Where you can find me
Coming September 4, 2012
Her Fantasies Were Wild But Buried Deep...
Haley Tillman works hard at being a good girl, hiding her rich fantasy life in the pages of her diary. But being good doesn't seem to get her anywhere with men, and her confidence is on a downward spiral. She's ready to try something altogether different, but hasn't a clue where to start. In a moment of desperation, she prays for a miracle...
He Might Take Her Beyond Them...
Ryder is the perfect combination of powerful angel plus normal hot–blooded man. Crossing into the mortal world could cost him his existence. But mortals are like a potent drug to Ryder, and Haley is quickly becoming his drug of choice...
“Please, Lord, you have to send me a miracle. A man, in case you want specifics.”
Haley Tillman really needed to get laid before she incinerated. If a man looked cross-eyed at her, the only thing left would be a pile of smoking ashes.
Just one little bitty miracle. Was that too much to ask?
She was thoughtful for a moment, then decided she’d better revise her prayer. Once, she’d prayed for a stuffed bunny rabbit. The next day her dad had taken her to the taxidermist to pick up Fifi, the family dog that had died two weeks before, or as Haley preferred to call the beast when no one was around, The Tasmanian Terror. The mongrel was more her mother’s pet. Her father had the miniscule creature from the Twilight Zone stuffed.
There was also a sale on stuffed rabbits. She’d hated the glass-eyed, zombie rabbit and hidden the nasty looking nightmare in the back of her closet. There was no escape from Fifi, though. Her mother placed the now silent menace in the living room where everyone could see the dog.
So, a prayer revision might be in order. “Not just any man,” she began. “A really hot, drool-worthy, sexy man.” That still wasn’t good enough. “No, he has to be more than a normal man. He has to stand above mere mortals. No more dweebs, losers or rejects.” She figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask for the best.
And no more crying jags like the one she’d had last night. She threw the cover back, and grabbed her heavy black glasses off the nightstand. Ugh, her eyes were puffy. She carefully planted the frames firmly on her face before stumbling toward the bathroom. A miracle would be nice right about now.
She snorted. As if a miracle was ever going to happen. She was pretty sure hot and sexy would never make it to her front door. Her date had cancelled last night, and he wasn’t even what she would call hot and sexy. Nice, in a GQ polished sort of way, but not quite drool worthy. Being stood up was nothing new. Anyone with any sense would be used to it by now, but not her. Okay, so maybe she’d sort of expected it this time because she’d cornered the poor sap. She did not wear desperation well.
“Ben could’ve said no,” she mumbled as she walked inside the bathroom and flipped on the light. Her co-worker from the bank had owed her. Haley had worked all week crunching numbers for him.
She casually glanced toward the mirror.
Her pulse took off and her heart pounded inside her chest. She stumbled back, her knees hitting the back of the bathtub. Before she toppled inside, she slapped a hand on the toilet seat and regained her balance.
As her pulse slowed to a more normal rate, her gaze scanned the tiny room. She was the only one there. She came to her feet, nerves stretched taut.
Please don’t be the ghost of grandma.
Haley had loved Nanny, but her grandmother was gone, and though she had lots of fond memories, Haley wanted her to stay gone. Haley’s eyes stopped at the mirror. Her reflection stared back. Fantastic, she’d scared herself. This had to be an all time low.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then opened them again. Mornings were not good. She should drape her mirrors with black silk until she’d at least had her first pot of coffee. Not that she was monstrously hideous or anything, but she was no beauty queen, either.
She’d gotten her father’s looks. Yea. Her father was tall. She was five feet, seven inches. Haley’s older sister, Rachael, took after their mother, who was five feet, four inches. They both had pale blond hair, delicate features, and even their mother, who’d been married all of thirty-one years, still had boys falling all over themselves to do her bidding.
Haley, on the other hand, had her father’s dull, dishwater blond hair. Her hair had once turned bright orange when she’d attempted to color it in the eighth grade. She’d decided dull blond was better. Her boobs were too big, but they matched her hips. All the magazines she’d read said you had to like at least one thing about yourself. Her legs were nice and long. When she wasn’t tripping over her feet, she was fairly satisfied with them.
