Untamed Hearts 1: The Viper

Kele Moon

Marcos Rivera is a fighter. A gang member. Someone who has seen the dark side of humankind and survived. He has lost family and gained enemies. He has stolen cars and destroyed hearts, stripping one for money and the other for ple...
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Marcos Rivera is a fighter. A gang member. Someone who has seen the dark side of humankind and survived. He has lost family and gained enemies. He has stolen cars and destroyed hearts, stripping one for money and the other for pleasure. His past is haunted and his future is bleak.

Until her.

Katie Foster is a high school history teacher. Smart, strong, and sexy. She is a woman Marcos shouldn’t want. Shouldn’t touch. Shouldn’t love. He met her in Garnet, a backwards, hick town that’s the last place in the world he wants to be, but he finds himself going back, all for a taste of the forbidden.

Katie represents all that is good in the world, and Marcos knows he’s nothing but trouble for her perfect life. He fights and he screws. He commits crimes and he breaks the rules. He will never change and he will never escape his gang lifestyle.

Or can he?

What happens when two different people from two very different walks of life risk it all by giving into the passion that threatens to consume both of them? Can a woman who only knows how to play it safe give her heart to a man who lives hard and loves harder?

Can she survive The Viper?

Excerpt
A Garth Brooks song played on the radio. The windshield wipers worked overtime pushing away the snow as Katie drove back home after the New Year’s Eve party held at her brother’s place. The roads were empty at two a.m. Not that they were ever too crowded in her small hometown of Garnet.

Katie had gone to her brother Chris’s just in case her ex tried to stop by the house after he sent her flowers for New Year’s Eve, asking for a second chance. Her divorce had been two years of hell, and Grayson still didn’t want to let go.

Now she was stuck driving back home through the early stirrings of what looked to be a nasty winter storm. Damn Grayson. She would’ve been happier spending the night on her couch with a bottle of wine and Ryan Seacrest to keep her company.

Determined to enjoy the first vestiges of the New Year, she turned up the radio. She started thinking of her mother and deliberately sang along. Her mother used to love Garth Brooks.

Katie didn’t notice the blue car behind her until it was practically on top of her. That little car just seemed to appear out of nowhere. It had to be doing ninety at least. On a snowy, two-lane road that was nothing but sharp turns. Were they crazy?

She expected them to pass her. Even if it was a two-lane road, people did it all the time. Katie certainly wasn’t going to speed up in a snowstorm to make a lunatic driver happy. A chill ran down her spine when the driver continued to ride her tail rather than pass. For one moment she thought it could be Grayson, but this driver was noticeably swerving. Grayson didn’t drink.

She slowed down, hoping the driver would pass, but they just remained plastered to Katie’s bumper in a way that made her feel bullied. Her instincts were on high alert. It was clear this person was trying to scare her.

And they were obviously drunk.

She turned on her blinker, intent on pulling off the road, but before she could, the driver sped up and finally made the move to go around her. Katie looked at the driver, but in the darkness all she could make out was the long hair and slim frame of a woman. She also couldn’t help but notice being flipped off when the strange woman stuck her hand out of the open sunroof. Maybe if the driver had been paying attention to the road instead of giving Katie the middle finger, she would’ve seen the white pickup truck coming over the hill. As it was, the woman didn’t even try to slow down.

As if caught in a nightmare, Katie watched the truck swerve violently to avoid the blue car suddenly in their lane. The last thing Katie heard before her world exploded was the blaring of a horn and the skid of tires against icy asphalt.

Glass was everywhere. The sting of it was in her face and neck. She could feel the warm trickle of blood running into her eye, but all that was nothing but sensory annoyance next to what was going on with her left arm. The agony was so extreme she wouldn’t have been able to comprehend it before this moment. A scream burst out of her as the shock of getting hit cleared between one heartbeat and the next. She tried to tug her arm free from where it was pinned by the twisted metal that was once her driver’s side door.

