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, he’s easily the town’s most eligible bachelor – 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 won’t 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
“I fold.” Andrew laid his cards on the table and picked up his scotch.
“I’m out,” said Jude, waving away a haze of cigar smoke. “I’ve had crap all night.”
“I call, little brother. Show me what you got.” Adam and Blake were Jude’s younger twin brothers, but Adam insisted being born first made Blake the younger brother.
“Full house,” said Blake. “I’ll take these.” He scooped up the pile of nickels.
“Any more wings?” Adam picked up the empty bowl and headed into Andrew’s kitchen.
“In the oven. Y’all are grown men, how can you still eat like seventeen year olds?” Andrew followed the twins into the kitchen.
“High metabolism.” Blake grabbed a bag of chips and another beer and Jude rolled his eyes.
“I have a very active job,” said Adam.
“Chase many bad guys through the mean streets of downtown lately?” asked Jude.
“Funny.” Adam dumped a cookie sheet of wings into the bowl and grabbed his own beer.
“Wait until you’re on the other side of thirty-five. That’s when it all changes,” said Andrew, taking a puff on his cigar. “High metabolism my ass.”
“Speak for yourself.” Jude took a swallow of scotch. His apartment above the doctor’s office was a couple of blocks away from Andrew’s house. He usually walked to their weekly poker games so he didn’t have to worry about driving after. They’d 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.
“I’m gonna ask Autumn Maddox out for dinner,” Andrew declared as he sat back down at the table.
Jude breathed in his scotch and choked. “Easy old man.” Blake pounded on his back.
“Enough,” Jude said on a cough, moving away from his brother’s fist. “I’m okay. Why Autumn?” He knew why. It’d been two weeks since he almost ran her down and he hadn’t been able to forget her. He could still see her impossibly blue eyes and remember the way she smelled – flowers and something warmer, spicier. He did not want to think about his best friend with the woman he couldn’t get out of his head.
“What do you mean why?” Andrew’s brow creased.
“Maddox? Not Colin Maddox’s sister?” asked Adam.
“Yeah, Marion Maddox’s granddaughter,” said Andrew. “Her gran left her the house. I’m handling the estate.”
“Colin Maddox is bad news. I’ve brought him in a half dozen times – everything from domestic abuse to minor drug charges. He’s never done real time, but he should have.”
“She’s Emory Smith’s sister.” With as much time as he’d spent thinking about her the past two weeks he couldn’t believe he hadn’t put it together sooner.
“Maybe. She has an older brother and sister named Smith. But I don’t remember seeing an Emory on the papers,” said Andrew. “Oh god, the guy from our senior year. The one who killed himself and his little brother in that crash out on Route forty?”
Jude nodded, still a little shocked. He couldn’t imagine losing any of his brothers or sisters like that. Let alone two at one time. It must have devastated her.
“Family sounds like bad news.” Blake set the bag of chips on the table, picked up the cards and started to shuffle. “Colin was a prick in school.”
The angry sullen man with the girlfriend in the miniskirt and hooker heels from the funeral didn’t seem to have much in common with the pretty charming young woman he’d met in Andrew’s office. She had even less in common with the reckless kid he barely remembered from senior year.
“Maybe, but Autumn is something special.” Andrew took a sip of scotch and leaned back in his chair. “She’s sweet, funny and gorgeous. She has the bluest eyes and dark, sexy curls perfect for sinking your fingers into.”
Jude hated listening to his friend reduce Autumn to a list a characteristics, yet he couldn’t help but nod in agreement. Those blue eyes had shown up in his dreams on more than one occasion in the past few weeks.
“God, and that body. Lush curves and eminently fuckable.”
Blake and Adam murmured their appreciation at Andrew’s 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 didn’t have any reason to think she liked him let alone liked him like that.
“Yep.” Andrew nodded. “I’m going to take her out for dinner and anything else she’s up for.”
“No.” He didn’t shout, but the word held enough force to have the three other men turning to look at Jude, eyebrows raised.
“Something I should know?” Andrew stared at him, waiting.
Jude stammered, trying to find something to say that would take the focus off of his reaction. “I just meant she’s not planning on staying in town, is she? Her whole life is back in the city.”
“I don’t know about that. She didn’t seem in a hurry to get back to whatever she left.” Andrew looked at him, still puzzled. “And I wasn’t talking about marriage, just having a little fun. She looks like she’d be a lot of fun.”
