Blurb: Before she goes after the life she’s always wanted, she’s about to find the one she needs.
Pepper has been hopelessly in love with her best friend’s brother, Hunter, for like ever. He’s the key to everything she’s always craved: security, stability, family. But she needs Hunter to notice her as more than just a friend. Even though she’s kissed exactly one guy, she has just the plan to go from novice to rock star in the bedroom—take a few pointers from someone who knows what he’s doing.
Her college roommates have the perfect teacher in mind. But bartender Reece is nothing like the player Pepper expects. Yes, he’s beyond gorgeous, but he’s also dangerous, deep—with a troubled past. Soon what started as lessons in attraction are turning both their worlds around, and showing just what can happen when you go past foreplay and get to what’s real…
Excerpt: Smoke billowed up from beneath the hood of my car in great plumes, a gray fog on the dark night. Slapping the steering wheel, I muttered a profanity and pulled to the side of the road. A quick glance confirmed that the temperature gauge was well into the red.
“Shit, shit, shit.” I killed the engine with quick, angry movements, hoping that might miraculously stop the vehicle from overheating further.
Grabbing my phone from the cup holder, I hopped out of the car into the crisp autumn night and stood well away from the vehicle. I knew nothing of engines, but I’d seen plenty of movies where the car blew up right after it started smoking. I wasn’t taking any chances.
I checked the time on my phone. Eleven thirty-five. Not too late. I could call the Campbells. They would come and get me and give me a ride back to the dorm. But that still left my car alone out here on this road. I’d only have to deal with that later, and I already had a ton to do tomorrow. I might as well handle it now.
I glanced at the quiet night around me. Crickets sang softly and wind rustled through the branches. It wasn’t exactly hopping with traffic. The Campbells lived on a few acres outside of town. I liked babysitting for them. It was a nice break from the bustle of the city. The old farmhouse felt like a real home, lived-in and cozy, very traditional with its old wood floors and stone fireplace that was always crackling at this time of year. It was like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The kind of life I craved someday.
Only now I didn’t quite appreciate how isolated I felt on this country road. I rubbed my arms through my long thin sleeves, wishing I had grabbed my sweatshirt before I left tonight. Barely October and it was already getting cold.
I stared grimly at my smoking car. I was going to need a tow truck. Sighing, I started scrolling through my phone, searching for tow trucks in the area. The lights of an oncoming car flashed in the distance and I froze, debating what to do. The sudden insane idea to hide seized me. An old instinct, but familiar.
This had horror movie written all over it. A girl all by herself. A lonely country road. I’d been the star of my own horror movie once upon a time. I wasn’t up for a repeat.
I moved off the road, situating myself behind my car. Not hiding exactly, but at least I wasn’t standing out in the open, an obvious target. I tried to focus on the screen of my phone and look casual standing there. Like if I ignored the approaching car its inhabitant would somehow not notice me or the smoking pile of metal. Without lifting my head, every part of me was tuned in to the slowing tires and the purring engine as the vehicle stopped.
Of course, they stopped. Sighing, I lifted my face, staring at a would-be serial killer. Or my rescuer. I knew that the latter was much more likely, but the whole scenario made me queasy and I could only think of worst-case possibilities.
It was a Jeep. The kind without a roof. Just a roll bar. The headlights gleamed off the stretch of black asphalt.
“You okay?” The deep voice belonged to a guy. Much of his face was in shadow. The light from the instrument panel cast a glow onto his face. Enough that I could determine he was youngish. Not much older than myself. Maybe mid-twenties at the most.
Most serial killers are young white males. The random factoid skittered across my thoughts, only adding to my anxiety.
“I’m fine,” I quickly said, my voice overly loud in the crisp night. I brandished my phone as if that explained everything. “I have someone coming.” I held my breath, waiting, hoping he would believe the lie and move on.
He idled there in the shadows, his hand on the gear stick. He looked up ahead at the road and then glanced behind him. Assessing just how alone we were? How ripe his opportunity was to murder me?
I wished I had a can of mace. A black belt in kung fu. Something. Anything. The fingers of my left hand tightened around my keys. I thumbed the jagged tip. I could gouge him in the face if necessary. The eyes. Yeah. I’d aim for the eyes.
He leaned across the passenger seat, away from the glow of instrument panel, plunging himself into even deeper shadow. “I could look under the hood,” his deep, disembodied voice offered.
I shook my head. “Really. It’s okay.”
Those eyes I had just contemplated gouging with my keys glittered across the distance at me. Their color was impossible to tell in the thick gloom, but they had to be pale. A blue or green. “I know you’re nervous—”
“I’m not. I’m not nervous,” I babbled quickly. Too quickly.
He leaned back in his seat, the amber glow again lighting his features. “I don’t feel right leaving you out here alone.” His voice shivered across my skin. “I know you’re afraid.”
I glanced around. The inky night pressed in thickly. “I’m not,” I denied, but my voice rang thin, lacking all conviction.
“I get it. I’m a stranger. I know it would make you more comfortable if I left, but I wouldn’t want my mother out here alone at night.”
I held his gaze for a long moment, taking his measure, attempting to see something of his character in the shadowy lines of his face. I glanced to my still smoking car and back at him. “Okay. Thanks.”
The thanks followed slowly, a deep breath later, full of hesitation. I only hoped I wasn’t going to end up on the morning news.
If he wanted to hurt me he would. Or at least he would try. Whether I invited him to look at my engine or not. That was my logic as I watched him pull his Jeep in front of my car. The door swung open. He unfolded his long frame and stepped out into the night with a flashlight in his hand.
His footsteps crunched over loose gravel, the beam of his flashlight zeroing in on my still-smoldering vehicle. From the angle of his face, I didn’t think he even looked my way. He went straight for my car, lifting the hood and disappearing under it.
Arms crossed tightly in front of me, I stepped forward cautiously, edging out into the road so I could watch him as he studied the engine. He reached down and touched different things. God knows what. My knowledge of auto mechanics was right up there with my origami-making abilities.
I went back to studying his shadowy features. Something glinted. I squinted. His right eyebrow was pierced.
Suddenly another beam of lights lit up the night. My would-be-mechanic straightened from beneath the hood and stepped out, positioning himself between me and the road, his long legs braced and hands on his hips as the car approached. I had my first unfettered view of his face in the harsh glow of oncoming headlights, and I sucked in a sharp breath.
The cruel lighting might have washed him out or picked up his flaws, but no. As far as I could see he had no physical flaws.
He was hot. Plain and simple. Square jaw. Deep-set blue eyes beneath slashing dark brows. The eyebrow piercing was subtle, just a glint of silver in his right eyebrow. His hair looked like a dark blond, cut short, close to his head. Emerson would call him lickable.
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