On Monday, Entangled Red-Hot Bliss released the second of my Donovan Brothers books, Chasing the Runaway Bride. Don’t you just love that cover? LOL Below is the blurb and an excerpt. Enjoy.
But the best news is the book is $.99 for another week or so.
Former Marine and current rancher Cade Donovan left his hometown looking for a fresh start. But then Cade inherits the grocery store that his grandfather won from the O’Riley family in a poker game more than thirty years ago. The same store that caused a bitter feud between the two families. And worse still, Cade has to return home to confront his past—and share his inheritance with the enemy…the all-grown-up and sinfully tempting Piper O’Riley.
After ditching two fiancés at the altar, Piper has a reputation for being the town’s runaway bride. The irony is, Piper is woefully inexperienced when it comes to real, true physical attraction. And working with Cade is torture. The kind that can keep a girl up all night imagining naughty, delicious things. Things that Cade is more than happy to show her…
It’s all fun and sexy games…until the truth of why Cade left town comes out.
Piper O’Riley watched a silver-gray Chevy Silverado pull into the parking lot of Health Aid Pharmacy, the drugstore she managed in the small town of Harmony Hills, Pennsylvania. A tall man climbed out. His shirt displayed broad shoulders and tight abs. His jeans all but caressed his perfect butt. His close-cut black hair and the way he carried himself—his shoulders back, his movements smooth and efficient—reminded her of someone in the military. He reached into his truck, pulled out a black cowboy hat, and plopped it on his head.
Wow. Just wow. He had all the makings of the man of her dreams.
She stopped that thought. Stomped it out with the fervor of a woman determined not to make the same mistake three times. The absolute last thing in the world she wanted was to notice another man. Three short months ago, she’d left her second groom at the altar. She’d gotten halfway down the aisle to marry Ronnie Nelson, but just like with Tom Lashinsky—the first guy she’d ditched—she’d known, just known, there was “more” to love than what she felt for her groom.
And she’d bolted.
The cowboy walked up to the glass door, his head down, as if he were deep in thought, and pulled it open.
Of course, when he looked up, he saw her standing there in the middle of the aisle like an idiot. His dark brown eyes crinkled at the corners as his full lips lifted into a warm smile.
Oh, Lord help her. Where did a man get a voice like that, with a western drawl that trickled down her spine and sent goose bumps to her toes? The kind of chill bumps she’d never felt in any of her relationships. The kind of chill bumps that explained why she couldn’t marry either of her previous grooms. The kind of chill bumps that made her wish that once—just once—she could be with a man who made her shiver.
“Can you point me in the direction of the cards?”
His voice was as smooth as velvet. His smile probably dropped women’s panties from thirty feet. He wouldn’t be the kind to settle down. He didn’t have to.
Piper’s inner good girl shook her head. Was that what she really wanted? A sexy man who couldn’t settle down? Sounded like a heartbreak waiting to happen—
Which explained why she always chose safe, ready-to-settle-down men. She didn’t want to get hurt.
She pointed to aisle three.
He smiled, put his fingers on the brim of his Stetson, and walked past her.
She smelled his aftershave, felt the heat of him as his arm almost brushed hers. Her heart tripped over itself. Her stomach fell. All her nerve endings glittered like a prom queen’s tiara.
And her inner bad girl all but swooned. Usually she stayed quiet, but today she was wide awake and curious. Getting a broken heart might be worth a few nights with this guy.
Within seconds, he was back, shiny white wedding card in hand. Maybe if she had a red-hot fling, something to satisfy this crazy feeling that she was missing out, she could stop leaving fiancés at the altar and actually get married.
“Who’s the wedding card for?”
She smiled. “If he looks anything like you, the bride’s a very lucky girl.”
There. She’d said it. She’d put it out on the table that she found him attractive. The next move was his.
He returned her smile and took a step closer. “Well, darlin’, he’s a little fairer than I am, but I think we’re in the same category.”
She drew in a quiet breath as glorious need combined with fear of the unknown and created a tingly feeling she’d never had before. A feeling that egged her on, made her say the first flirty thing that popped into her head.
“Then she is lucky.”
He laughed. The sound walked up her spine and sent that feeling through her again.
“What about you?”
“Pretty girl like you working in a drugstore. That doesn’t seem right.”
She laughed. The urge to flirt was so natural now, she couldn’t stifle it. “What do you think I should be? A stripper?”
