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By Lora Leigh
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Lora Leigh
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe music was a gentle swell of sound around the riverbank clearing. It was here the gang gathered together for a weekend of drinking, fishing, and a general redneck helluva good time. It was the first gathering of the summer, and it looked like the crowd was all there. Just as they had been for the last decade. The boys of summer were back again and ready to forget the cares and woes of weekday reality.
RVs, tents, pickup trucks and a various assortment of vehicles were pulled to the edge of the camping area as a bonfire burned in the center. Shouted welcomes and laughter filled the forested valley along the riverbank as music vibrated through the area with enough force to make certain no wildlife ventured near.
The flickering light cast an eerie glow about the forest behind it, even as it reflected the revelry of those around the fire. The party was pumping, drinks were flowing and Slade Colter had a headache splitting across his forehead with enough force to give the music a run for its money. But even worse was the hard-on throbbing in his jeans. It was so engorged, so ready, so intent on one little woman that he couldn't trust himself to stay. Couldn't trust himself not to terrify her.
He should have known better than to head out here this weekend. He should have done as he first intended, what he was dead set on now. Heading to the sheltered little spot further along the camping area that extended for miles along the valley of what had once been a wilderness teeming with history.
Slade hit the automatic roller to the awning and watched it fold slowly to the edge of the roof before jumping inside the vehicular home and moving into the driver's seat. With a quick flick of his wrist, he turned the motor over and began to slowly back out of the clearing. The powerful purr of the motor sent a surge of satisfaction racing through his system as he moved from the motor homes and vehicles parked around him, before turning and heading for the main road. He ignored the calls from the partygoers outside, maneuvered the awkward RV onto the road, and with a quick turn of the wheel directed it away from the party and to the private camping spot he had rented closer to town.
As the music receded behind him, he sighed in relief, watching as the headlights reflected off the road and lit the way from the revelry behind him. Beyond, darkness beckoned, peace awaited. Or at least he hoped so. His head was so fucking messed up right now he didn't know if he would ever figure out what those words meant again.
Freedom. He knew he might as well forget what that meant. This was his last weekend in the mountains for a while, possibly a long while. He had thought that spending it with the men he had grown up with was the perfect prescription for the restlessness filling him, but it wasn't. It was making it worse. And he'd be damned if he didn't get away from the sight of laughing brown eyes and a teasing little smile of one sweet little thing, Jessica 'Jessie' Benton, then he was going to fuck up what little chance he had of ever finding peace.
He shook his head, hoping to clear it of the alcoholic haze and the image of that innocent, tempting vision. She was so damned short she made him feel like a giant. Barely five-three, sweetly curved and celebrating her twenty-first birthday this weekend. Dressed in a bikini that had his eyes popping out of their sockets, and sporting a sexy little tattoo that kept peeking from the low band of the bottoms, demanding he get a closer look, she had his dick making a fool out of him.
He lowered his hand from the wheel and readjusted his dumb flesh beneath his jeans. He hadn't even been able to change into the swimming trunks he brought with him because of her. He couldn't get his damned hard-on to go down long enough to even contemplate it.
This was a fine fix, he told himself brutally. He had been waiting for over five years for Jessie to hit that magical age before making his move on her. He had warned off more damned pricks than he should have gotten away with, and spent too many nights jacking off thinking about her.
He pushed his fingers through his thick blond hair, a flare of sensation racing down his spine as he remembered the feel of her fingers there that first summer night this year.
"Slade, I don't intend to wait on you forever." Her soft laughter had sent heat curling through his gut. "A girl can only wait so long."
He had made some mocking comment, laughing down at her upraised face, wanting nothing more than to kiss those pale pink lips. But he had waited. Twenty-one, he reminded himself. He was a man, not a kid, at twenty-seven he was getting closer to thirty than he even wanted to admit to. And he sure as hell wasn't innocent.
"Stupid fuck," he muttered as he turned the RV along the main road, heading for the privacy of his own camping spot. The parties were in the main clearings rather than the smaller, private areas closer to town.
He needed to escape the temptation of those velvet brown eyes. He had to think about this, he told himself. Jessie wasn't a one-night stand, and he damned well knew it. He could feel the bands wrapping around his neck, his hunger for one sweet little woman tying his gut into so many knots he had to fight to breathe. Not to mention what it was doing to his cock.
