Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Deceit and treachery mix with treason in a small Tennessee town. When Becca returns to
Jericho as the new deputy, she wasn’t expecting that the man she’s loved for ten years would welcome her with a night of passion and lust. Nor did she expect that he was actually her new boss, the newly appointed sheriff.
Now Becca and Jackson must find their way amid a growing desire and a love deeper than they imagined, as well as a danger that could destroy more than just their lives. It could destroy a nation.
Jericho, Tennessee. The hick town still held so many bittersweet memories. Rebecca Taylor had only visited once since she’d left and she wouldn’t be back now if Aunt Josie hadn’t died. Rebecca frowned as she searched the cabinet for more plates. The house was full of people. Some she knew from her childhood, some she didn’t know. Rebecca had few memories of her father’s reclusive sister, but she knew she didn’t have friends. She hardly ever left her house. Aunt Josie had been such a private woman. Rebecca never expected this many people would attend her funeral, much less come by the house to offer condolences.
She walked into the dining room and set the plates at the end of the highly polished mahogany table, looking it over. Covered dishes, casseroles and cakes were plentiful and there was one lone bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. She couldn’t help but smile at that. The doorbell rang and Rebecca sighed. At least maybe with all these people all the food would be eaten. She’d hate to have to throw it away.
Rebecca made her way through the crowd occasionally nodding and saying, “Thank you,” as folks laid sympathetic hands on her arm and whispered their condolences.
Finally she reached the door, swung it open and looked up into the face of Jackson Montgomery, her first love. It didn’t matter that he was ten years older than her. It didn’t matter that he’d only seen her as a pesky little kid. Even when she was sixteen and her dad brought her along that summer to check on Aunt Josie.
He had been a Marine then, home on leave, and she had fancied herself in love. Her young body was blossoming and hormones were raging. She had flirted shamelessly and he’d teased her as usual. Still, it had been a powerful crush and the memories of those emotions had stayed with her through the years.
At the tender age of eleven her parents had yanked her roots and moved away from her quiet country hometown to the cold, often cruel city of Detroit. She’d been torn away from the only life she’d known, from friends she’d had since birth and grown up with, people she cared about and who cared about her. It had been painful for her, but what especially broke her young heart was leaving Jackson.
Now here he was again and that familiar tug low in her tummy was still there. He looked amazing in his black slacks and dark gray dress shirt. He took off his black Stetson and thick black hair fell across his forehead in spite of the good cut. There wasn’t an inch of fat on that flat stomach. He had broader shoulders, leaner hips, and well-formed thighs with new bulges in all the right places. Rebecca let her eyes travel to his mouth and couldn’t help but admire the way his full, well-defined lips contrasted with the hard planes and angles of his tan face.
Jackson had definitely changed; he’d gone from cute and sexy to hot and dangerous! “Jackson,” she said with more composure than she felt. She mentally shook herself and stepped back from the door.
He stepped in, shutting the door behind him, never taking his intense gray eyes from hers. “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to the funeral but I wanted to come by to extend my condolences.”
She couldn’t find her voice so she just nodded and smiled tremulously.
He stepped closer and rubbed her bare upper arm. “How are ya holdin’ up, Pixie?” His hand was warm, a little callused, and sent a sizzling electric current through her body. She crossed her arms over her chest to hopefully hide her tightening nipples. God, could he see what he did to her?
“I’m okay, Jackson, thank you,” she croaked then cleared her throat. “Everyone brought food. The dining room table is overflowing. Help yourself.”
He followed her through the living room to the dining room. She turned and almost jumped back. He was standing inches away looking down at her. His brows furrowed, his gaze sharply assessing her. She could smell him—warm, spicy male. She felt flushed with heat, awareness. She opened her mouth to say something but forgot what she wanted to say.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Jackson asked, softly tilting his head.
Damn, he was gorgeous. Okay, Rebecca, get a hold of your libido. “I’m fine, really.”
Jackson smiled and little lines at the corners of his eyes fanned out, giving him a sexy air of mischief. “Sit down and talk to me for a while,” he said as he sat and pulled out the chair beside him. “I haven’t seen you in what? Ten years?”
Rebecca nodded and sat, thankful to be off her shaky legs.
“I’m really sorry about Josie,” he said gently, compassion clear in his eyes.
“Me too.” She smiled sadly. “I really didn’t know her, Jackson. All these people knew her better than her own niece. I regret that.”
Jackson shook his head. “These people didn’t know Josie, Becca, any better than you did. That’s the way Josie was, she liked her solitude.”
Rebecca frowned and gestured toward a blue-haired woman sitting on the couch sobbing, clutching another woman’s hand. “Mrs. Holt is devastated.”
“Becca, Irene Holt never even met Josie. She attends any and all funerals and wails and carries on like that at every one of ‘em.” He narrowed his eyes and gave her a lopsided smile.
Rebecca’s eyes widened and she tried not to laugh. “No way.”
“Yep.” Jackson grinned. “As for the rest of them, they’re just being neighborly. Most of ‘em still remember your family and you. You were pretty hard to forget with your ‘pixie pest’ ways. They’re fond of you and wanted to be helpful, show they care.”
“That’s pretty incredible,” she said, looking around at the quiet gathering. She looked back at Jackson, meeting his gaze. “What about you?”
