In Gone From Me, Rob is partnered with Deputy Troy Lee Farr, the hero from Fall Into Me -- not to mention the resident department screw-up in the early books in the series. I so enjoyed unfolding Troy Lee's character, and he became one of my favorite heroes. In this book, I had the chance to explore the older-woman/younger-man trope as well. This book kicked off as part of a dare (as in, there was an idea and I wanted to see if I could pull it off).
Here's the blurb and excerpt:
She’s finally falling for the right man…at the worst possible time.
Fall Into Me
A part of the Hearts of the South series.
After two back-to-back romantic disappointments, bar owner Angel Henderson isn’t looking for love. In the past month, she’s been passed over twice by men she’d pinned her hopes on, both times in favor of a younger woman. She’s ready to swear off men for life. The only problem? A certain younger man determined to prove he can be her right man.
Sheriff’s deputy Troy Lee Farr is tired of being the department screw-up. The harder he tries to prove himself, the worse it gets. The only thing that’s gone right recently is getting a second chance with Angel. Except she’d rather jam on the brakes than rush into a new relationship. Now he has to work hard to prove his worth as a romantic prospect.
Troy Lee is a patient man, and it isn’t long before Angel is falling into him as hard as he’s fallen for her. Just as Angel begins to think of him as more than a fun date, her past—and Troy’s dangerous reality—threatens the tentative happiness they’ve found in one another.
Reminding them both that security is tenuous…and unconditional love is the biggest challenge of all.
Warning: Cops who talk like cops, explicit older woman-younger man lovin’, and two-boxes-of-tissues emotion.
Julie nudged her and tilted her chin toward the stage. “These girls are crazy-stupid over that boy.”
Following the direction of Julie’s gaze, Angel watched as Troy Lee and Clark Dempsey, the EMT who played drums for the small group, were waylaid by a little blonde and a willowy brunette, both in their very early twenties. The blonde giggled and held out a permanent marker in Troy Lee’s direction. While he uncapped it, she tugged down the already low vee of her T-shirt, exposing the rounded curve of her upper breast and the edge of a lacy red bra.
“Oh my God.” Julie laughed, a puffing, choked titter. “Did he just sign her boob?”
“He sure did.” To Angel’s relief, her voice came out normal after fighting its way past the tsunami of possessive pique swamping her. The blonde graced Clark with the opportunity to autograph her other breast and the brunette touched Troy Lee’s arm, rubbing her palm over his biceps as she flirted. With a smile, he extricated himself from the contact.
Angel swallowed hard. Darn it, this whole scenario shouldn’t kick her in the chest the way it did. They were friends and she didn’t own him. Besides, she knew what it was like to be passed over in favor of a younger, more desirable woman.
The brunette snagged the marker from Clark as he finished his signature with a flourish. With a sultry flutter of her lashes, she passed it to Troy Lee and turned her back on him, hitching the waistline of her hip-riding jeans down just a bit to provide him room to sign the small of her back. The thin pink strand of a rhinestone-dusted thong rested across her hip above the faded denim. Eyebrows raised, Troy Lee exchanged a look with Clark but bent to scrawl his name across the smooth skin just the same.
Angel pulled her gaze from the tableau. As the club’s patrons trickled out, she buried herself closing out tabs, tallying receipts and disbursing charged tips to servers.
Behind her, wood clattered on the polished bar. “Hey.”
She tensed at Troy Lee’s voice, the rich tones sliding over her like caressing fingers. She schooled her features and turned to face him. “Hey yourself.”
She laid her paperwork out on the bar and tried not to look at him. His hair stood up in damp spikes and his shirt clung, a fine sheen of sweat on his skin. Lord help her, she could smell him, a blend of spicy deodorant, male sweat and musky warmth that kicked off images of hard sweaty sex and writhing bodies. Ooh, her hands wrapped around her footboard while he pumped into her from behind… Her belly clenched on a fluttering of arousal.
She clamped down on the reactions by dragging up the picture of the brunette touching him, of his hand at her hip while he autographed her skin. He swiped a wrist over his damp forehead and she reached for his customary Corona. Silence stretched while she wrapped up the day’s reconciliation and he sipped at the beer.
