Uninhibited In Apple Trail AR

New Apple Trail Release!!!

Making Her Nights, fourth in Apple Trail, Arkansas is NOW AVAILABLE!!!

Love love love this book! Oh, Tiffany and Mike just set my keyboard on fire while writing them! As I wrote this story, I was continually taken back to when I wrote Through The Wall. Both of these novellas seemlying wrote themselves with very little trouble and the tension between the two characters are just OFF. THE. CHARTS. ….in my opinion, anyway :)

He never loses control and she always tests the rules.

Chief Deputy Mike Gabel is the man in charge in Apple Trail. No one gives him more trouble than a certain blonde. While her stunts are frustrating to deal with, it’s the constant way she keeps him trapped in knots.

Tiffany McBride has a reputation for being a trouble maker. She’s been betting and causing trouble since her parents died when she was a teenager. What looks like a young woman sowing her oats, it’s actually desperate measures to gamble for extra money to put food on the table.

When these two acknowledge their attraction, sparks fly…that is if Mike’s public position can survive Tiffany’s frowned upon reputation.

The official release date isn’t until Monday, June 20th, so it’s still popping up here and there. As of the moment, it’s available for $1.99 from  Amazon Kindle | Smashwords | All Romance Ebooks and Omnilit

Want to know more? The first two and half (or thereabouts) chapters are posted HERE!

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I’m gonna die happy.

…and in love with a huge girl crush right now that might include a feel up when I see her in a few weeks *wink*. I tell you, it was tough to just find a one sentence snippet of this review, so I didn’t. I took a whole paragraph, wanted to take it all, but I managed to contain myself. Just barely.

I think the reason I connect with Keri’s work is because it FEELS real. It feels like someplace I’ve been before. When I read a Keri Ford book I just…feel. I feel love, annoyance, sadness. I laugh. A lot. The full array. I experience the sensations with the characters. I’m there with them. Keri’s writing is realistic, right down to her characters Googling sex acts. I find that this type of experience doesn’t happen often for me. In most books it feels like a movie in my head. I can see, hear and smell…but not feel. It’s nice to experience the difference with Keri’s work.

thank you so so so much to Nikki Brandyberry at Ramblings From A Chaotic Mind for your very lovely review of In The Hay.

I’ve mentioned several times that In The Hay was my favorite of the Apple Trail series and that I just adore the heroine and was terrifed I wouldn’t be able to get her on the page right. In the days before the release, I was still working on Nicolette and worrying and all but chewing the tips of my fingers off she wasn’t going to come across right.

Another chick I would like to hug and cop a sneak attack feel on is Rebecca Wolfe over at Beck’s Book Picks.

One reason I love Keri’s work so much is that you get a short novella to read but it reads like a 400 page book. She writes so well and you get so involved in her story. This book was no exception. … I  was drawn to Nicolette as a character. I wanted to take her under my wing and show her the ways. Drew felt the same way and I think he just let her experience life and let her make decisions.

Getting Nicolette’s character right was one of the toughest writing challenges I’ve ever had to face and I didn’t do it alone. I thanked them in the book, but am again giving a shout out to critique partner KJ Reed and my editor Jacquie Daher for all their hard work in getting this story turned in what it became.

In The Hay is the third novella in the Uninhibited in Apple Trail, Arkansas series. It may be part of a series, but this novella stands all on it’s own and is available in eformat for $1.99. If you’re new to the series, but don’t like reading out of order, check out Uninhibited in Apple Trail, Arkansas Volume 1. The print ($13.99) and Digital edition ($4.99) includes Through The Wall, On The Fence, and In The Hay.

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In The Hay ~ Now Available

….two strangers visit Apple Trail. When they get together will they put in roots in this small town or go back to their lives?

It’s been a White Picket Fence life for Nicolette. Charming, but tedious. She graduated high school, raring to go. Nothing is ever as easy as it seems though. The fear of being stuck in a rut, living a dull day-to-day life keeps Nicolette from settling on a career, despite her six years of college. When the chance arrives for her to housesit, she takes opportunity by the horns for a little playtime. She would experience life and find something that would make her happy.

Drew knows exactly what he wants. To run the family construction business. Too bad his dad doesn’t think he’s ready. They make a deal. Drew will help his cousin put up a new fence and after he’s learned hard work, the construction business is his. Drew’s not sure learning how to string fence line together will see him suitable for a career of paper pushing, but he’ll do it.

When Drew meets the wanna-be-free-spirited Nicolette, his determined thoughts of what he’s always worked for begins to sway. Nicolette’s finding the fun in life. But their relationship is temporary. A week tops.

Available in ebook format for only $1.99 from Amazon Kindle | UK Kindle |  Smashwords | Sony | Diesel | Apple | Barnes & Noble (Nook)| Digibooks Café | 1PlaceforRomance | All Romance Ebooks and Omnilit| CoffeeTime Romance eBookstore | BookStrand

~Excerpt~

She stared up at him. Her little chin upturned, pouty lips parted as she gasped for air. Freckles dusted over a nose framed by wide brown eyes with long, thick lashes. Hmm. Not just simple brown eyes, so much more than that. Golden and bright and flecked with bits of green. “You’ve been watching me.”

He shrugged a shoulder. “I have.”

She pressed her lips together and glanced away for a brief second before looking back at him. “What’s your name?”

“Drew. Yours?”

“Nicolette.”

She didn’t look like a Nicolette. Nicolette was too formal, too proper. This girl looked like honey fresh from a hive. “Having fun dancing?”

Her lips split to a wide grin, hands came up and clasped before her chest. “I’ve never danced the night away before.”

“Ah. That makes sense.” Not really, but she smiled, liking the response, so that was good enough.

She glanced around and bit her lower lip, kicked at the old concrete floor with her toe, and twiddled with her fingers. He started to ask if she wanted to get out of there, but he wasn’t given the chance.

Her gaze returned to his as she grabbed the front of his shirt, tugged him forward, and planted her lips to his. No sooner did their lips touch and the tangy sweetness of what he thought was peach bubble-gum filled his mouth, she pulled away, red-faced.

