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Here Comes Trouble
By Erin Kern
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Format:ebook $2.99 $3.99 CAD
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Growing up poor and abandoned in Trouble, Wyoming, Lacy Taylor learned to be ready for anything-and to always prepare for the worst. She can handle a jailbird dad who won’t stay lost and a sister she didn’t know she had, but Chase McDermott might be her ultimate undoing. Never could she have predicted their long standing battle of wills would erupt into a sizzling, anytime-anywhere passion. Thrown off her game for the first time ever, Lacy figures the only way to fight fire is to turn up the heat . . .
Every woman in town would love to tie Chase down, but the happily footloose cowboy prefers to roam free. Still, if keeping Lacy hot, bothered, and riled up will help her deal with her troubles, he’s happy to oblige. But when Chase gets a look at the vulnerable woman hiding behind Lacy’s tough bravado, he can’t help rethinking his no-commitments rule. Can Chase find the courage to leave his playboy days behind for good and prove he’s worthy of Lacy’s fragile trust . . . and her love?
Table of Contents
A Preview of Along Came Trouble
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Welcome back to Trouble, where the outrageous and unpredictable McDermott family lives. In the last book we watched the oldest of the McDermott brothers, Noah, find his other half in Avery and how they brought balance to each other's lives.
We also met the yummy, playboy younger brother Chase. The carefree member of the family is content in his ways and has no intention of letting any woman get under his skin. So, of course, I knew just the woman who could bring him down a notch.
Lacy Taylor hasn't had an easy life. Her struggles have carved a special place in my heart, struggles that derived from experiences in my own life. I knew she needed to have her happy ending. At the same time, she also needs Chase and his own brand of heroism. Even if it isn't what she thinks she needs.
THE SECOND LACY TAYLOR opened her front door, she knew the two men standing outside weren't members of the Publisher's Clearing House Prize Patrol. She'd watched enough FBI Files to know a federal agent when she saw one. Remarkably bland, dark suits, crisp white shirts, and cheap ties could only be an ensemble put together by an officer of the government.
Lacy stood with her hand on the door frame, not bothering to invite them in for drinks. They probably wouldn't accept, anyway.
"Miss Lacy Taylor?"
He'd called her Miss. How polite.
The taller man who addressed her, roughly the size of Santa Claus with thick sandy hair, looked at her with amber-colored eyes and a bored expression.
The other man, whose skin was as dark as the coffee beans she'd ground up that morning, also looked at her with a bland expression. Was that something they were taught in FBI school, or wherever these two exciting gentlemen were from?
"Yeah, I'm Lacy," she answered after holding them in suspense long enough. They were probably the type of men who didn't appreciate being held in suspense.
The larger man who'd been so patiently awaiting her answer pulled a black wallet-looking thing from inside his suit coat. "I'm Detective Whistler and this," he said with a jerk of his head at the shorter, wiry man, "is my partner, Detective Parks."
Detective Whistler held his impressive-looking identification in front of her face. To appease him, she leaned forward and read the ID. Yep, according to the miniscule piece of paper, he was indeed Detective Paul Whistler, from the St. Helena Police Department. But then again, what did she know about government IDs? She could be staring at a forgery and not even know.
Detective Parks also held out his ID, like the good little partner he was.
Detective Jon Parks, St. Helena Police Department.
"You two are an awfully long way from St. Helena." Okay, so it wasn't the most cheerful way to greet two men who'd traveled so far to see little ol' her. Call her suspicious, but no good could come of two police officers coming to visit.
"Do you mind if we come in, Miss Taylor? We have a few questions to ask you."
So Detective Parks really did have a voice. The deep timbre, like Darth Vader's, didn't match his thin, lanky frame at all. Maybe that's why he waited so long to speak: shock factor.
"Questions about what?" she asked instead of inviting them in. Sweat, which had nothing to do with the lack of air-conditioning in her ancient house, beaded on her upper lip and started to trickle down her back. A warm breeze ruffled the thick, overgrown trees in the front yard but only made her swelter even more.
