know, I'm launching a New Adult snowboarder series on February 3rd-- the Extreme Risk series-- and I thought it would be fun to introduce you to Z and Ophelia today, the main characters from the first book, Shredded.
In this intense and exhilarating New Adult series debut, a hotshot snowboarder and a rebel with a cause try to let go of the past—and find a future with each other.
Twenty-one-year-old professional snowboarder Z Michaels is the bad boy of Park City, Utah. He’s always had his pick of any girl in town—and on the competition circuit. But underneath his cool exterior is a young man in turmoil, trying to take the edge off tragedy by overindulging in sex and shredding the slopes. In fact, Z’s rash behavior is a thinly veiled attempt to blunt his emotional suffering with physical pain.
Ophelia Richardson isn’t like any girl Z has ever met. Though she’s from New Orleans, she’s no Southern belle—and she’s not shy about being miserable in frozen, godforsaken Park City. But after nearly dying in the same drag-racing accident that killed her boyfriend, she needs a place to heal, both physically and emotionally. The last thing Ophelia wants right now is a boyfriend—especially one as rich and reckless as Z. But Ophelia soon discovers that he isn’t what he seems. If anything, Z may be even more damaged than she is.
Feeling alone in the world, Z and Ophelia find a connection unlike any they’ve ever known. But their tormented pasts pull them in every direction, forcing their relationship into a downhill slide before it even begins—unless they can find the strength in each other to trust, grow, and love again.
By the time I get to the counter, the tension inside me has reached critical mass. Part of me expects my skin to split open under the pressure of it any second now.
Old guy has moved on, thank God, but now there’s a small line of people between me and new girl. I focus on her to the exclusion of everything else, take this shot at checking her over to block out the rest of my fucked up life.
She looks good up close, and even though she’s wearing jeans and a turtleneck, both items are tight enough that I can see just how smoking hot her body really is. Too bad we live in the snow ‘cuz this girl should never wear a coat.
I pass the time imagining what I’m going to do to her when I get her alone.
Where I want to touch.
Which spots I want to kiss. To lick. To bite.
With her there are so many that I’m not sure where to start. At the nape of her neck, right below where she’s bundled her hair into that messy bun? At the birthmark right below her jaw on the right side of her neck? Or at the tiny little dimple that flashes in her left cheek whenever she smiles at a customer?
Wherever I start I know exactly where I want to end up. But now I’m just torturing myself, and by the time I get to the counter, I’m grateful I’m still in my thick snowboarding pants. Otherwise, my interest would be obvious to everyone in the damn room.
“What can I get you?” she asks, her fingers poised over the register. For the first time I realize they’re painted a funky green that almost exactly matches her eyes—not what I was expecting from her with all those tough girl vibes she throws out. I like the color though, almost as much as I like knowing there’s more to her than I thought.
Not that it really matters, I remind myself. I want to fuck her, not get to know all her twists and turns.
“I don’t know.” I let my voice go a little huskier than normal, give her the half-smile that usually gets me whatever I want. “What’s good?”
“That depends on what you like.” She mimics my tone exactly, but when I search her face there’s nothing but polite professional interest there. It’s my second clue that I might be in for more than I bargained for here.
Interested despite my less than honorable intentions, I lean against the counter and contemplate my choices. The answer I want to give her has nothing to do with coffee and everything to do with what I’ve spent the last five minutes fantasizing about. But something tells me that kind of approach won’t work with her, not this girl with the deliberately bland face, kick-ass voice and —I glance down at the hands she still has poised over the register— trembling, green-tipped fingers.
I barely bite back a grin. Looks like I make her nervous, after all. It’s the best news I’ve had all day. “I like just about anything,” I finally tell her.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that about you,” she answers dryly, sounding less than impressed.
“Oh, really? And what exactly have you heard—” I glance down at the black and silver nametag pinned to her shirt—“Ophelia?”
She rolls her eyes. “I think you’ve got a pretty good idea what people say about you, Z. Now are you going to stand there all night batting your eyes at me or are you actually going to order something for your harem?”
She nods toward Lila and her friends, and this time the look on her face lets me know just how unimpressed she is. Damn. Looks like my reputation really has preceded me. Or Lila’s has. She’s one of the winter regulars who have a lot more money than sense. Somehow I doubt she’s got the intelligence—or basic good manners—to be nice to the barista. Which means I really might be screwed here.
It matters more than it should. Normally I don’t give a shit what people say about me—and they say a lot, especially since Luc, Ash and I turned pro—but something about the way Ophelia’s looking at me is making my palms sweat. It’s a first for me, and one I’m not all that happy about.
“I barely know those girls.”
“Like that’s supposed to impress me?”
