Title: False Start
Series: Beautifully Brutal #1
Author: Casey Hagen
Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance
Release Date: February 16
I’m used to being an outsider, full of self-doubt, pain, and a longing to belong.
Until I found this family, my own band of derby sisters.
But when the most notorious coach in roller derby sets his sights on me, my life is thrust into chaos.
He’s a perceptive, cocky hard-ass, who’s made me his enemy, and his student.
Despite being my adversary, he’s the only man I can trust when faced with insurmountable odds, even if I hate every second he tries to bend me to his will.
Our proximity brings with it a forbidden attraction.
One that can destroy everything my team has built.
One that threatens to break me down, piece by piece
I won’t let Cain Bishop break me…at least not on the track.
But maybe…I’ll let him break my bed.
One night home and I’m obsessed with the track.
Maybe not the track itself, but her. The most compelling player I’ve ever seen.
The way she maneuvers through the pack, I can’t take my eyes off her.
She’s a fighter, battling head to head for everything she believes in.
When the odds turn against her, I’m the key to her salvation.
Getting too close could cost me everything.
But there’s no chance in hell I’ll stay away.
Not even when redemption is on the line.
Maisy Flynn is mine, even if neither one of us wants it.
Only…keeping her might mean she loses everything she holds dear.
After all I’ve done, the Devil himself would sooner see me burning on my knees at his feet than let me keep my prize.
I slammed down a stack of cash, snatched my jacket, and stomped out of Banked Track, leaving Mayhem on her hands and knees on the bar.
I figured I had about ten seconds tops before she scrambled off and chased me down.
Ten seconds to get to the parking lot, get in my truck, and get the fuck out of here.
And never come to town again.
My breath billowed before me, illuminated by the dull glow of streetlamps in the inky darkness of the frigid night. I pounded down the sidewalk, the image of her voracious eyes combing over Patti’s pictures playing through my head.
My amusement at her climbing clean up on the counter swept away by an avalanche of bitterness for what they asked of me even without saying the words.
The bitterness of what I couldn’t give them.
But damn, I wanted to.
I’d stay at the farm. I’d pay whoever I had to pay for grocery delivery. We’d survive, we could just call it quality time…so much quality, Lilith would be ready to murder me, but then my nephew would be born, Jordan would get home, and I’d be on my way out of town.
Six damn seconds.
I kept my pace as I whipped around, only to find her chasing me down in that sweater.
That. Fucking. Sweater.
My pulse pounded in my ears. My nostrils flared with the ragged breath I sucked into my lungs.
It didn’t even cover her shoulders and the temperature had mercilessly dropped into the low twenties the minute the sun disappeared over the horizon. By now, we’d plummeted to the teens.
I jabbed a finger in the direction of the bar. “Get your ass inside.”
She skidded to a stop, propped her hands on her hips, and arched an eyebrow. I knew that look. Every man on the planet knew that look and all the variations whether it be aimed with stunning precision at them from a girlfriend, a sister, a mother, or a grandmother. “Excuse me?”
“You don’t have a jacket,” I said, marching back to her, my hands curled into fists because fuck if I didn’t want to haul her ass off somewhere warm and private.
Only I couldn’t trust myself alone with her. Warm and private meant giving in and tearing off every last shred of clothing so I could fuck her until neither of us could stand.
Glowering down at her, I put every bit of anger and frustration into the force of my words, not caring if they hurt her, because they were the only way to save us from absolute disaster. “Get. Your. Ass. Inside.”
Better to hurt her now before the stakes got higher.
Before feelings got involved.
Look at me pretending like they hadn’t already.
We’d been nothing but feelings since our eyes met during her bout. We’d been adding good old-fashioned dry logs to that flame ever since, building the kind of heat that didn’t flash and die, but simmered, building a base of coals so damn hot it reached into the shadowed recesses of our lives.
“Not until you agree to help us.” Her chin wobbled as she shivered before me. She clamped down her teeth, but the telltale tremble of her teeth trying to chatter in the blistering cold was there.
“Goddammit.” I yanked my jacket off, wrapped it around her, and held it together so she couldn’t shrug it off. “I’ll walk you home. Which way?”
She tried to yank away from me. “I don’t need you to walk me home; I need you to train us on your track.”
I curled my fists tighter into the soft leather, shaking her with every bit of resentment coursing through me, making her rock on her heels before holding her steady. “No.”
“You damn well know why not.” I growled. There’s no way she didn’t know.
And the fact that she did made it damn near impossible to look her in the eye at times.
“You didn’t do it,” she said quietly. “What they say about you. You didn’t do it.”
The calm confidence of her words only fueled a dormant rage, now burgeoning inside me again since waking up the minute I rolled into Galloway Bay. I wouldn’t stand here while she looked at me with softness, caring, the hushed tone of her voice reverent, like I was some kind of hero.
Not when all I had was a legacy of mistakes that brought others pain.
I tugged her against me. “You don’t know a damn thing about what I did or didn’t do,” I said, seething with the fine edge of anguish cutting through me. “What I’ve cost the people I love.”
My gaze dropped to her full pink lips and I closed my eyes. Her mouth wasn’t mine to taste, should never be mine to taste, and if I took, it would only prove what a selfish bastard I really was. “You’d do good to trust your instincts about me, Mayhem.”
She turned her face up to mine. Unflinching, she stared me straight in the eye without so much as a blink. Full of stubbornness and ready for confrontation, she took me head-on. “The funny thing is, I do,” she said with quiet finality.
Her eyes dropped to my mouth and I fought the urge to waver. I hung my head and turned away from her, away from temptation.
How many more times would I scour my soul and find scraps of shredded honor before I ran out completely?
“You didn’t do it. I don’t know why you don’t shout it from the damn rooftops. I don’t know why you didn’t defend yourself, maybe it’s time to—”
I pierced her with a scowl. “Leave it alone,” I bit out the words in harsh warning. Fury pounded in time with the ripple of my beating heart.
False Start features cross over characters from April Canavan’s Balls to the Wall, also releasing today!
Releasing March 30
Casey Hagen pens her snarky, passionate stories from the salty air of Kennebunk, Maine. She’s a born and raised Vermont native, a New England girl to the core, with Ben & Jerry’s in her heart and real Vermont maple syrup pumping through her veins.
She’s the proud mother of three girls and a new, first-time grandma with an insatiable addiction to Fall Out Boy, and a new, rather concerning obsession with tattoos and piercings. Can you say “cool grandma?”
The inked and pierced grandma spends her time tucked away in her office, coated in cat hair, alternating between tearing her hair out trying to find the perfect words and being one step ahead of her three scheming fur babies she is positive are plotting her demise with every swirl around her ankles at the top of her office stairs.
She loves writing stories about real people, with complicated histories, relatable everyday problems, and giving them the hard-won happily-ever-afters they deserve.
And she thanks every last one of you who picks up one of her stories.
Casey is done talking about herself in the third person.
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