Can't Get Enough
Can't Get Enough
Copyright (c) 2017 by Gena Showalter
All rights reserved. In accordance of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1975, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Can't Get Enough
a standalone Original Heartbreakers novel
Cover Design: Alchemy Book Covers and Design Editing: Kristi Yanta and Victory Editing Digital Formatting: Author E.M.S.
Table of Contents
CAN'T GET ENOUGH
Excerpt from CAN'T LET GO
About the Author
To Kristi Yanta and Anne Victory for amazing editorial feedback!
To Jill Monroe for answering every self-pub question I had--we're talking hundreds, people!
To Kresley Cole, Roxanne St. Claire and Kristen Painter for amazing guidance and friendship!
To Amy Atwell at Author E.M.S for all your help, patience with my questions and ignorance and quick work!
Lyndie Scott checked the clock on her phone before she entered the Scratching Post. Six o'clock p.m. Two hours before the place got busy. Perfect! Regulars knew she wasn't interested in drinking, flirting, or finding a man--on my own or bust!--but buzzed newcomers tended to make screwing with the "schoolmarm" a game. For some reason, her high-neck blouse, cardigan, and khakis said "too uptight to bother with...or am I? Come over here and I'll melt, guaranteed."
False advertising, guys. I promise!
This early, very few people would be inside. She could relax and enjoy her time with Ryanne Wade, the bar's owner and one of her best friends. Owe my girl the world.
Lyndie would not have survived without her. Time and time again, Ryanne had begged her to leave her abusive husband, but Lyndie had caved to fear and stayed put. When finally she'd agreed to run, letting Ryanne whisk her away, James had found them only a few days later. He'd hurt Ryanne too, and Lyndie had never felt so guilty.
Afterward, she'd stopped asking for help. However, sweet Ryanne had never stopped trying, even when Lyndie had done everything in her power to cut her former stepsister out of her life. One of the most painful things she'd ever done.
But I'm free now. The past is the past.
The door hadn't yet closed behind her when she collided with a massive wall of a man, gasped, and drew up short.
"I'm so sorry," she rushed to say out of habit, her heart racing. James had taught her well. Always apologize, or suffer the consequences.
As soon as she realized what she'd done, she gnashed her molars. James was dead, and no one would control her actions or reactions ever again.
The man remained directly in front of her, not backing away or giving her space. A retort brewed at the edge of her tongue as she cast her gaze up, up, and tried not to drool. He was an action figurine come to life. Tall, with wide shoulders, lean hips and muscles galore. So many muscles.
When their gazes collided, she sucked in a breath.
He. Was. Gorgeous. Truly the most magnificent male she'd ever seen. He had close-cropped dark hair, bronze skin, a shadow beard, and pale green eyes. Wintergreen eyes. Frosty. And yet, despite the ice, somehow those eyes smoldered.
He reminded her of... Oh, my gosh! He was like a short-haired, green-eyed version of Jason Momoa. Meow.
Lyndie's heart raced faster, every pulse point hammering. Her body said: Remember the last time I had an orgasm? Me, either. Let's change that answer to TONIGHT.
She was turned on, just by looking at a guy?
Never, in all her twenty-six years, had she done the insta-lust thing. Not even with James, her first love, who'd done everything in his power to charm her...only to reveal the monster that lurked underneath his skin after the wedding.
Mr. Wintergreen continued to stare at her while swaying on his feet. He was drunk?
Okay, all right. Bye-bye lust. Ice-cold fingers of dread crawled down her spine. James had always morphed into Mr. Hyde when he'd had a few drinks.
A short, curvy brunette stood at Wintergreen's side. My opposite. Lyndie was taller, more slender, with red hair.
Brunette wrapped a possessive arm around Wintergreen's waist, rested her head on his shoulder, and glared daggers at Lyndie. "You're blocking the door." More pointedly, she said, "You're in our way."
"Oh, right. Sorry." Lyndie stepped to the side. He had a girlfriend. No big surprise. Lyndie should beat feet, but she was unable to pull her gaze from the man--can't look away.
Dang it! Why couldn't she look away?
"So pretty." He stretched out his arm as if he intended to--what? Touch Lyndie? Hurt her, perhaps?
A surge of panic spurred her into motion. She jumped back, avoiding contact, and ducked under his arm to scramble away.
Do not look back. Don't you dare look back. Maybe the guy had meant no harm. Scratch that. Most likely the guy had meant her no harm. Reality didn't really matter. Mentally and emotionally, Lyndie was too vulnerable to deal with him. With anyone.
Especially a guy with a girlfriend, who had no business ogling Lyndie.
Had he ogled her though? Maybe she'd misread him. One hundred percent possible. If a book were written about her dating history, there would be one page devoted to one man. And the only thing the page would say? BIGGEST MISTAKE EVER!
