Feels Like Home & Feels Like Love
Aug 1- Aug 10
Feels Like Home -
Tired of living under the shadow of her mother's bad choices, Autumn Maddox left home the first chance she got. But when her carefully constructed life crumbles around her, Autumn's forced to return to the small southern town that never let her forget she came from the wrong side of the tracks.
Jude Southerland, the town doctor, is used to taking care of people and with a pedigree that has the Ladies Auxiliary reaching for their fans, heâs easily the townâs most eligible bachelor â a status he has no intention of changing. That is until he almost runs down the Maddox girl he never noticed in school and suddenly finds her lush curves, dark curls and blue eyes consuming his thoughts, day and night.
Autumn would like nothing more than to live happily ever after with Jude. But with every local matron in the valley trying to marry him off to their own daughters, she knows they wonât let her forget that she's not good enough and never will be. With the chance to finally find happiness, can she overcome her family history and find the confidence she needs to believe in herself or will she let love pass her by?
Feels Like Home
Now it was too late. Gran was gone and Autumn had come home anyway, unemployed and almost broke. She took a swallow of her cold coffee and grimaced. Sheâd been sitting in the diner booth longer than she realized. She tucked a five dollar bill under her mug and rose, smiling at the row of curious locals watching her from the counter.
She slipped on her sunglasses and walked out into the bright noon sun. She needed to see the lawyer about Granâs estate, but first she wanted to thank the doctor whoâd taken care of her until the end. When she called home, Gran had gone on and on about that ânice Southerland boy,â how smart he was and handsome.
Autumn had gone to school with Travis Southerland. She thought sheâd heard he was in the service now, but heâd been a handsome jock from one of the founding families â very respectable, very upper middle class. Nice enough if completely out of her league. She didnât know Jude. He must have graduated before she started high school.
She stepped off the curb and into the blare of a car horn. The driver of the Jag glared at her from behind the windshield. Autumn raised her hands and mouthed âSorry, sorry.â The driver glared on, shaking his head in disgust.
Okay, walking out into the street without paying attention wasnât her best move, but sheâd been distracted. No one was hurt. He didnât need to keep staring at her like he thought she was too stupid to live. When he didnât move on, she held up her hands and arched her eyebrows in the uniform gesture of âWhat?â
That got him moving. Unfortunately, instead pulling the car forward, he opened the door and climbed out. He was tall with broad shoulders and narrow hips. His sandy-brown hair was barber shop short and his chiseled jaw clean shaven. He was an impressive specimen of male beauty. Under other circumstances she might have found him attractive, but right now his hazel eyes flashed with anger as he walked towards her.
She pasted her best helpful and trustworthy smile on her face. âNice car.â
âAre you insane?â
She couldnât be sure, but she was willing to bet he looked crazier than she did. He practically vibrated as he stared down at her. She wished for higher heels instead of the pale pink ballet slippers sheâd put on with her flower print dress. Sheâd like to be closer to looking him in the eye rather than straining her neck up to meet his angry gaze. At least she could hide behind the sunglasses.
âYou walked out into traffic.â
âI know,â she said, calmly like she was explaining something to a small child instead of a raging Viking. âIt wasnât very smart of me. Iâm sorry, I was a little distracted.â
âDistracted! You walked in front of my car. I could have killed you.â The look on his face suggested he might have reconsidered not running her down.
âBut you didnât. Iâm fine.â Without thinking, she laid a reassuring hand on his arm and fought the flutter in her stomach at the feel of his muscles bunching through the thin cotton. It had been too long since sheâd touched a man even casually.
âThatâs not the point,â he said, looking down at her hand.
âIt kind of is. Especially to me.â She ramped up the wattage of her smile. âYou better move your car. Youâre blocking the road.â
He looked from her face to his car stopped in the middle of the road and then shook his head before turning to go. âBe more careful,â he tossed back at her as he got in the car and drove away.
âWell, alright.âIt was her turn to shake her head. âHave a nice day!â she called to the receding tail lights.
When she got to the doctorâs office, the pretty, slightly harried nurse told her the doctor would be out for several hours. Autumn thanked the woman both for the information and for helping with her grandmother and told her sheâd come back later to see Dr. Southerland.
Sheâd started to rethink her decision to walk to the lawyerâs office when she finally made it to the grand old house in the center of downtown which housed Coles, Esquire. She climbed the steps to the porch and paused to catch her breath before opening the front door.
âMay I help you?â asked the older woman behind the desk. The reception area was in what once must have been the parlor with its long narrow windows and beautiful molding. Whoever refurbished the home obviously appreciated older buildings.
âI have an appointment to see Mr. Coles.â She glanced at her watch. âI think Iâm a little early. Autumn Maddox.â
âYes, Miss Maddox. Heâs expecting you.â The older womanâs face softened. âIâm so sorry for your loss, dear. Iâve known your grandmother for years. I was very fond of her. Iâll miss her.â
Autumn blinked at the tears stinging her eyes. The womanâs kind words held none of the judgment sheâd felt from some of the other women who had expressed their sympathy. âThank you, Mrs.?â
âThank you, Mrs. Mayhew. I appreciate hearing that. I miss her, too.â She willed away the tears, threatening to spill. She didnât want to cry â not here.
The older woman smiled sadly and patted her arm. âI know you do, child. Marion was so proud of you.â
Again, there was no judgment, none of the recrimination sheâd felt from so many of the others for why she hadnât been able to make it home before now. âI wanted to make her proud.â
âYou did.â Mrs. Mayhew reached for a box of tissues on her desk and handed one to Autumn before taking one for herself. âNow,â she said, dabbing at her eyes. âGo on back before I turn into a puddle.â She shooed Autumn down the hall to a closed door at the end.
As Autumn got closer she heard male voices coming from behind the door. Two male voices. She walked back to the reception area.
âMrs. Mayhew, I think he has someone in with him already.â
âHe does, dear, but itâs a friend not business. Go ahead. Go on in. Otherwise the two of them will forget they both have work to do.â
The words sounded harsh, but her tone and the twinkle in her eyes let Autumn know Mrs. Mayhew liked the two men.
She wrapped softly on the closed door and heard the conversation on the other side stop.
âCome on in,â a rich male voice like melted caramel called from the other side.
Autumn pushed open the door in time to see the attorney, Mr. Coles, rise from behind his desk. He was tall and broad with none of the softness around the middle sheâd seen on so many of the men around town. He towered over her, but his smile was warm and friendly.
âYou must be Miss Maddox.â He extended his hand, capturing hers with his strong warm fingers. He held her hand in both of his. âItâs nice to finally meet you in person. Although I wish it was under more pleasant circumstances.â
Autumn smiled up at his handsome face. That was two very attractive men in one morning, but unlike the surly man in the Jag, Mr. Coles was a civilized attorney. She put a little more energy into her smile. She wasnât interested in starting anything with anyone â at least not until she got the rest of her life sorted â but sheâd forgotten how feminine a Southern man could make a woman feel. The attention was a balm to her bruised ego. âItâs nice to meet you, too, Mr. Coles. Please, call me Autumn.â Without conscious effort on her part, the drawl her time in the city had worn away deepened.
âAnd Iâm Andrew. Mr. Coles is my father. Where are my manners? Forgive me.â The charming Andrew Coles directed her attention to a man standing beside one of the chairs in front of the desk. âAutumn Maddox, this is Dr. Jude Southerland.â
Autumn turned her smile to the man who her gran had been so enamored with and found herself staring up at the Viking with the Jag.
