Authors: Maggie McCullough
CURIOSITY IS THE LUST OF THE MIND
Anne Rutledge has always played it safe. Responsible. Career-conscious. Lackluster lovers. One stormy night changes everything. Anne meets a man who turns her well-ordered life upside down and inside out. Intense. Passionate. Forceful. Evan Jamison isn’t a man she can ignore. Sparks fly, ignite and spontaneously combust. Anne convinces herself a one night stand is the perfect solution.
Two weeks later and she can’t forget the wild, hot sex or the scarves Evan had tied to his bedposts, the scarves he says he’ll save for next time. She receives a text, an invitation to blindfolds and untold delights. Anne accepts. Evan doesn’t disappoint. Can Anne reconcile her chosen career with the not so proper sex she enjoys with Evan?
Table of Contents
Copyright © 2015 by Maggie McCullough
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed "Attention: Permissions Coordinator," at the address below.
Publisher's Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author's imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
Book Cover ©2015 Cover Designer: Julie Nicholls
Editor: Helen Hardt
Shaken / Maggie McCullough -- 1st Ed.
Steering wheel clutched in a death grip, her nose damn near touching the windshield, Anne Rutledge hugged the broken white lines of the highway. The wipers whipped back and forth in a futile struggle to push torrents of rain from the glass. The tires of her little VW Bug struggled to maintain traction on the waterlogged road.
Anne crept along at a hair-raising speed of twenty miles per hour, visibility so poor she could only see a few yards in front of her. The hope of reaching Denver at a reasonable hour was gone.
Why didn’t I check the weather report before heading out?
Or at the very least, waited until morning when the school budget meeting had run late. The stretch of road from Laramie to Fort Collins was out-of-the-way and isolated at night.
But no, you had to rush out in the dark like you don’t have a brain in your head.
Anne could almost see her father’s raised eyebrow at his normally responsible daughter’s impulsive decision to drive to Laramie so late.
A crack of thunder exploded with a boom. Lightning stabbed through the night.
hurtled out of the foreboding darkness toward Anne.
Her forearm rose unbidden to protect her face; her foot slammed on the brake.
The impact reverberated throughout the car as the windshield splintered into a million spidery cracks.
Anne came to an abrupt stop, one hand clutching the steering wheel, her heart thumping in her chest. Her breathing was erratic and out of control; knowing the problem was hyperventilation didn’t help. Several slow, deep breaths got it under some semblance of control.
Although shaken and dazed, she was still among the living.
What the hell was that?
Whatever it was, it must have fallen off from the sudden stop.
Oh, God, I hope I didn’t hit someone.
The pouring rain curtained off all but the immediate area around her.
Is it safe to leave the car to investigate?
In this rain?
Her silk blouse, short skirt, and three-inch heels were sopping wet. Anne hung her head; she had packed her jacket in the trunk.
Oh, great! What else can go wrong?
You damn wimp.
She opened the door. A blast of wind jerked it out of her hand. Heavy rain gusted in. Anne was soaked before she stepped out of the car.
At least one headlight seemed to be working, giving enough illumination to pick her way to the front of the car.
Lying off to the passenger side was an injured deer, its antlers still in velvet. It struggled to rise but fell back. The buck twitched a few times and then ceased to move.
Anne leaned on the bumper, dizzy and nauseated.
. Her stomach heaved. Several more deep breaths didn’t help. She bent over and vomited, shaken from her close brush with violent death.
Steeling herself for what she might find, Anne eyed what remained of the front end of the car. The bumper hung almost to the ground, and the hood was dented inward. The windshield on the passenger side was concave with cracks running out from the center of the impact.
She wasn’t going anywhere soon. “Damn!”
Anne tried to open the trunk. No luck there. It was jammed shut from the collision.
Damn. Why did I put my jacket in the trunk?
Anne kicked the car. “Damn it!” Kicked it harder and swore once more as her foot bore the impact.
Lightning flashed. Thunder rolled. The rain fell harder.
Really? I don’t have enough to deal with already?
