Sneak Peek — First Chapters Free!
NYT Bestselling Author A.L. Jackson has the prologue AND first chapter of her upcoming brother’s best friend, single mom, small town romance, Don’t Forget Me Tomorrow, available to read now before release day on October 5th!
I stared at her from across the room.
I could feel the walls closing in, and the need I’d had for her for my entire life growing stronger than it ever had. As if the two of us were hinged on this moment.
“Tell me I’m not too late. Tell me you still love me.” There was no stopping the plea.
Pain and desperation twisted through her expression. “Do you think I could ever stop loving you?”
The second she said it, I snapped, and I was across the room.
I crashed into her in a landslide of greed.
One hand dove into her hair and the other curled around the side of her neck as I crushed my mouth against hers.
Really kissing her for the first time.
Nothing had ever felt quite like kissing Dakota Cooper.
It was flames and heat and pure relief.
I sucked it in, imbibing the feeling as I devoured her mouth.
My chest nearly blew with the power of it. With the way my heart thrashed violently at my ribs. With the devotion that surged from the sacred place that had always been meant for her.
Except I’d always known why I couldn’t touch her. The reasons I’d built the walls between us.
Why she was only supposed to be my best friend’s little sister.
I’d crossed a line I wasn’t supposed to cross.
And I should have known I’d have to pay the penalty…
Chapter One – Ryder
What the fuck was she doing out here?
I slowed my motorcycle as I came upon a small white Volvo SUV pulled off to the side of the road, its hazards flashing through the dusky light as the summer day faded into grays.
My guts tangled in a knot of worry.
We were twenty miles outside of town, and the two-lane road was basically desolate except for a random car that whizzed by.
There was no mistaking that car. The rear window was a fucking billboard for the country market and café Dakota Cooper owned. It wasn’t like I blamed her for wanting to advertise, but I didn’t love that every fucking person in this town knew her name, either.
Where she worked and where she lived.
Not that there was a ton of privacy in a small town the size of Time River.
Everyone knew everyone.
And even if she lived in the middle of a bustling city, I was pretty sure she would have made a name for herself, anyway.
Hell, I figured every time she smiled at some unknowing fool, she carved herself into their memory.
Made her mark.
Protectiveness lined my insides in a sheet of steel.
It was nearing dark, and she was out here in the middle of nowhere.
Any monster could roll up and catch her unaware.
Just like me.
My bike came to a rumbling stop ten feet behind her, and I killed the engine, tossed the kickstand, and swung off as I took stock of the situation.
Dakota was more than capable, but it still made me itch that she was on her knees in front of the back-passenger side tire, cranking at a handle on the jack to lift the rear-end of her car.
Looking like a goddamn vision beneath the rays of the setting sun.
I tamped the bolt of lust that stirred my dick, something I’d gotten really fucking good at over the years, and I edged toward her, my boots crunching on the loose gravel.
Awareness rippled through the twilight with my approach.
A flash of tension before it settled into something familiar and right.
“Funny, I didn’t see a call or text from you,” I said, words rough and carrying over a big truck that blew by, sending a flurry of debris scattering through the air.
Dakota glanced my way. The hint of a smile played through the shiny gloss coating her lush lips.
“That’s because I didn’t call you.” Her voice was a tease as she continued to crank the handle, though her breaths were coming hard with her exertion as the back-end of her Volvo slowly hoisted.
At least she had a blanket spread on the ground to protect her bare knees since she had on one of those sundresses she always chose to wear. Black fabric dotted with pink flowers that hugged every lush curve of her body.
I thought she might have been prescribed specific attire with the sole purpose of driving me out of my mind.
“You should have.”
“What, you think I’m not capable of fixing a flat tire?” Eyes the color of cinnamon and fire glinted back. “I seem to remember someone who insisted on making sure I knew where the jack and spare were when I bought this car.”
She arched a brow. Her cheeks were full and high, and the threat of that tiny dimple on the left side of her chin flickered and danced like temptation.
