Take an early sneak peek at Headed for Trouble by Shiloh Walker, a sexy, small-town romance where trouble and love are never too far away...
Nine years ago, Neve McKay fled her small Southern town and disapproving family to seek a career in the big city. Now she's finally coming home-and hoping for a fresh start. But the relationship that shattered her world still haunts her. And even among her nearest and dearest, she doesn't feel safe. . .
Ian Campbell is a pure Scottish muscle-as hard and handsome as they come. But when Neve walks into his bar, his heart melts. . .and he vows to have this gorgeous and somewhat vulnerable woman in his life-for better or for worse. What is Neve's tragic secret? And how can Neve expect Ian to protect her, when doing so could put his own life at risk? The only thing Ian knows for sure is that he will do whatever it takes to keep her out of harm's way-and in his loving arms. . .
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|File size:||828 KB|
About the Author
Shiloh Walker is an award-winning writer…yes, really! She’s also a mom, a wife, a reader, and she pretends to be an amateur photographer. Her Secrets and Shadows series includes Burn for Me, Break for Me, and Long for Me.
Read an Excerpt
Headed for Trouble
By Shiloh Walker
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Shiloh Walker
All rights reserved.
It had been on a Friday night when trouble blew out of town. To be precise, 9:14 p.m., the summer night air hot and hazy — one of the hottest summers to hit the area in a while, and the small Mississippi town of McKay's Treasure had seen more than its share of hot summers.
The entire town had seemed to hold its breath, waiting for a storm that had hovered and hovered.
The storm never came, and here, almost ten years later, trouble blew back into town in almost the same fashion she'd left.
It was 9:14 exactly when Neve McKay drove past the sign that read Welcome to McKay's Treasure — At the Heart of It All.
It was hot and humid, and the night air was still, the promise of a thunderstorm hovering in the air.
She'd left driving a murder-red Koenigsegg — a sweet little car that her brother had bought her in exchange for good behavior, and to get her to stop pestering him to let her drive his car. The McKays were well known for liking their toys.
She came back driving a junker of indeterminate color, although the passenger door was white — clearly something that had come from another car, same make.
She still drove like a bat out of hell, though.
Neve McKay pulled her car up in front of the bar and shoved it into park, eyeing the place that had been called Treasure Island for as long as she'd been alive.
It had been an eyesore for that entire time.
Not so much now.
Somebody came out — no, several somebodies — but not in a cloud of smoke, something that Neve had always associated with the bar.
Eyes narrowed, she rocked back on the worn heels of her boots. She wore faded jeans that fit like a glove and a T-shirt that was worn thin in some places. The only thing she carried with her was a backpack that had seen better days.
Studying the building in front of her, she compared it to the memory she had from ten years ago. They didn't fit. Her eyes landed on the neon sign in the window. Guinness.
Well, the place had booze.
That was all that mattered.
She'd been craving a drink for the past three days, but she hadn't given in to the urge, had barely even allowed herself to sleep, for fear of dulling her senses. Getting caught off guard was one thing that absolutely would not happen.
Now that she was here, now that she was home, one of the bands around her chest eased.
Maybe there were another two or three — dozen — that kept her from breathing as deeply as she'd like. But despite the nerves she had about seeing her brother and sister for the first time in forever, she breathed easier.
Tipping her head back, she breathed in the air. She caught the scent of food that came from the nearby restaurants, but under that, it was the river she smelled, the lush green that grew around it.
Her throat clogged from the memories, and she blew out a breath. She'd let herself get all sentimental and stupid later. For now, though, she was going to have herself that damn beer and figure out her next step — decide if she was going to call her brother and sister right away, or wait until tomorrow.
Some frisson of nerves twisted inside her at the thought of trying to deal with the rift she'd caused in her family, but she'd deal with that when the time came. All of that was for later.
"Just a drink," she told herself.
And with that in mind, she started toward the door.
She had to take a minute to acclimate herself once she ducked inside.
The few glimpses she'd had inside the dive that had been Treasure Island didn't match up with what was before her now. The servers wore kilts, shorter lengths for the girls — although nothing that would make their mothers hide their eyes if they bent over — while the guys had a similar style that hit the knee.
She smirked, amused. So they were going for a Scottish theme? And still using the name Treasure Island? Oooookkayyy.
To each their own, she mused, as she wound her way through the crowd, ducking her head when somebody looked at her too long, averting her face when a person looked familiar.
She had to avert her face a lot.
Treasure wasn't a big town — the population at the last census was just under nine thousand. Her graduating class hadn't even topped two hundred. Just in the short walk from the door to the bar, she'd heard several familiar names and spotted people she hadn't seen in years.
But she hadn't seen the people who counted the most, and that was all that mattered.
As long as she could brace herself before she had to see them, then everything would be just fine and dandy.
