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Authors: Missy Jane

Too Hard to Break

Too Hard to Break

Missy
Jane

 

Blush sensuality level: This is a sensual romance (may
have explicit love scenes, but not erotic in frequency or type).

 

Book three in the Love Beyond Barriers series.

 

A few months ago, I finally moved on with my life and got
away from my abusive ex-boyfriend. That should be a good thing, right? But now
I’m living with Hunky Hank, my ex’s former friend turned my Knight in Shining
Armor. He’s great at everything and treats me like a queen. Unfortunately, that
makes me feel needy when I’m trying to be more independent. When I
need
to be more independent. So when I started getting vibes of another woman, I
knew it was time to move out and move on. So much easier said than done. It’s
hard to leave behind the most perfect guy I’ve ever known. The only one who
sees me not as a shattered image, but as someone too hard to break.

 

A
Blush®
contemporary romance
from Ellora’s Cave

 

Too Hard to Break

Missy Jane

Dedication

 

This book is dedicated to my wonderful and loving husband.

 

Chapter One

 

What’s worse than a rainy Monday morning? The rainy Monday
morning when the electricity got knocked out by a surprise storm and the alarm
clock was still flashing twelve when I finally woke up. My pulse hit double
time as I rolled off the bed and hit the floor with an inelegant, “Ow, fuck!”
before using the bed to drag myself to my feet. Now, I’m not one to throw curse
words around willy-nilly. I actually try to be a lady as much as possible.
Unfortunately, after the floor flattened my nose, the bedframe took off the tip
of one toenail and a clap of thunder shot through the house like a shotgun,
scaring the piss outta me… I couldn’t help but scream.

“Motherfucker!”

My bedroom door banged open, scaring me all over again until
I got a look at what the cat had dragged in. Standing in the doorway, looking
as if he hadn’t slept a wink in the past five months, stood my roommate Hank.
His black boxer briefs stretched enticingly across his muscular thighs and the
suspicious bugle in between. I took a second to admire the sight before looking
up at his face.

“What? What the fuck, Elle? You scared the shit out of me
with all the noise.”

I rolled my eyes to hide my embarrassment and prayed I
wasn’t blushing.

“I don’t know how you heard me over the storm. Any idea what
time it is?”

He ran a hand through his shaggy dark hair and shook his
head before turning to leave the room. I barely suppressed the urge to whistle.
Damn, the man had a fine ass.

Much as I wanted to call him back in, I was grateful he left
as quickly as he did. The storm-darkened sky held back the sun’s rays. A good
thing since I had fallen asleep in a ratty old t-shirt and my one pair of
granny panties. Damn laundry day. I was still walking the fine line between
flirting and holding Hank at bay. After five months I’d expected him to get
sick of me and show me the door, but his mama had raised him to be a true
Southern gentleman. He knew I had nowhere to go that wouldn’t be pure hell.

I sighed and brushed away thoughts of my homeless, worthless
state to find my cell phone. It had fallen under the bed, sliding across the
hardwood floor to the center of no-man’s land. I cursed and reached across the
dust-bunny expanse to get it back. A deep groan behind me had me jerking
upright, hitting my head on the edge of the bedframe as I sat up.

“Ouch! Shit!”

“Damn, baby, are you okay?”

My eyes were tightly shut as I held my head in both hands
and fought the urge to cry. Life was so unfair. Hank had gotten a full view of
my granny-panty-clad ass. Shoot me now.

“Let me see, Elle. How bad is it?”

He pried my hands down and gently probed the sore spot on
the top of my head. I flinched and cursed again.

“Well, it’s not bleeding at least, but you’re gonna bruise,”
he said.

“Great.”

“Sorry about that, baby. I didn’t mean to startle you. What
were you doing anyway?”

He pulled me up with him as he stood, our bodies inches
apart. He’d donned a pair of well-worn jeans but no shirt. I was momentarily
distracted by the expanse of muscular chest at eye level.

“Huh?”

He chuckled and tipped my chin up with a finger so I would
look him in the eye. I sighed as his hazel eyes darkened the slightest bit and
he ran his finger along my jaw.

“I asked what you were doing on the floor. Not that I minded
the view.”

I lightly slapped him on the chest, barely reining in the
desire to keep rubbing my hand over the spot.

“I was trying to reach my cell phone so I could check the
time.”

“Ah. It’s just after eight. What time are you supposed to go
in today?”

Another clap of thunder made me jump and he wrapped one
strong arm around my waist. I had to catch my breath to answer but didn’t think
the storm was to blame.

