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Four months ago, I made the first spontaneous decision of my life. I left my cold, suffocating family behind and set out for the Golden State. In pursuit of happiness, I threw my rule book out the window. New home, new job, and a brand-new spontaneous Parker. I have to admit, becoming New Parker would be a lot easier if I wasn't flat broke and living in a shack. But I have my friends, a little bookstore full of romance novels, and the freedom I've always desperately wanted.
I was perfectly happy with my shelves of book boyfriends until Lukas Donovan walked into my shop. The black sheep of the Donovan family, with his bottle-green eyes, stubbly beard, and those tree-trunk thighs... my romance novel men might never cut it again. I just wish he wasn't such a dick.
Everyone knows I'm the good time guy. I'm the man you date when you want to piss off your daddy, and the guy you sleep with to make your ex jealous. I'm not long term.
Parker Thompson is long term. Preacher's daughter and my sister's best friend, she's one hundred percent off limits and a bad idea no matter how you look at it. Bad idea or not, it doesn't stop me from wanting her so badly it makes me ache. I know I should push her away, keep my distance... but how the hell am I supposed to do that when I can't stand the idea of another man touching her or looking at her. Or really even breathing near her.
Revved Up is Book 3 in the Sonoma Series by Mae Harden. Safe, HEA, No cheating, and lots of dirty talk! Get ready for Lukas Donovan, because he's got a possessive streak and a filthy mouth that's going to drive Parker wild.
Release date: December 3, 2020
Print pages: 225
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Chapter One: Parker
I like bad boys. At least, I like them in theory. Growing up the chunky, glasses wearing daughter of a pastor and a librarian, my experience with boys was limited to supervised dates with the closeted son of the assistant pastor. He was as much a bad boy as he was into me, which is to say, not at all.
But a girl can fantasize. And when I do, it’s about a tall, long haired, tattoo-covered, dark and handsome someone on a motorcycle. He steals me away on the back of his Hog, the engine rumbling between my thighs as we fly down the road, wind whipping through my hair—
I yelp and tumble backwards off my stool, landing hard on the wood floor.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry!” Lilah exclaims as she rushes around the counter to help me.
“Ow,” I moan, rubbing the back of my head as I sit up.
“Jesus, you’re as clumsy as me,” Lilah holds out a hand to help me up.
I take it, pulling myself to my feet and brushing myself off. Not that the floors are dirty. I’m meticulous about keeping my little bookshop clean.
“You ok?” my friend asks with an apologetic grimace.
“Oh, I’m fine. Just a little bruise. You scared me!”
Lilah laughs, her green eyes full of mischief. “I called your name like three times! You were super spaced out.… What were you thinkin’ about?” She wiggles her eyebrows at me, and I’m sure I blush.
She picks up the book I dropped on the counter, eyeing the cover. A shirtless man, all bulging muscles and long windswept hair graces the cover. A model-gorgeous woman sits behind him on a motorcycle, her arms draped all over him while he glowers into the distance. Le sigh.
“Didn’t you finish this already?” she asks. “Book club is in two and a half hours.”.
“I finished it! I’ve read it twice already. I was just flipping through it again before book club.”
“Well, that explains the thousand-yard stare,” Lilah laughs as she sets the book back on the counter. “God, this one was hot. You have good taste, and that’s coming from someone who isn’t even into the whole rugged-motorcycle-man thing.”
She sets a bag on the counter next to my vintage typewriter. It doesn’t work, but it looks so good in the shop that I can’t part with it. I peek inside the brown paper bag.
“Seltzer?” I ask her with a little frown.
“And wine. Don’t get your panties in a twist, Parker.” She winks as she unloads the party supplies for tonight. “I got carried away with the Cabernet last weekend. I need a booze free night tonight.”
Pfft. Yeah, right. More like she’s pregnant and not telling anyone yet. We’ve only been friends a couple of months, but there’s no way the Lilah I know is voluntarily giving up a glass of red wine.
“Okay,” I say noncommittally as I try to keep my eyebrow from creeping up my face. I snag the little brown box stamped with the Olive Branch Bakery logo and crack the top, taking a deep breath of chocolate infused air. A small moan escapes my lips.
Lilah laughs. “Don’t get too excited. We’re experimenting with new flavors and we need guinea pigs. There are some weird ones in there.”
