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Authors: Rachel Gibson

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary

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BOOK: Crazy on You
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T
ucker stretched his arms upward and moved his head from side to side. It was 0800 in Amarillo and he was just finishing up the paperwork from the night before. He’d made two DUI arrests, issued three moving violations, and had responded to a 10-91b in Lovett. The noisy animal in question had been a fat Chihuahua named Hector. The dog’s elderly owner, Velma Patterson, had cried and promised to keep the ankle-biter quiet and Tucker had let her off with a verbal warning.

“It was that horrible Nelma Buttersford who called. Wasn’t it?” Ms. Patterson wept into a rumpled tissue. “She hates Hector.”

“I’m not sure who called,” he’d answered.

Tucker rose from the desk. That’s what he liked about working in Potter County. There wasn’t a lot happening on a Sunday night. Not like Harris County. He liked the slower pace that gave him time to plow through his paperwork.

No, not much happened, and he was fine with that. He’d seen a lot of action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later after joining the department in Houston. Here, there was just enough going on to keep him interested, but not so much that it kept him up at night.

At least not yet. But it would. Bad things happened sometimes and he’d signed up for the job to deal with them. For as long as he could remember, he’d been dealing with bad things. He knew how to survive when shit went south.

He moved to the locker room and opened the locker with his name printed on cloth tape. He unbuttoned his beige and brown long-sleeved work shirt and pulled at the Velcro tabs at his shoulders and the sides of his waist. The vest weighed a little under ten pounds. Nothing compared to the body armor he’d worn in the military. He set it inside the locker and buttoned his shirt over his black tactical undershirt.

“Hey, Matthews,” Deputy Neal Flegel called out as he entered the locker room. “Did you hear about the 10-32 up at Lake Meredith?”

He’d heard the call over the radio. “Yeah. What kind of idiots are out on the lake that time of night?”

Flegel opened his locker and unbuttoned his shirt. “Two idiots fishing in a leaky ten-foot aluminum boat, no life jackets, and a cooler full of Lone Star.”

He knew from listening to the radio that they’d recovered one body close to shore. Another deputy, Marty Dingus, entered the locker room and he and Neal shot the shit like two old compadres. Brothers. Tucker had had a lot of compadres. Brothers in arms. Some of them he’d straight-up hated but would have died for. A sheriff’s department wasn’t unlike the military in that regard. They both played by big-boy rules. He was the new guy in Potter County. He’d been in this spot before, and he knew how to roll and adapt and get along for the sake of the job. He looked forward to getting to know the deputies here in his new home.

“How do you like Potter County so far?” Marty asked. “Not quite as hot as Harris County.”

Tucker reached for his jacket inside his locker. Marty wasn’t talking about the temperature. “That’s what I like about it.” He’d been in a enough “hot” places to last him a lifetime.

Neal peeled off his vest. “Did you find a place to live?”

Tucker nodded and shut his locker. “I took your advice and found a house in Lovett. On Winchester. Not far from the high school over there.”

“Winchester?” Neal frowned in thought. Both deputies had been born and raised in Lovett and still lived there with their families. “Do we know anyone who lives on Winchester?” he asked Marty.

“Now?” Marty shrugged and shook his head. “When we were in school, the Larkins . . . Cutters . . . and the Brooks girls.”

“That’s why it sounds familiar.” Neal set his vest inside his locker. “Lily Darlington lives on Winchester. She bought the house right next door to her mama.”

Marty laughed. “Crazy Lily?”

Crazy Lily?

“Some of my earliest wet dreams involved Crazy Lily.” Both men laughed and Tucker might have appreciated the humor if he hadn’t recently had his own sex dream about Lily Darlington.

“She’s my neighbor.” Tucker shoved his arms into his jacket. “Why do you call her crazy?” She hadn’t acted crazy around him. More like she’d driven
him
crazy in that white sweater yesterday. He’d taken one look at her tits in that sweater and all the blood in his head had drained to his pants.

“I don’t think she’s crazy these days,” Neal said. “Not like when she used to dance on tables.”

Lily danced on tables? “Professionally?”

“No. At parties in high school.” Marty laughed. “Those long legs in a pair of tiny shorts and Justin’s were something to see.”

Jesus.

“She’s not like that anymore,” Neal defended her. “I think that concussion she got driving her car into Ronnie’s front room back in ’04 knocked some sense into her.”

