Melissa Foster Passionate Romance for Fiercely Loyal Hearts

Get a FREE short story when you sign up for Melissa's newsletter!

KINDLE | PAPERBACK | AUDIO

**FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED

**This book is published by Montlake Romance (an Amazon imprint) and won’t be available on other ebook retailers, but you can download a FREE Kindle ereader app to read it (link below) or order the paperback.
Free Kindle eReader app ➜ http://bit.ly/FreeKindleApp1

“And she does this thing with her tongue” was not what Piper Dalton expected to hear when she walked out of Windsor Hall to join her construction crew. Piper and her father had owned Dalton Contracting for several years. She was used to hearing guys talk about all sorts of things, and she didn’t think it was much different from the way women talked. She found three of the guys standing around a table where the plans for the old farmhouse they were renovating were spread out. Piper glanced at her project manager, Kase Force, a large man with granitelike features and an ever-present baseball cap, and lifted her brows. Kase and the two men he was with, Mike Renway and Darren Wilcox, had worked for Piper for the last few years. They were trusted and valued employees.

“Don’t look at me, boss,” Kase said, holding his hands up.

Darren, a baby-faced blond who looked closer to eighteen than twenty-five, said, “Mike was just trying to convince me not to get married in August.”

Mike shrugged, flashing a cocky grin.

The guys knew Piper didn’t have a problem with them shooting the shit as long as the work got done. But she did have a problem with three-times-divorced and far-too-cynical Mike trying to convince a man who was madly in love with his fiancée to think twice about tying the knot. Mike was in his midforties and didn’t have a faithful bone in his body, but at work he was as dependable and hardworking as the rest of Piper’s crew. She might be the boss, but it wasn’t her place to judge her employees’ personal lives.

“Is that so?” Piper crossed her arms, meeting Mike’s steady gaze and cocky grin. She might be only a size two, but there wasn’t a man on earth she wouldn’t stand up to. “So, this thing she does with her tongue—does she do it to all the guys she blows, or just you?”

Kase and Darren chuckled.

Mike’s brows knitted. “Um . . .”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Piper said. “How about you let Darren be happy? I don’t think he’s the kind of guy who’s into sloppy seconds . . . or thirds.”

“Aw, come on, Piper,” Mike said. “I don’t see you running to the altar.”

“Can you imagine Piper trading in her jeans and work boots for an apron and heels?” Kase shook his head. “You’re too cool for that, boss.”

“Thank you,” Piper said.

“And too tough,” Darren added. “You’ve got bigger balls than most of the guys I know. I mean, my girl is always hanging on my every word and giving me foot rubs. I just can’t see you doing those things.”

“Rubbing your feet? Really?” That kind of grossed Piper out.

“Not to mention you’re about as unfiltered as a muddy creek, which is awesome, but some guys are too insecure for truths.” Mike patted her on the back and said, “If you were ten years older, I’d beg you to marry me. You’re everything I want in a woman. You’re smokin’ hot, you won’t give me shit for swearing, you’ve got a good brain and a kick-ass job, and you don’t mind having beer and wings at Dutch’s for dinner.”

Piper laughed right along with them. She had dinner at Dutch’s Pub most days of the week, oftentimes with a few of her crew. She loved her job, and she didn’t like watching her language. But she’d witnessed each of her four siblings falling in love, and it had definitely opened her eyes to what she was missing. She hoped one day to find a man who would love her the way her siblings were loved, but she wasn’t looking to get married, nor holding her breath for that man to suddenly appear. She knew she wasn’t most men’s long-term cup of tea.

“So, what do you say, Piper?” Mike waggled his thick blond brows. “Want to hook up with an older man who knows all the tricks?”

Piper’s phone rang, and Debra Dutch appeared on her screen. “Saved by the bell.” She walked away to answer the call. Debra’s family owned Dutch’s Pub, which was run by one of Debra’s sons—Piper’s close friend Harley.

“Hi, Deb. Is Delaney okay?”

Delaney was Harley’s older sister, and a single mother to two wonderful girls. She had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and had undergone a double mastectomy two weeks ago. Debra was taking care of her while she recovered. Delaney’s diagnosis had rocked her family and friends to their core. Luckily, the cancer hadn’t spread, and all the cancerous cells had been eradicated during surgery.

