Tuesday Tale – Attitude

 Hey there! Welcome back to Tuesday Tales! This week’s word prompt is “attitude”. We’re back with Reese and Lily in The Heartbreaker. 

Reese went back to Las Vegas to fight after his agent threatened to not only ruin him but those he loves. Lily is still in Braden but pregnant and about to marry a man she doesn’t love. Is there any hope for them? Let’s find out!

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Crowds of people bustled through the Las Vegas airport. Lily tried to keep up with Connor as he nearly dragged her across the concourse. He was like a kid at Christmas getting ready to open his presents. Lily was just trying to not throw up. Again.

Tears burned her eyes as they passed one of what seemed like a thousand posters slapped on the walls advertising the fights the next day. Her eyes met the image that tore her apart. Reese, dressed in his tight fitting spandex fight shorts, stared back at her. She fought back a whimper as Connor tugged her along.

So did you arrange us a sweet ride, Buddy?” Connor questioned excitedly.

Lily rolled her eyes and huffed. Buddy had been grinning like a crazy Cheshire Cat since they boarded the plane in Cedar Rapids. It made no sense. Buddy warned her to not marry Connor. He even proposed to her to keep her from marrying Connor. Why was he now arranging their wedding so happily? The change in attitude was baffling.

“Of course, man. Only the best for you,” Buddy reported. “Got any big plans for the honeymoon?”

“Gonna gamble. Gonna hit the strip clubs. Then when we get home we have an appointment with the adoption agency. I’m sure as hell not raising the spawn of Reese Cooper.”

Lily fought her grip from Connor. She winced as he tightened it nearly breaking her hand. “Connor, please. I don’t want to give up my baby.”

“Lily, no man in Braden is going to touch you now. You’re lucky I’m marrying you.”

“Sounds like a great plan,” Buddy agreed, his crazy smirk still plastered on his lips. “Let’s get our bags then get to the car. Can’t wait to get this weekend started. Just down this escalator ahead.”

Connor almost skipped to the moving staircase, leading Lily behind him with the vice grip on her fingers. She kept her eyes to her feet. She hated her fiancé. And she was about to marry him in the town where the man she loved more than her own life was about to fight. Things couldn’t get worse.

“What the…”
Lily looked up at Connor than ahead where his eyes were locked. At the foot of the escalator was Reese waiting for them, his strong arms crossed over his chest. His grin was nearly as crazy as Buddy’s.

“Our ride is here,” Buddy crooned into Connor’s ear.

Connor stepped off the escalator and stormed to Reese, yanking Lily in tow. “Get the hell out of my way, Cooper. I’m marrying her. And you are the last man going to stop us.”

“Really?” Reese dared. He clamped on to Lily’s wrist gently as he stood toe to toe with Connor, glaring him down. Cowering, Connor let go.

Reese pulled Lily to him, cupping her face in his hands. “Hey, Lilybug,” he whispered. Slowly, softly he pressed his lips to hers, taking the first chance he could to part them to deepen the kiss. Lily didn’t want to kiss him. He broke her heart and left her alone and pregnant in Braden. But Reese Cooper was a craving she just couldn’t get out of her system. She melted into him, sighing as she surrendered.

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Tuesday Tales – Picture Prompt

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Hey there! It’s time for another Tuesday Tales! This week’s we write to a picture prompt. We’re back with Reese and Lily in The Heartbreaker.

Don’t forget to check out the other awesome authors of Tuesday Tales!

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Lily stared down at the plate of bacon and eggs Buddy sat in front of her. Her stomach lurched violently. The dry toast was the only thing that looked remotely inviting. She picked up a piece and nibbled on the corner.

Buddy stalked across the kitchen and slumped into his chair. He looked at her plate. “Eat.”

“I don’t feel well,” she mumbled.

He frowned. “I thought you were supposed to be through the morning sickness by now.”

“Guess I’m special.”

