This is a really rough draft of something I’ve been working on. There’s no release date. No cover. Just a work in progress for now. Forgive the typos… But do enjoy…
“Roxy.” I whispered the word, the name, the dream, the fantasy. I hadn’t seen her in five years, but there she was, strolling into the tavern, heels clicking on the worn, wooden floor, looking for all the world as though she owned the place. For all I knew, she did.
I’d spent the last year of high school and the first year of college living in the same house with her after my mom married her father. They’d been divorced for a while now and my mom was on her fourth marriage.
“Corey? Are you listening, man?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I agreed that I was, but waved my hand at the annoyance. I couldn’t take my eyes off her, my ex-stepsister. Or was it former stepsister? I had no clue.
“He’s not listening at all. Look at the chick he’s staring at.”
Rick, one of my closest friends leaned in. “Hey,” Rick started softly, “Is that…?” I only nodded. I didn’t trust myself to speak.
“Damn,” Rick continued. “She sure has changed.”
Yes. Rick was right. Roxy had changed. Her auburn hair was in a tight bun on top of her head. Her teal and black pant suit was tailored and professional. Very little make-up that I could see, small, simple gold hoops in her ears, and glasses that hung on a chain around her neck. She had that librarian thing going on, and sexy as it was, something was missing.
She was all buttoned up. Where had my Roxy gone?
I stood suddenly, forgetting the guys I was with, and strode toward her. She was smiling at the bartender and handing over a credit card as the man placed a paper bag on the matching worn wooden surface between them.
Inexplicably irritated, I curled my fingers into fists at my side. The urge to hit the guy for even looking at Roxy made no sense. We were no longer step-siblings. I had no claim on her. I never had.
I waited until she was done with her to-go order and followed her outside the restaurant. “Roxy?” I called after her, only a couple of steps behind.
She stopped short, nearly stumbling over herself, but I reached out. My hand on her arm helped steady her. Her eyes widened when I stepped in front of her. “Corey?” she asked, her voice uncertain and breathless.
I nodded and opened my arms out to the side, cocky grin on my face. “In the flesh,” I answered with my old catch phrase.
“It’s been a while.”
“Five years,” I confirmed. I’d been graduating college when Roxy turned eighteen. It was the same year our parents divorced.
“Wow. It doesn’t seem that long at all. What are you doing back in Cincinnati? I heard you moved to Indianapolis after college. I…I’m sorry about your injury. I know you wanted to play professional baseball. I should’ve called. I should’ve written, at least. But with the divorce and how bitter it was, I just… I’m so sorry, Corey.”
I shook my head. Which part should I answer first? Her question about what I was doing back home or her kind too little too late words about my baseball injury that sidelined me from playing at more than a recreational level? It had however led to my current job and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. “I…” I chose a different direction altogether. “What happened to you?
She also didn’t seem to know what her father had done. Should I be the one to tell her? I didn’t want it to come as a shock on her father’s wedding day.
She looked down, scanning her outfit, then back at me with a puzzled expression. “What do you mean?”
I smiled, trying for lightness. I wanted to see the carefree spirit that used to light her eyes. Even just a brief glimpse would do.
“You were less buttoned up. Wore your hair down and didn’t wear as many clothes.”
She shrugged. It wasn’t the cute, little shrug I used to get from her when she had secrets she didn’t want to share. What had happened to my pretty little stepsister? “Rox?” I prompted.
“Some of us have to give up the daydream, Corey.” The sad statement didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to inquire further, but her next words kept me from doing so. “It really was nice to see you, again, but I need to get back to work. There are some big weddings happening in town this weekend.”
“Weddings? Is that what you do?”
“Yes. I work in a bridal boutique not far from here.” She kissed my check, her full figure lightly brushing against my body as she stood on her toes, using my shoulder for balance. Her heavier curves, much more defined than when she’d been in high school weren’t my usual preference. Back then, she’d been slender legs and all top. Now though, she’d completely filled out and while it might not be what I normally went for, I couldn’t deny it looked good on her. It looked damn good on her.
“Yeah, Rox.” I didn’t want to let her go. “It was great to see you, too.” I wanted to continue talking to her, find out what was going on in her life. At least find out if she was happy. But, I did let her go and it stung, in all the regions of my body it shouldn’t have.
She hurried away, her head high and the sway of her hips… God. I had to bite back the moan that rushed into my throat. I watched her as she crossed the street, my hands stuffed in my front pockets. I—
“Did you at least get her number?”
I didn’t turn around to look my best friend in the eye. “C’mon, Bax. You know that wouldn’t have been a good idea.” He’d known all about my crush on Roxy way back when. All the guys I’d been sitting with inside the tavern had known about my crush on her because they’d all had crushes on her too.
She’d been forbidden to us, then, and I’d always figured that was why I wanted her so much. Forbidden fruit and all. But seeing her now? When she was no longer forbidden to me? I wanted her even more.
“You could’ve gotten it for me. I’m still eligible.”
My face was devoid of emotion, save for the raised brow, when I turned to face Bax. “Really? You think I’d get my stepsister’s phone number for you? How much have you had to drink?”
