Rachel wants one thing in life, a family of her own. But she’s not going to get it without a man. Or can she?
They may have ruined their chances in the past, but Matt and Ethan know Rachel’s the woman for them. When they discover her plans, they tell her they’ll give her exactly what she wants. The old fashioned way. Because once they get their hands on her, they’ll hold her close and never let go.
Warning: Panty melting! Hold Me Close is book 4 in the wildly dirty series where two obsessed alpha cowboys give the woman of their dreams exactly what she desires. This standalone HEA is all about her – no M/M.
Even though I was born and raised in Montana, I’d never really understood the appeal of the rodeo circuit. The animals, wrangling them, tying little calves’ ankles up as fast as possible. But as I watched this cowboy riding the massive bull, the muscles of his chest rippling beneath the fabric of his shirt as his arms bulged beneath the strained material, I finally got it. He rocked back and forth, balancing and going with the jerky motions of the angry beast, arm flung up over his head.
Oh Lordy, I got it.
I gasped when the bull kicked out its hind legs, not because I was scared for the cowboy but because of the way his thighs contracted beneath those jeans to stay on its back. Jeans, I might add, that left little to the imagination. The whole thing was stupid, plain stupid. Stay on a bull for eight seconds, but somehow every one of my hot buttons was pushed watching the testosterone-fest.
“Here’s a napkin.” My sister’s voice cut into my openmouthed gawking. I turned to face Emmy, who somehow still managed to look sleek and stylish in a jean skirt and flowy top even when eight months pregnant. She held out one of the napkins she’d nabbed when she’d gone to get herself an ice cream cone.
I frowned at it. “What’s that for?”
Emmy grinned. “You’ve got a little drool there.”
My frown turned into a scowl. “I was not drooling.” I turned away and subtly swiped the corners of my mouth just in case.
“Whatever you say, sis.” I didn’t have to see her to know she was rolling her eyes in my direction. Even though she was younger, Emmy had the air of a know-it-all older sister. But then, she was the one who was happily married with a baby on the way while I was still deeply rooted in spinsterhood with no end in sight. Somehow, this seemed to give her an advantage that negated my two years’ seniority.
Emmy had a Bridgewater marriage, which meant she was the lucky bride of two doting, protective men. Like all my siblings, she had a big heart and a good head on her shoulders and I wished only the best for her. Except for now. As she licked her ice cream, looking impossibly smug, I wondered for the millionth time how my bratty little sister managed to snag not one, but two men, when I hadn’t managed to land a second date in more months than I’d cared to admit.
It was fine and all if it were just Emmy having a baby, but I was one of six. All five of my siblings were married with kids, or in Emmy’s case, with a kid on the way. Two of my brothers were in Bridgewater marriages as well, but the rest had followed in my parents’ footsteps and gone the traditional route. One man, one woman. And everyone had found their “perfect someone” or “perfect someones” early. Emmy was only twenty-four and my brother, Zach, had married at twenty-one. My parents always used to say, “When you know, you know.”
Well, I’d yet to know.
Honest to God, I didn’t care what kind of relationship I found myself in—traditional, Bridgewater, or other—I just wanted to be in one. Not that I was desperate for a man. No, I didn’t sit around the house pining for one. Besides, I didn’t just want any man, I wanted the right man…or men. I dated, but so far there hadn’t been any spark, not anyone that I’d wanted to go out with past a second date. So I’d sort of given up. Not that I’d ever been on the prowl, but I wasn’t going to bars with my girlfriends on Friday nights looking for hook-ups. Well, I’d never gone looking for a hook-up, but I’d gone looking. And it hadn’t worked.
Because of this, I wasn’t exactly boy crazy, but I definitely was baby crazy. I wasn’t old, by any means, but I’d thought that by twenty-six I’d be in the same boat as the rest of my family. If not married with kids, at least well on my way. Heck, Emmy was having a baby before me. Yeah, that hurt, not that I’d ever tell her or let it show. It was my problem, not hers. It wasn’t her fault she found two guys who loved her and wanted to make a life with her. A family.
I’d had it all planned out. College, grad school, then start a family. Sure I was young, but I wanted a big brood and that meant starting early. But somehow, at some point, my life plan had gotten derailed. I stifled a sigh as I turned to watch the hottie cowboy pick up his hat from the dirt ring, lift it and wave it in air. The crowd cheered and clapped as he walked out through the open rail. Even the back of him looked damn good in the chaps and snug jeans. They were well worn and molded his butt just right.
Dammit. Emmy nudged me with her hip, caught me ogling again. “You should go back there. Introduce yourself.”
I looked at her as if she had suggested I climb on the back of the bull and go for a ride. “Introduce myself? To the bull rider? I couldn’t do that.”
Emmy glanced at me. We looked similar with our light brown hair and hazel eyes but she was several inches shorter. “Why not?”
I shrugged. Because I couldn’t. I wasn’t like Emmy. She had no problem going up to strange men and flirting—well, she hadn’t before she’d fallen for Rick and Kevin two years ago. They were alpha males through and through and they were the only men she flirted with now. The bowling ball beneath her shirt proved that.
But that wasn’t me. I’d never been great at flirting and super attractive men tended to make me nervous. No, I always turned into a stuttering idiot. The reason behind my single status wasn’t such a mystery after all.
“You’re intimidated, aren’t you?” Emmy continued. God, she was way too amused by my discomfort. Some things never changed.
“By that guy?” I pointed in the direction he’d gone. “Absolutely. You saw him. He’s…insanely hot. Of course, I’m intimidated.”
I didn’t bother denying it. We both knew I was the reserved one in our family. That was the way I put it. Emmy and my other sisters just called me a prude. What they didn’t know—what I’d never told them—was that my wariness around hot men, well, practically all men, wasn’t just because they intimidated me. It went deeper than that. I knew that if they got close, they’d want to get close. I’d had exactly one attempt at sex and it had been awful. Scary.
Back in college, there’d been a guy. A good guy…or so I’d thought. On our third date he’d assumed we’d be doing more than just kissing. He’d assumed wrong. I hadn’t been ready to take it to the next level, but he wouldn’t listen. His hands had been everywhere despite my protests and my feeble attempts to push him off me. He’d been too strong, too determined.
I shivered under the June sun. Thank god my roommate had come in when she had or who knows how far it would have gone. As it was, he’d groped and fondled but never managed to get my pants off. Still, the experience had left me with a bad taste in my mouth whenever dates started to get too close. I froze up. Panicked. My stomach still turned when I thought of how the jerk’s hands had felt on my skin and no matter how attracted I was to a guy, that was all I could think of whenever a man leaned in for a kiss.
Needless to say, intimacy was not exactly my strong suit.
I didn’t say any of that to Emmy, however. It wouldn’t have made a difference. Her mouth was set in a stubborn line.
“Go on, say hello,” she said. Her eyes were filled with a familiar mischievousness. The kind of look she used to give right before I walked into whatever booby-trap she’d laid for me in our shared bedroom.
“Why?” My eyes narrowed with suspicion. She wouldn’t just push me to flirt with any old guy. “Do you know him or something?”
“Or something.” She nodded, barely able to contain her laughter. “You will, too. He’s your new boss.”
Vanessa Vale is the USA Today Bestselling author of over 30 books, sexy romance novels, including her popular Bridgewater historical romance series and hot contemporary romances featuring unapologetic bad boys who don’t just fall in love, they fall hard. When she’s not writing, Vanessa savors the insanity of raising two boys, is figuring out how many meals she can make with a pressure cooker, and teaches a pretty mean karate class. While she’s not as skilled at social media as her kids, she loves to interact with readers.