Authors: Kimberly Raye
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction, #Series, #Harlequin Blaze
Austin shook his head. “You used to be so…nice.”
“Nice girls finish last.” She sized him up. “You’ve changed, too. The bad boy I once knew wouldn’t turn down a kiss with a willing woman.”
His eyes suddenly gleamed with challenge and something dark and delicious and forbidden. “Who says I’ve turned it down?” Then he was pressing his lips to hers. The kiss was hot and insistent, his mouth plundering hers. But just when she was really getting into it, he drew back.
“You asked for a kiss—there you go. Objective achieved.”
But her objective had changed, Maddie realized. She was no longer the awkward seventeen-year-old who’d fantasized about kissing the cutest boy in high school. She was all grown up now and her fantasies went way beyond a kiss.
“What else do you want from me?”
She licked her lips and stared into his eyes. “You and me…and some down and dirty, hot and heavy
My heroes have always been bad boys! Nothing could be better than seeing a wild, wicked, dangerously handsome man who’s too big for his britches humbled by the overwhelming power of love. Then again, if that man is one of a trio of notorious bad boy brothers from Cadillac, Texas, then you’re talking triple the fun and the
Thanks to the overwhelming reader response to Dallas Jericho, the youngest brother featured in “Show & Tell” from the Blaze Midnight Fantasies anthology, I‘m back this month with another hot, hunky, badder-than-bad Jericho brother in
The Sex Solution
. Austin is the oldest and wildest of the three, but he’s determined to change his ways. No more fast times and fast women. He’s a new man, and to prove it, he intends to find a nice, conservative,
woman to settle down with. But when former good girl Madeline Hale rolls back into town with seduction on her mind, she soon convinces him that being a little bad can be
I love writing hot, steamy love stories that portray not only the emotional bond between a man and woman, but the physical bond, as well. Blaze gives me the freedom to do just that. So grab an ice-cold drink, crank up the air-conditioning and get ready for a red-hot read from deep in the heart of Texas!
All my best,
P. S. There’s still one Jericho brother who’s footloose and fancy free. But not for long. Don’t miss the final showdown in Blaze #131,
The Fantasy Factor
, coming next month.
This book is dedicated to the real Marshalyn Simmons aka Sue Groff.
You’re the best mother-in-law in the world, and an even better friend!
VERYTHING ABOUT HIM
promised hot, steamy,
From the way he looked…
So rugged and masculine with his white cotton T-shirt, the words
emblazoned in black letters across the front. Perspiration soaked the material, making it nearly transparent. Dark swirls of hair covered his broad chest. Damp cotton clung to his shoulders and biceps. Soft, faded denim cupped his crotch and molded to trim hips and long, muscular legs, the cuffs tucked into a pair of dusty brown cowboy boots.
To the way he moved…
So strong and sure and purposeful as he reached for a sack of feed on the hot pavement near his feet. Muscles rippled and flexed as he hoisted the weight onto his shoulder. One hair-dusted thigh played peekaboo with her through a frayed rip in his jeans as he turned and tossed the load into the bed of a beat-up pickup truck.
A man as strong and toned and blatantly physical as Austin Jericho would never be a lazy lover. He would touch and stroke and stir a woman until she screamed for release.
Not that Madeline Regina Hale knew such a thing firsthand. Only in her most private, provocative dreams.
She stared through the glass of Skeeter’s Drugstore and tried to calm the sudden pounding of her heart. Even after twelve years, Austin was still the hottest boy in Cadillac, Texas.
Make that the hottest
One-hundred percent, prime, Grade-A, pinch-me-I’m-dreaming
Her breath caught at another squat, another flash of hard, muscular thigh.
The reaction sent a rush of nostalgia through her and suddenly all those years, a challenging career as the senior research-and-development chemist for one of America’s leading cosmetics companies and a shelf full of well-read self-improvement books didn’t seem to matter.
Madeline felt seventeen again. Young. Naive. Awkward. And lovesick over a hot teenage boy in dusty boots and a black leather Harley jacket.
Back then he’d looked every bit as delicious as he did right now. His jeans had been just as flattering, and her heart had fluttered just as much.
She’d always had a powerful physical reaction to Austin.
He, on the other hand, had never had any reaction to her.
She couldn’t really blame him. She’d been practically nonexistent back then. Just another geeky, four-eyed member of the Chem Gems—the only academic club at a school that lived and breathed football and state championships. Forget victory parties with the
crowd. She’d spent her Saturday nights in the kitchen of her dad’s doughnut shop, Sweet & Simple, mixing up muffins and fritters and other goodies for the Sunday-morning rush. The expected pastime of the overweight wallflower voted Most Studious for four consecutive years.
