The next Hot SEALs release will be…drumroll, please…
The newest Hot SEALs release is now available in eBook & print!
Please enjoy this teaser from “JACK” in RED BLOODED (Red Hot & Blue) in paperback and eBook everywhere Tuesday, September 19th!
Jack Gordon leaned in, about to close the deal on what he hoped would be a mind-erasing kiss—because he could really stand to erase some memories right about now.
He was just concentrating on not coughing from the overwhelming cloud of perfume that surrounded her, and now him too, when the blonde’s hand on his chest stopped the downward descent of his head toward hers.
He moved back again, almost relieved she had stopped him.
She was right. This kiss was probably a really bad idea. His heart still had the bruise from watching Carly, the woman he’d had a crush on for two years, fall hard for his best friend Trey.
That was in addition to the fact that Darlene, the current near recipient of his impending kiss, worked at Carly’s bar as a cocktail waitress.
Darlene held one finger in the air. “Hang on.”
Sticking two fingers into her mouth, she pulled out a purple piece of chewing gum. He watched with fascination as she stuck the gum on the doorframe of the back entrance to the bar. Then she grabbed the neck of his T-shirt, yanked him to her and shoved her tongue nearly down his throat.
He was still recovering from that surprise attack when she reached down and grabbed, right through his jeans, what he considered to be his private property.
Jack jumped back, pulling his violated pelvis with him. “Whoa, there. Wait a minute, Darlene. What’s the hurry?”
The cocktail waitress ran her hands up and down his chest. “But, Jackie. I’ve had my eye on you for years and you’ve never given me the time of day. Now that you’ve finally come to your senses, I’m not letting you get away.”
He backed up, and she stepped closer, pinning him against the railing of the much too small staircase landing.
Her mouth was just closing over his again when he heard someone very loudly and obviously clearing her throat. He pulled back and looked down to see Carly standing at the bottom of the short staircase.
“Darlene, are we already closed for the night?” Carly made a show of glancing at her watch.
Jack felt his face grow hot at being caught sucking face behind the building with the waitress.
Darlene didn’t seem to care though. She glanced toward Carly without blinking an eye. “No.”
“Oh? Sorry, I assumed since my only cocktail waitress is out back making out with one of my customers we must be closed.” Carly waited a beat. When Darlene made no move and still had yet to remove her hands from Jack’s chest, she continued, “Darlene. Get inside and back to work.”
Darlene rolled her eyes in a move that could probably get her fired if Carly wanted to be a hard-ass boss.
“I’ll see you later,” Darlene said with a wink at him before she sauntered back inside.
Jack dropped his gaze to the ground, too embarrassed to look Carly in the eye. “Sorry about that.”
“It’s fine. From what I saw, you were the one being attacked.” She stepped up and wiped her thumb across his mouth. “Lipstick.”
He rubbed his mouth and tried to ignore the knowledge that his cheeks were most likely as red as Darlene’s lipstick smeared all over his mouth. “Yeah. I can take down a man twice my size in hand-to-hand combat, but they don’t teach us a defense for that kind of assault in training.”
He dropped down and sat on the top step, running both hands over his face.
Carly sat next to him and bumped her shoulder against his. “What’s wrong, Jack?”
Jack glanced sideways at her. “What makes you think something’s wrong?”
She shrugged. “You just don’t seem yourself lately and I never in a million years imagined Darlene was your type.”
He smiled sadly. She wasn’t. His type was sitting right next to him—and she belonged to his best friend.
Where did July go?! It went by so fast, between the new release of Escape with a Hot SEAL and the reveal of the next Hot SEALs romance, Matched with a Hot SEAL. And now it’s time for the new August wallpaper, which is a nod to love and romance. Download it with or without the August 2017 calendar page and feel free to share.
So what’s up for August in my world? I’m heading to Canada for Romancing the Capital and even though the 3 day event is sold out, the big BOOK SIGNING on Saturday August 5th is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. So if you’re driving distance to Ottawa and up for a road trip, check out the details HERE.
Warning! Please Share.
There has been a rash of fake publishers opening iBooks accounts, stealing our books and selling them there. Duplicate listings that are almost indistinguishable from the real listing. ALMOST indistinguishable… please look at the below pictures. One listing is real and lists CAT JOHNSON as the publisher/seller. The other is the stolen duplicate and lists the scammer ROYAL HOUSE PRESS as the publisher/seller.
A way to spot a scam copy is if you see two listings of the same ebook for sale at the same vendor. In this case, a search on iBooks yielded 2 copies of the same title. I had to open each of the listings and look for the Publisher/Seller names to find only one was mine and one was a stolen copy.
I have contacted iBooks’ legal department however these scammers are like playing whack-a-mole. You shut down one and another pops up almost immediately so please BE AWARE. Do not buy from them by mistake. And if you see a duplicate listing for any of your favorite authors, let them know! Consumer awareness is the best way to fight this.
