New Release and Exclusive Excerpt: Dare to Stay by Jen McLaughlin

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Fans of Katie Ashley, Joanna Wylde, Kristen Ashley, Sophie Jackson and Katee Robert will be thrilled by this dark, steamy series, from the New York Times bestselling author of the Out of Line novels, where one gang of criminals knows just how being bad can be so good…

Bruised and bloodied on Boston’s mean streets, Chris O’Brien is reeling from the loss of his childhood best friend. But after barely escaping a hit placed on his head, Chris is desperate to live. A safe haven comes to mind – the home of the perfect girl from his childhood, Molly Lachlan. Before he has fully considered what it would mean to involve her in his mess, he finds himself on her doorstep.

When Molly agrees to let Chris inside her home, she realizes she’s also letting him into her life. Danger and desperation are coming off him like steam, and yet she can’t bring herself to turn him away. His bad boy charm always had a hold on her, but now there’s a soulfulness and sorrow in him that she’s never seen before. And despite the heart-stopping risk of helping him, she hopes against all reason that he’ll stay…

The stakes are dangerously high…and the passion is seriously intense. Follow the exploits of the Sons of Steel Row in Dare To Run and Dare To Stay.

Exclusive Excerpt

The man moved forward another step, and another, one unsteady foot in front of the other, holding a scary-looking gun in his right hand. His dark brown hair was the only thing I saw of his features, and he was tall. Easily six foot three. Muscular. Tattoos. Written letters across his knuckles that spelled out Steel Row on both hands and that struck a memory that I couldn’t quite place. As if that wasn’t enough to let me know what gang he belonged to, he wore a dark brown leather jacket that announced him as a member of the Sons of Steel Row as clearly as a red bandanna announced a man as a member of the Bloods. Steel Row was a neighborhood filled with crime and poverty, ruled by a ruthless gang. They called themselves the Sons of Steel Row.

At least I would have an accurate description to give the police . . .

From the afterlife.

Not daring to move, I willed myself into invisibility. He had his head lowered and hadn’t turned my way yet. If I was lucky, he wouldn’t. He’d stumble off into the darkness and leave me alone. And I could slip away to—

Slowly, the man lifted his head.

It seemed as if it took a lot of effort on his part. Almost too much. And he took so long to do it that by the time he lifted his head completely . . . I knew exactly why those tattoos and that brown hair seemed so familiar. And I also knew why I hadn’t turned around and run yet. Instinctively, I must’ve recognized him.

Chris O’Brien. Killer, gang member, and the devastatingly handsome boy next door.

Despite his ties to Steel Row, his parents lived next door to me. When I was fifteen, they bought the biggest house in my opulent neighborhood—which happened to be the one closest to ours. Everyone knew their money was dirty, just like everyone knew it was best if we all kept our mouths shut about how we felt about that matter. And their son, Chris, was as dangerous as he was sexy—and believe me, that was saying a heck of a lot.

The man was pure sexual tension and hot gazes.

He’d moved out when he turned eighteen, but after my father died, he started showing up on my property whenever he visited his parents on the weekends. Every Sunday afternoon, he did some small favor for me, even though it was quite a hike from my house to theirs. He’d mow the lawn, or wash my car, or pressure wash the windows.

I always thanked him with a smile, but I never encouraged him. Never gave him a reason to think his benevolence would get him anywhere, because it wouldn’t. Not with me. If I succumbed to the desire he made me feel, it would be like sleeping with the enemy. But still, he was attractive in a way I couldn’t deny, no matter his proclivity toward killing people. His dark brown hair and dark brown eyes were haunting in their obvious suggestion of the fact that he wasn’t a good man. And his tattoos were stark against his pale skin, as was the scruff that covered his jaw.

His hard, square, unyielding jaw.

It would be too hard, though, if it wasn’t for the fact that he had a dimple in his chin. Something about that soft dent, that charming little flaw, made him more human. But I knew better. He was more monster than human. All men like him were. Deep down, beneath his acts of neighborhood friendliness and that devastatingly handsome smile . . .

