The Double D Ranch
A Fortuna, Texas Novel Book 1
by Rochelle Bradley
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Longhorns and lingerie…
Much to the chagrin of foreman Josiah, Jessie Davidson wants a romance reduction. But the Double D Ranch hides a secret. Since inheriting the property, Jessie kept her grandmother’s hoard concealed, but now she’s found the courage to purge the unwanted items: steamy novels, thousands of them. Romance has to go! Donating the books is a good thing, right? Not when coupled with a dare.
The dare spirals out of control. The ante is upped when caches of the spicy books, left in barber shops, pool halls, and pubs, challenge others to join the fad. A perverted prankster runs amok playing on the town’s fantasies. Book clubs are formed. Plots acted out. In a town saturated with romance, Jessie finds her love life underdeveloped.
Keep Jessie safe. It’s the promise Josiah Barnes made to Jessie’s dying grandmother. He aims to honor it, even if it means protecting Jessie from himself. Failing her in the past has him on high alert when the Double D becomes ground zero for the arousal avalanche sweeping the town. As a full-support, silent partner, Josiah will do anything to augment the Double D. But when Jessie starts selling handmade lingerie, keeping his hands to himself is easier said than done…
Will she shelve happily ever after like a rejected novel, or open her heart and start a new chapter?
“You ready?” Jessie hesitated, embarrassed about the collection Grandma left. She led B.J. up the hardwood stairs to the second floor. The scent of his musky cologne preceded him.
B.J. smirked. “Born that way.”
“I doubt it.” Her hand gripped the metal doorknob. When she’d inherited the Double D Ranch from her grandparents, the cache in the upstairs bedroom came as a complete shock. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, steeling herself for his reaction. The area behind the door once housed Grandma’s sewing room but now…
The mess was as awe-inspiring as it was overwhelming, which had been why she enlisted the help of the reluctantly altruistic B.J.
“Well?” he grunted, crossing his arms as he waited. A hard worker, the thirty-two-year-old man had caught her eye a year ago with a smile that lit his face. The smile disappeared, however, when his wife left him for another man. Now the handsome man scowled as a hobby.
Her hesitant fingers tightened around the smooth knob, slowly her wrist shifted, and the latch popped. The door opened a crack. “You ready?” she repeated, taking another deep breath.
He shifted his feet with impatience. “Already said I was.”
Words could do little to describe the mess or the enormity of it. It wasn’t the worst thing she’d ever encountered but Jessie found it embarrassing, nonetheless.
She could’ve had a cleaning party with her best friends, Kelly and Mona, but they’d heckle her to hell and back with what they’d find, plus the whole town would find out in no time. She didn’t want her grandma’s neurotic obsession, the Davidson version of the skeleton in the closet, to become known.
Then there was Josiah. He’d keep the secret. But being confined with the cowboy made it hard for Jessie to breathe. Her father trusted B.J. and laboring beside a stranger would be easier than dealing with the funny feelings bumping elbows with Josiah caused.
No, B.J. was her only option.
She swallowed then pushed the door open. The hinges creaked, filling the silence.
B.J. blinked twice. “What the hell?”
Books–thousands and thousands of paperback books, all romance novels–were stacked in neat rows from floor to ceiling. The bedroom was full save for a three by three space on the floor. It was a dark closet with book wallpaper. To say her grandmother had loved to read was an understatement.
B.J. pushed on the stacks a few times but nothing moved, it was solid. He whistled low.
The confounded man stood with hands on hips staring at the twelve-foot ceiling line. “How am I going to reach the top?”
“I planned ahead, knowing you weren’t ten feet high.” Jessie retrieved a four-foot step stool from behind the door. She unfolded it and he climbed up. In the hallway, a stack of plastic storage totes waited to be filled. She retrieved one and placed it next to the base of the ladder.
Many of the books had worn spines and dog-eared pages. Memories of Grandma flitted to mind. When Jessie was in elementary school she’d climbed into her grandma’s warm lap and asked, “Why do you read them?”
Grandma’s eyes had crinkled as she smiled. “Love, child. They are filled with love. Everyone wants to live happily ever after. Someday, Jessie, you’ll find it too.” She’d tweaked Jessie’s nose then tickled her.
