In September, I participated in Jordyn’s Army to raise money for Beverly Preston’s daughter, Jordyn, who is waging an intense battle with cancer. Many of us in the book community wanted to do something, so we created a limited-time anthology of never-before-seen stories. All money made went straight to the Preston’s.
I’d like to introduce you to Boone & Delaney from Crush, my contribution to the anthology!
Chapter One – Delaney
“In my defense, no one was supervising me.”
I balance my phone against my shoulder as I inspect my foot. There isn’t any swelling and my ankle is unblemished despite the impact moments ago with the side of a washing machine.
My best friend laughs through the phone. “Most people using laundromats don’t require supervision.”
“I don’t require it. It just would’ve been … helpful.” I poke at the top of my foot. “At least nothing looks broken.”
“How did this happen anyway?” Sienna asks. “What were you doing standing on top of a washer? You do know your clothes go inside it, right?”
“Very funny. I was just trying to clear some cobwebs while I waited. They intentionally make you have to wait forever so you spend money in the vending machines. I’m sure of it.” I press the bone in my ankle and recoil as a shot of pain shoots up my leg. “And what do you know about laundromats, anyway? Have you ever even been inside one?”
“That’s totally irrelevant.”
“It is not.” I pause, trying to remember where I was going with that. “I had a way to draw that back around to my point. I just can’t remember what it was.”
I pop my foot on top of the chair across from me. Settling back, I listen to the whirl of the washers and dryers.
Suds N Spins is vacant, per usual. A daytime talk show plays on the antiquated television hanging above the vending machine. The redhead says something that must be hilarious because the co-host nearly falls out of his chair. It’s a little dramatic, but it’s better than the news station. Talk about dramatic.
“You know what is irrelevant? For real?” I ask.
“The fact that I’m actually sitting here waiting on my clothes to finish. I mean, I could just leave and go get lunch. They’d be here when I got back. It’s not like someone is going to take them.”
“So, why don’t you?”
I chew on a fingernail. “Because it grosses me out to think about someone touching my stuff.” I sit up. “Listen to this. So, I got here earlier, right? And this guy came in and just dumped his stuff in a washer in the washer on the end. The good one—”
“Can I interrupt this to say that I find it mildly disturbing that you know which washer is the good one?”
“I’m not thrilled I know this either, but such is life, okay? Once I save the eighty-six million dollars for a new washer, I’ll never step foot in here again.” I wipe a bead of sweat from in between my boobs. “Trust me.”
“Fine. So, back to the guy with the good washer …”
“Right. So, he puts his stuff in and leaves. No big deal, right? I even mentally applauded him for not letting his laundry rule his life. But then something happened. Something so disgusting that I know I’ll never, ever be able to walk away like that.”
“Do I even want to know?” Sienna asks.
“A woman came in as soon as the cycle ended and took his stuff out. Piled it on the table behind her and put her stuff in. She touched his wet clothes.” I make a face and shiver at the thought. “I can’t. I just can’t.”
“Maybe it was his wife?”
“Don’t think so.” I sit back in my chair again as the shivers wear off and the pulse in my foot picks up again. “I kind of wish I spent more time in Linton than just at the laundromat. I think the people over here might be entertaining.”
Sienna laughs. “You could find something entertaining wherever you go. I mean this with all the love in the world, Delaney, but it doesn’t take much to entertain you.”
My gaze lands on the ceiling as I mull that over. I study the cheap tiles and wonder if they could have asbestos. I bet they could. I should’ve let the cobwebs hang because I’m probably covered in … whatever asbestos is.
“I guess I’m lucky like that,” I say, forcing all thoughts of asbestos poisoning out of my mind. “I just wish I could find a man to entertain me.”
“I’m taking it that your date last night didn’t go well?”
“Ew. No.” I draw in a lungful of air and release it with a hiss. “He used the word emoticons. That’s not even a word. I mean, it is but it isn’t. No one says that.”
Sienna tries to hide her chuckle but fails.
“This isn’t funny,” I say with a smile. “It’s like I have standards, right? A guy needs to have a job. Shouldn’t live with his parents. Must bathe regularly—which I know is a weird thing to require, but that’s dating in this day and age.”
“If you have to include showering, I have questions about where you’re looking for men.”
“Maybe that’s the problem. I don’t even know where to look.”
The radio in the background goes quiet. Sienna clears her throat. “You know, my mom always said that the right guy will just pop up. She always told my sister and me that you won’t find him if you’re looking. And look how I found Walker.”
I laugh. “You’re lucky Walker decided to date you and not kill you. It was touch-and-go there for a minute.”
Sienna’s giggle mixes with mine. “He didn’t stand a chance against my charm.”
“Whatever you say.”
The door chimes ring. Sunshine fills the room with light and warmth. I peer around a pole.
“I think the guy is coming back,” I whisper into the phone.
“The guy whose wet clothes are piled on top of a table.” I gasp. “What if he thinks I did it? I’m not taking the blame without a fight.”
“You need a hobby. That or your head needs to be examined.”
“Not my head, but my foot could use a look.”
Sienna starts in for the millionth time on why I need to take yoga. How it’s good for my mind and body and all the jazz. I tune her out, giving her an uh-huh at appropriate moments, as I watch for the patron to find his clothes not in a machine.
