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Drunk on Men - Excerpts
Volume 1 ~ Volume 2 ~ Volume 3 ~ Volume 4 ~ Volume 5 ~ Volume 6 ~ Volume 7 ~ Volume 8
Drunk on Men by Afton Locke ©2017
Drunk on Men ~ Volume 1 ~ Excerpt
Hannah looked down at herself. It was even worse than she imagined. Sand caked her wet feet and legs. She’d never be able to put her stockings and shoes back on without ruining them. And her frock… Lord help her, it clung to her in a very provocative way. Or at least it would if she weren’t so thin. So why did his gaze heat her skin to the point of frying?
“Where are you staying?” he prompted.
She glanced across the boardwalk at her hotel. To her dismay, it appeared grander than ever against the pearly sky with its dark cedar siding set off by white trim. Grooved columns with curly things on top ringed the large porch, making it resemble a mansion.
“Wilmott Hotel,” she replied.
His head reared back as he laughed. “Wilmott Hotel? You’ll make quite an entrance soaking wet. Whatever possessed you to do such a thing? Young ladies who stay at the Wilmott don’t usually—”
“I don’t know what came over me. I’ve just never seen the ocean before.”
His lips curved into a semi-smile. “Never?”
“My aunt is sure to be looking for me, sir.” She glanced at the hotel again. “I’m going to try to return to my room, without getting thrown out.”
He adjusted his hat. “You need a blanket to cover you. Ah, there’s one.”
“No,” she called out after him as he headed toward it. “It belongs to someone. Probably those women bathing over there.”
“A few years ago, you could have been arrested for exposing bare legs.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Not that I agree with such a useless law, but—”
“Arrested?” Hannah exclaimed. “I had no idea.” That would be worse than death.
Even Esther had never been arrested.
She nibbled her fingernails as he approached the ladies. Her ocean adventure got more embarrassing by the minute. After an exchange of conversation she couldn’t hear, he picked up the blanket, carried it to her, and wrapped it around her body. Her skin warmed even more. How could she let a white man put his hands all over her, especially where everyone could see?
“What are you doing?”
“Those kind ladies agreed to let us borrow their blanket for a few minutes,” he replied. “Long enough for me to get you upstairs to your room.”
“You?” Hannah sputtered as sea water dripped off her hair onto her face. “You can’t go to my room.”
“Don’t worry,” he said as he tightened the blanket and lifted her in his arms. “I don’t plan to do anything inappropriate. My hotel is serving the midday meal in five minutes, and I don’t want to be late.”
Hannah opened her mouth, but too many words churned inside her head to choose from. “You can’t—”
But he was. Although not muscular, he carried her as if she weighed less than a small chicken. He cradled one arm around her back and the other behind her knees. The warm contact through the blanket pressed her wet clothes against her skin. The combination of heat and cold made her dizzy.
Drowning had to be easier than this.
Even Morris had never touched her so…familiarly. Her reputation as a decent Christian girl was as smudged as her dirty, wet frock. Morris’ memory didn’t fare much better.
“Put me down!” she yelled. “I don’t want you and the rest of the world staring up my dress.”
“I’m sure there’s nothing there the world hasn’t already seen, generally speaking.”
Forgive me, Morris. I don’t dare slap a white man, so I’ll turn the other cheek.
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Drunk on Men ~ Volume 2 ~ Excerpt
“You’re a bootlegger,” she stated.
He sighed and made a rude gesture with his hand and chin. “What did you think, Belle? The booze simply drops out of the sky into my bar? I am performing a necessary service for the town of Ocean Promenade.”
Excitement rippled down Belle’s arms and legs. Tonight’s joyride was the most thrilling thing she’d ever done.
“How much booze does this town drink, anyway? The Sands is the only place I see that’s even wet. I have a hard time believing you could buy a car like this on that speck of business.”
“I see you are shrewd businesswoman.” He leaned between the front seats and shot her an admiring glance. “I am much impressed. Since you ask, the product also gets shipped to Washington, Philadelphia, and New York City.”
“So, what happens next?” she asked. “Where’s the booze?”