Her heartbeat didn't calm until she reached the bar where Ryanne cleaned and dried a line of shot glasses and pretended she hadn't witnessed whatever the heck had just happened.
Lyndie chose a spot at the edge, as far away from drinking patrons as possible.
Ryanne grinned at her. "Hey, sweet pea."
"Tell me about the man by the door," Lyndie said, the slight tremor in her voice pretty humiliating. Ryanne usually knew everything about everyone.
"You mean the guy you might or might not have made an eye baby with?"
"Yes," she hissed. Denying it would do her no good.
"That is Brock Hudson, manwhore extraordinaire, but harmless. He's best friends and business partners with Daniel Porter and a jerk named Jude Laurent."
Their friend Dorothea Mathis had a huge crush on Daniel. Well, she'd had a crush on him before they'd both moved away. Daniel chose to serve in the military, and Dorothea chose to go to college in Oklahoma City.
Now both were back in town.
"Is Daniel single?" Lyndie asked.
Ryanne paused, a glass and rag in hand, and arched a dark brow. "You thinking of going after him?"
"I'm thinking Dorothea might be thinking about going after him. And what tone did I hear when you mentioned the one named Jude? Interest?"
"Who? What? Me? Interest? Please!"
Lyndie snickered. "Yeah. Whatever you say, Mrs. Laurent."
Now Ryanne rolled her eyes. "I'm never getting married. Nope, not me. I'm going to travel the world as a single woman and do whatever the heck I want."
Yes! Girl power! Lyndie wanted to do whatever the heck she wanted too.
Since James's death four years ago, she'd lived by a single motto. On my own or bust. But she hadn't really done much on her own, had she?
Frowning, Lyndie plopped onto a barstool. As she and Ryanne changed the subject and talked about everything and nothing, the thought--what had she done on her own?--played Whac-A-Mole with her mind. Here I am. See me? Nope, I'm gone. Wait, I'm back!
She had dreams, dang it. Two of them! (1) Having wild, crazy sex, finally achieving the kind of carnal satisfaction found in books and movies. And (2) Becoming a mother. Problem was, she'd never really taken steps to give life to either one.
Tonight her body had let her know it wanted that carnal satisfaction real bad. And not a solo climax that was somehow hollow, but something given by a partner.
It was time. It was past time.
"I'm sorry I'm bailing on you, Ryanne, but I've got to go," she said and smiled as she hopped to her feet.
"You're smiling." Her friend's brow furrowed with confusion even as her eyes projected happiness. "You're actually smiling."
"I know. I had an epiphany, and now I've got some life planning to do." In order to give her body what it wanted, she'd have to trust her partner. Otherwise she'd never relax. In order to trust a man, she'd have to do a little heart and mind mending.
Maybe she'd see a therapist again or read self-help books or talk to other women who'd been abused by loved ones. She just...she had to do something. No more coasting along, waiting for life to change.
Time to make change happen!
Whatever work she had to do, she would. She would get in a good place, and for the first time in her life, she would actually live.
One day, her dreams would come true.
Seven months later
A familiar male voice yanked Brock Hudson from a fitful doze. "The she-beast has risen. The she-beast has risen."
Why would his friend Jude call anyone a--
Realization hit like a lightning bolt. A recording. Only a recording. A personal ringtone Jude had made for Brock's mother. Which meant his mother--the she-beast who'd found it amusing to give him a name close to a 60s movie star--wished to speak with him.
He blinked open tired, burning eyes. Not that it did him any good. His vision was as muddled as his mind, a hangover in full effect.
His entire body had become a war zone.
As wakefulness crept through him, inch by agonizing inch, a thousand land mines were detonated. Sharp pains stabbed his temples. Nausea churned in his stomach, the urge to vomit ramping up with every second that passed. He tasted bile and moaned.
"The she-beast has risen. The she-beast has risen."
What did his mother want, anyway? She hated his guts and never called unless she had found a new way to torment him, wanted belittle him, or needed something.
"Ugh! Make it stop." With a huff of indignation, the woman at Brock's side bolted upright, shaking the bed. "Pleeeease make it stop."
The motion magnified every awful sensation inside his body, and he croaked, "Still. Quiet." Blindly he reached out, slapping his phone until blissful silence reigned.
He would call his mother later. Or never. Yeah, never sounded good.
The mattress dipped, movement once again antagonizing an already raging hangover. Never drinking again. Until tomorrow. Footsteps pitter-pattered, a blurry form disappearing around a corner. Hinges squeaked as a door closed.
Brock rubbed the sleep from his eyes, his vision gradually clearing. He scanned his surroundings with mounting dread. A bedroom that wasn't his. Way too cutesy with pale yellow walls, and a white vanity scattered with a thousand different products.