“I don’t know.” It’s the most honest thing I’ve said all day. “What would impress you?”
She eyes me disdainfully. “Way more than what you’ve got to offer.”
So much for honesty. That’s why I work so hard not to put myself out there—it always bites you in the ass. Determined to get control of the situation, I rest my hands on the counter and lean into her. Then I turn it on, the same look I gave those women earlier. The same look that’s gotten me every girl I’ve tried for since I lost my virginity at the age of thirteen.
Ophelia’s eyes go wide and she bobbles the cup she’d reached for seconds ago. This time I don’t even try to hide my smile.
“Why don’t you give me something sweet,” I suggest after she’s stared at me for a few long seconds.
“Something … sweet?” Her voice sounds strangled.
“Yeah.” A few strands of hair have escaped her bun, and I reach out to stroke an errant curl before winding it around my finger. “And hot. It’s pretty cold outside.”
“You want—“ Her voice breaks. She’s breathless now and I know this is it. I’ve got her. I feel a little twinge deep inside—one that I might identify as disappointment if I ever let myself hope for anything-- but I ignore it. This is exactly what I wanted, after all. “You want something sweet and hot?”
“That is how I like my coffee.” Among other things, my look tells her. Not that I’m cheesy enough to say shit like that. But I can imply with the best of them.
Ophelia’s eyes are a little hazy now, a little unfocused, but she nods jerkily. Then, before I can say anything else, she heads over to the espresso machines and fumbles around for a minute or two. She doesn’t look towards me once, and when she comes back, she’s carrying a large glass of iced coffee.
Confused, I look back and forth between her and the drink. “That doesn’t look very warm,” I finally tell her.
“Yeah, well, I made an executive decision. It looked like you needed something to cool yourself down with.” And then it’s her turn to lean over the counter. I have a quick second to curse the turtleneck-- I’d really like to see what this girls’ tits look like-- right before she dumps the coffee all over the front of my pants.
He doesn’t react right away. And when he does, it’s not at all the way I expect.
Maybe it’s the insulated snowboarding pants or maybe it’s his too cool attitude, but Z doesn’t screech or yell or even curse. He just looks at me, that too-gorgeous-for-his-own-or-anyone-else’s-good face of his frozen in surprise. Whether it’s because I dumped the drink on him or because he’s finally figured out that I played him, I don’t know and I don’t care. All that matters is he gets the message and leaves me the hell alone.
Still, some instinct deep inside me whispers that not much surprises him. The fact that I did makes me happier than it should.
And then he smiles, and I know I’m right. Because it isn’t that come-sit-on-the-big-bad-wolf’s-lap-and-let-him-take-a-little-bite-out-of-you smile that he leveled at me a few minutes ago, the one that weakened my knees and nearly melted my brain cells along with those of every female in the vicinity. No, this is a real smile. A genuine grin ripe with amusement and speculation and something else I can’t even begin to identify.
But whatever that unknown thing is, I’ve been around the block enough to know that I’m in trouble. That this meeting probably won’t end well between us. At least not for me.
Still, what was I supposed to do? Stand here with my heart pounding and my knees knocking together like some kind of ripe-for-the-picking-damsel-in-distress?
Throw myself at him like every other girl in a hundred mile radius does?
Let him think I’m going to be just another notch on his snowboard?
I don’t think so.
I did what had to be done, nipped his totally impersonal pursuit in the bud before it got completely out of hand. It’s not that I think I’m in any danger of falling for him—rich, pretty boys like Z make me break out in hives— especially when they’re adrenaline junkies. But still, I’m not taking any chances.
Not after what happened in New Orleans.
Just the thought of Louisiana, of Remi, has my stomach churning and my chest aching. I’ve been doing so well, too.
Minding my own business.
Getting my life back in order.
Looking into classes at the community college so I won’t be stuck in this dead end job—this dead end life—forever.
At least until Mr. my-balls-are-bigger-than-my-bank-account here comes along and decides to mess with me just because he can. Fury burns through my veins at the thought and I glare at Z. Suddenly I’m itching to dump another cup of coffee on him. One that isn’t iced this time. But I need this job and already people are pointing and staring. If my aunt or uncle pass by and see all the commotion, I’ll be out another job. And seeing as I’ve already gotten banished from the gift shop and one of the restaurants in the twelve days I’ve been here, I’m kind of running out of options.
Annoyed but resigned to doing some kind of damage control, I pull out a clean rag from under the counter and thrust it toward him. “Here. You can use this to clean up.”
“I’ve got it, thanks.” His grin widens and it only ticks me off to see that my ire amuses him. At least until he reaches for the back neckline of his shirt and pulls it over his head in one smooth movement. By the time he starts dabbing at his black pants with it, my anger is a thing of the past. And so are my brain cells.