He could have kicked himself for not recognizing Autumn Maddox. He knew she looked familiar, but heâd been so shaken by almost running her over. He hadnât connected the pretty, flighty woman with her riot of curls with the polished woman in the stylish black dress and pulled back hair from the funeral. Stupid. Itâs not like the town was full of dark haired strangers. But her huge sunglasses hid her piercing blue eyes. He would have known her instantly if he could have seen her eyes.
The eyes that twinkled for Andrew looked at him like he was an escaped mental patient. He could almost hear her thinking to herself âDonât startle the crazy man.â
Great. Just great.
âWeâve met already. I almost ran Miss Maddox over with my car.â He smiled down at her, trying to project competence and calm.
âNice,â said Andrew. âHe was just leaving.â He turned his attention back to Autumn, ushering her to a chair.
âI was just leaving.â He waited for Autumn to say something about it being her fault for stepping in front of him or to acknowledge him at all, but all her attention was focused on Andrew. âI was just leaving,â he repeated. His best friend waved him away.
When he closed the office door on them, Autumn and Andrew were trying to out-charm each other.
It shouldnât matter. He wasnât interested in her â not really. Okay, she was beautiful. That was undeniable. Sheâd been polished perfection at the funeral, poised and perfectly appropriate. He assumed she was one of those successful career types, driven and at least a little selfish. Marion adored her, and the woman couldnât find time to make a trip home. Family was everything to him. Definitely not his type.
But today, she was sweet, soft curls and lush curves in a flower print dress which nipped in at her waist and showed off the gentle swell of her breasts. The pretty pink shoes emphasized her height â or lack or it â and made a man want to pick her up and tuck her in against him.
Okay, maybe not him, but it looked like Andrew would like nothing better. Which was fine, because Jude was not interested.
He stomped the last few blocks to his office, stepped down to cross the street and swore as he heard the car horn.
Mrs. Overstreet rolled down the window of her Buick LeSabre and peered out at him. âOh Dr. Southerland, Iâm so sorry. Are you okay?â
âFine, Mrs. Overstreet. Iâm fine.â Sheâd known him all his life. He and his brothers had broken her window when they were kids, but she still insisted on calling him doctor and there was no way heâd use her first name. âI should have been paying better attention.â
âNonsense. I know you have a lot on your mind. The weather is starting to aggravate my bursitis again.â
âCall the office. Kristen will set up an appointment and weâll take good care of you.â
âYou always do.â The cars were starting to pile up behind Mrs. Overstreetâs car. It was only a matter of seconds before the honking started.
âDonât let me keep you, Mrs. Overstreet,â he said and crossed the street before she could ask him anything else.
âI fold.â Andrew laid his cards on the table and picked up his scotch.
âIâm out,â said Jude, waving away a haze of cigar smoke. âIâve had crap all night.â
âI call, little brother. Show me what you got.â Adam and Blake were Judeâs younger twin brothers, but Adam insisted being born first made Blake the younger brother.
âFull house,â said Blake. âIâll take these.â He scooped up the pile of nickels.
âAny more wings?â Adam picked up the empty bowl and headed into Andrewâs kitchen.
âIn the oven. Yâall are grown men, how can you still eat like seventeen year olds?â Andrew followed the twins into the kitchen.
âHigh metabolism.â Blake grabbed a bag of chips and another beer and Jude rolled his eyes.
âI have a very active job,â said Adam.
âChase many bad guys through the mean streets of downtown lately?â asked Jude.
âFunny.â Adam dumped a cookie sheet of wings into the bowl and grabbed his own beer.
âWait until youâre on the other side of thirty-five. Thatâs when it all changes,â said Andrew, taking a puff on his cigar. âHigh metabolism my ass.â
âSpeak for yourself.â Jude took a swallow of scotch. His apartment above the doctorâs office was a couple of blocks away from Andrewâs house. He usually walked to their weekly poker games so he didnât have to worry about driving after. Theyâd been meeting like this since the twins got back from college and the police academy and settled into their places in the community. Early on they decided Andrew had the nicest house and the best food. And the best scotch, thought Jude, taking another swallow of the smoky amber liquid.
âIâm gonna ask Autumn Maddox out for dinner,â Andrew declared as he sat back down at the table.
Jude breathed in his scotch and choked. âEasy old man.â Blake pounded on his back.
âEnough,â Jude said on a cough, moving away from his brotherâs fist. âIâm okay. Why Autumn?â He knew why. Itâd been two weeks since he almost ran her down and he hadnât been able to forget her. He could still see her impossibly blue eyes and remember the way she smelled â flowers and something warmer, spicier. He did not want to think about his best friend with the woman he couldnât get out of his head.
âWhat do you mean why?â Andrewâs brow creased.
âMaddox? Not Colin Maddoxâs sister?â asked Adam.
âYeah, Marion Maddoxâs granddaughter,â said Andrew. âHer gran left her the house. Iâm handling the estate.â
âColin Maddox is bad news. Iâve brought him in a half dozen times â everything from domestic abuse to minor drug charges. Heâs never done real time, but he should have.â
âSheâs Emory Smithâs sister.â With as much time as heâd spent thinking about her the past two weeks he couldnât believe he hadnât put it together sooner.
âMaybe. She has an older brother and sister named Smith. But I donât remember seeing an Emory on the papers,â said Andrew. âOh god, the guy from our senior year. The one who killed himself and his little brother in that crash out on Route forty?â
Jude nodded, still a little shocked. He couldnât imagine losing any of his brothers or sisters like that. Let alone two at one time. It must have devastated her.
âFamily sounds like bad news.â Blake set the bag of chips on the table, picked up the cards and started to shuffle. âColin was a prick in school.â
The angry sullen man with the girlfriend in the miniskirt and hooker heels from the funeral didnât seem to have much in common with the pretty charming young woman heâd met in Andrewâs office. She had even less in common with the reckless kid he barely remembered from senior year.
âMaybe, but Autumn is something special.â Andrew took a sip of scotch and leaned back in his chair. âSheâs sweet, funny and gorgeous. She has the bluest eyes and dark, sexy curls perfect for sinking your fingers into.â
Jude hated listening to his friend reduce Autumn to a list a characteristics, yet he couldnât help but nod in agreement. Those blue eyes had shown up in his dreams on more than one occasion in the past few weeks.
âGod, and that body. Lush curves and eminently fuckable.â
Blake and Adam murmured their appreciation at Andrewâs description and Jude wondered who he should pound first, his brothers or his best friend. Everything inside him screamed Mine, which made no sense at all. She probably remembered him because of the car thing, but he didnât have any reason to think she liked him let alone liked him like that.
âYep.â Andrew nodded. âIâm going to take her out for dinner and anything else sheâs up for.â
âNo.â He didnât shout, but the word held enough force to have the three other men turning to look at Jude, eyebrows raised.
âSomething I should know?â Andrew stared at him, waiting.
Jude stammered, trying to find something to say that would take the focus off of his reaction. âI just meant sheâs not planning on staying in town, is she? Her whole life is back in the city.â
âI donât know about that. She didnât seem in a hurry to get back to whatever she left.â Andrew looked at him, still puzzled. âAnd I wasnât talking about marriage, just having a little fun. She looks like sheâd be a lot of fun.â
Judeâs hands clenched and his jaw tightened. There was no way Andrew was going to be âhaving a little funâ with Autumn. Not if he had anything to say about it.