Jude’s hands clenched and his jaw tightened. There was no way Andrew was going to be “having a little fun” with Autumn. Not if he had anything to say about it.
“Aren’t you tired of using women for sex?”
The twins choked in tandem on their beers.
“Why on God’s green earth would he be tired of that?” 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 – if there were any – rarely went beyond minor disappointments. But the idea of Autumn being someone’s good time was more than he could stand. He flexed his fists and gritted his teeth.
“You like her.” Andrew looked at him, appraising. “I didn’t think you even knew her.”
“I don’t. I just met her.”
“Doesn’t matter,” said Andrew, shaking his head. “You like her. Fine, if you want her, I won‘t ask her out, but you better hurry. I’m not going to wait forever.”
Jude wasn’t sure how he’d let himself get roped into asking out Autumn Maddox, but if it kept Andrew from sniffing around her, he’d take it.
“I gotta get out of here. Busy day tomorrow.” Jude tossed back the last of his scotch in a hurry to get away from his friend’s too perceptive gaze. He stood, steadying his chair when it wobbled. He wasn’t drunk – not exactly – but that last drink went down quick. Good thing he walked to Andrew’s. Otherwise he’d have to wait until he sobered up, or even worse, hitch a ride with one of his brothers. “Later,” he said, making his way to the door before anyone could say anything else about Autumn.
He didn’t mean to walk past her house. He’d 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 hadn’t really begun yet. After the heat and smoke of Andrew’s place, the cool air helped clear his head.
He walked block after block replaying his reaction to his friend’s intention to date Autumn. It didn’t make sense. He didn’t know her, but his gut didn’t seem to care. When he thought about her with Andrew, his stomach tightened.
And now he’d 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 didn’t require them to talk or share their feelings and up until tonight, it had worked beautifully. But he didn’t have any illusions. If he didn’t hurry up and ask Autumn out, Andrew would do it just to fuck with him. What were best friends for?
He didn’t realize where his path had taken him until he looked up from his feet and into the window of Marion Maddox’s 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 he’d 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 wasn’t 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 couldn’t know how the single light from the dresser exposed her.
He should look away. He would; in just a minute he’d 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, he’d respect her privacy and turn away and then tomorrow he’d 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.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing out there?” She leaned out the window to stare at him. “Jude? Jude Southerland, what are you doing peeking in my window?”
What was he supposed to say? I didn’t mean to come here. I looked and you were there – the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. I wanted to turn away but I was spellbound.
“You need to close your curtains. Anyone walking past here could see everything.” Smooth, very smooth. She’d 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 she’d been showing off because she wrapped her arms around her breasts, hugging herself tight. But she didn’t back up or hide in shame.
“That doesn’t give you the right to stand on my sidewalk like some kind of peeping Tom, Dr. Southerland.” She punched the word doctor and he knew he was screwed. It was the same tone Mary, his momma’s housekeeper, used to use on him or his brothers when they’d 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 wasn’t 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 didn’t 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?
“I still don’t have much in my fridge,” she called, tugging to try to get box with the apple dumplings past the pizza. “Do you want pizza or…” 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.
“Pot pie?” she said, breathless.
“Later.” 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 – please God – he’d 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 he’d 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.
“My God, you are beautiful.”
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.
“Got it,” 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.
“Sweet Jesus.” 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.
“So good,” she groaned. “That feels so good.”
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 she’d 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 doctor’s 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.
“Please, please,” she pleaded as his hand drove her relentlessly toward her climax.
“Let go, baby.” 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.
“Will you let me in?”
“Of course.” 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.
“Not just inside your body,” he said, his breath ragged. “Will you let me love you? Will you love me?”
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.
“What do you mean? You gave me the best orgasm I’ve had in…well ever. I’d buy you a pony if you asked me right now.” 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.
“Don’t cover yourself; not yet. God, you’re so beautiful.”
“Well then take me upstairs.” 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. “I haven’t been with anyone in over a year. I’ve been tested.” The test had been part of her company’s new insurance plan, not because she had sex with anyone in …well too long to remember. “I’m clean.” Ugh. She hadn’t meant it to sound like that. “I mean no diseases and I’ve got condoms.” 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 they’d 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.
