Over Heated Excerpt

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August sunshine and black wool were not a good combination!

Roxanne sat on the bench, trying to absorb everything that had happened over the past week.  For a long moment, she wondered if she were living in an alternate universe.  Or was she being punked?  Was there a hidden camera somewhere?  Unfortunately, she was too stunned to even look for cameras.

The papers in her hands were…outrageous!  The requirements…impossible!

Her mother…was gone.  After years of verbal and emotional abuse, Myrtle Halley was gone.

Roxanne’s fingers curled, crushing the edges of the papers as she sifted through the emotions rushing through her.  Her mother’s funeral had been last week, but today…today had been the meeting with her mother’s lawyer.  Roxanne hadn’t known that her mother had ever needed a lawyer!  In fact, Roxanne hadn’t known that a lawyer even existed in this small town!  Carlton, Colorado had one grocery store, one bar, one hair salon, one…of everything.  Apparently, there was also one lawyer.

But…growing up, there’d never been a whole lot of money so…it hadn’t occurred to Roxanne that her mother would need a lawyer.

Correction.  There hadn’t been a lot of money for Roxanne.  Apparently, Myrtle Halley had saved up a great deal of money!  Over half a million dollars in a savings account, plus the woman’s home was completely paid off.

And a cat.

Nope, Roxanne definitely couldn’t forget about the cat!

Everything had been left to the cat!  All the money, even the house, had been left to care for the cat!

Roxanne had learned never to expect much from her mother other than criticism.  Nothing Roxanne had done…not the straight As in high school and college, the great job in the hospital surgical department, nothing had been good enough for even a kind word.  If she got straight As, Roxanne’s mother would snipe that Roxanne hadn’t taken hard enough classes.  If she took the advanced placement classes, Myrtle would ridicule Roxanne for trying to be “uppity”.  When Roxanne had landed a coveted job at the hospital an hour away in Denver, Myrtle had complained that Roxanne was abandoning her for a better life.  But every time Roxanne had come home, Myrtle had snapped at Roxanne not to expect a meal, or sympathy for traveling an hour just to “sit around waiting for idle chit chat”.

Nothing Roxanne did was ever good enough for her mother and it had always been a mystery as to why her mother was so….angry.

And now, there was no way to discover answers to her mother’s angry personality, because she was gone.

Roxanne lifted her face up to the sunshine, sorting through her emotions.  Was she sad?  Surprisingly yes.  A little.  And that felt…wrong somehow.  Why was she sad about a woman who had made her life miserable?  Roxanne told herself that she should be relieved.  Or angry because of what she’d just learned!  Sadness had no place in her life right now!

But in reality, Roxanne was sad.  And angry because she was sad.  It felt as if there was a gaping hole in her chest…because a woman who had never had a kind word for her daughter had left this earth and…

Nothing made sense!  She shouldn’t be sad!  Yet, her eyes burned and her heart ached.

Her eyes dropped to the papers that outlined her mother’s last will and testament.

Yeah, Roxanne was angry.  Furious, actually.  And the anger felt better than the sadness!  Anger was easier to deal with, she thought and pushed the sadness away.

Myrtle had continuously informed Roxanne that she was a hussy.  That she was a slut, even though Roxanne rarely dated.  Not in high school, because there was no way she’d ever bring a boy home for fear that he might meet the horrid woman.  And not in college, because Roxanne had maintained a full class load, plus she’d worked two jobs in order to pay her tuition and the rent on her tiny dump of an apartment, not to mention paying for her books and food.

And now, Roxanne was supposed to sell her mother’s house and use all of the woman’s savings so that she could care for the woman’s cat?  Oh, and let’s not forget that Roxanne was supposed to care for all of those ridiculous, cheap glass figurines!  There weren’t just a few of the stupid things.  Her mother had been an obsessive collector of glass animals and clowns and…whatever! There were hundreds of them all over her mother’s house!  What in the world was Roxanne supposed to do with them?  Her mother had dusted those stupid things every week, taking most of Saturday morning to ensure that they “sparkled” in the sunshine!

There was no way that Roxanne was going to take care of those damn figurines!  And the cat?  It was evil!  Totally evil!  The cat hissed at her every time she walked into the house.  Her mother used to laugh at the cat when Roxanne jumped back, then pet the satanic feline as if he’d done something miraculous!

