Some Like It Wild
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EXCLUSIVE TO THIS EDITION--A NEVER-BEFORE-IN-PRINT WILD ONES NOVELLA
First was The Wild Ones. Now, the next book in M. Leighton's Wild Ones series...
How far will a good girl go for the bad boy she loves?
Laney Holt is a preacher’s daughter. A good girl. Her only goal was to get married, have babies, and live happily ever after, just like her parents. Only that didn’t happen. The two people closest to her betrayed her, and Laney’s dreams came crashing down. Now she’s left with an empty space she doesn’t know how to fill. Until she meets Jake Theopolis, a daredevil with a death wish who has heartbreaker written all over him.
Jake has no interest in thinking beyond the here and now. All he wants out of life is the next rush, the next “feel-good” thing to keep his mind off the pain of his past. His latest rush? Showing Laney there’s more to life than being a good girl—and that going bad can be so much fun. Her only concern now is how she can ever hope to satisfy the wild side of a boy like Jake. She’s looking forward to trying. And so is Jake.
If you love The Wild Ones, you'll be just as wild for M. Leighton's Bad Boys series which includes Down to You, Up to Me, and Everything for Us.
Four years ago, summer
“Come on, Laney. You gotta live a little. You’ll be eighteen in a few weeks and then you’ll be leaving for college. This is the last fair you’ll ever attend as an adolescent. Don’t you want this summer to be memorable?”
“Yes, but that does not include getting busted for drinking under age.” My best friend, Tori, gives me that look that says I’m hopeless. “What?” I ask defensively. “Daddy would kill me.”
“I thought preacher’s kids were supposed to be wild as hell?”
“I can be wild,” I tell her, avoiding her disbelieving blue eyes. “I just don’t want to be wild right now.”
“Then when? When are you gonna do something? Anything? You won’t make it a single semester away at college if you don’t learn some of this worldly stuff now, Laney.”
I chew the inside of my lip. I do feel ill-prepared for college. But the thing is, I don’t want to do wild things. All I’ve ever really wanted out of life is to find the perfect man to sweep me off my feet, get married, have a family, and live happily ever after. And I don’t have to get wild to achieve any of those things.
Looking at Tori’s expression, however, makes me feel like some kind of freak for not wanting to break the rules. At least a little. But she doesn’t understand my dreams. No one does, really. Except my mother. She was the same way when she was my age, and she found everything she wanted in life when she met my father.
“Come on, Laney. Just this once.”
“Why? What is the big deal about getting it here? Getting it now?”
“Because I want to get it from him.”
“Why?” I ask again. “What’s the big deal?”
“I’ve had a crush on him for years, that’s what the big deal is. He went off to college and I haven’t seen him since. But now he’s here. And I need a wing woman.” When I don’t immediately relent, she presses. “Pleeease. For meee.”
I sigh. I have to give Tori credit for being one seriously gifted manipulator. It’s a wonder I’m not wild as a buck. She talks me into doing things I don’t want to do all the time. It’s just that, so far, they’ve been fairly innocent. Being the preacher’s daughter and living with such strict parents makes it hard for me to get into too much trouble. Tori ought to be happy about that. If it weren’t for the restrictions being my friend has placed indirectly on her, she’d probably be a pregnant, drug-addicted criminal by now.
But she’s not. Partly because of me and my “taming” influence. And it’s those stark differences in our personalities that make us such good friends. We balance each other perfectly. She keeps me on my toes. I keep her out of Juvie.
“Fine,” I growl. “Come on. But so help me, if he tells on us, I’m blaming you.”
Tori squeals and bounces up and down, her ample boobs threatening to overcome the extremely low neckline of her shirt.
“Why don’t you just go over and do that in front of him a couple of times? I’m sure he’d give you anything you want.”
“That’ll come later,” Tori says, ruffling her blond bangs and waggling her eyebrows.
I roll my eyes as we start off across the fairgrounds. As we near the farm truck where the shirtless guy is unloading crates, I ask Tori again, “Now who did you say he is?”
“Theopolis? As in the peach orchard Theopolises?”
“Yep, that’s his family.”
“Why don’t I remember him?”
“Because your hormones slept through your freshman year. He was a senior. Jenna Theopolis’s older brother. Played baseball. Dated pretty much all the hot girls. “
“Except for you,” I add before she can.
She grins and elbows me in the ribs. “Except for me.”
