It’s that time of year again, when the snow is falling softly, we’re curled up under a blanket clutching a steaming hot cup of cocoa, and dreaming of the days when it’s warm enough outside again for all the cowboys to come out of hiding. Lucky for us, New York Times bestselling author Harper Sloan is bringing us the third installment in her beloved Coming Home series, COWBOY UP, to help tide us over until spring! Keep reading for a sneak peek at COWBOY UP, and don’t forget to snap this one up, on sale tomorrow!
“Whatever. How about a drink, Mr. Bartender?”
“Not joking, sweetheart. Don’t want the men in here to think you’re fair game.”
“Look around, Luke. No one is worried about me.” I don’t know if that’s actually true, but seeing as I’ve never been the type to turn a bar full of men’s attention my way, I’m fairly confident in my assessment.
“Blind as a damn bat,” he mutters loud enough for me to hear clearly over the noise, not backing away.
I open my mouth to give him a smart-ass retort but stop when I hear a deep, rumbling laugh to my side. I look over, not seeing much apart from the dark cowboy hat next to me. Its owner’s face is concealed by shadows as he looks down at the golden-colored liquor in his glass. I can see a stubbled, very strong jaw though—the deliciously strong kind that’s angled in such a way you could swear on a stack of Bibles on Sunday morning that someone carved it straight out of stone.
“Just please, stay here and out of trouble. You need to use the little girls’ room, do it in my office. I can’t run this place if I’m constantly worried about you.”
“Got her, Luke,” the stranger next to me mumbles loud enough to be heard over the music, still not looking up from his glass.
Luke flicks his gaze in my neighbor’s direction, and even though there’s no way he can see the man’s face, he nods before pulling his attention away and back on me.
“Be good, sweetheart.”
He turns and stomps away.
“I’m always good!” I yell at his back, making the man next to me chuckle in such a low-pitched, manly way I almost feel like calling it a chuckle would be a sin. “What? I am,” I defend.
“Sure you are, sugar.” His deep, velvety smooth voice causes a wave of awareness to wash over me.
“Not that it matters, since I don’t know you and all, but I’ll have you know I’m the very definition of good. I wouldn’t know how to be bad if it bit me in the butt.”
He turns his head toward me. I’m unable to see his face, which is still hidden by the shadows, but I can feel his eyes on me. Their scrutiny is almost like a physical caress. “That so?” he rumbles after another few pounding heartbeats of silent study.
I nod mutely, wishing I had a drink to wash down the nervousness.
“How do you know Luke?” he continues.
“He and his sister are my best friends,” I tell him without hesitation.
“Not your boyfriend?” he drawls.
“I— No. He’s not my boyfriend,” I answer, confused by his questioning.
“So what’s a good girl like you doin’ in a place like this?”
“Maybe I’m sick of being a good girl,” I mumble, wishing I could see his eyes.
He continues to study me and I shift in my seat. Good heavens, what kind of pull does this stranger have over me? I can’t even look away, not that I want to, so I study him just as fiercely—even if I can’t see his face, I can still see him. And what a mighty fine sight he is.
Dressed in the typical uniform of most cowboys around here, he’s got his well-built frame in a navy-blue button-down shirt, tucked into jeans that I’m sure mold to his amazing-looking body perfectly when he’s standing. Even in the dim light, I can see the dirty boots propped up on the step under the bar that keeps short legs like mine from dangling in the air. His hand wrapped around the tumbler is tanned, making me think he must work outside, but it’s the long fingers that hold my focus as he uses them to slowly spin his glass against the bar top.
Pulling my eyes from the strangely erotic sight of his hand, I look toward his shadowed face.
“Want to what?”
“Be bad, sugar.”
Heat hot as fire washes over me with his words. Holy cow. My jaw works, but words elude me. I don’t even know this man’s name, let alone anything about him, and if my rusty knowledge of flirting is right, he just propositioned me. Why I find that as hot as I do, I’ll never know, but before I even know what’s happening, my brain finally figures out how to get the words past my shocked jaw.
“I think I do.”
My eyes widen at the same time his hat dips, and then he turns and holds up two fingers toward Luke farther down the bar. Call it male intuition, whatever kind of magic men have to know when another member of their brotherhood needs a drink, but Luke looks up the second the dark cowboy’s fingers are in the air and nods. Not even a minute later, he’s placing two glasses much like the one my mysterious companion just finished in front of us. Luke walks away without a word, clearly trusting this man if he’s willing to let me drink with him and not give me a speech about drinking responsibly. When the chill of glass touches my knuckles, I look down.
