Read Ch 1 of Tempting Tanner
I know how patiently my Brats have been waiting to get their hands on Tempting Tanner, and it’s almost here! I thought I’d give you Chapter 1 so that you could get started reading early…
Copyright Lori King Books 2015
“Wench! You’d better open this door right this damn minute!”
Ashley slid her headphones off and dumped her laptop onto the bedspread to rush across the room. Her roommate, Cami, stood on the other side of it, her asymmetrical blonde hair mussed, with a huge smile on her face.
“Good grief, who died?” Ashley glared at her best friend, shoving her glasses up the bridge of her nose in exasperation.
“I got my letter! I’m in!” Cami bounced through the doorway, nearly tackling her to the ground in her excitement. A piece of cream-colored paper fluttered in her hand, and Ashley recognized it instantly. It matched the one she’d received two days prior. It was her letter of acceptance to medical school.
“I knew it! Congratulations! I knew you could do it!” Ashley hugged her friend tightly. They’d known each other since their freshman year of high school, and they were as different as night and day, but they’d clicked immediately and had been inseparable since.
“You can say ‘I told you so,’ Ash. I still can’t believe I passed the exam. I thought for sure I’d fucked it up.” Cami stared at the piece of paper in her hands as if it was a golden ticket to Wonka’s factory.
“It was all that studying we did,” Ashley replied, moving back to her bed and resuming her place with her laptop in her lap.
“What are you doing?” Cami frowned at her disapprovingly.
“Searching the job listings. I need a different job, remember?”
Shaking her head, Cami crossed her arms, “You are not going to spend another Saturday night sulking in your bedroom. Seriously, Ash. You have to get out there and meet people.”
“I don’t need to know more people. I have you, Jade, and Gayla to keep me entertained, and besides, our lives are about to get significantly more stressful in just a few months when we start school again,” Ashley protested. It was a familiar argument between her and her three outgoing roommates. Sometimes, she wondered if they were right, and she was purposely avoiding meeting people to keep from getting close to them, but she wasn’t ready to examine that just yet. Getting into medical school had been her goal since she was twelve years old, and she hadn’t wasted a moment of high school or the first four years of college. No aspect of a social life was worth risking her career of choice in her opinion.
Cami snorted in disgust. “I can’t believe you. You’re twenty-two, Ashley, not sixty. What are you going to tell your grandkids when they ask you what wild and crazy things you did as a kid?”
Rolling her eyes, she shrugged. “I’m going to tell them that I got my degree because I worked my ass off, and that’s what ultimately paved the way to my golden age of retirement in which I’m able to enjoy said grandkids.”
“You won’t get any grandkids if you keep letting dust collect on your tight ass. You’ve probably got cobwebs in your coochie by now,” Cami shot back crudely.
Ashley knew her friend was teasing her, but the words still stung. She hated the fact that she was still a virgin at twenty-two. Men were the one area where she felt completely ignorant, so she’d just avoided dating as much as possible. Cami, however, had played the field like a professional running back. She’d crossed back and forth over so many lines that Ashley wasn’t sure if the girl considered herself hetero- or pansexual at this point.
“Let me worry about my love life, all right?” Ashley said, turning her attention to her laptop.
Cami stood there for another minute, staring her down, but when Ashley refused to acknowledge her, the other girl finally stomped out of the room. For a moment, Ashley considered getting up to shut the door, but decided against it when a job listing for a barista caught her eye. The hours were ideal, but the pay was not. She’d managed to pay for her bachelor’s degree without taking out student loans thanks to her mother’s generosity and her 4.2 GPA getting her scholarships, but that wasn’t going to cover medical school. She needed to find steady income.
She was calculating the annual income in her head when she heard giggling from the hallway. She barely had a chance to look up before her three best friends and roommates barreled into the room, tackling her. Her laptop was dragged out of her hands, and she had no clue where it went because, the moment it was free of her fingertips, she was pulled up off the bed and shoved toward her closet.
“What the hell?” she cried out, as Jade pulled and Cami pushed her toward her clothing.
“We took a vote, and majority rules! We’re going out tonight to celebrate,” Jade told her, her green eyes flashing a challenge.
“You guys can go out, but that doesn’t mean I have to go!”
“You think we’d do this without you?” Gayla asked, pulling clothing out of the closet and tossing things about as she searched for just the right club outfit for Ashley. “Hell, if it wasn’t for you, none of us would have gotten through the test, much less been accepted.”
“That’s not true!” Ashley blurted. “You guys are being ridiculous.”
“No, you’re being stubborn,” Cami said. “We didn’t push you before because we were all spending most of our time studying, but we have a few months until school starts again, and one way or another, you’re going to come out of your shell.”
“Yeah, even if we have to peel it off of you!” Jade agreed, reaching for the hem of Ashley’s t-shirt.
