Chased, p.1
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       Chased, p.1

           Lauren Dane
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  I’m often asked where I come up with my heroes. The honest truth is that there’s a bit of my husband in every single hero I write. Loving, courageous, smart, loyal, passionate, strong, funny, smart and sexy as all get out – he’s my everything and he makes me whole.

  And Angie, thanks for being blunt, taking no prisoners and whipping my words into shape.

  As always, thank you to my beta readers who have a part in making each and every book better.

  Chapter One

  At the sound of the doorbell, Liv dabbed her eyes and cursed to herself, seeing they were still red and puffy. She’d have ignored it on any other day but Cassie and Maggie were picking her up to take her to drive over to Polly and Edward’s fortieth wedding anniversary party.

  Letting out a resigned sigh, Liv answered her door to her friends, both dressed to the nines.

  “You’ve been crying.” With a concerned look on her face, Maggie pushed her way into the house and Cassie followed.

  “I’m fine. Really. I’m nearly done, I just need to fix my eyes. I don’t want you two to be late.”

  “I’ve spent all afternoon with Polly, and Cassie took care of the set up. Edward’s out with Polly, he’s taking her for a drive. I think they’re going to make out at the lake. And that means you’re going to tell us what’s going on.” The look on Maggie’s face told Liv she wouldn’t back down.

  “Brody.” Liv sighed, turning to the mirror so she could repair her makeup.

  “Brody what? What did he do?”

  “Not what. Who. That rat bastard cheated on me with Lyndsay Cole. I walked in on them yesterday afternoon at his apartment. Got off work early and brought him some dinner. I got a lot more than the thank you I was expecting.”

  “He did not! She did not! That bitch,” Maggie hissed. “That man-stealing bitch. I’m going to make a Lyndsay doll and stick her full of pins.”

  Liv snorted a laugh. “You always make me feel better. And someone was already sticking her full of something. But don’t blame her. She wasn’t in a relationship, Brody was. Pig.”

  “I hope his pecker falls off,” Cassie said through clenched teeth.

  “Or maybe it should get like a thousand paper cuts and then have lemon juice poured on it. And I hope Lyndsay gets a cold sore. A big one and a wart on her chin.” Maggie nodded.

  “With a big, black wiry hair that grows out of it and no one tells her,” Cassie added.

  “You two are the best.” Liv grinned and turned around, finger combing her hair and smoothing down the front of the sweater dress she’d chosen for the party. “I feel better than I have since yesterday when I found out. I wish I could say he sucked in bed, but I’d be lying. What is it about me? Why can’t I find someone? Something real?”

  Maggie sighed. “You found out yesterday and you’re only telling us now?”

  Liv shrugged. “I couldn’t face anyone. I caught them and I couldn’t get it out of my head. You and Kyle had a date, Shane and Cassie only got back from their honeymoon and Dee and Arthur just finished the move to Atlanta. She’s already got high blood pressure and I don’t want to make her pregnancy worse. I came home, ate too much ice cream, watched Thelma and Louise and went to bed.

  “I know Brody and I weren’t engaged or anything. I didn’t think he was the one, but I thought perhaps someday… Oh I don’t know what I thought but I do know we were supposed to be exclusive. It could have been right some day to move to the next step. You know, he could have broken up with me. He didn’t have to fuck someone behind my back.”

  Cassie hugged her tight and Maggie followed. “He’s a pig. He’s a pig, a jerk and a dick.”

  “And an ass. And his nose is big,” Cassie added.

  “Marc asked if I wanted him to kick Brody’s ass.” Liv grinned.

  “You told Marc? You told Marc Chase before your best friend?” Maggie’s eyebrows flew up.

  “It just happened. He came by this afternoon looking for Shane. Something about the party. Anyway, he came by to look at my legs and flirt a bit and he asked if I was coming tonight with Brody and it just came out. He was very sweet about it.”

  Maggie harrumphed but looked mollified. “Well I suppose if you have to unburden such a shitty story to someone, it may as well be someone who looks as good as Marc does.”

