The first book in Mari Carr’s brand new Italian Stallions series is out this week—featuring two deliciously possessive alphas and a homeless young mum in need of a safe place to stay—and I have an awesome excerpt for you.
“I feel fine,” Jess said. “This isn’t necessary.”
Tony had been waiting for those words, had expected her to dig her heels in. It was why he’d remained with them rather than going up with Aunt Berta and Jasper.
“I’m glad to hear you’re okay,” Rhys said, opening the door to the exam room. “But I’d like that confirmed with an examination. I know I said I’d do it, but Jess, I have a female colleague I can call if you’d be more comfortable with her. She could be here within the hour.”
“I don’t need anyone to—”
“Do you want him or his colleague to check you out. Pick one or I’m driving you to the hospital,” Tony interjected when she continued doubling down on her refusal.
She whirled on Tony, her eyes flashing with anger. “You are not in charge of me, Tony Moretti, and I’m getting sick of you constantly steamrolling over everything I say.” As she spoke, she drove her finger into his chest. “I make my own decisions. Me. Just me.”
“Well, you’re in for a world of disappointment, Jess Monroe,” he said, leaning down, but keeping his voice steady, even. After what she’d just gone through, he wasn’t about to do anything that might scare her. “Because as of right now, I am taking charge of you. And I’m telling you to get yourself in that office so Rhys can examine you or let him call his friend. I’m trying very hard not to touch you because I don’t want to upset or scare you, but goddammit, if you keep fighting us on this, I promise I will pick you up, toss you over my shoulder, and drag you kicking and screaming all the way to the hospital.”
Her mouth slammed shut, but he wasn’t sure if he’d shocked her into silence or if his threat truly frightened her.
He tried to soften his tone, hating to think he may have gone too far. “We’d never hurt you, Jess. You know that, right? You’re safe with us.”
“I know that.” His words had obviously taken the wind out of her sails. “I know you wouldn’t hurt me. It’s just…I’ve been on my own for so long, and you two keep…”
She paused just long enough that Tony decided to fill in the blanks for her. “Helping you. We’re helping you.”
Tony noticed that his pronoun with Jess was different than with most other people. He never spoke to her about what he wanted to do for her. Instead, he spoke as a we, Rhys as much a part of this…God…what was it? A bond? A connection?
Tony shoved that thought away. Now wasn’t the time or place for that.
“So what’s it going to be? Rhys or his colleague?” he asked.
“Rhys,” she whispered. “I don’t want…a stranger.”
“Very well,” Rhys said.
“And you can touch me,” she said, her gaze traveling from Tony to Rhys, then back, her words so low he wasn’t sure he’d heard them correctly. “I want…I need…”
Tony had never seen anyone look more lost, more alone. He lifted his arms, making sure she knew the choice was hers. Jess stepped into them, clinging to him as if she was adrift at sea and he was the life preserver.
“I was so scared,” she said, the words muffled against his chest. “I thought he was going to kill me.”
Tony knew her well enough to know how hard it was for her to admit to that.
“I know. But you were brave. You fought back.”
She shook her head. “It wasn’t going to be enough. He was stronger.”
Her words destroyed him, gutted him. “You’re so brave, Jess. So strong. Everything is going to be okay. I’m going to make it all okay.”
She breathed out an airy laugh. “Stubborn pain in the ass.”
He chuckled. “And don’t you forget it.”
Rhys moved closer to them, and Tony could see the pain in his friend’s eyes. Knew he needed the chance to comfort her as well. Tony released her, turning her so that Rhys could offer his own embrace.
Like with him, Jess wrapped her arms around Rhys, soaking up his warmth, his strength.
“Let Rhys examine you,” Tony said at last. “I’ll be right out here, waiting. Okay?”
“I don’t want you to wait out here.”
Tony’s heart fell, hating the feeling that she was pushing him away. He wanted—fuck, he needed—to stay close to her right now. Walking away after what had happened…he wasn’t sure it was something he could do.
His hurt was short-lived when she said, “I want you to come in too.”