âArenât you tired of using women for sex?â
The twins choked in tandem on their beers.
âWhy on Godâs green earth would he be tired of that?â asked Blake while Adam coughed and nodded.
Both the twins and Andrew dated their fair share of women. Hell, he had, too. They were honest about their intentions, and hurt feelings â if there were any â rarely went beyond minor disappointments. But the idea of Autumn being someoneâs good time was more than he could stand. He flexed his fists and gritted his teeth.
âYou like her.â Andrew looked at him, appraising. âI didnât think you even knew her.â
âI donât. I just met her.â
âDoesnât matter,â said Andrew, shaking his head. âYou like her. Fine, if you want her, I wonât ask her out, but you better hurry. Iâm not going to wait forever.â
Jude wasnât sure how heâd let himself get roped into asking out Autumn Maddox, but if it kept Andrew from sniffing around her, heâd take it.
âI gotta get out of here. Busy day tomorrow.â Jude tossed back the last of his scotch in a hurry to get away from his friendâs too perceptive gaze. He stood, steadying his chair when it wobbled. He wasnât drunk â not exactly â but that last drink went down quick. Good thing he walked to Andrewâs. Otherwise heâd have to wait until he sobered up, or even worse, hitch a ride with one of his brothers. âLater,â he said, making his way to the door before anyone could say anything else about Autumn.
He didnât mean to walk past her house. Heâd had more to drink than usual, and he thought a walk would sober him up. It was cool, but not cold. Summer was over, and fall hadnât really begun yet. After the heat and smoke of Andrewâs place, the cool air helped clear his head.
He walked block after block replaying his reaction to his friendâs intention to date Autumn. It didnât make sense. He didnât know her, but his gut didnât seem to care. When he thought about her with Andrew, his stomach tightened.
And now heâd openly declared his own intention to ask her out.
He and Andrew never fought over women. One of them gave the other a look and they knew that one was off limits. It didnât require them to talk or share their feelings and up until tonight, it had worked beautifully. But he didnât have any illusions. If he didnât hurry up and ask Autumn out, Andrew would do it just to fuck with him. What were best friends for?
He didnât realize where his path had taken him until he looked up from his feet and into the window of Marion Maddoxâs pretty if slightly worn, Victorian. Unlike the stately homes nestled on the tree-lined streets in the older part of town or the few plantation houses like the one heâd grown up in that stood while the town spread around them like live oaks, the Maddox place was a little jewelry box of a house. The paint was peeling and the gingerbread trim had fallen off in places, but it was impossible to see the house and not picture what it must have looked like in its prime.
It wasnât the trim that held his attention. Silhouetted in the window, Autumn brushed her hair. The thin cotton gown she wore offered no obstacle to his hungry gaze. If anything, the shadow of the fabric, translucent in the light, accentuated her lush curves.
The soft swell of her breast. The way her waist dipped to meet the roundness of hip and gently curving bottom. Jude stood on the sidewalk transfixed. He should turn away. He knew he was seeing something private. She couldnât know how the single light from the dresser exposed her.
He should look away. He would; in just a minute heâd turn from the window and wind his way back to the apartment above his office.
She turned first, shifting her body sideways and raising her arm to brush her hair.
Sweet Jesus on the cross.
Her head tipped back as she drew the brush through her hair and the position showed the outline of her breast, the soft swell and pointed tip clearly visible beneath the cotton gown. His mouth actually watered.
Okay, heâd respect her privacy and turn away and then tomorrow heâd ask her out. Solid plan, turn and walk away. Just turn.
The brush froze mid-stroke, and Autumn turned to face him. Realizing how bad it would look to be caught leering at her from the sidewalk, Jude backed up fast. Too fast given the last scotch. He stumbled, catching himself before he fell, but it was enough time for her to reach the window and throw open the sash.
âWhat the hell do you think youâre doing out there?â She leaned out the window to stare at him. âJude? Jude Southerland, what are you doing peeking in my window?â
What was he supposed to say? I didnât mean to come here. I looked and you were there â the most beautiful woman Iâve ever seen. I wanted to turn away but I was spellbound.
âYou need to close your curtains. Anyone walking past here could see everything.â Smooth, very smooth. Sheâd definitely have dinner with him now. Christ, he ought to just call Andrew and tell him to go ahead; Jude was out of the equation. The thought made his fists clench.
She looked from the light on the dresser down to her nightgown. He could tell the moment she realized what sheâd been showing off because she wrapped her arms around her breasts, hugging herself tight. But she didnât back up or hide in shame.
âThat doesnât give you the right to stand on my sidewalk like some kind of peeping Tom, Dr. Southerland.â She punched the word doctor and he knew he was screwed. It was the same tone Mary, his mommaâs housekeeper, used to use on him or his brothers when theyâd tracked mud across her clean floors or eaten the pie that was meant for dinner.
It was no use arguing. Retreat seemed the best choice. Out of options, he bowed his head to her and turned and walked away without another word or backward glance.
This wasnât so hard. She could do this; seduce Jude into mind blowing sex with no commitment. Piece of cake.
She opened the door to the ancient fridge and bent to look inside. If only she had some cake. Looking harder didnât put more food in her refrigerator. Pizza, jug of cider and thanks to a late night snack and breakfast, a quarter of the pot pie from yesterday. Jude brought the beer and soda, and she had some wine. Her gaze landed on the plain white bakery box pushed to the back of the fridge by the pizza box. Apple dumplings. How could she forget those?
âI still donât have much in my fridge,â she called, tugging to try to get box with the apple dumplings past the pizza. âDo you want pizza orâ¦â She stood, clutching her treasure, and walked into Jude.
The box crunched between them, and he reached out to steady her. She looked down at the dented box and then up into his eyes, more green than brown in the kitchen light.
âPot pie?â she said, breathless.
âLater.â He took the box and set it on the table and looked down at her, scanning her face for a moment before his gaze rested on her mouth. He bent his head and brushed her already parted lips with a kiss that managed to be hungry and tender at the same time.
She melted into him, her hands sliding around his waist and up his back. The muscles of his back bunched under the worn cotton of his t-shirt as he hauled her up against him and kissed her senseless. She gave as good as she got, nipping his lip, tasting and teasing him, and smiled into his mouth when she felt him shudder under her hands.
He kissed her, moving her backwards until they bumped into the table. Nibbling along her jaw, he buried his face in her curls and kissed the tender skin behind her ear. Her head fell back so â please God â heâd do it again. He did, nipping, nibbling, and kissing his way along her neck from her ear to her collarbone.
It felt so good; she felt her own trembling start. Head back, eyes closed, defenseless under his mouth, she felt the world shift and then realized heâd lifted her in his arms. She reached out to brace herself as he sat her on the table between the bakery box and the bowl of apples. Sliding the box to the side, he caught her mouth and kissed her hard before pulling back to look at her.
He kept his eyes on hers and reached for the hem of her t-shirt, watching her face as he lifted her shirt revealing her blue lace bra. She held her breath and raised her arms so he could peel off the shirt. His eyes darkened from green to brown and his lips parted on a sigh. The expression on his face made the breath catch in her throat.