Jesus, Joseph,
and
Mary. “Who’s Ronnie?”

“Her ex.”

“And she drove her car into his front room? On purpose?”

“She always said her foot slipped on account of a migraine,” Neal answered. Both men laughed and Neal continued: “She was never charged with anything, but everyone knows Crazy Lily Darlington drove her car into that house on purpose. She came real close to being 5150’d.” Neal shrugged. “But she was already in the hospital for few days, so it didn’t make sense.”

5150? Tucker had picked up a 5150 last year in South Houston. The schizophrenic woman had locked herself in her bedroom for three days and had been eating her mattress.

“It was just a good thing Ronnie was off with his latest,” Marty added.

Holy Jesus. He was having crazy sex dreams and lusting after a crazy woman. A woman who’d possibly tried to kill her ex by running her car into his house and had almost been locked up on a 5150 hold. That piece of info should be enough to shrivel his nuts, but it didn’t. He thought of her and Pippen and her fierceness. He thought of her hands on his own chest, and his hands running up long legs, and he didn’t know who was crazier. Him or Crazy Lily Darlington.

 

C
HAPTER
F
OUR

 

L
ily pulled the Jeep into her garage and left the door up. She’d dropped Pippen off at school and gone to Albertson’s for a few groceries. She had a lot to do before Pippen got home from school.

She got out of the car and walked toward the curb. Pippen had been so excited after talking to Ronnie yesterday. The thought of going to Odessa with his daddy kept him wired all day and night, and he’d had a hard time falling asleep.

A big beige garbage can sat at the curb and she grabbed the handle to pull it into the garage. The cold plastic chilled her palm and she glanced up as Tucker’s silver Tundra pulled into the drive next door. She quickly returned his wave and ducked her head as she tugged the big can into her garage. Pippen had gone on and on about Tucker too. Tucker was going to teach him to dunk and free throw, and juke. Whatever that meant.

She pushed the garbage can against the wall, moved to her Jeep, and opened the back. She’d listened to Pip until she hadn’t been able to take it another minute. She’d spread her arms and said, “What am I? A stump full of spiders?”

Pip had rolled his eyes. “You’re just my momma.”

Yeah, just his momma, and he thought the sun rose and set on Ronnie’s deadbeat ass. Lily grabbed the handles of two grocery bags and heard Tucker’s boot heels just before his shadow fell across the threshold of the garage.

“I’ll get those,” he said.

She glanced across her shoulder at him as he stopped next to her in his brown jacket and tragic pants. Then she put her chin to her shoulder and glanced behind her. Tucker playing basketball in her driveway with Pippen was one thing—but carrying her groceries inside was another. She was a single mom in a small town that would never completely forget her wild past. None of the neighbors seemed to be home. “You can get the others,” she said and hurried to the back door. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” He grabbed the remaining four bags and shut the back of the Jeep.

“Pip says you’re going to teach him to dunk.” She pushed a big button by the back step and the garage door slid closed.

“I’ll try.” He followed her into the kitchen and set the bags on the counter next to her. “He needs to work on his dribbling first.”

Lily unbuttoned her navy pea coat and hung it on a hook by the door. That morning she’d dressed in her pink yoga pants, white sports bra, and Spandex tank. Later, she planned to drag out her mat, pop in her Rodney Yee DVD, and do a little downward facing dog in her living room. She looked back at Tucker’s profile. At his chin and mouth and wide shoulders. Besides her brother-in-law and nephew, Pippen was the only male who’d ever been in her house. It felt weird to have Tucker there. “Thanks again.”

“Thank me with coffee.” He turned to face her and reached for the zipper of his dark brown jacket. His long fingers pulled the tab downward. One slow inch at a time as his eyes took a languid journey down her body, blatantly checking her out.

She should say something clever and witty or indignant, but as always with him, she couldn’t think. Clearly his testosterone was throwing off the balance in the house. Throwing her off the balance. “Won’t the caffeine keep you up?”

He raised his gaze to her face, pausing for a heartbeat on her lips before he looked into her eyes. “I have today and tomorrow off.”

