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Worth the Fight (Another Falls Creek Romance Book 1) by SF Benson (1)

     Chapter 1

Hank

Peace and quiet rule in Falls Creek tonight. For a change, there aren’t any humans attempting dumb shit. Supernaturals, for the most part, are staying true to their nature while honoring the centuries-old agreement—no harming the residents.

 

Thank the fucking powers that be for the solitude! I’m off duty and looking forward to a relaxing meal at Balls Up! If my memory serves me correctly, there aren’t any community events scheduled tonight. Opening the sports bar’s door, however, I’m greeted with a madhouse of too many bodies and too much noise. What the fuck is going on?

 

People shout and gather in clusters around the dimly lit room. I have to push my way through just to get close to the bar. Brady Romero, the wolf-shifter owner and a close friend swaggers over to me with a towel tossed over his shoulder.

 

“Here for dinner, Hank?”

 

“Yeah.” Sitting down, I jerk my thumb toward the ruckus behind me. “You got a party going on?”

 

“Fight night,” Brady remarks with a curl to his lips. Disbelief flickers in his dark eyes as he asks, “Did you forget?”

 

Yeah, I did. My time spent with a certain vampire has made me less focused than I’m used to. Little things, like fight night, easily slip my mind. I have to be better than this. Losing the ability to concentrate isn’t good as a detective. Shit happens—people get hurt, crimes take place, and folks die. Not good at all. But there’s something about her that I can’t resist. She makes a hiccup in memory seem like not such a big deal.

 

Succumbing to a fucking pity party, though, ain’t my style either. Cat’s gotta eat. “I’ll have my usual, Brady.”

 

“It’s almost ready. As soon as I saw you coming through the door, I put the order in.” The alpha slides a Pilsner in front of me.

 

Lifting the cold glass, my eyes roll back as I sip the German brew. The icy beverage feels good going down. I’m always appreciative of a quality beer. Brown liquor never touches my lips. It’s beer or nothing at all.

 

“Thanks, Brady.”

 

“No problem. Got the Pilsner in today.” He wipes the towel across the polished counter. “Are you sitting at the bar or a table?”

 

“I’ll stay at the bar. Catch the fight while I’m here.”

 

Brady nods and walks away as I cast an eye toward the TV perched over the counter.

 

It’s been a while since I’ve watched a fight. Used to be a time when I couldn’t wait to catch an AFC, Absolute Fighting Championship, bout. Prior to joining the Falls Creek police force, I trained with a few local MMA guys. But that was back before my brother, Tyson, ran off with my wife. His betrayal kind of soured me on the whole extreme fighting scene.

 

Brady returns with my steak. The steam rises off the meat and tickles my nose. As usual, it’s prepared to perfection. Charred on the outside for flavor and so raw on the inside you can still hear the cow mooing. Slicing through it, I watch the blood pool on my plate and lick my lips in anticipation.

 

“Hank,” someone calls from behind me. “Isn’t that your brother in the ring?”

 

The morsel gets hung in my throat, and I wash it down with a mouthful of beer as I glance up at the flat screen. My heart skips a beat while my blood runs cold. Clean shaven, umber-brown skin, and hazel eyes stare back at me. The cat shuffles his feet side to side and jabs at the air a few times. Arrogance drips off him like a fucking leaky faucet. Yup, that’s Tyson, my little brother—the over-confident mother fucker.

 

Patrons cluster closer, robbing the space around me. Hot, stale breath heats up my neck as someone leans over me not wanting to miss a single blow.

 

As a kit, Tyson used to joke about fighting professionally, but I never believed him. My brother reigned supreme at talking smack. Not once did I ever witness him using his fists. We did train together as we got older though. Mostly martial arts—Jeet Kune Do, a little Jiu-Jitsu. But Tyson was a big ass whiner. Always complaining about the amount of work needed, so I never took him seriously. None of us did.

 

Now, look at him.

 

The crowd roars, dragging my attention to the present, as Tyson lands a flurry of fast, hard punches—right uppercut, left hook, right hook, left hook, right cross. His opponent stumbles backward and collides with the cage, but Tyson keeps punching. The referee steps in and calls it. My brother swings his hands overhead as a big ass smile spreads across his face. Damn, that was fast.

 

“I hear he’s a contender for the AFC,” Brady says over the noise.

 

Words dangle on the tip of my tongue when my phone buzzes. Reaching into my jacket, I remove the device and see a text message from Edwina.

 

EDWINA DEVEREAUX: COMING THROUGH TONIGHT?

 

A night spent between Edwina’s legs or hanging at the bar? Easy choice. Who would have ever thought of a cat and a hybrid vampire getting intimate? Sometimes the benefits found in friendship are deeper than common ground.

 

HANK RICHARDS: YEAH. GIVE ME A FEW MINUTES TO FINISH MY MEAL.

 

EDWINA DEVEREAUX: LET YOURSELF IN WHEN YOU GET HERE.

 

I return the phone to my pocket and pick up the knife and fork.

 

“Duty calling?” Brady asks as he points at my pocket.

 

“Something like that,” I reply with a smile and focus on finishing my food.

