Hot Country Series, Book 1
Country music superstar/actor Chase Tanner has yet to be denied anything–and he’s never wanted anything or anyone more than gorgeous screenplay writer Reno Linden. When the film they’re working on is finally finished, Chase decides to turn up the volume on seducing Reno.
Reno Linden lived a quiet, rural life until she was thrust into the Hollywood scene when her book was adapted to film. Chase Tanner is larger than life, sinfully sexy, and hell-bent on getting her into bed. Skittish after a failed relationship, Reno risks the plunge into Chase’s arms and is surprised that her good girl self can keep up with bad boy Chase.
Though Chase returns to his cowboy roots often, and Reno cherishes the time spent with him on his ranch, the two find their careers pulling them in different directions. Will their attraction survive the glitz and stress of fame?
Chase Tanner called her name from the stage. “Reno, c’mon up here, doll.” The speakers amplified his low baritone through the sound stage as his percussionist started a drum-roll. The other seventy-five partiers clapped and woo-hooed her.
She had no choice. Reno Linden took a fortifying breath and carried her red plastic beer cup with her to the stairs. As she climbed, she found herself looking directly at Chase’s well-aged cowboy boots. Then slowly up his long, jean-clad legs until her gaze caught on his zipper, the worn denim molding around his impressive bulge. She swallowed hard.
He held out his hand.
With only a second of hesitation, she laid her hand in his and felt that instant jolt of electricity she’d gotten every time she touched him over the last four months of filming.
She looked up into his eyes. Despite being shaded by his cowboy hat, they shone a murky blue that made her want to dive in headfirst. Damn, he was good looking. Not too tall, slightly crooked nose, and full lips. Oh great, now his smile broke through. A thousand watts of sexy that zapped through her whole body.
“Come and say something to the folks. You’re the reason we’re all here.” His trademark Southern drawl was less pronounced when he wasn’t talking into a microphone.
She nodded and let him help her up the last steps. Five years ago, speaking in front of a group would have scared her spitless. Since becoming a published author and learning to face an audience by sheer force of will at book signings and conventions, it had become as easy as falling off a stage.
With her hand in that of the man she’d been fantasizing about for two years, Reno walked up to the microphone. She slid her fingers out of his grip on the pretext of needing to tip the mic down to her level. “Can you believe it’s in the can?”
The crowd cheered.
Filming ended yesterday. She looked out at the faces of the people she’d come to consider friends. Actors, producers, set designers, directors. She would miss them, and a little nip of sadness stung her. “I began writing Prairie Fire when I was just eight. It was a game we’d play, running through the wheat fields of South Dakota. Someone would yell ‘prairie fire,’ and we’d all head for the root cellar.”
Chase came to stand just off to her right, and the piney scent of his cologne snuck into her nose. Her entire right side tingled with desire as his magnetism raised goosebumps on her flesh. She rubbed her palm on her floral shorts, her technique for relaxing herself. Tonight’s wrap party was tropical-themed, and she wore a pink T-shirt and matching flip-flops. Chase had traded his usual black muscle shirt for a bright Hawaiian shirt. She glanced back at him, and her train of thought switched to a much more sensual track.
His smile lifted just one side of his mouth while his eyes locked on her, smoldering, half-lidded, seductive.
“Um…” Taking a deep breath, she pulled her thoughts together and moved closer to the mic. “When I finished the book three years ago, I had no idea that one day I’d be privileged to witness its transformation into next year’s….” She grinned. “Oscar winner!”
The group broke loose, shouting and hooting.
Chase stepped closer and rested his hand on her lower back.
He may have meant it to be reassuring, but it lit a sexual flare that spread through her body, centering low in her pussy. She didn’t dare look at him, or she might just go up in flames. She needed to wrap this up and get the hell away from him.
“I can’t seem to say it enough, but thanks to each of you. You made this experience unforgettable.”
Someone called, “We love you, Reno!”
Chase’s hand rubbed a circle across her spine. “Uh-huh, we do.” His deep voice vibrated as his warm breath caressed her neck.
She stepped to her left, away from him, swiveling the mic with her. “I’ll turn it back to our Country Music Male Vocalist of the Year-turned-actor, and the best bouncer the Prairie Fire Bar and Grill ever had, Chase Tanner.”
