Melissa Foster Passionate Romance for Fiercely Loyal Hearts

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Sneak Peek – LOVE LIKE OURS (Sugar Lake)

Love Like Ours, Sugar Lake, Melissa Foster

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

Chapter One

“You need a reset. A total overhaul,” Piper insisted. “If you were a house, I’d tear out a few of the walls and open them up, redecorate—”

“She’s not a house,” Bridgette said. “And she doesn’t need to redecorate. She’s gorgeous.”

“Well, she needs to unlock that chastity belt, or I’ll cut the damn thing off,” Piper threatened.

“Stop!” Talia Dalton snapped at her younger sisters over Bluetooth as she drove through the quaint town of Harmony Pointe, toward Beckwith University, the small private college where she taught. Balancing her coffee and the steering wheel, she tried to whip her head to the side to move a wayward lock of hair that had flown into her eyes. As if her family’s pestering wasn’t enough, she had to drive with her window cracked when it was snowing out because her car had developed a weird odor overnight. If only she could start the day over. She’d have turned her phone off.

“This is why I didn’t come by to have breakfast with you guys,” Talia said. She and her family often stopped in at their sister Willow’s bakery to touch base before their days got crazy. “I do not need a total anything. I’m perfectly . . . content.”

“Content isn’t happy,” Willow said. She had recently wed actor-turned-screenplay-screenwriter Zane Walker, and they were joyously, blissfully in love.

Talia would give just about anything to have even a moment of what they had. Well, anything except having her sisters direct her love life. She and her sisters were in the midst of planning a wedding for Bridgette and her fiancé, Bodhi, and unfortunately, her sisters had decided to take on the task of finding Talia a man, too. They’d driven her bonkers over the last few weeks, pushing her to put herself out there more often. Talia had a busy life and little patience for dating games. Not that she knew much about them, having dated very little over the past few years. She winced at that reality. But men were not the most trustworthy creatures on the planet. A fact she’d learned the hard way. Bridgette and Willow had gotten lucky, which meant there probably weren’t many guys left around Sweetwater, their small hometown, who could be trusted the way Zane, Bodhi, and Talia’s brother, Ben, could. If only Ben were on the phone with them. He’d help her calm the Dalton chaos, but he was out of town for a business meeting and wouldn’t be back until tomorrow.

“You should take a cooking class,” Willow said. “You might learn to love cooking, and you might find a great guy there. A chef!”

If she looked like Willow—blond, curvy, and totally unaware of how gorgeous she was—maybe men would flock to her. But Talia took after her father; she was tall, dark, lean, and, above all else, hyperaware of every vibe she put out, verbal or otherwise.

“Chefs don’t need classes, Wills,” their mother corrected. “But Talia, you could take a sailing lesson or go on one of those singles’ cruises.”

“You could go to one of Benny’s friend Treat Braden’s resorts! I hear they’re gorgeous.”

“Aurelia? You’re jumping on the pestering-Talia bandwagon, too?” Talia asked. Aurelia Stark had grown up with them and had recently moved back to Sweetwater. She was helping Willow in the bakery while they figured out the best plan of attack to purchase the bookstore Aurelia’s grandmother had once owned and combine it with the bakery.

“It’s not a bandwagon,” Aurelia said. “It’s a . . . sisterhood!”

Someone shoot me now, please?

“Oh! I know! Go to a rave!” Bridgette suggested. “Or hit a bar or go on a bar crawl! How fun would that be? All kinds of people go to bars. Heck, Bodhi and I could go with you, although I’d have to ugly up my sexy beast. Either that or learn to fight off skanky hos who try to pick him up.”

They all laughed, even Talia, because Bodhi Booker only had eyes for Bridgette and loved her and Louie, her adorable five-year-old son, fiercely.

“There’s an idea. We can tramp up Talia for a night,” Piper suggested. “Just one night of wildness could pop her cork! What about Fletch? You’re taking care of him like he’s your man, so . . .”