“Not enough, but that’s beside the point. I still need a date for the wedding. You told her, didn’t you? That her father invited all of us?”
“No. I didn’t.”
“No idea. Seemed kind of… Springing it on her, you know? I thought she would’ve known, being that it’s her father.”
“You don’t think she knows?”
“No. She asked why I was back in Cincy. It seemed more of a shock to her that I was here t all, not that I was part of the guest list for a family wedding.”
“Well, I need a date for this shindig. You should’ve gotten her number. I can be a gentleman.”
Again. A raised brow was the only facial expression I felt comfortable showing. “Bax, you’re no more gentleman than I am. You’re not asking Roxanne to be your date to her father’s wedding. I’m sure she already has a date.”
I didn’t like the sour taste on my tongue from those words. I didn’t like the thought of her getting all dressed up for some other man and holding his arm, letting him touch her, dance with her, hold her.
And I didn’t know what the hell was wrong with me. I’d known it was likely that I would see her and thought I had prepared myself for it. But this reaction? This was all wrong. This wasn’t how I was supposed to feel after seeing her. I wasn’t supposed to still want her.
“Still got a crush, huh?”
Bax’s words mirrored my thoughts and I shot him a look of irritation. I shook my head and stepped around him. “You’re full of shit.”
“Maybe, but you still have a crush. All these years later, and the one you couldn’t have is still the one you want.”
Sneak peak at my upcoming BDSM novella that is part of The Club series…
I waited on him. It was my job. Or one of them. I owned the shop, both bookstore and café, so my jobs were numerous and unending. I could have let someone else, the only other someone else who was in the café working for me wait on him, but I didn’t want that. I wanted to wait on him. I wanted to serve him the cup of coffee, black with one ounce of heavy cream, no more and nothing less. I wanted to be the one who set it in front of him, who received his smile and nod of approval, his satisfied sigh. I wanted all that.
I wanted none of it. I didn’t want to need that feeling deep down in my soul that I’d pleased someone, him, only him. I didn’t want to feel anything again. Not for a man like him. I didn’t. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I’d vowed it, sworn it, done everything but write it in blood. But he walked in three months ago and I knew. I fucking knew in my gut there was no turning back. Not when he looked at me like that. Not when the corners of his lips tilted up or the desire lit his eyes when he saw me.
I was lost and he found me when I didn’t want to be found. Not ever again.
“Will that be all?” I asked the question each time I brought him coffee. And each time, he gave me the same response.
“No. I would like you to sit with me.”
I was running out of ways to say no. Truth was, I had run out of ways to say no the very first day I met him. I knew the questions he would ask and he knew the answers I would give. “Thank you, Sir. I can’t.”
I quickly bit by tongue. All the words were the same with the exception of Sir. It slipped out, unwarranted and unwanted and completely perfect. I hadn’t used the term in years. I promised him… I sighed inwardly at the lie. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t use it ever again. Not with anyone.
He smiled over the rim of his coffee cup and it lit his eyes in a way that caused my thighs to squeeze together, my belly to roll with need, and my palms to sweat. I knew he wanted me, and I knew I wanted him, but this was more than simple lust and my saying of the word Sir, admitted it to both of us.
“Why do you always say that you want me to sit with you?” I had an inkling of an idea, but until he said it, it was just that, an idea. However, once he did, it would be real, as everything was when spoken aloud.
It was something I’d always known, deep down inside, but had never thought about until that January day five years ago. If they didn’t speak the word, it couldn’t have been real, so I avoided them, the people and the word, existing in denial as long as I could. It hadn’t been long enough when I emerged and let it sink in.
He was and I wanted to be.
But now, there’s a new, different him when I never expected there to be, when I never wanted there to be, and he’s here every day, sipping my coffee, and wanting me to sit with him.
“Because I want to know where you go when you get that far away look in your eyes. Because I like looking at you and seeing one of your rare smiles. Because I want you to ask my name. Because I want to know what happened to him.”
My heart lurched in my chest and my throat threatened to close off all air from my lungs. I grasped the edge of the table to keep myself from falling. He reached out but I stumbled back before he could touch me.
I loved my name on his lips, even as I hated him knowing my name at all. To hear it uttered with concern, as though he cared, nearly broke me. “H-how do you know about him?” I whispered the question around the thickness of my tongue and through my dry lips.
The Club. I closed my eyes and moaned softly. The words evoked so many powerful memories and desires. The room spun and my world tilted. I’d forced myself not to think about The Club, not to remember its existence. For years, I drove out of my way so I wouldn’t be anywhere near it, so I wouldn’t be tempted.
“They had no right.”
“They didn’t. I saw the pictures on the wall. I did ask, once. I was told you were no longer owned, but for any more answers than that, I would need to ask you. I was also told I likely wouldn’t get very far.”
“But that’s why you’re here.”
“I’m here because I saw a woman in some pictures that I couldn’t get out of my head. I’m here because it was insane for me to want a woman I didn’t know. I’m here because I wanted to see you in person, to see if my reactions would be the same, to see if I would still be enchanted with more than a picture on a wall.”
