The world is no longer a safe place,
especially for women.
For several decades, the birth rate of females has been declining.
Militants, the government,
and private citizens alike will do anything
to find young women and force them
into unthinkable arrangements.
The Wanderers are a secret
underground society, born to provide
sanctuary for anyone who believes in
free will and democratic notions.
They have grown in numbers for many years
and have several compounds where
their citizens live in safety.
USA Today Bestselling Author
Ever since Ariel joined The Wanderers three months ago, she’s been battling the belief from everyone in the compound that she’s too young to enter into a relationship. She’s well-aware who started this rumor and continues to perpetuate it. Stuart. The man is infuriating, and she’s so done with him meddling in her life. No matter how gorgeous he is.
Most of the men won’t come near her. Thank goodness two men have chosen to ignore the idle threats from the surly Stuart and have been courting her. Kester and Tarin have helped her transition to life underground like the gentleman they are.
Stuart is a stubborn mule. He lives under the premise that he intends to keep Ariel at arm’s length, but no one else can have her either. Too bad for him Ariel isn’t mousy, and her life experience makes her far more mature than he gives her credit for. She’s ready to take her relationships to the next level. Stuart can either get on board or take a hike.
Life in this new world isn’t easy. They face danger every day. People die. It’s time for Stuart to face his past and decide if it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Ariel and Kester are on their fourth date and they are going to his apartment. More for the privacy than anything else. She’s still figuring things out with Kester and she also likes Tarin who works with her sister. It’s Stuart who causing her the most problems and she’s talking it all out with Kester.
This is a favorite scene.
Kester scooted closer and gripped her hand in her lap this time. “First of all, I spend time with you because I like you. You’re fun and fucking smart and sharp and gorgeous. When you laugh, the tinkling sound lights up a room.”
He moaned and then spoke in a lower voice. “I really like when you call me Kes.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t think…”
He shook his head. “I said I like it, Ariel. It makes me feel like I’m special to you or something.” He waved a hand through the air, dismissing the thought. “As for Stuart, I can’t tell you for sure why he’s being such an asshole around you. I’m not sure anyone really knows. But I can tell you, albeit reluctantly, that it’s not because he doesn’t like you.”
She narrowed her gaze, skeptically.
“I’m confident he’s so attracted to you that he can’t think straight around you. He warns everyone away from you because he wants you for himself. I don’t know why he’s stuck to this strange narrative in which he insists you’re too young to approach, but literally, no one else agrees with him.”
She gasped, eyes wide. “He does not want me for himself.” I wish he did. “He treats me like I’ve got a
communicable disease, Kes.”
Kester laughed. “It’s a front, I tell you. I’m not sure he even realizes it. He’s using your age as an excuse.”
Kester shrugged. “Damned if I know. But the way he grumbles and growls about you is a sure sign to everyone that he’s claiming you for his own and we should all back off.”
Ariel blinked at him. “That’s absurd.”
Kester shook his head. “I’m serious.”
“He’s never said a kind word to me. He barely looks me in the eye. He never comes near me. It’s obvious he can’t stand me.”
Kester chuckled again, his chest rising and falling. “It’s like middle school all over again.”
She cocked her head to one side. “I have no idea what that means. I have only a vague understanding of what middle school even is.”
Kester smiled at her and dropped his arm along the back of the couch, lifting a lock of her hair and letting it run through his fingers. “Damn, your hair is as soft as it looks.” He turned back to her face. “Middle school is where kids go between elementary and high school. The awkward ages of twelve to fourteen. Girls are far more mature than boys at that age, and boys tend to act like idiots tripping over each other to try to catch a girl’s attention.”
She frowned. “Not following.”
“When a thirteen-year-old boy likes a girl, he’ll tell everyone around that she’s gross so they will back off and she will look at him.”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” She smiled.
He chuckled. She loved the sound of his laughter. “Agreed. But it’s true.”
“Okay, let’s say for one second that Stuart does have a childhood crush on me as you’re suggesting. Why do you keep pursuing me then? He’s your roommate. Surely, you don’t want to make him mad.” A flush raced up her face and she winced. “Unless, you’re not pursuing me at all, and I’ve misread you. Or…” She narrowed her gaze. “You’re doing it to annoy Stuart or to get me closer to him.”
Kester’s eyebrows shot up his forehead. “None of the above. I’m most definitely vying for your attention because I’m attracted to you. I couldn’t give two shits whether or not Stuart knows or cares or gets angry. His loss.”
She licked her lips. “My mother never mentioned how complicated men were.”
Kester laughed again. “To be fair, your mother didn’t live in a world where men outnumber women by such high margins. When your parents went into hiding over twenty years ago, the world was holding on by a thread, but it was still a mostly monogamous society.”
