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Copyright © NICOLE AUSTIN, 2012
All Rights Reserved, Decadence Publishing.
Reaching out, he grasped the chair and swiveled it until she faced him. Candy tilted her head back, way back, her hungry gaze drinking him in. Unruly black hair had been tamed to silky waves above big blue eyes she’d gladly drown in. His face was rough-hewn with sharp angles, and a rugged beard shadow softened the intensity of his square jaw. He’d grown into that coltish boy’s body and then some. Broad chest, powerful arms roped with corded muscles, lean hips….
Calloused fingers grazed her cheek, drawing her focus back to his smiling eyes.
“Of all the gin joints….” he prompted, beginning a familiar greeting they’d shared a million times over while growing up.
She grinned up at him. “In all the towns, in all the world….”
“She walks into mine.” He finished the famous movie line, cupping her cheek, his thumb repeatedly gliding along her bottom lip. “I can’t believe it’s you. What are you doing here?”
“At the hotel? Guest speaker at a conference. In San Antonio? I moved back to be closer to my mom. Dad—”
Her voice choked up, unable to say the words. It had only been three months since her father’s fatal heart attack. The wounds were still raw.
Strong arms wrapped around her, pulling her in to that incredible body, one hand holding her head cushioned against a delicious chest she wanted to lick, the other rubbing soothing circles over her back. He smelled good—sandalwood and leather.
“I heard about your dad.” His voice rumbled through his chest and into her, Candy eagerly soaked in the delicious vibration. “I’m so sorry.”
In his arms, she felt safe and loved, never wanting to leave. All too soon, he broke the embrace and stepped back. “Come on, grab your drink. Let’s find a table and catch up.”
With a nod, she turned back to the bar, got another glass and a bottle of the chocolate wine nestled in an ice bucket from the crestfallen Luke. She gathered her belongings and followed Jeremiah to a small table at the back of the bar.
Once they’d settled into seats, she turned his question back on him. “So what are you doing here?”
“Had a bad injury last year and can’t compete on the circuit anymore. Got tired of constantly being on the road with the band.” He shrugged. “So here I am, spinning my wheels while I wait to close on a ranch in the Hill Country.”
She’d known about the injury. It had been all over the news. That damn ornery bull’s horn had come disturbingly close to gelding Jeremiah. But the band? She hadn’t heard about him leaving Branded.
“A ranch? Wow! I thought you never wanted to be tied to one place?”
“I grew up. Had to happen sooner or later.” Shifting his chair closer, he reached out and placed his hand over hers on the table that suddenly seemed a lot smaller. He made a blatant point of checking her out, head to toe, a lascivious smile curving his lips. “You’ve certainly grown up.”