“And you’re sure he won’t try to get us into trouble?”
“I’m positive. He was a bad boy. I’m sure there’s nothing we could think of that he hasn’t done ten times over.” We stop a few feet behind him, and I hear Tori whisper, “Good God, look at him.”
So I do.
I can see why Tori would find him appealing. His tanned skin is glistening in the hot Carolina sun. The well-defined muscles in his chest and shoulders ripple as he picks up a crate from the back of the truck, and his washboard abs contract as he swivels to set it on the ground. His worn blue jeans hang low on his narrow hips, giving us an almost-indecent look at the way the thin trail of hair that leads away from his navel disappears into the waistband.
But then Tori’s words come back to me and I’m immediately turned off. She said he’s a bad boy. And I’m not interested in bad boys. They don’t figure into my plans. At all. In any way. That’s why I don’t have to worry about being attracted to him.
Even though he’s hot as blazes.
Tori clears her throat as we move closer. “Hi, Jake.”
Jake’s dark head turns toward us as he pauses in his work to wipe his brow. He looks first at Tori. “Hi,” he replies around the toothpick stuck in one corner of his mouth. His voice is low and hoarse. His smile is polite and I think to myself that he’s handsome enough, but nothing to warrant Tori’s insistence on talking to him.
But then he looks over at me.
Even with him squinting in the bright sun, his eyes steal my breath. Set in his tan face and framed by his black hair and black lashes, they’re striking. The amber color is like honey, honey I feel all the way down in my stomach—warm and gooey.
“Hi,” he says again, one side of his mouth curling up into a cocky grin.
For some reason, I can’t think of one single thing to say. Not even a casual greeting, one that I would give a perfect stranger. I stare at him for several long seconds until, finally, he chuckles and turns back to Tori.
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Uh, she’s just shy.”
“Shy?” he asks, turning his attention back to me. I almost wish he hadn’t. My belly is still full of hot liquid and I’m starting to feel breathless. “Hmmm, I don’t meet shy girls very often.”
From the corner of my eye, I see Tori wave her hand dismissively. “Eh, she’ll loosen up in a minute. In fact, that’s sort of why we’re here.”
Jake glances back to Tori, releasing me from the prison of his strange eyes. I take a slow, deep breath to settle my swimming head.
“Oh, I’ve gotta hear this,” he says, leaning back against the tailgate and crossing his arms over his chest. I can’t help but notice how his biceps bulge with the action.
Tori steps closer to him and whispers, “We were sort of hoping you’d sell us a bottle of that peach wine. You know, on the down low.”
He looks from Tori to me and back again before he bends to pick up one bottle. “One of these? To loosen her up?”
“Yep. It’s sure to do the trick.”
His golden eyes return to me as he slowly straightens to his full height. “I don’t believe you. I don’t think she’ll drink it.” His gaze drops to my mouth and then on down my neck and chest, to my stomach and my bare legs. I wonder what he’s seeing—just the light green strapless sundress that sets off my tan? Or is he imagining what’s underneath? What’s underneath my clothes? Underneath my skin? “I think she looks like a good girl. And good girls don’t drink.”
The fact that he so accurately pegged me stirs up my temper for some reason. Immediately defensive, I pull in my stomach, puff out my chest, and jack up my chin. “What? I’m just some simple, one-dimensional country girl? Is that it?”
He shrugs, his eyes never leaving mine. “Am I wrong?”
“Yes,” I declare defiantly, even though it’s an outright lie. “You couldn’t be more wrong.”
One raven brow shoots up in challenge. “Oh yeah? Prove it.”
Too proud to back down, I reach out and snatch the bottle from his fingers, unscrew the lid and tip it back, taking one long gulp.
It’s just local, homemade wine from his daddy’s peach orchard, but that doesn’t mean the alcohol doesn’t sting the throat of someone who’s not used to drinking.
As I lower the bottle and swallow what’s left in my mouth, my eyes water with the effort not to sputter. Jake watches me until my cheeks are no longer full of the wine.
“Satisfied?” I ask, shoving the bottle into the center of his broad chest.
“I’ll be damned,” he says softly.
Ignoring the way his voice makes my stomach clench, I reach for Tori’s hand. “Come on. We have to get back for our shift in the booth.”
Tossing my hair, I turn and stomp off with as much dignity as I can muster. Tori is reluctant, but when I tug, she follows along.
