This a sexual abuse counselor?”
I knew if I nodded this would end, but I couldn’t lie to Brock. “No. Drug abuse.”
He closed his eyes, his face slack as regret washed over him. Kissing my hand, he kept hold of it but lowered it between us. “Fuck,” he hissed. When he opened his eyes, they were a brilliant cornflower hue. “I’m sorry, offering to be your bad habit was a piss-poor choice of words.”
I chuckled because my father would’ve said something similar. “No biggie, really. Um, you’re a really great dancer, not that you need me to tell you that. I wish more men were confident enough to let it––”
“Grandparents,” he snapped.
“What?” I breathed.
“My grandparents did that. Forced my dad to ballroom dance, and later insisted me and both my brothers do the same growing up.”
My eyes widened and I couldn’t stop it. Ballroom dancing was in his background. Yum. He had two brothers. Double yum! I blinked away my thoughts. “Still, it’s sexy as fuck, not that you need me to tell you so.”
A devilish grin lit up his face. “I could show you horizontal moves–”
I groaned. “Don’t do that!”
His head tipped closer. “Do what?”
“Make bad jokes about dancing. You’re good at it. Own it.”
He wrapped an arm around me. “Oh, I own it all right. I’m just saying, you should see all of my moves, honey.”
My phone chimed. I grinned, but Brock kissed the corner of my grin. “You’re not saved by the bell, Cecilia. My guess, it’s your girl or girls. Text them back. You’re goin’ home with me. Nothin’ to worry about. My brother’s the DJ tonight, so if they don’t hear from you in the morning, they can send the search party to him and club management first thing.”
A laugh barked from my throat. “I am not going home with–”
He kissed me again, and it was worse than I realized. The kiss on the dance floor was such that in no way did I think it could be topped, but this one beat it. Worse yet, there was a hint to his kiss that I knew not only he could do better, but we could do better. And if our kisses could get better, what did that say for the main event? His lips disengaged before I could think about that any further.
With glittering eyes, he asked, “Is there really any reason for you not to see where this can go? I don’t have to be your bad habit, but I want you to be mine. Period.”
I didn’t even have to mull it over: it was time for me to develop a new habit. If I was lucky, it would stick. “Let’s go. I’ll text my roommate from your car.”
Flirting at Every Possible Moment
Once my feet hit the floorboard, Brock closed the passenger door to his Civic. Me being stone cold sober, and having a few moments away from him and his body heat, my anxiety had time to rear up, along with second thoughts. I should have been texting my roommates like I said I would, but I was too busy thinking I should have declined his tempting offer.
The driver-side door closed, and I knew it was too late. In no time, he was merging the vehicle onto I-4.
Crap. How far were two great kisses going to get me? No doubt he would throw me out the moment he knew about me.
A recent session with Dr. Scibearis came to mind. I had to stop assuming the worst before it even happened. I sighed as I reminded myself my past was past. No changing it. I was alive. I had to thank the Lord everyday I was healthy physically, at least. Mentally was up for debate and probably always would be. What good was my life if I wasn’t going to live it?
“You sure are quiet, babe,” Brock said.
My mind raced, and I forced out a feeble, “Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry. Just hope you haven’t changed your mind or something.”
Yes! This was my chance.
He kept speaking. “Though, I’d put effort into reminding you of the dance floor if you had.”
Dr Scibearis was wrong. I knew it then, and I damn sure knew it now. She said I could do a random hook-up. She claimed I just needed to find the right man, forget about my sketchy and scary past. Unless things became serious, a one-night-stand didn’t need to know I had been a prostitute.
I couldn’t do this. Something was going on between Brock and I. We had just met officially, but my every instinct told me he was looking for something serious. I was serious all right, seriously wrong for him.
His warm hand gently squeezed my thigh. “Talk to me, gorgeous,” he demanded, his voice husky.
This could be a make-or-break-it moment. “Listen, Brock, I’m not your typical chick at the club.”
He turned his face to me briefly, his grin was downright devilish. “Know that, baby.”
While he looked back to the road, I turned to the window and muttered, “God.”
His hand squeezed my thigh, harder this time. “What, baby?”
My head swiveled to him. “I’m trying to be serious here, and you’re flirting at every possible moment.”
He shrugged a shoulder. “Guilty as charged. But you want to be serious, have at it. I’m all ears.”
Here went nothing.
“I’m twenty-seven, well, soon to be twenty-eight,” I started.
He interrupted me by chuckling. “Not what I was expecting, but good to know. I turn thirty in a couple months, for what it’s worth.”
Arrgh!! What was I going to do with this guy?
My frustration went by the wayside as I realized his birthday was probably close to mine. I wanted to tell him the truth, but something held me back. It was like a mental roadblock prevented my brain from sending the right orders to my mouth.
“I’m wrong for you, Brock,” I forced out.
He looked at me as if I was crazy, and he did it for so long I worried about him not looking at the road.
“And please don’t cause an accident on I-4, that shit is annoying as hell but I’d be especially ticked off to know I caused one just from talking.”
“Wow,” he muttered, looking back to the interstate.
“Wow, what?” I asked.
“You’re serious about that shit?” he asked, guiding the car off I-4 and onto Colonial Drive.
Looking to his profile, I noticed his expression was neutral. Deceptively neutral. “Well, yeah,” I said in a small voice, and continued, “It’s true. I understand if you want to take me back to the—”
“Honey, you didn’t scare me off when you told me you have a drug counselor. I don’t know why you think you’re so wrong for me, but I was serious earlier. We hit it off on the dance floor, and you can’t tell me you’ve had a better kiss than the two we’ve shared.”