I can’t help it. I try to stay pissed, but it’s hard to actually formulate thoughts—any thoughts-- when I’m confronted with a half-naked Z.
I mean, the guy’s an alien. He has to be, because human beings just don’t look like this. At least not outside of magazine shoots and Hollywood movies. And maybe not even there.
Despite the winter weather, his skin is a soft, golden bronze that’s a testament to just how much time he spends outside with his shirt off—despite the snow. His arms are big, his shoulders well-developed. And his abs. Ohmigod, his abs are a work of art. Forget six pack. This guy has an eight-working-on ten pack and for a second—just a second—my eyes nearly cross as I imagine what it would be like to lick a path straight from his collarbone to his navel.
He shifts a little under my scrutiny and for the first time I notice the scars he’s got—on his arm, his chest, over his ribs, down the side of his abs. Way too many scars for a normal guy to have. But he isn’t a normal guy, I remind myself. He’s a snowboarder, one known for taking crazy risks and doing really wild stunts. Is it any wonder his body is so torn up?
Not that the scars make him look bad. Just the opposite. Somehow they only reinforce the beauty of all that hard-packed muscle and golden skin. The same way his ink does. I try to look away, but I can’t. I’m fascinated by the tattoo that covers the entire right half of his upper body. It’s a wall of tribal looking flames in shades of black and gray that start somewhere below his waist and lick all the way up to his shoulder, over his pec and down his right arm. It’s beautiful, really well-designed and sexy as hell. On his left side is another tattoo, this one a bunch of words in a fancy black script that I’m too far away to read. But I want to. Suddenly I’m dying to know what words are so important that a guy like Z would brand himself with them.
Something tickles the side of my chin and I have an abrupt, mortifying fear that it’s my own saliva. That I am literally standing here drooling at the work of art that is Z Michaels. I dash my hand over my chin just in case. Turns out I haven’t lost complete control of my salivary glands—it’s just a lock of hair that escaped from my bun.
The realization snaps my brain back into action. A few seconds too late, but I’m a big believer in better late than never. Or, at least I am now.
“You know, we have a rule here at the Lost Canyon coffee bar,” I tell him with a little flick of my fingers. “No shirts, no shoes, no service. You should probably go take care of that somewhere else.”
The dark eyes he turns on me are filled with disbelief, and maybe, just maybe, a hint of respect. I’ve spent days watching how the female population around here responds to this guy and I’m pretty sure that I’m the first one to call him on his shit since he hit puberty. Maybe even before.
Just look at the girl he came in with. He was all over her when they first walked into the lodge, just like he’s been every time I’ve caught a glimpse of him the last few days. Not that I was looking for him, or anything. But still. Then, within five minutes of being here, he’s hanging out with another girl-- the trashy looking one who’d thrown herself in his path like a kamikaze pilot on a hari kari mission.
Though, to be honest, it’s hard to blame him for the second girl. Whoever she was, the look she’d given him had told Z loud and clear that she didn’t mind if he climbed on right there in the middle of the coffee bar. My only surprise was that he hadn’t taken little-miss-can’t-open-my-legs-fast-enough up on the offer.
Not that it’s any of my business-- at least not until he came up to the counter and started in on me. I don’t care if every other girl in town is okay with whatever tiny piece of Z she can sink her claws into. I don’t play that way, even if I am interested in a guy. Which, in this case, I definitely am not. After what happened with Remi, there’s no way I’d touch this guy with a fifty foot pole.
“Wait a minute,” he asks when he finally gets his slack jaw working again. “You’re refusing to serve me, even though it’s completely your fault that I’m shirtless?”
“First of all, I offered you a towel. You’re the one who decided to take your shirt off. Second, I’m being generous and not charging you for the spilled drink. And third, I don’t make the rules. I just follow them.” Again, I flick my fingers at him like he’s a particularly annoying gnat. “So move along before someone from management sees you and has you removed from the building.”
He snorts, like even the chance of that is too far-fetched to contemplate. Which it probably is. My aunt and uncle love the fact that he comes here to practice with his friends. At dinner the other night they were talking about how to convince him to sign on with them like his friends had. So far they’ve offered him everything but ownership to the lodge and he’s turned it all down.
Must be nice. To have so much money from endorsements and sponsorships and family that you can just walk away from a shitload of it for no reason at all.
“Management is going to remove me from the building?” he asks incredulously. “You’re the one who just dumped a drink down my pants.”
“On your pants, not down them,” I feel the need to clarify.
“I didn’t realize there was that big of a difference.”
“Yeah, I bet you tell that to all the girls.”
Hope you enjoyed the first sneak peek at Shredded. Make sure to check back next week for another exclusive look! Have a great Wednesday :)