When he steps into my view, I’m not prepared.
Mostly because it’s not him.
“Holy shit,” I mutter.
“What?” Sienna asks.
My mouth goes dry as my gaze settles on a man clearly out of his element. Dark denim jeans that look cut to fit his muscled body stretch over long legs. A crisp, white Polo shirt sets off his tanned skin.
He takes off a pair of sunglasses as he looks around the room. His jaw is sharp and angular. Thick, sandy-brown hair looks freshly cut and styled to appear as if his hands have been running through it all morning.
The things I’d like to do …
“Sienna, I gotta go,” I whisper in a rush.
“What’s going on over there?”
Before I can explain, he looks at me.
I almost drop the phone.
His gaze settles on me as a smile breaks across his gorgeous face.
The phone hits the floor.
“Damn it.” I scramble to the floor and grab it, refusing to look back up. “Sorry,” I say to Sienna. “I dropped you.”
“What are you doing? You’re … flustered.”
As if I have no choice, my gaze flips back to the other occupant of the laundromat. He sets a bag on the table as he watches me through thick lashes.
His teeth are a bright white as he bites his bottom lip and grins. A confidence oozes from him that chips away at my own. I usually keep the power in exchanges with men. This time, though, I might be at a disadvantage.
I smile back, trying not to bat my lashes like a woman mesmerized. Because that’s me. I’m that woman. I can barely find my voice under the weight of his gaze.
“Sienna, I gotta go. Talk soon,” I say with as much airiness as I can muster.
“Are you okay?”
“I’ll let you know in a few.” I drop my voice. “I’m hoping to be entertained.”
“Oh, dear lord,” she groans.
My stomach swirls, my face heats, as the man clears his throat. I position my finger over the red button on my phone. “I’ll call you later.”
I end the call.
Chapter Two – Boone
This might not be as bad as I thought.
I lean against the table. My bag of dirty laundry sits behind me, digging into my shoulder. Ignoring it, I keep my eyes trained on the cute raven-haired stunner that clearly wasn’t expecting me.
She slides her phone in her pocket. Her pale skin hosts the rosiest cheeks I may have ever seen. Her blush is adorable.
And sexy as fuck.
She settles in her seat. A deeply inhaled breath causes her breasts to rise and fall. The motion causes my brain to misfire … and my cock to twitch.
“Hi,” she says finally.
Her voice is sweet and playful, like she’s hiding a laugh. It makes me grin.
“Hi,” I say back.
“You look a little lost.”
“Is it that obvious?”
I look around at the small, ill-maintained laundromat. The woman at the hotel my brother Holt and I are staying in didn’t mention that this was a hole-in-the-wall. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe this is what laundromats are like. If so, my brothers and I are going to have to have a meeting when I get back to Savannah. There’s money to be made here.
She laughs. “Let’s just say you don’t look sure this is where you’re supposed to be.”
“This is definitely not where I’m supposed to be, in all actuality,” I say. “I should be home, playing a round of golf right now, but my brother conned me into taking a trip with him and here I am.” I raise my arms out to my sides. “Doing my own laundry. Wild, huh?”
“I guess. I mean, if the wild part is the part about taking a trip. Because doing laundry is a pretty routine thing, you know.” She furrows her brow. “Or it should be if you don’t want to stink.”
I cross my arms over my chest.
She’s adorable as she is fire, her eyes shining as she banters back and forth with me. It’s an exchange that feels easy. Comfortable. Nice, even.
“Does that mean you know how these things work?” I ask.
“Washers and dryers.”
Her laugh—loud and quick—takes me by surprise. She sits up, pulling her leg off the chair in front of her, and looks at me with sparkling eyes. “Um, yeah. Don’t you?”
“Well … no.”
She leans forward. Her dark hair falls across her shoulders and I want to sweep it back so I can see her face clearly again.
“Don’t tell me you’ve always had a woman do it because I might throw my shoe at you,” she says.
Her lips are pressed together in the sexiest pout and it takes everything I can muster to remember what we’re talking about and not about kissing the shit out of her.
“Actually,” I say, shoving off the table. I mosey across the building, cheered on by the buzzing machines. “I do have women do it for me.”
She sticks a finger in the air. “Ah-ha! I knew it.”
“Women I pay.” I grin. “That quite like their jobs, I think.”
Her lips work back and forth. “Then I should probably say I’m sorry.”
“For …” I goad.
For a split second, I don’t think she’s going to play along. I think she’s going to shrug, pull her leg to the floor, and go on about her business. Just as I open my mouth to prod her along, she speaks.
“For … you know …” She tries to hide a smile. “Assuming a guy that looks like you would have a woman do his laundry. That wasn’t nice of me in retrospect.”
“No. It wasn’t. But let’s go back to the part where you said I was good-looking,” I say with a grin. “Care to elaborate?”
Her cheeks flush.
I head her way again and don’t stop until I’m in front of her. The air is scented with a citrusy aroma that flutters around me.
She sits back, trying to blow off the fact that my proximity is getting to her. It’s her eyes that give her away. Her pupils are dilated, the green darkening as I watch them.