  Liv laughed. “He does, doesn’t he? Lawd, you should see the damned place every time he walks through, women coming out of the woodwork to be seen.”

  They all walked to the car and admittedly, Liv felt better.

  “I just want someone I can trust. Someone I can come home to at the end of the day and share my life with. I want to be in love and get married and have kids. Not tomorrow or anything but I feel like I’m very far off schedule.” Liv chewed her bottom lip as she pulled her seatbelt on.

  “Love doesn’t have a schedule, Liv.” Maggie said from the back seat. “And you will find love. You will, I promise you. This thing with Brody isn’t about you at all. He didn’t cheat because you were bad. He cheated because he’s a jerk.”

  “And Matt?” Liv’s heart still ached a bit when she said his name.

  “Matt is a good person, don’t get me wrong. But he was not right for you. He’s not right for anyone just yet. She’ll come along though. But you aren’t her and I’m sorry because I know you wish it was different. He’s not ready.”

  “I want what you have with Kyle. What Cassie has. What Dee has. I look at Polly and Edward and think about how they’ve had forty years together and I wonder why I can’t have that.”

  “You can have that. It’ll come.”

  “It’s only because you’re pregnant that I don’t smack you for saying that. People who are so happily married it makes my teeth hurt can say that stuff awfully easily. You have Kyle who looks at you like there’s not another woman on Earth. Cassie has Shane who can’t take his eyes off her for three minutes.”

  Maggie laughed. “No one but you two and Kyle knows about the pregnancy so watch it. Polly will kill me if she hears it before Kyle and I can tell her. As for you? Lotsa frogs in this world, Liv. Your prince is out there.”

  Liv groaned. “Maybe I need to sign up with a dating service or something.”

  Cassie shrugged. “I don’t know, Liv. I mean, do those things work? Maybe you just need to get out there and meet people. Or give people a second chance. You’re very picky. There are some great men in this town.”

  “Who are all married, cheaters or quite happily single like those damned Chase boys.”

  “Well, there’s always Marc. He’s damned good looking. Sweet too.”

  “Maggie Chase, Marc is way too young for me. Not to mention the fact that he goes through women like potato chips. I’m done being a potato chip.”

  “He is not too young for you. It’s not like he’s twenty or anything. But you’re right about the potato chip part. Let’s just look for someone appropriate then. In the meantime, you need to stop riding yourself so hard about this.”

  Easier said than done. Liv knew it wasn’t a problem with her looks. Without vanity, she accepted that she was beautiful. The kind of woman who got second glances everywhere she went. She had a good job, a good life, she was intelligent and most people thought she was funny. She did have a bit of a smart mouth, but it wasn’t like at nearly thirty-five she could change that part of herself. And she had self-respect, damn it. She would not start lying and biting her tongue just to appeal to men!

  “You could always ask for Polly’s help.” Cassie winked as Liv groaned. “She’s got her finger on the pulse of this town. She can find you an eligible man in minutes, I’d wager.”

  “You know, I may take her up on that if this goes on too much longer.”

  They pulled up out front and Liv sighed at the exterior of
the house. Matt had strung white fairy lights in the trees out front and the lights inside burned out a warm, inviting glow. Truth be told, Liv missed being a regular part of the Chase family more than she missed Matt. Missed the house and Sunday dinners. Belonging to the Chase family had felt really wonderful.

  “Ugh, I’m such a fucking whiner,” she mumbled before joining Cassie and Maggie to go inside.

  “By the way, nice tan.” Liv put her arm around Cassie as they entered the foyer. “All that vacation sex really relaxed you.”

  Cassie laughed. “Shane, the sun, fruity drinks and lots of hot monkey love. I’ve never enjoyed myself more. Come on through, the present table is in the sitting room but we’ve set up the food in the back so that’s where everyone will be.”

  “They’re here!” Kyle yelled as Polly and Edward approached the door.

  As Polly and Edward came into the house, everyone gathered shouted Happy Anniversary! Polly clapped her hands and started smooching up on everyone she could grab as Edward just took it all in with a calm smile.