âMy God, you are beautiful.â
He traced a finger down her throat to the tops of her breasts and she clutched the edge of the table. Her breasts tightened under his teasing touch, nipples pebbling in anticipation. He kissed his way down her neck to her shoulder, sliding her bra strap down her arm and licking the mark it made on her skin.
She grabbed him and felt the solid strength of his bare arms under her hands. His head moved in front of her as he repeated the process with her other shoulder and she breathed in the scent of him, some kind of spicy citrus and warm man.
He kissed a path down the center of her chest until his warm breath tickled the tops of her breasts. He licked under the edge of the lace and her nipples tightened to impossible points, aching for the warmth of his mouth. Reaching for him, she tried to guide his head with her hands and let out a frustrated noise when the bra straps caught her arms.
âGot it,â he murmured against her skin.
He reached behind her and one by one she felt the hooks on her bra give way under his fingers. He stepped back and she shrugged loose from the blue lace, baring her breasts to him.
âSweet Jesus.â He whispered the words like a prayer.
Her chest flushed with heat and need. She clung to the edge of the table and arched her back, offering herself to him. One hand cradled her back while the other cupped her breast and then his mouth was on her and she lost her mind. He molded her breast with his hand while his hot mouth suckled her, drawing the tight peak deep into his mouth.
âSo good,â she groaned. âThat feels so good.â
She clutched at his arms, at his shoulders frantic for his mouth on her tender skin. Sliding her fingers into his hair, she held him to her and felt his hungry groan rumble through her nipple.
Ignoring the shifting of the old table, she scooted closer to the edge, wrapped her legs around him and pulled him tighter into the v of her body. It had been so long since sheâd been intimate with anyone and she wanted him so much. She felt her own wetness seeping through the yoga pants as she rocked into the long, thick length of him. With his mouth suckling her and his hard erection pressing against her hot, wet core, she could almost go off.
He released her nipple and she fought a disappointed whimper. Leaning back, he put enough space between them to slip his hand into her pants and inside her. Her disappointment turned into heat, flaring from her core and spreading through the rest of her body. She clenched around him, crying out as he curled two fingers inside her and stroked. He pressed small circles on her clit with his thumb while the strong slender fingers of his doctorâs hand found the spot just inside her opening and set up a rhythm which threatened to have her thrashing off the table.
She clutched at him, desperate, and tried to reach the button on his jeans. She wanted him inside her, wanted to feel him lose control with her, but he dodged, keeping just out of her reach.
âPlease, please,â she pleaded as his hand drove her relentlessly toward her climax.
âLet go, baby.â He bit her bottom lip, licking and teasing her with his tongue. When the orgasm crashed over her, he caught her cries with his mouth, kissing her and holding her tight while waves of pleasure rolled through her and she came apart in his arms.
When she was able to open her eyes he was staring at her, his eyes dark and glassy with desire. She felt him draw a deep shuddering breath and saw something which looked like uncertainty pass through his eyes.
âWill you let me in?â
âOf course.â She licked her lips still swollen from his kisses and reached for the button on his jeans.
He stepped back and she felt cool air replace the heat from his body. His hand cupped her face, tipping it up to look at him.
âNot just inside your body,â he said, his breath ragged. âWill you let me love you? Will you love me?â
What the hell kind of question was that? What did he mean? Her lust addled brain stuttered. He could not be asking for some kind of commitment from her. This was supposed to be just sex.
âWhat do you mean? You gave me the best orgasm Iâve had inâ¦well ever. Iâd buy you a pony if you asked me right now.â She reached for him again and this time when he pulled away she felt cold and vulnerable. Sitting up straighter, she reached for her shirt.
âDonât cover yourself; not yet. God, youâre so beautiful.â
âWell then take me upstairs.â She was so confused. Why would he want to look at her naked breasts, give her an amazing orgasm and not want to have sex with her? He was a doctor. Maybe it was a health thing. âI havenât been with anyone in over a year. Iâve been tested.â The test had been part of her companyâs new insurance plan, not because she had sex with anyone in â¦well too long to remember. âIâm clean.â Ugh. She hadnât meant it to sound like that. âI mean no diseases and Iâve got condoms.â She held the shirt in front of her and fought the urge to hide her head along with her breasts.
He pulled her into his arms and lifted her off the table. She thought theyâd go upstairs, although the talking had cooled some of her passion. Instead he held her tucked tight against his chest and kissed the top of her head. She felt his heart beat, warm and strong, through the thin cotton of his t-shirt and breathed in the scent of laundry soap and man. She also felt the hard length of his erection pressing into her belly. When she reached for him, he caught her hand.
âWhen we make love, itâs going to be making love. I want more than just your amazing body, Autumn. I want all of you.â She felt him swallow against the top of her head. âI donât know who broke your heart, but Iâm going to earn your trust. And we will make love.â
He wanted more. Sheâd finally decided to try sex without commitment and Jude Southerland, the one man she didnât believe she could have a future with, wanted a commitment. What the hell?
She turned her puzzled face up to him, determined to make some kind of sense out of this crazy situation, but he silenced her with a kiss. Her arms went around his neck and the press of their bodies kept her shirt from falling to the ground. She parted her lips, inviting him in and met his tongue with her own. He groaned, holding her head in his hands and crushing her mouth with his.
He took a shaky step back and her shirt hit the floor.
His expression looked pained and she almost pushed to get him to take her upstairs. But she didnât think she could take it if he rejected her again or worse gave her more earth shattering pleasure without letting her reciprocate. She crossed her arms over her breasts and watched him wrestle with himself.
âIâm sorry. Iâve got to get out of here before â¦Iâve got to get out of here. Iâll see you tomorrow,â he stuttered as he backed up to the door. He reached behind him for the handle but before he let himself out, he looked at her determined. âI will earn your trust, Autumn. And we will make love.â
He hurried out the door closing it behind him and she stood covering her naked breasts with her hands. Well just hell. She bent to snatch up her shirt and grabbed the mangled box of dumplings and a spoon.
Heâd lost his mind. That was the only answer that made sense. He had lost his ever loving mind. Autumn Maddox stood in front of him with her unbelievably gorgeous fucking breasts naked â in front of him â and heâd walked out the door. She wanted to have sex with him and he turned her down. What the hell was wrong with him?
She felt so good, so perfect in his arms. Heâd watched her blue eyes turn to sapphire when he peeled off her t-shirt and bared her magnificent breasts. And the way it felt to have her in his mouth. Jesus. Heâd suckled her and she arched, offering herself to him.
Sheâd pulled him to her, and heâd felt her hot and wet for him through those stretchy black pants, and he almost lost it, dry humping her like a horny teenager. He had to touch her. He had to claim her somehow. When he slid his fingers into her and she came apart in his arms, he almost followed her.
He had never wanted a woman more and he turned her down because suddenly he wanted more than just sex.
What the hell was wrong with him?
He slammed the car door and made the short drive to his cold, dark apartment. He didnât want to go home. Max was staying with Adam. He could go pick up his dog, but not without talking to his brother and there was no way he could explain what happened tonight to anyone in his family.
He didnât understand it himself. Since when did he have a problem having sex without a commitment? He didnât sleep around. He was careful and respectful, but usually his problem, if there was one, was avoiding hurting a partner who wanted something more serious than a good time. Now he was the one who wanted more.
He stomped up the stairs, feeling his hard-on throb with each step. He wouldnât be able to walk this one off. He tossed his shirt on the floor and reached for the button on his paint spattered jeans. It wasnât until he slid his jeans and shorts to the floor that he realized heâd forgotten his shoes. He driven the car and made it the whole way into his house without noticing his bare feet.
