Launch day teasers – Excerpt 1 of BETWEEN FAITH AND FEAR:



“I have a confession to make.”

Those six words, so innocently spoken by a woman who straddled your lap, raised the kind of alarm bells Derek Bennett feared most. “Can it wait until after I’ve made you scream a little?”

Melanie’s big, blue doe-eyes denied him even that. “I know you’ve slept with a lot of women, Derek.”

“Uh… sure. And you’ve slept with a lot of men. We’re still okay with that, right?”

She took her luscious bottom lip between her teeth, gazed at his mouth. Her slender fingers came up, touched where she looked. “But I haven’t.”

Derek’s eyes narrowed. “Haven’t what?”

“I haven’t been with anyone but you in… a while.”

His shoulders tensed beneath the sweaty t-shirt. All he wanted by coming here was a little relief after a hard day’s work. What the hell had he just gotten himself into?

“Not that I haven’t had offers,” she continued in a rush. “I have. But my heart just wasn’t in it.”

He read the message in her eyes, clamped a hand over her mouth before she could voice it. They were on her bed in her tiny little apartment and he twisted, flipped her beneath him. “I’m not going to complain, Mel. Hell, I’m flattered. I’ll always be here for you, but we both know this can’t go past a certain point.”

Anger flattened her mouth beneath his rough hand and she tore away to blurt it out before he could stop her again.

“I love you, Derek.”

His head sagged between his shoulders.

But Melanie was relentless. “Deal with it. And if it’s too much for you, then you know where the door is.”

“What?” His head shot up again, annoyance in his tone. “Are you serious?”

She pushed him off and sat up. The condoms he’d just taken out of his wallet were waiting for use on her nightstand.

“I’ve thought about this long and hard,” she said sadly, hugging her arms. “I want something more from you. I’m not willing to share you anymore. If that means breaking things off entirely, then that’s what I’ll do because the thought of you making love to another woman is harder for me than being alone.”

Derek propped himself up on an elbow, reached out to brush his knuckles along her arm. “Come on, Mel…”

“If you can’t pay my price, you may as well not even touch me.”

He dropped his hand to the bedspread, looked around her room. “If you want me to yourself, babe, I’m good with that. Not particularly keen on the idea of sharing you, either.”

“But, do you love me?”

Shit. How did he know that wouldn’t be enough? He looked down at his crotch, noted the boner she’d purposefully worked up and he swore under his breath. “Dammit, Mel, your cruelty knows no bounds!”

“Cruelty. Ha!” Then she turned her back on him. The droop of her shoulders indicated the discussion was over. They were over.

“Just get out,” she said dejectedly. “Let someone else take care of that for you.”

And then she’d slammed the door in his face.


Golden-brown eyes scanned the road through sunglasses as he drove his 1970 Dodge Challenger through town. It would serve her right to do just that… take his unsatisfied needs to the river, hang out with the group of rock climbers he knew was there, scaling crags, swapping stories and bodily juices around the campfire. All he had to do was make a quick stop at the drug store since Melanie never gave him a chance to collect his stash of rubbers before kicking him out.

‘Twas a sure thing he’d get someone to take care of him tonight. Yep, his fellow thrill-seekers were a randy bunch, which was why he was so adamantly against any of the males getting close to his sister.

His other hand took the wheel when his phone rang on the seat beside him. The screen told him it was Danny. Speak of the devil.

“If you’re going to ask me about joining the group tonight, the answer’s no.” He wasn’t about to let her interfere in his night of sex play. Way too awkward.

“If I felt like it, I’d be there already.”

He didn’t like the tone, didn’t like that he couldn’t order her around anymore. “Then, what do you want?”

“Janice just called. She’s worried about Mel.”

“And why would she be?” Melanie was at home. He’d left her there a half hour ago.

“Because she’s acting weird. In Janice’s words ‘more slutty than usual.’ I thought you could at least stop by Jake’s and make sure she’s okay.”

“Jake’s! What the hell…”

“Look,” Danny purred in his ear, “if you don’t go, I will.”

“The hell you will!” His sister getting mauled in a joint like Jake’s? Forget it. “Just hang tight, I’m turning around.”

He cut the wheel hard. Tires screamed as he punched the clutch, shifted into first and leaned into the illegal U-turn. The 425 Hemi engine roared. The rear end fishtailed nicely before gripping the asphalt once again.

Time to test the limits of his ride.