Buddy stabbed at his eggs with his fork puncturing the yolk. The wound seeped yellow, puddling around his bacon. He shoveled a bite into his mouth and chewed. Sighing, he set his fork by his plate. “Lily, I’m begging you. Don’t marry Connor. He doesn’t love you.”

“I don’t have a choice, Buddy. He’s right. I’m shunned by nearly every person in Braden. No other man in this stupid little town will have anything to do with me. Ever.”

“You always have a choice.”

“Like what?”

“Like me. Marry me.”

Lily set her toast on her plate. “I can’t marry you.”

“Why not?” Buddy demanded.

“Do you love me?”

“Of course I love you.”

“As a friend or as a lover?”

Buddy scowled at her silently. She took a deep breath and continued. “A lover is the reason someone breathes, the reason their heart beats. It’s someone they want to share their body, their bed, their life with. They are that person’s every thought, their very soul. Maybe I wasn’t that to Reese but he was that to me. And I love you enough to not tie you down to someone who you don’t feel that way about. Even if I’m carrying your best friend’s baby.”

“Ex-best friend,” Buddy growled.

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Could you do me a favor??

  I know I have gone on and on about Hard Drive. I do it because this place has honestly, truthfully changed not only my but my daughter’s life. They are my second family.
Please take a second to check out their page. And please give them a “like”. I would love to get them likes from not only Cedar Rapids but all over the world!

Can we do it??? Yes we can!!!

https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=148415788512533&tsid=0.6790301387663931&source=typeahead

Thank you everyone!! You are the best!!!

  

Tuesday Tales – Twenty

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Hey there! It’s time for another Tuesday Tales! This week’s word prompt is “twenty”. We’re back with Reese and Lily in The Heartbreaker.

Don’t forget to check out the other awesome authors of Tuesday Tales!

Reese rubbed the rag on the bar, scrubbing a little harder at the sticky ring left from the beer mug he had just taken back to the kitchen. He sighed as he stopped and looked around him. The dark green walls, the tables scattered across the grey cement floor, the thick scent of stale beer was only one thing to him now. Home.

It was the first time he was left in charge of the bar. Jenny was off for a few moments to get the pretzel rolls from the Triple B Bakery. Buddy was off meeting his lawyer friend in Waterloo about the future of the bar. A content smile crossed Reese’s lips. In a matter of weeks he would be the proud co-owner of Buddy’s Bar. He couldn’t wait to put pen to paper and make it official.

The glare of the summer sun preceded the sound of the door chime. Reese squinted to see the figure that stepped in. At first all he could make out was the long legs balanced in a pair of stiletto heels. The body they belonged to was clothed in a power suit with a skirt that ran a little too high to be professional. As the woman stepped out of the light Reese felt a growl rumble in his throat.

“Roxy,” he spat.

“What a surprise,” Roxy cooed as she tossed her blonde locks off her shoulder. “I just stopped in here to ask where I could find you and low and behold, here you are.”

“What do you want?” Reese demanded.

“I have exciting news. I have a fight for you.”

“Not interested.”

“How could you not be interested? You are the best fighter I’ve ever laid eyes on. You have been since I found you at the tender age of twenty.”

“Twenty-two. You found me at twenty-two. Do you have any idea how old I am now?”

“Baby, you’re a devastatingly sexy twenty-seven. Old enough to rock a woman’s world in the sack.”

“So you have no concept of time,” Reese snarled. “Again, I’m not interested. Braden is where I belong.”

“What could possibly be here that you don’t have in Las Vegas?”

“The woman I love.”

The news actually stunned Roxy off her feet. Her heels wobbled as she stumbled, clearly shocked by his words. She took a second to straighten herself then met him with a cold, hard glare. “Love? You’re in love?”

“Yes. I have been with her for long before I left Braden. Now I finally have her and I’m not letting her go. I’m going to buy into this bar that my best friend owns. I’m making my life here.”