“I didn’t say you were good-looking,” she replies.
I pretend to consider this. “Yeah, you kind of did.”
“Take it however you want.”
“Curious choice of words.”
Her lips break the line they’d been trying to hold. A smile stretches across her face, pulling mine up right along with it.
“I’m Boone Mason,” I say. “I’m not sure why I’m telling you that. But since you know my laundry status and I know you’re curious since you think I’m hot—”
“Wow. Okay. Jumping to conclusions a little there, don’t you think?”
I hold her gaze. She squirms in her seat, wanting to look away. But she doesn’t. She can’t.
“I don’t think so,” I tease.
I toss her a wink. Turning away, I head back toward my bag. Her eyes bore into my back as I walk. I adjust myself as discreetly as possible.
Of all the people I’ve met on this stupid trip to Illinois, this girl, whose name I’ve yet to acquire, is the most interesting. Learning how to do laundry is suddenly less irritating.
“So,” I say. “Want to teach me how to do laundry?”
I glance over my shoulder. She points to her leg.
“I’m injured,” she says.
“What did you do?”
“That’s a secret.”
My brows pull together as I look at her foot. Red painted toes wiggle as I look for signs of trauma. There’s nothing.
“Looks fine to me,” I say.
“Well, it’s not.” She crosses her arms over her chest. “So, if you think I’m doing your laundry, think again, pal.”
I lean against the table again. “I didn’t ask you to do my laundry. I asked if you’d teach me how to do it. Big difference there.”
“Oh. Good point.”
I laugh at the puzzled look on her pretty face. “You’re something else.”
“Why are you here, anyway? I mean, I know you said you were on a trip with your brother, but why are you in Suds N Spins?”
“You keep talking to me.”
Pulling out the shirts and jeans from my bag, I shrug. “My brother is infatuated with this girl from here. Well, she lives in Chicago but she grew up here. So, he set up a business meeting with a company in Chicago—but really it was an excuse to see her. I’m not an idiot.” I look at her over my shoulder. “Maybe I am because I agreed to come along.”
“Maybe he’s just a good negotiator.”
“He is. That’s true.”
“And maybe you’re a sucker.”
My jaw falls open as a one-syllable laugh spills into the air. “I’m not either.”
“Maybe you are and maybe you aren’t. I don’t know you well enough to judge.”
“Since when has that stopped you from making assumptions?” I tease. Holding up a pair of jeans, I look at her. “So, what do I do with this laundry?”
She opens a piece of gum and pops it in her mouth. The package is offered to me. I wave a hand in the air, turning down the offer, and pick up more of my clothes.
“Put them in a washer,” she says. “But not the third one because it takes almost double the time to wash. Trust me.”
I nod as if she’s just given me the secret to world peace and point to door number two. She gives me a thumbs-up. I open the door and shove my clothes in.
“You should’ve separated them by color,” she tells me.
“It’ll be fine.” I close the door. “Now what?’
I slow blink.
Soap? I have to bring soap? No one told me that.
“Um …” I stammer. “Where can I buy some of that?”
She rolls her eyes and points to a blue tub on the adjoining table. “Open that and take out a pod. But you’ll owe me.”
I do as instructed. “Thanks,” I say, holding up a green and blue squishy balloon-like thing.
“Now put that in with your clothes. Close the door. Put your quarters in and hit start,” she says. “And if you don’t have quarters, you can get some over there in the exchange thing.”
“I have quarters, thank you very much.”
I give her a playful glare as I get the washer started. Once it’s whirling around, I turn my attention back to her.
“Thanks for the soap,” I say.
The air is warm and humid. The room smells like the laundry room at my house mixed with stale popcorn. I await the orangey scent of her as I walk her way.
Her fingers fly across her phone, a mischievous smile licking at her lips as I approach. I take the time to really look at her.
She’s pretty if not gorgeous in a very real kind of way. There’s nothing put-on or fake about her and I find that insanely attractive.
A pale pink shirt is cut decently low—long enough for me to see the top of her breasts. There are freckles spattering the bridge of her nose and a mole hiding on the underside of her chin.
I pull out a chair and sit a couple of feet away.
She looks up. Nodding to the phone she sticks back in her pocket, she laughs. “My friend worries.”
“Is that the friend you said, and I quote, ‘Oh, shit’ when I walked in?”
“It was ‘Holy shit’ and, yes, it was the same friend.” She rolls her eyes to distract from the hint of embarrassment on her face.
“Anyway,” she says, “she—ouch.” She flinches as she sets her foot on the floor.
“Are you really hurt? I thought you were just fucking with me.”
“I’m not hurt-hurt. Just twisted it or something.”
“Want me to look at it?” I offer.
“Are you a doctor?”
“No. I’m an investor.”
She laughs. “What are you going to do? Take your shirt off and make me a sling?”
“If you want me to take my shirt off, all you have to do is ask.”
“That’s not what I meant,” she says, shaking her head. “I just meant that you’ve probably seen that on TV or something.” She blows out a breath. “You know what? Let’s just move on.”
I settle in, resting my forearms on my knees. “Fine. Let’s start by you telling me your name.”
“Fine. It’s Delaney.”