Derek blew through the door, looked around until his eyes adjusted to the dim, smoky interior. Grunge rock blasted the place and a handful of patrons lined the bar, a few at the tables. A familiar shriek pricked his ears. He swore under his breath when Melanie’s blond head appeared above the others.

She was smiling down at some brute who’d just plunked her onto the bar. Wearing an obscenely short pleated skirt, her velvety thighs were bared to roaming hands.

When she spotted him cutting through the bar, her face fell.

Was he really ruining her day that much? “Get down.” His tone demanded obedience.

The lumberjack made a full body turn and faced Derek with an amused once-over. “Hey, short-shit. Take the long road.”

Undaunted, Derek’s eyes never strayed from Melanie’s and he held out his hand. She didn’t take it. “I’m not letting you do this,” he said finally, aware of Janice’s wide-eyed stare as she dried glasses behind the bar. The women were what he focused on. The meathead in front him, not so much.

“Look you little dick.” A hammy hand grabbed his outstretched arm. “I said get the hell away from my date.”

It took one elbow to the jaw. The man went down like a sack of spuds. Dirty pool, Derek thought, but he wasn’t in the mood to listen to the spiel. “Thanks, Janice,” he said, and took both of Melanie’s wrists. Her mouth was still open as he pulled her down, her bare cheeks squeaking against the polished surface of the bar.

“What did you do?” Melanie breathed as she gaped at the body on the floor.

But Derek didn’t answer as he dragged her out the door and through the parking lot. No, he was much too livid to interact with her just yet. Fucking high heels and a skirt like that… it’s a wonder she hadn’t been gang-banged in the first five minutes.

Not bothering to load her through the passenger side, Derek opened his door and forced her behind the wheel where she obediently scooched to make room. She was brooding, arms crossed under ample breasts when the engine roared to life.

“That wasn’t very nice,” she snapped. “The least you could do is give him fair warning that you’re stronger than you look.”

Derek sawed his teeth together, reached for the sunglasses on the dash as he steered out of the lot and directly into the setting sun. Why he was so damned angry he didn’t know. Melanie was her own woman, always had been. Why shouldn’t he let her pimp herself out to any blowhard with a penis?

The black Challenger sailed toward her neighborhood, entered a barren stretch of two-lane highway that bridged one suburb with another.

“I’m not going home.” When he didn’t reply, she said, “My car is still at Jake’s.”

“You should have thought about that before you left your apartment.”

“Derek Bennett, you can just kiss my ass!”

To his utter shock, she reached for the door handle. His instep mashed the brakes and the car came to a choked stop on the shoulder. By the time he’d set the emergency brake, she was huffing it on foot back toward town.


She didn’t bother to turn around. “If you’re strutting behind me in those sunglasses and tight jeans, you can get back in your pony car and go fuck yourself.”

He caught up with her easily, hoisted her up from behind and carried her under his arm. Wind blew up her skirt exposing her thong to any traffic that might drive by.

“Derek, put me down!”

“You didn’t mind baring your ass in public a minute ago.”

He opened the passenger door, cursed when her high-heel put a scratch in the paint. “You’re pushing it, Mel!” he thundered with outrage. Unwilling to risk the shoes again, he threw her down across the warm hood and gathered her hands behind her back. She was bent over in a most arousing position, her bottom half covered with little more than floss and a band of pleated plaid. Her long, silken hair fanned out over the scoop, and she screamed in frustration, kicked. Derek wedged his legs between hers in order to keep the jewels from taking a hit.

He leaned over her. “Are we going to calm down?”

“I hate you!”

“I thought you loved me.”

“You’ll never hear me say it again!”

“And you’ll never hear me say it at all,” he growled.

“Then, leave me alone!”

But that was the problem. He couldn’t. The thought angered him more than her rebellious move at Jake’s, but he’d be damned if he’d lose this battle alone. She was going down with him and, by the hungry look in her eyes, he didn’t think it would be a problem.


Moments later, his body dropped, forearms impacting heavily with the hood on each side of her head. His breath warmed her cheek.

“That… was so unfair,” she panted, though a post-coital smile played at her lips.

Derek squinted his eyes to clear the mud from his brain. Damned if he’d ever be able to see straight again. “Yes, it was. Remember that next time you want to work me up before kicking me to the curb.”

“I didn’t know it would make you so mad,” she breathed. “But I think I need to be taught another lesson.”

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