The crowd went wild as she took a step toward the stairs.
Chase grabbed her around the waist and pulled her back against his side. He took the mic. “Reno Linden, everybody!” As the crowd cheered, his hand rode her hip, then eased up her ribs and brushed the side of her breast.
Her smile froze as his touch shot quivers from her nipples straight to her clit. She pulled away and made the mistake of glancing up into his face.
He winked at her. “Later.” The look in his eyes was utterly wicked, and she turned and scampered down the stairs. Her heart thudded, and her face felt hot. Oh God, she knew exactly what he meant by “later.” Now that filming was over, he wanted her. Heaven help her; she didn’t know if she could find the willpower to resist him.
The crowd quieted, and Chase’s voice rumbled over the sound system, low and intimate. “Miss Reno, this is dedicated to you, our favorite author.” The band started a slow song.
Reno walked on jittery legs to where her friends stood chatting, deep in discussion. She took a good-sized gulp of lukewarm beer, seeking the calming buzz of alcohol. She glanced back toward the stage where Chase pulled an acoustic guitar strap around his shoulder, his biceps flexing, his forearms bulging. Damn, that man made her hot. She looked away.
It wasn’t just his body and his looks that sideswiped her, but his personality. A world-famous performer with an aw-shucks attitude and the smarts to guide his own career. He had a major thing for her, too. He’d been trying to get her alone for months, and she’d industriously found ways to avoid it.
Beatrix, the crew’s gaffer, nudged Reno’s arm with her elbow. “Great speech. I bet it was tough to put words together with that sexy stud breathing in your ear.”
Reno shrugged, but her breasts tightened at the memory of his warm breath on her neck. “He’s not my type.”
Tracy Hartman, one of the supporting actresses and Reno’s new best friend, laughed and pointed at her. “He’s exactly your type. He’s gorgeous, single, and can’t leave you alone for a minute. Why aren’t you going for it?”
She’d been hearing the same thing from these two for months. Just have a quick, hot fling. Get him out of your system. He’s supposed to be a fantastic lover. One night with him, and if you don’t have the big ‘O,’ just tell him you’re through.
Reno unconsciously tucked her shoulder-length brown hair behind her ear. The same way Chase had two days ago when he caught her alone out behind the sound stage. She’d thought he was going to kiss her then, and excitement had warred with panic. But self-preservation kicked in, and she’d used her preferred diversion, pulling her phone out of her pocket and pretending to take a call.
On the stage, Chase started singing a twangy ballad while picking out the notes on his guitar. “She’s the one I’ve been looking for. She’s the light behind that hidden door. Can’t figure out where she’s been all my life, but I don’t wanna be without her anymore….”
The words were too romantic and the implication too obvious. People turned to look at her, seeing if she’d react. She finished her beer and smiled back at them, carefully displaying only calm, casual, and unaffected. Inside, her whole body tensed as she felt Chase’s eyes on her. Anticipation made her blood pump crazily through her veins.
“New song. Huh?” Tracy purred the words. “Wonder who he wrote it for?” She winked, and her bright green eyes twinkled.
Reno would love to deny it, but her friend was right. It was meant for her. The words were a running narration of their first meeting and every interaction they’d shared since. She’d pushed him away, had kept him at arm’s length, let him know they were just friends. Why wouldn’t he leave her alone?
Because she was fascinated with him, and he knew it. She should have said “no” the first time he asked to sit with her at the commissary. She could have refused all those times he offered to drive her back to their hotel after a long day of shooting. So, why hadn’t she?
She just plain enjoyed spending time with him. He was an incredibly talented, intelligent, and kind man. She’d never met anyone like him.
The song ended, and the crowd applauded and cheered.
Risking a glance at the stage, she blushed when Chase tipped his hat to her. She turned away. Damn. She wasn’t looking for a quickie, and he wasn’t looking for a relationship. She’d seen the tabloids. He went through women faster than he went through guitar picks. She didn’t care how fantastic a lover he was. There were things she just didn’t do, and a sexual hookup was one of them.
Absolutely. Positively. No. She snuck another look at him.
Beatrix took her cup. “Another beer?”
She blinked a few times to clear her thoughts. “Yeah, sure.”
Her friend smiled. “Then I want to hear what your reason is today for not pouncing on that big hunk of a man and sexing him into a coma.”
