by Alana Albertson Publication Date: June 14, 2016 Genres: New Adult, Contemporary Romance, Military Romance
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Love doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be true.
Isabella—Grady Williams is a national treasure, the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient, America’s scarred superhero. With tattooed arms sculpted from carrying M-16s, this bad boy has girls begging from sea to shining sea to get a piece of his action. When my father squanders away my college fund, I make a deal with this dirty-talking Devil Dog—I will pretend to be Grady’s girlfriend for the Marine Corps Ball, and my dad will write Grady’s war memoir. Grady is fearless. Hell, this badass jumped on a grenade to save his fellow Marines! As much as I crave him, I refuse to allow myself to become addicted to a dangerous man who will detonate my heart. Grady—Isabella Cuesta is an angel who can see beyond my mangled skin, a pawn used to repay her father’s debt, a woman who makes me feel like a man instead of a monster. But I no longer believe in fairy tales. She’s mine until our contract ends. I’ll take her hard and rough, listen to all her hopes and fears, lay down my life to protect her. This beauty will never let herself love a dangerous man like me—a man who has killed, a man who runs towards gunfire, a man who never backs down from a fight. But without her love, I’m not a man—I’ll remain forever a beast.
BEAST MUSIC PLAYLIST
Grenade by Bruno Mars
One by Metallica
I'm Not Giving You Up by Gloria Estefan
Tale as old as Time - by Beauty & the Beast Soundtrack
If You're Reading This by Tim McGraw
One Hell of an Amen by Brantley Gilbert
After dinner, Grady relaxed in his chair, drinking his beer, his eyes steady on me. “The enchiladas were great. I didn’t expect you to be such a good cook.”
“Thanks. My mom used to make them for us. They were my dad’s favorite.” It was one of the last things she had done before she died—taught me all her family recipes. I remembered being so happy bonding with her, never anticipating that she had already made the decision to leave us.
He stood up, told me to wait for a second, and went upstairs. He emerged from his room a few minutes later clutching a shoebox. “I bought you something.”
My heart leapt the second I saw telltale suede sole.
“Yup. I remember watching you dance on the show when I was in the hospital. You were really good.” His lips widened, and half of his face seemed to smile.
“It was years ago. I’m sure I’ve forgotten how to dance.” But I quickly realized that was a lie. I remembered everything. Every arch of my foot, every beat of the rhythm, every sway of my back.
“The lady at the store told me these were the best. I looked at your shoes to get the right size.”
I wanted to kiss him. I hadn’t had new dance heels in years, and my old ones had been danced in until their soles were so barren that I would stub my toes on the floor. Even though I’d had money when I was on the show, those shoes were my lucky shoes. My mom had given them to me. “You shouldn’t have. I really don’t need them. I don’t even dance anymore. That was really sweet of you, but I can’t accept them.”
He walked over to me and knelt at my feet. His hand reached around my calf, and he took off my flip-flops and rubbed my toes.
I held back a moan. The touch of his hand on my feet made my flesh tingle. The second I slipped my arched foot into the three-and-a-half-inch Latin suede dance shoes, my heart sang, my body yearning to return to the floor.
“Thank you. I love them.” We stood up and I wrapped my arms around his neck. His strong arms encircled my waist, and for a moment, I thought he would kiss me. But he released me instead.
Grady went to the formal dining room, and started pushing the table and chairs to the walls.
“Wh-what are you doing?”
He didn’t answer.
My mind was still trying to process that this gruff man, the one who barely wanted to talk to me a few days ago, was the same one who would buy me such a thoughtful gift. I was so overwhelmed that it took me a few minutes to realize what he was doing.
He was making me a ballroom.
“Let me see you dance.”
“I—I don’t have any music.”
“Name a song.”
I contemplating picking a cool song to impress him but just decided to go with a classic rumba. “‘I’m Not Giving You Up’ by Gloria Estefan.”
He fiddled on his phone and then plugged it into a speaker.
Grady placed a lone chair in the corner of the room. “Dance for me.”
Once the first note of the haunting rumba played, I knew I was back like I’d never skipped a day. That was the universal truth for dancers. No matter what the reason was you quit, no matter how many times you swore you would never return, one step onto that dance floor and your soul became whole again.
My body remembered every rhythmic rumba beat, my toes recalled every jive flick, and my arms reminisced every time I placed them in a paso doble battle pose. My gut wrenched—I’d had no clue how much I’d missed this part of my life.
But my reclaimed joy terrified me. One tap of my toes on the sprung hardwood floor, and I wanted to lose myself in the music.
My toes traced the floor during the rumba walks, my core settled into the beat. I danced as much for Grady as I did for myself.
Grady focused on me, his gaze steady, never looking away. Over the years I’d danced for so many people, in many shows and competitions, but I never had danced solely for the eyes of another man. I danced toward him, shimmied my hips near his face, teasing him gently. I wasn’t a stripper, this wasn’t a lap dance, but the energy between us was passionate. I yearned for him to stand up, take me on the floor, expose his secrets to me.
I turned away from him, but his strong arms pulled me back. He pushed me onto his lap, grinding me down on his hard cock. His hand pulled my hair, pressing me into his lips. I kissed him back, high off the urgency, his beard tickling my skin. His lips were powerful yet soft, just like him. All my misgivings about getting close to him were fading, as I was melting into him. Our kiss was equal parts illicit and comforting. But the intensity of my emotions spooked me—I pushed him off of me, tears welling in my eyes.
As the song ended, emptiness filled me. My body chilled, one taste of my obsession with the beat, and I’d be drowning in a sea of rhinestones before I could help myself. Like an addict in recovery, I feared I’d be unable to quit after one dance.
And I knew I’d be unable to quit Grady after our time together was over.