Spying an empty seat, she slid onto it and looked up at the bar. She put her backpack on the little hook in front of her and shifted to keep it between her legs. She'd had people try to relieve her of her belongings more than once.
Breathing out a sigh of relief, she let herself relax. Now ... for that drink —
"Well, 'allo. What can I get you?"
At the sound of that voice, a shiver raced down her spine, and a punch of heat — something she hadn't felt in far too long — spread through her, warming her from head to toe.
* * *
Ian Campbell had left Scotland for a couple of small reasons, and one rather big one. The small reasons were varied — he liked to try new things, he'd always wanted to run his own pub, and he'd never been one to turn down a chance at an adventure. Living in America for a time could definitely be that.
The rather big reason was simple.
He'd been offered a fat sum to come across the pond and run this pub, and if all went well, then he could even buy it. It had been a hard choice to make, he wouldn't lie.
More than once — once a week even — he wondered if he'd done the right thing, and considered going home. He could. He'd have to start over, but he wasn't afraid of hard work and he wasn't afraid to start over, either. He'd had to do that more than once in his life, that was certain.
But then he'd crawl out of bed, get himself a cup of coffee — or better yet, three. Ian Campbell wasn't a pleasant man without his first cup of coffee in the morning. Once he was awake, he'd go to his balcony and stare out over the river.
This place was thousands of miles from Braemar, the small village in Scotland where he'd lived for the first thirteen years of his life and just as different from the house where he'd lived after his mother died and he moved to Aviemore to live with his grandparents. He'd lived there from the time he was thirteen until he was eighteen, in a house where raised voices and flying fists had him desperate to leave, and even more desperate never to return.
Nobody here looked at him and whispered as he walked past.
True, it had been a long time since people had done that back home.
But he didn't see the looks in their eyes, and if he lifted a pint at the end of the day, he didn't have to wonder what they might think.
A clean slate, that was what he had here, and he couldn't help but appreciate it.
Perhaps he didn't like the heat that hit you like a sweaty fist for too much of the year, but any circumstance would have its drawbacks now, wouldn't it?
And ... there were the benefits.
He found himself studying one now and felt a stir of interest he hadn't felt in more time than he cared to think about.
She stood in the doorway, oddly apart from everybody else even as she studied them, eyes moving to linger on a group here, then there. After a couple of moments she moved away, and he found himself tracking her progress.
Don't be here to meet somebody, he thought, and immediately, he wanted to kick himself. What did it matter if she was?
He told himself it didn't and glanced up as Gary Harnett settled down and ordered his usual. Ian started to build the Guinness as they chatted, but the entire time he watched her from the corner of his eye.
She moved like a dancer, with effortless grace and easy elegance. He could imagine those legs, long and slim, wrapped around his waist, could picture that torso, just as long and slim, bent back as he leaned over to press his mouth to pale, soft skin.
Gary said, "They say it's going to break a hundred again tomorrow."
"Imagine it will," Ian murmured, the easy chatter second nature, while in his mind, he continued to mentally undress the redhead.
She slid onto a vacant stool tucked up against the wall just as he finished Gary's Guinness, and Ian took a moment to appreciate the fact that he had a heavy, solid bar between the two of them, because, thanks to his wandering mind, his bloody cock was hard as iron and pulsing.
She looked at him then, her mouth unsmiling, but wide and soft and lush.
He rested his hands on the bar and smiled. You've a job to do, so do it.
He opened his mouth.
You're the sexiest fucking thing I've seen in ages — maybe forever. He could feel those words hovering on the tip of his tongue.
Biting them back, he fell back on the job he'd been doing for ages.
"Well, 'allo. What can I get you?"
A faint smile flirted around her lips, and a hot ball of lust twisted inside, settling down low in his balls. Mad. He'd gone mad — that's all there was to it.
She nodded toward the Guinness he'd just finished and said, "I'll have one of those."
He nodded. Self-preservation told him to move his arse and get to work.
He told self-preservation to get fucked as he got to work on her Guinness. As he did, four more orders came in, and he filled three of them before her Guinness was ready. By the time he had another minute to breathe, she had folded her hands around her glass and was studying everything around her, almost mesmerized.
She blinked, a startled look in her eyes. Her gaze slid away. "Depends on your point of view." Then she flashed him a wide smile.
It was disarming, that smile, bright and wicked, the kind of smile a temptress would give a saint to lure him into all manner of sins.
Ian was many things — a saint had never been one of them. As she propped her elbows on the bar, he found himself easing closer. "I'm here for ... personal things, but that's for later," she said, lifting her shoulder in a shrug. "Tonight ...? Tonight I'm just trying to not think."
I can help you with that.
The words popped into his brain and they almost escaped his lips.
He managed to keep them trapped inside, but one thing he couldn't do was keep his eyes off that mouth.
She noticed, too. He could tell by the hitch in her breathing, the way her pulse slammed against the fragile wall of her throat. Curious, he reached out and pressed a finger against it.