Anne limped to the driver’s side, opened the door, and slid into the seat. She turned the key. The engine didn’t engage. Repeated attempts wore down the battery.
That doesn’t make sense. Hitting a deer in the front of the car shouldn’t affect the battery or engine in the back.
She cursed the uncaring rain.
Now what am I going to do?
Anne drew her cell phone out of her purse and hit the On button.
If that can-you-hear-me-now guy were here, she’d punch him right in the face.
Anne sniffled. She was cold. Wet. Miserable.
Grimacing, she wiped her dripping nose with the back of her hand. Remnants of the vomit soiled her mouth. Spying the water bottle in the cup holder, Anne unscrewed the lid and poured it in her mouth. After swishing it around a few times, she spat the contents out the door.
Sitting there crying wouldn’t get her to Laramie. Anne would have to walk for help.
Yeah, you were so smart, you didn’t even tell Dad you were driving up tonight.
No one’s coming to look for you.
Stepping out of the car, Anne scanned her surroundings—or attempted to, given the poor visibility.
Was that a light ahead, maybe a hundred yards down the road to the left?
Anne sighed as she looked at her five hundred dollar sammy red-bottom heels. She might as well kiss them goodbye. She had packed her lunch for an entire year to afford them.
“Okay, Sammy, start walking.”
The wind and rain never let up as Anne walked toward the faint glimmer. Those hundred yards were turning into a half mile. Distances were so deceiving at night. The only option was to trudge ahead.
Lurching to a halt, Anne almost fell flat on her face. One heel had jammed in a deep crack in the pavement. A quick yank released the shoe, but the heel snapped off instead of pulling free. Cold rain dripped off her nose and other protruding body parts. Sodden clothes clung to every curve.
Anne limped toward the shining beacon, moving forward like a lemming to the sea. At least lemmings had each other for company.
She was alone in the dark and the rain.
Her feet blistered.
Her teeth chattered.
She longed for a cup of hot chocolate by a roaring fireplace.
Deeply immersed in her own self-pity, Anne almost walked past the driveway. A metal piece snagged her sleeve, and there it was—an old-fashioned mailbox sitting alongside the road. A fortuitous flash of sheet lightning revealed a side road leading up a steep incline to a house.
Her step quickened. Only a bit farther to go.
Anne’s left foot sank ankle deep in mud as she stepped off the pavement onto the sloppy driveway. Her sammy red-bottoms would never be the same.
I wonder if my car insurance covers shoes?
She started up the muddy slope.
After walking no more than ten feet, Anne slipped and fell. On her ass. In a puddle. The cold, muddy water was the last straw. Anne sat and let the tears come…for a minute or two. She couldn’t go back. Nothing left but to move forward. She staggered to her feet and continued.
After what seemed like an eternity, Anne reached the house. Almost giddy with relief, she limped up the steps to the front porch and knocked on the door. Maybe a man would be there to help get her car off the road. At least the porch offered sanctuary from the rain.
Anne was almost ready to give up when something rustled inside the house. An interior light came on, followed shortly by one on the porch.
The front door opened, revealing a big man, shirtless and shoeless, wearing a pair of jeans.
Her breath caught. Even in her present drowned rat state, Anne was female enough to appreciate the masculinity facing her through the screen door.
An imposing scowl did nothing to disguise tousled hair, dark eyes, and lips made for kissing. His rather rugged face was covered with a day-old beard. A scar over his left eyebrow gave him a rakish appearance.
Anne itched to trail her fingers down that well-muscled chest to where a thin line of hair disappeared beneath his jeans. Was it by accident or design that the snap was undone?
The night had just become a lot more interesting.
“What do you want, lady?” His put-out, grumpy growl sounded sexy as hell. “Don’t you know it’s after midnight?”
He started to shut the door. Anne stepped forward to prevent it from closing.
“I…I hit a deer with my car. It…it’s dead,” Anne stuttered. “You can’t leave me out here.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “My car won’t start. And it’s raining.”
