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Read the first chapter of Dust on the Bottle one week early! #CrawleyCreek #HellYeah

by on May 16, 2017

Dust on the Bottle releases one week from today! This crossover between Sable Hunter’s Hell Yeah! Series, and my own Crawley Creek series will melt your panties off! To wet your appetite, I thought I’d share the first chapter with you….

 

DUST ON THE BOTTLE by Lori King

Waking up on a park bench in the middle of the day, with vomit crusted on his shoes, should have been a turning point for Kyler DeWitt. Unfortunately, addiction wasn’t an easily broken cycle. It took almost four more weeks before he overdosed on cocaine and had to spend four days in the hospital. The day he signed the hospital release papers, he signed himself into a rehab program.

That was almost two years ago.

He’d done rehab a second time since then, and every time he took a step forward, it felt like he got knocked back two steps. Now he sat across the table in the main house at Crawley Creek Ranch facing his mother, Amelia DeWitt, and a man he respected like a brother.

Drannon’s jaw ticked with anger, but it was his mother’s tears of disappointment that really cut him to the quick.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Kyler said, slapping his knee in frustration. “I’ve been here for months, and I can’t find a damn job. Scooping cow shit every day is driving me to drink.”

DustontheBottlenew - 200x300“Don’t make excuses for your drinking,” Drannon snapped. “Or for breaking into Jeanette’s place. It’s beneath you. What were you going to do with that stuff? It’s not like there’s a black market in Montford, North Dakota.”

“I don’t know. I thought I could take it into Minot and pawn it or something. She’s never around, so I figured by the time she realized the stuff was missing, she’d blame the sick fuck that’s been causing trouble around here.” Kyler admitted. “I just wanted… Aw hell, I don’t know.”

“I don’t understand, Ky. Drannon’s paying you a fair wage.” Amelia shook her head and blew her nose loudly in a tissue. “You should have money for what you need.”

Kyler shrugged. He knew she was right. Drannon didn’t charge him rent to live in the cabin, and he paid him decent money for the little work he did on the ranch. It just felt like it was charity, and Kyler hated taking it.

“The way I see it, you have a couple of options,” Drannon said, leaning back heavily in his chair and giving Kyler the stink eye. “You can keep trying to kill yourself with a whiskey bottle on someone else’s property, or…”

Kyler held Drannon’s gaze even though his words were like a punch to the gut. He had to force himself to keep breathing as he waited for the other man to continue.

“You apologize to Jeanette, and I’ll take the cost of the broken door out of your wages this week.”

“Done.” Kyler felt relief wash over him. They could have called the cops and had him arrested. It seemed a small price to apologize and pay for the damages.

“I’m not finished. I also want the keys to your truck. I don’t think you should be driving until you can be trusted to stay sober.”

Kyler’s mouth dropped open and he sputtered, “What? That truck is mine. I own it. Why should I hand the keys over to you? You’re not my father?”

“No, I’m not, but I’m the closest thing you have to family besides your mama, and I care about whether you live or die.” Drannon’s voice remained calm and steady, but Kyler’s nerves were dancing.

“It’s a fair offer, Ky. You should take it. Please don’t run away from this. You said you wanted a second chance.” Amelia reached for his hand, and Kyler allowed her to link her fingers with his. He stared at the veins protruding under her skin and wondered again at the weight she’d lost in the last several months.

“Without my truck, I’ll be trapped here,” Kyler protested.

Drannon shook his head. “You can ask for the keys when you need them, and if you’re sober, I’ll give them to you; otherwise, I’ll hold on to them. I can’t take a chance on you getting behind the wheel drunk, man. I have too many people I love on this ranch to protect.”

Kyler thought about the growing population of Crawley Creek and silently agreed with Drannon. Besides Drannon’s pregnant wife, Lacy, and their foster son, Michael, there were at least a dozen other family members living on the ranch. That didn’t even count the ranch hands who lived there, or the ones who lived in Montford and just worked on the ranch. There were easily fifty people wandering the property on any given day.

“I’ll do it,” he grunted.

Amelia’s face lit up with a smile, and she shot to her feet to wrap him in a hug. He returned his mother’s embrace trying not to cringe at the way her ribs poked out from under her clothes. “Thank you, Jesus! I was afraid you’d head back to Seattle this time,” she gushed, kissing his cheek before she turned to offer Drannon a hug. “I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” Drannon warned. “The ball is in Kyler’s court. If he screws up again, he’s out. It’s not personal, Ky, but I have to protect what’s mine.”

Kyler dug into his pocket and extracted his keys, dropping them loudly onto the table. “Yeah. I get it.”

With the deed done, Drannon turned to Amelia and gave her a warm smile. “How about you stay for dinner, Amelia? Lauren has a brisket in the crock-pot for tonight.”

“Oh no, I couldn’t. I have to work early in the morning to make up for leaving early today.”

Kyler winced as guilt filled his chest. He was twenty-six fucking years old, and Drannon had had to call his mother when he’d been caught doing something stupid. How the hell did he get here? The fact that his mother had already sacrificed so much financially to help him get through rehab and get out of Seattle kept him awake at night. Why couldn’t he just get his shit together?

It wasn’t like he set out to be a screw-up. When he’d left Montford after high school, he’d had dreams of making a life for himself in a big city. Seattle was only meant to be a starting point because his friend Dustin needed a roommate. If he’d known then about Dustin’s predilection for dealing drugs, he might have stayed in North Dakota.

