I’ve done some things I’m ashamed of. Been the subject of gossip they didn’t even bother trying to keep from my ears. But I’m here, thousands of miles away trying to atone for my sins. Funny thing is, some sins are so ingrained it’s impossible to scrub them from your DNA.
Chelsea’s hell bent on reigning in her free spirit and becoming the daughter her mama could be proud of. Lord knows she owes her that much. But when a stranger crosses her path, her wild heart flares to life. She figures a little bit of fun never hurt none. She isn’t prepared for the lesson fate serves with a slice of pie, and some sweet tea on the side.
Greyson is done with being neck deep in cow dung. He’s ready to hang up his cowboy hat and replace it with a toque blanche. Following his passion all the way to Boston, he gets the shock of his life when the smokin’ hot blonde from Alabama turns up in his uncle’s restaurant.
But her plans and his future are set for different destinations. And distance isn’t the only thing trying to tear them apart.
The kitchen is about to go volcanic as he fights to chase his dream, and hold on to his dream girl.
Chelsea will have to make a choice between her heart, or her home.
Which one will it be?
*Recommended for readers 18+ due to mature content. *
Available on Amazon!
Like the rest of town, Lucy’s Diner was stuck in a time warp. They had the jukebox to prove it, complete with vinyl records. It had a nice homey feel to it, though—another thing she’d miss while she was gone.
The bell on the door jingled as it slapped shut behind her. An aromatic cocktail of grease and coffee hung on the air, assailing her senses, and triggering her hunger. Chelsea turned and waved to Angel as she drove off shaking her head. Her friend thought she was crazy, meeting a strange man who wasn’t hanging around for long. She’d learned to be more selective and trust her instincts when it came to men, despite her impulsive tendencies. Unwilling to repeat the fatal mistake from her past.
Maybe she was crazy, but there was something about him… She wasn’t completely irresponsible. The diner was her turf and it was safe. There’d be people here that would look out for her.
She had this under control.
Chelsea’s blue gaze roamed the cracked red vinyl booths, until they landed on the deliciousness that was Greyson Stranger. She didn’t know his last name, so Stranger it was, and that’s how she wanted it to stay. This was just a short detour to let off some steam before she had to get back to the serious business of paying for her sins.
Her smile stretched wide as she watched him take her in, the heat in his eyes blazing. His long, dark hair hung over one eye, brushing the tops of his wide shoulders. He leaned back in the chair and rested his arms across the table in front of him, with a hint of a smile in greeting.
Slowly walking towards him, she kept eye contact, half because she wanted to make an entrance, and half because she couldn’t look away.
“Is this seat taken?”
Greyson waved his hand across the booth as if to say, “Be my guest.”
Chelsea slid into the seat and rested her chin in her hands, still staring at him.
“Hi.” He smirked.
“Yeah. I’ve ordered a piece of pie and sweet tea. I didn’t know if you were gonna show up, so I figured I’d… fill up my body…” He wiggled his fingers to put air quotes around his use of her phrase. “… before gettin’ back on the road.”
At the mention of his body, Chelsea’s eyes dropped to his straining T-shirt again. It was hard not to look. The man was gorgeous. “Well, sugar, if I invite a man somewhere you can always guarantee I’ll show up. A piece of pie and some sweet tea sounds mighty fine right about now.”
The waitress appeared in time with Chelsea’s declaration. “Hi sweetie, good to see you again. You having what he’s having?” The older lady stood with pencil and pad poised, and a ready smile.
“Okay, hun.” She bustled back behind the counter.
Chelsea turned back to her companion. “So, tell me about your first kiss?”
Greyson’s mouth dropped open and he huffed out a laugh. “Excuse me?”
“First kiss. Come on. Spill.”
“Mindy Lawson, second grade, on the swings. How about you?”
“Decker Turner, two years old, in the playpen.” She grinned. “What did you think you’d grow up to be when you were a kid?”
“Superman… How ‘bout you?”
“Lois Lane.” The corner of her mouth kicked up as she batted her lashes playfully.
A deep laugh rumbled out of him, sending tingles down her neck.
“Do I get to ask a question?” He raised a dark brow.
“Only if it’s not personal.”
“Your first kiss isn’t personal?”
“No.” She shrugged.
“So, I can’t ask what your last name is?”
“Or your number?”
“Nooo.” She shook her head, dramatically.
He sat up straight and scratched the stubble on his chin, one side of his mouth quirked. “Arrabbiata or Carbonara?”
“Ooh, good one. It depends on my mood. Arrabbiata, most of the time.”
“Spicy… Nice.” He leaned towards her, his eyes dipping to her lips for a second, before seeking her gaze again.
She put her hands on the table, mirroring him as she leaned forward. “Red or white wine?”
“Whatever goes with the dish.”
“I like an adventurous man.” The smile broke out on her face again.
“I’m on the biggest adventure of my life.”
“Where ya headed?”
