Title: Out of My League
Author: Jessica Prince
Series: Hope Valley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
After years of war, Lincoln Sheppard thought he’d left the violence and ugliness behind. He was content with the life he built for himself. Then the woman down the street came in and shook everything up.
All Eden Brenner ever wanted was to have a place to call home. She finally found that in Hope Valley. Then she went and fell in love with the man a few houses down the first time she laid eyes on him. There was just one problem. Women like her didn’t catch the attention of men like him. He was totally and completely out of her league. And to make matters worse, when her past comes knocking, the beautiful world she’s built for herself is at risk of crumbling to the ground.
When danger forces Eden into his arms, Lincoln begins to see her in a whole new light, and he suddenly finds himself wanting things he never expected. And he wants them all with the shy, clumsy woman from down the street. But when the truth comes out, that proves nearly impossible. Now he’s fighting the hardest battle of his life, and the stakes are higher than ever. Protect the woman he’s falling for while trying to win her heart at the same time.
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“What the hell was that?” I finally managed to ask on a heavy exhale.
“Two weeks, buttercup,” he said on a growl. “Two fuckin’ weeks I’ve had to watch you at a distance, and the first words you speak to me in that time are to jump down my goddamn throat.”
I tried to step back, but his arms tightened. “Well, what did you think I’d do when I found out?”
“Exactly this,” he said smugly.
“Wait. You wanted me to come in here and blow up at you?”
“If that’s what it took to get you to stop pretendin’ like I don’t exist, then yeah. I’ve been going outta my goddamn mind for two weeks, Edie.”
“That makes two of us!” I cried. “Only mine’s all your fault.”
“It was a means to an end. One way or another, I was gonna keep you safe. I wanted to do it my damn self, but you wouldn’t allow that, so I did the next best thing, with a little added incentive to my boys to do everything in their power to annoy you to the point that you’d let me back in so I could look after you.”
Putting my hands to his chest, I shoved as hard as I possibly could. It was like trying to move a mountain. “For god’s sake,” I gasped. “Do you have any idea how insane that sounds?”
“Haven’t been feelin’ all that fuckin’ sane the past couple weeks, buttercup,” he clipped in return.
I gave him another shove, and another, and another until he finally relented and let me go. “Don’t say that,” I snapped back just as hard, causing him to tilt his head in confusion.
“Don’t say what?”
“Don’t call me buttercup like that. Not when you’re pissed. You gave me that name when we first met, and I’ve freaking loved it ever since. Don’t you use it sarcastically. That’s not fair.”
Everything suddenly shifted. Lincoln’s anger and irritation faded away, and his face took on that soft warmth that made my heart flip. “I’m sorry, baby,” he said so gently that I thought I might break down and cry right then and there. “I promise not to do it again.”
God, I was a wreck. I was so off-kilter I didn’t know up from down. “Jesus, Linc. What are we doing here? This isn’t normal behavior. It’s totally unhealthy.”
He crossed his arms over his chest, and for the first time since storming in, I actually noticed what he was wearing. Running shoes, a pair of loose black basketball shorts that hung tantalizingly off his narrow hips, and another Under Armour shirt, only this one was white and sleeveless. And damn, did he look good.
He watched me closely as he leaned back casually against the door, cutting off any hopes I might have had of escaping. “You’re right, Edie. Nothing about this is normal, but I’m fine with that.”
“How can you say that?” I asked in frustration, the tsunami of emotions inside of me making it impossible to think straight. “How could you ever be okay with this?”
“Because I’ve never cared about someone the way I care about you. I was just fine with the way my life was before you came along, Eden. I never considered marriage or kids or settling down. As far as I was concerned, none of that shit was for me. Then I met you.”
But he wasn’t finished. “You told me that what we had was real for you from the very beginning. What I didn’t realize was that it was the same for me too.” All the air expelled from my lungs on a painful exhale. “When I held you on the dance floor that first night, everything changed. You’re genuine and beautiful. I don’t just want you, Eden, I want to know you. You’re different than any woman I’ve ever been with.”
“I make you laugh,” I whispered, the words spilling out of their own accord.
He nodded and lowered his voice. “You make me laugh.” Pushing off the wall, he closed the distance between us and placed a palm on either side of my neck, using his thumbs to tip my face up. “And you make it so easy. I didn’t think that was possible, baby.”
“Nona told me you don’t laugh a lot,” I said quietly. “I didn’t believe her because I’d seen it myself every time we were together.”
“That was because of you, Edie. Only you.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. Lifting onto my toes, I slammed my lips against his and kissed him with everything I was.
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Born and raised around Houston Texas, Jessica spent most of her life complaining about the heat, humidity, and all around pain in the ass weather. It was only as an adult that she quickly realized the cost of living in Houston made up for not being able to breathe when she stepped outside. That’s why God created central air, after all.
Jessica is the mother of a perfect little boy–she refuses to accept that he inherited her attitude and sarcastic nature no matter what her husband says.
In addition to being a wife and mom, she’s also a wino, a coffee addict, and an avid lover of all types of books–romances still being her all time favs. Her husband likes to claim that reading is her obsession but she just says it’s a passion…there’s a difference. Not that she’d expect a boy to understand.
Jessica has been writing since she was a little girl, but thankfully grew out of drawing her own pictures for her stories before ever publishing her first book. Because an artist she is not.
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