“Yeah, that was so you would know how to do it for when I’m not around, and here I am.” I lifted my tatted arms out to the sides.
Except if she had called an hour before, I wouldn’t have answered. I’d have been too wrapped up in the bullshit dragging me under. A millstone around my neck.
One day it would be the reason I drowned.
The thousand shades of brown in her eyes danced as she peered up at me, and she chuckled a low, throaty sound that shivered over my skin. “Of course, you are. Tell me you’re not stalking me?”
Stuffing my hands into my pockets, I let a smirk ride to my face. “You know it. It’s my job to know where you are at all times.”
“Is that so?” Her expression twisted in playful disbelief.
“Isn’t that what friends are for?”
“Friends? Hardly. It sounds to me you’re acting more like my overbearing brother. I swear, if it was up to the two of you, I’d never step foot outside by myself.”
Sounded like a solid plan.
“What are you doing out here, anyway?” I asked.
“I had to pop over to Costco in Poplar to grab some things for the café. What are you doing out here?” She tossed it back at me like she figured I’d been up to no good.
I had been, but I doubted it was what she was thinking.
Shame locked down my throat. As close as I was to Dakota, there would always be a wall. A place I couldn’t let her see. The fucking last thing in the world I wanted her to know about me.
My jaw clenched as I forced out the lie. “Just felt like feeling the wind on my face. My bike was calling to me.”
“A little hot for that, isn’t it?”
“Never too hot for me.” The smirk was back in full force.
With the history around us, I was thankful we’d gotten to this place.
Where we could be easy together.
Friends, even though it was fucking painful being this close to her most of the time.
But I would take her any way I could have her.
She scoffed and turned her attention back to the jack, clearly picking up on the innuendo I couldn’t help but slide into the conversation. Before I could let my brain spiral into depravity, I strode the rest of the way up to her.
It cast her in my shadow where I towered over her.
“Are you going to get up off your knees and let me help you, or are you just going to leave me standing here staring at you like a lazy prick?”
Leaning back, she swiped a bead of sweat that trickled from her hairline with her bare shoulder.
My fingers itched with the urge to reach out and trace the spot. But touching her was the last thing I could do. I wouldn’t taint her goodness with the sickness of me.
“Haven’t you learned yet that you don’t need to ride in like the cavalry, Ryder?”
“I already rode in, Cookie, so you might as well let me.”
I’d started calling her that years ago.
Now there was no way I could stop.
Pushing to standing, she waved at the flat tire. “Fine, if it makes you feel more like a man, then go for it.”
I shook my head at her. “Are you trying to bust my balls?”
“Someone needs to.” She punted me a grin.
I started to move to take her place, but she bent over to straighten the skirt of her dress.
It speared me to the spot.
Her tits were heavy and spilling out of the scooped neckline.
Her hips full and wide and perfectly hugged by the fabric.
Hair a warm brown that was streaked with honey, and she wore it in a high ponytail, the same way as she did most days, the lush locks wavy and draping over one shoulder.
I couldn’t help but envision wrapping my hand around it, tugging her head back, and devouring that lush mouth.
I swallowed hard, doing my best not to ogle my best friend’s baby sister.
Dude would fucking gut me if he had an inkling of an idea about the thoughts I had of her.
Too bad he was the least of my worries.
She moved a foot to the side, and I took her spot, reining that bullshit in.
I knew better.
Dakota was a friend. Like a sister to me. And I’d do well to remember it. Because I would never fucking drag her into the mess that was my life.
I cranked through the lug bolts, removed the tire, then was quick to replace it with the spare.
The whole time, I could feel her attention on me. Eyes tracing.
“You enjoying yourself, Cookie?” I canted a glance up at her. The last of the light caught her in its hazy rays.
Brown hair and mesmerizing eyes.
So goddamn pretty my stomach clutched.
Raking her teeth over her bottom lip, she tried to contain her laughter. “Guess I like you on your knees for me.”
A snort left my nose. I’d been for years, and she didn’t have a clue.