“I’ve never done that before.” Air gushed from her in a rush. “So sorry.” She spun on her heels and started away. Her heat and fire was slipping through his fingers along with her red curls.

“Not so fast.” He wrapped his arm around her slim waist and spun her back against him. “For your first time, it ought to be done right.”

Her lips parted, her eyes widened. A soft gasp escaped as he tugged her hot and sweat dampened body flush to him. Fully and right as he’d been wanting her all night. She was taller than he’d thought. Her hips were against his. Chest on chest. He waited no longer to take what’d he’d been wanting and pressed his lips over hers. She stiffened for only a moment before she melted against his body and sighed into his mouth.

He stroked his tongue along hers and finally got his hands in her thick hair. It curled over his arms, the thick strands wrapped around his fingers as he tipped her head back and deepened the kiss, giving her a full taste of what he could deliver. By the purr vibrating in her throat, he’d say she was onto the idea.

Besides, he was only doing his civic duty here. He had promised that officer he’d see her out safely. What better way to keep his promise than if they left together?

Hoots and hollers shouted out in deafening volumes, breaking the all too quick moment. Her hands landed flat on his chest and she started to push, but he linked his hands together at her lower back to keep her close, to hold the sweet, peach scent close.

He leaned over and whispered in her ear. “We could get out of here together.”

She blinked. Her fingers curled against his chest. Breath filled her twice. He waited for another push from her, ready to release her if that’s what she wanted. There was no shove. She wouldn’t meet his eyes, but stared toward the base of his throat. “What about my dancing the night away?”

“Haven’t you heard of the horizontal tango?”

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New ReleaseS (yes, plural!!)

Woot! I am so excited to see In The Hay is now available!!!! It’s the third story in my Apple Trail series and this heroine holds a special place with me. I’m so thrilled by it. I hope you all enjoy it too. I’ll do a post up in a second with an exceprt and stuff..but I just have so much to share, I can’t wait for another day!

I’m coming to print!! Through The Wall, On The Fence, and In The Hay are all coming as a combined print anthology for Uninhibited In Apple Trail, Arkansas Part 1. Also? they’ll be in a DIGITAL anthology available for $4.99. That’s right! If you haven’t started the series, this bundle is your perfect chance.  At $4.99, the bundle is cheapter than to buy them seperately!

And just in case you missed it, there was new gossip posted at Apple Blossom’s over the weekend!!

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Operation Auction

Operation Auction

Operation Auction is under way!  On Tuesday, March 8th, a beloved member of the romance community lost her husband in a senseless act of violence, leaving her alone with four children. You can read more about the tragedy here: http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/9233067/ 

The romance community is ralying around her and many authors, agents, editors, webdesigners have offered up goods for you to bid on!I’m donating a set of Apple Trail Tea Jars, chocolate and e-copies of Through The Wall, On The Fence, and In The Hay. My items are included in the Everybody Needs A Little Romance Basket (2). What are you waiting for? Go! Vote! It’s for a good cause and there’s some great stuff!

 

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On The Fence ~ Six Sentence Sunday pt2

Last week was my first time posting and I was so blown away by all the comments. I’d nearly forgotten to post in the first place and grabbed the snippet I did, not even realizing the cliffhanger! So what kind of man is Riley Hamilton? …here’s six more sentences for another clue!~~~

“And what kind is that, Riley? I’m not going to ask you to do anything you don’t want, but I’m having a hard time believing you don’t desire me right now.” She wiggled best she could, catching her crotch against the firm ridge nudging his zipper.
 
 
 
 

“I don’t have casual sex anymore on the spur of the moment.”
“Me either. I’ve been thinking about it since yesterday when I saw you again.”
 ~~~
 
 

Available in ebook format for only $1.99 from Amazon Kindle | Smashwords | Sony | Diesel | Apple | Barnes & Noble (Nook) | Digibooks Café | 1PlaceforRomance | All Romance Ebooks and Omnilit | CoffeeTime Romance eBookstore | BookStrand 
~~~
(ps, today I’m coming home from a conference, but I’ll read all yours later this afternoon!)

 

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On The Fence ~ Six Sentence Sunday

and here are six sentences for Six Sentence Sunday from On The Fence, my small-town contemporary romance. This comes from part of the book I haven’t yet shared in excerpts! 

 
~~~~
 

His hands came around her hips and he gripped her bottom. His fingers kneaded and squeezed the curves of her cheeks. Little by little, his tense muscles and heavy shoulders loosened and relaxed and came against her. And then he broke the kiss. Gasping for breath, he lowered his eyelids and shook his head. “No. I’m not this kind of man anymore.”
~~~~
Available in ebook format for only $1.99 from Amazon Kindle | Smashwords | Sony | Diesel | Apple | Barnes & Noble (Nook) | Digibooks Café | 1PlaceforRomance | All Romance Ebooks and Omnilit | CoffeeTime Romance eBookstore | BookStrand 

  