It was official. Heâd lost his mind.
He went into the bathroom, his still hard cock leading the way and turned on the shower. Not bothering to wait for it to get warm, he stepped under the spray and gasped as the cold water hit his back. He stood, letting the sting of the water pound against him until the ancient water heater kicked in.
When steam finally filled the shower, he reached for the shower gel and squirted some of the spicy citrus soap into his hand. He made quick work of washing his body. Turning his back to the spray, he rinsed off and let the hot water run off his scalp and down his back.
He closed his eyes and all he could see was Autumn, sitting on her kitchen table, breasts bare, her nipples tight and red from his mouth and her lips swollen and parted from his kisses. Autumn offering herself to him, pulling him into the hot v of her body. Autumn milking his fingers with her spasms as she came in his arms. Under his hands. Under his mouth.
He squirted more soap onto his palm and cupped his balls. Heâd been hard for so long they were tight against his body, aching for release. Tugging and soaping, he worked the wrinkled skin and imagined her small hands on him instead of his larger stronger ones.
His cock was so hard it throbbed with the beat of his heart. He grabbed it in his soapy hand and worked it up and down, stroking himself and wishing it was her hot mouth on him instead of his hands. In moments he groaned his release, but he was nowhere near satisfied. The only woman who could do that was alone in her own bed across town.
The soft glow of the lamp on the dresser lit the jade walls, turning the room into a celadon box. She pulled her hand from his and went to the window to close the lace curtains. When she turned to face him the naked desire in his eyes stopped her steps for a moment.
âMy God, youâre beautiful.â Taking two strides to meet her, he touched her hair and slid a finger almost reverently across her cheek. âLike something out of time.â He traced her neck and the edge of her dress with the back of his hand.
Everywhere his hand touched her skin bloomed to life, tremors of pleasure following the warmth of his fingers. When he cupped her face and drew her to him for a kiss, she melted against him. His hands slid from her cheeks to her hair and then down her back, pulling her even closer. She felt the hard length of him through the thin polished cotton of her skirt and instinctively fitted herself to him.
When he felt her press against him he groaned and the kiss took on a hungry, more desperate edge. Head tipped back, lips parted she gave herself over the fire building between them. The fire he stoked with his hands and lips and tongue.
He reached for her zipper again and this time he didnât stop himself. He tugged and she felt cool air hit her back as the fabric peeled away. His hand reached her waist and he pulled back so he could look into her eyes.
She gave a little shimmy and watched his hazel eyes dilate to dark brown as the bodice of the dress fell to her waist exposing her. The cherry red bra had been a good luck charm. Something only she knew about which made her feel confident and sexy. From the look in his eyes, it worked for him, too.
She reached behind her with both hands to finish unzipping her skirt. The position pushed her breasts forward in their lace demi-cups. Jude reached for her, catching her hands before she could finish with the zipper.
âLike this.â He held her wrists in his hand. âStay just like this.â
The command in his voice sent heat racing across her skin and then his mouth found her exposed throat and the heat flamed higher. Holding her in place, he worked his way down her neck to the sensitive skin of her collar bones, pausing to linger in the hollow at the base of her throat. She let her head fall back to give him better access and felt the delicious arch in her back and the press of her breasts against him.
Still holding her wrists in one hand, he skimmed her side with the other, leaving a trail of pebbled flesh in the wake of his touch. His kisses moved lower and his hand slid up until he was cupping her breast while he kissed the creamy skin above her bra, his tongue tracing a line along the lace.
His touch was teasing and light and everywhere but where she needed him most. She arched harder, pushing herself against his hand and mouth. Willing him to move closer to the taut peak. His thumb brushed her nipple and she made a small needy noise. When his tongue slid beneath the lace and found the puckered flesh, she cried out for him.
His tortured groan rumbled across her skin as he rested his forehead against her chest for a moment. She felt his ragged breathing and knew he wanted her as much as she wanted him.
âPlease,â she practically whimpered.
âNot yet, darling,â he said on a shaky breath.
He repeated the delicious torment with her other breast, finally sliding the strap off her shoulder and lifting her breast from the cup. With excruciating tenderness he pulled her aching flesh into his mouth. She couldnât catch her breath, taking short gasps as he suckled her.
âSo good, God. That feels so good.â
Spurred on by her words he sucked harder and she cried out for him, desperate to have him inside her. Her legs had to give out. She couldnât feel so much, be at the mercy of his hands and mouth and stay standing.
âBed, please,â she said on a gasp.
He pulled away and she almost cried at the loss of his hot mouth on her swollen nipple. His hands shook as he unfastened the clasps on her bra and slid the zipper down on her skirt. He watched, eyes dark with desire, as she shrugged out of her bra and let the dress pool at her feet.
âSweet Jesus on the cross.â He breathed the words like a prayer.
She stood naked except for her cherry red lace panties. The hunger in his gaze was more than enough reason to fight the urge to cover herself. Feeling the cool air on her skin, she basked in the heat of his gaze, forcing herself to stay still for a moment when all she wanted in the whole world was to reach for him.
âYou are so beautiful.â He dropped to his knees in front of her like a man struck and any insecurities sheâd ever had burned away in the naked hunger of his voice. His hands clasped her hips and he paused letting his head rest against the soft mound of her belly.
With her wrists free she could finally get her hands on him. Threading her fingers through his hair, she cradled his head against her. She felt him sigh and the sweet tenderness of simply touching him threatened to overwhelm her.
The kisses started out sweet almost reverent, just his lips tender and chaste tracing a line across her belly. Before long they grew hotter, wetter, more demanding. He hooked his thumbs under the lace and tugged off her panties. She knew heâd be able to tell how aroused she was. She didnât think sheâd ever been this excited or felt this much. When his fingers found her, sliding through her silky folds to her core, she thought sheâd fly apart.
He groaned. âSo wet, God, youâre so wet for me.â His words sent another rush of heat through her.
He slid first one then two fingers inside her and her hands gripped his shoulders. He blew across her mound teasing the tight, wet curls and then he kissed her open mouthed like she was something delicious to eat. His tongue teased and flicked across her tight bundle of nerves and pleasure bloomed and swelled inside her.
Starting a slow, steady, stroking rhythm with his fingers, he suckled her swollen needy flesh. Her fingers bit into his shoulders as she struggled to stay standing. Her breaths came in shallow gasps and wave after wave of pleasure built under the onslaught of his mouth and hands.
He drove her on, relentless in his demands for her pleasure and she felt the tightening that was at the same time familiar and completely new.
âIâm close. Please. I want you inside me.â
She felt him groan against her sensitive flesh but the pace of his fingers inside her never slowed. She didnât want to come again without him. She didnât think she could take a repeat of Sunday, but her body didnât care. Jude curled his fingers to stroke the rough patch of skin inside her tight channel and nibbled and licked the tight bundle of nerves.
Before she could protest again, pleasure uncoiled and whipped through her. Her climax stole her breath and made her legs go weak, the trembling in her limbs threatening to knock her off balance. Using his hands and mouth he drew out every last bit of her orgasm.
When the tremors finally started to subside, he stood and kissed her. She tasted herself on his lips and the heat flared again. Gently, he guided her until the back of her knees hit the edge of the bed. He pushed her down and she climbed into the center of the bed.
