Home > Slow Dance at Rose Bend (Rose Bend #0.5)

Slow Dance at Rose Bend (Rose Bend #0.5)
Author: Naima Simone

 


CHAPTER ONE


   GOD LOVED HER.

   Oh yes, He did.

   Why else would He create such a brutally beautiful man as the one serving drinks behind the bar?

   Cherrie Moore peered down into her glass. Only a really good muscat could have her philosophizing about agape love and sinful lust in the same thought.

   Seriously though, she mused, sipping more wine and studying the graceful Adonis who turned drawing beers and mixing drinks into a ballet. No, not Adonis. There was nothing pretty or classical about him. Not with those scalpel-sharp cheekbones or the stubbornness in that rock-solid jaw that even the thick, half-past-five-o’clock shadow couldn’t hide. Or that mouth, with its almost-too-full, firm lips.

   And don’t get her started on that body.

   Atlas. She mentally snapped her fingers even as she downed the last of her drink. He wasn’t Adonis, he was Atlas. A tattooed Titan with inked biceps, thick thighs in faded jeans and shoulders wide enough to carry the weight of the world—or the weight of a bar called Road’s End. Wide enough that they, and a powerful chest, had his black T-shirt screaming for mercy.

   Oh yes. This man was definitely God’s handiwork. And sex with him was probably a divine revelation.

   “Either you have X-ray vision and are checking to make sure his lungs are clear, or you really, really like how his chest is stretching that shirt.” Belinda Barnes smirked, commandeering the barstool on the other side of Cherrie.

   She snorted, arching an eyebrow at her friend. “Careful there, woman. Daryl would be quite interested in why you’re noticing said chest at all.”

   “Please.” The lovely older woman flipped her dark hair over her shoulder. “I’m married, not dead. And besides, Daryl doesn’t mind at all if I look. Especially when he reaps the benefits.”

   “Oh, Jesus. I can’t unhear that.” Cherrie groaned, clapping her hands to her ears. Unfortunately, the action didn’t drown out Belinda’s lascivious cackle.

   As if sensing their attention on him, Daryl glanced from his and Belinda’s daughter to zero in on them. He arched a dark eyebrow, and even with the small dance floor separating them, Cherrie caught the quirk of his mouth despite the thick gray-and-black beard surrounding it.

   Beside her, Belinda sighed. “Nearly twenty-five years, and that man still does it for me.”

   Cherrie nodded. Daryl, with his big build, long dark hair and handsome features, was a cinnamon roll. Crusty on the outside, but sweet and soft on the inside for his beautiful wife and daughter. Cherrie didn’t need to glimpse his eyes to witness the deep love that shone there. Daryl and Belinda weren’t just true partners in business, as they owned Ride, a motorcycle apparel shop in town, but also in life.

   What must it be like to be loved so completely?

   To know that a person’s affection, commitment and approval weren’t based on your actions or inactions? To be accepted and cherished simply because you were...you?

   Cherrie had once believed she knew the answer to those questions. Believed she’d had a great shot at obtaining what Daryl and Belinda had. But time and an unexpected health scare had ripped off the blinders she’d been desperately clinging to.

   God, it’d been one helluva year.

   And it was only July.

   “Rachel and Jared will have that kind of marriage. How can they not, with you and Daryl as an example?” Cherrie murmured, circling a fingertip around the base of her empty glass. “And thank you for inviting me to their engagement party. You guys are like my family here in Rose Bend, and I’m honored to celebrate with you.”

   “Like family?” Belinda slid an arm around Cherrie’s shoulders and squeezed hard. “Cherrie, there’s no ‘like’ about it. You’re family, plain and simple.” Belinda smacked a kiss on Cherrie’s cheek. “I love this time of year. Not just because of the motorcycle rally, but because every July brings you back to Rose Bend. Brings you back to us. And just let me know when you and that boyfriend of yours are ready to take the next step. We’ll throw you the hugest party right here, too.”

   Well, that would be a problem. She inwardly winced, brushing her dark, red-tipped curls out of her face. One, she’d been with Kenneth for three years and he’d never made the trip to Rose Bend, Massachusetts, with her, claiming it wasn’t “his type of thing.” And two...

   Two, Kenneth was no longer her boyfriend. Which kind of made it hard to have an engagement party with him.

   “Actually, Belinda—”

   “Hey, ladies. Can I refill your drinks?”

   Whoa. That deep, low rumble rippled through her like a tranquil stream meeting the wildest river. She didn’t need to turn around to confirm who it belonged to. Her every instinct, every taut muscle, every pulse beat identified its owner.

   Belinda whipped around on the barstool, and Cherrie turned much slower. As if the extra few seconds could prepare her for coming face-to-face with the man who’d captured her attention since she’d stepped foot into the bar an hour earlier.

   “Yes, please,” Belinda chirped. “I’ll take another Sam Adams. Thanks, Maddox. Hey, I know you’ve been busy—and thank you again for letting us have Rachel’s engagement party here,” she said, reaching across the bar and squeezing his hand. “You probably haven’t had the chance to meet a friend of mine and Daryl’s. Maddox, this is Cherrie Moore. Cherrie, I’d like you to meet the owner of Road’s End, Maddox Holt.”

   A big hand with short, clean nails entered her line of sight, and Cherrie traced the surprisingly elegant fingers up to a thick wrist, past a heavily tattooed arm, onto a broad shoulder, and finally, to the face of angles and slants that edged too-harsh and slammed right up against beautiful.

   A ginger.

   In the dimmer lighting of the bar, she’d assumed his hair was a dark brown. But this close, the light directly above them revealed the rich auburn strands that gleamed like fire and the longer strands that tickled his sharp cheekbones and the deep red scruff that covered his jaw and emphasized that carnal mouth.

   Aw, hell. She had a weakness for gingers. She had ever since Corey Rowe stole her language workbook in the eighth grade and drew anatomically correct dicks all over the inside cover. Yes, today that would be considered sexual harassment. But back then? She’d crushed on him harder because he’d cared enough to draw his very best.

   With a silent, almost defeated sigh, Cherrie pressed her palm to his and wasn’t surprised at the electrical current that tingled from their clasped hands up her arm and zipped to her breasts. And lower.

   Oh God.

   This wasn’t good.

   “Nice to meet you,” she murmured, then snatched her hand back and unobtrusively rubbed it along her denim-clad thigh.

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