Verdria's Heart [Lush Valley, Tennessee] (Siren Publishing Ménage Amour), page 1
Lush Valley, Tennessee
Verdria McKenna's well-ordered life is in chaos. Her psychotic ex-boyfriend won't stop stalking her. Visiting a friend in Lush Valley, Tennessee, a town with old-fashioned values but modern mentality, seemed like the answer to her problems. That is until she met the Crawford brothers. These overbearing and overprotective men can make her body tremble and heart race with a simple touch. Can she escape the clutches of one deceptively controlling man while overcoming her fears and trusting two cowboys with her heart and soul?
Identical twins Ryker and Owen Crawford were losing hope in finding a wife to share. That is until they meet Verdria. Their protective instincts are set to overdrive when her unstable ex threatens her well-being. What happens when stubborn wills and domineering personalities collide? Will these men be able to break through Verdria's defenses and win her over, heart, body, and soul?
Note: There is no sexual relationship or touching for titillation between or among siblings.
Genre: Contemporary, Ménage a Trois/Quatre, Western/Cowboys
Length: 70,435 words
Lush Valley, Tennessee
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Ménage Amour
Copyright © 2012 by Robyn Reigns
E-book ISBN: 978-1-61926-724-4
First E-book Publication: June 2012
Cover design by Harris Channing
All cover art and logo copyright © 2012 by Siren Publishing, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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Lush Valley, Tennessee
Copyright © 2012
In Ryker Crawford’s opinion, there was nothing like unwinding with a nice pint of ale at O’Toole’s Pub, especially after a long day’s work. The old place always seemed to be crowded. Beer and whiskey easily flowed as the favored drinks of choice. Everyone knew everyone here. Sometimes the people from the town seemed more like family rather than just friends. He was definitely a part of a close-knit community. He was glad the place was crowded tonight, especially because he dragged his brother, Owen, along with him. The man seemed more quiet and bleak than normal lately. Knowing his brother it was because he was feeling the same soul-deep loneliness that he was. They wished they could find that special someone, the one person to fill that empty bleak spot in their heart.
When he heard Owen laughing as they sat drinking a pint of ale, he knew he made the right decision bringing him here tonight. The amusement was infectious. They were laughing along with the Heart brothers, while Abe and Ben Marks kept throwing darts at the bull’s-eye target and going on about Ethan and Frank’s latest antics. Abe Marks was the oldest of six brothers, and his mamma for some reason decided to name all her sons alphabetically with biblical names. The youngest brothers were twins, and to this day, the twenty-two-year-old boys remain a handful.
“Ethan was caught naked behind Mrs. Bell’s prized rose bushes.” Abe laughed. “I bet the poor old woman nearly had a heart attack. I don’t think she’ll ever be able to look at them flowers the same again.”
Ben cut in while throwing his dart and widely missed the target because he was laughing so hard. “He wasn’t exactly naked, Abe. Remember he had Charlene’s boa around his neck. It was Frank that was completely naked, jumping out of Charlene’s window before her daddy came running with that ancient Remington rifle of his.” Ben bent over chuckling, wiping the tears from his eyes. “The best was when Sheriff Tucker caught up with them running down Main Street and arrested them for indecent exposure. Mom and the dads decided to let them spend the night in jail together to contemplate their thoughtless actions.”
“At least Mom brought them some clothes. The dads were going to leave them naked. I think they were hoping to knock some sense into them by letting their bits freeze off over night,” Abe laughingly interjected.
Mike Heart snickered and used the back of his hand to wipe beer from his lip as he made eye contact with Abe. “I’m not sure who I should feel more sorry for, your brothers with their asses and bits getting chapped in the cold Tennessee air, or your poor parents at loose ends with those two wild boys. Your brothers need to stop teasing that poor girl. I hope they’re not leading her on.”
“Nah.” Abe shrugged. “As far as we know, the three of them have a mutual understanding. Those boys should know better than to take advantage of any woman by now. They know our dads and I would string them up by their toes if they ever intentionally hurt a woman, and would probably do worse if it were Charlene or another one of our locals.”
