Authors: Katie Lane
Tags: #Fiction / Romance - General, #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #Fiction / Romance - Western, #Western, #Erotica, #Fiction / Romance - Contemporary
Elizabeth might not pay as much attention to men as Twyla, but she knew an attractive
man when she saw one. There was Slate Calhoun with his golden hair and hazel eyes.
Colt Lomax with his muscular body and intriguing tattoos. And Bubba Wilkes Cates with
his country boy charm. But this man beat them all out, and she couldn’t quite put
her finger on the reason why.
He wasn’t handsome in the classical sense. His jaw was a little too pronounced, his
lips too firm, his forehead too high, and his eyes too deeply set. Yet there was something
in those sapphire eyes that unsettled her. A look that reminded her of her cat, Atticus,
when he had arrived at her door soaking wet and starving.
The man dipped his head, and she realized she’d been right. He was starving. It just
wasn’t for food. His mouth settled over hers in a hungry glide that sent a zap of
heat zinging straight through her body to the crotch of the 99-cent panties she’d
gotten on sale at J.C. Penney.
This was no sloppy, inexperienced kiss like she’d gotten from Jeffrey Hunt in high
school. Or the distracted, obligatory kisses she got from Marvin Migler in college.
No, this man kissed like an expert who had been doing it for a lifetime—and liked
doing it. His lips were hot, skilled, and consuming. So much so, that before Elizabeth
even realized it, she was kissing him back and trying to remember why she shouldn’t
A low growl came from the hard, naked chest pressed against her button-up blouse,
vibrating through her mouth like a mating call. He pulled back, and she barely had
time to suck in a deep breath before her skirt was being pushed up and her panties
At this point, she needed to put a stop to things and take control of the situation.
Except it was hard to take control when a warm hand skated up her thigh and one finger
flicked across sensitive flesh. A sound came out of her mouth that was a mixture between
a squawk and a moan. She tried to shove his hand away, but he only gave her another
mind-fragmenting kiss that, this time, included the slick thrust of tongue. She resurfaced
from the sensual onslaught to discover that he’d rolled completely on top of her.
Hard, muscular thighs pressed into her soft ones. But it wasn’t the hard thighs she
noticed as much as his hard-on. A hard-on that was trying to nudge its way in between
her legs. The realization that she was about to have sex with a complete stranger
finally penetrated her brain, and she pulled away from his scorching lips.
“Stop this instant,” she said in her most authoritative voice. But he didn’t listen
as well as the students from Bramble Elementary. He continued to try to ease her tightly
clamped legs apart with his knee, while he kissed a trail of fire down her chin and
over to the sensitive skin behind her ear.
“Don’t deny me, Miss Hattie,” he whispered. “I need you.”
Well, that explained a lot. This man was convinced that Miss Hattie’s was open for
business. And Elizabeth knew exactly who had done the convincing. Of course, she hadn’t
helped matters by getting so caught up in her fantasies about Miss Hattie’s bed that
she’d allowed him to take liberties. And not just allowed, but participated.
Still, it was time to bring the illusion to an end.
Realizing that it would take more than words to get the man out of his sexual trance,
she waited for him to lift his head before she slapped him hard across the face. The
blue eyes that stared back at her showed no signs he’d even registered the slap. In
fact, now that she noticed, his eyes looked strange. Even as twilight settled over
the room, his pupils remained tiny pinpricks of black.
Obviously, the man was stoned out of his mind. No doubt on alcohol the hens had given
him. Since this wasn’t the first time Elizabeth had had to deal with an inebriated
man, she knew just what to do. You couldn’t reason with a drunk, but you could certainly
She ran a finger over his lips. “And I need you too, honey.” She tried to do her best
impersonation of Shirlene
Dalton, who everyone knew could flirt any man into submission. “But before I…” She
tried to think of some naughty phrase for sex, but only one popped into her head.
“Take your choo-choo on a ride through my tunnel, I need to get you some protection.
You wouldn’t want to risk getting a nasty STD, now would you?”
The STD part seemed to work. After only a slight hesitation, he rolled away, and Elizabeth
scrambled off the bed. She made a show of opening up the nightstand drawer, which
did happen to be filled with condoms. Condoms and all kinds of phallic-shaped things.
