Authors: Joya Ryan
Break Me Slowly
Possess Me Slowly
The characters and events portrayed in this work are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 2013 Joya Ryan
All rights reserved.
No part of this work may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by StoryFront, Seattle
Cover design by Inkd
ou going to get up there and sing tonight?” Jen Randall asked, tucking a lock of blond hair behind her ear.
“I’m going to need a few more of these”—Annabelle Thompson wiggled her longneck beer—“before that happens.”
It had been a busy week but a good one. It had taken seven years of saving, planning, and hard work, but Annie’s Café was finally up and running. She was ready to put down the pastry bag for one night and throw back a couple with her best friend.
“Hey, you could do some Britney Spears!”
Annie just about choked on her beer. “In a two-step bar? We’d have a riot on our hands.”
It was more like a two-step town. Sweet Hill was nestled in the heart of Washington, surrounded by apple orchards. All of which were owned by the Jacobs family.
The thought left a sour taste in her mouth, mostly because harvest season was in full swing and the name Jacobs was thrown around even more than usual. It was tough to escape it, and Annie really wanted to escape it. Especially since the last time she saw Luke Jacobs—and by saw, she meant saw naked—was two years ago tonight.
“Yikes, what bit your ass?” Jen asked loudly, swiveling on her barstool to face Annie.
“You just got a mean look on your face. Don’t like the Garth Brooks rendition Big Saul is pulling off?” Jen pressed her finger against her ear and gently shook her head. “Can’t say I blame you, if that’s the case.”
“No, it’s not Big Saul.” However, the six-foot-plus overall-clad combine operator currently stomping, dancing, and singing was obviously tone-deaf. The wood planks of the tiny stage at the front of the bar weren’t the only thing screeching.
“Aw, I should have known.” Jen eyed Annie. “It’s your heartbreak anniversary.”
“Don’t call it that. It makes me sound like a pathetic crazy person,” Annie said before taking another swig of beer. It was two years since she’d seen the bastard who stole her heart—and her panties—and took off for the East Coast, never to be heard from again.
“How about it’s your sex-a-versary?”
“That’s even worse.”
Jen still didn’t seem convinced. “Look, I know these last few years have been tough, but you finally have your café, and your mama hasn’t come around in over a year. These are things to celebrate.”
Annie nodded. Her dad had walked out when she was a baby, and her mother had habits—mostly men—that didn’t leave a lot of time in the day to be a decent human being. Raised by her grandmother, Annie had saved every penny she had in hopes of owning her own business one day.
Annie adjusted her shoulders and smiled. “It’s a good day, good week, and you’re right, time for a little celebration.” Because despite her mother blowing into town once every year or so looking for money, somehow Annie had managed to pull off her dream, and so far, business was booming.
“That’s the spirit!” Jen took a drink and scanned the room. “Now, let’s find some men to celebrate with.”
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Annie said. She knew the men of this town and they knew of her, or rather of her mother. A reputation that didn’t warrant a lot of dignity.
“Well, get ready, because we just got another round.” Jen smiled and raised her drink to the handful of men in the corner.
“They bought us a round?” Annie asked, completely confused.
“Yep, they sure did.” Jen stirred the little straw in her cosmo.
“But that’s Ricky Thrown.” His father owned House of Throwns Toilet and Plumbing, and his was one of the better-known and well-respected families of Sweet Hill. He also never spoke to Annie, not since twelfth-grade science class when he’d tried cheating off her paper and looking down her shirt all at the same time.
Annie glanced over her shoulder. Sure enough, he was smiling and waving in her direction.
“I think he likes you.” Jen nudged her.
“He toilet-papered my grandmother’s trailer.”
“That was in high school.”
Before Annie could argue more, Ricky walked up, beer in hand and beaming with a practiced smile.
