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       To Do List (Bettencourt Brothers Book 1), p.1

           Lauren Dane
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To Do List (Bettencourt Brothers Book 1)


  To Do List

  Bettencourt Brothers, Book 1

  Lauren Dane

  Lauren Dane Media Group, LLC

  Contents

  About the Book

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  About Lauren Dane

  Sign Up for Lauren’s Newsletter

  Out Now: SWEET CHARITY

  Chapter One from SWEET CHARITY

  Also by Lauren Dane

  Copyright © 2016 Lauren Dane

  Published by Lauren Dane Media Group, LLC

  Cover Art Design © Croco Designs

  Book Formatting by Croco Designs

  All rights reserved.

  This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author/publisher.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental or has been used in a fictional manner.

  This one is for my grandma Minnie who taught me that anything is possible when you work hard to achieve your dreams. I miss you and your sopas but you’re my heart forever.

  Thanks to Angie for her editing and for not ignoring me when I IM her with stupid questions.

  As always, thanks go to my friends and family who show me unfailing support in this journey, even when it makes me grumpy, sleep deprived and I raid their lives to put in my books. Ray, thank you for being the kind of man who knew I’d love the pair of Chucks with the black sheep on the heel.

  About the Book

  Belle Taylor’s life, the one she’s worked for meticulously since before she’d even graduated high school had turned out exactly as she’d hoped. And it exhausted her in ways she’d never even known to expect.

  She needs to re-evaluate her future, find a way to do what she loved but still have the time and energy for things other than work. So she heads home for the holidays, where she can rest and get her head together.

  Rafe Bettencourt was most assuredly not an item on Belle’s to-do list and yet, when her older brother’s best friend kissed her under the mistletoe, Belle finds herself with another set of goals to balance what she’d thought she wanted.

  Rafe has loved Belle from afar for years and when he runs into her the night she comes back to Davis, he realizes he’s done waiting around and it was time to make a move. He’s got to help her see she can have a life that includes more than just her job and that she could do it with him at her side.

  Chapter 1

  Belle shivered as Rafe’s mouth touched her neck. A sense of total and utter unreality stole over her. Here she stood, in the dark, wrapped around the guy she’d had a major crush on since she’d been twelve years old. Hell, that very morning, she never even imagined he’d thought of her this way.

  “You taste good, Belle. Delicious and sweet with just a little spice.” The low vibration of his voice echoed up her spine. The warmth of his hands at her hips, just barely touching the bare skin peeking below the hem of her sweater and above the waist of her trousers sent waves of pleasure through her.

  Even as she searched for words, his tongue made its way, slow and sinuous, up her neck and to her ear. His breath stirred tendrils of hair that’d escaped the barrette holding it back from her face.

  “I think I’m going to need to kiss you, now. I’ve been wondering all night long if that lip gloss is flavored. Are you old school like that?”

  Holy sweet baby Jesus on a skateboard. How on earth was she supposed to answer him when he said stuff like that? When he pressed against her, his body work-hard and strong. His cock a solid, hot weight against her belly.

  “Watermelon,” she managed to gasp.

  “Well now, I definitely need a taste of that.”

  He angled his head and his mouth moved to hers, his clear, sleepy brown eyes seeing right straight through her.

  And when he kissed her, her entire body went boneless as she held on, her fingers digging into the material of his coat. His mouth was softer than she’d imagined, hot, wet, he tasted of coffee, salt and something else she couldn’t identify but wouldn’t ever forget.

  His kiss was slow and heady. He took his time like a man who knew what he was about. Like a man who knew she wasn’t going to bolt. He explored her mouth, his teeth catching her bottom lip, his hands firming their hold, settling beneath the sweater, fingers splayed against the sensitive, bare skin of her hips. His thumbs slid slowly back and forth, back and forth in the hollow of her hip bones.

  Her nipples throbbed in time with the slide of his thumbs, shooting straight to her clit.

  “Belle? Rafe? You guys there?” Brian called from the other room and Rafe stood back, breaking the kiss. At least his chest heaved and he appeared to be as affected by the kiss as she had been. Cripes, she wasn’t sure when the last time a kiss had nearly made her come, or even if a kiss had ever so aroused her.

  “Yeah. I’m just helping Belle bring her suitcases in,” Rafe answered Belle’s oldest brother without moving. He grinned at her slowly and dragged his gaze up above her head. She followed and noted the mistletoe.

  “Oh!” She blushed, mortified. Here she’d thought he was on fire for her and it was just the damned mistletoe? “Duh.”

  He reached and took her chin in his fingers, shaking his head. “No, Belle. I’ve wanted to kiss you for a very long time, the mistletoe just gave me an excuse. But now that I’ve felt your nipples as you kissed me, now that I know your taste? I’m going to kiss you as often as I can.”

  “Oh,” she sighed again. Yeah, it was totally obvious she was a powerful attorney who made her living with her ability to speak coherently.

