Hope Scroggs is finally ready to get hitched. After years of sowing her wild oats, the former head cheerleader and homecoming queen has returned to Bramble, Texas, to marry her high school flame. But her perfect wedding plans are stomped to smithereens when her adoring cowboy two-steps down the aisle with someone else. Now Hope is stuck with the one man from her past she can't shake: Colt Lomax, an irresistible bad boy whose sultry kisses are hotter than the Panhandle in August . . .
Colt lives for freedom and the open road; he never gets attached, never looks back. Still, he can't forget the night of passion he once shared with Bramble's sweetheart--a night he wouldn't mind repeating. So, he piles on the Texas charm to tease the feisty beauty back into his bed, while she tries her darnedest to resist. But something unexpected is about to tie their fates together . . . and oh, baby, will it ever!
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Make Mine a Bad Boy
By Lane, Katie
ForeverCopyright © 2011 Lane, Katie
All right reserved.
IT WAS A DREAM. It had to be. Where else but in a dream could you be an observer at your own wedding? A silent spectator who watched as you stood in the front of a church filled to the rafters with all your family and friends and whispered your vows to a handsome cowboy you’ve loved for most of your life. A cowboy who kissed you as if his life depended on it, before he hurried you down the aisle and off to the reception, where he fed you champagne from his glass and cake from his fingers, before taking you in his strong arms and waltzing you toward happily ever after.
It was a dream.
“Hog, you gonna eat that piece of cake?”
And just like that the dream shattered into a nightmare.
Hope Marie Scroggs pulled her gaze from the dance floor and looked over at Kenny Gene, who was staring down at the half-eaten slice of wedding cake on her plate.
“ ’Cause if you ain’t,” he said, “I sure hate to see it go to waste.” Without waiting for an answer, he speared the cake and crammed a forkful into his mouth, continuing to talk between chews. “That Josephine sure outdid herself this time. Who would’ve thought that raspberry jam would go so good with yeller cake?”
The fork came back toward her plate. But before he could stab another piece, his girlfriend, Twyla, slapped his hand, and the plastic fork sailed through the air, bounced off one of the ceramic pig centerpieces, and disappeared beneath the table.
“Kenny Gene, don’t you be eatin’ Hope’s food! She needs all them noot-tur-ents!”
Hope didn’t have a clue what Twyla was talking about, and she didn’t care. All she wanted to do was recapture the dream. But it was too late. Too late to ignore the fact that she wasn’t the one who whirled around on the dance floor in the arms of Slate Calhoun—the handsomest cowboy in West Texas.
But she should’ve been.
It should’ve been Hope dressed in her mama’s three-tiered lace wedding dress. Hope who sipped from his clear plastic Solo cup. Hope who licked Josephine’s Raspberry Jamboree Cake from those strong quarterback fingertips. It should have been her arms, looped over that lean cowboy frame, and her face tucked under that sexy black Stetson, awaiting a kiss from those sweet smiling lips.
Certainly not some damned Yankee who had come to Bramble, Texas, looking for her long-lost twin sister, only to steal that same sister’s identity like a peach pie set out to cool. It wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t right. Not when Hope was the one who had done all the prep work. The one who suffered through all the cheerleading practices and homecoming parades and hog-calling contests, all to make her family and the townsfolk proud.
And then some citified wimp with ugly hair showed up, and their loyalties switched like Buford Floyd’s gender, and she was expected to grin and bear it? To pretend that everything was just fine and dandy? To act like she didn’t give a hoot that her life had just been spit out like a stream of tobacco juice to a sidewalk?
Her anger burned from the injustice of it all, and all she wanted to do was drop to the ground and throw a fit like she had as a child. If she’d thought it would work, she would have. But it was too late for that. The vows had been spoken, the marriage license signed.
Besides, she was Hope Marie Scroggs, the most popular girl in West Texas, and she wasn’t about to let anyone know just how devastated she was that the dreams of her wedding day were being lived out by someone else.
Someone who, at that moment, looked over at her and smiled a bright, cheerful smile with white, even teeth that reflected the lights shooting off the huge disco ball hanging from the ceiling. How could some sugary sweet Disney princess have lived in the same womb with her for nine months? It made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Nor could Hope figure out why she smiled back—though it might have been more of a baring of teeth, because Faith’s smile fizzled before Slate whirled her away.
“Your fangs are showin’, honey.” Her best friend, Shirlene, slipped into the folding chair next to her with a soft rustle of gold satin.