Talia gritted her teeth and nearly crushed her coffee cup as she white-knuckled the steering wheel with one hand and turned on to the college campus. Ryan “Fletch” Fletcher was Talia’s good friend and colleague. His appendix had ruptured, and he’d ended up in the hospital for a week with peritonitis. He was now home recovering, which was why Talia was teaching his classes and walking his adorable Bernese mountain dog, Molly. She was not about to let Piper turn their friendship into a sham.

“Can we please just stop this nonsense? Fletch and I are colleagues and friends, and that is all we will ever be. Some of us, Piper, are able to have male friends we don’t want to sleep with. I’m a professor, not a playgirl. I can’t just go into a bar and throw myself at a man. Not to mention that I would never do that. Trustworthy men don’t hang out in bars. And I’m not going to do any of the other things you suggested. This is a journey of the heart, not a mission.” She didn’t mean to raise her voice, but she was too annoyed to rein herself in. “Men don’t just fall into people’s laps. You all know that. If you want to meet the right guy, you have to be in the appropriate place at the perfect time. Life changes don’t come easily. I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and suddenly be a mix of each of you!”

“Fine!” Piper relented. Talia pictured her waiflike, and toughest, sister’s arms crossed, eyes narrowed, and that construction-booted foot of hers tapping anxiously. “If you want to grow up to be a spinster English literature professor with five cats and a furry pus—”

“Piper!” their mother hollered. “Language, please! Sheesh, you girls go about things the hard way sometimes. How do you feel today, Talia?”

“Annoyed and hungry. Not that I could eat with this stench in my car.” She turned in to the parking lot and trolled for a parking spot. “It’s like someone dumped perfume in here.”

A long stretch of silence followed her comment.

“Oh shit. Mom?” Piper said with a warning tone.

Talia spotted a car pulling out and whipped into the next row.

“Mom . . . ?” The amusement in Willow’s voice did not go unnoticed. “Please tell me you didn’t.”

Talia’s ears perked up, but some jackass took her parking space, and she sped to the next aisle. She gulped her coffee, trying to finish before she had to start her class.

“What? It was just a little love potion,” their mother said.

Talia spit out her coffee, drenching her shirt. She tried to shove her cup into the holder, ignoring her sister’s questions—“What happened? What was that? Talia?”

“Damn it, Mom! Enough with your love potions!” she snapped as she shot a glance at the passenger seat and stretched to snag a tissue from her purse. Her gaze flicked up just as a man darted out in front of the car. Talia slammed on her brakes and screamed.

Shit, shit, shit! She threw her car into park, meeting the angry eyes of the long-haired, scruffy-looking guy she’d almost killed. Two of the largest hands she’d ever seen were pressed flat on the hood. Phone call forgotten, she hurried out of her car, shivering against the frigid winter air.

“Are you okay? I’m so sorry!”

He turned so slowly, she was sure she’d actually hit him. She did a quick visual inspection. Her gaze caught on frayed holes in the tight denim stretched over his thick thighs. She lingered a moment too long there, but wow, they were nice-looking. She forced herself to look lower. No blood. No broken knees. Thank God.

“Way to keep your eyes on the road,” he said in a low, gravelly voice that sounded irritated.

“Sorry!” she snapped, her teeth chattering from cold. She lifted her gaze to meet piercing blue eyes—so shockingly vibrant her breath caught in her throat, making her even more nervous and agitated. “What were you thinking, running out in front of my car like that?” Holy crap! She hadn’t meant to say that! Now he’d think she was an awful driver and a bitch.

He arched a brow so lazily, it grated on her last nerve. His hair was tousled, like he’d rolled out of bed, shoved his feet into boots, and thrown on a parka. Probably in his eighth year of college, without a single degree. Floating through life without any direction or ambition.