Naked, her body still pulsing with the lingering aftershocks of her climax, she looked up at him with eyes heavy-lidded with desire. She wanted him more than sheâd ever wanted anyone, more than she thought was possible.
âTake off your clothes.â She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth and he moved like a man inspired, stripping off his shirt. He kicked off his shoes and slid his pants and boxers to the floor. When his erection sprang free, long and thick and hard, she licked her lips and reached for him. He groaned as her hand closed around him, all velvet covered steel.
âNot this time,â he said, peeling her fingers away. âI have got to be inside you.â
She lay back on top of the patchwork quilt and opened herself for him. He made a strangled sound and then he was on the bed with her, rolling protection down his length. He palmed her bottom, raising her hips and in one smooth movement, he slid into her.
âJesus, God,â he said and then he started to move, long smooth strokes which touched every part of her. âIâm not going to last.â He groaned but it didnât matter. She was already spiraling up to another delicious climax. When she felt the tightening start again, she leaned up and nipped at his throat.
âLet go,â she panted. âCome with me. Now.â
She felt his climax build, felt him swell and then pulse deep inside her, and then she was coming too, fracturing and shattering into a million pieces in the strength of his arms.
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Feels Like Love
Chef Bailey Southerland canât get any satisfaction â at least not in the way that really matters. Sheâs got family and friends she adores and a promising career, but her love life is like a soufflÃ© that never managed to rise. When the mouthwatering writer with his clear blue eyes and easy, open manner moves into the cottage down the hill, it looks like things might finally be going her way. She doesnât need him to be Mr. Right, but he has all the makings of a fantastic Mr. Right Now.
Badly burned by love, Trace Campbell tried to convince himself heâs content being just friends with his gorgeous neighbor, Bailey. If he canât get his hands on her at least he can sink them in the soil and grow the produce on his farm that she needs for her restaurant, spending time with her while keeping her at a safe distance. But strawberries are a poor substitute for mind-numbing kisses and when another man shows up and itâs obvious heâs interested in more than Baileyâs cooking, Trace has to dig his head out of the dirt and put his heart on the line or risk losing the woman he loves.
Badly burned by love, Trace Campbell tried to convince himself heâs content being just friends with his gorgeous neighbor, Bailey. If he canât get his hands on her at least he can sink them in the soil and grow the produce on his farm that she needs for her restaurant, spending time with her while keeping her at a safe distance. But strawberries are a poor substitute for mind-numbing kisses and when another man shows up and itâs obvious heâs interested in more than Baileyâs cooking, Trace has to dig his head out of the dirt and put his heart on the line or risk losing the woman he loves.
Feels Like Love
Bailey prepped vegetables for that nightâs dinner while Jen shaped the yeasty rolls.
âSo tell me again,â said Jen, smoothing the small ball of dough with her hands and setting on the tray with the others to rise. âYou went for your walk at your normal freakishly early time and Spencer was waiting for you?â
âOn the porch, sipping coffee. I didnât even know they rented out the Newport Cottage.â
âNot the point.â Jen started on the second tray of rolls. It was always a guess as to how many to make. Sunday dinner could be busy and they didnât want to run out, but they were closed the next three days. Any rolls they had left over wouldnât even be good for croutons by Thursday. âI canât imagine voluntarily waking up early for, well anything. And he got up just to see you. Hot damn.â
âNot a fair comparison. You wouldnât get up early because the kids never let you sleep.â Bailey peeled the woody end of the asparagus spear and stood it next to the others in the bowl of water.
âTrue, but still that means he likes you. A lot.â
âMaybe. Maybe he just wanted an early morning walk,â she said yet she couldnât help but smile. It felt good to have someoneâs interest without having to work so hard for it.
âHmpf,â Jen snorted. âHe likes you and heâs yummy. Really yummy. You could grab handfuls of that wavy hair and get beard burn on your inner thighs.â She paused for a moment, holding a ball of dough and lost in her own thoughts.
âWell you could. Question is, are you gonna? And what about Trace?â
âWhat about Trace? Heâs never going to make a move and Iâve done everything but flash my breasts at him like a biker chick. I couldnât have been more obvious. Trace is not going to happen.â She heard the wistfulness in her voice and stomped it down mercilessly.
âOkay maybe, but I still think heâll get around to it. I know he likes you. He just moves slowly.â
Bailey knew they were alone, but she glanced around anyway before she spoke. Sheâd confided in Jen years ago, but that didnât mean she wanted the rest of the world to know she was the oldest living virgin outside of a convent.
She hadnât planned it. She liked sex â at least she was sure she would when she got around to actually having it. She and her vibrator were good friends and she kept a backup supply of batteries.
Back in high school sheâd seen one too many of the girls she knew have their lives derailed by an unplanned pregnancy. That and the fact gossip spread faster than lice in the small town she grew up in and her brothers would kill anyone she had sex with was effective birth control.
By the time she arrived at culinary school, sheâd been so focused on her career, she hadnât taken much time for a social life. And the half drunken fumbles with the few guys sheâd gotten close with hadnât given her much hope for the act itself. Then there was the restaurant and all the work and worry to make it a success. She decided to wait for a grown man, but no one had shown up. Not until Trace.
She really had thought he was the one. Someone she could explore sex with and someone she could trust. Maybe even give her heart to.
It didnât look like that was going to happen, and she was done waiting.
âHow much time am I supposed to give it?â she asked, looking up from the asparagus to stare at Jen. âIâm twenty-five. Iâm so far past the time when most people do it, itâs started to turn into this big weird thing. Enough already. Iâm done waiting for someone who may never come around. He might not even like me that way.â
âHe likes you like that,â Jen said with an eye roll.
Bailey glared at her and Jen held her flour covered hands up in surrender.
âOkay, okay, so give up on the farmer for now and do the hot writer. Everyoneâs first time is rubbish anyway. Practice until you get it right with Spencer and then move on. Unless you think it could be something more.â
âGod no. I mean I like him. I think I could really like him and there is definitely a zing there.â She thought about how just holding hands with Spencer made her body react. Definitely a zing. âBut heâs going back to the city. I live here.â
âPeople move,â said Jen. She moved the second tray of rolls to the other counter and covered it with a towel.
âNot me, and he doesnât strike me as someone who would be happy living on top of a mountain. Why are we talking about this anyway?â She put the last asparagus spear into the bowl with the others and went to place it back into the walk-in cooler. The heavy door closed behind her and she missed Jenâs response. She set the bowl on one of the wire shelves and picked up a box of grass fed beef she planned to break down for that nightâs special. âBesides,â she said, opening the cooler door with her hip and hefting the heavy box in her arms. âIâm not looking for a long term commitment.â
She glanced up in time to avoid running into Trace as he set the plastic tub of produce, including more strawberries than she knew what to do with, onto the metal work table. He turned to face her, his arms full of pale pink peonies.
âWhat kind of commitment?â he asked.
Behind him she saw Jen mouthing the words âtell him.â She had obviously lost her mind.
âNothing, nothing important,â Bailey said. She took a step closer so she could smell the sweet, feminine scent of the flowers. âOh, these are so beautiful.â She stroked the soft petals of a grapefruit sized bloom. âYou must have a ton of them if you can bring me this many and still have enough for market on Tuesday.â
âI wanted you to have them.â He held the galvanized pot out to her and she took it in her arms, losing herself for a moment in the overwhelming abundance of flowers.