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On The Fence ~ Excerpt

Excerpt Monday LogoOnce a month, a bunch of authors get together and post excerpts from published books, contracted work or works in progress, and link to each other. You don’t have to be published to participate just an writer with an excerpt you’d like to share. For more info on how to participate, head over to the Excerpt Monday site! or click on the banner above.~~~~~~~~~~On The Fence is second in the Uninhibited In Apple Trail, Arkansas series and boy are things heating up in this small town!Available in ebook format for only $1.99 from Amazon Kindle | Smashwords | Sony | Diesel | Apple | Barnes & Noble (Nook) | Digibooks Café | 1PlaceforRomance | All Romance Ebooks and Omnilit | CoffeeTime Romance eBookstore | BookStrandChapter One from On The FenceThere was no way around it. Catching Mr. Right was damn hard work. Shellie had worn all different styles of clothes, fluttered her eyes, sipped sophisticated looking drinks, and still, nada.No, that wasn’t entirely true. Not nada-nada, there had been plenty of Mr. Wrongs. Lord have mercy, but there had been plenty of Mr. Wrongs. She shuddered. Sorry to the boyfriends and one night stands of her past, but dull and arrogant dropped her pulse to dang near dead levels.Her mother and her ridiculous ideas about flirting to catch the right kind of man—AKA, wealthy—was putting Shellie on a fast track to becoming the next weird cat lady on her block. That was a serious problem for Shellie. She didn’t like cats. Honestly, she wasn’t a fan of anything that pissed and shit on her carpet. There’d been only one thing she could do. Get out of town to catch a breather. She turned to the one person she knew in all the world who could revive her. Riley Hamilton.Riley handed her a glass of iced tea and sank into the rocking chair next to her. “What are you thinking so hard about?”She smiled. “My carpet.”“Your what?”“Never mind.”Ah, Riley Hamilton. In elementary school he’d put grasshoppers in her Hello Kitty backpack. In Jr. High he’d constantly untied her hair ribbons. In Sr. High, he’d kissed her. Just once. She sighed as memories washed over. She’d been shocked at the moment and froze. He’d pulled away immediately, muttering an apology. Later she glowed, then she was weirded out by it. They did what any good friends would do—they ignored the moment and fell back into their routine. Looking back, she still found that kiss a bit…weird.It’d been Riley. They had no business kissing, but still, of the handful of men who had ever kissed her, Riley’s was the only one who could make her toes curl by the memory. And it had just barely been a kiss. Not even a kiss, really. A peck. A whisper of lips over one another.She swirled the ice around in her glass and sighed. “I was thinking about my mom.”He pulled in a slow breath, unsure likely, on how to comment. It was a common side-effect when speaking of her mom. He rocked in his chair and tapped his glass against the wooden arm rest. “Dangerous territory.”She smiled, appreciative of his honesty. “No kidding.”“Are you getting homesick?”She shook her head. “No. I was thinking about dating and how I follow her advice.” A laugh, hollow to her own ears, slipped over her tongue. “I guess I don’t know what to do with myself now.”Riley shrugged. “Do what you want. You’re better than what your mom lets you believe.”“Thank you.” She warmed over at that. When the idea of a breather struck her, she knew Riley was the man to find. He’d been the one who’d showed her how to sneak out at night and how to spend the day on the river bank instead of the mall where her mom believed she was. Taught her how to “borrow” the car and top it back off with gas after she was finished.Shellie was in desperate need of some of that bad-Riley-behavior. She couldn’t push her mom off forever, not if Shellie wanted to keep her sanity. And honestly, married to some stuff shirt banging his secretary would be a hell of a lot easier than sticking it out with Mom and her never-ending list of Shellie Faults.Sit up, dear.What are you wearing? Comfortable? No, wear the dark wash jeans and low cut red silk shirt I bought last week.Why in God’s name did you tell him there was sauce on his cheek? You’re not his mother! You should have situated yourself closer and nonchalantly removed it yourself.Knots wound through her stomach. If she didn’t stop, she’d have to get her antacids.Shellie rested her head against the worn wooden back of her rocker, soaked in the cool autumn breeze, and stared off across Riley’s property. The weathered chair squeaked against the old, paint-peeling porch, lulling her into a dazed zone.It was so different from Dallas here. Seemed to be miles of open fields and swaying grasses enclosed within a circle of pines. Brown cows speckled the grounds and a small pond rippled next to a grouping of trees with leaves varying in fall colors from brilliant yellow to fiery red. It was nice and peaceful, but so unlike where she’d pictured Riley, the boy with the quickest hands to ever graduate Jones High School, to have settled down.God, she’d missed him over the years. They’d graduated high school and been tugged in different directions with only the internet keeping them tied together. This was the first time seeing him in some six years.He reached across the tree trunk serving as a small table and covered her hand with his for a moment. “I’m not just saying that. You are better than what your momma tells you. Go to college or do whatever you wanted.”If only I don’t know what to do with myself resembled a career path. No, she knew what she wanted. Something with flowers. Growing them, arranging them, she wasn’t sure. It was risky business since she tended to kill any plant she dared to breathe on. Still, the idea of being surrounded by that quiet beauty appealed. She’d never voiced that thought, as her mother would likely croak at the idea of her doing anything with her hands which didn’t involve flirting. Anytime she’d mentioned doing something other than following in her mother’s footsteps of marrying a rich man, the woman broke out into hives and cold sweats.But no, what Shellie had meant was her love life. She frowned. No, not a love life. She wasn’t there. Just figuring out a dating life. Since her mom was about to fling her in front of every eligible, wealthy man across the U.S. as part of some supposed vacation, she had better start puzzling out some dating dos and don’ts. Nothing was worse than being flung in front of a man—boring or not—and being painfully aware she had no idea how to flirt and be herself. Her mother’s words were always in her head, making her analyze every little line before she spoke, throwing off the whole conversation.Smile. For God’s sake, at least make your smile look real.Relax your shoulders. Straighten your back. Shellie, can’t you even stand normal without me correcting you?Would it be too hard to look like you’re having fun?Is that your second piece of cake?Shellie inhaled a deep breath, one not tainted with her mother’s advice. That right there was what she was talking about. Her mother had directed her on behavior for as long as she could remember. She didn’t even know what was natural and what had been rubbed in. She glanced around, wishing an easy answer was written somewhere. Instead she caught sight of Riley.His breath slipped out in slow, but heavy exhales. A white knuckle grip held his tea. The flannel sleeves of his shirt were rolled up a bit, showing the flexing