So, hi there! I’m Ava Miles, the new contemporary romance writer who burst onto the scene with her book NORA ROBERTS LAND, which kicked off my acclaimed Dare Valley series. Now, I’m delighted to announce the first book in a connected series called Dare River, set in the deep South, titled COUNTRY HEAVEN. It’s about a down-on-her luck cook who uses food’s magical properties to tame a beastly country singer after he hires her under false pretenses to restore his image.
And I’ve chosen the juiciest excerpt:
“I’m trying to talk Tory here into giving the bull a ride.”
Lola gave her another haughty glance, making Tory feel like she was back in high school, being insulted by the popular girls. “This pathetic little thing, Rye? Why, I bet she couldn’t grip the bull for two seconds with those chicken legs.”
“Shut up, Lola.” His hand stopped her exploration of his skin. “She’s a friend of mine.”
And somehow, hearing him say that was all the incentive she needed. The woman’s insult to her legs was not going to be ignored. “Okay, let’s give this a go then.”
She strode forward, weaving around the women who surrounded the bull, wrinkling her nose as it was assaulted by a cloud of different perfumes.
He looked up from the clipboard.
“You’ve got it, honey,” he said and gave her a wink.
Her feet sank into the gym mats. The bull suddenly seemed larger than life, from the tip of its fake snout to the well-worn saddle on its fake hairy back. God, she hoped it was fake. She put her foot in the stirrup, grabbed the pommel, and swung her leg over, finding the other stirrup. Then she eased her hand around the pommel and wedged it under the saddle. Curving forward, she gripped the bull’s body with her thighs, keeping her head low. Seconds later, the contraption tipped forward and started to rock.
The bucking increased. She squeezed her thighs as tight as she could, digging her heels under the beast’s belly. She heard shouts and cat calls, but could barely make them out over the ringing in her ears. The bull jackknifed and then turned in a circle. Tory’s thighs screamed, but she kept chanting a few more seconds, a few more seconds. Finally her grip slackened, and she went flying. The breath whooshed out of her lungs when she hit the mat. She lay there for a second, stunned.
She’d done it, and while it felt like she’d only stayed on for a blink of an eye, she knew it had been several seconds. The noise in the bar was deafening as she used her hand to lever herself up. Determined not to weave like everyone had, she took it slow and walked to the gate.
Rye was gaping at her.
Clayton held out the stopwatch. “Seven seconds! Jesus, Tory. You won!”
She’d won? She couldn’t remember ever winning anything! She was looking around for
Lola to give the woman a smirk when she realized what winning meant.
A kiss from Rye Crenshaw. Her boss.
Rye grabbed the stopwatch from Clayton’s hand. “You’re kidding me?”
Yeah, he was probably thinking the same thing. Kissing her? It was totally off limits. He’d said so himself that night in Diner Heaven.
Clayton slapped his white hat against his thigh. “Says right there. It’s a record. Maybe it’s because she’s such a little thing. We’ve got a winner,” he called out more loudly, pointing at her.
Protests started to pour in from the Cleavage Covey.
Tory gave them all a cheeky grin and a mock bow and then decided to hustle out of there. If she left, he wouldn’t have to kiss her. Be better all ‘round.
“Hey, sweetheart, you come back here.” Clayton swung her around before she made it two steps. “You’re the winner. That means you get the prize.”
Her gaze flew to Rye. He stood against the bull pen, kicking at the black mats surrounding the beast. Yeah, he didn’t want to do this anymore than she did.
Tory pulled away, her heart beating faster. “That’s okay, really. I don’t want the prize.”
“Don’t work that way, honey,” Clayton said, dragging her forward while women continued to call her inventive names from the sidelines.
She pulled back. “You only want this for your PR campaign, admit it.”
He just laughed and continued pulling her along. “I’ve never seen a woman so hesitant to kiss you, Rye. Maybe it’ll teach you some humility.” His hands propelled her into Rye.
There was no smile or wicked gleam in his eyes when he pulled her to him. In fact, his face was totally blank.
“You’d better be careful, partner. She’d as soon bite you as kiss you.”
“Look, it’s just a kiss,” he murmured.
Right. She was making too much of this, wasn’t she?
But she hadn’t kissed a lot of men, so it didn’t seem insignificant to her.
“Fine,” she said. “Just do it.”
His mouth twitched at that. People whistled and screamed and heckled all around them.
Her face grew hot. He lowered his head and pressed his lips to hers. The touch was electric, and she jumped, bumping their noses together.
“Settle down,” he growled, caging her waist with his hands.
She started laughing, a strange impulse that seemed to come out of nowhere. “That had to be the worst kiss on the planet.” What had she been so worried about?
Patting his chest, she took a step away.
His hands gripped her hips again and yanked her close. Her breath rushed out when she found herself pressed full length against his rock-hard body. Those hazel eyes gleamed down at her as they scanned her face. “Can’t have you impugning my reputation.”
It was a pretty impressive word, she thought, and then he pressed her back a few steps until she hit the fence, throwing all thoughts aside. He yanked off his hat and threw it.
Uh-oh. Laughing had been a bad idea.
“I didn’t mean—”
“Shut up,” he commanded and cupped her face, fitting his mouth to hers.
Oh no. The intimacy of it stole her breath. His lips were soft, his body hard as he leaned against her, ducking at the knees to fit his pelvis against her own. A delicious spurt of desire flashed through her belly, and the surprise of it made her open her mouth. His tongue swept lazily inside, engaging hers in a wicked dance.
Her heart rapped against her ribs, and she became lost in sensation. His mouth. The hands tickling her waist, slipping under her T-shirt to stroke her skin.
Her hands slid up his chest on instinct, as much to hold on as to touch him. A moan erupted from deep within her, and primal heat flooded her body.
The man kissed like he ate. With slow, determined, sensual enjoyment. No one had ever kissed her this way. No one.
If you like the TV show, Nashville, you’ll love COUNTRY HEAVEN. So, have you ever ridden the bull?