“Yes. She’s getting stronger every day,” Debra said. “Honey, it’s Harley. He’s had an accident at work and he needs a ride home from Harmony Pointe Hospital. I didn’t know who else to call.”

“Oh no. Of course I’ll get him. Is he okay? What happened?” Many moons ago, the youngest Dutch sibling, Marshall, had been Piper’s first love. He’d been as risky and rowdy as Delaney and Harley were responsible. Marshall had left town to attend college, but he’d quit after his third year and returned home so rarely since, even his family had no idea where he was living. Harley had always picked up the slack. Piper was sure that times like these, though rare, made it even more difficult for Debra.

“I don’t know exactly. I just know he had an accident.”

“Don’t worry, Deb. I’ll leave now.” She ended the call and hurried over to the guys with her heart in her throat, hoping Harley wasn’t hurt too badly. “That was Debra Dutch. Harley’s in the hospital. I have to go get him.”

“Is he okay?” Kase asked.

“I don’t know.”

“The cockblocker strikes again,” Mike said teasingly. “Tell him I said thanks a lot.”

Piper glowered at him, although Harley did have a habit of scaring off her dates. “Kase, I’ll text you when I know something,” she said as she headed for her truck.

“Give him my best,” Darren called after her.

“Tell him his timing sucks!” Mike added.

Piper flicked Mike the bird as she climbed into her truck. She knew he was kidding, but she was worried about Harley.

Harmony Pointe was a small town, and her job site wasn’t far from the hospital. A few minutes later, she rushed through the emergency-room doors, heading for the registration desk. The waiting room was crowded, and the woman behind the desk was on the phone. Piper’s anxiety rose as she waited. She hated hospitals. The lights were too bright, the atmosphere too sterile, and the underlying thrum of pain was inescapable. Oh God, is Harley in pain?

She tried to keep from drumming her fingers on the desk as she waited for the woman behind it to get off the phone. She thought about all the times Harley had broken up barroom brawls, taking punches like they were given by children instead of grown men. He’d gotten a few deep gashes over the years from broken bottles and out-of-control patrons, and he’d always refused medical treatment, which left him with tough-looking scars from cuts that should have been stitched. Piper couldn’t imagine a fight breaking out at the bar on a Wednesday afternoon, much less what had to have happened to land him in the hospital.

As soon as the woman behind the desk hung up, Piper said, “Hi. I’m here to pick up Harley Dutch. He came into the emergency room earlier.”

The woman typed something into her computer, then pointed to a set of double doors. “You can go through those doors and they’ll direct you.”

“Thank you.” Piper rushed through the double doors, scanning the curtained-off patient areas, and spotted Harley lying on a bed. His head was tipped back, his eyes closed. His jeans were rolled up on his right leg to his calf, and his right ankle was wrapped. That explained why he needed a ride home. She went to him, wondering how he’d gotten to the hospital. Her gaze moved over his face. He was truly a handsome man, with dark hair and a short beard. Though his eyes were closed, she knew how powerful his deep-set slate-blue eyes were. She’d seen women hanging on his every glance and men cowering when those eyes turned fierce. She couldn’t help allowing her gaze to crawl down his beefy arms and broad chest to his waist. Harley wasn’t lean or cut, and he didn’t have six-pack abs. He was thick-bodied, brawny, and rugged. She never allowed herself to look him over—they were just friends after all. But now she couldn’t help herself. Her eyes drifted to the impressive bulge behind his zipper—she knew he wasn’t lean there, either. Harley was a few years older than Piper, and he had gotten quite a reputation in high school for the monstrous heat he was packing. Her pulse quickened, and she forced her eyes back to his face. He might be built like a grizzly and hung like a horse, but Piper had a feeling that despite his tough reputation and bravado, when it came right down to it, Harley Dutch was all cuddly cub inside.

Harley’s eyes opened, and the smile that melted panties everywhere lifted his lips. Piper wasn’t immune to his charms, but he dated the type of women who would dote on him, who wore pretty dresses and said all the right things. And as Piper’s crew had so kindly pointed out, as much as she loved children and would adore a family of her own, she was never going to be a doting wife. For that reason, she was glad she was into untamable grizzlies and not cuddly cubs, because she didn’t need to ruin their friendship over what could never be more than a few nights of incredibly hot sex.

