Flynn Maguire isn’t really a bad guy. Sure, he worked for the mob, but he ran a legitimate business—on paper anyway—and it paid enough to keep his brother out of the lifestyle. Until they turned on him. Now he’s stuck in Witness Protection, tending bar in Nowheresville Oregon… and pissed the life he knew is gone.
The only bright spot? Fantasizing about his quiet, secretive, beautiful coworker.
Sierra Williams is a woman on the run. All she wants now is to settle into small town life… and ignore the brooding, sexy bartender who can’t seem to take his eyes off her. Flynn’s bad-boy vibe pushes all her buttons, but Sierra fell for the wrong man once already. She can’t afford to let her guard down again. Except Flynn’s tough exterior is slowly melting away to reveal the sweet man beneath and their attraction is too strong to resist.
Sierra and Flynn are falling fast, but they’re both keeping so many secrets. The truth could ruin everything… unless a girl who’s a little bad is perfect for a guy who’s never really been good.
Never Been Good by Christi Barth
Series Bad Boys Gone Good #2
Genre Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher Avon Impulse
Publication Date April 3, 2018
Avon Romance https://goo.gl/8rph8v
Barnes & Noble https://goo.gl/TkLuXD
Google Play https://goo.gl/2864CR
Seven Months Earlier
Graceland Cemetery, Chicago
11:30 p.m., October 31
“This is nice.” Frank Mullaney’s brother nudged him, flashing a grin from behind the enormous fake white beard. “We haven’t celebrated a Halloween together in years.”
Yeah. His brother Ryan had lost his mind, no doubt about it. His brother, who happened to be currently dressed like Santa Claus. On freaking Halloween.
Not that it was any better than his own off-season costume. Frank had flat-out refused—at first—when Ryan laid the leprechaun costume across his bed. Until he pointed out the two best points of the costume. A big red beard and hat that would totally disguise Frank’s features, and a fake pot of gold. Aka something that wouldn’t look weird for him to be carrying, just like the bag good old Santa had draped over his shoulder.
Since it turned out that just under two million in cash couldn’t be stuffed in your pockets.
Especially not when traipsing through a cemetery. On Halloween. At almost midnight, surrounded by drunken, screaming people on ghost tours.
“That’s probably because we’re grown ass men. Trick or treating would be weird at our age.” The thought of candy made Frank remember that he’d skipped lunch. And dinner. Because Ryan showed up at his front door with costumes and this crazy plan. “Although I wouldn’t say no if you pulled a Snickers out of your pocket and tossed it my way.”
Ignoring him, Ryan continued, his voice a little softer. “We haven’t celebrated Halloween since Mom died.”
Way to bring the mood back to serious-as-fuck. Grim enough to match the gravestones they were skirting. “You mean since she was murdered.” Because Ryan had just shared that little bombshell with him. It was still rattling around in his head like a pinball. God knew it hadn’t sunk in yet.
Ryan stopped at the edge of a replica of a Greek temple. He dropped his sack onto the concrete foundation of the tomb. Fisted his hands on the red velvet and padding near his waist. “Can we not talk about that right now? One thing at a time. Let’s get through tonight. Through the next couple of weeks. Then, I promise, we’ll sit down and hash everything out.”
Classic Ryan. Solving problems. Staying focused on the long game. It was exactly what he did as the right hand man for the leader of the Chicago mob.
Did…past tense. Seeing as how today he and Frank had stolen all of the mob’s cash. And then tomorrow, they’d watch their colleagues and friends get arrested in a sting—and hopefully the missing money would be attributed to the Fed’s raid. After that, the Mullaney brothers would disappear forever, courtesy of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Frank shifted his weight from one foot to the other. The frost-bitten grass made a crunching sound. Probably similar to the one his bones would make if this whole plan failed and the mob ever caught up with them.
“Are you going to talk to Kieran, too?” Because their little brother was out of the loop on all of it. He had no idea that his big brothers were even in the mob, let alone close to the top. He was balls deep in law school.
Until they ripped that away from him.
Just to save Frank.
How was that fair? God. Frank swallowed so hard he swore he could hear his Adam’s apple scraping against his throat.
Ryan’s blue eyes shifted to the side. Easy enough to see his discomfort at being pinned down, with the whole place lit up with spotlights and luminarios along the paths and footlights edging the most famous tombs. “You and I will talk first. Then we’ll decide, together, how far in to dial Kieran.”
“You think he’ll hate us?”
Ryan’s mouth turned downward into a bitter smirk. “Since it was all my idea to put us into Witness Protection, yeah, I’m sure he’ll hate me. For a while. Pretty sure that you will, too. Once our new reality hits.”