The dripping sarcasm in his voice didn’t dampen her libido one bit. His eyes dropped from her face to linger over her drenched form. Anne resisted the impulse to stare at his crotch in retaliation.
Damned if her nipples weren’t tingling. A warm tumult started to ferment at the juncture between her legs. Anne clenched her thighs together in an attempt to quash her reaction.
“C-Could you call Triple A for me? My c-car’s a hazard. It’s still in the r-road.”
Please let him think it is shock that has me so tongue-tied.
“Triple A won’t do shit. It’ll be morning, maybe even Monday morning, before they get out here. You should get that car off the road before someone gets hurt.”
“I can’t do it by myself.” Anne did her best to look helpless. “Please.” Her bottom lip trembled.
He exhaled. “Wait here.” He turned and walked back into the house.
Anne dropped her jaw in disbelief. He had left her standing on the porch.
His backside looked as good as the front. This was a man who could fill a pair of blue jeans. He walked with that easy stride tall men have, covering a lot of ground without appearing to hurry.
. Anne walked to the steps and shook her head at the still pouring rain.
She stood there, bemused.
What is it with this man? Or more aptly, what is it with me
? Where had this immediate breathless attraction to a complete stranger come from?
He was gone a couple of minutes and returned fully clothed. He jammed a Stetson on his head—
—before grabbing a rain slicker as he headed out the door. Boots clomped on the weathered planks as he walked across the porch to her.
“Here. Put this on.”
Anne made no move to take the slicker, hugging herself to keep warm instead. Despite the roughness of his voice, his hands were gentle as he tucked her arms in the sleeves and pulled the water-repellant fabric around her.
Anne looked down at the slicker. “Isn’t this a b-bit like shutting the b-barn door after the h-horse is out?”
“Can’t have you getting mud all over my leather seats. Come on,” he growled. “Don’t stand there with your mouth open. Let’s go get your car.”
Anne followed him to a black pickup truck parked on the side of the house. Before getting in, he donned another slicker he pulled from the back of the crew cab. Limping around to the passenger side, she opened the door and stood there, trying to decide the best method to climb up into the cab in her straight skirt and mismatched heels.
He reached across the seat to extend a hand. “Put your foot up, grab my hand, and I’ll haul you in.”
Hiking up her skirt, Anne put one foot on the running board, grabbed his hand, and with one powerful tug, she was unceremoniously deposited on the passenger seat.
“Thanks.” Anne was in no hurry to pull down her skirt, although she did make a pretense at doing so.
So what if it barely covers what it is supposed to
. “Oh, by the way, I’m Anne Rutledge.”
“Evan. Evan Jamison.” He reached behind him, pulled out another hat, and clapped it on her head. “That’s better. It will keep you drier and less distracting.”
Anne smiled. She would take distracting. Distracting was good. Maybe he wasn’t as immune to her feminine charms as he appeared.
“Which direction is your car?” he asked when they reached the end of the driveway.
“Turn right, then down the road on your left. The emergency lights should still be flashing unless my battery has completely died.”
“Why on earth are you out on the road by yourself this late at night?”
Anne bristled. “Why do men always ridicule the decisions women make?”
Evan blinked and furrowed his brow. “I’m trying to make conversation, lady. Guess I’ll shut up.”
“I’ve driven all the way from Denver in a raging thunderstorm. Almost killed myself hitting Bambi. Then I have to walk God-only-knows-how-far to reach your house.” Anne was done being polite. “And all you want to do is bitch about me driving out here in the first place.”
“Like I said before, forget I asked.” He shook his head and turned his attention back to the road.
Is that a little half smile he’s trying to suppress?
“Sorry. Guess I’m still a bit out of sorts. I am grateful you agreed to help.”
“No problem. We’ll get that car taken care of in no time.” He didn’t sound quite so contrary now. Perhaps her apology had mended some fences.
The soft glow from the dashboard cast his face in shadow as he drove. The rain and darkness wrapped Anne in a sensual blanket of intimacy. Her hand tingled where he had touched her. The impact of his masculine presence in the confinement of the cab was as palpable as a physical touch.