Slow Ride | Lori Foster

Slow Ride

Book 2 in the Road to Love Series

You can’t put the brakes on love…

Ronnie Ashford needs a distraction. In the morning, she has to offer arrogant, conventional Jack Crews a job and convince him not to take it. She doesn’t need anyone’s help, thank you very much. But tonight is all about the tall, sexy stranger who just walked in the bar—and all the delicious trouble they could get into together. Too bad just as things are heating up between them, he whispers the three little words that destroy everything: “I’m Jack Crews.”

Jack is determined to connect with fiery Ronnie—in bed and out of it—but her terms are clear. If he takes the job, helping her acquire prized artifacts for her mysterious bosses, anything between them is strictly off-limits. Somehow he has to convince a woman who’s never felt like she belonged that she’s found her place—with him. And with the danger sparking hotter than the fire between them, it’s going to be one unforgettable trip…

Read an Excerpt

Slow Ride

is Book 2 in the Road to Love Series

The full series reading order is as follows:

Read An Excerpt

Slow Ride

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Chapter 1

Ronnie wouldn’t have walked into Freddie’s, a dinky little honky-tonk bar in Red Oaks, Ohio, if she’d known a local’s birthday party was underway. But hey, she needed a distraction and this seemed to be the only one available.

Seated on a stool, she lifted her beer to the loud toast made by a fellow in dusty overalls. Something about the birthday boy supplying corn to an upcoming festival. Ronnie wasn’t sure. Small town vibes usually eluded her.

And this town was smaller than most.

The main street began with farms that melded into small tidy houses lining each side, along with a few establishments, and abruptly ended with Freddie’s.

God willing, she wouldn’t have to be here long. Her employers had recently decided that she needed a professional courier to help acquire their purchases – even though Ronnie was more than capable on her own.

Worse, the man they wanted to hire was, by all accounts, a super-slick suit-wearing choir boy – and she wanted nothing to do with him. Tomorrow she would present the offer as directed, but with any luck he’d turn it down – and then she could get back to work.

Alone.

Until then, she needed to shake off the tension, or at the very least find a diversion from her thoughts, thus her visit to this dive.

“Come on in,” someone shouted. “There’s still plenty of room.”

Ronnie glanced up to see the newcomer – and was instantly hooked. Well, well, well.

This customer stood better than six feet tall. Messy light brown hair contrasted with heavily lashed, dark eyes. Two different paint colors splattered his T-shirt, and his faded jeans hung loose and low.

Hello, distraction.

She’d hoped a beer would take the edge off, but perhaps there was a better way to help her sleep tonight.

Swiveling to face him, Ronnie smiled. This was what she needed. He was what she needed. Her heart beat faster just thinking of the possibilities.

Allowing her gaze to skim down his body, she lingered in key, tantalizing places.

Straight shoulders.

Trim waist.

Delicious biceps.

Down to a flat stomach, narrow hips and… a nice bulge in his softly worn jeans. Whoa.

A curl of heat teased through her system. Yes, she had a definite type, favoring rugged, rough men. Real men.

This one fit the bill to perfection.

Her gaze shifted to his hand. She noted the lack of a wedding band, but then a lot of guys didn’t wear them. She never, ever, got involved – even for one night – with men already in relationships.

Now, how to proceed?

When she looked back up to his face, she found him standing still, arms loose at his sides, feet slightly braced apart… staring at her with a very slight smile on his sexy mouth.

Terrific. They had a mutual attraction going on.

Playing coy, Ronnie slid her gaze away and faced the bar again, forearms folded on the counter. Awareness sizzled as she sensed his casual approach.

“Drinking alone?”

Mmmm, that deep voice. So far, everything about him stirred her.

He kept a slight distance, not invading her space but still making his interest apparent.

Rubbing her thumb along the neck of the bottle, she glanced up at him. “Not if you join me.”

Her invitation warmed those dark brown eyes. He settled on the stool beside her, turning slightly so that his thigh touched hers.