Now Roxanne had to swallow the news that the horrible cat had inherited everything!  Roxanne had been listed as the executor of the will and caretaker of the cat.  Sheesh!

What kind of lawyer would write up a will like that?

Roxanne had thousands of dollars in student debt she still owed, a car that ran only when it felt like it, a tiny apartment that was barely large enough for herself, and now she had to bring in an almost feral cat and thousands of pieces of glass…junk?

“I need a drink!”

Roxanne rarely drank alcohol, but after her meeting with the town’s one lawyer, she felt as if she’d earned a strong drink.  Looking around, she spotted the bar across the street.  Never mind that it was a biker bar with about twenty motorcycles parked in front, all with varying degrees of chrome and steel shining in the hot afternoon sunshine.  It was a bar.  She needed a drink.  Enough said.  She barely glanced at the tattoo sign.  It was the alcohol that she needed, not a tattoo.

Stepping through the heavy doors, Roxanne stopped and looked around, blinking her eyes to adjust to the dimmer light.  It wasn’t nearly as gross as she had anticipated.  But there was nothing elegant about it either.  Wood walls.  Wood floors stained by decades of use and spilled beer.  Pool tables in the back and a wooden bar with neon lights advertising various brands of beers glowing on the wall behind it.  Off to one side, there was a door that she assumed led to the tattoo parlor, but she focused on the bar.

Walking over, she carefully perched on a wooden stool.

“What can I get you?” a bartender with the most incredible white mustache asked her, leaning against the bar with what she suspected was amusement.

Roxane looked around, completely aware that she looked out of place and not caring.  Her black suit and sensible black shoes were boring.  Professional, but boring.  She was prim and tedious while the others in the room competed with each other for the most amount of leather on their bodies.  Roxanne wasn’t even sure if her shoes were leather!  For the amount she’d paid for these stupid, ugly shoes, they were probably pleather.  Great.  She was outclassed by a biker gang.

“A beer,” she replied.  When the bartender opened his mouth to ask what kind, Roxanne only pointed to the man a few stools away.  “Whatever that is, it will work for me.”

The bartender glanced over at the other man, nodded and grabbed a chilled beer mug.  Less than thirty seconds later, a beer with a foam top was placed in front of her.

Roxanne stared at the beer for a long moment, then glanced at the papers next to her.  “A freaking cat!” she snapped, then lifted the beer and, despite the vile taste, downed half of it.

The deep laughter behind her warned Roxanne that her day was about to get even worse.  She recognized that voice, but she wasn’t going to turn around.  Not this time.  She wasn’t going to do it!  Besides, there was no way that he was here!  Not in Carlton, Colorado!  The town was too small to contain the man she hoped and prayed was not behind her.

“That was mighty impressive!” the laughing voice commented.

Resigned, Roxanne turned her head and, sure enough, the man she hated more than anyone else in the world was sliding onto the bar stood next to her.

“Please,” she whispered, burying her face in her hands, “let this nightmare end!”

His husky laugh told her that God had not granted her wish.  “What brings the prim and ever-so-proper Roxy to the wrong side of the tracks?”

Oh, how she hated that nickname!  Every horrible thing Roxanne’s mother had said about being a hussy, about being evil and slutty…they all flooded to mind when Doctor Abe McCullough said her name like that.

“What on earth are you doing here?” she demanded, not bothering to look at him.  She couldn’t.  Not tonight.  She’d look at him tomorrow.  Or more specifically, she’d look at his perfectly knotted tie and his impressively pressed, tailored shirt.  The man was tall and handsome, with a hard, square jaw and a five o’clock shadow that started appearing around ten o’clock in the morning.  And eyes!  Goodness, his eyes made all the ladies swoon!  Dark, sexy eyes with just a hint of gold towards the iris!  He literally oozed charm, was a brilliant trauma surgeon, and had all the nurses cooing over him, bringing him his favorite exotic scented coffee from a specialty store – they all knew what he preferred.  Cookies were brought in as a way to impress the hunky doctor with their home-making skills.  Too often, one or more of the nurses just happened to have an “extra” sandwich, which they offered to him so that he wouldn’t starve. Right!  It was disgusting!

“It won’t work,” he commented.

