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River of Love

By:Melissa Foster


Chapter One


A MAN COULD take a wedding for only so long before he drank too much booze or left with a warm, willing woman to wash away all that purity. Sam Braden stood with a drink in one hand and a greedy itch in the other, debating doing both.

“I’ll take the redhead if you want the brunette.” Ty, his youngest brother, lifted his chin in the direction of the bar. In addition to being a world-renowned mountain climber and photographer, Ty was also Sam’s carousing partner. “Unless you’re double-dipping tonight, in which case I’ll go for one of the Staley sisters.”

Sam scoffed. Been there, done them.

He spotted two blondes slinking across the dance floor toward them. He’d hooked up with the one who was currently eye-fucking him last month, and the redhead Ty had been ogling moments ago had joined them in their hot, sweaty romp. His gaze shifted to the sexy brunette standing by the bar looking like she wanted to jump over it and hide behind it but she couldn’t quite figure out how. Faith Hayes. He’d been trying not to look at Faith all night, but he was losing that battle. Faith worked in Sam’s brother Cole’s medical practice. She was sweet, and good, and smart, and… Sam should not be thinking about laying her on the bar and doing dirty things to her gorgeous body.

No. He definitely should not.

Every time he looked at her, every time he thought of her—which was every damn day—that feeling of wanting more than a few quick hookups resurfaced. He not only wanted to lay her down on the bar, but he wanted to take her home. That was bizarre, too, since as a rule Sam never took any woman to his cabin. But half his visits with Cole at his office were merely made-up opportunities to get a glimpse of Faith. He didn’t fully understand his fascination with her, considering he usually preferred the kind of woman who wanted to jump him and damn well knew how, but there was no denying the stirring inside him every time she was near. He forced himself to look away and focused on the dance floor, where Cole, their eldest brother, danced with his new wife, Leesa, and just beyond, their younger brother Nate and his fiancée, Jewel, were gazing into each other’s eyes. Weren’t they always? Sam used to get hives just thinking about being tied down—unless, of course, it was to a bed. But he couldn’t deny how happy his brothers seemed since they’d fallen in love, and lately he’d begun feeling as if he were missing out on something.

The tall blonde sidled up to Sam, blocking his view of Faith and blinking flirtatiously, while her friend joined Ty. “You boys look lonely.”

“Ladies,” Sam said smoothly, bringing his attention back to the pretty girls who definitely knew how to use their bodies for the good of mankind.

“Care to dance?” she asked, and like a puppy with a bone, Sam followed her out to the dance floor.

Music and dancing ranked right up there with white-water rafting in Sam’s book. As the owner of Rough Riders, a rafting and adventure company, he rarely slowed down, but a strong beat calmed his internal restlessness. And Sam was always a little restless.

The blonde moved sensuously in his arms, reminding him of all the reasons a woman should win out over booze tonight. On that thought, his eyes drifted back to Faith, still standing by the bar, holding a drink he’d bet was soda, and nervously running her finger up the side of the glass as she…watched him? Sam’s lips curved up and Faith’s gaze skittered away. She became adorably flustered whenever he visited Cole at the office, and though he probably shouldn’t, Sam got a kick out of flirting with her.

Cole stepped into his line of sight, blocking his view of Faith and casting a threatening look at Sam, sending the message, Don’t even think about it.

There were no two ways about it, Sam loved women and everyone around him knew it. He loved the way they smelled, the feel of their soft bodies against his hard muscles, their delicate features, the sounds they made in the throes of passion. But his mind refused to play the any woman game these days. It was drenched in thoughts of Faith, and he wanted to experience all those things about her firsthand.

“Sam!” Cole chided.

He shook his head to clear his mind, laughing under his breath, as he turned his attention back to the woman he was dancing with. His hands sank to the base of her spine. Mm. She felt good. His eyes were drawn to Faith again, who was staring into her drink. Bet you’d feel even better, was his first thought, but it was the second—I wonder what you’re thinking—that took him by surprise.