“Well, baby, I have news for you. Did you forget something when you received your last purse and your last two sponsor checks? What was that? Oh, yes. My cut. Either you come back with me and take this fight or I will sue you for everything you have. I will own this bar, your friend’s bar. And I will plow it to the ground.”

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Final Shifts Book 6 of the To Love a Wildcat Series by V.L. Locey

Naked man in hockey helmet and skates

Final Shifts Book 6 of the To Love a Wildcat Series

by V.L. Locey

4 flames

Secret Cravings Publishing

Blurb:

The only constant in life is that things will change when you least expect it. On the day of Derrick Andersson`s retirement ceremony, a late-season tropical storm parks itself over the City of Brotherly Love. The women who love the Wildcats will not only have to deal with the deluge outside, they will have to struggle through some of the greatest personal storms they will ever weather.

Liz and Veikko receive devastating news, Maggie and Derrick face a shocking announcement, and Isabelle and Philip receive the verdict of Philip’s court battle. Can Viviana and Alain work out the problems that have torn them apart? What has life dealt young lovers Petro and Margarite? The answers to those questions, as well as a surprise that will rock the Houseman, are revealed in this final book of the To Love a Wildcat series.

 

Buy Links:

Secret Cravings Store –http://store.secretcravingspublishing.com/index.php…

Amazon-http://tinyurl.com/nqvzarf

All Romance-https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-finalshifts-176119…

Bookstrand-http://www.bookstrand.com/final-shifts

B&N-http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1121378236?ean=2940151605953

Excerpts

 PG-

Maggie

 

“Don’t dis Granny Andersson,” he commented with a rather wry tone.

“You’re far too old to be using the term dis, my good man.”

“Yah? Well, last night you weren’t dissing me,” he countered quickly. I held up my hairbrush in a sign of defeat. He was right. There was no dissing last night. There was some moaning, gyrating, and pillow thumping, but nary a dis. “Ha! That got you good, eh?”

I nodded to give the man his due. His face split into a wide grin, white teeth brilliant against the dark brown of his beard.

“Yah, that’s right. Who is the man?” he asked, puffing out his chest like a proud bantam rooster. Cocky bugger.

“You are.” I sighed with proper defeatism in my tone.

He dropped his face to my neck, smooched my ear loudly, and then whistled gleefully while he finished shaving. I cleaned shaving cream out of my ear with the corner of a hand towel. Ever since we moved in with Derrick, my mornings have been so much more enjoyable. We wake up curled around each other, we play as we shower. Sometimes we play in the shower! The man makes me smile. He warms my heart when I awaken more than the sun that creeps into our window bright and early. I simply cannot imagine not having these precious few moments every morning now. After he had stepped into the shower, I thought to ask. Mascara wand in my right hand I turned to stare at his large form behind smoked glass. The query was lingering on the tip of my tongue. I swallowed it down. I’d let him broach the subject of his retirement ceremony tonight. Things with the team were dicey to say the least. Not a player or person in management wasn’t walking on eggshells. I turned back to the mirror to finish my makeup as Derrick hummed something by Blake Shelton as he lathered and rinsed.

We emerged from our room about twenty minutes later, Derrick in the suit and tie all NHL players and staff are required to wear into and leaving the stadium. His tie was loose yet, and his dark brown jacket lay over his left arm. I had pulled on a rather somber looking navy dress, as I would be accompanying Isabelle to court yet again. Just thinking about my duties made me nervous. There was so much to handle being the personal assistant to a woman that owns a hockey team, as well as several other multimillion-dollar businesses. Thank God I was only tasked with making sure Isabelle’s day ran like clockwork. My boss worried me. Her blood pressure was skyrocketing, her sugar count was high, and her OB/GYN had given her strict dietary guidelines to follow. I feared if she went back next Monday at nine, and her BP and sugar weren’t any lower, her doctor would be forced to put her on strict bed rest until her son was born. Knowing Isabelle that would last exactly four hours. Then she would be up doing something. What if Philip were found guilty? She would be forced to fire him. The Commissioner was already riding her like Secretariat about the Wildcats. First Petro and now Philip. And this mess surrounding last year’s Stanley Cup winners? The commissioner was not happy. Not at all.