Jen mouthed âtold youâ and made kissing faces. Bailey turned so she couldnât see her friend. âI love them. Peonies are my favorite. Thank you.â She set the flowers on the counter to admire. âTheyâre perfect in that pot, too. Thereâs more than enough here to do all the tables in the restaurant.â
âI thought maybe youâd want some for upstairs, too.â
Trace looked so pleased with her reaction to the blooms, she reached out to catch his hand. He didnât pull away like he usually did. He held her hand for a moment in his much larger one, warm and rough from working in the earth. Heat flared low in her belly and she sucked in a breath.
âI better get out of here,â he said. âLet you get ready for dinner.â It took another moment before he let go of her hand a turned to go.
Jen looked over her shoulder to make sure Trace had closed the door behind him. âI told you he liked you like that.â
Bailey ignored her and went to collect the vases from the dining room, more confused than sheâd been when she started.
Trace looked at his almost naked peony bushes, just shadowy mounds in the gray dawn and grimaced. God, after what sheâd seen yesterday, he wouldnât be surprised if Bailey had thrown away all the flowers heâd given her. Unless she was too busy with the writer to even notice.
It didnât matter how he looked at it or tried to spin it for himself. This was a disaster. Heâd avoided what he wanted the most, kept Bailey at armâs length, so he wouldnât lose her. Now, with one stupid misunderstanding, heâd pushed her into the other manâs arms.
He met Jake coming back from the asparagus beds, his arms loaded down with a tub of the tender green spears. Together they walked to the barn and started wrapping the asparagus into bundles. They didnât talk. There wasnât any need to, and Trace had learned long ago that even though he liked to get up before the sun and watch the world wake up, most people didnât.
They stacked the bundles upright in the tub and Jake poured some water in the bottom to keep them fresh. This early in the season, his customers at the market were so grateful for fresh produce, the asparagus would be gone before lunch. Trace grabbed one of the boxes of greens the interns picked that morning and carried it out to the truck.
He met Amanda coming out of the chicken yard loaded down with a basket of eggs. She froze when she saw him and stood, chewing on her lip.
âIâm sorry about yesterday,â she said, dancing from foot to foot in the cool morning air. âI guess I misunderstood some things.â
âYes, you did.â His voice was harsh and unyielding and even in the dim light he saw her face fall. âItâs okay,â he said, deliberately softening his tone. âWe can pretend it never happened.â
Her grin lit the darkness and for a moment at least, he felt like less of an asshole. Although why he should be the one feeling like a jerk was beyond him. He hadnât been the one doing the kissing.
âGreat! Thanks so much.â She turned and practically bounced off to the barn, swinging the basket in front of her.
âDonât break the eggs!â
It took longer than he thought it would to finish loading the truck, and by the time he and Amanda and another intern named Jane were on the road to the farmerâs market the sun was almost up. It was so early in the growing season, the start of the abundance which continued through the summer and into early fall. It amazed him what he managed to gather from his farm before spring was even in full swing.
Jake had stayed behind to supervise the two remaining interns and get the restaurant orders ready. He and the young women had to hustle to get the vegetables out and showcased before the crowd showed up to shop before work. Heâd just finished stacking big bunches of bright red rhubarb next to the quarts of strawberries in their green paperboard cartons when he saw her.
He knew sheâd come. She always did and part of him had been counting on having a chance to see her. To show her there wasnât anything going on with Amanda. He hadnât counted on Bailey showing up first thing in the morning with the writer guy.
Did that mean they had met early for the drive down the mountain? Spencer hadnât struck him as an early riser. Or had Bailey rolled over in his arms this morning and nudged him awake? The image of her naked and warm nestled against the writerâs chest, her hair a sexy mess and her lips swollen from his kisses was so clear Trace clenched his hands, crushing the carton of berries he held.
âGod damn it!â Sticky red juice ran down his fingers.
At the sound of his voice, Bailey turned and her gaze caught his. As he watched, she reached for Spencerâs hand, raising her chin defiantly.
Perfect. Just fucking perfect.
He set the ruined carton of berries on the ground at his feet. When he stood, Bailey and the writer were making their way to his stall.
âHey Trace,â she said, her voice artificially bright.
âBailey. Spence.â God, he hated that guy with his fake work shirts and clean hands. Hands which had touched Bailey. Hands which were touching her now.
âSpencer,â the other man said, stepping behind Bailey and resting his hands possessively on her shoulders. âBailey brought me here to help me fill my kitchen. Although sheâs probably going to have to show me how to cook, too.â
His thumbs stroked Baileyâs neck, running up and down over the soft skin peeking out from behind her hair. It was like a train wreck and Trace couldnât manage to look away.
âI didnât know the rooms at the lodge had kitchens or are you heading home?â He couldnât keep the hopeful note out of his voice.
âNo. I found a reason to stick around for a while.â He smiled down at Bailey and Trace clenched his fist to keep from punching the guy. âI moved into one of the cottages so Iâd have more room.â
âThese are nice,â Bailey said, deliberately ignoring both men to concentrate on the asparagus.
âPick out whatever you think we need,â said Spencer. âBe sure to get some of these.â He picked up a carton of strawberries. âI miss out on them yesterday, and I want them tonight. We can find some place to get chocolate to go with them.â
Fucking writer was planning to seduce the woman he loved with his own strawberries.
For the first time since they arrived at the stall, Bailey looked uncomfortable. She stared at Trace but when he didnât speak, she looked over her shoulder and smiled at Spencer.
âSounds good,â she said, trading the carton in his hands for one with better berries. âWeâll need a dozen eggs and some greens, too.â
âOf course,â said Trace. âIâll get Amanda to help you.â
Trace called Amanda over and walked away before he put his fist through Spenceâs face.
Someone had left the kitchen light on, presumably for him, but there was no sign of anyone when Trace went into the house. The senior Southerlands must have gone to bed already to get ready for their early departure. He didnât expect anyone to wait up for him, but he wished heâd thought ahead to ask where he was supposed to sleep.
Slipping off his boots, he stretched out on the sofa. The leather was soft and there were throw pillows and some sort of knit blanket on the back. Heâd certainly slept in worse places. He closed his eyes with Judeâs âabsolutelyâ echoing in his head, but the sound of womenâs laughter filtered down from upstairs.
He couldnât hear well enough to tell what they were laughing about, but he was glad after the stress of the day, that the Southerlands had found something to make them laugh. That Bailey replaced her haunted look with laughter, even if imagining her in an upstairs bedroom giggling with her sisters was going to make it damn near impossible for him to fall asleep.
He closed his eyes and a moment later heard the sound of a door opening and shutting and footsteps on the stairs. He managed to sit up just in time to see Bailey coming down the stairs, wearing a T-shirt and soft cotton shorts, back lit by the light from the stairwell.
She wasnât indecent. She had on more clothing than some women wore to go out in public, but she wasnât some woman. The thin cotton did nothing to hide the silhouette of her ample curves and his hands practically itched to stroke the small of her back, feel the rise of her hip, and cup the swell of her breast. Bailey saw him watching her in the dark and stumbled.
âIâm sorry. I didnât know you were back,â she said, catching herself. âDid you have a good time?â
âI did,â he said, his mouth suddenly dry. She was coming closer and he was becoming painfully aware of how little there was between Baileyâs sweet flesh and his hands. âIâm not sure what to do with that.â He pointed to the bandana filled with nickels sitting on the coffee table.