She slammed the drawer closed again. “Nope, not a condom in sight.” She backed toward
the door, struggling to keep her gaze away from the miles of muscle and hard, naked
male. “Let me just run downstairs, and I’ll be right back.”
The man was drunk, but he was no fool. He lunged for her. Elizabeth started to make
a run for it when the distinct clink of metal chain had her turning back around. He
was stretched at an awkward angle, one arm reaching out and the other held back by
the metal wrapped around his wrist.
“Oh my god.” The words slipped from her mouth. “They handcuffed you?”
He looked confused for only a second before he growled and yanked his wrist, causing
the sturdy headboard to shudder. Worried he was going to hurt himself, she took a
few steps closer, and, for the first time, noticed the bandage on the arm that wasn’t
shackled. It made her feel even more sympathetic toward him and angry at the hens
for taking advantage of an injured man.
“It’s okay.” She held up a hand. “Please don’t hurt
yourself anymore. I promise I’ll have you free in no time.” She was out the door and
halfway down the stairs before she realized that it probably wouldn’t be smart to
release an angry drunk on a houseful of women.
Then again, maybe it was exactly what the crazy old ladies needed to knock some sense
into their heads.
The hens were right where she’d left them: Minnie playing solitaire, Baby nervously
stirring the boiling pot, and Sunshine sitting on the floor. They all looked up when
“I thought you’d be gone back to your boring life in Bramble by now,” Minnie said
as she rearranged a column of cards.
Elizabeth tried to keep her voice steady and her patience intact. “Would someone care
to explain why there is a man upstairs handcuffed to the bed?”
Minnie didn’t even look up from the cards. “About as much as you’d like to explain
why you’re still a virgin.”
Elizabeth took a deep breath and slowly released it. “That’s not what we’re talking
“Well, it should be,” Minnie said. “Your virginity is a topic that should’ve been
addressed a long time ago. If it had been, you wouldn’t be down here discussing the
handsome cowboy upstairs, but in bed enjoying him. Although from the look of your
clothes and hair, I’d say you already did some enjoying.”
Sunshine jumped to her feet. “But you said I could have him, Minnie!”
“ ’Course you can have him, Sunshine. Just as soon as Virgin Lizzie is done with him.
She needs him much more than you do.”
“No one is getting him!” Elizabeth said, much louder
than she intended. “He is a human being, not some kind of stray animal that you found
in the road.” She paused. “Where did you find him, anyway?”
Minnie shot her an exasperated look. “That’s a stupid question if ever I’ve heard
one. Men have always found Hattie’s.”
She had a point, which meant the man wasn’t exactly innocent. He’d come looking to
participate in illegal activities so he probably had gotten what he deserved. Still,
they couldn’t keep him prisoner.
Elizabeth pointed a finger at Minnie. “You’re going to give me the key to his handcuffs
so I can release him. And Baby, you’re going to make him some strong coffee so we
can sober him up before we send him on his way.” She glanced over at the clock on
the stove. There was no way she would make the wedding, but if she hurried she could
make the reception and no one would be the wiser. She should’ve known that things
wouldn’t be that easy.
“I’m afraid we can’t do that,” Minnie said.
Elizabeth slammed her hands on her hips and stared the women down like she did all
the children who refused to look for their lost library books. “And just why not?”
“Because,” Baby said in her breathy voice, “if we let him go, he’ll call the sheriff
“They aren’t going to throw Minnie into jail for handcuffing a man to the bed.”
“Not for the handcuffing,” Baby said. “For the drugging and shooting.”
There was a moment when Elizabeth felt like she might pass out. Her head got all light
and airy, and she couldn’t seem to catch her breath. It was Sunshine who found a brown
paper bag. Sunshine who set Elizabeth
down and held the bag over her mouth, telling her to take deep, even breaths. Minnie
just continued to play cards while Baby looked on with wide, scared eyes.
When she finally felt less faint, Elizabeth pushed the bag away. “You drugged the
man and then shot him?”
Minnie tipped her head. “Technically, I shot him and then Baby drugged him.”
“But she didn’t shoot him on purpose, Lizzie,” Baby clarified as she wrung her hands.