Since her daydream was already stomped to smithereens, Hope turned to Shirlene and lifted a brow at the mounds of flesh swelling over the top of her bridesmaid’s dress.
“Better than havin’ my boobs showin’,” Hope retorted.
Shirlene didn’t even attempt to tug up the strapless confection that put Hope’s grotesque purple maid-of-honor’s dress to shame. “Admit it. You’ve always been jealous of the girls.” Shirlene flashed a bright smile at Kenny and Twyla as they got up and headed for the dance floor.
“The girls?” Hope’s eyes widened. “Those aren’t girls, Shirl. Broads, maybe, but not girls.”
Shirlene laughed. “Okay, so you’ve always been jealous of the broads.”
Hope shrugged. “If you had my teacups, you’d be jealous too.”
“I don’t know about that. I get pretty tired of lugging these suckers around.”
“I’m sure Lyle doesn’t mind helping out with that.” She glanced around for Shirlene’s husband. “Where is Lyle, anyway?”
“He’s got a meetin’ in the morning, so he wanted to get to bed early.”
“A meetin’ on a Sunday?”
For just a brief second, Shirlene’s pretty green eyes turned sad before she looked away to fiddle with the purple ribbon tied around the fat ceramic pig, one of the same pigs that had been pulled out for every town celebration since they were made for Hope’s fifteenth birthday. “That’s the problem with marrying a wealthy man. They’re so busy making money, they don’t have time to make babies.”
“Are you still trying?”
Shirlene shrugged as she retied the ribbon in a perfect bow. “Lyle thinks it’s God’s will.”
“You could adopt, you know.”
“I know, but maybe Lyle’s right. Maybe this West Texas girl is a little too wild to be a good mama.” Releasing her breath, she flopped back in the chair, causing her broads to jiggle like Aunt Mae’s Jell-O mold. “Geez, we make a pathetic pair, don’t we, Hog? Me a lonely, childless housewife and you a jilted woman.”
Hope looked around before hissing under her breath. “I was not jilted, Shirl.”
“I don’t know what you would call it, Hog. Everyone in town was there when you agreed to marry Slate—regardless of the fact that he hadn’t asked.”
Hope’s jaw tightened. “You know as well as everybody else that Slate proposed to me.”
“Years ago. And we both know he was never serious.” She hesitated and sent Hope a pointed look. “And if I remember correctly, neither were you.”
Unable to look back at those perceptive green eyes, Hope stared out at the dance floor, where Slate continued to whirl her twin sister around. “I always planned on marrying Slate.”
Shirlene snorted. “If I had a dime for every one of your plans, Hope, I’d be rich enough to lure the Dallas Cowboys away from Jerry Jones.”
“As if you’re not already.”
“True.” The contagious smile flashed as Shirlene reached over and picked up a champagne bottle. She filled a cup for each of them before lifting hers. “Here’s to wild West Texas women—we might be down, but we’ll never be out.”
Finally giving in to a smile, Hope lifted her cup and tapped Shirlene’s. “Damn straight.” But before she could take a sip, the mayor, Harley Sutter, came chugging up and took the cup from her hand.
“No time for drinkin’, Hope.” He handed the cup to Shirlene and pulled Hope up from her chair. “Not when the entire town wants a dance with their sweetheart.”
Since Hope had never been able to disappoint her hometown, she rolled her eyes at Shirlene and allowed Harley to pull her out to the dance floor. Unfortunately, the two-step had ended, and the band struck up one of those stupid wedding songs that only worked in a room filled with drunks. Still, she pinned on a smile and tried to act like she enjoyed impersonating a flustered chicken.
“Glad to see you so happy, Hope,” Harley said as he flapped his arms above a belly that was more keg than six-pack. “You know what they say: ‘Home is where the heart is.’ ”
Unless some Disney princess stole it right out from under your nose, Hope thought as Harley swung her right on over to Sheriff Sam Winslow.
“He’s right, Hope,” Sam said as he flapped. “Hollywood has had our sweetheart long enough. Though I bet they ain’t gonna be real happy to lose such talent. That hemorrhoid commercial you did sure brought tears to my eyes. It had to be real hard to get such a look of complete discomfort.” He swung her around. “But you sure nailed it, Hog. Myra raced out and got a tube that very night.”
“A tube of what?” Rachel Dean stepped up.
“Hemorrhoid cream,” Sam answered, before stepping away.
