Rough Ride

The Roughnecks, 1

January 17, 2014

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You do for family, no matter what. Lane Iverson knows that better than anyone. Harboring a secret about his mother’s death, Lane is counting the days until he finishes helping his brothers with some work and can head back to his hiding hole hours away. As long as he doesn’t have to face his three brothers every day, the guilt is easier to carry.

There is only one thing that can risk his plan. She stands all of five foot tall with these deep eyes and a voice that shudders through him. The completely addicting, Gretchen Jones. She’s been watching him the entire time he’s been in town. With courage from her friends behind her, she confronts what she wants. To her surprise, that’s the easy part. Keeping her heart protected when she knows he’ll be leaving? Not so easy, but her only choice.

 

 Chapter One

Lane Iverson leaned forward and back as a satisfying string of pops cracked along his spine. He treated his neck to the same as the long day of work moved out of his joints. A long sigh was the last to ease out of him as he walked up the steps to his rented single-wide trailer. Another long ass day that was thankfully over.

He was so ready to get the hell out of this backwoods town, he figured he’d start sleep walking out of it soon. That was the only way he was getting out of here because of The Grant Face. It belonged to his baby brother. He had his mother’s eyes. And it didn’t matter how grown up Grant had become, Lane could remember all the way back to being seven years old, sitting on the porch with his triplet brothers and waiting for their mom to arrive with their new brother.

On first seeing the squirming little bundle wrapped in blue, he got the same thought as his brothers. One, baby brother was going to be distracting momma a lot and they’d get away with murder. And two, Grant had this face about him that said he’d also be getting away with murder a lot.

And that was about the gist of their childhood.

Lane turned the truck keys around his hand and at seeing the bottle opener on the ring that didn’t belong to him, he thumped his head against his front door. Fuck. Being so damn tired from doing all this manual labor seven days a week, he hadn’t realized he wouldn’t have his house keys when he drove his brother’s truck home. He groaned and walked to the landlord’s—err—lady’s trailer at the front of the park.

The closer he got to her trailer, the quicker his heart picked up. A fast walk would get the blood pumping like that, but that wasn’t why his pulse was threading so fast.

Gretchen.

Gretchen with her long straw colored hair.

Her big blue eyes. Her fair skin. Her petite size. Her little shorts she wore during the summer that showed every single inch of her long tanned legs and her little shirts that clung to her body. At best the woman was five foot. Maybe five, one. He didn’t know. She was nothing more than a little scrap of a thing barely coming up to the middle of his chest.

She didn’t have a big ass and she wasn’t stacked either. She was just there. All big hair and big eyes. Pocket sized. Soften spoken and polite and yet…he couldn’t get her out of his head. Physically speaking, he shouldn’t even notice her. In fact, he had to look down to catch her in his line of sight, but damn. Each time she called his name, there was this hum in her voice that worked all the way through him.

This slight ringing or tone. He didn’t know what it was, but when she called out to him, her breathy words licked through his blood and left him reeling.

The lock on the gate at the base of her porch was opened, signaling she was in. Her porch was wide, long, and in better shape than any of the other porches in the park. Difference being, she took care of hers. Flowering plants decorated the corners, she had a roll away roof thing she put away during storms, and when it needed it, swept pine straw away. While everyone else rented, this was her home.

A small square sign in the front window was faced to OPEN and he let himself in as if it was any other business. But this was no any other business. When he walked in and his eyes adjusted to the dimness of the room, that fact couldn’t be any clearer.

Gretchen stood in the center of her living room. Sunglasses were perched on the top of her head making her look relaxed and not at all like a woman at work. Brown hair dangled in a half-assed ponytail like she’d just finished rolling around in a bed. A towel was over her arm. Suntan lotion in her hand as she slipped on strappy shoes that would pop for attention with each step as if her swaying ass wasn’t enough to make him stare.

But none of that was the worst of it. She wore this skimpy nothing of a pale pink swimsuit and what he thought was supposed to be a white skirt. It looked more like a hand towel tied around her waist. A see-thru kind of hand towel that was just waiting on a soft breeze to blow it off. Or a quick tug by his hand. Defiantly didn’t look like a woman at work.

She smiled at him. She and full lips and deep, soulful eyes. “Hey, Lane. What can I do for you?”