Reno grabbed her cup back. “Then I don’t want another beer, thank you.”
Beatrix laughed, took the cup, and strolled off.
Chase’s band started playing his number-one hit, a song about a woman with an impressive backside. Reno smiled. This one could also have been written about her.
Chase set his guitar on a stand behind him. “Yee-haw!” People shouted back and lined up to do the dance made famous by his music video.
The song rocked, and she found herself wiggling to the beat.
Tracy flipped her gorgeous blonde hair over her shoulder. “Have you decided how long you’re staying in California?”
“Two more days. I have a few things to finish up.”
“Then you’re going back to frigid South Dakota?” She sipped her beer, her long, lean body looking like she rarely imbibed in anything so decadent.
Reno nodded. “I haven’t been home in six weeks. My brother plows out the driveway once a week to water my plants and make sure no one has broken in—”
Tracy’s mouth dropped open. “Are you that remote?”
She had to smile. “Yes. It’s a long way from civilization.” She touched her friend’s arm. “I’d love for you to come and visit. Anytime you want to get away from LA. The house is on the edge of the woods and overlooks miles of wheat fields that my family farms.” But now, in mid-winter, there would be three feet of snow on the ground and no one around to bother her. Over the last few days, she’d been trying to finalize the curriculum for her adult education class this spring, but her schedule on the movie set took up nearly every waking hour.
She listened to the band for a minute, watching the crowd acting wild. “I’ve really enjoyed LA, but I can’t wait to have a little peace and quiet.”
“You know I’m going to miss you when….” Tracy’s eyes opened wide as she looked over Reno’s shoulder.
Reno sensed his presence before he got close.
“She’s got the curves, and I got the nerve, to take her for my own.” Chase sang, coming up behind her.
She started to turn, but he grabbed her around the waist and pressed himself against her ample backside, swaying them both to the music. His chest felt rock-hard against her back, and his big arm pressed up against the bottom of her breast. His hips ground into her butt.
Too many people were staring, nudging each other, and grinning. Breathless from the embarrassment, her head started to spin. Weak woman that she was, she shook with a burst of lust that burned low in her belly. God, how she wanted this man. He was pure temptation, and her hands itched to grab his thighs and give him a wicked grinding in return.
She snapped back to reality and stiffened her body against her own response.
He was coming on strong. Strong enough to make her wish she could get her friggin’ moral compass to point another direction, just for one naughty night.
The band’s lead guitarist started a blaring, wailing solo on stage, which drew people’s attention away from her. Chase bent his head, and his breath warmed her ear. “My trailer. Ten minutes.” He released her, and his booted steps faded as he headed back to the stage.
She nearly fell backward. His trailer. Alone with him. A chill of desire shuddered through her, puckering her nipples into tight points and forcing blood down low to swell her tingling, needy lips. She wanted to lie on his bed and watch him kiss a path down her body, settling between her legs, his cowboy hat brushing her thighs as his tongue flicked…
“Oh no you don’t.” She spoke the words to herself. What was she thinking? If she had a car here, she’d leave the party right now. How else could she avoid temptation?
Beatrix came back with their beer. “Your face is as red as this cup. What did I miss?”
Tracy beamed. “Chase stopped by for a visit.”
“Oooh.” Beatrix moved closer. “What did he say?”
Reno shook her head and took her beer. “Nothing. He was just working the crowd.”
Tracy leaned closer. “Reno, I saw his lips moving. What did he say?”
She shot her a warning look. “He asked why I hang out with such annoying women.”
Beatrix and Tracy laughed. “Did he give you his room number?” Tracy wiggled her eyebrows.
Reno rolled her eyes, anxious to end this conversation. She sipped her beer, looking at the stage where Chase finished the set with some wild gyrations and jumps.
“Thank you.” He tipped his hat to the cheering crowd, and the band took a bow while their sound guy put in a CD.
Chase left the stage and disappeared through the door leading to the next sound stage where the actors’ trailers were housed. Where he’d be waiting for her to join him.
She looked at her friends, desperately needing a distraction to keep her from thinking about him. But they were both grinning.
“You liiiiike him,” Beatrix sang.