UPDATE! I’d like to thank iBooks (both the rep and the legal department) for acting quickly to remove the stolen copy of my book. Let’s all work together to keep an eye out for other scammers and get them taken down just as fast!
1 Wedding, 4 New York Times Bestselling Authors, 5 Happily Ever Afters! MORE
It’s a marriage of convenience neither wants to end . . . MORE
A comedy of errors occur when a maid of honor, pretending to be a stripper, encounters the best man, pretending to be the groom. Then things really start to heat up… MORE
A beautiful bride, a handsome groom & a private cruise. What could possibly go wrong? MORE
Navy SEAL Rocky Mangiano is a bit thrown when he finds a baby on the doorstep . . . but when he tracks down the mother things really get crazy. MORE
Jon’s traveled to hell, danced with the devil and made it back to her, but his greatest challenge is still ahead. Getting Ali to marry him… MORE
It’s a Hot SEALs wedding but the path of true love never did run smooth… MORE
Annie Grant steered the rental car into a spot and cut the engine. She was just gathering her stuff—a large tote bag, a bottle of water and car keys—when the sight of two cowboys crossing the parking lot caught her attention.
Her brain turned to mush and her heartbeat sped. Annie scrambled out of the car so fast she forgot to grab the change of clothes hanging from the hook behind the driver’s seat.
“Damn, damn, damn.” She grumbled aloud to no one as she unlocked the car and grabbed the hangers covered in the plastic dry cleaning bag.
Forgetting things and cursing aloud to herself were just two more indications she’d gone crazy. The first had been when she’d realized she had a crush on one of the professional bull riders she worked with.
What woman in her right mind would want to date a rider? A man who made his living by traveling the world amid hordes of women intent on bedding the star the moment he got off the back of a bucking bull? If he got off without being critically injured or worse.
Apparently Annie was not in her right mind because veteran rider Luke Carpenter had caught her eye a while ago. Recently, more of her anatomy than just her eyes had become very interested in him.
Without even knowing it, Luke had captured her, body and soul. It seemed she wasn’t getting either back from him anytime soon, despite her realization that hoping for more than a working relationship with him was crazy.
And now two of his friends, the guys he’d driven with from the hotel to the arena yesterday, were walking straight toward her.
It was obvious to her now Luke wasn’t with them today, but her hands were shaking anyway just from the brief moments she’d thought he might have been.
Frustrated with her body’s ridiculous reaction at the mere thought of Luke, Annie blew out a loud breath.
Dry cleaning bag draped over one arm and the tote bag weighing down the other, she flung the car door shut with probably more force than was necessary.
She really needed to get control of herself and her schoolgirl crush.
Who knew if Luke would even look twice at her as a woman instead of just a female co-worker? He hadn’t in all the years she’d known him . . . but he’d also had a steady girlfriend all that time.
Now, since the tour had taken its midseason break, that girlfriend was suspiciously absent.
For the first time in years Luke had been going out with the other riders and acting more like a single man than a taken one.
If Annie didn’t get her butt in gear, some other woman would scoop him up. There were plenty of ready and willing women hanging around the local bars after an event looking for riders to flirt with.
That for the past couple of months Annie routinely knew Luke’s whereabouts—who he hung out with, where he went in his free time—only further proved she was crazy.
Practically a stalker.
He would probably run away in fear if he knew she was keeping tabs on him. But she couldn’t worry about that right now, because veteran riders Mustang Jackson and Slade Bower were standing next to her car waiting to walk her inside, because that’s what cowboys did.
Of course Mustang and Slade wouldn’t let a lady walk alone in a parking lot at dusk. If Luke were here, he’d do the same. She knew that for a fact because, like his fellow riders, that’s the kind of gentleman he was.
So why were Annie’s dreams strictly about getting naked and sweaty with Luke and never with any of the other very attractive guys she spent so much time with?
She wished she knew.
“Here’s our little Annie. How are you doing today, darlin’?” Mustang greeted Annie, pulling her out of her pondering.
“I’m good. How are you two?” Annie directed the question to both Mustang and Slade next to him.
“In a couple of hours I’ll be in that arena riding and hopefully taking home some money, so I can’t say I could be any better if I were twins.” Mustang laughed.
Slade nodded. “Amen to that.”
Their enthusiasm had Annie smiling. These guys truly loved their jobs.
Actually, she loved hers too. Yes, the constant travel could be tough, but it wasn’t like she had anyone waiting for her at home.
That thought was less than uplifting.
She smothered a sigh and decided maybe now was the time to do something about her lonely situation. These two cowboys might be just the ones to give her the information she needed about Luke and his current dating status.
“So, are your girls coming to the next event?” With all the casualness she could muster, Annie began some investigating.
She’d have to start slowly and skirt around the real object of her interest for a bit so they wouldn’t get suspicious and realize she was interested in Luke.