Tie me up and make me your sex slave for the next month. He pulled his tongue out of his throat and got his eyes off her stomach and the little indent of her belly button. Now that would be a good place for his tongue to go. He cleared his throat. “I have the wrong keys. Can you let me in? If it’s not any trouble. I can wait on my brother to get back if it is. I don’t mind.” Rambling. Nice man. Real nice. Hell, if he’d had any parts of his brain that would function at the thought of her, he would have just gone to the diner for twenty minutes until his brother got home.

“Sure.” She beamed at him and everything about her registered at once. Innocent eyes searching him. Little dimples around her pink lips. Red filling her full cheeks he was just itching to slide his palm against. “I was just on my way out, so good timing.”

Like hell it was good timing. It was the worst time. Ever. Always. Or never was good time. He didn’t know and had long ago lost sight of heads or tails when it came to her.

Why couldn’t Grant have hauled their asses here in the dead of winter? All her skin would be hidden under layers and layers of thick clothes he could peel back one by one. He wouldn’t be able to see that little dribble of sweat licking down her spine as she turned away from him.

He took this chance to adjust himself, but it was for nothing. For God’s sakes, kill him now. She bent over her desk. The purple bottoms of her swimsuit narrowly cut along her curves. Her thighs were long and trim up the back where they met her ass. And her inner thighs. Oh, Jesus. He dabbed at the sweat on his brow while his imagination filled in the feel of her thighs on his ears while her imagined taste coated his tongue. Sweet and light. Like her. That’s what she’d be, he just knew it.

“Here’s my set.” She straightened as she turned, seemingly clueless to the raging desire he was fighting off. “Let’s go.”

He backed up and held open the door for her. She flipped the open sign to closed, and as soon as he got out of her way as she stepped out, she slid the key in the bolt and locked it. “Get much accomplished today?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he muttered. “Cut more trees. Got the road a little wider.”

“Sounds good.”

“As good as it can be.” All day long he’d smelled the gas off the chainsaw. The scent of fresh cut grass. Nature. His own sweat. All of that was replaced by the vanilla that soaked in his nostrils from her. From her hair, her skin. The curves of her breasts. It was the scent of Gretchen. It followed her everywhere and he helplessly dragged behind getting drunk off the stuff.

They walked in silence for a little longer. “How’s the manor renovations coming along?”

“I’m not sure. There’s a lot of people in and out now, so I guess they decided the building itself was safe.”

“Sounds…good.”

“Yep.” That was all he knew because he didn’t go near the manor. Hell no. The manor was his brother’s future home. The place where Grant and his pregnant girlfriend would be living. Building a family. It was all so damn sweet and Lane didn’t want to see any of it. When he left town, he didn’t want to know what the dining room looked like to imagine how happy his brother was around the table for supper.

Finally they reached his trailer. She wasted no time in unlocking his door and now she would go away. Like, right now. She would leave and he’d get his head on straight. Because Gretchen with all her cuteness wasn’t built for what he needed. That was, she was all big doe-eyed sweetness with babies on the mind and all he wanted to do was bend her over every few minutes until he could blow the hell out of this town without a glance black.

He couldn’t treat Gretchen that way. This town was too small. His ancestors founded the place of all things and little brother, Grant, would certainly kick his ass for treating her that way and leaving a mess behind. So as much as he wanted to see if his big hands would span her waist, and how tight she’d grip his cock, he couldn’t go there.

He muttered thanks, but she wasn’t going anywhere. She kept up her sweet, pink lipped smiled and did she have any idea how her lashes swept so sexy when she blinked?

Instead of getting out the way, she stepped inside. And then she put her things down on the couch while she was there. He could do nothing but grip the door and try not to rip it from the hinges.

“Well, I might as well have a look around while I’m here.”

What? “Why?”

She blinked at him, her chin having to turn up high to look in his eyes. It elongated the curve of her neck and he wanted to know her skin on his lips right there on that spot. “An inspection. I do them every now and then, you know. It’s in the rental agreement. So, while I’m here, I’ll take a quick walk through.”

“Uh.” Shit. Shit. Shit.

She only beamed a smile at him. “I’ll start on one end and cross to the other. Then I’ll be done. I’m sure it’ll be painless.”