“Hey, you need to put them there grinds into the filter and not the pot, Mags.”

I shook off the spiraling dark thoughts. There I stood, in my kitchen, the coffee pot filled with coffee, and the filter resting inside the basket empty.

R-

Margarite

After the team left the ice, I asked my new friends if they would like to continue up in the owner’s skybox. They were thrilled to do so. It is a darn impressive lounge that Mama owns way up in the rafters. We rode up in two elevators, passing security with a wave of my hand. Into the luxury box we all piled. Soon we had coffee, crullers, and conversation flowing. I should have brought them up here to begin with, but they had seemed so intent on watching the players. Now that the distraction of the Wildcats was no longer an issue, we started making some real progress. I called an end to the meeting after another thirty minutes. We had gotten as far as possible. I stood up, smiled and shook each hand as our community volunteers left the skybox. Security escorted them down to the players parking area.

I returned to my seat at the head of a long, rectangular table, to gather up the four thousand or so notes I had jotted down. My head came up when someone rapped on the other end of the table. Petro smiled at me. I ran my sight over him. The suit he wore was dark grey, his shirt white, his tie black as a pirate’s pearl. He looked delicious. I dropped my notes back to the table. He arched a dark eyebrow. I nodded. The man turned, walked back to the door, and then turned the lock. My body began revving up. Petro glanced over his wide shoulder, his eyes crackling brown embers.

“When I turn around, you be ready for me,” he informed me then returned his steaming gaze to the door. His command gave me pause for perhaps four seconds. With quaking fingers, I hurried to pull my blouse out of the top of my skirt. He shucked off his suit jacket. I tugged my shirt over my head, my hair getting wound in a few buttons. Hissing at the painful tugs, I fumbled to free the tight black ringlets. My blouse fluttered to a padded leather chair, one of twenty. My nipples hardened inside my lacy blue bra. They ached. I was tempted to touch them but Petro’s jacket dropping to the floor stole my attention. I reached to the side, unzipped my skirt then let it slither down my legs. I stepped out of it then looked at Petro. His tie sailed over his damp head, landing on a vase filled with fall mums resting on the center of the table. I could feel the slick dew weeping from my pussy. Tenderly, I reached between my breasts, my sight latched onto my lover as he began to unbutton his dress shirt.  I slowly undid the three small hooks. My breasts popped free.

I cradled them lovingly. His shirt slid down his back, revealing ropes of thick muscle. There he stood, as if he knew I was ogling him. He flexed. My sex tightened. I flicked my nipples with my thumbs. Petro stiffened as a low moan escaped me. His neck muscles bunched. He tugged his shirt free from his trousers. My eyes followed the pure white cotton as it flew across the skybox. Petro turned to look at me. His eyes grew wide. His nostrils flared. His jaw twitched when he saw me fondling my boobs. The peaks were hard as a diamond, elongated, begging him to take them between his teeth and tug. Speaking of hard and elongated…

Vicki at WeddingAuthor Bio:

 V.L. Locey loves worn jeans, belly laughs, reading and writing lusty tales, Greek mythology, the New York Rangers, comic books, and coffee. (Not necessarily in that order.) She shares her life with her husband, her daughter, one dog, two cats, a flock of assorted goofy domestic fowl, and three steers.

When not writing spicy romances, she enjoys spending her day with her menagerie in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania with a cup of fresh java in hand. She can also be found online on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, tsú, and GoodReads.