“Well, that’s beside the point. It doesn’t make me the right woman for you. At all.”
“Bullshit. First time I laid eyes on you, I felt a pull, and not just in my dick, either.”
I gave him a sideways glance. “Stop it.”
He glanced at me and arched his brow. “No. The second time, you pulled your cat-and-mouse shit, and tonight’s the third time. So, hell if I’m gonna let you get away now.”
“This is the sixth time, just so you know.”
“Sorry, babe, but it’s the third time I’ve been on the floor… wait. Were you there on ladies’ night the last three weeks?”
He did a slow nod. “I worked those nights. Surprised I didn’t see you, but GILT is always packed.”
“What are you talking about? The DJ wasn’t named Sully any of the other times we’ve been at GILT. I would remember that because it’s the name of a Disney character.”
He grinned. “Yeah, I don’t go by Sully in the booth, babe. I DJ as Van. Gabe’s DJ name is G-Rock. He tried to get me to go with B-Rock, but that shit’s not right.”
“How come? I think that would be a great DJ name.”
“Yeah, but B-Rock is way too close to my actual name. Take out the damn hyphen and you got my name.”
“Mmm,” I said, looking out the window.
Brock grabbed my hand, and I turned to him. “You’re wrong, Cecilia. You’re not wrong for me. My guess is you’re just right.”
I shook my head, trying to yank back my hand, but Brock held firm. “No, really, we should probably go back to the—”
“The moment I saw you in that slip of a dress you’re wearing, I was half-hard.” He moved my hand to his groin, and I fought a bad feeling of déjà vu, because I was accustomed to this type of experience with a man in a vehicle. “Kissed you twice, and I’ve been dealing with this in my pants ever since. So, you are not the wrong woman for me. Not at all.”
I pulled my hand back. “Just to let you know, that is not what I expected.”
His eyes cut to me and if I wasn’t mistaken, his lips tipped up. “Think it’s safe to say, nothing about you and me is what’s expected.”
I swung my gaze to him and his head swiveled to me briefly. “You aren’t scaring me off, Cecilia. But you said you have a drug counselor. Does that have something to do with this crazy idea you have?”
He stopped the vehicle for a red light. I looked out the window, but his fingers at my chin pulled my gaze back to his.
“Not exactly. I shouldn’t have said counselor. That’s a habit from months of rehab. She’s really a therapist. Our focus is on keeping me clean, and sadly, I can’t say I’ve been sober around a man who’s interested in me in years.”
He dropped his hand to mine and gave it a squeeze. “All right. We’ll talk more when we get to my place. It isn’t too far from here. Three more traffic lights and we’ll be there.”
I stared hard at his profile. “Did you hear what I had to say?”
He nodded to the windshield and said, “Yeah. And we’ll talk at my place, honey.”
As he parked his car, I looked at the apartment buildings. It was a seriously swank complex.
I glanced at him. “For some reason, I thought you were a college student. You work full-time or something?”
He put the car in park, draped an arm behind my seat and leaned toward me. “Finishing my last semester of classes now, babe. My brother and I are roommates. Money’s tight, but livin’ here is well worth it.”
My brows rose in agreement because I figured living here would be the shit. The sound of his door opening pulled me from that thought.
“Let’s get upstairs, honey. I got some questions for you, but I don’t want to ask them in a cramped Civic.”
My body went taut, and he saw it. He wrapped a gentle hand around my neck. “It’s all fine, Cecilia. Relax.”
“Yeah, easy for you to say,” I muttered.
His hand squeezed my neck. “It’s easy because that’s what it is, easy questions, just not meant for a car. Let’s go, honey.”
Walking inside his apartment, I found I was right. His place was seriously swank. The kitchen was right off the entryway, and the gleaming gold, platinum, and bronze backsplash could not be missed. Paired with the stainless steel appliances, I knew it would make my sister and mother weak in the knees. I wasn’t a kitchen savant like they were, but even I felt a tingle in my knees from this bright and modern kitchen as I placed my purse on the breakfast bar.
Brock’s arm wrapped around my waist, guiding me into the open-plan living room. He lowered himself onto a chocolate-brown leather sofa, but did it with his legs spread wide, settling me between his legs so I was reclining against his chest.
“How long you been off the drugs?” He launched right in.
Brock either felt my body tighten or sensed my shifting mood, because his arm wrapped firm around me and he used his other hand to move my hair to one side so he could kiss my neck.
I wanted to fight it, but couldn’t. He was good and my body relaxed with his kisses. “Little over nine months.”
I felt Brock nodding against my shoulder. “How long you been out of rehab?”
My body sagged with my sigh. “Two months.”
That question could be construed another way, and I turned my head a bit toward him. “Clean as in drugs, or clean as in dis—”
“As in every way you can be clean, Cecilia,” he clarified.
My chest expanded with my deep breath. “Yeah. I’m clean every way I can be. Rehab don’t play around with their testing, Brock.”
His arms settled lower on my abdomen. “I bet they don’t, honey.”
Something told me I had passed an unknown test with Brock at this juncture and that made me happy, but I still thought I should go home.
“So, that’s out of the way, would you like me to get an Uber?”
Brock’s tense body and the irritated attitude he projected into the room communicated his reaction. Either one was bad, but both together was downright oppressive. He shifted quickly, and I found myself with my back to the sofa and Brock’s beautiful face in mine.
“No. I don’t want you to fuckin’ get an Uber, Cecilia. Wanna get some tunes goin’, both of us undressed, and determine whether our dance floor activities translate to even better fuckin’ bedroom activities.”
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