Harper McKinney finished culinary school with big dreams. Right now, she’s a bartender at Kinky Spurs. While she’s content with her life, her brother is determined that she make a name for herself, because he wants her far away from what he deems a trashy bar. But Harper refuses to go anywhere. She’s in love with her brother’s best friend, Chase Blackshaw, and that love is keeping her in River Rock.
After the death of Chase’s father, he’s the one responsible for running the construction of the Blackshaw Cattle Company’s guest ranch. Back in the day, he had dreams of opening a construction company, but lack of finances kept him working for the family’s cattle ranch. Now with the responsibility of his family’s guest ranch on his shoulders those dreams seem far away. Though he has bigger problems. His build is failing the inspections.
Now Chase has more trouble on his hands. Harper, the woman he’s forbidden to ever touch has decided to move to Las Vegas. She isn’t so little anymore, and Chase is finding her all too tempting. She’s also not shy about what she wants. Him. Naked. And giving her some sweet lovin’ in all the kinky ways he craves. But neither Chase nor Harper can anticipate the fate that awaits them if they dare give in to their desires, as Chase soon learns there is something far worse than not being able to live out his dreams. It’s being given the chance to live out his dreams but having to watch Harper lose hers.
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Kinky Spurs was known for two things: fun and games. People came to the western-themed bar for the hot cowboys, naughty games that put smiles on the customers' faces, live music, a ride on the mechanical bull, and the famous off-the-charts hot chicken wings capable of bringing men to their knees. For Chase Blackshaw, the best thing about Kinky Spurs wasn't the place itself, it was a certain person that worked there.
Dressed in the Kinky Spurs uniform of a tight, red T-shirt with Kinky Spurs written across her chest in bold, white calligraphy and tiny denim shorts, Harper was the finest woman in the room. But it wasn't the sexy getup that hooked Chase; it was her sassy smile, deep hazel eyes, and long, honey-colored hair that he imagined draping perfectly over her naked flesh when he tasted every inch of her.
That woman standing behind the bar was everything beautiful in this world. And he wanted her. Badly.
This deep hunger he endured had not always been there. When she left their hometown of River Rock, a town nestled in the Colorado mountains, a few years ago to attend culinary school in Denver, she was the kid who had once made a name of herself. At fourteen years old, she had become the youngest contestant to make it to the finals on the culinary reality television show, MentorChef Teen. She'd baked at every fundraiser put on by the high school or any local business in town, including fundraisers put on by his family's cattle ranch, Blackshaw Cattle Company. Everyone in town knew Harper's name and how incredible her food tasted. Still, she had always been a kid he barely gave a passing glance to, considering she was three years younger; but all that had changed nine months ago.
When she returned to River Rock after completing her studies in Denver, she had come home a breathtaking woman, full of heat and lust, that Chase could not ignore. His body stood up and took notice of her. Literally.
Standing behind the bar with the neon KINKY SPURS sign above her head, she caught him looking at her and aimed a sultry smile in his direction. Christ, what that smile did to him. His fingers twitched to rip her uniform off, tie her up, and mercilessly tease her with his body in retribution for tormenting him in the way she likely knew tortured him.
The greasy aroma spilling out from the kitchen drew him forward. To her. His cowboy boots clicked against the hardwood floor as he passed the empty stage where the country music band would play later tonight and wove his way through the scattered tables. The bar was quiet, the highlights of the baseball game playing on the flat-screen TVs, soft chatter among the dozen customers there for dinner. Peanut shells littered the floor when he slid onto the stool at the bar.
Harper moved in front of him. "Don't get too comfy, big guy. I've got something in the back for you."
Her naked, preferably. He smiled. "Something sweet, I hope?"
He relished her darting tongue licking her lip. "Even better." Her teeth grazed over her mouth. "Sweet and spicy."
Christ, that damn smile was going to be the death of him. The way her pupils dilated with obvious arousal had become a drug he craved more and more lately. "That does sound better." So did getting past all the teasing and getting down to business.
She grinned back, never shy about her perusal of him, then ducked under the bar, heading toward the back.
He followed, his mouth salivating not only at her, but also what awaited him in the kitchen. They had formed a tradition over the past two months. Every night after work, he would come in before the dinner rush and he would be her taste tester. She could have asked anyone to do this, and he liked to think she asked him because she wanted to cook for him alone. The only reason she wasn't cooking for the Spurs stood at the stove, flipping a burger, with earphones stuck in his ears, when Chase entered the kitchen.
Antonio, Kinky Spurs' chef, would be out of a job if Harper started working in the kitchen. Everyone knew it, and that's why when she did cook, it was not during working hours, or so she had told Chase once while she fed him in the back kitchen.
He couldn't take his eyes off her when she stopped at the end of the long, stainless-steel table with a stool in front. As he slid onto the stool, the very place he'd been sitting every late afternoon for the past three months, he asked, "What am I taste-testing tonight?"
"Iberian-style sausage and chicken ragù."
