An Excerpt from: Marian Kind

Copyright © 2007 Babe King

All rights reserved, Freya's Bower.

By reading this excerpt, you are stating that you are at least 18 years of age. If you are younger than 18 years old, you must exit this site at once.

"Looking for something?"

"Do you want to break up?" I peeled sweat-slicked thighs from the vinyl seat of Rob's lovingly pimped Ford pickup and wriggled the rolled wedge of linen shorts out of my butt crack. Fear buzzed over my skin, and my stomach lining camouflaged itself as Swiss cheese while I waited for his answer.

A sensuous rumble came from his throat, more like a bedroom noise than an argument. Was that a yes or a no? He stopped for a red light and swung his what-made-you-think-that look my way—kind of disgusted and surprised all in one.

Okay, maybe I was nutso risking our good thing by pushing to know if a better thing was just around the corner. But as the daughter of a funeral director I have a peculiar set of insecurities. I mean, funerals are hardly the talk for parties, right? They don't call social pariahs dead boring for nothing. Maybe Rob had fantasies about dating someone who didn't paint dead people's faces for a living.

Thick, stubby eyelashes blinked at me before Rob turned his attention back to the road. I licked a flavor-burst of strawberry gloss off my bottom lip. Any woman would want him. He is easily the most beautiful man I've ever seen—a rich collection of knotted-muscle browns, like trays of buns in a baker's oven. Chocolate-drenched eyes, caramel hair sprinkled with cinnamon highlights, honey-kissed skin, and a mouth with all the quirk and appeal of marzipan figs. Maybe I should have said he's a smorgasbord of brown because he's definitely edible.

"Do you?" I pushed. I wanted to scream out of my wound-down window into the cloying blanket of Florida's orange and salt-drenched air, "Just say no!"

Instead, he patted my thigh with one broad-palmed hand that felt vaguely condescending in a hot and tingly way. "Babe. I love you," he gently scolded.

He snatched his hand away to switch lanes, cutting off an orange minivan that blasted us with its tinny horn.

Nice evasion of the question. Gack! I didn't want to be needy, but Rob has been my boyfriend for five years and my heartthrob for a lot longer. Any other guy would have slipped a diamond on my left hand by now, but we're still stuck at the prep school stage of dating, only with canoodling privileges. It makes me antsy, which could be why I'd dropped that ultimatum this morning when he tried to welch out of our date.

Plus there's the other woman, bane of my life, Jennifer Perrin—the curvy blonde who scattered when I caught her whispering in Rob's ear last Christmas. A girl who lives right next door to him, sunbathes in her backyard wearing a skimpy string bikini, and is reputed to be the kindest chick in our neighborhood. Yeah, right! Well, I'm not kind at all, not when it comes to sneaky secrets and sharing the man I adore.

"So what was this something that came up this morning?" I asked, trying to chew the tremble out of my bottom lip.

Guilt flickered in the depths of his eyes and rats gnawed bigger holes in my Swiss cheese stomach. He hissed air through his teeth in what sounded like a cross between a whistle and a steam engine stopping.

"Rob, you're freaking me out."

"Making women nervous is a perk of being male," he grumbled.

And no one could deny Rob was all male. Damn.

I yanked at the hem of my Barbie-pink tee and twisted the soft fabric into a knot. My throat dried up like Death Valley, and I reached for the gym bag he kept on the floor of the pickup. Rob always carries water. You never know when a drive-by bench pressing will leave you thirsty.

I unzipped the tote and dipped in my hand. Something squishy wrapped around my fingers. I screeched and flicked the undulating gooey thing across the car. It barely missed Rob's nose, then splatted on the driver's side windshield where it stuck and quivered.

Rob swore and swerved several times before he got the car back under control. He said something about poop and fans that didn't sound promising. I screeched again as the alien gloop slid across the glass to hang in front of me. I narrowed my eyes and focused on the little bag of silicon. My stand-on-chair-and-screech impulse gave way to fingernail-gouging rage.