Mike nodded in agreement. “Nate and I would be more than happy to help slap those boys’ wrists a few times. Are those more gray hairs I’m seeing on
Abe gave a short laugh. He ran his fingers through his curly black disheveled hair and lifted his steel-gray eyes toward the Heart brothers. Sparkling amusement showed through his eyes as Abe responded to Mike’s question, “Charlie is going bald pulling his hair out, pops Paul is nearly completely white, and our other dad Chris is the one just turning gray.”
Ryker bit back another chuckle and got Owen’s attention as he noticed their dairy manager, Matt Williams, walk into the loud bar. Matt walked over to the table and nodded hello to Ryker and Owen, his two bosses.
“Hello, Matt. How’s the little lady doing? Is she finally settling into the new house okay?” Ryker asked, sipping down a little more ale.
“Robin is doing just fine, Ry, thanks for asking. She has some city friend of hers coming down for a visit tomorrow.” Matt stood up and walked to the bar. He took his time deciding on a drink. Finally, with a dark lager in hand, he walked back to the table and sat in an open seat across from Ryker and Owen.
Owen looked at Matt as he took his seat with drink in hand. “Why did Robin’s friend choose Lush Valley of all places?”
“I’m not sure, there were so many reasons. Robin said something about the girl needing to get away from her hectic work schedule and take some time to find herself. I think she’s mainly traveling out here because she just went through a pretty bad break up. From the sound of things her ex was a real winner. All I know is that she and Robin have been friends since high school and kept in touch by phone and e-mail. They’re apparently using the time to catch up on things and reconnect. Her visit has Robin all in a twitter and happier than I’ve seen her in awhile.” Smiling, Matt’s eyes glazed over just thinking about his wife. “You know me. I’ll practically do anything to keep that woman happy.”
Ryker took in Matt’s words and expression. He noticed the other men at the table sighing and looking toward Matt with envy. Women in Lush Valley were very few and far between. Those present are cherished, treated like the finest of treasures. It took a woman with strength and mettle to survive the rough valley, especially because of the large overbearing yet protective men. By most standards, Lush Valley was considered a quiet, isolated town that was founded on old traditions but conformed to modern times. The town was so well off the beaten path, most travelers don’t even realize the town existed. As a result newcomers tended to be few and far between.
The secluded town had nearly two thousand people. Most of the folks living in Lush Valley were considered hard working. The land was so green and fertile it made the perfect place for crop farming and cattle or horse ranching. When women did travel through, it wasn’t difficult for them to live as part of their rural community. Granted, people had to travel to Knoxville or Nashville for the finer things in life. But most women found the town center more than accommodating for all their basic needs. The reason most women never stayed long in Lush Valley was because of the acceptance of unique relationships. A majority of the men liked to share their woman. Heck some of the men even liked to share a man. However, most of the men found it quite difficult to find the one perfect woman to love and share, especially one wholeheartedly open and agreeable to a ménage relationship. “There’s a woman out there for you guys.” Matt’s words were quiet but filled with an understanding intensity. “Just be patient, and she’ll sneak up on you all when you least expect it.”
Ryker tried to mask his longing and need while he listened to Nate’s reply. “I’ve been trying to talk Mike into traveling again, maybe get back into the rodeo circuit a bit, just to try and get out there to meet someone. God, Mike and I have been burned so many times by women that just want a ménage for the experience. I don’t even know how we’ll be able to tell when we’ve found the right one anymore.”
“All I can tell you guys is that, without Robin I would feel like I’d be missing a piece of myself. I can’t even imagine taking a breath without her in my life. I’d be completely lost and wouldn’t even want to exist without her.”
Sitting quietly beside his brother, Ryker contemplated their friends’ conversation as they got up and tipped their hats in good night. Even though the life he and his brother chose was difficult he wouldn’t want to change it for the world. There was no way he wanted to consider a vanilla relationship. Without his twin it would be like letting part of his soul remain incomplete. It was as if he and his brother were two parts of a whole and to bridge them together and make them feel complete he knew they needed to share a woman. It just worried him that the perfect wife may elude them, as this strong forlorn feeling of emptiness continued to grow.