He slid his jacket sleeve upward with two fingers and glanced at his watch. “It’s coming. Please join me in the front seat where I can see you.”
“Not with the gun lying there. A girl could get her cha chas blown off with a thing like that. Besides, how do I know you’re not planning to bump me off for knowing too much?”
“You are too beautiful to kill,” he crooned as he moved the monstrous weapon to rest against his door. “However, you have become heavily involved. I wanted to protect you from this.”
“It’s okay,” she said, shrugging as she scrambled to the front passenger seat. “I’m a big girl. I’ll survive.”
He reached over and grabbed her chin, forcing her to face him. Adrenaline flooded her body. Without thinking, she smacked him across the face.
He reared back in his seat. “What was that for?”
“Don’t manhandle me,” she said coldly. “I don’t care for it.”
She hadn’t pegged him as abusive, but she wasn’t about to take any chances. Especially in this abandoned place. She’d do a lot for money, but she refused to tolerate violence.
Please tell me you’re not one of them, Raoul. I don’t want to have to give you up.
“Bella, please. You shocked me, and I think you broke my jaw.” He stuck out his bottom lip like a little boy and dazzled her with another smile.
She couldn’t help laughing. “Oh, you’re all wet. I did not.”
“I’m only trying to make you understand something.” He leaned closer but without touching her this time. “You will see things and people who don’t want to be recognized. If you do not keep your pretty kisser shut, you could endanger your life and mine.”
Belle took a shaky breath. “Understood.”
“And it means you are my lady. You cannot walk away from me. Not after tonight.”
As if she wanted to. They sat in silence for a moment. He caressed her hand and then the thigh it lay on through the thin hem of her dress, making her breath draw in with a hiss.
“I want to show you my hotel room soon,” he said, lazily stroking. “I have a circular tub with flowing water. It is like the ocean, yes?”
“Sounds divine,” she whispered.
“We don’t have much time, and I need you to show me your loyalty.”
Belle watched, fascinated, as he reclined his seat until it lay almost horizontal.
His voice dropped very low. Very soft. “Come here, Bella.”
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Drunk on Men ~ Volume 3 ~ Excerpt
Drake scratched his head. “All right, it is the money. Because now that you have it, you don’t need me anymore. You’re ready to kick me out like yesterday’s garbage.”
Edie held him, letting his anger melt over her like butter. “Oh, Drake. I would never do that. I love you.” She paused a moment. “Does this bring back memories of being an orphan?”
He wrenched himself out of her arms. “That has nothing to do with it. Please don’t ever mention it again.”
“I need to do this,” she said, stroking his face. “How can I make you understand?”
She wasn’t sure she understood it herself. When Hannah had first shown them the hotel, she agreed with Belle. It was a mess and she wanted nothing to do with it. Then she lost Raoul and saw its potential. When she inherited her money, she saw promise, too. The entrepreneurial bug was infectious. First, Hannah had been bitten, then Belle, and finally her. And once bitten, there was no going back.
The girls had done so much for her, getting her away from Lawrence and being there for her when she lost her parents and everything she had. At last, she had a chance to pay them back. Drake was understandably upset, but he would eventually see the hotel wouldn’t affect their relationship. It would just take time and gentle persuasion.
“You’re not doing it, Edie, and that’s final,” he stated.
“You can’t tell me what to do. I’m sorry it upsets you, but I am doing it.” Despite her fists, fear poured off her in waves as she said it.
He gripped her shoulder and pulled her toward him. “Now, you listen to me. You’re mine. You’ll do what I say.”
Edie’s shoulder ached where his fingers bit into it. She squeezed her eyes shut, breathing the smell of salty air, damp, wood, and anger. Evidently, he’d forgotten how much he’d promised to change.
Why does he have to be this way? So unpredictable. So volatile.
“I—” She opened her mouth to protest, but he stepped toward her again. She braced herself for whatever he planned to do. The last thing she expected was for him to gently glide his arms around her.
“I’m not going to let my anger control me,” he bit out. “I love you. We’re going to settle this a better way.”
“How?” she asked.
“Like this,” he whispered as his lips brushed hers with the gentleness of a feather. Then more insistently as the anger simmering in both of them erupted into passion. His fresh, citrus scent enveloped her. Drugged her.