tendons of his arms. A thick swallow moved down his corded throat. With her heart beating unexplainably fast, she lifted her gaze to his dark eyes and found him staring at her.Their stare lasted for only seconds before he looked away. Something was a bit different about him than the man Shellie had known. Where he used to be light and fun, she now often caught an intense look etched on his squared jawed face. A look capable of tossing her breath for a loop. Dashing and charismatic features had become honed into dark and careful.Dark and careful was far more intriguing. Exciting.She tugged the skirt of her gray sweater dress down, not recalling him ever looking at her quite like that before. “Thanks for letting me crash here for a while.”He took an intense interest in knocking dried mud off the side of his boot. “If you keep feeding me like you have been, I may never let you leave.”She chuckled, thankful for his attempt at a light-hearted remark, even if it came out strained. “If that’s all it takes, you’re the one being dangerous now, Riley Hamilton.”He saluted her with his Mason jar of tea. “You do get my underwear soft when you wash them, too.”“Mmm…I’ll keep my laundry secret and you’ll have to keep me around then.” She’d arrived that morning, saw his laundry room while he’d been out and tossed a few things in the wash. He’d been shocked and then pleased.“Or I could just quit wearing underwear.” He winked.She laughed and then stopped as the idea of Riley stripping out of his jeans, his lean hard body, that would no doubt be sweating, filled her head. She cleared her throat and tugged at the thick turtleneck suddenly choking her. Where did that thought even come from? Riley was Riley. He used to put peanut butter in her hair and prickly things in her shoes. The kind of guy her momma would say to stay away from.Oh, Shellie, no, her mother had said. He’ll never make something of himself. Just look at him. Look at his parents. White trash. No, stay away from him before you find yourself knocked up and then nobody will want you. Not even him.A little brown and white speckled cow trotted around the side of Riley’s house. Shellie blinked. Holy shit, there was a cow in Riley’s front yard. Riley still stared at his boots and didn’t seem to notice. She flicked her hand out, trying for his attention, but failing for words. Mother never schooled her on this situation. “Cow.”Riley looked up and set his tea aside with a heavy sigh. “Now where did he get out?”The animal moved around and munched on grass by the porch steps, like it wasn’t a problem. Like this was just a regular routine for the animal.Dear God, there was a cow in Riley’s front yard, steps away from the porch. Should she be scared? Was the thing going to climb the porch and stampede? Stampede? Eep! She turned back to the animal to keep her eye on it just in case she needed to make a run for it. But instead of one, there were now two.“Riley! There’s another cow.”“Where there’s one, there’s usually another.” Riley stomped down the steps and walked right past the pair of cows chewing on grass along the side of the house. He even patted one on the ass on his way by. Lord, but it was a wonder the thing didn’t kick him.Growing up, Riley hadn’t hunted, fished, or any of those other things. He was into sports, girls, and fast cars. When she’d arrived, the last thing she’d ever expected to find was him surrounded by open fields with cows in a little town called Apple Trail, Arkansas.“What are you going to do?”Riley glanced over his shoulder, his brows rose. “Put them back up. They’ll get hurt and ruin stuff if they run free.” He stared at the horizon and she followed his gaze to dark clouds hunkering and sweeping over the tree tops. “Looks like the rain will be here faster then they called for. It’s rained every afternoon this week. My hay fields are mush.”She swallowed as he walked on, completely sure of his actions and his plans. Confidence. He may have changed in some ways, but he still had that. And she was still jealous how he just always seemed to know what to do and how things would work out in the end.He marched onward and her gaze dropped to his jeans fitting around his ass. No longer was she concerned about the cows because, Lordy, how had she never noticed the way his jeans cupped his very nice ass? She blinked and stared again. She’d never noticed because he’d worn baggier jeans in high school. Except for those football pants…she cleared her throat, suddenly hot on the cool day.Cows. On the loose. Right. “How?”He spun, taking a few steps backward. “You could come with me and find out.”She glanced down at her black suede boots and frowned.“What’s the matter?” He laughed and spun again so that he was walking forward and around the corner he went.She grabbed the handles of her chair, fully intending to shoot from her seat and march after, but she stopped. The cows didn’t follow, but seemed content with lazily munching on the weeds around the house. She had to admit, that would be a handy animal to have around to help with the lawn. Which also made her admit something else, it wasn’t fear of the wild cows standing right there stopping her from following.She walked the long porch to the edge and peered around the corner, but didn’t see Riley. The side door of the wooden barn was open. It was too dark and far away to tell what he might have inside there.Would the cows go to him like dogs? Though if they did, he probably would have called them already, wouldn’t he? This was all so rustic and fascinating. Her only encounter with cows before this week included a table and a side dish.The breeze moved a bit cooler and stronger off this side of the house. It lifted hair from her ears and seeped through the thick, turtleneck sweater dress to prick goose bumps on her skin. No sign of Riley. Was he getting rope things like horses used? Not that she knew anything about horses, but she had watched a western movie or two in her day. She could follow and see as he suggested, but what if she got mud on her wool dress or boots?A groaned vibrated up her throat and she marched toward the steps. She was so tired of living with her mother’s words constantly nagging. Here she was, in the middle of freaking nowhere and she wasn’t following her curiosity because she might ruin her boots. Didn’t she come out here to get away from all that? To find the fun Riley had shown her in high school. Why was she hiding on this porch?She stepped out on the narrow walk in front of the house and just like that, lighting streaked overhead. Thunder rumbled through her body all the way down to her toes in her four hundred dollar boots. She hurried toward the barn, wanting to beat the rain.Why are you drenched, Shellie? My God, you look like a drowned rat. I don’t want you touching me looking like that, why would you think anybody else would?Shellie froze and fought against her mother’s words. She stood still in the middle of the yard and waited for the drops to pour down. And then those damn cows ran past, bumped her side, and sent her flying into an icy cold puddle.Available in ebook format for only $1.99 from Amazon Kindle | Smashwords | Sony | Diesel | Apple | Barnes & Noble (Nook) | Digibooks Café | 1PlaceforRomance | All Romance Ebooks and Omnilit | CoffeeTime Romance eBookstore | BookStrand~~~~~~~~~~~~Links to other Excerpt Monday writersNote: I have not personally screened these excerpts. Please heed the ratings and be aware that the links may contain material that is not typical of my site.Excerpt Monday Logo

