Stay up late with a delightfully naught fairy tale from bestselling author Julie Leto
In a collection with bestselling author, Kimberly Raye, comes a riff on the Peter Pan/Captain Hook fairytales…
“Hooked” by Julie Leto
Rodeo owner James Hooker and his ex, Allie Barrie, have spent years playing a red-hot game of cat and mouse…or, pirate and crocodile, depending on your point of view. But this time, Allie is back and she’s determined to get her man. But is wickedly hot sex enough to soothe the pain from their turbulent past or will they just fall for each other all over again…hook, line and sinker?
For more info on Kimberly’s story, click here.
“Your daddy sure knows how to make an ass of himself.”
James Hooker shut his eyes tight and gripped his left hand tight to his four-finger pour of Bourbon. Hadn’t he suffered enough humiliation tonight? He’d swallowed his pride to accept the peace-offering invitation to Pete Gunner’s kid brother’s birthday bonfire, not realizing his own sister would go AWOL and show up on the arm of the man of honor or that his pop was going to go ape-shit in front of a crowd of two-hundred when he found out.
The bad blood between the Gunners and the Hookers had a long and storied history, but James couldn’t be bothered to care. Pete was one of the hottest draws on the circuit. And as the owner of a high-tech arena set to host the next round of PBR events, James didn’t need trouble with Pete or the increasingly popular Lost Boys. He wasn’t thrilled about his sister flirting around Wade, but his ire had nothing to do with his pompous father’s prejudices and everything to do with him not wanting Ginny to make piss-poor decisions just to spite their old man.
He’d been there, done that.
“It’s a family trait,” he answered, determined not to look at Allie Barrie just yet. Everyone else in town knew better than to throw the sheriff’s god-awful behavior in his face—especially when he was tucked into his corner spot at the Marooner’s Rock honky-tonk minding his own business. But his ex, whose voice and perfume he’d recognize if he was blind, deaf and mute, made it her opening salvo.
He took a swig from his glass, but the fiery burn wasn’t enough to counteract the way his mouth watered just knowing that Allie was standing less than a foot behind him. He knew it was less than a foot because he could feel the press of her ample breasts against his back—breasts he’d buoyed in his palms, breasts he’d sucked pink and raw, breasts that would make any sober man weep with need.
Allie had that effect on him. Hell, she’d probably have that effect on any man she set her sights on—but she never looked for anyone but him. In the nine years since their break-up, she’d sidled back into town on a manhunt two or three times a year—and he was, as always, her intended prey.
Which was why he’d been avoiding her any way he could.
“You sure left Wade’s party right quick,” she said. “I didn’t even get a chance to ask you to dance.”
“I wanted no part of my father’s foolishness,” he grumbled, swigging down another swallow of whiskey. “Ginny’s playing with fire hooking up with that Gunner kid, but the only way she’ll learn is to get burned.”
“That the truth. Still, seems awful philosophical for you, Hook.”
He chuckled, but not because her words were funny, though they were a touch ironic. James had once been a big believer in philosophy—or at least, in a man setting up rules to live by that would keep him on a purposeful path.
Then Allie had come into his life and blown that all to hell.
Her bare arm snaked slowly past him, teasing him with the scents of sea salt and vanilla. She snagged his drink and even though he knew better, he couldn’t resist turning his head just enough to watch her slide her tongue along the rim of the glass before she threw back what was left of his Bourbon in one bold shot.
“Well, since I’ve had my fill—” he tipped the brim of his Stetson, “—you have yourself a good night.”
He swiveled his barstool toward the door, but he’d barely gotten to his feet when she was standing in front of him.
“Don’t take off in such a hurry, Hook. The jukebox is humming. How about that dance?”
“I don’t dance anymore, Allie.”
“Why not? That bull crushed your hand, Hook, not your hips.”
His stare seemed enough to force her change of course. His career-ending injury was a sore spot between them. Not the sorest, but close.
“Then we’ll just talk,” she suggested, her volume rising. Between the chatter of the full-to-capacity bar and the bluegrass music blaring from the jukebox, a private conversation was near-to impossible.
