All fired up, p.1

All Fired Up, page 1


All Fired Up

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All Fired Up

  He’s tantalizing trouble she can’t resist...

  Charlotte Parrish has always wanted a certain kind of man: someone responsible, settled, boring. Bad boys need not apply. But when her car leaves her stranded and a mysterious stranger with brooding eyes and a protective streak comes to her rescue, she can’t deny how drawn she is to him. In town searching for family he’s never met, Mitch is everything she never thought she wanted—and suddenly everything she craves.

  Finding his half brothers after all these years is more than Mitch Crews has allowed himself to wish for. Finding love never even crossed his mind...until he meets Charlotte. She’s sweet, warmhearted, sexier than she knows—and too damn good for an ex-con like him. But when his past comes back to haunt him, putting Charlotte—and the family he’s come to care for—in danger, Mitch isn’t playing by the rules. He’s already surrendered his heart, but now he’ll risk his life.

  Praise for New York Times

  bestselling author Lori Foster

  “Foster fills her scenes with plenty of banter and sizzling chemistry, ensuring longtime fans will feel right at home in this new series.”

  —Publishers Weekly on Driven to Distraction

  “Full of healing, hope and, most importantly, love... An absolute delight.”

  —Maisey Yates, New York Times bestselling author, on Cooper’s Charm

  “Storytelling at its best! Lori Foster should be on everyone’s auto-buy list.”

  —#1 New York Times bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon on No Limits

  “A sexy, heartwarming, down-home tale... A funny and engaging addition to the series that skillfully walks the line between romance and women’s fiction.”

  —Library Journal on Sisters of Summer’s End

  “Teasing and humorous dialogue, sizzling sex scenes, tender moments, and overriding tension show Foster’s skill as a balanced storyteller.”

  —Publishers Weekly on Under Pressure (starred review)

  “Emotionally spellbinding and wicked hot.”

  —New York Times bestselling author Lora Leigh on No Limits

  “Foster knows how to turn up the heat, delivering numerous steamy passages that crackle with chemistry and build essential connections between the characters.... [A] bubbly summer escape.”

  —Entertainment Weekly on Cooper’s Charm

  “A sexy, believable roller coaster of action and romance.”

  —Kirkus Reviews on Run the Risk

  “Foster’s writing satisfies all appetites with plenty of searing sexual tension and page-turning action in this steamy, edgy, and surprisingly tender novel.”

  —Publishers Weekly on Getting Rowdy

  Also available from Lori Foster

  and HQN Books

  Road to Love

  Driven to Distraction

  Slow Ride

  The Summer Resort

  Cooper’s Charm

  Sisters of Summer’s End

  Body Armor

  Under Pressure

  Hard Justice

  Close Contact

  Fast Burn

  The Guthrie Brothers

  Don’t Tempt Me

  Worth the Wait

  The Ultimate series

  Hard Knocks (prequel ebook novella)

  No Limits

  Holding Strong

  Tough Love

  Fighting Dirty

  Love Undercover

  Run the Risk

  Bare It All

  Getting Rowdy

  Dash of Peril

  Edge of Honor

  “Ready, Set, Jett” in The Guy Next Door anthology

  When You Dare

  Trace of Fever

  Savor the Danger

  A Perfect Storm

  What Chris Wants (ebook novella)

  Other must-reads

  Boone (ebook novella)

  Tucker (ebook novella)

  A Buckhorn Baby

  Built for Love (ebook novella)

  A Buckhorn Bachelor (ebook novella)

  A Buckhorn Summer (ebook novella)

  All for You

  Back to Buckhorn (ebook novella)



  Up in Flames

  Turn Up the Heat

  Hot in Here

  Animal Attraction (ebook anthology)

  Love Bites

  All Riled Up

  The Buckhorn Legacy

  Forever Buckhorn

  Buckhorn Beginnings






  Fallen Angels



  All Fired Up

  To Lowell Bower.

  Thank you for all the terrific prison info and the

  many questions you answered. I appreciate it greatly.

  Any and all errors are my own.

























  THE WARM, MUGGY NIGHT closed around him, leaving his shirt damp in places. Sweat prickled the back of his neck. Inside Freddie’s he’d find air-conditioning, but he’d never again take fresh air for granted. He valued every single breath of humid air that filled his lungs.

  The moon climbed the black sky as time slipped by. How much time, he didn’t know: he’d stopped keeping track the second he saw her.

  Headlights from the occasional passing car came near him but didn’t intrude on the shadows where he stood.

  Transfixed by her.

  Damn, he wanted that mouth.

  In the short time he’d locked eyes on her, a dozen fantasies had formed—most of them based on her naked lips, the way she occasionally pursed them, how she twisted her lips to the side in frustration, even how she blew out a breath. The whole package was nice...but it was her mouth that kept him unmoving, staring. Imagining.