“Somethin’ tells me your mind might be ready to be bad, sugar, but your nerves aren’t there yet. Goes down smooth, but sip it nonetheless.”
My brain, still clearly under the dark cowboy’s control, doesn’t have a problem working now. My hand curls around the glass and I bring it to my lips, letting him control me without fighting it. He’s not wrong—it goes down smooth as silk. At least, the first two sips do. Then I get a little confident and take a deep swallow, only to sputter my way through it.
“Sip,” he calmly demands, leaning into me enough that I feel the heat of his body against my bare arms.
“Want you feelin’ calm when I show you how fun it is to be bad, not drunk.”
“Who says I want to be bad with you?” I ask, taking a very small sip this time.
“Babe, you wanna be bad with me.”
He’s right, I do. “You seem confident.” I look over the glass, trying to see through the shadows, but give up when I realize just how well he’s cloaked.
He doesn’t respond but instead takes a drink from his own glass.
“I don’t even know you.”
“Wouldn’t make a difference if you did.”
“You know, some people might actually think that you’re actually just cocky and not confident.”
“I’m old enough to go after what I want without playin’
games. There ain’t a thing cocky about that.” God, his voice is pure sex.
“And what’s that?”
“You’ll find out,” he promises darkly, playing the game despite his words.
His deep laugh is low and gritty, almost as if it’s a sound that normally doesn’t come from him. For whatever reason, it makes me want to know everything I can about this man—this stranger.
We fall into a comfortable silence, but one that carries so much promise I can feel it building inside of me. Luke comes over to talk to me when he can, but it isn’t often. My glass is never empty for long, but on Luke’s fifth pass with the bottle of top-shelf whiskey, the dark cowboy places his hand over the top of my glass. I look over at him instead of Luke, to see him shaking his head.
“I got her, but how ’bout water and close out my tab?”
“You got it, Davis.” Luke laughs, turning to grab me a bottle of water from the fridge behind him.
“Your name is Davis?” I ask the man next to me, weighing the sound of it.
He doesn’t acknowledge me, waiting for Luke to come back with his credit card and his receipt to sign. He scribbles his signature and hands it back to Luke, dropping his feet to the wooden floor under us and stepping back. I follow his movements with my eyes, waiting to see what he’ll do next, already anticipating the rush of disappointment when he leaves, knowing I’ll likely never see him again. My jaw drops the second his hand comes out, palm up, in a gesture that clearly means he wants me to go with him. I look from his hand up to the darkness shadowing his face, wondering if I should actually be careless enough to go off with some stranger I don’t know.
“You gonna give me shit about this?”
Confused, I look from that tanned hand with the long fingers back up at him, but I can tell by the tilt of his hat that he’s speaking to someone behind me.
“Would it matter?” Luke laughs behind me and I turn to look at him.
“Not really. Only opinion that I care about is hers, but still askin’.”
Luke shakes his head but still smiles. “Not her keeper, but I assure you if I had a problem with this shit I wouldn’t have sat her next to you and continued to refill her glass.”
Luke looks down at me and gives me a wink. “Been a while, darlin’, make sure he wraps it up.”
I gasp and feel heat blossoming on my cheeks as Luke turns with a deep laugh and walks away. I’m going to kill him.
Heat blankets my back a second later and two strong hands clasp my hips. I feel him move until his breath is at my ear. “Let’s go be bad, hmm?”
Am I going to do this? Go off with some man I don’t know and sleep with him? Because I would be a fool to think this is anything else. Earlier I promised myself I was done living a ghost of a life and that I was going to find a way to be wild and free. I’ve never slept with someone I wasn’t in a long-term relationship with. Oh, who am I kidding, I’ve only slept with one man. To say I’m in over my head here is an understatement. Lucy does it all the time. Hell, she keeps telling me I need a good rebound romp in the sheets. Screw it, I’ll regret it if I don’t at least jump in the saddle again, letting this man go without taking him for a ride.
I take a deep breath, lean back against the strong body behind me, and nod. “Yeah. Let’s go . . . be bad.”
My back vibrates with his laughter, and I shiver in his hold, my wide eyes meeting Luke’s across the bar. He gives me a wink and smiles his ruggedly handsome, crooked smile, tipping his chin toward the door in silent confirmation that he has no problem with the stranger leading me away. Knowing that the dark cowboy has Luke’s trust breaks the final restraint on my reservations. I turn, look up at my companion, and smile.
“Lead the way.”