Copyright © 2012 Mackenzie McKade
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
A salty breeze wafted across his heated face like a lover’s caress. He tipped his chin higher, accepting her welcoming touch when his stomach growled again. Damn, he was hungry. Aligning another nail in the beam, he slammed his hammer down, eager to finish this structure. He had two booths left to design and construct before the opening ceremony, which would be noon on Friday. All proceeds from the festival went to the local community center. But the funds for erecting booths were dwindling and all his ideas had been stretched tighter than the city’s pocketbook. The chairman of the booths, Harold Adair, assured him last evening there was nothing to worry about. Apparently he had a secret weapon. When Reece had quizzed his brother’s grandfather-in-law about this secret weapon, the old gent had flashed him a knowing grin and closed his mouth tighter than a lobster trap.
The twangy notes of a steel guitar brought Reece back to the fact he had to get his ass in gear, and it announced the beginning of another song.
Devon’s whistling was a little better than his singing as he forced breaths through his puckered lips. The man was a happy bastard. In fact, the entire Taylor family was easy-going, a little wild, but the most hospitable and honest people in town.
A smirk slid across Reece’s face as he thought of Devon’s three younger sisters, especially the eldest. Even though five years separated his and Tabatha Taylor’s ages, she used to follow him and Devon around like a puppy. There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t try.
The sexy female voice at the bottom of the ladder had him missing the next rung. He bumped his chin on the upper step as he caught his balance, saving him from tumbling to the ground. When he looked down, his eyes nearly popped from their sockets. Damn if he hadn’t conjured the little minx, but her mere presence wasn’t what held him enthralled. The tomboy had turned into a beautiful young woman, hotter than hell, with a killer five-foot-five body that attracted every man between the ages of sixteen and ninety-two.
Her full plump lips were parted by a self-satisfied smirk. “Whoa there. I never thought I’d see a ladder buck the great Reece McGrath off.” She batted long eyelashes the same sooty color of her elbow-length hair.
Seconds passed and he still hadn’t found his tongue. Instead he continued to stare, and it wasn’t at her heart-shaped lips, because they weren’t the only plump items on her curvy body. No. Her low-cut, skin-tight T-shirt molded a perfect set of D-cups and a deep cleavage a man could get lost in.
He swiped another gloved hand over his damp forehead and inhaled her exotic perfume, something flowery and untamed, uniquely Tabby. There was nothing like the scent of a woman to distract him and his appetite, because all he could think about was feasting on her delectable breasts.
Whoa. Heat singed his neck, flaring across his face. Where that thought came from he had no idea, but it would be best for him to remember she was off-limits.
Fighting male instinct, he forced his gaze to meet hers. “Hey, Tabby.”
Her feminine tone softened into a glide of silk that smoothed across his nerve endings like the light caress of delicate fingertips against his heated skin. His cock twitched, his mind going places best not visited as he reminded himself exactly who Tabby was. Hell. He had known her all her life. Yet each year it had gotten harder and harder not to appreciate the woman she had become.
And she didn’t make it easy. Like now, with those come-hither looks she flashed at him every time they were within twelve feet of each other. Her childhood crush on him had turned into something more and it was damned hard not to fall into the little vixen’s snare.
“Is that pizza?” Devon’s question sliced through his wonderings.
“Yes.” The corner of Tabby’s perfect lips curved up, revealing she knew she had rattled Reece. To add insult to injury, she dragged her sultry gaze slowly down his six-foot frame, boldly stopping at the bulge in his pants.
He choked, nearly falling in an attempt to spin around to hide his willful erection. Behind him her tinkling laughter teased, a ghost of humor following him down each step of the ladder.
What could he say? He was a man, and the wildcat was such a brat. What she needed was a good spanking. Instead of visualizing a wayward child, he saw a grown woman laid across his lap, naked. Those big blue eyes that used to follow him around, gazed up at him, smoky and aroused. He shook his head, driving the scene out of his mind. Up until recently he had been able to keep himself in check, but since she returned from college, her eyes had turned into the dreamiest f*ck-me eyes he had ever seen. In fact, a man could drown in them.
“Leave him alone, Tabby, and give me something to eat.”
“Geesh, Devon, are you always thinking with your stomach?”
He pulled off his gloves and tossed them on a sawhorse. “Right now I am. I’m hungry. Did you bring me a beer?”
“I brought a six-pack.”
Reece heard the hiss of a bottle cap twist open. When his boots struck the ground, he turned and was greeted with a beer and a drop-dead smile.
“Looking good, Reece,” she purred, stroking his bare chest with a hungry gaze.
Desire sang through his blood. Her alluring scent and their height differences allowed him to look straight down her shirt at those mouth-watering breasts. Briefly closing his eyes, he took a hesitant step back, placing much needed distance between them.
“Dammit, Tabby, you’re a shameless flirt. Some day you’ll tip that pert nose of yours at the wrong man and there’ll be hell to pay.” Devon chomped down on a greasy, cheesy piece of pizza before taking a long pull from his bottle. “I’d hate to beat the shit out of some innocent guy just because he looked your way.”
And that was Devon in a nutshell. Easygoing, but when one of his sisters was threatened, that even-tempered demeanor flew out the window. Reece was usually in the vicinity to assist with the fallout. It didn’t help that Katrina and Heidi were developing along the same lines as Tabby. Devon definitely had his hands full.
Hell. Even Reece felt overprotective when it came to the girls, but lately Tabby—
“And what if I want to be ravished?” She shoved a napkin and a slice of pizza out of the box into Reece’s hands. “Both of you have to stop thinking of me as a child.” Her glare turned icy. “Don’t forget last month I turned twenty-one. I plan to make the most of this festival and I don’t want you interfering.”
Yikes. That didn’t sound good. If anyone could stir up trouble, it was the missy standing before him. Steadying his drink on a rung of the ladder, he placed the napkin and pizza beside it before he jerked off his gloves and shoved them in his back pocket. Then he picked up the beer and took a chug. The ale flowed smoothly down his parched throat, and then he released an “Ahhh. Thanks, Tabby.”
“Welcome.” Her actions were short and angry as she reached for another beer and wrenched the cap open. Before her brother could interject, she took a quick swig.
“Back off, Devon,” she growled. With a flick of her head, she tossed her thick black mane of hair over a shoulder.
“I’m just saying it’s too early for you to be drinking,” he muttered, taking another bite of pizza.
Her neatly plucked brows rose so quickly Reece half expected them to touch her hairline. To make a point, she held the bottle to those luscious lips and tipped the beer. Watching her throat muscles move up and down put shameful thoughts in his randy head.
What else could she do with that wicked mouth?
As if she read his mind, she widened her lips, taking the bottle deeper and chugging until not a drop of alcohol remained