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Review for Through The Wall

Yall. YALL. I can’t even begin to tell you how thrilling this whole review thing is!

“Through The Wall by Keri Ford is a wonderful read! OMG I was laughing so hard it was great!  The humor of two people, one trying desperately to get the other to notice them and the other doing his best to keep it cool and level was rich. When they do try and get together the actions and comments are hilarious.  This story had me from the first page and kept me going till the last and I was so sorry to see it end.”

And that’s just a peice! Thanks so much to Skip’s Reading for this very awesome review.

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Through The Wall ~ Excerpt Monday!

Excerpt Monday LogoOnce a month, a bunch of authors get together and post excerpts from published books, contracted work or works in progress, and link to each other. You don’t have to be published to participate just an writer with an excerpt you’d like to share. For more info on how to participate, head over to the Excerpt Monday site! or click on the banner above.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

She doesn’t want wild and raunchy, just a little spice…

He wants commitment and long-term, not a quick roll…

Short-term doesn’t lead to long term. Or does it…?

Chapter One ~ Excerpt

Summer in the south was like living in a sauna 24/7. You had to be part fish to breathe in the high humidity. Anybody with even a little sense wouldn’t be outside in this mess, but Stephanie Faulkner was out there melting away, anyway.

And not for the sizzling burgers, that was for sure.

While the frozen margaritas were nice, it wasn’t those either. The kids running around were cute, but they were sweaty and none belonged to her in any related fashion. Only one thing persuaded her to brave August in Arkansas for a backyard barbeque.

Parker Madison.

He was her friend and neighbor. Their apartments were mirror images, their headboards sharing the same wall. From the moaning, screaming, yelping, and pleading she heard through that wall at night, until women left in the wee hours of the morning, Stephanie knew the man had some stamina and skills. And damn it, she wanted her world rocked by more than her vibrator. Parker could do that, without a doubt. Not only did he apparently have god-like abilities, the man was built like one, too.

Images of his muscular body and all he could do with it provoked the drinking of four margaritas already—drinks that were more José Cuervo and less lime. Somewhere between salting the third cup and mixing up her fourth, she decided tonight was the night she was going to ask.

Yes, ask Parker Madison to rock her world.

And this wasn’t like those other times where she was going to ask and then chicken out. No ma’am. This time, all the way or nothing.

She licked the last bit of salt from her now empty plastic cup and eyed the fine piece of hardened, tanned flesh prowling through the crowd. Yes, prowling. Parker took long strides, his eyes always searching and looking around; his mouth perfectly kicked up in this little grin that made the butterflies in her belly smile.

Ah, Parker Madison. How had she known the man for so long and not realized all this? Her thoughts darkened as her ex-husband’s face intruded. She kicked him out of her head. She would not have her day ruined with thoughts of the cheating bastard.

She’d rather lust after Parker, and returned to watching the man who’d haunted her dreams—both the nighttime and daylight ones. When a woman thought sex, she thought Parker Madison. The two just went hand in hand like socks and shoes. Only less smelly when things got sweaty. She giggled. Oh, Lord, too much José if she was giggling.

She cleared her throat, threw her shoulders back, and tugged her halter top straight. Serious. She needed to be a serious-sexy-woman. Cute wedges, short ass shorts and a halter top equaled serious-sexy-woman. At the very least, Jim Nolan, the neighborhood man-whore who was rumored to be so desperate he laid a girl carrying the flu, had thought so and told her as much. Stephanie shuddered and wished for a little more to drink to permanently kick that out of her memory.

As the muscular hunk of beef shifted through the crowd, she didn’t need a drink to forget about old man-whore-what’s-his-name. To wet her dry throat…yeah, a drink would have been handy. And to cool her blood. Man-whore forgotten.

“What are you doing over here off to the side and waiting by the gate?”

Stephanie started and glanced over as her friend, Jessie McBride, leaned on the gate next to her. “God, I didn’t hear you come up. You scared me.”

Jessie grinned. “With the way you’re studying something, a snake could have bitten you and you wouldn’t have noticed.”

“I’m waiting for Parker.”

“Looked like you were doing a lot more than waiting. You’re going to do it, aren’t you?” Jessie shifted until she faced Stephanie. “You’re going to ask him out finally. I honestly don’t know how you’ve waited this long. I mean, hell you two are in his garage all day, every day, mostly alone for how many hours?”

“Eight. And not every day.” Just six, but that seemed like too small a thing to point out. Also, they typically saw each other at some point on Sunday, too. “Customers come in too. And the phone rings off the hook. And the paperwork. Really, it would be useless to try to start anything there.”

Jessie raised her brows. “You’re blabbering.”

She stared into her empty cup. Wasn’t it just half full a few seconds ago? “I might be slightly drunk.”

“Good. It’ll make asking him out easier. What are you going to suggest? Not much here to do in town. Get him to take you to Little Rock for some fun.”

True. Apple Trail was a charming little town filled with mom and pop stores and little else. Luckily, Stephanie wasn’t interested in a date-date. “We already do movies and dinner all the time.” She studied her friend. If there was anyone to ask for advice on being naughty, it was Jessie. “I’m going to ask for more.”

Jessie flicked grains of salt off the rim and into her plastic cup. “More what?”

Just a little spice was all she needed. Nothing raunchy or overly kinky, but some spice. Was that too much for a girl to ask? She didn’t think so. She crossed her fingers and hoped he wouldn’t either. But man, if she couldn’t even say it to her friend, however would she get it out to Parker?

She steeled her spine. “I am going to ask Parker for sex.”

Jessie’s mouth dropped in mock horror. “You slut.”

She nudged her with her elbow. “Shut up. You’re supposed to give me advice to make this easier.”

“Then I suggest you make your move before that ‘ho,” Jessie tilted her head toward the crowd, “has him under her fingernails again.”

Stephanie glanced up to see Parker’s ex-of-the-week stop and whisper something in his ear. All the tequila in Stephanie’s belly rolled and threatened to come back up. Oh man. She stared at the tree-line in the far distance to settle the liquor. The tops swayed in the breeze though, making her sway with them. She dropped her gaze back to the ‘ho wrapping her hands around Parker.

She groaned. “I thought they broke up? I hadn’t seen her in a week.”