“I volunteer as tribute,” I sigh, resisting the temptation to steal one of the shiny little truffles before the others arrive. I close the box and set it aside for later.
“You say that now, but wait until you hit the rosemary caramel. It’s… different.” Lilah grins and hands me a salad in a takeout container with big toasty pieces of ciabatta on the side. “I know you don’t have time to eat dinner between closing and book club.”
“God, I love you,” I say, taking the salad and giving her a one armed hug.
“Love you too, girl!” Lilah returns my hug and fixes my hair, pulling it over one shoulder. “Can I steal your hair? I just want to be a redhead for a day,” she sighs. I think she’s crazy. Her shiny dark hair and oversized emerald eyes make her look like a Disney princess. Ok, a very foul-mouthed version of a Disney princess.
“Sure, but good luck taming my curls,” I laugh as she kisses me on the cheek.
“Deal! I’ll see you tonight.” Lilah hugs me fiercely before heading back to the bakery. She practically floats out of the store.
I lean on the counter and look out on my quiet store, contemplating how much happier my life has been since I met Lilah and her sisters.
I moved to California on a whim four months ago. To date, it’s the single boldest, bravest thing I’ve ever done. Sometimes I look around and I still can’t believe I packed up my beat-up old Honda Civic and drove to California, all alone, with just enough savings to start my business and escape another miserable Minnesota winter.
When I stumbled across the rental listing for the little shop in downtown Sonoma, I just knew it was fate. Even before I left the blustery cold of the Middle River, I could feel the warm California sun on my skin and picture myself driving past miles and miles of picturesque vineyards. I could start fresh and be anyone I wanted to be.
Of course in my fantasy, I had a convertible, giant sunglasses and endless free time to explore wine country all by myself. The reality of running a business is something else entirely. Long days stuck inside, assembling bookshelves, painting, ordering books, organizing, cleaning, bills, and never-ending paperwork.
I’d be miserably lonely if it wasn’t for the sisters at the bakery across the road. One week after signing my lease, I put a sign up in my shop window reading:
Sorry, I’m Booked!
A Romance Bookstore for Everyone
Within minutes, Olive and Lilah were at my door, ready to break it down if I didn’t let them in. That sums up my relationship with the Donovan sisters perfectly. Julia arrived fifteen minutes later, breathless, and declaring that “this better be worth” her break at the hospital. Spoiler alert, she told me later, it was.
I spend the next few hours helping customers. Once they clear out, headed home with their newest treasures, I settle down with a happy sigh to eat my salad and finish my bad boy book. Then I spend some time tidying up the shop. I polish the wood counter, sweep the floors, and clean the fingerprints off the glass front door before locking up.
Book club starts at seven on the dot. The three Donovan sisters and our friends, Chelsea and Sally, fill the eclectic collection of couches and chairs in the shop’s sitting area.
Chelsea and Julia have launched into a heated debate about the motorcycle romance while I top up wine glasses and straighten the cheeseboard Olive brought over.
“It’s about vulnerability and overcoming their fear of rejection!” Chelsea all but yells. Judging by the way she’s holding her copy of the book, I hope Julia has better catching reflexes than I do.
“I’m just saying, it’s not realistic! He’s all macho and alpha on his motorcycle, but he’s such a pussy about speaking his mind!” Julia argues back.
I decide to keep my feelings to myself, at least for the moment. I love this hero. He’s all dirty talk in bed and fiercely possessive of the heroine… but Julia isn’t wrong. He is a bit of a pussy when it comes to sharing his emotions. The two of them keep arguing while Olive, Lilah, Sally, and I look on, eyes bouncing between them like it’s a tennis match. This happens every month, and I think it boils down to the fact that Julia and Chelsea are just inherent opposites. Chelsea is all sweet innocence. The blushing-bride type living happily ever after with her Prince Charming. Julia is loud, outspoken, spontaneous, and fearlessly living her best life.
God, do I envy her. Moving out here is the only spontaneous thing I’ve ever done, and it was the best decision of my life. I’ve got a fresh start. In my new home with my new job, I can be New Parker. Spontaneous Parker. Maybe even Wild Parker… well, probably not. I still have to manage the day-to-day bookstore stuff. It’s not like I can go out and party every night. But I can be spontaneous and I can fight for my own happiness now. That’s something Old Parker never had the freedom to do.
