Check out this gorgeous cover and excerpt for RISING by Jessica Ruben!
Don’t forget to add it to your TBR!
NA Contemporary Romance
Cover designer: Okay Creations
Release date: May 1, 2018
As the bus approaches my stop on the Lower East Side, I raise the hood of my black sweatshirt. Anonymity is key in my neighborhood—particularly as a lone female walking at night.
All I want is to leave my crime-ridden shadow of a home in New York City. I’ve done everything I can to keep my head down and focus on my studies. College is my only goal; love has never been on the map…
That is, until my sister brings me to an underground fight, where I meet a gorgeous and mysterious man: Vincent.
He is the ghost in my shadows, showing up to feed me pieces of his upper-crust life, then evaporating into darkness until his next visit. I’m falling hard and fast. How can I trust him amidst the depth of his secrets?
Vincent may be even more dangerous than the dark world I’m trying to escape.
“I’m not a regular in places like these…” I’m moving my head from side to side, trying not to sound desperate. But the truth is I’m scared as hell. This is too much too soon.
He nods his head and grips my hand tightly, letting me know without words that it’s okay. We walk out of the club together and back onto the street corner. Even though it’s late, the block is full of people. He continues to hold my hand as he lifts his free arm to hail a taxi; one immediately pulls up to the corner.
Vincent opens the door for me and I climb inside first, moving to the far window. He follows me into the back seat, sitting flush against me. I feel his thigh pressing against mine; I’m not sure what I should do. Should I move my leg? Stay where I am? Does he notice what he’s doing, or am I just overthinking it? Maybe this is how he normally sits, with his huge, muscular thigh touching the person next to him? I look up at him and he turns his face to mine. It dawns on me this man is used to getting everything he wants, whenever he wants it. I’m nervous, but holy shit do I want to please him. The realization is instantly sobering. I can’t look away from his dark, gorgeous eyes.
The driver bangs his steering wheel, his voice instantly breaking our moment. “Where you headed?” he asks in a heavy Middle Eastern accent.
We both turn toward him. “I’m on Avenue D and Fifth,” I reply. My voice doesn’t falter, but I’m nervous, hoping Vincent doesn’t recognize the address.
Sure enough, though, his eyes widen in disbelief. “You’re in the Blue Houses?” The tone of his voice is unmistakable; he’s surprised and seems to pity me.
“Yeah.” I look back at him, shrugging my shoulders. I want to tell him sure, it’s a pretty horrible place to live, but it’s home for now. As I turn away from him to stare out the window, he takes my hand and gently rubs his callused thumb back and forth over my knuckles. It’s both soothing and arousing at once. I swallow hard, trying to steady my heart rate. I cross my legs and let out a sigh, keeping my eyes focused on the city streets.
A few minutes later, the cab stops short in front of my building. I let myself out of the back seat and look up, wondering what it looks like to an outsider. Three tall gray buildings are clustered together and fenced-in balconies frame the facade. The result is a prison-like structure. Pockets of people stand around smoking. On a night like this one, with clear skies, people don’t like to sit in their small apartments. I see a couple of guys on the stoop, observing everyone coming and going from the entrance. Luckily, they aren’t wearing any colors; I know they may be thugs, but they aren’t gang affiliated.
Vincent swipes his credit card to pay the taxi driver and steps out, insisting on walking me to the building’s front door. I want to protest to prove that I’m independent, but my innate sense of self-preservation tells me not to let him go. Even though there are people around, it’s late and dark—and being alone, even if I’m armed, isn’t the brightest idea. He slightly raises his chin, looking straight-up lethal. The intelligent man from the restaurant is gone, and in his place is the Bull from the ring.
Taking my hand, Vincent walks us inside the building with purpose, as if he’s the one who lives here. He makes it clear that he’s taking me all the way up to my apartment’s front door; he’s a man on a mission, and I’m not planning on stopping him.
He opens the door for me and we walk into the dingy gray lobby. The elevator has a sign on the door that says: OUT OF ORDER. I shut my eyes, cursing my luck. Looks like we’ll have to walk up the steps—just another sign pointing to my background, unworthy of a man like him. I lead him to the stairwell. Like a bad horror film, the lights flicker when the door slams shut. The light settles on a dim glow. He stops at the base of the steps, squeezing my hand and cursing. “This is dangerous. Tell me the lights normally work.”
“Uh, maybe I should tell you two stories. One real and one made up. You tell me which is which.” I internally slap myself five for giving back what he gave me just a few hours earlier.