“Hey, Jessie,” B.J. spoke, startling her. He glanced down from the ladder. “You’re gonna need more tubs. What the hell kind of books are these, anyway?” He stared at the cover of a scantily clad woman leaning against a bare chested man in leather pants. “Werewolves in Heat?”
“Grandma had a thing for romance novels.” Jessie shrugged, feeling her face heat.
“Honey, it was more than a thing. She hoarded the damn books.”
B.J. was right. One stack near the wall held one hundred and forty books. Some stacks had thinner books, equaling more
Jessie was grateful for the longhorn cattle ranch her grandparents left her, even if it hid her grandmother’s secret. Her grandparents each died within a year and her breath hitched thinking about them. Josiah had worked for her grandpa Don but stayed on as foreman when she inherited.
As if on cue, Josiah’s sun-kissed face peeked around the corner. The dusty tip of his boot and a stray piece of hay sent her mind reeling to the night he’d found her crying in the hayloft. The memory of his lips on her neck sent a shiver down her spine.
He pointed to B.J. who reached for more books, and mouthed, “You okay?”
Her heart tripped when she gazed into his curious eyes framed with a brow etched with concern. She gave a thumbs up then waved him off, slightly annoyed yet comforted he was checking on her.
A Fortuna, Texas Novel Book 2
Karaoke and Kidnapping…
Piper McCracken needs a fresh start. Her father’s death, a failed engagement, and her ex-fiancé-turned-stalker prompt her to make a bold leap . . . from the Windy City to Fortuna, Texas. Piper feels ready to take on small town life—that is, until she’s erroneously proclaimed a shy cowboy’s mail-order bride.
Hired as a personal assistant to Jessie Barnes, Piper becomes much more: friend, beta tester, and . . . intimate apparel model? With a three-legged cat, fake news, drunken karaoke, romance novel obsessed men, a cocky old lady, and a perverted town prankster, Piper finds Fortuna plumb twisted.
All Cole Dart really needs is his family and job working at the Big Deal ranch. After surviving cancer, his life is like a pair of broken-in boots. Comfortable. He doesn’t want the complication of a relationship now. Or ever. But when Piper’s stalker catches up to her, Cole’s protective instincts kick into high gear and he’s determined to step between her and danger, no matter the cost.
When a tornado rips through town, Cole’s home is strewn across the county, can Piper help him pick up the pieces and find happily ever after or will the stalker tear them apart forever?
When Cole and Piper arrived at the truck stop, Cole flagged down the owner, Norma Stitts. She waved them in. He took Piper’s elbow and led her to a booth.
Piper inspected the bookshelf by the door, then gazed around the room, taking it all in. Cole tried not to stare, but it proved hard not to watch her first encounter with a Texas truck stop.
“There are three men reading romance novels,” she said in awe. Packed with men, but also a few women and children, Stitts’ was hopping.
“I’m surprised it’s not more,” Cole said, rubbing his chin.
“Really?” Piper’s eyes widened.
“See that bookshelf? It’s a major exchange center for the book trade.”
“You’ll have to ask Miss Jessie about how it started,” Cole explained.
“Mrs. Barnes, my boss?”
“Yes. Sorry, I’ve called her Miss Jessie for years.”
A man entered the restaurant, placed two books on the shelf, then ran his finger down the spines in the line and pulled out another. He paused, reading the back.
“Do you see that man?” Cole asked, and she nodded. “He’s a farmer. Owns a couple hundred acres, a modest spread, and he loves romances.”
The farmer pocketed the book. He picked out two more before leaving.
“Ah, romance books. This is what you meant yesterday?” Her cheeks pinked.
“Yes.” He cleared his throat, which had suddenly gone dry. “It started with a personal challenge to one man, a dare. He didn’t back down. He liked the books and dared others. Then it spread like wildfire on dry prairie grass.”
They ordered and sipped the rich dark coffee. “This is good.” Inhaling deeply, she gripped the ceramic mug as if it held ambrosia.
He leaned back and relaxed. Warmth spread through his body, happy to have pleased her.
“So who dared you?” she asked.
He nearly spit coffee.
“I mean, why do you read them?”
“I like the stories.”
“You mean you like the sex.” She tilted her head and grinned.