She set the dish in front of him, and he chuckled. "So sausage and chicken pasta?"
"Basically, yes." She nudged the bowl toward him. "Remember to be honest. I can take it."
He reached for the fork and scooped up a little bit of everything into one bite. She watched him intently as he shoveled it in past his lips. He chewed, and the flavor exploded into his mouth, the spice enough to tease the taste buds but not overwhelm.
She stared at him with huge eyes, and he loved that excited look she gave as much as he found her passion captivating. "Christ, that's delicious," he told her, knowing even if it wasn't good, he'd never say. But her food was so damn incredible he didn't understand how she did what she did. He scooped up another bite. "I've said it before, and I'll say it again, you are wasting your talents by being here."
"Shh," she said, stepping closer. "We don't want Antonio hearing that. He'll cut out your tongue."
Chase chuckled. "Now that I would hate to lose. I'm rather fond of my tongue and what I can do with it."
Her breath hitched and her lips parted, inviting him for so much. "Yes, I suppose that would be a shame."
He finished his bite, watching her mouth. Unable to ever look away from her pouty lips. He wanted them on his. He wanted them open, releasing her moans. He wanted to watch them pleasuring him. "And what about the sweet you promised me?" he murmured.
She nibbled her bottom lip before she inhaled deeply and turned away. When she returned, she placed a small plate down. "Roasted pears with espresso mascarpone cream."
He slowly looked into her heated eyes again. "Delicious, I'm sure." And hell yeah, he meant her too.
She quickly looked away, her hands trembling slightly as she fiddled with the hem of her T-shirt. He understood why. This intense need and hunger drove him equally as crazy. He could only imagine how sweet those lips tasted. How incredible her pretty eyes looked right before she came. Christ, he could even imagine her moans were as captivating as the rest of her.
If it were up to him, he would have had her months ago.
Problem was, it wasn't only up to him.
When her eyes slowly lifted to his again, he fought against the heat filling his groin. Heat he wanted to unleash and set free until she was melting beneath him and screaming his name up. Something he knew showed in his expression by the quickening of her breath.
Her eyes suddenly flicked down and grew wide. "Oh my God, what did you do?"
He followed her gaze, discovering what concerned her. Blood dripped from his hand, landing on the table. "Shit. Sorry." The error he'd made with a saw an hour ago had annoyed him then, and now even more so. He had thought the bleeding had stopped. He accepted the napkins she offered him, wrapping them around the small laceration on his index finger, and explained, "I had a small accident earlier."
"A small accident?" Harper peeled back the napkins, examining the laceration. "By the look of it, you need stiches."
She snorted and gave him a knowing look. "Actually, it's not fine at all. Come on, there's a first aid kit in the stockroom."
Adamant not to move an inch, he shook his head and reached for his fork to try the dessert. "Nah, I'm good." What he needed was this meal and a little time with Harper. Those two things always seemed to right his world. Today had been a long, exhausting day on the construction site, which had been the reason for the rookie mistake with the saw.
Her hands went to her hips. "Chase Blackshaw, I don't even want to hear it. You are bleeding all over the kitchen. First, that's really gross and unsanitary for the other customers. Second, stop being a big baby and follow me."
A loud laugh filled the kitchen.
Chase glanced up to find Antonio now watching them. His headphones were out of his ears and resting around his neck. Chase rose from his stool and grinned at Antonio. "Careful. I've got the saw that did this to my hand in my truck."
Antonio, with his dark eyes and even darker spiked hair, burst out laughing. "I'd like to see you try, Blackshaw."
Chase snorted a laugh at the man he knew from high school and followed Harper into a small office. She pointed him inside. "Sit."
"Yes, ma'am." He took the client's chair while she left the room.
When Harper returned to him a minute later, she carried a first aid kit. "I'm not even sure this will work. The cut looks deep. But I suppose this is better than nothing." She took a seat at the desk and pulled out sterilized wound closure strips from the first aid kit and began cutting them. After she cut the second strip to size, she gave him a quick look. "Are you okay?"
With gentle fingers, she took the napkins away, placing them beneath his hand to catch the blood. "Are you sure?"
He frowned. "It's a cut, Harper, that's all. I'm fine."
She hesitated before her eyes flicked to his briefly. "You look tired."
"You do realize you're saying, 'I'm fine' a lot, which indicates that you're totally not fine. Besides, it's not like you to cut your finger on the job."
"Precisely," he agreed. To stop this conversation that was going nowhere, he leaned forward, watching her lips part in a blatant invitation for him to claim her. "The only problem right now is my pride is being crucified. Let's move along, please."
"Your pride is just fine. Things like this happen to anyone." She leaned in more, inspecting the wound on his finger. Blood continued to seep down his hand onto the napkins.
Chase did not want to get into how exhausted he felt. There was a heaviness down to his damn bones. But he supposed that was expected, considering his company, Blackshaw Construction, was at the end of a three-month job that his two brothers had entrusted to him. They were turning their late father's cattle ranch into a guest ranch, where guests could come run the cattle alongside the Blackshaw Cattle cowboys. Chase had been working around the clock to get the job done.