“Hi,” he said groggily.

Hey,” she said softly. “What happened? Your mom said you got hurt at the bar.”

His brow furrowed. “I’m sorry, but do I know you?”

“What kind of pain meds do they have you on? It’s me, Piper.

“Piper,” he said softly, his face still a map of confusion. “Are you doing construction here?”

She glanced down at her T-shirt, jeans, and work boots, all of which were speckled with drywall dust. “Don’t mess with me, Harley. You know I’m working at Windsor Hall, getting the house ready to go on the market. What happened? Are you okay?”

He looked down at his leg and said, “I sprained my ankle. Someone should be here soon to pick me up.”

She crossed her arms and said, “That’s me, doofus. Your mom called. She’s taking care of Delaney, remember? Geez, did you hit your head?”

He nodded, smiling sheepishly, which took her by surprise. He didn’t do anything sheepishly. Harley was more of a barrel-in-and-blurt-it-out kind of guy.

“Sorry if I should recognize you, but I can’t remember anything.”

“What . . . ?” Her stomach sank.

Harley was everyone’s rock, including hers. He’d made it big on Wall Street after college, returning home about four years ago, when his father had taken ill, to help his family run their pub. His father had passed away shortly thereafter, and Harley had remained in Sweetwater, their small hometown, to care for his mother, sister, and two nieces, who had all been falling apart at the seams. Though Harley and Piper hadn’t been close when they were growing up, he’d become one of Piper’s closest friends since he’d moved home. He made a habit of being a pain in her butt, giving her grief about one thing or another and scaring off her dates. Even so, she couldn’t help but love the big, burly bartender. He was one of the few guys outside of work who wasn’t intimidated by her directness, her inability to put up with bullshit, or the way she’d dominated the male-driven construction industry, becoming one of the most sought-after contractors in the area. She spent more evenings hanging out with Harley and their friends at the pub watching sports or eating dinner than she spent at home. She couldn’t imagine her life without Harley in it, and the thought of him not recognizing her caused a crushing feeling in the center of her chest.

She sat on the edge of the bed and took his hand in hers. She couldn’t reconcile her large-and-in-charge friend with this man who seemed so lost. “You don’t recognize me? Do you remember your family?”

He shook his head, his eyes turning serious. “Wait, are you my girlfriend? Have we knocked boots? Because I’m sure I’d remember a sweet little darlin’ like you in my bed.”

God, even with amnesia you’re a pain in my ass.” She dropped his hand and said, “I’m going to find a nurse and figure out what’s going on.”

She pushed to her feet, and he snagged her wrist, yanking her down so their faces almost collided. An arrogant grin slid across his lips, and he said, “Maybe if you kiss me, I’ll remember the rest. Or even better, what do you say we make a few new smokin’-hot memories?”

He winked, and she tore her wrist free, anger simmering inside her. “You ass! I should let you stay here and rot!”

Laughter rumbled out of his mouth, and he smacked the mattress. “I got you good, Trigger!” He called her Trigger, or Trig, because it didn’t take much to get her fired up.

“You’re lucky I don’t have a gun to pull the trigger,” she snapped. “I thought you had seriously forgotten everything. I was worried about you, and you’re playing games!”

“Aw, come on, Trig,” he said with a softer tone. “Admit it was funny.”

“How about we see how funny it is when I hit you so hard you actually lose your memory?”

“Uh-oh,” a pretty dark-haired nurse said as she walked into the curtained-off area. She wore light blue scrubs, and her hair was pulled up in a high ponytail, like Piper’s. “It sounds like Mr. Dutch didn’t listen to my advice. You must be Piper. I’m Felicity, and I’ve had the pleasure of helping your boyfriend.”

“Thank you for taking care of him, but he’s not my boyfriend. He’s like a stray dog I made the mistake of feeding and refuses to go away.” Piper scowled at Harley, who was still chuckling, and said, “But since he’s already here, can I knock him around a bit?”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t allow you to do that,” Felicity said lightly.

