Smalltown Heat

includes Jared, Cole, Bobby

Book Cover: Smalltown Heat

"wickedly entertaining" ~Romance Junkies

You met them in RED BLOODED, now fall in love with the men of Pigeon Hollow...
JARED
Everything is just right…until a big city girl and her blasted reality show turn Jared Gordon's simple life upside down.
COLE
Pro ball player Cole Ryan discovers that one fateful night from their youth can leave a trail a decade long for him and his best friend's sister.
BOBBY
When the cameras stop rolling, things really start to heat up between a small town deputy and the associate producer willing to trade Hollywood for country life.

The stories JARED, BOBBY and COLE in Smalltown Heat were previously published. They have been reedited, recovered and rereleased without any substantial changes to the story or text.

Excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

Jared Gordon considered himself a lucky man.

He had a steaming hot mug of coffee and a piece of mile-high lemon meringue pie in front of him. The diner’s AC unit pumped cool air out of the vent just above him, allowing him to forget the beastly southern summer heat outdoors. Directly opposite him sat Bobby Barton, one of his best friends and the town’s deputy sheriff, which was handy in case he ever got into trouble.

Life was good . . . until she walked through the door.

“Aw, shit.” Jared slumped down in his seat and shielded his eyes with one hand.

Bobby glanced up from his own plate of Apple Crisp a la Mode and smirked. “You brought that one on yourself, buddy.”

Just what Jared needed at this moment in time, a smart-ass attitude from his best friend. “Yeah, thanks. Nice way to be supportive there, Bobby.”

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Bobby continued to look too amused at Jared’s expense. “You know damn well I warned you off her. She wants a wedding ring on her finger in a big way. Hooking a successful horseman like you would have been right up her alley.”

Jared risked a glance at Sue Ann, the woman in question, as she sashayed her shapely hips over to the counter.

Those hips had been his downfall to begin with. Sleeping with her was a risk he should never have taken, just like daring to sneak a look at her now. He was punished for both by a wicked glare over her shoulder before she leaned in and started whispering with Misty, the waitress behind the counter.

From the way they both looked at him, it was pretty obvious what the topic of conversation was.

He groaned and Bobby laughed again.

“This town is too small, Jared. You can’t go fishing in the local pond if you’re only going to throw your catch back after you’re through with it.”

Pigeon Hollow was a small town, way too small to avoid running into a pissed-off ex. Bobby was right about that much, but Sue Ann had convinced Jared she was in it for the same thing he was. Sex.

Armed with that, Jared felt compelled to defend himself. “She agreed it was just a casual thing. Just two adults scratching an itch every once in a while.”

That elicited a rude noise from Bobby. “Yeah, right. Jared, what women say and what they mean are usually the exact opposite in my experience. You better give up on women and stick to horses. At least you know something about them.”

“Hey, I knew enough to get the hell out of there when she started hinting marriage.” Jared wasn’t a complete idiot. He simply hadn’t anticipated her reaction to his maybe-we-should-just-be-friends speech.

“You were lucky. I wouldn’t put it past that one to try anything to snag herself a hubby.” Bobby bobbed his head with a wisdom-filled nod.

“Oh, no. I’m too smart for that. She kept telling me she was on the pill, but I still took care of things myself. With two older brothers, that message has been drilled into my head since long before I hit puberty.” The three Gordon brothers had done their share to keep the drug stores in the area in business over the years just from buying condoms.

Brow raised, Bobby looked impressed. “Good to hear. How are Jack and Jimmy anyway?”

“They’re back at the base, happily protecting the country from the bad guys. They call a couple of times a week. It keeps Mama happy. She misses them a lot.”

“And you don’t?” Bobby looked skeptical.

“Yeah, I do. It was nice having them both home for a while.”

Jack and Jimmy being home on leave earlier in the summer had made Jared realize how much he missed having his brothers around. But at least he still had his good old friend Bobby here.

“Hey, do me a favor.” Bobby glanced up from his plate. “Next time Jack and Jimmy are fixin’ to come home for a visit, can you give me a little notice? It seems trouble follows those two around.”

“I’ve often thought that myself.” Jared laughed. “Yeah, I’ll be sure to let you know if I do.”

Jared watched Sue Ann still chatting up the waitress and wondered if he ever dared eat here again. Since this was the only diner around for miles, his choices were pretty limited.

Of a more immediate concern, he figured the chances of getting a refill on his coffee today were slim to none.

After glancing into his near empty mug, Jared looked up at Bobby. “What day does your sister work here?”

“Why?” Bobby frowned. His voice held a deep, menacing tone.

Bobby was very protective of his little sister. Jared couldn’t really blame him. Lizzie Barton was the single mother of a nine-year-old son.

Jared also knew—hell, everybody did—that there was a bit of history between the Bartons and the Gordons. Jared’s brother Jack and Bobby’s other sister, Mary Sue, had had some wild times back in high school. However, Mary Sue was not the sister in question here and as far as Jared knew, no Gordon man had ever messed with Lizzie Barton.

“Relax. Jeez, Bobby. You know she’s like a sister to me too. I just figure it might not be safe to come here for a while unless Lizzie serves me since you-know-who is so chummy with the other waitress.” Jared kept his voice low and cocked a head in the direction of Sue Ann.

She turned from the counter and walked past their table with a withering glare.

Bobby broke into a grin again, which was as bad as an I told you so, maybe worse. Bobby followed Sue Ann out the door with his gaze before looking back to Jared. “Be afraid, my friend. Be very afraid.”

Jared rolled his eyes. “Thanks a lot. You’re so helpful.”

Bobby scooped the last of his pie into his mouth, slurped one more sip of coffee and stood. Digging into his pocket, he threw some cash on the table. “If it’s safe to leave you unprotected from the woman scorned, I gotta get back to work now.”