The room's owner--what was her name? He remembered meeting her last night at the Scratching Post. The bar catered to three small towns in Oklahoma: Blueberry Hill, Grapevine, and Strawberry Valley, where he lived. Only a ten-minute drive from the cabin Brock and Jude rented--
Wrong. He no longer lived with Jude. A few months ago, his friend had up and married Ryanne Wade. Well, Ryanne Laurent now. The happy couple lived above the bar with their clowder of cats. They were also expecting their first child. (The couple, not the cats.) And, whether they knew it or not, they were leaving Brock in the dust.
His brother-like friendship with Jude was evolving, and rightly so. For Jude, Ryanne came first. And okay, okay, Brock knew Jude would never give him the stinky boot. They would always be a part of each other's lives. But come on! Change sucked.
Part of Brock wanted to lock himself inside his cabin, shut all the blinds, pull all the curtains, and go on a full male brood. How messed up was that? Selfish to the max. A pity party, invitation one.
Well, why not? Brock had two friends, only two: Jude Laurent and Daniel Porter. They'd served together as Army Rangers and later advanced to a special ops unit known as the Ten. Most often they'd played offense. Sometimes, though, they'd played defense, going before the front line, sneaking through enemy territory to pave the way for other soldiers.
They'd endured hardships that might have broken lesser men; they'd bled for and with each other, watched countless good soldiers die, and killed whatever targets they were assigned.
At the end of their last tour of duty, Jude lost the lower half of his left leg in an IED explosion.
The things Brock had seen...the things he'd done... Savage. Brutal. Cruel. He'd become a monster to fight other monsters.
With Jude discharged and Brock and Daniel's time up, they'd been desperate for some sort of normalcy and made the collective decision to move to Strawberry Valley, Daniel's hometown, where they started a business. LPH Protection. A security company with other vets on their payroll.
To be honest, Brock hadn't needed much convincing. He would rather have his skin removed with a cheese grater than return to New York to work with his parents at the Hud and Son Group.
Besides, Daniel had painted such a vivid, welcoming picture of Strawberry Valley. Lush fields as far as the eye could see, wild strawberries in bloom. Air saturated with an innate sweetness that never faded, making you feel as if you were living in a bowl of fruit. A sense of community, where friends and enemies alike had your back. The residents against the world, if necessary.
While the fields and sweet breezes had sounded nice, the sense of community had sealed the deal for Brock. He'd grown up with a mother who hated him, a father who rarely came home, and a disdainful younger brother who treated him like trash. So an entire town predisposed to like him? Yes, please. And so far so good. The entire town had rallied behind LPH Protection to show support.
The problem? Brock had expected to feel settled and satisfied for the first time in his life. Instead, his sense of discontent had only grown.
Last night--like every other night--he hadn't wanted to be alone with his toxic thoughts. Cue another trip to the Scratching Post. He'd gone home with the newest random in a very long line of randoms. A few drinks, a few laughs, and a few hours of...not pleasure, not exactly, because the alcohol had pretty much numbed him out. More of a distraction. Yeah. Distraction was the word. A search for oblivion he'd never been able to find.
If he remembered correctly, last night he'd hitched a ride with his companion. Another detail clicked. She lived in Blueberry Hill, which meant he would be doing another walk of shame in order to get home. What would this be? His fiftieth WOS since he'd moved to Oklahoma?
What did people buy themselves to celebrate their fiftieth? Gold?
When Brock's stomach settled enough for action, he stood, gathered his wrinkled clothing, and dressed.
Shirt--check. Underwear--check. Pants--check. Socks--only one.
Rather than mount a search in a stranger's home, he tossed the sock he had found in the garbage bin. He never liked to leave a soldier behind, but today it couldn't be helped.
As he crouched to tie his shoes, hinges squeaked once again, and a new round of pitter-pattering footsteps echoed. He straightened. A second later, soft arms wrapped around him from behind, warm breath fanning over his back.
Stiffening, he spun and moved a few steps away until he was just out of reach. He'd been stabbed too many times--both figuratively and literally--to trust anyone but Jude or Daniel at his six.
Bright morning light filtered through a bay of windows, highlighting his companion's wealth of red hair. Irritation rose like a tide. Lately, whenever alcohol lowered his guard, he'd gravitated to redheads, though he'd settled for blondes and brunettes in a pinch. But no, he didn't need a shrink getting all up in his business to figure out why.
Since moving to Strawberry Valley, Brock had craved a specific strawberry-blonde with every fiber of his being. Beautiful beyond imagining, Lyndie "Scottie" Scott. She was best friends with Ryanne, Jude's wife, and Dorothea Porter, Daniel's wi