Authors: Eden Connor
Tags: #blue collar hero, #new adult erotic romance, #small town romance, #contemporary erotic romance, #erotic romance, #curvy heroine, #South Carolina author
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
First edition. December 10, 2013.
Copyright © 2013 Eden Connor.
Written by Eden Connor.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Those Devilish De Marco Men, Book Three
Copyright © 2013 Eden Connor. All rights reserved
electronic publication, December 2013
Cover art: Eden Connor
Editor: Julie Lynne Hayes
Line Editor: Nomi McCabe
Cover art: Eden Connor
What if a random kiss feels like more than incidental contact?
What if you sense every mistake brought you to this woman?
What if you’ll have to clean up your bad-boy past
and can’t offer her much of a future, but you’re determined to win her heart?
What if you’re also having... performance issues?
Welcome to Eric De Marco’s world.
But the first person to say ‘go hard or go home’ is gonna get his ass kicked.
ARNING: This book contains graphic sex acts. This book is intended for adult audiences only. Please protect your copy of this file from minors. This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual locations, events, organizations, or persons, living or dead is purely coincidental and not intended by the author. Characters and incidents depicted are entirely products of the author’s imagination and are not meant to be construed as real.
This book uses US English.
I know three words in Spanish; hello, goodbye, and the term for a female dog. Okay, four. Now I know that
Therefore, I couldn’t have written this story without the help of my dear friend, Frances Batlle Gazon.
Frances, I’m forever in your debt for your endless patience whenever I asked, “How do you say this in Spanish?” and answering other rambling questions about culture. For offering more than a mere translation of the words I’d chosen, suggesting variations in shade and meaning, and explaining those to me so I could make an informed choice, this book is fondly dedicated to you. If the Spanish words and phrases in this story strikes readers as authentic, all credit is absolutely yours.
The story is also dedicated to Jennie Anderson, one of my delightful beta readers. Jennie, bless your heart—and I don’t mean that in the snarky, Southern way. It feels like I wrote fourteen versions of Incidental Contact. You read them all and helped me sort the wheat from the chaff every time.
And, to my eternal gratitude, you’re still talking to me. I think I could still draw you into a conversation about Amy and Eric, and that’s saying something by this point, something about you.
I don’t know how to thank you both for helping make this book all it could be.
It wasn’t until the last version of Incidental Contact that Hazel and Woodrow—my maternal grandparents—made their appearance in the story; just waltzed onstage and brought the house down with their very much true-to-life antics. I had tears running down my face while I wrote the scene, because I miss you both so much, but damn, it was great to see you guys. This series turned out to be all about family, Southern-style, so your visit makes perfect sense. Eric needed a mentor to teach him how to be an honorable man. Poppie, you were the ideal choice, and both Eric and I thank you for the help.
hile the country song blaring in Eric De Marco’s Dodge truck might say the singer’s exes all lived in Texas, too damn many of Eric’s worked in this little South Carolina town’s only mall. Navigating the drive leading to the sprawling commercial structure, he felt more like a clay pigeon at a firing range than a man about to grab a sandwich and get his hair cut.
He’d made the haircut appointment with Dee Wilkerson two days ago. Today, three people had come by the garage Eric owned with his brothers and made a point of mentioning Dee and her husband had separated.
His oldest brother, Dan, was a hard-ass about several things. “Never go bareback unless you’re prepared to be a father,” was a favorite sermon. Their baby brother had decided he was exempt from that rule. Now, Colton was expecting a baby with a local widow, Lila Walker. Colton seemed thrilled. The same couldn’t be said for Lila, making Eric worry how that situation might shake out.
Another of Dan’s favorite things to carp on was, “Don’t screw around with married women.” Dan didn’t yap about the moral consequences, although he was the poster child for the ‘one woman man’ concept. Instead, Dan insisted messing with married women was bad for business. Eric and his brothers owned a garage and towing service. If this town got any smaller, they’d have to take up a collection and buy their dot on any self-respecting map.
Problem was, women on the rebound came after Eric like heat-seeking missiles. Any other time, he’d blow off the haircut until after Dee and Jeb made up—they always did. Despite Dan’s warnings, Eric had comforted a few women after their breakups. Every last one told their boyfriend they’d slept with him, because pissing off the ex had been the point all along. Then of course, they—and their friends and families—took their cars somewhere else to get fixed. Making Dan right again.
He glared at his vibrating cell phone, reluctant to pick the damn thing up. Dee had texted him twice today, each time sounding real flirty. He thumbed the button. The message was from her.
Can’t wait to see you, sweetheart.
Eric jabbed the power button, sighed, and turned the big Dodge 3500 toward the food court entrance. Dee was supposed to be his friend and he could sure use one of those about now. Besides, it was time to sacrifice his long hair and he didn’t trust anyone but Dee to do the honors. The last thing he wanted was a crew cut. But goddamn, it hurt to think she’d use him this way.
By thirty-three, Eric had eased out of so many relationships his brother’s girlfriends called him Honey Bee. He didn’t find the nickname as amusing as he let on. He could admit he took advantage of the way women found him attractive. What was starting to hurt was how easily they fell for the routine he used to get rid of them.