Julie returned from supervising cleanup and patted Troy Lee’s shoulder. “Starting your own fan club?”
He grimaced and took a long pull. “I guess.”
Julie laughed and wandered into the kitchen. The picture of his touching the girl flashed in Angel’s head again, bringing that breath-stealing wave of jealousy with it. Angel separated ones into stacks of fifty, rubber banded them and stuck them in the bank bag. “You don’t have to hang around here, you know.”
He stopped with the bottle halfway to his lips. “I always stay to make sure y’all get out okay.”
His brows lowered, eyes narrowed. “Trying to get rid of me?”
“Of course not.” The small laugh she produced held sufficient scoffing. “I just wasn’t sure if you had something to do or not.”
More like someone to do. The mean and so-not-like-her thought darted through her head. Darn it, the last month had done a real number on her.
His eyes constricted further, to glittering blue slits. “Jealous and bitchy really doesn’t work on you, Angel baby.”
“Don’t call me that.” The unreasonable annoyance prickled beneath her skin. She didn’t want his pet names, didn’t want to fall any further into him, when all that would happen would be his leaving and her getting hurt all over again. “And I am not jealous.”
Without answer, he simply watched her. She stacked the next set of fifty bills against the bar with a sharp smack. “I am not jealous, Troy Lee. If you wanted to go out with one of those girls, it’s nothing to do with me.”
His shoulders moved in an easy shrug. “If I wanted to be with one of them, then I wouldn’t be sitting here. So what does that tell you?”
She paused and met his gaze straight on. “You should be seeing someone your own age, Troy Lee.”
“Please don’t start that bullshit again. It’s not the issue and you know it.”
“Really. What, pray tell, is the issue?”
“We’ve been out one time and already you’re looking for me to cut and run.” He shook his head. “You’re doing it again. Speeding ahead, looking for where you think you’re going, instead of seeing what’s along the way. You gotta learn to slow down and enjoy the ride, Angel.”
How was she supposed to argue with that?
They lapsed into silence once more, although some of the tension had dissipated. She finished her closing while he nursed the Corona. Her girls, including Julie, drifted out in twos and threes, until only the two of them remained. She locked the deposit in the safe, grabbed her bag and flipped through her keys to the one that secured the front door.
Outside, the sultry promise of the sunny day had dipped into a damp chill and she was glad to have his warm presence at her back, blocking the slight breeze, while she locked the door.
Guitar case in hand, he strolled across the parking lot at her side to where his Jeep waited next to her Mustang. He tossed the case into the passenger seat and she eyed the Wrangler’s bikini top. “You’re going to freeze.”
He cast a quick glance at it. “Nah. It’ll be nice to cool off after being under the lights.”
She fiddled with her keys, turning them between her fingers. “Well, good night then. Thank you for walking me out.”
“You’re welcome.” His gaze lingered on her face. With a lazy movement, he rested a hand on the roof of her car, bringing his long body into her personal space and filling her with breathless intensity.
She should speak, should laugh, should do something. Instead, all she could do was stare into those lash-fringed baby blues and imagine all the wicked possibilities suddenly trembling between them.
He lifted his other hand and sifted the fingers through her hair at her temple, rubbing a couple of strands together. One corner of his mouth hitched up. “About that kissing thing.”
Oh, this was so not like her…hadn’t she always been a take-charge kind of girl? And here she was, her back pressed against the driver’s side door, keys clenched in one hand, watching those beautiful eyes draw closer as he took the initiative and leaned in.
She closed her eyes before his mouth touched hers. Oh please, don’t let it be any good. It would be so much easier to walk, to let him go if--
Warm lips, a hint of lime and Corona. Pliable flesh, a bit of pressure, a suggestion of persuasive seduction, her bottom lip sucked lightly between his. Breathless, giddy desire plunging through her, swirling in an achy spin lower in her belly, pulsing to life between her thighs.
He lifted his mouth, caressed the corner of hers, then sought her lips once more. She rested her hands against his chest, over his thudding heart, and offered her mouth up to him, allowing his tongue to tease her lips apart.
Oh, this was good, playful strokes, a light tangle of tongues and lips. He moved closer, hard thighs brushing but not pressing to her own, both hands braced now on the car roof, his body holding her prisoner and providing shelter all at the same time.