“Unfortunately, no. Sage has some tests for her college classes to deal with.” Mustang screwed up his mouth in an unhappy expression.
“Jenna will be there.” Slade practically glowed when he spoke his girlfriend’s name. Obviously he was a man in love.
With a frown, Mustang shot his friend a look. “Yeah, yeah. Rub it in.”
“What? Sorry. I can’t help it if my girl can get away more often than yours can.” Grinning, Slade didn’t look very sorry at all.
Mustang blew out a loud breath. “It’s been two weeks since I’ve seen Sage. My nights have been awfully lonely.”
“Aw. A whole two weeks? I’m there for you, buddy.” Slade slapped Mustang on the back.
“Yeah, thanks a lot. A man has needs, Slade. Ones you sure as hell can’t fill.” Mustang glanced sideways at her with a grimace. “Sorry, Annie. I shouldn’t be talking like that in front of you.”
Annie laughed at Mustang’s reaction to his slip. “It’s fine, really.”
Thanks to her job as a sideline reporter she was around men pretty much constantly. She was used to them forgetting she was there and talking the way they would among themselves.
Besides, women had needs too. She could totally relate to Mustang’s frustration. In fact, her own needs in that department hadn’t been met in quite some time. Definitely much longer than Mustang’s two week stretch.
Annie smothered the envy she felt. She wanted a man of her own to look like Slade did when he spoke about Jenna. A man to miss her desperately the way Mustang missed being with Sage.
She needed to see about getting one.
Not just any one, but one in particular. “So, um, you know who I haven’t seen around lately? Luke’s girlfriend, Lilly.”
“Huh, you noticed that, did you?” Mustang asked. “No, you haven’t seen her around. Not since the tour went on summer break. Why do you ask?”
The smile that spread across Mustang’s face combined with the intensity of his stare made Annie realize this guy was a little more intuitive than she’d given him credit for.
Annie shrugged as if it didn’t matter and regretted saying anything. “No reason. Just wondering is all.”
“Uh, huh.” Mustang continued to grin while Annie tried to estimate exactly how much longer it would take to walk to the arena from here. She needed to get away from his probing.
“Mustang, leave poor Annie alone.”
One look at Slade proved that even though he was defending her, he was grinning too.
“Why are you two acting so weird? Jeez, all I did was ask about Lilly, just like I asked about Sage and Jenna. It’s nice to have other girls around here after being with you guys all the time.” Annie scowled when they continued to look at her like they didn’t believe a word she was saying.
“Sorry, darlin’. It’s just we’ve noticed how you look at Luke. I was wondering how long it would be before you made a move.”
Mustang had noticed her stalking—uh, observing—Luke? Crap.
“What do you mean how I look at him? I watch all you guys ride. It’s part of my job.” If she was going to report on air about the competition, she had to watch both the rides and the riders.
Of course, keeping an eye on Luke before and after the events was a different story, but hopefully Mustang hadn’t noticed that.
“Nah, uh.” Slade shook his head. “You don’t watch the rest of us the way you watch him.”
“You’re both crazy.” Knowing her expression would show exactly how unhappy she was about the course the conversation had taken, and how close to the truth they’d come, Annie lowered her head to hide from the two cowboys’ scrutiny.
She picked up speed, only to be foiled by the closed door leading from the parking lot to the building. She reached for it as Mustang sprang forward. He grabbed the handle and she was forced to wait for him to open it for her.
Only he didn’t.
He stood, waiting and watching her until she felt compelled to do or say something to get this conversation over with.
If only she could think of something to say.
“Look, Annie. I have one thing to say then I’ll leave you alone.” Mustang’s gaze zeroed in on her face as she waited. The fact he’d used her name and hadn’t followed it up with the usual darlin’ told her he was serious. “For years now we’ve worked with you and you’ve been nothing but professional. Not a one of us will think any less of you if you decide to go for it with Luke.”
Next to Mustang, arms crossed over his chest, Slade nodded. “Agreed.”
Annie let out a half-laugh, half-sigh. “First of all, you’re assuming I’m interested in going for it. Second, who says Luke, or any of the other guys, would be interested in me? Huh? With all the pretty young things hanging around the chutes after the events to meet you guys why would anyone look twice at me?”
At thirty-something—Annie couldn’t even bring herself to name the exact number in her head—she felt suddenly very old next to the barely twenty-somethings hanging around in pursuit of their own champion bull rider.
Slade rolled his eyes and let out a snort. “Yeah, right.”
Meanwhile, Mustang laughed. “Yeah, you’re really old. Jeez, woman. No young girl is going to turn Luke’s head when a real woman is interested. Luke’s been around here long enough to know the real deal when he sees it.”
Was Mustang saying Luke thought she was the real deal? Had Luke talked to them about her while they were hanging out? The guys had all gone out for dinner and beers together last night.