Sure, he liked the steamy scenes, but that wasn’t the whole reason he read them. “I like happy endings,” he offered with a shrug. She raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Okay, I like the hot scenes, but only because of the love.” He swallowed.
The waitress placed food on the table, saving him. They ate in silence except for an occasional comment about the flavor of the food. After Piper pushed an empty plate away, she asked, “Are all cowboys like you?”
Uh oh. “Like, how?”
“You know, crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside?”
Cole laughed. “Most likely,” he answered, as another man took more books.
“I don’t like romance stories,” she admitted in a quiet voice. Before he could ask, she explained, “The heroines are too soft. I don’t like to read about weak women. Plus, those men always have movie star looks, amazing careers and are billionaires. You can’t find your soulmate in a romance book.”
“But you might find personality traits you like,” he offered. She shrugged, not buying it. “I don’t see the women as weak—only flawed, with obstacles to overcome.”
“I suppose everyone has flaws.”
“What’s yours?” he asked with a smirk.
“Liking the wrong type of men,” she muttered.
His stomach clenched. “That’s a cop-out answer.” He’d unfairly asked, so he offered his shortcoming. “I’m self-conscious about my looks.”
She inspected him critically and sweat broke out across his forehead. “Most people are.”
He leaned close and whispered, “It keeps me from talking and interacting with people. I get nervous and won’t go places if there’s a crowd.” It had been years since the operation and it still affected him.
“You’re fine, Cole. You’re more than fine.” Piper shifted in her seat and leaned forward. “Look, you’re out talking to me and I’m a stranger and a woman.”
He nodded. “Normally, I’d be a basket case of nerves.”
“Looks are all personal taste. Someone might think you’re ugly or someone might think you’re the sexiest man alive. The thing you have to ask yourself is: does their opinion matter to me?” She smiled sweetly over the rim of her mug.
“What’s your opinion?” he blurted, needing to know.
“Does it matter to you what I think?”
“Yes. It matters greatly.” It was true, but he didn’t want to ask himself why. The smile that lit her face made his heart hitch. She set her coffee down.
“Well, Cole, I like the crunchy-gooey combo. It’s very appealing.” She blushed, long eyelashes hiding her eyes as she looked at the table. “I find you…” she paused, drumming her fingers against the side of her mug.
“Pretty, right?” A short, old woman said as she slid into the booth next to Cole and pinched his cheek. “This one’s a hot tamale.”
“Hello, Ms. Hardmann.” Cole’s face felt like the temperature of the sun. He rubbed his cheek. “This is Piper McCracken. Piper this is Desire Hardmann.”
“Hello, young lady.” Desire took Piper’s hand and squeezed. With a wink, she yelled over her shoulder to a man in a white apron, “Hey, Hugh Stitts! Come over here and meet Cole’s Russian mail-order bride.”
More Than a Fantasy
A Fortuna, Texas Novel Book 3
Book 3 in the Fortuna, Texas series.
One night changed everything…
Finally content single, second grade teacher Kelly Greene doesn’t need a man screwing up her life, even a sexy cop like Ben. All she needs is her rechargeable double A batteries.
Operation: Win Kelly. For Officer Ben Moore repairing a creepy Victorian house, a workplace dalliance, and camping au naturel are beyond his comfort zone. Ben schemes to bring Kelly’s fantasies alive, but in Fortuna, Texas, where men read romance and cosplay is second nature, it’s hard to keep their rendezvous hidden from gossipmongers and, more importantly, her match-making momma.
When danger threatens Fortuna Elementary, Ben is assigned a case that keeps thrusting them together, Kelly has a helluva time ignoring her heart—let alone her girly bits.
Ben holds the key to the handcuffs but Kelly must decide if he also holds the key to her heart.
SEX. IT HAD BEEN ON her mind way too much lately, as evidenced by the screams of her passengers, the one-finger salute of the passing sedan, and the flashing blue and red lights in the rearview mirror.
“Holy crap, Kelly!” Piper Dart yelled from the backseat. “You could’ve killed us.” Then she laughed.
Kelly Jo Greene swallowed the bile in her throat, signaled, and turned into the parking lot of the Wertz grocery. She hated that feeling of seeing police lights behind her. She pulled into an end row as far from the store as possible and shifted into park. Pressing back into her seat, she closed her eyes, hoping no one she knew would drive by. She drew in a deep breath.
