Read Luke Page 2

  "That is not what I'm talking about." Of course, as soon as he mentions it, I can't not think about it. What the hell is wrong with me?

  But he just laughs and holds out his hand. "Luke Saint," he says. "At your service."



  She looks at my hand and for a second, I think she's not going to shake it. Damn, this chick is wound tight. She's also hot as hell. I wasn't kidding when I said she was cute when she was angry. Except that "cute" isn't exactly the word for it. She's definitely not cute.

  The fiery red hair that tumbles down her shoulders fits her personality just right. I have the sudden impulse to reach out and run my hands through it, but something tells me she'd probably kick me in the nuts if I did. I think she'd be wild in bed.

  She's not wearing a wedding band – that's the first thing I check, out of instinct. The way she's wound so tight tells me she hasn't been laid in a while either.

  Too bad about the kid. I don't get mixed up with moms, that's for sure. I might think MILFs are hot, but I'm a look and don't touch kind of guy when it comes to them. Single moms have baggage. They're clingers. They'll say they want a fling, but they don't. They want a relationship. And then you're stuck.

  And I'm not a relationship kind of guy. One night is all I need. So this chick is off the table. Which is really too bad, because I bet she's great in the sack.

  "Stop staring at me," she says, huffing.

  "You're awful full of yourself."

  "You're looking at me like someone who just got out of prison and hasn't seen a girl in ten years," she says. "Oh my God, did you just get out of prison?"

  I hold up my hands. "Guilty as charged. I just got released from prison, came straight to West Bend, and put out a fire in your orchard. You're the first woman I've laid eyes on and I must have you right now."

  She narrows her eyes. "Don't be a jackass."

  "Swearing?" I glance over at her kid, who's hanging onto the side of this giant plastic thing with toys all over it. I don't know what the hell it is.

  Or if the kid can understand what we're saying. Do kids understand words at that age? Hell, I don't even know how old the kid is. It's a girl. She has red hair though, like her mom, curly on top. She's kind of cute, I guess. I mean, kids generally seem like a giant pain in the ass, but she seems happy enough, batting around her toys like some kind of cat.

  "Oh, whatever," she says.

  "That's very mature of you."

  "Did you follow me in here just to harass me, or what?"

  "No, I followed you in here to tell you that you need a new foreman," I say. Shit, this girl has a bug up her ass. She needs to mellow the hell out. "Your foreman is a deadbeat. Not because he lit your orchard on fire in the middle of harvest, either."

  She practically bristles at my words. "If you came in here to give me a lecture, you can turn your rear end around and leave now," she says. "I'm not some stupid little city girl who doesn't know anything about running an orchard."

  Irritation rushes through me. "I didn't say you were some stupid little city girl, lady, so don't get your panties ruffled. Hell, obviously, you're not. I can hear the drawl in your voice." Drawl, hell. The girl sounds more southern than fried chicken. I just can't tell what part of the south she's from. But I definitely didn't get the impression that she was some city slicker.

  Her face reddens, like she's embarrassed to be mistaken for a country girl. I don't know what she's has to be embarrassed about, though. That drawl of hers is pure sex. "Well, thanks for your advice," she says. "But I don't need a lecture from some…surfer dude."

  "Surfer dude? What the hell do I –" The knock on the door interrupts me, and she looks at the door and then back at her kid. She obviously doesn't want to answer the door and leave me alone in the same room with her child. "Don't worry about it. I'll get it. And I'll show myself out."

  One of the volunteer firefighters is at the front door. I used to know him in high school, and he raises his eyebrows when he looks at me. "Don't even start," I say, as I push past him.

  "I didn't say a word, Luke," Roger says, putting his hands up as he chuckles.

  "She's not my type."

  "Huh. I thought every girl was your type."

  "Shit." I shake my head. "Definitely not that one, man. Uptight is not my type."

  He clears his throat and I glance behind me to see her with her kid on balanced on her hip, walking up to us, and I know she just overheard me. My cheeks feel red at the thought, but I shake it off.

  Fuck it. What the hell do I care what this chick thinks anyway?

  "Nice work out there, Luke," Roger calls, and I wave him off as I head back toward my truck, yelling for Lucy, my Labrador retriever. She jumps up in the front seat and I drive away from the orchard. It's only after I'm down the road that I realize I never even got the redhead's name.