But that wouldn’t stop her. Nothing stopped her. Nothing but him beating a path to the door.
“You and me don’t talk, Allie.”
“We used to,” she answered, her gulf-green eyes flashing with determination. “All the time. Remember?”
He squinted, wondering if she’d lost her grip. “Allie, the only time you and I did nothing but talk was when you were ten and I was twelve and we hadn’t yet found out there were a lot more interesting things a boy and girl could do together.”
That revelation had come shortly after she’d turned fourteen. Two years later, she’d finally cottoned on to what her classmates had been doing behind the barns during square dances or up in the hay lofts when their daddies were off riding cattle or following the circuit. Once she’d figured it out, she’d been insatiable—luckily, just with him.
Until it had all fallen apart.
Nostalgia bent his knees, but even as he moved to sit, he came to his senses and stood again. He was trouble. Allie Barrie was trouble. Together, they were a shit-storm that could wreck even the most secure future plans. He had a mangled hand to prove that much—and a torn-apart life he was only now starting to rebuild.
Not that he’d been sailing around rudderless since she packed up for the coast. In nine years, he’d changed course and built a new life for himself. Did he really want to go backwards with Allie? Even for just a few minutes?
He was all set to walk out when she dipped her chin and turned on the full power of her green eyes. As if the center irises started swirling in spirals of emerald, jade and pine, he was transfixed. Hypnotized. God Almighty, he’d lost hours staring into them once upon a time, watching for that key moment right before the color glazed over and she lost her mind to pleasure. The victorious euphoria that had shot through his system with each of her hard-won orgasms nearly matched the triumph of meeting the requisite eight seconds on the back of a bull.
“Allie, gimme a break. We’ve talked it all out. Ain’t nothing left for us to say to each other.”
“That’s not true,” she insisted. “We haven’t talked. You never let me talk! All you do is say that you forgive me and that it wasn’t my fault and then you take off. I don’t get it, Hook. You don’t run from anything. Not two-ton bulls, not your asshole daddy or hell, not a failing economy into which no one in their right mind would sink their entire future on the off-chance they can turn an old plot of used up ranch land into something more than dirt. But you run from me. Every damned time.”
So, she knew about his latest venture. No big surprise. Lost Gun wasn’t a big place and though Allie had moved away for college, she still had plenty of friends and family to keep her informed about the goings-on at the J. Roger Ranch—not to mention the fact that she rarely went more than six months without coming home. He had indeed invested what was left of his savings into transforming the ranch he’d inherited from his uncle into a premiere rodeo destination.
However, that fortune hadn’t amounted to much more than the land and what was left of his rodeo winnings after he’d paid for business school.
But he had a dream. Well, he had a second dream, after his ambition of becoming a top-rated bull rider went to hell under the hoof of a two-thousand pound beast. And he wasn’t about to let Allie distract him now by rehashing sins that were best kept in the past.
“I don’t run,” he said. “But I learn from my mistakes. You and me, we’re better off far apart. Far apart.”
But before he could establish major mileage between her location and his, she snagged him by the sleeve. “That wasn’t always true.”
“It’s true now. More than ever.”
“Why? Because when we’re together, sparks fly? Sparks that turn into a hot, bone-melting attraction that neither one of us can forget about, even when there are hundreds of miles apart?”
His gut tightened. He didn’t want to hurt her again. He’d done his damage when he’d cruelly blamed her for distracting him so that he’d made crucial errors during a ride that had resulted in the destruction of the bones in his right hand. He and Allie were history—and if there was one thing he’d learned from those high-faluting professors at Texas Tech, it was that taking stock of past mistakes was the only way mankind was going to survive.
Hell, it was the only way he would survive.
“When we’re together, neither one of us can think straight, that much is true. But I need my head right now. I’ve got a lot going on and the last person I want around is you.”
Or at least, disappear into the parking lot. Allie had endured enough of the man’s whetted barbs to recover quickly. So he was angry with her. That was nothing new. Ever since that first outburst hours after the doctors had declared his hand unrepairable, he’d made himself scarce whenever she was around. On the few times she’d managed to corner him, he’d claimed that he no longer blamed her for her part in the destruction of what might have been a long, profitable career.
