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An excerpt from STRIPPED DOWN, a contemporary cowboy romance releasing on February 8th!





Fuck holding back.

Fuck restraint.

Nothing in my life has ever felt more right than pulling Rose Jordan into my arms. When I’ve touched before, when she tempted me at the swimming hole, when she was living in my house, it was accidental. Now I’m touching her on purpose. She stiffens, as if I’ve surprised her, but then she melts. She doesn’t want to, she doesn’t want me, but her body trusts me. She’s not a little girl anymore.

She needs me.

Needs more than my dick inside her, even if I can make her enjoy it.

I can’t replace Auntie Dee. The woman was part of Lonesome for so many years that the town seems emptier now she’s gone. Rose cries for her, and that makes me want to fix things. Make everything better. But even I’m not fucking Superman, and I can’t bring people back from the dead.

Rose tucks her head into the curve of my shoulder. The instinctive gesture makes me feel like maybe I could fly if that’s what she needed. It’s sexy as hell, this unspoken trust she has in me. I run my hand down her back, my fingers finding the soft line of her bra straps beneath the gauzy dress. She hasn’t said no. The heat of her scorches me, the way her breasts shove against my chest making me revisit and revise my list of Rose fantasies. I’m gonna fuck her there, I decide. Tunnel my dick through that soft, sweet cleavage until I paint her chest with my come.

Christ. I’m a bastard.

Sex isn’t gonna fix shit for Rose.

If she came here expecting a miracle, she’s about to be disillusioned. The house isn’t in good shape (which is a fucking understatement, honestly), although it could be worse. The walls haven’t caved and the roof hasn’t fallen in—but that’s about it. I’d sent my boys over to fix what I could, but Auntie Dee didn’t take freebies, and I hadn’t bothered after she passed because all I’d wanted was the water. Don’t need the house for that.

Rose, however, needs the house, and I don’t know what to do. She definitely doesn’t want my money, although this house does. Auntie Dee’s little addendum keeps playing through my head, too. Mitch didn’t share that note with me when he gave me a sneak peek at the will, and now I’ve got to figure out how to honor Auntie Dee’s dying wish that I keep Rose safe. Pretty sure I’m fucked here.

Rose snuffles. Shit. I don’t mind if she uses my shirt as her own personal Kleenex, but she’s not happy. I’m not big on expressing emotions or so the Navy shrink tried to tell me. I walked out his door, but something tells me Rose doesn’t have the same reservations. Fuck if she’s repressing anything right now.

I pat her on the back cautiously, trying to find a nice, neutral spot that doesn’t involve bare skin or lingerie.

“Where did you sleep last night?” I kinda growl the question against her skin, my mouth way too close to her ear. She’s dabbed something sweet on her skin and she smells like candy and apples. If she’s gonna wear an eat me invitation, she has to expect me to RSVP in the affirmative, right?

“The RV,” she mumbles and tried to pull away. I’m not ready to let her go yet, so I tighten my grip. Plus, I’m not real happy about any RV scenario. It’s all too easy to imagine her sleepy and flushed in some piece of shit vehicle. Anyone could jack the door open and she’d be so fucking vulnerable. A woman sleeping alone is easy prey for a man who doesn’t care about right and wrong. It’s not like I’m so hung up on ethics myself, but I have lines. She’s gonna say yes to everything we do, and I’d never hurt her.

Ask, don’t tell, I remind myself, but then I go and blow it anyhow. “Come on back to the ranch with me. We’ve got plenty of bedrooms there.”

She shakes her head. “I’m good. I’ve got company. Rory’s waiting for me.”

“Who the fuck is Rory?” I try to keep my voice level, but the fury leaks through anyhow. We may have to share the ranch, but I’m not sharing her now that I’ve got her back. Rose is mine.

“None of your business,” she shoots back.

Everything about you is my business. I want you out at my place.” Not shacked up with some unknown guy. Had she done more than sleep with him? Had she gone home last night and fucked him?

“Rory’s my best friend.” She looks like she has no idea why she just told me that, but something eases up inside me. Maybe I don’t have to rip the guy to pieces.

“Come out to my place,” I tell her again. “I’ll give you a good bed.”

This time, when she stiffens up like a poker in my arms, she doesn’t relax again. The stiffy in my jeans isn’t helping me any. I’d never trade a bed for sex, but Exhibit A might make her think otherwise.

“I can stay here,” she counters.

“There’s no price tag,” I tell the top of her head. She tugs, trying to break free again. “Be reasonable, Rose.” I can see daylight through the roof of the porch, for Christ’s sake. “Staying here is one step above camping, and the RV can’t be better. Just this once, can’t you let me take care of you? Giving in this one time doesn’t mean you’re surrendering unconditionally.”

Okay, so I’m kinda lying to her on that one.

“Nothing’s free,” she tells me quietly. This time when she tugs, I let her go. My arms feel empty, but I’m playing the long game here. Five more minutes would be awesome, but I want all of Rose.

“You need a solid place to stay.” I shove off the porch and head for the truck. She hesitates, but then she follows me. Even Rose isn’t impetuous enough to risk being stranded here. “We’ve got room on the ranch.”

Naturally, she has to argue with me. “I belong here. Rory can bring the RV over.”

“You don’t have to do without electricity tonight,” I counter. “Or dinner. Bring Rory and the damn RV if you have to.”

I can park the bastard out in the bunkhouse. He won’t get near her. And she has to be tempted because, while her suitcase is heavy enough to hold a fridge, I’m betting it doesn’t. I must be right, because she actually lets me open the truck door for her. Or maybe that’s because she’s working up to another argument.

“If I come, that doesn’t mean I’m giving up the house.”

I really don’t need to think about her coming. Not now. But now she’s put the dirty thoughts into my head, and I can’t help but imagine it. Her clenching around my dick. The sweet little ripples as her pussy milks me as she gets closer and closer. Bet I can make her come twice. Three times.

I need to get my big head back into the game.

“So we have a temporary deal. Stay at the ranch, and take a couple of days to think things over. You don’t have to decide standing on the damned porch, do you?”

“All right,” she says, climbing up into the truck. “Yes. But this is just temporary, Angel. I’m moving in here.”

Hearing Rose say yes is addictive. I’ve gotta hear it again.

“Yes,” I tell her, and it’s an agreement, a concession, and a fucking win all rolled into one. She drives me crazy and she doesn’t even know it, which is good because Rose would walk all over me if she could. I’ve got her right where I want her: back in my life. Next step is getting her into bed.

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~ by Anne Marsh on February 7, 2016.

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