He rubbed the back of his neck, trying his damnedest not to notice anything about her. How her skirt-thing swayed along her thighs and nearly showed her ass. How her back was slender, curving in from her hips. He turned away. “Sure.”

“I’m not holding you up from anything, am I?”

And just as fast, he was drawn back. A moth to the flame. Or in this case, a desperate man to a sensual voice. “Just a shower and supper.”

Her eyes somehow widened and lips parted. Mouth formed an o. She glanced down as far as his chest then back to his face.

Hell. That undressing by her eyes wasn’t new to him either, but she was far too innocent. Far too soft-spoken to ever say anything about it. As long as she didn’t speak on the subject, it didn’t exist. They didn’t exist. This chemistry that crawled over his skin and made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up when she only looked at him didn’t. Fucking. Exist.

She blinked quickly and turned away. “I’ll, um. This won’t take but a second.”

She disappeared down the hall toward the extra bedrooms he didn’t use and figured it was in his best interest not to follow. That hallway was way too damn skinny and the bedrooms even smaller. No way was he going down that rabbit hole. Small enclosed space. Him. Her. That scent coming from her. Her tempting skin and all those walls and empty floors available. He shook.

It took her seconds and she was back, smiling. “I don’t think you’ve even been on that end, have you?”

“Only for a look once.”

Her lips twitched as she walked past and damn it all to hell, he couldn’t help himself, he dropped his gaze again to her ass swaying in that nothing of a skirt. If it was a skirt. He still wasn’t sure if it wasn’t a thin hand towel. Or maybe a torn off piece of a sheet. She opened a few cabinets and frowned.

Then he frowned, because Gretchen didn’t frown. She smiled. She listened intently. In his dreams there were satisfied grins and moans as she whispered his name. There was never any frowning. He peeked in the cabinet, worried what might be in there, but found it empty. “Something wrong?”

She looked to him. “They’re empty.”

“I don’t use those.”

She went through a couple others, finding paper plates, forks, towels. The necessities. That’s all he needed. No point in getting anything permanent. Then he’d have to do something with it all when it was time to go and that would only delay him. She dropped to squat in front of the lower cabinets. The skirt dipped between her legs, but it was so short send see-thru, it didn’t hide anything. She faced the cabinets, so he couldn’t see up her legs with his Peeping Tom pervy eyes, but the rest of her thigh was all there for him to soak in. The bend of legs where thigh met hips. How they’d look bent around his waist. How the muscles clenched.

Sweat pooled in his lower back where it soaked in his too tight and too hot jeans.

“Here’s some food.” She reached in and flipped through a few bags of chips then closed that and turned for the refrigerator. She cocked a brow up to him. “I see beer, deli meat, mustard, and cheese.”

“What more does a man need?”

She shook her head and opened the freezer and laughed. “Apparently stock in every frozen dinner known to man. Do you really eat this shit?”

He stared at her, unused to language on her voice, not that he was used to hearing her talk very much at all. “Quick and easy.”

She frowned. “Not at all good for you. Especially not for a man of your size with the amount of work you do.”

He patted his stomach of rock hard abs. “I think I’m doing okay.”

She closed the refrigerator and walked toward his bedroom. “When’s the last time you had a real meal?”

He had no choice but to follow her in there since she was talking to him. Crazy as she made him, he wasn’t going to be rude and yell back from the kitchen. His momma would smack him from the grave for that. “Um, I ate at the diner in town for lunch.”

She spun around in the middle of his bedroom, her skirt flying up and swishing high around her thighs as she moved. “That doesn’t count.”

He leaned on the door frame to make sure he didn’t cross the room just to show her how fine he was doing on his food. “You don’t think your friend feeds me well enough?”

She rolled her eyes. “Tonya doesn’t cook worth a damn. What you’re eating is all frozen foods slapped together. It’s a glorified frozen dinner meal that looks halfway decent on a plate. I’ve worked there. I’ve seen. I get on her for it, but people in there would croak over if she dared to change one thing.”

He gave her a shrug. “Don’t change what’s working.”

She shook her head and flipped through a few cabinets in the bathroom. She didn’t look in them so much as just opened and closed. “I’ll have to fix you something to change it.”