She waited for them to hit her with the words she knew were coming.
"We're looking for Dennis Taylor. Your father."
I just knew it!
Lacy never referred to Dennis Taylor as Father. That was a term a man had to earn. Someone who showed more devotion to his cheap whiskey and the hard cement floor of a jail cell was a man who definitely hadn't earned that name. The mention of him still played hell with her emotions, and the emptiness his absence had created inside her had yet to be filled. For years, Lacy had searched for a way to fill it, but she'd lost hope. But she didn't tell them that. They didn't need to know the sordid details of her depressing childhood.
"He's wanted for questioning in a series of robberies. We have reason to believe he may be in this area," Detective Parks continued in his deep, Darth Vader voice.
Robberies? It seemed good old Dennis had not progressed past petty thefts.
Lacy shifted from one bare foot to the other, the wooden floor slick beneath her sweaty feet. "What makes you think he'd be here?"
Detective Whistler withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket and blotted his forehead. "For one thing, an eyewitness spotted him about a mile from here."
"And the other thing?"
"You're here, Miss Taylor," Detective Parks said.
Lacy shifted her attention to him. "I'm not on speaking terms with Dennis. I haven't seen him in almost five years." Lacy had filed that day away in the part of her brain called Never Think About Again. Showing up at her place of employment with broken handcuffs attached to one wrist and demanding money was not a good way to get back in her good graces. She remembered reading somewhere that he'd been arrested—yet again—shortly after she'd sent him away empty-handed. That was the last time she'd heard anything about him. Five years later, she'd assumed he was still rotting in jail with the rest of society's losers.
"Really?" Detective Whistler and his partner exchanged curious glances. She couldn't fault them for being skeptical. She resisted the urge to stomp her feet like a child and demand they believe her.
"Did you know this is listed as his home address?" asked Detective Whistler.
Lacy resisted the urge to sigh. "I'm sure it is," she said with great patience. "But like I said, it's been a long time since I've seen him." Her hair brushed along her back when she shook her head. "That's all I can tell you." When the men exchanged yet another doubtful glance, she reiterated, "Look, I would love nothing more than for Dennis to slip into a dark hole somewhere and never emerge again. I don't know where he is."
The muscles in Detective Park's jaw clenched as he pulled a business card out of a shiny silver card holder. "Here's my card. It has both our cell numbers on it. If you hear anything or if he contacts you in any way, call either of us immediately. Doesn't matter what time."
Oh, she would definitely do that. For nothing more than to see the look on Dennis's face at being ratted out by his own daughter. Again.
Lacy took the plain white card with their information printed on it in basic black letters.
"Thank you," was all she could think to say.
Detective Whistler gave a nod. "Have a nice day." And the two of them walked down the cracked sidewalk to their unsurprisingly boring black sedan, got in, and drove away.
Lacy stared down the street long after the detectives had disappeared. So Dennis had returned to his old haunts, had he? She hoped to hell he didn't think he'd find help here. Except maybe help back to jail.
She shut the door on the heat outside and walked through her even hotter house. Middle of summer was such an inconvenient time for a broken air conditioner, especially since she couldn't afford to fix the stupid thing.
Boris, her late Grandpa Ray's beloved English mastiff, lay snoring on the threadbare area rug in the living room. The dummy hadn't even flinched when the doorbell rang.
"Some watchdog you are."
His response was another loud snore and a twitch of his leg. Boris was a very twitchy sleeper.
Ray had purchased the mastiff as a pup about eight years ago and affectionately named him after the famous old-time actor Boris Karloff. Boris wasn't too bright and refused to sleep on the bed Lacy had purchased for him.
She took the hair tie out of her jean shorts' pocket and pulled her hair into a ponytail. Hell, she couldn't even afford a haircut. Waitressing didn't exactly afford her to enjoy the lap of luxury.