  He chuckled and grabbed her suitcases. “I’m going to put these in the guest room and then we can get on over to your parents’ for dinner.”

  Belle heaved a sigh as she leaned against the wall to keep from melting into a puddle of goo. Raphael Bettencourt had just laid the hottest kiss of her entire life on her. Rafe. The object of many a fantasy and he’d…his mouth…it was…oh wow!

  “Belle? You okay? I know you’re tired. Mom and Dad would understand if you’d rather call it a night.” Brian came into the front hall, looking at her worry clear on his face.

  She’d been late getting out of San Francisco, heading home for a few days to spend Christmas with her family when she’d had a blow out just miles outside of Davis. Thank goodness Brian and Rafe had come to help.

  “You guys didn’t have to come out, you know. I told you I’d have called Triple A.” She stood straight, enjoying the warm feeling she still had in her stomach.

  “Shut up. Your tire is changed and tomorrow we’ll get you out to replace the old one. You don’t need Triple A, you have family. Now, are you okay? You look really pale and you’ve lost at least fifteen pounds since the last time I saw you. That was a year ago though.” He glared at her.

  She smoothed down the front of her clothing and tucked her hair back. “Brian, no one knows how busted I look more than I do, okay?” She was so tired. She’d been working eighty-hour weeks for the last year, most notably the last seven months on one all-encompassing project. But it was over
and she was taking the first actual time off since December of the year before. Christ, twelve months of eighty-hour weeks and not a single day off. She hadn’t been outside in the daylight except to walk into the courthouse so of course she was pale.

  “You don’t look busted. You’re beautiful and you know it. Damn it, Belle, you work too hard! No job is worth this insanity. Your health is important, more important than a corner office. How long has it been since you’ve had any time off?” Brian searched her face.

  “Look, Doctor Taylor, I know, okay? Do you think I want to spend every freaking moment of my life working?” Before she could truly get upset, Rafe came back toward the front hall and she stopped herself.

  “I’m not going to let this slide, Belle. You can’t do this to yourself and you know Mom and Dad are going to say the same thing when they see you.” Brian put an arm around her shoulder and nodded at Rafe.

  “Give it a rest, Brian. She’s here isn’t she? I’ll put her to work, get her out in the fresh air and sunlight and your mom will fatten her up.” Rafe kissed her cheek and opened the front door. “Now, let’s go on over to dinner before your dad sends a search party out.”

  “Wait! Let me change clothes. I came straight from work.” Belle disentangled herself from her brother.

  “You know where the guest room is.” Rafe winked.

  Good God, she’d be just next door to his room, connected by an adjoining bath. She’d been the one who’d told her brother what a great idea it would be to take over the large west wing of Rafe’s ginormous house while Brian waited for his own place to be remodeled.

  She pulled a red sweater from her suitcase, carefully hanging up the business black cashmere and exchanged the gray wool trousers for soft denim jeans and boots. Her hair fell from the heavy knot at the base of her neck and she shook it out.

  With a smile, she re-applied the watermelon lip gloss and headed out to meet her brother and Rafe.

  “Much better. You still look too thin but boots and jeans are much nicer than those stuffy business clothes you had on.” Brian held his hand out and she took it.

  “Be quiet. Belle looked lovely in her other outfit.”

  The two friends bickered and laughed, filling Belle in on all the gossip as they headed over to Belle and Brian’s parents’ house just ten minutes away.

  When Brian pulled down the long gravel drive leading to the main house on the organic farm her father and brothers worked, she rolled the windows down.

  Cold air rushed in with the scent of wet grass. Of hay and the river in the far distance. The house was ablaze with light and the sight of it brought tears to her eyes. Her father had hung the Christmas lights along the roof of the house. No plain white lights for her dad, no way. He favored the colorful lights with the big bulbs. The large elms and a few fruit and almond trees in the spacious front and side yard were festooned with lights as well and she saw the big tree through the living room window. It would still be bare, they’d decorate it over the next two nights as a family. Same as they’d done every year of her life.

  Her parents would have a full house with grandparents, assorted children, spouses, and grandchildren running around. Within the next few days, her cousins, aunts and uncles would also arrive. Which is why she was staying at Brian and Rafe’s—and her lips thought that was a fine idea.

  When they got out, Loopy, one of their labs, ran toward her with a goofy grin, his tongue hanging out. She paused to bend and kiss the top of his head and scratch behind an ear.

  “He’s getting gray. Got a bit of arthritis the vet said.” Brian ran a hand over the dog’s back.

  “He still gets on the tractor and goes out with me several times a week. Loopy has plenty of get up and go.” Rafe tucked the hair behind Belle’s ear absently. When he headed toward the house, she watched him from behind and took her time catching up.

  Belle had always loved Rafe as one of their extended family. He was a good man, funny and flirtatious. He loved farming and their community and had dedicated himself to helping her dad get their organic operation started four years before and also helped run the Bettencourt family dairy.