"I don't think you should feel too bad or embarrassed about having an accident anyway," she said, seemingly reading his mind. "All you've been doing lately is working. That's not good for anyone. It's a surprise an accident didn't happen sooner."
Warmth flooded him, and he gave her the soft smile she deserved. It felt good to have someone on his side. Especially this someone. From day one when she came home, he had noticed the sexual chemistry raging between them. It had been instant and explosive. But over the last two months while he had been her taste tester, and he spent more time alone with her, he'd noticed a closeness growing between them. One that was calm and steady and healthy in ways he'd never known a relationship to be.
"You might want to inhale deep and hold your breath," she said, scrunching her nose. "I suspect this is going to suck."
And suck it did.
He gritted his teeth, refusing to flinch in her presence while she squeezed the wound together even tighter. Careful but with focus, she applied the wound closure strips to the laceration until she sealed the wound tight.
"I'm sorry," she said tightly. "But isn't that so much better now?" "Yes. Thank you." He rose, feeling slightly light-headed.
When he turned to get back to his meal, her fingers snagged his wrist. "I'm not done with you."
The silkiness in her voice brought his attention back to her. The heated look in her eyes returned him to his seat, his muscles quivering. He stared at her hand on his arm. For the nine months since she'd been home from Denver, he'd been managing his desire for her privately and efficiently. Even through the months when things intensified between them — and they'd had many of these intense moments — she had never touched him. Not a single time. The power of her touch now took his breath away, bringing fierce and potent heat into his groin.
He met her gaze, discovering her firm eye contact, her chest rising and falling quickly with her heavy breaths. He fought against his desire to erase all the distance between his mouth and hers. Christ, he wanted to take her right here, right now, until they were both sweaty and satisfied.
Obviously attempting to stay on task, she visibly swallowed, her hand trembling when she took the sterilized wipe from the first aid kit then cleaned all the blood off around the wound, her fingers trailing over his. This time, the pain didn't even register. He became entirely aware of her. Her fruity aroma filled his senses with the flare of his nostrils. The world around him faded away as she became the only important thing in the room.
The slight curve of her cheekbone. The way her mouth was parted. Her tongue flicking out, wetting her lips, preparing them for when he pressed his mouth against hers. The long, sexy line of her neck, the pulse hammering at her flesh. The soft lines of her shoulders to the roundness of her breasts.
"Chase," she rasped.
He slowly looked into her heated eyes, the softness there begging him to make his move. She froze, motionless from her need, possibly reacting to the hunger engulfing him. Only then did he realize he had closed his hand over hers, now holding her fingers in his. Pulled by something he could not control, his body leaned toward hers, and hers moved closer to his.
He inhaled sharply and glanced sideways at Brody, his best friend since kindergarten. His wild, dark hazel eyes were locked onto Chase's hand wrapped around Harper's, a vein protruding from the center of his forehead.
Slowly, dangerously, Brody's narrowed eyes lifted, and he growled, "Get your hands off my sister."CHAPTER 2
Chest-beating alpha men were annoying sometimes. Actually, scratch that, the chest-beating alpha men in Harper's life were annoying most of the time. Especially the man standing in the doorway, looking about ready to chomp Chase's head off.
Brody McKinney, her older brother by four years, shared the same eye color, albeit a lighter shade than Harper's. His blond hair was a dirtier blond while hers had more of a honey tone. His legs were far longer, making her five-foot-five height seem short in comparison. And Brody, with his fierce scowl and hard eyes, could be imposing and often intimidated her boyfriends at the best of times, which was usually why she ended her relationships.
Harper wanted a man that stood up to Brody, not a boy who ran away.
Truth be told, her longest relationship happened when she attended culinary school. Only problem: after dating Matt a year Harper knew he wasn't the one. Not even close to being the one. But of course, that had not mattered to Brody. He liked Matt because he hailed from New York City and planned to move back there once he finished school. Brody's hang-up had always been about her dating someone in River Rock. There, she could never be the famous chef he thought she should be.
And for the most part, she agreed with him. Staying in River Rock had never been the dream.
Like she'd done time and time again, she interjected before Brody acted like Brody and said something horrible to his best friend, all in his weird way of ensuring her dreams happened. "Is there a reason you're standing there acting all growly?" she asked calmly.
Brody still had yet to blink. "Why are you in here holding hands?" While her hand still tingled from where Chase had been holding her fingers, and the effects of that touch still quivered in her belly, she had no time for this protective side of Brody. She was a twenty-six-year-old grown woman, perfectly capable of choosing her lovers and deciding what she wanted out of life. "We aren't holding hands," she said firmly. "Chase cut his finger at work. I'm helping him clean it up."
Brody glared at Chase's finger, apparently inspecting the wound to decide for himself if Chase deserved to be hurt further.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Sweet-Loving Cowboy"
Copyright © 2019 Stacey Kennedy.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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