It was water under the bridge now. He couldn’t change his past any more than he could predict his future. Anyone who’d met him in Seattle after the first year he lived there, would probably expect him to be dead by now. Thank God expectations didn’t equate to reality.

He hated disappointing people. Drannon had hired him on because he had faith in his ability to stay off drugs. While Kyler had stayed away from them, he hadn’t been able to avoid the temptation to drink himself into a stupor regularly. Hell, he barely remembered most of last week. At this point, he needed a goddamn miracle to get his life back on track. If only he had a guardian angel.

~ ~ ~ ~

“If you put one foot behind you, and tilt your hips it will make you look thinner.” Monica McCray instructed the smiling woman in front of her. The girl couldn’t have weighed more than a buck twenty, but she’d mentioned several times during the shoot how self-conscious she was about looking fat in the photos. “Yes, like that. It’s about angles. When the light hits you like this, it makes your whole body look leaner.”

1 teaserLifting her camera, she snapped several shots of Deandria Fulsom from one angle, and then shifted and snapped a few from another. She was careful to get the gym equipment in the background of each shot, as that would make the image more stimulating to readers.

“Thanks, I think I have something we can use now.” Monica, scrolled through the photos she’d already taken, mindlessly noting imperfections to fix later.

“Thank God. I seriously hate being the center of attention.” Deandria pulled a hair tie from her pocket and quickly drew her curly brunette hair up into a messy top knot.

Laughing, Monica carefully stowed her camera in its case, and collected the long sleeved flannel shirt she’d tossed aside as the day’s temperature rose. “You picked the wrong career altogether then.”

“I know, right? It’s not like I understood what all would come with this gig when I was three and wanted to sign up for tumbling.” Deandria hadn’t just done gymnastics, she’d become gymnastics. The entire world idolized her, and even Monica had shed tears of joy when the teenager stood atop the Olympic podium for the third time collecting gold.

“I bet you wouldn’t change it if you could go back.”

Deandria nodded, “You’re right, I wouldn’t, but I might have tried harder to be a kid occasionally. I was homeschooled most of my life because it left more time for the gym.”

“Now that you’ve graduated, I would think you’d have more time to pursue other things.” Monica walked alongside the petite athlete, noting that she didn’t even have to adjust her long stride for the shorter girl. “Maybe even date someone?”

Laughter bubbled up from Deandria. “Not likely. I’m already enrolled for fall classes at the University of Utah.”

“Really? What do you want to study?”

“Sports Medicine. I’ve learned the hard way that this sport has a very real impact on the body, and I want to see if I can help younger generations avoid some of the chronic injuries and pain I’ve had to deal with.”

Monica couldn’t hide her surprise. “That’s ambitious. I’m sorry, but I just wasn’t expecting that from you. You already have a distinguished career…”

Deandria rolled her eyes. “I know. Everyone assumes all I ever think about is getting the gold, but I’ve done that. I have the gold. Now it’s time for someone else to get it and for me to put the skills I’ve honed to good use.”

“It’s too bad I’m only taking the photos for this article. I think if you shared more of that, you could change people’s perception of you.” They’d reached their respective vehicles, parked side by side. The trunk of Monica’s rental sedan was full of her gear and her trusty backpack, and Deandria’s was a sporty silver convertible she’d gotten from a company she was the spokeswoman for when she got her last gold medal.

“I don’t worry too much these days about perception. I mean, my agent still books me for these high profile pieces, but in all honesty, if I could just retreat into the shadows and let someone stand under the heat of the spotlight for a while, I would do it in a heartbeat.” Deandria held her hand out. “It was great meeting you, Monica, thanks for the easy shoot.”

“My pleasure. You were the perfect muse. I barely had to instruct you at all.” Monica accepted the handshake, and smiled brightly. “Perhaps I’ll be back to do photos of the next future Olympic gold medalist and find you training them.”

“Perhaps.” Deandria gave a final wave and climbed into her car, tearing out of the parking lot as if the hounds of hell were right on her ass.

Monica took more care to place her camera in the trunk of her car, and slide the memory card into her backpack. Glancing at her watch, she noted she was an hour ahead of schedule. Her flight to North Dakota was at three p.m., and it was just after eleven a.m. now. For a second, she pondered what Jeanette might be doing in North Dakota right about now. They hadn’t seen each other in over a year, and Monica missed her best friend dearly.

Finding out that a ranch owner had managed to rattle her perfectly stable BFF had thrilled Monica to no end. It was about time Jeanie let loose a little. She’d always been the more uptight one. Monica was free thinking, and she wandered with the wind. Her career allowed her to travel, and she never felt confined to anything. It was a wonderful way to live, and it suited her perfectly.

Jeanette’s idea of perfection was marriage, two point five kids and a dog behind a white picket fence. Blanching at the thought, Monica slid her sunglasses over her unusually vivid lavender colored eyes, and headed off in search of food. A good meal should leave her feeling satiated and maybe she’d manage to sleep a bit on the plane. She wanted to be prepared for whatever Jeanie had planned when she arrived, because she’d only managed to carve out a week for this visit.

She was already dreading the dress fittings, cake tastings, and whatever other bridal things Jeanie had come up with. Marriage was a waste of time in Monica’s opinion. People shouldn’t feel obligated to stay with someone because of a piece of legal paper. You were either in, or out. Relationships were black or white. End of story.

 

Watch for the release of Dust on the Bottle next Tuesday!

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