“I’ll believe that when I hear it from Luke.” She’d played it off a dismissive as she could, like she was joking, but her traitorous heart pounded as she waited for them to react.
She was letting Mustang get her hopes up about Luke when she was supposed to be playing it cool. She sucked at dating and men.
“I won’t speak for Luke, darlin’.” Mustang shook his head as he finally opened the door and waited for her to step through. “But you can ask him yourself, now can’t you?”
Damn cowboy code. One rider would never betray the confidence of another. Annie should have known better than to even hope they would.
As they walked down the hallway toward the arena, Mustang glanced at her again. “I can tell you this though. Any man who isn’t interested in getting to know you better is crazy.”
“Mustang Jackson, are you flirting with me?” She laughed, happy to have the subject stray from Luke into territory she could deal with.
He shook his head with a grin. “No, ma’am. If I was flirting, you’d know it.”
On the other side of Mustang, Slade let out a burst of a laugh. “Oh yeah. I can vouch for that.”
Slade’s cell phone rang and he excused himself to take the call, leaving her to walk alone with Mustang.
“Listen, I’m just saying don’t wait for what you want. None of us knows how long we’ve got. Not here on this earth and certainly not here in the pros. In eight seconds out there on that dirt, a man’s whole life can change.”
Annie sobered immediately. She knew. She’d seen it happen. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Make sure you do.” Mustang tipped his hat. Then he headed down the stairs to the rider’s dressing room, leaving Annie with quite a bit to think about.
Annie must have been thinking harder than she realized, because the next thing she knew she’d walked head on into something about as hard as a brick wall, although a lot better smelling.
The rich scent of his cologne—a combination of leather and spice perhaps—assaulted her senses as she gazed up and into the tempting, handsome face of Luke Carpenter.
He grabbed both her arms in his big, firm grasp and steadied her.
Tiny, incredibly endearing crinkles appeared in the corners of his intense blue eyes as he smiled down at her. “Whoa, there. Where are you heading in such a daze?”
He released his hold, but the warmth where his hands had been remained.
Flustered at being caught by the very man who’d been occupying her mind and had caused the daze, Annie scrambled for an excuse. “I, uh, need to change before the broadcast.”
She held up the drycleaner bag full of clothes draped over her arm, feeling the need to prove to him she wasn’t lying. That it wasn’t thoughts of how and when to make her move on him that had her so distracted.
“Ah, gotcha. A woman has to look her best for the cameras.” He smiled.
What was he saying? That she needed all the time she could get to look good?
No, of course not. Now she was being paranoid.
Luke continued, “I better do a little prep work myself.”
“Why?” she asked, letting herself glance at how great he looked in jeans and his sponsor shirt. “You look great already.”
And he smelled even better.
“I meant, I need to get my rope cleaned and rosined up, but thanks.” Luke grinned and Annie couldn’t help but stare at his lips, wondering if they’d be soft or firm when—if—he ever kissed her.
She swallowed hard. “Oh, yeah, of course. Um, maybe I should get that on camera. You know, for the viewers. They might like to see all the preparation you guys go through before a ride.”
God, did that sound as lame to him as it did in her own head? Hopefully it wasn’t totally obvious to Luke that this idea for a piece was strictly so she could spend more time with him, even if it was on camera.
“Great idea. Anytime. You know where to find me. Right now I better get. See ya later?”
She nodded. “Later.”
With a tip of his brown cowboy hat, he was gone, but the effects lingered on.
Annie sagged against the wall and drew in a deep breath to settle herself before she made her way to where she needed to get to herself.
1 Wedding, 4 New York Times Bestselling Authors, 5 Happily Ever Afters!
Opposites attract when a wealthy cattleman and a penniless artist decide to get hitched at a Texas dude ranch in tornado country—and the whirlwind festivities are as filled with surprises as their love…especially when the guest list includes: one pretty party crasher on a mission, a sheriff known as the One Night Stand King, and a workaholic event planner who definitely did not plan to fall for a laid back cowboy.
It was hot as hell. But then again, that shouldn’t be a surprise. This was Texas after all, but today was hotter than usual for a day in late May.
Tanner should be able to handle the heat. He’d been working a ranch most of his adult life. He didn’t let that stop him from bitching about it now.
“Damn, it’s hot as blazes out here today.” Letting out a huff, Tanner ran his handkerchief across his forehead.
The thin cotton was so damp with sweat and smeared with the dust he’d been working in, the red paisley pattern was barely visible any longer.
Knowing it would only get worse before he was done for the day, Tanner shoved it dirty into the rear pocket of his jeans.
“Eh, the heat won’t last. Supposed to cool off a bit next week.” Randy, the young ranch hand working with him, didn’t look particularly disturbed by the heat kicking Tanner’s ass.
That made Tanner feel old, which only annoyed him more.
Was he just getting old? He considered the possibility.