  Slight of build, she served as a bright spot in the dark gloom. Understated and yet something struck him as undeniably sexy.

  Once he’d noticed her, he couldn’t look away.

  After speaking softly into a phone, she bit her plump bottom lip, and her expression showed frustrated defeat.

  The lady had made several consecutive calls. Was she in need of assistance? Given the way she’d circled a car, occasionally glaring at it, he thought she did. Judging by her frown, there wouldn’t be any help on the way.

  Since getting out of prison a year ago, Mitch had spent an excess of time with women. Hell, next to fresh air, freedom and steak, sex topped his list. He’d immersed himself in human contact, the gentleness, the carnality.

  He’d taken satisfaction in pleasing someone else while abating a base need. Hell, watching a woman come gave him as much pleasure as his o
wn release.

  So he’d gotten his fill and then some—all while making plans to change the course of his life. To make it better. To carve out a meaningful future.

  Here he was, where he needed to be, determined, resolute...and sidetracked by a gorgeous woman.

  That in itself left him edgy with curiosity. No other woman had snagged his attention this way. He knew zip about her, and yet seeing her had heat building beneath his skin.

  He tried to look away, but his attention kept zeroing back.

  Freaking bizarre.

  It was like seeing something you hadn’t known you wanted, but immediately recognizing it as necessary.

  Even dressed in jeans, a T-shirt and flip-flops, he knew the lady had nothing in common with him. Innocence all but screamed from her slender body and reserved manner. To someone with his jaded background, that put her in the “do not touch” category.

  His fingers curled and his palms burned. Yeah, he wanted to touch her despite that.

  And he didn’t look away.

  From the shadowed corner just outside the bar, he watched her thumb dial another number into her phone. While holding the phone to her ear, she paced. The overhead glow of the security light touched her in select places, alternately highlighting and then shadowing her understated curves.

  High cheekbones framed a slender, straight nose. She tucked a few drifting curls behind a small ear. Though rounded, he saw the mulish determination in her stubborn little chin.

  And that mouth...thoughts of it under his mouth—and on his body—tightened his jaw until his molars ached.

  For the first time in years, he wondered if he could put off his agenda for a bit, say something to her, see if there was something between them despite the seemingly obvious roadblocks.

  Opposites attract, and all that.

  He’d made this trip a center point for a new future.

  In this Podunk town he’d subtly uncovered what he could about Brodie and Jack Crews. That was the priority after all. Moving forward, leaving the past behind. It started with the Crews brothers. Hitting the bar tonight might have gained him more insight into them.

  But would a slight detour—the type with long curly brown hair and a sweet little body—matter so much?

  If he listened to his dick, the answer was no. His balls were giving a resounding “go for it” as well.

  His head though... Hell, his head claimed he could afford a delay. In the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t matter.

  Since arriving in town, he’d discovered that the men were well liked, each of them married, and they had an odd but interesting business called Mustang Transport. Locals claimed they dealt with mundane shit as well as serial killers and psychopaths. Somewhere in the middle, the truth lurked.

  He’d also heard about their mother. He’d been hearing about her for as long as he could remember. For very different reasons she interested him almost as much as Brodie and Jack.

  He had no connection to Rosalyn Crews, but meeting the men felt important in a way nothing else ever had. He couldn’t explain it, even to himself. He’d gone through life making damn sure he needed no one, and that he wanted only for things he could get for himself.

  Now, much as it chapped his ass, he wanted something else—and it depended on Brodie and Jack Crews.

  It didn’t have to happen right away, though. He wouldn’t mind burning off some energy before making that initial contact—especially if he could convince this woman to give him a few hours of her time.

  He noted every small movement as she spoke into her phone. He couldn’t catch every word, but the low murmur of her voice stroked over him. He was pretty sure she left a message.

  Suddenly she held the phone back and stared at it. Hot annoyance tightened her mouth and brought down her brows.

  “Perfect. Just freaking perfect.”

  He heard that loud and clear.

  Jamming the phone into a back pocket—a tight fit over that sweetly rounded backside—she dropped her head with a throaty groan that traveled along his spine like a sensual stroke. Her eyes closed, her mouth flattened, and the damp night drew her long, light brown hair into coiling curls.

  He’d love to tangle his fingers in her unruly hair.

  As if spurred by her innate energy, the curls moved, bouncing a little, drifting with the breeze. Judging people had kept him alive. With this woman, he sensed she didn’t indulge in downtime very often. Even standing still, she seemed to...spark with energy.

  Curiosity cut into him, mingling with the carnal interest.

  Had she been stood up? Walked out on a date?

  Just then she growled, “Dead. Stupid phone.” The thump of her hand to a metal lamppost sent a dull clang ringing over the area. “Now what?”