But he had never been very convincing and Allie had had enough of his dismissive assurances. They’d been inseparable nearly their whole lives, first as friends, then as first-love lovers. The rails around the ring where he’d ridden his first bull probably still had the permanent marks from the indentations of her nails just like the spot just below her right hip bone still had a miniscule tattoo he’d bought her for her seventeenth birthday—a sideways number eight.
He’d said it was to commemorate the miraculous eight seconds it took for a cowboy to reach nirvana, but she’d known better. It was the symbol of infinity—the eternity they might have spent together if she hadn’t gotten pregnant.
When she saw the pink line, she’d freaked. She hadn’t thought about how springing the news on him right before a ride might mess with his head. His legendary concentration shot to hell, he’d made a rookie error. He’d been bucked off hard and the bull had crushed Hook’s hand.
That had been a long time ago. Since then, she’d gone to college, gotten a degree in marine biology, a master’s in marine ecosystem dynamics and was one dissertation away from her doctorate in the same. Her graduate advisor had recommended her for a once-in-a-lifetime job at an eco-friendly marine-themed hotel in the Caribbean—a sweet offer she just couldn’t bring herself to take just yet.
Not when James Hooker still occupied parts of her soul.
But that’s precisely why she’d delayed accepting. Despite the half-dozen messages Dr. Eric Rayburn had left for her, she’d eschewed the summer break fun in Port Aransas in order to come back home and put her feelings for Hook to rest.
She slapped through the honky-tonk’s hokey double doors and headed straight toward Hook’s beat-up Ford truck. She’d parked right next to him. She wished she’d thought to block him in, but she wouldn’t put it past Hook to simply roll his four-wheel drive right over her cute little convertible coupe in his haste to escape.
Instead, she whistled in the way her daddy’d taught her.
“We’re not done!”
When his back tail lights flashed, she jogged the rest of the distance, launched herself onto the running board and slapped her palm on the driver’s side window.
“I’m not kidding around this time, Hook. I’m not leaving until we put this bad blood behind us.”
He rolled down the window and cursed. “Why are you doing this to me, Allie?”
The fact that he hadn’t just driven off, forcing her to either jump clear or hang on for dear life, gave her enough hope to tease a smile out of her flip-flopping stomach.
“You wanna talk or you wanna flirt?”
“I remember when you loved that I could do both.”
“That was a hell of a long time ago,” he said, his finger pointed for emphasis. “I’m not going back there. And neither should you.”
“Why not? You can’t say you haven’t missed me.”
“I haven’t missed you.”
The muscle in his chin twitched.
“Don’t do this to, Allie.”
“What? Offer you a taste of what you haven’t had in a ridiculously long time?”
“Is that what you think you’re doing? I don’t know what you’ve heard, Allie, but I’m making out just fine.”
“Making out? With who? Connie Parker? She’s a prude. If she’s putting out, it’s just until she gets a ring on her finger and then she’ll cut you off. Or maybe Lynette Swank? I hear she’s always anxious to do the deed, but comes so easy that a guy just has to wiggle a little finger in her direction and the fun’s over. I’m not like that, am I, Hook? I’m a challenge—one you were always up to the task of facing. And now I’m back for who knows how long, acting like a fool in some crazy hope that we can put things right between us.”
“Crazy is the word,” he muttered.
“Crazy. Determined. Take your pick. But either way, I’m not giving up. Once I set my mind to something, I’m unstoppable—and you know it. I’m going to be your shadow, dogging your every step, until you give me what I want.”
“What do you really want, Allie, forgiveness? Hell, woman. I told you. I already gave you that. Years ago. Let it go, already.”
“That’s not what I want. Not anymore.”
“What do you want then? Tell me and I swear to God, I’ll give it to you in a heartbeat if it means you’ll leave me the hell alone.”
He crossed his heart with his finger.
“Okay,” she said, deciding to call his bluff. She slid sideways along the running board, flipped open his door and climbed in like she used to, settling on his lap. “I want a baby.”