  "Come on, Lucy, get off me." I push her over on the bed, and she jumps back on top of me, her paws digging into my chest. "What time is it?" I'm groggy and tired and sore, the product of going out and climbing yesterday for four hours before it got dark. I needed to do something to get the redhead off my mind.

  I get up to let Lucy outside. "Girl, you should be just as tired as I am." Lucy goes out with me when I climb, roams around the mountain trails. It usually exhausts her. Clearly, that's not the case today.

  She's outside for fifteen minutes or so before I start wondering what the hell she's gotten up to. In the mornings, she's usually back pretty quickly, scratching at the door to be let back inside.

  Instead, when I pull the door open, I see Lucy outside with the redhead from yesterday. The dog rubs up on her leg like she's a magic lamp or something.

  Traitor dog.

  The redhead looks at me. "You're not easy to find, you know."

  I take a long sip of my coffee. "You ever think that there's a reason for that?" I ask. "Maybe I don't want to be found. What the hell are you doing here, anyway? Or are you just in the habit of chasing down strange men you just met and following them out to their houses?"

  "Oh, is that what that thing is, then?" she asks, rubbing on Lucy's ears. Lucy is practically melting into a puddle of goo at her feet.

  I glance behind me at my trailer. I don't need a damn house, don't need to put down roots when all I do is travel, contract work chasing fires during the summer, snowboarding and fucking snow bunnies in the winter – not in West Bend, though. I avoid this place like the plague.

  Now I'm back here, on account of what happened to my mother.

  "Did you come here to insult me?" I ask. "This thing is my house, as a matter of fact."

  "I didn't mean to insult you," she says. She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. "It's a nice place."

  "Where's your kid?"

  "She's with her nanny," she says.

  The nanny. Well, la-de-fucking-dah. Her kid's too good for a regular babysitter, I guess.

  "Didn't think I should drag her out here with me, chasing down some strange man I just met," she says, smiling.

  "No shit," I say. "I could be a psycho or something. Or you could be. I mean, at least I didn't show up at your house like an obsessed stalker."

  She cocks her head to the side. "You kind of did, actually," she says. "But that's besides the point. I forgive your boorish behavior and –"

  "Wait a fucking second. You forgive me?"

  "Of course," she says. "For yelling at me in front of my child and following me into my house and cursing in front of her and –"

  "Hold up." I put my hand out, ready to stop this conversation. This chick might but hot, but she's obviously a lunatic. "I saved your ass and your damn orchard, despite your best efforts to burn it the hell down. So maybe you want to stop with the holier-than-thou lecture about yelling at you in front of your kid, and just calm your tits down just a smidge."

  "Calm my tits?" she asks, walking toward me. Are her nostrils flaring? I think they are. She looks mad. It's bee
n a while since I've been around a girl who would get mad about that phrase.

  Shit, it's been a while since I've spoken to a girl this much outside of the bedroom. Usually they're getting angry on the way out the door. I'm not like my stupid brother in that regard. Shit, Elias meets a fucking movie star and he's suddenly a family man. Relationships and I were not meant to be.

  The Girl with No Name stands in front of me, her breath short. Those tits I was telling her to calm? Yeah, they're not calm at all. Instead, they're moving up and down as she inhales and exhales. "Yeah, that's what I said. Calm your tits."

  "Eyes up, bucko," she says. "Stop looking down my shirt."

  I shrug. "You just said tits. Where the hell am I supposed to look?" It doesn't help matters that she's wearing a t-shirt that's cut in a V, revealing the very top of her cleavage. The thin fabric basically caresses the curves of her breasts before it follows her trim figure down to her waist.

  "Damn it. I say eyes up and yours go further down," she says, her voice disgusted. "You know what? Forget I even came here." When she whirls around, I stand there watching her walk back toward her SUV, just to see her ass move in those fitted jeans, before I realize she's about to leave. And I still didn't get her damn name.

  "Hey, wait!" I call after her.

  She pauses. "What?"

  "Why'd you drive out here, anyway?"

  "Are you going to stop gaping at my boobs like you've never seen a woman before in your life?" she asks, her eyes flashing.

  Shit, she's really hot when she's angry.

  I don't bother to stifle my laugh. "Not likely."

  Her eyes get big, and she huffs before opens her car door. "Then, never mind why I drove out here."

  I watch as she slides into the driver's seat. "Suit yourself," I call. I'm half turned on and half irritated by this girl. She's so goddamn argumentative about nothing.

  She drives away, and I realize I still don't know her fucking name.