“Isn’t that a personal question?” He raised a brow and moved his hand closer so their fingers touched.
“Touché. Yes, it is.”
The clink of plates on the table broke the intensity between them.
Chelsea took in a desperate breath as they both leaned back. “Thanks, Doreen, you’re a darlin’.”
“You’re welcome, sweetie. Enjoy!”
They each took a forkful of pie, and chewed as their eyes roamed over each other. The taste on her tongue was amazing. The country song playing on the jukebox barely registered over the sound of Grey’s lips smacking together as he enjoyed his food. He made a low hum in his throat, and she let out a whimper. It was the most intense foreplay she’d ever experienced.
She couldn’t help feeling sad at the thought that this couldn’t go anywhere. It should have been a warning signal, when fleeting hook-ups were the only relationships she dared to entertain. The type she could control. Maybe it hadn’t been wise, starting something with this man. It echoed of her past. Of a stupid decision that cost a life. She feared she was setting herself up for a painful experience, rather than the fun she’d hoped for.
Picking up her glass, she gulped down some cool, sweet tea, looking away from him for a beat.
“Feelin’ a bit heated, sugar?” The amusement was obvious in his voice.
The glass thunked on the table as she put it down too forcefully. “I am. You wanna get out of here?”
“What’s the hurry? Are you tired of me already?”
“Nope. It’s just the opposite. I’m afraid I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but like the greedy girl I am, I’d like to gorge myself some more.”
She had lost her everlovin’ mind.
His jaw tightened and he paused, his eyes flashing to her mouth. She watched that jaw loosen as he continued to chew and swallow slowly. His gaze drifted back to hers, and he picked up his drink, draining it in one long chug before pushing the glass away.
“You’re a wild one… Tempting.”
He sat so still with his eyes boring into hers, his face an intense mask. His eyebrows had dropped. He looked almost angry… or maybe frustrated. It did nothing to dispel the heat that gathered in her core. If anything, the hint of fire in his eyes set her desire for him at furnace level. She’d never experienced an attraction like this before, putting her at a distinct disadvantage. She needed to be the one in control, and she felt anything but.
“I need to get back on the road. If I don’t get out of here now, I’m never going to leave,” he muttered, before he stood. Reaching into his back pocket, he pulled out his wallet, and threw some green onto the table. His warm palm caressed her cheek, as his thumb drifted across her bottom lip. The touch set off all sorts of tingles, further awakening parts that had no business being excited in a 1950s diner.
Chelsea’s heart thundered in her chest as he leaned down to place a soft kiss on her lips. The barely-there touch seared more than the hottest chili.
“The first kiss is always personal,” he whispered in her ear, before walking out of her life.
She sat for the longest time, staring at where he’d been sitting, trying to calm the hell down. Wondering what the fuck had just happened, and why she suddenly felt so bereft. Like her carefully planned future now had a gaping hole she had no idea how to fill.
Belly full of beer and nachos, Chelsea found herself sitting in a dim candlelit room with about fifteen others, listening to a psychic pull random information from thin air. She didn’t think there was any threat of actual communication with the dead, but some vibe in the room made her twitchy. Perhaps it was because she was sandwiched between Ryan and Grey, who both sat with arms crossed and one ankle on the opposing knee. It seemed Hannah was in charge of the itinerary for the night, and nobody liked her choice of activities.
Strangely, Dakota chose a seat beside Grey, quietly absorbing the show. Or maybe it wasn’t strange, and Chelsea was letting her green side take over. Not the Oz kind of green, either. It was more the mammoth proportions of the big guy who split his pants every time he got mad.
Hannah appeared oblivious, hanging on every word coming out of the psychic’s mouth. Lord bless that free-spirited woman. She embraced everything she did, wholeheartedly. Chelsea could learn a thing or two from her. She unfolded her arms, placing her hands between her knees, and sat up.
“May I approach you?” The psychic had Chelsea in her sights.
“Don’t be scared. I have a message from your loved one.”
“Pfft. Oh, I’m not scared, honey.” She rubbed her palms together, shuffling her butt back in her chair.
You’re such a liar.
“Your loved one with a B sound. A female. You were close, but not related.”
Chelsea’s muscles tensed, the twitchy feeling intensifying under her skin.
“She said to let go of the blame. It was her choice. You were not responsible.”
Her vocabulary vanished as her body locked tight. What could she say? That information couldn’t be randomly plucked from the air. Unless this psychic somehow knew her from Texas, there was no way she could’ve known Chelsea had been carrying the burden of blame for her wild ways... and the irreversible consequences. She squeezed her palms between her knees as her mind reeled. Was that really Beth?
“She said to tell you she’s okay.”
Well, I’m not.
“I have a message for you, too.”
Chelsea’s focus turned to Greyson as the psychic addressed him.
“This spirit is very clearly your grandfather. A forceful personality. He refused to wait his turn. He said he’s sorry for being so stubborn, and that you must follow your heart, wherever it may lead you.”
