Real, Book 5
A ripped rock star with attitude.
An ex-girlfriend with a reckless plan.
Pandora assumed getting her heart broken by her bad boy ex could only happen once—until Mackenna Jones comes back to town for the biggest concert of his career. They say girls are getting pregnant just thinking about the Crack Bikini tour and it’s destined to be a huge hit.
Oh, it’ll be a hit alright—when Pandora comes out swinging. She and her friend Melanie are determined to humiliate him onstage. But when they’re caught by security and her ex is summoned, Mackenna decides not to press charges if she’ll join him on tour and follow certain conditions—rules designed to give him the upper hand and keep her in close contact with him once again. Soon, the passion they once shared is reignited, and no matter how much Pandora wants to hate him, her hard exterior starts to crack.
And worse: Mackenna knows it, too. But even Mackenna doesn’t know everything…
I’m the only person in my apartment building that still gets a newspaper. It sits on my doorstep this morning, and I love the way it smells. I love the crackling noise when I drop into my dining room chair and slap the sucker open. This sound, this smell . . . they remind me of lazy Saturday mornings reading the paper with my dad, his cologne scent engulfing me. By the time I was seventeen, he was gone. As was his morning rumple of my hair and his cologne—but not the smell of the paper. It’s been almost a decade and I still find an incomparable little joy in the smell of this freshly printed newspaper. Until now . . .
Now . . . when the headline of the entertainment section stares back at me, mocking me.
Mackenna Jones Is Back in Town! the headline says, and just reading that feels like a punch in the gut.
I squeeze my eyes shut and open them, my stomach trembling uncontrollably.
Mackenna Jones is back in town!
Fuck, I really need to stop reading that.
Mackenna Jones is back in town!
God. Still reads the same.
The name curls around me like smoke in my insides, and butterflies I didn’t even know I still carried crash into the walls of my belly. I thought it impossible that a single one of these butterflies had survived Mackenna Jones.
He’s coming to town, Pandora. What are you going to do about it?
The thought of him being in the same state makes me scowl bleakly. “Seriously, asshole? You had to come here?”
I begin reading the article about Crack Bikini, how the band has revolutionized music. How even Obama has openly said this band is responsible for turning young kids back to the music of the masters—Mozart, Beethoven. But it doesn’t end there. It’s just getting started turning up the schmooze. The reporter keeps going on and on about how this tour has sold out Madison Square Garden faster than Justin Bieber’s first show, and how it will be the concert of the year, if not the decade.
Briefly, the band’s breakout song flits through my head. For a time, this song played on every radio station in the country, and it made me loathe music with a passion—hell, the mere thought of it angers me all over again.
My hands shake as I set down the newspaper, fold it, and try to move on to another section. I live with my mother and my cousin, and I’ve always had an appreciation for my quiet time on Saturdays, when Magnolia has ballet and my mother has errands. But now, my precious Saturday—time I get our apartment to myself—has officially been ruined. Not only my Saturday, this just ruins my entire fucking year.
Mackenna. In Seattle.
My hands tremble as I go back to the entertainment section and slowly scan for the date of the concert. I find myself clicking open Internet Explorer on my phone and navigating straight to Ticketmaster. Yep, the show is already sold out. So I head to eBay, where I discover the staggering prices the best tickets command.
I don’t know why, but for a moment, I imagine myself in one of those pricey seats, calling him the world’s greatest asshole from up close so he can hear through all the noise he and his band members make.
I don’t know what I’m doing. Or maybe I do know. A cold chill is settling in my body. The show is sold out. The tickets cost a fortune. But no. I won’t miss this opportunity. It’s been almost six years since I last saw him. Almost six years since seeing that hard, perfect man-butt as he jumped into his jeans.
The first time he took me, I could almost see my V card nicely tucked into his back pocket. He told me he loved me and asked me to tell him that I loved him. He was still inside me when he asked if I wanted him to be with me. I cried instead—because something is wrong with me, and I couldn’t. I couldn’t say it back. But I know that he knew.
He kissed me harder than ever when I started to cry, and our kiss tasted of my tears. At the time, I thought it all so painful and raw, the way he kissed me. So beautiful. I trembled as he held me. I couldn’t seem to piece myself back together after breaking for him the way I did during my orgasms. I could hear his breath mingle with my breath as he soothed a hand down my spine, telling me over and over that he loved me.
And that wasn’t the only time he took me. For days and weeks and months, we made hot, fevered love. I was seventeen and he was my everything, and when he took me, I thought he wanted everything I had to give. He left anyway. Bastard.