When he brought her up hard against him, she shamelessly pressed herself to his body. His mouth devoured hers, melting away every trace of hard words they’d spoken. They wouldn’t resolve anything this way, but she stopped caring.
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Drunk on Men ~ Volume 4 ~ Excerpt
She had no idea what being his muse would require today. Would he take her for a drive and stare at her legs again? Or would he strip her naked and put her on a table? The thought of it sent heat coursing under the wet folds of her bathing suit. Would he kiss her again? The memory of their last one sent dozens of tiny shivers coursing over her skin.
No, he disliked kissing. Too pedestrian, he called it.
When they reached his room, he closed the door behind him with his foot. He had one of the single rooms with one bed, a dresser, table, and chair. His notebook and pencil sat neatly on the table, forgotten for the moment. A warm whisper of wind reached out to them from the window above the bed. It fluttered the ivory-colored eyelet valance.
Like the other rooms, this one was decorated to be homey and nautical. Each dresser had seashells on it, and a seascape painting hung above each bed. Edie thought using pieces of driftwood for door stoppers was going too far, but Hannah had prevailed. Maybe they should go to Tut’s Common and discuss decorations he could use in his book. Talking would be much safer.
“Where do you want me to stand?” she asked when he put her down. Surely she was too wet and sandy to sit anywhere.
But he didn’t answer her. Suddenly, he was kissing her again. More deeply than ever before, as if he was a man dying of thirst and she was a well. He gripped the sides of her face, tangling his fingers in her wet locks. Holding her immobile while he bent down and ravaged her with his mouth.
“Clive!” she cried. “My God, Clive. I’ve wanted this—you—for so long.”
He pressed his arms around her back, squeezing her against him, into him, erasing their boundaries as separate people. The force of their embrace knocked them to their knees on the hard wooden floor. Inhaling his fresh, soapy scent, she drank from him just as deeply, never realized how long she’d starved for him.
“Clive, wait,” she said, panting after she managed to pull away. “Why are you doing this? I thought you didn’t want me.”
But he merely said, “Need you, Hannah,” before he rose, scooped her into his arms, and carried her to his bed.
Instead of placing her gently, he yanked back the covers and dumped her onto it. He appeared too possessed by passion to bother with delicacy. The gesture reminded her, more than ever, of the day they’d met.
He fumbled with his clothes, treating them like parasites he had to rip off his body as soon as possible. She barely had time to study the small pleats in the high waist of his trousers. Then he tugged on her wet bathing suit until it peeled off her like the skin of a ripe grape. The cold fabric left a trail of goose bumps on her flesh. She shivered when he lay on the bed bedside her and ran his hand down her torso like he had that evening in his cottage.
He seemed to have more than posing in mind today, though. At least she couldn’t complain that he confused her anymore. His bare erection told her exactly what he planned to do.
“Oh God, Hannah. So beautiful.”
“So are you,” she blurted out, admiring his tall and lithe nude body. His walnut curls were so tousled from pulling his brown-and-white striped shirt off, and she couldn’t resist stroking them. Or the dusting of matching hair on his chest. His serious brown-eyed gaze, usually darting everywhere except at her, scorched her flesh with intensity.
“What are you going to do?” she whispered when he leaned over her. But she knew.
“Something I should have done a long time ago.” He wiped his damp brow. “Surely you must have known?”
“Known?” She frowned. “Known what?”
“How much I’ve always wanted you.”
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Drunk on Men ~ Volume 5 ~ Excerpt
After dinner, Raoul arrived at the Doll Hall at the appointed time to discuss Belle’s future orders.
“Did we not talk recently?” he asked as his gaze slid across her royal-blue dress—from the beaded neckline to the skirt plackets exposing her legs and down to her matching shoes.
“We did. I just thought of a few more questions.” She looked around the bar. To her delight, nearly every table was filled. “It’s awfully noisy here. Let’s go upstairs to my quarters.”
He glanced around nervously and adjusted his silver scarf tie. Belle half expected him to object, but he followed her upstairs like an obedient puppy. He’d worn his boring charcoal suit, but it would come off soon enough. When she opened the door to her room, he peered inside.