He quickly dismissed the thought. At forty-one he was still in his prime. But that didn’t mean he had to like sweating under the noonday sun. Oh he’d do it, but he sure as hell didn’t have to enjoy it.
Taking the tool in hand again, Tanner went back to work.
The steady sound of the post-hole digger—the chomp of the metal blade hitting the dirt and the swoosh as Tanner pulled it out again—became hypnotic. Combined with the warmth of the sun and the touch of the wind, it lulled him into a relaxed rhythm.
After today’s work he’d sleep good tonight.
City folk wouldn’t need yoga for their meditation or pills to sleep at night—and more pills to get through the day—if they’d just pick up a tool and work up a good sweat every day.
Planting his tool in the ground, Randy leaned on the long wooden handles and let out a long, low whistle. “Holy cow . . . Who is that?”
Frowning at Randy, Tanner wondered what had the kid ignoring his work this time.
Today’s youth had a crap work ethic.
With that thought, Tanner realized he really was starting to act old. That was something his papaw would have said. In fact, Papaw might have actually said it, word for word.
He supposed he shouldn’t be quite so cranky, but damn, was it hot. And it would be nice if the ranch hand helping him would actually, you know, help.
Tanner planted his own posthole digger into the dirt and leaned on it as he tried to see what had Randy so distracted. He spotted the car parked in front of the Cutwrights’ house.
Actually, it was less car and more mommy minivan, but either way it was nothing for Randy to be so excited about. People came and went all day around here, especially since Brady had gotten engaged. And as far as vehicles went, this one was pretty plain. Straightforward. White. Square. Probably useless in the mud.
Then a woman stepped from around the nose of the van and into Tanner’s view and he had to give Randy a pass for staring.
She opened the passenger door and bent at the waist as she fiddled with something inside.
Holy cow was right. A few other exclamations, not quite as tame, flew into Tanner’s mind.
“Don’t know who that is.” But Tanner would sure like to get to know her.
Mommy van or not, she certainly didn’t look like any mother he’d ever seen. Though he wouldn’t mind if she called him daddy.
Even at this distance he could see the glint of red as the sun hit her glossy chestnut hair while it bounced around her shoulders.
And that body . . . phew!
In spite of the length of the skirt that came all the way down to her knees, he could tell she had legs that went on for days and hips he’d really enjoy getting his hands on.
Nope, he didn’t know who she was or why she was here, but he’d have to make it his business to find out.
It was a rare occurrence that a female—and one that shapely to boot—showed up unexpectedly at the ranch. Brady Cutwright’s wife-to-be, Ellie, was here a lot. And Brady’s friend Meg Stoddard, who owned the adjacent ranch, visited all the time. But this woman . . . he was sure she’d never crossed his path before.
Maybe she was lost. If that was the case, it was up to him to investigate and help her out; she might need some direction. In fact, his being ranch boss meant it was Tanner’s duty to be on top of what happened around here.
He pulled off his work gloves and shoved them into the belt on his jeans. “I’m gonna go check it out. See if she needs any help. You keep digging. I’ll be right back.”
“Hey, why do I have to stay and keep working and you get to go?”
Tanner glanced back and saw the kid’s deep frown. “’Cause I’m your boss, that’s why.”
Before Tanner took even a step toward the house, Randy scowled deep. The kid’s reaction made Tanner grin, but it sure as hell didn’t make him change his mind.
Someone had to get those holes dug. Lucky for Tanner, he had somebody to delegate to. Besides, from what he could see at this distance, the lady in question wasn’t Randy’s type. The kid liked them young and dumb, in painted-on jeans and showing enough cleavage to be illegal.
The twenty-two-year-old cowboy wouldn’t know what to do with a real woman, and as far as Tanner could determine, that was what the mysterious lady was. A real woman who’d need a real man, and he was just the guy for the job.
The closer he got as he headed toward the house, the more details he could make out. Their mysterious visitor’s tight skirt looked like it belonged on a naughty librarian or a sexy secretary . . . and maybe Tanner had watched too many dirty movies during his misspent youth.
Sometimes his current lack of a steady lady in his life made itself very apparent. Today’s little fantasy about the Cutwright family’s unexpected feminine company was proof of that.
Tanner sidelined his fantasies and got his head back to the business of being the ranch manager greeting a guest . . . before his hard-on greeted her for him.
Given she was still bent over, he would have to address her posterior, which was no problem for him. “Excuse me, ma’am. Can I help you?”
She bolted upright and turned, arms loaded. It had been a long while since Tanner had been in school, but what she held looked like a couple of years’ worth of schoolwork barely contained in a few large white binders. His fantasy immediately shifted from naughty librarian to hot for teacher.
“Hi.” She frowned. “Um, any chance you’re Brady?”
Tanner let out a snort. He respected his boss, the whole Cutwright family, but no way any one of them would be covered in sweat and dirt from digging holes the way he was now. “No, ma’am. I’m Tanner Black. Ranch manager. Brady’s my boss.”
