Exclusive First Chapter: Power Struggle by Mari Carr - Once Upon an Alpha Anthology
Happy-Ever-After has never been so intoxicating…
When a man has beaten it, he becomes a hero.
When a woman tastes it, she is helpless to resist his pull.
It won’t come easily, especially between alpha men and their headstrong women. Threats lurk in the shadows, and the price for passion is often exacted with a bullet or a blade…but the sacrifice is worth it when devotion is the reward.
Ten bestselling authors, masters of spine-tingling romantic suspense, bring you brand-new stories that will yank you to the edge of your seat and have your heart pounding as you turn the pages.
Best of all, the proceeds will benefit 4 Paws for Ability, a worldwide agency that enriches the lives of children and veterans with disabilities by training and placing quality, task-trained service dogs.
Stories Contributed to Alphas of Danger:
1. SHAYLA BLACK - DEVOTED TO WICKED
2. LEXI BLAKE - COUNTDOWN
3. MARI CARR - POWER STRUGGLE
4. KRIS COOK - CIA COVERT TEAM: RAINBOW KNIGHTS (M/M)
5. ANISSA GARCIA - WITH A VENGEANCE
6. KYM GROSSO - HARD ASSET
7. JENNA JACOB - REVENGE ON THE ROCKS
8. KENNEDY LAYNE - SEDUCING DANGER
9. ISABELLA LAPEARL - ENFORCE HER - A LEATHER, PIPES & PASSION SHORT STORY
10. CARRIE ANN RYAN - EXECUTIVE INK - A MONTGOMERY INK SHORT STORY
For more information about this nonprofit organization: http://4pawsforability.org
EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: MARI CARR's - POWER STRUGGLE
“Had an interesting conversation at work today.” Reed Donovan kicked back in his chair, taking a sip of the Scotch Carter had just poured for him. Carter enjoyed these occasional evenings with Reed, noticing how much more relaxed his stretched-tighter-than-a-drum cousin was these days. Carter knew exactly who to thank for the change—Frankie Carlyle, Reed’s marketing partner and soon-to-be-wife.
“You and Frankie sexting through private messenger again?”
Reed grinned. “We did, but this conversation had more to do with you. It was with the one who got away.”
Carter fell silent for a moment, digesting that information, pretending Reed hadn’t just dropped a bomb. He didn’t have to ask who Reed had seen. His cousin had taken to calling Bree Andrews the one who got away just a few weeks after she packed up all her belongings and moved to Paris.
He and Bree had been friends since their sophomore year in college and that relationship continued for six years, until Bree’s escape from the States a decade ago. Bree had been there when he’d bought his bar with a loan from his uncle, and the first drink he’d served had been to her. He had been standing next to her the day she got the phone call that one of her clothing designs had been sold to a large fashion house.
They had been each other’s confidants—and sometimes conscience—whenever they were in romantic relationships. There were no secrets between them, so he knew all about her love affairs, and she his. Both of them leaned heavily toward the alpha side in matters of sex, demanding, passionate lovers.
However, they were wholly independent outside the bedroom and prone to push away anyone who needed a deeper emotion or closeness. As such, neither of them had found much success in long-term relationships. He could see now that they had provided the emotional support for each other back then while slaking their sexual needs with others.
Hindsight was twenty-twenty.
And then there was the day she learned her mother and sister had been murdered. Bree had clung to him for hours as she sobbed out her sorrow and he added a few of his own tears to the mix. Her pain that night had torn him to shreds, made him feel helpless.
He had been sitting next to Bree in the courtroom the day they’d read the verdict in Ronnie Bertrand’s trial. Her stepfather had been sentenced to life in prison without hope of parole in the brutal murder of her family. Bree’s testimony against him, revealing the years of abuse the three women had suffered at his hands, had gone a long way toward sealing the man’s fate.
“Shocked you, didn’t I?” Reed asked, pulling Carter from his memories.
Carter didn’t bother to deny it. “Bree’s in the States? To stay?”
“Yeah,” Reed replied. “Moved back to Manhattan a couple months ago.”
She hadn’t called him. That fact tweaked even though it didn’t really surprise him. In one impulsive night, he’d destroyed the most important relationship in his life. For years, he tried to get over her, to mend his broken heart with other women. And when that failed, he gave up and embraced his bachelor lifestyle.
Turned out, the one who got away was the only one for him.
“She wanted to hire me and Frankie to help promote her designs. She’s setting up shop in the old NY of C.”
“Tired of Paris?”
Reed shrugged. “We didn’t talk about a lot of personal stuff. Although she did ask if you were still local, if you still owned the bar. Don’t worry. I managed to work in the fact you’re still single too.”
Carter smiled at that, despite his best efforts to appear uninterested.
Reed snorted. “I gotta tell you, man, her poker face is better than yours.”
Carter grimaced. “Pretending I’m not happy about her return would be a pointless endeavor where you’re concerned. You know me too well. You know I’m thrilled.”
“You’re happy I’m back?”
Carter and Reed both looked toward Bree with surprise. Neither of them had noticed her walk into the bar.
Carter rose slowly from the table, drinking in every detail of her as he did so. Her raven-colored hair was longer than it had been when she left, but apart from that, there was very little about Bree that had changed. Age had only accentuated her beauty. Her long, lithe body was still curvy in all the right places, and her ice-blue eyes were as sharp as ever as they took a similar inventory of him.
He wondered how he was faring. He was no stranger to the gym, taking care to keep in good physical shape, but there was no denying there was salt added to the pepper in his hair these days.
