Justin needs a girlfriend to prove to his business partner that he isn’t all work and no play. Romancing Whitney should have been pure pleasure, if a work conflict hadn’t caused him to stand her up. Now he’s determined to win her back—and win his partner’s approval of their restaurant expansion. Keeping Whitney by his side until the deal closes should be easy—if he doesn’t do something foolish. Like fall in love with the small town beauty…
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Just Want Somebody to Love
A Bella Warren Novel
By Keri Ford
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Keri Ford
All rights reserved.
Saturday poker with her friends usually led to a fun night. Instead, Whitney Chester kissed her Peeps goodbye and folded her twos. In candy poker against her two sugar-holic best friends, these marshmallow babies equaled hundred dollar chips. She hadn't meant to play them at all, let alone on a pair of twos, but, ugh. Cursed daydreaming.
She was ready to go and get out of this house. Time was ticking to grab a little air before she ended up trapped between a dirt row and her computer. "Let's get out of here."
Kara glanced from behind her drink. "To where?"
"Don't know. Don't care." Anywhere. Go shopping. Take a walk. Move and dance. Something. Whitney stopped as an idea formed. "I do care. Let's go to Bartender Brandon's."
"Ohh." Tasha pumped her brows. "Now you're talking."
Ha. If Tasha thought Whitney wanted to flirt with the bartender, then that would just get them there faster. "Does that mean you'll get your shoes on?"
"As soon as I pee." Tasha was gone from the kitchen faster than any pregnant woman should be able to move.
Kara, her other best friend, didn't move quite so fast. Instead, she sat back in her seat and looked to be settling in. "You shouldn't tease her like that."
"She'll get over it." Fair was fair. Tasha wanted to tease her over Brandon. Whitney ought to have the chance to return the favor. Chance taken.
"What's at the bar you want to see? Because I know it's not Brandon like Tasha's thinking."
"I don't know. Nothing in particular. I'm just ..." She shrugged, empty for words, and flopped her arms on the counter. "I don't know. I just want to get out of here."
Planting season at Chester Farms also meant planting season at all their commercial farms. They all came with a steady inflow of paperwork for fuel usage, seeds, irrigation control, and a host of equipment reported broken. Freedom to stay up late watching TV with a bowl of popcorn or going out with her friends was coming to a quick end. "Planting season will be here in a few weeks, and then we're going to be stuck here. This year it seems worse."
Kara chuckled. "Has planting changed much from how it used to be?"
"I forgot you moved back home after we planted last year."
"I arrived just in time for harvest."
Kara had come home, started her canning business with Chester Farms' crops, and fell in love with Whitney's older brother all in the same summer. Which worked out well for Whitney, since she got her best friend back. "Everything's the same."
"You don't sound like it's the same." She shook the ice loose in her glass and still made no move to get up from the chair. Argh. Hazards of being best friends since diapers meant Kara knew everything about Whitney, including her being in a funk.
She waved her arms around, trying to put words to the heavy weight on her shoulders. "Winter blues, I guess. Probably I just need mom to get here and put excitement back on the farm."
Back in the day, she could escape planting season by sneaking off here and there, but now she had her number of rows to plant and the accounting books to maintain. If she skipped off — Lord help her — she wouldn't get caught up until mid-May, just in time for harvest to kick in.
Not to mention, she was an adult now, not a teenager.
But as Kara pointed out, that's how it'd been for a long time. The books weren't anything new, either. Her mom started her on those years ago, and she'd been running them by herself for what seemed like ages.
"That's it?" Kara tipped her head to the side.
"You could go sit in the greenhouse tomorrow. It'll be warm and you can work on your tan while you soak up some vitamin D. I know that always makes you feel better."
"Yeah." She lifted a shoulder. "But I can't do that until tomorrow when the sun's up. Let's go to the bar, get drunk, and act like we're young enough to be doing all that." Gosh, act like a fresh-faced twenty-one year old ready to tackle the world. Within limits. Her parents didn't raise a wild heathen.
Kara pushed out of her chair. "All right, I'll go, but I'm not drinking until we're stupid."
