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Heart's Cove Hotties Book 7: Dirty Little Midlife Dilemma

Heart's Cove Hotties Book 7: Dirty Little Midlife Dilemma

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A hot, hilarious fresh start! Nora’s forties begin with a bang…or rather, a crash.

What’s worse than bumping into a parked motorcycle and tipping it over?

Easy. It’s bumping into a motorcycle, tipping it over, and sending it crashing into an entire row of bikes like horrible, slow-motion dominos.

What’s even worse than 
that?

Doing it in front of the first bike’s owner.

Lee Blair looks like he wants to pop Nora’s head off her shoulders like a champagne cork.
Saying “oopsie daisy” doesn’t calm him down. Go figure.

When she gets the bill for her mistake, she nearly breaks down.
In order to pay it off, she’ll have to move back in with her mother and beg for her old job back.
It’s every forty-one-year-old woman’s dream…
not.

Until Lee offers her a solution.
He’ll take on the debt and let her pay it off over time…if she agrees to work for him.

What could possibly go wrong?

MAIN TROPES

  • 40+ year old characters
  • Small town
  • Workplace romance
  • Tit for tat
  • Motorcycle-riding hunk
  • Second chances
  • Comedy
  • Steamy/Spicy

Chapter 1 Look Inside

THE SITUATION IS salvageable. That’s the important thing to remember.

How exactly I’m going to salvage it, I’m not sure. But it will happen. Somehow. Maybe as soon as I get electrocuted and become the newest Marvel superhero, right here in the parking lot of The Cedar Grove Pub.

A line of toppled motorcycles stretches out before me, my hip burning from where it knocked the first one. The bikes fell over like a row of dominos, a horrifying mess of grinding metal and crashing machinery, all because I was startled and accidentally bumped into the first one. I look at the mass of chrome and rubber and steel, blinking, waiting for my superpower-inducing lightning bolt to hit.

Unsurprisingly, nothing happens.

It would have been entertaining to see all those motorcycles fall over one on top of the other if I’d been watching a video while scrolling through social media. It’s less fun in real life. Especially when my brain is providing a quick tally of just how much money all this property damage will cost me. I then compare that total to the balance in my checking account, and my brain offers a sad womp-womp noise in response.

Lee Blair, the sexiest man I’ve ever seen, shifts his weight from one foot to the other. He’s six-foot-plus of brawny, sexy, motorcycle-riding hotness. Dark hair, bottomless eyes, and enough of a bad-boy edge to make him look dangerous. I can feel the animosity pulsing off him in waves, which is the exact opposite of the teasing, I’m-into-you vibes he was sending me last time we saw each other.

My eyes alight on the first bike in the row, a Harley Davidson with blue smoke painted over its body.

Lee’s bike.

“Did you just say ‘oopsie daisy?’” His voice is a nice, low growl, and I would totally be thinking about him whispering dirty things in my ear if I hadn’t just knocked over his beloved motorcycle.

I clear my throat. “It was an accident. I was startled by the sound of all those bottles breaking in the dumpster.”

“Are you blaming me for this?” His voice gains a steel-hard edge, and Lord help me, but it makes my insides tingle. And by “insides,” of course, I mean my special lady place.

There’s something wrong with me. Maybe I’m addicted to danger, and I’m only finding it out at forty-one years of age. I’m secretly an adrenaline junkie who likes bad boys, especially when they want to rip my head off. Up until this very second, I was unaware of that fact, which would explain why my love life has been such a pathetic disappointment thus far.

Focus, Nora.

“No, of course not,” I manage to respond, eyes tracing the long line of bikes before me. I count fourteen. Fourteen motorcycles I just knocked over. Fourteen angry bikers are drinking beer and whiskey just inside this bar, about to find out who just scratched their favorite toys. “I’m not blaming you at all. I’m just explaining what startled me and made me trip.”

“You’re saying that me taking out the trash made you do this.” He sweeps an arm across the junkyard at my feet. “Sounds a lot like you’re blaming me.”

I could tell him the truth: I saw his motorcycle and was drawn to it like a magnet. I was picturing my front plastered to his back as he took me on a ride on this powerful machine, and I just couldn’t help myself from touching the leather seat. I could tell him that I was imagining all kinds of filthy things involving me, Lee, and the bike, lost in the pressure-cooker of my growing lust, and that’s why the noise of a hundred breaking bottles startled me so badly.

“I’ll pay for everything,” I proclaim. “Just tell me how much.”

