Cocky Soldier (Cocker Brothers of Atlanta Book 6)

By: Faleena Hopkins

Meagan





Something is sniffing my fingers. Where the hell am I? Okay, not scary at all, but I’m blinking at a black, huge, beast of a dog with tan markings, larger than any I’ve ever seen before. He’s less than a foot away from my face. He’s stepping backwards like he didn’t think his dinner would wake up, and that gives me a greater view of a living room with virtually nothing in it in terms of furniture. Bryan’s mansion doesn’t have that creepy curtain-less window. My head is pounding. Why does my face feel crusty in places, wet in others?

If I’m at a spa in a facial mask they really need to spruce up their vibe. Add some Enya crooning in the background instead of that deep, male voice talking to someone other than me. Wait. I’m not alone.

“Where am I?!” I scream, sitting up like a shot.

Leaping in front of me—one hand out, the other holding a phone to his ear—is a shirtless guy so handsome that upon sight of him my open mouth clamps shut. His naked chest is sculpted, olive skin shadowed in all the right places, and there’s a tattoo of spindly lines and the letter C carved into the top of his left pectoral muscle. But there’s red stuff on his perfect chest that looks an awful lot like blood!

He gives an address into the phone then mutters, eyeing me, “She’s awake.”

“Yeah! I’m awake!” I croak, glancing behind me to see if he’s alone. “Did I ruin your evil plan?”

Back there is a sliver of a bare kitchen through a cracked-open door.

And that closed door to my right might lead to a coat closet…or to a basement where this guy keeps all his victims. The dog is between me and the front door.

In this bare bones room is a coffee table and a ratty chair. No art. White walls with scuff marks. A beat-up bicycle, tires inflated. Maybe that’s how he gets here. This couch is older than my grandfather’s grandpa’s mother. Just ahead awaits a hallway leading to other crappy places I never want to see.

None of it fits in with how intensely handsome and seemingly normal this guy looks. This is not just some bachelor pad. It doesn’t even look lived in.

Which means I’m in trouble.

He must be coo-coo-for-Cocoa-Puffs crazy.

This isn’t where he lives.

It’s where he stashes us.

“Tell whoever the fuck you’re talking to that you picked the wrong girl to kidnap! I know self-defense, asshole!” Jumping off the couch I kick at his knees to topple his abducting ass to the ground, but he jumps backward out of reach. No, he didn’t jump, exactly. He glided without effort as though he’s had training of his own, dark-chocolate eyes sharpening in an instant.

And now I’m on the ground. Nice. The hound from hell makes a sound like it’s embarrassed for me and we lock eyes. As I moan under the weight of the pain in my skull, its ears cock back on a head tilt.

“Calm down!” the guy orders me. “You need to be careful.”

My eyes shoot up and meet his. “Says the kidnapper.”

He frowns into the phone, “Hurry. Her head’s not on right. She’s combative.” After a pause, he mutters, “No, I’m not worried about that. I can handle her. I’ve dealt with worse. I’ll be waiting.” He hangs up and tucks the phone into his sweats’ pocket.

“You’ve dealt with worse? You get off on it or something? Huh?! HUH?! Good-looking guy like you can get any girl he wants so instead he steals and tortures them? Does that make you hot, sick fucker?!”

I try to kick at him again, but he backs up and sighs, crossing his arms, which makes his biceps spread out and look enormously strong. I stare at them thinking I might not be able to overtake him after all. I lied about the self-defense. I’ve been meaning to take classes. And right now I wish to God I hadn’t put that off.

He leans down and engages my stare. “I didn’t ‘steal’ you. Get back on the couch and stop trying to attack me. I’m not the enemy, and you have a concussion.”

Stunned, my hand floats to my head, and horror waves into me. “Is this my own blood?”

“Yes.”

Real fear takes hold—all bravado gone. “Okay, please don’t hurt me,” I whisper.

“I’m not going to hurt you, you freak! You drove into a tree. I had to get you to a phone. Couldn’t leave you out in the cold bleeding like that. An ambulance is on its way. Now, just calm the fuck down.”

We stare at each other while he tilts his stunning head, waiting for me to catch on.

“You actually live here?”

“Yes,” he mutters, annoyed. “And you almost hit me and my dog.”

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