RAW DEAL by Cherrie Lynn
E-Original published by Swerve
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Savannah’s brother was killed in a cage fight with Mike “Red Reaper” Larson after a savage punch to the head.
When Mike shows up at the funeral, he’s nothing like Savannah expected. Gone is the fierce, brutal beast she’s seen in the cage. In his place is a beautiful man torn with guilt, seeking forgiveness, and willing to do anything to ease her pain.
Her family doesn’t approve, but her heart doesn’t stand a chance. Irresistibly drawn together, neither of them can deny the intoxicating desire unleashed between them, turning their pain into the most exquisite pleasure.
But every time Mike steps into the cage, Savannah knows she could lose him too. She can’t go through that again, but how can she let go of the one man who sets her body and soul on fire?
She lifted her head to look up at him, horrified by his story. “The first day we met, Michael, you told me you were a horrible person. I’m confused. The person you’re describing is not that, not at all. The person who arranged this trip so Rowan and I can feel better is not that.”
Even in the darkness, she could see the cold void in his eyes, as if he were looking at something terrible that only he could see. “Bad shit follows me, Savannah. It just does. I don’t know if I’m working off some kind of karma or what. It never ends.”
“That can’t be true,” she protested. “I accept that Tommy was an accident. My family probably never will, but that’s how they are. It’s no reflection on you because the way they feel is based on a lie.”
“Tommy isn’t the only one.”
Those words affected her like ghostly fingertips up her spine. “Who?” she asked softly.
“When I was a kid, my mother had a new man every month, and none of them except for one or two were worth a shit. The ones who were decent didn’t last long, because they couldn’t deal with her issues. But it seemed the worse they were, the longer they were around. Some of them were straight-up predators. I was a kid and I saw these things; she was an adult and she didn’t, or else she didn’t care.”
Savannah didn’t need to hear any more. She didn’t think she could. “Anything you did in defense of your family was completely understandable.”
“Is it?” he asked, searching her eyes. “Why does it still follow me?”
“Maybe because you let it?”
“Believe me, if I could shake it, I would.”
“I know. Easier said than done. Probably the worst thing I’ve ever done is shoplift a box of condoms; I’m not one to give advice.”
He blinked at her and then, amazingly, burst out laughing. The shock of it stunned her, but after a moment of embarrassed silence—had she really just told him that?—she couldn’t help but join in. My, but he was gorgeous when he laughed. “Well! I didn’t want the lady at the checkout counter to know I was going to have sex. Turns out I didn’t anyway. What a jackass that guy turned out to be.” Actually, the damn things expired before she could ever use even one of them, but he didn’t have to know that. “To think I risked a misdemeanor over him.”
“I needed that,” Mike said once he’d caught his breath. “But don’t hold it against me that I’m glad you sent the jackass packing.”
“Oh, I’m glad too. I should have made him get the damn condoms.”
Easily, naturally, Mike’s hands found hers again, both of them. This time his fingers laced through hers, sending a nice shivery sensation through her. The slightly uncomfortable girth of his fingers between hers had her thoughts running wild with imagining the girth of other areas of his body. “You’re something else,” he said.
“But you don’t know what, right?” she teased.
“No,” he admitted, shaking his head a little dazedly. “I don’t know what. Yet.”
“Same here.” Oh God, was he leaning closer? She felt dizzy looking up at him with the stars all around his head, like they revolved around him. A small wave washed up around her feet, cool and fleeting. Simple as that wave that touched her, his lips touched hers, then drew back. Simple, but enormous. Savannah shivered, drinking in his breath, off balance and whirling though she stood perfectly still, held to earth by nothing but his hands holding hers.
More. Please. She tried to tell him without saying a word, looking into his eyes, seeing the raw need there. And he came back to her, his mouth opening against hers now to invite a deeper contact. The wind whipped wildly around them and she let him in, let his tongue tease inside her mouth and coax hers out to play. His thumbs drew lazy circles on her palms, drawing desire from a wellspring inside her that had been dry for so long now—
“Mike!” a shout came, borne on the wind. It jolted them apart, Savannah blushing and trying to tame her hair into something that looked like it was attached to her head, Mike straightening his shirt.