He was a killer. He would always be a killer.

But he was hurt.

Blood ran down his arm and soaked the spot on his shoulder where there was a hole in his jacket. He was pale, even in the darkness, and ashen. Bruises were forming under his eye, and his nose appeared to be broken. He looked like he’d been hit by a truck, and lived to tell. But trucks didn’t shoot bullets, so they were innocent of this crime.

He’d been shot.

My heart wrenched, and I wanted to help him, but it would break my rule of not letting him get too close. Men like him left devastation in their wake, and I didn’t intend to be a part of that. Didn’t intend to be yet another victim of his. He lived in his world, and I lived in mine. The two didn’t mix. Just like we didn’t.

But he was bleeding.

Breath held, I backed up a step, hoping he couldn’t see me in the darkness. The second I moved, he lifted the gun and pointed it at me. “Whoever you are, get the hell out of here and forget you saw me, or I’ll shoot. Go. Now.”

I held my hands up, not moving.

I should do what he said to do. Turn around and walk away. When a man held a gun at you and told you to go? You went, and you didn’t look back. You got in your car and drove away before he changed his mind and shot you.

And this wasn’t any man. This was Chris O’Brien.

But he was weak.

I lifted a foot, about to follow his instructions, but froze. What would my dad have done? Would he have walked away, or would he have helped a man who clearly needed it? Of course, I already knew the answer to that question.

Licking my lips, I did the opposite of what he told me to do. I honored my dad’s memory and did what he would have done. I stepped closer to him. “C-Chris? It’s me. Molly Lachlan.”

The gun didn’t waver. He blinked at me. “Molly?”

“Yeah.” Another step. “See? It’s me.”

Again, the gun held steady. “Shit.”

“Are you okay?” I asked, my voice low and as unassuming as I could make it, considering the circumstances. “I mean, I know you’re not okay. I can see you’re injured, and bleeding, and you broke in . . . But are you okay?”

He laughed, the sound as harsh as the sight of his pale ashen skin was. “No. I’m not okay at all.”

“I’m sorry.” I swallowed hard. “Do you need some help?”

“No.” He finally lowered the gun. His hand didn’t tremble, or shake at all, despite the fact that he seemed seconds from death, and he sagged against the building as if the effort of standing up was too much. “Just go home and forget you saw me.”

When he turned to me, my heart sped up. Even weak and bleeding, the man had an irresistible sexual pull that was impossible to deny. I didn’t move. “I can’t leave you here.”

“Sure you can.” He gestured toward my car weakly. “You just walk back to your fancy car, start it, step on the gas, and keep going.”

I hesitated, but shook my head.

For some reason, I grew surer of my decision to stay. Something instinctively told me that while Chris was a dangerous guy, he wasn’t a danger to me. I took another step closer, under the street light.

He lifted the gun again, pointing it at me. “Don’t make me make you leave, Molly. Don’t make me threaten you. Just go.”

Then again . . .

“You’re not going to shoot me.” I held my hands up, my heart racing so fast it hurt, because even though I was about ninety-nine percent sure he wouldn’t, there was that one percent that was screaming at me to hurry up and run. “But if you want to, go ahead. Pull the trigger. I can’t stop you.”

He didn’t drop his gaze, and a muscle in his cheek ticked. The gun stayed pointed at me, ever steady, and there was a coldness in him that I’d never seen before that made me fear for my life. Maybe I’d overplayed my hand in an attempt to honor my father’s memory. To make him proud of me.

And I might pay the ultimate price.

Author Bio

Jen McLaughlin is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of sexy books with Penguin Random House. Under her pen name, Diane Alberts, she is also a USA TODAY bestselling author of Contemporary Romance with Entangled Publishing. Her first release as Jen McLaughlin, Out of Line, hit the New York Times, USA TODAY and Wall Street Journal lists. She was mentioned in Forbesalongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestselling lists. She is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.

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