Jared scowled. As if Bobby didn’t take hour-long coffee breaks all day long, but actually he should get back to the farm himself.

“All right.” Jared nodded, finishing the last of his own pie. He longed for another sip of hot coffee to go with the last bite of pie but knew he wasn’t going to get it. He called after his friend, “Check on Lizzie’s schedule for me.”

He heard Bobby laughing as the door swung shut behind him.

Jared added more money to what was already on the table and was about to leave when he thought better of it. He wouldn’t put it past Misty, as one of Sue Ann’s closest friends, to accuse him of not paying his check.

You never knew what a woman would do for another woman to get back at a man. It was practically a global conspiracy.

He gathered up the check, Bobby’s cash and his own, and carried it all up to the cash register.

What had this world come to that a man couldn’t enjoy his pie in peace without fear of retribution?

Jared had been so involved with his paranoia over Sue Ann that he’d failed to notice the stranger who now stood at the counter, tapping her foot like a jackhammer against the scratched and faded linoleum floor.

He raised a brow with interest. They didn’t get many strangers in Pigeon Hollow. By the looks of her, she didn’t come from any of the towns nearby either.

His first clue was that she was dressed in a suit, long-sleeved jacket and all, in spite of the summer heat.

Just from that alone he could tell she was someone who usually spent her days in an air-conditioned office somewhere.

Second, she was so impatient she was practically vibrating. Locals knew things moved at a different pace in the South, especially in the heat of the summer.

The stranger was huffing and puffing and shooting dagger-filled looks at the waitress, who bused his table while she ignored them both at the counter.

Jared knew he was the reason they were being ignored, so he did feel a bit bad for the stranger who’d gotten caught in the crosshairs. Being a Southern gentleman, born and bred, he decided to step in and help the woman in need.

It didn’t hurt his decision that she was sexy as hell or that new females were nearly non-existent around here.

Jared adjusted his cowboy hat and took a good look at her ass in that skirt as he did. “What do ya’ need, darlin’?”

She spun to look at him. “You work here?”

“No, but I’ll yell to Mac back there. He’ll get it for you.” The owner of the diner was in the kitchen cooking. Jared could see him through the opening in the wall.

“All I want is a cup of coffee to go. Since I haven’t seen a Starbucks anywhere, I’d hoped I could get one here.” She glanced one more time at the waitress who still hadn’t acknowledged their presence.

Thinking more caffeine was probably the last thing this tightly strung babe needed, Jared nodded. “You surely can. Best coffee in town.”

He didn’t add that it was also practically the only coffee in town, if you didn’t count the pot of questionable aged brew always on at the gas station.

Take-out coffee that came in one of those squashy Styrofoam sorry-excuses for a cup didn’t appeal to him. He liked a real mug. Something a man could wrap his hands around.

Come to think of it, that was the quality he looked for in a woman too.

Jared leaned over the counter. “Hey, Mac. This little lady here wants a coffee to go.”

“Where’s Misty?” Mac’s growled response came from the back. Looking hot and cranky, he peered out of the pass-through between the kitchen and the counter.

Jared glanced at the waitress and decided not to dig his own grave any deeper with her by telling Mac she was ignoring him on purpose. “Uh, she’s busy.”

Mac grumbled his way to the front and poured coffee into a to-go cup, shoving a plastic lid, the cream and the sugar across the counter toward her.

As citified and impatient as she’d acted at first, Mac’s gruffness seemed to put the stranger on her best behavior. “Thank you so much. How much do I owe you?”

“Just the coffee?” Mac asked.

“The coffee and directions, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Coffee is seventy-five. Directions are free.” He grinned. It seemed that even gruff old Mac had started to warm up to her.

She was a looker, in a perfect, polished, city sort of way. Sleek blonde hair, cut in what he supposed was a fashionable style. Pretty blue eyes. Perfect nails painted in pale pink with the white edges showing.

“Seventy-five cents?” Her eyes widened with surprise.

Jared noticed she had four single dollar bills in her hand.

Four dollars for one cup of coffee? She was definitely a city person.

She put down one dollar on the counter and pushed it toward Mac. “Keep the change.”

“Thanks. Now where do you need to go?” Mac shoved the money in the register drawer.

Jared took that opportunity to slide his own check and the cash onto the counter. His hand stopped dead when he heard the woman say, “Gordon Equine? It’s a horse farm. Do you know it?”

Mac raised a brow and glanced sideways at Jared. “Sure do. And what business do you have with the Gordons, pretty lady? You in the market for a stud?”

Now it was her turn to raise a brow. She pursed her lips, as if considering. “Perhaps.”

Mac’s gruff laugh turned into a cough. He cocked his head in Jared’s direction. “This here fella can give you directions. I got something on the stove.”

Jared was left wondering what this tough cookie from the city could possibly want with him.

He decided not to tip his hand just yet. When she turned to him expectantly, he gave her directions all right, the long way to the farm, which would give him just enough time to arrive right before her.

Sure, it was juvenile, but hell, he had to make his own entertainment around Pigeon Hollow. Who better to make it with than a pretty blonde stranger who might possibly be in the market for a Gordon stud?

COLLAPSE
Reviews:on Romance Junkies:

“Sparks fly in this sizzling installment of Cat Johnson’s Red Hot & Blue series. Jared is a wickedly entertaining story that will keep readers’ fans on high this summer… Ms. Johnson sets the page ablaze when Mandy and Jared hit the sheets”

on Guilty Pleasures:

”Ms Johnson has done it again! …steamy, smartly written and incredibly funny”

JoAnne on Romancing the Book wrote:

"lots of loving, romance and love"