“What the f—” Movement catches my eye from the entrance to the Grove, where a gigantic man looms. When he takes a step, his bulging thigh muscles cause his jeans to strain at the seams. I didn’t even know they made jeans that big. His legs look like denim-clad redwood tree trunks. “Buck! Leggy! Get out here! Someone’s been messing with our bikes.”

I swallow a yelp and force myself to lift an arm. “It was me. I’m sorry! It was an accident.” Please don’t murder me. “I’ll pay for everything.” Somehow.

The giant swings his head to me. His neck is so thick it apparently can’t turn on its own, so he has to spin his entire upper body in my direction. Biceps the size of soccer balls flex, and I hear the distinct sound of a seam ripping. Oh, no. No, no, no. He’s going to turn into the Hulk right here in the parking lot of the Cedar Grove, when my inaugural Girls’ Night with the ladies of Heart’s Cove is supposed to happen.

My superhero fantasies are suddenly going very, very wrong.

I look up at the sky, cursing the lack of clouds. This is when I’m supposed to get hit by lightning. Bitten by a spider. Captain America is supposed to land in a circle of crackling pavement to defend me from the bad guys.

I don’t even like superheroes. My brain is short-circuiting.

“You knocked over my bike,” the Hulk growls, spinning his entire body to face me. Goodness. He’s even wider than I thought.

Behind him, the door flies open and two men—Buck and Leggy, I presume—tumble out. One of them is squat with a long grey beard that reaches the center of his protruding beer belly. He has an enormous belt buckle and a worn leather vest. The other man is long and lanky, with big bug eyes that cut straight to me.

The Hulk jerks his chin at me. “She did this.”

Buck and Leggy look at the bikes, then at me. Their jaws clench as they flank the Hulk. There are a lot of balled fists and aggressive male noises happening, which makes my nerves ratchet so tight I think I might snap.

I inhale through my nose and count to eight, just the way Candice says to do it in yoga class. Then I let it out through my mouth and lift my palms. Whatever comes out of my mouth next will make or break this situation. I’ll either defuse things, or I’ll get my head crushed like a watermelon between the Hulk’s meaty paws.

“I—”

“Stand down, Ted,” Lee says, taking a sideways step to stand between me and the three angry bikers. “It was an accident.”

I blink, staring at Lee’s back. He’s wearing a short-sleeve tee and low-slung jeans, and my face is in line with his shoulder blades. I can see a damp line down the center of his back, and the thought of Lee Blair sweating through his shirt turns me on so fast I have to take a wobbly step back.

A baseball bat would be really helpful right now. I could use it to beat down my out-of-control libido.

“Look what she did, Lee.” Ted—the Hulk—thrusts his arm toward the pile of mangled metal. “My bike! Your father’s bike!”

“We’ll take care of it,” Lee replies, and I frown. We? A minute ago he was a card-carrying member of the growly-male-noises club.

Leggy—I assume the lanky man is Leggy, since his legs are about a mile long—points a spindly finger at Lee. “You better take care of it, Blair. Otherwise, we’re going to have a word.”

The way he says “a word” makes me think he’s not actually talking about words at all.

I shuffle around Lee’s body to try to smooth things over. “I’ll pay for everything. I swear. It was an accident, and I’m really, really sorry.”

When I try to take another step, Lee’s arm slashes across my body to hold me back. His hard, corded forearm presses up against my breast, which makes my hormones throw a wild party in my veins.

Out of control—my body is utterly out of control. And not in a good way.

Well. A little bit in a good way. But mostly not.

“Let me take care of this,” Lee tells me, steely eyes serious. His voice drops to a low, intimate register, his arm still extended across my body. “I need to get these bikes up off the ground so we can assess the damage. Then we’ll talk.”

He smells like leather, pine, and something musky and male. His arm softens against my body as his hand brushes the hollow of my waist, which sends all kinds of interesting tingles zipping across my stomach. My brain takes the opportunity to put on a pair of sunglasses and go drink margaritas on a beach in Tulum, so all I can do is nod like a good girl.

Lee will take care of it. Then we’ll talk. Uh-huh.

Lee jerks his head to the first bike in the line of fallen dominos and uses some kind of wordless man-language to get the other men to help him. They haul the first motorcycle up and set it down on its kickstand, then move to the next. And the next.

They’ve righted six of the motorcycles when the pub door opens and the sound of cackling laughter floats through. A redheaded woman stumbles out, followed by her dark-haired best friend. Simone and Fiona.

Their laughter abruptly stops when they spot the men at work, glance at the bikes that still need to be picked up, and finally swing their gazes to me. I assume I look as guilty as I feel, because both Simone and Fiona’s eyes widen almost comically.

“Nora,” Fiona whispers. “What happened?”

