This is a sneak peak of my upcoming erotic romance, Texas Tangle, that will be released this summer by Harlequin's Carina Press.
Thanks to her cheating ex-husband and her thieving brother, all horse breeder Nikki Kimball has left is a bruised heart, an over-drawn bank account and an empty home. When sex-on-legs Dillon Barnett and his brooding foster-brother Brett Anderson start showing more than just neighborly attention, Nikki is intrigued…and a little gun-shy.
Dillon and Brett have a history; back in high school, the two friends fought a bitter battle over Nikki. Now, ten years later, Brett still longs to be the man in Nikki’s life, but he’s determined to stand back and let Dillon win Nikki’s heart.
Society says Nikki must choose between the two men she loves. Is Nikki strong enough to break all the rules in order to find happiness?
Text Copyright © 2010 by Leah Braemel
Brett Anderson switched off the strobe lights and parked his squad car beside the others. The three units parked in front of Nikki’s, lights still flashing, highlighted the trim figure striding back and forth across the lawn, her arms wrapped about herself. Where the hell was Dillon, and why had he left Nikki alone?
He got out of the car and headed straight for her, ignoring the house for the moment. When he’d recognized the address blasted over the police radio, it had been all he could do not to abandon the accident site out on the highway. At least Tiny had been the first responder on scene and had kept him in the loop.
Nikki’s head snapped up. “Brett!”
She launched herself at him, wrapping her arms about his waist. The fear that had caught him since he’d first heard the call relaxed as he closed his arms around her. “You okay, sweetie?”
“Yeah, it’s just…” She buried her face against his neck, her chest heaving as she struggled to maintain control. If he knew her, it wasn’t an effort to hold back tears but to contain her anger. “Everything I’ve got is gone.”
“I know, Nik. But it’s just stuff. At least you’re safe.” Tucking her head under his chin, he stroked her back, enjoying the feel of her in his arms. Despite the number of visits he’d made to her place over the years, only in his fantasies had he been able to hold her like this again.
They stood wrapped together for a few minutes, her breathing gradually calming down, her body softening against his. Brett memorized how she fit perfectly against him, taking the time to notice the tinier details like how her braid dangled halfway down her back. He fantasized about removing the elastic holding it in place and running his fingers through her hair, freeing it from its bindings. What would it be like to lie beneath her, to feel her hair cascade over his chest?
“Tiny thinks Phil took everything.” She tilted her head back to look at him, reminding him of the last time he’d held her in his arms. What would it be like to kiss her the way he had then?
Not now. Not yet. She’s been victimized. If you make your move now, you’ll never know if she’s turned to you because you represent safety or if she’s hot for you.
“I heard.” When he’d heard Tiny broadcast the B.O.L.O. on Phil, the tow truck drivers had saluted the curse he’d uttered. “We’ll find him. Don’t worry.”
“I don’t understand any of it.” She shook her head in confusion and looked toward the house.
Goddamn that lazy bastard. How they could be related was beyond his imagination. Then again, of all people, he knew how genes didn’t carry the best—or the worst—traits between family members. Thank God for small mercies. “Honey, there were no marks on the lock to show someone had broken in. There were no broken windows—”
“No,” she interrupted. “I understand why they think it was him, but what I don’t get is how he could have done this to me, his own sister. I took him in instead of making him live in a halfway house, or somewhere with strangers. There must be some other explanation.”
He cupped her cheek until she looked at him. “It’s not about you. To Phil, it’s about satisfying himself, no matter who he hurts.”
She leaned her cheek into his palm, her eyes closing. “What would I do without friends like you?”
Friends? Yeah, he’d tried to stay her friend. After he’d come back from college, it had hurt to see her in town with her husband, to be reminded of what he’d lost. A couple months later, he’d joined the Barnett County police and had discovered her husband receiving a blow job from town slut Patsy Schrader in the grocery store parking lot. It had just about killed him not to warn her that her husband was cheating. Same with the next time, when he’d caught them in flagrante dilecto in the back seat of Patsy’s van. Or the next.
Right after she’d finally kicked the sorry bastard out the year before, he figured he’d have another chance. But every time he’d checked on her since, she’d been oblivious to why he was visiting. Instead she’d announced she was determined to make it on her own and spurned all his help.
Maybe now they could pick up where they’d left off ten years before. He moved a half step closer, and she didn’t step away. Instead she continued to look up at him, her lips slightly parted. Inviting him to kiss her. He bent his head until the brim of his hat brushed the top of her head.
A throat cleared on the porch. “Hey, Anderson, you get that accident scene cleared up?”
Stifling a sigh, Brett pulled back. On the porch, Tiny rocked on his heels, one eyebrow raised. Shit. There went the professional rating on his next review. Then he saw Dillon standing in the shadows, arms folded across his chest.
When Dillon stepped into the light, he couldn’t miss his friend’s narrowed eyes. Nor could he miss the heat in them when they turned on Nikki. Shitfuckdamn.
You’ve been down this road before. Remember that fiasco? It’s Dillon’s chance with Nikki this time. Not that either of them had ended up with her back in high school, but he wasn’t prepared to lose Dillon or the Barnetts. Not again.
He dropped his arms from Nikki, and stepped back. “Hey, Dill. Nik, I gotta go help Tiny here. I’ll talk to you later, okay?”
Cover Art Copyright© 2010 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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