“So, you just have bedroom, I see. When you said quarters, I expected a suite. Maybe is better for us to talk downstairs at the bar.”
She clasped his arm and drew him into her room, closing the door behind them.
“Your room is very…red.”
“My favorite color,” she said, stroking her hair.
A candle burned from a wall sconce, releasing a musky scent. Clasping her hands behind her back, Belle shot him a steamy-yet-misty glance.
“I have a confession,” she said in a childish voice as she set her Victrola to play a sultry female ballad.
“I’m still in love with you.”
He jerked his face away as if hot steam had burned it. “Belle, don’t do this. You know I feel the same. You’re such a good businesswoman, you feel like an extension of me in this town.”
“We are a lot alike,” she agreed.
“But I have to marry her.”
She touched his tensed arm. Stroked gently. “I know, and I’ve accepted it.”
His arm muscles relaxed under her fingers as he turned back to her. “You have?”
She slid her hands up to his shoulders, circling in toward his neck where he liked to be stroked. His eyelids fluttered closed and he drew his breath in when she ran a finger under his collar.
“But I need you tonight, Raoul. Just one last time before you tie the knot.”
He backed away from her. “I shouldn’t.”
That didn’t stop you before with me, did it? Despite the urge to spit in his face and voice her true thoughts, she concentrated on keeping her mouth warm, smiling, and seductive.
She leaned closer. Traced the rim of his ear with her tongue. His hardness leapt against her as his arms circled her body. Victory won.
“No one will ever know,” she whispered.
They headed toward the bed in a halting dance of passion, shedding clothes along the way. As she lay down under Raoul’s straining body, she glanced at her round wall clock. It was plain and modern with a black frame. How convenient she’d chosen one large enough to see from her bed.
If only they were married, making love because they loved each other. Couldn’t he want her, and her only, forsaking all others? No. He wasn’t that kind of man. She bit her lip, forcing away the emotions that tried to creep in. The plaintive music playing didn’t help.
He stroked her bare thighs as if they were precious relics while kissing her. No one kissed like Raoul. No one. His lips felt as golden as the rest of him, like kissing the sun. He smiled against her cheek. Teased and nipped with his even, white teeth.
After working so hard all her life, she adored the way he cherished her body. What if she got addicted to him all over again?
His nearness reminded her of so many things about him. The pattern of waves in his hair. The way he made lovemaking a slow journey of perfection. How did she ever stomach the clumsy, bearded man? Most of all, she remembered the way she thought about him all the time, even when he wasn’t there.
Damn. She still loved him. And what she saw in his eyes confirmed he still loved her.
His hardness skittered across her belly, making her crave him more than Edie did drinks. Passion had made her so dizzy, she longed to take him now and to heck with her plan.
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Drunk on Men ~ Volume 6 ~ Excerpt
Instead of acting nervous, Belle marched in like a general commanding the troops. The black and gold tassels of her dress switched back and forth like cat tails as she walked.
“Good evening, ladies,” she declared with a big smile. “I hope we’re not late.”
To Hannah’s shock, the ladies sat facing a podium where Mrs. Heatherton from the boarding house stood.
“Please have a seat, ladies,” she said, emphasizing the last word. “We have no desire to gaze upon your indecently exposed legs, Miss Longstreet.”
“That’s not what the fellows say,” Belle replied as she stroked her hair.
“And kindly remove your dark glasses,” Hilda told her.
Hannah grimaced when she noticed the only available chairs were in the front row. Unable to stand much longer, she slumped into hers, wishing she could disappear into thin air. Before she did, Minna caught her eye from the second row. Instead of smiling at her, she gave her a sympathetic shrug. Hannah would take what she could get.
Belle leaned her elbow on the back of the chair, jauntily crossed her legs, and twirled her glasses by one arm.
“Your tardiness,” Mrs. Heatherton drawled, “though inconsiderate, has allowed us to discuss your hotel.”
“How flattering,” Belle said as she turned around to smile at the crowd like a politician. “I imagine you all are chomping at the bit to learn how we got to be so successful.”