âYou beat them,â she said delighted.
He grinned back at her. God, heâd give anything to see that look on her face every day.
âIf you really donât want them, you could leave them for Abby. Sheâd love them. Summerâs little girl,â she said when he didnât answer.
âOh, the sweet little thing from the engagement party who kept telling me she was going to be a flower girl,â he said, smiling at the memory of the little girl leading the black dog as tall as she was around the party.
âThatâs the one,â said Bailey, settling next to him on the sofa.
Sitting this close to her, he could tell she wasnât wearing a bra, the outline of the tight peaks of her breasts clearly visible through the pale pink T-shirt. He had a quick flash of bending to take her into his mouth, suckling her through the damp cotton and his mouth actually watered. He was so lost in his day-dream, it took him a moment to realize, sheâd said something to him and was waiting for his answer.
âIâm sorry,â he said, shaking his head desperate to clear it and willing his body back under control. âWhat did you say?â
âIâm the one whoâs sorry,â she said, laying a hand on his leg.
How could she not know the effect she had on him? His cock strained like it had a mind of its own, trying to get closer to Bailey.
âItâs been a long day. You must be tired and here I am keeping you awake.â She gave his thigh a squeeze and he sucked in his breath. âI just said I could see that Abby got them and tell her they were from you if you want.â
âGreat,â he said, his voice sounding unsteady. âThat would be great.â
âLet me take you to your bed,â she said. âThe carriage house is ready for you. Unless youâre hungry.â
His tongue felt thick and unwieldy in his mouth and her words had all his remaining blood heading south. He couldnât manage even a no so he shook his head so sheâd know he didnât want to eat.
âCome on,â she said, standing and reaching for his hand.
Saying a silent prayer of thanks for the dark so she wouldnât see how hard he was, Trace took her hand and followed her to the door. His mouth finally unfroze when she turned the knob to go outside.
âYou canât go out like that,â he said. âYouâll freeze. You donât even have shoes on.â
She looked down at her feet and his and grinned. âNeither do you.â
In his hurry to follow her, Trace had forgotten to slip into his boots.
âItâs not the same.â
âPlease,â she said, hand on her hip. âFeet are feet. Donât be a baby. Itâs not far.â
She scooted away from him and was out the door before he could say anything else. Frustration warring with desire, he grabbed a sweatshirt from the hook beside the door and followed her outside.
The cool air hit him as soon as he stepped outside and he could tell by the way Bailey wrapped her arms around herself that she felt it, too. Damn infuriating woman. He stepped gingerly across the gravel and before she could protest, he wrapped the sweatshirt around her and scooped her up in his arms. She laughed and swatted at him as he carried her the remaining few yards to the carriage house door.
âPut me down,â she said, gasping for breath.
âInside,â he growled, shifting so he could turn the knob and back through the door with her in his arms.
As soon as he bumped the door closed with his hip, he set her down. Her body slid the length of his and he knew there was no way sheâd miss feeling how turned on he was. Maybe that was a good thing because he sure as hell wasnât taking her home tomorrow to go back to the writerâs bed. Her feet touched the floor but he kept his arms around her, one hand holding the base of her skull, the other at the small of her back, pressing her closer.
He looked into her wide eyes and saw his whole world reflected there in the dim light streaming in through the windows. Bailey Southerland was everything he wanted â everything he needed â and he was done trying to pretend he could live without her. He slid his hand up her back, tangling his fingers in her soft curls and then he took her mouth in a kiss which held years of pent up desire.
She tasted sweeter than heâd imagined, her lips soft and warm under his and when he tugged at her full bottom lip with his teeth, she opened for him with a sigh. He was lost, overwhelmed by desire and practically shaking because he couldnât get his hands on her fast enough.
Her tongue met his in a teasing, tangling dance that aroused his hunger for her, but did nothing to sate it. He held her head in his hands, cupping it in a way that showed how very precious she was to him, and his world narrowed to the single focus of kissing Bailey. Tasting Bailey. Loving Bailey.
He tipped her head so he could work his way along her jaw to the tender skin behind her ear. When he nipped at her earlobe, she trembled in his arms. Desperate for her, he slid his hands under the soft cotton hem of her T-shirt and over the warm skin of her sides to â dear God â her naked breasts, full and heavy in his hands.
He groaned with the pure pleasure of feeling her nipples tighten under his thumbs. Pushing her T-shirt up, he wrapped an arm around her waist holding her in place for him while the other hand cupped her breast. Bending, he took her in his mouth and suckled her, her nipple impossibly tight and impossibly sweet on his tongue. Her cries had his cock straining at the denim of his jeans and he had a flash of worry that he would come just from the simple joy of having his mouth on her flesh.
He drew her nipple into his mouth, molding her with his lips and tongue, pausing only to move from one breast to the other. She arched in his arms, offering herself to him, threading her fingers in his hair and holding him to her breast. When he slipped his hand under the elastic waist of her shorts and found out she wasnât wearing panties, he groaned with sweet torment, his mouth still around her nipple. Sliding a finger through her damp curls, he parted her lips and found her wet, slick and hot. For him.
Using the tip of his finger he teased circles around the tight bud of her clit. Continuing to stroke her swollen flesh, he ran a trail of kisses up her throat and along her jaw. Claiming her lips as he drove her on, he caught her cries of pleasure with his mouth and drank them in with the intoxicating taste and feel of her.
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Hi! My name is Evelyn Adams and I write sexy contemporary and erotic romance. My first full length collection, the Southern Heart Series, was released this spring. It is about the Southerlands, a large southern family, living and loving in my adopted home of Virginia.
Over twenty years ago, I moved south and like the worst of the Yankees I stayed. I fell in love with the place and a man, got married and had three beautiful children â my own boys of the South. Iâve lived south of the Mason Dixon for over half of my life and almost all of my adult life, so when I was looking for a place to set my novels, the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains was a perfect fit.
I love the pace of life here, sweet peas growing alongside the road, homemade sweet tea, biscuits and gravy, cheesy grits and the charm of a soft southern drawl. And for a girl who grew up in Amish country surrounded by farmland, the mountains I can see from my home take my breath away. My husband and I regularly take our boys up the Blue Ridge Parkway to climb the Peaks of Otter. The view is spectacular. Itâs one of the reasons I set Jude and Autumnâs first kiss there in Feels Like Home.
Book two, Feels Like Love is set at Mountain Lake, a short drive south from where I live and the place where they filmed Dirty Dancing. You can see the gazebo where Baby and her father had the âYou disappointed me too, Daddyâ conversation and have lunch in the inn where the famous dance scene was filmed. My sister and I visited when she was in college at Virginia Tech and later when I was researching for the book, I took my youngest for the day to walk around the lake bed and explore the ancient hemlocks.
It looks just like you would imagine, except that most of the lake is gone. Without geeking out too badly â which I can easily do, find me, weâll have wine and talk about it â a seismic shift causes the lake drain and refill periodically. Itâs very cool and it was the perfect place for Bailey and Trace to fall in love.
When Iâm not writing, which isnât very often, I love to cook â I can finally make more than passable biscuits â and garden. But one of my favorite things to do, when I get a break from chasing the minions, is to read. I love to lose myself in a great story and fall in love all over again with a new set of characters. I would be honored to be able to do that for you.
Thanks for having me!