(Desire, Oklahoma 6)
Alison Bennett came to Desire, Oklahoma to hide-and to heal.
When her truck breaks down on the way into town, she certainly hadn’t expected men like Dillon Tanner and Ryder Hayes to come to her rescue.
Extraordinary men in an extraordinary town.
Their interest in her both excites and alarms her, but she knows they’re both way out of her league.
When an attack on the club brings a halt to the seminar she’s signed up for, Dillon and Ryder’s proposition to continue her lessons intrigues her. Dillon’s gentleness tempts her to put herself in his hands while Ryder’s wildness and apparent dislike for her makes her uneasy.
Under their guidance, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, one that teaches her decadent pleasures and raw desire.
Knowing a ménage relationship could never work, she still finds herself tempted to stay.
But fate, and her ex-boyfriend, have other plans.
Blowing out a breath, Alison Bennett pressed a hand to her stomach to calm the butterflies. Reaching for the bottle of water on the passenger seat, she winced at the tight pull of muscle in her lower back.
Finding the bottle empty, she cursed and tossed it to the floor on the passenger side and stared at the sign again.
Well, she’d found it. Now she hoped she had the courage to see if it lived up to its name.
And hoped it was a good place to hide.
After researching the town, she’d acted on impulse and signed up for a seminar at the women’s club, thinking that if she had an excuse to visit the town, no one would be suspicious.
Hopefully, while staying here, she could relax and shake off some of the aftereffects of the last several months and regain some of her former self-confidence. She’d let Danny’s criticism regarding sex and her looks eat at her self-esteem, but instead of leaving him, she’d stuck around and tried to remake herself to please him.
In a fit of anger, she pressed down on the gas, alarmed when her old pickup sputtered and coughed, and sucking in a sharp breath when it jerked, tugging painfully at the tight muscle in her lower back. Almost immediately, a huge amount of thick smoke billowed out from under the hood, blocking her view of the road.
Swearing, she slowed and began to pull off to the shoulder, trying not to panic. A gust of wind blew enough of the smoke away to assure her that she’d managed to get the truck completely off of the road before it coughed again and died a shuddering death.
Slamming it into park, she hissed at the excruciating pull to her back and sat unmoving, taking several slow breaths before she carefully reached out and turned off the ignition, not moving any more than necessary.
Damn it, she didn’t have enough money to fix her truck. She barely had enough for a place to stay, especially after a good chunk of her money had been used for the temporary membership to Lady Desire.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time, a chance to learn a few things to bolster her self-confidence and keep her next boyfriend from straying-something she was doing just for herself, but she’d already started to regret it.
Easing back with a groan, she wondered why she’d ever thought she could make such a long drive without stopping. It had been a stupid thing to do, but she’d been anxious to get here.
Now she would have what appeared to be quite a walk ahead of her to even get to town. To hell with it. She could do it. She’d dealt with worse.
Her stomach rumbled, reminding her that she hadn’t had anything to eat since the breakfast sandwich she’d choked down while driving early that morning. She’d driven for hours without stopping, wanting to get as far away from Muskogee as she could as fast as possible. No matter what happened, she couldn’t stay in her hometown any longer. She had to be prepared to get on with her life, and this seemed like as good a place as any to start.
First, though, she had to actually get there.
Thinking about what might be a long walk ahead of her, she reached into the side pocket of her purse for the plastic prescription bottles. Her medicine should be taken with food, but she didn’t have that option right now and needed the pain pill and muscle relaxer before she could even consider making such a walk. Taking the small pills with the warm orange juice left in the plastic bottle she hadn’t finished at breakfast, she stuck the rest of them back into the small purse she was forced to carry now. She missed her big carryall purses, but she tended to fill them, and the doctor warned her against carrying a heavy bag.
Alone, with no one else around to hear her, she didn’t bother to hold back her pain-filled groan as she fought the temperamental door, wincing when the rusted hinges groaned in protest. Holding on to the steering wheel, she slid to the ground, and had to take several deep breaths, waiting for the muscles to loosen enough for her to move again.
It took more effort than she could muster to slam the door the way she needed to in order to close it again, but she did the best that she could. Walking around the front of the truck to the grass on the other side, she wrinkled her nose at the smell of burning rubber and gave the smoking hood a wide berth.
Hearing a vehicle approach from the direction of the town, she turned, stilling when she saw the Sheriff insignia on the side of the SUV.
Hell, if it wasn’t for bad luck, she’d have no luck at all. She and sheriffs generally didn’t get along.
His lights flashed as he made a U-turn in the road and pulled in right behind her truck.
Watching him get out, she felt a moment of panic when she saw his size and harsh features, ashamed of herself for being such a wimp.
She wondered how many other women felt the same way after experiencing pain at the hands of a man she trusted.
Swallowing heavily, she kept her face blank, having already learned the value of not showing any signs of weakness.
Well over six feet tall, he couldn’t be called handsome but had to be one of the most compelling and dangerous-looking men she’d ever laid her eyes on. She took an involuntary step back as he approached, wrapping her arms around herself against the chill that went through her.
