Ruthless Bastard by Stacey Kennedy

April 04, 2020

Ruthless Bastard by Stacey Kennedy

USA Today bestselling author Stacey Kennedy delivers a riveting story about a former army ranger who will stop at nothing to protect the woman he loves.


-- He always had a heart --
Kinsley and Rhett have known each other for practically their whole lives. He's one of her brother's best friends, a police detective, and the only man who has ever owned her heart. He used to be sweet and charming, however, when he retired from the military he came home a changed man. Rhett is haunted by the things he did and what he saw when he was a soldier and adjusting to civilian life hasn't been easy. No one can question Kinsley's devotion to him, but Rhett would never saddle her with all of his baggage. He has no dreams of happily ever after. He can't even hold down a relationship. Can the small town sweetheart tame the notorious playboy?

Ruthless Bastard was a well-written, fast-paced, and entertaining diversion from reality. Rhett was supposed to be portrayed as a cold-hearted bastard, but to me, he was warm and caring with a bit of damage. I loved how the author characterized him and his backstory for it gave him depth and explained why he was such a delicious broken hero. As for Kinsley, she was an absolute darling person who should have nothing but happiness and joy. The small town feel and the romance that vibrated through these pages with some suspense to give this story an edge made my reading experience complete!

Trope: brother's best friend/military

-- About the Book --
He has what it takes to protect her from everyone . . . except himself.

Bar owner Kinsley Knight knows exactly what she wants: Rhett West. How could she resist over six feet of hard, trained physical perfection? Never mind that she's been in love with the guy since high school, or that she's the "kid sister" of his best friend. Never mind that one unforgettably intense and heated night they shared-and the unexpected consequences. Because Kinsley's determined to have Rhett . . . and she'll do anything to prove they're meant to be.

But Rhett can't afford to get distracted by the mind-blowingly hot night he spent with Kinsley, or the insatiable hunger he still feels for her. She's off-limits. Especially now that Rhett's been investigating the members of a vicious biker gang who have invaded his town, and they're intent on putting Kinsley out of business-permanently. Suddenly, all of Rhett's protective instincts have taken over. Because no one threatens Kinsley on his watch. Not now. Not ever. And Rhett's ruthless enough to protect Kinsley no matter the cost. Even if it means risking his heart . . .



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-- Read an excerpt --

Prologue


Kinsley Knight’s lush body was temptation. Her pouty lips, pure seduction. And the lust in her eyes pulled Rhett West in until she left him dizzy.

She was also totally off limits.

The blistering heat on the tropical island remained, even though the sun had gone down hours ago. Rhett’s entire inner circle of friends were celebrating tonight. His two childhood friends, and fellow detectives, Boone Knight and Asher Sullivan, were standing at the bar ordering up another round of drinks. On the beach, twirling on the makeshift dance floor, was Asher’s wife, and Kinsley’s best friend, the vivacious Remy, with her bright green eyes and sunny blond hair. The gorgeous blonde with hazel eyes full of happiness, and wearing the white wedding dress, was Peyton, Boone’s new wife. And among them were all of Boone and Peyton’s family, as they’d all come to witness the intimate ceremony, which also included a week-long trip in the tropics. Tomorrow they’d all leave, while Boone and Peyton stayed for another week to enjoy their honeymoon. Rhett was counting down the hours. All week long, Kinsley was getting in his head, making him want things he shouldn’t.

With the bulb lights twinkling off the trees they were hung in, Kinsley spun, her arms in the air, when suddenly she caught him looking at her. A slight smile curved her lips. The temptress knew exactly what she did to him and played on that, and the fun way she danced shifted. She held his gaze, slowing rolling her hips, her dress flowing with the curves of her body, hardening Rhett to steel.

He shouldn’t take the bait, but he couldn’t help himself either. He leaned back in his chair and sipped his scotch, watching every sexy move she made. She spun around, her gorgeous ass moving slowly, the satiny dress revealing every perfect curve. When she turned back again, and gave him a little smile, he groaned and polished off his second glass of scotch.

For the past three years, after retiring from the military, he’d worked as a detective for the Stoney Creek Police Department, and he took pleasure where he could find it, ensuring he kept Kinsley at arm’s length. But it was this damn tropical island. Seeing her strutting around in a string bikini with barely anything covering her had fueled his desire for her. He wanted a taste of her sun-kissed skin.

And she knew it.

“Something caught your eye?”