Austin, on the other hand, had been lean, loud and rebellious. The oldest of the notorious Jericho brothers—a hot, handsome trio of heartbreakers who’d invented the word
A leather-clad bad boy who’d ridden a screaming chrome demon and shot every rule to hell and back. The boy voted Most Likely to Serve Time in a Maximum Security Prison.
Dangerous. That had been Austin way back when.
His attitude. His looks. His effect on the opposite sex.
Only a select few females had been lucky enough to keep company with him, however. Most had been blond and beautiful, with big boobs and even bigger egos. All had been as wild as the boy himself.
Mousy-brown hair, a chubby figure—thanks to all those Saturday nights at the bakeshop—and a hum-drum existence had knocked Madeline completely out of the running. She’d had to settle for lusting after him from afar.
Then and now.
As soon as the thought struck, she stiffened. While she was, indeed, staring and lusting from a substantial distance, things
Expensive blond highlights, a strict diet-and-exercise regime, makeup lessons and subscriptions to
had seen to that. But even more, she’d evolved on the inside, as well as the outside. She no longer settled for what life doled out. She didn’t sit around waiting for luck or the right moment or perfect alignment of the planets to experience what life had to offer. She went after what she wanted when she wanted it. She didn’t content herself with dreams. She
things happen, and she lived for every exciting moment.
Her cell phone chose that moment to shriek, drawing her attention away from the sweaty, succulent picture of Austin to the overflowing leather sack she called a purse.
you?” Janice demanded. Janice was the ex-vice president of the Chem Gems and the maid of honor for Cheryl Louise Martin’s wedding—the reason Madeline had taken time off from her job at V.A.M.P. Cosmetics to make the hundred-and-fifty-mile drive from Dallas to her small hometown.
Cheryl Louise, two years Maddie’s junior, had been an honorary Chem Gem thanks to her older sister, Sharon, who’d let her tag along to study group. Their parents had been busy running Chester’s Diner—the family business—and so Sharon had been in charge of her little sister while her dad cooked and her mom waited tables. Since the Chem Gems—all five of them—had been best friends as well as study partners, they’d all taken charge of Cheryl, particularly Madeline. She and Sharon had been best friends since kindergarten.
An image rushed at her. Of a dark night and a deadly curve and a monstrous tree and…
Madeline closed her mind to the memory the way she always did. Sharon’s death was in the past and dwelling on that night wasn’t going to bring her friend back.
Besides, Sharon wouldn’t want tears ruining the occasion. She would want her little sister to have a grand send-off. Exactly what the Chem Gems intended to give her.
Starting with the bachelorette party tonight.
“He-llo?” Janice’s impatient voice drifted over the line. “Girl, you were supposed to be here ten minutes ago to hang crepe paper for the pre-party festivities.”
“I’m at Skeeter’s getting everything on the list you dictated over the phone to me last night.” Her gaze drifted back to the window in time to see Austin hoist the last sack of feed, pull off his gloves and stuff them into his back pocket. How he fit anything back there was a puzzle for Einstein himself.
“…get the extra batteries for Sarah’s camera?” The tail end of Janice’s question pushed past the pounding of Madeline’s heart.
She forced a deep breath and shifted her attention to her basket. “Got ’em.”
“How about the extra rolls of film?”
“Got ’em.” She had to get control of herself. She wasn’t seventeen anymore and Austin Jericho wasn’t all that. He was just a man. Just flesh and blood. Just tanned skin and bulging muscle.
The thought drew a quick image from one of her favorite Austin fantasies.
He gripped the hem of his T-shirt. Material bunched and crept up his rock-hard abdomen and broad chest, until he pulled the soft cotton over his head and tossed it aside. Tanned fingers went to the button on his snug jeans. The edges sagged with relief as the fastening slid free. A zipper hissed and parted and…
Madeline derailed the thought before she went around the curve into The Land of the Sexually Deprived.
That was the problem.
Over the past six months, she’d been so fixated on developing a new body lotion for V.A.M.P. that her personal life had fallen by the wayside. She hadn’t been out on a Saturday night since the project’s start. She was bound to go a little bonkers when faced with a hot, sweaty cowboy.
hot, sweaty cowboy who’d dominated her adolescent fantasies, and a few of her adult ones, as well.
“…there? Earth to Madeline?” Janice huffed. “Girlfriend, what is
“I’m tired, that’s all. I just drove in this morning.”
“You’ll have plenty of time to rest after tomorrow.”
Two weeks to be exact. Madeline had vetoed buying a bread maker for a wedding present and, instead, had promised to house-sit for Cheryl while she honeymooned in the Bahamas. Madeline would have bought the appliance, but hearing the young woman fret over who was going to take care of her plants and her dog had been too much. Madeline didn’t do guilt very well, so she’d volunteered.