Giving a final tug at the lug nuts to make sure they were tight, I shifted to fully look up at her. “You need to make sure you’re not driving on this for long and take it in to get the original tire repaired or replaced.”
The cock of her head was nothing but a razzing challenge. “I am a capable adult, Ryder. I even own my own business.”
“Know that, Dakota.” The words were low.
“Then you can stop treating me like a little girl.” The barest flash of annoyance hit her expression.
If only that was the way I saw her.
“Go ahead and tell my brother while you’re at it,” she tacked on, rolling her eyes though there was affection woven through. “The two of you are ridiculous.”
“I just care about you, Dakota. About Kayden.” The admission came rough, and the sweat that suddenly slicked my skin didn’t have anything to do with the summer heat.
Thinking of Dakota’s son always got me that way. He was two, and the cutest fucking thing I’d ever seen.
I didn’t know if it was loyalty or jealousy that hit me hardest, not that I had any right to the last.
Softness radiated from her as she gazed down at me, that sweetness that was always lingering beneath the surface riding from her tongue. “You know I can’t call you every time some little thing goes wrong in my life and expect you to come running, Ryder. You’ve already done enough for me. Too much.”
Gratitude tinged with unease infiltrated her tone, her eyes dropping for a beat. I knew exactly where her mind had gone.
The money I’d given her to help start her business.
I released the jack and stood. There was nothing I could do but take her by the chin. More tender than I should. I towered over her, searching her face like there was a way I could get her to understand.
“That’s where you have it wrong, Dakota. You can. I expect you to call me. Whatever you need. And there is no such thing as too much when it comes to you. Do you understand?” The words left me like a tumble of stones. A plea and a demand.
Because I’d wanted to give her everything I had, but the only thing I had been able to do was give her the one gift that I could.
She viewed it as a debt. Like something she needed to repay.
She could never understand that what I’d given her was my heart.
Those pink lips parted, and fuck, greed twisted through me like a hurricane, cock pushing at my jeans like I might be able to possess the one woman I could never have.
“I don’t want you to waste your time on me,” she whispered. “I know you have your own life. Things you need to take care of.”
A puff of disbelief escaped between my lips. “You could never be a waste, Dakota Cooper.”
The air thickened. Growing dense and pushing in. Heavy and hot. A dragging pull between us.
My phone pinged in my pocket, and both of us jumped back like it was a warning going off that we were about to cross a line we couldn’t cross.
Blowing out a steadying sigh, I dug into my pocket and thumbed into my phone like it was the most important thing in the world, then my chest clutched with the reminder of why I could never get too close to Dakota.
Why she’d hate me if she knew.
Dare: Where the fuck are you? You’re late.
Swallowing around the barbs in my throat, I looked up at the woman who stood three feet away shifting on her feet.
Innocent and right and every good thing in this life.
I roughed a hand over the back of my neck, attention on my boots when I said, “I need to get going.”
I felt the weight of her nod. “Yeah, I need to get to my mom’s and pick up Kayden before they get worried.”
I hoisted up her flat tire, opened her trunk, and tossed it in. Dakota came to my side, her presence close to overwhelming as she placed the blanket she’d had on the ground on top of it.
For a second, we hovered in each other’s space. So close but where we could never belong.
Lost to a beat of greed.
The kind I could never give into.
I pushed the button to close the hatch then took a step toward my bike. “Be safe, Dakota.”
Cinnamon eyes watched me like they could see through to my sins. “You, too.”
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A.L. Jackson is the New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance. She writes emotional, sexy, heart-filled stories about boys who usually like to be a little bit bad.
Her bestselling series include THE REGRET SERIES, CLOSER TO YOU, BLEEDING STARS, FIGHT FOR ME, CONFESSIONS OF THE HEART, FALLING STARS, and REDEMPTION HILLS novels. Watch out for her upcoming stand-alone,DON’T FORGET ME TOMORROW, releasing October 5th!
If she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out by the pool with her family, sipping cocktails with her friends, or of course with her nose buried in a book.
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