I love to meet new friends and fans! You can find me at-

Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/pages/VL-Locey/124405447678452

Twitter- https://twitter.com/vllocey

Pinterest-http://www.pinterest.com/vllocey/

Goodreads- http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5807700.V_L_Locey

My blog- http://thoughtsfromayodelinggoatherder.blogspot.com/

tsú – https://www.tsu.co/vllocey

Secret Cravings Backlist Books and Upcoming Releases

Pink Pucks & Power Plays (Book One of the To Love a Wildcat Series)

A Most Unlikely Countess (Book Two of the To Love a Wildcat Series)

O Captain! My Captain! (Book Three of the To Love a Wildcat Series)

Reality Check (Book Four of the To Love a Wildcat Series)

Language of Love (Book Five of the To Love a Wildcat Series)

Tumble Dry

Coming in August of 2015 only from Secret Cravings . . . Clean Sweep (Book One of The Venom erotic hockey romance series)

Torquere Press Backlist and Upcoming Releases

Two Guys Walk Into an Apocalypse (Part of the He Loves Me For My Brainssss anthology)

Two Guys Walk Into an Apocalypse 2: It Came From Birmingham

Two Guys Walk Into an Apocalypse 3″ He’s a Lumberjack and He`s Undead

Love of the Hunter

Goaltender`s Penalty

All I Want for Christmas

 Every Sunday at One (Part of the 2013 Charity Sip Anthology)

 Night of the Jackal

An Erie Halloween

An Erie Operetta

Coming 4/1/15 exclusively from Torquere Press . . . Early to Rise – A Toms & Tabbies Tale.

Tuesday Tales – Sandwich

  Hey there! It’s time for another Tuesday Tales! This week’s word prompt is “sandwich”. We’re back with Reese and Lily in The Heartbreaker.

Don’t forget to check out the other awesome authors of Tuesday Tales!

Debris littered Braden from one end of town to the other. By some stroke of luck nearly every structure survived the tornado’s wrath. Lily shuffled past the splintered wood and broken glass as she made her way down the street, a couple of Merryn’s chicken sandwiches tight in her hand. Merryn had given her a tight hug and instructions to take one of them to Reese. She must have seen the exhaustion in Lily’s face because, before she could slip out of the bakery door, the woman wrapped her in another bear hug. If she only knew the past few hours I’ve been through.

Lily and Elijah fought through the damage at the library, sweeping up the shards of glass, boxing up books and putting them in the basement and carefully wrapping up the old clock so it could be repaired. With every step Lily saw her livelihood in tatters around her. But it was nothing compared to the single life lost in the storm. She brushed tears away over and over again throughout the night.  They weren’t for Howard Cooper but for his grieving son.

At three o’clocking the morning, Lily sent a sleepy Elijah home. She hunkered down in her office to get a couple of hours sleep before she went back to work. Just as her eyes fluttered closed, she was jolted back awake by the vibration of her phone. After reading the text, she jumped to her feet and hurried through the streets. Minutes later she was drifting back to sleep in Reese’s bed wrapped tight in his embrace, his face buried against her neck as he looked for comfort in her arms.

Lily lifted her head as she let go of her memories, her feet stopping at the edge of the curb. Ground zero. The basement where Howard Cooper’s house once stood gaped open. Momentos of the lives lived in the house laid scattered among the rubble. In the middle of it all stood Reese, his strong shoulders hunched in defeat. He wore thick canvas gloves to protect himself as he cleaned up the aftermath. Lily tiptoed through the mess to his side. “Merryn sent a sandwich for you,” she told him softly.

“I’m not hungry,” he murmured.

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Tuesday Tales – Key

 Hi and welcome to Tuesday Tales! This week’s word prompt is “key” and we’re back with Reese and Lily in The Heartbreaker (yep – I changed the name!). 

Don’t forget to check out the other awesome authors of Tuesday Tales!

The warm white sunshine poured through the large glass windows of the library turning the plank wood floors into honey gold. The fragrance of brandied pecan pies baking for the festival filled every part of Braden.  Lily smiled as she smoothed her powder blue sundress before picking up a pile of books to put away. 