“It was an accident. After that, we had to drug him. We can’t have him calling the
police, not when the henhouse is going to reopen.”
Elizabeth grabbed the paper bag from Sunshine and breathed into it for a full five
minutes until the bag was soggy and limp, then she pulled it away from her mouth and
reached for the cell phone in her tote bag.
“And what do you think you’re doin’?” Minnie asked.
“I’m doing what that man upstairs will do when we let him go. I’m calling the sheriff.
This craziness of yours has gone on long enough, Minnie. It’s time we put a stop to
it. You can’t go around shooting and drugging men.” She’d punched two buttons on her
phone by the time Minnie spoke.
“You go right ahead and do that, Lizzie. I’m sure Sheriff Hicks will come hauling
butt out here lickety split. ’Course, he won’t be the only one. Once news gets out,
reporters will flock here like a bunch of geese heading south for the winter. And
it won’t be a shooting and drugging that interests them.” She bracketed her gnarled
fingers and held them up as if reading a headline. “Extra. Extra. Read all about it.
Virgin Librarian Takes Over Miss Hattie’s and Handcuffs Man to Bed!”
The phone slipped from Elizabeth’s fingers and hit the floor. “But I didn’t handcuff
“No, but it won’t make any difference. You’re the one who owns Miss Hattie’s.” She
smiled. “The one who has all the rights and responsibilities.”
Elizabeth slumped down in her chair as the truth of Minnie’s words sank in.
She couldn’t call the sheriff. If word got out about the shooting, it would also get
out about her connection to the henhouse. And then where would she be? She’d lose
her job at the library, and, without a job, she’d be forced to leave Bramble and her
quiet, comfortable life. And she wouldn’t be the only one who suffered. Her mother
would become the gossip of her Bunco club. Everything they’d striven to keep quiet
would be out for the world to dissect.
While Elizabeth’s world shattered before her eyes, Minnie flipped down a card and
held up her dark-veined hands.
“Ten thousand five hundred and twenty-two wins! That should get in Guinness World
Something boiled up inside of Elizabeth. Something mean and ugly and… liberating.
It flooded her entire body and caused her nerves to tingle and her face to fill with
blood. Just that quickly, she reached out and swiped her hand across the table, sending
the cards flying.
“I don’t care about some stupid solitaire record. I care that you’ve succeeded in
ruining my life, you crazy old bat!”
Baby’s, and even Sunshine’s, eyes grew as big as saucers while Minnie only cackled.
“I knew there was hot hen blood in you. All it needed was a little nudge.”
Henhouse Rule #35: Never run from the law, just seduce it.
OLD IT RIGHT THERE,
Elizabeth froze as her heart moved up to her throat. She slowly turned to find Sheriff
Winslow standing not more than five feet away, the colored lights over the dance floor
reflecting off the shiny, silver badge pinned to his chest.
He tipped his head, and the brim of his large, tan cowboy hat dipped. “You don’t think
I was gonna let you get away that easily, do ya?”
She swallowed hard and tried to speak, but it was hard when images of cold jail cells
and women with tattoos and crew cuts paraded through her mind.
“You did the deed,” he continued, “and now you have to pay the piper.”
But she really hadn’t done the deed. Three crazy old women had done the deed. Three
crazy old women who had talked her into returning to Bramble as if nothing had happened.
But how could a person be expected to smile and act as if everything was hunky-dory
when there was a naked cowboy handcuffed to Miss Hattie’s bed? It had been foolish
to even think she could pull it off.
Now she would have to pay for that foolishness.
She cleared her throat. “I realize it was wrong, but I can explain.”
“Wrong?” Sheriff Winslow said. “You’re danged right it’s wrong.”
Sheriff Winslow held something out, and Elizabeth figured karma had come back to haunt
her. She had allowed a man to be abducted and now she would get her turn. Except when
the sheriff stepped closer, she realized that it wasn’t handcuffs he held in his hand.
It was a large bouquet of ugly silk flowers.
“You can’t catch the darn thing and then just race off without takin’ it with you,”
Elizabeth’s shoulders sagged as her breath escaped in one long sigh of relief. “O-Of
course, I don’t want to forget these.” She took the heavy arrangement of flowers.