Paw Prints on Her Heart
Payton Storm served her country with honor and loyalty, until an IED ended her career and scarred her for life. Struggling to overcome PTSD and find her purpose in life again, she agrees to a long-term stay at Crawley Creek Ranch under the care of a PTSD specialist. She’s surrounded by happy people who have no comprehension of the nightmares she battles, and a four legged furry friend who’s supposed to be her lifeline to recovery. What could possibly go wrong?
Single father, Luke Gillian, has been the Montford veterinarian for most of his adult life. In fact, he’s barely left the town he grew up in. Arguments with his belligerent teenage son, and the pressure of a down economy have left Luke in a dark place. Until a ray of sunshine appears in his life with her injured service dog. Could Payton be the change his life needs?
Two people with too many problems to open their hearts, but fate won’t take no for an answer.
COMING JAN 31, 2017
“Luke and Payton’s story is phenomenal!
Yet another fantastic and dreamy page turner from Crawley Creek! Love me those CC boys! Mmmmm…” – Gina Kincade, Naughty Nights Press
“A heartfelt, beautiful, and bold romance by Lori King…” – Marie’s Tempting Reads
“Lori has done an amazing job dealing with difficult issues and she does so with her typical wowing world building. Crawley Creek is a place where you want to hang your hat, or your slippers, and stay awhile.” – Sandie, Knotty Girl Reviews
Time slipped away from her quickly and before she knew it Luke’s truck was pulling up in front of her cabin for their shopping trip in Minot. Glancing down at her ratty sweats and tank top, she cursed as she went to answer the door.
Luke was just climbing the steps when she pulled it open. “Hey, sorry I’m running a bit behind and still need to change.”
“No problem, we’re in no rush.” He walked directly up to her and pulled her in for a side hug instantly making her feel even more awkward. They’d slept together. What was this side hug business? She’d been expecting him to at least try to kiss her.
“Hey Payton, Dad said you were coming along shopping.” Ricky stepped out from behind Luke and Payton felt her cheeks flush in embarrassment. No wonder Luke was keeping a more neutral greeting between them.
“Ricky, hey, how are you?”
Ricky stepped inside and immediately smiled at Chinook who was thumping the floor with his tail. “Hey there! I heard you weren’t feeling good.”
It was obvious that the dog was much better by his excited reaction to their visitors, but Payton felt compelled to voice it anyway. “Ever since we switched foods he’s been great. In fact, he gave me a run for my money on our walk this morning. I damn near couldn’t hold onto the leash.”
The guys laughed, and Payton noticed how similar they were. Not just in their looks, although, Ricky was certainly the spitting image of his father, but also in the sound of their laughter and their mannerisms. They both oozed charm, and she wondered if Ricky was dating yet. He was what fathers of teenage daughters had nightmares about.
“I’ll just change and we can get going.” She headed for her bedroom leaving the guys unattended in the living room. The other night it hadn’t seemed awkward to have Luke in her space, but seeing him as the father of a teenager suddenly made it all the more real that she was tempting fate with this relationship.
She had no idea if there was even a relationship to think about, but she couldn’t imagine herself playing step-mother to anyone either. Maybe she should tell them to go on without her?
Her indecisiveness must have lasted longer than she thought because Luke knocked on the bedroom door a couple of minutes later. “Payton, Ricky took Chinook out for a quick walk, are you alright in there?”
The sudden desire to see Luke and touch him hit her hard, and she pulled the door open. He frowned down at her. “I thought you were changing?”
Without replying, she rose up on her toes and pressed a hard kiss to his mouth. He seemed stunned for a heartbeat or two before he went with it and began to kiss her back. Moving her backwards with his body, he pushed the bedroom door closed behind him, and braced her back on the wall next to it. His hands came up to hold her face steady so that he could masterfully manipulate her mouth. Her heart was racing like a hummingbird’s wings and she could feel the tingles start in the base of her belly.
For those few moments nothing mattered except getting closer to him. When she pulled the bottom of his shirt up to run her hands over his chest, he jolted and jerked backwards.
“Holy shit. What you do to me.” Panting for air they shared a smile.
“Sorry, I didn’t plan to do that.”
His eyebrow rose, “Really? Well, don’t be sorry, I don’t care if you planned it or not. I like knowing you want me as much as I want you. If I could I’d strip you down and make love to you for the rest of the day.”
She moaned softly in her throat. That’s exactly what she wanted him to do.
“Unfortunately, my son is going to come barreling back into the house with your eighty pound fur-baby any moment, and ruin the mood. Before that happens, we should probably get our stories straight.”
“Our stories?” It was her turn to frown at him. “What stories?”
“Payton, there’s no way I can spend the next five or six hours with you and keep my hands completely to myself. Not even for my sons sake. Are you okay with him knowing about us?”
She felt the blood drain from her face. “Us? Is there an us?”
He went completely still and his hands dropped to his sides. “Well, I thought there was.”
They stared at each other for a few moments, each unsure how to respond. Finally, Payton took a deep breath and said what she needed to say. “Luke, I care about you, and I really enjoyed the other night, but I already told you, I’m not in a place where I can deal with a relationship. I don’t want a boyfriend or a…whatever, making me all emotional. I’ve got too much on my plate as it is.”
“So, you just want to be fuck buddies?” He looked offended, and she hurried to disavow him of the notion.
“Absolutely not. I want to be friends. Friends with benefits perhaps, but I don’t want to exchange class rings, or carve hearts into trees so the whole town knows about it.”
“What about Ricky? What do you want me to tell him?”
She shrugged, “Tell him we’re friends, and we’re seeing where things go. He needs to know I plan on going back to Oklahoma as soon as I’m out of treatment. I don’t want him to set his heart on us making a lifetime commitment to each other right now.”
She swallowed back the taste of bile. It wasn’t Ricky she was worried about getting in too deep. She knew her heart was already hanging by a thread, and based on the hurt reflected in Luke’s eyes, his was too.
“So, dating is off the table?” he asked, pursing his lips in thought.
“Let me rephrase that. Payton, would you go on a date with me this afternoon to the mall in Minot. My son wants to get new shoes and there’s a great place to get a drink and food up there that I’d like to take you to.” He sounded so sweet and chivalrous asking that way that she giggled.
“Well, I was going to wash my hair, but I suppose…”
“Good, it’s settled. Nothing to worry about. We’re just two friends going on a date together. Just think of Ricky as the passenger in the backseat. Trust me, once we get there, we’re highly unlikely to see him unless he runs out of cash or gets hungry.” Luke said.
“Alright then, let me get clothes on.” She went across the room to her dresser, and pulled jeans and a t-shirt free before turning back to him. “Some privacy please?”
“Damn. I was hoping you’d forget I was still in here.” He winked and then went back into the living room, firmly shutting the door behind him. She couldn’t quit grinning the whole time she changed clothes. No matter how hard she told herself she wasn’t going to let him in, he seemed to be finding a way.
Copyright 2017 Lori King Books