Shaking his head, Slade made the sharp turn that headed up the narrow lane toward his parking area. The RV hookups weren't as efficient there, but the peace of the dark, quiet nights made up for it. Pulling into the paved spot just large enough for the RV, he cut the motor before jumping out and connecting the water and sewer lines. Velvet darkness wrapped around him, pulled at him as a sultry breeze whipped over his naked chest.
Drawing in a deep breath, he pushed the main control of the awning, watching as it extended over him as his fingers worked at his jeans. The damned hard-on was killing him. Within seconds, his jeans were tossed carelessly to the metal rod that anchored the awning to the RV and his cock was pointing out from his body in demand.
A steady breeze whispered through the night, wrapping around him, as soft and warm as Jessie's hands.
What the hell was wrong with him? He had never had a problem going after what he wanted, and damned if he didn't want her. Hell, he needed her and he knew it. No one else could still the raging hunger riding him day and night as her birthday drew closer. God knew he had tried.
He'd spent a week the month before fucking his former F.B.I. partner Amy Jennings dry, night after night, and it still hadn't helped. He thought of Jessie. He dreamed of Jessie. Why the hell didn't he just fuck her and get it over with?
Because he wouldn't just be fucking her and he knew it. Because once he had her, his footloose bachelor days were at an end and that was all there was to it.
One of his foster fathers had warned him years ago that he would find a woman who would rip his guts to pieces and make a wedding band seem like a haven rather than a yoke, and Slade hadn't believed him. He believed him now. Hell, he had believed him years ago when he found himself watching Jessie, imagining her naked, beneath him, all that intensity and fire in her eyes transferred into passion.
The sounds of the night enfolded him, the call of the bullfrogs, crickets chattering in the woods around him, and catfish croaking from the bank of the narrow river that flowed in the distance. A symphony that filled his soul and partially eased the restlessness rolling through him.
It wasn't helping his hard-on.
"Do you always camp naked, Slade? This is something a girl could get used to, ya know."
He stiffened at the amusement, the breathless hunger in the voice from the doorway.
Turning, he stared back at her, framed in the low light of the interior lamp, that fucking bikini baring her curves, her tanned flesh gleaming in the soft light as she tilted her head, long brown hair flowing over her shoulder.
"What the hell are you doing here?" he growled, pushing his fingers through his hair as his cock jerked at the shy little look she directed toward it.
"I was napping." A smile curved her pouty pink lips. "You told me I could use your bed anytime I needed to hide. Remember?"
Hell yes, he remembered. Last summer, when Deke Austin had been watching her with nothing but damned sex filling his mind, making her nervous as hell.
"Shit." He moved to the doorway, forcing her to back up as he stepped into the RV, facing her in the narrow confines of the small main compartment. "Dammit, Jessie, why the hell do you think I left the party?"
She moved back slowly, bumping into the small bar behind the low couch as she watched him warily, hungrily.
"I didn't know you were leaving, Slade." She watched him with those dark eyes, her gaze flickering every few moments to his hard dick as she swallowed nervously. "I was asleep, I swear. Billy wouldn't leave me alone on the bank so Ron sent me to hide for a while until he found him a distraction. Your RV was closest and you weren't in it. I was just going to lie down for a few minutes."
She had been in his bed all this time. Stretched out on the queen-sized mattress, that golden body relaxed, waiting for him. The bedroom in the RV was the only closed-in space, and the largest.
"How long have you been awake, Jessie?" He moved to the small refrigerator, opened it and pulled a beer free. If he didn't find something else to do with his hands, then he was going to end up touching her.
She cleared her throat at his question. "Not long."
He stared back at her as he popped the top of the can, his brow arching in mockery. She couldn't lie worth a damn. Never had been able to. He wasn't going to ask her how long, he knew. She would have woken up when the motor started, she would have known where he was headed.
He tipped his head back, draining half the bitter brew in a desperate attempt to keep from going to her, to hold back the lust filling him, just for a few more minutes.
"I'm sorry, Slade. I should have let you know sooner," she said as he slapped the can to the counter beside him.
His hand raked down his chest, his fingers gripping his cock for a second before a growl rumbled in his chest.
"I hope you know what the hell you were doing when you laid back in that bed and waited for me to park,"
Excerpted from Loving Lies by Lora Leigh Copyright © 2006 by Lora Leigh. Excerpted by permission.
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