 

My black Camaro rumbles as I climb the hills above Falls Creek. For the most part, it’s huge homes on private properties owned by humans and supernaturals with deep pockets. The area stretching between the hills and the mountains is where I’m headed. No opulence to be found whatsoever in the scattered farms.

 

In a matter of minutes, Edwina’s spread comes into view. The weather-worn farm looks abandoned. No lights on anywhere. The main house appears in ruin with its collapsed roof. Surrounding the property is a splintered and broken wooden fence while waist-high weeds choke out the fields. Only those on an intimate basis with the hybrid vampire know the truth.

 

Her truth.

 

Most people don’t know that Edwina’s renovated barn served as a second home for Cash Martin. The incubus thought their relationship was secret. For the most part, it was until I stumbled across their sanctuary. One night I was checking out a lead when I saw Cash roll his Ducati into the barn. Curiosity got the best of me, so I parked down the road and followed him. The racket coming from the upstairs loft surprised the shit out of me. To this day Edwina has no idea I discovered them. In all honesty, I’d like to forget the event.

 

Pulling my car into the parking spot alongside the building, I get out and the rancid odor of small rodents—rats and the like—fill my nostrils and ignite my baser instincts. Damn. My beast is always wanting to hunt. A tremor passes through my joints. I grip the door handle, practically wrenching it off, and grit my teeth. Now isn’t the time to change. Edwina has her kinky moments, but I don’t think she’d want to have sex with my beast.

 

I’m grinning like an idiot as I come closer to the tall, double doors and yank one of them open. It’s been a long time since my beast got a chance to come out and play. In my lifetime, I’ve only met one being strong enough to handle a good old-fashioned panther fucking. That would be Sheila, my ex-wife. Sex with a were-jaguar is nothing like what I experience with Edwina—teeth gashing, growling, and lots of claws. My back tingles with the memory of the long, deep scratches I used to sport on a regular basis. Granted the hybrid has some exciting, pleasurable tricks, but she’s not Sheila.

 

Thank the gods for that.

 

Stepping into Edwina’s place, my night vision kicks in, and I do a quick survey of the lower level. Not finding my angel anywhere, I climb the staircase up to the loft. She’s already in bed waiting for me.

 

“What kept ya, cher?” she drawls, patting the mattress.

 

It doesn’t take long for me to act on her invite. I remove my leather jacket and tug my T-shirt over my head. “I wasn’t that long. Don’t you ever get enough?”

 

“Not when it comes to ya.” Her voice breaks.

 

Sitting in the dark, Edwina thinks she’s being slick. She forgets I can see everything—the red tear stains on her pillowcase, her puffy eyes, her pallor. I ain’t nobody’s rebound man. It’s not a title I want, but it’s what I’ve allowed myself to become since Cash left town. Edwina will never admit how much she misses him. Instead, she’ll lie and construct a myriad of excuses while crying on my shoulder.

 

I’ve been accused of a lot of shit, but I’m nobody’s ass. Sex will wait. I toe off my running shoes, unzip my jeans, and leave my boxers on before sliding beneath the silky, dark covers.

 

“Thanks for coming,” she mumbles and sinks into my side.

 

“Anytime,” I say and wrap my arms around her slight frame. Her curly head rests on my chest.

 

This isn’t your normal booty call. If anyone knew I was here, they’d assume I’m into Edwina’s curvaceous body. Well… They wouldn’t be completely wrong, but it’s not like we’re regular fuck buddies or anything. Ever since I’ve known Edwina, at least five years now, we’ve only had sex a few times. Starting with the departure of Cash. I’m learning that most nights Edwina just needs to be held. To know she matters to someone. This, unfortunately, is one of those nights.

 

For the life of me, I don’t understand why she’s putting herself through this shit. Edwina’s classier than a lot of females in this forsaken town. Any being would count himself blessed to have her. If human males were honest with themselves, they’d give their left nut for a night with her beneath them. Why she keeps herself locked away in this rustic prison beats the hell out of me. Such behavior over a fucking incubus.

 

My hand strokes her shapely ass. Her skin doesn’t feel right—too dry with too much give. “Angel, when’s the last time you fed?”

 

She hunches her shoulders. “I don’t remember.”

 

I slip my arms from around her and sit up, swinging my legs out of bed. “Fridge stocked?”

 

“I think it is.”

 

“Enough of this, Edwina,” I say over my shoulder and rub my hand over my head. This shit stops tonight. “Get over it. He’s gone. You told me yourself there wasn’t a future with him.”

 

“I know.” She sniffs. “It still hurts though.”

 

This female is gonna be the death of me. I’m not used to vulnerability. Sheila was as strong as a fucking piece of granite. Edwina comes off tough, but she’s soft, too damned soft—deep down. My beast wants to protect her, hurting anyone threatening her. I swear if I ever cross paths with Cash I’m gonna beat the ever loving shit out of him. The incubus broke a vampire. How the hell does that happen?

 

“I’ll be back,” I call out as I make my way downstairs.

