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Rebel (The Renegades #3)
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She’ll defy his every expectation.
She’s Penna Carstairs.
She’s the woman I met in a bar in Vegas.
Because the woman I can’t get out of my head is the one woman I can never touch again.
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That kid was still staring.
I stood in the lobby of the Bellagio, scanning through my text messages, blatantly ignoring most of them, but when I looked up, the gangly, mid-teenage boy was still gawking. The kid was wearing a Fox Motocross hat and a shirt from the Nitro Circus World Games, and judging by the way he was glancing from me to his phone and back again, he knew who I was.
Luckily, my phone went off, making it easy to ignore the fact that he was probably tweeting out my location right now.
Little John: Arrangements are made.
Penna: Thank you. Out front in fifteen?
Little John: I still think this is a shit idea.
Penna: I’ll be sure to note that.
I slid my phone into the back pocket of my jeans as the kid headed in my direction, glancing to see where his parents were in the check-in process.
“Excuse me?” His voice cracked.
“What’s up?” I asked with a smile.
“I know this is probably stupid, but are you…Rebel?”
“Sure am.” I forced the muscles in my face to maintain the curve to my lips.
The kid’s eyes went wide, and my smile turned genuine. “I love you.” He turned ten shades of red. “I mean, I love watching you. Oh crap. I’m not a stalker or anything.”
Laughter gently shook my shoulders. “Don’t worry. I absolutely knew what you meant.”
A couple selfies later, the kid was on cloud nine.
“Do me a favor?” I asked him as I signed his hat.
“Can you wait a couple hours until you post that on social media? It’s really important.” I knew the kid might do it anyway, but I felt better having a promise.
“Yeah. Sure. No problem!” He gave me an enthusiastic head nod.
“Thanks.” I handed him back the hat as his parents approached.
I had already turned to walk toward the bar when he called out.
“Rebel, does this mean you’re back?”
“We’re about to find out,” I told him just before I slipped out of view.
It always floored me when I was recognized in public, that we’d somehow gotten famous enough for that stuff, but this time felt different. Maybe it was because I was off on my own for the first time—without Pax, or Landon, or Nick…or Brooke. Maybe it was because I hadn’t participated in a Renegade stunt in the last three months.
No. That wasn’t it. It was because the kid managed to know me when I was having trouble recognizing myself anymore.
Rebel. I’d earned the nickname early, seeing as I never conformed to the societal norms my parents expected for a little girl. Motocross bikes, snowboards, parachutes, bungee lines, those became my dollhouses. The X Games took the place of cotillion. I bucked every trend, and gold-medaled in the Whip, which, up until me, had been a guy-only event. Instead of joining the Junior League, I gave in to my addiction for adrenaline and extreme sports, founding the Renegades with three of my closest friends who became my brothers. The number one way to get me to do something was to tell me that I couldn’t. I rebelled.
But this time was different.
This time, I was rebelling against my friends—going off book.
The noise from the casino assaulted my ears as I headed toward the bar where Patrick said he’d meet me. My flowy tank top and skinny jeans paired with black Vans weren’t exactly the norm in the bar, but I was used to sticking out.
A quick scan of the room told me Patrick wasn’t here yet, so I headed toward the bar, leaning against its granite top.
“Can I help you?” the bartender asked.
“Ice water with lemon, please,” I ordered, sliding into the chair.
“Coming right up,” she said and left to fill the order.
“Living dangerously?” A deep, slightly accented voice asked from next to me.
I turned toward him and nearly sucked in my breath reflexively. What a killer smile. The guy was gorgeous in a can’t-help-but-stare kind of way, with thick black hair cut military short, deep, chocolate-brown eyes, tanned skin, and a grin that had me leaning against the bar in hope that it would catch the drool no doubt pouring from my mouth. Dimples and… Oh my fucking arm porn. The sleeves of his dress shirt were rolled up, hinting at the tantalizing lines of his bicep. My stomach clenched, the first physical reaction I’d had to spotting a hot guy in years.
He cocked an eyebrow at me, that smile turning sexy, deadly—he was more than aware of his impact on me, but it came across as playful instead of the cocky, sleazy way I was used to. I let loose a grin of my own and shook my head at myself. I was constantly surrounded by hot, scrumptious, defined men, and here I was losing my shit over a stranger in a bar.
A stranger who didn’t know me, what I did, or what had happened to me in the last three months.