Thank heavens because getting drunk and dancing sounded like fun, but she was old enough to remember the morning after. "So long as you'll dance with me, I agree.
Tasha was back around the corner with her keys jingling in her hand. "Since I'm morally obligated not to drink, I'll volunteer to drive." Tasha stopped in front her, and her smile fell as her nose wrinkled. "You haven't changed yet."
Whitney looked at her yoga pants and long sleeves. "I'm wearing the same as y'all."
"But we're married."
"Oooh." Kara faced her and pointed upstairs. "Put on that green skirt."
"It's forty degrees outside."
Kara flipped her wrist. "It'll be warm in the bar."
"If I get sick right before planting season, Wade will have us all."
Tasha nodded. "Put on some jeans, but make sure your shirt is something tight and low-cut to make up for the pants."
"If it gets us out of here faster, fine. I'm sure a flood of new men flocked to Bella Warren over the last hour for me to impress."
"It's not about seeing a new man. It's about the chance to see an old one in a new light. What about Kent? Kent's cute. Y'all would make pretty babies."
"And sweet," Kara followed. "I adore him. He's never given me a ticket."
Whitney rolled her eyes. "I don't think he's ever given anybody a ticket."
Tasha touched her chest. "That's because the man has a heart of gold. You should be chasing him."
"I'll pass on his baby face." Spending the rest of her life with a husband saying yes ma'am to her all the time? Pass. Unless she asked for it, but that was for different reasons than why Kent ever would. "And who said I was looking?"
"You, since kindergarten."
Love? Husband? Family? All sounded great. With the men she knew in town? The noise that passed through her head sounded more in tune with a dying accordion letting out its last breath. "I don't need to be looking. Especially now."
Tasha crossed her arms over her belly. "Whatever. Get upstairs and get changed."
* * *
Music pumped from inside the old brick building. It thudded and got her hips itching to sway before she even got in the door. Saturday night, the place was packed, and that guaranteed somebody had gotten drunk enough to start cutting a rug.
Once one person got on the dance floor, a dozen more would follow. She pulled open the heavy front door and stood there as the warmth washed over her. Vibrations thumping off the jukebox sang along her skin and hello beautiful.
People around town packed in every nook and cranny, and they didn't disappoint. A crowd shook it on the dance floor and ... shit. She blinked. Something was wrong with her eyes. Or they hadn't adjusted to the light. Or maybe it was time for a checkup, because this couldn't be right.
"What's the matter?" Kara yelled, stopping beside her.
Whitney swallowed. It didn't matter how much she blinked, the view didn't change. "So you know when we used to come here late like this?"
She tore her eyes off the kids doing things on the dance floor that would leave her body sobbing in the morning, if she made it to morning. "How old were we?"
Tasha laughed and stopped on the other side. "I hope this means we can squeeze on a stool somewhere and sit. I'll pee if I try squatting like that girl in the middle."
The girl in the middle was Jill Peterson. She either had one too many Red Bulls and couldn't contain it, or her butt was a canister of paint in need of shaking.
Kara's head tipped to the left, then to the right. "Did we used to do that?"
"I don't think that was invented yet." The one in the middle must have stronger legs than a runner. Ouch. Dancing just got nixed. She pointed to the bar. "I vote for somewhere to sit."
She made it one step and stopped again. She didn't even know Bella Warren had this many young people in town. The bar looked three rows deep. She turned around while shaking her head. "You know what, this is stupid. It's not meant to be. Let's just go back home. And have candy while we're there."
"Oh no." Tasha pushed past her. "You dragged us here, even changed your clothes for it. You're going to have at least one drink, and there's no way you're slipping back to the house to steal the candy I just won off you."
Dang. "Fine. One drink. By the time we get it, I imagine the place will be closing."
Kara nudged her with her elbow. "You are so weird tonight."
She sighed. "Maybe I should have just dyed my hair and grown it out for my early mid-life crisis. With my freckles, I could be that red-headed princess for Halloween next year."
Tasha's grin got bigger. "If you want red, I'll find something to tint your hair with right now. We can do it in the bathroom in five minutes."