“I’m past ready for that chick to go back to college. Rumor is it her daddy’s not to thrilled to have her running around either. She keeps flirting with his customers and he’s losing business. Wouldn’t surprise me if she was shipped off to her momma’s in Louisiana for the last of the summer.”

Claire—the ‘ho—was a red-head made of sugar, spice and lots of silicone and doctor-tucking skill. Stephanie didn’t care where the hell the woman went, so long it was away from Parker. The pickings for new women must be getting slim for him, because she was by far the trashiest Stephanie had ever laid eyes on.

And it wasn’t because of the cosmetic work the woman had undergone. Her nose, boobs and tucked up ass were not bad additions. However, there wasn’t a doctor alive who could correct the woman’s language. Fuck was as fine and dandy a word as ever. Doesn’t mean it should be used every other breath. Furthermore, neither should bitches and ass and certainly not all in one sentence. Geesh.

The ex flattened her hand across his stomach, giving Stephanie a moment of panic. It wouldn’t do at all if Parker took the woman home. Not only would it throw a huge, wicked kink in her plans, but she wasn’t sure she could listen to another night of her screaming. She had a particularly high-pitched, gasping yelp. At first, Stephanie had thought Parker had bought one of those yippie dogs. Then his headboard started banging on the wall and the woman had managed to squeeze out Parker’s name along with some of her favorite obscenities.

Yippee, indeed.

Parker said something, making the girl laugh. Alcohol induced jealousy churned. It was a troublesome reoccurring thing lately. With each new woman Stephanie could hear gasping Parker’s name through the walls, her fingers dug deeper in her palms, and the green-eyed monster reared its ugly head.

She had no claim to Parker. They’d been friends for a long time, but they weren’t friends like that. Being friends like that never even came up between them. She licked her suddenly dry lips. At least, not yet. And it never would if that woman didn’t get her hand off his stomach and quit whispering things in his ear.

Parker laughed, the sun touched his slightly-too-long blond hair. She sighed. She’d had her hands in his hair before. What a waste of time as she’d shaken the golden locks and commented on him needing a haircut. A haircut. Yeah that was her. What an idiot. She should have yanked him to her while she’d had the chance. Pressed her breasts to his hard chest. Aligned her groin against his… Her gaze dropped to the place in question. She swallowed. Perhaps she should have stopped at three margaritas.

There was a fine line between sexy and trampy. Case in point, the red-head draped over him: tramp. Her standing over to the side leaned back on the fence: sexy. In her opinion anyway.

Jessie shook her cup and loosened the last of her frozen margarita from the bottom. “You’re going to owe me a free oil change for this.”

“For what?”

But Jessie was already walking away. “Claire! Hey, girl.”

Claire looked up from Parker and waved.

“It’s hot as heck out here and getting late. I’m headed over to Michael Bill’s place. Braves are playing and he’s got some people coming over tonight. Come with me?”

And just like that, Claire peeled her hand off his chest and the nausea in Stephanie departed. Michael Bill were magic words to having a good time. Jessie turned and winked.

Stephanie waved a two-finger thanks. “I’m throwing in a set of windshield wipers!”

She laughed. “You better!”

Parker swaggered to her looking all rugged and waiting to be tossed in sheets. Okay, maybe two drinks would have been plenty. Oh, what the heck. Two, six or none, it wouldn’t have mattered. In the past few months Parker always looked ready to wrestle naked. The alcohol went back to warming her blood. Need shuddered through, wetting her female department.

She leaned against the gate, hopefully looking cool, as Parker drew closer. He looked up. Surprise flashed on his face, but he smiled as he focused on her. Oh, the things the man was probably capable of. She didn’t know a lot about sexual variety. Her ex-husband had kept things very…civil. From what she’d heard through the sheetrock, Parker was anything but vanilla.

Sex with Parker must be like winning the Triple Crown, Super Bowl, and World Series all in one night. Things she’d been uncertain about in the past, she wanted to get down and do with Parker.

And get dirty even.

Sweaty and twisty and panting for air.

She shivered and pushed hair from her face. Wow. She was not supposed to be the tramp here, but man, she couldn’t help it. She thought of him at night when she could hear his grunts. In the mornings as his shower ran, she thought of getting in there with him. During the day while she balanced his books and ran the front office of his garage, she wanted to walk into the shop wearing a trench coat and get busy on a radiator.

A few times, though she’d never admit it and could barely admit it to herself, she’d used her vibrator along with his noise in the evenings. Oh yes, she had. Heat flamed through her face. Thankful for the August sun, he probably couldn’t tell.

His stride was long and smooth. Sure and confident, exactly like him. “Stephanie! When did you get here?”

Parker’s arm snaked around her shoulders and hugged her against his side. As usual, he looked glad to see her. She hoped he was super happy because he, too, laid awake thinking of doing the dirty with her. Then again, he could just be glad to see her because he was Parker and good to her. Either way, she leaned into him as he pulled her close.

See, this was something else about Parker. Any other man standing outside in August would be sweating and smelling like pig that had been rooting around in the mud. Not Parker. She could still smell the crispness of his soap and the spice of his deodorant.

She dropped her head against on his shoulder as she’d so often done. Only now, as she’d been doing for the past six or eight weeks, she imagined her head there while gasping for air. Pictured his big, coarse hands on her naked skin, gripping her hips. His big brown eyes stared back at her and she swallowed down her fear. It was time to get this out there and confront it.

She wanted scintillating sex.

Parker knew how to give it.

Doing it together seemed the natural choice.

Parker had always been there for her and she trusted him. When they’d walked in and caught Riley in the act, Riley had tried coming toward her with explanations rolling off his tongue. Parker had punched his childhood friend in the mouth and ever since then, he’d been beside her through thick and thin. If he said no to this sex idea, she was confident they could go back to their routine. It would be a silly request and nothing more, chalked up to the fact she hadn’t been laid in over a year.

Oh, and her four margaritas.

Ha! Finally having four made some sense. “Hey Parker. I came looking for you.”