“Hey, Annie. Looking good tonight.” He openly ogled her legs and breasts. “Tell me something.” He leaned over her and put his hand on the bar, boxing her in. “What’s a guy gotta do to get a taste of your pie?” Ricky barely got the words out before he started laughing so hard some spit landed on Annie’s face. She wiped her cheek and didn’t even have a chance to tell him to fuck off before Ricky was already walking back to his buddies, who were also laughing and now pulling out five-dollar bills and handing them to him.
“I survived an encounter with White Trash Thompson!” he said loud enough for everyone to hear over the music.
“Go to hell!” Jen yelled back.
“Forget it,” Annie mumbled, glaring at Ricky.
Annie looked around and saw what she did every time she set her sights on the male population: nothing.
Most of them whispered about her being mouthy, crazy, or straight-up white trash. While she had her mother’s build—tall, lean, and stacked—boys had made the mistake only a few times when she was a teenager to assume she was just like her mother in any other way. The opposite sex had generally steered clear ever since she bit Anthony Swank’s lip when he tried to kiss her in the ninth grade.
All except one.
Annie took another long draw of her beer. “How many times have I told you? Men are afraid of me.” At least, that’s what she told herself. She could handle assholes. But being the butt of the joke got old after a while.
“They aren’t afraid of you, they’re afraid of what you may do to them,” Jen said. “And they should be when they’re douche bags like Ricky Thrown,” she called loudly in said douche bag’s direction. “Remember that time you kneed Tim Riggs in the balls for trying to feel you up?”
“That was six months ago.” And Annie had found out later it was just another “bet.” Apparently, to get the prize money, Tim had to ask her out and cop a feel. “They all still act like they’re in high school.”
Even as Annie defended herself, she knew it was more than the handsy Tim Riggs or pushy Anthony Swank. It was her whole life. She saw what men could do. She’d witnessed it with her mama. They could hook you, on more than one thing, and turn you into a mindless fool, until you agreed to follow them anywhere. Something she had no interest in.
“Maybe we can try a different approach,” Jen said, giving a little pinky wave to someone across the room. “Those guys over there look to be from out of town. Why don’t you try flirting?”
Annie raised a brow. “Flirting?”
“Yeah. You know, smile, lean in, and casually touch. Talk like this.” She dropped her voice nearly an octave, and Annie had to hold back a laugh.
“You go ahead with that. I’ll just be here at the bar.”
Jen stood, and before she walked over to Mr. Pinky Wave, she hugged Annie. “I love you. I just want you to be happy.”
“I know.” She patted Jen’s back and drew away. “What are you waiting for? Go get your cowboy.”
She smiled, and Jen skipped off.
Finishing her beer, Annie set the empty bottle on the bar and did everything she could not to think of the one man she did want. The only one who never made a sport of her humiliation, at least publicly. Luke Jacobs.
“I’m so stupid,” she mumbled.
She had known that Luke’s plan had always been to leave town. He was four years older, educated, from a good family. But that night, when she’d seen him in the bar, she’d been desperate for an escape.
Her mother had cleaned out Annie’s savings and taken off that morning, causing the bank to back out of her loan until she had more start-up capital. It added an extra year to earn back what her mother had stolen.
She’d gone to the bar to get lost. Then Luke had shown up, a perfect distraction to help her forget. Make her feel safe. Wanted. Just for one night.
Instead of leaving the next week like he was scheduled to, he left the next morning. Not a word, a call, or a note. Just gone. Leaving Annie to wake up alone, in her own kind of private humiliation.
A lifetime of growing up in the same town had culminated in one night of intense passion she’d never thought could exist between two people. Then nothing. For years she’d put up with pricks and losers. Dealt with their taunts and rude remarks and general judgment of her. But Luke was different. Always had been. He was her friend, who stood up for her, then pushed for more, and she gave in. Like a naive little girl, she’d let him have her and, my God, did he take everything she had.
Shaking off her thoughts of Luke, Annie crossed her legs and tugged down her skirt a little. She had bigger things to worry about now. Like her café. Because it was hers. One hundred percent, succeed or fail, all hers. Everyone in town might not like her, but her food was amazing. That she had confidence in.