"What's this?" I asked, though, hey, someone with boobs my size knew very well about chicken cutlets. More than a handful is a waste, they say, so just call me frugal. I peeled the bra filler from the windscreen with a soft glub and waved it under Rob's nose.

He groaned and did the flopped shoulders Women! thing. "It's not Jennifer's," he murmured before I even made the accusation. Guilty conscience or what?

"Then whose is it? Since you don't have any sisters, either you've been cheating or there's a whole 'nuther side of you I haven't seen." And given how many sides of him I'd seen that was extremely doubtful.

Possessive rage washed through me at the idea of some other girl nibbling icing off my cupcake. I threw the fake boob at the hot windscreen again. With a soft splat it stuck there, human breast slug under glass. In different circumstances, the toss and stick could be an amusing game.

"Whose?" I demanded.

His shoulders rolled again. "You don't want to know."

The hairs at my nape rose. "Correction—you don't want to tell me. For all I know you're having a little somethin' somethin' with a one-boobed woman and I'm the last to find out." A shuddery sob made me stuff up the diatribe. Damn. I hate it when my girly hormones sabotage me, and it wasn't even that time of month.

He cocked a brow. "You've been watching Desperate Housewives again haven't you, babe. Don't you trust me?"

Nice try. "When I find the inside of some other girl's underwear in your bag, no. And before you start about me getting neurotic, trust me on this, most girls find other women's intimate apparel in their boyfriend's bag a problem." I pouted and crossed my arms.

He stroked a hand over his stubble-rough chin making a soft raspy noise. "It's not what you think, but it is why I tried to cancel our date."

I pouted some more like those luscious lipstick-duo commercials I'd always envied, and swung my gaze at him in a tell-me-or-else squint. His brown delights went all serious.

"You won't like it," he warned.

That made me lean closer. Now I had to know, and he had to know that I had to know. 'Cause you can't bring home a dozen Boston creme doughnuts and pretend you're not gonna break your diet.

I waited. The traffic light turned green, and Rob spun his tires a little, getting the edge on the Corvette in the next lane. Lame, I know, but it's a guy thing.

"Rob?" I reminded him that he'd left me dangling over the doughnuts.


"Your secret one-boobed wonder?"

"Oh." He glanced at the Corvette in his rearview mirror with a small smirk of macho gloating. "It fell off the uniform I've got locked in the back of the pickup."

"Eh?" Now I was prepared for all kinds of lame-ass excuses, but I hadn't seen this one coming. Maybe I should have. Rob has had a series of jobs —everything from packing shelves at the grocery store to pumping gas. They never last long. He comes from a mega-wealthy family and since grade school he's had enough allowance to buy small islands. His jobs are more of a hobby. The only stable things in his life are his band, his love of computers, and me, though most folks probably wouldn't describe me as stable.

I glared at him, wondering what kind of uniform came with fake boobs. A gorilla suit? Transvestite bartender at a gay bar? PR billboard for Nursing Mothers?

"Still waiting," I grumbled. "The silicone boob is melting."

"It's not that hot." His attention flipped across to me and dropped to the scoop of tanned cleavage above my tee's low neckline. "And everything still looks high and dry."

I covered them with one hand and pursed my lips. My boobs are a touchy subject. Not in the sense that they get touched a lot, though with Rob around they certainly do, but because I have to use every one of Victoria's secrets to get any womanly curves. "Mine aren't silicone!" I grumbled.

"I know." White teeth flashed.

I shimmied over the bench seat to punch his arm. Take that, Mr. Biceps of Steel. "So? Uniform? Boob? Tell me."

"Sheriff," he said, blanching a bit.

I half spat out my tongue, forgetting I wasn't chewing gum. "Crap! How did you land a job as a sheriff? Don't you have to study for that? Do they let you have a gun?" Visions of playing with handcuffs got me almost as excited as the bakery.

He flicked on the indicator and pulled into the parking lot at the beachfront. Once he'd cut the motor, he let his forehead sink onto the top of the steering wheel. It wasn't a happy gesture and my fear factor climbed again.

"It's not a job, Marian. I've got a sheriff in the back."

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