Slapping away her friend’s hands with a laugh, she shook her head. “Fine! I’ll go, but I’m not wearing skanky clothes or heels. I’m going as I am, or I’m staying home.”
The three of them gawked at her like she’d lost her mind, and she glanced down at her well worn t-shirt and blue jeans. The faded gray cotton sported a blue and white college logo on the front and a smiling bulldog threatening to rough up the competition. She didn’t see anything wrong with it.
Cami shook her head, “No way am I being seen with you in that dingy sweatshirt. For fuck’s sake, it looks like you’ve had it for a decade.”
“I just got it for Christmas!” Ashley corrected.
“And you’ve worn it damn near every day since.” Her friend pulled out a cotton tank with the tiniest bit of lace trim across the bust and shook it at her, “Cleavage or legs, you choose.”
It wasn’t a fair choice, because Cami knew how much Ashley hated her legs. She was built like a pear, with a narrow waist and wide hips that topped full thighs. Her bottom half was her least favorite part of herself, and there was no way she was going to be showing it off willingly.
“Fine. I’ll wear the tank, but I’m not changing anything else.”
Jade’s mouth opened, but she snapped it shut again, when Ashley gave her a look of death.
“Girls, I think we’d better let this one go,” Gayla finally agreed. “Besides, if we try to put heels on her, she might use them to nail us to the wall.”
Cami and Jade finally nodded begrudgingly, and Ashley felt like cheering at her small victory. Until she remembered that she’d just agreed to go out drinking with the three biggest partiers she knew. What in the world had she gotten herself into?
There was no stopping the fearsome threesome when they got going. They were like a tsunami of flirtatious estrogen, and Ashley regularly found herself trailing in their wake, unsure whether to feel shame or awe at their sexual prowess.
It wasn’t like she was against sex in general, she just had other things on her mind. Guys had been an unnecessary distraction that she’d always been happy to avoid. Now that she held her degree and an acceptance letter to med school, she should be feeling lighter and more carefree. Instead, she nursed a ball of anxiety in her gut over whether or not she’d be able to hack it as a doctor. Sure, she was book smart, but she knew that wasn’t going to be enough when she was working on real live people.
“Ashley?” Jade’s voice jerked her out of her thoughts, and she glanced around to realize the other two girls had left her to change. Even now the cloud of Jade’s designer perfume drifted into her room from the doorway, enveloping Ashley and making her eyes water for a moment. “Come on girlie. It’s ladies night at the Diamond Back which means drinks are free until midnight.”
Jade gave her a pitying look, “And you know I don’t pay for drinks. Fix your face and let’s move.”
“My face is just fine, thank you very much.” Ashley grumbled, reaching for her glasses as she headed for the bathroom. As much as she adored her friends, she had no interest in plastering herself with makeup and fancy duds just to attract men she wasn’t interested in. Releasing the clip that was holding her auburn hair, she reached for her curling iron. A few quick, loose curls, and a swipe or two of her fingers and she had the beachy, carefree look she’d been going for. Once she put her contacts in, she dabbed on just a touch of mascara and lip gloss. That was enough for a girls’ night of celebration in her book. Guys be damned.
~ ~ ~ ~
“I’m going to ride that bitch tonight!”
Gayla’s voice echoed through Ashley’s ears, making her cringe. Her roomie was drunk off her ass, so she had no inhibitions—meaning she’d likely end up bringing some strange guy home, or Ashley would have to drag her home and put her to bed. Either way, it was a sad end to the night.
They’d arrived at the Diamond Back Bar in plenty of time to take advantage of the ladies’ night drinking privilege, and several rounds of shots later, Ashley was the only one still upright in her seat. Jade and Cami were dancing with each other like a pair of sex kittens on a stage while men surrounded them, praying they’d get a chance with them. And Gayla was currently stumbling through the crowd toward the mechanical bull. The crowd of people around it would think it was hilarious, but Ashley couldn’t stop herself from following and attempting to redirect her friend.
“Come on, Gayla, I need to get home. I have to get up in the morning,” Ashley pleaded, grabbing Gayla’s hand and planting her feet firmly in place. Gayla tugged at her grip, but her alcohol-saturated brain was having a hard time making her body function right.
“I know, I know, breakfast with your mother the Duchess.” Gayla’s words slurred, and she wobbled on her heels again.
“Right, breakfast with the Duchess.” Ashley rolled her eyes at the pet name her friends used for her mother and tugged on Gayla again. “Now let’s go find Cami and—”
“No!” Gayla protested, jerking her arm away so hard she nearly fell over. As it was, her ankles rolled dangerously out of balance in her four-inch heels. “I’ma go ride the bull! I want to show these bitches how it’s done. You can jus’ sit yer party pooper ass down for a minute.”
“You can’t ride the bull drunk, Gayla.”
“Yer drunk, too.”
Ashley shook her head, “No, I’m not. I only had two shots, remember?’