Mackenna was a secret, you see. He was the closest I’ve ever been to a person in my life—but he was a secret nobody could find out about. Especially not my mother. He knew it. I knew it. But we always managed to see each other anyway. We lied, hid, stole out of our homes and into the night, meeting at the docks and hijacking some unsuspecting family’s yacht until sunrise. We didn’t care who our families were, or what was “best” for us.
As far as I was concerned, he was it for me, and I for him.
He was my best friend too.
My world broke when I heard he left Seattle.
He didn’t even say goodbye.
The last thing he’d said to me was that he loved me.
Now. I. Hate. Love.
I thought that with his absence, the wound would heal. But the wound is still there. It’s festered and bubbled up and grown.
I gave the motherfucker everything that was in my young, stupid heart to give, and he ruined me.
Well, fuck him.
Next week he’s in Seattle. He and his mashers are in town and everyone is going. I call them mashers because there’s no other group like them. They mash their songs to someone else’s—to real music. Bach, Chopin, the masters. The result is a rock band symphony that runs through your body and curls your toes. And if you add in his vocals . . .
Hell, I don’t even want to talk about his vocals.
People choose to fall in love because it makes them feel good. Love makes them feel protected, safe. Not me. I choose hate. It makes me feel good. Protected and safe. Hating him is all that keeps me sane. Hating him means what he did to me doesn’t matter. I can still feel something. I am not yet dead, because I can feel this hate corroding me. He’s ruined me for other men. Stopped me from being the woman I could have been. He’s broken every dream of a future with him I had. He was my first love and my first everything, including my first heartbreak.
Even after he left, all I’ve been aware of is him, and what he left me with, and what he took from me.
The tickets are expensive. I spend most of what I make helping my mom care for Magnolia. But three little clicks on eBay is all it would take. Three little clicks and I can go up that last notch of debt on my credit card and see this asshole again, in the flesh.
Totally worth it, I decide, and go online and buy two of the most expensive tickets eBay has to offer.
Opening my calendar, I find the day and mark it with an X.
Get ready, asshole. Your Seattle concert won’t be considered a success. Not if I can help it.
The excerpts below were posted originally on Popsugar.
“First we will get a small apartment. A loft!”
“That’s right,” a low voice answers over the top of my head.
“And all we’d need is a bed in it,” I add.
“And you,” the husky voice murmurs, and I turn into the arms holding me. Silver eyes meet mine—silver like a wolf ‘s, heavy-lidded, both tender and eerily sharp. His lips are curled into this adorable smile, and I know right then and there that my boyfriend loves that I suggested a bed, of course.
“We can even get a dog,” I add cheekily.
“And a fish.”
He lifts one arm to point at the desiccated swordfish on the wall of the yacht we’ve stolen into. It’s not ours, but this is one of our hiding places. One of the many places where we meet and spend as much time together as we can.
It’s almost dawn now, and though we haven’t slept and could easily stay here forever, he grudgingly gets up and shoves his long, muscular legs into his jeans.
“Gorgeous,” he calls as he shoves a hand into his jeans pocket.
I turn from where I’m slipping into my sweatshirt.
“There’s been something I’ve been wanting you to have . . . ” He steps over and holds something small and shiny to the thin streaks of light that steal through the round yacht windows. A sliver of excitement runs through my body when I realize what it is.
“Is this a promise ring?”
When my lashes raise, I find him watching me with somber intensity.
With the intensity of a boy who loves you.
Just like you love him.
“It’s beautiful,” I whisper, reverently reaching out for it.
“It was my mother’s.” His voice is textured with emotion, his beautiful face harsh with it as he watches me slip it onto my finger.
“What are you promising me?” I taunt, lifting my face to his.
I will never forget the cocky lift to the corner of his lips when he said, “Me.”
Oh, god, I love him. I love him like a storm loves a sky and a smile needs a face. Mackenna is the best of me, the rock that holds me, the only one who understands me. He’s all that is left of my life that is tender and happy. I throw myself at him and he catches me, squeezes me, hugs me tighter than anyone else hugs me. “I’ll say yes and take all of you, so don’t joke about this,” I warn.
“No joke,” he promises, lifting my hand so he can see. “Looks pretty on you.”
I squeeze his fingers with mine as my heart squeezes at the very same time. “But my mother and your father . . . they both need us right now.”
Our lives are so imperfect. Cluttered with obstacles between him and me.
After my father died, my mother turned even more strict and bitter.
After Mackenna’s mother died, his father turned to drugs. Dealing drugs.
And now, my mother is the DA in charge of convicting Mackenna’s father, and the case is destroying our every chance at happiness.
I can’t wait to get away.
We need to get away.
He strokes my face with his long, guitar-playing fingers. “I know they need us, but they won’t need us forever. The hearing isn’t until a couple of months. Whatever happens with my father, whatever the judge decides . . . we’ll meet at the park that night, and we’ll run away. Get married. I can get a couple of gigs at a few local bars, I can support you through college.”