  Life was slower here in Davis. Harder in a lot of ways. Her dad was up before dawn most days and there were times when she was growing up when things were very tight. But there was money for college and they’d always had enough for the truly important stuff. They ate, they had clothes on their back and they never wanted for attention or love.

  “Belle? Sweetie pie, is that you?” her mother called out from the porch and Belle bounded past her brother and Rafe and into her mom’s arms.

  Belle breathed in a bit of White Shoulders along with pot roast and if she wasn’t wrong, apple pie. Rock on.

  “I’m sorry I’m late.”

  “You can’t help a blow out. Thank goodness you weren’t hurt. Now, you’re here and that’s what matters.” Her mother pulled back and gave Belle a very critical once over and frowned. “Good gracious, girl! Look at you. I don’t like it one bit. You’re too thin and you have dark circles under your eyes. I made those eyes, Annabelle, I don’t like you mistreating yourself.” Her mother raised one eyebrow in her direction as she towed Belle into the house where it seemed like half the known universe shouted out hellos.

  “Thank God we can finally eat!” her youngest brother Kevin bellowed.

  “I’m only forty-five minutes late. I left San Francisco at five after six so that’s darned good time with all the traffic mess and then the blow out. I told Dad to have everyone start without me.”

  She said all this as she accepted hugs and kisses from the family, including her very pregnant sister.

  “As if Mom is going to let us touch the roast when you’re not here. You look tired, even if it’s damned good to see you. Skinny and pale. I don’t like the dark circles under your eyes. You getting any sleep? Don’t you eat anything more than wheat grass and coffee?” Chelsea, her older sister and the only other female Taylor child murmured into her ear as she hugged her.

  “Yes, I know. You’re the tenth person to tell me that. It’s such an ego boost to come home. How are you?” Belle ran a hand over her sister’s belly.

  “Pregnant. Don’t tell these clowns but Mom let me have a sandwich already. Sit before Kevin or Scott busts a gut moaning about how hungry they are. Grandma hasn’t complained. If an eighty-five-year-old woman can live without eating, you know they can.”

  “I can hear you, Chelsea,” Scott, her next older brother called out from across the table where he helped their grandmother into a chair.

  “Duh.” Chelsea laughed and let her husband Bill lower her into a chair.

  “Come sit next to me, Belle.”

  She looked up to see Rafe pulling a chair out for her. Damn he looked good. Big brown eyes, dark hair always in dire need of a trim, Raphael Bettencourt was big and muscled and worked hard out in the sun all day long. He was good looking farm boy personified and he and Brian had been best friends since the second grade when the Bettencourts moved to Davis and started their family-run dairy. And he’d totally made love to her mouth not even twenty minutes before. Yeah, vacation was already better than working.

  He kissed her cheek as she sat at the table and she tried not to make a big deal out of sniffing him. It’d be nice if he’d take one for the team, or twelve, to help her relax. She smiled to herself as warm, hard male surrounded her when he bent around to help her get the chair in.

  “Thanks, Rafe. I like that sweater. Did one of your smitten harem make it for you?”

  He laughed and the sound shot to all sorts of low places. “Now, Annabelle, jealousy doesn’t become you. I’d be perfectly happy to add you to my harem any old time.”

  Brian smacked the top of Rafe’s head before shoving a bowl of peas into his hands. “Stop coming on to my sister. Make yourself useful.”

  “What kept you so late anyway? I thought you said you were only working half a day today?” Kevin called across the table as the noise rose.

/>   “That was the plan. I got into work before six this morning. But you know what they say about the best laid plans. Anyway, I’m trying to rush out the door and some senior partner wants me to stay back and finish up.” Belle didn’t elaborate, it wasn’t necessary anyway. He’d berated her for taking vacation when she led by nearly a third above the highest billable hours of anyone else in the firm. Jerk.

  “Who are these people to think they own every bit of your time? It’s been a year, Annabelle. You are a member of this family and it’s high time you remembered that,” her grandmother admonished from a few seats down.

  “Nana, I know. I haven’t forgotten I’m a member of the family. It’s hard trying to make it into that corner office. It takes time. This case I just finished up is really important and I think it will make me. I’m here though and I will be for the next five days. I turned off my cell phone and left my laptop at home. It’s all family all the time. I promise.” Belle nearly laughed at the look on her grandmother’s face as she waved a hand.

  “These people! No values. Working you younger attorneys like slaves. I bet they all go on vacation.” Her father harrumphed and Kevin winked at Belle from his place across the table.

  “Dad, Nana, Belle has worked hard. It takes a lot of hours to get as far as she has. She went to law school and we all knew she’d be busy when she started at the firm. I don’t think it’s fair to say she’s forgotten her family because she’s doing what all young lawyers at big firms have to, to get ahead. No one complained when I was in residency.” Brian, her defender, squeezed her hand under the table.

  “Of course not. I know Nana didn’t mean it like that.” Her mother frowned. “But it’s been a year since we’ve had all our children at this table. We miss Belle. We are proud of you, honey.”

 
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