“Oh, honey.” Rachel Dean clapped her man hands, then jerked Hope into a swing that almost snapped her spinal column. “I got hemorrhoids when I was pregnant. And I’m tellin’ you right now, there ain’t no cream on God’s green earth that will help with that hellish burnin’.”
Not wanting to talk about hemorrhoids or pregnancy, Hope gladly turned to her next partner, although her pinned-on smile slipped when she stared up into a pair of dreamy hazel eyes. As she struggled to regain her composure, the silly song ended and a waltz began.
“Could I have this dance, Miss Scroggs?” Slate asked.
The word no hovered on her lips. But, of course, she couldn’t say no. Not unless she wanted him to know exactly how hurt she was.
“Only if you keep those big boots off my toes, Cowboy.”
“I’ll do my best.” Slate flashed the sexy grin that made women melt. Hope didn’t melt, but she felt thoroughly singed, or maybe just annoyed that she didn’t get to claim the body that went with the smile.
His best turned out to be worse than Hope remembered. After only two steps, her toes were smashed under his boots, and she was forced to do what she’d always done when they danced: Take the lead. Except now he didn’t follow as well as he used to.
“Listen, Hope,” he said. “I realize this has been hard on you. You come back to Bramble expecting… well, I don’t exactly know what you were expecting, but it sure couldn’t have been a twin sister you didn’t even know you had. Or a wedding that had been planned without you knowing—our wedding, no less.” Slate chuckled. “Crazy townsfolk.”
She looked away. “Yeah… crazy.”
“But you want to know what is even crazier,” he continued. “All it took was one look from Faith—or maybe a kiss that knocked my hat off—and I was a goner. A complete goner.”
Hope wished that she was a goner. Gone from this man. And this room. And this town. If the pits of hell opened at that very moment and swallowed her up, it would be a relief.
But that didn’t happen. So all she could do was guard her toes and try not to act like she gave a darn that her wedding plans had disintegrated just like her dreams of becoming a movie star. She was thankful when the slow ballad ended and Slate was pulled away as Harley bellowed, “Come on all you unhitched folks! It’s time for the garter and bouquet toss!”
Hope tried to make a run for it, but the town pushed her forward, swarming around a chair that had been set up in the middle of the dance floor, a chair where her sister sat and waited for Slate to dip that head of sun-kissed hair and, using nothing but his teeth, tug the light blue garter down a leg identical to her own.
“I love a man who knows what to do with his mouth!” Rachel Dean yelled, and whooping and hollering broke out loud enough to shake the sturdy stone building.
With the town’s attention focused elsewhere, Hope attempted to inch her way to the door. But she should’ve known better, especially when she had such an ornery best friend.
“Now don’t be gettin’ any ideas about leaving, Hog.” Shirlene positioned her body between Hope and the exit. “Not when everyone expects you to get up there and catch that ugly bunch of silk flowers Darla hot-glued together.”
“Ugly?” Darla clasped her hands to her chest. “Well, I’ll have you know that I paid a pretty penny for those at Nothin’ Over a Buck.”
“Of course, you did, honey.” Shirlene sent her a wink. “If anybody can stretch a buck, it’s you.”
The words seemed to pacify Darla, and she smiled brightly as Shirlene slipped an arm around Hope and leaned down to speak in her ear.
“Now I know you want to go home and wallow in self-pity. But we both know that this town isn’t going to let you get away with that. So just bite the bullet and get in there and do me proud.” She gave her a loving pat on the back before she shoved her into the middle of the dance floor, and by the time Hope caught her balance, Shirlene had disappeared in the crowd of single ladies.
It was a pathetic group. There was Twyla, who had already been married three times. Rachel Dean, who came close, with two. The librarian, Ms. Murphy, who was smart enough to avoid marriage altogether, but still had to endure the crazy ritual every time someone had a wedding. Hope’s two younger sisters, Jenna Jay and Tessa. And a couple other giggling girls.
Her twin sister stood to the side, holding her “Nothin’ Over a Buck” bouquet and grinning like the seven dwarfs were all coming over to the castle for dinner. Of course, who wouldn’t grin if she had just wrangled the best-looking man this side of the Mississippi while her sister was forced to fight for the leftovers?
Well, Hope wasn’t fighting.
She was all fought out.
She didn’t care if Darla’s hot-glued flowers were made out of solid gold. She wasn’t going to lift a finger to catch them. Not one finger.