Reno stared down into her foamy beer. Yeah, she did like him. Too much. She could easily fall for him and start dreaming of a happy ever after. But she was a farm-raised, small-town girl. A man like Chase would use her up and stomp on her self-esteem like two thousand pounds of Brahma bull.
Right then, she resolved to ignore him, pretend she wasn’t horny for him. She’d convince herself she didn’t want to run after him, pin him to the bed in his trailer, and ride reverse cowgirl on him all night… Damn it, these two matchmakers weren’t going to help her get her mind off him.
She smiled. “I should say hello to James. I’ll see you later.” She stepped away to join another group of partiers who waved her over.
Standing in the circle of directors, producers, and studio executives, she gritted her teeth and set her backbone. She could do this. She could easily disregard her body’s cry to answer Chase’s summons. At five minutes, she’d already checked her watch eight times. At ten minutes, her hands began to sweat, and people asked if she was okay. At twenty minutes, she started shaking, and someone brought her a bottle of water. When thirty minutes hit, her stomach felt hollow and her heart…broken?
Reno imagined Chase sitting in his trailer waiting for her. He would have taken those first ten minutes and cleaned himself up a little, straightened his place, maybe lit a candle, or opened a bottle of wine. He’d check the door every few minutes, hoping to see her.
She sensed something good in him. All those long talks, sharing their life stories, discussing their plans for the future. She’d grown to appreciate him as a friend. Her lip quivered when she thought of him in his trailer alone, waiting for a woman who would never show up.
She didn’t want to hurt him. “Crap!” Her cuss interrupted the director’s story. Everyone looked at her. “Sorry, um, my phone startled me. Excuse me.” She pulled her phone from her pocket and used it as an excuse to get away.
Reno did that often, maybe too often, but underneath it all, she was still just a quiet, country girl. When things overwhelmed her—like a country music superstar getting too serious—she’d pull out her phone and excuse herself.
Maybe she should call Mitzi and get some moral support for her weakening resolve. What time was it in South Dakota? Late, but she dialed anyway. Mitzi didn’t mind late-night calls if it involved Reno telling her stories about LA so Mitzi could ooh and aah over them.
The phone rang once, and her friend picked up. “Hi! What glamorous thing are you doing right now?”
Reno sighed and put a finger in her other ear. “Trying to keep myself from doing something really stupid.”
“Hon, you’re only there for another couple days. Do something stupid. Do it twice!”
She laughed but had a hard time hearing her friend over the noise. She wound her way to the door and pushed it open. A storm had moved it, and rain poured down as lightning zip-lined across the sky. She closed it and slid through a door into the next studio. Where his trailer sat among a dozen others at the far end, only about a football field away but a whole lot further than she was willing to go.
“You know me and my moral compass.” The truth was, she already felt too attached to the cowboy. One night with him might tip her over the edge into an emotional whirlpool that would spin her heart out of control. Better to push away now than risk being hurt. Again.
“Forget that damn compass. You’ll only get one—”
“I know, Mitz, but this is something I have to work out for myself.” She hated to sound rude, but she and her friend had very different viewpoints on casual sex.
“Is it because of Drake?”
Reno stopped as surprise chilled her. She hadn’t really thought of her ex-boyfriend since filming started. Was she avoiding Chase because of Drake? “No. This guy’s nothing like that ass.” Chase wasn’t controlling, manipulative, or self-serving. Drake had been all three, and she was lucky to have gotten out of her relationship with the self-proclaimed “literary Phoenix” before he’d steered her career the wrong way down a one-way tunnel.
“Good. You need to find a man who’ll love you for the wonderful, sweet woman you are.”
Reno smiled sadly. “You are too good for my ego.” She took a breath and searched for a new topic. “How’s everything back there?”
Reno heard a catch in her friend’s breath. “I didn’t want to tell you this until you got home, but I guess you should know—Jane lost the baby.”
“Oh no. What happened?” Reno strolled along the wall.
Mitzi went into detail about the miscarriage.
“I’m glad you told me, Mitz. I was going to call her tomorrow.” Reno stopped. She was too damn close to the trailers. She should turn around…
Was that smoke?
Chase’s trailer, fronted by lawn furniture set on a piece of artificial grass, glowed with a long string of tiki lights running along the top. The trailer door stood open, and small puffs of smoke curled up out of the trailer.