Except her life was never going to change. And miracles? She’d stopped believing in miracles a long time ago. She brushed her teeth, then dragged a brush through her tangled hair so it didn’t quite look so much like a rat’s nest.
There was a half gallon of ice cream in the kitchen freezer. It wouldn’t be too difficult to eat herself into sugar oblivion. She could bring new meaning to the phrase, death by chocolate. What would her sister say? Rachael never, absolutely never, let sugar cross her lips, and she always said Haley was killing herself.
The buzz from her doorbell blasted through her tiny, two bedroom, house that she’d inherited from Nanny, effectively drawing her away from her dreary thoughts. Bummer. She’d already begun planning her funeral. She sighed. It was way too early for doorbells.
She grabbed her faded pink terry-cloth robe off the hook on the door and pulled it on over her green froggy flannel pajamas, then trudged down the hall, through the living room, and finally stopped at the front door. She peered through the peephole her father had installed for safety, as if anyone would ever break into her house. What would they steal? Her hand-me-down furniture?
She blinked. No one there. Were they hiding?
Hmm, serial killer lurking outside her door? Would that count as a date? Nope, they didn’t have murders in their small town of Hattersville, either. Nothing, absolutely nothing, ever happened here. More than likely kids playing a prank. It wouldn’t be the first time. Haley had already earned the title of the grouchy old maid who lived on Spring Street. Sheesh! She was neither grouchy or an old maid! Hattersville was stuck in the fifties, and twenty-six was certainly not old!
She shook her head and opened the door a crack, making sure the chain was secure. If whoever was on the other side got a good look at her, she’d scare the evil out of them.
“Hello?” She was so ready to yell boo if a kid stuck his head in her line of vision.
But it wasn’t a child who stepped closer. Haley’s mouth dropped open. Good Lord! This had to be the man who invented tall, dark, and sexy! Her thighs quivered.
At least six feet, one inch of pure male testosterone stood on her porch. He had the dark good looks of a male stripper, only with clothes on. He removed his black Stetson, slowly dragging his fingers through thick, coal-black hair. His deep blue eyes held her gaze before sliding down her body as if he could see more than the sliver revealed from the slightly open door.
Warm tingles spread over Haley like a Texas wildfire during a drought in the middle of summer. She could barely draw in a breath as her gaze moved past broad shoulders and a black western shirt that hugged his scrumptious muscles. Then her eyes slipped right down to the low-slung jeans riding his hips, past muscled thighs. All the way to his scuffed black boots.
Oh, Lord, her every fantasy stood on her front porch!
She forced herself to meet his gaze.
I want him! She felt like a kid in a candy store with lots of money to spend. Mommy, mommy can I have the hot sexy cowboy! Pleaseeeeeeeee!
If only it were that easy. No way would she ever have the opportunity to have sex with someone who looked like the cowboy on her front porch. What was he doing at her door, anyway? Lost?
“Haley, right?” he asked in a slow drawl that made her body tremble with need.
How did he know her name? She grasped the door a little harder. He smiled as though he knew exactly what she was thinking. Her world began to tilt. She remembered that breathing might not be a bad thing so she drew in a deep breath. “What?” the word warbled out. She cleared her throat and tried again. “Do you need directions or something?”
He smiled wider, showing perfectly straight, white teeth. “Mind if I come in?”
Her fantasy of this cowboy’s naked body pressed against her naked body shattered like brick hitting a mirror. Oh, this guy was good, real good, but she wasn’t born yesterday. He’d obviously seen her name on the mailbox out front. She raised her chin. “I don’t need a vacuum. I have all the pots and pans I could ever use—including waterless cookware. There’s a complete set of encyclopedias on my e-reader and I have a double barrel shotgun for protection. Now, do you want to tell me why you’re ringing my doorbell before I’ve had coffee?”
“You prayed for a miracle. I’m the answer to your prayer.” He set his hand on her grandmother’s old chair and lightly set the rocker in motion. Back and forth, back and forth, his finger lightly caressing the weathered wood.