 

Fortunately, there are a few bags of A positive in the stainless-steel fridge. I’ll go to the blood bank tomorrow and pick up a new supply. Maybe there’ll be a few bags of the good stuff—AB negative—available too. I find a crystal goblet and pour out a good measure. It’s up to me, I guess, to build this female back up. Make her stronger than she’s ever been. But that’s a plan for tomorrow. Tonight I’m gonna make sure she’s replenished, and then I’m gonna fuck Cash out of her mind.

 

I swing around and Edwina’s behind me. The way she can sneak up on a soul makes me wonder if she’s not part cat.

 

“Here you go, Angel.” I pass her the glass. “Drink up.”

 

“Thanks, Hank.” She takes a long sip, wipes her lips, and sets the goblet on the island. “I’m sorry to be in a mood.”

 

“You’re always in a mood these days,” I point out.

 

“You wouldn’t understand.” She averts her eyes and moves away from me.

 

“No, Edwina.” I grasp her arm and yank it to my chest. “Make me understand. Why was Cash so damned special?”

 

She sighs. “Since becoming undead, I’ve only been intimate with three beings. Cash was the second one.”

 

I’m not asking about the first one. Ain’t my business.

 

Edwina pulls her arm away and leans against the counter. “I was Cash’s first. He was so eager. It was…endearing. Over time it became more than just sex, but we made a dumb pact. If one of us began feeling anything…” Her voice trails off.

 

I place my hands on the island, trapping Edwina in place. My fingers rub the arc of her hip bones through the silky red robe. “You fell in love with him and broke it off.”

 

“Exactly.”

 

“Cash never deserved you.” I lean in and let my lips skim along the sweep of her cheek. “You need a strong male. Someone who’ll protect you and make love to you night and day.”

 

A low moan comes from Edwina as she throws her head back. “Are ya offering to be that someone?”

 

“For the time being.” My hands go to her tiny waist, and I lift her onto the island.

 

“Hank,” she protests.

 

“Shh. This is about your pleasure.” I push the silky fabric apart and lower my head.

 

Any male who claims he doesn’t enjoy going down on a female doesn’t know what he’s missing. Between this vampire’s thighs lies the gate to Heaven, and my tongue holds the key. Drinking in her nectar, I drown in the sweetness. Stroking and licking, I explore Edwina until I find her trigger. She writhes and purrs beneath my mouth. It doesn’t take long for her back to arch. Edwina’s juices drench my tongue, and I lap it all up as she comes, screaming her release.

Much later, we’re back upstairs. Edwina sits up and pulls the sheet over her beautiful breasts. She takes another sip from the goblet.

 

“Feeling better?” I run a finger down her chilly spine.

 

“Yes. Thank ya.” She sighs. “Why do ya even bother with me?”

 

A good question without an equally good answer. This thing we’re doing, however, is about taking care of needs. Hers. Mine. We’ve both been rejected—me by my ex, and Edwina by a being who didn’t have the balls to fess up. Cast into the gutter like abandoned bottles from a drunk. Contrary to human belief, even supernaturals need love. If we can’t find it, a warm bed and a kind heart will suffice. That’s what I provide for Edwina. That and a whole lot of honesty.

 

“You’re not a bother. It’s not like I have anything else to do.” Not a lie. If I weren’t with Edwina, I’d be at home probably feeling sorry for myself. Reflecting on how Sheila played me like a fool while she was fucking Tyson and letting me believe I was the father of her kit.

 

That’s the difference between Edwina and me. She’s allowing an ass to walk over her feelings and rob her of enjoyment. I didn’t allow Sheila and Tyson to do shit. They ran off together, destroying my happiness.

 

“We’re quite a pair,” she quips and lies back on the pillow.

 

Sorry. Angel’s wrong there. A pair implies we’re a couple. Not a title I’m wearing again. I’ll only allow myself to get hurt once in my life. I’m not letting another female move into my heart. I’ll stick by Edwina for as long as she needs me, but this is one cat not looking to start a cluster with anyone.

 

Rolling toward Edwina, I place a finger under her chin and gaze down into her eyes. “Angel, we got chemistry. Ain’t no denying that.”

 

Before I can place a kiss on her pouty lips, my phone rings. Leaning my forehead on hers for a moment, I exhale and reach for the device. Should have turned the piece of shit off. Unknown caller displays on the screen. In my line of work, the distinction means nothing.

 

“Hank speaking,” I growl, not happy to be interrupted by a stranger.

 

Static and heavy breathing greet me. “Bro, I need your help.”

 

“Tyson?” Didn’t I just watch his ass on TV?

 

“I’m in trouble. Please—” The line goes dead.

 

“Tyson!” I yell into the phone.

 

I flinch when Edwina touches my arm. “What’s wrong?”

 

“I don’t know, but that was my brother.” I throw the sheet off me and get to my feet.

 

“Hank.” Edwina pulls on a robe. “What did he say?”

 

“Tyson said he’s in trouble.” I zip up my jeans and push my feet into my shoes. “I don’t even know where he’s at.”

 

“Calm down. You’ll find him,” Edwina touches my arm. “Is there an ID with the call?”

 

Scrolling through the incoming calls, I locate the last one. The ID says Unknown call from…New Orleans.

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