“Oh good. At least I’m in the right place.” She smiled until it reached her sky-blue eyes.
Up close he could appreciate the porcelain quality of her complexion. This woman would fry up in no time out in the sun, which would be a perfect reason to keep her inside—in his bedroom.
She still hadn’t offered up who she was or why she was here, but upon further inspection the van provided his answer. The lettering on the side panel supplied him with a company name. He considered the other tidbit of information that the van’s lettering supplied—the company’s location.
She was a city girl.
Pity. City folk made Tanner twitch.
“You the wedding planner?” he asked.
“I am. Erin Saddler, owner of Happy Is the Bride Event Planning. I’d shake your hand, but . . .” Her gaze dropped to the binders about to slip from her overloaded arms.
“That’s a’ight.” As dirty as he was, it was probably best she couldn’t shake his hand. In fact, he thought twice before offering to take the notebooks from her for fear he’d ruin those pristine white binders. “Can I help you with some of those?”
“Thanks. There are actually a few more.” She took a step back from the open door and he saw them on the floorboard.
“No problem. I’ll get ’em.” Tanner was reaching into the van for the books when he heard the screen door of the house slam.
“Erin?” The voice of Brady’s fiancée came from the porch.
“That’s me. And you must be Ellie, my bride-to-be.” At Erin’s reply, Tanner went from wondering what the hell she had in these binders that weighed so damn much to thinking no woman’s voice had ever cut through him quite like Erin’s did.
And she wasn’t even talking sexy. They were talking about his boss’s wedding, for cripes’ sake. Nothing that should have every cell in him aware of her.
Tanner straightened up in time to see the bride-to-be trotting down the stairs, beaming with the biggest grin on her face. That was pretty much how Brady had looked lately, too.
Young love—they’d better enjoy it before they got cynical like him.
“I’m so glad you could meet with us so fast.” Ellie reached out to take one of the books in Erin’s hands.
“Not a problem. The sooner the better. It’s going to be tight.” Of course, Erin was talking about the timing of the wedding, but Tanner’s mind went to bad places as he started to ponder everything that was tight on Erin’s tempting little body.
Tanner wrangled his libido into check and reminded himself that city girls and country boys didn’t mix well. Been there, done that, and he had the scars on his heart to prove it.
“We realize the date we chose is coming up fast, but neither of us wanted to wait.” As the bride turned toward the house, Brady appeared in the doorway. “Oh good. Here’s Brady now.”
Erin flashed first Brady and then Ellie a brilliant smile that showed off her perfect white teeth. “And now I can see why you don’t want to wait.”
Ellie giggled. “I know. Isn’t he the cutest?”
Tanner rolled his eyes as he followed behind the two women. He felt nothing but respect for the Cutwrights, but this shindig, which seemed to grow daily until it had taken on a life of its own, was bullshit in his opinion. Waste of time and money, if you asked him.
Then again, unlike Tanner, the Cutwrights had the money to waste. That was probably one reason for the wedding planner’s warmth as she greeted Brady: dollar signs.
Thinking of Miss Erin Saddler, wedding planner extraordinaire, as just another money-hungry big-city business owner helped. Tanner needed something to balance out his other, baser feelings for the woman as she climbed the steps ahead of him and he got another eyeful of her shapely behind in that skirt.
Yeah, he needed to get out of there before he embarrassed himself.
Ellie led Erin into the house and Tanner could finally think again, now that her tinkling laugh and twinkling eyes were safely out of range.
“Here you go, boss. Have fun.” Grinning, Tanner shoved the books toward Brady while thinking that whatever those binders contained was going to be anything but fun.
Brady was no dummy. He narrowed his eyes. “Oh no. You don’t get out of here that easily.”
Tanner frowned. “What’s your wedding got to do with me?”
“Ellie and I have another appointment we have to get to this afternoon, so I need you to take the wedding planner over to Meg’s and show her where the reception’s gonna be. And drive her out to the chapel so she can see where we’re having the ceremony.”
Oh no. No, no, no. Him alone in his truck with her was not gonna happen.
He’d been too long without his hands on a woman to be alone with Miss Sex on Heels inside the confines of the cab of his truck.
Tanner was in to many things, but self-torture wasn’t one of them. He had a bad feeling Miss Saddler was already going to invade his sleep tonight, just from this one brief encounter by the minivan.
He didn’t need to fuel that fire with any more time spent with her—alone and in his own damn pickup truck to boot.
“Why don’t you just give her the directions? Meg can show her around there.”
“Meg is meeting us in the city for our appointment. It’s wedding stuff and Ellie wants her there.”
Tanner lifted one shoulder to concede Brady’s point as he crafted another suggestion to get himself out of escorting Miss Tight Skirt. “The dude ranch has staff. They can take her around.”