Wow, her prayer had really been answered? The man upstairs had given her more than she’d asked for. She reached up to smooth her hair about the same time reality set in. Had she lost her mind?
“Go away!” She slammed the door shut. Her pulse raced so fast Haley thought her heart would jump out of her chest. Who was he? Definitely the wrong house. Shoot, the wrong town. No one looked liked him and lived in Hattersville. Definitely a salesman. As if she needed another vacuum cleaner. Three were quite enough. Another magazine subscription might have been nice. One could never have enough magazines.
Her pulse slowed to a more normal rate. But wouldn’t it have been nice if he’d been sent in answer to a prayer? How had he known she’d prayed for a miracle? Not that it mattered since she’d slammed the door in his face.
What was she thinking? Haley quickly combed her hands through her tangled hair, took a deep breath, and started to open the door, but remembered at the last minute to remove her glasses and stick them in her pocket. Rachael had said they made her appear more professional. Haley thought the glasses made her look like Buddy Holly.
The cowboy wasn’t there.
Had she only imagined him? She closed the door enough so that she could slide off the chain. Her smile was firmly in place when she opened the door again and peered into the street. Nothing. Only Old Mrs. Monroe watering her lawn across the street. She looked up and waved as her crotchety husband came around the corner of the house, getting a face full of water. Mrs. Monroe quickly dropped the hose.
“Damn, thought we’d finally got some rain,” he said.
“Oh, Chester, I’m sorry.” She rushed toward him, raising her flowered apron as she went.
Haley smiled, then glanced down the street in the other direction. Her smile dropped.
Not a soul.
Disappointment swept over her. Her fantasy lover, possibly an answer to her prayer, showed up on her porch and what did she do? Slammed the stupid door in his face. Maybe she’d only imagined the guy. Really, who could actually look that good? She took a cautious step past the doorway. Maybe Mrs. Monroe had seen the cowboy. But her neighbor had already turned off the water and they were going inside.
Haley stepped off the wide, covered front porch, her eyes narrowing as she looked up and down the street again. Still nothing. She slipped her glasses back on and looked again. Nope, still no one there.
The front door opened on the house next to hers.
Candy, the former cheerleader, high school football sweetheart, beauty queen turned slutty beautician stepped out, then gave a surprised jump when she caught sight of Haley. Candy’s reproachful gaze swept over her.
“I’d think twice about leaving your house looking like that, sugar,” she said. “You really should take a little more pride in your appearance. Make an appointment and I can at least do something with that awful hair of yours.” She shut her door and hurried down the front steps to her sporty little red convertible. It wasn’t actually a real sports car, only a knock off, but most people in Hattersville didn’t know the difference so they thought Candy had done well for herself.
Haley curled her lip as she tried to think of something smart to say. “You…you…” Darn! Why couldn’t she think of a good comeback? She probably would tomorrow when she wouldn’t need it. “I hope you get a flat tire,” she finally sputtered. Oh, that was a real winning line. Sheesh!
Candy was right, though. This was about as good as it got as far as Haley’s looks went. Candy, on the other hand, had flaming red hair that she’d pulled back into a ponytail. She wore her usual tight running shorts and cropped top. She was off to her gym where she would glisten as she worked out. Girls like Candy didn’t sweat, they glistened.
Haley marched back inside and closed her door a little harder than necessary. Out of habit, she jerked the chain through the slot and turned the lock. Not that it mattered. An intruder would take one look at her frumpy froggy pj’s, her thick faded pink terrycloth robe, and run screaming in the other direction. Which was probably what happened to the sexy cowboy, and he’d barely gotten a glimpse. What would he have done if he’d seen the whole picture?
No, she didn’t want to think about what his reaction would have been. Her day was already depressing enough. She aimed toward the kitchen and grabbed a diet soda out of the fridge instead of the ice cream. After pulling back the tab, she took a long drink, then headed for the bedroom. She would get dressed, then figure out what she would do for the rest of her boring day.
But when she sauntered into the bedroom, she came to a dead stop. Her heart thumped so hard inside her chest she thought it would crack a rib. The cowboy who’d been standing outside her front door casually reclined on her bed with his back braced against her headboard. His booted feet were crossed at the ankles.
