Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

Semi-Tough Luck by Jackie Barbosa

Semi-Tough Luck

Book 2 of the Motocrossed Series


This title is no longer available for sale.

Note: This novella was originally released in the limited edition anthology, Do It Again.

Sylvia

Tonight, I lost my home, most of my possessions, and my livelihood when my semi rig was stolen from a truck stop parking lot in Middle-of-Nowhere, Nebraska. Yeah, everything’s insured, but that still leaves me with nowhere to sleep, one change of clothing, no way to get home, and only the paltry credit line on my Visa to cover my expenses until the insurance company settles. 

So it’s not like I can easily refuse when the local sheriff suggests that I hitch a ride with his younger brother, Ivan Carlson, who’s headed to San Diego to play pro hockey. There’s no reason to think Ivan will be anything but a perfect gentleman. Which is a shame, because he’s sex on skates, but it would be wrong for me to take advantage of him. Wouldn’t it?

Ivan

When I met Sylvia Figueres, she was having the worst day of her life. The last thing a woman in her shoes needs is some stranger hitting on her. But man, I want to. Then my brother points out that she needs a ride to the west coast and I just happen to be going that way. I can’t say no, and since my big brother, the goddamn sheriff, is trusting me to behave like the gentleman I’m not, I’m going to have to keep my feelings to myself. And drive fast.

Or that’s the plan, until we wind up having to share a motel room.

Whoops?


Book Details:

Series: Motocrossed #2
Release Date: Rereleasing in fall 2020
Publisher: Circe Press

Excerpt

One

Sylvia

“I reckon that’s all we can do for tonight, Ms. Figueres.”

I nearly groan with relief at this announcement. I’m so exhausted, I’d be swaying on my feet if I weren’t sitting in an extremely uncomfortable chair in the shabby but brightly lit office of Lucas Carlson, sheriff of Keel County, Nebraska. Of course, I have no idea where I’m going to sleep tonight, let alone how I’m going to pay for breakfast tomorrow morning or get home to L.A.

It’s been a little more than five hours since I got out of the shower at the nearby truck stop to find that someone had cut the combination lock off my locker, stolen my purse, and then used my keys to drive off with my semi-tractor and the trailer I was supposed to deliver to a warehouse in Minneapolis tomorrow afternoon. A little more than five hours that I’ve spent reporting the crime, canceling my credit card, ATM card, checking account, and cell phone service, contacting my employer to let them know their shipment won’t be arriving tomorrow, opening a claim with my insurance company, and trying to figure out what the hell I’m going to do now. The credit card company has promised to overnight a new card to the sheriff’s office, but I’m not sure how useful it’s going to be.

Before you castigate me for bad financial planning, I have savings. They’re just not liquid. Especially not when I’m in the middle of nowhere with no identification and all my transactional accounts locked down to prevent someone from stealing even more from me. And since I use my Visa, with its generous rewards plan, to cover my expenses while I’m on the road and I was only one day from finishing a job and getting paid, I’m nearly at the top of my credit limit. But now, I’m not going to get paid for this delivery or for the load I was supposed to pick up for the return trip.

Fucked does not begin to describe my situation.

Maybe the sheriff has an empty cell I can sleep in. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long night on the floor.

Carlson pushes back his rolling chair and stands up. He’s a tall man—about an inch over six feet—with a full head of curly brown hair that’s graying a little at the temples and a square-jawed solidity that promises either reassurance or retribution, depending on which one you deserve.

Now, I’ve been pulled over by one too many cops who thought I might be willing to screw my way out of a traffic ticket, so I don’t trust a man has good intentions just because he’s wearing a uniform. But in the past few hours, Carlson has earned my hope, if not my trust by treating me with a combination of kindness and respect that’s not typical of men in general, especially men in positions of power. That and the fact that he wears his wedding ring and displays photos of his wife, a mop-haired son, and sweet-faced baby girl prominently on his desk has instilled a certain degree of confidence in me that he’s actually a good cop.