“Uh oh,” Jessie Barnes said.
Kelly’s lids popped open in time to see her parents’ wide-eyed, nosy neighbor Rose Bush driving past and slip into a handicap parking slot. Kelly grimaced. Her mother would know as soon as Ms. Bush got to a phone. Ugh. She’d get a lecture from her father about insurance costs. She groaned and Jessie patted her arm.
Sometimes living in a small town sucked. Nobody could get away with anything. Most times, it was a good thing, but she was a twenty-seven-year-old woman and a full-time teacher, and she could take care of herself. A smile flitted across her lips but fell off again when she looked at the rearview mirror.
The officer in mirrored sunglasses made her heart gallop. She glanced away, hoping it wasn’t anyone she knew. But in Fortuna, Texas, that was impossible, since her sister-in-law worked at the station and her father golfed with the chief, Colin Copper. And she had gone to school with most of the younger guys.
The side mirror revealed the squad car door opening. The man approached her car. She tried to meld with the seat but couldn’t vanish. He paused next to her door, and she swallowed, lowering the window.
“Howdy, Ben,” Piper said from the backseat. She stuck her hand out Kelly’s window and waved. Ever since the officer had helped Cole, Piper’s husband, rescue her from the stalker who kidnapped her, the couple considered him a close friend.
“Good afternoon, ladies.” Ben tipped his head so Kelly could see his dark eyes over the mirrored lenses. “Kelly, do you know why I stopped you?”
No, she didn’t. Well, not really. It appeared daydreaming and driving don’t mix. Kelly may have run a stop sign, almost hit someone, and nearly killed her friends. She opened her mouth to speak, but Piper answered for her. “Kelly’s clueless. She’s been thinking about sex.”
“Again,” Jessie mumbled.
Kelly jerked her head toward her friends. Her neck ached from whiplash. “What?” Her cheeks heated, and she knew her face was the same color as her cherry red car.
Ben pushed the glasses back and leaned forward. “Ladies?”
Jessie giggled, but Piper took command of the mystery. “She’s had this brilliant smile for the last few days. It has to be a guy.”
Kelly’s face pulled tight into a high smile. She couldn’t help it. She hadn’t meant that night to happen, but it did. It had left its mark, though.
“Yes, she’s been smiling for days. It started Wednesday.” Jessie looked to Piper to confirm.
“No, that smile was there Wednesday morning. It had to have been Tuesday night, because Tuesday afternoon she wasn’t in a good mood.” Piper rolled down the back window, letting in the warm humid morning air. “Whatever happened, happened Tuesday night. It just has to be a guy.”
“Not Sawyer, either,” Jessie chimed in.
Kelly clamped her fingers around the wheel and clenched her teeth at the mention of her ex-boyfriend’s name.
“See. Look at that frown. It’s definitely not him.” Jessie pointed to Kelly’s face as Piper stuck her head between the headrests to see it.
“I saw Kelly Tuesday night,” Ben offered.
Kelly sucked in a quick breath and glanced at him with her peripheral vision. His eyes were hidden, but one side of his lips quirked up in a smirk.
Both of her friends leaned so they could better see Ben’s face, their eyes wide in expectation. “Well, it was at Hammered. I suppose she was hungry, because she sat down at the bar and ordered a burger. That was before she noticed Mona flirting with Sawyer.”
He’d said Mona with a hint of hostility. They had gone on a couple of dates before Mona decided Ben wasn’t her type. Kelly never understood why Mona wasn’t attracted to Ben.
Jessie groaned. “Not those two.”
Kelly crossed her arms and held tight. Mona used to be one of her best friends, but now that Mona had set her sights on Sawyer, Kelly felt betrayed. She couldn’t stand to be around them when they hung on each other.
“Mona came over to talk to me.” Ben glanced behind him, as if he’d find her there. “Kelly told her to take a hike. Thanks for that.” He nodded at Kelly and she shrugged.
“Mona retreated and must have boo-hooed to Sawyer because he came over next. He said some stupid things and made Kelly mad. She told him off, then got her food to go.” Ben stopped talking and straightened.
“That’s it?” Piper asked, blinking.