**

I SHOULDN’T HAVE come to this wedding. Faith checked her watch for the hundredth time that evening. She’d told herself she had to stay for an hour after dinner. That was the respectable thing to do at her boss’s wedding, even though she’d rather leave right this very second. Work obligations outside of the office were uncomfortable enough, but now she was not only surrounded by people she barely knew, but her stupid hormones were doing some sort of I Want Sam Braden dance. God, she hated herself right now. Look at him, getting all handsy with the town flirt. He’d been dancing all night with every other woman in the place. They practically lined up to be near him. Why shouldn’t they? He was not only nice to everyone, but he was tall, dark, and distractingly handsome. The kind of handsome that made smart girls like Faith forget the alphabet. His arm was the most coveted spot in all of Peaceful Harbor, and damn it to hell, she did not want to be there.

Too badly.

I seriously need to dive into a tequila bottle. Or leave. Since driving home after drinking a bottle of tequila posed issues, she decided leaving was a better option.

She had the perfect excuse to cut out a little early, too. She was hosting a car wash tomorrow to raise funds for WAC, Women Against Cheaters, an online support group she’d started for women who had been cheated on.

By guys like Sam.

Sam glanced up and—Oh God, shoot me now—caught her staring. Again. She turned away, hoping he hadn’t really noticed, even though his eyes were like laser beams burning a hole in her back. Of course he saw her. How could he not? She was practically drooling over him. She didn’t want to have this stupid crush on the man who, if she believed the rumors, had slept with most of the women in Peaceful Harbor. If she took away his devastatingly good looks, he was the exact opposite of the type of man she wanted or needed.

Unable to resist, she stole another glance, and like every other set of female eyes in the place that weren’t related to him, she was drawn in like a fly to butter. He was gorgeous. Manly. Rugged. And that smile. Lordy, Lordy. She fanned her face. His smile alone caused her toes to curl. All the Bradens were good-looking, but there was something edgy and enigmatic about Sam. Dangerous.

Too dangerous for her, which was okay, because she didn’t really want him. Not in the try to keep him sense. A man like Sam couldn’t be kept, and she wasn’t about to be the idiot who tried. She’d be happy with leering and lusting, and pretending she wasn’t.

Except, oh shit, he was coming over. He moved across the dance floor like he owned the place, confident, determined, focused, leaving the blonde, and a dozen other women, staring after him. If looks had powers beyond the ability to weaken Faith’s knees, Sam would have eaten her up before he even reached her. His dark eyes were narrow, seductive, and shimmering with wickedness. His broad shoulders looked even wider, more powerful, beneath his expensive tuxedo. The top buttons of his shirt were open, giving her a glimpse of his tanned skin and a dusting of chest hair. He looked like he should be lounging on a couch with women fawning over him. Godlike.

Godlike? I am pathetic.

Faith was not a meek woman without a man in her life. She was single by choice, thank you very much. She stunk at choosing men, and besides that...men sucked. They cheated, they lied, and eventually they all tried to put the blame back on her. Ever since JJ, her last boyfriend, made good on the unspoken All Men Must Cheat promise their gender seemed to live by, she’d confined her dating pool to include only boring, slightly nerdy men.

“Faith.”

Sam’s deep voice washed over her skin and nestled into her memory bank for later when she was alone in her bed, thinking about him. She hated that, too. Why, oh, why, did he have to be a player? Couldn’t he be like his brothers Cole and Nate? Loyal to the end of time?

He touched her arm, burning her skin.

“Oh. Hi, Sam.” That sounded casual, right? He was so big, standing this close, and he smelled like man and sunshine and heat all wrapped up in one big delicious package.

Great. Now I’m thinking of your package.

“Would you like to dance?” he asked.

Yes. No! Stick to your boring-man rule, Faith.

Sam was anything but boring, taking every outdoor risk known to man and out carousing every night of the week. Nope, she wanted no part of that.

“No, thanks.” She sipped her drink, wishing it were tequila instead of Jack and Coke. Wishing she were home instead of standing beside the human heat wave.

His brows knitted. “You sure? I haven’t seen you on the dance floor all night.”

“Have you run out of girls already?” Holy Jesus, did I say that out loud?

An easy smile spread across his face, like he wasn’t offended, but…amused? He looked around the room and said, “No, actually. There are a few I haven’t danced with.” Those chocolate eyes focused on her again. “But I want to dance with you.”

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