I’ll announce the winner of the contest grand prize this afternoon – 3 pm pacific time!
In the meantime, I’m going to put up excerpts today from the series….
We’ll start with Laid Bare and when Erin first meets Andrew Copeland….
LAID BARE by LAUREN DANE
Copyright 2009, Lauren Dane
All Rights Reserved, The Berkley Publishing Group
If Ben Copeland had been overwhelmingly large and very handsome, his little brother was downright sinfully gorgeous. He was Todd’s size with black hair and striking blue eyes. She also knew him.
“So Cope is actually Andy Copeland, huh?” She put the plates on the table and moved toward them.
“Oh my god! You’re the cafÃ© hottie! Your brother has done my inkwork.” Cope turned to Todd, whose eyebrows had slashed down, his face darkening into a scowl. He laughed. “I sneak into your girlfriend’s cafÃ© at least once a month to drink coffee and to check out what color her hair might be next. Back with Mud Bay you had dreds then, your hair was very short and black. Hot.” He waggled his brows. “I can’t believe I didn’t recognize you. I should have recognized your voice though. You should have sung more often. That smoky sex voice thing you do on Lashed is hot stuff.”
She laughed. “Um, thanks.
“I can’t believe you and Ben know her stuff and I don’t. I feel like an idiot.”
She reached up, sliding her hand up his neck, wanting to soothe him. “You know me. That’s better. It’s okay, really.”
He turned like his friend wasn’t there and kissed her, hard and fast.
“I blame Waylon Jennings and Toby Keith.” Cope shrugged.
She wrinkled her nose. “It’s only half as bad as I imagined. Waylon kicks ass,” she teased.
“What do you have against Toby?” Todd asked.
“It’s my belief that men who are as aggressive and always threatening to beat people up are overcompensating.” She grinned, knowing she and Todd were not close politically at all. Good thing the sex made up for it.
Just then Ben came in with several bags of take-out and the space was filled with so much testosterone a girl could have gotten drunk from it. Instead, she ordered them all to sit and they popped open lids to the various containers and she sighed happily, putting spoons in things and passing around plates.
Without thinking, she made a plate for Todd and put a beer down for him. His eyes, when he looked at her, burned with some inner light. She hadn’t meant it to be provocative, she just took care of him. Not because he was her master or anything, but because she liked making him happy.
Which scared her. She couldn’t take anyone else into her heart, damn it. It was too much and she’d already lost him once. It had hurt a lot when it was only a few months when she was very young. What would it be now? What would the emotional cost be if he walked away again? She sure as hell didn’t have the currency left to pay for it.
She played a stupid, dangerous game with him and she knew it. If she was smart, she’d walk away now. Telling herself she could keep it friendly was a lie and she knew it. Not because she wasn’t capable of fucking casually, she totally was. Erin wasn’t the type of woman who equated sex and love. But this was different because he was different. He got to her. No one had made her want to serve them simply because she wanted to please. God help her. She wasn’t strong enough to deal with the emotional devastation if he walked away but she wasn’t strong enough to run now anyway.
He leaned in and kissed her cheek. “You’re thinking, Erin. It’s like a movie, watching your face. Don’t run from me. I’ll come for you. I want you and you want me. Let yourself have it.” His whispered breath was hot on her ear and it sent a shiver down her side.
She nearly dropped her beer from fingers gone nerveless. How did he get her so well?
“I wanted to tell you how much I loved Adrian’s latest CD. He’s really growing into that voice of his.” Ben’s big blue eyes found hers and she latched onto the lifeline he tossed her. She liked his face. It was open and honest as well as gorgeous.
“Thanks. I think so too. He’s just put the finishing touches on the new CD this week. I’ve been in the studio with him.”
“Do you ever sing anymore?”
“On the tracks I do. In the studio. When he goes out live he has backup singers. His tour bassist is almost as good as me.” She grinned. She may not be able to handle being on that stage anymore, but she still loved what she did, was proud of it in fact.
“I saw you back at the Off Ramp. A million years ago it seems.” Ben laughed. “I still have some bootlegged, home pressed CD you sold out of the trunk of a car in the parking lot.”
She burst out laughing. “Oh my God! Really? Adrian and I sold plasma to afford that pressing.” Shaking her head, she tipped the last of her beer into her mouth.
“I’ve seen them live, too. Twice as a matter of fact, back in the day. But Ben, bring in that CD. I want to hear it.” Todd sat back in his chair.
Erin felt the heat build up her neck. “Gah! Listen to it when I’m not here. I’m hyper-critical and it’s sort of masturbatory to listen to your own music with friends.” She wrinkled her nose.
“Masturbatory?” Cope raised a brow and then winced when the cap from a beer bottle glanced off his forehead when Todd tossed it at him.
“I should be going soon. I’ve been away from the cafÃ© more than usual because I’ve been working with Adrian. I need to get some bread in the ovens for tomorrow. I usually bake on Sunday evenings.”
“Do you need help? I can help in the kitchen.” Todd’s lips curved into a smile that told her his help would be of the shoving his cock into her cunt type and not the kneading dough type.
“I’m sure you can. But it’s sort of my alone time.” She rolled her eyes at his pout. “Oh goodness gracious don’t pout. It’s not like I’m half a world away. I’m only three miles from here. You know my number.”
“I’ll walk you out.” He grabbed her bag and put an arm around her waist.
“It was nice to meet you both.”
“Definitely. And we’ll see you soon I’m sure.” Ben nodded and Cope winked. Lord what a mischievous little boy he must have been.