He stopped abruptly and smiled, a smile that didn’t quite reach those hard eyes, which remained sharp and full of suspicion. “Ma’am. Are you all right?”
Alison nodded, careful not to make any sudden moves. “I’m fine, thanks. I was just on my way to Desire when the smoke started coming out from under the hood. It coughed a little and died. As soon as I get to town, I’ll call a tow truck.”
She really didn’t want to ride with someone who looked like he could break her in half with no effort at all, but she sure as hell didn’t want to walk what could be miles. She could do it, though, if she had to. She’d learned that she could handle just about anything, and a walk to town paled in comparison. If only she could stay awake long enough.
Damn it, why had she taken that pill, especially on an empty stomach?
She shifted her purse to her other arm and winced at the pain that shot through her back and hip.
That’s why she’d taken the damned thing.
The sheriff never took his eyes from her as he pulled a cell phone from his pocket and hit a number, the glint of gold shining from his ring finger, making her wonder what kind of woman would be brave enough to take on such a man. “Can I see your license and registration?”
She dug both out of her purse and handed them to him, trying to hide the fact that her hands shook.
He spoke into the phone as he looked over her information.
“Talia, can you call Ryder and Dillon and tell them to come out to the road coming into town with the tow truck. Yeah, right where the sign is. Thanks.”
Alison couldn’t prevent a smile. “The road coming into town? Doesn’t it have a name?”
The sheriff tapped her license with her registration. “It’s Tyler Road, but everyone in Desire calls it the road coming into town. Alison Bennett. It says here that you’re from Muskogee. Kind of a long way from home, aren’t you?”
Alison shrugged and then regretted it when a muscle in her back protested the movement. “Yes.”
His brows went up at her clipped answer. “What are you doing in Desire?”
Blinking at his suspicious tone, she looked away, too embarrassed to admit her reason for coming. “To shop. Maybe to stay a few days.”
If possible, his expression became even harsher. He scowled, narrowing his eyes at her. “Lying to me is no way to get into my town.”
Swallowing heavily again, she rubbed her arms with shaking hands. Determined not to let him see how much he intimidated her, she lifted her chin defiantly. “That’s not very friendly.”
A dark brow went up. “We’re not friends.”
His cold tone sent a chill down her spine, tightening her back even more painfully. She wanted nothing more than to get away from him, so she decided to tell him enough to satisfy his curiosity. “If you must know, I got a temporary membership to a club there. I’ll only be in town for a week or two after that, and then I’m moving on.”
His lips twitched. “Which club?”
Alison blinked again before she remembered what she’d read about the men’s club and what went on there. “Oh.”
His slow smile changed his face completely, but he still wouldn’t be considered handsome. Lethal perhaps, but never handsome. “Yeah. Oh.”
“I’m going to Lady Desire. Can you tell me how to get there?”
Shaking his head in amusement, he looked up as a tow truck approached.
“It’s on the other side of town.”
“Is there a place to stay nearby?”
“There’s a hotel across the street from it.”
Alison accepted her license and registration that he held out to her, and lowered her head to put them away, wondering how she would be able to afford moving on once she paid for the truck repair, in addition to almost two weeks at a hotel, and food.
She looked up as the tow truck parked in front of her still steaming truck. It backed up to it, not stopping until the two trucks stood only a few feet apart.
“I can’t believe they got here so fast.”
The sheriff shrugged. “It’s a small town, and we all look out for each other.”
Alison nodded, understanding immediately what it meant to be an outsider in a small town. Just as she knew what it felt like when the good old boys turned on someone they no longer liked.
Prepared for a couple of those good old boys with beer bellies to be riding in the tow truck, she took several steps back, wincing at the pull of tight muscles and surreptitiously rubbing her aching hip.
Her breath hitched when a strikingly masculine man slid gracefully out of the passenger side, his denim jacket doing nothing to hide his muscular frame.
Dark blond hair framed decidedly masculine features, from a wide forehead to intense blue eyes that crinkled in the corner, a nose that looked as though it had been broken at least once, a square jaw and strong chin, and the firmest, fullest lips she’d ever seen on a man.
He smiled at her, the confident smile of a man who knew his place in the world, the smile of a man who knew what effect that smile would have on women.
A smile that somehow combined polite interest and blatant sexuality into something so alluring her jaw actually dropped.
Snapping it shut as he came toward her, she let her gaze rake over him, her fingers itching to trace over the muscular chest exposed as the sides of his jacket parted, a chest lovingly molded by a white T-shirt. His long legs, encased in faded jeans, ate up the distance between them with a speed and predatory stride that actually had her taking a step back.
His grin fell, his blue eyes darkening and raking over her like a caress.
“You don’t have anything to fear from us.” His overlong hair brushed the collar of his denim coat, the ends of it blowing in the light breeze and giving him a rakish look.
Alarmed at how easily he’d read her unease, she stepped back. “I, um…hello. Thank you for coming so quickly.”
The blond man’s grin widened, his blue eyes twinkling. “Not too quick, I hope.”