Chasing Red by Isabelle Ronin
Millions of Wattpad readers love Caleb and Red’s epic story:
“I love this book to the core.”
“I was so addicted… So in love that I couldn’t stop reading.”
“The characters are just so real and possess such pure, raw emotions and passion.”
“This book took me through an emotional roller coaster! I love everything about it!”
THEY SAID SHE WAS GOING TO BE MY RUIN…
THEN LET HER RUIN ME.
He had everything—wealth, adoration, a brilliant future. Until one chance encounter changed everything.
The moment Caleb Lockhart spotted the mysterious woman in her siren red dress, he couldn’t tear his eyes away.
For the first time in his life, he wanted something. Something he knew he could never have.
The unforgettable stranger he dubs RED.
I stopped when I reached the kitchen. It had the same modern industrial feel as the rest of the place. There was a bar on the left side of the room with barstools tucked underneath. Crisp, white cupboards, granite countertops, glass pendant lights hanging from the vaulted ceiling, stainless-steel appliances—the whole works. My breath caught as I set eyes on someone standing in the corner. He was tall, his shirtless back showing he had tan skin, and I could see his muscles were rippling when he moved his arm.
I stood there, nervous and scared. As if he sensed my presence, he turned around. His eyes widened and his jaw fell open as he took in my appearance.
I knew that face.
Caleb. Caleb Lockhart!
Oh no, not him! This was not happening. I’d woken up in the lair of the campus man whore.
A piece of bread fell out of his mouth as he continued to gape at me. His wavy brown hair was mussed and sticking up everywhere, as if he too had just woken up. His chest and stomach were well defined. The long counter in front of him ended just below his waist so I couldn’t see if he was—
Please, God, I hope he’s wearing something down there.
And then he grinned. As if he had all the time in the world, his gaze leisurely traveled from the top of my head to my toes, then back up to my face. I felt my toes tingle.
“Hey, baby, you look like you’ve had a busy night,” he drawled.
“Did we… Did you…?” I stuttered, crossing my arms to hide my chest from his lascivious gaze.
One dark brow lifted as he waited for me to finish my question. My mouth felt dry, and my head was starting to throb. I looked down at my naked feet and wondered where I’d put my shoes. Silly, silly girl.
“Just tell me,” I said finally.
“Tell you what exactly?” His eyes were laughing at me, and I could see his dimples. He knew exactly what I was talking about, but he seemed to find joy in torturing innocent people. Jerk.
When he stepped around the counter, I moved a step back and yelled, “Stay away from me!” At least he was wearing sweatpants.
He frowned, holding his hands up. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
My eyes frantically searched for a weapon nearby, in case he decided to attack me. I could grab one of the pans on the hanging pot rack if needed.
“Why am I here?”
“You don’t remember?”
I had a sudden urge to pull my hair. “Remember what?”
His face darkened. “Some pervert nearly attacked you last night. I saved you.” He shook his head. “He could have raped you.”
My head started to throb. Memories from last night were starting to come back.
“And you threw up all over my car.” He paused. “Twice.”
“R-raped me?” I vaguely remembered resisting a guy’s advances. What if it was him?
Caleb nodded, staring at me intently. The way his green eyes bored into me triggered a memory. A low, masculine voice murmuring, I’ve been looking for you my whole life…
I shook my head to clear it and glared at him. “How do I know you’re not that guy?”
“Oh please,” he scoffed, rolling his eyes. “I don’t have to force a girl to sleep with me.”
He stepped back, leaned against a butcher block behind him, and crossed his arms against his impressive chest, studying me with his head tilted to the side. The muscles in his arms flexed.
“Thank you,” I said quietly, but I was still suspicious. Growing up in a rough area meant suspicion came naturally to me. “I don’t remember much from last night.”
“You were drunk,” he stated.
“I think I remember that part.”
“And you’re not hungover?”
I shook my head.
“Amazing,” he said, sounding impressed.
“Look, if you don’t mind giving my shoes back, I can get out of your way.” I assumed he knew where they were. I didn’t find them in the bedroom.
“Not so fast.”
“What?” My eyes shot to an espresso machine sitting on the counter five feet away. I could use that in case he decided to grab me. Could I lift it?
“You threw up all over my car, and I just got it a few weeks ago.”
Oh. I bit my lip. “Isn’t your dad rich?” I gestured uselessly at the luxury surrounding us. “Can’t you just have somebody clean it for you?”
His eyebrows shot up. “So you’re going to have someone else clean up your mess?”
I clenched my teeth. “What do you want from me?”
Leaning back, he pulled himself up to sit on the butcher block, his glorious body on uninterrupted display. I gulped.
“Do you have anywhere to go when you leave?” There was a basket filled with apples beside him. He reached for one. How fortunate he was to reach for food whenever he wanted. He didn’t have to fear being hungry…or homeless.
“What kind of question is that? I’m going home.” I had no clue where home was, but he didn’t know that.
Without removing his gaze from mine, he tossed the apple in the air, caught it, tossed it again. “And where is that?”
My stomach quietly growled. “It’s none of your business.”
“Well, I quite possibly saved your life. I believe in conserving energy, so I want to make sure you don’t waste mine. I asked you last night where you live, and you told me you’re homeless. Frankly, right now, you look like someone just stole your last dollar.”
My mouth opened in shock.
He placed the apple back in the basket and crossed his arms again. Was he flexing in front of me?
“Why do you care?” I demanded.
It was a moment before he answered. “Do you really have somewhere to go?”