His gaze rippled from her hair to her toes. “I’d pay to see you wind around a pole.”
That just plain stopped her breathing. Her inner good girl gasped. Women who wanted to keep their reputations did not wind around stripper poles.
But her inner bad girl sighed. She’d really like to be able to flirt without the constant nagging.
Piper found the compromise position: “I’m really not the kind to pole dance, but I might take money at the door.”
He laughed again.
Happiness surged through her. See, inner good girl? Flirting can be fun.
“You’re funny. I like that.”
She walked to the counter and slid behind the cash register. “I like a guy with a sense of humor, too.” She peeked up and caught his gaze. “And I hope it was just a joke that you thought I should work in a strip club.”
He leaned against the counter. “Man’s gotta have his fantasies. But there’s a lot to be said for living in the real world. You dating anyone?”
Her heart stumbled. Good God. He was going to ask her out. “No. Not now.”
“Which tells me there was somebody.”
She swallowed. How could he not know who she was? He had to be from out of town. “I kind of broke up with him about three months ago.”
He grinned. “Three months. That’s good timing.”
“Sure. By now the residual hurt feelings are down to a bare minimum, and you’re probably looking to move on.”
Gazing into his sexy dark eyes, she was so ready to move on.
“I’m not in town for long, though.”
She was right. He wasn’t from here, and he was telling her he wasn’t into a relationship, just a fling.
Could she do this? Have a fling? Could she try an affair, see what she was missing, and wave good-bye when he moved on?
Not quite sure what to say, she picked up his wedding card. A quick scan caused $6.99 to pop up in the digital readout of her cash register.
His eyes widened. “Seven freaking dollars for a card?”
She laughed. His façade of perfection cracked. Although, in some ways, his shock was cute. Clearly the man didn’t shop. “There are cheaper ones.”
He sighed, then winked. “I’m not cheap.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a five. “I just remembered the card when I was coming back from the diner. I spent most of my cash on breakfast for my brothers. I’ll have to go home and get more.”
“How about a bank card?”
“Don’t have that with me, either. When I travel I only use it for gas. Easier to keep track of my spending that way.”
His gorgeous dark eyes met hers, and the zap of electricity that surged through her almost stopped her heart. There was no denying she felt a zing for this guy. But the things he’d said suddenly began to group together in her head.
Wedding. Finn Donovan was getting married today.
Brothers. Finn had two brothers.
When I travel…Cade, Finn’s older brother, lived out of town. In Montana. On a ranch.
Which explained the Stetson.
He might be older, his hair shorter, his face more mature, but now that Piper had put everything together, she recognized him. This cowboy was Cade Donovan.
She had to fight not to squeeze her eyes shut. She wanted to have a fling with Cade Donovan? The guy who’d left her best friend at the altar?
Wow. She couldn’t exactly remember the definition of irony, but Harmony Hills’s runaway bride being attracted to its most notorious no-show groom? That was too much gossip for one town to handle, especially since the woman he’d left, Lonnie Simmons, was her best friend. So, no. She wouldn’t be participating in that particular literary device.
But, more important than the runaway bride/no-show groom gossip was the notorious Hyatt/O’Riley feud. His grandfather had won her father’s grocery store in a poker game, and most people in town believed Richard Hyatt had cheated. Cade Donovan was the grandson of the guy who had stolen her father’s business. Taken away his livelihood. Half the people in town didn’t shop at O’Riley’s Market because they didn’t want to support a cheat. She and her mom would cross the street rather than walk by anyone in the Hyatt/Donovan family.
She and Cade Donovan weren’t just a bad bet. They were enemies.
Her spine stiffened. Her smile became cool. “There’s no need to go back for cash. We have less expensive wedding cards.” Though it was a struggle, she kept her demeanor professional. “And they’re every bit as nice.”
He smiled again, and she had to take a quiet breath to stop the surge of white-hot need that burst through her. As much as she wanted to feel this heat that she’d never felt before, she could not be attracted to him. She refused.
“No problem. Let me show you.”
Cade Donovan’s gaze followed the unexpectedly gorgeous cashier as she came from behind the register. When she reached him, she pointed at the section with the greeting cards again and together they strode back down the aisle.
Slightly behind her, he let his gaze fall from her slim shoulders, down her sleek back, to her absolutely luscious backside. He swore his mouth watered.
