(Desire, Oklahoma 5)
Hope Sanderson’s frustration is growing that she can’t get Ace Tyler, Desire’s town sheriff to notice her. His insistence that he’s too dark for her only makes her more determined to have him. After all, she has dark needs of her own, needs that only he can fulfill.
Ace Tyler carefully schooled his features into a look of faint amusement, willing his cock to behave as Hope’s soft laughter stirred it as effectively as a stroke. Hoping the sunglasses he wore in deference to the bright sunlight would hide what he didn’t want her to see, he kept his eyes averted, watching his town and trying his best to close out the sound of her voice.
Standing outside Lady Desire, the club Hope Sanderson and her sister, Charity, opened only weeks earlier, he blocked out most of the conversation going on several feet away, trying to quell his fantasies involving the petite fireball keeping order inside.
Several of the men stood talking on the sidewalk in front of the club after seeing their wives safely inside where the women held a baby shower for Rachel Jackson. That the men enjoyed each other’s company was apparent, and no one appeared to be in a hurry to leave.
Boone Jackson peeked inside. “We already bought a shitload of stuff for the baby. Why the hell would Erin feel the need to throw a baby shower for Rachel? I don’t get it. What more could a little baby need? What the hell did we miss?”
Just then a collective “Awwww” came from inside as the women fussed over clothing too tiny to believe.
Jared Preston, Boone and Chase’s brother-in-law and one of Erin’s husbands folded his arms across his chest and smiled, lifting a brow. “Then you go in there and tell them that their party’s a stupid idea.”
Boone shook his head, waving his hands and, to Ace’s amusement, even took a few steps backward. “No way. I’m not going in there. Look at them. They’d lynch me.” He shot a glance at his brother.
Chase backed away, too, shaking his head. “Don’t look at me. I’m not messing with Rachel or Erin over this. Rachel could pop at any moment, and she’s grouchy as hell.”
Feeling for Boone and Chase and amused at their reluctance to tangle with the women, Ace touched Chase’s shoulder. “I know you’re worried about Rachel, but the doc’s watching her closely.”
Boone grimaced. “So are we, and it’s making her crazy. She’s uncomfortable all the time now. Erin’s the only one of us brave enough to go toe-to-toe with her and make her rest. We’re scared to death of making her go into labor or hurting her feelings. Everything makes her cry lately. I’m glad Erin doesn’t seem to blame us for it.”
Jared touched his shoulder. “Erin knows you’re good husbands. She’s trying her best to run interference for you. She feels bad that she didn’t trust you to take care of Rachel. She knows Rachel’s grouchy lately and says that if she could get her through her teenage years, she can get her through this, too. She’s having trouble letting go. Just bear with her.”
Duncan glanced inside, an unholy grin spreading on his face. “We’ll do our best to keep Erin occupied. Don’t worry, Rachel will be fine. With all of us watching her, nothing will have a chance to go wrong. We won’t let it.”
Ace looked up as Clay and Rio Erickson approached, carrying two large boxes and wearing huge grins.
Clay laughed softly. “You’re not going to try to keep us out of the club, are you, Ace? Those women inside will have your hide, especially my wife.”
Ace nodded, sensing Hope’s approach from behind him. The tingling at the back of his neck accompanied the stirring in his groin anytime she got close. Turning slightly, he caught sight of her out of the corner of his eye as he spoke to Clay.
“Jesse already told me to expect you with the stuff for the games they’ll be playing.”
Rio, Clay’s brother and Jesse’s other husband, grinned. “Yeah, Jesse and Kelly donated the prizes. They’ve been working on lube you wouldn’t believe. How long do you think this thing’s gonna last? I got a few of my own games in mind for my wife a little later.”
Hope came to the doorway, stopping beside Ace and giving him a tantalizing scent of vanilla, a scent that now never failed to stir him. “Hello, gentlemen. Thank you, Clay and Rio, for bringing the prizes. Would you mind taking them inside? Jesse will show you where to put them.” Moving aside to let them pass, she brushed against Ace, and he automatically put a hand at her back to steady her, his cock hardening more when she shivered.
Clay and Rio grinned and strode inside, Clay winking at Hope over his shoulder. “It gives me a chance to steal a kiss from Jesse.”