* * * *
Gripping the steering wheel of her SUV firmly to prevent her body from bouncing as she drove along the bumpy road, Verdria finally saw the big sign her friend Robin told her to look out for. The Double Bar C sign was just off the road ahead on the right. It was nothing showy. The sign was just a simple large wooden rectangle, which was held firmly in the ground with long large wooden posts signaling the entrance to the ranch. The white background made the wording stand out well. Large green lettering was used to spell out the name of the farm. It was neat how the twin Cs seemed to interlock. She continued following her friend’s directions and took the first right turn past the sign. Driving down the dirt path seemed to take forever. It must have been another fifteen to twenty minutes driving slowly along the narrow and bumpy road before seeing signs of human life. The green scenery was amazing, so different from the city and suburbs back east in New Jersey. The houses and buildings back home were always stacked side by side with no space to breathe. Here it was all pasture and forest. It looked open, free, and wild.
A country girl at heart, she had always wished she’d grown up on a farm. She could see herself living a quiet peaceful life in this rural community, especially if small animal veterinarians were in demand somewhere around here. Sadness filled her heart thinking about how she may not be able to stay here too long. It’s a shame that it took a bad break up for her to finally visit her friend and check out the town Robin was always raving about.
Anger raged with underlying fear. It felt like her only solution was to try and prevent Monty, her ex, from discovering her location. She hoped her visit wouldn’t be cut too short. The man was becoming so unpredictable. All she could do was hope that at some point he would give up on searching her out. She still couldn’t believe she quit her job and uprooted herself to try and get off the man’s radar. It was difficult to hide from him. Lush Valley was supposed to be a haven for her to sort her life and figure out how and where to go next. Taking a deep breath, Verdria pulled in along the front of the first house that came along. Robin said she and her husband Matthew Williams resided right at the entrance. Matthew managed the dairy and milking cattle on the farm while Robin taught at the local elementary school. Verdria hadn’t seen Robin in years, but kept in touch with her friend every chance she had. She couldn’t help thinking about the trouble she and Robin used to get into together back in high school. Verdria smiled at the thought of reminiscing with her old friend.
Shaking herself out of reverie, Verdria hopped out of the car and ran to knock on the front door.
Robin opened the door, poked her blonde head out, and locked her brown eyes on her as she let out a loud, high-pitched squeal. “Oh My God, Verdria. You made it! I’m so glad. It’s been forever.”
Verdria barely had time to bring her arms up, keep her balance, and catch the woman for a hug as Robin threw her tiny body against her chest. By no means was Verdria a large woman, but even she always felt like a large tower over the petite five-foot, one-hundred-pound ball of energy.
“Matthew should be around here in a minute to help you with your luggage. In the meantime, get your city slicker butt up in here so we can talk awhile over an iced tea.”
“Who is calling whom a city slicker? I am so not letting you forget your roots, Jersey girl,” Verdria replied with a giggle and followed her friend into the house.
* * * *
Robin waited in the kitchen while her friend freshened up. As soon as Verdria walked into the room, Robin handed over a tall glass of tea and directed her to sit down at the small kitchen table across from her. Slowly Robin appraised her friend, taking in her thick, corkscrew, blonde locks and tired, dull, sky-blue eyes. Even exhausted and overworked with deep, dark prominent circles just below her eyes, Verdria was gorgeous. What made her friend even more beautiful was that fact that she never realized her own appearance and how it affected people. When one added in her curvaceous body, Verdria was a package that turned men’s heads every place she went.
Tilting her head to the right and resting her head on her hand, she continued her assessment. Her friend truly did look tired, and Robin, knowing Verdria so well, could tell she never gave her the whole story. There was more to her friend’s visit then just a vacation and hiding from an ex because she needed space after her horrible break up. Robin knew it would take time and patience to get Verdria to reveal her worries. Too many times have people tried to force her friend’s hand, and all it leads to was Verdria shutting down, distancing herself, and building up thick protective walls.
“I don’t know how to thank you enough for letting me stay here for awhile.” Verdria opened the conversation, pulling Robin from her thoughts.
“It’s no problem at all. You know that you’re always more than welcome here. Besides, you made a solemn promise to stay a few weeks, and I’m going to hold you to it. But are you sure this is where you want to stay?”