Roxanne sighed, keeping her eyes resolutely on her beer.  “I’m not going to ask,” she whispered to herself.  “I’m not going to ask!”  There was silence for a long moment.  She squeezed her eyes tightly shut to try to block out the temptation. But she couldn’t stand it. “What isn’t going to work?”

“The mug.  You can’t kill it with your bare hands.”

Roxanne opened her eyes and stared down at the beer mug.  Sure enough, she’d tightened her grip on the mug until her knuckles were white.

She released the beer and flexed her fingers.  “Doctor…” she turned, ready to blast him in an effort to make him leave her alone.  But the sight of the man sitting next to her stopped whatever words she might have uttered.

Doctor Abe McCullough, sexy man-extraordinaire and the heartthrob of every female within a fifty mile radius of their fair city…had tattoos!  Not just one, either.  Nope.  First of all, instead of the ironed and starched dress shirts he normally wore, today he had on a soft faded blue tee shirt that was tight around his arms and chest.  Loose around his waist but…dear heaven!  Where had he been hiding all of those muscles?!  The man was ripped!  Holy cow!

Her eyes moved over his broad shoulders, down over bulging biceps and lower, noticing the taut muscles barely hidden by the soft cotton.  When her gaze moved back up, they took in the dark swirls and lines along one arm.  She wasn’t sure what the design represented and she didn’t care!  Muscles and tattoos and…oh my!

Holy cow!

She’d already said that, Roxanne thought.  Maybe several times.  But the muscles rippling along his arms and shoulders and…good grief, everywhere…deserved a few more “Holy Cows!”  He was quite literally buff, ripped…whatever was the current vernacular for a man with that many muscles.

“You’re ogling,” he commented archly.

Yeah, but…holy cow!

“Do you bench press a bus every morning?” she exclaimed, her eyes once again moving to his arm.  Just one arm.  One large tattoo that darkened the tanned skin on his shoulder, bicep, and forearm.  There was a bit of red mixed in with a few lines and she wasn’t aware of her tongue darting out to wet her lips.  Because…good grief!  The supremely confident Doctor Abe was hotter than she’d expected!

Okay, so if she hadn’t been avoiding him for the past month since he’d come on board, she’d probably have seen him in his scrubs and seen that long, sexy tattoo and all those amazing, shocking muscles. But since she scheduled the surgical rooms, she knew when he would be around.  Roxanne made sure that she was in her office or, even better, out of the office, when he was scheduled for surgery.

“Do I get to return the ogling?” he asked, leaning forward as if they were sharing a joke.

Roxanne jerked backwards, unware of her mouth hanging open as she gazed into those fascinating eyes of his.  How had she missed those gold flecks?  “Seriously, I know how many hours you work,” she snapped.  “When do you find the time to work out?”

He shrugged and her eyes were pulled back down to that tattoo covered arm.  Yum!  Roxanne had never thought to be attracted to a man with a tattoo.  But then, she’d never seen Doctor Abe like this before!  He was hotness on a whole new level!

Doctor Abe simply shrugged.  “Some doctors drink after a difficult surgery.  Others have sex.”  He grinned and her attention was pulled to his lips.  “I train.”

Despite her vow to be distant, she couldn’t hide her curiosity.  “Train?  How?”

“Martial arts.  Boxing.  Karate.  Krav Maga.  Anything that focuses my mind on something other than the surgery I just left behind.”

“Ah,” she replied, impressed and…amazed.  “And are you good?”

His smile widened.  “Yes. I’m very good.”

Were they still talking about the training?  Somehow, she didn’t think so.

Turning away, Roxanne snorted quietly and picked up her beer.  The papers beside her elbow reminded her of her morning and she sighed.  “Go away. I’m getting drunk.”

He lifted a hand and the bartender brought him a Corona in the bottle.  “I didn’t think you were the type to drink.”

She took a long sip of the beer, smothering her cringe of revulsion as she carefully set the mug back onto the polished bar.  “Why would you think that?”

“Because you’re too uptight,” he took a long swallow of his beer.

“I am not uptight!” she snapped.

“Sure you are,” he teased.  “You run our surgical unit as if you were invading a foreign country.”  He winked at her.  “Fortunately, you’re good, so most of us don’t mind.”

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