Sean’s Sweetheart: A Garden Falls novel
Sean has spent five years cleaning up his life. He’s shoved his past behind him and focused all his energy into building his club, Garden. He has no room in his life for women. Even if he did, falling for a sweet, naïve younger woman isn’t in his plans. But from the moment he rescued Talia from that asshat in his club, she brings out his every protective instinct.
Sean’s older, tattooed, and a definite no-go according to her family. Everyone warns her to keep away, even Sean himself. Yet Talia can’t keep him off her mind. After hiding her true self for too long, Sean’s quiet strength soothes and encourages her. And Talia’s tired of ignoring what she wants; she knows what she needs. Sean proves resistant, but her persistence is stronger than his will.
When a stalker leaves photos and notes on Talia’s car, Sean learns how far he will go to protect the woman who means everything to him. But sometimes protection means more than fists and violence. Can Sean and Talia survive when the past resurfaces and threatens Talia’s life?
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Talia laughed and nudged his knee with her own. When he glanced over at her, she smiled and ducked her head. She slid a little closer to him and laid her head against his shoulder. He moved to put his arm around her and her muscles tensed. Slipping his arm around her waist, he drew her up against him. He shouldn’t hold her like this. Already too attached to her, he needed to keep his distance. But a few minutes couldn’t hurt, right?
He was just making sure she wasn’t cold. That was it. “You warm enough?”
“Mmmhmm,” she murmured. She relaxed into his side and brought her hand up to rest on his chest. He ached for her to slide that little hand inside his shirt like she did the night they met.
She brought her gaze up to meet his in the flickering light of the fire. “Sean, I have to ask…”
He brought his hand up to cup her cheek. She closed her eyes, leaned into his touch, and he groaned. Her soft curves pressed against his side when she shifted against him. She tugged at his neck, pulling his head down toward her. Even a saint couldn’t resist her when that little tongue darted out, licking her lips in anticipation.
And he was no saint.
Carly interrupted her with a squeal. She jumped up and ran away from the table and jumped into her not-so-secret boyfriend’s arms.
They returned to the table and snuggled close to each other. The couple spoke softly to each other, unintentionally excluding Talia from their conversation.
While happy for her sister, Talia couldn’t help but feel utterly alone at that moment. She glanced up at the bar, Sean had his back to her talking to the other bartender. She pulled out her phone and opened a word game.
A shadow crossed her screen. “That’s not the kind of fun I meant for you to have.”
Looking up, Talia’s evening got better. Sean stood next to their table, smiling down at her. Her heart started pounding when he held out a hand.
“Dance with me?”
Slipping her hand into his, she let him lead her out onto the hardwood. The last beats of an upbeat song died down and a slower song began to play. Sean drew her close.
“You plan the slow song?”
He chuckled. “Of course. I set the playlist.”
The crowd around them faded from her consciousness. Sean’s embrace became her entire world in that moment. Eyes closed, Talia pressed her cheek into his chest. The steady thump of his heart called to hers. The spicy scent of his aftershave filled her nose. His hands settled on her hips and held her tight as they swayed to the music. The flannel of his shirt soft against her face contrasted with the firmness of his muscles beneath the fabric.
Talia felt his breath against her forehead as he dipped his head. She tilted her face up toward him. When he brought a hand up to cup her cheek, she leaned in to his touch. His thumb grazed her lower lip. She shuddered at the intensity in his eyes. Her hands clutched at his shirt and her breath caught in anticipation of his kiss.
Sean tried to call Talia for the sixth time that week.
“This is Talia, you know what to do.” But obviously she doesn’t or she’d answer her damn phone!
He hung up without leaving a message. He’d left messages earlier in the week. Sent a couple texts. No response. She was still pissed. But damn it, she’d kissed him. He wanted to explain himself. Explain his reasons for pushing her away. But she wouldn’t answer his call.
Sean pulled his arm back to sling the damn phone at the wall, but he’d just have to replace it. His hand itched for a handset to slam down. Jabbing at the touchscreen would never satisfy like slamming a receiver down so hard the phone rang.
Sean tossed his phone on the table and sank down onto his couch with a sigh. One kiss and he acted like a lovesick puppy. Frustrated the hell out of him. He was a grown-ass man who should have better control over himself than that. Maybe it was a side effect of two years of self-imposed celibacy, you idiot.
Not dating for five years while he got the club going seemed like a good plan. Until a beautiful, soft woman pressed her lips to his. He never should have kissed her back. He should’ve shoved her away the moment she stepped between his legs.
Should have, but didn’t.
Oh, no, he pulled her tight to his chest and kissed her until they both gasped for air and he thought his lungs might collapse from lack of oxygen. Then he’d moved to that delectable throat, savoring the feel of her pulse beneath his lips. He’d marked her, leaving evidence of their passion on her pale skin. He’d thoroughly enjoyed her soft curves pressed against—
He had to get out of this apartment.
He hardened just thinking about that one little kiss. Okay, not so little, but he had to find something to occupy his time before he lost what was left of his mind. Sean grabbed his keys, snatched up his phone, and hurried out the door before he put his fist through the wall. He had no plan beyond finding something—anything—to keep his mind off Talia.
He had no business imagining kissing her. No business remembering the feel of her against his chest. He’d done time. Ex-cons like him did not date fresh-faced twenty-year-old college girls like Talia. Regardless of how fucking good she felt. Or how perfectly she fit in his arms.
He got in his car and drove. It wasn’t until he’d crossed over the bridge at the lake that he realized where his subconscious was trying to send him—Talia’s house. He pulled into the marina parking lot and cursed his stupid self. Banging his head on the steering wheel, he tried to knock some sense into his stubborn head. The sooner he convinced himself Talia was off-limits, the better off he’d be.
He walked down the beach and came to that rock they’d cuddled on that night that seemed so long ago. Losing himself on a sandy beach would be a hell of a lot better than falling in love with a girl he couldn’t have. A girl he’d shared only a single kiss with. A girl he could see himself growing old with. Fuck. This wasn’t helping.
He jogged back to his car. The beach used to be a good distraction, but now held memories of Talia. He didn’t need to be somewhere that gave him more reason to think of her.
Pulling back onto the road, Sean headed to the gym. Several rounds with a punching bag exhausted his body, but did little to quiet the stream of memories. He went home and showered, but the loneliness of his apartment ate at him.
He headed back out. Maybe he could find a new book. A new distraction to keep him from the thoughts that threatened to devour him. He couldn’t keep doing this. Talia deserved better than him, and he wasn’t sure he had the willpower to keep resisting her. Getting her off his mind became his top priority.
He deleted her number from his phone. But it didn’t matter. He’d memorized it the day she gave it to him. A tiny slip of a woman had him tied in knots.
As a busy mother of five, Allie sneaks time to write between breakfast and tickles. Always a Kentucky girl at heart, she currently makes her home near Nashville.
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