“When we make love, it’s going to be making love. I want more than just your amazing body, Autumn. I want all of you.” She felt him swallow against the top of her head. “I don’t know who broke your heart, but I’m going to earn your trust. And we will make love.”
He wanted more. She’d finally decided to try sex without commitment and Jude Southerland, the one man she didn’t 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 didn’t 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.
“I’m sorry. I’ve got to get out of here before …I’ve got to get out of here. I’ll see you tomorrow,” 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. “I will earn your trust, Autumn. And we will make love.”
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.
He’d 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 – in front of him – and he’d 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. He’d 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. He’d suckled her and she arched, offering herself to him.
She’d pulled him to her, and he’d 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 didn’t 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 didn’t understand it himself. Since when did he have a problem having sex without a commitment? He didn’t 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 wouldn’t 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 wasn’t until he slid his jeans and shorts to the floor that he realized he’d forgotten his shoes. He driven the car and made it the whole way into his house without noticing his bare feet.
It was official. He’d 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. He’d 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.
Feels Like Love
Chef Bailey Southerland can’t get any satisfaction – at least not in the way that really matters. She’s got family and friends she adores and a promising career, but her love life is like a soufflé 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 doesn’t 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 he’s content being just friends with his gorgeous neighbor, Bailey. If he can’t 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 it’s obvious he’s interested in more than Bailey’s 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 night’s dinner while Jen shaped the yeasty rolls.
“So tell me again,” said Jen, smoothing the small ball of dough with her hands and setting on the tray with the others to rise. “You went for your walk at your normal freakishly early time and Spencer was waiting for you?”
“On the porch, sipping coffee. I didn’t even know they rented out the Newport Cottage.”
“Not the point.” 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 didn’t want to run out, but they were closed the next three days. Any rolls they had left over wouldn’t even be good for croutons by Thursday. “I can’t imagine voluntarily waking up early for, well anything. And he got up just to see you. Hot damn.”
“Not a fair comparison. You wouldn’t get up early because the kids never let you sleep.” Bailey peeled the woody end of the asparagus spear and stood it next to the others in the bowl of water.
“True, but still that means he likes you. A lot.”
“Maybe. Maybe he just wanted an early morning walk,” she said yet she couldn’t help but smile. It felt good to have someone’s interest without having to work so hard for it.
“Hmpf,” Jen snorted. “He likes you and he’s yummy. Really yummy. You could grab handfuls of that wavy hair and get beard burn on your inner thighs.” She paused for a moment, holding a ball of dough and lost in her own thoughts.
“Well you could. Question is, are you gonna? And what about Trace?”
“What about Trace? He’s never going to make a move and I’ve done everything but flash my breasts at him like a biker chick. I couldn’t have been more obvious. Trace is not going to happen.” She heard the wistfulness in her voice and stomped it down mercilessly.
“Okay maybe, but I still think he’ll get around to it. I know he likes you. He just moves slowly.”
Bailey knew they were alone, but she glanced around anyway before she spoke. She’d confided in Jen years ago, but that didn’t mean she wanted the rest of the world to know she was the oldest living virgin outside of a convent.
She hadn’t planned it. She liked sex – 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 she’d 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, she’d been so focused on her career, she hadn’t taken much time for a social life. And the half drunken fumbles with the few guys she’d gotten close with hadn’t 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 didn’t look like that was going to happen, and she was done waiting.
“How much time am I supposed to give it?” she asked, looking up from the asparagus to stare at Jen. “I’m twenty-five. I’m so far past the time when most people do it, it’s started to turn into this big weird thing. Enough already. I’m done waiting for someone who may never come around. He might not even like me that way.”
“He likes you like that,” Jen said with an eye roll.
Bailey glared at her and Jen held her flour covered hands up in surrender.
“Okay, okay, so give up on the farmer for now and do the hot writer. Everyone’s 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.”
“God no. I mean I like him. I think I could really like him and there is definitely a zing there.” She thought about how just holding hands with Spencer made her body react. Definitely a zing. “But he’s going back to the city. I live here.”
“People move,” said Jen. She moved the second tray of rolls to the other counter and covered it with a towel.
“Not me, and he doesn’t strike me as someone who would be happy living on top of a mountain. Why are we talking about this anyway?” 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 Jen’s 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 night’s special. “Besides,” she said, opening the cooler door with her hip and hefting the heavy box in her arms. “I’m not looking for a long term commitment.”