“Meg’s crew has their own work to do. This time of year you know she’s booked full up. It’s nice enough of her to clear her reservations for the week of our wedding on top of letting us have the ceremony and the rehearsal dinner and the reception there. I’m not gonna take her crew away from their work.”
“Fine. I’ll do it.” Tanner scowled, unhappy with the turn of events. To make sure his displeasure was fully known, he added, “It’s not like I got a fence to put up or anything.”
Brady shook his head. “I knew you were a confirmed bachelor, but I had no idea your aversion to marriage included other people’s weddings, too.”
“Maybe it’s my aversion to city folk and not weddings. You ever think of that?” Tanner cocked a brow high.
The problem was, this particular city girl made him want to break his own rule. Made him want to run his hands through her hair to see if it felt as soft as it looked. Made him want to lean in and get a better whiff of whatever damn scent she wore, which still clung in the air long after she was gone.
“Well, you can get in that fancy air-conditioned truck of yours and chauffeur that city girl in there around for an hour or so while Randy works on the fence and finishes the afternoon chores in this heat. Or I could see if Randy wants to take her over to Meg’s while you finish up work here for the day. You decide.” Brady folded his arms and waited.
Given those options, there was no choice in Tanner’s mind. “What time you figure she’ll be ready for me to take her over to Meg’s?”
Brady grinned. “Thought you’d say that. And I’d say in about an hour.”
“A’ight.” With a nod, Tanner spun on one boot heel and headed back out to the new paddock to break the news to Randy and then get himself and his truck cleaned up before either could mess up pretty Miss Erin and her skirt.
GET HAPPY IS THE BRIDE TODAY!
Scroll down for an excerpt from BUCKED…
“a wonderfully sexy and fun story” ~The Romance Studio
This cowboy is looking for more than an eight-second ride.
Mustang Jackson does two things well—ride bulls and love women, so the injury that takes him out of competition leaves him only one way to make a living. Unfortunately, getting paid to be a stud in front of the camera isn’t as fun as private conquests. But when he goes home broke and broken to heal and catches sight of Sage, the neighbor girl all grown up, recuperating at his parents’ house gets a lot more interesting and a whole lot more complicated.
Bucked was originally published by Samhain Publishing under the same title. This edition is a reissue, reedited and recovered but without any substantial additions or changes to the story.
Depressed by his own thoughts, Mustang headed down the highway, feeling jealous of everyone in the world. Slade, who was probably on his way back to the hotel room to have sweaty sex with Jenna. Chase, for being so young and starry eyed he might actually make things work with their one-night stand Marla. And every other bull rider on the circuit because they weren’t heading home to get a metal plate and screws put in their arm.
They’d all be riding in Baltimore next week while he was in hell, recovering from surgery at his parents’ house in Magnolia, Texas.
Life wasn’t fair.
As his drive stretched long, the feeling of dread lodged in Mustang’s chest increased steadily the nearer he got to the place of his birth.
The anxiety peaked as he saw the sign for Huntsville, Texas.
Tired of being on the road and driving faster than was wise past the city, he became very much aware he was following the same route his father—and his grandfather before him—took to Huntsville Prison. Every working day of their adult lives.
It was the same route Mustang would have taken if he had bowed to his father’s pressure years ago and followed in his footsteps.
Becoming a third-generation prison guard hadn’t exactly been Mustang’s lifelong ambition. Not that his father would ever understand Mustang having other plans, other dreams.
He never understood his son’s willingness to give up what was in his eyes a good, steady job with benefits to instead take a chance on making a living riding bulls, of all things.
Thank God he’d gotten that job at the ranch that summer and discovered he could sit a bull, even if his decision to ride pro hadn’t gone over real well at home.
His father’s prediction back then had been that Mustang would come crawling home either broke or broken.
The trailer hit a bump in the road and he felt the twinge as it jarred his arm in the sling. That served as a very real reminder that he was indeed coming home broken as well as a little broke.
He felt the hard bulk of his Rookie-of-the-Year belt buckle beneath his broken arm. No, his father hadn’t been right. He had made something of himself.
Mustang had the proof right there, pressed against his gut where his self-doubt lived.
Bones healed and he had no doubt that he’d be back on the circuit winning again in just a few months—if he could stay sane and survive living with his father for that long.
On that cheery thought, he pulled the trailer into the city limits of Magnolia and slowed to the local speed limit.
With the exception of the For Rent sign on what had been Hackett’s Hardware during his youth, Main Street looked pretty much the same as it had the last time he’d passed through for a quick, painful visit home.
As he wound his way out of the center of town and toward the country road that led to his parents’ house, Mustang saw other changes. A few large trees had fallen down. They’d uprooted actually. There’d been some nasty storms in Texas over the past year. High winds, tornados, flooding.
Stifling the guilt, he reminded himself he’d called home to check on his family after each and every bout of bad weather had passed through the area. What more could he do from the road when he had competitions nearly every week?