“Shut up.” Rhett snorted, glancing at Asher. His friend’s light green eyes were all but twinkling as he took a seat beside him. No one except Asher knew that Rhett had a soft spot for Kinsley. Rhett had never told him, but Asher always had a way of reading people. Those people skills made him a damn good detective. Luckily, Asher only hinted that he knew; he never came outright and said the truth Rhett wanted to avoid. “Shouldn’t you be dancing with your wife?” Rhett asked, giving him a shove to go away.

Asher grinned. “And miss this fine show happening over here?”

Rhett scowled, lips parting to spew a few choice words when Boone dropped down in the chair on Rhett’s other side. Both Kinsley and Boone shared their father’s brown hair and blue eyes.

“She’s handling this well,” Boone said before taking a swig of his beer.

Rhett’s chest tightened, heat flushing his already warm skin beneath his white button-up. “Handling what well?”

“Our mother being here.” Boone gestured toward the bar.

Rosemary, along with her husband, were talking to her ex-husband, Hank. Rosemary looked a lot like Kinsley, just an older version with a bob instead of long hair, and dark eyes instead of blue. But the biggest difference between them was on the inside, not their physical appearance. Kinsley was loyal and kind, whereas Rosemary was a horrible person, who’d walked out on her family, leaving them behind. She should not even be there as far as Rhett was concerned, but Boone had made peace with his mother, something that Kinsley never wanted.

Rhett wondered if that’s why their inner circle of friends was always so tight. Boone, Asher, and Rhett’s friendship had been born from hard times. Boone’s mother left. Then Asher’s mother died. It brought them together in a way that forever bonded them, leaving no room for anyone to break them apart. Until Rhett returned from the military and found Kinsley all grown up. No longer was she the kid that drove them crazy; she was a beautiful woman who drove him crazy with desire. And she was certainly the one person who could break their friendships apart.

Laughter from the beach drew Rhett’s gaze. The women were now sitting in the sand, obviously having fallen over in their dancing.

Boone chuckled and rose. “And that’s my cue to take my wife to bed.”

Rhett got to his feet as well, pulling Boone into a rough hug. “Congrats, man. Couldn’t have been a better day.”

“You’re right about that.” Boone smiled before making his way toward his wife.

Rhett vaguely watched Asher go and collect Remy. The night was wrapping up and the few remaining guests began leaving, but something else caught Rhett’s eye. Rosemary was no longer at the bar; she was approaching Kinsley. Rhett felt himself take a step forward before he forced that foot back down.

Seconds passed like long minutes as Rosemary touched Kinsley’s arm, garnering her attention. Kinsley turned around, facing her mother with the bravery he’d come to expect from her. Rosemary’s mouth moved. Kinsley simply blinked and then walked away. The hurt crossing Rosemary’s face made Rhett’s blood turn red-hot.

He strode forward. Now that Boone had left, he finally felt free to say his piece. He stopped next to Rosemary. “You’re lucky that one child forgives you,” he told her. “Respect her wishes not to talk to you.” Rosemary’s tears only enraged him more. He stood with Kinsley on this. Her leaving them as children and barely even keeping in touch with them now were unforgivable.

His head screamed at him to stay put, but his feet were moving, almost against his will. A minute later, he found Kinsley standing on a rock, her high heels dangling from her hand. The warm breeze fluttered in the night. “All right?” he asked, slowly approaching her.

Kinsley glanced over her shoulder, tears in her eyes. She eventually nodded and turned her gaze back to the dark water.

Rhett settled in next to her, staying quiet, not even knowing what to say.

Kinsley finally filled the silence. “It’s funny, you know. I wasn’t sure what I’d feel seeing that woman.”

“It’s understandable if seeing her upsets you.”

She looked up at him with those crystal blue eyes that pierced right through him. “Seeing her only upsets me because it reminds me that my grandmother isn’t here. The people who really loved Boone should be here, not the one who never mattered.”

An unusual rush of warmth washed over him. His fingers twitched to reach out to her, as a tear brushed down her cheek. Her strength blindsided him and her beauty engulfed him with an intensity he couldn’t extinguish. But her emotion, seeing those eyes fill with sadness, broke down any wall he had up against her.

He wasn’t thinking about repercussions when he reached out and brought her into his arms, only that he needed her close. She wrapped her arms around him, and he heard her high heels fall against the rock as her chin lifted. He looked into those eyes that penetrated places no one had before and he turned his mind off. His lips met hers, and there was no thought anymore. There was only her and him and the perfection of a long-awaited kiss that made him only want more.

So much more that somewhere between kissing her on the beach, finding their way back to his suite, he’d thrown caution to wind, forgetting why he should stay away from her.