  They’d tried to plan a surprise party but Polly was too nosy and she’d found out early on. Instead, her sons and daughters-in-law had made Polly and Edward agree to let them plan the event and to stay out of the way until it was time to start.

  Getting out of the way, Liv went to hang up her coat and bag before going back to the living room. She saw Polly Chase’s hair first and then the rest of her as the crowd parted to let her through.

  “Why hello there, Olivia. It’s good to see you, honey. I’m glad you could make it.” Polly click clacked on over in her stiletto heels, that giant, lacquered wall of hair not budging an inch as she moved.

  Liv bent and hugged Polly, wishing her a happy anniversary. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world. You and Edward are a fine example to the rest of us. I hope I can find what you two have someday.”

  “Aw, well, it’s all Edward. The man is quiet, lets me have my way, doesn’t say much. A good father and a good man. I’m fortunate.” Polly turned and Liv followed her gaze to where Edward Chase stood with Matt.

  It was hard to see him, even after a few years. There’d been a time when she’d believed Matt Chase was the one for her. He was attentive and fun, they had sexual chemistry that was off the charts and Liv kept thinking that soon he’d fall for her too. But it never happened. Sure, he had affection for her, but as they’d reached the year mark he hadn’t moved even an inch toward marriage or living together. She’d tried to deny it, tried to pretend he’d change but in the end, she knew he didn’t love her and never would.

  Pride intact but heart broken, she’d left their relationship because it was time to go. She wanted something permanent and it wasn’t fair to just spin her wheels with a man who’d never want more than a Saturday date.

  Matt saw her and smiled. She waved in return.

  “That boy is a fool.” Polly shook her head and Liv warmed. “Tells me you’re his best female friend. I said he doesn’t need any more friends, he needs to settle down and if not with a beautiful, successful woman like you, who? I swear. Kyle was always the sweetest one so of course it wasn’t a surprise when he ended up with Maggie. Shane, well, he’s been a trial since the moment he was born but Cassie can handle him just fine. Marc doesn’t think he needs forever but I think he needs it more than any of the others do. Matt though? I’m afraid he’s going to be in for a rude awakening when he finally realizes just how much he let go when you left.”

  Fighting back tears, Liv squeezed Polly’s hand. “Thank you for that, Mrs. Chase. That means a lot to me. He and I weren’t meant to be. I wish that weren’t so, but it is. And he is my best guy friend, even if he can be a total butthead. You raised four good boys. The last two will do fine when the right woman comes along.”

  “I’ll have you know I have my eye out for a good man for you. I heard about that punk Brody Willitson from my Marc earlier today. Never liked him and he wasn’t good enough for a girl like you, honey. Don’t you worry though, I’ve got my ear to the ground.” Polly winked. “Now get yourself a plate and have a drink, the night is young.”

  Liv watched, amused, as Polly ambled off to greet the next person who’d arrived when she saw Maggie with Marc.

  “Hey, you two.” Liv picked up a plate and began to fill it.

  “Hey, Liv. I keep meaning to compliment you on that dress. Is that the one you bought online? That dark purple color is gorgeous on you.” Maggie touched her arm.

  “I have to agree with Maggie on that one, Liv. Now, as much as I like you in short skirts, this one is very nice. The appeal of a curve hugging sweater that’s a dress is not lost on me at all. The boots are sexy too. A little bit dominatrix. You got any secrets to share, Livvy?”

  Liv laughed to cover the warm surge in her belly that always came when Marc flirted. She knew he was full of it and flirted with every woman he met, but still, it made her feel tingly all over.

  “Have you seen the bench we got them?” Marc held his arm out and Liv took it, letting him lead her out of the room, through the kitchen and out into the large backyard.

  “Kyle landscaped this little alcove for it. He says the roses will bloom over the arbor in the summer and night blooming jasmine is planted on both sides.”

  The bench sat in an isolated corner of the yard with a pretty white arbor over it and a fountain nearby.

  “Momma saw the bench last year during the insanity after Christmas when they were planning the wedding and Cassie told Shane and it went from there. You see the plaque?”