Oh no. Oh hell no. Not a good idea. “I don’t think you feeding me is in our rental agreement.”

“It’s not.”

“Do you cook for all your renters?”

Her lips curled up as she moved across the bedroom and then returned to him. “Only the ones who stare at my ass when my back is turned.”

His mouth opened, words waiting, but he shut it. Best to keep his trap shut before he ate his shoe.

She walked close to him. “Thank you.”

He swallowed. “For what?”

“For not denying it. I wasn’t positive, but I thought so.”

Hell. “Gretchen.”

“Lane.” She walked in closer and put her hands on his chest. Her fingers were short and slim and dwarfed against the width of his chest. Her pink painted fingernails were neatly trimmed and a stark, girly contrast to his filthy, dirt, and oil streaked shirt. “I want to hear you say it.”

He was forced to clear his throat. “Hear me say what?”

“That you look at my ass.”

“Christ.” He dropped his head back and stared at the ceiling.

“Please,” she whispered.

Just shit. He sighed. She wasn’t ever supposed to talk about it. “Fine. Yes, Gretchen. I stare at your ass. At your legs. Your tits. Every chance I get, I look at you. I think about putting my hands on you.” And now that he’d gotten started, he didn’t want to stop. Couldn’t stop. This has been building for five damn months and he was about to boil over from it. This had to end and if it meant scaring her little doe-eyed face out of his trailer, then so be it. While he had the chance, he took her by the hips. “I wonder how your waist will feel against mine. If my hands are too worn from calluses and constant cuts that I wouldn’t be able to actually touch you because it would be too rough. Or that I wouldn’t be able to feel how soft your skin really is because work has made my skin too thick. I wonder if I’ll flatten you if I get on top of you. Or if you’re limber enough for your legs to straddle me so I can sink all the way in. Happy now?”

Her eyes were wide, staring at him. Her wavy hair falling from her ponytail bounced around her face as she shook her head. Her hands slid up to his shoulders. She raised on her tip-toes bringing her clean, flower fresh body along his filthy one. Her chin angled up, lips parted and he lowered, meeting her the rest of the way as he’d dreamed and ached to do.

He covered his mouth over hers and she sighed against him. Gretchen was everything against him he always imagined. Tiny woman, yet so powerful. So passionate. Her chest was hard against his, making him fell all her deep, gasping breaths.

Her hips against him. Her belly pressed to his cock. He dropped his hands and finally cupped her ass. The firm swells of her cheeks filled his hands and he squeezed, lifting her higher against him. Her arms came around his neck and he doubted she even stood on the ground anymore, but fuck it all, because he was kissing Gretchen.

Kissing her hard. Determined. And she gave as much as she took. Nipping back to him. Licking his lips when she got the chance. Pressing her mouth across his as though she’d never get enough and he sure as hell didn’t think he would. No, he knew he wouldn’t get enough because this had to stop. They were not going to be a them.

He lowered her down, pulled his mouth from hers, and straightened. Her eyes lifted and his name whispered across her mouth and that sound nearly did him in. Nearly had him picking her up and carrying her to his bed. No wait, he was filthy. To the shower first.

Nearly.

Instead, he back away from what he shouldn’t be taken.

She hugged herself so that her arms went across her chest and thankfully hide her pebbled nipples. “Why do you fight this?”

“Because I’m not staying.”

She frowned. “But y’all are doing all that work at the manor. I thought…to live there. That y’all were going to drill soon.”

He nodded. “That’s the plan. I’m still leaving as soon as I can. I have….” He thought for a moment, not wanting to lie about it. “Another life.”

There, that wasn’t a lie. He did have another life. It was a fairly shitty one, but one nonetheless.

She rubbed her arms. Unmistakable that he had just shocked her. And that was why he’d avoided this. Because he’d known what she’d been looking for and she’d just been drenched with the cold reality of the truth.

She glanced to the side. “Oh. Well, everything looks good here. You take good care of the place. And I need to run. I’m supposed to meet the girls at Flora’s this evening.”

She walked far faster than he ever expected her short legs to take her. Just like that, she was gone from his house with his dirty hand prints smeared across the white skirt covering her ass. Despite it all, he couldn’t help but smile.

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