“I saw her leave the restaurant with her takeout.” Ben shifted.
Kelly let out a long breath and relaxed her arms. Ben didn’t say anything that her friends couldn’t already have guessed. They didn’t need to know what happened later. The smile returned.
“It’s back,” Jessie said, nudging Piper. Her brows crinkled as she inspected Kelly’s face. “It happened later on Tuesday.”
Kelly chanced a peek at the officer. His lips were pressed into a thin line, but there were creases beside his eyes indicating his amusement. Ben looked good in his uniform, his shirt pulled tight over muscled biceps. He’d graduated a few years before Kelly and Jessie. She swallowed. Her face and body grew hot even though the air was on full blast.
“There’s only so many single guys in Fortuna,” Jessie hummed, rubbing her hands together.
“Kelly said she’d had the best sex ever,” Piper prodded.
She’d said no such thing but that hadn’t stopped her friend from trying to get her to admit something. Kelly clamped her lips shut and sent a pleading look to Ben.
That was a mistake. His smile, now full-blown, shined like a beacon even though his own face had turned beet red. She wished she could see his eyes.
“Are you going to give me a ticket?” She hoped the swift subject change would divert the conversation away from her sex life. She thrust her license toward him.
Ben chuckled and took it. As he stared at the information he asked, “So are you going to see him again?”
Both Jessie and Piper giggled and reiterated the question. Kelly closed her eyes, and the smile came back. She couldn’t help it. Piper had been right—it had been the best sex ever. Kelly could have ignited, as she remembered his body next to hers. She sighed as a wave of desire rolled over her.
“She has to,” Jessie said.
“Call him, Kelly. Have him come over and make dinner for you naked,” Piper giggled again. Kelly’s eyes popped open, and she glanced at Ben. His mouth hung open.
Kelly leaned in his direction and rested her arm on the edge of the open window. “This is what happens when both your best friends are newlyweds; all they ever talk about is sex. Do you have this problem?”
Ben stared at her then shook his head. She knew he lived the bachelor life with another officer, Indigo Black. The man was just as good looking as Ben; she didn’t understand why they both weren’t married. They were dependable men with smoking hot bodies and better catches than Sawyer Hickey—that was for darn sure.
Ben cleared his throat. “You should call him.”
Encouraged, her friends joined in. “Call him. Have him make dinner.”
“Why should he make dinner?” Ben asked, leaning in to view her passengers and echoing her unaired question.
“It’s every girl’s fantasy to have a man cook for her,” Jessie said in a whimsical voice.
“Naked is better,” added Piper.
“Is this true?” Ben asked looking down at Kelly.
She smiled weakly and gave a one shoulder shrug. “It wouldn’t be a bad thing.” She wouldn’t mind anyone cooking a meal for her, let alone a sexy naked man.
There were already people who’d done jail time for acting out scenes from one or two romance books, but those had been in public places. Indecent exposure, or almost, if not caught by the police in time. One incident had saved a marriage and made that couple the talk of the town. It wasn’t long before other men were trying to please their women in a similar manner.
Ben stood straight again and handed back her license. Tingles shot up her arm from where his fingers touched hers. He put his hand on the door frame and removed his glasses as he looked in. His brown eyes were framed with long dark lashes. He grinned at Kelly and her heart jumped into her throat. “I think you should call him.”
Jessie gasped and Piper giggled. Kelly watched his snug fitting pants as he walked back to the car. “He didn’t give me a ticket,” she realized.
“I guess he values the world’s best sex,” Piper teased.
Kelly rolled her eyes and put the car into drive. They needed to get to the new store Jessie had bought. She had scheduled a contractor to meet them there. Kelly zipped into the street, noticing Ben followed for a while. She parked and watched Ben slow as he passed. He gave her a salute and winked. The smile blossomed on her lips.
A Fortuna, Texas Novel Book 4
Book 4 in the romantic comedy Fortuna, Texas series.
She aspired to renew the town; he desired to revive her love life…
Who’d have thought Michaela Arschfick would like Texas? Particularly some Podunk town with the mighty Fire Ant as its mascot. But from first glance, Fortuna captivates Michaela.
