Authors: Seraphina Donavan
Bourbon & Blood, Book 3
The DuChamps Dynasty Series
Been Loving You Too Long
Have A Little Faith In Me
I’ll Take Care Of You
Back the Beginning: A Duet
(featuring Back to Basics by Laramie Briscoe and Remembered by Seraphina Donavan)
The Gresham County Series
Bad Girl Lessons
Bad Boy Secrets
The Bourbon & Blood Series
and coming soon,
Stand Alone Novellas
Nobody But You
Wrong For Ms. Wright
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: Meg Graham Weglarz
Cover Art by: Kari Ayasha,
Cover to Cover Designs
This is a dedication so much as an acknowledgement. I have so many wonderful and amazing people who have supported me, cheered me on, bought my books, reviewed my books and just kept me going when working a full time day job, trying to have a life and a house and what amounted to a more than full time writing career… all at the same time. For five years, I’ve been doing this. Now, I’m transitioning to part time at the day job, slowly phasing it out through the remainder of the year. And it’s because of all of you wonderful people that I am able to truly live my dream of being “just” an author. Thank you for the love, the support and the continued friendship.
hat the hell
are you doing?”
The woman, a petite and curvy thing with a mile and a half of long, dark hair, glowered down at him from her perch on the bar.
“I don’t answer to you, Carter Hayes!” The response was punctuated by the toss of first one and then another incredibly high heeled shoe. Each one hit him square in the chest before tumbling to the floor.
“Josie—.” What could he say? She didn’t answer to him. They were acquaintances at best. A few years apart in school, they barely knew one another. But what he did know of her was inconsistent with what was currently on display. Josie Marcum did not dance on bars in seedy dives. In fact, she didn’t go to seedy dives and she sure as hell didn’t do it in a slip of a dress that hugged every curve and mile high heels.
She climbed to her feet, swaying to the music with a seductive rhythm. The men in the bar cheered as she moved her hips side to side, the lush curve of her bottom drew every eye. He noted the slimeball she’d walked in with was watching the show appreciatively.
Carter was no angel. He’d never claimed to be and honestly had no desire for the title. Sinning was too much fun. But he’d never stand by while a woman he’d brought to a bar literally showed her ass in front of other men.
A pirouette went a little sideways and she wobbled on her feet for a second before tumbling backwards. Carter calmly stepped forward and caught her. “I’m taking you home,” he said simply.
“I don’t want to go home! I want to dance… and I want another one of those drinks!” she insisted. “Oh, it was yummy.”
“How many of those drinks have you had?” he demanded as he set her on her feet just long enough to reclaim her shoes.
“Just the one… but it was so good. And now everything is
. And shiny. All the lights!” Each word became progressively more slurred.
Carter turned back to her just as she swayed on her feet. She didn’t fall so much as she simply deflated, just like someone let the air out of a balloon. Catching her before she fell to the floor, Carter swung her up in his arms again with a curse and headed for the door. He could hear shouts and catcalls from behind him. How any man could get excited by the idea of a half conscious, or less, woman, was a mystery to him.
“Saturday night,” he muttered, heading for his truck. “All I wanted was a beer. Now I’m babysitting a pint sized girl who can’t hold her liquor.”
Depositing her in the passenger seat, he leaned over to fasten her seat belt. It wasn’t that he wanted to be a perv, but the straps of her dress had slipped down just enough that he couldn’t not look. The lace of her bra was barely visible and he felt like an asshole for even thinking that it would have been nice if the straps had slipped a little more.
Seatbelt fastened, Carter rose just as someone came barreling out of the bar towards them. It was the dude who’d brought Josie to the shithole bar—a slimly little fucker in sparkly jeans that belonged on a girl. He had a popped collar and every other hallmark of a douchebag.
“Hey, where the hell are you taking her?” Out of the bar, away from the friends or drunk acquaintances who’d been egging him on, the guy’s voice was more apologetic than authoritative.