She nearly blacked out from the pain. She started hyperventilating as the smell of smoke filled her senses. She was claustrophobic in the best of circumstances. After five years in a mentally abusive relationship, Katie didn’t like feeling trapped. She was in such a freak mode, she found herself trying to steel herself against the pain and willing the strength to attempt jerking her arm free again...even if it caused more damage.

She needed out of her car.

“I’m calling 911!”

Katie heard the voice from somewhere. Low and gruff, vibrating with panic. She blinked, focusing on it.

“Stop moving. I’m getting help.”

Katie hadn’t realized she’d been fighting to get out until the passenger side door was abruptly opened, and the blast of cold air hit her. She blinked at a tan face. Light blue eyes swirled with concern, hidden partially by locks of dark hair. As insane as it was, this man was so handsome that for the pulse of one second she forgot the pain, but in the next breath, it slammed into her with such force it wouldn’t have made a difference if it was Bradley Cooper sitting himself in the passenger seat of her car.

The handsome stranger was talking rapidly on his phone.

She started crying. Embarrassing. Ugly crying. Punctuated by really dignified statements about her predicament like, “Ow, ow ow.”

He asked her questions. She thought she answered them correctly.

She couldn’t believe this was how she was starting the New Year.

As she sat there, trapped, in pain and shivering in shock and cold, he took off his jacket and put it around her. “They’re coming,” he told her, sounding concerned as he held the phone to his ear. “Mrs. Wellings says they’ll be here in three minutes or less.”

Katie nodded, feeling a little better and a lot warmer. “That’s Jules?” She struggled to stop the tears and speak clearly. “Can you tell her it’s Katie Foster so she can call my brother?”

Katie actually heard Jules’s screech through the phone. Jules Wellings had been Katie’s attorney for the divorce and one of her only true advocates. A very busy woman and a mom of twins, Jules rarely worked 911 dispatch these days, even if her twin brother was sheriff. It was a small stroke of luck.

The world hazed out in relief then. Knowing it was Jules sending help eased some of her panic, and this handsome stranger sitting in Katie’s mangled car had kind eyes. He had even given her his jacket, and it left his arms bare to the cold--really big arms. He had tribal tattoos on his biceps, and a large snake inked into the corded muscles on the inside of his right forearm. She’d never seen tattoos like that up close. They made him look undeniably dangerous, but for some reason she wasn’t nervous in his presence. She focused on him because there was nothing else but the pain to set her attention on.

He cursed when his phone died. “Hijo de la gran puta!

“A-aren’t you cold?” she stuttered as she stared at those bunched, tattooed muscles rather than think of the agony in her arm.

“I just slammed into your car two hours after New Years. You should want my ass to be cold.” He let out a bitter laugh full of self-hatred as he turned to her in concern. “I’m sorry about this.” He shook his head. “Coño. That sounded lame, huh? You can’t just say sorry for something like this.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “This is my worst nightmare. It was the last thing I fucking needed on my conscience.”

“I know it wasn’t your fault.” More tears rolled down her cheeks. “T-there was nothing you could’ve done.”

“I could’ve swerved the other way.”

Well, there was that.

“I had a couple beers when the ball dropped. I don’t even know why I hung around Chuito’s when I should’ve left for Miami yesterday morning. I just hadn’t seen him in so long. Hell, I thought I was sober. I waited a couple of hours before I headed back home, but obviously--” He paused and then picked up Katie’s good hand, squeezing it tightly. “I really am sorry, Katie Foster. You seem like a sweet girl, and you didn’t need my shit luck rubbing off on you.”

“My luck isn’t all that great either,” she confessed as she squeezed his hand back rather than pull away. “Obviously.”

“Feel better. I promise you a messed up arm’s gonna end a lot better than what this accident is gonna do to me. You’ll get your revenge, chica.”

She heard the nervousness over the drinks he had. He was likely facing a DUI. He could’ve taken off like the other driver. Instead he was sitting there, jacketless, holding her hand.

“You should leave,” she whispered. “Go, and I’ll forget what your truck looked like. See if it’s still drivable.”

“I’m not leaving you.” He snorted as if the thought were ridiculous.

“But the drinking?”

