Happy Hump Day, darlings! Instead of a book review this week, I am coming at you with a sneak peek of my upcoming release and the fourth book in the Meant To Be series, Meant to be More. The book centered on the baby of the Carlisle family, Dean, is set to be release June 25th so just over a week away. Check back next Wednesday for another excerpt and in the meantime, Meant to be More is available for preorder on Amazon now!
The nearly decade old pop song blared from the phone in Dean’s back pocket. He tossed the pitchfork to the side, slid the device out, and grinned at the glass. He knew exactly who it was before even looking because only one person had that assigned text alert. His fingers flew across the screen typing out a hasty reply.
Dean: Yep, be there in thirty.
He grabbed the leather jacket hanging on the hook inside the small office Wyatt had built into the barn and was halfway to the motorcycle glinting in the sun when he was hit with the annoying concept of reality. “Well, shit.”
Once more he pulled out his phone, this time swiping until he cued up his brother’s number. He tapped his foot against the red clay dirt, still slightly damp from the frequent late spring showers.
“What?” The single word greeting would have been rude coming from anyone other than Wyatt Carlisle. His brother managed to embody every stereotypical expectation for cowboys including using as few words as possible for anyone who wasn’t his wife, Georgia.
Despite the fact that they were related and gave each other endless amounts of grief, when it came to the ranch and everything attached to it, Dean was conscientious of giving Wyatt respect. “Jillian just landed at the airport and asked me to pick her up, do you mind if I borrow the truck?”
“As long as you and your girlfriend don’t make out in the front seat. That’s what the bed of the truck is for.” Even with the weak cell phone reception, Wyatt’s mocking tone came across the line loud and clear and made Dean roll his eyes toward the picture perfect blue sky.
Dean huffed as he marched back into the barn to collect the keys from the office. “She’s not my girlfriend.” Yet, he added in his mind where only he could hear. “And she probably has a mountain of luggage, no way it’ll fit on my bike.”
A not unusual flurry of excitement washed over Dean as he climbed into the front seat of the massive pick-up and slammed the driver’s door emblazoned with the RA Ranch logo. Each time Jillian had come back from one of her trips into the field, serenity and joy had warred within him for top billing.
No matter her assurances and no matter how many times she returned home safely, when she left for another war-torn country, he was on edge. A scenario that had played on repeat multiple times and yet with each one it had never dawned on him that there was a chance in hell he felt anything other than friendship. Looking back on it, he could admit that he was delusional. Waiting up until he got the three a.m. text or phone call confirming that she’d safely landed in Ethiopia or Colombia or the Philippines was slightly above and beyond a normal friendship. Something even her mother would never dream of doing.
“I’m such a dumbass.” He chastised himself as he pressed harder on the gas pedal, flicking the signal to merge onto the highway leading to the airport. It had taken saying goodbye the most recent time to click on the lightbulb over his head that he’d fallen for her.
Dean forced himself to ease off the accelerator slightly. She would be exhausted and it would be far from the ideal time to proclaim to his best friend that he’d recently managed to pull his head far enough out of his ass to realize he was in love with her.
That thought triggered an avalanche of additional ones. Girls liked flowers and chocolate and all the romantic shit he was hopelessly incapable of delivering. And it had never been like that between him and Jillian so the very notion of planning some candlelit interlude hadn’t blipped on his radar. He should figure out something special.
For a half a second he closed his eyes and groaned before he focused on the road once more and tightened his grip on the steering wheel. Despite humoring Jillian by watching reality dating shows with her, he didn’t have a clue where to start with romance in the real world.
This would require asking his brothers for help and admitting that their teasing had been right. Possibly a fate worse than death.
He rubbed a hand down his chronically stubbled jaw and sighed. Later. All of that would be figured out later. Right now what mattered was getting Jillian to the soft bed she was certain to be in need of and selfishly let his eyes feast on visible proof she was home and in one piece.
He cursed the full parking lot that resulted in him circling around before finally claiming a space somewhere seemingly fifty miles from the building. Moderating his pace was an impossibility and he jogged down the asphalt and through the sliding doors, hanging a left to head to the baggage claim area.
Much easier said than done. He silently swore as he wove through the lines of people waiting at the ticket counter. The epithets were directed just as much toward himself as the crowd making his end goal harder to reach.
If Asheville housed anything larger than a regional airport he might have gone crazy trying to navigate his way to Jillian.
He scanned the crowd standing beside the carousel waiting for their baggage, an involuntary smile taking over his face when his eyes landed on red hair, haphazardly knotted on top of her head, and sun-kissed cheeks dotted with freckles.
She was safe.
She was home.
He closed the space between them in long strides, stopping only when he stood behind her. Despite her countless hours of travel, the soft scent of her soap wafted over him, tightening the band that had formed around his chest over the months she was gone when he’d finally come to acknowledge that what he felt for Jillian went far deeper than friendship.
This was Jillian. The girl he’d known since he was seven years old. The one who was damn near a fixture in every part of his life since then. Why the hell was his hand shaking as he lifted it to tap her shoulder?
“You requested a car, madam?” He affected something as close to a posh British accent as his light southern drawl would allow.
She spun to face him and in the space of half a second a dozen emotions played out across her face. Everything from delight to relief to…sadness?
What in the actual hell was that?
His next words were cut off when she launched her small five-foot one-inch frame at his much larger one. Her arms and legs wrapped around him with a vise-like grip and hot, wet drops landed against his neck. Without a moment’s hesitation he held her tightly to him.
“If you say one word about me crying I swear I’ll punch you, and you know I’m stronger than you.”
Her hiccupped threat was ice water to his mounting concern and didn’t fail in making him laugh. “Duly noted, Jillybean, but I’d appreciate knowing why you’re definitely not crying right now.”
She pulled back and her dark-rimmed emerald eyes reflected back the exhaustion induced by days’ worth of travel across numerous time zones. “Because everything has gone to hell in a handbasket, Sparky, and you need to marry me.”