He stared down at her, waiting, expecting more. And…there was more to say, but it lodged in her throat. It was just sex. And it wasn’t the man in question causing all these nerves, it was the act itself. The last man she had stretched horizontal with, she’d married. Said man had since left her for her best friend and moved five hours west. But Stephanie was over that. Mostly. The sting wasn’t so bad anymore. Mostly.

What hadn’t dissipated was a ridiculous, nagging curiosity. This dig had started very small and hidden away. For months, the thought had remained in the back of her head. When she’d found Jake and Crystal together, he’d been doing her from behind over the arm of the couch. They’d been doing the nasty, super nasty-like. He’d had her hair fisted in his hand, forcing her spine into an uncomfortable looking arch. It had looked excessively dirty compared to their missionary sex. After the initial shock and hatred wore off a few months later, Stephanie wondered why she and Jake had never had sex like that. Had he thought she wouldn’t have been open to roughing it up a little bit?

Parker squeezed her against his side, hugging her close and then loosened his grip. “Well, here I am, at your service all night long.”

That was a loaded statement if she’d ever heard one. If she had ovaries worth some salt she’d yell, okay! But she didn’t. Instead, she swallowed again and fumbled around for a polite way to ask for dirty-ish sex. She was pretty sure there wasn’t one. Well, bock-bock and cluck the walk home or take a risk. She was going to do it. “Parker, I need some help.”

He didn’t wait a beat. “I’m all yours, doll, ask away.”

She nodded and walked, drawing him away from the barbeque and the crowd, steering him toward home. Home was an apartment across the street, so it wasn’t much of a walk. Which meant she better get it out before they crossed the double yellows in the middle of the road. She would never voice her question out loud once they were inside the building where all the neighbors might hear. Plus the middle of the road offered the added bonus of being able to run anywhere if he laughed. Like head-first into a car.

He hugged her against his side, gently jostling her. “Never known you to be so quiet.”

Parker was right. And she needed this. She pulled in a deep breath, stopped right there in the middle of the dead Sunday afternoon road and stared right into his eyes. “I want rough…er, sex.”

He looked at her for a long moment and finally he chuckled. “Funny.”

There was her way out of this conversation. She could laugh with him and that’d be it. But she didn’t want out. “I’m not being funny.”

“Uh-huh. And how much did you have to drink?” He tugged on her hair. “Not like you to drink this much.”

“I’ve only had a few.”And she was feeling darn sober at the moment. “I’m serious.”

His mouth dropped and his arm fell away from her shoulder. His eyes drifted closed as he shook his head. “We’ve never…”

She was in deep now, she wouldn’t back away. The margaritas were a help. Ding! Point two for having four. She swallowed and sucked in a deep breath. “I know. I want to. To find out.”

His mouth snapped shut. His jaw tightened, giving her the first sign of just how big of a mistake this might be, but she refused to give up, so she forced onward. He had to at least think about it. “I want something more than plain vanilla. Nothing extreme like cherry blizzard blast, but maybe a little chocolate with syrup.” She rubbed her neck. “And a little squirt of whipped cream.”

Or a big squirt.

He wasn’t looking at her. In fact, he had turned away until his tight jeans curving along his nice ass faced her. The sun blazed down even hotter on the pavement somehow or maybe it was embarrassment burning her through and through. That scent of melting tar? That wasn’t from the hot sun on the pavement but her body catching fire from her blush.

Noise and laughter from the barbeque carried over and echoed off their apartment building and back to them. Which meant, their words could also go back to the barbeque. They weren’t quite as alone as she’d like, especially with a couple of kids coming down the sidewalk toward them.

Sweat trickled down her temple and she shifted her feet, kicking a stray rock from the road. There was no breeze or shade. She was sitting under a heat lamp while her future paced about in front of her trying to figure out if she was indeed serious or drunk off her ass.

Parker stopped and stared up at the bright blue sky. “Why me?”

Liquid courage pushed her on. “We’ve been neighbors for months now. Our beds are on the same wall.” He was turning. She could picture his slack-jawed mouth and yep, there it was, right along with big eyes. Not quite horrified, but then, he didn’t exactly looked thrilled. She squared her shoulders and forged ahead. “Well, I think, from what I’ve heard, that is, you could help me.”

Before he could say anything, the hum of an engine revved. She glanced back and saw a truck headed their way. Parker put his hand to her back and steered her off the road, toward their building. So much for being in the street to put her out of her misery should this little chat get any worse. And one thing was for certain, this conversation was surely going to get worse.

Parker was shaking his head again. “No. This isn’t a good idea.”

She shrugged, trying to maintain this casual I’m-so-cool-I-can-ask-for-sex look. “It would just be a couple of… encounters.”

“Encounters,” he echoed with a shake of his head. “No. We’re going to our apartments and we’re going to forget this.”

She shook her head. “I’ve never had anything exciting. It’s always been just a rub over my hip, a stroke down my thigh and that’s it. And that was okay, but I want more. I want to be used and—”

“I don’t want to hear this.” He jabbed his key in the main door and pulled it open for her.

She stopped in front of him and held him there in the doorway. The blast of the air conditioning slapped her with a whole new sense of drive. She could do this. She could push through. Maybe if she put her chest against his, and slid her leg up his thigh, but she hadn’t drank quite enough for those kinds of moves. “What I’m saying is, it was always the same. Eighty percent of the time, I’ve been on the bottom.”

“Not listening.” He put his hand to her back and turned her in the building.

But he was listening. He wouldn’t be wiping at his brow and tugging at his shirt otherwise.

“I’m not asking for a lot, just something up against a door. Or in the shower. I don’t want to be chained up and beaten with a whip. I just want a little something more. I need this, Parker.”

He turned and faced her. His eyes were narrowed. His hands were balled into fists at his sides. “So what, you’ll call after you get out the shower, after just shaving your legs and tell me to come over?”

She squirmed. “I hadn’t really worked out the details.”

“You can’t just decide one day to have wild sex with me.”

