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Best Laid Plans
Sanctuary, Book Two
Former SEAL Hugh “Heff” Bradley has put aside his womanizing ways to focus on making the Sanctuary a place for veterans in need. He knows how difficult the transition back to civilian life at can be; he’s walked the razor’s edge himself a few times.
His plan: Use his special skills to make the project a reality and stop those trying to sabotage it. That means keeping his head down and his hands to himself. Then he meets her.
Sandy Summers knows exactly what she wants: to get out of Sumneyville for good. Fate seems to be conspiring against her, however, throwing up one obstacle after another. Her plan: Work two jobs, attend night school to earn a degree, accept a job offer in the city, and never look back.
Impulsively hooking-up with the sexy, skilled SEAL before she leaves wasn’t part of the plan. Neither was her absentee father showing up on her doorstep after fifteen years with another game changer. But she’s worked too hard and too long not to stick to her plan, even if it means walking away from the only good thing that’s happened to her in years.
Heff and Sandy know firsthand what can happen to the best laid plans. But when getting back on track means sacrificing a chance at true happiness, do they take it? Or do they make a new plan?
Best Laid Plans is a contemporary love story with steam, suspense, and humor to give you all the feels and leave you smiling.
(NOTE: This excerpt is unedited, so there may be oopses. The final version will be cleaner, but I just couldn’t wait to share it with you!)
“Well, uh, thanks.”
Sandy cringed as the words came out of her mouth. They sounded so lame. What were women supposed to say in a situation like this? She wasn’t well-versed in one-night stand etiquette. But she had just had the best sex of her life, she felt compelled to say something.
Propped up on one elbow and looking sexier than any man should, his dark green eyes glistened as he watched her. Long, glossy black hair draped over his cheek and neck, as dark as the intricate tats that adorned his tan, muscled arms and torso. His lips quirked up in a roguish half smile, all the more devastating now that she knew exactly the kind of pleasure those lips were capable of.
His voice, like everything else about him, screamed dark and delicious. The personification of sin, that’s what he was. Sin and pleasure and a wellspring of guaranteed orgasms. In the last three hours, he’d given her four. His fingers were as skilled as his tongue, and the way he moved those hips…
Heat rushed into her face while simultaneously blossoming in the still tingling region between her thighs. His grin widened, as if he knew exactly what she was thinking. Maybe he did. Or maybe he was just really, really good at reading body language. He had known exactly where to touch, when to lick, and how to bite to take her right to the edge over and over…
Stop it, she silently commanded, pushing the words down toward her rebellious regions, the ones clamoring for just one more. You’ve had more than enough.
She jabbed one leg into her jeans, a physical manifestation of her frustration as the haze of post-orgasmic bliss began to dissipate. He continued to watch her, still and predatory, and for the moment, satisfied. Although, given his remarkable endurance and recovery time, that wouldn’t last long. She needed to leave before he coaxed her back into that bed and reminded her why she’d thrown caution to the wind in the first place.
Not an easy thing to do when he was looking at her like that.
She spied her panties on the chair in the corner where they must have landed after he’d tossed them over his shoulder. An image of him grinning in smug triumph as he’d removed them slowly and with such deliberate intent, his eyes burning with lust, had her nipples hardening again. Apparently he wasn’t the only one with a quick recovery time.
She snatched them up with a huff and crammed them unceremoniously into her pocket before her traitorous body won the stay versus go tug of war with her mind. She didn’t need to be putting on damp panties. The trip back to her place was short enough to go commando.
He made no move to stop her, which was her saving grace. He just lay there, the sheet draped over the bottom half of his happy trail, watching her with the lazy interest of a man who had gotten off a few times, too. No false platitudes or disingenuous sentiments. They both knew what this was—namely, nothing—and they were completely, totally, absolutely one hundred percent on the same page about that.