“Your friend, Jules Wellings, she knew it was me who called 911. I met with her a couple of days ago hoping to get sponsored by the Cellar. Hell, I was staying with Chuito Garcia. He lives above her offices. She knows where to find me. I promise.” He gave her a sad smile, showing off white teeth. The bottom ones were a little crooked, making it obvious he hadn’t suffered through four years of braces like Katie had, but somehow that just added to his charm. “So we’ll just sit here together and face the bad luck head-on. That’s what I usually do. This time I got company. It’s all good.”

She looked back to this stranger with no little amount of admiration for his courage. He was a fighter. Even if he hadn’t just admitted to it, he had the look of a man who spent his days working out in the Cellar.

The Cuthouse Cellar, Garnet’s one claim to fame, was a state-of-the-art MMA training center in town. Every day it seemed more up-and-coming fighters chose the Cellar as their training camp. It was clear he was one of those men who came here looking for fame and glory, but unfortunately for this one, his life collided with hers instead.

What a shame.

She was still staring at him in amazement. Her intrigue with him was enough to keep her from crying. The pain still throbbed in her arm, radiating out to the rapid thump, thump, thump of her heartbeat, but with him near, it was almost as if that crazy strength it took to be an MMA fighter was rubbing off.

“Does it work?” she whispered.

He frowned. “Does what work?”

“Just f-facing it head-on?” she clarified. “The bad luck?”

He seemed to consider that for a moment before he grinned. “At least you know when the next punch is coming. Nothing worse than getting blindsided, right?”

“Right,” she agreed softly, looking down to her arm, trying to see how bad the damage was. All she saw was the blood. It made her stomach lurch, and she looked over to the fighter once more. “I’m gonna try that. F-facing things. Not hiding from my problems anymore.”

“Where I come from, teenagers would fuck with me when I was young. Hard kids. Thugs. Nothing fazed them. They’d use anyone to get the job done. They’d make eight-year-olds run their drugs if it kept the heat off them, and I wasn’t ready for all that. Then I figured out it was harder for them to threaten me if I was looking them dead in the eye.” He squeezed her hand once more. “That’s the one thing they can’t take from you. Your courage.”

“I’m not courageous,” she admitted, feeling her cheeks heat despite everything. “I’m the exact opposite o-of courageous.”

“You seem pretty brave to me.” He tilted his head to look at her with noticeable admiration. “All the girls I know would be freaking out and screaming their heads off right about now.”

The wail of sirens had him jumping out of the car before she could respond. He faced a possible DUI head-on, without even flinching. She watched him wave down Sheriff Conner, who beat the ambulance to the accident site. The sheriff came flying out of the car. He didn’t pay more than a passing glance to the young fighter other than to say, “Don’t you be going anywhere, boy.”

Then he was crawling into the passenger side of her car, filling up the small space with his powerful presence. She always forgot just how big the sheriff was until she was next to him. He was one seriously large fella, but Katie’s mind was on her fighter standing out in the snow without a jacket.

The sheriff touched the pulse point at her neck and shined a light in her eyes as he asked, “How ya doing, Katie?”

“O-okay. Listen, Sheriff--”

“Jules is calling your brother. She wanted me to tell you that she’ll make sure he meets you at Mercy General.” The sheriff leaned over her, shining his flashlight toward the door that held her arm trapped. “We need to make sure you don’t move until Tommy and the fire department get out here.”

“Yeah, but Sheriff--”

The sheriff picked up the radio on his hip and started speaking into it. Most of what he was saying was police jargon, but she got the gist of it. They needed bigger equipment out here to cut her out of this car. The fear washed over her in icy-hot waves. She used her good hand to pull the fighter’s jacket tighter around her, seeking comfort from it. Her instinct was to start crying again, but she realized now why her thoughts were scattered in other directions besides the pain. Extreme shock had settled in at some point. Her arm was still hurting, but her acknowledgment of it had faded to the background.

More sirens wailed in the distance. Help was coming. She should be relieved, but instead she looked back to the fighter, standing there illuminated by her headlights. The snow was falling in his dark hair and resting on his broad shoulders.