That was another thing she'd inherited from Ray: a mountain of debt.
Something licked Chase's face. Something with a very small, warm, and prickly tongue. It moved from his chin up to his nose. Unless a stray animal had somehow meandered into his house during the night, Chase would say he was in someone else's room.
He opened one bleary eye and was greeted by blinding sunlight.
Son of a bitch.
The bright, cheery light pierced his skull like a thousand nails hammering into his brain. The pressure made every part of his head throb. He recognized the symptoms for what they were: a hangover.
Now, if he could figure out where the hell he was, all would be right with the world.
The thing licking his face moved to his ear. Chase struggled to lift his arm, which had turned leaden along with his pounding head, and swatted the creature away. His hand came in contact with coarse fur and a deep growling meow sounded in his ear. His brain just about pounded through his skull. He groaned and rolled over onto his stomach.
Maybe Garfield had a shotgun and could put him out of his misery. The arms of sleep wrapped around him once again but retreated when a soft, warm, bare leg rubbed along his.
Dark, curly hair came into fuzzy view when Chase managed to open both his eyes. He thought he recognized her, but… no. Who did he know with dark, curly hair? Hell, he knew a dozen women who fit that description.
"Hello, lover." The husky, sleep-riddled voice was like ants crawling down his legs.
"Why are you shouting?" he mumbled into the pillow. "No shouting. Must be quiet."
The nameless woman next to him cackled like a witch and her leg slid farther over his. "I think someone had too much to drink last night."
Chase's only response was a grunt. Maybe if he ignored her, she'd shut up and go away so he could go to sleep.
The persistent woman didn't get his hint. "Come on, Chase. You promised me one more time," she whined. Chase hated it when women whined.
One more time his ass. He had no clear memory of last night, of even the first time, never mind one more time. He couldn't even keep his eyes open long enough to get a clear picture of her face. Maybe if she closed her curtains at night like a normal person, he could wake up without staring straight into the sun until his eyes boiled in his skull.
Slowly, images from the last twelve hours or so formed in his mind. He remembered closing up the restaurant after work and walking to his truck. It had been late, around midnight, the parking lot mostly empty. Chase squeezed his eyes tighter as the mystery woman next to him scraped her fingernails over his ass. What the hell was her name? She had been leaning against his truck when he walked out of the restaurant. She'd held a six-pack of beer in one hand and a bottle of Jack in the other. That would explain the hangover.
"Chasey…" She placed a kiss on his shoulder blade.
Ah, hell. Only one woman had the balls to call him Chasey.
Sonja Hartley, a woman with more beauty than brains. Her hair had been straight the last time he'd seen her; that's why he hadn't recognized her. They'd gone on a few dates about a year ago, but their relationship had never progressed past casual dinner and inventive sex. He remembered driving her to her house. His elementary detective skills deduced they had gotten shit-faced, then tumbled into bed. Great. It was like being back in college.
He groaned again and rolled over, if only to stop her from groping his ass. No way was he going another round with this woman. Had he been sober, he probably never would have gone the first round.
"You promised me, Chase." Her tone had gone from sweet and pleading to more demanding.
He tried one more time to open his eyes. The light was still blinding, but this time he managed to hold them open and blink the room into focus.
Holy hell! It was like Walt Disney had thrown up in here. What was the name of the princess who had her own castle at Disneyland? Cinderella? Chase imagined her room looking something like this. The bed was one of those four-poster canopy things with a sheer, gauzy curtain draped across the top. The rest of the room had white furniture and pink, girly shit strewn about on every available surface. If he had to wake up in this room every day, he'd throw himself in front of a truck.
"Chase, I'm serious. I have to be at work in an hour, and I know how you like to take your time."
"What the hell time is it?" he rasped, his throat sore and dry, as though he'd spent the night swallowing pinecones.
Sonja leaned across him to check her watch, which she'd discarded on the nightstand. Her breasts scraped against his chest. He had to get away from this woman. His mind was pretty logical about these things, but his manly parts weren't. They tended to respond whenever seeing a remotely attractive woman.
