REVIEWS

"Ms. Kelley delivers with Southern Star, a wonderful story with her typical sense of humor." -- Daniela Brüggemann, Amazon Book Reviewer.

​"Southern Star by Karen Kelley has actor Jeremy Hunter hitting rock bottom. Jeremy needs clean up his playboy image in order to play a preacher. He goes under cover as Trey Jones, preacher. He ends up in a Two Creeks, Texas. A freak injury to his ankle has him staying in town longer then he planned. His meeting fourth grade teacher Bailey Tanner sends sparks that make it hard for him to maintain is cover. The misconceptions and chemistry between Bailey and Jeremy are exceptional. Revisiting with Bailey's brother Wade and wife Fallon is icing on the cake." -- Judy, Amazon Book Reviewer.

​"Southern Star by Karen Kelley returns us to Two Creeks, Texas...The conflicting, roller coaster ride that this story takes the reader on is an enjoyable one. There are times when you need ice to cool you off. This is a fun sexy read by three talented authors that can pull you in from the first page and hold your interest to the very end." -- Cryna Palmiere, Blueroom.


Sinning never looked so good!

Hollywood made Jeremy Hunter wild and untamable. But now, if he wants the role of a lifetime, he’ll need to go incognito—as a preacher. It’s a test he’s not sure he can pass when sexy school teacher, Bailey Tanner, breezes into his life.

Bailey Tanner can’t believe one little wink could cause so many problems. How was she to know that the devilishly handsome preacher would stumble and sprain his ankle. Now that he’s off his foot for a week, the only thing she can do is offer him the use of her guest house. Bailey’s pretty sure she’s already breaking a few commandments….lust, coveting…

CHAPTER ONE

     Jeremy Hunter yanked his pillow over his head, but the incessant ringing didn’t stop. God, every buzz was like someone zapping

​​his ​​brain with an electrical current. Damn, what did he drink last night?

     ​He vaguely remembered a party, alcohol—lots of alcohol, a taxi ride home, and some chick name Cecily. Correction, not a chick.

     ​​Cecily had been all woman, all curves, and all consuming.

     ​That is, if the alcohol he’d drunk hadn’t fogged his brain.

     ​The ringing stopped.

     ​Good. He sighed, ready to go back to sleep.

     ​The pounding began.

     ​Followed by a soft moan. “I think someone’s at your door,” a feminine voice softly slurred beside him.

     ​He tossed the pillow off the bed and rose on one elbow. Dark blonde hair obscured most of her face except for full pouty lips. His

​​gaze moved lower. Her other attributes were very nice, too...until she pulled the cover up, pushed the hair out of her eyes, and met his

​​gaze.

     ​“Cecily?”

     ​“Andrea.” She yawned. “Would you mind letting the person at the door inside? I’ve got a terrible headache.”

     ​He frowned as he dragged himself out of bed, wondering what had become of Cecily.

     ​The pounding grew louder.

     ​The clothes he’d worn last night weren’t in sight. Nothing. Not even one sock on the floor. First Cecily and now his clothes. It was a

​​conspiracy. He finally grabbed a towel off the back of a chair, slung it around his hips, knotting it on the side.

     ​As he walked through the living room of his apartment, he glanced at the clock on the wall. Ten. Who the hell hammered on his

​​door at this time of the morning? They’d better have a damn good reason.

     ​He jerked the door open. “Yeah?”

     ​Monty, his agent, stood on the other side of the threshold. Short, bald, and unassuming Monty. Most people in the business knew

​​not to underestimate him. The ones who did soon learned their mistake. Right now, he didn’t look happy. What was new?

     ​“Is this how you usually open the door? Practically naked.”

     ​“No, I thought I’d grab a towel and show you a little respect. Respect—you do know the meaning of the word? It’s a hell of a lot

​​more than you’re giving me. You know I don’t get up before noon.”

     ​“I brought you the morning tabloid. I thought you might enjoy reading it since you’re the cover story—again.”

     ​He frowned. Damned reporters. “Coffee first.” He turned and walked toward the kitchen.

     ​“I’ll fix the coffee, you get dressed.”

     ​Being half naked in his movies never seemed to bother anyone. Monty had brought a distinct chill when he walked into the

​​apartment, though. Jeremy nodded and made his way back to his room. He needed time to get his head on straight, anyway. The

​​tabloid must be bad for Monty to come over first thing. Damn, what had he done now? Or should he ask himself what hadn’t he done?

     ​He was so sick of his life being an open book. Didn’t reporters have anything better to do than hound his every move? Apparently

​​not.

     ​He grabbed a pair of jeans, slipped his feet into loafers and washed his face before pulling on a shirt. The coffee was ready when

​​he returned to the galley kitchen, the rich aroma wafting up to him. He poured a cup, wishing the morning would just go away. It didn’t.

​​Monty followed him to the living room without saying a word.

     ​There was a lump on his couch. A sheet covered lump. He nudged it. One corner of the sheet moved. Red hair and a face

​​appeared.

     ​“Cecily?”

     ​Even her smile looked hung over. “You were great last night.” She belched and pulled the sheet back over her head.

