Of course, you’re only here to see who the first winner was, right? Well…you have to read to the end to see. I know, I’m just mean that way!
I don’t need to repeat the introduction now, do I? You all know I’ve been giving you plenty of compelling reasons to pick up your own copy of Down in Texas when it releases on October 28th. I left off yesterday with Reason #3, or Hero #3 more accurately.
Meet Mac McDonough, whose absence has been felt throughout the story to this point. Mac’s been in Iraq, serving with his reserve unit. But he’s back early, and you know that’s not good. Here’s the first time you meet him in the story “Straight Up Soldier.”
Mac McDonough’s body ached with the need to sink into soft, wet woman.
An escape, no matter how brief, from the constant, throbbing in his shattered leg.
Like an answer to his prayer, a familiar SUV crawled up the rough gravel road. His body tightened. Tara Toomey had offered the last time she paid him a visit, for old time’s sake, but he’d turned her down because he’d still had just enough pride and just enough affection for his old friend not to want to use her like that.
Today, she wouldn’t make it past the door. The thought of her blond flyaway curls wrapped around his dick made him throb with anticipation.
As she slowly made her way up the winding, rutted road, Mac McDonough closed his eyes and turned his face into the gusting, humid air and inhaled the fresh scent of the coming rain—a fierce reminder of just how far he’d come.
Over seven thousand miles and another lifetime.
The cabin nestled high on a ridge overlooking hills covered with live oak and cedar seemed as far removed from his version of reality as the face of Mars.
Sure the ground was a bed of sand and rock, but the sand was grittier, the grains larger than the wheat flour a Hummer could kick up into the air, leaving a trail that could be tracked for miles across the desert floor.
The air was almost as hot, but filled with so much moisture it felt thick as he dragged it deep into his lungs.
Mac curled his fingers around the porch rail and leaned into it, savoring the solitude he’d needed to heal his soul that no amount of therapy or medicine could compare with.
Only thing missing from the picture was another case of whiskey to help him sink into a stupor to ease the pain-filled tension in his body and shut out the memories that haunted his dreams.
And a woman. Not that he was willing to leave the cabin to go on the prowl for one, but the longer he remained in his self-imposed isolation, the more urgent became the need. Any woman would do—so long as she didn’t want to talk, didn’t want to be wooed. He hadn’t the time or the heart left for either.
However, if all Tara offered him this go-round was whiskey, he might make it through another week before he lost his mind.
The silver SUV ground to a halt. Tara slammed open her door and jumped down from the cab, her arms already opening wide as she approached.
He stiffened automatically as her embrace surrounded him, and then forced himself to relax. “Tara, let’s get it on,” he growled.
Tara flung back her head and laughed. “Soldier Boy, that’s the least appealing proposition I’ve gotten today.”
His arms clamped hard around her lean body. “I’m not kidding. Right here, right now. Let’s do it.”
Her blue eyes clung to his face, and her smile dimmed for just a moment, before stretching wide again. “You’re in a bad way, aren’t you?”
“You gotta ask?” he said, rutting his groin crudely against her soft belly.
Air whistled through her pursed lips. “Now, there’s something I don’t feel every day. Almost forgot you come packin’ some serious hardware.”
“Is that a yes?” he bit out irritably.
Tara gave him another hug then eased out of his arms. “As tempting as your offer is, I’m gonna have to say no. I’m saving myself these days.”
He lifted an eyebrow, not missing the slight blush that painted her cheeks a pretty rose. “Well, fuck.”
She laughed again, and whirled, heading back to her vehicle. “Go get off that leg. I brought gifts. We’ll talk.”
Mac cussed again. The last thing he wanted to do was talk. About anything. Especially about anything to do with his returning home. He wasn’t ready.
Fact was, he didn’t know if he ever would be.
He gathered the cane he’d left leaning against the rail and limped into the cabin, heading for the lounge chair and the overstuffed ottoman that had served as his bed more times than the mattress in the cozy room at the back of the one-bedroom cabin she’d lent him.
Tara returned with two grocery bags and set them on the kitchen table. She hummed as she put away her purchases in the cupboard, and Mac closed his eyes, pretending to nap.
When something cold touched his fingers, he peeked from beneath his eyelids and gratefully accepted the tumbler with a double-shot of whiskey on ice.
He raised his glass and gave her a glare which had her chuckling as she took a seat on the small sofa opposite him.
“A toast,” she said, raising her own glass.
“What are we celebrating?” he said, determined to make the effort to be polite even though his “condition” still screamed for attention.
“To friends,” she replied, her gaze sliding away.
Suspicion raised hackles on the back of his neck, but he remained silent, watching Tara fidget on the sofa as she sought the right words to start the conversation.
He sighed, knowing he had to show polite interest. “Lyssa and Brand set a date?”
“They’re waiting for you.”
Mac’s lips twisted. “Tell her to plan it. I’ll walk her down the damn aisle.”
“They want you home first. To stay.”
“Thought Brand had everything under control. They have any more problems with smugglers?”
“No signs, lately. DEA and the Rangers scoured the place and set up patrols up and down this side of the river. They think the bastards moved their route.”
Mac eased back in his chair. “Then he’s got it covered.”
“They’re both run pretty ragged. Brand’s got his own spread to manage; Lyssa’s working yours. Of course, they’re not getting much sleep.”
Mac grimaced, knowing exactly why his baby sister wasn’t getting any rest. “Danny still back at Wasp Creek with his woman?”
Tara nodded, a smile stretched her mouth. “He’s got his hands full. Maggie’s pregnant, and he’s decided to pitch in to run her place.”
“Pregnant? Is he marrying her?”
“They did it last weekend at the saloon.”
A pang of regret tightened his chest. In that other lifetime, he would have been there. “Good for him.”
He tensed, knowing she was finally getting to the point of the visit and girding himself to refuse. Saying no to family or Tara tore him up, but he just wasn’t ready to reenter that world again.
Too many shadows hovered around him. He felt too tense, too rangy. His mood swings still verged on dangerous. Habits he’d picked up in the desert, instincts he couldn’t turn off, left him feeling out of control of his reactions and emotions.
Maybe if he could get a good night’s sleep, just once without the aid of alcohol…
Just one night…
“Go ahead and spit it out,” Mac ground out. “I’ll tell you no. You can nag me to death until you go. Then you can tell the folks at home you tried. But Tara, I’m not going back. Not yet.”
“This is something else…”
The quiet tension in her voice caught his attention
“…And I don’t know who else to ask.”
He stared into the glass, not willing to see the plea in her blue eyes. “What is it?”
“I have this friend who’s in trouble. Her ex boyfriend’s gonna kill her.”
So, back now to the first winner. Thought you might like to see what she won.
She’s won a signed copy of Royal Bondage, a bookmark made by Delilah’s own red-headed hellion, EC playing cards, and various bookmarks, cover flats, etc. The lucky winner is…Brandy Walker!
Brandy! Be sure to send me an email with your mailing address so that I can get your gift mailed quickly!