It’s almost the big day (Valentine’s Day, not Superbowl Sunday!) and I have a new book out! A Wedding in Red Creek is my third book in Rori and Jackson’s saga in the series The Sons of Dusty Walker.
I hope you enjoy this little bit of romance as Rori and Jackson celebrate Valentine’s Day just weeks before their wedding.
That evening at just a little past five, Rori pulled up to their new house. Jackson’s work truck sat on the brick driveway, but not the contractor’s truck. She was only a few minutes late, wasn’t she? They couldn’t have finished the punch list already. Rori scrambled out of her work van and walked through the open overhead garage door and into the big mud room/pantry they’d added to the design.
She set her bag, the one she’d filled with her gifts for Jackson, on the granite counter then headed across the room. Her high-top tennies, jeans, and a hooded U of KC sweatshirt covered her Cyber Wise T-shirt, which all covered her slinky new underthings. Wouldn’t her cowboy be surprised?
Grinning, she stepped into the kitchen. The lights were dimmed, and soft country music played from the built-in speakers. “Jackson?” She smelled it then, something so delicious, her empty stomach growled loudly. That wasn’t the scent of pizza.
From the dining room, Jackson walked into the kitchen. His white and red flannel shirt was buttoned to his neck, and he’d somehow tied on a white bowtie with red hearts. “Happy Valentine’s Day, darlin’.” His hair looked shaggy, like he’d just run his hands through it instead of combing it. His dark blue eyes stared at her like he couldn’t get enough.
Light danced on the wall of the dining room as if candles were the only source of illumination.
“What did you do?” She tried to look past him, but he shook his finger at her.
“Uh uh. Appetizers first.” He gestured deeper into the kitchen, and she moved that direction. At the big island—which was no longer ‘too round’—a bottle of white wine rested in a silver ice bucket, and a platter of fascinating-looking appetizers sat on a hotplate.
He wrapped his arm around her and together they wandered toward the island.
“No contractor?” She couldn’t hide the excitement in her voice.
“Nope.” He pulled out a tall chair, one she recognized as being from Dusty’s house.
“No punch list?” She slid onto the chair and tugged off her sweatshirt, hanging it on the back of the chair.
He unscrewed the cap from the wine and poured a couple glasses. “Nope. I did that this afternoon, but I would appreciate your walking the house with me…tomorrow in the daylight…just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.”
“And tonight? Since we’re here alone?” She accepted the glass he handed her.
“It’s Valentine’s Day, Rori.” He shook his head. “Did you forget?”
He made her laugh. Always and forever. “I’ll never forget this day.” Glancing out the wall of doors that opened onto the front patio, with its outdoor kitchen and pool house, she spotted the dozen red and white candles. “Oh, Jackson. You’re so amazing.” A blossom of heat, the choke of emotion, set her eyes watering and her heart skittering.
He cleared his throat. “You’re the amazing one, Rori.” He took her hand in his and pressed the back of hers to his chest over his heart. “I was hollowed out for so long, I didn’t think anything could fill me. Then I met you.” He kissed her fingers and drew an unsteady breath. “You’ve given me everything I’ll ever need, and more than I deserve. Your love and faith and trust are my salvation, and the answer to every prayer I’ve ever sent up.”
“Jackson.” It came out a whisper as a tear ran down her cheek. “How can you be so wonderful?” This man, frustrating, complicated, and wild, was her whole life. She didn’t need anything else as long as she had him. If she could, she’d take two years off from her business just to make their ‘getting to know each other’ period more intense, and the focus of every minute of her life.
“You went quiet there, Rori.” He stared into her eyes. “You know how nervous that makes me.”
She laughed, imagining herself following him around twenty-four hours a day for two years, and making the poor cowboy crazy. “Just thinking of the days ahead, and how much fun we’re going to have.” Her stomach rumbled loudly again.
Jackson smirked. “We need to keep your strength up for all that fun.” He gestured to the appetizers. “Lou taught me how to make these.”
“What? Really?” They smelled so yummy. Jackson was a good cook, but wow, this was the next level.
“In the oven…” He walked around the island to the double-ovens in the wall. “I’ve made you a seafood strata.”
“You did?” She loved seafood, and it wasn’t easy to come by in the middle of Kansas.
“I borrowed a table from the big house and the dining room is set.” He leaned his elbows on the island across from her. “Dessert is waiting upstairs in the bathroom off our bedroom.”
She glanced at the ceiling. “In that big sexy whirlpool tub?”
“Uh huh. And more candles up there, some bath salts, and a few towels stolen from Dad’s house.”
“You thought of everything.” Rori sipped her wine. “And funny, I had a feeling tonight would evolve into something a little sexier than just the punch list.”
He straightened and narrowed his eyes. “You did?” He shook his head. “I don’t think so.” Reaching over, he picked up a flaky appetizer and held it out to her. She took a bite, then he popped the rest of it in his mouth and chewed. “I think this big ol’ cowboy had you completely bamboozled.”
Laughing, she nearly choked on the delicious tidbit. “You do, huh?” After a sip of wine, she licked her lips and tugged the shoulder of her T-shirt off to the side, revealing the lacy red strap of the naughty two-piece baby-doll she wore. “Here’s proof that I knew what you were up to.”
His mouth dropped open and his eyes darkened. “Aw, darlin’. Let me see it all.” He came around the island.
Holding out a hand, she smiled softly. “Not so fast.” She picked up an appetizer. “How about one piece of clothing at a time with each course of this fabulous feast you prepared for me.” She ate the pastry-crusted scallop that had just the right hint of bacon in it.
“Deal.” He turned off the appetizer hot plate. “Hors d’oeuvres are no longer available.” He hooked one finger under the bottom of her T-shirt and lifted, bending sideways to peek.
Grasping his hand, she shook her head. “Hors d’oeuvres are only shoe-worthy.” She spun her chair, holding her foot out to him, tugging up the leg of her jeans to show him her laced-up shoe.
He frowned. “Two shoes and two socks, or it’s no deal.”
Rori pointed to the hot plate. “One more of those exquisite babies, and you’re on.”
With a chuckle, Jackson moved the appetizers closer to her, and got busy removing her shoe. “You drive a hard bargain, Rori.”
Leaning down, she cupped his cheeks and kissed him. “You’ll be driving a hard bargain, cowboy, once you see the naughty piece of silk I’ve got on under all these clothes.”
Tossing her shoes and socks aside, he stood quickly and picked her up in his arms. “Next course, coming right up.” He kissed her as he toted her into the dining room, then set her on the borrowed chair. “And darlin’, you’d better plan on eating fast.”
She blinked at him. “Are you changing the rules? Are we going to be getting naughty in our new house before the wedding night?”
He shook his head as he ran his finger over the strip of red silk at her shoulder. “Uh uh. That’s a rule set in stone.” He kissed her shoulder, nibbling softly. “But when we get back to the apartment…there will be no rules.” Jackson kissed her, his lips, his tongue possessing her mouth.
Rori’s heart soared. Whatever she’d done in her life to deserve this perfect man, she would be giving thanks for the rest of her days.
A Wedding in Red Creek is available now!
Have a lovely, romantic weekend – and enjoy that big old football game, too!
“Rode Hard and Put Up Satisfied”