Then Carter realized there was something else different about Bree. The way she was looking at him. She wasn’t treating him to some distant, old-friends-reuniting smile. Bree was staring at Carter with a hunger he shared.
“Reed,” Carter started, but his cousin cut him off with a knowing chuckle.
Carter gestured toward the back of the bar, down the corridor that would lead her to his office. He grinned as the sounds of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me” played.
Bree was familiar with the layout, having helped him decorate the place prior to the grand opening. She turned and led the way, her firm ass swaying in her tight black skirt as she walked gracefully in her heels.
Poise, class, confidence.
Bree had it all. She always had. It was one of the main reasons the two of them had always remained just friends.
They were too similar, too…controlling. Neither of them ever doubted the epic power struggle that would ensue should they give in.
And they hadn’t been proven wrong about that. The night after her stepfather’s sentencing, they’d returned to Carter’s place and succumbed. Six years of pent-up attraction and desire came rushing out.
Carter closed the office door after she entered. Reaching behind him, he locked it, then leaned on it. So much for playing it subtle. He’d missed Bree, the ache in his chest never once subsiding until this moment. He couldn’t let her leave again. Not until…
“You’ve been back two months.” The words came out sounding like an accusation. Carter needed to rein in his emotions, but it bothered him to know they’d been so close for eight weeks and she hadn’t contacted him.
“I wasn’t sure you’d want to see me after…” She paused.
“After you snuck out of my bed and disappeared without a word a decade ago.”
“That night,” she started, her gaze holding firmly to his, “was a mistake.”
Carter fought like the devil not to wince. He knew what she said was true. He’d always known it. Regardless, it had been the best night of his life. Holding her, caging her beneath him, taking her, claiming her, fucking her. Everything he’d ever wanted had been in his arms that night.
And she’d run.
“And yet you’re here now.”
She nodded. “I am.”
“Because mistake or not, I’ve relived that night a million times in the last decade, played it over and over so many times, I thought I’d go mad with…wanting you.”
Carter pushed away from the door, the weight and significance of her words driving him toward her.
He reached up, taking her beautiful face in his hands. “I’ve missed you, Bree.”
She smiled, the sheen of tears in her eyes. “I was wrong to run.”
He shook his head. “No, you weren’t.” He had to give her that much, because hurt or not, he had to give her the same honesty she’d given him.
Bree had been on emotion overload after hearing her stepfather’s sentence, and he’d watched her fight to deal with all of it—the anger, the sorrow, the happiness, the vindication. She’d been a live spark that night, and he’d been stupid enough to grab her with his bare hands, foolishly thinking he could contain the current.
They’d walked into his apartment and ripped into each other like rabid animals. He’d never fucked any woman so hard, with so much passion—and maybe even a bit of fury because he knew even as he took her, he’d never hold her. They had pounded out every bad feeling, going twelve rounds in the ring until they had both been knocked out.
For a full week after, Carter had felt the pain left from the deep scratches she’d put on his back and some serious soreness in his muscles. He didn’t doubt for a moment that she’d carried around more than a few bruises as well.
It had been a brutal, beautiful struggle, but in the end, neither of them had won.
Bree grasped one of his wrists and turned her face, kissing his palm. “I’m not going to run away again. I can’t.”
It was all he needed to hear. He leaned close and kissed her, trying hard to keep the touch gentle, soft, even as every part of him was clamoring to consume her. Her reassurance that she wouldn’t leave wasn’t enough for the conqueror, the one who’d lost his treasure once before. He wouldn’t lose her again.
Bree’s lips parted and her tongue plundered, claimed. Despite his efforts to go slow, she had other ideas. She drove that point home when she bit his lower lip and he tasted the slight tang of blood.
He pulled away, his eyes narrowing. “Careful, Bree. This isn’t a battle you’ll win. Right or wrong, I’m still pissed off at you for leaving, for stealing ten years from us.”
She tilted her head, no trace of remorse in her expression. “I didn’t see you running after me.”
He sighed and gave her the point. “I won’t make that mistake again.”
Bree tugged the hem of his shirt from his dress slacks and unbuttoned his shirt, then stroked his bare chest. He’d stripped off his tie and tossed it onto the desk just before Reed appeared. At the time, he had thought the night was winding down.
As she touched him, he kissed her, his hands sliding beneath her skirt, skimming along her thighs.
She perched on the edge of his desk as she parted her legs, inviting him closer. One night had been enough to prove their sexual appetites were in perfect unison. However, the rest…well…that remained to be seen.
He ran his fingers along her slit, the thin strip of lace of her thong already soaked.
He pushed it aside as he shoved two fingers deep inside her. She groaned, her head rolling back as her eyes closed. Unable to resist, he reached up and grabbed a handful of her hair, pulling it. Her lids flew open, her gaze finding his as he increased the pressure.
“It all changes tonight. You belong to me now.”
Her eyes narrowed at his archaic phrasing, but he didn’t let her fight him on it. Instead, he gave her what he knew she needed.
He added a third finger to her pussy, pumping hard as he said, “And I belong to you.”
Writing a book was number one on Mari Carr’s bucket list and on her thirty-fourth birthday, she set out to see that goal achieved. Now her computer is jammed full of stories — novels, novellas, short stories and dead-ends. A New York Times and USA TODAY bestseller as well as winner of the Passionate Plume, Mari finds time for writing by squeezing it into the hours between 3 a.m. and daybreak when her family is asleep and the house is quiet.