Boone whipped his head around. “Hell with this. I’m going in, too. I can steal a kiss and make sure Rachel’s okay.”
Ace forced a smile, reluctantly dropping his hand from Hope’s back and taking a step away. He watched as the other men standing outside followed suit, each anxious to be with their wives again. They’d also be checking out the club, since most of them had never been inside before.
Ace had lived in this town most of his life, and it still warmed his heart to see how seriously people took their relationships and how madly in love his friends were.
Wondering for the thousandth time why he had to fall for someone so young, so damned naïve, he purposely avoided looking at Hope, satisfying himself by breathing in deeply and filling his lungs with her scent.
Left alone standing out front with her, Ace fought the stirring in his groin, and watched the people who walked up and down the street in an effort to keep from looking at her. He’d managed to avoid her as much as possible since she’d come back to town several months earlier, but she kept making it harder to do. She was high-spirited and impulsive, and he itched to try to tame her. What a fucking challenge that would be. Trying to get rid of the mental image of bending her over and fucking her from behind, Ace cleared his throat.
“Having fun at the party?”
Hope smiled up at him, showing her dimples. “Yes, it’s nice. Rachel’s so excited about the baby. She said Boone and Chase barely let her do anything and they’re always hovering.” Sighing, she shuffled her feet. “She loves both of them so much.”
Ace nodded, his gaze constantly drawn back to her no matter how hard he tried not to look at her. The mental picture of her carrying a baby he’d planted inside her tightened his groin even more. “And they love her. It certainly took them long enough to get together.”
Her jaw clenched as she looked away. “Yeah, well, some men are a little slower than others.”
Raising a brow, he turned to face her fully, satisfaction burning in his stomach when she turned a becoming pink. He wondered how red she’d be if he told her everything he wanted to do to her.
But then again, what would be the point?
“Yeah, well, some men know what’s good for them and what isn’t.” He knew it would piss her off if she knew just how easily he could tell what she was thinking. Being sheriff of Desire, Oklahoma, he’d had to learn to read people. Reading Hope, however, had nothing at all to do with being sheriff and everything to do with being a man.
A man who loved her, who wanted her more every day. A man who knew the best thing he could do for her would be to stay away from her. He couldn’t bear to see her face when he shattered all of her illusions. Lately, though, it just got harder and harder. He wanted her so badly he hadn’t slept an entire night through since she came back to town. Dreaming of her, he woke sweating and aroused every damned night.
Hope looked over her shoulder, a wistful look on her face as she watched the others. “And some men are just too stupid to know a good thing when they see it.” She turned to glare at him, her eyes holding a hint of sadness, before spinning to walk away.
He reached out and grabbed her arm before he could stop himself, knowing damned well the best thing to do would be to let her go. Pulling her out of the doorway, he lifted her to her toes and still stood a foot taller. “And some women don’t know when they’re trying to bite off more than they can chew. Christ, you’re so tiny I could break you in half.”
Narrowing her eyes, she grabbed the front of his shirt in her small fist. “You try it, Sheriff.”
“Hell.” Dropping her back to her feet, he backed away, fighting the urge to throw her over his shoulder and head home with her. “With that mouth of yours, I keep forgetting how damned small you are. You’re a little girl playing at being a grown-up. I’ve already told you I’m no good for you. You couldn’t begin to handle what I want from a woman, and I’m too damned rough and mean for someone like you. Just leave it alone, Hope, before someone gets hurt.”
She would rip his heart out if he let her.
She surprised the hell out of him by rearing back and punching him in the stomach. “I’m going to hurt you. I’m tired of you telling me I’m a damned child. Just because I’m smaller than you doesn’t mean I can’t handle anything you dish out. Hell, most of the world’s smaller than you, you big lug.”
Folding his arms across his chest, he glared down at her. “You just assaulted a police officer. You know you can go to jail for that?”
The impudent little brat grinned. “You gonna frisk me, Sheriff? You want to handcuff me?” She stuck her hands behind her back, the action pushing her small breasts out, her pebbled nipples poking at the front of her shirt and making his mouth water. “I’ve had a fantasy about those handcuffs of yours for a long time.”