Gayla frowned in confusion and tossed her glossy black mane. “No wonder yer not havin’ any fun! Let’s get you a drink, girlie!”
Before Ashley could resist, Gayla was dragging her through the crowd to the bar, intent on finding more liquor. The way the busy nightclub was laid out, there were actually three separate drink bars to choose from, and the one they wound up in front of was manned by the sexiest looking man Ashley had seen in a long time.
“Drinks for me and my girl! Cuervo, please, señor!” Gayla yelled to the muscular bartender. His gaze took them in for a moment before he reached for the liquor bottle and two shot glasses. Ashley quickly reached out and nudged one back to him.
“Not for me, thanks,” she said with a shake of her head.
His rich brown eyes met hers, and her stomach tightened. Damn, he was beautiful. His hair was a dull gold color and curled a little over his ears, needing to be trimmed. Her fingers twitched with the desire to reach out and tuck the strands behind his ear just to see if they were as soft as they looked. When he spoke, the cutest dimple sank deeply into one cheek. “Your friend’s leaving you.”
She felt her eyebrow lift, “What?”
“Cuervo just headed for the bull,” he said, leaning closer so she got a whiff of spicy aftershave and warm man. It took a moment for his words to sink in, but when they did, she flipped around in search of Gayla. To her horror, her friend was in the process of exposing her pink underwear to the crowded room as she maneuvered herself up and onto the back of the electric bull.
“Son of a bitch!” Ashley cursed, taking a heavy seat on the barstool and reaching into her pocket for her phone. She needed to call a taxi, fast, and get her roommates out of here before this night ended in disaster.
“I wouldn’t know. I never met my mama. My dad can be a prick sometimes, though, so I imagine my mama probably fits the bill.”
Confused, she turned back to the bartender. “Pardon?”
“There she is. Sorry, that was my lame attempt at a joke. I was afraid I was losing my sex appeal. You seemed more interested in Cuervo over there than in this drink I’m pouring for you. In truth, my mama is an angel, and my dad’s mostly cool. ” He slid a glass of dark liquid her way, and she eyed it with a frown. “Don’t worry—it’s soda. On the house.”
“Why?” It came out harsher than she’d intended, but he just smiled back.
“To keep a pretty girl’s attention. I’m Tanner.” He reached across the bar and took her hand, but his touch was less of a handshake and more of a caress.
“Uh, thanks. I’m Ashley.”
“Nice to meet you, Ashley, tell me why you’re not drinking and riding the bull with your girlfriend over there?”
It was on the tip of her tongue to respond with snark, but Cami’s earlier taunt about cobwebs on her coochie echoed in her brain. “Just not feeling it tonight, I guess. I’m a little more low key than she is.”
Tanner’s smile grew. “I can do low key.” He turned briefly, giving the other guy at the bar a hand signal before he turned back to her. “Want to get some air, Ashley? I was supposed to be off the clock twenty minutes ago, so we can find some place more low key to talk.”
Suddenly, she found herself wishing she’d taken the shot offered earlier, as her stomach filled with butterflies. It wasn’t like she’d never been asked out, but Tanner was by far the hottest guy she’d ever attracted, and logic told her he’d picked her out as an easy mark rather than from genuine interest.
“Thanks, but I really need to drag my friend home before she passes out.”
“She’s still got a few seconds on the bull, if she doesn’t fall off.” Tanner moved to an opening in the bar and lifted the bar top so that he could get closer to her. With every movement he made, she felt the room squeezing tighter around her. He was bigger up close than she’d thought.
Easily a half a foot taller than she was, he was bulldozer big compared to her stature. Muscles corded his arms and shoulders under the black tank top he wore, and she could see black ink peeking over from his back. She couldn’t help wondering what the inked image was.
Ripping her gaze away from his delicious body, she realized that Gayla was no longer alone atop the bull. A rugged-looking man with several days’ beard growth on his jaw had climbed up behind her and was holding her tight as they bucked along with the ride. It was pointless to fight the inevitable. Gayla was in the zone, and there was no chance of Ashley getting her home alone tonight.
Her eyes slid back to Tanner’s, and she realized he was waiting patiently for her answer. Her friends’ teasing from earlier in the night drifted through her brain, and she began to doubt putting him off. She was a twenty-two-year-old virgin. The last one of her friends—hell, she might be the last virgin on campus at this point. Cami, Gayla, and Jade had been trying to get her laid for the last three years, but she’d been too focused on her studies. Tonight was supposed to be about relaxing and enjoying some carefree time, without the worry of studying, before they started the next phase of their education. Why shouldn’t she indulge?
“Okay, yeah, let’s get some air,” she finally said with a smile. Picking up her glass of soda, she let him lead the way through the crowd. They seemed to part for him like the Red Sea, moving instinctually away from the powerful aura that surrounded him. She couldn’t help the tingle between her thighs as she imagined what he would feel like against her.