Whitney shook her head and pushed her toward the bar. As if she didn't stand out enough with the white blond fluff of hair on the top of her head. Tasha would have her red as a beacon. Like one of those airplane lights in the middle of the sky.
Tasha handed her purse off to Kara. "Hold this while I work my magic. You two stay close."
Tasha arched her back, thrust her impressive large pregnant belly out as far as she could, and waddled herself to the bar. "Excuse me, fellas. Comin' through. My feet are killing me."
The young boys looked over their shoulders. At seeing her hobbling their way, they cleared out. "Hi, Mrs. Abington. I've got a seat with your name on it."
She smiled at them. "Thank you. Thank you. I've got Kara and Whitney with me. Any room for them?" The boys moved aside and she grinned her way on her stool. "I'll remember you next time you come through the shop. I know you like extra sprinkles."
Whitney passed the boys who'd left them a hole and hopped on a stool that the three of them vacated. "Fantastic work."
"When you got it, you got it." Tasha tugged the sleeves at her wrists and leaned on the bar. "Bartender. I need something fruity and nonalcoholic."
Bartender Brandon nodded, but a voice from the other end of the bar answered back. "I got it."
Whitney swung her gaze around for the source of that unfamiliar tone. Sexy and blond stood behind the bar on the other end. He slid an assortment of tall bottles around, pouring them into a row of shots and swapping them out for a different set. She faced Tasha and had her bite of crow ready to go for her earlier remark about new men in town. "Who is that, and thank you for insisting I change clothes."
"You're welcome." Tasha's mouth stayed open. "And I have no idea who he is."
"How do you not know?" Whitney leaned on the bar. "You always know things."
"I don't know this thing." Tasha adjusted her V-neck and showed off her enlarged pregnant boobs. "But I'm ready to find out."
Whitney looked to her. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Abington. Tell me who your husband is?"
She flipped her wrist. "Shut up. I'm sacrificing myself for you to find out who this man is."
Kara snorted. "You can put those back in your shirt, because I think I know."
Whitney leaned around. "Friends don't keep secrets like that."
Tasha glanced to her. "For real. What the heck?"
Kara chuckled as she leaned in. "I haven't thought about it since this afternoon. And I don't know for sure, but I think that's Bartender Brandon's brother."
Whitney straightened. Brandon had a brother? No. The man couldn't have lived here this long with that kind of secret. If Whitney so much as stepped in a pot hole and turned her ankle, the whole town knew about it in under an hour. "Where did you hear that?"
"I saw Kent at the grocery store. He mentioned overhearing Maddy talking to Ashley about Brandon's brother. He asked me if I'd heard anything."
"You lost me at Maddy." Two-face jerk.
Kara shrugged. "That's just what Kent said, and since there's a new guy who's also behind the bar — where Brandon doesn't let anyone — plus the rumor, equals that's gotta be him."
The blond God sat a drink on the bar, collected money from some kid on the other end, and walked their way with a grin made for melting things. Like her clothes. And maybe her knees too, but since she wasn't using them at the moment, she couldn't be sure.
He braced his hands apart on the bar and leaned toward them. "Hi, ladies. How we doing this evenin'?"
Tasha wasted no time and turned on her charm. "Better now."
"Good." He smiled at Kara, then at her, tossing her a wink to go with his cheeky grin like a side of fries.
A wink. Oh my Lord, cheap squirt cheese on an off-brand cracker. The chill that went through her, though? Man oh, man, all the bumps along her skin kicked up their heels and danced. She hoped he'd do it again.
He returned his gaze to Tasha. "Did I hear you say something non-alcoholic?"
She nodded. "Pineapple juice will be fine if you have it."
"If we don't, my brother's losing his bar owner's card." He backed a step, and Whitney's tongue weighed heavy in her mouth.
Nice. Very, very nice. Those broad shoulders tapered into a flat stomach. His thighs filled out his jeans. He pulled a can of pineapple juice out from under the bar, poured it over ice, and passed it off to Tasha. His hands were a pair of gripping, fucking kind of hands she'd like all over her.
The Bartender that fell from heaven looked at Kara. "You?"
"Dr. Pepper with a little of vanilla vodka. Not much."
