Published by Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller
Meiling — All I’ve ever known is pain. My life has been far from a fairy tale. No parents. No friends. Just an endless nightmare that I can’t wake from. Until the day a man offered me his hand and promised to keep me safe. I’ve never trusted anyone before, but there’s something about him. Maybe it’s insane, but I know he won’t hurt me, and when he puts his arms around me, for the first time in my life I feel loved.
Dingo — I’ve always had a soft spot for women and kids in trouble. One look at Meiling, and I knew I had to protect her at any cost. The beautiful girl with the wounded soul. After all she’s suffered, all I want is to make her smile, make her feel secure, and give her a chance to find happiness. But first, I need to take out the men and women responsible for hurting her. It might get ugly, and messy, but they don’t call me Dingo for nothing. I’m a crazy bastard, and I won’t stop until she’s safe. I just didn’t count on falling for her along the way.
Publishers warning: Meiling’s past isn’t pretty. Dingo and Meiling’s story deals with issues of human trafficking, bureaucratic corruption, and vigilante justice. This book contains darker themes that may trigger some readers.
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Copyright ©2020 Harley Wylde
I slipped Dingo’s shirt over my head, smoothing it as it fell to my knees. Even though I didn’t have on panties underneath, it was still the most covered I’d been for as long as I could remember. I didn’t see a hamper so I tossed the towels over the top of the shower so they would dry, then cautiously opened the bathroom door. I could hear the TV going and saw a pair of booted feet propped on the coffee table, even though I couldn’t see the rest of him. Scurrying into my room, I shut the door, then stared in amazement.
Sacks. Lots of sacks. They were just from one of those twenty-four-hour stores, but as I peeked into each one, I saw clothes, shoes, and other things that had to be for me. They were all in my size, and Dingo hadn’t mentioned his sister would be visiting. Since they were in the room he’d said I could use, it had to mean they were mine, right? Tears gathered in my eyes. I ripped into the package of panties and slipped on a pair, loving the way they actually covered my ass. The only two pair I owned were thongs and I hated them. The bras were a soft material that wasn’t the least bit transparent, and the clothes…
A sob built in my throat, but I tried so hard to hold it in. Jeans, modest-looking shirts, and shoes that were made for comfort and not to entice men. I lost the battle and tears streaked my cheeks as I cried so hard my throat and chest hurt. Booted steps came running toward the room, and Dingo must have slid to a stop just outside. He didn’t barge in, at least not right away. As my cries grew louder, he pushed the door open and rushed inside.
“Mei? Honey, what’s wrong?” He dropped to his knees next to me.
“I-I-I…” I couldn’t even tell him why I was crying. I just gestured to the bags, then threw my arms around him and held on.
Dingo held me, letting me soak his shirt with my tears, and he gently rubbed my back. Eventually, I got myself under control and took a few shuddering breaths. He rested his cheek on the top of my head, just holding me. Not once did his hands try to roam somewhere inappropriate. Beau was the last person to hold me like this, and I’d only been fourteen. I hadn’t realized until now just how much I missed it. My foster dad’s version of affection was vastly different.
“When’s the last time someone bought something for you?” he asked.
“My foster parents gave me only what they were required to purchase, and the clothes were never like this. No one’s ever been this nice to me.”
“They aren’t much, Mei, but I wanted to make sure you had enough clothes to get by for at least a few days. You’re welcome to use the washer and dryer off the kitchen whenever you need to, and we can always get a few more outfits.”
I fisted his shirt and lifted my head. The concern in his eyes, the gentle way he held me, it was all overwhelming. Men had taken what they wanted from me ever since I’d hit puberty. Not once had I ever kissed someone just because I wanted to, but right now, this very moment, I wanted to kiss Dingo. Before I could second-guess myself, I pressed my lips to his. He tensed and drew back, his gaze searching.
“Mei, you don’t have to do that.”
“I know,” I said. “I did it because I wanted to.”
There was a moment of hesitation in the way he held himself, the look in his eyes, and then he leaned toward me. This time he kissed me. Dingo threaded his fingers into my hair and held me as his mouth devoured mine. I melted against him, feeling desired for the first time in my life. Cherished. Men had wanted me before, but they’d wanted to take not give.
Dingo broke the kiss with a groan and pulled away.
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