He could very well be doing the stupidest thing he'd ever done.
Her lids drooped and her head slumped, angling slightly to the side. He skimmed his finger down lower, tracing the elegant line of her collarbone. "I've had days like that," he said softly. "Days where the last place I want to be is inside my own head."
He lowered his hand.
She lifted her head and met his gaze dead-on.
He started to turn away.
"How late do you work?"
* * *
Neve couldn't have been more appalled with herself if she'd climbed up on the bar and stripped herself naked.
Blood rushed up to scald her cheeks, and she was already trying to mentally calculate how much her drink would be. She had a twenty dollar bill tucked inside her pocket. She'd just leave the whole thing —
His hand closed over hers, and then he bent over the bar.
He was big.
She'd already noticed that.
Big and almost brutally beautiful. If she had guessed right, he was close to six five, and his shoulders strained the snug fit of his T-shirt. His hair was dark, possibly black, but it was hard to tell in the dim light of the pub. His eyes were arresting — a pale, lovely gray that reminded her of the mists that slid around the ground, winding through trees, clinging to the river of a morning.
They gleamed against the warm gold of his skin and seemed to glow now. Then there was the beard.
Neve had never been attracted to a beard man. At least not until that very moment.
But this man with his short beard and that beautiful mouth — she suspected he could make her go for just about anything.
That beautiful mouth, framed by his dark beard, parted on his harsh intake of breath.
Her heart knocked hard against her ribs.
She had to drag her gaze away, but as she went to fumble the cash out of her pocket, his hand slid up her arm, leaving a hot, burning trail. "Another thirty minutes ... if you're up to waiting for me."
The logical part of her mind screamed at her.
Instead, she found herself meeting his gaze once more. As he turned away, she reached for her drink and downed a healthy swallow. Maybe it was for courage.
Or maybe it was to cool the suddenly blistering heat that had washed over her.
She'd done gone and lost her mind, Neve was sure of it.
* * *
Ian had been propositioned before.
It had even happened here.
But what had happened between him and the sleek, sexy redhead was something that defied definition. The final thirty minutes passed by in a crawl, and when he was done, he had to make himself walk with her through the pub, not drag her. Leading her through the crowd, he paused by the office to collect his keys.
A few people slid her curious glances, but her gaze moved away. Her sleek hair fell to shield her face. That just made him think about fisting his hands in it, then covering her mouth with hot, hungry kisses until she moaned and opened for him — opened for him in every way imaginable.
The noise of the pub muted as he shut the back door, and he looked down at her, half expecting her to take off, to disappear into the night like the fantasy he thought she must be.
Her gaze came back to his, and a groan started deep inside his chest as she licked her lips.
He couldn't stop himself from reaching for her, and she didn't seem inclined to stop him, either. No, she actually reached for him, and he half turned, putting her back against the wall as he reached up to frame her face. It wasn't a good fit, and he caught the straps of her backpack and tried to push it off her shoulders. She let him take it off, but kept it hanging from the other arm.
Good enough for him.
Now, staring down at her, he felt it hit him — the punch of lust unlike anything he'd felt in a long while. Maybe ever.
The first brush of their mouths created a connection that hit straight through him.
Ian shuddered and lifted his head, stared down at her.
She blinked, a dazed look in her eyes.
He had to do that again.
Reaching up, he cupped her cheek in his hand and angled her head back, lowering his mouth back to hers.
Slower this time, because he wasn't quite sure he'd felt what he'd felt.
Wasn't quite sure it was possible for such a brief kiss to ripple all the way through him, like a rock thrown into a pond.
Her mouth parted and he groaned against her lips, wrapping his forearm around her waist, pulling her closer. The bloody bag got in the way again, bumping against him. She curled one arm around his neck and pressed even closer, until he felt every last delicate curve, the slight swells of her breasts, the long lines of her torso, her thighs —
A burst of laughter echoed close by — too close.
Snarling, he tore his mouth away, heart pounding.
Staring into wide, hazy green eyes, he sucked in a desperate breath of air.
She licked her lips again, a soft hum in her throat, and he swore. "Don't," he warned, dipping his head and biting her lower lip. "Don't go doin' that or I'm going to lose it right here."
The laughter came again, even closer, and he looked around. Grabbing her hand, he started to walk.
It wasn't thirty seconds later before he had the wooden gate shut behind him. The small garden was something he'd snorted at when he'd been given the apartment, but he'd come to appreciate it, and never more than in that moment.
Flipping the latch, he turned and pushed her gently back against the gate. He caught the bag she still carried and tugged it free. "My flat. You can let this go for a bit, love."
She still held on, then reluctantly uncurled her fingers from it.
Excerpted from Headed for Trouble by Shiloh Walker. Copyright © 2016 Shiloh Walker. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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