Wearing a tank top that caressed her breasts and outlined her slim waist, and low-rise jeans that hugged her ass, she was the epitome of female perfection. Add long, straight black hair and bright green eyes to the mix, and his hormones were all but doing a samba.
She retrieved a pale yellow wedding card and presented it to him. “See? Two ninety-nine.”
His voice came out rough. Standing so close, he could feel the heat of her, smell the light floral scent of her perfume or shampoo. His body responded the way any male body would. His breath might have stalled, but the rest of him came to vivid attention. He could virtually see himself sliding the strap of her tank top down and licking her shoulder.
Their gazes met again.
Her eyes searched his. A combination of heat and something he couldn’t quite identify filled them. But from the way she’d been flirting before, he figured this wasn’t a one-sided attraction. She was feeling everything he was.
His engines revved, priming for some fun. But she quickly looked away. “Um…I should go check you out.”
Thanks to cheating, lying Lonnie Simmons, he might have sworn off relationships forever, but he hadn’t sworn off sex. And after his brother’s garden wedding, he had an entire night with nothing to do but sleep. When a man found a woman like this, sleep took a definite backseat.
He smiled. “Darlin’, I’d love for you to check me out.”
Her face flushed scarlet. “At the cash register.”
He laughed. “Right.”
They headed back to the counter. But when she took the card from his hand, their fingers brushed, and his heart beat double-time as electricity sprinted up his arm.
Refusing to meet his gaze, she snatched her hand away to put the card in a bag.
Ah, come on. Does she seriously think we should ignore this?
He caught her hand again. “When do you get off work?”
“Feel like a beer?”
She shrank back and stared at him as if he’d spoken French or German.
“You don’t drink?”
He frowned, not quite sure what confused her. As beautiful as she was, she had to get hit on at least ten times a day. Plus, hadn’t they been leading up to this? Talking about stripper poles and her last boyfriend. What the hell had happened?
The bell rang as the drugstore door opened again.
“I’ll be right with you,” she called to the customer, a teenage girl.
The girl nodded as the door opened again. An old man walked in. He pointed at the back of the store, as if asking the cashier to meet him in the pharmacy department.
She quickly gave Cade his change and scrambled away.
Cade stood by the register for a few seconds, more than a little confused. He couldn’t follow her and demand she have a drink with him without looking foolish. So he headed out. He didn’t ever have to demand a woman pay attention to him. And he wouldn’t this time, either.
Still, there was something about this woman…something…
He didn’t know what, but he intended to find out.
Three hours later, he stood in the heat of the July sun, wearing a gray tux just like his brothers Devon and Finn, the groom. Sweat trickled down his back.
Sitting in the front row of folding chairs covered in white linen, his mom wept with happiness. The gaggle of church ladies referred to as the “Dinner Belles” sat in the row behind her. Barbara Beth Rush, his partner for the wedding, stood behind Ashley Lashinsky, Ellie McDermott’s matron-of-honor.
It seemed everybody but the drugstore girl had gathered for this wedding.
When the ceremony was over and they assembled for pictures, his mom was still crying. With happiness. He shook his head over the silliness of women. Especially when his mom burst into tears over how beautiful Ellie looked in her lace “mermaid” gown.
He didn’t know what the hell a mermaid gown was, but he had to admit his new red-haired sister-in-law did look cute in her dress.
And Finn looked ecstatic. Cade had never seen anyone so happy. He and Ellie gushed over each other.
Four thousand eight hundred and ninety-one pictures and two overly long toasts later, he ate his late lunch with gusto; danced the introduction-of-the-bridal-party dance with Barbara Beth Rush, one of the funniest, nicest women from Harmony Hills; and finally, finally, he was set free. His wedding obligations were over.
Yanking at his goofy pink ascot tie, he stepped into the flower-covered gazebo and headed straight for the makeshift bar. Music drifted over from the DJ standing on the wide front porch of the yellow Victorian house that had been in Ellie’s family forever. Wedding guests danced under a big white tent or milled about the grassy yard, the men dressed in suits and ties and women in flowery dresses and sun hats. Cade pulled off his tie and tucked it in his jacket pocket so it wouldn’t get lost.
Brent Tulowitski strolled over. “What’ll it be, Cade?”
Brent walked away, and Cade passed his hand along the short growth of black hair on his head, the cut a leftover from his time in the Marines. It didn’t feel right to be outside without his Stetson. But he couldn’t dwell on that. He had a mission. The woman in the drugstore might have brushed him off, but Brent knew everybody. If anyone could give him a name and a phone number, it would be Brent. And once he had those, he intended to turn that brush-off into a fervent yes. To everything he could think of.