And he was reading her diary. Her very naughty diary. Oh, Lord! She’d written every fantasy she’d ever had in that journal. She’d even made up a few she thought might be interesting. There were pages and pages of—sex! Good girls didn’t write about sex. Being a good girl had been drilled into Haley’s head by her very strict mother. Except she did write about sex. All her dreams were kept hidden between her mattress and box springs. No one was supposed to ever know just how naughty she could be!
“That’s my diary,” she choked out.
He glanced up. “And very explicit. Do you actually fantasize about a man spanking you?” His words were lazy, with just a slight Texas drawl that washed over her like hot fudge dribbled on vanilla ice cream. When his heated gaze trailed down her body, she melted.
Haley’s body temperature jumped from hot to cold to burning up. He was reading about her private desires. Every fantasy she’d ever heard about, read about, or even imagined, was written on those pages. She wanted to die!
Wait a minute. What was she thinking? A strange man was inside her home! A serial killer, probably, and she was worried he was reading her stupid diary? Okay, so maybe she wasn’t quite ready to die.
She threw the can of soda at him, not waiting to see where it landed, whirled around, and bolted out the door. Please don’t let me die today! She only had to make it to the front door. On the other side would be safety. Surely someone would hear her screams if she flung the door open and ran down the street.
Except she could barely draw in a breath and her heart was close to exploding. Screaming wasn’t an option at this point in time.
The blasted hallway stretched into infinity! She didn’t remember it being this long. Her feet barely moved. She stumbled once, righted herself, and kept moving forward through what felt like quicksand. The only thing going through her mind was escape, except her feet weren’t moving fast enough.
When she slid around the corner into the living room, the sexy cowboy who would probably kill her in some excruciatingly painful way, casually leaned against the front door, still reading her diary. How’d he beat her? Not only that, but how the heck had he gotten past her? He glanced up, looking quite unconcerned she was about to have a heart attack.
“This might be interesting. I’ve never made love in a closet while there’s a party going on in the other room.”
For a split second, she could see herself locked in his embrace, crammed between a soft fur coat and a leather jacket, naked bodies straining, naughty words whispered, as country music blared on the other side.
Oh, God, she had to be mentally unhinged to even imagine having sex with a probably serial killer. She rushed forward and snatched her diary out of his hands, then put distance between them. “Who are you? I don’t have any money.”
He smiled. “I don’t want your money.”
Her frown deepened. “Did you confuse houses? Candy lives next door.”
He shook his head.
The color drained from her face. He was a serial killer! Why else would he be in her house? “Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my home?” she demanded, not feeling as brave as she tried to pretend.
He looked at her as though she should know. “I’m an answer to a prayer. Your prayer. You asked for a miracle, so here I am.”
Haley’s mouth dropped open, then snapped shut.
“You can call me Ryder. I’m an angel—sort of.”
“Your name is Ryder and you’re an angel.”
Haley eased closer to the lamp, glad she’d bought the heavier brown ceramic at the garage sale.
“Believe me, I’ve never met a cowboy who was anything close to being an angel.”
“Have you met other angels?” He casually leaned against the door as if he felt quite comfortable with breaking into someone’s home.
“Then how would you know what we look like?”
It didn’t matter. Haley was close enough to her weapon. She dropped her diary and grabbed the lamp. Now she wasn’t quite so vulnerable. Let him chew on that! She started to shake the lamp, hoping to put the fear of God into him, but was held up by the cord. This was not the fierce image she’d wanted to portray.
She jerked the cord out of the plug, then quickly faced him again. “The soda can might not have done much damage, but I guarantee this lamp will.”
And it was way bigger, too. She must’ve totally missed the mark when she’d thrown the can of soda because there wasn’t a wet spot on him. Damn, she should’ve gone out for sports, rather than holed up in the college library with her nose stuck in a book.
“You’re the one who prayed for a miracle,” he pointed out.
How’d he know about that? Her eyes narrowed. “Lucky guess, but I’m not buying you’re an angel.”
“Sort of,” he reminded her.
