The Rental by Rebecca Berto
(The Rental #1)
Publication date: September 22, 2014
Genres: Adult, Erotic Romance
At first, Rick Delaney watched Vee Wyland with the hungry eyes of a fox as if she were a rabbit … his rabbit. But one day, he slunk away without notice.
Months away from graduating high school, Vee’s life is on the verge of crumbling. At home, dire finances and long hours test her family. Her boyfriend hardly pays attention to her. And she can’t shake her feelings for his older brother, Rick.
Then, all in one night, tragedy tears her teetering life into shreds.
When Rick and Vee reunite, the sparks fly. However, she unwittingly signs away a future for both of them. In his world, a place called The Rental, she becomes Victoria and Rick becomes Rhett. One part of her watches with fascination, while the other unfurls and embraces her sexual awakening. It began as a game, but the consequences are real.
Following their heart’s desire is forbidden, but walking away could strip their hope for a future.
The Rental is an erotic romance that explores how sex isn’t purely physical; sometimes, it’s a gateway to your soul.
• • • Buy the book • • •
Download the prequel, The Masquerade, for FREE (can be read before or after The Rental).
• • • The Rental excerpt • • •
At the entry, I met Rick. Looking up, I took in his clean-shaven jawline; crisp, fitted shirt; sleeves rolled at his elbows. How could the guy be more gorgeous every time I saw him? I glanced down at his black jeans and leather-tapered shoes. Holy shit.
I let out a breath and tried smiling at his face, but I couldn’t hold the intense gaze of his for more than a split second, so I looked down to my boots. I slid past him, and déjà vu slammed into my chest.
Not ready for a laundry encounter like last week, I took a cup and focused on steadying my trembles as I reached for the tap. I dared to look at him and he was fixated on my fingers. Not a moment later, his big hands engulfed mine. My trembles disappeared at his touch.
Rick had a presence around people, but around me, his gravitational pull was overwhelming. And right now, it scared me—wanting to run away, yet also wanting to fall deeper into this moment.
I was with Justin.
Justin was Rick’s brother.
“You okay?” He looked into my eyes and felt my forehead with the back of his hand. “You’re burning.”
I blushed and looked away to hurry some ice into my cup. “It’s damn hot in that garage. It’s crazy.”
“Ah.” He paused for so long that I felt the air thicken in my throat as I swallowed. “It is. But you’re okay?”
Was I? The right answer was yes, but I sure as hell didn’t feel that way. He was my whirlwind, and he’d swept into my world with all-encompassing force, spinning me again and again with our meetings. The hairs on my skin stood on end. “Oh, totally,” I said lightly. “Go on and enjoy your party.”
He remained and looked at me. The corner of his lips turned up, but it felt forced and weighed down by the other downturned corner. His eyes, once warm, were now dreary. Even his body seemed to be slumping.
He turned, but caught himself on the door and smiled. “I am. Trust me, I am.” Like that, he flipped his mood. I didn’t know what caused it or why. Maybe Justin’s whacky behaviour had plagued Rick all week too, and my mention of ‘enjoying’ himself reminded him of that.
“You staying past midnight?”
“Yeah. I mean, maybe, maybe not. Might just leave a tip for your show. I heard they’re all putting in.”
“You want to see the show, Vee?”
I shuddered hearing him say my name. Damn it, the guy’s voice was smooth, yet coarse enough to rough up my insides. I smiled, confident. I wasn’t going to let my stupid drunken head get the better of me. And stuff the water! I was going to grab another Cruiser. I dumped the water and ice down the drain, grabbed a bottle from a pack, and stepped between Rick’s body and the nearby bench.
“Yeah,” I said. “I wanna see it.”
“Before you go …”
I halted, holding my breath, and the sensation of the icy bottle slipped away. I let my eyes roam, and drank him in the way I intended to with my drink. Passionate, private, and poisoning me to sweet surrender.
No touching anywhere wrong. No acting out. No worries.
He opened his mouth to speak, but it hung there, gaping. Rather than exude sexual vibes, it had flipped back to distraught, and it made him look like a big boy. A fragile boy. Like I had to hold him together.
He seemed broken and sad underneath, except as the birthday boy, he wore a cool smile and held his shoulders high—a facade to the rest of the world. Only here, Rick and I were in our own world, one where no barriers existed. Beneath skin deep, I felt the darkness occupying him.
“Birthday hug?” he asked and I answered, “Yes,” at the same time from his previous question.
He leant over me. I watched it in slow motion and my stomach swirled with anticipation. His arm brushed my shoulder and he flicked the laundry door shut. The space was technically the same size, but the room had shrunken. I tilted my head down and inhaled, my nose near his collarbone. My nerves spurred me on while my thoughts screamed at me to stop making a fool of myself. The spice smelt of cologne, but mostly the freshness of frangipani-scented laundry detergent. It was sweet enough I wished I could cuddle up and drift away with it.
Somehow, that whole minute in my head must have only taken a second or two. Rick stepped the other way and yanked down the cord to cover the door window, a view leading to the backyard.
When the blind fell, it was done. The room was closed off. We were alone. For what? This ‘birthday hug?’
I wanted him. Alone. Unseen. But I had no desire to cheat.
He captured me inside his space, his arms around my waist like butterfly wings. My body melted as if he was my heat source and I moulded my chin to the crook of his neck. My hands connected with his chest, feeling his life source beating madly beneath me. I quaked at the touch. Hands gliding, I felt around his contours, up his back until I run out of muscle, then linked my hands over each other and flattened them.
He hummed. Not a moan, nor a plea of pleasure. And it thrilled a spot inside me. Where I was a puzzle piece before—incomplete and in search—our reunion connected it. I had been lonelier than I was aware. My boyfriend hadn’t been there for me for weeks now. He’d been there, oh, yes, how he’d been here, there, and everywhere, but not around me.
Supported by Rick, I felt like a blossoming seed—I’d attached to solid ground and now I was growing with life. I couldn’t recite Rick’s middle name or his favourite dessert, but I could feel his heart against my chest. I could feel the thrum and beat of our bodies in sync. Could feel the residual emotion and heat we’d once had—unsaid and assumed—coming together as one.
Rick parted and hooked my chin in his big, yet soft grasp. His dark eyes held mine, and I couldn’t tear them away. Softly, he said, “Sorry. I mean, I’m not sorry for you, but I am for everything else. So thanks. Thanks for everything when you didn’t have to do anything.” I couldn’t quite focus on his words, as if I was waiting for the punch line to bring it all together, but I felt the emotion behind his voice.
“Thanks,” I said. I didn’t know why I said it back, but it felt right, like the inherent knowledge that simmered to the surface when getting back on a bicycle. There the whole time—understood by the body, even if not by the mind.
Reality sunk on me then, reeling me in. I blinked. Party, blinds, door. Us alone. I yanked the blind up, and Rick turned the doorknob, releasing our privacy.
“Sorry for acting strange,” he admitted. “Like you said, it’s pretty crazy in there and I needed … I needed a break. I’m drunk. I’m … going.” He gave me a parting smile, and it wrapped around my skin, now full of goosebumps in the wake of his departure.
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