“It wasn’t his fault,” she said quickly to Sheriff Conner, wanting to get it out before the fire department showed up. “There was another car. This crazy woman swerved into his lane right as he was coming over the hill. None of this was his fault, Sheriff. It was just b-bad luck.”

“Okay, darling.” The sheriff squeezed her good hand. “Just focus on breathing easy and not moving until we can get you out. Can you do that?”

Katie took a deep breath and nodded. “Yeah, but about--” She paused, realizing she’d never asked his name. “The m-man out there.”

“Don’t you worry ’bout Marcos. He’s a big boy, and there’s not a scratch on him.” The sheriff squeezed her hand once more. “You’re the one we’re gonna focus on right now.”

“It was just bad luck,” she repeated, thinking of not just the accident, but a long string of rotten luck and getting the impression she wasn’t alone as she stared at the fighter again. “It wasn’t his fault.”

Rather than respond, the sheriff got out of the car to meet the fire truck that pulled up. Katie got the distinct impression the fighter, Marcos, was low on his priority list, but Katie still worried about him.

The entire time they worked at cutting her out of the mangled mess of her car, she thought of Marcos. She would look for him, her gaze searching the accident site when the fear or pain got too much. She’d usually find him standing out of the way with a brown blanket over his shoulders. She wished she could hold his hand again, but there were firefighters everywhere. Tommy, the paramedic, sat next to her taking her vitals, talking in that calming voice of his that made it obvious why he was good at what he did. He had put a brace around her neck. He was getting her ready for the stretcher as the horrible grinding of metal being cut away made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end.

She was shaking. The shock was still clouding her brain. It blocked out some of the pain, but still she fought for clarity as the relief of finally being free made her vision haze. The world started to spin as they put her on a stretcher. Tommy had to take extra time with her arm, splinting it on a board. Katie didn’t have the nerve to look.

“I-I need the jacket,” she told them, knowing it had been tossed aside somewhere. She didn’t want it to end up at the tow yard. “P-please. I need to take it with me to the hospital.”

“Sure, darling.” Tommy gave her a warm smile that made more than a few Garnet women weak-kneed.

The paramedic was one of their most eligible bachelors, but Katie was still worried about her fighter. She breathed a sigh of relief when Tommy put the jacket over her as they wheeled her toward the ambulance. She was just starting to think everything might be all right when Sheriff Conner’s voice drifted over from the other side of the street.

“Have you been drinking tonight, Mr. Rivera?”

She wanted to scream at him to lie.

Instead she heard her fighter face it head-on. “Yeah, Sheriff, I had a few beers at midnight.”

She found herself staring at the roof of the ambulance before she could hear how it all played out. The sirens came to life. Tommy, the handsome paramedic, alternated between checking her vitals and writing things on his chart. All the while he laid on that charm he was famous for, obviously very accustomed to making horrible situations a little easier with the good looks God gave him.

Yet all she could think about was Marcos, the mystery fighter with kind eyes, dangerous tattoos, and a horrible case of bad luck almost as epic as hers.

Copyright © Kele Moon

Reviews

Customer Reviews

muy delicioso Review by Toni FGMAMTC
Quality
I loved this book. I was having trouble concentrating on anything right before I started it. It just clicked for me, and I couldn't stop, read it straight through. This is the first book in the Untamed Hearts series which is a spinoff of the Battered Hearts series so we do see some characters from the past that we already know.

The leading lady in this story is a blonde, nerdy, more curvy than skinny, small town high school history teacher. The leading man is a Puerto Rican (who moved to Miami at the age of ten), dark-skinned, light blue-eyed, big city criminal.

Often in a good girl/bad boy story, the chick really gets on my nerves. For the most part, Katie did not. Even though she was naïve, she totally owned it. She is sweet and nonjudgemental. She's also bold and willing to stand behind her convictions (some part of both of these traits stem from a meeting with Marcos).

Oh, Marcos, I could go on and on. He is the perfectly imperfect man—illegal past, wrong background, covered in tattoos, bi-lengual, gang affiliation, felon, blood on his hands, sexy spanglish lingo, infallible integrity, strong belief in paying for actions, world class lover and fighter...