The festival brought people from miles around to Braden for a chance to sample the secret pie recipe. Every business would boom today. Buddy was sponsoring a street dance. Reese and Molly spent until midnight helping Lily finish cataloging the baskets for the silent auction. With the amount of donations she received, there was no doubt she would raise far more than she had last year. Which was a good thing. Her wish list for the library shelves was a mile long.

Lily turned, frowning, as she heard the large oak door open. Speaking of the devil… Reese stood in the doorway dressed in his usual t-shirt and jeans and looking oh-so-sexy. “How’d you get in here? I locked the door.”

“You left the key in the door, Lilybug. At this rate anyone can get in here. Why are you working? The festival is about to start.”

She smiled as she readjusted the books in her arms. “Things are behind here since we worked on the baskets last night instead of cleaning up.”

Without a word, Reese strode to the circulation desk and picked up a stack also. Lily watched him, a lovesick sigh escaping her lips. He was so sinfully handsome. The lovemaking was unbelievably hot. And he would drop everything to help her. He is really almost too good to be true.

“Lead the way, Miss Dixon,” he grinned.

Together they wove their way through the shelves. Reese picked up on the shelving system quickly. Lily gave him an encouraging smile as he disappeared down another aisle. She found her category and started slipping the books onto the shelves.

Her breath escaped as she felt a large pair of hands caress her rump. “I thought you had books to put away,” she moaned.

“I’m done,” Reese purred, nuzzling his lips against her ear. “You know, after spending years watching you in this library I’ve come up with some pretty naughty fantasizes.”

“You’ve been gone for seven years,” Lily protested breathlessly.

“Baby, I would come here in high school just to watch you study. It was closest I could do to be with you. And I was a horny teenager so you could guess what I was thinking about.” He slid his hands around her, pulling her tight against his hard body. “You. Me. An empty library. I think we should give one of my fantasizes a try.”

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Tuesday Tales – Picture Prompt

  

Hi! And welcome to another Tuesday Tales! This week we are writing 300 words to a word promt. And we are back with Reese and Lily in Between the Shelves.

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 “So what made you decide to fight for a living?” Lily asked as she glanced at Reese. She loved the feel of his strong hand around hers. The towering trees above them shaded them from the hot summer sun. It was just them walking on the road to the lake. Things couldn’t be more peaceful on a Saturday morning.

“I hitchhiked as far as Omaha and was desperate for money. There were fights at some low life bar by the river. Ten dollars to enter. Two hundred if I won. I took a chance and put my last ten in to enter. You could tell it was fixed. The guy I fought was over twice my size. I laid him out a minute into the round. A local coach saw me and invited me to train. He paid me and gave me a place to sleep in exchange for doing maintenance in the gym. It’s all history from there.”

“And soon you’ll be going back to Vegas,” Lily sighed miserably.

“Maybe. Why does it bother you?”

“I don’t even know what we are. Am I your girlfriend?”

“No.”

“Oh.” Lily’s heart sunk in her chest as she tugged her hand back. She couldn’t stop the sudden tears that burned her eyes. Reese held her hand firm. 

“You aren’t my girlfriend. I’m not waiting for you to call so we can go see a movie. We aren’t in sixth grade. You’re my lover, the reason I breathe, the reason my heart beats. You’re the woman I want to share my body, my bed, my life with. You’re my every thought. You’re more than a girlfriend, Lily. You’re my soul.”

Lily was so dumbfounded she couldn’t speak. Her only response was simple surrender as he pulled her to him for a kiss.

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Tuesday Tales – Nail

 

Hi and welcome to Tuesday Tales!  This week’s word prompt is “nail”.  We’re back with Reese and Lily in Between the Shelves.

Don’t forget to check out the other fantastic authors of Tuesday Tales!

The rest of the ride was silent but the tension between them was thick.  Lily buried herself closer to Reese to escape it.  It wasn’t anger.  She knew the tension anger caused.  She had felt it multiple times when Rose, her little sister, and her would fight.  Or she had felt it frequently with her father.  His overbearingness wasn’t to protect her from the riffraff that prowled around Braden.  It was to protect his precious reputation.  Sometimes being the preacher’s daughter was just too much to take.  

