Excerpts & Giveaway: The Southern Sweethearts Blog Tour
Welcome to Mother/Gamer/Writer for the Southern Sweethearts Blog Tour! For today’s tour stop, please enjoy a look inside of these cute, sweet, southern and sexy novels that are sure to make your heart swoon, and enter for your chance to win some amazing prizes!
Katya looked around the restaurant. Surrounded by trees outside, the interior was exposed timber and glass, giving The Wild Side the feel of a hunting lodge in the woods. The fieldstone fireplace with its cheery gas log fire and the trophy animal heads on the wall carried out the theme.
“Well? What do you think?” Cam smiled at her from across the linen-covered table, the dimple in his cheek deepening.
“That gazelle looks pissed. I think he wants his body back.” The unblinking stare of the animals on the walls gave her the willies, so she kept her eyes on Cam. Well, maybe that wasn’t the only reason. His royal blue Western-cut shirt showed off his washed-blue eyes. The candlelight fractured in them, and she had a hard time looking anywhere else. He’d taken off his hat when he sat down, but it left a mark in his short, hollow-gold hair. She took a sip of her white wine to cool off. God, if he were on the menu, this place would be overrun with women.
He chuckled, and when the waiter walked over with menus, he held up a hand. “Will you trust me to order?” He gave her a one-sided smile, an eyebrow raised in challenge.
“I guess I’ll trust you that far.”
Not much farther though. She had no doubt that smile had separated dozens of women from their panties. Don’t forget, you don’t belong here. Why did she have to keep reminding herself of that lately?
He ordered something called the Hunter’s Feast for Two. When the waiter walked away, Cam turned his attention back to her. “You drive a hard bargain, Ms. Smith. It cost me dearly to get you sitting across the table from me. Are you sure you aren’t a horse trader on the side?”
She snorted. “I should have warned you, it’s in my blood. My great-great grandfather made enough money trading horses to bring his family to America.”
Might as well get it out in the open. In spite of the modern push to accept “cultural diversity,” there was still a lot of prejudice against her kind. “I don’t just dress Gypsy, Cam. I am Gypsy.”
“No kidding?” The touch of his regard settled on her. “I know so little about you. Where did you grow up?”
Well, he’d answered her questions. No harm in answering a few benign ones of his. “In DC. But my summers I spent with my Gypsy family, in Chicago.”
“What was that like?”
“It was heaven. I’m an only child. But in Chicago, my huge extended family took me in every summer and folded me into the clan.” She smiled, seeing Grand’s apartment in her mind. “It was like stepping into another world. Like I lived two different lives.”
“When did you join the army?”
“After nine/eleven. A lot of people joined then.”
“I wouldn’t have guessed you for a soldier, but once I knew it, lots of things made sense. Did you like it?”
“I loved it. In a way, it was like Chicago. Another kind of family. We rely on each other under hard times and stressful circumstances. It forges a strong bond.”
“You miss it.”
Once again, his eyes made her nervous, seeing too much. “Something happened over there, didn’t it?”
“I miss it.”
The waiter brought their salads, breaking the pull of his gaze. That gaze made her want to talk, to spill her dark story all over the pristine tablecloth, staining everything.
She lifted her fork. “Tell me about your family. Where are you from?”
They chatted about safe subjects until their meal arrived; a huge platter of unrecognizable meat, without a vegetable in sight. Unless fried potatoes qualified.
He looked it over. “I’m torn. I’m afraid if I tell you what’s here, you won’t eat it, and you’d miss out on some great food. But I don’t want to ambush you either. So you tell me. Do you want to know?”
She picked up her fork, stabbed a deep-fried Rocky Mountain oyster, and popped it in her mouth.
His eyes got big. “Wait, that’s a—”
“Cow testicle, I know.” She licked her lips. “I have to say, it’s better than sheep, but not as good as camel.” She glanced around for the waiter, then back to him. “Do you think they have hot sauce?”
His eyes got bigger. “I think I’m in love,” he breathed.
Leaning back against the van and spreading his legs so she could fit into the cradle of his hips, Cage realized something in that moment. He had never stopped loving Emelie. He kissed the top of her head…she still used that lemon-scented shampoo…then kissed her chin and the knuckles that continued to hold the packet of letters in a death grip. Pulling a handkerchief out of his back pocket, he used it to wipe the tears off her face and made her blow her nose hard.