She pulled the shirt over her head, grabbed her purse, and turned to look back at him one last time. She sensed, more than saw, a wariness lurking beneath that smoldering stare. As if he was expecting her to suggest something more. Like, maybe grabbing a drink sometime, or a request for a repeat.
She wouldn’t. In less than a week, she’d be starting her new life, and he’d be nothing but a lovely memory tucked away in her personal, private spank bank.
Sandy offered him a genuine smile. “Bye.”
His eyes flickered, widening slightly in either surprise or disappointment, she wasn’t sure which.
Wham, bam, thank you, stud.
Without another word, she turned and left the motel room before she changed her mind and jumped him again, leaving the same way she’d come in—by the back stairs. She kept to the shadows, thankful that the owner, Mel, was too lazy to fix the burned-out lights in the lot.
A thrill ran through her at doing something so naughty, so incredibly unlike her usual hyper-responsible self, but it was a poor substitute for the many, far more quiver-inducing thrills she’d felt in the last several hours.
She slipped into the sultry heat of the summer night, and after a short cut through a patch of woods and the community playground, was in her backyard less than ten minutes later. The motion sensor floodlight flared to life, momentarily blinding her.
“Out for a walk?” Lenny’s voice cut softly through the darkness, edged with concern.
So much for slipping in undetected. Sneaking around in the dark, like having one-night stands, was not in her wheelhouse, though, in fairness, it had never been an issue before.
It’s not an issue now, she mentally reminded herself. She was a grown woman, one who didn’t need to worry about things like small town gossip and community disapproval for much longer. She didn’t owe an explanation to anyone, including Lenny.
“Yep, out for a walk.” She increased her pace, blinking against the brightness.
His shadow shifted on the shared back deck, his cigarette casting a red glow over the lower half of his face as he took a drag. She wrinkled her nose in disgust as the smoke reached her nostrils. “I thought you quit.”
“Working on it.”
“Work harder, will you? I’ve got my windows open and I don’t want my kitchen smelling like an ashtray.”
He immediately extinguished the cigarette. It was tough love at its best. She really hated the habit, but she cared about him. She’d already lost one person to cancer. She wasn’t ready to lose another.
“Is everything all right, Sandy?”
Fabulous. I just had sex with a virtual stranger and I think he’s ruined me for other men.
She couldn’t tell Lenny that, of course. Not only was he her neighbor and a local police officer, he was also a life-long friend.
“Yeah, of course,” she said instead. She opened the screen door, then jammed her key into the ancient lock of the heavy inner door. She turned the knob, adding a good shove with her shoulder to coax it open. The old wooden frame often swelled with the heat and humidity, and this night was no exception. That was one of the downsides of living in a hundred plus year old double block home.
The upside? Soon it would be someone else’s problem.
The door didn’t budge, so she rammed it again, this time with more force. She grunted with the impact, knowing she’d probably wonder why she had a bruise there in the morning.
“Here, let me.”
Lenny was suddenly there beside her, crowding her personal space. She stepped back, accepting his help with reluctance and feeling irrationally guilty, wanting to get inside as quickly as possible. He made good use of his bigger, stronger frame and with one good shove, got the door open.
“No problem. You know, I’ve got a hand planer. I could shave off part of the frame so that doesn’t happen.”
“I’m sure the next tenant would appreciate that.”
His face clouded over with the reminder. “Still haven’t changed your mind, huh?”
“No, and I’m not going to.” She’d worked too hard and come too far to turn back now. It had taken nearly ten years of working two part-time jobs and attending night school, but she finally had her degree and was ready to start a paid internship at one of the biggest graphic design firms in New York City.
She was finally getting out of Sumneyville! Selling the old duplex to Lenny was a smart decision. She didn’t plan on returning, ever, and the money from the sale was enough to provide a small cushion of financial security. She’d already used a chunk as a security deposit plus first month’s rent on a semi-decent loft in the city. If she was careful with her living expenses, she’d be in good shape until she could work her way up to her own accounts.