“Uh…ten? Yeah, ten. I work mid-shift today.”

“Oh yeah? And what would you like for dinner tonight?”

I sighed and melted farther into his embrace. He was so damn
good to me. Why couldn’t I give in to what we both wanted?

“You know I’ll be happy with anything you make, Hank. You’re
the best cook I’ve ever known.”

He grinned and placed a soft kiss on my forehead before
slowly moving his lips down the bridge of my nose. He stopped with his mouth
hovering enticingly over mine.

“All right. Why don’t you get dressed and I’ll make
breakfast,” he whispered against my lips.

I shivered and the movement pushed me forward just enough
for our lips to meet. I moaned as he deepened the kiss. One strong hand held
the back of my neck while the other palmed one ass cheek. He squeezed it and
pulled me tight to his hard body so I could feel every ridge and bulge. The
denim didn’t hide his erection.

“Damn, Elle, you feel so good.”

“Mmhmm…”

I rubbed against him like a cat in heat. Despite my
reservations I couldn’t hold back when he held me against him. He kissed me
again, licking the seam of my lips until I let him in. I held on to his broad
shoulders to anchor myself and was already anticipating getting naked when
another loud clap of thunder shot through the room.

A small scream escaped as I jumped against him and accidentally
bit his tongue.

“Ow, shit!”

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry.”

He chuckled as I cradled his face in my palms. “Open your
mouth. Are you bleeding?”

“Nah. I’m fine, baby.”

He was fine but I wasn’t. The moment was gone and the
morning was passing quickly.

“Guess I should get ready,” I said with a sigh.

He released me slowly and nodded. “Yeah, okay. I’ll go start
breakfast.”

He left without another word.

I rubbed my eyes and tried to get a grip. Here I was almost
twenty-five years old, living with the hottest guy I’d ever known, and so damn
confused about everything in my life I barely knew which way was up. Just six
months ago I’d had an apartment, a family and a steady boyfriend I had wanted
to plan the rest of my life around. All that had changed in one evening of
clarity when he’d left me bloodied and bruised. I would never be a victim
again.

Shaking away those thoughts, I once again dropped to the
floor and fished my phone out from beneath the bed. It showed fifteen minutes
past the hour but I still had plenty of time.

“Amazing,” I mumbled.

Twenty minutes later I was freshly showered and walking down
the hallway to Hank’s living room. His beautiful house was one story and held
five bedrooms. I currently lived in the largest guest room, debating weekly on
whether I wanted to move into the master with him. He never pushed, never tried
for more than I offered. The man was too damn good to be true and I was just
waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“Hey, beautiful, you want scrambled or over-easy eggs?”

I couldn’t help but smile. He asked me the same question
every morning when I walked into the kitchen.

“Hmm, well I do like both…”

He grinned and raised one thick, dark eyebrow in question. I
gave the same answer I did every morning.

“But today I’m feeling scrambled.”

He chuckled and saluted with his spatula. “Scrambled it is.
Coffee’s ready.”

I smiled and busied myself getting our coffee as he finished
the eggs and ham he had cooking.

“So, when will Megan be back in town?” he asked.

I poured creamer into our mugs and grabbed the sugar as I
thought it over. My best friend Megan was on a trip with her fiancé, Sean.
Until she got back I was covering part of her shift at the gym where we both
worked.

“She should be back this afternoon. I asked for tomorrow off
since she’ll be back to work by then.”

“Oh? Got plans?”

I stirred our coffee slowly, making as much noise as
possible in the hopes of putting him off a bit. He didn’t ask again but I knew
he wouldn’t let it drop. I took our coffee to the kitchen island where we
always ate breakfast and hopped onto a stool. He remained silent, glancing at
me over his shoulder a couple of times while I tasted my coffee.

“Elle?”

“Umm, well I’m supposed to meet my sister for lunch.”

He dropped the spatula and cursed. I sighed and rubbed both hands
down my face. There were very few things Hank and I disagreed on. My family was
number one on the list.

“Elle—”

“Look, I know what you’re going to say and you’re right. But
she’s my sister. She called me a couple of days ago and asked to meet. What was
I supposed to say?”

“No? Actually, ‘hell no you backstabbing bitch’ might have
been better.”

“Hank—”

“Elle, you know I would do anything for you but agreeing on
this is just one thing I can’t do.”

I sighed and took a sip of coffee as he grabbed another utensil
to dish our food onto plates. We remained silent as he set the plates down and
sat beside me. He held my fork out but when I tried to take it he held on until
I met his gaze.

