You can pick up a copy at
Alphas After Dark includes COLLATERAL, Book One in the new Debt Collection series featuring Besian's crew. This is a novella (the same length as Ivan) and super hot with some gritty suspense. YES! I will continue Ben and Aston's story--in FREE READS. The same way I did Ivan and Erin. :)
COLLATERAL will be exclusive to the boxed set until late May--and then it will be published at full price. So now's the time to grab it while it's on sale!
Here's a longish peek at the first chapter of COLLATERAL!
"Aston, do you want me to come inside with you?"
Filled with dread, I glanced away from the rusted façade of Merkurie Motors & Towing to the driver's seat where Marley eyed me with concern. "Is it pathetic that I want to say yes and ask you to hold my hand?"
My best friend bit her lower lip and studied the garage where an illegal chop shop allegedly operated. "It's not the kind of place I would want to visit after dark. Actually, it's exactly the kind of place Dad has forbidden me to visit, like, ever."
That tidbit didn't fill me with the warm and fuzzies. Spider, Marley's stepdad, was the vice president of the Calaveras, Houston's scariest outlaw motorcycle gang. When he gave an instruction like that, it was for a good reason.
The snick of a seat belt unbuckling drew my attention. Marley slipped her arm out of the belt and tugged the hair elastic from her wrist. As she gathered her auburn hair into a high ponytail, she said, "I'm coming with you."
"His name will keep us safe," she replied with a look. "This crew knows better than to mess with Octavio Ruiz's kid." She glanced away from me and tugged her keys from the ignition. "Their boss wouldn’t like it either. Not after what he did for me."
A few weeks earlier, Marley had been kidnapped with a coworker and his son who owed a debt to a drug cartel. In the standoff that followed, she had nearly been shot by a cartel assassin gone rogue. Besian Beciraj, the notorious Albanian mob boss and loan shark reputed to own this auto shop, had thrown himself into the line of fire to save her. He had taken a bullet meant for Marley and had barely survived the shooting.
She hadn't been very forthcoming about why this man she hardly even knew would do something so heroic, and I hadn't pressed the issue. We had been friends so long I could read her easily. She didn't know what to think about the mob boss and she didn't want to talk about it. When she was ready, she would say something. Until then? I was staying out of her business.
"Look, we probably won't even get inside the shop tonight. Ben Beciraj, the guy who runs this place, isn't going to be very enthusiastic about two girls like us wandering into the middle of this outrageously illegal operation."
"I have to try." Gripping the door handle, I tried to work up the nerve to get out of her car. "Baby has been missing since eight. It's nearly midnight. If I don't get in there now, I might lose her forever because that asshole stepbrother of mine wanted to get back at me by taking her and deliberately leaving the keys in the ignition in that awful part of town."
Marley's eyebrows arched. "You realize you sound like you're talking about a person, right? It's a car, Aston."
"It was my father's car. His favorite car," I added, thinking of all the Sunday mornings I had spent at his side, buffing and polishing the '63 Aston Martin DB5. Of all the cars in his vast collection, Baby had been the one he had loved best. "He named me after that car. I learned to drive in Baby. I had my first kiss in that car." Swallowing hard, I choked back the tears that threatened to overtake me. "I sat in the driver's seat of that car when Daddy told me he was dying." Gritting my teeth, I shook my head. "I'm not losing her now."
Marley sighed loudly and reached over to squeeze my hand. "Even if they let us inside, and even if you're able to negotiate for the car, it won't be cheap."
With a careless shrug, I opened the door. "I guess it's a good thing I'm so disgustingly rich."
She snorted indelicately. "Embrace that bitchy attitude you worked so hard to lose in high school, Aston. You're going to need it in there. We're walking straight into the lion's den."
"Don't you mean eagle's nest?" I asked, thinking of the double-headed eagle symbol the Albanian crime family had chosen as their own. Though I wasn't part of this seedy underbelly, I wasn't naïve or uninformed. I understood that a parallel world existed to the privileged one I lived in and enjoyed. My stepbrother Calvin had been flirting with the dark side of the city for years. Now I was the one getting burned by his fascination with these criminals.
Side by side, we crossed the quiet street and made our way to the garage. We exchanged nervous glances as the whine of saws and the snapping zips of impact tools filled the night. Gulping down my fear, I balled up my fist and beat on the closest garage door. When that received no answer, I kicked the door while pounding on it, suddenly glad I had chosen the red suede pumps with metal toe points that morning.
The noise inside the shop grinded to a halt. Seconds later, I winced when the heavy metal door started to rise and made a terrible screeching noise. Inch by inch, the rising door revealed a man. First a pair of big, dirty work boots and then a pair of jeans flecked with oil and dark stains on the knees. A white muscle shirt smudged with grease and grime came into view next.
But it was the brawny arms emblazoned with tattoos from knuckles to shoulders that enthralled me. I had interacted with Marley's stepdad enough to be accustomed to the sight of gang ink, but the sleeves on this man were breathtaking. I noticed the marks on his neck and the tattoo on the underside of his wrist. I tried not to think about what types of things a man might have to do to earn that double-headed eagle and an invitation to the inner circle of the mob boss who had saved Marley's life.