“Told you she was wild,” Harley said a little slowly. He waved a hand at his body. “She wants all this.”

Piper rolled her eyes. “That’s enough, Casanova.” She was used to his teasing. He joked around like that all the time.

“You want me. Doesn’t she look like she wants me, Felicity?”

“That sounds like the pain meds talking. I think I’ll stay out of this conversation.” Felicity handed Piper a couple of papers and said, “These are Harley’s discharge papers and his prescription. He’s going to be on pretty heavy pain meds for the next two or three days, so you might want to prepare yourself if you’re going to be taking care of him.”

“Oh, that’s not the pain meds talking. That’s straight-up Harley, and I will not be taking care of him.”

“She will be,” Harley said casually.

“I have a life,” Piper reminded him. “And it doesn’t include playing nursemaid to a man who has refused stitches more times than I can count.”

“Don’t make me come over there.” Harley sat up and shifted his legs over the edge of the bed, swaying a little.

“Whoa, slow down.” Felicity put a hand on his arm as another hospital worker pushed a wheelchair into the curtained room. Then the woman left the room, returning a minute later with a walking boot and crutches.

“Thank you,” Felicity said as the other woman walked away.

Harley pointed to the wheelchair. “Who’s that thing for?”

“That’s for you,” Felicity said. “The doctor doesn’t want you putting any pressure on your ankle for a few days.” She looked at Piper and said, “He has a splint on under the wrap.”

“I hate the splint,” Harley said like a rebellious boy.

“You need it for stability,” Felicity said sternly. “You can use the walking boot when you feel more stable, but you shouldn’t try to use the crutches while taking the heavier pain medications over the next couple of days. I’d like to show you how to use the crutches.”

“I know how to use them. I had a football injury or two back in the day.”

“Okay. If you have any trouble, you can see your primary care doctor for a follow-up appointment.” She went over instructions with Piper for his medications and how to care for his injury.

Harley looked pleadingly at Piper and said, “See, Pipe? I can’t walk Jiggs. Not only do I need you now more than ever, but he needs you, too.”

Piper had a soft place in her heart for the pit bull Harley had rescued three years earlier. Harley spoiled Jiggs rotten, and Piper swore he was needier than her six-month-old niece, Emerson. “I’ll walk Jiggs, but you can take care of yourself. Can we please stop wasting Felicity’s time and get on with this? I have to get back to work.”

“She means she has to take me to pick up my nieces,” Harley said a little groggily.

“Shoot. I forgot you were taking care of Delaney’s girls.” He’d been taking care of Jolie, who was twelve, and Sophie, who was ten, since Delaney’s surgery. Piper glanced at the clock and said, “If we leave now, I’ll have just enough time to get you home and then pick the girls up and get your prescription.”

“Let me help you get him into the wheelchair,” Felicity said, moving to Harley’s other side. As they helped him into the wheelchair, which was like putting an enormous, floppy bear into a high chair, she said, “Before he took the pain meds, Harley and I were talking and he said you know my brother, Porter Lawton.”

“That delicious-looking man is your brother? I met him through my friend Remi Divine.” Remi was an actress and had recently gotten engaged. She and her fiancé, Mason Swift, had just purchased a home in Harmony Pointe. Mason owned the private security and investigation company Porter worked for as a bodyguard. Porter had looked after Remi last year when she’d had issues with a stalker. He was also Mason’s best friend—and insanely hot.

“He’s a great guy, and he’s single,” Felicity said softly. “He’s great with my son, Lucas, too.”

“Um, hello. Bad ankle here. This isn’t an episode of Love Connection,” Harley said a little drunkenly.

Piper patted his shoulder, grinning at Felicity. “Don’t you love my built-in cockblocker? Even drugged up, he tries to protect my virtue.”

Felicity chuckled.

“Your brother is gorgeous, and Lucas is so sweet. I met him at the birthday bash for foster children Remi and Mason held in January—”

“We have to go,” Harley interrupted. He grabbed the wheels of his chair and tried to spin around but ran directly into the bed. He uttered a curse.