"It's eight o'clock," she responded.
Fabulous. He should have been at work an hour ago. He hoped his father had had a late morning, too, and wouldn't notice his tardiness. Not likely.
He kicked off the hideous, flowery, girly comforter and stood on weak legs. Not a great morning to skip his customary jog. He could really use the opportunity to regain his strength. Hell, he didn't even have time for a shower.
"Where're you going? I have a whole hour."
"I don't." He heard her moving underneath the sheets and avoided looking at her. "Where the hell are my clothes?" He'd spotted his jeans on the other side of the room, but the rest were nowhere to be seen.
"I think your shirt and shoes are still in the living room."
He swiped his jeans off the floor and was about to pull them on when he remembered he was still buck-naked. "Where's my underwear?"
"I don't know." Fake innocence laced the morning huskiness of her voice. She'd pulled herself upright and held the lavender sheet around her breasts. She watched him with deep blue eyes while nibbling on a baby-pink nail.
The last time they'd been together, she'd somehow gotten hold of his watch. Reluctantly he'd driven back here to retrieve it, at which time she'd tried to get him into bed. Heck, maybe she did have brains after all.
"What'd you do with it?" He was starting to feel foolish, standing bare-ass naked in the middle of her room.
She pulled her knees up to her chest. "I swear I didn't do anything with it. Maybe it got kicked under the bed. You were kind of in a hurry," she said with a wicked and knowing smile.
He regarded her with suspicion; she only returned his stare with the same naughty tilt of her unpainted lips. His underwear wasn't under the bed. It could be anywhere, considering he couldn't remember taking it off.
"Screw it," he said, pulling the jeans on. "I'm going commando."
Naked, Sonja walked on her knees to the edge of the bed and ran her index finger over his chest. "Why are you in such a hurry? I'm offering you more sex." Her finger continued its journey down his stomach and into his pants, along with the rest of her hand.
Damn persistent woman. He managed to tear her hand away right before it wrapped around his not-so-sensible parts. "Will you stop molesting me? I'm late for work."
She sat on her heels and crossed her arms under her breasts, completely unconcerned by her nudity. "I see you still live by the same bang-and-run motto."
"You got that right." He tossed the words over his shoulder as he walked out of her room. Sure enough, his shirt lay by the front door, along with his socks and shoes. He gathered them up and walked outside to his truck.
The early morning air was already warm, promising another unbearably hot day. Chase left his shirt off and tossed it onto the passenger seat as he climbed into the vehicle. His phone, which had been left in the cup holder all night, beeped annoyingly at him from the second he sat down. The leather seat burned his backside, one spot in particular on his left shoulder blade. He ignored the pain and picked up his phone.
One voice message. Probably his father ripping him a new one for being late.
"Where the hell are you? There's food missing from the refrigerator. Drag yourself out of whoever's bed you're in and get your ass here."
Yep, his father definitely didn't sound happy. Maybe he'd just say his alarm clock broke.
What a morning to have a hangover.
Twenty minutes later, with combed hair and fresh clothes, Chase walked into McDermott's to face a less-than-pleased Martin. At eight-thirty in the morning, the restaurant was empty except for his father and the head chef, who were gathered in the kitchen. Like every morning, sous-chefs were at work pressing fresh pasta and cutting vegetables for the day's meals.
"What happened?" Chase walked across the large room and came to a stop in front of the two men.
His father turned to acknowledge him. "You're an hour and a half late."
"Sorry. I overslept." That was as close to the truth as he'd get. "Your message said there's food missing from the fridge."
"Five pounds of halibut are missing." A muscle in his father's jaw tensed.
"How do you know?"
"I did a supply check last night when I left. I counted fifteen pounds of halibut. When I got here this morning, there were only ten pounds," Henry said. Unlike most chefs, Henry's demeanor was calm. He was one of those men with very unremarkable looks, except for the russet-colored Fu Manchu and the sideburns that grew all the way down to his jawbone. Other than that, his five-foot-nine height made it hard for him to intimidate anyone. But the man could cook anything.