“I didn’t.” The words snapped out harder than she wanted, but she couldn’t help it. He’d struck a nerve. It wasn’t like she’d just decided this was a good idea thirty minutes ago. She’d been dithering over it for months. Considered it on those late nights while hearing grunts, groans, and moans from his bedroom. “Isn’t this every guy’s wet dream? To have a woman ready and willing anytime?”

“No. Not like this.” He looked downright angry.

“You’d have a woman at your beck and call. Anytime, anywhere.” She goaded him, trying to get a little laugh and the Parker she knew back, but he wasn’t smiling. It hit her then. He already has that.

Or maybe, worse. She sobered. “You’re not into me that way.”

“Stephanie.”

She shook her head and turned for the stairs, blinking away ridiculous tears. She knew this had been a possibility, but she had just… She sighed. She really hadn’t decided what to do if he said no. “It’s fine. I did just throw this on you all at once. I didn’t consider that you couldn’t think of me in that way.”

“I—”

Footsteps echoed through the old building silencing him, and had her looking ahead to see old Mrs. Colder rounding the white corner. The harsh overhead lights made her silvery hair look bluish and her overwhelming makeup like a kid who had colored her face with highlighters.

Thankful for the interruption, Stephanie hurried past and up the short flight of concrete stairs; the key to her apartment in her hand and ready to go. Too bad having her keys in her hand hadn’t helped her run faster. Parker was right on her heels.

“Stephanie.”

“Forget it.” His rejection pinched harder than she wanted to admit. Which was silly, because quick casual sex was all this had been about anyway. It wasn’t personal, it wasn’t a relationship he turned down, but it still felt like a rejection of her specifically. “It’s what you wanted, right? That’s what you said.”

And tomorrow, she’d play the drunk card and pretend to not remember a moment of it. Score three for the four margaritas. And hey, who knows, she had some pre-mix in the refrigerator—she just might drag the bottle out and finish it off so she would forget.

Parker spun her around at her door and leaned over her, around her, covered her. He was a winter coat and she the cold, lonely body beneath it. And boy, she was warming up. His gaze covered her face, seemed to linger on her mouth, but she wasn’t sure. She wasn’t doing much breathing on her own and it was making her lightheaded. He’d never been this close before, not like this. Not with this heat between them.

Parker leaned in close. His mouth was just there. His breath, scented of beer from the party caressed her cheeks so soft it was like his lips touched hers. Her eyes dropped closed and then he went and pulled back. “You’ve never made a move or looked like you were interested in me that way.” He shook his head. “Damn it, you can’t throw something on me like that and expect me to jump.”

“Fine.” She dropped her gaze. And fine was right because he was right. She’d thrown it on him out of nowhere. They had been friends for a long time. He’d been a friend of Jake’s, which was how they’d met. He’d been standing next to her, helping her bring in groceries, when she walked in on Jake and Crystal doing the doggie on her fifteen-hundred dollar couch. Parker had stood by her side through the good and the bad while Jake fought her for every fork, bowl, and pan out of the kitchen. Seven years of friendship and suddenly she wanted to change things. She could see his point. “So we’re at a, you’ll think about it and let me know?”

He straightened and swiped a hand down his face. “I suppose. And you need to think more on it, too. We take that step, things will never be the same.”

“They—”

He lifted her chin. “Will never be the same.”

Parting bit of advice offered, he pushed off the wall and walked the few feet down the hall to his own door. With him, he took his heat and his…just everything. Too bad he didn’t take her pounding pulse.

She hurried inside her apartment and leaned against her front door. For the first time since he walked her home from the barbeque, she felt like she could breathe fully. A talk that was supposed to be casual and off the cuff had become intense in two-point-five seconds flat. With her blood pumping at this rate, she should be stripping.

People made stuff like this work. Friends with benefits for a while and then back to normal on down the line. They were close enough to sustain that. Honestly, she could go for more, but Parker didn’t do long-term.

Despite his cut-and-dry thoughts, things between them would only change if they let it. And she wouldn’t allow a wedge to form between them. She needed him by her side above anything else.

But she wouldn’t lose hope yet for a little excitement. He was thinking about it. She pushed off the door, kicking off her heels and leaving them where they lay in the path to her bedroom. It was a step. Smaller than she would have liked. She had shaved after all, hoping for the full Monty with the possibility of an unfastening-buttons-while-kissing-up-the-stairs event.

While she had thought he hadn’t seemed into it, looking back, disinterest wasn’t the impression she got. Or maybe the four margaritas were at work here, causing a major case of desire fogging her memory. She stopped and rubbed at her head, trying to piece things together through lime sloshed thoughts and hoped she was getting it all right. There at the end, while standing at her door, he seemed more unsure than against the idea. She was fairly positive about that.

She sighed and hurried to her room where she crashed on her bed. If she was right, and she was, then she just needed something to push him over the line and convince him benefits were a good idea. But you’ll be having sex with someone anyway, why not me? probably wouldn’t be the way to win him over.

The day was over now. She’d attempted all she’d known to get her hands on Parker and there was nothing more to do about it for the night. Tomorrow was another day.

Oh, God.

Tomorrow was Monday. A work day. She’d be in the office of his tiny garage with him only steps away. His arms would be streaked with grease. A rag would be dangling from the back pocket of worn jeans. Sweat would be gathered at his lower back as he worked. That old Razorback ball cap of his would be switched around from front to back—depending on what he worked on. Somehow with all that going on and her desire for sex now out in the open, she was supposed to have a clear head to be able to bill-out piston rods and lube jobs.

Cheeks flaming hot, stomach crappie-flopping, and her thighs twitching, she sat up and ripped her shirt over head and tossed it aside. It caught on the lampshade on her nightstand and she stretched, brushing it off. The top drawer to her nightstand was cracked open, she knew what lay inside.

A grin stole her lips. Perhaps it was time to turn the tables a little. Let him hear her for once. She’d never been too vocal, but just maybe she should change that. She pulled Old Reliable out of the drawer and clicked it on. The plastic hummed in her hand. It tickled her palm and brought a giggle on her lips.

Oh, Lord. Not another giggle.

 

 

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