“Thanks.” She grins. “What’s your name again?”
“Like Daniel Boone?”
I sigh. “Like I’ve never heard that before.”
“Hey, I can’t help it. It was the first thing that came to mind.”
“I expected more from you.”
We sit quietly for a few moments. She taps her foot against the floor as a dryer begins to buzz.
“That’s my stuff,” she says. She gets to her feet, testing the ankle she was complaining about before committing to it. “It was nice meeting you, Boone.”
My heart races as the thought of her walking out disturbs me. I don’t know why.
She starts to unload her clothes into a big bin.
“Hey,” I say before I can think about it. “What are you doing tonight?”
“Depends on who is asking.”
“Depends on why,” she says with a coy smile. She shuts the dryer door.
“If I’m forced to eat dinner with my brother tonight, I might lose my damn mind.”
“Is he that bad?” she asks.
“No. It’s just that eating with you seems much more preferable.”
“Well, I don’t know him, but I assure you I’m probably better dinner company,” she says. “What are you thinking?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. I know nothing about anything here. We’ve eaten at a place called Peaches a time or two.”
“Are you thinking fancy or casual? I mean, I’d say casual but you seem a little hoity-toity, if I can be honest.”
I snort. “Good to know.”
She lifts the bin. I try to take it from her, but she waves me back.
“If we’re going casual, I’d suggest a burger at Crave. It’s a bar here in Linton that’s laid-back and fun. It’s the best bet.”
“Perfect. Crave it is.”
Her eyes light up. “Meet you there?”
She heads to the door but stops before pushing it open. Glancing at me over her shoulder, she laughs. “Hey, Boone?”
“When the washer goes off, just put your clothes in the dryer. But not the first one. And then add your money and press ‘start.’”
The chimes ring as she opens the door. “Bye.”
“See you tonight.”
Chapter Three – Boone
I run the towel over my head as I enter the living area of the hotel suite. Holt looks up from his notepad.
“I got us a flight out of Chicago tomorrow morning,” he says.
“Of course, you fucking did.”
“I thought you were ready to go home?”
I toss the towel on the back of a chair. “I was—I am. But I got myself a date tonight with this hot little honey I met at the laundromat and now I’ll have to cut it short. Or, at least keep track of time.”
Holt smirks, setting the notepad down slowly. “Did you just say you’re dating a girl you met in a laundromat?”
“You met Blaire in an airport, so I don’t want to hear it.”
He gets to his feet, an amused look on his face. “I … Let’s back up. You really went to the laundromat, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” I say, lifting my chin. “I really did.”
He fights a laugh. “And did you wash your own clothes? Or did this hot little honey get conned into doing it for you?”
I gasp. It’s for effect because that’s something I’d totally do. But, being that I didn’t this time, I want to really drive that home.
“I can’t believe you’d even suggest such a thing,” I say, feigning exasperation.
“Oh, cut the shit, Boone.”
“I’m not lying. I put it all in the washer and added the little packet of soap stuff and turned it on. All by myself.” I grin. “I’ll accept your apology now.”
I don’t get one. Instead, my brother laughs. Loud.
“Is that why your shirt has blue streaks in the back? And looks like you wrestled a dog this afternoon?”
Glancing down, I pull at the fabric. It’s pretty wrinkled. There are faint blue shadows on the white parts that weren’t there when I wore this shirt yesterday.
“I think the washer was broken,” I say.
Holt slaps me on the back as he walks by. “I think you washed your shirt with your jeans, didn’t you?”
“You know what? I don’t like your tone.”
Holt laughs. He pulls open the fridge and takes out a beer.
“Besides,” I say, watching him take a long drink, “when is the last time you did your own laundry?”
“The day before we came here.”
“I was raised a little differently than you,” he says, sitting the bottle down. “I’m the oldest. You’re the baby. There are three boys in between us. Let’s say Mom mellowed out somewhere in between.”
“Coy broke her,” I say in reference to our middle brother.
“Yeah, well, you’ll be the death of me.”
I roll my eyes and switch out shirts, opting for a solid black button-up. I glance at my watch. My heartbeat starts to race as I calculate how much time it will take to get to the bar called Crave.
“So,” Holt begins, “when is this date? Is it a date? Or just a quick fuck?”
“It’s a date, asshole. I’m meeting her at seven. Apparently, they have good burgers.”
Holt stills. “It’s not called Crave, is it?”
“How’d you know that?”
“That is Blaire’s brother’s bar. One of her brothers, anyway.” He runs a hand down his face. “I’ve avoided meeting her family and, yet, here you go meeting them first. Don’t think this doesn’t stress me out.”
I grab his beer and down the rest of it, avoiding the glare he fires my way.
“First,” I begin, “why should it stress you out? You two aren’t serious.”
He stills. If there’s one thing I can do in life, it’s read my brothers and Holt is pissed. He hasn’t banged any strange pussy since he met Blaire. He’s been to Chicago twice. He’s had her come back to Savannah once. Yet, he won’t admit he wants anything serious with her.
I wouldn’t be a good little brother if I didn’t push some buttons—for his own good, of course.
“Second,” I say, “you don’t trust me to uphold the family name?”
