Any Time, Any Place

By: Jennifer Probst

Well, that was it for now. Still, she’d managed to turn her life around from her disastrous path and become a respected business owner. The pub was all she needed for the moment. Definitely the best relationship she’d ever been in, and the longest. The worst part? She wasn’t sorry. And she didn’t even miss men. Much.

As if mocking her statement, she heard his voice. Rich like earth and wood. Smooth and hot like whiskey. Tempting like a Red Delicious apple ready to be bitten.

“I’m a thirsty man, darlin’. Got a tall, cool one for me?”

She already knew the man attached to the voice but couldn’t believe the punch of heat between them when she turned. Raven had dated a lot of men. Slept with a lot, too. She knew about dating, flirting, and teasing and wasn’t scared of anything. She knew about dirty, delicious, mind-blowing sex. She knew about mornings after and speedy Batman disappearances in the ugly dawn light. But this man wiped all her expertise away with one bat of those dark lashes or a tug of those full lips.

Dalton Pierce.

A man she’d vowed to hate and the one man she was crazy attracted to.

A man who held the key to a past she didn’t want to unlock.

Raven turned and studied him. Cocky, as always. Charming, as usual. He was a visual feast for the female sex and knew it. Tawny, gold-streaked strands, worn long, framed his face. He liked to tie them back or put them in a man bun, which should look ridiculous but only made him that much hotter ’cause he didn’t care. Peacock-blue eyes so bright and so deep, if she stared too long she’d never come back up for air. Square jaw with sexy scruff to keep him from looking too pretty, and actual dimples when he smiled. The sun had turned his skin tan and a bit rough. His hands were calloused, and he always smelled like varnish, lemon, and a faint hint of Hershey’s chocolate. Sawdust clung to his black T-shirt, and his jeans had holes in the knees.

Dalton was the ultimate Achilles’ heel for any walking, breathing female who’d sworn off men. Thank goodness he’d never be able to bust through her barriers. They were so thick and tall, he’d get bashed in the head each and every time he tried.

Yet the oddest shimmer of connection always sparked to life when they were close. As if the universe was playing the ultimate joke, forcing her to be attracted to the one man she could never be with.

The past surged up like a tsunami and dragged her under.

Eight months ago, on the anniversary of her father’s death, Dalton had walked into her bar to join his brothers. She’d served him a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and watched them all get trashed. She’d been in a shit mood, trying to wrestle the bad memories. His deprecating charm, even when drunk off his ass, had made her smile. He’d hit on her all evening, and though she gave him a hard time, she kept sneaking glances at him. There’d been an odd pull from her gut, almost as if her body or subconscious mind recognized him. She’d even played with the idea of giving in that night, desperate to bury her own memories in earth-shattering sex and the comfort of a man’s arms.

Then she’d heard his last name. Pierce. Shocked to the core, frozen in ice, Raven realized his mother was the woman who’d taken her father away. The woman who had gotten him killed in a freak car accident. The woman from her nightmare.

It all happened so fast; she’d told him to get the hell out of her bar, and then he was gone. The pieces suddenly fit together in a lightbulb moment. The brothers were getting drunk because it was the day Diane Pierce was killed. God, she’d felt dirty realizing she’d served them in her bar as they commemorated that fateful day. She swore she’d never allow them back into My Place. Her tat had burned her skin, reminding her of the vow for revenge at her father’s funeral. She hated all the brothers for ruining her father’s reputation and spinning the story to protect their deceitful mother. The Pierces were a powerful family, with the biggest construction firm in the Northeast, and she’d been . . . nothing. An artist’s daughter. Poor but happy. Until they yanked it all away from her without a thought.

Suddenly her father’s displays of artwork in the local shops were stripped down and returned to her because they were unsellable. His reputation as a visionary faded under the sting of terms such as con artist and homewrecker. Gazes were suddenly trained on her with harsh judgment, and whispers rose to her ears in a sickening wave. The place she had once called home turned into a prison, even though Aunt Penny tried hard to comfort and help. Dropping out of the community college, Raven had fled to leave the pain behind, searching desperately for some type of comfort in the expanse of the world beyond.

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