No.  This kind of tension left a dull burning ache in her belly that only Reese could fix. Part of her hoped he would soon.

Reese parked the truck and stepped out, offering his hand to help Lily down from the cab. She clung tight to him as they walked into the restaurant. Memorabilia from several sports teams were nailed to the wood paneled walls. The waitress showed them to a booth along the wall, setting the menus on either side of the table. As she walked away, Reese slid them on the same side. “Don’t get me wrong, Lilybug. I could stare at you all night. But I don’t want to look at you. I want to feel you. I want to taste you. I bet you taste far better than their pizza.”

Lily shuddered at his words. The thought of being touched and tasted by Reese completely melted her into a puddle of goo. She slid into the booth, planting herself into the vinyl seat. He slipped in beside her until his thigh was pressed tight against hers. To insure there was no space, he gripped her leg and tugged it against him. Her gasp was swallowed up by a kiss, the kind of kiss she only saw in the movies. His tongue invaded her mouth, teasing hers to play. Lily had absolutely no experience with public displays of affection. The way Reese was going, by the end of the meal she would happily let him do her right there in the booth.

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Tuesday Tales – Speak

 

Hi and welcome to Tuesday Tales!  This week’s word prompt is “speak”.  I’m continuing on from last week with Reese and Lily in Between the Shelves.

Don’t forget to check out the other fantastic authors of Tuesday Tales!

She glanced around the bar.  “Where is he?”

“Rehab in Waterloo.  Answer my question.”

Lily looked down at the stained wood of the bar.  “I came in to buy a bottle of beer.  One of the ones you donated broke all over my office floor.  Before I could step in here I could see him laughing and hugging your waitress.  She kissed him on the cheek.”

Buddy started laughing.  “That’s why you dumped him?”

“Why wouldn’t I?  I was obviously just a fling to him.”

The door to the bar was flung open.  Lily squinted against the sunlight to see who stepped in.  Her heart slammed in her chest.  It wasn’t Reese but the waitress who she saw him with.  The girl was juggling an armful of bags of pretzel buns from Merryn’s bakery down the street.  She glanced from Buddy to Lily as she dropped the bags on the closest table.  “What’s up?”

“Jenny, why did I hire you?” Buddy interrogated.

“Because my charming personality brings our customers back and makes you loads of money.”

“The other reason, smartass.”

“Because my cousin is your best friend.”

“And your cousin is?”

“Reese, you moron.”

Buddy grinned at Lily.  “Make sense now?”

Lily looked at Jenny.  “I know your entire family, Jenny.  They’re not related to Howard Cooper.”

“True.  But my mom was Susie Cooper’s sister,” Jenny returned.

Lily frowned.  “Was?”

“Aunt Susie left when Reese was one and a half.  She didn’t want to be a wife and mother.  They found her six years later dead in a motel with another guy in Oklahoma City.  It was a murder/suicide I guess.  Howard blamed Reese for her leaving.  It of course didn’t have to do with his drinking and sleeping around.  Here.”  Jenny hurried around the bar to get her purse.  She rummaged around inside, pulling free an old photo of three children swinging in the park, two girls and a boy.  A woman stood near them.  “That’s my mom.  The girl on the left is my older sister, Jane.  I’m in the middle.  The boy is Reese.  Howard would drop him off at our house for weeks at a time.  Told my mom that he was her problem since her sister left Reese with him.  My mom had to call human services and report him for him to come get Reese.  It was probably better for him just to stay with us.  It took days for him to speak to anyone.”

Lily gazed at the photo as she lovingly brushed her fingertips over the image of the boy.  Jenny slipped onto the barstool next to her.  “He’s told me all about you.  I mean, I already knew who you were. I’ve never seen Reese like this.  He’s so crazy in love.  Lily, whatever stupid thing my cousin did, please forgive him.  He really loves you.”

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