The little brass bell over the shop door chimes, pulling me out of my thoughts. Ben, Lilah’s fiancé, enters through the narrow, antique door, angling his shoulders to fit properly. He’s almost frighteningly large in my opinion, but tiny Lilah adores him. Olive’s fiancé, Brooks, follows Ben inside. No shock there. They always pick their women up from book club but they’ve abandoned their boys' night earlier than usual and, to my surprise, a third man steps out from behind them.
A tingle of electricity runs through my body, stopping my heart and my breath all in one go. Dark hair falls across part of his face, brushing his cheekbones and obscuring one of his eyes as he purses his lips in an irritated way. He doesn’t look at all happy to be here, but that doesn’t stop my body from reacting with aching awareness as he leans against the door frame.
Julia is yelling something about someone caving, but she might as well be yelling into a bucket of water for all I’m picking up on. I can’t tear my eyes away from him. He’s thick and muscular, but not really chiseled. Tattoos cover his arms, disappearing under the sleeves of his tight black t-shirt and trailing all the way down his wrists to the backs of his hands. I can even see some ink peeking out of the collar of his shirt. I wonder what they look like and the thought of him lifting that shirt over his head makes my mouth go dry. There’s something sweet about his face and I’m not sure what it is until he meets my eyes and a smirk lifts one corner of his lips. Holy God, his lips are pretty. The pout was nice, but that indolent little smile is staggering.
I know I am.
But if I thought I couldn’t look away before, it’s nothing compared to the way I feel when his vibrant green eyes hold mine. Look away? I can’t even breathe right. His eyes slowly sweep over my body, shameless, and when his eyebrow lifts appreciatively, I squeak. Like a ridiculous little mouse.
Thankfully, no one hears me because Julia is saying something about drool, scooting her chair back so it screeches on the floor.
“What?” I ask her, ripping my eyes away from the man by the door. My brain clicks back into action, and I realize immediately that he has to be one of the Donovan brothers. The dark hair and bright green eyes are a dead giveaway, and now that my eyes are on Julia and her pouty lips, the family resemblance is unmistakable.
Julia gives me a rueful smile, eyebrow arched, as she says, “Oh, nothing. I’m just going to leave the splash zone before things get icky.”
Chelsea spits wine down her front and I must look like a deer in headlights because Julia’s face softens a little, as if she regrets teasing me. I feel heat rise in my cheeks as my eyes dart from Julia back to her brother. It must be Lukas with those tattoos. I’ve heard enough about their brothers to know Asher is too straightedge to have tattoos. Lukas is the troublemaker. That’s what Olive says anyway. And he sure as hell looks like a lot of trouble to me.
His little smirk grows into a devastatingly lazy smile. He runs a hand over the shadow covering his jaw and all I can think are dirty thoughts. Best friend’s brother or not, I wonder how that scruff would feel scraping my inner thighs. What would it be like to grip his muscular arms as he drove into me?
“Lukas! Out!” Lilah yells as she heads towards him, all but pushing him out the door. He lets her shepherd him outside, but not before giving me a parting wink. Ben follows them, a hand pressed to his mouth and I’m almost positive he’s trying to cover a laugh. Looking around the bookshop I realize everyone else is staring at me, eyebrows raised, cocked, scrunched, and lifted.
I feel my cheeks burn as I shrink into myself. I wish they would stop. Why can’t they all look at something else? Talk about something, for Christ’s sake. I spot Lilah’s book on the coffee table, snatch it, and follow her out the door. Anything to escape.
“Lukas, you leave Parker alone.” Lilah’s voice hits me as I step outside, but Ben’s enormous frame is blocking her from my sight.
“Calm your ass, Ladybug,” a deep, smokey voice replies. “ She’s not my type, anyway.”
The words hit me like a ton of bricks to the stomach. I feel like a fool. Everyone I know in California just witnessed me have a mental break at the sight of this man. Then they watched him look me up and down and deem me unworthy. That wink was just a parting shot.
I hear him start his motorcycle and drive off. A second later, Lilah turns and sees me, apologizing for her brother.
I do my best to play it off. “It’s cool,” I say. “For what it’s worth, my daddy would hate him.”
That’s not true, of course. My father, the pastor, doesn’t hate anyone. He never would have let me date a man like that, though. Not that it matters though. A man like Lukas Donovan would never even consider someone like me.