“What the hell are you doing? You just totally screwed that up for me. Not to mention that you left the wine.”
“We don’t need that jerk’s wine.”
“Uh, yeah, we do. And what’s this about the shift at the booth? We aren’t supposed to be there for another forty minutes.”
“Then we’ll go early. It’s just a kissing booth, for Pete’s sake. It won’t kill you to work another forty minutes. In fact, you’ll probably like it.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asks indignantly.
I pause in my mad trudging to look at her. I shake my head to clear it. I don’t know how that Jake guy managed to get under my skin so quickly, but he did.
“Sorry, Tori. I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m just aggravated.”
“I can see that. But why? What did he ever do to you?”
“I don’t know. Nothing, I suppose. I just hate it when people assume the worst about me.”
“Assuming you’re a good girl is not a bad thing.”
“He sure made it seem like it was.” I start walking again and look back at Tori until she catches up. “Besides, weren’t you just fussing at me for not living a little?”
“Yes, but this is not really what I had in mind.”
I smile and loop my arm through hers, hoping for a quick reconciliation so we can leave the topic of Jake behind. “Be careful what you ask for then, right?”
She sighs. “I guess.”
“Now then, let’s go.”
Twenty minutes later, I’m regretting my rash decision. I’ve kissed the cheek of every pimple-faced boy in town. Tori has jumped in front of me to take all the cute guys that have come. Not that I have a problem with that. I guess I owe her since I messed up her plans for Jake. Besides, I’m not interested in any of the boys from Greenfield. The only reason I’m working the booth at all is to raise funds for the church.
I smile politely as I take two dollars from the next boy in line. He looks like he can’t be a day over twelve. I bend forward to give his cheek a peck. I press my lips to it and then offer mine. He kisses it sweetly then looks shyly away. “Thank you for the kiss,” I say for the hundredth time. I look down as I put the money in my till. When I glance up, prepared to ask for the next person in line, my heart stops and the words die on my tongue.
Standing in front of me, smiling like he knows I can’t breathe, is Jake Theopolis. He’s wearing a T-shirt now, a blue one that fits snugly over his wide shoulders. His pecs shift beneath the material as he digs in the front pocket of his jeans. I see him toss a ten dollar bill onto the counter in front of me. Confused, my eyes flicker back up to his. The bright, liquid orbs are intent on mine.
“I came for the peaches,” he says quietly. He reaches up to take the toothpick from between his lips. I watch, spellbound, as his face gets closer and closer. “I need a taste before I go,” he whispers, his sweet cinnamon breath fanning my lips.
And then his mouth is brushing mine. I don’t even think to resist. In fact, I don’t think at all. I only feel.
His lips are soft against mine and he smells like soap and clean sweat. His touch is featherlight until he tilts his head to the side and deepens the kiss. I feel his tongue trace the crease of my lips until I part them to let him in. In long, leisurely strokes, his tongue licks at mine, like he’s savoring the flavor of it. I savor him right back, drinking in the hint of cinnamon in his mouth. I lean toward him, bracing myself on the counter, afraid my legs won’t hold me up much longer.
Finally, he leans back and looks down into my stunned face. “Mmm, that’s the sweetest peach I’ve had in a long time,” he purrs. When he winks at me, I feel a gush of heat pour into my stomach like hot lava.
Without another word, he turns and walks away.
The screen door bangs shut behind me. After having been out in the fresh air of the orchards, the sweet, fruity smell of the house is even more pronounced. My family’s farmhouse has seen too many harvest seasons not to smell like peaches.
It smells exactly the same as it has my whole life. In fact, very little about the house has changed at all over the years. Except for the dwindling of its occupants, of course.
First Mom, now Dad. It took a few years for it to feel like home after Mom died, but it finally did. With Dad, it’ll be different. I can already tell. Although his death was sudden and accidental (he fell off a ladder out in the orchard and hit his head on a rock), I don’t mourn him like I did Mom. Or like Jenna mourns him. She can barely come into the driveway, much less spend time indoors. Then again, she was always his favorite. But that’s understandable, all things considered.
Feeling the sting of old wounds, I walk to the fridge for a beer. I jerk the door open with much more force than what’s necessary. It feels good to get a little of my aggression out, though. It’ll do until I can get back to work, making a living at staring death in the eye. Adrenaline—it’s my drug of choice to numb the pain of the past. And of the present, if it decides to act up and give me shit.
