Take the Fall (Take the Fall #1)
by Marquita Valentine
Fans of Abbi Glines and Katy Evans will adore Take the Fall, the first spinoff novel from Marquita Valentine’s New York Times bestselling Boys of the South series. In this emotional new romance, passions run hot as a rugged, brooding Marine rekindles an old flame.
As a teenager, Seth O’Connor went to jail for a crime he had nothing to do with. He took the fall to protect the girl he loved, but the cruel realities of prison hardened him. After doing his time, Seth shuts her out and enlists in the Marines—until his grandmother’s funeral forces him to come home and face Rowan Simmons once again. The woman she’s become puts all his high-school memories to shame, and Seth wants her more than ever. Can he be honest about why he denied her for so long?
After Seth pushed her away, Rowan swore that no man would ever hurt her again. But the boy who broke her heart has become a sexy Marine, capable of fulfilling her every desire—and now that he’s back in town, old feelings are simmering to a boil. Rowan wants to stay strong, even as her body surrenders to his expert touch. She only hopes that by taking him back, she can finally help heal the wounds that drove them apart.
“You want me to drive?” I ask, trying to keep the excitement out of my voice. I don’t want to look like a complete tool in front of my girl’s older brother, but the last word cracks in my throat.
Embarrassed as hell, I cough, like something got caught and was responsible for my soprano warbling, and run a hand through my hair before I start over. “I mean, I guess I can.” I shrug. “Whatever, bro.”
Jase Simmons, two years older at nineteen, slices his gaze to me. I’ve idolized him ever since I spied on him in his garage with his hand up Melissa Layton’s skirt. He’d been fourteen, a juvie regular, and a freshman in high school. Melissa had been eighteen, a homecoming queen, and a senior, but from the way she clutched his shoulders and moaned his name—their differences didn’t seem to matter very much. If at all.
Luckily, he didn’t think I was a perv when he caught me snooping. Instead, he took my scrawny ass under his wing, kept me from being beat up by the other kids in the neighborhood, and taught me how to trick out a car.
He tosses me the keys, and I catch them. “Cut the shit, O’Connor, and get in.”
Grinning, I slide into the tricked-out sports car. The driver’s seat is all black leather, soft and supple. I run my hands over the steering wheel, gripping it once before letting it go.
Despite this being my first time up, I know there’s no way I won’t win. Tony Johnson’s car has nothing on Jase’s Mustang, and Jase has been coaching me in my ’98 Nissan. Come tomorrow, I for damn sure will be driving Rowan to school in Tony’s Camaro.
“You done feeling her up?” Jase asks, listening to the police scanner a friend of his holds. Yeah, street racing isn’t exactly legal. Okay, forget exactly. It’s strictly illegal, and our asses could go to jail if we get caught.
But the thrill of it—the way my heart is pumping right now—there’s no way in hell I’m giving up my turn to race.
“Just getting to know her.”
“She doesn’t want you to know her. She wants to be driven.” He shuts the passenger side door. “So drive it like you borrowed it from a guy who will kick your ass from here to the Outer Banks if you wreck it.”
Blood drains from my face. “Don’t you mean stole it?”
“Hell, no.” Jase gives me a pointed look. “They’re waiting and betting on you to win.”
I glance out the window, watching as a group of people jostle for a front-row view as money exchanges hands. My stomach churns. I can’t let anyone down, especially not a crowd of people who don’t want to part with their money.
Sweat breaks out on my upper lip, and I swipe at it with my tongue.
A flash of sunshine catches my eye. My girlfriend, Rowan, stands directly in the middle. Her smile is so big that my heartbeat gets all crazy. I think I’ve loved Rowan for as long as I have known her. Considering that she punched me in the stomach in kindergarten for not letting her on the swing set first, that’s a long damn time.
“Staring at my sister won’t help,” Jase growls.
Oh, shit. He’s going to kill me. “I wasn’t staring.”
Jase laughs. “Rowan told me the two of you are officially dating.”
Instead of replying to that right away, I start up the engine. It roars to life before settling in to an idling purr. Best sound on earth. An image of a nude Rowan flashes in my head. She moans my name. Okay, so second-best.
Crap. I can’t think of Jase’s sister nude or moaning while I’m sitting right beside the dude. Sweat gathers at the small of my back and I take a deep, sustaining breath.
“Rowan really said that?” I ask all nonchalantly.
“Yeah.” He rolls down the window and lights a cigarette. The end of it glows bright orange. “She’s got bigger balls than you.”
Pretty sure those balls are mine. That girl owns me. All of me. “I was going to tell you.” Putting the car into gear, I inch it forward to line up with the Camaro beside us.
Jase grunts. “After the wedding?”
I haven’t asked Rowan to marry me, but I can see it happening. After she’s done with college, and I’ve worked long enough at my grandmother’s auto shop to become a manager.
“I love your sister, Jase. She’s not just a—”
“You can stop at I love your sister,” he says, cutting me off. “I don’t need to know any more than that. And since I haven’t heard you running your mouth about whatever extracurricular activities the two of you have been up to, I’m content to let you live.”
The phrase for now is implied. “I totally respect her.”
He slices his gaze to look at me, a smirk on his face. “Does that mean she’ll be a virgin on her wedding night?”
I almost choke. “Uh . . . ah . . .” Rowan and I have been having sex for five months now. I’m her first and she’s my second. Actually, she’s my last.
Jase punches me in the side. “I’m fucking with you, but if you get her pregnant—then it’s a shotgun wedding. If you hurt her, then a bullet to the balls. You got me?”
I got him. In fact, I’m completely terrified of him. Most people I know are terrified of him. Except my grandmother . . . she loves Jase. So much so that he’s the head mechanic at her shop. He is an amazing mechanic. I’m pretty sure he can take an engine apart and put it back together in his sleep.
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