Lord love a duck, his energy caused friction in her stomach. Fiery dangerous friction that she hadn’t let herself feel for a long time. She moved to the coffee maker and filled the filter with Italian roast. With Tucker, it wasn’t a matter of
letting
. It was more like a bombardment. “I’m off today too. And I have a million things to do before Saturday’s spa event.” It wasn’t necessarily a hint for him to leave. Not yet. In a few more minutes, she’d kick him out. There’d been a time in her life when she liked playing with fire, but she was a respectable mother of a ten-year-old boy. It wasn’t just her anymore.

“You work at a spa?”

One cup and she’d kick him out. Lily glanced over her shoulder at him as he walked to the little kitchen table and hung his coat on the back of a chair. Like two thin arrows, twin creases ran down his back from his shoulders to his waistband, pointing to his nice round butt in those horrible pants.

“I own a spa in Amarillo.” She returned her attention to the coffee maker and filled the carafe with water, then poured it into the machine. Not just any guy could make those pants look good. She hit the On button then turned to face him. “Lily Belle Salon and Spa.” He picked up an extra teal-and-white invitation from a small stack sitting on the table. “I’m having a big event Saturday. You should come by and win a facial,” she joked.

“I don’t even really know what that is.” He set the invitation back on the table. “Belle is your middle name?”

“Yeah. My mom named my sister and me after flowers.”

“It’s pretty.”

Behind her, the coffeepot spit to life, filling the air with coffee-scented steam. In front of her, Tucker moved across the kitchen. Matching shirt creases ran from the dark brown epaulets on his broad shoulders, slipped beneath his gold star, name bar, and breast pockets. Her gaze followed the thin lines down to his flat belly and further. “Where’s your”—she pointed at her waist and then his—“cop stuff?”

“My duty belt?”

“Yeah.” She looked back up into his brown eyes. “Your weapons and cuffs?”

“Secured in my truck.” His gaze locked with hers and he didn’t even bother to hide the interest in his eyes. It was hot and intense, flaming the friction in the pit of her stomach and scattering it across her body. “How long have you had your own spa?”

“Three years.” She moved to her left and turned away from his gaze. Away from the chaos it caused, and she opened the cupboard. A collection of random mugs sat inside and she grabbed two. “Do you want cream or sugar?” One cup. Just one cup. She turned and almost hit him in the chest with the pink sparkly Deeann’s Duds mug.

“Both.” He took the mugs from her and set them on the counter by her hip. “But not in my coffee.” He took her hands in his and slid her palms up his chest. “Touch me,” he said, his voice a bold rumble beneath her hand.

She raised her gaze from their hands on his breast pockets to his eyes. Suddenly, she couldn’t swallow or breathe. He was dangerous and she pulled her hands from beneath his. Cool air hit her heated palms and she closed her fingers into fists.

“Please, Lily.” The silent longing in his voice whispered to the dormant longing in her soul. He lowered his face and her breath rushed out.

“What are you doing?” she murmured as his warm mouth skimmed her jaw. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

“Then don’t think.” His warm breath spread across her skin. “I know I have a hard time thinking when I’m near you.” He kissed her just beneath her ear.

“Don’t say that.”

“Why?”

“You don’t know me.”

“Let’s change that.” He opened his mouth on her sensitive skin. “Around you, I have a hard time doing anything but getting hard.”

“Too soon. That’s crude.” Her head fell to one side.

“That’s the truth. Do you want me to lie?”

Too fast. No. She sometimes liked crude but she knew she shouldn’t. She knew she shouldn’t let him kiss her throat. She should make him stop, but she couldn’t.

“Put your hands on me,” he said against her throat and she opened her fingers and slid her hands up to his chest and shoulders. At the touch of her palms on his bare neck, a shudder ran up his spine. “That’s good.” His mouth slid across her cheek to her lips.

Was this happening? Was she going to let this happen? Right there in her kitchen? Where she cooked breakfast for her son. One of his hands moved to the nape of her neck and tilted her head back with his strong fingers, coaxing her mouth with the promise of a kiss. A warm shiver ran up her spine and he lifted his head. His lips teased her, and she raised onto the balls of her feet and followed his mouth. Evidently she was going to let it happen. Right there in her kitchen where she cooked Eggos and Toaster Sticks.

Beneath the slight pressure of his lips, her mouth opened beneath his and his tongue swept inside. Hot and liquid and unraveling a ribbon of fire from her throat, down her chest to the waiting friction in the pit of her stomach.