Grey tipped his chin up in a dismissive gesture, choosing not to speak. Angling himself towards her, he pulled one of her hands onto his thigh and clasped their palms together, unspoken questions suspended in his eyes.
Are you okay?
Who is Beth?
“I got you.” The words rumbled out in a deep, calming whisper.
Oh, honey. You have me more than you know.
She fixed on their joined hands, her eyelids tapping out a frantic rhythm. He’d brushed aside his own revelation to take care of her, the security net still blanketing her. She half expected to see a cascade of rubble as another of her walls came crashing down. He’d offered her a safe place to forgive herself for all her failings. A chance at normal. She’d vehemently denied the small voice in her mind that said, ‘what if?’ What if she allowed herself to trust enough to find love? What if she found someone who would cherish her? Didn’t she deserve that? That’s all Beth had wanted.
As the psychic moved through the room, Chelsea struggled with herself to stay seated. She turned her thoughts back to Grey. The way he held her hand steady, as if he knew she needed an anchor because she was suddenly lighter than before. He gave their joined hands a shake to get her attention, and tilted his chin towards the door. She didn’t need to be told twice. She stood and followed him. Breaking free, she took a gulp of night air, letting his hand slip from hers.
He flexed his fingers. “You’ve got a good grip.”
“So I’ve been told.” She winced. She’d let her tongue loose again. Damn, it was hard holding back around him. “Sorry about that. Knee jerk reaction. I’m trying to be a better person and that means less inappropriate flirting.”
“It’s only inappropriate if it’s unwelcome.”
“Well, I just crushed your hand. I’m sure you weren’t thinking about my grip around anything else.”
“I haven’t stopped thinking about parts of you wrapped around parts of me ever since we met.”
Her lids dropped low as she took in the firm set of his jaw. His molten gaze warmed her up, making her body pliant and ready for his touch. Maybe she could let him in? For the time she had left, anyways. And finally give herself a taste of something she could hold deep inside for the rest of her days.
“That can be arranged.”
“Oh really? Forfeiting your bet so early in the game? Shame on you, Chelsea. I thought you were made of tougher stuff.”
“How do you—” Her eyes popped before narrowing. “Dane… Oh, he is going to get a wupping next time I see him.”
“He’s a good friend. You have a good group of people who love you.” He pushed some hair out of his face and glanced at the door they’d just exited. “And some questionable tag-alongs.”
“You don’t like Ryan, huh?”
“I wasn’t referring to Ryan. But, no. I don’t like him. He wants what I want.” Those eyes travelled over her features.
“He can’t have me. And, for the record, I don’t give a rat’s ass about the bet.”
“Good. I’m glad to hear it, because you and I are gonna happen.”
“Now?” She bounced on the balls of her feet.
He barked out a laugh, flashing his teeth. “No. I don’t sleep with witches.”
“Oh. That’s a shame, because I’m pretty sure witches sleep naked.”
His brow shot up. “Is that right?”
“It’s just a rumor I heard from someone in the know.”
“I’ll dream about that until the time comes.”
“When will it be time to come? Because I’m lookin’ forward to the coming part.”
The smile spread across his face in a slow seductive tide, as his lids grew heavy. “It’s going to be explosive.”
“When? When is it going to explode? I hope we have some towels on hand.”
Laughter burst from deep in his belly, the sound rivalling the revelry in the street. “Oh, you are a peach.” He reached out and pulled her into his frame.
Enveloped in his arms as he shook in amusement, she couldn’t contain her smile. He was all kinds of warm and hard, and big… and hard. Yeah, she might’ve burrowed in close enough to feel something against her stomach. A girl had to check these things. He had all the right gear to get the job done.
He also had so much more that she wasn’t prepared for. He had heart, and compassion. He’d known that she needed to get out of that room, and he’d made it happen without pressing her for a reason why. And then he’d made her laugh while getting her panties wet. He was a goddamn rock. A big, gorgeous, steady rock. Her arms crept around him as she turned her face into his chest and breathed him in. She listened to the beat in his chest, absorbed the rise and fall of air from his lungs, and felt her own match it.
She’d been so torn between belonging in two different places that she hadn’t imagined she could feel so content in a place like his arms.
Maybe home had nothing to do with geography.
But if you want to call someone home, you must both be in the same city.
And there was the problem.
Author Bio: Former nurse, reluctant romantic, and chocolate lover, J.M. Adele, is the author of paranormal and contemporary romance, and romantic suspense. After years of indulging in her addiction to reading, her own characters started to tell their stories. They were relentless, forcing her to put pen to paper and release them into the world. She also owns and runs The Flare Up book blog where she shares her reading obsession.
On most days you can find her running between the desk, and wrangling her three boisterous boys while carrying a book in one hand. When everyone else drifts off to dreamland she escapes into the worlds conjured by the characters in her head.
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