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Hell or High Water

By:Sara Rayne

Prologue

Lex Cooper never belonged anywhere. She’d been born with what her mom called “a habit of being in the way”. This party was no exception.

“Did I tell you about the time I broke the last record for weight-lifting?” Grant Stewert was West Texas University’s first-string quarterback, which in Texas gave him demigod status.

She hid a yawn in her lemonade while Grant prattled on, gaze fixed to her bust instead of her face. The intoxicated college students around her were deep in the end of the semester celebration—a hallowed campus holiday known as Finals Eve. It was like Christmas, but with a lot more work and no presents.

“…and Coach said whoever could bench press more, Bryan or me…”

Snore.

Finals week was no time for nonsense in Lex’s opinion, but her best friend, Josie Bordeaux, had a different idea. Josie had already graduated and was set to return to New Orleans to help her aunt run the family bed and breakfast in the French Quarter. Josie wouldn’t stand for Lex missing her big goodbye bash. Lex sighed, wishing she could kick off her sensible shoes and enjoy a night like this.

“So, like, do you have a boyfriend or what?”

Lex blinked, refocusing on Grant’s expectant face.

“Like, no. I’m not into…dating, right now. Grad school takes up so much time and…”

“You’re blowin’ me off, huh?” He sighed.

She licked her lips, trying to dredge up a comforting “it’s not you, it’s me” speech and failing. Grant was a jerk—he’d slept with over a dozen girls in her building alone, and according to the dorm rumor mill, he never came back for seconds.

“You’re not my type.”

“Not into bad boys?” He moved in closer, and Lex wished she hadn’t chosen to lean back against the wall. “Unusual for a good girl like you.”

Oh, please. Grant thought he was a bad boy? He’d wet his pants if Voodoo looked at him sideways.

“How would you know what kind of girl I am?” But he was all too right. She got good grades, had perfect attendance, played well with others—the whole shebang. The most rebellious thing she’d ever done involved eating an entire gallon of chocolate ice cream and puking on her mother’s lilacs, a stunt her dad found hilarious. Her mom—not so much.

If there were two sides to a thing, from preschools to politics, her parents ended up opposing each other. Except when it came to her father’s motorcycle club. It was the only joint-parenting decision they’d ever made. No Horsemen.

They worried Lex would adopt Captain’s outlaw lifestyle like most parents worried about drugs and teen pregnancy. Hiding any resemblance to Captain had been necessary for survival, and she’d cultivated a rep as a responsible, brainy sort.

Grant grabbed the drink out of her hand and peered into the cup.

“Lemonade—I rest my case.”

“I have a final tomorrow.” She gritted her teeth.

Her father’s trademarked devil-may-care attitude flowed through her veins, but she ignored it, shoved her rebellious side down where no one could find it and refused to give those thoughts voice. The “good girl” habit had become excruciating lately.

Waiting for her in Hell, at Hades Hotel & Diner on Main Street, was temptation incarnate—Voodoo.

The Horsemen were her forbidden fruit—the one apple she couldn’t eat. And she’d never wanted a taste of anything more than Voo. One look at him in one of his skin-tight shirts, smudged apron over leather pants, and dreads dancing around those silvery eyes did the trick.

She shivered.

Made it hard to give a college boy the time of day when a man back home could make a girl breakfast while calling her cute French nicknames—even if she only saw him in the diner.

“Very responsible of you. C’mon, sweetheart, let me get you somethin’ stronger and you can tell me all about how ‘not your type’ I am.”

“No can do. My final’s real early in the morning. Like butt-crack of dawn.” Lex slid out from between him and the wall. “I gotta find Josie and say goodbye.”

“Who?”

“Josie? About yay high.” Lex held her hand at Josie’s slightly taller height. “This party’s for her.”

“Right.” He turned to follow her. “I’ll take you home. My car’s out back and my buddy Bryan left with some chick an hour ago. No fun staying here if you’re leaving anyway….”

“No!” She cleared her throat and toned down the enthusiasm. “I mean, no, thank you. Stay and enjoy the party. Nice talking to you.”

“Shame we didn’t do more than talk.” He caught her wrist and tugged her against his chest in an awkward hug. The odor of Axe spray and cheap beer assailed her nose. Ah, the familiar scent of campus douche. “Have fun studyin’, good girl.”

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