“What the hell is ‘sort of’ supposed to mean?”
“I’m a nephilim.” He took a step toward her.
She raised the lamp, which was getting a little heavy. “Don’t come any closer.”
He stopped, but, darn it, he didn’t look a bit put out because she had something to defend herself. He’d changed his story, too. “What’s a nephilim?” And why the hell was she engaging in conversation with someone who’d obviously escaped from the state hospital?
“My father was an angel, and my mother was a mortal. They mated and created me, a nephilim. An immortal.”
“Yeah, right.” Oh, Lord, he was crazier than she’d thought. “A cowboy, who’s half an angel. Nope, I’ve never seen that, either.” There were plenty of cowboys in Hattersville and they loved three things: their horse, their truck, and drinking. Sexy, yes. Angelic, no.
“I’m here because you asked for a miracle. Sometimes we answer prayers.”
Her gaze whipped around. “There are more of you?” One serial killer she might escape, but two? Three? Her shoulders drooped. She was dead already.
He laughed. “Not here.”
She sighed with relief. “If you’ll just leave my apartment, I promise not to call the police.”
“You’re a funny little thing, aren’t you?”
Little? He thought she was little? She inwardly preened until she remembered he was off his rocker.
He took another step toward her.
She took a step back.
“I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Stay where you are,” she warned.
But he didn’t stop coming toward her. Damn, she hated violence, especially when it involved her. Well, he couldn’t say she hadn’t warned him. She would get in at least one good lick. With all the strength she could muster, and the surge of adrenalin created by her mounting fear, she threw the heavy lamp the cowboy.
The lamp went flying right at him. He jerked his hand into the air, palm up. The lamp stopped midair. The cord dangled, swinging slightly back and forth.
“How did you do that,” Haley whispered.
“I told you, I’m a nephilim.” He snapped his fingers and the lamp was back on the side table, even the cord was plugged in.
The room began to spin around and around. Haley reached for something to steady herself, but only connected with air. She’d never fainted in her life. Until now.
Strong arms suddenly went around her. He picked her up and carried her to the sofa, setting her down gently as darkness closed in around her. This was it. The best looking man to ever knock on her door was really an angel. She was dead and didn’t even know it, and here he was about to take her to—heaven?
Pfftt. And why not, she’d never sinned. Not one blasted time. Well, unless she counted all her imaginary sexual fantasies and, apparently, they didn’t count. Nope, her strict moral upbringing had guaranteed her a place in heaven.
“Are you still with me?” he asked.
Something cool and wet pressed against her face. Her eyes fluttered open. A washcloth. He was still there. It wasn’t one of her dreams. She whimpered. He pulled her closer to his chest. She breathed in a heady scent that reminded her of leather and a clean country breeze. Except, she didn’t feel comforted. No, not at all because she knew exactly what was happening. “I don’t want to be dead,” she sobbed. What had she died from? Brain tumor? Car accident—well, probably not a car accident since she was inside her home.
He began to lightly stroke her back. “You’re not dead.”
Not dead? That was a relief. His touch was soothing. She could feel herself begin to relax, until she remembered she still didn’t have answers. “Then why are you here?”
“I told you. I heard you praying for a miracle.”
She frowned, only remembering she had prayed for sex. Or maybe she had been thinking about sex and prayed for a miracle. It made sense because she thought about sex a lot. She leaned back and looked into his eyes. He had nice eyes. They were a startling shade of blue. So intense. Her gaze moved over his face. Delicious. Was he really an answer to her prayer? There was one way to find out. “Okay, if you’re my miracle, then kiss me.”
Without hesitation, his lips lowered to hers, the warmth of his breath whispered against her cheek right before his tongue scraped across her lips. She opened her mouth and his tongue slipped inside. A deep shuddering sigh swept over her as he explored her mouth, caressing her tongue with his. She was starting to grow damp when he pulled back.
“Wow, please don’t wake me up,” she finally said.
“You’re not asleep.” He grinned, and once again, she was mesmerized by his smile.
This was the best dream she’d ever had! She squeezed his arm. Her heart skipped a beat.
If it was a dream, then why did he feel so real?