Nothing could stand in her way now.
Jen rushed back into the seat she’d just occupied and clasped Annie’s shoulders.
“You okay?” Annie asked.
Jen nodded, but her eyes locked on something over Annie’s shoulder.
“Uh, remember how you don’t get pissy around harvest season, you don’t have a pathetic sex-a-versary, and tonight is a fun celebration?”
Jen’s gaze came back to Annie. “Good, hold on to those thoughts. You’re going to need them.”
“Why?” She turned and looked, and there, standing in the doorway in a white T-shirt, well-loved jeans, and way too much male swagger to be legal, was her answer.
Luke hadn’t realized how much he’d missed his hometown until he stepped into The Dust Bucket. Loud country music filled every corner of the room, and the smell of barbecue and draft beer hit him hard.
“Luke!” several guys called out. Old friends and acquaintances came up to give handshakes and surrounded him with questions. The thing about Sweet Hill—everyone knew everyone. A nice idea, unless you gave them a reason to gossip.
But that wasn’t why he came here tonight.
The reason he came was for a set of long legs, wild red hair, and a wicked little mouth, the owner of which was currently stomping straight toward him.
He couldn’t hold back a smile because, damn it, Annie Thompson was looking as fine as ever. Two years she had been on his mind. Not a day passed that he didn’t replay his hot one-night with her. Now, with his land development project finally done and a break in his schedule, he was home to help his grandfather with harvest. But it was mission number one to get back in Annie’s good graces—and in bed.
She parted through the crowd—rather, the crowd parted around her—and didn’t stop until she was practically on Luke’s toes. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Well, hello to you too, Annabelle.” He glanced around the bar, then said, “I believe I live here.”
“You haven’t been home in years. I thought you started your own orchard on the East Coast.”
It was still a Jacobs orchard, a family endeavor, but yes, his brainchild. He had bought up several hundred acres and spent the last couple years getting ready to plant them.
“You’ve been keeping tabs on me. I like that.” He winked.
She scowled. “You told everyone that was your plan before you left, dumbass.”
While he preferred it when she called him by name—rather, moaned it—he’d take what he could get.
was better than he thought he’d get. And he liked her spark. She was the only woman who never tiptoed around him.
“Missed me?” The moment the words came out and he saw the way her sparkly blue eyes turned into eat-shit-and-die slits, he tried a different approach. “Because I’ve missed you.”
That got her to stall. But only for a moment.
“Oh, really?” A sexy smile laced her lush mouth, and she leaned a little closer, enough so her breasts brushed against his chest. Whatever fury she had just been harboring disappeared. That was all it took. She was the only woman in the world that got him hard with a single look.
His stare openly roamed over her body. Tight tank top that showed off just a hint of cleavage, and short skirt that showcased those incredible legs. Her long hair was loose and spilling over her shoulders in a way that made her look like some kind of wild angel.
He dipped his head, wanting to snag that plump bottom lip of hers between his teeth.
“And what is it you’ve missed, Luke?” she asked in a throaty voice loud enough for only him to hear.
What did he miss? Every damn thing about her. She was the only person who had ever gotten under his skin. Challenged him. There was also the way she made him crazy with wanting her.
He’d thought it was going to be more difficult to get her to give in, but so far, this was shaping up to be fairly easy. He’d been honest before he left. Told her he was moving out east. After that night, though, he had to leave earlier than he’d planned. Something he had no idea how to tell Annie, then or now.
When he had woken up with her in his arms, something had come over him. A stillness. Like nothing in the world existed but them. A notion he hadn’t been ready for. Distance was his best bet, but after the two long years, the need for her and the need for that stillness between them was stronger than ever. Annie was different. Always had been, and he was ready to experience that again. And hopefully, with a few more words, they could pick up where they left off all those years ago.