He chuckles. “Okay.” We begin the trek up the steps. Luckily, he can’t see my face right now, because my body short-circuits every time his chest or hand brushes my back. It feels like I’m being stalked up the stairs; he’s just so close, but at the same time, not nearly close enough.
I try to sound upbeat. “There’s a fantastic super who fixes everything anytime tenants call. I’m sure all the bulbs will be replaced by morning.” He lets out a noncommittal grunt.
“Ready for the second story?” Our pace seems to be slowing down as his hand lightly grazes my lower back. He continues to touch me, and I get the feeling it isn’t by accident.
“Go on.” His voice is rough, and I blink a few times to steady myself.
“I’m lucky the light is even flickering. Sometimes it gets so dark, I may as well be walking through a black tube.”
I stop when we get to the fourth floor, turning around at the top step to tell him this is it. Before I can continue our little game to ask him which story is the truth, he puts his hands on my waist, waiting for me to look up at him.
I may be standing on a step above him, but he still towers over me. I watch as he licks his full lips, and my core begins to pulse from the visual. I’m not sure what the hell is happening to me, but my mind can’t focus on anything other than Vincent. The darkness is impairing my vision, resulting in a heightening of all of my other senses. I put my hands around his neck and feel the warm sinewy muscle under my fingers. With both his hands, he pushes my hair behind my ears and angles my head up to face him. He’s asking me with his touch if I want this. I let out a loud sigh and lean toward him as every cell in my body screams YES.
When he presses his lips to mine, I freeze. But he doesn’t let it deter him. Instead, he continues kissing me with a surprising gentleness, moving his mouth against mine and finally sliding his tongue alongside the seam of my mouth, begging entrance.
I open my mouth, letting him inside. His taste combined with the softness of his tongue has my legs weakening. He wraps a strong arm around my waist and holds me up, steadying me. Within seconds, his soft kisses become demanding. I’m trying to keep up with his pace, but it feels so good, all I can do is take it. He lifts me up and I instinctually wrap my legs around his waist. As if I weigh nothing at all, he walks us up to the landing and pushes me against the concrete wall. My phone drops to the ground, but I barely hear it or notice. He starts to rub against me rhythmically, pressing his hardness against my jeans in slow and deep strokes. I let out a moan as he hits a spot that’s starting an electrical current in my veins. Sweat beads on the back of my neck and between my breasts. My body is on overload; heat traveling from where he’s pushing against me out into all of my limbs. I’m shaking as my hands clutch his strong shoulders. He moves his lips from my mouth to my neck and I lean my head back against the wall, offering myself to him. God, it feels so good. Too good. Moments later, his lips suck a trail up to my ear. I’m burning up.
His lips move to my ear. “Fucking gorgeous, baby. Watching you dance, I had to talk myself down from taking you right there in the middle of the club.” Replying is not possible; the only sounds coming from my lips are moans.
My body is climbing higher and higher toward something. I feel him unbuttoning my jeans and I’m letting him. I’d do anything to soothe this ache. And right when I think I’m about to incinerate, his hand reaches down and presses into a spot that literally short circuits my brain. My head slams against the wall behind me and I’m completely lost, a scream tearing from my throat. I have zero control as my body melts on and on. He holds onto me, wrapping his body around me tightly as I come down from the high.
“What the hell was that?” I pant. I can barely see him as the lights flicker on and off, but the questioning look he gives me is clear.
“Was that your first orgasm, Eve?” All I can do is nod my head. He sighs, dropping his head into the crook of my neck. “God, baby. I can’t lie to you. I like that. I like that a lot. You’re so innocent and stunning. Fuck.” My eyes close again when I feel his lips back on mine, his tongue slowly dragging in and out of my mouth.
I let out a hum and give myself over to him; I’m so pliable right now; he could do anything he wanted, and I would say yes. When he pulls back, I open my eyes and touch my hands to my face, noticing how hot it is to the touch. He slowly lowers my feet to the ground and all I want to do is beg him to keep me up here, close to his body. I button my jeans as he bends down, picking up my phone and handing it to me.
We walk together to my apartment door. I turn toward him and look up into his intense eyes, wanting to thank him. But when I hear a couple fighting, I’m immediately brought back to my reality. I drop my head, irrationally wishing he either didn’t hear or didn’t notice. I’m one-hundred percent sure this isn’t the type of place Vincent is used to.
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