Except, all of a sudden, he wasn’t rid of them.
The mess started back in August, when Eric’s neighbor—a man he’d known all his life—confessed that he’d argued with Eric’s mother the day she went missing, back in 1984. John Carpenter swore he’d slapped Cammie De Marco and she’d fallen and hit her head. Before he could get help, she was dead. The old farmer now claimed he’d panicked and hid her body until the search had been called off. Twenty-seven years ago, he’d sworn he never saw Cammie that day.
The day after Carpenter’s confession, Dan decreed they weren’t to talk to anyone about the case, except the police. No interviews, no casual comments to friends. They could talk to each other, Dan insisted. Only, it seemed to Eric, his brothers got their talking done with their women. Everyone else he knew only wanted to talk about his mother or her killer.
Turned out, his father had kept a life insurance policy on his mother. There wasn’t any way to keep that much money a secret in a town this small. The next thing Eric knew, all his exes were calling and dropping by the garage. But every single one asked if it was true he’d inherited a third of a huge insurance policy.
He didn’t want to think about the money. He couldn’t come up with one damn thing he could buy to honor the love and loss that’d put it into his pocket. All Eric wanted was to grab a bite to eat and get his fucking hair cut for tomorrow’s meeting with the district solicitor.
Not true. He wanted a do-over, for his entire life. If he’d only known his mother hadn’t come home because she was dead, maybe he could’ve had the kind of relationship his brothers had found, which was starting to look damn good to a man stuck out in the cold.
Knowing what was wrong with his life didn’t tell him how to fix things. Was there a vaccine for his severe commitment-phobia?
If so, would he have the guts to roll up his sleeve and take the shot?
Dan and Colton were always telling Eric he needed to date smarter women. Easier said than done. He had no idea how to change his reputation for being a walking vibrator with the optional tongue accessory. After all, he’d brought that rep on himself. Women already knew he’d never be a rich man, so they sheathed their claws pretty fast when he gave them his patented, dumb-redneck routine. Now, he seemed to be a victim of his own success, because smart women didn’t look his way—unless they wanted to piss off their exes.
Or thought they could sweet-talk him into spending that damn insurance money on them.
He was early for his appointment. Thanks to turning down offers of female companionship right and left, and his inability to talk about the only topic anyone wanted to talk about, he had nothing better to do. He could only endure watching all the loving affection between his brothers and their women so many nights a week.
He chose a space at the end of the row farthest from the building, the only spot wide enough to accommodate a truck with four doors and just as many rear tires. Stewing over the way his life sucked, he started the trek to the mall. No point in hurrying. Showing up early would only give Dee the wrong impression.
Halfway down the row of parked cars, he halted. A woman leaned into the trunk of a blue Honda. Denim pulled taut over her butt and hugged her thighs. She was so short, the bottoms of her jeans pooled over her feet. Moving closer, he noted the student parking pass in the rear window.
Danger signals flashed in his head. He was attracted to Amy Sizemore, despite the fact she had the fashion sense of a football team. This woman, above all, was one he should avoid. Nothing could be dumber than fooling around with the best friend of Colton’s woman. Her head was wedged inside her trunk, so Amy hadn’t seen him yet.
He almost walked past, but she stretched an arm over her head. The shirt rode up, revealing a generous stripe of pale skin over low-cut jeans. Eric felt like he’d been hit with a high-voltage wire.
Hot damn, that’s one cute pair of dimples.
He kept his attention glued to that soft-looking expanse while he debated. Her Honda had run fine five hours ago. If she was having engine trouble, she was smart enough to know she was looking at the wrong end of the car.
Though her car appeared to sit level, she had to be digging for the spare and jack. He was tempted to stroll on by. The temperature hovered in the low thirties, but when the bleak sun disappeared behind the mall, the parking lot would feel ten degrees colder. The sky looked like rain—or snow.
Yet Eric didn’t move.
He disliked the way Amy always looked like a billboard for a sporting goods store, but he did like her curves and common sense. As Lila’s best friend, Amy was practically family. She showed up at his brother’s place all the time, often helping Eric’s nephew, Jonah, with his Algebra or Chemistry homework. He suspected her real motive for coming by was to make Lila laugh. The widow’s pregnancy wasn’t going well.
Since his mother’s skeleton had been found, laughter had become a precious commodity. The stress of waiting to learn what would happen to her killer was doing a number on his entire family. If Lila lost Colton’s baby—Eric couldn’t bear to think what might happen then.
Walking by’s out of the question
. Amy was a college senior, studying to become a teacher. She was the respectable kind, even if she did look like a ragamuffin. She didn’t impress him as a gold-digger.
Come to think of it, she didn’t seem impressed by him at all. Amy might be the only woman he knew who didn’t see him as a sex toy. She never flirted with him. Even better, since the young woman was in the family’s inner circle, he wouldn’t have to watch every damn word he said.
Eric began to see a way around his immediate troubles.
He’d call the garage’s wrecker driver to come fix the flat. Then, he’d bribe Amy into going with him to get his hair cut in return for buying her supper. When Dee saw him with Amy, she’d find another way to get even with Jeb.