“You know how I feel about you, Elle. I’ll never condone
anyone hurting you in any way, especially your kin who should care about you as
much as I do.”

I swallowed down the sting of tears and nodded slowly until
he released my fork. He huffed out a breath and turned to his food but all I
could do was watch him. Hank was everything I had ever wanted in a man and he
had been offering me the world for months. I was just too chickenshit to take
it.

Nothing else was said as we ate breakfast. My appetite had
completely disappeared but I knew he would be upset if I didn’t eat, so I did a
good job of clearing my plate. He took our dishes to the sink without a word
and I considered slinking off in silence. But as I watched his muscular back
move with ease around his kitchen, I knew he deserved better. Hank had picked
me up when I was at my lowest point and given me a place to live, a shoulder to
cry on, and more encouraging words than I probably deserved. He had protected
me from my ex-boyfriend Declan and welcomed my best friend Megan into his home
on numerous occasions. He had been patient and caring. He hadn’t said he loved
me but the look in his eyes was something I’d never experienced before…and it
scared the hell out of me.

“Hank?”

I watched his shoulders lift and drop as he took a deep
breath. Then he turned to face me, crossing his arms over his chest as he
leaned against the sink.

“Yeah, baby?”

That endearment never failed to tighten my throat. Declan
had never called me baby and Hank’s voice always sounded different when he said
it.

“I…I’m sorry. I know how you feel about my family and I know
you’re definitely justified in those feelings.”

He sighed and left the sink to walk toward me.

“And I know they’re your family and I don’t want you to feel
like I’m making you choose.”

I swallowed and looked away. I did feel as if I had to choose.
Every time I spoke to my sister or mother on the phone felt like a betrayal to
Hank.

“I know,” I said quietly.

He reached me and placed his hands on my shoulders, gently
pulling me from the stool until I leaned into his embrace. I loved being held
by him. Whenever I was in his arms I knew all of his attention was fully on me
alone. Declan had never made me feel like that. He would wrap one arm around my
shoulder and consider it a huge sign of affection.

“Baby, I’m the one who should be apologizing. I hate to see
you hurt and every time you come home from seeing them or hang up the phone, I
can see it in your face. All your mom and sister ever do is hurt you.”

I couldn’t argue against him when he was completely right.
So the question was, why in the hell did I allow my only family to hurt me all
the time?

“Maybe I should call and cancel lunch.”

The surprise on his face only made me feel worse.

“Do you know why she wanted to meet? Was it to talk about
something specific?”

I didn’t know but had my suspicions. Unfortunately I
couldn’t keep that knowledge off my face. Expert bluffer I am not.

“Well, um…”

He frowned. “Declan.”

“I don’t know for sure.” He released me and I missed him
immediately. “Hank.”

“You don’t know but you suspect, and you were going to meet
her anyway.”

“Please don’t say it like that. You know I don’t want
anything to do with him anymore.”

His frown remained but he didn’t move away when I closed the
distance between us. I placed my palms against the warm flesh of his chest and
swallowed down my fears. He covered my hands with his and looked into my eyes.

“You have no reason to meet with your sister if she’s only
going to talk about Declan.”

I nodded my immediate agreement. “I know. You’re right.”

He raised his brows in surprise but didn’t look convinced.
“So you’re going to cancel lunch?”

“Yes.”

“Really? And when she gets mad and starts yelling?”

He knew I always caved when my older sister started yelling
at me. She could reduce me to a scared five-year-old in two sentences flat.

“I’ll just hang up. You’re right, Hank. I’ve let her and mom
bully me for too long already. It’s time to let them know I‘m an adult capable
of making my own decisions.”

His frown finally melted into a genuine smile that curled my
toes. I loved his smile.

“That’s right, baby. You are and I’ll always be here to help
you in any way I can.”

I smiled back and felt better about what I feared would be a
crappy day.

“Do you know how much I appreciate that?” I asked. I slipped
my hands up to curve around his neck. “I’ve never had anyone in my life like
you. You almost make me feel guilty.”

His smile disappeared. “No, don’t. I help you because I care
about you and I want to. It makes me feel good to know I’m making your life
easier. Don’t feel bad about that.”

His low tone sent a chill done my spine. The look in his
eyes was a prelude to the serious business he kept trying to initiate, but I
kept backing away. What if I didn’t this time? What if I let him kiss me? I
held my breath and waited for his head to lower, anticipating the soft touch of
his full lips. Then his damn phone rang.

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