Kester stroked a finger down her cheek. She liked it. A lot. She wished he would do more than just that brief contact. She liked him, and like he’d said, even though she liked Stuart too, his loss. The infuriating man had pushed her away so many times, she’d lost count. It was impossible to believe he cared about her at all from the way he acted. In fact, his behavior suggested he saw himself more as a protector or father figure than a man attracted to a woman.
Kester released her hair on a sigh and gripped her hand again. “I’m under no illusion that there’s some kind of contest and in the end, I’ll win and get the girl. We don’t live in a world where that would be fair. I know you have feelings for Stuart. Your frustration with him speaks volumes, and I’ve seen the way you look at him.”
She winced. “And that doesn’t bother you?”
He shook his head. “I don’t let it. I can’t. I’d be a jackass if I claimed you for myself, especially since I know for a fact that Stuart and I aren’t the only two men who have noticed you.”
She gulped. “Who else?” Her heart was beating faster. It was so strange having this discussion. It shouldn’t be. She didn’t really know any other way of life. Other than the fact that her parents had lived in a monogamous relationship, she had no other models. Anything could be normal to her. After three months, she was far more accustomed to seeing polyamorous unions, especially among the younger crowd.
He smiled. “Well, every man who is single and under forty in the compound for starters. Who wouldn’t be interested in you? But more specifically, don’t tell me you aren’t aware that Tarin Gelman hunts you down as often as I do.”
Her cheeks heated again. He did. Tarin hadn’t been quite as blatant as Kester yet, but he did join her at meals sometimes and lingered longer than necessary to talk to her.
Kester grinned. “You did know.”
“Maybe. So now what? It’s not like when we arrived and Layla got snatched up by four men who were living as a family unit already. Tarin certainly doesn’t live with you two, Stuart and he have some sort of history that keeps them from exchanging civil discourse, and you and Stuart hardly speak to each other. Where does that leave me? What the heck am I supposed to do? There’s no way in the world I would let myself get passed around among three men in three separate relationships.” She cringed.
“And no one would ask that of you. If you’re interested in all three of us, just say the word, and I’ll talk to Tarin and Stu. It shouldn’t be your problem. The three of us will work it out.”
She eyed him skeptically again. It was too complicated to continue thinking about. “Can we stop talking about two other men who aren’t here?”
“Good. Kiss me.”
He flinched. “You want me to kiss you?”
“Yep.” She scooted closer.
“What? I thought you just said you like me.”
“I do. A lot. But I don’t want to rush you.” She wondered if he had any idea how tightly he was gripping her fingers.
“You’re not rushing me. I just asked you to kiss me. It’s a simple task. Are you up to the challenge?” She lifted a brow, shocked by her boldness.
He stared at her, inhaling deeply. “You’re sure?”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, yes. But if you don’t want to…”
He released her fingers and cupped her face with both hands, holding her gaze for several seconds before bringing his lips to hers.
Ariel’s chest pounded as he closed the distance, and she sighed into his mouth the moment his lips touched hers. Soft. Gentle. Caring.
One of his hands slid to the back of her neck and angled her to one side so he could deepen the kiss, his tongue stroking along the seam of her lips until she parted for him on instinct.
She closed her eyes and reached for him, her hands coming to his waist and easing up his torso. It may have been a bold move on her part, but she wasn’t sorry. Being kissed was amazing.
“What the fuck?” A door snicked shut behind them, and Ariel jerked her head to the side at the same time as Kester. She hadn’t heard the door open. She’d been in her own world.
But it most certainly had opened and closed.
Stuart stood just inside, his broad shoulders seemingly broader than ever, his hands fisted at his sides, his brow furrowed. He was pissed.
Becca Jameson. Refuge: The Wanderers, Book Two (Kindle Locations 132-199). Becca Jameson Publishing.
Ariel is a strong woman and she’s not going to be deterred in her quest for happiness. Stuart isn’t going to be easy to win over, but all of them are going to work on it.
I love the way this comes together, with Ariel proving herself over and over again. There’s more insight into the way the compound works and the people they continue to rescue.
With some action, some intrigue, and a bit of sizzling heat, I couldn’t put this book down.
5 Contented Purrs for Becca!
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Becca Jameson is a USA Today bestselling author of over 100 books. She is most well-known for her Wolf Masters Series, her Fight Club series, and her Club Zodiac series. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and Goldendoodle. Two grown kids pop in every once in a while too! She is loving this journey and has dabbled in a variety of genres, including paranormal, sports romance, military, and BDSM.A total night owl, Becca writes late at night, sequestering herself in her office with a glass of red wine and a bar of dark chocolate, her fingers flying across the keyboard as her characters weave their own stories.
During the day–which never starts before ten in the morning!–she can be found jogging, running errands, or reading in her favorite hammock chair!
…where Alphas dominate…