And just that, such a light touch, sent excitement coiling through her. As he ordered a cola and pulled-pork sandwich, she studied his profile: the masculine nose, sensual mouth, strong jaw and high cheekbones. Oh, those darker-than-sin eyes and lush lashes…

His gaze cut her way. “Have you eaten?”

She lifted the beer. “Moved on to dessert.” No, she wasn’t a heavy drinker, but he wouldn’t know that. Let him think what he wanted. She didn’t care.

“New to the area?” he asked.

“Just passing through.” Somehow she’d make that true. But what if he was a local? In the off chance Slick took the job tomorrow, she’d be in and around the area a lot – meaning she shouldn’t complicate things with neighbors. She sipped her beer again, gauging how she’d ask, then settled on, “You work here as a painter?”

His mouth curled a little more. “No.”

“Ah, somewhere else then.” Relieved, she let out a tense breath. “That’s good.”

He’d started to say something, but asked instead, “Good because..?”

Ronnie waved a hand. “I don’t want to start anything with the locals.”

One brow cocked up. Eyes direct, he asked, “But you want to start something with me?”

She liked his confidence, the bold way he asked that, and she liked how he held her gaze.

Why hedge? It was already getting late and the beer wasn’t doing it for her. She dreaded the idea of sleeping alone. That was true for most nights, but as it sometimes happened, tonight was worse.

Tonight, memories plagued her. Horrid memories. She always fought them off the best she could, but some nights–like tonight–they wormed their way in. Company, along with extracurricular activity, would make them easier to deal with.

So she turned, sliding her knee along the inside of his and saying with suggestion, “I do. Something that could last the night?” Then she clarified, “Only through the night. What do you think?”

His attention roved over her, from her short pale hair in styled disarray, to the front of her sweater where her less than stellar boobs wouldn’t impress a single soul, down her waist to her legs to her ankle boots. Those sinful eyes slowly rose back to her face. “There’s a hotel a few miles down the road.”

She knew that, because she’d rented a room there. “Perfect.” Tipping up the beer, she finished it off and started to stand.

He grinned. “Mind if I eat first? It’s been a long day.”

Well. Well, hell. Here she was ready to rush out the door and he wanted to eat first?

Plopping her behind back on the plastic covered stool seat and resting her elbows behind her on the bar, she waited as the steaming sandwich with a side of chips was set before him.

“You could get it to go,” she suggested. “Eat it on the way, maybe?”

For an answer, he picked it up and took a big bite.

What. A. Jerk. Did she need a diversion this badly?

Her heart ached as she accepted the truth that, sadly, yes she did.

She crossed her legs and swung a foot. “If I have to wait, you damn well better be worth it.”

Nonchalance personified, he nodded. “I’ll do my best.”

Ronnie sighed out her frustration. She had the feeling his best would be pretty damn good.

*

Jack couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this attracted to a woman… or when he’d had so much fun teasing her. The little beauty next to him was all but steaming, but still she wanted him.

A real boost to the ego.

And he wasn’t at his best. He’d gotten a day off at the office, but he’d worked all morning on the yard, done a few roof repairs, and then painted two rooms. Hunger had driven him to Freddie’s without showering, shaving, or changing into clean clothes first. Not his usual style.

Judging by her style, his present state of “worked all day on a rehab house” suited her. He cast another glance over her, and forced himself not to gulp his food.

Petite women didn’t usually turn him on, but God love her, she did.

She had this edgy style with platinum hair cut short in the back but long in the front. The wispy bangs nearly hung in her eyes – soft gray eyes lined with kohl – until she ran her slender fingers through it, pushing it to the side. When she turned her head, it fell forward. No matter how it laid, she looked sexy as hell.

The pale blue sweater hugged her upper body, but not as tightly as those jeans hugged her trim little ass and crazy long legs. For a woman so small, she was put together really fine.

And she wanted him.

For tonight.

She wasn’t local and probably wouldn’t be around here again. Even knowing it was better that way, he couldn’t deny the twinge of disappointment. He had a feeling he was going to enjoy her. A lot.

Suddenly she asked, “You’re not involved, are you?”

“Romantically?” He took another massive bite. Freddie’s had amazing sandwiches.