"What were we doing with fifteen pounds of leftover halibut?" Chase asked. They rarely had leftover food. Extra food equaled money loss, unless it was something they could puree or add as a side dish. Neither could be done with halibut.
"That's not the point," his father interjected. "We have over a hundred dollars' worth of seafood missing and no explanation. Where do you think they went, Mr. GM?" Martin directed his question to Chase.
"What're you asking me for? We shouldn't have had any leftover seafood anyway."
Henry threw a cautious glance at Martin. His throat worked before he answered. "We had a slow night."
Chase slid his hands into his pockets and jingled the change. "Have you asked Meryl and Phil?" Meryl and Phil, the sous-chefs, were the backbone of Henry's operation, and nothing went on in the kitchen they didn't know about.
"Meryl wasn't here last night. And Phil doesn't know what happened to them." Henry's thick fingers pulled at one of the buttons on his pristine white jacket.
"Seems to me we have a dishonest employee on our hands."
"Wait a minute, Dad." Chase knew exactly where his father's thoughts were heading. "Those fish would have been thrown away anyway. And you don't know that someone stole them. There could be a dozen explanations for this."
Well, shit. He didn't have any ideas off the top of his head. His brain was still beer-foggy.
"I didn't think so. I have some paperwork to go over in my office. But I want you," Martin said with a glance at Chase, "to start going over the security tapes. Have something ready to show me by the end of the day. In the meantime, I don't care for tonight's specials. You and Henry need to come up with some new ones." With that, he disappeared through the heavy metal door that led to the offices upstairs.
That was his father for you, ever the consummate order-giver. Why was the man even here? He should be at the new restaurant that opened a few months ago. Hadn't Chase proven he could handle things here without the need for a babysitter? His father was such a control freak. Chase tried not to resent the particular trait that ran strong in his own blood. In fact, it was what made his father so successful. He just knew now Martin would use this whole someone-is-stealing-from-me thing to breathe even further down Chase's neck. Like he was some teenager in training who didn't know shit about restaurants.
As Henry walked away, Chase stood in the empty kitchen and couldn't ignore the burning on his back. Had Sonja held a lighter to his skin last night while he slept? The same small spot had burned all the way to work. It almost felt like someone had seared off his flesh. He rolled his shoulder to try easing the burning. It didn't help.
A heavy sigh flowed out of his sleep-deprived body. Might as well start watching those tapes. As if he didn't have anything better to do.
The light bedroom voice floated over his skin and washed away any fatigue he'd been feeling. His senses went on instant alert. Funny how Lacy Taylor, a woman he hadn't given a passing thought to in his youth, managed to do that to him.
He turned and let his gaze meander down her body. A thin cotton shirt, draped loosely over small but perky breasts, fell almost to the hem of some frayed denim shorts. The cutoffs did a piss-poor job of covering creamy, slender thighs, thighs that were built to be wrapped around a man's hips. Chase's MO was usually a busty brunette. He didn't make a habit of going after skinny blondes who cut their jeans into shorts and were always ready to verbally spar with him. Lacy had a way of making his body rebel against his own mind.
"You're brooding," she added when he didn't respond to her.
"I don't brood."
She flipped a strand of long blond hair over her shoulder. "All men brood. It's an occupational hazard. Plus I could hear your teeth grinding together when I walked in."
One corner of his mouth kicked up. "You think you're cute, don't you?"
"Noticed that, did you?"
He crossed his arms over his chest and ignored her comment. "You're here a little early."
Her teasing smile fell a fraction. "I need next week's schedule."
"You know Anita doesn't post those until Wednesdays."
"I was hoping she'd be here working on it."
"Sorry to disappoint."