“Yes, really.” I hold my hands in front of me. “I’ll remind you that I’m a businessman same as you. As a matter of fact, I landed the biggest deal in our company’s history last quarter.”
“Your point?” he deadpans.
“That I can be serious when the situation calls for it.”
He sighs. “Boone, the deal of the century you landed was because you fucked the shit out of the—”
“Don’t be jealous.” I set the bottle down and work the buttons quickly up my torso. “I can’t help it you’re all lovey-dovey with Airport Girl.”
“Her name is Blaire, cocksucker.”
I drop my hands. “Got it. Now, what time are we rolling out of here in the morning so I can make sure I don’t miss our flight?”
Grabbing my wallet off the end table, I shove it in my back pocket. “I’ll be back by then. Don’t start blowing up my phone if you don’t see me before seven.” I head to the door. “But if it’s seven and I’m radio silent, you should probably start calling. I might be a little fuck-foundered if all goes right.”
“Remember, good behavior tonight,” he calls after me.
I pop open the door. “I’ll be so good she’ll wonder if I was even real.”
“I meant with Blaire’s brother.”
“Eh, I’ll try.”
I shut the door behind me.
Chapter Four – Delaney
“Is that supposed to be a happy face?” I sit at the bar and point to a design on the back wall. It’s a sort of circle with what could potentially be eyes and a grin, but I’m not sure. “I can’t really tell.”
Navie, Crave’s bartender, laughs. “Yup. That’s Peck’s handiwork. He changes it out every few weeks, mostly to annoy Machlan. We’ve had a giant penis, a set of lips, a duck—oh, and a giant W. No one knew what that meant.” She furrows her brows. “I’m not even sure Peck knew, to be honest.”
I grin. Peck is the boy-next-door hottie that keeps everyone on their toes. The last time I was in Crave, he was dancing on the bar until Machlan threw him out. It’s all fun between them, I think. Machlan says he can’t let his cousin ruin his bar’s reputation, but I really think their push-and-pull is good for business.
Besides, they’re both ridiculously hot.
That never hurts.
“What are you doing in here tonight, anyway?” Navie asks.
I lift my chin. “I have a date, believe it or not.”
“Oooh. With who?”
Laughing, I take the mojito she offers me. “A guy I met today. At Suds N Spins.”
“Okay.” She looks at me like I’m crazy. “Look, I’m sure you’re well-equipped to pick out a decent guy. But let me point out that you’re drinking alcohol when you’re meeting a guy you just met at a laundromat in Linton. Is this safe?”
“Yes, it’s safe.”
“Is what safe?” Peck slides into the chair beside me. His blond hair is poking out from under his hat. “How ya doin’, Delaney?”
“Good,” I say, managing not to fan my face. “How are you?”
Navie grins. “I was just getting the run-down on Delaney’s date tonight.”
“Do I know him?” Peck asks.
“I don’t think so. His name is Boone and he’s from … somewhere,” I say, unable to pull that bit of information from my brain. “Anyway, he’s gorgeous and funny and offered to buy me a burger. So, here I am.”
Peck laughs, catching the beer that Machlan slides down the bar from the other end. “I’d have bought you a burger.”
My heart pitter-patters in my chest. “Well, had I known that …”
“Stop it.” Navie sighs. “You can’t say stuff like that when you’re so far up Molly McCarter’s ass.”
Peck tips back his beer, watching Navie over the top. Once he sets it back down, he grins. “Because Molly’s gonna marry me someday. Until she realizes that, it doesn’t hurt to be nice to other people, now does it?”
They banter back and forth. I lose track of their conversation when every cell in my body comes alive as a hand is placed lightly on my shoulder.
“Am I interrupting anything?” A deep, southern-tinged voice rolls from behind me.
Boone steps to my side. He’s fresh from the shower. The shirt he’s changed into is tighter than the one today. The dark fabric hugs his shoulders and biceps and I think I might drool.
“No,” I say, clearing my throat. “Not at all.”
His eyes sparkle as he sits next to me. “What are you drinking?”
“A mojito. They’re Navie’s specialty.”
At the sound of her name, Navie fake coughs. I laugh as I look at her.
“Boone, this is Navie. And this is Peck. His cousin owns this place. Guys, this is Boone Mason.”
They exchange pleasantries as I try to settle myself down.
The air is filled with Boone’s cologne and presence. There’s something slightly different about him tonight—something sexier. I wonder if it’s the mojito or if he’s put in a little more effort knowing he was coming to see me.
I hope it’s the latter. It’s probably the former.
Either way, it’s fine by me.
Navie hands Boone a beer before he touches me lightly on the arm. My gaze flips to his as my body misfires.
“Do you want to sit here or find a booth?” he asks.
“Find a booth,” Navie cuts in. When we look at her, she flushes. “Sorry. You didn’t ask me.”
Boone laughs. “Well, your opinion is welcome. Is there somewhere you suggest?”
I don’t know exactly what goes through Navie’s mind, but she snorts. I bury my face in my hands.
Peck chuckles. “Take the booth in the back. It’ll be the quietest. This place will get rowdy soon.”
“Thanks.” Boone stands. “You ready?”
“Yup.” I get to my feet and lift my drink. Before I turn around, Navie catches my gaze.