  Ah, well that answered his question.

  White teeth nibbled her bottom lip in consideration. Considering, she glanced at the bar, shook her head once, and returned to pacing.

  Clouds covered the moon, amplifying the darkness. She was far too petite to be stranded alone.

  Doesn’t mean she wants a quick fuck, he argued with himself.

  The young woman stewing in front of him might be more likely to sell brownies at a local bake sale, but engage in a hot one-night stand? Probably not.

  Sure, she was standing outside a rowdy bar all alone on a late night—but then, so was he.

  So what should he do? Be smart and turn away, or see if she needed help? He remained undecided when two men exited the bar with a lot of noisy fanfare.

  Drunken asses.

  The woman glanced up, then quickly away with a roll of her eyes—but not quickly enough to avoid notice.

  “Charlotte, hey! Whatssup?” With a leer, a mop-headed man added, “You waitin’ for me, sugar?”

  Mitch caught the way his unshaven bud snickered, proving the irony in the question.

  “Definitely not,” she replied, her tone crisp and clear.

  Mitch liked the sound of her voice. Not all girly or too sweet, but firm and no-nonsense.

  He did not like how the two dunces eyeballed her anyway, stumbling in her direction despite her preferences.

  “Ah, c’mon now, don’t be like that,” the talkative one said.

  His idiot friend guffawed, stumbled and heckled some more.

  Charlotte—nice name—propped her hands on slim hips and issued a dire warning. “You’d be smart to keep walking, Bernie.”

  “How come you’re here alone?” He tried a teasing voice that Mitch suspected did the opposite of entice. “You know where to find me this time of night.”

  “Drunk, as usual. Yes, I know.” Annoyance squared her narrow shoulders. “Not that it’s any of your business, but I finished a late delivery and was heading home, then had car trouble.” She added with menace, “Help is on the way.”

  “I’ll keep ya company until then.”

  “No, you will not.”

  “But I’m already here.” Intent brought Bernie closer.

  She didn’t exactly look afraid, but more like fed up. Before Mitch gave it enough thought, his feet carried him out of the shadows and immediately drew her attention.

  Soft blue. Now that he saw her eyes more clearly, he found them every bit as compelling as her mouth.

  Alert, maybe a little wary, she zeroed in on him. Her lips parted and she blinked twice.

  You’re sealing your fate, sugar. He tried a smile of part interest, part reassurance.

  Her gaze went beyond him, searching the darkness, and then snapped back again. “Where did you come from?”

  With his attention only on her, Mitch held up his hands and avoided a direct answer. “Just seeing if you need any help.”

  Emboldened by liquid courage, the two men blustered at him. “G’lost, asshole. She don’t need nothin’ from you.”

bsp; As if Bernie and his bad grammar didn’t hover there beside her, Charlotte asked, “You’re new around here?”

  Mitch gave her a long look. What, did she know everyone in Red Oak, Ohio? Probably. He could jog the main street, one end to the other, without breaking a sweat. “I’ve been here a few days.” Whether he was passing through, or sticking around, wasn’t her business. Besides, for now, he wasn’t sure.

  Brazen stupidity urged Bernie to step up in front of him. “You ain’t listening. I told you to—”

  Disgust curved Mitch’s mouth into a mean smile meant to intimidate. “You’re right. I’m not listening to you.” Insulting disregard took his gaze over the smaller man before he dismissed him. “I’m talking only to her.”

  By size difference alone, it was beyond ludicrous for Bernie to issue a challenge.

  And yet, he did. “Are you fuckin’ stupid?”

  Charlotte’s voice, now edged with anger, interrupted anything Mitch might have replied or done. “You’ve been warned, Bernie. If you don’t knock it off right now, you are not going to like the consequences.”

  Still, the fool didn’t listen. “I said,” Bernie blasted, his breath putrid, “for you to get lost.” A scrawny fist, aiming for Mitch’s face, swatted through the air.

  Bad move, asshole.

  Instincts could be a son of a bitch. Mitch leaned away from the weak hit...and at the same time automatically jabbed with his right.

  His fist landed right on Bernie’s chin.

  Eyes rolling back, the smaller man started to drop.

  Infuriated that he’d lost his grip in front of Charlotte, Mitch caught the front of Bernie’s shirt and held him on his tiptoes. “You,” he whispered between barely moving lips, “need to learn when to quit.” Familiar anger surfaced despite his efforts to tamp it down...

  And a small, cool hand touched him.

  Struck clean down to his toes, Mitch peered first at those pale, tapered fingers with short, neat nails resting lightly against the roped muscles of his sun-darkened forearm.

  Fucking sexy, that’s what it was, highlighting all their differences, especially those of strength and capability.

  Her face drew him next, the delicate lines, smooth skin...that mouth and those eyes.

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