Up and up, my gaze drifted along the imposing height of him and settled on his handsome face. A wicked thrill fluttered through my belly. He had a hard face, his jaw angled and his nose sporting the telltale signs of having been broken at least once. His dark, unkempt hair fell carelessly around his ears. He had eyes like jade, the color pale, but they seared me with their intensity. When he crossed his powerful arms, the muscles flexing menacingly, I couldn't help but wonder what it would feel like to have them wrapped around me.
"Ben Beciraj?" I hazarded an educated guess.
"Yeah. What the hell do you want?" His gruff, irritated voice set off a strange quivering sensation in my chest. I couldn't tell if it was because I was terrified or excited. To be honest, it was probably a bit of both. The dangerous aura surrounding this man warned me to be careful, but I kept looking at those big, scarred hands of his and thinking about them touching me in the most intimate ways. "Well?"
Startled by his rough voice, I shot a petrified look Marley's direction before working up the courage to meet the man's glare. "My name is—"
"I know who you are."
I blinked at the rude way he had cut me off. "How?"
"I recognized your face from all those society page stories."
"You read the society section?"
He issued a clipped laugh. "What’s wrong? You shocked that someone like me can actually read?"
Frowning at his bitter remark, I decided not to go there. Instead, I stated my case. "Look, my car was stolen earlier this evening. My stepbrother left it in a parking lot outside one of those gross strip clubs he likes to visit. When he came out, it was gone."
"And?" His stony gaze turned cold. "How the fuck is any of that my problem?"
His mean reply squashed whatever fascination I had with him. "Are you really going to stand there and act like you don't know why I'm beating on your garage door at midnight? Like I don't know you and your little crew of thieving miscreants stole my car and have it locked away somewhere in this ratty shop of yours?" Lifting my chin and throwing back my shoulders, I remembered Marley's advice. "Give me my car—or else you're going to regret it."
The corner of his mouth twitched. Was it amusement? Did he find my threat funny? Or was it something else, something far more sinister? Was that tiny, almost imperceptible twitch the only warning I would be given?
"I doubt that very much."
"Yeah?" Playing the only card I had, I raised the cell phone gripped tightly in my hand. "How many cops do you think dispatch will send out here when I tell them my name?" I started to dial 9-1-1. "Five? Ten? Maybe I'll just call the mayor directly—"
He took a menacing step forward. "Hang up. Now."
"Or what?" I refused to be cowed by this tattooed brute. "You'll hit me?"
His head snapped back as if I had slapped him. His throat bobbed, and he clenched his fists at his sides. "I've never hit a woman in my life. Instead of threatening me with the police, you should learn to pay your fucking debts. This car has been on the repo list for two weeks. You had your chance to make things right."
"Wait. What?" I lowered my hand, the phone call forgotten. "What debts? I don't owe a penny to anyone!"
Mr. Ink and Muscles narrowed his eyes. After an uncomfortable moment of scrutiny, he stepped back into the garage and crooked a finger in my direction. "Let's talk about this some place more private."
I took a step forward, but Marley clasped my wrist. She shook her head. "No."
Ben's jaw tightened. "You're both safe here. I give my word." In case we doubted what his word was worth, he eyed Marley. "My boss would have my balls in a jar on his desk if anything happened to that one." Then, as an afterthought, he added, "Spider and his M.C. would burn this garage to the ground with me inside it if Besian didn't catch me first."
Marley and I shared a look. She had told me that this tightly knit crew of men adhered to a code of honor that went back centuries. Even though this guy could easily snap my neck with those strong hands, he wasn't going to hurt me. I believed that much.
We entered the garage together, but he motioned for Marley to wait near a toolbox. He called out to the group of men watching us with interest in a language I had never heard. I assumed it was Albanian but wished it had been Mandarin, French or Russian, languages I spoke fluently and easily.
A giant man who had been hiding at the rear of the group elbowed his way through the small crowd. I tilted my head back to take in all of him. He was taller than all of his companions by a foot and had shoulders nearly as wide as the SUV behind him, but it wasn't his uncommon height that held my attention. No, it was the gnarly scars arcing across the right side of his face. I didn't know what type of weapon would make such jagged wounds, but I had a feeling this man had suffered a brutal and vicious attack, one that had cut him from scalp to shoulder, judging by the thick scar running down to the collar of his shirt.
"Devil is going to watch your friend. You?" Ben pointed at me. "You're coming with me."
Marley squeezed my hand before we separated. She didn't seem the least bit intimidated by the hulking beast who had been assigned babysitting duties. Considering what I knew of her stepfather's friends, I wasn't that surprised. At times like this, I envied her rather harsh upbringing. She understood so much more of the world than I ever would and navigated the bumpy waters of life much better than me.
My belly wobbled as I followed Ben into the office on the far left side of the garage. The moment I stepped inside the room, he slammed the door shut behind me and pinned me against it. He used his larger frame to box me in and flattened his palms against the cold metal at my back. I sucked in a shuddery, nervous breath and stared up at him.
We were so close his body heat seeped into me. His hard chest grazed my breasts and the scent of him, a masculine blend of sweat, denim, and leather that smelled of hard work, ignited something primal and feminine inside me. None of the men I encountered in my day-to-day life had ever looked at me the way he did. None of them would have dared to behave in such a dominant, alpha way either.
His pale eyes glinted with frustration—and lust. I wasn't sure what was going to happen now. He was going to kiss me or hurt me. Or maybe both.