“We might as well go on home,” he says, reaching for his broad-brimmed, khaki duty hat, which hangs on a peg on a coat rack in the back corner of the room.

I blink in complete astonishment. “I’m sorry. What?”

Stuffing the hat on top of his head, he gives me a perfectly chaste once-over and grimaces in obvious sympathy. “You’re falling asleep on your feet, you’ve got no place to stay, and no way to pay for a hotel room. Did you really think I’d leave you to fend for yourself overnight? I called my wife two hours ago and asked her to make up the spare bedroom for you and keep dinner warm until we get there.” He extends his hand to help me up from my chair. “And you’re in luck. Our sixteen-month-old daughter just started sleeping through the night.”

***

Carlson’s house is a two-story bungalow-style affair with a large porch and a detached garage. It’s situated on a large lot in the middle of the block on a pretty, tree-lined street. If the house was almost anywhere in Los Angeles County, I’d estimate its value at a million plus. Here in Middle-of-Nowhere, Nebraska, it probably counts as a starter home.

A frown crosses the sheriff’s features as he pulls his black-and-white into the driveway next to a sleek white BMW coupe that looks nearly brand new. It strikes me as a pricey car for a family living on a law enforcement officer’s salary, but then again, for all I know, his wife has a career that pulls in the big bucks. Even mothers with small children can have high-powered jobs, after all.

“Something wrong?” I ask as he puts the car in park and pulls the handbrake.

Carlson grunts what could either be an affirmative or a negative, and then gestures at the Lexus. “Looks like my brother is here. We weren’t expecting him until the day after tomorrow. I wonder why Megan didn’t call to let me know.”

Understanding dawns on me. “If my staying here is going to be a problem—” I begin, even though I have no idea how to finish the sentence.

Fortunately, Carlson interrupts me before I have to think of an alternative. “No, it’s fine. We’ve got plenty of room. I’m just surprised is all.”

I’m pretty sure from the tone of his voice that surprised equals worried, and I wonder why, but it’s really none of my business.

We get out of the car, and I carry my meager armful of possessions—one dirty change of clothing, a damp towel, and my toiletries—to the front door. Light trickles out from between the curtains drawn across the large front window, indicating someone’s probably still awake even though it’s past midnight. Carlson turns the knob without bothering to insert his key and swings the door inward, beckoning me to follow.

My first impression of the interior is of comfortable hominess. To the left of the front door is the dining room and kitchen, and to the right is the living room, while directly in front of us is a stairwell leading to the second floor. I’d bet at some point in the past, the entry was a narrow hallway with doors on either side, but the house has been remodeled to have the cherished “open-concept floor plan”—hey, just because I’m on the road a lot doesn’t mean I don’t watch HGTV—and the walls have been knocked out to provide sightlines in both directions. The floor is hardwood or possibly laminate, although a carpet runner covers the stairs, possibly to prevent the small children currently confined upstairs by a closed childproof gate at the top of the stairwell from slipping on the way down.

The dining room and kitchen area are too dark to make out anything but the shadow of a rectangular table and the looming bulk of what must be a kitchen island. By contrast, the living room glows with soft, warm light. A huge, overstuffed sectional dominates the space, dwarfing everything but the man occupying the reclining seat at one end of the gigantic piece of furniture. I can tell he’s several inches over six feet tall and probably weighs more than two hundred pounds. Also? None of those pounds are fat.

As he rises to his feet, his lightweight gray T-shirt clings to his chest and abdomen, briefly revealing the chiseled musculature beneath. His bared biceps are large and well-defined, and the sweatpants he’s wearing do nothing to hide the thick contours of his heavily muscled thighs. As big as he is everywhere else, those thighs are particularly immense, and I wonder what activity has led to that. Maybe he’s a dead-lifter or something.