     ​At least he was great. He looked up and caught Monty’s look of disapproval. His apartment was like a mine field of nearly naked

​​women. He headed for the patio. He only hoped there wasn’t another female sleeping it off on one of the lounge chairs.

     ​Monty still hadn’t said another word.

     ​Not good.

     ​He slid the glass door open and stepped outside into the California sun and the sharp December bite in the air. Good, maybe it

​​would help clear his mind.

     ​He pulled out a chair at the table and sat. Monty took the one opposite him, tossing the tabloid on the table. He glanced at it without

​​picking it up. A dark grainy picture of himself...and Cecily, stared back.

     ​“They caught my bad side again,” he said.

     ​“They’re thinking of using DiCaprio for the lead.”

     ​​Jeremy’s only sign that he’d heard him was the twitch in his jaw. He slowly raised his cup and took a drink. The coffee tasted good

​​going down. He closed his eyes and for a moment, savoring the rich taste. Reality wasn’t far behind. Hell, it never was.

     ​This part was important. Why was he always screwing up? “I thought it was a done deal,” he casually said. He felt anything but

​​casual.

     ​“Not after last night. The studio exec called me this morning. The big guy is royally pissed. He wants a cleaner image to play the

​​lead. Damn it, Jeremy, this is supposed to be a Christmas picture. He wants it to have meaning.”

     ​“And?” He could feel the blood coursing through his veins, the pounding of his heart. Everything around him seemed to move in

​​slow motion. Outwardly, he knew nothing showed. The benefits of being one of the highest paid actors in the business. He could thank

​​his parents for that. They’d taught him a long time ago how not to let his emotions show.

     ​“How the hell do you think you can pull off the part of a traveling preacher if you’re out whoring and drinking all night?” he

​​countered.

     ​He said his cup down, coffee sloshing over the side. “Because I’m damn good at what I do.”

     ​Monty shook his head. “Not this time. And if you haven’t noticed, your ratings are dropping. You shot up quick enough but now

​​you’re spiraling downward like a bottle rocket on the fourth of July. It’s only a matter of time before your light fizzles.” He shook his

​​head. “You haven’t even researched this part. You’re a playboy. You’ll never pull it off.” His laugh was bitter.

     ​Jeremy abruptly stood, his chair scraping along the tiles. He walked to the edge of the balcony, lost in his thoughts. What did they

​​expect when the only roles he got were fluff? He was only acting the part.

     ​He gripped the rail until his knuckles turned white. They said he was the wild child of the cinema but they’d created him.

     ​And he’d let them.

     ​He closed his eyes, breathing in the pure salt air. When he opened them, he stared at the magnificence before him. There was

     ​​something powerful about the waves as they crashed against the rocks, white spray shooting upward.

     ​There was a time in his life when he would’ve sold his soul to the devil for all this. Maybe that’s what had happened. The devil was

​​calling in his marker.

     ​T​his was the role of a lifetime. He’d known it as soon as he’d read the script. It had raw substance, something he could sink his

​​teeth into, unlike the parts he’d played up until now.

     ​He wanted it, and he was willing to go to any length to get it. “What do I have to do?”

     ​“I’m not sure you can do anything.”

     ​Jeremy turned. “Then why am I paying you?”

     ​Monty hesitated. “There is one thing the executive said would save your ass, but you’re not going to like it.”

     ​“I’ll do it.”

     ​“Even if it means going incognito?” He waved his arm, encompassing his surroundings. “Leaving all this and living the part.

​​Changing your looks. Becoming the character, becoming Trey Jones.”

     ​“That’s crazy. How the hell can I pretend to be a preacher? The press will find out. They always do.”

     ​“We’ll put out a release that you’ve gone to the south of France to study for your upcoming part.”

     ​“People won’t buy that I’m a traveling preacher.”

     ​“How can you sell it on the screen if you can’t fool a few people in the public?” He shrugged. “I wouldn’t blame you if you turned it

​​down. Pretending to be a traveling man of the gospel would be a stretch. A long one. You asked, I told you, and that’s why you pay

​​me.”

     ​Monty looked pointedly toward the patio doors, toward where Cecily was sleeping on the other side. Jeremy crammed his hands

​​into the pockets of his jeans. His gaze fell to the terra-cotta tiles, the brown-grout lines. Maybe everyone was right. He wasn’t fit to play

​​a preacher.

     ​“They did offer you the role of the brother,” Monty mentioned.

     ​His head jerked up. “Supporting actor? I don’t think so.” Monty was good at pushing all the right buttons. “When do I leave?”

                                                                           ​***

     ​Bailey tossed back the rest of her drink. This was the fix she needed.

     ​“Want a refill?” Kathy asked.

     ​She had to think about it. She was already at her limit.

     ​“I’ll make it a triple,” Kathy added temptingly.

     ​“You’re killing me. Besides, I really need to get home,” Bailey couldn’t help eyeing the tubs of ice cream, though. No, one double

​​chocolate raspberry swirl malt was all the indulgent calories she needed this week—shoot, this month.

