Tarnished Saints Series – Book 2
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Taylor Twelve: Sons of a preacher, but far from saints. Matter of fact, they’re nothing but trouble.
When Matthew “Levi” Taylor returns to Sweet Water after his release from prison, the last thing he expects is to be elected as town mayor.
And when single mother Candace Kane arrives in Sweet Water as their food judge for the fair with her twins in tow, the last thing she expects is to see her past lover Levi show up as her escort.
Secrets that threaten to expose the past run rampant in the small town romance of Luring Levi.
Excerpt from Luring Levi:
(Candace is at the train depot with her six year old twins waiting for her ride.)
Candace squinted in the sun, surveying the man headed in their direction. He wore faded tight jeans that hugged his hips and back end, and a sleeveless black t-shirt that showed off his muscles. The last thing she wanted was to get in a car with a crazy teenage driver with her children along. That wouldn’t be safe. She should have specified to the man on the phone that she wanted him to come get her, as he sounded older and more mature. She was sure this man was not Thomas Taylor.
She wasn’t wearing her contacts, since she was in a hurry to leave this morning and hadn’t had time to put them in. So she dug through her purse looking for her glasses so she could see whom she’d be getting into the car with – or if she would at all.
“Are you Sandy? Or Mandy?” The man called out, as he walked up to them in no hurry at all. “I’m suppose to give you a ride to the cabin.”
Her gut twisted, and she knew now this was the man she’d been waiting for. Well, what did she expect in a po-dunk little town? An actual taxi?
“I’m surprised to see you walking so slowly after the way you pulled up here like a bat out of hell,” she said, finding her glasses and pulling them out of her handbag.
“Bat out of hell,” repeated Vance, embarrassing her in the process.
“Sorry about that, I would have been here sooner but I stopped to get some aspirin for my hangover.”
She slipped her glasses onto her face, angry with the man. “Don’t think we’re going anywhere with you if you’re drunk.”
She glanced up and got her first look at the man who she realized wasn’t a teenager at all. Actually, far from it, though he did dress like a teenager and had a rocking body to match it. Her heart just about stopped in her chest when she realized the man standing in front of her was none other than the father of her children – Levi Taylor.
“I’m not drunk,” he replied, “just hung over. Now let’s go.” He picked up a suitcase in each hand, leaving her with the last one and headed toward the car. She just stood there with her mouth open and didn’t say a word. He hadn’t even recognized her. Damned him for not realizing who she was, even if they’d only had a one-night-stand seven years ago.
“Can we go?” whined Valentine. “I have to go to the bathroom.”
“I want to sit in the front,” said Vance, running straight for the car.
Candace picked up the pull handle on the suitcase and wheeled it slowly toward the car. Valentine ran to the convertible, following her brother and started fighting with him when he opened the door and tried to climb in the front.
“I want the front,” she said. “You get in back.”
“You can both sit in the front,” Levi told them. “Just keep the shouting down to a low roar, will you?”
She walked up behind him, and without even looking at her, he grabbed the suitcase and brought it to the trunk.
“So, are you Thomas Taylor?” she asked, knowing damned well he wasn’t.
“No, I’m his brother, Levi.” He had his head in the trunk and was arranging the suitcases to make them fit. “So how long do you plan on staying at the cabin, Sandy?” he asked without looking up.
“Oh, I don’t know. A few weeks – a month – maybe forever. After all, I hear this town will take anyone.”
“Yep, that’s about right,” he said from inside the trunk. “Sweet Water is desperate for people. I’m surprised they got a celebrity to come judge food at the fair, Mandy. Then he scratched his head as if he were thinking. “What did you say your name was again?”
“I didn’t,” she answered. “But my name isn’t Sandy or Mandy. I’m the star of a brand new cable TV cooking show. You may have heard of me, as I am also the host of a restaurant review show called What’s For Dinner on the dining network in Chicago. My name is Candace Marie Kane.”
He slammed the trunk down and looked at her for the first time, his eyes getting wide in the process. “Candy?” He cocked his head to the side and perused her. “Is that really you, my sweet candy cane?”
“Don’t call me that, you fool!” She glanced sideways to her kids, glad they were busy playing with the glove compartment, opening it and slamming it shut and didn’t hear what he’d just called her.
“Wow, it’s been a long time,” he said with a shake of his head.
