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Books by Jane Harvey-Berrick
More about JHB
Copyright © 2015 Jane Harvey-Berrick
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you do, you are stealing from me, my family and my dog. I only distribute my work through iBooks, Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Create Space. If you have gotten this book from anywhere else, it is a pirate copy, it is illegal, and you’ve really spoiled my day. Just saying.
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Jane Harvey-Berrick has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. Jane Harvey-Berrick has asserted her moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
First published in 2015
Harvey Berrick Publishing
Kirsten Olsen and Trina Miciotta
Cover design by
Hang Le / www.byhangle.com
Cover photograph by
Alex Wightman/ www.alexwightman.com
Cover models, Lily Maverick Wallis & James
Interior design and formatting by
Christine Borgford / www.perfectlypublishable.com
Slave to the Rhythm (Rhythm series #1)
Luka (Rhythm series #2)
The Traveling Man (Traveling Series #1)
The Traveling Woman (Traveling Series #2)
Roustabout (Traveling Series #3)
The Traveling Series Boxed Set
The Education of Sebastian (Education Series #1)
The Education of Caroline (Education Series #2)
The Education of Sebastian and The Education of Caroline (Education Series combined edition)
Semper Fi (Education Series #3)
The New Samurai
Dangerous to Know and Love
Playing in the Rain
The Dark Detective
At Your Beck & Call
Summer of Seventeen
One Careful Owner (coming next)
A reluctant cover model who is willing to be bribed to take his shirt off for charity.
And to Lily
For helping him.
James’ model fee was donated to www.felixfund.org.uk
It was my brother’s party, a going-away party, I suppose you could say. But it was more than that: it was a celebration of life and love and living.
Kestrel was my half-brother and had been brought up in a traveling carnival. Our father certainly had some explaining to do when the news broke, not only to his constituents, but also to me since I was unaware that I had not one, but two brothers. This past year of getting to know them had been a revelation in so many ways. I loved my new brothers. My relationship with my father was strained.
Kes’s friends stared at me curiously. They weren’t unfriendly, but it was clear that I wasn’t one of them. I felt prim and proper in my $300 jean skirt and silk top. I clutched the warm beer in my hands and tried to look like I was just chilling out.
My brand new BMW stood out among the rusting trucks, trailers and RVs. I didn’t fit.
If it had been a cocktail party or one of my father’s political fundraisers, I’d have been fine, schmoozing with the best of them. But these people didn’t care about any of the things that I’d been brought up to think were important: the right school, the right job, the right clothes, all the trappings that came with my father’s success.
Just as I was considering making my excuses and driving back to the hotel in Arcata, a man’s laugh rang out, a sound of deep joy echoing through the twilight. I looked across and saw him: his head thrown back, his eyes sparkling, his hands on his hips. He was still smiling when his gaze met mine. I saw his eyes darken with a predatory expression that made me feel as if his gaze alone could strip the clothes from my body.
I knew who he was—Kes’s brother, not by blood, but certainly in every other sense of the word. A stunt rider, like my brother, and the biggest manwhore walking God’s green earth. His prowess with women was almost as legendary as his prowess on a motorcycle.
He’d been traveling all the times I’d visited Kes and his fiancée Aimee before, but I couldn’t help thinking that even when he had been around they’d decided to keep me away from him. For my own good, no doubt.
That was probably Aimee. I liked her and we’d become close.
Even though we were the same age, she sometimes treated me like a little sister, and honestly, I felt immature when I compared myself to her. All I’d ever been was a student with an allowance and a black American Express card provided by my father. I didn’t even have to take some low paying, part time job while I went to school. But Aimee had a career as an elementary school teacher before falling in love with my brother . . . although the way she tells it, she’d been in love with him since they were children. I think that’s why she’d decided to give up her entire life to travel his road. I couldn’t imagine doing that for a guy. Kes was great and I could see how in love they were, but she’d given up her whole world. Not that she saw it like that.
“Love is in all the small gestures, TC,” she said to me. “But sometimes it all adds up to something bigger. I can’t imagine my life without him—and I don’t want to.”
I envied her—but I pitied her, too.
I straightened up fractionally when Tucker started to approach me, his walk loose-limbed and confident.
“Hey there,” he said, giving me a sexy half-smile as he casually propped a shoulder against the coffeeberry tree where I was slumped in a deckchair. “Tell me why a beautiful woman is sitting all by her lonesome.”
His accent was warm with a touch of Southern that melted like honey on his tongue.
