Dangerous Rush

By: S.C. Stephens


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS





First off, I’d like to thank everyone who read the first book, Furious Rush, and messaged me, clamoring for more! I had so much fun writing this sequel, and I hope you had as much fun reading it! And now on to book three!

A huge thank you to my agent, Kristyn Keene of ICM Partners, who was a tremendous help in putting this book together. Hugs to everyone at Forever/Grand Central Publishing, who have done such a great job promoting the series. Much love to Holly and Katie, for beta reading this for me. Your input was greatly appreciated, and thank you so much for fitting me in at a moment’s notice!

Thank you to my editor, Madison Seidler, my formatter, Julie Titus of JT Formatting, my cover designer, Hang Le, and my web designer Lysa Lessieur of Pegasus Designs. I would be lost without your help! And to all the numerous blogs, readers, and authors who have supported me over the years—from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much! I wouldn’t be able to continue in this business without your kind words and (sometimes daily) encouragement.

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CHAPTER 1





~Hayden~


4 years ago





“Here you go, Hayden...the best shit your money can buy.” Hookup handed me a manila envelope, and my fingers twitched as I took it. There was supposed to be an engagement ring inside, and not just any ring, but a ring fit for a queen. Fit for my queen.

Once I had the envelope in my hands, I was hesitant to look inside. Hookup wasn’t that great with matters of the heart—his interests tended to revolve around making money—so I wasn’t sure what to expect. He could have messed this up in so many ways, and I really couldn’t afford to buy a ring like this twice. But when I’d told Hookup my plan to propose to my girlfriend, Felicia, he’d assured me that he knew a guy who knew a guy who could get me something I’d never be able to afford on my own. I was fairly certain I was holding stolen property.

Inhaling a deep breath, I pulled back the envelope flap to peek at the ring nestled in the crevice at the bottom. My eyes widened in surprise at the size of the rock Hookup had nabbed. It was so big it was almost gaudy. Pulling the shiny adornment out of its hiding place, I studied it for any obvious flaws that would proclaim it a knockoff; I couldn’t find any. “Damn, Hookup. I don’t want to know where you got this, but it’s perfect. Thanks, man.”

I clasped his shoulder in a quick hug; my cheeks were beginning to hurt, I was grinning so hard. “No problem, dude. Just remember, when you finally knock up Felicia, you’re having a boy and you’re naming him Tony, after me. Izzy already took care of naming a girl after me with Antonia. Speaking of which, we should get going. You know Iz will kill us if we’re late.”

Nodding, I stuffed the ring into my jacket pocket. “Yeah, let’s go.”

As we walked to our vehicles—a black, souped-up Acura for Hookup, a super-fast Suzuki for me—Hookup pointed to my pocket. “So, you gonna give that to Felicia today?”

Just his question made me feel lightheaded and dizzy. I’d been thinking about doing it today, and, of course, every time I thought about it, I felt like throwing up. But today was the perfect day to ask Felicia to marry me. In addition to being Antonia’s third birthday, it was also my nineteenth birthday. Everyone I cared about was going to be at our joint birthday party. And to make things even better, timing-wise, Felicia was turning eighteen in another month. We’d both finally be free.

As I felt the hard ring in my pocket, I told Hookup, “Yeah, yeah, I think so.” My gut twisted again, but I ignored it. The diamond resting in my jacket was the perfect embodiment of my relationship with Felicia, and it belonged on her finger. We’d known each other forever, but we’d begun dating when I was fourteen years old, and sure, maybe nineteen was a little young to settle down with just one girl for the rest of my life, but she was no ordinary girl, and the two of us had never had an ordinary life.

Both of us had been taken from our biological parents when we’d been about Antonia’s age. We’d bounced around the system, floundering for someone or something to replace everything we’d lost. Instead of being handed what we’d needed to survive, the two of us had fought tooth and nail for every scrap. We were a team; we had each other’s backs, and there was no one else I wanted by my side. Why wait another ten years to get married, when I already knew I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life? Always had, always would. She was my destiny.

A few minutes later, Hookup and I pulled into the parking lot of Izzy’s apartment building. Being a single mom was hard on Izzy, but then again, having a baby at fifteen had been hard on her. The douchebag who’d knocked her up had bailed on her the minute he’d realized she wasn’t just gaining weight, but was actually going to have a child. Having him split had been a walk in the park in comparison to having a kid when she was still a kid, but we—Hookup, Felicia, and I—felt like Antonia was ours, too, so we did everything we could for Izzy. And man…that kid… Antonia was something special. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for her, and hell if I was going to let her have a childhood like mine. If it was the last thing I did on this Earth, she would know what having a father felt like. And, in a way, thanks to her, I knew what having a daughter felt like. I was there the day she was born. I’d changed mountains of diapers, fed her gallons of formula. I was the one who’d taught her how to walk, and my name was the first thing she’d said. Well, technically, it was “Hay,” but I was claiming it. That kid meant the world to me…which was why I was starting to get really concerned about her. She’d been sick a lot lately—run-down, tired, nauseous—like she’d caught something she just couldn’t shake. Izzy was freaked out about it, so we all took turns reassuring her that Antonia was going to be fine. And she had to be; she was just a toddler after all. How bad could it be?

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