I never should have slept with Colin McCoy.
Keeping You, an all-new laugh-out loud small-town romance from Lena Hendrix is available now!
When I moved to my sister’s small town, I was looking for a fresh start—no more shallow relationships, no snotty fake friends, and definitely no charming, dirty-talking musicians.
We had a fun, red-hot night together and we agreed that hooking up was a mistake, a one-time thing. But when my dream bakery location happens to be right next door to his bar, every day I’m forced to see that chiseled jawline and remember the feel of his incredible body on mine.
No. I’m starting over. I have rules. No more bad habits, definitely no falling in love. No matter how hard he tries, hooking up with him again would prove I’m the flake everyone expects me to be.
But here I am, stuck between wanting to make something of my life and wanting to grab him and make another delicious mistake.
Two weeks after I gave the one finger salute to my former boss, I pulled my vintage matte black Chevelle onto Main Street of Chikalu Falls, Montana. The ninety-minute drive left behind the flats and wound through beautiful mountain highways.
Chikalu Falls was nestled at the base of the mountains and from the church on the corner, to the grocer on the right, it always felt slower and a little like stepping back in time. Childhood memories of the summers Jo and I spent with Grandma Nana and Pop flooded back to me.
A bubble of excited energy squirmed in my chest. Nearly every person I passed raised their hand in greeting, and whether they knew me or not, I waved back enthusiastically. I peered over the steering wheel as I entered town to watch someone rolling white paint high on the town’s water tower.
Are they painting over a drawing of a dick?
I shook my head and laughed about this quirky town—Jo always had great stories about it. I passed the town bar and dance hall, The Dirty Pigeon, and fractionally slowed my car. Willing myself to look straight ahead, I still managed to sneak a side-eyed peek at the front door.
My palms felt sweaty against the steering wheel. It wasn’t all that long ago I spent the most incredible, panty-melting night of my life with the bar’s owner, Colin. My chest warmed just thinking about it and a tingle settled between my legs.
Get it together. You both knew it was just one, hot night.
Squashing the thought, I pressed the gas harder and cruised forward, leaving behind all thoughts of Colin’s thickly roped arms pulling me close and the scrape of his stubble against the sensitive skin of my neck.
Four turns later, I pulled into the hidden driveway of Joanna’s farm property. The long and winding gravel path opened up to a stunning piece of land.
Off the road, the Big House was a gorgeous white home with black shutters and a huge wraparound porch. A small river cut through the landscape and near it were several little cottages. I wasn’t sure where Jo wanted me to stay, so I parked near the house and found her sitting on the veranda, waiting for me.
“There’s my girl!” I called up to Jo. The excitement expanded in my chest at seeing my sister after so long. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and a sense of relief.
She pulled me into a tight hug, “I’ve missed you!” Jo and I used to share an apartment, but with her now living in Chikalu Falls, it felt like an eternity since we’d been together.
“Mmmm,” she replied, squeezing me a little harder. “I just still can’t believe you’re really here.”
“It didn’t take too long to sublease my apartment and I need a change of scenery.”
“Well,” she moved away from me to sweep a wide arm around the impressive, rural land, “this is definitely a change!”
We both laughed and held each other tightly.
It was fantastic to see Jo’s face so full of life and happiness. I shooed away the brief pang of jealousy. She deserved this life and it suited her.
“You’re welcome to stay for however long you need. Mr. Bailey is in Cottage Four, but all the others are open. I think the best view is from Cottage Two.”
“Cottage Two it is! Help me unpack?”
Jo looked past me to see my car practically bursting at the seams with bags and luggage. She didn’t know it, but the trunk was full, too.
“How is it possible you have so much shit?”
“Well,” I answered, “a girl’s gotta look her best.” I winked at her and lifted a shoulder.
“Honestly, Honey. If you’re going to survive here, you at least need one pair of good work boots.” She eyed my ankle booties and their sharp heels warily, but then we got to unpacking.
It only took a few—ok, fine, several—trips for Joanna and me to lug my clothes into the cottage, but we managed to get it all in. After she helped me put some things away and stack the suitcases in the closet, we stood together in the dimly lit kitchen. Jo wrapped her arm around my shoulders and squeezed as we both looked out the large picture window overlooking the riverbank.
“You did what so many people are afraid to,” she whispered in my ear. “You started over.”
My eyes misted and a small, scratchy lump formed in the back of my throat. I pressed my tongue to the roof of my mouth and willed the tears away.
I cleared my throat and took a deep breath. “Thanks, Jo.”
I hoped with every fiber of my being that I could get it right this time.
* * *
After getting cleaned up, Joanna and I decided to meet her fiancé, Lincoln, at The Pidge. A flutter danced in my stomach at the possibility of running into Colin. He was Lincoln’s best friend and hot as fuck. I glanced around to see if I would spot him. Bumping into someone I’d slept with had never been a big deal before, but Colin just did something to my insides.
Since he was Lincoln’s best friend, Colin and I had been thrown together to help with Jo’s fundraiser. At the time, she hosted a fishing event for veterans and he insisted that the bar cater for it. The food was spectacular, and his generosity did not go unnoticed. Neither did his thick arms, hazel eyes, or that tight ass.