“Romantically, sexually, whatever. I don’t want to step on any toes.”

He swallowed. “Uninvolved on all counts.” But he thought to ask, “You?” because he didn’t trespass either.

“Free and clear.” She fidgeted, toying with a dangling silver earring in her right ear.

In her left she had a stud.

Three fingers on her left hand sported silver rings, along with her thumb on her right.

Fascinating.

He watched her survey the bar, not with any real interest but just to track the movement of the party.

She had amazing skin. Peachy. Smooth. Natural skin, he thought, despite the loud eye makeup. Her brows were a medium brown, not that he needed to notice that to know she’d bleached her hair. Altogether, she gave off a confident, distinctive, sexy vibe.

He liked it. “What’s your name?”

She immediately shook her head. “No names.” Bringing her attention back to him, she scowled. “Hurry up all ready.”

“What’s the rush?”

Tucking in her chin, she gave him a killing glare. “Look, if you’re not interested –”

“I’m interested.” Jack shrugged. “I’m also hungry after working all day. Will five more minutes hurt?”

She seemed to be debating it, then with a deliberately flippant attitude, she said, “Whatever,” and slipped off the barstool.

For a second, Jack thought she was leaving and he had to fight the urge to catch her arm, to dissuade her, to… convince her to stay.

Since when did he have to convince women? Not for years.

When she merely dug some change from her pocket, he relaxed. Sort of. But he did eat a little faster.

“The jukebox work?”

Jack nodded, swallowed. “But it’s all country music.”

“Of course it is.” Wending her way around the crowds until she finally reached the old-fashioned jukebox, she studied the songs, slipped in the change, and smiled as music joined the din of conversation.

Jack studied her body as she started back toward him, the graceful way she moved while still being very aware of the press of bodies around her. She touched no one as she slipped this way and that, not even a brush of arms. Her sweater barely met the waistband of her jeans, and twice he got a glimpse of her smooth, pale stomach.

Fuck the food. He’d had enough.

Standing, he put some money on the bar and waited for her. If he wasn’t careful, he’d get half hard just imagining what was to come.

Right before she reached him, someone said, “Hey, Jack. The house is looking good.”

He gave an offhand, “Thanks,” not even sure who’d said it. Everyone around here knew him, his brother and his mother, and they were all friendly.

She stopped, her made-up eyes flaring. “Jack?”

He didn’t have a problem with names, so he held out a hand. “Jack Crews. Feel like sharing now?”

Instead she slapped his hand away and surged forward in one big step, going on her tiptoes to glare up into his face. “You’re supposed to be slick.”

“I am?” This close, he could see her individual lashes and he detected the faint perfume of flowers – an odd contrast to her sharp appeal.

“Yes!” Dropping back, she gestured at him. “You are not supposed to be messy or rugged.”

With no idea what was going on, Jack folded his arms and leaned back on the bar. “Is it against the rules if I’m all of the above?”

She appeared to be sawing her teeth together. “Thanks for nothing.” Turning on her heel, she started out the door.

What the hell? Jack bolted after her, following her through the door and out to the walkway. “Where are you going?”

To the tune of furious stomping, she said, “The hotel.”

Were they still on, then? Unsure, he offered, “I have a truck.”

Alone.”

Yeah, that was plain enough.

He easily caught up to walk beside her. “So…that’s it? You changed your mind and I won’t see you again?”

She muttered something low and mean.

Jack leaned closer. “What?”

Halting, she stared down at her feet a moment, and when she raised her face, she looked almost calm again. “I’ll see you tomorrow as a matter of fact.” Her smile could wound. “At your office.”

Jack still didn’t get it.

“We have an appointment first thing.”

“I have an appointment with Ron Ashford.”

She held out her arms. “That would be me. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to forget about this. Tonight, I mean. That we might have…” Lips compressing, she shook her head. “Just forget it.” And with that she continued on her way, her behind swishing, her legs eating up the pavement.

Very slowly, Jack smiled. Forget about it? Like hell.

And damn it, now he was getting hard.

End of Excerpt

Slow Ride

is available in the following editions: