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Hold Me Until Morning

The First Chapter

Chapter One - Cody

It was just before six when I took the left into my neighborhood. Rain was pouring down, a deluge from the sky. It was a summer storm that had built for the better part of the afternoon, the clouds gathering high and thick, before it’d finally unleashed its fury just as the sun had begun its descent toward the horizon.

I fucking loved storms.

Loved the energy.

Loved the blinding flash of lightning before the crack of thunder followed.

Loved the way the earth smelled afterward, like it was promising something brand new.

Though I personally preferred watching it with my boots kicked up on the railing of my porch while I tossed back a couple beers rather than to be standing in the middle of it.

So, I was grumbling out a disbelieving, “Shit,” when my headlights cut across the U-Haul that sat in the driveway of the house next to mine.

It was parked facing out, and it wouldn’t have caused such a stir except for the fact I caught sight of a woman running out of the house and down the sidewalk before she disappeared into the back of the U-Haul.

Racing through the driving rain with her head angled toward the ground like it offered her any hope of not getting drenched.

The place had been empty and posted for rent for the last month, and I’d heard it on good word from the neighborhood gossip that it’d been rented. Never once in the last week had Millie failed to come around to speculate about who might be moving in.

Poor old lady was always sure it was bound to be a serial killer.

It appeared I was about to find out, and not under the best of circumstances.

But hell, it seemed a prick move to pull into my garage and act like I hadn’t noticed someone was trying to move their shit in during a storm, which in my humble opinion was a bit on the reckless side.

Like it was offering proof, a flash of lightning streaked across the sky before a crack of thunder followed, and I was huffing again as I pulled into my garage, killed the engine, and climbed out.

I hesitated for only a second before I ducked out into the pelting rain.

A torrent pounding from above.

In an instant, my hair and tee were soaked, the pummeling only getting worse and spreading to my jeans as I jogged across the lawn that separated the two houses.

I rounded to the back of the U-Haul to the trailer and found the ramp was extended out and the rolling door was open. The minimal light that still remained cast a faint glow into the trailer.

Boxes were stacked on furniture, and the woman I’d seen come darting out had her back to me, frantically rifling through the boxes.

She wore shorts and a crop top as she bent over to hunt for whatever she was searching for. The action emphasized thick, lush thighs and the most delicious ass I’d ever seen.

My dick kicked, and my stomach gripped in a fit of lust.

Fuck me.

My new neighbor was perfection.

It was no secret that I loved women. Loved to touch and tease and fuck. But this smack of greed hit me like nothing I’d ever experienced.

I sucked the reaction down because I didn’t know a single thing about this woman.

Hell, she could be married for all I knew, and ogling someone else’s wife was not my thing. Though if the douche was sitting inside as she was out here in the rain? He and I were not going to be friends.

I hopped into the bed of the truck.

“Hey, there,” I called, though my voice was drowned by the rain battering against the metal roof.

Apparently, she wasn’t expecting any sort of neighborly welcome because a scream suddenly ripped out of her. The piercing sound ricocheted against the confined walls.

In the same second, she whirled around. Drenched locks of this dark, honey-kissed blonde hair whipped around her shoulders.

The box she’d just picked up toppled out of her hands and thudded to the floor right as these cute, dainty little fists came out in front of her like she was ready to throw down.

A vicious little thing who clearly was prepared to claw my eyes out.

I held back the chuckle that threatened. All I could think was she and Millie might be kindred spirits, only this woman had been sure she was moving in next to a serial killer.

I didn’t laugh, though. Not when I could feel it—actual fear rolling off her in waves.

I couldn’t make out her face in the shadows, but that didn’t hide the ferocity that lay beneath it, seeded deep in her bones.

I lifted my hands in surrender. “Whoa, sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you, darlin’.”

“What the hell is wrong with you? Sneaking up on me like that?” Her voice was low and throaty and skating over my skin.

At the sound of it, a strange sensation pulled at my stomach.

A clench of uncertainty.

A tug of familiarity.

One I couldn’t place, like some long-ago memory that scattered like debris.

My brow lifted in disbelief. “What the hell is wrong with me? I was actually popping by to ask you the same question, considering you’re out here trying to unload boxes in the middle of a lightning storm.”

I tried to keep it light, though there was a part of me that wanted to toss her over my shoulder and carry her to her door.

Being out here like this wasn’t safe.

And shit, I might not know her, but I needed her to be.


Exasperation huffed from her mouth. It drew my attention to the sound. In the wisping darkness, I could just make out the heart-shaped lips, so plump and full I thought they might permanently look like they were puckered for a kiss.

Which was the dumbest damned thought I’d ever had since I didn’t kiss. It was too fucking intimate.

And here I was the moron thinking I might make the exception for her.

I could physically feel the shock of irritation that rolled through her, her tone pitched in a challenge as her shoulders hiked up to her ears. “Did you come to my house to tell me when it’s prudent for me to unpack my things?”

She crossed her arms over her chest. She probably meant for it to be defiant. A barrier that told me to fuck off. Too bad the only thing it did was drop my gaze to the spot.

Good God, her tits were gorgeous, too.

A beat of that lust rebounded, and a smirk took to my face as my head angled to the side. “I just was thinking you might be able to find a better time, is all. You do seem…a little wet.”

Okay, so I still didn’t know a goddamn thing about her, but I couldn’t help but tease her a bit. Wondering if she’d bite since I was definitely salivating to get a taste.

One delicious hip cocked to the left, though I was getting the message it wasn’t to be coy.

Clearly, she wasn’t impressed by the insinuation.

I took a step forward into the severity that vibrated the trailer, toward this woman who quivered with a distrust so fierce that it stabbed me in the chest. What the hell could put a chip so big on someone’s shoulder?