But right now, I have to shower before the bloodsucking douche paralegal from the estate attorney’s office arrives to start cataloging all our family holdings.
I pop the top on the bottle and down half of it before I even reach the stairs. I try not to think of the good ol’ days, just a few short weeks ago, when I was living the life I chose rather than the life my father left behind when he died.
What the hell was I thinking, coming back here?
Less than half an hour later, I’m freshly washed, cleanly shaved, and dressed in jeans and a T-shirt that reads: SKYDIVING: THE GROUND IS THE LIMIT. I grab another beer from the fridge and sit in the den, waiting for the tight ass from the attorney’s office. The only sounds are the dog, Einstein, barking at something out back, the tick of the grandfather clock in the dining room, and the wind whistling through the crack in the screen door. It takes exactly seven minutes for this quiet combination to drive me nuts. Finishing my beer, I decide to get some stuff from the garage and wash my Jeep while I wait.
And if this straightlaced asshole doesn’t like it, he can kiss my puckered ass.
Twenty minutes later, I’m rinsing soap off the Rubicon when I see the flash of sun on a windshield, drawing my eye to the far end of the driveway. A little dusty blue car is making its way slowly along the path, moving in and out of the dappled patches of shade thrown onto the pavement by the trees stretching overhead. Every now and then, the sun will shine through the glass and hit the platinum blond hair of the driver. The long platinum blond hair of the driver. This immediately piques my interest. I never considered they might send a female.
I continue spraying, keeping an eye on the car as it comes closer. I watch as it rolls to a stop a few feet from where I am, parking in front of the house with its rear facing in my direction. The engine shuts off, and I see the driver reach onto the seat beside her. She fiddles with something before opening the door.
The first thing that comes out is legs. Two mile-long, perfectly toned ones capped in a pair of high, high heels. I wait anxiously to see the rest. She pauses for a second before scooting out of the car.
I see her first in profile as she reaches down to tug on the rising hem of her slim black skirt and then tucks her hair behind one ear.
When she finally turns toward me, her head is down as she looks at something in her hands. That’s fine by me. It just gives me time to ogle the shit out of her without getting a nasty glare for it.
The long legs were only the beginning of the package. Narrow hips curve into a tiny waist and lead up to what looks like a nice-sized rack. Not too big, not too small, although it’s hard to be sure through her loose-fitting blouse.
She walks gracefully toward me and, when she’s a couple of feet away, she looks up.
Just as my jaw drops in surprised recognition, the spray of the water hose hits the front bumper of the Jeep and shoots water all over my chest and stomach.
“Shit!” I yelp, jumping back when the cold water makes contact.
I redirect the hose and glance at the girl standing just outside spray reach. She’s smiling down at my wet shirt.
My mouth waters when I look at the lush pink lips spread over her perfect teeth. I remember the way they taste—sweet and innocent.
And like a challenge.
I knew going into this whose estate I’d be recording. I saw the names on the paperwork and recognized one immediately.
It’s been a long time since that kiss at the fair, so I didn’t think twice about taking the assignment. It gets me home for a while and that’s what I wanted most.
Although I’d forgotten how incredibly handsome he is, I feel perfectly in control of myself as I look at him in his soaked T-shirt.
That is, until he lays the hose to the side and peels the dripping material from his body.
My breath is suddenly stuck in my chest, my pulse is racing, and my skin feels warm and damp.
Inches and inches of glistening golden skin cover wide shoulders, a powerful chest, and rippling abs. His jeans sit low on his hips, as though they were made to fit his lean body. If all that weren’t enough to get me flustered, the cocky grin on his face would be.
He knows exactly what he’s doing to me. Might’ve even done it on purpose. I guess that’s what I get for smiling at his mishap.
Who’s laughing now?
“Something wrong?” Jake asks, his deep voice dripping with knowing amusement.
My eyes fly up to his, hoping for a break from the onslaught of his hotness. But I don’t get one. I fall headlong into those honey yellow eyes of his. I’d forgotten how disconcerting they are.
I’ve never seen honey like that before!
The movement of his hand draws my gaze downward again. Jake is wiping his wet palm on the leg of his jeans. The action causes the muscles in his chest to flex, making me feel even warmer.
I squeeze my eyes shut and pray for some composure.
Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!