Piper folded the papers Felicity had given her and shoved them in the back pocket of her jeans. She grabbed the handles of the wheelchair and said, “I think I’d better drive. Thanks for thinking about me for Porter—”

“You’re going to be way too busy for a while with me and the girls to even think about him.” Harley pointed to his ankle and said, “I can’t drive, and we really have to go. Thanks for everything, Felicity.”

“The man thinks he owns me,” Piper said. “Thanks again for helping him.”

Felicity handed Harley the crutches and walking boot and said, “My pleasure.”

As Felicity pushed the wheelchair out of the curtained area, Harley flashed a cheesy grin over his shoulder at Felicity and said, “Told you she’d take care of me.”

Felicity stopped in the waiting room to say something to the woman behind the desk. When she walked away, Piper lowered her voice and said, “Why are you such a pain? Do you know how hot Porter is?”

“I know the man is built like he treats his body like a castle and you’d last about one night feeding him nachos or pizza.”

As Felicity headed back toward them, Piper said, “Then it’s a good thing one night is all I’m looking for.”

***

Harley was so loopy from the pain medication, he couldn’t help but chuckle as Piper, and all of her buck-ten pounds, tried to wrangle his six-three, two-forty body from the wheelchair into her double-cab truck. She’d excused Felicity the second she’d brought the truck around with a curt, Thanks for wheeling him out, but I’ve got him.

As always, the front seat of her truck was covered with what looked like remnants of a fast-food party.

“Wait,” Piper said as he used her as a crutch. She reached into the truck and swept a pile of empty food wrappers and cups onto the floor.

“You know, if you learned to cook, you’d save loads of money.” He was only giving her shit. He knew damn well that if cooking were the only way to eat, Piper would find a way to survive on air. She was that determined.

She glowered at him as she put the crutches and boot in the truck. “Get your ass on the seat and be careful of your ankle.”

“Really? My ass? Is that how you sit in a vehicle?”

“Okay, smart-mouth. Get yourself in the truck. I’m going to bring the wheelchair back inside.” In true Piper style, she ducked from beneath his arm and stalked away, leaving him to wobble like a drunken flamingo.

He grabbed the door and climbed into the truck.

Piper walked out of the hospital like she was on a mission, which was the only way she knew how to move. Only Piper could look as hot as sin in dirty jeans with tears in the knees that she’d probably been wearing for a decade, a Dalton Contracting T-shirt, and tan work boots. Her light blond hair was pulled back from her gorgeous face in a ponytail, and as she climbed into the driver’s seat, Harley fantasized about tugging that ponytail back and devouring her sass-talking, sexy mouth. His medication-addled mind ran down a dark and dirty path, playing with thoughts he was usually much better at pushing aside. He imagined how incredible her soft, supple body would feel lying naked beneath him and the sinful sounds she’d make as he touched and tasted every inch of her, driving her out of her mind. He got hot all over thinking about how it would feel to have her feminine yet strong hand wrapped around his—

“Are you listening to me?” she snapped, dragging him back to reality.

He shifted in his seat, trying to get comfortable with a raging hard-on.

Piper stopped at a red light, and her gorgeous green eyes trailed over his face. “Geez, you are drugged up. Look at that goofy grin. How’s your . . . ?” Her eyes moved lower and her jaw dropped. “Oh my God! No wonder you’re smiling. Geez, Harley, what are you doing? Fantasizing about that nurse?”

“That nurse isn’t in this truck.”

Ugh!” The light turned green, and she gunned the engine. “Do not think of me like that.” She glanced at him and said, “Turn your head! Look out the window. I’m glad I’m taking you home before I get the girls. They can’t see you like this.”

“There’s no time,” he said, still grinning, because damn, he was high as a kite and she was so angry it made her even hotter. “Just head to the school.”

She shot him a death stare. “I told you to stop looking at me.”

He chuckled and tipped his head back, closing his eyes.

“And stop smiling!”

To continue reading, please buy SHE LOVES ME

KINDLE | PAPERBACK | AUDIO

**FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED

**This book is published by Montlake Romance (an Amazon imprint) and won’t be available on other ebook retailers, but you can download a FREE Kindle ereader app to read it (link below) or order the paperback.
Free Kindle eReader app ➜ http://bit.ly/FreeKindleApp1

RETURN TO SHE LOVES ME DETAIL PAGE