He pulled out a bottle, a glass, vodka, and got busy until a fizzy drink appeared on the bar. He pinned Whitney next and, my goodness, the man radiated hotness. "Best for last. What'll it be?"
Excellent question. Sparks arced through her brain at rapid paces and were doing a darn good job at snapping up her thoughts. He just stared on, and she managed to scramble some words together. "Something with rum."
"The lady wants some Captain in her?" Strong jaw, likable dimples, and eyes to drown in. He knew it too. "How do you want it?"
Hot, sweaty, and around back in five? Her brain fainted.
Items and names of things collapsed and left her with awesome clear thoughts of things he could do with his hands. Things that had nothing do with a drink. Such as, she'd love to see him make a pile of his clothes in her bedroom. Get his shirt, concealing the best parts of him, out of the way made priority one. The button on his jeans scored her second action. Fingertips under the band of his underwear, if he was even wearing underwear, ranked third. She found her gaze dipping where her thoughts circled, concerning the state of things behind his zipper. Tasha nudged her with her elbow and knocked her out of her trance.
Time and a place and neither fit this situation. She cleared her throat, still empty for an idea. "Surprise me."
"Challenge accepted." His eyes left hers, and he pulled bottles together so fast, she couldn't keep up. He filled a tumbler with a variety for things, and a red drink was in front of her. "That should do you just fine."
She sipped. The fire of the rum warmed her throat, but the tangy sweetness of cranberry cooled it down. "Well done."
His grin never stopped. "I know."
"How much do we owe you?"
He leaned a little closer. "I haven't decided. You'll have me back before you leave, though. I'll let you know then." And with that, he scooted to the other end of the bar.
Cocky. She liked it. Got her curious enough to lean over the bar for another look at him. Looked like she wasn't the only curious one as he glanced her way and tossed another wink. It went through her better than the liquid heat in her glass that would have her tipsy by the smell. "Maybe we should have eaten something besides candy for supper."
"Too late now," said the pregnant one who didn't have to worry about making a fool of herself. "With a bar full of people, you need to figure out how to start holding your liquor so you'll be the last one to leave if you want a shot at that."
Short people weren't known for being good drinkers. She could verify that theory from experience, and she didn't put on enough holiday weight to give the liquor more places to go. Whitney nursed her drink. "How long do you think all these people will be here?"
"It's Saturday night." Tasha leaned over. "How long did you two used to stay in here?"
Kara scratched the side of her head. "Later than I want to think about."
Whitney leaned around Tasha. "Did you hear how long he'll be in town?"
"All I know is what I told you."
Excerpted from Just Want Somebody to Love by Keri Ford. Copyright © 2015 Keri Ford. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format: Galley Copy Whitney is in a rut. She loves her family and their farm though she feels stuck. She and her two best friends decide to go out once before planting season starts. Justin came in town to get his brother to sign off on franchising their steak restaurants. He's tending bar and in walks Whitney and her Marilyn Monroe features have him immediately drawn in. Their chemistry is electric from the moment they meet. They have their struggles and battle their pasts to get their happily ever after. This has been an enjoyable romance read. There weren't too many shoes dropping and I was content til the last page. I felt the ending was abrupt however I hope to find out more of Whitney and Justin in the next book in the Bella Warren Series. If you're looking for a wonderful romance that will leave you wanting more I highly recommend Just Want Somebody to Love.
A very enjoyable read that I thought was great! I really enjoyed the relationship between Whitney and Justin. Watching it change from a hookup to a relationship with depth was amazing. The trials Whitney put Justin through and the determination to get through them were fun to read. Their witty banter was hilarious and kept the story moving along. This is one I definitely recommend.
Just Want Somebody to Love is a cute story about making assumptions without facts. A one night stand leads to all types of chaos. After being stood up by the one guy she thought was something special Whitney is out for blood. Justin had every intention of showing up but unexpected issues prevented him from doing so. He's willing to do whatever it takes for a second chance with Whitney. When Justin shows up again apologetic and seeking another chance Whitney thinks a little payback is in order. Who will come out the victor in this grudge match? I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Keri Ford has written an charming story laced with personality clashes and misunderstandings that is entertaining to experience.