“Will you really help me pay my college tuition, Kenna? Are you sure you can do it?” I ask hopefully.
“Hell, I’d do anything for you.” He’s deadly serious as he speaks the words, giving my shoulders a squeeze. “I’m tired of hiding, you know.”
“I’m tired too.”
“I want to be with you. Out in the open. I’m sick of being your secret. I want to be your guy. I want people to know you’re mine.”
“But I am.” I lift my hand to his line of vision again, wiggling my beautifully adorned finger. “I am yours. And our plan’s still on, whatever happens. I’ll meet you at the park after the trial.”
He smiles a sad smile at the mention of the trial, then he kisses the ring on my hand, and then, well . . . then he pulls me by the small of my back against his hard, broad chest and kisses me stupid. “I love you. Always,” he husks out.
There are ways people love you.
There are all kinds and types of love, I’ve found.
The way you love pets. Your friends. The way your parents love you. Your cousins. And there was this whole other way Mackenna and I loved each other.
Our love was like a raging storm and a harbor: unruly and unstoppable, wild and endless, but steady and safe . . .
Or so . . . my fool seventeen-year-old heart thought.
An X-Rated Excerpt
“You haven’t been kissed in a while, have you?”
Oh god, it can’t be that obvious. “That’s none of your business.”
“It is my business. And I’m making it priority business.”
Need slams into me at the possessiveness in his tone. His grip tightens on me, quieting my denial. “You haven’t been f*cked in a while either, have you?”
“No, but I don’t want you,” I grit out.
God, he’s like a sexually charged nuclear weapon about to detonate me.
“Don’t be petulant,” he whispers softly, smoothing a hand down my hair. “Do you want me to f*ck you?” he asks. I can taste him on my tongue, and my panties are drenched with arousal.
“This won’t be for the cameras.” His voice is deathly sexy in an I’m-so-ready-to-f*ck-you way, his breath a warm gust of air against my throat as he nuzzles me like he’s mad about me. Like he’s Dracula and I’m Mina, and this little foray into the closet? This will be our undoing. “This is for me—for you and me. I need to f*ck you out of my system. We’ll play whatever game they want, but we’ll have our own game. I don’t want this on film. Our lives are on film, but this can’t be in it. Do you understand me, Pandora?”
Please excuse me, but my brain is in a fog of lust and I can’t think straight. “Wha . . . but how are we going to . . . ?”
“Shh. I’ll find a way.” My muscles start quivering as he reaches between our bodies and I hear the rasp of my zipper.
He eases his hand into my jeans, his eyes glowing. “Have you been thinking about this?”
F*ck, considering that at one point yesterday I wanted to lick the tomatoes off him, YES! But I refuse to say it, refuse for him to know. I swallow back a moan when he slips a finger inside my sopping wet pussy and rasps, “Yes,” as if answering himself.
He rubs my insides, and it feels so good, I arch for him.
He’s smiling against my temple, because of course he knows— we both know—I’m drenched. And swollen from arousal. And god, it feels so good, but my pride is smarting because I’m so wet. I fight the desire he makes me feel, and I put my hands on his shoulders, battling within myself and gathering the strength I need to push him away. But then I realize . . . he owes me this. He f*cking should pleasure me until I can’t get enough. So I grab the back of his head and start kissing him again, groaning softly when he does the same, his mouth taking control of mine. His skull is round, perfect. His tongue works its magic on me as I feel the knowing strokes of his finger rubbing me inside.
“Part your legs. Lift your shirt so I can suck on those tits.”
“If you want it, lift it yourself,” I huskily reply, still clinging to my pride.
He laughs darkly. His hips move against my body in a punishing roll that makes me gasp, and he groans at the stimulation as though he could get off just dry humping me.
“Do as I say, damn you.”
“Magic” by Coldplay
“Wild Heart” by Bleachers
“Animal” by Neon Trees
“Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas
“Alone Together” by Fall Out Boy
“If You Say So” by Lea Michele
“The Last Song Ever” by Secondhand Serenade
“Hey Brother” by Avicii
“Spectrum” by Zedd
Pandora & Mackenna’s Mashup
(This is a mix of songs that the characters sing in RIPPED).
“Like A Virgin” by Madonna
“Sweet Cherry Pie” by Warrant
“Miss Independent” by Ne-Yo
“I Believe in You” by Kylie Minogue
“Beautiful” by Akon
“You Found Me” by The Fray
“Sweet Child O’Mine” by Guns N’ Roses
“Take a Bow” by Rihanna
“Your Song” by Elton John
“Broken” by Lifehouse
“Fuckin’ Perfect” by Pink