Marcos and Katie meet by chance. Both are on completely different pathways in life, but both are unhappy and searching for something to fill the void. A crazy driver almost runs them both off the road. In trying to avoid the accident, Marcos ends up hitting Katie. Instead of fleeing the scene, as the other driver did, Marcos stays with an injured Katie while waiting for help to arrive. Although they could not be more different, this brief time together brings about indelible changes in both.

I love how Katie is strong enough that she doesn't base her contentment on a man. She makes the necessary modifications in her lifestyle for herself. I love how Marcos owns his past mistakes, making no excuses for the lot he was dealt. He stands behind his decisions.

The crux of the story is can they both change enough to meet in the middle and make it work.

If you like underground fighters, bad boys with good hearts, OG's, latin lovers, whispered sweet nothings in Spanish and feisty strong-willed characters, this book is probably for you. I can't wait for the rest of the series. I believe Chuito's book will be next.
(Posted on 3/13/2016)
5 stars = I freaking LOVED this book Review by asgoodrich
Quality
I received a free copy of this book to read and review for Wicked Reads.

It’s been a while since I read Ms. Moon’s work and I am so glad I got the opportunity to read The Viper. It reminded me why I enjoy her writing so much. She creates realistic characters that you can’t wait to spend time with and don’t want to be interrupted while you’re with them. I told myself when I started the book today that I would read for an hour and then do some work and come back and read some more. I did manage to take my first reading break, but when I picked the book back up I didn’t put it down until I finished it. Yep, it sucked me right in.

Katie and Marcos do NOT meet under the best of circumstances. Despite the situation and the fact that Katie should be frightened of Marcos, he is the only thing that keeps her from losing it that awful night. Once her life return to normal, everyone seems to be stonewalling her when she attempts to contact Marcos – telling her he’s too dangerous and she’s better off leaving well enough alone. I have to say that I absolutely loved the way in which Marcos learned of her attempts to contact him and exactly how long she had been trying. And his reaction to it, well that’s the kind of thing that makes a girl’s heart flutter. Even though Marcos truly is a lover and not a fighter, circumstances force him back to his old life and he finds himself walking a fine line between life and death.

The Viper is a romance through and through and it is a great start for the Untamed Hearts series. Ms. Moon has created a hero in Marcos that is strong, loyal, loving, and passionate. It is these characteristics that make him perfect for Katie – who has just enough temper and attitude to challenge Marcos without making him feel judged. They complement one another and their chemistry is obvious and translates into some smoking hot sex scenes. I am looking forward to the next book in the series and really hope that it’s Chuito’s story. Until then, I’ll be revisiting Ms. Moon’s other books.

~ Wicked Reads Review Team ~
(Posted on 8/24/2014)
AMAZING! Review by Jayme
Quality
I will confess Ms. Moon is an auto-buy for me! Her ability to create these tortured but completely adorable alpha male characters! There are a couple of the guys who I simply want to just pinch their cheeks because they are so cute! (I bet that would go over well, with all their macho he man tendencies!)

I find it fascinating that Ms. Moon can make me hate a character then redeem them so easily. Marcos is flawed but lovable guy whom you just can't help but root for! As a couple Marcos and Katie are a great opposites attract kind of couple.

Not that it's needed, but I would highly recommend reading the battered hearts books first...They are just that good!

I would note that this book is low on the fighting/MMA elements. I don't think you will miss it!
(Posted on 8/21/2014)
A brilliant start to a promising new series. Review by Anne
Quality
Once again Ms. Moon shows us what a romance novel should be without falling into a noticeable formula. Original and moving, while still delivering a few laughs. Just a great book. (Posted on 8/19/2014)
Love those Untamed Hearts! Review by Gloria Herrera
Quality
Literally colliding into each other on New Year's Eve, Katie and Marcos meet. Although Marcos (a gorgeous Puerto Rican Macho Gangster) knows this will get him in trouble with the police (and not for the first time), he cannot leave her alone to wait for the police and ambulance to show up. Injured and bleeding, Katie is impressed with Marcos' kindness and words of encouragement. So much so that he has a positive impact on this shy history teacher and spurs her to stand up for herself. I love how he teaches her, as they wait for the ambulance,how to deal with bullies. She takes this to heart and decides this is how she will stand up to her stalking ex-husband so he will leave her alone.