“Hold on.” Simone lifts a finger, then ducks her head inside the door. “Jen! Candice! Trina! Lily! Get out here,” she yells like it’s some sort of demented midlife Power Ranger call to action.

I close my eyes. Wonderful. I just officially moved to this town today after months of zipping back and forth between here and Reno, and I was excited to make a good impression on the women who have been so welcoming to me. Heart’s Cove is where my brother Fallon has lived for years. It’s a cute, artsy town in Northern California, bounded by national parks on one side and a craggy, beautiful coastline on the other.

I like it here. I want to stay. But right now, I also want to jump into a time machine and go back ten minutes so I can stay far, far away from Lee Blair’s bike.

The four other women appear and take in the scene. Lee and the scary bikers are on the last two motorcycles, grunting with the effort of tipping them up onto their kickstands.

“Oh my,” Trina says, lifting a beautifully manicured hand to cover her lips. “This doesn’t look good.”

My steps feel jerky and mechanical as I join the ladies in front of the bar. From this angle, I can see the other sides of the motorcycles—the sides that were angled down toward the pavement, where the other half of the damage was wrought.

A vast chasm opens up in the pit of my stomach. This is so much worse than I thought. Every single one of the fourteen bikes is scratched, dented, and dinged within an inch of its life. I know nothing of motorcycles, but I know this is bad.

Lily, who is out for the first time since she had her baby, rubs her hands over her upper arms. She cringes, glancing at me. “How did this happen?”

“I would also like to know the answer to that,” Simone cuts in.

“I…tripped,” I answer lamely.

“You tripped?” Jen frowns. “And knocked over all these motorcycles?” She scans the destruction, and I just know her logical mind is calculating angles and velocities and probabilities that led to every single bike falling over.

I close my eyes again, as if that will make everything disappear. I nod. “Yeah. Like a bunch of horribly expensive dominos.”

There’s a silence, then a strange, snorting noise. I crack open an eyelid to see Simone snort again, except her face is so red it looks like she’s going to burst a blood vessel. She clenches her jaw and glances at the men, then lets out another snort before clapping her hand over her lips.

“Do. Not. Laugh,” I grind out through bared teeth. “Those biker guys almost killed me a minute ago.”

“I’m not laughing,” Simone says, but it comes out as a squeak. “I swear.”

Fiona’s lips twitch so violently she has to pinch them bloodless. Candice takes three long yoga breaths, turning her back to the line of dented motorcycles to stare up at the roofline of the building. Trina’s hand is still covering her mouth, but I can see the curve of her lips through her fingers. Even Lily, who didn’t even want to come to Girls’ Night, looks like she’s about to lose it.

“I swear,” I whisper-yell from the corner of my mouth, “if any of you start laughing right now, I’ll come to your house and murder you in your sleep. Or rather my ghost will, because those biker-dudes are about to shoot me where I stand.”

“It’s just…” Fiona closes her eyes and turns to face the same way as Candice, her back to the motorcycles. She blows out a controlled breath, shoulders caving inward as she momentarily loses it. “It’s just unexpected, is all,” she manages to finish. “Girls’ Night strikes again.”

“This is going to cost me a fortune. It’s not freaking funny,” I hiss, glancing at the three men inspecting the last bike in the line, deep furrows etched between each set of brows. Despite myself, I feel my lips curl.

Of course this happened to me. Of course. What else would I expect? That my move to Heart’s Cove would go smoothly? That I could flirt with Lee Blair and maybe even date him? That things in my life could actually work out, for once?

I’m forty-one years old. I should know better by now. Things don’t just work out for me.

“Look,” Jen says, and we all turn to where she’s pointing. “A security camera. I bet it caught everything on tape.”

I’ve never seen a herd of forty-something-year-old women move so fast. They wrestle each other to the door and run through the bar, and all I can do is follow. My steps drag, dread curling in my gut. It was awful enough living through the motorcycle dominos once. I’m not sure I’ll survive the embarrassment a second time.

Hamish, the bar owner who also happens to be Lee’s father, nearly falls out of his chair when we crash through the door to the back office. We manage to communicate that there’s been an Incident (with a capital I) which needs to be reviewed. Once he’s finally parsed the scattered information everyone is shouting at him, Hamish nods and pulls up the security feed. The video appears on his computer screen, and all of us crowd around him to watch.

When the first bike-domino falls, all that restrained laughter finally breaks free from everyone except Hamish and me. The old man grips the arms of his chair with a white-knuckled grip. I cover my face with my hands, unsure if the sounds coming from me are laughs or sobs.

At this point, is there even a difference between the two?

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