“Jake Theopolis,” I hear him say. I open my lids a crack and see his hand extended toward me. Slowly, I reach out and slip my fingers into his. They curl warmly around mine. “Welcome to my lair.”
Again, I see amusement when my gaze flickers back up to his. He’s really enjoying me making a complete fool of myself.
Pulling my hand from his grasp, I clear my throat and look over at the house. “So, this is the main home on the estate?”
When Jake says nothing, I’m forced to glance back at him. He’s smiling at me, a devilishly wicked grin, as he wrings out his shirt. He’s chewing a toothpick again, reminding me of the way his mouth tasted all those years ago. “Yes, this is it. Would you like me to show you around?”
“That would be helpful, thank you,” I say stiffly, feeling mortified by my reaction to him.
He tips his head toward the house, his lips still curved in a cocky half smile. “Then come with me.”
As I follow along behind him, I wonder at his ability to make every look, every word, and every gesture seem so . . . so . . . suggestive. I have no doubt it’s intentional. He obviously knows I’m flustered and is exploiting that, which makes me mad. Unfortunately, that anger isn’t nearly enough to help me keep my head on straight, as evidenced by the fact that I watch his butt all the way on the walk to the house.
After mounting the steps, he turns at the front door to allow me to precede him. I jerk my eyes up, looking guiltily away from his backside, hoping he didn’t see what I was doing.
When he winks at me as I pass, I realize that he did. I feel my face go up in flames.
Oh my God! Just kill me now!
The house is quiet and dark, and the interior smells slightly sweet and homey. At first glance, it’s hard for me to fathom a guy like Jake Theopolis being raised here. He’s the type that I imagine landing on the scene with a loud bang, like life just spit him out, fully grown and wild as a buck. Never a sweet, innocent child.
Jake tips his head toward a sage green couch in the den. “Have a seat and I’ll get us a beer.”
“No, no thank you,” I rush to say as I make my way to the sofa. As I perch demurely on the edge of one cushion, I glance over at Jake. He’s eyeing me from the doorway leading into what I presume is the kitchen.
He shrugs. “Suit yourself.”
A few seconds later, he returns carrying a beer and a glass of some other kind of golden liquid. I look up at him, frowning as I take the proffered wineglass. “What’s this?”
“Peach wine,” he says, watching me intently. “Did you think I’d forgotten?”
My cheeks flame and I take a nervous sip of the sweet drink, any excuse to get my eyes off of his. “Thank you,” I mutter, avoiding his question.
After a tense moment, Jake plops down in an armchair across from me, crossing his legs to rest one ankle on his knee. He still hasn’t put on a shirt and, when I look up, all I can see is an ocean of flawless skin.
“Would you mind getting dressed so we can discuss what’s ahead for your family?”
With his golden eyes trained on mine, Jake rubs his hand across his bare chest. “Why? Does this bother you?”
I know he’s teasing me, but I’m trying to keep things professional. And I can’t do that with a gorgeous, half-naked man sitting a coffee table away.
“Not at all, but it’s hardly appropriate.”
One black brow shoots up. “Not at all, huh?”
I hold his gaze, hoping he doesn’t see the lie of my words. “Not. At. All.”
“Well, then I’ll just have to see what does bother a prim and proper woman such as yourself.”
The warning is not lost on me. However, my only option is to ignore it. I can’t very well do my job if I let Jake Theopolis strike me stupid and speechless every time he’s in the room.
Jake gets up to leave. With one foot on the bottom step, he turns toward me. “Are you ever gonna tell me your name? Or should I just call you ‘peaches’?”
“Laney,” I offer, adding another brick to the huge pile of my embarrassment. “Laney Holt.”
He nods slowly. “You from around here, Laney Holt? Or were you just working the kissing booth for pleasure that day?”
“Originally I’m from around here, yes.”
Jake starts to turn away again, but stops himself, his brow furrowing. “Holt. You’re not related to Graham Holt, are you?”
“Yes, I am. He’s my father. Why?”
Jake throws back his head and laughs heartily. “Oh, God! That’s perfect! The preacher’s daughter!”
It seems like he’s making fun of me, and I bristle. “And why is that perfect?” I ask sharply.
Jake lowers his head and looks me square in the eye. “Because I’ve got a thing for forbidden fruit, Laney Holt. Consider yourself warned.”
With another cocky grin tossed my way, Jake turns to mount the steps, leaving me feeling nothing short of breathless.
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