Sandy stepped over the threshold and flipped on the kitchen light. “Speaking of, have you found a renter yet?”
He shook his head, keeping his feet firmly planted on the patio. Lenny wouldn’t enter unless she offered an explicit invitation to do so. Under normal circumstances, she might invite him in for a cup of coffee or iced tea, but not tonight. Her body was still humming in postorgasmic bliss and she wanted enjoy it for as long as she could. She’d been busting her backside for years, working long, grueling hours with little or no time for dating, hook-ups, or socialization in general. Who knew how long it would be before she felt this good again?
“No,” he replied. “I plan on fixing a few things first, and that’ll be easier to do if the place is vacant. I can take my time, do it right.”
The place did need some serious upgrades. The water heater was on its last legs, half the outlets didn’t work, and the kitchen and bathrooms hadn’t been touched since the seventies. Lenny was a pretty handy guy, and he’d be able to save a lot of money by doing the work himself. He’d been offering to do just that for years, in fact, but a lack of funds and an overabundance of pride had kept Sandy from taking him up on his very generous offers. Now that the place was all his, he could do whatever he wanted with it.
“Smart, but you’re sacrificing the monthly income.”
“I’ll manage.” He shoved his hands into his pockets, his eyes wandering over the ancient wood cabinetry and gold and avocado appliances. “Besides, if things don’t work out, you’ll have a place to come back to.”
“Things will work out.” They had to.
“Aren’t you going to miss it?”
“Not even a little.”
“But you grew up here. Your roots are here.”
Roots that were planted in harsh soil that stunted her growth, she thought silently, but Lenny didn’t understand that. As far as he was concerned, small town life in Sumneyville was the closest thing to heaven on earth.
“Think of it as my branches reaching for the sky.”
His frown deepened. “What’s the big city got that we haven’t?”
“Art. Culture. Diversity. Possibilities.”
She couldn’t wait to experience all of it. Sandy had been fascinated by the energy and pulse of the city from her first visit. She’d been fourteen at the time, and her high school art club raised enough money for a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was so different from their boring, homogenous town. So vibrant. Something had sparked to life in her then and she’d vowed she would live and work there someday.
Now that day had finally come, and she couldn’t be more excited.
“Crime, traffic, terrorism,” he countered stubbornly.
“Bad things happen in small towns, too, Len.”
He cast accusatory eyes her way. “Yeah? Do you really think you’re going to be able to take your late night walks around New York City alone? You don’t know anyone out there. Who’s going to have your back?”
Sandy squared her shoulders and raised her chin as she looked him in the eye. “No one’s had my back for a long time.”
Hurt flashed in his eyes. He exhaled heavily, wisely biting back whatever else he wanted to say on the subject.
“Did you eat yet?” he asked instead, his northeast Pennsylvania accent making the question come out sounding like “Jeetyet?”
“Yeah,” she lied.
Lenny’s gaze dropped. His lips turned downward and his brows drew together. She followed his gaze and saw the tip of her lacy red panties peeking out of her pocket. Heat rushed up her neck and into her cheeks as she stuffed them farther down out of sight, though the damage was already done. His eyes flicked back up to hers questioningly.
Oh, hell, no, she wasn’t going there. “Well, it’s been a long day, and I’ve got a lot to do before I leave.”
His eyes narrowed, but once again, he wisely refrained from commenting. “All right. If you need any help, you know where to find me.”
She nodded. “Yeah. Night Len.”
She closed the door and leaned against it. Within a few minutes, she heard his screen door close and released the breath she’d been holding. She was grateful for the temporary reprieve, but she knew Lenny well enough to know he wouldn’t just let it go that easily. It wouldn’t take much to piece things together. The trick would be avoiding him as much as possible before she packed up and left Sumneyville for good.
A familiar happiness bubbled through her at the thought. Freedom was so close she could practically taste it. A new beginning. A fresh start.
She couldn’t wait.