Authors: Octavia McKenzie
Where There’s Smoke
A Texas Heat Novel
By Octavia McKenzie
Kindle & Print Edition
Publisher: Jane Austen & Company
Copyright 2015, Octavia McKenzie
Books by Octavia McKenzie
All Jane Austen’s Men Series
All Jane Austen’s Men, Mr. Darcy’s Journal, Poems & Love Letters
All Jane Austen’s Men, Mr. Knightley & Captain Wentworth’s Journal, Poems & Love Letters
All Jane Austen’s Men, The Journal, Poems & Love Letters of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley & All
Texas Heat Novels
It’s a privilege and a joy to write for you!
I love connecting with my readers!
Like me on Facebook & share – Octavia McKenzie, Author
Twitter - @octaviawrites1
Instagram - @octaviawrites1
This book is dedicated to my teachers, the special ones I’ll never forget, you were amazing, I love you all!
Grade Mr. Kurs, PS 143 Corona, Queens, NY
Grade Mrs. Perez, IS 227, Queens, NY
Grade Mrs. Fishback, Plantation High School, Plantation, FL
Table of contents
The City of Sin was no place for a pastor and yet Rowan Camden felt right at home. He was comfortable talking to the homeless, prostitutes, the mentally ill, street performers, dancers and tourists who roamed the Vegas Strip. He could totally relate to the outcast, the down trodden and misunderstood.
Even though he wore a baseball cap, tee shirt and jeans, a few tourists recognized him from his television ministry. He shook hands, held babies, took selfies and prayed with them under the hot neon lights.
A few women flirted with him. Some had no shame. At home, back in Aberdeen by the Lake, several women were getting bolder. One showed up at his house at midnight requesting private counseling. He didn’t bother opening the door, just sent her on her merry way. Another sent him cards, flowers and her underwear by mail. His secretary, Bertha fielded call after call from single women offering him everything from a lunch date to graphic sexual invitations. The brazen flirtations were shocking and increased with alarming frequency.
Rowan had to do something. Without ego, he knew part of the problem was his physical appearance. His wife used to call him, delicious divine. At 6’3 of solid muscle, Rowan had a magnetic presence, a sensual pull that women responded to on a primitive level. He looked like a wild Scottish Highlander sent to pillage and vanquish. His blazing red gold hair, smoldering green eyes and chiseled face caused a literal stampede of women in church every Sunday.
He was regularly approached by modeling agencies and asked to pose for magazine covers – he declined. He already had a calling that he loved. As Rowan strolled down the Vegas Strip, he glanced at M&Ms World and did a double take.
Sawyer Landon wore a crazy giant M&Ms hat and made silly faces at a little girl. The child clapped her pudgy hands and giggled. Sawyer’s answering smile made him feel as if the sun shined on his face.
Ever since she rescued him back in elementary school, he had a soft spot for that girl. Sawyer and Rowan became the best of friends. She spotted him and waved like a wild woman. He grinned. Rowan made a head motion for her to come. She made another goofy face to the child before dashing out.
“Hey girl,” he said as she walked towards him.
Sawyer waved a bag of candy in his face. “Birthday Cake M&Ms, my life is now complete.”
He playfully nudged her in the arm. She poked him in the ribs.
“Ow, Lord your elbows are sharp.”
She popped an M&M in her mouth and moaned. The sensual sound made his stomach flutter and clench.
. He frowned and cleared his throat.
“How’s my favorite librarian?”
“In chocolate heaven.”
They walked side by side. Cars, limos and tourist buses cruised by. Majestic hotels and designer stores lined both sides of the strip.
“I gotta go easy though, my ass is growing as we speak.”
One of the things Rowan loved about her, she treated him like a man, not a pastor. So many friends walked on egg shells around him, picking their words carefully, afraid to offend. Not Sawyer! She let him have it with both barrels, cuss words and all, without batting an eyelash.
His lips twitched. “As that poet Sir Mix a Lott said, ‘I like big butts and I cannot lie.”
Sawyer had a booming laugh that many thought too loud and brash. He found it endearing. “Seriously, I have way too much junk in my trunk.”
“Let me see.” Rowan turned her around in the middle of the side walk. Her ass was round and plump. His body inwardly growled. “Nice,” he said, appalled by his own reaction.
Sawyer spun around. “You should try stuffing it in a pair of jeans.”
Rowan laughed. “How was your flight?”
“As near death experiences go, not so great.”
Rowan grinned. “Turbulence feels scarier than it is. So it was a little bumpy.”
“At thirty thousand feet.”
“You’ll live, Cricket.”
Sawyer felt a thrill every time he called her that. She gave him a sideways glance. Nobody would guess looking at him now that Rowan Camden was a scrawny, pimpled faced nerd back in elementary and middle school. The Greek god beside her was all too human. Sawyer felt an odd burst of pride when women openly drooled as they walked by. She also felt protective of him too.
He’s a pastor ladies, back the hell off!
“Are you staying at The Bellagio?” he asked.
That’s where the wedding of their friends, Donavan McClain and Harper Grant would take place tomorrow.
“I never thought I would see the day.”
Sawyer turned to him. “You didn’t know?”