Up until the next morning when he stood over her, while she lay sleeping in his bed, her dark hair curtaining the white pillow.

Stark naked, he glanced at the floor, finding three open condom wrappers.

Fuck.

“Why are you staring at me?” Kinsley groaned, her face buried in the pillow. She turned her head a little and peeked open an eye. “Ugh. There’s two of you, and both of you look really pissed off.”

Rhett thrust his hands into his hair. “Please tell me this is a nightmare and we actually didn’t sleep together last night.” But every moan, every hot kiss, was burned in his memory. He remembered just how she tasted while his tongue trailed over her flesh, the amazing floral scent of her stuck in his nostrils.

She rolled over then and Rhett caught a full view of her incredible breasts. You’re so goddamn beautiful…he’d practically purred at her last night after she’d bared herself to him. The lustful eyes she gave him after that comment had him quickly turning around now, as he desperately tried to scrub the memory from his mind. “Get dressed,” he told her.

“You’re naked too, you know,” she said with a smile in her voice. “And it’s quite clear you still want me.”

He frowned at her over his shoulder and then scowled at his hard cock. “Get dressed. Right now.” He went to his suitcase, took out a pair of shorts, and slipped into them. When he turned back around, he found her sitting up in bed with the blankets covering her chest. His mind stuttered at the sight of her. Long, dark tousled hair and gorgeous blue eyes, both of which were a stark contrast against the white pillows and sheets. “Jesus Christ,” he said aloud, moving to the chair, wanting to be as far away from her as possible, considering he was contemplating climbing back into bed with her. “What the fuck have I done?”

“Me,” she said with a laugh. “And damn, it was good.”

He dropped his hands and frowned at her. “Kinsley,” he said in a warning tone.

Instead of responding, which was what he’d expected, she pushed away the sheets and rose from the bed. Rhett’s cock went from hard to rock hard so fast, he grunted.

Harder…faster…God, yes, Rhett…more…Her husky voice echoed in his head. No, hell, in his goddamn soul. She was perfect last night. And she was perfect now. Every single inch of her. Curves in all the right places. Her skin smooth and creamy. But those eyes of hers—filled with heat and sass and something he couldn’t put a name on—unraveled him. “What are you doing to me?” he grumbled.

“Making this as painful as possible.” She grinned and reached for her bra and panties on the floor, turning her heart-shaped ass to him as she bent over.

He groaned. Every stroke inside her body still burned against his flesh. “It’s working.”

She quickly dressed in her sexy thong panties and black lace bra, then slid into her slinky bridesmaid dress, reminding Rhett that they were there at the resort for her brother’s wedding. He was a fucking terrible friend.

Kinsley finally turned around and gave him a sexy smile. “You can relax. Boone will never know about this.” She walked over to Rhett and stared down at him, her pretty hair curtaining the soft lines of her cheekbones.

Rhett clenched his fists, fighting against his desire to tangle his fingers in their strands and pull her right back onto his lap. “This shouldn’t have fucking happened.” He stood up abruptly. And as he did, he saw the way her pupils dilated. The same way they always did when he got close. It was why he kept his distance. She deserved better than him. Kinsley was sunshine and light; she radiated warmth. She deserved a man that had his shit together and knew how to commit to a woman. Rhett was not that man.

Bold as ever, she took a step forward, closing the distance between them. “We both knew this eventually would happen. Now it has, and we can finally get over this push and pull thing we’ve been ignoring for years.” She gave him a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Don’t worry, West, you can go back home and let everyone keep thinking you’re a ruthless bastard.” She made her way to the door.

He balked. “I am a ruthless bastard,” he called out to her.

Her hand froze on the door handle and she glanced over her shoulder. She didn’t need to say a word. With just that warm and soft look, she slayed him. “Rhett,” she said slowly. “We both know that I could never think that.” Then she walked out, shutting the door behind her, and all that was left was a breathless, weightless feeling deep in Rhett’s gut that whatever they’d done last night wasn’t going to change just them; it was going to change everything.

-- About Stacey Kennedy --
Stacey Kennedy is an outdoorsy, wine-drinking, nap-loving, animal-cuddling, USA Today bestselling romance author with a chocolate problem. She writes sexy contemporary romance and romantic suspense full of heat and heart, including titles in her wildly hot Dangerous Love, Kinky Spurs, Club Sin, and Dirty Little Secrets. She lives in southwestern Ontario with her family and does most of her writing surrounded by lazy dogs.

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