Ashton Davenport: Hot blonde. Old Money. Off-limits.
That’s how Mac McLaughlin sees her, anyway. And now that he’s enduring a temporary self-imposed exile in tiny Shelbyville, Texas, he’s seeing her way too often. Mac only wants to succeed as the contractor for the Lily Lake development in order to rebuild his reputation and return to Dallas, pronto. A sexy distraction like Ashton was not in the plans.
Mac McLaughlin: Hot builder. Cash poor. Hands-on.
Ashton kissed her trust fund goodbye and left her life as a society princess to prove she could make it on her own. Developing Lily Lake is her big chance, but it’s hard to stay focused working side-by-side with bossy, rough-around-the-edges Mac. Especially when he pulls off his shirt.
When the discovery of an endangered species derails the project, Mac can’t afford to stick around for a stalled job. His and Ashton’s explosive chemistry aside, he’s outta there…unless she can convince him that they just might be able to build something together.
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Mac strolled closer, making the little gleam in his green eyes apparent. The man was enjoying this. Who knew it took so little to entertain him? “Real dogs bring you dead stuff to show their affection.”
And, God, couldn’t she use a little affection these days? Preferably from a tall, broad-shouldered Paul Bunyan of a man.
Curling up with Napoleon was wonderful, but it was a little hard for him to hug her. Probably just as well because an affectionate hug might shatter her world right now. “Remind me, what’s your dog’s name?”
Those eyes narrowed marginally. “I don’t have a dog.”
Ashton curved her lips into her best bless-your-heart socialite smile. “You know, it’s considered impolite to give parenting advice when you’re not a parent. The same applies to pets. If you don’t have one of your own, then you have no business criticizing those of us who do.”
“Even if they…” He hitched his chin at a place over her right shoulder.
“Even if they what?” Maybe her tone was a bit of a screech. This man would have the same impact on a nun who’d taken a vow of silence. Hell, he’d probably blow a nun’s vow of celibacy too.
Mac’s lips pinched together in a clear attempt to hold in a laugh. “Even if they’re runaways?”
“What do you mean—” She glanced down at her cart. The carrier was still there, but the top was slightly concave because there was no dog inside. “Napoleon?” Whirling around, she caught sight of one furry foot as he rounded the endcap filled with generic macaroni and cheese. Her stomach let out a feral growl at the thought of pasta covered with pseudo-cheddar. “The manager will kill us both,” she muttered as she took off down the aisle.
Her spike-heeled booties slipped and slid as she made a sharp left at the end of the aisle. She tried to get traction, but Italian leather wasn’t known for its tractor-pull abilities. God knew she probably looked like a cartoon character as her legs windmilled and flew out from under her. Pain arrowed from her tailbone up her spine to reverberate through her brain. She rolled to her hands and knees, but before she could pull herself up, Mac was there, his warm palm wrapping around her elbow and yanking her up. Damned man didn’t say a word or ask if she’d broken anything, just kept jogging in Napoleon’s direction.
Rubbing her abused butt, she limped along behind him. Mac cut sharply to his left and headed down the coffee aisle. Oh no, Napoleon did love his French roast.
When she found them, Mac and Napoleon were engaged in a Mexican standoff. Mac with his hands back on his hips. Napoleon with a bag of coffee beans in his mouth, the best brand the Piggly Wiggly carried, in fact.
“Drop it,” Mac growled, and Napoleon backed up several steps. Well, that tone of voice certainly wouldn’t work. “I mean it, dog. Drop it.”
“He doesn’t know—”
Mac glanced over his shoulder at her, and Napoleon took that as his opportunity to make a break for it. In his wake, he left a trail of coffee beans that looked like little poop pellets. Ashton slapped a hand over her mouth to trap the laughter trying to escape. So not the right time. Especially with Mac glaring at her, then glaring at the other end of the aisle where Napoleon had disappeared again. “You think this is funny?”
“No, I have this problem. You know, sometimes bursting out in completely inappropriate chuckles.”
Was that a quirk on the right side of Mac’s mouth? Ashton peered closer. Hmm…maybe it was an involuntary muscle tic.
“Yeeah!” A woman’s scream came from a few rows over. “Holy God in heaven, keep that animal away from me. I don’t like dogs. That thing is dirty and slobbering and vicious.”
Wait a minute. Now that was downright ridiculous. Napoleon just had a bath, had excellent oral hygiene and was the sweetest animal on the planet. Ashton took off with Mac right behind her. She skittered across the coffee beans, but kept her balance with Mac’s help this time. Maybe his grip was a little tight, but his palm was warm and big, and she wanted to feel it against her—okay, so not the time for that either.
They found Napoleon two rows over, half-empty coffee bag still clamped in his jaws, tail wagging as though he’d just found the universe’s biggest bone. Hopefully that wasn’t the way he saw the woman he had backed against the feminine products. She reached around behind her blindly, grabbed a package of maxi pads. Using it as her cattle prod, she tried to shove Napoleon away from her feet. “Shoo, you mongrel.”
Napoleon, of course, thought she was playing a game. So he dropped the coffee like a bad date and clamped down on the package. Shook his head back and forth, whacking himself in the head with the maxi pads.
“Yeeah! Demon dog. Somebody get animal control in here.”
“Ma’am.” Mac’s voice was deep and soothing and sent both a bolt of awareness and a stream of calm through Ashton. “He’s harmless. He’s just excited. If you’ll just back away, everything will be fine.”
The woman glanced at Mac, her wide eyes gleaming white. She scooched a few inches to the right, her back still against the shelves. “This your dog?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Mac answered. “Just keep coming this way.”
Another few scooching inches. “I’ve got a lawyer.”
Ashton’s mouth went dry. She couldn’t afford to get sued. Ironic since that was exactly what she’d done to Roxanne Eberly not long ago.
Mac, on the other hand, smiled. And that? It popped Ashton right in the heart.
-Excerpt Three of Nine
Blog Tour Schedule
November 17 – Excerpt One
November 18 – Excerpt Two
Just Contemporary Romance
November 18 – Excerpt Three
Ramblings From This Chick
November 19 – Excerpt Four
November 20 – Excerpt Five
November 21 – Excerpt Six
Herding Cats and Burning Soup
November 22 – Excerpt Seven
TBQ’s Book Palace
November 23 – Excerpt Eight
Doing Some Reading
November 24 – Excerpt Nine
Gonna Need More Books
Kelsey Browning writes sass kickin' love stories full of hot heroes, saucy heroines and spicy romance. Originally from a Texas town smaller than the ones she writes about, Kelsey has also lived in the Middle East and Los Angeles, proving she's either adventurous or downright nuts. These days, she hangs out in northeast Georgia with Tech Guy, Smarty Boy, Bad Dog and Pharaoh, a Canine Companions for Independence puppy. She's currently at work on the next book in her Texas Nights series and The Granny Series. Give her a shout at Kelsey@KelseyBrowning.com or drop by www.KelseyBrowning.com. For info on her upcoming releases, subscribe to her Sass Kickin' News.
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