I raised an eyebrow and gave him one of my father’s patented campaign stares, the one he used with reporters who asked dumb questions.
“I’ll take the compliment of being called beautiful,” I said, “but really, is that the best line you have?”
The light of challenge sparked in his eyes and his grin grew wider.
“Not even close to my best,” he said with a cocky edge to his voice. “I thought I’d start off easy.”
“Oh, but I’m not easy,” I replied. “I’m complicated and difficult and it takes a lot of work to impress me.”
I was lying. His l
ong, lean build, deep-set eyes and model-pretty face were impressing the hell out of me. His hair was curling to his chin, the ends bleached to a dirty blond by the sun. And what color were those amazing eyes? Gray? Green? Almost a light olive color—I’d never seen anything like them before.
Close up, the air seemed to spark and crackle around him. There was an intensity hidden in his lazy gaze and laidback smile that made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to feel the heat in his eyes, and I definitely didn’t want to feel the attraction pulling at me.
Feeling twitchy and wanting to squirm under his penetrating gaze, I did the opposite: I leaned back, crossing one leg over the other, smiling to myself as his eyes followed the movement.
He glanced up and grinned again.
“I’ve never been afraid of hard work,” he murmured, hooking a thumb through one of his belt loops.
“Good to know that you like a challenge—that makes it easy for me.”
“How d’you figure that?” he asked, his lips curving upwards.
“I just keep saying no to keep you interested.”
“So you want to keep me interested?”
“I like a challenge,” I threw back at him.
He leaned a little closer and it felt like a bolt of static electricity zipped between us. I glanced out toward the ocean, wondering if a storm was brewing, but the waves were silky ripples under a purple sky.
“I’ll work for my supper,” he said, his tongue flicking out to wet his lips as he spoke, looking at me as if I was on the menu.
It sounded so dirty, the way he said it, the way his gaze roved over my chest. But I wasn’t going to let him know that.
“Now you want me to cook for you, too? Wow, you’re sure of yourself.”
He gave a husky laugh. “Is it bad that I’m sure of myself? It’s you I’m not sure about.”
“What makes you so sure of yourself?” I asked, looking him in the eye.
“What you see is what you get.”
“Hmm, so no hidden depths. That’s disappointing.”
He grinned at me, his eyes crinkling with pleasure.
“Nope, absolutely no hidden depths. As shallow as the day is long. But that means no surprises, right? Just lil ole me—everything that you’ve been checking out for the last two minutes.”
My cheeks flushed as I met his eyes.
“Not that I mind,” he went on. “I like the way you look at me . . . pretty much like the way I’m looking at you.”
“Slightly annoyed?” I suggested, pretending to be bored.
He grinned and shook his head.
“Uh-uh, pretty lady. The look you’ve been giving me says that you’re interested.” He leaned closer. “I’ll be hitting the road tomorrow, but we could make sweet music tonight. It’ll be worth your while—I’m a guy who knows how to use his . . . hands.”
“I’m more concerned with your mouth . . . more specifically your tongue . . . especially if you keep mixing your metaphors.”
He gave a startled laugh.
“I think you’re teasing me, beautiful, or maybe that’s a challenge?”
“Not at all,” I said, being serious for a moment. “I know you’re good with your hands. I was told you did most of the repairs on Kes and Aimee’s cabin. Did you work in construction before you joined the carnival?”
Tucker looked taken aback. “Who told you that?”
“Aimee mentioned a few things.”
Tucker lifted a shoulder and leaned back against the tree, his face hidden in the shadows.
“Just some stuff I picked up,” he said, sounding wary now.
“More than a few things from what I heard.”
He shrugged again, noncommittal, then his eyes made a slow appraisal of my body. I should have been insulted by the way he let his hot gaze roam every inch of me, but I was enjoying returning the favor.
His jeans hung loosely from his hips, the rips in one knee caused by hard usage not designer tears. He wore an Eagles t-shirt that had been washed so many times it was impossible to read the words that ghosted over his firm chest. His biceps bunched as he propped himself against the tree, and his tanned skin was turning from gold to light brown in the first months of spring, but he was no gym rat. Everything he had was from hard, physical labor. I’d been brought up with men who pushed papers for a living—this man was not from their world. And that excited me.
“Why’s a class act like you hanging with a bunch of carnies?” he asked.
His voice had turned edgy and his question felt like a test.
“What do you mean?”
His tone was still lazy, but there was a tightness that hadn’t been apparent before.
“Sweet cheeks, you’re wearing a designer skirt that must have cost two hundred dollars and there’s nothing cheap about your perfume.”
