The Sheriff's Little Matchmaker

By: Carrie Nichols

Chapter One

“I’ve got money riding on this, so you better make it good,” Sasha Honeycutt boldly cautioned the man in the black cowboy boots. He wore dark jeans with a classic white oxford shirt and black sport coat, but those boots coupled with the silver star belt buckle gave her goose bumps. Good Lord, he was even more gorgeous up close than he’d been from across the crowded French Quarter piano bar.

“Don’t you worry, cher, I’ll take good care of you.” The stranger leaned closer, his obsidian eyes glittering as one corner of his generous mouth lifted.

Damn. Why hadn’t someone warned her those fruity, rum-filled hurricanes were lethal? As in, betting she could get a stranger to kiss her lethal. Her friends had teased that even on a wild weekend in a city known for debauchery, she was unable to cut loose. Emboldened by alcohol, she’d set about proving she wasn’t a prude.

Even in her ridiculously high heels, Sasha had to stand on her tiptoes. The man was a freaking giant. She grabbed onto his upper arms to steady herself. Thoughts of bulging biceps and hot skin swirled through the fog in her brain.

His arms encircled her and calluses brushed her bare skin. She shivered, unsure if she should rejoice or curse her open-backed dress. He groaned deep in his throat and those rough fingers tightened their hold, crushing her against his hard chest. Rejoice the dress!

Slowly, as if he enjoyed the anticipation, his mouth descended to meet hers.

A tilt of his head and her brain stopped functioning as his lips explored and devoured hers. Warmth gathered in places that had been cold for way too long. When she made a soft mewling sound in her throat, he licked the corner of her mouth. Her fingertips dug into the muscles on his arms while his tongue ran circles around her lips until they tingled. She parted them, his tongue slid along hers, and just like that, he took charge of what had started as her big experiment. Her whole world focused on the sweet agony that was his mouth. Growing bolder, she scraped her tongue against the edges of his teeth and entered, sending shivers down to her toes. He tasted like fine whiskey and expensive cigars.

A discreet cough crashed her back to the world of the piano bar. The clinking of ice dropping into empty glasses, the strains of a Billy Joel tune on the piano, the mutter of voices and occasional bursts of laughter assaulted her.

Someone close to them cleared their throat and said, “Bon Dieu, even here in N’Oarlinns we have decency laws.”

“Mais oui, the fire department is on the way,” a male voice on Sasha’s other side chimed in.

She jumped back, wobbling in her three-inch heels. The stranger’s hand snaked out and steadied her. “Thanks.”

“Thank you.” His hand still wrapped around her arm, he glanced over Sasha’s shoulder to her two friends seated at a table along the brick wall. “I hope you won your bet.”

“I’m sure I did.” Her face burned so hot she swore she could smell charred skin. No one would be able to call her a prude…at least not tonight. She’d noticed him when he’d leaned against the bar and surveyed the room. His gaze had swept the room, landing on her, and she’d wondered aloud if he kissed as good as he looked. Her friends, of course, seized on the idea, and the rest was history.

She tugged her arm, and he dropped his hand. Glancing back at her girlfriends, whose mouths hung open, she gave them what they referred to as “Sasha’s stink eye.” She backed away from the stranger and motioned with a tilt of her head for her friends to follow.

“How much?”

The stranger’s deep voice stopped her, and her gaze went straight to his mouth. Look away. “P-pardon?”

His lips quirked up on one side. “How much did you win, cher?”

“Twenty dollars.”

His dark eyebrows shot upward into the lock of lush ebony hair that had flopped over his forehead during the kiss. Way to go, Sasha. She winced. Why couldn’t that dang rum have stripped her of her honesty along with her sanity?

The sandy-haired man standing next to her stranger hooted with laughter and slapped him on the back. “Hear that? You’re worth a whole twenty dollars.”

Someone snickered. “I’ll double that to see a replay.”