Then, he framed her head with trembling fingers that combed into both sides of her hair, and he really kissed her. With all the love and yearning he’d built up over the years. Suppressed emotions exploded in him, emotions he hadn’t even known he’d been suppressing, not this late in the game, anyhow. He was out of control.
Then, Thank you God, she was out of control, too. Somewhere along the way she’d dropped the letters to the ground and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him back with equal fervor.
There was a roaring in his ears, and his mind went blank. His body zapped into sensory overload with each of her soft caresses to his neck and shoulders, with the arching of her body against his, with the opening of her mouth to his deep kisses.
At one point his palms had landed on her butt and he raised her against his erection. Sweet! Sweet agony!
Women had two surefire weapons when it came to men. Sex and tears. Cage was being assaulted by both of them, and he welcomed the attack, even if he would be bullet-ridden in the end.
At this moment, as he feasted on the woman in his arms, there were no jagged splinters of past betrayals, no dark shadows of regret, no questions of what might have been, or could be. No anger. Not even a Toby Keith cynical message of “How Do You Like Me Now?” which he had to admit he’d harbored on occasion in the past. Just the now. And now was glorious.
MawMaw was probably watching them through the kitchen window, but he didn’t care. This was the girl he loved and she was back in his arms. Nothing was going to stop him now.
Except something did.
The slamming of car doors.
“Yoo-hoo!” someone yelled, and it wasn’t Belle and her boys. It was that Cajun wackjob Tante Lulu, with pink hair that matched a pink t-shirt proclaiming “I May Be Old, But There Are Parts of Me That Still Zing.” With her grinning niece Charmaine in a hoochie-mama, leopard print cat suit. Noticing the direction of his stare, Tante Lulu remarked, “I know. I tol’ her ta be careful. That get-up’s so tight, folks will see her religion.”
Cage pressed his forehead against Em’s, praying that his hard-on wouldn’t be evident. Em moaned; she had a few thing to hide, too, like her nipples under the thin silk shirt she wore, tucked into a pair of denims. “We came to help,” Charmaine said, smacking him on the butt as she passed by, carrying a box overflowing with plastic containers of food.
“Jist in time, by the looks of things,” Tante Lulu remarked. She was also carrying food. Looked like one of those lidded cake carriers. “Best I hurry up with your hope chest, boy. Guar-an-teed!”
Dalton thought he was just about free to go when the photographer called the wedding party back for pictures, first in the sanctuary, then outside in the warm sun. He hadn’t had to hold a smile for such a long time that his face muscles were starting to protest when the guy decided ten thousand shots were enough.
Finally he could slip out of his jacket. His cattle’s blackand-white coats might keep them warm in winter and cool in summer, but he was about to dissolve into a giant drop of sweat. As the rest of the guests came out of the church to say good-bye to the happy couple, he loosened his tie, then saw Jessy, standing in the shade of an oak, arms folded over her middle, watching him.
God, she’d been watching him all through the reception, and him her. He couldn’t say why he hadn’t approached her, asked her to share a piece of cake, talk with him, dancewith him. Then his gut clenched hard, his chest tightening,and he remembered: because he would have spontaneouslycombusted, and wouldn’t that have been an ugly page inDane and Carly’s wedding album? From the moment he’dwalked into the church and seen her sitting there all beautifuland sexy and focused on him, all he could think was,Is it time? Please, can it be time?
He was surprised God hadn’t struck him down where he stood.
It was stupid, he thought as he walked to her. He was thirty-two years old. He’d been married. He’d had sex with his share of women. Hell, he’d had sex with this woman. But he hadn’t known then what he knew now. Then it had been horniness and loneliness, and any woman who persisted until he was drunk would have satisfied. Now it was . . .
Well, he didn’t know what it was, exactly. Important.
They had something special, a second chance for both of them to make things right, to make each other right. Something to not screw up.
Grand Prize: copies of Tall, Dark, and Cajun, So Into You, and Snow on the Bayou by Sandra Hill; copies of A Hero to Come Home To, A Man to Hold on To, and A Love to Call Her Own by Marilyn Pappano; and copies of The Sweet Spot, Nothing Sweeter, and Sweet on You by Laura Drake