“I’m taking her home… where she can sober up! What the hell was she drinking in there?” he demanded. “More to the point, what the hell did you put in that drink? She might be the size of a ten year old, but one drink shouldn’t do that!”
“It was just a little something to loosen her up. She said she wanted to have fun tonight!”
The asshole’s tone was defensive, laying all the blame at Josie’s door. It was the oldest trick in the book. God, he wanted to punch the fucker in the face so bad he it was killing him.
“What did you give her?” Carter asked.
“Dude, it was like half an Ambien. I wanted to fuck her… not kill her. You want her purse or not?” He asked, holding out the small bag.
Carter closed the distance and took the ridiculous beaded clutch from the other man. He waited the space of two heartbeats and then drew back his fist, plowing it straight into the guy’s nose. Bone crunched and blood began to gush immediately. Carter smiled.
“You broke my fucking nose!”
Carter shoved the guy to the ground and grabbed his wallet from his back pocket. Flipping through the credit cards until he found a driver’s license, he nodded. “I ever hear of you drugging another girl, I ever hear of your breathing in Josie’s direction again,” he paused and glanced back at the license, “Shawn Mitchum, I will break more than your goddamn nose. You’ll be pissing through a tube for the rest of your life, asshole.”
Carter stepped back and watched the guy scramble to his feet. Still clutching his broken nose, he hobbled into the bar. Walking back to the truck and the barely conscious Josie, Carter tucked her purse in beside her muttered, “You have shitty taste in men, cupcake.”
he room was spinning
. Josie forced her eyes open and immediately wished she hadn’t. Her head hurt. Not just hurt, it felt like it was being split in half with a hammer and chisel. It also felt like there were a thousand grains of sand and a few generously sized shards of glass in her eyes.
Rolling onto her side, she realized it wasn’t just her head that ached but her whole body.
hurt from head to toe. Her stomach rolled and she cupped her hand over her mouth in panic.
Those weren’t her sheets. She didn’t own dark blue sheets that smelled like really good men’s cologne. Where the hell was she?
Scrambling to her feet, the sheet fell away and she realized that she was wearing a man’s t-shirt. Her hair was a hot mess in a way it could only be if she’d slept on it wet. What the hell had happened last night?
“Cupcake, you know how to tie one on in epic proportion.”
Oh, God. She knew that voice. She knew that snarky tone. A glance over her shoulder confirmed it. Carter Hayes, in all of his glorious half country boy-half hipster glory stood there smirking at her like she was a world class idiot. And he looked hot. And she looked homeless.
Wearing an ancient t-shirt that was so faded it was illegible and a pair of jeans that fit him to perfection, his dark hair had been pulled up in the manliest of buns and his face was covered with just the right amount of scruff. It was the kind of scruff that made you think about what it would feel like on your skin. If humiliation could be fatal, she’d have been pronounced dead the second she recognized his voice.
“Why am I here? Where are my clothes?” she demanded. The shrill note of her own voice had her wincing and grabbing her head where it threatened to simply implode.
“Easy there, sunshine. First, you don’t remember a thing because you’re shitty ass
slipped an Ambien into your drink last night… And for the record, you ever go near that punkass bitch again and I will turn you over my knee.”
That rankled. She felt like hammered ass and he was standing there telling her what she could and could not do. “You are not the boss of me, Carter Hayes!”
“Someone needs to be, Josephine Marcum,” he shot back. “Do you have any idea what could have happened to you last night?”
That gentle reprimand settled her down quickly. She sank back onto the edge of the bed. “Why would he do that?”
Carter raised his eyebrows. “I know your dad is a preacher and all, but surely, at some point in your life, someone explained to you that men have penises and they like to put them—.”
“Stop!” She did not need a sex education lecture from the man who’d singlehandedly educated half the female population of Fontaine on a decidedly personal level. “I just wanted to go out and have a few drinks and dance!”