What is an accident becomes an obsession with these two. They both are so taken back by the other, even as they part at the accident scene, they know they will not forget each other. Marcos continues his trip to Miami where he resides, obsessing about the beautiful "gringa" that looked at him like an equal and tugged his heart strings. Katie goes off in the ambulance after defending Marcos to the Sheriff, hoping that she will see him again as she keeps his jacket keeping her warm.

This is a story of how fate steps in and brings two people from different worlds together. They are meant to be together. With Marcos being a gang member of ill repute in Miami, and Katie being a goody goody two shoes in Garnet, you would expect these two not to have much in common. Deep down, they both have the same insecurities and desires for a different life. To top this off, their physical attraction is epic ... and the rest is a romance that will tug at your heart.

Kele Moon's Battered Hearts Series introduced us to the town of Garnet and the characters we all grew to love. Now with this new series Untamed Hearts, we are getting the stories for Marcos and soon for Chuito. With Chuito I think we are going to get great surprises. This man wears a mask but has a depth to him I want to know more about.

There are a total of 4 books planned in this series. The last two books will focus on The Stallion (Tino) and The Boss (Nova). I have to admit I have been a fan of Moon's books from the beginning. In all honesty, I am desperately waiting for Nova's story. He is my Godfather come to life. At such a young age the secrets of the Moretti family are a burden he carries with grace and elegance... as well as handles them with a ruthless hand. That is a Bad Boy I really want to know inside and out!
(Posted on 8/18/2014)
Great start to a new (spin off) series Review by Michelle @MsRomanticReads
Quality
The Viper is the first book in the spinoff series of the Battered Hearts series. We catch glimpses of Melody, Jules, Wyatt and mentions of Clay and Romero (I love it when that happens).

What a great start to a new series, even if it didn't top my love for Defying the Odds. Ms. Moon knows how to write tortured characters but without angst or over the top, unnecessary drama. I especially love that she writes heroines who had been hurt in the past but weren't closed off to the possibility of finding love again. That was just one of the things I liked about Katie. After the accident with Marcos, she became bolder, more confident. She wanted to try new things and have no regrets. Not trying to track Marcos down would have been a huge regret. She was neither manipulative nor desperate when it came to trying to get Marcos to stay in one spot long enough to deepen their connection.

As far as tortured heroes go, Marcos Rivera had all of it and the kitchen sink thrown at him. Floating somewhere between half in and half out of a gang, an ex-con, unable to keep or find legit employment, sort of always on the outside looking in. You couldn't help but concur with Katie that his circumstances were more than a little unjust. Feeling backed into a corner, I understood why he tried so hard to shove Katie from his mind. Not only because she was too good for him (his words), but he wanted her safe from the dangers of his life.

The chemistry between them was always palpable, believable and off the charts hot. I loved the protectiveness they had for each other, Katie's bold, confident side, and Marcos' ability to let her in while giving her fair warning that there was an expiration date on their time together. Every scene between them was hot and varied between raw passion and tender sweetness.

Although the romance between them played a big part in Marcos' character arc, it was really the relationship between him and Chuito that often took center stage. You could say there was unfinished gang business. It seemed to me that Chuito had been living in denial for quite some time. On the one hand I liked him and his protectiveness over Marco, on the other hand, I wanted to slap him for acting (what I perceived as) cowardly for so long. There was almost no MMA/UFC present in this story, save for a very short scene near the end, in case you thought you would see some of that action. Loved the humorous dialogues between Marcos and Wyatt, Marcos and Chuito, and Chuito's mother and Katie. The pacing was good; I didn't feel rushed through the events, and I was never bored. I'm looking forward to the next book.

*eARC provided by the author/publisher for the purpose of an honest review.*
(Posted on 8/16/2014)

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