The Kissing Game

Stephanie Manning took a job at her Grandfather’s summer camp for comfort and security. Once there she meets a man named Jason Wells. Jason, a sexy ex-military man, offers her a challenge and a game that she could not resist.

The game she agrees to play with him will teach her about herself, about desire, and about the insatiable thirst for a kiss. She doesn’t know what his endgame will be, but Stephanie quickly discovers that she’s playing for keeps.

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Excerpt:

Thinking that sometimes life just sucks, I peeked through my fingers at the tire. It was still flat. Damn.

Sighing, I went back to the driver’s seat and sat down. It was hotter than hell. I sprawled out across the bench seat of the truck with my legs dangling, left with the knowledge that I was stranded on a dirt road with no cell phone and no hope of help.

The crunch of gravel and rumble of a motor caught my attention; then suddenly it stopped. I wondered if I’d imagined the noise, but figured I hadn’t been out in the sun long enough to be suffering from a heatstroke. I sat up as a man came into view. He leaned on the open door of the truck and looked me over. “No spare?”

I plucked off my sunglasses and sighed. “It’s rented.”

“You should always check for a spare when you rent a vehicle, even if the rental guy swears it’s there.”

“I’ll put that on my list of things to do for the next time I have to rent,” I responded in all seriousness. “If it had been on my list I would have done it.”

“What list?”

I pulled my notebook out, flipped to the right page and handed it to him. A smile played on his lips while he read my checklist. “I see.”

I took my notebook back and sighed. “Are you going to help me?”

“Absolutely.” He leaned down so that we were face-to-face. “Do you have a list I should follow?”

“No. I’ve never needed rescuing before.” He took a few steps back from the truck as I scooted forward on the seat and stood.

A sleek motorcycle was parked to the rear of my wounded vehicle. “I should be thankful you came along. I’d be happier if you’d come along in a car.”

He grinned. “It’s a beautiful day for a ride.”

“It’s one hundred and three,” I responded and took a good look at him. He had short, dark brown hair and tanned skin, with a military look to him. Normally I found this look unattractive. “You don’t look crazy.”

“I’m quite sane.” He touched my face, then said, “You’re starting to get a little pink. I can take you back to my place so you can call the rental place.”

“I probably shouldn’t take a ride from a stranger.”

“If I wanted to kill you I could do it right here.” He motioned toward his bike. “It’s not a white horse, but it’ll have to do.”

“Take off your sunglasses.”

He obliged, not asking why I wanted him to do it. He had dark green eyes. My grandmother had always said that eyes were the windows to the soul. I was never sure I believed it, but looking into his eyes I felt relieved that he was there. “Do you have an extra helmet?”

“No.” He shook his head. “You’ll wear mine. We’re only about a half mile from my house.”

* * * *

Screwing up the courage I normally reserved for public speaking engagements, I slid onto the back of his motorcycle and hoped like a fool that closing my eyes would make the situation tolerable. He pulled my hands from his hips and wrapped them around his waist so that I was plastered against his back. Linking my fingers together, I tried to ignore the vibrating machine between my legs and the two hundred plus pounds of man in my arms. It was a lost cause on both counts.

Opening up my eyes as we made a sharp turn, I caught sight of a large log home. It was lovely, in a rough-hewn sort of way, and the glass in the windows was sparkling clean. “Very pretty.”

“Thanks.” He motioned me to get off the back.

He waited while I slid off the motorcycle before he cut the engine and settled the bike on its kickstand. I plucked off the helmet off and handed it to him. “Your wife has great taste. The flowers are beautiful.”

“No wife,” he murmured and glanced around the yard. “Just a very expensive lawn service.”

“Oh.” No wife. That meant I was entering a single man’s home. I swallowed and offered him a smile. “Where’s that phone?”

He grinned. “Yes, let’s get to the phone so at least one other human being will know you are here at my mercy.”

I took off my backpack as I followed him up the stairs, briefly distracted by the porch swing. If I hadn’t been so damn hot, I might have sat down on it.

The moment I entered his home I was met with a blast of the most beautiful thing man has ever created, central air. “This is horrible. I didn’t ask your name.”

“Jason Wells.” He handed me a portable phone and motioned towards another room. “I’m going to get you some water. Make your call. There is a magazine on the coffee table with my address on it.”

* * * *

The phone at the rental company rang ten times before someone picked it up. “Hi, this is Stephanie Manning. I rented a truck from your agency this morning. On my way to my final destination, I got a flat tire. There was no spare tire available, so now I’m stranded.”

They didn’t have anything soothing to tell me. It would be at least an hour before they could have someone out with a replacement vehicle. After I hung up, I took the bottled water Jason handed me. “Just an hour.”

“I could take you into town.”

“I wouldn’t want to go that far without a helmet.”

“I have a car.” He sat down in a chair across from me. “Or we can spend this time getting to know each other, Stephanie.”

“I’m Carlton Manning’s granddaughter.” It was the only thing I could think to say. Clarksville, Georgia was unincorporated and so small that my grandfather knew everyone and their dog. Frustrated, I blew air out through my lips and glanced at him.

“I know.” He inclined his head. “I knew when I saw the list. He does that list thing too.”