I offer Lilah my most convincing smile, even though I feel cold inside, and hand her the book she forgot. Lilah and Ben leave, walking down the street, his arm wrapped around her protectively. I kind of just want to sit down and cry on the sidewalk but there’s a crowd of people right inside my bookshop so I slip on my best everything-is-perfect face, take a deep breath and head back inside.
“Moping over your missed connection?”
I open one eye and look at my sister, leaning against the doorframe of my office in her blue hospital scrubs. I keep my feet kicked up on my desk, blocking her eyes from my sketchbook, which I slip into my desk drawer before putting my hands behind my head.
“Are you going to use up my entire lunch break to annoy me?” I lean back a little farther, just to emphasize the fact that she’s chewing up my free time. Julia sits in the chair opposite mine and there’s a thunk as her shoes kick up on the other side of my desk. She gives me a sweetly sarcastic smile, clasping her hands in her lap. Yup. She’s definitely here to annoy me. I’m not taking the bait though, so I close my eyes and ignore her. She’ll get around to what she wants, eventually.
“So book club was fun the other night,” she says lightly. A muscle twitches in my cheek before I can stop it. Old hawk-eye across the table doesn’t miss my tell, and I hear her chuckle.
She snags half of my sandwich off the desk, taking a monstrous bite out of it.
“Do you mind?” I ask my sister, pulling the rest of my food out of her reach. She may be a girl, but I’ll still smack her hand if she goes after my peanut butter cup.
“Not at all! This is surprisingly good. I feel like you’ve upped your sandwich game. Is that chipotle mayo?”
“What do you want, Jules?” I ask, staring up at the ceiling of my office.
“I couldn’t help noticing the way you and our sweet little Parker were eyeing each other last night. I’m almost surprised nobody caught a contact pregnancy with the way you were eye-fucking her.”
“Oh, don’t be a little bitch about it. You were both doing it. I think the sight of you might have made her forget her own name.”
“So you came to warn me off?” I ask, sitting up and scowling at her. “Don’t bother. Lilah beat you to it.”
My stomach churns as I think about it. Not that she was wrong. I don’t have an outstanding track record with her friends. Or women in general. It’s not that I’m a bastard about it, I’m just not big on commitment. Why settle for one kind of cake when there are so many to try?
Although I have to admit, Parker looked like really good cake. And I didn’t miss the way she looked at me. To be fair, nobody missed it. People three counties over probably felt that intensity. She looked at me like I was the best thing she’d ever seen.
Most people still see me as the fuck-up of the Donovan family. We get a lot of tourists, but this is still a small town. Everyone here knows about the time Joey and I went joyriding in his dad’s Tacoma in the ninth grade. They all know I got arrested for drinking in high school.
Granted, the tattoos don’t help my public image. But I like tattoos; what’s the point of hiding it? Ink or not, I’ll always be the troublemaker, even though it’s been more than a decade since I went for a joyride or supposedly broke Sadie Jones’ heart. Even a degree in engineering and a thriving business hasn’t changed the way people in Sonoma look at me.
Except Parker didn’t look at me like that. Her big baby blues burned into me, all heat and admiration. I keep reminding myself that it’s only because she hasn’t been around long enough to know better. An hour with me would probably be enough to send her cute ass back to Omaha or whatever prairie town she came from.
Julia surprises me by saying, “Oh, I’m not here to warn you off.”
“Hell no! Lilah has a stick up her ass. You’d think Ben would have fixed that by now but—”
“Oh God, please stop.” I interrupt her, holding out a hand to stop the Julia train from scarring my brain tissue with mental images I don’t need. “I beg you.”
Julia rolls her eyes at me but drops her feet to the floor, leaning in conspiratorially.
“Listen, I’m going to tell you something. But if you let Parker know I told you this, I will kill you. Got it?” She looks at me, eyebrows raised, waiting.
I give her the Boy Scout salute. “Not a word, I promise,” I say sarcastically.
“Parker has a thing for bad boys and motorcycles, and between you and me, I know she’s lonely. She’s at the bookstore 24/7. She needs some fun.”
I blink at her for a moment, sure that I heard her wrong. “I’m sorry,” I say finally. “It sounds like you’re trying to pimp me out because your friend needs a date.”
“Don’t be a dick,” Julia says, pointing a warning finger at me. “I’m not pimping anyone out. Don’t think we missed the way you looked back at her. You can lie to Lilah all you want, but I think Parker is exactly your type. And you’re hers. So maybe don’t be a pussy about it and go ask her out before someone else gets there first. A curvy little cutie like Parker won’t stay on the market long, even if she stays locked in that bookstore forever.”
