Authors: Ashlynn Pearce
Jake Korte is emotionally broken. Angry. Hurt. Worthless. Fearing that he will become the abuser his father was, the last thing he needs is a woman in his life. He feels like a virtual time bomb just waiting for the internal explosion. So when tiny Rebecca Saylor “chats” her way into his life and then crawls under his skin, panic descends. He can’t seem to stay away, but is terrified to be with her.
After surviving an abusive marriage, Becca isn’t looking for love, only safety. But through her research for her column “Chat Addiction”, she meets Jake, who is anything but safe. He’s the one man who can make her feel alive again. But can she overcome her own fears to claw her way into the heart of a man so fractured?
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Rough Edges Copyright © 2010 Ashlynn Pearce
Edited by Grace Bradley
Cover art by Syneca
Electronic book publication April 2010
The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of Ellora’s Cave Publishing.
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/). Please purchase only authorized electronic or print editions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted material. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
My hero. My best friend. I love you.
Thanks for giving me my first romance novel. You’re an inspiration.
To Golla, Annie, Dee, Linda and all my RWI sisters—
Without all your support and encouragement, I wouldn’t have made it this far. You all rock!
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Budweiser: Anheuser-Busch, Inc.
Buick: General Motors Corporation
Ford: Ford Motor Company
Google: Google, Inc.
Hayabusa: Suzuki Motor Corporation
Hilton: Hilton Hospitality, Inc.
Jack Daniel’s: Jack Daniel’s Properties, Inc.
Jeep: DaimlerChrysler Corporation
Marriott: Marriott International, Inc.
NASCAR: National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc.
: Richmond Newspapers, Inc.
Victoria’s Secret: Victoria’s Secret Stores Brand Management, Inc.
XBOX: Microsoft Corporation
Ziploc: S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.
Rebecca Saylor’s hands were shaking as she sat down at her computer. She put her elbows on the desk and dropped her head into her hands. Tears clogged her throat and fell from her eyes. Shoving at her hair, she winced when she accidently brushed her cheek. She hadn’t looked in the mirror yet but she knew there had to be a very large bruise on her face. It matched the bruises that marred both arms, she was sure. She picked up her drink, mostly whiskey, and took a sip. She needed the burn. Anything to steady her nerves.
She glanced around her apartment. The place was a disaster. A chair was turned over, along with her coffee table. Pictures lay in broken glass on the floor and she shuddered as she glanced at the couch. The only thing that had saved her from her ex-husband, Nick, had been a decorative marble ball that had been sitting on the end table.
Ironic that it was something he had bought, and something she thought totally worthless. Right now the man was at the hospital with the police. She didn’t know how he fared but, frankly, she didn’t give a damn.
She took a large swallow of her drink and closed her eyes, forcing herself to calm.
But it wasn’t working. After talking to the cops, the only thing she wanted to do was come home and talk to Jake. She pushed a small button and stared at her computer screen as it booted up.
This is crazy
All she wanted was Jake…a man she only knew online.
A man who was supposed to be a job assignment.
A man who, for all intents and purposes, was a figment of her imagination. She took a deep breath and typed into her IM.
Becca: Jake, are you there?
After several minutes with no answer, she was almost hysterical. She swallowed her tears and tried to calm herself. She glanced at the time—1:42 a.m., meaning it was 12:42 a.m. where he was. Being a weeknight, she didn’t usually talk to him this late. But he had told her he didn’t sleep much, so she prayed he was still on. She suppressed a nervous laugh at how stupid it was to want a “virtual” man, instead of a real one.
Relief flooded her and she took another long swallow of her whiskey.
Jake: I didn’t expect you to be on this late.
Becca: Yeah. I’m not usually.
She didn’t know what to say now that she finally had him online. Tears kept streaming down her face as she attempted a long, slow, deep breath, but her hands just shook more. For some stupid reason she wanted his arms around her, but that was just—well…stupid. She had never even met him. She had only seen the picture he had sent her—but how could she be certain that was really him? For all she knew, he could be some crazy lunatic.
Oh, like Nick?
Jake: How are you? You seem quiet?
Becca: Yeah, sorry. Rough day.
Jake: You want to talk about it?
Becca: My ex showed up is all.
How lightly she said it. If he could actually see her, he would know what a liar she was.
Jake: Oh? And what did he want?
Oh, just to beat the crap out of me and rape me.