Even if Carlson hadn’t mentioned his brother’s presence, I would’ve recognized the man as a sibling or very close relation. He has the same square-jawed face, though its planes and angles are rougher and sharper—dare I say more masculine? His hair is blonder and not quite as curly, too, but the two men’s hairlines are virtually identical. It’s possible the shape of their noses was also similar at one time, but the brother’s now has the crumpled, uneven appearance caused by being broken and not properly reset, possibly more than once. He might look downright thuggish if it weren’t for his eyes. Large, deep-set, and turned up at the corners, they’re the polar opposite of his otherwise rugged features. With twenty feet separating us, I can’t make out the color of the irises, but I can tell they’re a dark shade that contrasts sharply with his otherwise fair coloring.

And if I could order a man to my specific tastes the way I can order a sandwich, Sheriff Carlson’s younger brother—and I’m sure he’s younger by at least a decade—would be the equivalent of turkey, provolone, and pesto on toasted focaccia bread. In other words, my favorite.

My skin tingles with awareness as the two men stride toward one another and grasp hands before exchanging a fraternal embrace, complete with slaps on the back. I’d like to share an embrace with Carlson the Younger, although there would be nothing fraternal about it.

Under any other circumstances…

But these aren’t any other circumstances. I’m only going to be here for one night. After that, I’ll be on my way back to Los Angeles, one way or another. Even if it means calling my parents and begging them to come to my rescue.

They would, of course. In a heartbeat. But they’ve never liked or understood my decision to skip college and become a long-haul truck driver. If they find out my rig’s been stolen along with almost everything else of value I own, there will be recriminations and I-told-you-so’s. Never mind that such thefts are rare—a fact I knew even before Sheriff Carlson said as much—and there’s no reason to believe that my being female in an industry dominated by men had anything to do with it. They’ll still harp on the “dangers” of a single woman driving back and forth across the country by herself. Things are bad enough without having to hear that again. So my parents are a last resort.

“When did you get here?” the sheriff asks his brother as they break apart. Although the question itself is innocuous enough, it’s impossible not to pick up on the uneasy undercurrent.

“A little over an hour ago.” Catnip Carlson nods and smiles in my direction, and my heart rate kicks up a notch at having him notice me. Then it occurs to me that between the pathetic load of personal items I’m carrying and my utter exhaustion, I must look like crap, and I really wish he hadn’t noticed me. “Megan told me about your guest,” He continues, “and I said I’d wait up for you so she could go to bed. I already made up the sofa bed in the basement for myself, so don’t worry about that.”

The thought of this enormous man trying to sleep on a lumpy, flimsy sofa bed is ludicrous. “It’s all right,” I say. “I can sleep on the sofa bed. I’m only going to be here tonight, after all.”

Both Carlsons fix me with identical, disapproving glares. If their genetic relationship hadn’t already been apparent, it sure would be now.

The sheriff is the one to speak, though. “You’re our guest for the night, and that means you get the guest bedroom.” He thumps his brother on the back. “Ivan is family, and he’s not even supposed to be here yet, so he gets the basement.”

Ivan, huh? The name, which makes me think of Russian mobsters, suits his coloring and harsh but compelling looks.

“Don’t try to argue with him,” Ivan adds, a grin so full of fondness curving his lips that my chest actually aches. Whatever the source of the irritation they’re both trying so hard to mask, the two men clearly love each other. “He’s the oldest, so he thinks he should have the final say on everything.”

“And you’re the youngest,” Carlson agrees with an equally tender expression, “which means you always get what you want, anyway.” Looking back at me, the sheriff grimaces. “Damn, I’m sorry. I’m not being very polite. Sylvia Figueres, this is my baby brother, Ivan Carlson. Ivan, this is Ms. Figueres—”

“Sylvia,” I interject. No way am I letting a man as fine as Ivan call me Ms. anything.

He nods and continues smoothly, “Ivan, this is Sylvia, whose semi rig and pretty much everything she owns was stolen from the Keel truck stop around seven o’clock this evening. After a day like that, I figured the least I could do is offer her a place to stay the night. But now I’ve realized I can do one better. I can offer her a ride home to L.A.”


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