“Because he’s a world class idiot,” he replied evenly. “Now, he’s an idiot with a broken nose.” He smiled at her. “You’re welcome.”
Josie wanted to crawl back under the covers and never get out. Except of course they were his covers and they smelled like him and even in her current state of utter misery that still smelled really, really good.
“Where are my clothes?” she forced herself to ask. She remembered portions of the night, but others were just a huge blank.
“Your dress… well, I had to wash it. You got sick and it wasn’t pretty,” he explained, and sounded equal parts amused and sympathetic.
She’d puked her guts out in front of the hottest man in Fontaine. Josie dropped her head to her knees and willed herself not to cry from the humiliation.
“You’re not the first person to throw up in my truck,” he offered conversationally. “Hell, I’ve lost count at this point. At least you’re not a crier.”
Pushing her still damp and crazy hair out of her face, she asked, “Why is my hair still wet?”
He ducked his head but that did nothing to hide the grin that quirked his perfectly sculpted lips. “Honey, you didn’t just puke on your dress… I was half tempted to call a priest.”
“I cannot be here,” she said. “I cannot be here and this cannot be happening.”
“I’ll take you home when you’re ready,” he offered.
And have everyone in Fontaine talking about it. No. Absolutely not. That could not happen.
“Can you take me to Cincinnati? I need to get my car?”
He frowned at her. “You shouldn’t drive yet… If it was just alcohol, you’d be fine, but whatever that dumbass slipped you… you should be careful for a while.”
So have everyone in town gossip about her, or risk going to jail for DUI—the options just kept getting better. If her parents knew,
if her father’s congregation knew,
she’d never hear the end of it. Deciding to be honest, she said, “Carter, I can’t have anyone see you taking me home.”
“You’re a big girl, cupcake… well, you’re an adult anyway,” he corrected with a smirk.
Short jokes were not the best way to endear anyone to her. “It’s like this, Carter… I could have spent the night with anyone in this town and it would be a scandal. But spending it with you, when you’re known for being the biggest manwhore to ever live and breathe, is especially bad. My father would never forgive me and my mother would either die of the shame or make me wish I had.”
hat stung more than a little
. Carter knew his reputation. Hell, he’d made a point to cultivate it in just that way. His mother had always warned him about breaking hearts and he’d figured out early on that girls didn’t get their hearts broken if they didn’t expect the heart to ever be involved. But to have this little girl, and he wasn’t just talking about her height, tell him that he wasn’t good enough to be seen with, that cut deep. It didn’t matter that she’d said nothing that wasn’t true. He knew just how vicious Fontaine’s gossip mill could be.
Shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans, he rocked back on his heels. “I get it, cupcake. I’m good enough to save your ass, but not good enough to be seen with… There are extra sweat pants in the top drawer. Get dressed and I’ll drive you to get your car.”
Carter turned away and headed into the living room. His apartment was the upper floor of Revision, his cousin’s salvage and antique store. He worked for Savannah, delivering furniture and hauling shit that she couldn’t carry, and did some wood working on the side with Bennett. The rest of the time, he did construction and odd jobs, none of which helped to alleviate his image as a ne’er-do-well.
Still, looking around the place he’d made for himself, he was proud of it. The heart pine floors he’d refinished himself; the exposed brick that he’d chiseled free of layers of plaster, paint and wallpaper; the furniture, an eclectic mix of old, new and handmade— the apartment had been his way of saying that he wasn’t what other people thought of him, even if few people ever set foot in it. He wasn’t afraid of hard work, he just didn’t like doing it on other people’s terms.
The bedroom door opened and Josie emerged, drowning in a pair of his sweatpants and his shirt. It shouldn’t have looked good on her and a part of him deeply resented the fact that it did. She’d insulted him, she’d looked down her nose at him, and yet, staring at her in clothes that hung off her like shapeless sacks, he still remembered how she’d looked in that tiny slip of a dress. There was something about her.