She choked on a whimper and buried her face in her hands. Sobbing quietly, she heard the dings of his IM’s but she didn’t look up at the screen. The horror of it crashed over her in waves and by the time she finally looked up there were several messages from him.
Jake: Becca? Are you there?
Jake: What did he want?
Jake: Come on, answer me. Are you okay?
Jake: What did HE DO?
She blinked as the screen blurred and came back into focus. In the last month, she had told him all about her ex. More than once Jake had gotten angry. It was amazing how much feeling you could gain from mere text. She had only told one of her friends 7
about Jake. And then she hadn’t gone into much detail. She wondered if it was because she was ashamed that she had become one of
. One of those people who lived for a text from a person they had never met. She had just started to type something when her PC dinged.
Jake: Becca, call me. 918-366-5924
She stopped in mid-type and stared. Should she?
She inhaled sharply at the given command. Emotions warred within her. She didn’t know whether to be pissed that he dared to order her around, or thankful that he was trying to take control of a situation. She grabbed her drink and downed the rest of it.
Becca: I don’t know if that’s a good idea.
Jake: I don’t care if it is or not. He hurt you didn’t he? Call me!
Fresh tears filled her eyes and she grabbed her phone. She was coherent enough to remember she had a blocked number, so if she never wanted to talk to him again, that would be her choice. What would it hurt? She dialed the number before she changed her mind.
A half ring later, it was picked up.
“Hi,” she said quietly.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
His voice was deep and smooth. Reminding her of the whiskey she just drank. “I think so.” But she could hear the quiver in her words.
“What did that bastard do? Did he hurt you?”
“He…” The words stuck in her throat, she didn’t want to say them.
“Did you call the police?”
“Yes. But he’s at the hospital.”
“Good. At least the police were there to beat the crap outta him.”
“They didn’t. I, um, hit him on the head with a marble ball.”
There was a pause and she swore she heard the smile in his voice even though he didn’t laugh. “Serves him right. Getting beat up by a girl.”
She smiled faintly. “I did, didn’t I?”
“Yeah. You did. Good girl.”
That’s when she realized she wasn’t shaking anymore and her tears had stopped.
She shoved her hair out of her face and walked to the couch, but stopped. No way could she sit there. So instead, she went to her bedroom and sat on the bed, curling her knees to her chest, phone stuck to her ear.
“I just wanted to talk to you.”
“I’m glad you did,” Jake replied. “How bad did he hurt you?”
“Um. Just a couple of bruises…but really I’m okay.”
The silence on the other end of the line made her nervous.
Finally, he said, “Do you want me to come there and take care of it? I promise he’ll never bother you again.”
She blinked. “You would do that?”
“Just say the word.”
His voice was even, but steel lined his words. He was deadly serious, she realized.
“But, Jake, you live in Tulsa—”
“Who cares? Don’t worry about it. You just tell me where you are and I’ll get there.”
She shook her head. No. As much as she didn’t mind the thought of someone kicking the shit out of Nick, she couldn’t ask Jake to do it. “No, no. It’s okay.” She picked nervously at the lint on her blanket. “I just. Oh, hell. I don’t know why I wanted to talk to you.”
There was a long pause before he spoke. “It doesn’t matter. I’m just glad you did.”
Her breath caught. His voice had dropped an octave and she licked her lips.
“Yeah, but it doesn’t make much sense.”
“Sure it does. You don’t really know me. All the normal walls you put up with a person-to-person friendship aren’t there online. I’m real, but yet, I’m not. I’m safe.”
She was amazed at his insight. Had been amazed several times by things he had said. But to hear his voice, so deep and sensual, actually say them…well that was different.
“But I’ve called you now. So you’re real,” Becca replied softly.
“Yeah. Ain’t that a bitch.”
She smiled, her mood lightening immediately. It was just like something he would say online. But hearing him say it was so much better than text. It made her wonder if he did look like the small picture he’d sent her. The voice belonged with the face pictured. Dark shaggy hair hung partially in front of his angular face. Full lips and dark brows completed the image. She couldn’t tell his eye color from the picture and there was no way to tell how tall he was because the shot was only shoulder up. The only reason she knew was because she had asked him. Six foot one and blue-green eyes. He had never asked for a picture of her and she thought that odd, because every man 9
online would IM her and ask age, sex, location, and then promptly ask for her picture.
But she had sent him a picture a couple of weeks ago, just because she wanted to.
“You can call me anytime,” he said.
“But what if you have one of your babes over?” Becca teased, feeling much better and relaxed. “Won’t they get jealous?”