I needed to think about something—anything—else.
“Can you believe this place?” Jo was perched on a stool across the high-top table.
“It is pretty incredible,” I admitted. The walls were covered with old photographs of life in Chikalu Falls mixed with posters for local bands. It had a real honky tonk vibe but with an upscale flair to it. The name might suggest it was a dive, but the parts of my brain trained in marketing knew it was intentional. My eyes swooped across the stage and dance floor, still secretly hoping to catch a glimpse of Colin.
No. Remember the rules? No men. Especially men who make you tingle straight down to your toes.
“Well aren’t you two a sight for sore eyes,” Lincoln’s deep, rumbling voice had us looking behind us. He wrapped both arms around Jo and left a trail of kisses up her neck. She giggled and tried to move away, but it was obvious she loved the attention of her man.
“Hey, Linc,” I said between sips of my vodka gimlet.
“I heard you stepped away from your old job. Planning to stay a while?”
“More like lit my old life on fire and danced on the ashes. But yeah. You’re stuck with me now.”
We all laughed but a heaviness lingered around my shoulders. I took another sip of my drink and added, “I still need to figure out what the fuck I’m going to do about a job. But that,” I finished my drink in a burning gulp, “is a worry for another night. Who needs another?”
Jo lifted her glass and Lincoln unwound himself from her. “I got this, ladies. You just sit back and enjoy.”
Joanna’s gaze wandered over her fiancé’s muscled back as he walked up to the bar.
“You going to eye fuck him all night, or what?” I teased. A blush immediately rose to her cheeks.
“Cut it out.” She slapped her napkin against my arm, but not before I caught her sneaking another peek and drooling over him again.
When I followed her gaze to the bar, my heart sputtered and my mouth went dry. Colin McCoy was behind the old wooden bar, filling glasses from the tap with beer in beautiful shades from dark amber to gold.
“You know,” Jo added hopefully, “now that you’re in town again, maybe you and Colin could pick up where you left off.”
I tried to sound as indifferent as I could manage despite the warmth feathering across my chest. “Nah. I think it was just a one-time thing.” Over my drink, I took a peek at him again.
Fuck. That man is a walking orgasm.
“We agreed it would be better to be friends—especially with you and Lincoln now back together. Your friend group doesn’t need us tangled together and complicating matters. Plus, we were separated by ninety miles.” I shrugged my shoulders and flicked my eyes to the dance floor and hoped to look confidently unaffected by his presence.
“Well not anymore. He’s right here.” Jo bumped my shoulder and winked. Since getting together with Lincoln she’d become a hopeless romantic.
I can’t even handle being around him—he’s too tempting and my life is a literal train wreck right now.
As if my thoughts wound through the crowded bar and tapped him on the shoulder, his eyes flicked up and locked onto mine. The familiar thrum of desire bloomed in my chest, sinking lower into my belly.
It really was a fucking shame that I had sworn off meaningless sex—all sex for that matter—before getting to see Colin McCoy naked again.
Damn, the things I would do to you.
Colin’s eyes didn’t leave mine, but a smile quirked his lip up and that lopsided grin was nearly my undoing.
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Sunny Shelly’s Review: 5 Stars
Another great book from Lena Hendrix! I adored her debut novel, Finding You, and have been looking forward to Keeping You. Honey is Jo’s sister from Finding You, and I was excited to read her story, see how she starts her life over in Chickalu Falls after a career faux pas in big-city Butte. She’d had a one-night stand with Colin before Keeping You takes place, and I loved seeing how this second-chance romance came together.
Honey had big plans when she moved to Chickalu. She was kind of flighty and a bit of a screw-up, so she had a list to guide her through opening a bakery in her new town. Meanwhile, Colin is already an established business owner, but he is crumbling inside over the immense guilt he feels for his perceived role in his brother’s suicide. But Honey caught his eye months ago, and he hasn’t been able to get her out of his mind. Even though she’s so focused on building her bakery, Colin swoops in and woos her before she even realizes what is happening! Swoon! But Colin has been lying to her by omission, and when the truth is revealed, will it break the bond that they’ve formed?
I thought that LH handled Colin’s family’s grief brilliantly. I read in the author notes that she is a survivor of sibling suicide herself, so it’s no wonder that she wrote Colin’s emotional turmoil so well. There is a really lovely scene between Colin and his mom where he lets it all out, and I loved that vulnerability.
So far, the Chickalu Falls series has been a big hit for me, and the teaser that LH dropped at the end about Maggie and Deck’s upcoming story… I can’t wait!
I received an advanced copy and voluntarily left a review.
Lena Hendrix is the author of steamy, contemporary romance novels. Her love of romance started with her grandmother’s Harlequin paperbacks and now Lena’s stories are full of heart, humor, and plenty of strong Alphas with marshmallow insides-she likes her coffee hot and her heroes hotter!
Lena lives in the midwest with her husband, three children, and two derpy Australian Cattle Dogs. When she’s not writing or devouring new novels, you can find her hiking, camping, fishing, and sipping a spicy margarita!