Besides, when she worked on a project, she preferred solitude. No colleagues interrupting her, no higher-ups chomping at the bit for a hint about what she was doing, no marketing personnel bugging her about deadlines. This way, everyone would be miles away and she could concentrate.
Not that she didn’t like the big city and its noise and chaos. And its traffic. And its smog. And its endless miles of concrete. She loved it all. That’s why she’d left Cadillac in the first place.
At least that’s what Madeline had told herself for the past twelve years. So often, in fact, that she’d actually started to believe it.
“Don’t forget the balloons. They have balloons, don’t they? I’ve gotten used to a Wal-Mart on every corner. Cadillac could take some lessons from Houston.”
“Some people like a slower pace.” What was she saying?
a voice whispered.
Some people do like a slower pace.
Madeline just wasn’t one of them. Was she?
“And there are people who pierce major body parts, too, but that doesn’t mean they’re sane.” Janice’s voice took on her familiar I-want-everything-to-go-perfectly desperation. “Please tell me they have balloons.”
“I’m about to find out.” Madeline headed down one of the aisles, passed a variety of cookies in favor of a large package of Double Stuffed Oreos. Otherwise known as inspiration. Whenever she came up against a brick wall at work, she would indulge in Oreos and free her creativity.
With the wedding looming and a size-ten bridesmaid’s dress to squeeze herself into, she’d been Oreo-free for the past few weeks, so she’d yet to come up with any really great ideas. She had a few so-so ones, but nothing outstanding. Or revolutionary. Nothing guaranteed to wow the CEO of V.A.M.P. and move Madeline the final step up the corporate ladder to head of research and development.
With the aroma of chocolate wafers and sweet cream filling her nostrils and blessed solitude helping her focus, she would surely come up with something brilliant. Then it was back to Dallas and constant interruptions and her strict diet regime that consisted of Melba toast, grilled chicken salads and Pilates. “Okay, we’ve hit pay dirt on the balloons,” she told Janice a few seconds later.
“And hats? Do they have hats, too?”
“It’s a bachelorette party, not a birthday party.”
“Hats are festive. I want everyone in the party mood. I want tonight to be special.”
“We’ll all be together for the first time in twelve years. It’ll be special.”
“Except that Cheryl Louise is bringing her poodle, Tilly. Remember? She’s the one that farts when she wags her tail.
time she wags her tail.”
“We’ll make the best of it. Focus on the positive.”
Madeline had learned that all-important lesson when she’d left Cadillac and headed for the big city. One of her first life-changing vows had been to stop stressing over the fact that she wasn’t thin enough or pretty enough or outgoing enough, and
something about it.
She’d done just that and changed her life forever.
“Girl, you’re absolutely right. She may be bringing Tilly, but at least she’s leaving Twinkles at home,” Janice sighed. “Otherwise, we’d all end up covered in dog hair. That blasted thing sheds like—ohmigod! Peanuts!” she shrieked. “You can’t forget the peanuts. Cheryl loves peanuts and I want to have all of her favorites tonight.”
“Got ’em.” So much for a pep talk. “See you in a little while.” No sooner had she punched the off button than the phone rang again.
“A black laundry marker,” Janice quipped. “Do they have one?”
“Skeeter’s has everything.”
It was the typical old-time drugstore that carried everything from small hardware items to makeup, canned goods to candy. They even had a pharmacy in the back where Ben Skeeter had been filling prescriptions for as long as Madeline could remember.
“Good. Now hurry up. Sarah just got here with the cheese dip.”
“Yes, ma’am.” She dropped the phone into her purse.
A few minutes later, after retrieving the requested marker, she headed for the pharmacy counter at the rear of the store where a silver-haired woman hoisted a large box onto the counter next to the cash register.
“Maddie Hale?” Camille Skeeter pushed her wire-framed glasses up onto her nose for a better look. “My word, is that you?”
“It’s me, all right.
Hale.” She’d left the name Maddie behind with her geeky image.
The older woman smiled as she yanked open the box and reached for her pricing gun. “My, my, you’re a sight. I wish Ben were here to see you, but he’s over at the community center leading the dedication for the new monkey bars.” She tapped the button pinned to her white smock.
Ben Skeeter’s image stared back at Madeline along with the phrase printed around the edges that read
Ain’t Nothin’ Sweeter Than Electin’ a Skeeter.
“Ben’s the mayor now,” Camille told her. “Second term.”
“I heard through the grapevine. Congratulations. So, are you handling the store all by yourself now?”
“Sure am.” Camille wiped the sweat from her brow, hoisted the box to the side and reached for Madeline’s basket. “But a woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do and I always stand by my man. So—” she started ringing up items “—how are your mama and daddy doing? Haven’t heard much from them since they retired down south. How do they like Port Aransas?”