  On the back of the bench, an inscribed plaque with Polly and Edward’s name and anniversary date.

  “It’s impossible to shop for them but this and the album of all the pictures we had made from the slides my daddy had have been the biggest hit yet.” Marc sat down and Liv joined him.

  Liv warmed at the affection in his voice. “It’s really beautiful out here. Kyle did a great job at making this little place. Like an oasis for the two of them to come and sit together.”

  “He’ll read and pretend to listen to her and she’ll talk and cross-stitch and pretend he’s listening when she’s really just planning on getting me and Matt married off.”

  Liv laughed out loud at the truth of that statement. “They work.”

  “They do. One day, if I can have what they do, even a shadow of what they have, I’ll be lucky.”

  Liv nodded as she picked at the food on her plate and Marc helped himself to it as well. The noise from the party wafted out on the air but their corner of the yard was an isolated haven. They didn’t talk, instead just looked at the stars and picked at Liv’s food.

  “We should probably go back inside,” Liv said, standing. She needed to get back inside before she gave in and leaned her head on his shoulder.

  “Yeah, it’ll be cake time soon. I love cake.” He pressed a quick kiss to her cheek. “Don’t forget that you owe me a dance later.”

  “We’ll see.”

  “No seeing about it, Olivia Davis. You owe me a dance and I mean to collect.” Popping a stolen olive into his mouth, he drew her back into the house, letting her go ahead once they reached the porch.

  Man-oh-man did he love to look at her. Tall, long legs, big brown eyes that always looked like she had a very naughty secret and hair as black as a raven’s wing. Straight and glossy and usually in some short, stylish ‘do. Her clothes, just shy of outright sexy but it was clear she was a woman who knew what looked good on her body and she dressed accordingly. Not too tight but certainly clingy enough to highlight the high, round ass and the legs. She wore heels high enough to show off hard calves and tilted her ass and breasts out just right. The blouses and sweaters lovingly showcased her perky B cups.

  He adored her smile. One of those smiles women had when they knew something delicious. Her accent was nice and thick—sexy, soft southern sin—and she always sounded on the verge of laughing.

  Liv Davis was just an all around package. Funny, intelligent, independent, ve
ry feminine but capable too. She never ceased to make him smile when he thought about her. And she was the only woman he knew who flirted as well as he did. He had to admire that.

  Once they got back inside, Liv got pulled into a cutthroat game of canasta with Marc, Cassie and Shane.

  “Sheesh, I was hoping your mind would still be addled with all that honeymoon nookie but you’re a shark with the cards,” Liv joked with Cassie.

  “I don’t play to lose, Liv.” Cassie sniffed and tossed down some cards, reaching to draw more.

  “I love it when you’re vicious, beautiful,” Shane said and Marc rolled his eyes.

  “Stop before it starts. No cow eyes over the cards. Chase family rule.”

  Liv laughed. “I like that rule.”

  “I hear the music starting up in the other room, Olivia. You promised me a dance don’t you forget.” Marc winked.

  “Let me just do this.” Liv tossed down her last suit and stood with a smile. “I don’t play to lose either.”

  Cassie laughed and Marc stood. “Okay then, darlin’, let’s dance.”

  Liv took his hand and let him lead her through the house to the formal living room where the music was playing.

  With an artful flourish, he pulled her into his arms and against his body. They both froze a moment and moved a bit apart. Swaying slowly, they chatted about town gossip as Reba sang over the stereo speakers.

  That night when she finally got home, sore feet and all, the small of her back still tingled where his hand laid when they’d shared a dance. “I must be ten kinds of fool for even entertaining the thought,” she mumbled to herself as she tossed and turned.

  But her dreams had other ideas.

  Chapter Two

  Marc happened to find himself standing in the front window of The Sands looking through the glass at Liv Davis as she reached out and touched the cheek of another man. The affection in her eyes startled him. He would have felt jealous but the man was clearly thirty years older than she was and the touch wasn’t sexual at all. There was something else there he hadn’t seen with Liv before, a sort of yearning.

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