The mild, sympathetic tone did it. I felt my throat close and my eyes tear up. I could tell he was uncomfortable with my sudden display.
He jumped off the butcher block and went to open the fridge.
“Here,” he said quietly, handing me a bottled water.
I tried to say thank you, but my throat was too tight. When I looked up, he was backing away from me.
“You know you stink, right?”
I laughed. I laughed so hard that I was almost hyperventilating. Then I started crying. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to.
To keep myself from falling on my face, I squatted where I was and sat on the floor. My crying turned to ugly hiccup-sobbing. He must have thought I was insane.
“Why don’t you stay here for a bit until you find an apartment?”
Shocked, I could only stare up at him.
He shrugged. “I know when someone is at the end of their rope,” he added.
At the end of their rope? I glared at him, quickly wiping at my tears. I hated looking up at someone when I talked to them so I got back on my feet, struggling to pull my dress down. He was still taller, which made me angrier.
“Listen, pal, I may be homeless, but I am not accepting your charity.”
We both fell silent.
The sound of the water bottle crinkling in my hand was followed by that of a steady stream of water spilling onto the floor.
Embarrassed, I closed my eyes. When I heard him clear his throat, I tried to calm my breathing by counting to ten before opening my eyes.
His eyebrows were raised as if he was waiting for me to say something. When I didn’t, he continued.
“Where else will you go? A homeless shelter? Listen.” He raised his index finger. “One, I live by myself, so you’ll only have the pleasure of my company. Two”—he raised a second finger—“you’re certainly safer here than at a shelter. And three”—he raised a third finger—“ding, ding, ding! You can stay here for free.”
I narrowed my eyes. It all sounded too good to be true. “Why are you helping me?” Life had beaten me enough that I knew nothing came free.
He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. Then he shook his head. “I don’t know.”
Live with Caleb Lockhart. In this huge place. For free. My only other options were the shelter or live on the streets. “I’m not going to be your prostitute.”
He looked insulted. “Do you really think I need one? Woman, have you seen this body? Besides,” he added, grinning, “when you decide to sleep with me, you’ll be the one paying me.”
Wow. The size of his ego must constantly give him a headache. I gave him a disgusted look and pretended to yawn. “Everything that’s coming out of your mouth sounds interesting. I don’t know why I keep yawning.”
Those green eyes widened and homed in on my face. I thought I’d pissed him off this time, but the most unexpected thing happened. He started laughing. “I like you,” he said, chuckling. “I mean you’re a knockout, but I didn’t think it went beyond that.”
Did he just insult me?
“I’m offering you a way out of your misery. Why don’t you take it?” He pinched his nose with his fingers. “And could you please take a shower? You might be gorgeous, but I ain’t spending time with a girl who smells like the sewer.”
I huffed. He was right though—I smelled really, really bad. But… “Then what do you want in exchange?”
“Not everyone wants something from you,” he replied grimly.
“Oh, is that what you think?” I laughed bitterly. “Everyone wants something one way or another. Haven’t you learned that yet?”
He tilted his head to the side and studied my face again. I wondered what he saw when he looked at me. My looks and the shape of my body usually made people think I was always looking for fun. Fun was the last thing on my mind. I was too busy staying alive, too busy working for my next meal to think about anything else. Last night had been an anomaly.
I had no other good options—just shelter or street—and he was offering me a way out. He at least looked sincere. It was about choosing the lesser of two evils. I took a deep breath.
“I could clean,” I said quietly.
Was I really doing this? Why not? The world hadn’t given me a free ticket in so long. I was overdue for one.
“Sorry?” He blinked at me, and I wasn’t sure if he was teasing or serious. “I didn’t hear what you said.”
I took another deep breath, and this time my voice was stronger. “I could clean your place in exchange for my stay.”
“I already have someone come in three times a week for that,” he answered.
“I can cook.”
He frowned. “Don’t string me along like that. That’s not very nice.”
I rolled my eyes.
“Can you really cook?” His face lit up. He looked like a little boy who had found the last cookie at the bottom of the jar.
“Yes,” I answered, ignoring the crazy effect his smile had on me.
This was too easy. “You said you live by yourself, but how can you afford this place?”
His expression shuttered. I hoped he didn’t think I was trying to find out how much money he had. That I was a gold digger. But why wouldn’t he think that? He didn’t know me from Eve.
I might have been poor, but I wasn’t a freeloader. My hands proved how hard I worked, and I was proud of that. One more year and I would get that diploma. I’d work my ass off to have a good life. I didn’t need much—a steady job, a simple house, and a serviceable car would be more than enough to make me happy. And I would never go hungry again. I’d get there without help from anyone.
“Look,” I hissed angrily. “I was only curious. If you think I’m some gold digger—”
He held a hand up. “Will you stop putting words in my mouth? Do you really think I want this life? This…this.” He gestured to the whole room. “You think this makes me happy?” His jaw was set, his hands fisted.
“Yes!” I answered. I fell silent, incredulous. He had no concept of what it meant to go hungry, to not know where he was going to sleep next, to live in fear. We were worlds apart.
This was never going to work.
We both stood there awkwardly, but after a few seconds, he opened his mouth again, waggling his eyebrows as if nothing had happened. “Know what? You do my homework while you’re cooking my dinner tonight.”
So much for that moment. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out.
“Hold on,” he said. “I didn’t even get your name.”
“I’m Caleb Lockhart.”
Chasing Red Duology:
Chasing Red (Book 1)
Always Red (Book 2)