Occupied with justifying to himself that his long absences were unavoidable, not just his attempt to avoid his father, Mustang didn’t notice the strange car parked in front of the house. He didn’t see it until he’d pulled the trailer under the trees around the side and was headed on foot for the front door.
The unfamiliar white car was about the size of a toy. He couldn’t imagine either his six-foot-tall father or his generously proportioned mother picking it as their new vehicle. Mustang’s father, like his father before him, was a pickup-truck man and his mama was a four-door sedan with a trunk big enough to fit a body in kind of lady.
Still wondering about the car, Mustang raised his hand to open the front door while kicking the dust off his boots on the mat. He didn’t bother to knock. Doors in this house had never been locked and most likely never would be, even if they had known where the key was.
He didn’t have a chance to turn the knob before it was yanked from his hand and the door flung wide. He suddenly had an armful of his mother.
She wrapped herself around his neck while kissing his face.
“Watch the arm, Ma.” He hadn’t taken a pain pill in awhile. Good thing Jenna wasn’t there. She’d be shoving one down his throat before he could stop her.
His mother stepped back, focusing on his sling. “Oh my God. Michael, I’m so sorry. Does it hurt?”
“Not too bad.” Except for when he’d fallen asleep after his and Chase’s fun with Marla without taking a pill first and had woken up in agony. He didn’t mention that and instead shrugged. “I’ll be fine. Good as new as soon as the doc operates.”
“At least it’s your left arm since you’re right-handed. If your right arm had been out of commission I probably couldn’t have convinced them to hire you at work.”
At the sound of his father’s voice, Mustang swung his gaze to locate the man. He found him lurking in the shadows to the side of the door.
“What do you mean, hire me? You got me a job at the prison?”
Without asking him first. Mustang took note of that but didn’t mention it. Dear God, if he didn’t recover fully, if he couldn’t ride again, would he have to do the one thing he’d left this town to avoid? Would he be forced to follow his father and grandfather’s path whether he wanted to or not?
“As soon as your surgeon says you can work, you’ve got a position waiting on you. And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy to get either, with your arm broken and all. I had to call in some favors.”
Great, so now he was expected to owe his father for getting him a job he didn’t want in the first place.
“It’s nothing in the high-security areas, mind you,” his father continued. “It’s more like a glorified secretary, mostly watching monitors, filling out reports, but it’s a foot in the door. It’ll help when you finally come to your senses and decide it’s time to grow up and get a real job.”
And there it was, the expected verbal slam and it had been only two minutes or so since he’d walked through the front door.
There were clearly two options here. He could tell his father to take his job offer and his attitude and shove it right where the sun didn’t shine, after which he would have to get back on the road. He supposed he could recuperate in the trailer while parked in a lot somewhere.
Or he could do what he always did. Keep his mouth shut. Bury the anger, then go out and find a bar and a woman. Get drunk and get laid and take his mind off it all.
Mustang set his jaw. There was no way he could endure four months of this. Not even with all the booze and women in the world to help him.
“I’ll have to see what my plans are. I was hoping to take off as soon as the doc said it was okay for me to travel. You know, get back on the road. Join the guys on tour again.”
He’d have to take Slade up on his offer of money, but it would be worth it. Swallowing his pride with his best friend would be a lot easier than biting his tongue around his father for months. He’d likely bite his tongue damn near off by the time his bone healed.
His mother’s hand touched his right arm gently. “Oh, no, Michael. I was hoping to have you around for a while this time. I miss you.”
“That figures. God forbid he do something smart.” His father turned and walked out of the room, mumbling, “Don’t care about anyone but himself.”
Mustang tore his gaze from his father’s stiff back. Leaving his mother would be his only regret when he pulled out of this damn town. “Don’t worry, Ma. You’ll have me around long enough to get sick of me.” His father apparently already was. He drew in a deep sigh and decided to change the subject. “What’s for dinner? I’m so hungry my stomach’s eating my backbone.”
“I’ve got all your favorite food in the kitchen.”
“Great.” Mustang turned toward the doorway and stopped dead at the sight of the beautiful woman who stood there outlined by the afternoon sun slanting through the window behind her.
Her glossy dark brown hair hung to her shoulders and just begged for a man to tangle his hands in it. But what really caught his attention was her hotter-than-hell, girl-next-door body through the thin cotton of her dress.
His gaze traveled back up to her face and Mustang realized this was the girl next door. Or at least the girl who lived on the next street in a house where he’d spent a considerable amount of his youth.
Man oh man had she grown up.
He frowned, shocked. “Little Bit?”
A shy, innocent smile lit her fresh, sweet face. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been called that. Welcome home, Mustang.”
It sure as hell had been a long time. Long enough for Sage, the little sister of his high school girlfriend Rosemary, to be not so little anymore.
Trying to wrap his head around the changes in her, Mustang accepted her welcome. “Thanks. It’s good to be home.”
Good to be home?
What the hell? Had he actually just said that?