The bartender returned with two fingers of Kentucky bourbon in a plastic cup, then swiped a cloth down the length of the bar. “So, Finn’s married.”
Bringing his whiskey to his lips, Cade snorted. “Looks that way.”
“He’s lucky. Ellie’s a great girl.”
Keeping up the small talk so he didn’t look overly eager to get the drugstore clerk’s info, Cade said, “She is.” Because Ellie was a wonderful woman—a good match for his brother, who had resettled in their hometown.
Brent poured two tall draft beers for an older couple, then strolled back to Cade. “So, you okay being home?”
He shrugged and glanced around, not surprised by the question. This was why Brent knew everything and everybody in town. He chatted up his customers.
“No rumblings from your dad?”
“We’re just glad he didn’t crash the wedding.”
“He’s got some balls.”
Cade sniffed a laugh, knowing exactly what Brent referred to. The year before, Finn had had their father arrested for assault. The whole town had been shocked that their dad had punched Finn, but they’d reeled over the news that the bank president had regularly beaten his sons and wife. Still, he walked around town like the king of the world, telling everyone his children and estranged wife were liars.
“Yeah, he does.”
Wanting desperately to change the subject and get the information he was here for, he asked Brent for another shot. When Brent brought it over, he said, “So, I had to go to the drugstore for a card this morning, and I saw a new clerk.”
Brent frowned. “New clerk?”
“Yeah, a woman with black hair, pretty green eyes.”
Even before he was done, Brent burst out laughing. “You messing with me?”
Cade’s eyebrows rose. “Messing with you?”
“Teasing…come on, Cade. Are you trying to tell me you were checking out Piper O’Riley?”
Cade almost choked on his whiskey. “Piper O’Riley?”
“She manages the Health Aid.”
An “Oh” slipped out, even though Cade wished it hadn’t. He pointed to his shot glass again. Brent easily filled it, then walked away to get a drink for a woman in a blue-flowered dress.
Focused on his shot, he counted his blessings that his questions about Piper O’Riley hadn’t gone any further. Good God. That was Piper O’Riley? He remembered her as a flat-chested, shy nerd. The twelve years he’d been away had been very, very kind to her, but that didn’t mean he wanted to date her. Even discounting the fact that she was Lonnie’s best friend—and therefore someone who probably knew the son Lonnie claimed to be Cade’s was actually another man’s—the O’Rileys had held a grudge against his grandfather for thirty years. Richard Hyatt had won O’Riley’s market from Sean O’Riley fair and square in a poker game. Yet Karen O’Riley, Piper’s mom, had accused him of cheating.
Her friends stopped shopping at the store and sales had plummeted with only half the town supporting the little market. But his grandfather said he made enough money to pay himself a good salary, and the other half of the town still needed bread and milk and birthday cakes. So he was staying open.
Cade’s eyes misted. His grandfather had been a generous, loving man. Sadly, he’d died the month before. Cade wouldn’t defame his memory by even talking to an O’Riley.
He asked for another shot just as Jeff Franklin, the town’s attorney, stepped into the gazebo and up to the bar.
“Jeff.” Cade eyed the balding, slightly chubby lawyer over his shot glass. He’d known Jeff since he was a football player for Harmony Hills High. They’d never been friends, but because he was executor of his grandfather’s estate, for the time it took to settle everything out, he and Jeff would be spending a lot of time together.
“I’ve been thinking about our meeting on Monday and the will reading.”
Cade inclined his head.
“I’d like for you to come in an hour early, before the rest of your family, so we can discuss your duties as executor and a few other things.”
“Sure. No problem.”
“Great. I’ll see you Monday, then.”
Cade saluted him with his glass. “Monday.”
Jeff eagerly raced away.
Cade suppressed a sigh. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy returning to the town where he’d left a woman at the altar and deserted a child everybody believed was his. He’d expected the cold shoulders and fingers pointed in his direction at the diner. But Jeff was a professional. His grandfather’s lawyer. He shouldn’t feel the need to race away.
Yep, being stuck in Harmony Hills while they worked out the logistics of the will was going to be a real blast.
Now he just had to hope Piper O’Riley didn’t tell anybody he’d been flirting with her.
The very thought had him pointing at his shot glass again.
<3 <3 <3
The book is $.99 for a limited time.