He fit his free hand into the curve of her waist and pulled her into him. Her breasts brushed his chest and the kiss deepened. His tongue touched hers while his mouth created a warm suction that felt ripe and so delicious—the ribbon of fire in her stomach engulfed her thighs and tightened her nipples against the front of his shirt.

A deep groan vibrated his chest against her breasts. His grasp on her waist tightened, relaxed, flexed, then slid to her behind. Pleasure flushed her skin and she opened her mouth wider, kissing him deeper. She ran her hands over his shoulders and chest and neck. He untangled his fingers from her hair and slid his palm down the side of her throat and across her shoulder. While his tongue plunged into her mouth, his hand moved to her ribs. He fanned his thumb across Spandex and the side of her breast. Back and forth, driving her mad with the want of his touch. Her breasts tightened while other places in her body turned liquid with need. She melted into him even more. Against her pelvis she felt the stiff ridge of his erection and she rocked against him, loving the feel of it. The size and weight and hard length.

His hands slid to her back, his fingers brushing her bare skin above her tank top. This had to stop, but she didn’t want it to. Not now. Now she wanted more. This was crazy. She was crazy. As crazy as everyone said. Crazy Lily lusting after her neighbor and she didn’t seem to care. He’d ignited something in her she hadn’t felt in a long time. Crazy, consuming lust.

Tucker took a step back and grasped her shoulders. Her hands slid to down his shirt, his star cool against her palm and his breathing, heavy, harsh, lifting his chest. “Lily. I want more.”

Great. She wanted more too. She took a step toward him but his grasp tightened, keeping her at arm’s length. She didn’t understand. If he wanted more, why was he pushing her away? “So do I,” she said, although she thought it was obvious.

“I want you.” He dipped his head and his heavy gaze looked into her. “All of you.”

She raised a hand to her mouth and touched her wet, tingling lips. Was he talking some strange sexual position? If so, she might be okay with it. Would probably be okay with just about anything. Had probably been there and done that. Several times. But he was young and she had eight years of experience on him. That was probably his attraction to her. “What exactly do you want?” However, there was one part of her that would always remain virgin territory. She didn’t judge women who went there. She just wasn’t one of them.

“When I saw you today, I knew I wanted every bit of you. That I want to know all of you.”

She dropped her hands to her sides. “You said that.” She really didn’t want to have to come right out and say it but . . . best to be up front because real ladies didn’t do it in the back. “My bottom is a no landing strip.”

His brows pulled together over his suddenly sharp brown eyes. “What?”

“I just thought you should know.”

“Thanks for clearing that up.” He frowned and took another step back. “Jesus, Lily. You thought I want anal sex?”

She shook her head, more confused by him than ever before. And he was plenty confusing. She put her hands on top of her head and blew out a breath.

“That’s not only disturbing, but insulting.”

“I’m disturbing?” She put one palm on her chest. “You said you wanted to know every bit of me. And that bit of me is off limits.”

“I wasn’t talking about your ass, for Christ sake.” He raised a hand, palm up. “I was talking about you. Your life. Your heart and soul.”

Her heart and soul?

“I want more than sex.”

She turned and grabbed the mugs for something to do with her hands. What could he possibly want? More than sex? All men wanted sex. Her heart and soul? She reached for the coffee carafe and poured. What did that mean?

“I’ve had relationships that were just about sex. I don’t want that anymore. I don’t want that with you.”

“Relationship?” The coffee sloshed over one side of the Everything’s Bigger In Texas mug and she turned to face him.

“Pushing you away was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” He scrubbed his face with his hands then dropped them to his sides. “I still can’t believe I did it, but I don’t want to start out that way.”

“Start? We can’t start anything. We can’t have a relationship.”

“Why?”

“Because.”

“That’s not a reason.”

“Okay.” She raised a hand toward him. “You’re thirty and I’m thirty-eight.”

“So.”

“So I have a young son.” She dropped her hand. “I can’t just . . . just can’t go around . . . with you.”

“Because I’m thirty?”

She’d already lived so much down. “People will talk.” And it was nice walking into a room and not hearing whispers behind her back.

“So what?”

If he could say that, then people had never talked about him. “They’ll say I’m a cougar, and that you must want someone to take care of you.”

BOOK: Crazy on You
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