This Time Around
by Stacey Lynn
A Love in the Heartland Novel
Release Date: April 10th, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cooper Hawke was everything I didn’t need. Rich and famous, and a high-profile actor, he lived a life of luxury while my life had always been much more simple.
Yet when he showed up at my cattle ranch in Kansas, he gave me everything I didn’t think I wanted again.
His marriage was over and he was lost.
I was still barely surviving in my grief after my husband’s sudden death.
As hard as I tried to keep him out, he slipped past my defenses, and slowly, a connection grew between us I could no longer deny.
But this time around, we were on borrowed time. Because Cooper still had his real life waiting for him back in Hollywood.
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“What are you doing here?” I wrapped the robe around my waist, tightened the knot.
Goddamn it! He wasn’t supposed to see this.
That was what he asked. The urge to scream at him, to unleash holy terror for putting the idea into my head and making me feel, clawed at my throat. “No. Why are you in my room?”
“Because I couldn’t sleep on the couch thinking of you and then I started hearing all this racket like the ceiling was going to cave in on my head and thought I should come check on you.”
My brain must have malfunctioned. I must have skipped some words, rearranged them in the wrong order. He didn’t say what it sounded like.
He pinned me with a look. It stole the breath from my lungs. “You heard me.”
I slammed my mouth closed. If words were slipping out, when I didn’t mean them to, it was best to be quiet.
“Come out of the closet, Rebecca.”
He held out his hand. I ignored it.
I couldn’t breathe or move or focus.
He was standing outside my closet, and he was naked.
Not naked, naked. Mostly naked. He’d taken off the pants and shirt I’d given him and all he had on was a pair of black boxer briefs.
Skin-tight boxer briefs.
That showed every outline of him. And there was a lot of him to see.
My eyes darted to the side of the closet I’d swiped clean. Tomorrow, I’d bleach my eyes to erase that visual.
“I’m fine here.”
He laughed low and slow, beautiful and over too quickly. I was not moving.
“You don’t come out, I’m coming in there to get you.”
No way in hell was he touching me. Not dressed like that.
I stepped over the bucket of shoes at my feet and stepped into the room. He moved back, giving me space and crossed his arms over his chest.
It hid nothing. I couldn’t find a place to focus on.
I was losing my mind. It had to be sleep deprivation. I looked to my bed and ruffled covers which made me think of…
Nope. Not going there. I stared at the wall. It was cream and void of any decorations or photos. It was safe.
Finally, I breathed. He stood there, watching me, I felt it like I felt my skin crawling from his inspection.
“Want to talk about this?” he asked.
Nope. I didn’t. I didn’t want to say a single word to Cooper Hawke. The man in underwear in my bedroom.
I crossed my arms over my stomach. Uncrossed them. “No.” My hands went to my hair and I untangled my hair tie, shoving my hands back into my hair and re-fixing the messy knot. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“I might be able to help, you know. It’s not like I haven’t stood in a closet, wanting to do the exact same thing you’ve just done.”
“You can’t help me.”
He stepped closer. I shuffled back. He moved again. I retreated. He was getting closer when he needed to move back.
“Cooper,” I said, “Please. I need to be alone.”
“I thought we were friends.”
“What?” My gaze jumped to him, fell. Tight, tanned skin and black boxer briefs. A trail of hair from his bellybutton that disappeared beneath those briefs burned into my retinas. I squeezed my eyes closed. A futile attempt to erase that pretty, pretty sight.
“I thought we were friends,” he repeated.
I forced my eyes open and choked out, “We are.”
His full lips quirked into a grin. I knew that look. He had it downstairs. I did not like that look. Not one little bit. “Friends help each other, don’t they?”
“Friends respect what the other person wants and needs.”
I scooted away from him again and bumped into the wall next to my closet.
He took one more step toward me. Slowly. Like he’d done downstairs, allowing me time to move away, allowing me time to see his intention. My head screamed to move out of the way while my body shouted stay right where you are.
My body sucked.
He was in front of me, not touching me. Far enough away where he was in no danger of touching me.
I still wanted him to touch me.
His hand raised and he settled it on the wall above my shoulder. And I could smell him.
“Cooper. Why are you here?”
He didn’t even blink. “Because I want to help you.”
“I can try.”
About the Author:
Stacey Lynn currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and four children. When she’s not conquering mountains of laundry and fighting a war against dust bunnies and cracker crumbs, you can find her playing with her children, curled up on the couch with a good book, or on the boat with her family enjoying Minnesota’s beautiful, yet too short, summer.
She lives off her daily pot of coffee, can only write with a bowlful of Skittles nearby, and has been in love with romance novels since before she could drive herself to the library.
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