Hilda Heatherton stepped out from behind the podium in a dress so long even Hannah had to admit it was old-fashioned. She’d pulled back her hair even tighter, or maybe disgust twisted the woman’s face out of shape.
She rhythmically slapped a ruler into her palm like one of Hannah’s old schoolteachers who had punished her once for trying to help another student with his homework. The boy had a rough home life and had to work so hard he didn’t always get enough time to do it. She could still feel that switch stinging her backside.
And what she’d done with Clive had been a lot worse than the homework. She probably deserved a full-out whipping or worse. Heck, she might as well have plastered a scarlet letter to her forehead. It wouldn’t make her feel any guiltier or out of place than she did already.
“On the contrary, Miss Longstreet, we’ve been discussing how your hotel has violated our regulations for moral conduct.” The crowd of ladies murmured agreement.
Belle played with the metal-chain strap on her purse. “I beg your pardon?”
Mrs. Heatherton returned to the podium. “Allow me to list the violations. First of all, you serve alcohol, which violates federal law.
“Second, your short hair and hemlines are indecent.
“Third, one of your proprietresses was recently imprisoned.
“Fourth, another was recently found drunk and half-naked, about to jump off the hotel roof.
“And, finally, it’s common knowledge you perform a-a—” The woman wrinkled her nose as if she couldn’t even say the words. “A bawdy show. We assume you also engage in prostitution.”
Edie covered her face with her hands, and Hannah’s blood turned to icy slush. Those sharp words ripped apart whatever control and poise she’d managed to bring here tonight. She knew! That miserable old harpy knew what she’d done with Clive. How in the world had she ever found out?
Maybe Clive’s wife knew and planned to come back and murder her in her sleep. She couldn’t shake the image of those green bills sitting on her nightstand.
“I didn’t want the money,” she whispered.
Belle’s sharp elbow in her ribs silenced whatever else she might have said.
“I assure you we are not prostitutes,” Belle said calmly, studying her nails. “We’re business owners. Isn’t the purpose of a business—and this silly society—to make more money?”
“Not at the expense of decency,” Hilda insisted. “We need to be respected and taken seriously by the other business owners in this town. Otherwise, they’ll run us over.”
“I disagree,” Belle replied. “Money talks, no matter what color your skin is or which equipment you were born with between your legs. Now, when do we get to eat? I’m starved, and those cakes look divine.”
When Mrs. Heatherton handed Belle an official-looking document, Hannah peered over her shoulder to read it. She clapped her hand over her mouth to stifle her gasp.
“You have two weeks to clean up your behavior,” Hilda stated. “If, by then, you have not stopped serving liquor and ceased your lascivious forms of entertainment, the Ladies Organized Business and Society League of Ocean Promenade will shut down your hotel.”
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Drunk on Men ~ Volume 7 ~ Excerpt
Raoul draped an arm around her and gave her shoulders a little squeeze. “Edie. What a nice surprise. Did Belle and Hannah come with you?”
She frowned and turned her attention back to her drink. “N-no. I wanted to be alone.”
“Did you ladies have a little spat?”
She shook her head. “I’m afraid we had something much bigger than that. Belle—”
He gazed at her expectantly, his elegant features warm and caring. She’d never thought much of him one way or another, but he acted very charming. At first, she felt embarrassed to have him see her here. Now she welcomed the company. She needed to unload her terrible burden, but she didn’t think it would be a good idea. Not yet. Not until she’d figured out the best thing to do.
Belle should go to jail for what she’d done, but Edie still wasn’t sure if she should be the one to turn her in. It would be better if Belle owned up to her crime and turned herself in. Decision would come tomorrow. Tonight, she just needed to numb the pain.
“What about Belle?” he prompted.
His face was so close to hers she could detect his subtle cologne. It smelled expensive.
“Nothing,” she said quickly. “She did something t-terrible.”
An amused grin crossed his face. “Did she now? And what did she do that was so terrible?” He talked to her like a child, and she liked it.
“I’d rather not say,” she replied, signaling the bartender with her empty glass.
Raoul frowned at her. “You’re drinking. I thought you had quit.”