He was too young to use words like enchanted. I wanted so badly to smile, to enjoy the fluttering going on inside my body at his admission to wanting me, whether he knew me or not. I wanted to revel in the very real fact that I wasn’t dead inside.
But I couldn’t. That would be a betrayal and I couldn’t do it. Saying Sir had been bad enough. Giving in to the pleasure of being wanted, even if I was the only one who knew, was another kind of betrayal altogether.
“I think you should go.”
“I think you want me to stay.”
Coming January 26th!
The familiar itch to keep riding had been absent for several weeks after Gus met Bex, but ever since the wolf had shown up with all his theories and troublemaking, it was back. The desire to run as far away as he could get. Only, he couldn’t do that. Not now. He was in deep and leaving Bex behind was out of the question.
She was his home.
And he wouldn’t let her fight alone. He didn’t trust anyone to keep her safe better than he could.
He took a sharp curve, then another, and another. With each climb through the mountain pass, Bex clung tighter to him. Her thighs gripped around the hips. Her hands clasped at his t-shirt. But she didn’t tense. She wasn’t scared or frightened on the bike with him. She trusted him and he’d never betray that.
So, he’d stay. He’d resist the urge to run from his adoptive family, from the pain of the past being dredged up, from the tethers of falling in love with Bex. He’d resist it all and he’d stay.
Only, he didn’t know how to fight through it. He’d never had to. He’d always just picked up and left.
When the bike reached a stretch of road that was somewhat flat and straight, Gus took one hand off a handlebar and used it to cover her hands, linking their fingers. She calmed him. From the moment they’d met, she’d touched something inside him and the first time he touched her, peace unlike anything he’d ever known flowed through him.
He’d been scared ever since.
And none of it made sense to him. He was content to go with the flow, to take it however it came. But ever since the wolf, Luke Blackwood, had shown up, all Hell had broken loose and not only was Bex’s quiet life disrupted, but everything from her past and Gus’s past was coming back to haunt them.
He eased his fingers from hers and resumed holding onto the bike with both hands as the curves ahead came into view.
Bex leaned into him and laid her head on his back.
She was comfortable with him. She was at ease with him.
She’d never been scared of him, but she had been curious about him, something he’d relished. He’d been interested in her from the start. Her smile made him ache. Her body made hungry.
She had no idea what she did to him.
He knew for someone like Bex, trust didn’t come easy. She didn’t have many friends, no family left, had a sketchy coming into the world. She was naturally wary, but she was strong. And faced with what had been presented to her in recent weeks was more than any one person should have to deal with in a lifetime. She wasn’t who she’d always thought she was.
But she was who he needed her to be.
The winding country roads brought him freedom. Being out and away from the closeness of a family who didn’t really belong to him usually made him feel at one with nature, at one with who he really was. A bear. A shifter. A lover of the outdoors. An artist. The forests and the mountains were his inspiration for the art he used to express himself and that he used to help others find ways of expression through ink.
Bex relaxed against his back as he began to decelerate the closer they got to Dandridge. He loved it, the way she put her faith in him. As he turned down the side street that led to the Victorian house they were still in the process of renovating into her bed and breakfast, he scented the wolves, first. Blackwood must’ve left them behind. He also scented the bears of his adoptive family, namely his adoptive mother.
Bex gripped his shirt and lifted her head when he parked his bike. Her thighs didn’t ease their grip on his hips. Her arousal was strong, the way it always was when the wolves were around. It was the craziest damn thing that he scent of them made her angry and horny and aggressive.
If he hadn’t been on the receiving end of her horny aggression, or seen the split second shift from mild to angry aggression, he wouldn’t have believed Bex capable of it.
“She’s cooking,” Gus said, speaking of the woman who’d raised him as her own. He took his helmet off and hung it on the handlebars.
“I smelled it about a mile out,” Michael remarked as he mirrored Gus’s actions with his head gear.
“I can’t smell it. What’s she cooking? Anything good?” Bex swung her leg over and slid off the bike.
“She’s frying fish. Catfish.”
“Trout,” Gus countered.
“Nope. Catfish. It’s my favorite.”
“What does it being your favorite have to do with anything? She’s here at our house. So, it stands to reason that she’s making my favorite.”
Bex shook her head and took the back steps up to the kitchen door. “You two are pathetic.”
“They are,” Mama Bear agreed. “They’ve always argued about food. Especially fish. And sweets.”
“Other than fish, what are you making? Smells like hamburgers.”
“Yes. Hamburger steaks. The wolves didn’t want fish.”
“Why does it matter what they want?” Gus asked, elbowing Michael in the ribs. “Catfish. Told ya.”
“There’s trout too, you big baby.”
Michael grinned and hugged his mother. “I knew I was your favorite.”
There will be more information for you soon about a new set of Southern Shifter books coming in early February from some awesome paranormal romance authors, so stay tuned.
Isn’t he yummy? Aren’t you sitting on the edge of your seat, just waiting for him to show up on your Kindle, or Nook, or iPad, or wherever you read??? I know I am…
February 10th. He’ll be available for you on February 10th. (more…)