Julia stands to leave but pauses in the doorway, her eyes turned towards the ceiling, false innocence all over her face.
“Lilah has plans with Ben tonight. She said she was leaving the bakery at four… just saying. If you don’t want her yelling at you in front of any pretty shopkeepers again, you might want to go downtown later this evening.”
“Are you sure that’s wise?” I ask her sarcastically. “I mean, what if I break your sweet little friend’s heart?”
“Pfft. You’re a softy and we both know it. I think Parker would be more likely to hurt you than the other way around. She’s tougher than she looks…” Julia opens her mouth, tilting her head to the side and squinting one eye, “and sounds.”
I mime being stabbed in the heart. “So little faith in me? Not that I’m going over there, but I think I could handle little Parker Thompson.”
Julia snorts and turns to leave. She snaps her fingers and turns back around, pointing a finger at me. “Oh! Don’t forget Sally’s birthday party is Friday night at the bar.”
“Like there’s any chance you’d let me forget,” I sigh.
My baby sister taps her nails on the door frame on her way out. “Love you!” she yells from down the hallway.
“Love you too!” I yell back.
Going back to staring at the ceiling, I mull over what my whirlwind of a sister said. I don’t know if Parker is as tough as Julia thinks. I’ve heard little bits and pieces about her from my sisters at our family dinners. She’s from some podunk town in the Midwest. Her dad was a preacher or something?
I’d be crazy to mess with a girl like that. For one thing, she’d probably try to drag my heathen ass to church. For another, I don’t even know how to date a preacher’s daughter. I’m not exactly Captain Wholesome. Sure, I’m a good choice for the girls trying to get back at an ex or piss off daddy. I’m a great choice if you want someone to make you scream “daddy.” But I’m not the man you date long term.
Even if Julia is right and Parker has a thing for bad boys, I’d bet my fully restored BMW R75 she’s never been with one. She’d probably spend five minutes with me and decide the fantasy was better than the reality.
I’m definitely not going over there. Not tonight. Not ever. It doesn’t matter if Parker keeps popping into my thoughts with those curves of hers. It doesn’t matter that I want to bury my hands in her strawberry curls and kiss her until she’s weak in the knees. It sure as fuck doesn’t matter that the idea of someone else laying a finger on her makes me scowl. It’s better all around if I keep my distance.
I try to put her out of my head as I settle back into my paperwork. I have to track down a part that is seemingly out of stock everywhere. It takes two hours and unfathomable amounts of swearing, but I finally find it at a little shop down near San Francisco. Checking my watch, I balance the time with the traffic. It’s only 2:15 and the drive shouldn’t be more than an hour each way. If I leave right now, I can miss the worst of the traffic around the city.
Popping my head into the work bay, I tell Asher what I’m up to.
“Better you than me,” he replies with a shrug before rolling back under the SUV he’s repairing.
So chatty, that one.
It’s too hot for leather but I’m not keen on road rash so I throw my jacket on before fastening my helmet. My bike roars under me as I drive south, the noise and the wind emptying my mind of everything except a certain curvy little redhead. I can’t push her out no matter how hard I try. I make it all the way to San Francisco and back, though I’m not sure how since the entire ride flew by in a blur.
I just need to clear my head but as I steer my way toward home, I realize I have to ride past Sorry, I’m Booked to get there. I tell myself I won’t even look at it as I go by, but I’m a fucking liar. Beyond the plate glass window, I glimpse Parker behind her counter. She’s wearing a dreamy expression, her chin resting on her hand as she stares into space.
Keep driving, I tell myself as I focus back on the quiet street ahead of me.
I make it two whole blocks before I make a sharp turn down an alley and park my bike. I won’t go in, I tell myself. I just want to see her. I won’t go in.
I backtrack on foot and stand across the street, watching as Parker floats around the shop, dusting and straightening books. She looks… flawless. Coppery curls falling around her shoulders, her eyes are wide and intelligent, and Jesus, those curves. Every step and turn makes her sundress flair around her hips. God himself couldn’t have put together a woman more perfectly designed to drive me insane.
Parker frowns to herself as she shelves a stack of books. Her eyebrows are scrunched up, strawberry lips pressed together, not a smile in sight.
I want to see her smile.
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