“Ready?” Faith looked directly at her, and Hope experienced the same strange phenomenon that she always experienced when her twin sister looked at her. It was like looking into a mirror. Not just externally, but internally. Everything Hope felt was reflected right back at her. Hurt. Confusion. Anger. Self-pity. It was all there in the familiar blue eyes.
Fortunately, Faith broke the connection by turning around and giving Hope something else to think about, like how to avoid the large bouquet of silk flowers that Faith launched over her shoulder.
Hope figured it wouldn’t be hard, not when Twyla had perfected the wide-receiver dive that won her numerous silk-flower trophies and a bunch of good-for-nothing husbands. But as the bouquet sailed through the air, Twyla didn’t move one underdeveloped muscle toward it. Nor did Rachel. Or Ms. Murphy. Or Jenna Jay. Or Tessa. Or any of the giggling girls. Instead, everyone just watched as the purple batch of flowers tumbled end over end, straight toward Hope.
She took a step back.
But the bouquet just kept coming. If it hadn’t been heading for her like a heat-seeking missile, she might’ve turned and run. But she wasn’t about to take her eyes off Darla’s creation, not when Hope’s own maid-of-honor bouquet was a good solid five pounds of hardened hot glue. So, instead, Hope widened her stance and prepared to deflect the floral grenade with an arm.
It would’ve worked too, if her watch hadn’t snagged the yard and a half of tulle netting surrounding the flowers, something Hope didn’t realize until she lowered her arm and felt the dead weight.
Like a preschooler doing the hokey pokey, she shook her arm to try and get it loose. But the bouquet refused to budge. And after only a few seconds of crazy waving, she realized it was no use and let her arm drop. She expected a wave of catcalls and whistles, but what she got was complete silence.
Confused, she glanced up to find the entire roomful of people staring.
Except not at her.
Few things could pull the town’s attention away from their sweetheart. Yet something had. Something that had nothing to do with ugly silk flowers and five pounds of hot glue. Something that so intrigued the town they had completely forgotten that Hope Scroggs existed.
A chill of foreboding tiptoed up Hope’s spine, and her stomach tightened and gave a little heave as she slowly turned around.
Just that quickly, things went from bad to worse.
A man stood in the open doorway with his shoulder propped against the frame as if he didn’t have a care in the world. As if he didn’t stick out like a sore thumb from the other men, who were dressed in their Sunday best of western pants, heavily starched shirts, and polished cowboy boots.
This man looked like a desperado who’d come off a long, hard ride. Road dust covered his round-toed black biker boots with their thick soles and silver buckles, partially hidden by the tattered hem of his jeans, jeans so worn that they molded to all the right nooks and crannies, defining hard thighs and lean valleys. A basic black T-shirt was tucked into the jeans, stretching over miles of muscle and hugging the hard knots of his biceps.
But although he had a body that could tempt a Bible-banger on Sunday, it was his face that held Hope’s attention, a face made up of tanned skin, hard angles, and a thin layer of black stubble. Come to think of it, every thing about the man was black—including his heart. Everything but those steel gray eyes, eyes that scanned the room as if looking for something.
Hope ducked behind Kenny Gene and stealthily peeked over his shoulder, watching as the man pushed away from the doorjamb and weaved around the tables—fortunately, in the opposite direction. The smart thing to do would be to slip out the door before he saw her. And she might’ve done just that if his fine butt in those buttery jeans hadn’t distracted her.
It was a shame, a darned shame, that the man was such a mean, ornery lowlife.
A mean, ornery lowlife who stopped right in front of…
It made no sense, but there he stood, those unemotional eyes drilling her sister with an intensity that caused the Disney smile to droop.
“It seems I missed the weddin’,” he stated in a deep, silky voice that didn’t match his rough exterior. “So I guess the only thing left to do”—those big biker hands slipped around Faith’s waist—“is kiss the bride.”
Then, before Hope’s mouth could finish dropping open, he lowered his head and laid one on her twin sister. Not a gentlemanly peck, but a deep wet lip-lock that left little doubt that a tongue was involved. It was that tongue that forced Hope’s true nature to return from the depressed, self-pitying cocoon it had been hiding in since learning that Slate was in love with Faith. That lying, conniving tongue caused Hope’s long-withheld emotions to spew forth in a geyser of liberating anger.
“Colt Lomax!” Hope screamed, loud enough to shake the tiles from the ceiling, as she shoved her way through the crowd. “Get your filthy hands off my sister!”
Excerpted from Make Mine a Bad Boy by Lane, Katie Copyright © 2011 by Lane, Katie. Excerpted by permission.
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