Determined not to show my chagrin that he’d read me so easily, my reply was calm and level.
“Three-hundred dollars. And I’m visiting friends.”
“Jealous?” I asked with a light laugh.
He grinned. “Maybe I just don’t feel like kicking anyone’s ass tonight.”
“Maybe you’d be the one getting your ass kicked.”
He leaned closer, and I caught the scent of soap and clean sweat.
“If you’re the one doing the kicking, it would be worth it.”
He whispered the last words, making me lean towards him, but when we were close enough to touch, he pulled away at the last second and winked at me.
Annoyed, I sank back into my chair. “I think I’d like to kick your ass.”
“I think I’d like to let you.”
I couldn’t help laughing. “Very smooth, Mr. McCoy.”
His expression showed surprise.
“Well now, that just doesn’t seem polite that you know my name but I don’t know yours. You gonna tell me your name, sweet cheeks?”
I stood up and smiled at him. “Well now, it isn’t ‘sweet cheeks’.”
I lifted my beer in a salute and walked away, hearing his laughter follow me.
I knew myself well enough to know that I was minutes from falling for his obvious charms. I needed to get away before . . .
The hell I did!
I almost stumbled as my steps faltered. What on earth was I doing? Why was I running away from a man that I was deeply attracted to, whose eyes promised as much sin as I could take in a single night?
I’d never had a one night stand; never been brave enough to choose gratification over being sensible.
But maybe I wasn’t that girl anymore. Not since I’d learned a few hard truths about my father, about my family.
I turned around, determined to enjoy everything that Tucker McCoy had to offer. Even if all I’d end up with was a pleasurable soreness between my legs and something memorable to write in my diary.
When my eyes found him again, he was still leaning against the coffeeberry tree, talking to Zef, the other stunt rider in Hawkins’ Daredevils.
I guessed they were talking about me because Tucker’s eyes met mine as he laughed at whatever Zef had said. But then his laugh died away and for a second another emotion flittered across his face. He seemed surprised, maybe even a little angry. Then he looked away and it felt deliberate.
Two others joined them: Zachary and Ollo. Now, I was even more surplus to requirements.
I knew the guys were tight; after all, they spent most of the year traveling together, but they looked out for each other, too.
No one knew how old Ollo was. He was born with dwarfism and was less than four feet tall, but in many ways he was a tribal elder, a grandfather to the carnie family. I loved to sit and listen to his tales of the olden days. Aimee was writing them down, afraid that they’d be lost forever if she didn’t.
I had friends from home in St. Paul, and friends from UCLA, and I was even making friends up in San Francisco, but they weren’t family—not the way the carnies were family.
veryone was accepted, regardless of race, color, creed or sexual preference. Zachary’s boyfriend, Luke, was playing his guitar by the bonfire, loved and protected—one of them.
Well, everyone who was a carnie was accepted. So that ruled me out.
I studied Tucker out of the corner of my eye, watching, assessing. He stayed beneath the tree, chatting with Zef, but didn’t look my way again. After a few minutes, Ollo climbed onto Tucker’s shoulders and they all headed back to the bonfire as Tucker’s laughter echoed through the still air.
Disappointed, I sipped my flat beer for something to do. I felt self-conscious by myself, so I headed toward the cabin and joined the short line for the bathroom.
But as soon as I was back outside again, I couldn’t help looking for Tucker. And I found him.
He was walking away from the bonfire, a brunette wrapped around him with one hand in his back pocket, the other sliding up inside his t-shirt.
I combed my fingers through the ends of my straight fair hair and watched as the other woman fawned all over him. I guess he wasn’t into blondes. Why couldn’t it have been my lucky night instead of hers?
Something shifted inside of me, something that had been holding me back broke open. I didn’t have to live by my parents’ rules; I didn’t have to live the life they had preordained for me. I was 27 years old. What was I waiting for?
I gazed wistfully after Tucker and his conquest.
He did what he wanted when he wanted. He did who he wanted and I envied him. It wasn’t that I particularly wanted to be a notch on his belt, but I wanted to be free of all the guilt, all the bullshit that had stopped me from living my life so far.
Until I met this crazy carnival family, I hadn’t understood.
To protect my dented pride, I told myself that Tucker had been warned to stay away me because I was Kes’s sister, and therefore off limits.
I was used to that: my father had guys warned off of me all the time. He didn’t do it himself, of course, but he had ‘people’. Only eligible men were allowed anywhere near me—men who wore suits, worked in upscale offices and had the right family connections.