With most of the residents, primarily men, keeping their noses glued to the pages of romance novels, they don’t notice Fortuna needs a makeover. Michaela takes on the challenge of opening the eyes of City Hall to Fortuna’s potential. The longer she stays in the cozy town the more it feels like home, especially with the sexy, young mayor giving her VIP treatment.
After his wife died in a flash flood, the mayor of Fortuna, Texas, Jasen Delay, delved into work. Two years later, he’s still wearing the placating smile, but when a vanload of unban consultants visit the town… a beauty catches his eye.
Determined to keep their relationship professional, Jasen and Michaela must stymie their blossoming feelings and focus on revitalizing Fortuna’s downtown. A nosy newspaper reporter, a perverted prankster, and sightings of Jasen’s wife’s ghost have Michaela second guessing her choice to stay. Jasen will do anything to keep Michaela in town. Fortuna needs her but, more importantly, Jasen needs her.
With Jasen’s help, can Michaela wade through small town bureaucracy, solve the mystery of the canyon ghost, and learn to trust to her heart?
“So did you have a good afternoon with Mr. Hottie McHot?”
Michaela glanced out the glass door as if Jasen might hear. “Yes, Jasen was fun. He gave me firsthand knowledge of Fortuna. I met half the town.”
“Did you kiss him?” Kim asked.
“No,” Michaela said, her face heating. She glanced outside again. Maybe she should have. It wasn’t as if she would ever see him again.
“That sucks. You two had chemistry even Darren noticed it. It had his boxers in a bunch.” Kim turned and swiped her hand in a grand gesture. “I’ve had to babysit these morons for the evening. You owe me, girl.”
Michaela giggled and leaned against the door frame. The men began arguing over whose idea it was to add a clock tower to the courthouse. Buck rolled his eyes and then started drawing on the poster.
“That’s not in perspective.” Frank jabbed the sketch with a finger. “Darren wouldn’t propose something like that, anyway. It’s a waste of resources.”
“It’s beautification with function.” Buck’s tongue stuck to the corner of his mouth as he hunched closer and added detail.
“Is that the University of Cincinnati’s clock tower again?” Frank asked with a huff.
Red-faced, Buck glanced up at the light before answering, “No.” He shrugged. “Maybe. Darren can sell anything.”
Michaela pushed off the doorjamb and pulled Kim into the lobby. She leaned and whispered, “Darren can sell anything, but Jasen suggested I make the presentation.”
Kim’s eyes narrowed as she studied Michaela’s face. “What are you thinking?”
Michaela sighed. She threw her hands into the air and turned around to pace. “I don’t know. This is crazy.”
“Spill it, Mick.” Kim tapped her designer-clad toe.
Michaela stopped pacing and grinned. “The municipal building already has a clock.” She shrugged. “I think I want to see if Fortuna will hire me as a consultant.”
“You? Not New Wave Designs?”
“Yes. I’ll come back another time.” Michaela’s heart raced.
“But you have a no-compete clause if you leave the company.” Kim shot a glance to the room full of guys.
“Only three months.” With a shrug, Michaela crossed her arms. “This place feels like home. I can imagine a life here.”
“With Mr. Hottie McHot?” Kim’s bright red lips twisted into a smirk.
Heat flared on Michaela’s face, and she glanced at the floor. “He’s a nice bonus but not the reason.”
Jasen had asked her if she felt obligated to remain loyal to New Wave Designs. She loved the work, but if she could do the same thing somewhere else, she’d make the switch. Moving hadn’t occurred to her before, but suddenly the change sounded thrilling. Darren wouldn’t want it, but she didn’t care.
“Uh, huh? Go find Mr. Hottie McHot,” Kim said with a wave of dismissal. “I don’t want to listen to you sighing all night.”
With her backside, Michaela pushed against the door but hesitated. “If you wouldn’t mind, pick slides for the Power Point that show work that I’ve contributed too.”
Kim stalked toward the gang with another wave.
“Oh, and I found the perfect building for your future coffee shop,” Michaela offered. Kim’s head whirled around so fast she stumbled in her high heels. “I’ll tell you about it when I get back.”
Kim narrowed her eyes. “You’d better.”
