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Shame the Devil Sneak Preview

Shame the Devil Sneak Preview

Book 3: Portland Devils

Coming November 14, 2020.

The thing about Thor is, he’s great at swinging that hammer. But he doesn’t settle down.

Harlan Kristiansen may not be good at many things, but he can sure catch a pass. He’s an All-Pro at charming a room, too, and then there’s that Norse God thing. He can even figure out how to tackle a woman and save her from a charging bison.

On skis.

What happens when you drop that game-winning pass, though, and your house is too big, too weird, and too empty? When your dad’s a mean drunk, your mom took off a long time ago and stayed gone, and all your money can’t keep your little sister safe? You fall back on what you know, that’s what. Hey, somebody has to swim in the shallow end of the pool.

Jennifer Cardello is good at lots of things. She knows how to get the most out of the cheapest cuts of meat, how long after the expiration date you can still use any food, and how to be indispensable to her employer. And as for faking an orgasm? She could win an Oscar. But surely a woman who’s been trying to fade into the background for more than half her life so she doesn’t have to hear the whispers, a woman who’s lost her mom, is losing her job, and is sending her baby girl off to college—and trying to figure out how to pay for it—is entitled to one unforgettable night.

In thirty-four years.

With a great guy she never has to see again.

Until old secrets get dug up, and new ones are born.

After that? It’s anybody’s guess.

 

Check back every week for sneak-preview chapters!

­­Ch. 1 – A Frozen Scrotum

Harlan Kristiansen had a famous vertical leap. Stood to reason. You didn’t get named Super Bowl MVP as a wide receiver without one. He’d never thought much about his long jump, but he was discovering his potential. There was nothing like 2,000 pounds of furious Black Angus bull bearing down on you to focus the mind.

It wasn’t actually a long jump. It was whatever you called it when one second, you were standing with your feet on one bar of an eight-foot-tall livestock gate and your arms over the top, and the next second, the bull that had been standing crosswise to you, so you could admire his profile all the way across the damn pasture, suddenly wheeled and sprinted straight at you.

What you did was, you got yourself untangled fast, shoved off backwards exactly as far and as fast as you could go, hit the ground, and rolled away at the same time the bull’s chest hit the fence, his hot breath just about in your face and the vibration of a ton of beef against metal bars and four huge hooves skidding on frozen ground rattling your bones.

Who knew cattle-watching could be an adrenaline sport?

He’d gotten out of the way. He hadn’t lost his step that bad. It surprised him, that was all. That was why, though, when Owen Johnson’s bearded face appeared against the sludge-gray sky of five o’clock February, it wasn’t as one of the five people you meet in Heaven, or even as a Mack truck of hard-muscled aggression anchoring the O-line, but as six-five and 307 pounds of sometime-rancher in a mud-brown insulated parka and black watch cap that had both seen better days, staring down at Harlan with the incredulity he normally reserved for rookie linemen who got themselves outrushed and asking, “Why the hell are you still on the ground? It’s eighteen degrees out here. Plus the wind chill. Getting dark, too. Unless you’re waiting to be pushed out on the ice floe now that you aren’t useful to the tribe anymore, get up.”

“Thanks,” Harlan said, climbing to his feet and not brushing off the tiny, nearly dry flakes of snow from his ass, because he didn’t want to give Owen the satisfaction. “I’m fine. Good of you to ask. Thanks for the warm welcome to Wyoming, too.”

“Also, you upset my bull,” Owen said. “He hit the fence. He cost me six thousand bucks as a yearling, and I’m going to be selling his semen for a thousand bucks a pop someday soon, you wait and see. You look at his ultrasound, that meat on him is marbled like the sweetest steak you ever saw. The heart of my breeding program, and now he’s hit the fence.” He sighed.

“Yeah, well, he didn’t do me any favors, either,” Harlan said. “I thought that was the one who was supposed to be me. Shouldn’t he like me, then?”

“He is you,” Owen said. “If you mean I named him after you. Marble Hill Ranch #11. Big, good-looking, and you’d swear he’s lazy right up until he goes to work, and then he remembers what he’s there for and gets it done. Put him in the pasture with those heifers in a couple months, and he’ll be the MVP. One of my guys swears he clocked him at fifty-four services in a day, and those cows will be hanging around looking for more. One hell of a libido. Also, it looks like he won this one.” He started to grin. Slowly. It was the kind of grin that told you this was going to become a story. An offensive-line story. Harlan was going to show up at training camp this summer and be met by pawing and snorting. He could already hear it happening.

Oh. The pawing and snorting was the bull. Big, black, and mad. The bull still hated him, apparently.