“It was one of the many useful things he taught me.” I put my wallet back in my backpack and zipped it. “I’ve been traveling for nearly nine hours.”

“Where did you pick up the truck?”

“At the airport when I landed in Atlanta. After an eight-hour flight, getting behind the wheel was relieving.” I took a deep drink of my water. “How do you know my grandfather?”

“I own half the land he has his summer camp on.” He stood. “Let’s have some lunch.”

Curious. My grandfather hadn’t mentioned selling part of the camp. I followed him into the kitchen, trying to think of a casual way to bring up his ownership of half of the summer camp. I looked at him and offered a smile. “I must be ruining your day.”

He glanced to me. “I had nothing planned that can’t be done another day.”

“Thank you.”

“Carl would have my hide if I didn’t take care of his favorite grandkid.”

I chuckled. “How’d you end up owning half of the camp?” Yep, that’s me—so subtle.

“Carl needed help.” Jason shrugged. “My parents dumped me at his place every summer, so it’s like home. I couldn’t let him lose it, and didn’t want a land developer parking a subdivision in my backyard.”

He motioned toward the window and I was surprised to see the lake that I had played in as a child. Across the water was my grandfather’s summer camp. “Oh, well I was practically there.”

“Indeed.” He opened his fridge. “It’s too hot for real food. How does a sandwich strike you?”

“Sounds good.” Just about everything he said sounded good and I figured I was in a little bit of trouble on that front.

“Did you want to wait here for your replacement vehicle?”

“Yes,” I agreed. “There is no need to add to the confusion already established between me and the rental company.” I slipped up onto a barstool and watched him moving around his kitchen. “Ex-military?”

“Air Force.” He glanced towards me. I really liked his eyes and to be truthful, I really liked everything else about him too. He was built well, without being overly muscular. “What about you?”

“I graduated from college a few weeks ago. I majored in education.”

“You’re going to join Carl at the camp?”

“It was always my intention.” I frowned. “However, I didn’t realize he’d sold half of it.”

“I make no decisions concerning the camp, Stephanie. Carl pays me a small stipend yearly for the use of the land that I own, mostly because he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Also, my three nephews attend his camp for free.”

I still wasn’t pleased that my grandfather had sold half of the camp to pay his bills. “How much money did you give my grandfather?”

“You’ll have to ask him,” Jason returned and then set a sandwich in front of me. “Mayo or mustard?”

I shook my head. “Neither.”

“I’m sure Carl will tell you all you want to know about the land and why he sold it.” Jason went to the refrigerator and pulled out two bottles of water. He opened one and offered it to me. I blushed, realizing I’d already drained the first one he’d given me.

Taking the water, I wondered why my grandfather trusted this man. It was also rather disconcerting that I wanted to as well. With the camp so close, I was no longer really stranded. “I’m thinking I’ll just walk around the lake to the camp.”

“Carl isn’t at the camp. One of his lady friends is picking out furniture today and he offered to help. Also, if you move to another location, it will be even longer before you get another vehicle from the rental place.”

I nodded. My grandfather had become a social butterfly since my grandmother died. I didn’t begrudge him. It was difficult for him to be alone. “I’d planned to keep the truck for a week until I could speak with my grandfather about using a camp vehicle or if I needed to go ahead and purchase.” Looking to Jason, I raised one eyebrow. “Lady friends?”

“His words, not mine. As for transportation, he has several that might suit your needs. He told me already that he only plans to offer one session this year and that will be late in the summer. We’ve had the cabins renovated.”

“I’m glad you get along with my grandfather so well.” I watched him, and wondered if he had any ‘lady friends’.

“He’s a good man and I give him credit for my being semi-normal.” He sat down beside me. “However, he never mentioned how attractive you were.”

I raised an eyebrow. “I’m sure if Grandmother was still alive you would have gotten an earful. The moment I graduated high school she started looking for a husband for me.”

“She was a great lady. I regret that I was out of the country when she passed.”

I nodded. “Grandfather did much better then I thought. She was sick a very long time. I later realized he was relieved she no longer suffered.”

“You never spent your summers at the camp.”

“No, my mother didn’t like that it was co-ed. I was only allowed to visit when the summer camp was closed.” I smirked. “So, I went to an all-girl summer camp that had a boy’s camp across the lake. Once she found that out, I started spending my summers at home. In this day and age, summer camp is something of a quaint ideal. Most of the ones I remember are long gone.”

“Carl has done a lot to make sure he survived. He has an internet center so kids can email their families. They get an hour of online time a day.”

“I remember when he bought the computers.” I finished off my sandwich, pleased with the silence that had emerged between us. It wasn’t something that was uncomfortable.

“So, do you think your grandmother would have tried to set us up?”

I laughed. “Probably not, you look far too dangerous.”

“Hey, she loved me.”

“I’m sure.” I looked to him. “That doesn’t mean she would have thought you were marriage material for her only granddaughter.”

He laughed. “She used to tell me that I would be no good to any woman until I settled down.” He motioned around his home. “I’d followed her instructions to the letter.”

“Are you wife hunting?”

“No.” Jason slid off the stool and took my empty plate away.

“So, what do you hunt for?”

Jason offered me a grin over his shoulder. “Sex, but don’t worry—I never make moves on stranded women.”

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