Michaela slipped out into the dark, cool evening. She hugged herself. Glancing both directions, she didn’t spot Jasen. She took a guess and headed toward the square. On the corner, she inspected the small park but couldn’t see anyone. Doleful, she crossed to the green space. The black street lamps lit the paths. She stopped before the bronze statue of Fortuna’s founder. After reading the plaque, she ventured to the fountain in the center. The soft light caressed the bubbling water, luring her close.
She relaxed. Her mind wandered toward Jasen. She’d been attracted to him and found his scruffy, strong chin sexy. His dazzling smile and expressive hazel eyes were nice, but his willingness to ditch Darren and the IT gang without question warmed her heart. He hadn’t pried into her personal history and had been genuinely interested in her work, even when she had rambled on. When she had apologized, he waved off the apology and asked intelligent questions that proved he had listened.
Joy bubbled in her soul. His attentiveness validated her. Michaela glanced at the silhouette of the large oak, its branches yawning overhead, and took a deep breath.
Texas. Who’d have thought she would like Texas? Especially some small town with the mighty fire ant as its mascot. Michaela chuckled and leaned back. Her eyes sought the sky littered with more stars than she’d ever seen. Lord have mercy, there was a lot about Fortuna she liked.
Michaela hated to admit it, but Kim had been right. Jasen would be one hell of a perk if Michaela moved to Fortuna. She sighed. Why hadn’t she kissed him?
Goosebumps formed on her arms, and she hugged herself and studied the area. The fountain had several tiers. The highest with a Greek deity, maybe Justice, stared down at her in silent judgment.
What was she doing wandering around a strange town looking for the boy next door, Mr. Hottie McHot, when she should join the IT crew working?
Jasen had most likely arrived home by now. Unzipping her purse, she searched for a coin and tossed it into the water, making a futile wish. She rubbed her face then shuffled the circumference of the fountain, returning to where she had started. Gazing up from the water, Michaela met Jasen’s eyes.
Her wish had come true. Michaela’s lungs declined to work, and she froze. She refused to blink in case he vanished. His wide eyes and smirk made her heart jump.
Jasen stepped forward. She leaped into his arms.
“What are you—?” she began, but he brushed his lips against hers.
Heat consumed Michaela, and she tiptoed, claiming his lips with territorial aggression. For the night, he was hers. His hands plunged into her hair, holding her head.
When they took a breath, he lifted her and they sat on the bench. Cradled on his lap, one hand playing with the hair at the nape of his neck, she opened for him and his tongue swept in. She clutched his shirt.
He moaned. Their ragged breath split the silence and drowned out rational thought.
After a while, she snuggled against him. She dragged in large gulps of air. It had been a long time since she’d kissed anyone with the ferocity as she kissed Jasen.
“Don’t leave,” he rasped. His heart thumped rapidly through his shirt.
Michaela twisted so her nose was in the crook of his neck. She stole a deep breath as tears stung her eyes. “I have to go home.”
Jasen sighed. “Come back.”
“I will if we’re offered a contract.”
“I want you to take the job, not the firm.”
Michaela rested a moment as he stroked her hair. Could she find enough work in Fortuna to survive? “We’ll see how it goes tomorrow when I meet the mayor.”
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About the Author
Rochelle puts an artistic spin on everything she does but there are two things she fails at miserably:
- Cooking (seriously, she can burn water)
- Sewing (buttons immediately fall back off)
She loves baking and makes a mean BTS (Better than Sex) cake. When in observation mode she is quiet, however, her mouth is usually open with an encouraging glass-is-half-full pun or, quite possibly, her foot.
She is a Bearcat, a Buckeye, an interior decorator, and fluent in sarcasm.
In 2008, when her youngest entered Kindergarten, she decided to get the stories out of her head. Midway through her first novel, hurricane Ike (yes, a hurricane in Ohio) rendered the laptop useless with a nine-day power outage. She didn’t give up, but continued to pursue her dream.
Every November Rochelle takes on the challenge of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org) where she endeavors to write 50,000 words in thirty days. You can often hear her cheering the Dayton area Wrimos (those who join her in this crazy pursuit).
Rochelle shares her home with a big black cat, an itty-bitty orange tiger kitty, her daughter, her son, and her Prince.
She loves to connect with readers. You can find her on Facebook (search for Author Rochelle Bradley), Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Visit Rochelle’s website to sign up for her newsletter to keep up to date about future novels and book signings (RochelleBradley.com).