He’s so hot, she mouths.
I nod but look away before I think about it too much and get nervous.
Following him to the back of the bar isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done. His butt is round and fills out the back of his jeans like nobody’s business. I’d follow him anywhere, especially if anywhere was a bed.
He waits for me to get situated before sitting across from me. I want to stare at him, but don’t. Partly because it’s rude and partly because it’ll cause words to stop flowing to my mouth and that would make me look dumb.
There’s something about the smaller space, the more intimate quarters, that makes my heart pound a little harder in my chest.
“How’s your foot?” he asks.
“Nice ice breaker.”
He smiles. “Should I have started with … you look hot as fuck tonight?”
I look down at my shirt mostly to avoid his eyes for a second. “I’m glad you like this shirt. I’ve had it for years.”
“The shirt is great. But I really meant that you look great in it.” He grins. “I think you’d probably look great in anything though.”
“Stop charming me,” I say with a laugh.
“It’s not necessary.”
He takes a long draw of his beer. Watching me over the bottle, his brows are pulled tight.
“Being charming is a lot of work,” I say.
His bottle rests on the table. “Maybe for some. It comes quite natural to me.”
“Oh.” I nod like I’m humoring him.
“It does,” he insists. “I mean, I managed to get dinner with you based on about thirty minutes of charm.”
“You managed to get dinner with me because I enjoy not having to buy my meals and I haven’t had anyone ask me out in a while. I need practice.”
He falls back in his seat. “You haven’t dated in a long time? I find that so hard to believe.”
“Are you saying I’m irresistible?”
He laughs. “Something like that.”
“Well … thanks. But, no, I don’t date a lot. I think I’ve dated everyone that’s not my cousin or a friend’s ex in this county.”
“That sounds … like a cesspool.”
I take a sip of my mojito.
Music begins to play over the speakers. It’s the signal that the night at Crave is about to begin. The entire town that’s of drinking and going out age will filter through here at some point tonight. It’s a fun atmosphere. Usually. Tonight, I’m afraid it’s going to be a giant distraction.
He leans forward out of necessity. Our words would be drowned out if not. But the closeness of his body to mine—our legs nearly touching beneath the table and our hands this close on top—makes it hard to keep everything straight.
He reaches for his drink. His knuckles brush against mine. My eyes flip to his to see a playful, yet mischievous glimmer swimming in the green orbs.
“What about you?” I ask, forcing a swallow. “Do you date much?”
“Honestly? When I have time, I like to see a movie or baseball game or something, yeah. But I’ve been working a lot lately and have had to slow it down. That really makes my brothers happy.”
“What is it you guys do?”
“For the most part, we invest in real estate. One of my brothers—I have four—is an architect. Otherwise, we work in various branches of the family company.”
He spins the beer bottle between his fingers. “What about you? What do you do?”
“Nothing as fancy as you,” I say with a laugh. “My parents own an organic dairy farm. I work there. I know it sounds like I trek around in cow poop all day, but I don’t. Not all the time.” I grin. “But I really like it, as unglamorous as it is.”
I wait for his reaction. It takes longer than I expect.
A slow smile breaks out across his handsome face. “That’s actually really cool.”
“I don’t know about cool, but it’s enjoyable.”
“No, that’s what I mean. It’s something productive. Something that makes a difference to people, you know? And you work with your family which I really respect.”
My heart skips a beat. Most men think my working on a farm is either disgusting or a way for me to kill time before I find someone to marry. It’s neither. I think Boone gets that.
I shift in my chair. My leg brushes against his beneath the table. His brows shoot to the ceiling before he quickly recovers.
The contact leaves me a little breathless. The look he gives me steals what air is left.
“You better stop looking at me like that,” I warn.
He grins the most devilish grin. My legs ache as I feel the pressure of his attention settling in the bottom of my stomach.
As I sort the look he’s delivering my way, one thing becomes abundantly clear: he wants what I want. And it’s not a burger.
“I’m leaving in the morning,” he says carefully.
He chuckles to himself. “Okay.”
“It’s probably a good thing you’re leaving so soon,” I say.
“Yup. Because I’m going to go out on a limb here—maybe too far but it wouldn’t be the first time—and say we’re going to sleep together tonight. I least I hope so. And, if that happens, you’re going to fall in love with me and I don’t really need all that noise.”
His jaw drops open. I’m not sure if he’s going to laugh or argue. I’m not sure if he knows either.
My temperature rises as I feel the power of bringing a guy like this to his knees. The ball is in his court now. A ball I purposefully put there because it’s what I wanted and I owned it. It’s so much easier than to tiptoe around a topic or let a man call the shots.
To Hell with that.
He blows out a breath, a smile stretches across his cheeks. “Let me just say before I get sidetracked that I most definitely hope we sleep together tonight.”
“Good.” I squeeze my thighs together in an attempt to quell the ache in my belly. “That solves that.”
He grins. “But, also, there’s a bigger chance of you falling in love with me than vice versa. I’m kind of anti-long-term anything.”
“That makes two of us.”
A look of satisfaction paints itself on his face. “This might work out better than I imagined.”