     ​As if that was going to happen. Her mother had already started her Christmas baking. Pure torture. But the malt had been sooo

​​good and she’d really needed a chocolate fix. Being a fourth-grade teacher was not easy. Why hadn’t she chosen something less

​​taxing? Like brain surgeon, astronaut, tightrope walker, skydiver...

     ​But school was out for the next two weeks! She loved Christmas vacation.

     ​The roar of a motorcycle caught her attention, drawing her back to the present. She swiveled her stool toward the door as the man

​​on the cycle pulled under the awning of the burger shop.

     ​“Someone passing through,” Kathy mumbled. “I don’t know anyone in Two Creeks with a cycle besides my brother.”

     ​“Not just any cycle. That’s a Harley.” A big black Harley. She sighed. There was just something about a motorcycle that made her

​​want to straddle the leather seat and feel all that power nestled between her legs.

     ​When she’d only mentioned that she’d like to have a motorcycle, her brother almost had a coronary. Her sister-in-law had liked the

​​idea. But Wade had raised such a fuss that she’d given in and bought a cute little sports car instead. Man, could it corner. Not that

​​she’d tell her brother.

     ​But this bike was sweet. The guy getting off it wasn’t bad either. She couldn’t see his face very well because of the dark sunglasses

​​and helmet he wore. But the black-leather pants and jacket were sinfully sexy. The bad girl inside her emerged thinking all kinds of

​​naughty thoughts.

     ​Man, she really must be bored. It was just like she’d told the people of Two Creeks at the last community meeting; they needed to

​​bring in new business and more people or the town was going to die.

     ​Point in fact, she was lusting over the stranger and he was probably ugly as sin...

     ​He removed his helmet and placed it on the back of his bike, then combed his fingers through thick black hair. When he turned

​​around, she got the full effect of him. At least six foot two inches of pure male testosterone at it’s finest.

     ​Her breath caught in her throat. Everything about him was dark: his tan, the stubble of beard...his eyes. He was hell on wheels and

​​Bailey knew she’d burn for the kind of thoughts she was having. Oh, baby, she could already feel the heat.

     ​“Nice package,” Kathy choked out.

     ​“You’re engaged.”

     ​“Am I? To who?”

     ​“It’s whom and his name is Chad, remember him?”

     ​She sighed. “Vaguely.”

     ​They looked at each other and chuckled.

     ​“Looks like the eye candy is hungry. I’d love to be his next meal. Maybe I have enough time to scribble my name on the menu.

​​TODAY’S SPECIAL: KATHY...NO CHARGE”

     ​“Shh,” she whispered. “Just act natural.”

     ​“Then you think throwing myself at his feet would be a little too much?”

     ​Bailey smothered a laugh. “Be good, and get me a soda—diet.”

     ​“I thought you had to get home?”

     ​She stuck her tongue out but quickly straightened in her seat as the bell jingled over the door. She didn’t look toward it. She didn’t

​​have to. Bailey felt him. Her body tingled with awareness. It was a sin for a man to look that damn sexy.

     ​Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him slide onto a stool. There were only two between them.

     ​“What’s good?” he asked, words raspy, rough.

     ​She quickly took a drink of the soda Kathy handed her, hoping the cold drink would cool her down. Didn’t work, darn it.

     ​Kathy leaned against the counter. “I make a mean burger—best in town.”

     ​Bailey swiveled slightly in her seat and studied him, then frowned. He looked familiar. Why did he look familiar? Had she dreamed

​​about him? Maybe he was her soul mate.

     ​If she believed in that sort of thing—and she didn’t. But still...

     ​“You remind me of someone...” Her brow furrowed.

     ​He looked right at her and she almost had an orgasm. His intense gaze stripped her clothes away as it meandered over her body.

​​Her nipples tightened. Oh, man, he started an ache deep inside her. She needed a fire extinguisher!

     ​“Jeremy Hunter?” he supplied. “I hear that a lot.”

​​“Huh?”

     ​He grinned, as if he knew exactly the effect he had on her. “People tell me I look like Jeremy Hunter, the actor.”

     ​She mentally shook her head to clear it, not sure exactly what had passed between them. Yeah right, she knew exactly what had

​​happened. Testosterone had crashed into estrogen and there’d been a sexual explosion.

     ​She drew in a deep breath. “Except he has blue eyes and brown hair.” She studied him—which wasn’t hard at all. “And you have a

​​thin scar down the side of your face.”

     ​“And the fact I’m not an actor,” he said.

     ​She really liked the sound of his voice. Listening to him talk was better than drinking a triple chocolate raspberry swirl.

     ​“You could be.” Kathy blushed. “I mean, you look like one.”

     ​“Except I’m not.”

     ​“So what do you do?” Bailey knew she was crossing the line from friendly to nosy but she couldn’t help herself. She was curious.

​​Male stripper? Yum, she could envision him slowly peeling off his clothes and...

     ​“I’m a preacher.”

     ​Bailey had the straw in her mouth but rather than sucking, she blew in it. Her drink became Old Faithful as it bubbled over the top.

     ​She quickly set it on the counter and looked at the biker. “You’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me.”

     ​She’d been lusting after a preacher! Oh God, she was going to hell for sure.

     ​She grimaced. Had she just said freakin’? This was so not her day.

Southern Series Book Four