“Seven years, but who’s counting?”
“And that was one hell of a night seven years ago that I’ll never forget,” he said with a smile that spread across his entire face.
“I can guarantee you will never forget it,” she answered, looking over at her children, wanting to tell him he was their father, but she didn’t say a word. She wasn’t even sure right now if she really wanted him to know. After all, he was an ex-con and the way it looked, also a drunk. Not the ideal image of a good father. Besides, if she did tell him, she needed to wait until the time was right. Not here, and definitely not in front of the kids. She didn’t really know him, and there’d be no telling how he’d react.
“Mother, I really have to pee,” said her daughter.
“Mother?” He seemed amused, and smiled, the corner of one side of his mouth a little higher than the other, making him look so sexy that she couldn’t help but think of the heated passion they’d shared on that night so long ago.
His dark hair was shorter than she’d remembered – probably being cut while he was in prison, she guessed. But his eyes were still that bright blue. He’d been the only time she’d ever done something so impetuous as to sleep with a man she’d just met. But at the time she was twenty-five and had just landed her job after spending years looking for work after she’d graduated college. She also hadn’t had a date at the time in over a year since her previous boyfriend had dumped her.
Levi Taylor had used her to get what he wanted, and she, being young and naïve had fallen right into his little trap as he’d lured her in with his sexy smile and his way of making her feel like she was the only girl in the world. He was a fake, a phony, and also an ex-convict. And if she had a lick of sense in her head she’d collect her children and get as far away from Sweet Water and Levi Taylor as she possibly could.
“That’s right, I’m a mother now of two wonderful children,” she told him.
Just at that moment, Vance decided to bite Valentine on the arm and she shrieked and started bawling loudly.
“What the hell?” growled Levi, holding a hand to his head.
“What the hell, what the hell, what the hell,” Vance kept repeating over and over.
“Get in the damned car,” he told her, “and let’s go. I can’t take any more of this noise.”
“Damned car,” Vance shouted into his sister’s ear. It only made her shriek louder.
“If you want to talk about noise, then I’ll mention the fact I don’t want you playing the radio so loud with my kids in the car. As a matter of fact, please don’t put it on at all.”
“Whatever. Let’s go.”
“Valentine, you sit in the back with me,” Candace said, grabbing her crying daughter and fastening her into the seatbelt. Then she reached out and fastened Vance in as well.
“Are you going to stand there all day or are you getting in the car?” he growled, revving the engine and turning on the radio, obviously trying to drown out the crying and not caring that she’d said she didn’t want him to turn it on at all.
She got in the back, reaching over to close the door and he hit the gas, causing her to fall backward onto the seat.
“Hold on, I don’t have my seatbelt on yet,” she told him.
“No one wears seatbelts in Sweet Water. No need to. We’re out in the middle of the nowhere.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want you to get a ticket and wind up in jail – again,” she told him, just to let him know she knew about his tarnished past.
“That’s not going to happen,” he said, speeding over a paved road and making a sharp turn down a gravel road, billowing up dust all around them. “After all, this town doesn’t even have a sheriff right now, as he resides behind bars.”
“Yeah, well, you’d know about that,” she mumbled. By the way his eyes shot up to the rear view mirror to look at her, she knew he’d heard her.
“Besides,” he told her, “they would never arrest me for not using seatbelts or even speeding.”
“And what makes you think that you are so special, Mr. Taylor?”
He looked into the rear view mirror again, right at her, the intensity of his bright blue eyes making her insides quiver. She licked her lips nervously and looked the other way.
“I am special,” he answered with confidence and also pride. “Because you see, Ms. Kane, as of today, I’m Sweet Water’s new mayor.”
“Don’t lie to me,” she told him, “because I’m no longer that sweet and naïve young girl I was last time you saw me. I’ve learned to be able to tell when a man is giving me a line, and I can see right through you, Levi Taylor. I know the mayor of Sweet Water because I talked with her on the phone, and she is a very nice little old lady.”
“Well then, you better get those glasses checked because you obviously can’t see the broad side of a barn. I’m not lying to you, sweetheart, I really am Sweet Water’s mayor.”
“Just drive,” she said, holding her daughter to her chest as the little girl continued to cry. How stupid did the man think she was? Who in their right mind would even consider electing an ex-con to be their mayor?