Her teeth sank into her full lower lip as she gazed around the empty restaurant. The mischief lighting up her green irises faded. Chase wanted to coax that light back into her eyes. Getting her all riled up had become a favorite pastime of his. Lacy wasn't one to take flak from anyone, least of all him. She met him head-on every single time.
"She'll be here later, if you want to come back," he suggested when Lacy continued to gnaw on her lower lip.
She glanced at him but didn't say anything.
"Or she might already have it started in her office. I could take you back there." Okay, now you just sound creepy.
Her emerald eyes narrowed at him as though she'd just read his thoughts. "I'll just get it tomorrow night when I come to work."
"Is something wrong?" he found himself asking.
Her steady gaze dropped down to his midsection for the dozenth time in the past few minutes. He forced himself not to react.
"Nothing's wrong," she replied.
"You really can't lie worth a damn, can you?" he countered as he took a step toward her.
She didn't bother backing up. "I can lie a lot better than you think."
He lifted his brows and took another step until he was a whisper away from her. Lacy stood her ground and for once didn't have some smart-ass comment. Chase prided himself on being excellent at reading people. Lacy always pretended indifference around him, but her eyes gave her away. All he had to do was look into their depths to see through her.
"Really?" He bent over and whispered in her ear, "Because your attention is focused on things it probably shouldn't be."
Her jaw just about hit the floor as he brushed past her. One point for Chase.
TONIGHT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE Lacy's night off. An hour earlier, Becky-Lynn, one of the other servers, called begging Lacy to fill in for her. Lacy, being the gosh-darn nice person she was, couldn't say no. Instead of spending an evening at home, listening to Boris's snoring, here she was, waiting tables for people who couldn't decide if they wanted their steak rare or medium. The tips tonight had better be good.
Not that McDermott's wasn't a fine place to work, because it was. She'd been working there for two years now. What was supposed to have been temporary until she found something better ended up being a full-time career waiting tables. Over time, McDermott's had sort of grown on her. Kind of like a bad haircut where you say to yourself, Eh, what the heck. I'll keep it, because you know there's no other choice.
Plus she was good at her job. Probably one of the best servers there, if she did say so herself. The other waitstaff was friendly, and Henry was a doll. He didn't yell at his kitchen staff the way some chefs on those reality shows did. Lacy could deal with that.
There was one teeny, tiny thing she could do without, though. Most women probably wouldn't share the same complaint. But most women didn't have to deal with Chase McDermott the way she did. The man had been the bane of her existence as a teenager. He'd single-handedly coined the phrases Twiggy Taylor and Lanky Lacy. What surely was meant to be a joke had stuck with her all the way to college. So what if she'd been a little on the thin side in high school? Was that a reason to make someone's life miserable? She couldn't go hang out with his brother Brody without Chase answering the door and saying, "Well hello there, Miss Twiggy." Even now the phrase made her want to snarl like a rabid animal. Brody had never said those things to her because he was such a swell guy. Why couldn't she have had a crush on him instead of his mean older brother?
Okay, so she really didn't hate working for Chase. He was a good boss. And kind of, sort of, easy on the eyes. Well, more than that. She was adult enough to admit Chase McDermott had grown into a fine-looking man. Her heart fluttered a little whenever he was within sniffing distance. Not even under the pain of death would she admit that to anyone. Especially to the man in question, who had an ego the size of Saturn.
She fed her latest order into the computer and decided to use her upcoming break to her advantage. She got Matt, one of the other servers, to cover her tables while she took thirty minutes to herself. After eating a barely satisfying ham and cheese sandwich with stale chips, Lacy went upstairs to do something she'd been dreading all night: speak to Chase.
While she might not hate working for him, she hated
4 STARS "This second in the Trouble series has everything that makes contemporary romance fun to read. Kern is an author to keep track of."
—RT BOOK REVIEWS
- "...Feel good romance ..."—Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer
- "An unexpected surprise..."—Fairytales4GrownUps.com
- On Sale
- Jan 8, 2013
- Page Count
- 400 pages