“Oh yeah, they’re fond of me too.” He waggled his brows.
“Ha, ha.” Rebecca narrowed her eyes.
Jackson’s smile faded and his eyes darkened as he held her gaze. “I was always fond of you, Pixie. You were a great kid, even if you were a little pest that was constantly drooling over me and giving my girlfriends hell.”
She had been such a little tomboy with wild young girl fantasies of being swept off her feet by the cutest boy in Jericho, or the whole wide world, for that matter. He’d called her his Pixie Pest and tugged at her long tangled hair and still made her young untried heart pound in her chest. Much like it was now. Only her heart wasn’t untried anymore and she knew what that liquid pull low in her stomach meant.
“I’m not a kid anymore,” she said without looking away.
Jackson’s gaze traveled over her body. “I’ve noticed. I’m trying really hard to remember what a pain in the ass you used to be.”
Rebecca lifted a brow. “I can still be a pain in the ass, Jackson.”
“Hmm. I bet you can.” He met her gaze again and held it. Her eyes dropped to his mouth. She wondered what those gorgeous lips would feel like on hers, on her breasts, on her stomach… For as long as she could remember she’d wanted Jackson to look at her like he was looking at her now. But he was making her feel way too hot, way too needy. She didn’t need anyone. And after Todd Lawrence, the very last thing she needed was another relationship.
She stood. “I’m being rude sitting here. I better go mingle. Eat something.” She needed to break the heavy silence that hung between them. He gave her a lopsided smile, took the plate and continued to watch her as he stood.
“Uh, there’s iced tea in the kitchen, make yourself at home.” She turned, took a deep breath and walked into the living room.
Time plodded along as Rebecca sat in the dim little living room with its floral prints and crocheted doilies. She listened and nodded and thanked those who stopped by. They asked about her parents and patted her hand sympathetically when she explained that her father had died three years ago of a heart attack. Their concern for her seemed genuine and the kind words and gentle touches were a surprising comfort to her. She found herself remembering her childhood and that rare country hospitality she’d missed for fifteen years.
It was late when the last person, none other than Mrs. Holt herself, hugged her, patted her cheek and left. Rebecca shut the door and leaned against it, shutting her eyes with a sigh. It warmed her heart that these people, regardless of their motives, not only spent time cooking for her, but also gave up their entire Saturday for her. It made her feel she’d been cheated.
“Everyone finally leave?” Jackson watched her with those observant silvery eyes of his.
He stood there with that lopsided smile and his hands in his pockets, looking like he’d just stepped out of GQ. Erotic images flooded her imagination and every cell in her body stood to attention. Endorphins flooded her system and sent that erotic heat washing over her body. Her cunt clenched, liquid arousal pooled between her sensitive lips, dampening her panties. Damn, it had been too long since she’d been touched.
“It appears so.” She pushed away from the door. “Everyone except you.”
Jackson watched her. Something in his eyes made her heart leap. She swallowed and gestured toward the dining room. “You should take some of that food home.”
Jackson shook his head. “Already put up. There wasn’t much left but it’s in the freezer, labeled, dated and everything. Dishes are all washed and put up too.”
“Wow.” Rebecca smiled. Okay, he was looking way too perfect. “Thanks, Jackson.”
“No problem. You’re tired; you didn’t need to have to face the mess.” He stepped closer. “There’s a plate for you in the fridge. Do I need to stay and make sure you eat it?”
She smiled up at him. If he stayed any longer she’d rape him for sure. “No, I’ll eat it, I promise.”
It annoyed her that she was disappointed that he wasn’t going to try and take advantage of her. Her life was so up in the air. She knew she didn’t need the entanglement but she wanted the warmth, the affection. She could feel the heat radiating from his body and she struggled not to lean into him.
“When are you going home?” His voice felt like a caress and she nearly whimpered.
“In the morning,” she said breathlessly
“Are you selling the house?” he asked quietly.
She sighed and furrowed her brows. “I don’t know yet. I had planned on it, but now…I don’t know.”
He watched her for a moment. “It was good to see you again, Pixie.” He touched her face gently then took her into his arms. “Don’t stay away so long next time.”
She wrapped her arms around his back and resisted running them over the hard planes and over his round, tight ass. His body was hard and hot against hers. Her breasts felt heavy and swollen, her hardening nipples ached. She cringed knowing he could probably feel them pressing against his chest and pulled away, swallowing hard. “No, I won’t.”
He pressed his lips to her forehead then met her gaze. She watched in fascination as they darkened and turned stormy. She opened her mouth to say something and he lowered his head and kissed her mouth. A small kiss, lingering only seconds, but the impact was powerful. She looked up at him with wide eyes. He let her go and she felt suddenly cold.
“Be careful going home,” he said hoarsely.
She nodded, folding her arms over her chest.
He turned and opened the door. “If you need anything let me know.” He walked out onto the porch. “Lock up.”
“I will.” She fought her desire to ask him to stay.
“Goodnight, Becca,” he murmured.
“Goodnight, Jackson.” He pulled the door shut and she chained and bolted it. Rebecca walked into the spotless kitchen, her body humming with arousal. She ran her fingers through her hair in frustration. Sleep was definitely going to be hard to achieve tonight.