“Nope, never suspected, they were always at each other’s throats.”
“You know what they say, there’s a thin line between love and hate. Isn’t that a Bible verse?”
Rowan threw back his head and laughed. “Ah no. The scriptures say love is a holy fire that burns.”
Sawyer felt her breath catch. Rowan held her gaze just a second too long. He looked away, frowning. Just then, a woman in a blouse cut to her navel and a mini skirt with stripper heels, squealed when she saw Rowan. “Oh my gad! I’ve seen you on TV, you’re so hot.”
Sawyer stepped between the woman and Rowan. “Really? Go put some clothes on and take a cold shower, he’s a pastor for God’s sake!”
The stranger undressed Rowan with her eyes. “Here’s my hotel room key, if you wanna-”
“I will pop your fake tits with my hair pin if you don’t go away now,” Sawyer said.
The woman quailed under Sawyer’s – I’ll kill you – glare. She scurried away.
Rowan and Sawyer linked arms. His shoulders shook with mirth. “Pop her fake tits?”
“Yep, right through the plastic nipples.”
He roared with laughter. “Cricket, I wish I had you with me 24/7.”
“I’ll be your pit-bull for the rest of the day, where we going?”
“To The Zombie Palace.”
Rowan’s family owned thirty-eight themed hotels worldwide, including
The Walking Dead
inspired Zombie Palace on the Las Vegas Strip. Guests paid to get the crap scared out of them. Actors in gruesome bloody makeup, roamed the halls and chased guests at random.
The lobby was lined with giant posters of every Zombie movie ever made. The manager, a woman in her sixties, blushed and preened in response to Rowan’s polite greeting. Sawyer was fascinated by the power Rowan had over females from age 6 months to 100. Sawyer never stopped to examine why she was immune to him. She supposed their close friendship forbid anything more. Besides, she didn’t look at Rowan that way. Women salivated over him like vultures on a slab of meat. He was so much more than a pretty face and great body.
Sawyer loved his logical mind, his deep intellect and their philosophical debates. They could talk for hours about anything and everything. She lusted after his brain more than anything else. Her parents taught her to look way beyond the superficial. That being said, it was difficult not to acknowledge his masculine beauty.
Her mind shied away from that. Why jeopardize the best friendship she ever had? Sawyer and Rowan got chased to the elevator by a groaning, shuffling fat zombie. When the doors closed they collapsed against the wall with laughter.
“Do you believe they’re sold out most of the year?” Rowan asked. His eyes were every shade of green imaginable. A woman could get happily lost in those eyes. Sawyer smiled up at him, way up. Man, he’s so deliciously tall.
“The slime dripping from the fake black teeth is a stroke of genius.”
“You like that? Wait until you see the limbs that fall off. My mother planned every gory detail.”
The elevator doors opened to the penthouse. The executive wing was located on the twentieth floor. The opulent suites had stunning views of the mountains, the strip and the planes that soared and landed at the airport.
“Wow,” Sawyer said.
Deena Camden rushed out of her office, across the plush carpet and hurled herself in her son’s arms.
“Bubba!” she said.
Sawyer bit her lip. He glared at her. “Call me Bubba and it’s the last thing you’ll ever say.”
Sawyer smirked. Deena kissed his rugged cheek. “Oh sweetheart it’s so good to see you. How’s the God business?”
Deena raised a single sculptured eyebrow. She looked well preserved, slim, graceful and sophisticated. She wore a designer power suit and designer heels.
“Sawyer!” she hugged her warmly. “How are you darling?”
“How is your father feeling?”
“He’s responding well to treatment, thanks.”
The entire town of Aberdeen by the Lake rallied behind The Landons when her dad was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Leukemia. “I’m so glad to hear it, please give him my regards.”
Deena ushered them into her majestic suite of Persian rugs, crown molding, antique desk and butter leather chairs.
“Isn’t the view splendid?” she said.
“Indeed,” Rowan said.
“Your sister’s in London at The Jane Austen and your brother is in St. Lucia at Pirate’s Cove.” There was a slight edge to her voice. Deena was a woman used to getting her own way. She ran a multi-billion dollar empire and she fully expected her eldest son to take his rightful place at the helm. Years ago, Rowan used to run several of the family hotels in New York. After a personal tragedy, he walked away from it all to go to seminary. His career move sent shockwaves through his family and the hospitality industry. Sawyer was proud of everything he accomplished on his own and the thousands he helped on a daily basis with his ministry.
“I saw your broadcast last week,” Deena said casually.
“I’m glad you tuned in,” Rowan said.
The matriarch shrugged indifferently. “So,” she said, “What brings you to Sin City? Not exactly your forte.” She just had to get that dig in.
Sawyer leaped to his defense, as always. “You remember Donavan McClain and Harper Grant?”
“Yes of course.”
“They’re getting married tomorrow and Rowan is conducting the ceremony.”
Sawyer had just about enough of her biting sarcasm. “He’s amazing at what he does. Do you know he feeds thousands of homeless and he’s built orphanages-”
“Cricket,” Rowan said, torn between gratitude and exasperation. “I’m a big boy, I can handle my mother, okay?”