“Thought you said he had a good temperament,” he told Owen. “I thought that was why you bought him. Breeding for calm, you said. Makes the meat more tender or something when the animal isn’t skittish. I wasn’t listening too closely, because you get boring, but I seem to recall that. Also, I’m discriminating these days. I’m not servicing any fifty-four heifers.”

“He has a great temperament,” Owen said. “When he doesn’t have a frostbit scrotum. Makes him cranky. Thank God it’s not going to make him sterile. Protect your scrotum, is the lesson here. Don’t stand around in a blizzard with your balls dangling in the breeze, not when it’s two degrees out.”

“Ouch,” Harlan said.

“Yeah, you’d think you’d notice your testicles getting frostbitten. And that you’d have the brains to know that that’s what the shed’s for. He’s an idiot. Another reason I named him after you. What’s a country boy doing teasing the bulls anyway? Did you fall on your head when you dropped that catch? Also, what are you doing here? Thought you were spending this week in North Dakota.”

“I decided to visit you instead,” Harlan said. “Obviously. Surprise. I was waiting for you to show up.”

“Most people wait in the house when it’s eighteen degrees. What, your dad kick you out? What did that take, a day? Just because we didn’t make it to the Super Bowl? I told you to get your own place.”

“I have my own place.” He didn’t want to talk about his dad.

“The place is supposed to be in the hometown. They name the high school field after you, and you still won’t buy a place there?”

“It’s flat,” Harlan said. “It’s boring. It’s cold, or it’s hot. It’s North Dakota. They grow sunflowers. It’s hard to get excited about sunflowers.” And my drunk father’s there, he didn’t say.

Owen held up a gloved finger. “Eighteen degrees here, remember how I said that? And not a whole lot of nightlife. It’s Wyoming. This is your alternative vacation spot? You could’ve stayed in Hawaii. The Pro Bowl sucked, sure, but you can’t beat the scenery.”

He didn’t add the other thing. That Harlan could’ve headed back to Portland. Where he also didn’t own a house, but at least he rented one. It was big. It was also weird. And empty. And he wasn’t used to this week, or he didn’t want to be used to this week. The week before the Super Bowl, when you were so antsy, it was hard to sit still, when you were doing endless press appearances, being charming by the numbers, and waiting for Sunday.

It was supposed to be their threepeat. It was going to be somebody else’s win instead.

Somebody who hadn’t leaped for that Hail Mary and come down without it. And next season was too far away. And he was in his thirties.

Owen sighed. “Come in the house, Thor. Have a beer. We’ll get some dinner and play some pool.”

Harlan did his best to glare, even though glaring wasn’t his best thing. “Don’t call me Thor. And if I wanted to go to a small-town bar, I’d have stayed in North Dakota.”

“Yeah,” Owen said, sticking his catcher’s-mitt hands in his pockets and trudging toward the ranch house like the lumbering giant he was. “I don’t feel a whole lot like hearing what we did wrong, either, and I’m not even the one who dropped the catch. Nah, I bought a pool table since you were here last. We’ll be reclusive. Just you, me, my dad, my mom, my brother, his wife, and their boys. All four of them. Game room. Foosball, pool, a couple beers, and some kind of action movie on the big screen.”

“Ah,” Harlan said, feeling better already. “A quiet night.”

“Yep. Got my dinner conversation all ready. Never going to forget the sight of you flying off that fence backwards and hitting the dirt, your arms and legs going like a cartoon.” Owen started to grin, and then he started to laugh. “Oh, man, that’s a good one. My sister-in-law’s going to work that for all it’s worth. She calls you “the sexy Viking” when she wants to rile Dane up. Guessing she does some sighing when they’re watching you play, too. That’s what you get for being so pretty. She’s going to be teasing, getting all sparkly. Good for the marriage, I think is the idea.”

“What, I’m bait?” Harlan complained.

“How do you think they got four boys? Do your charming Thor thing, like you’re an arrogant asshole but at least you know it. She’ll love it. He’ll hate it, or he’ll act like he does. He’ll try to beat you at pool, too. If you let him do it, they’ll be having that next kid for sure. Nothing like the thrill of victory. What’s nine months from February?”

Harlan said, “No. Stop.”

“Can’t help it,” Owen said. “Breeding’s in my blood. Hey, at least they have their own house. You don’t have to listen. Also, Amy wants a girl. Call it your good deed.” He pulled open the oversized door on the log-frame house and added, “One tip, though. Tonight, when my nephews get hold of the pool cues? They get excited. You might want to duck.” 

Coming November 14 – Preorder Now!

 

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