I look around the bar. Bodies fill most of the space, having come in at some point in the midst of my conversation with Boone. I have no intention whatsoever of engaging any of them in small talk or dancing or even ordering another drink.
“What time do you leave tomorrow?” I ask.
“Flight goes out at nine.”
“How bad do you want that burger?”
“Much less than I want your body.”
I grab my purse. “Let’s go then.”
He laughs as he swipes his wallet from his pocket. Jamming down a handful of bills, the number of which I don’t think he considers, he stands.
“I have a hotel room but I’m sharing it with my brother,” he says.
“It’s your lucky day then. You can see my body and our farm.”
He takes my hand as I start through the crowd. His palm is heavy and large and the thought of it touching my bare skin makes me shiver.
“Where ya going?” Peck hollers as we walk by.
“My house,” I call back.
“I’ll check on you in the morning in case he’s a serial killer,” Peck says.
“By then it would be too late.” Boone laughs.
I stop and look at Boone’s face before looking at Peck. “Don’t you dare bother me tonight. I’ll take my chances.”
Boone places a hand on each of my shoulders and spins me toward the door. “Nice to meet you, Peck,” he says as he taps me on the butt. “Now go.”
“Ooh, I like that.”
“Don’t get used to it,” I say as I step outside. “I’m not very submissive.”
The air whips around us as if to hurry us along. I head down the sidewalk and stop at my car.
Boone looks down at me. “I’d kiss you here, but I’m not sure if I’d be able to stop and I sure as hell don’t want to fuck you in the middle of town.”
My stomach drops. “Where are you parked?”
“Four cars down.”
“Follow me.” I move around the front of my car. “I hope you can drive fast.”
“I can drive it however you want.”
“We’ll see about that.”
Chapter Five – Boone
My headlights shine across a small cabin nestled in a grove of trees. It sits at the end of a gravel lane that felt like it went on forever. I pull my car in beside Delaney’s and cut my engine.
I watch her gather her things before exiting her vehicle. There’s something about her that just draws me in like a moth to a flame. I don’t know if it’s her quick wit or ability to knock me off my game with one look, but the woman possesses an innate quality that most don’t.
Grinning, I climb out of my car. The night sky is dark blue and dotted with bright silver stars.
Delaney comes around the front of the car. I hold my breath as I take her in, hoping that the ride over didn’t dissuade her from her earlier plans.
I want her. Damn, I want her. And as I watch her move with a confidence that’s so fucking sexy, I realize that I want her to want me.
“You kept up,” she says with a grin. “Good work.”
“You haven’t seen how good I can work yet.”
Her cheeks turn a faint shade of pink as I approach. She doesn’t say a word. She just turns toward the porch.
To our right is a row of rose bushes. I stop and touch a bud that’s closed tight.
“I love those,” she says softly. “My grandmother planted them years and years ago. She used to say that they would bloom when something beautiful happens.”
“Does one bloom every morning when you open your eyes?”
She shakes her head. “No to the charming. It’ll make you leaving harder on you.” She laughs. “Besides, while sweet, that was a little lame.”
“True. Sounds like something one of my brothers would say.”
She flashes me a huge smile and makes her way onto the porch. A key is swiped from under a planter and I almost point out that she might as well leave it sitting on the railing because any delinquent would look under the planter first. But I don’t. I have a feeling that would be a long-drawn-out conversation and I don’t want anything distracting us from the reason we’re here.
We step inside. The cabin is exactly what I’d expect it to be. Orderly and warm with hints of levity here and there. The couch is a classic brown leather piece with a handful of pillows across it. The blanket draped over the back is covered with rainbows. It makes me laugh.
“What?” she asks as she closes the door behind me.
“I like the blanket.” I motion toward the sofa. “Nice touch.”
“Well, I could explain to you the significance of the rainbow, but I won’t. I don’t think you deserve those little details yet.”
“Ooh. Does that mean I can earn them?”
She bats her eyelashes, making me laugh again. She walks down a little hallway that opens into a cozy kitchen. A breath is released in one hefty blow before she turns and looks at me.
Her eyes are filled with anticipation. Ripe with expectation. Overflowing with need—a need I’m ready and willing to meet.
I watch her, unsure as to whether to make the first move. This is new to me. There’s a protocol for these types of things—dinner, a movie, a nightcap. A little cuddling on the couch to ease the transition and then the finale. Delaney has completely tossed that out the window and now I don’t know what to do. I know what I want to do—get her naked as soon as possible. But I don’t want to make it uncomfortable or weird or come across as weak either.
She leans against the counter. “So, how do you want to do this?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, do I offer you a drink? Do we need to talk about the weather? Or do you just want to forgo all that jazz?”
I blink once. Twice. Three times before forcing a swallow down my throat. “You’re here for this, huh?”
“If you’re having second thoughts …”
I walk slowly across the room. The air between us grows thicker. The room seems to shrink. The energy in the middle of us sizzles with what’s to come.
Her eyes grow wide as I near. I stop just inches from her.
I can’t remember being this excited to touch a woman. My fingers itch, almost burn, to feel her skin. I have to fight myself from wrapping her in my arms and smothering her with my lips.