“I’m Cody. Cody Cooper. I live next door. Looks to me like you could use a hand, and I’m here to be of service.”

I stretched my tatted arms out like an offering.

She stumbled a step farther back into the shadows.

“You don’t have the first clue what I need,” she sneered.


Not the usual reaction I got when I chatted up a chick.

She had a man, then. Yeah. That had to be it.

She turned away like she was completely disinterested, and she started digging through the boxes again. “You can go on back to your place. Like you said, it’s storming, and I’m sure a man like you has plenty of other things he’d rather be doing with his time.”

I was thinking something along the lines of pushing her up against the wall and getting to what was hidden under those short shorts seemed like a good place to start.

She’d likely cut off my dick and shove it down my throat if I even suggested it.

“Nah, I don’t have anything better to do. How about you let me give you a hand, instead?”

“I don’t need a hand,” she grumbled as she stacked three big boxes before she picked them up. She struggled to balance them, but the one on the top slipped.

Lunging forward, I caught it before it hit the ground.

I did my best to ignore the gravity rolling off her flesh, though I could feel it skating over mine when I stepped into her vicinity, the air feeling heavier than it should.

I forced the casual arch of my brow. “Looks to me like you do.”

I wrangled the rest of the boxes from her hold, taking two in one arm and the third in the other.

She gasped out a surprised sound. “Excuse me, what do you think you’re doing?”

I sent her a wide grin, the one I used that normally won me whatever favor I wanted. “I’m just doing what my momma taught me to do and helping out a neighbor.”

Turning on my heel, I ducked out of the trailer.

Rain pelted from above, the gusts of wind pushing it sideways, stinging my flesh as I hurried up the walkway toward the little house that was almost identical to mine except the floor plans were flopped.

Hers was painted white with blue trim, and there was a porch swing out front.

I could feel her right behind me, aghast, brimming with indignation.

“You can’t just come over here and put your nose in my business,” she spluttered.

I glanced back as she was trying to shove back the hair that was matted to her face. Her face that I caught the vaguest glimpse of.

Again, that familiarity speared me through the chest, though this time it didn’t feel so distant. It was right there. Waiting for me to catch onto it.

“I’m not pretending to know a thing about your business,” I tossed out.

I felt her come to a stop behind me, though her voice grew in strength. “I don’t need some muscled up cowboy coming around here thinking I’m weak.”

I faltered for the flash of a second before I continued on, my boots thudding on the wood as I took the three steps onto the covered porch. I stalked over to the door and dropped the boxes onto the mat.

She was still standing in the rain when I turned around, but it was me who was gasping when I fully was able to take her in.

The goddamn breath knocked from my lungs.

Because that was right when another strike of lightning lit the atmosphere, illuminating her face, and I was getting slammed by the intensity of these giant eyes.

The color of tumbled blue glass.

As distinct as the river that ran through the town.




Rimmed in these full, long lashes that only made them appear larger, so powerful they could look right through the middle of you to every secret you’d ever tried to keep.

These eyes? These eyes I knew.

Dumbstruck, I gaped.

“Hailey?” Her name tumbled out like a question. Because the last time I’d seen her she’d been little more than eighteen. Young and innocent and sweet.

And now…now she was…

Fuck me—she was stunning.

Her face this perfect heart, cheeks high and full, and her jaw tapered down to an almost sharp chin, though it was softened with a dimple that sat right in the middle.

Right then, her expression roiled in a crash of turbulence. Violent and chaotic where she stood beneath the power of the storm.



Though there was no missing the way she was shaking.

My chest tightened.

She let go of a patronizing laugh. “What, you recognized me now?”

My brow pinched at the dislike she was tossing at me. “It was dark and…it’s been a lot of years.”

“Yeah, it has.” The fire inside her blazed, the woman wearing it like a shield.

I knew exactly what it looked like to barely be holding the broken pieces together. What it looked like to be holding on so tightly because your world was unraveling.

Hers trembled all around her.

My stomach twisted in a way that it shouldn’t. A swell of protectiveness rose from out of nowhere.

It took all my strength to bat it back down into nonexistence because Hailey Wagner was the last person I could care about. The last person I could get close to.

Just standing here talking to her was likely hazardous.

I’d long ago accepted my philosophy on life.

I was happy to lend a hand when I could. Keep it polite. Mind my manners the way my mother had taught me, and my father had insisted.

But other than for my friends and my family? My mother and my two sisters? It ended at that.

I didn’t form bonds or attachments. Never got too close or too deep.

I fucked a lot and made sure to please, then I left it at that.

I couldn’t take the chance of someone relying on me. Couldn’t risk the choices I’d made in my life affecting someone else. Because I didn’t know when my luck was going to fail.

It looked like right then, with Hailey staring back at me, that luck might have run out.

The problem was? I saw it written all over her. She’d been. Time and again.


I should stay far the fuck away from her, but I couldn’t remain standing still. Couldn’t stop the slow approach of my feet as I crossed the porch and climbed down the steps.

I kept moving until I was a foot away from her.

A greedy bastard because I reached out and ran my thumb over that divot in her chin, hating that I was the reason it was trembling.

I got struck with it then. The scent of strawberries and cream so distinct that it hit me like a punch to the gut. Memories pummeled me like a landslide. That summer six years ago that had changed everything. I’d done my all to bury those memories, memories I’d do well to leave in the past.

Surprise dropped that pouty mouth open, and the air crackled around us. My voice came out hoarser than I’d intended it to. “From where I’m standing, Hailey? There isn’t a thing weak about you. Never has been, and I’m pretty sure there’s never going to be.”

Before I could contemplate what the hell I was feeling, I turned and jogged back to my house, leaving her standing in the rain.

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