Q&A WITH CHERRIE LYNN
- How would you describe Raw Deal using no more than 140 characters (a la Twitter)?
Undeniable passion ignites between a fighter and the heartbroken sister of the man he accidentally killed in the MMA cage.
- Which scene would you say was the hardest for you to write?
Definitely the final fight. Any time I write something action-heavy, which isn’t very often (unless it’s sex, haha), I find it terribly difficult and tedious. “This happened and that happened and so on.” And then to take it and make sure it doesn’t look like I found it difficult and tedious presents its own set of challenges. I can only hope I pulled it off, because I’m a terrible judge of my own work.
- Where do you get inspiration for the names of your characters?
Michael’s and Savannah’s names simply came into my head and felt right. A lot of times, however, I torture myself trying to find the perfect character name, poring through baby name websites for inspiration. Some characters are named by accident. For instance, when I first introduced Brian Ross in Unleashed, I never planned for him to have his own book. So I just sort of stuck a name on him. But he turned out to be one of my most popular heroes (Rock Me), and same goes for his best friend Ghost (Leave Me Breathless). So, some come easily, some are like pulling teeth, and some are happy accidents. 🙂
- You’re known for creating characters with a lot of depth and a full range of truly human emotions. What experiences do you draw on to make your characters feel so alive?
Oh, so many. But I don’t think my experiences are so different from most other people’s. We’ve all been heartbroken. We’ve all felt loss. We’ve all felt joy. I just take those feelings and channel them as best as I can. I also listen when other people talk about their own feelings and experiences that might be different from mine, and I listen to a lot of highly emotional music. But there are things in my books that are drawn from personal experiences. The eagle in Raw Deal, for example, was taken from something similar that happened at my grandfather’s funeral a couple of years ago. I like to think whenever I see an eagle now, it’s my grandpa saying hello.
- What do you love most about Mike and Savannah?
I love Mike’s fierce loyalty. I love Savannah’s mostly level-headed approach, the way she’s able to give him a chance despite her emotions and her heartbreak. I love the comfort they find in each other. They were very easy characters to write. I’m not sure if that’s because I was coming off my Ross Siblings series and invigorated by starting something brand new, or if they simply resonated deeply with me (a little of both, I suspect), but I *loved* writing their story. They still give me butterflies!
- How much research did you have to do on MMA for the book? Are you a fan of the sport?
I am! But my husband is an even bigger fan. He was a great source of information, and I probably pestered him to death. I looked up so much equipment on Amazon that I kept getting ads for weeks—they obviously thought I was a fighter. I watched fights on YouTube and I read articles. And although they’re about boxing and not MMA, I’m a HUGE fan of the Rocky movies. I figured the passion, motivation, hunger and discipline would be the same for a fighter of either sport, so I drew a lot of inspiration from that. And yes, a couple of Rocky references pop up in the book! I couldn’t resist.
- Did you always want to be a writer?
For as long as I can remember. As far back as third grade, you could find me writing stories that my teachers would have me read to my class. Everyone thought I was a little weird, I think. As I grew up, I wrote stories for fun and for my friends. Almost all of those involved a romance, and this trend continued as I would sneak into my mom’s stash of steamy romance novels for inspiration. 🙂 I sought publication as far back as 2000, but that didn’t work out. It wasn’t until 2008 that I tried again with what would become my first published book. It’s been an amazing, lifelong journey!
- Who are some of your favorite writers/writers that inspire you?
I read all over the place. Right now, I’m loving Alessandra Torre. She’s amazing. I’m also so obsessed with the A Song of Ice and Fire series that I’ve been reading them on repeat for two years now. I finish, I start over. Such incredibly rich and effortless world-building. (Hurry up with Winds of Winter, George!) I’m also loving Sarah J. Maas. For my horror needs, I read Stephen King and Joe Hill. I must admit, the idea of a straight-up horror romance intrigues me…
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author CHERRIE LYNN has been a CPS caseworker and a juvenile probation officer, but now she writes contemporary and paranormal romance on the steamy side. She’s also an unabashed rock music enthusiast, and she is fond of hitting the road with her husband to catch their favorite bands live. Cherrie lives in East Texas.