Before I can, she reaches up and dangles her arms over my shoulders. Then, slowly, so slowly, in fact, that I think my cock might explode, she reaches her lips to mine.
They’re soft and silky. Like pillows against my mouth, she works them against mine like she has all the time in the world.
Her nails bite into my back as she pulls me closer. I wrap my arms around her, crossing them at the small of her back. Her skin is warm against my palms as I let her take the lead.
My body buzzes with adrenaline as Boone encapsulates me in his arms. His body is rock solid, a mass of muscle and strength. My knees go weak as I melt into him.
His tongue splits my lips, invading my mouth. It explores with an unrushed, almost luxurious calm. It’s as if he’s committing this entire experience to memory one movement at a time.
My blood pounds through my veins as I break our kiss.
“You okay?” he asks, looking at me with a sweet concern.
I take a step back. My stomach is clenched, my thighs aching. I need relief and I need it now.
Seeing him in my space, he looks even … more. More sophisticated, yet more rugged. More handsome yet altogether sexier.
I need him. I need him now.
I lift the edge of my shirt over my head. His eyes bulge as his tongue whispers over his bottom lip.
“You,” I say, tossing him my shirt, “are still dressed.”
“I like this you being in control shit.”
“I thought you might.”
We undress quietly. The only sounds are zippers drawing down and fabric hitting the floor.
I hold my breath, waiting for the moment I’m self-conscious. It doesn’t come. Instead, as his gaze lands on my naked body, I feel more confident than I ever had.
It’s the way he looks at me. There’s no judgment about the pooch in my belly or the way my thighs have absolutely no gap. The only thing I can see in his face is how much he wants me. None of the rest matters.
“You’re fucking beautiful,” he says.
I take in his tanned body. It’s all lines and ridges and hard muscle. It looks crafted, beautifully sculpted in what must have taken miles of running or hours in the weight room.
He’s beyond gorgeous. Aesthetically, he’s perfect. I could look at him forever.
“I mean it. I’m not being charming. I’m not using stupid lines.” He shakes his head, trailing his gaze up and down my body. “You. Are. Beautiful.”
I take a step toward him. “Don’t tell me. Show me.”
His lips find mine in one quick swoop. There’s no sweetness to it this time. It’s a bold move, one that shows me just how much I turn him on.
He presses kisses along my jawline. My head falls back with a moan. The ends of my hair tickle the small of my back as he licks and kisses his way down my throat.
“Damn it, Boone,” I say breathlessly.
He chuckles as he palms my ass. Bending before me, he rolls one of my nipples with his tongue. I press the back of his head toward me, encouraging him for more.
His hands scratch against my body, adding to the stimulation. Pressing in between my legs, he pushes them apart.
I gasp as a finger runs the length of my slit. My wetness covers my thighs. I look down at him to see him watching me.
It’s almost too much. His touch, my dry spell, plus the look of this man kneeling between my legs is enough to almost get me off just standing here.
Then he presses my clit with the pad of his thumb.
I jump. He laughs, palming one of my ass cheeks to hold me still as he works his fingers back and forth. I move my body, aiming for more contact, but he denies it to me.
“Boone,” I tell him with my eyes closed. “If you don’t do something soon—ah!”
A finger, then two, is inserted inside me as his mouth is planted against my clit. The darkness is lit up with a plethora of colors as my body screams a silent plea for release.
I tense, caught off guard by the sudden overstimulation. My hands go to his hair, tugging the soft strands, as he works me over.
Finally, I give up and release myself to him. My body sags against his hand as he presses me tighter against his mouth. His tongue slips inside me, making me shiver. His teeth nip at my swollen clit.
I yelp in a mixture of pain and pleasure.
“I’m going to come in your mouth,” I warn him.
My eyes fall back in my head as he growls against my tender flesh. Another finger is inserted into my opening and, when he sucks my bud into his mouth, I come completely undone.
He guides me to the climax of bliss and then gently back to Earth again. Once I can control my vision, I look down just as he’s looking up.
“That was the hottest fucking thing I’ve ever seen,” he says, wiping my juices off his face.
“I have to admit that seeing you covered in me is pretty hot too.”
He winks, getting to his feet. His cock is rock hard. It sticks straight up with pre-cum already dotting the tip.
“You were pretty submissive,” he teases.
I fall to my knees. Taking his length in my hands, I listen to his gasp. “Let’s see who’s submissive now.”
Chapter Six – Delaney
The sun is bright. Too bright. Way brighter than it should be.
I start to move but my muscles scream at me to slow it down. And then I remember: Boone.
I lie quietly in my bed and breathe in the scent he left behind. His cologne is all over me, all over my sheets—permeating my entire house, I hope.
My body sings with memories of his touch. My lips swollen from his kisses. My core exhausted from the orgasms he expertly delivered until I passed out sometime around three this morning.
I look to the side and see a rose on my pillow. It’s the rose from outside—the one I was waiting to bloom. Rising up on my elbow, I pick it up to see a note left beneath it.
You were right. These do bloom when something beautiful happens.
Thanks for a night I’ll never forget.
I hold the rose to my chest and smile.
To read more about Linton, Illinois and the Gibson Boys, check out Crank HERE. Out now on Amazon, Audible, and enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.