She shrugged. “I changed my mind.”
Edie was floating. The last drink had hit her with the full force of a gale wind. Suddenly, she found it difficult to sit straight on her chair. How strange. After all the training she’d had growing up, sitting straight as an arrow came naturally to her.
“I’m glad you’re here,” he said into her ear. “But you must stop crying. I cannot bear it.”
Very gently, he lifted a finger and wiped the tears off her cheeks. Something warm fluttered through Edie’s body, and it wasn’t from the drinks. It was because of the man. If only she didn’t keep forgetting his name.
“Poor Drake,” she moaned on a fresh outpouring of tears. “I miss him so.”
“You loved him very much,” Raoul said. “That is plain to see.”
Edie nodded, so relieved to have someone to talk to. “I’d do anything to have him back. Just for a few hours. Just to be held in his arms again.”
The entire bar became a boat shifting in the tide. It dipped in one direction and then the other. The only steady object was the man’s arm around her. Keeping her safe. Whatever happened, she could not leave his embrace.
“I have to figure it out,” she said.
He held her closer. “Figure what out, sweetheart?”
“Doll…dolls. Three…two…or one?” she babbled. Why had talking become so difficult? His touch and velvety voice intoxicated her more than the drinks.
“Your hotel?” he asked.
She rubbed her forehead. “I think so. Oh, I don’t know anymore.”
“Don’t worry yourself about it. I’ll take care of it. Of you.”
As if to prove it, he stroked her chin with his thumb. Molten heat drenched her core, making her dizzier.
Raoul. Belle’s man. She was sure Belle loved him nearly as much as she loved Drake. His arm was wrapped so tightly around her, and he held one of her hands. She merely had to raise her mouth and it would be…oh, so very close to his.
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Drunk on Men ~ Volume 8 ~ Excerpt
Tears ran down her own cheeks. “Why, Raoul? Why did you do such a thing?”
“Because I love you,” he said, fixing his steady gaze on her face.
She hugged him so hard he couldn’t breathe. Nor did he want to. He slipped an arm around her back, wondering how he could ever have cheated on her. Knowing, in his bones, he’d never do it again. Would never even be tempted to do it again. The challenge would be convincing her he’d changed.
“Whatever will the ladies think?” she asked, coughing out a laugh.
“I don’t care anymore. I’m done with them.” He gripped her wrist, probably hard enough to suppress the blood flowing to her hand. “The only woman for me is you.”
She shook her head. For once, she didn’t seem to know what to say to him.
“If I’d simply told you with words, you wouldn’t have believed me. I haven’t made love to anyone since the last time with you.”
He chose not to tell her how close he’d come to it in the staff bathroom, though. Maybe he should. That moment had brought him here.
“You clearly want to be more than friends,” she stated. “Shouldn’t you have asked me before doing something so drastic?”
“There is no other woman for me,” he said. “Have you never realized how much alike we are? Whether we’re friends or more depends on you.”
She fixed him with dark eyes, shiny with both shed and unshed tears. “Raoul, cheating is as much a part of you as breathing. As touching and heartfelt as your gesture is, I can’t just forget all the pain. She traced the lapel of his suit jacket. “Nor can I blindly believe it’ll never happen again.”
“I know.” He swallowed to ease the rough spot in his throat. “You’re such a good businesswoman, even in matters of love. Can we try again?”
She hesitated so long, he wasn’t sure she’d ever answer, but she finally nodded. “We can try, but it’s going to take a long time for me to trust you.”
“We have the rest of our lives, Belle.”
She slid the black box aside and perched on the conference table. The softness in her eyes told him she was receptive to whatever he might have in mind.
“Let’s just hold each other,” he whispered.
“Yes, let’s. It sounds perfect,” she replied.
While she sat and he stood, they embraced for endless minutes. Unable to hold still, he stroked the slippery fabric covering her back. Meanwhile, her hands slipped under his suit jacket, warming him through his shirt. Their breathing increased until the hot little breaths she blew near his ear made him ache to slip inside her again.
“I can’t go slow,” he uttered. “Not this time.”
Too much at stake. Too many tears.
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