  Why the hell are women so damn difficult?



  Ugh. That guy. What a juvenile, immature dickhead. He's so damn…cocky, shit-sure of himself with that stupid grin on his face and the calm your tits bullshit. I bet he gets away with murder, just because he's hot. He's that kind of a guy.

  And he is hot…

  Heat rushes through me, following the adrenaline and irritation that flood my veins.

  Luke Saint. He's no saint, that's for damned sure.

  He's also young. Too young for me to be thinking the way I'm thinking about him right now. I'm too old to be getting flustered and red-faced over some guy who might look pretty but has an ego the size of Texas. I'm a mother, for goodness' sake.

  And Pretty Boy is a total player. That is something I'm a hundred percent sure of. He's one of those guys who oozes sex from every pore of his body.

  I don't know what I was thinking, going out there to see if I might be able to offer him a job. The thought of finding a new foreman right now, in the middle of harvest, makes me groan out loud.

  I haven't even made it all the way down the dirt road from the river where Luke Saint is camped out, before I see his truck behind me. He flashes his lights twice before I slow down, pulling over on the side of the road even though I'm tempted to speed the hell up and just outrun him.

  I don't get out of my car. He can damn well come to me if he wants to talk to me.

  I'll sit here behind the wheel, thank you very much. Just in case I need to run him over with my car.

  Luke saunters up to my car like he does this every day, and I roll down my window. "Did I forget something?" I ask.

  "Your fucking name," he says, leaning with his arms against the top of the window. "What the hell is your damn name, already?"

  The way he says it, completely exasperated, makes me laugh. "You chased me down because you want to know my name?"

  "I'm curious," he says. "It's a character flaw."

  "Autumn Mayburn."

  He nods, apparently satisfied. "Suits you," he says.

  Because of the red hair. Like I haven't heard that before. I don't even bother trying to keep from rolling my eyes. "Is that it?" I ask. "Can I go now?"

  "No," he says. "Who told you where the hell I'm staying?"

  "Don't look at me like I'm some kind of psycho stalker chick who's going to boil a bunny on your stove or something. I asked one of the firefighters and he told me. If I'd have known that it was super top secret, I wouldn't have gone out there."

  "It's not super top secret," he says.

  "I'm surprised you didn't come out waving a shotgun."

  "Shit, I'm just as surprised about that as you are." He flashes that cocky grin of his again. "Or worse. You should be glad I came out wearing drawers. I could have come out naked as a jaybird."

  The thought of this man walking out of his house and greeting me, stark naked, makes me flush warm.

  Oh, hell. I'm turned on by this brash, arrogant, pretty boy who lives by the river with his dog in a trailer. I officially have the world's worst taste in men.

  "Well." I tear my mind away from the thought of him naked and somehow find my voice again. "I'm glad you didn't. There's no sense in embarrassing yourself."

  "Oh, there's nothing embarrassing about me naked," he says. He's leaning with his arms on the top of the car door, casual like he does this every day. "That's for damn sure."

  I roll my eyes. "Well, we'll have to agree to disagree, I suppose," I say. "Are you satisfied now? You know my name. If you don't mind, I actually have things to do today."

  "Like what?" He doesn't even pretend to move away from the door. Obviously, this guy doesn't understand subtlety. Maybe I should put the car in drive.

  "Like, what do I have to do today?"

  "Like, what do you have to do today, that's better than talking to me?"

  "Pick anything," I say.

  "Wash your hair?" he asks.

  "Wash my hair?"

  "Isn't that what women do?" he asks.

  "I hope that's part of most male grooming routines too," I say. "Take shower, wash hair, scratch balls, that kind of thing."

  "I meant, isn't that the standard excuse women give when they're too busy for a date?" he asks.

  "Yeah, if this were 1952," I say. "Wait. Are you asking me on a date?"

  "What?" He scrunches his face up like he just stuck his finger in a light socket. "I'm not asking you on a date. There is no fucking date asking going on, lady. And for the record? I don’t date."

  "All of a sudden I'm lady again?" I ask. "You're like a broken record. You're the one who brought up date, not me."

  "I didn't bring up date," he says. "You're not my type. You're like, the exact opposite of my type."

  Damn, he's on my last nerve again. I guess you really can be that pretty and that damn annoying at the same time. "Yeah, I didn't figure you were the type of guy that went for gorgeous, brilliant women."

  He laughs. "You're good-looking, I'll give you that. But I don't do high-maintenance."