“Well, you’re still standing. That’s good.” She tried to calm her racing heart. But he was staring at her with the most serious—and tired?—expression, like he was either waiting for her to say more or was exhausted from a night of partying and couldn’t put together a sentence. What did he want her to do, get down on her knees and apologize? She breathed deeply, forcing a softer tone. “I’m really sorry. I’m usually a much more careful driver. Did I hurt you?”

“No.” He ran his large hand over what had to be at least a week’s worth of scruff. “You’re shaking. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I almost killed you. How do you think I am?” Darn it! “I’m sorry. I’m just shaken up. But I’m glad you’re okay.”

He hiked a thumb over his shoulder, and the sun caught on a gold ring on his pinkie. “I’ve got a class to get to.” His lips quirked up and he said, “Eyes on the road next time.”

She climbed into her car and cranked the heat, watching him in the distance. Her purse and phone had slid to the floor, and she remembered the call she’d been on when she’d almost killed the guy. She pulled carefully into a parking spot and cut the engine. She retrieved her phone and saw at least a dozen missed calls from her sisters and mother. If she hadn’t been so worked up and distracted this wouldn’t have happened. She pressed her hand to her chest, breathing deeply in an effort to calm down. Her clothes were wet, and she was shaking, but as she gazed out the windshield, it was those deep-set blue eyes she saw.

“Good Lord,” she said. “I almost killed him, all because my family is on a manhunt.” She picked up the phone and called Willow.

“Oh my God, are you okay?” Willow asked breathlessly. “We were about to call the police.”

“I’m fine, but everyone’s crazy scheming stops now.”

***

“Are we still on for Friday night?” Derek asked as he pulled his phone from his pocket and checked the time. He had to be at work in an hour, giving him just enough time to pick up his father’s meds and grab something to eat.

“Absolutely. My place, around eight. Bring something Mediterranean.” India pulled her sunglasses from the top of her mass of corkscrew curls as they left class. “Need me to hold your hand across the parking lot so you don’t get hit?”

“Very funny. What I need is for people to watch where they’re going.” Although he’d been so wiped out this morning, he was practically sleepwalking. He slipped his phone back into his pocket and said, “I thought you had a study group today.”

Her brown eyes widened. “Oh shit! I gotta boogie.” She kissed his cheek. “Thanks!”

He shook his head, smiling. It struck him that forgetfulness could be funny or heartbreaking, as it was with his father, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. His momentary smile faded fast.

As he made his way toward the exit, he passed an open door, and a woman’s voice sent a streak of awareness through him. He stopped walking, took a few steps backward, and peered into the room. Sure enough, the Parking Lot Plower stood at the front of the class, looking hot as fuck in her body-hugging white blouse, which was speckled with whatever she’d spilled on it this morning, and a beige skirt. She was tall and slim, with full breasts and legs that went on forever. Her hair was like chocolate silk, hanging loose over her shoulders, framing high cheekbones, a slim, perky nose, and serious eyes. She looked completely in control, confident with an air of refinement that reminded him of classic actresses, the very opposite of how rattled she’d appeared that morning. He’d wondered if she was really okay. And hadn’t stopped thinking about her since.

He stepped into the doorway to hear her more clearly, wondering how many guys in the class were actually paying attention and not filling their mental spank banks with images for later. She was either oblivious to the sensual vibes she naturally emitted, or excellent at ignoring that vixenish side of herself as she held her chin up high and stood ramrod straight. The epitome of a professional.

“Over the past twenty years,” she said as she paced, “changing geopolitical and socioeconomic conditions have shifted society’s constructs of American manhood.”

Holy shit. What was she lecturing about?

Her gaze swept over the crowd—over him—to the other side of the room, then quickly darted back to him.

Hello, beautiful. Remember me? The man you almost killed?

Her eyes widened, and she stumbled for words. He slipped off his parka and settled into a seat, no longer hungry. At least not for food.

To continue reading, buy LOVE LIKE OURS

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

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