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.
“What kind of commitment?” he asked.
Behind him she saw Jen mouthing the words “tell him.” She had obviously lost her mind.
“Nothing, nothing important,” Bailey said. She took a step closer so she could smell the sweet, feminine scent of the flowers. “Oh, these are so beautiful.” She stroked the soft petals of a grapefruit sized bloom. “You must have a ton of them if you can bring me this many and still have enough for market on Tuesday.”
“I wanted you to have them.” 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 “told you” and made kissing faces. Bailey turned so she couldn’t see her friend. “I love them. Peonies are my favorite. Thank you.” She set the flowers on the counter to admire. “They’re perfect in that pot, too. There’s more than enough here to do all the tables in the restaurant.”
“I thought maybe you’d want some for upstairs, too.”
Trace looked so pleased with her reaction to the blooms, she reached out to catch his hand. He didn’t 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.
“I better get out of here,” he said. “Let you get ready for dinner.” 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. “I told you he liked you like that.”
Bailey ignored her and went to collect the vases from the dining room, more confused than she’d been when she started.
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 didn’t expect anyone to wait up for him, but he wished he’d 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. He’d certainly slept in worse places. He closed his eyes with Jude’s “absolutely” echoing in his head, but the sound of women’s laughter filtered down from upstairs.
He couldn’t 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 wasn’t indecent. She had on more clothing than some women wore to go out in public, but she wasn’t 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.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were back,” she said, catching herself. “Did you have a good time?”
“I did,” he said, his mouth suddenly dry. She was coming closer and he was becoming painfully aware of how little there was between Bailey’s sweet flesh and his hands. “I’m not sure what to do with that.” He pointed to the bandana filled with nickels sitting on the coffee table.
“You beat them,” she said delighted.
He grinned back at her. God, he’d give anything to see that look on her face every day.
“If you really don’t want them, you could leave them for Abby. She’d love them. Summer’s little girl,” she said when he didn’t answer.
“Oh, the sweet little thing from the engagement party who kept telling me she was going to be a flower girl,” he said, smiling at the memory of the little girl leading the black dog as tall as she was around the party.
“That’s the one,” said Bailey, settling next to him on the sofa.
Sitting this close to her, he could tell she wasn’t 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, she’d said something to him and was waiting for his answer.
“I’m sorry,” he said, shaking his head desperate to clear it and willing his body back under control. “What did you say?”
“I’m the one who’s sorry,” 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.
“It’s been a long day. You must be tired and here I am keeping you awake.” She gave his thigh a squeeze and he sucked in his breath. “I just said I could see that Abby got them and tell her they were from you if you want.”
“Great,” he said, his voice sounding unsteady. “That would be great.”
“Let me take you to your bed,” she said. “The carriage house is ready for you. Unless you’re hungry.”
His tongue felt thick and unwieldy in his mouth and her words had all his remaining blood heading south. He couldn’t manage even a no so he shook his head so she’d know he didn’t want to eat.
“Come on,” she said, standing and reaching for his hand.
Saying a silent prayer of thanks for the dark so she wouldn’t 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.
“You can’t go out like that,” he said. “You’ll freeze. You don’t even have shoes on.”
She looked down at her feet and his and grinned. “Neither do you.”
In his hurry to follow her, Trace had forgotten to slip into his boots.
“It’s not the same.”
“Please,” she said, hand on her hip. “Feet are feet. Don’t be a baby. It’s not far.”
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.
“Put me down,” she said, gasping for breath.
“Inside,” 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 she’d miss feeling how turned on he was. Maybe that was a good thing because he sure as hell wasn’t taking her home tomorrow to go back to the writer’s 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 – everything he needed – 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 he’d 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 couldn’t 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 – dear God – 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 wasn’t 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.
Stalking links -
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 – my own boys of the South. I’ve 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. It’s one of the reasons I set Jude and Autumn’s 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 “You disappointed me too, Daddy” 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 – which I can easily do, find me, we’ll have wine and talk about it – a seismic shift causes the lake drain and refill periodically. It’s very cool and it was the perfect place for Bailey and Trace to fall in love.
When I’m not writing, which isn’t very often, I love to cook – I can finally make more than passable biscuits – 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!