“No way. Not possible.” The only way they’d survived the death of their mom was by banding together as tight as stucco on drywall. Their dad dying…ah, no. Being murdered by McGinty, per the other surprise truth Ryan laid on him today. Their dad’s death had made their bond more unshakeable. Strong enough to get them through their worst days. It made them strong enough to survive anything, as long as the three of them were together. He could never, would never hate Ryan.
“I’ll check back in with you in a month, when you’re jonesing for an MMA fight.”
How many more surprises were coming? Frank shook his head. “I can’t fight anymore?” The mixed martial arts training started as a way to prove that even though he sat behind a desk, he was just as tough as everyone else in McGinty’s organization. Appearances mattered. Respect had to be earned.
Kicking ass in the ring went a long way to making sure people stopped calling him a pencil pusher. But he liked it, too. Liked teaching the skills to kids so they could defend themselves. A good fight worked out all his stress. And yeah, he’d cop to getting a thrill from winning the competitions, too.
“Keeping our noses clean is a pretty big requirement in WITSEC. I think an underground fight club wouldn’t go over—” Ryan broke off. Grabbed Frank by the neck and pulled him down behind the marble tomb.
Ryan put his finger to his lips. Then he pointed at another tour group, coming at them from the edge of the lake. This one was full of shivering women in skimpy versions of superhero costumes, hanging on the arms of already drunk and stumbling men.
TOUR WIDE GIVEAWAY DETAILS
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. Two winners will each receive a paperback copy of Bad For Her by Christi Barth. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 4/16/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted.
There’s a wink and a nod that gets exchanged between contemporary romance authors when we hear historical authors complaining about sifting through 800 hand-written letters, or having to check when zippers started being used. “Oh, that’s why we write in present day,” we say with a smug smile. “No research.”
THAT IS NOT TRUE.
It is true that I don’t have to squint at centuries old calligraphy. But there are so many things that need to be researched in my books. Never Been Good revolves around three ex-mobster brothers in Witness Protection. Oddly enough, the US Marshals don’t like to publicize exactly how they relocate bad guys and keep them hidden. But I did read a fascinating book written by the man who created the Witness Protection program.
The bigger problem was how I start the book—with a flashback to their last night in Chicago as mobsters. Rafe and Flynn steal $2 million from the mob as a safety net in case the whole WITSEC thing goes sideways. I have them hide it in an iconic Chicago graveyard. But….how big a bundle of cash would it be? Especially in smaller bills that would’ve been collected as payoffs from businesses and bets on fights. Go ahead and laugh, but this isn’t easy to pin down (I won’t tell you, because it is pretty hysterical how they smuggle it in).
Just for fun—okay, there are legit story reasons, as well as being funny—I put my heroine, Sierra in a Tiny House. I hereby pronounce that all the hours I spent binge watching Tiny House Nation and Tiny House Hunters was research. Will you guys please explain that to my husband?
Flynn set her down on the gray futon couch. It was the only seating besides the one-person bench that slid under the narrow table. “No way are you walking up those stairs tonight. Tell me what you need and I’ll bring it down.”
Not bothering to bite back her giggle, Sierra shook her head. “You won’t fit up there.”
“I can bend. You, on the other hand, are semi-broken.”
Thank goodness years of living with dozens of foster families had ingrained into her the need to make her bed and not leave underwear lying around. Because the man was halfway up the stairs before she could open her mouth.
“My pajamas are on the hook.”
A dull thud rang down the stairs. “Holy Mary Mother of God.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I always wanted a dent in the middle of my skull. Then I won’t need a sweatband when I work out. It’ll all just pool in one spot.”
Little things can suck hours away. What moves are taught in self defense class—that I can actually explain on the page? What MMA move could take down an angry drunk in a bar—that I can actually describe on the page, LOL? What myriad of specialty cocktails will my bartender hero create for each important character in the book? (Okay, that one was fun, too, but I swear there wasn’t any tasting!)
Locations—especially when set in a real town—have to be nailed down perfectly. I’ve fallen in love with Bandon, Oregon, the seaside village where my ex-mobsters finally land. But because it exists—and I’ve never been there—I have to do a ton of research to be sure I don’t (rightfully) piss off anyone who has been there. Including the tedium of mapping how long it would take to walk from downtown to the hospital, etc.
But I’m not complaining! I don’t regret any of the hair-tugging hours spent on research. Because it means Never Been Good is richly detailed, and will be easy as pie for readers to ‘see’ in their minds. If it brings Flynn and Sierra to life, it was all worth it. And I can’t wait to hear from you all if it worked!
ABOUT CHRISTI BARTH
USA Today bestseller Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage. A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes award-winning contemporary romance.
Christi can always be found either whipping up gourmet meals (for fun, honest!) or with her nose in a book. She lives in Maryland with the best husband in the world.