Bounty (Colorado Mountain #7)
Justice Lonesome has enjoyed a life of bounty.
Even so, she’s inherited the curse of the Lonesome. A poet’s soul. Which means she’s still searching for something. Searching for peace. Searching for the less…that’s more.
And when the foundation of her life is pulled out from under her, grieving, she goes to the mountains to find her oasis. She hits Carnal, Colorado and decides to stay.
Deke Hightower lost everything at the age of two. He lost it again at fifteen. His life has not been about bounty. It’s been about learning to live with less, because there’s no way to get more.
Deke’s also watched all his friends go down to the women who gave them what they needed. He wants that for himself. But he knows that search isn’t going to be easy because he’s a rider. His home is the road. That’s the only place he can breathe. And the woman who takes her place at his side has to do it sitting on the back of his bike.
When Deke meets Justice, he knows she’s not that woman. She’s cute. She’s sweet. And she’s into him, but she’s got it all and Deke knows he won’t fit into that. So he holds her at arm’s length. Establishes boundaries. And Justice will take it because she wants Deke any way he’ll let her have him.
But when Justice finds herself a pawn in a dangerous game, Deke makes a decision.
When he does, he has no idea he’s just opened himself up to bounty.
How I love Carnal!!
Just when I thought another Kristen Ashley hero could not break my heart any more than her earlier heroes, along comes Deke Hightower. A loner, almost a recluse, a man of very few words (the original strong, silent type!), Deke has had a hard, tough life, never putting down roots anywhere and never, ever opening his heart to a woman. He is a simple man, a lover of his bike and the open road, which he makes VERY clear to everyone he meets. Deke and Justice have a history together (he just doesn’t remember it!!) but when they meet again years later, they have a verrrry slow build-up, and the slow burn worked perfectly for these two. There are lots of misunderstandings, lots of miscommunications, but when these two get together….OMG!!!! Expect the usual HAWTNESS and over-the-top Alpha-male sexiness that is pure Kristen Ashley.
One of the things I absolutely adored about this book was Deke. He is no kid (and neither is Justice), and Kristen Ashley describes him as all man and then some.
“…All of it covering exceptional pecs and the most amazing stomach I’d ever seen.
A manly stomach.
I had to admit, I was over the cut leanness that was all the rage. In the beginning, it was hot. But now it seemed daunting, men being so developed they didn’t have an inch of extra flesh on them, not like they were human beings but like they were diagrams of a body’s muscularity.
*FAINTS* And Justice, I loved her! She is a gifted musician, with a renowned family but with lots and lots of heartache to go along with that. But this is Carnal and she is trying to hide out and get some peace. She hires Deke to renovate her new house and I think that Kristen Ashley must have a second secret career as a contractor. At first I thought there was too much detail about the house renovations but then I fell in love with the wonderful detail. Deke works with his hands, he takes pride in his work and the contrast between his blue-collar background and Justice’s upbringing is both perfect and poignant at the same time. She has plenty of craziness to deal with, which Deke doesn’t get at first. He really closes off his heart and Justice at first hides the fact that she remembers him from years before. He is almost sullen, but all of it comes from a place of heartbreak.
“My life, babe,” he shook his head, “until I was about twenty, it was not good.” “Okay,” I prompted carefully, not liking that. “And because a’ that, I got a way I gotta be and that’s a way that’s not gonna change.”
All Justice wants is love and acceptance and some peace in her life. I loved that she was always herself around Deke, and eventually he warmed up to her cheerfulness, honesty and just plain goodness. It is difficult for a man like Deke to be with a brilliant and successful woman like Justice. But Deke, being Deke, accepts this in his own way.
He squatted and reached into the bag.
“Open a beer for me, yeah?”
“I live to serve.”
Deke wanted to test that but do it when they were both naked.
I must mention that FANTASTIC cast of secondary characters here. Each and every one felt fully developed and essential to the story. In my opinion, Kristen Ashley can pretty much write about anything and I will devour it. But when she writes about two people who have already lived a full life, who have their own demons and pasts, and who know what they want, well, to me that’s a winner. Welcome back to Carnal, folks, it is a beautiful place. Enjoy the bounty.
“I was living it and all I had to do was take care of it, nurture it, make it stronger.
Then it always would be mine.
Everything I’d ever wanted.
My place in this universe.
And it felt amazing.”
(ARC provided by the author in return for an honest review.)
Deke’s voice carved into the perverse, bitter sick my brother and his mother stirred up in me and I lifted my gaze, twisted my neck and looked to his face.
He was not close.
But he was concerned.
And that concern undid me.
I turned fully to him, dropped my head and fell forward.
He was not near and then he was, right there for me to collide with as everything pressed into me. So much, I couldn’t hold it back, and the tears came.
He wrapped his arms around me as he stepped farther into me so he could hold me close.
That was when I started sobbing. My body shaking with it, automatically burrowing into his heat, his solidity, his bulk, all Deke.
His arms tightened.
“I miss him,” I whispered into Deke’s chest through a hitch.
The words with that hitch barely sounded before I felt Deke’s hand glide up my spine and tangle in my hair.
“Get it out, Jussy,” he murmured, his words stirring the strands at the top of my head so I knew he was bent to me.
Fuck me, Deke.
“My brother’s a p-p-piece of shit,” I pushed out through the tears.
Deke’s arm around me got tighter and the tips of fingers started stroking the side of my ribs.
Even this did not make me feel better. In fact this—all that was Deke enveloping all that was me—made it better at the same time so much worse.
“He’s contesting the…the will,” I shared.
Deke said nothing.
I kept crying.
It came to me slowly that I was pressed hard to him and had my hands clenched into his tee at the back. I felt the damp material against my cheek and knew how many tears had leaked and that Deke took them from me.
I also knew he was being cool, a nice guy, because that was who he was.
But I couldn’t let this go on.
So I pulled my shit together, unclenched my hands and smoothed the shirt before I dropped them to his waist and tipped my head back.
Lamentably, he took my cue and let me go.
Incredibly, he didn’t do this completely.
He put his hands on either side of my neck and bent close so his face was a couple of inches from mine.
“Think, from what you’ve told me, you get that times get bad. Hope, Jussy, you also get that those times pass. Whatever’s happening, this will pass.”
I nodded because that was all I could do.
“Sorry, I…well, your shirt’s all wet,” I said, taking one hand from him to wipe my face.
I nodded again.
His fingers curled around my neck gave me a gentle squeeze.
I was not.
I gave him another nod anyway.
His eyes moved over my face and I knew he knew that nod was an inaudible lie but he didn’t call me on it.
He just said quietly, “Good,” gave me another squeeze and dropped his left hand.
But with his right, he lifted it up and I held my breath because I thought he was going to touch my face, dry a tear, something.
Instead, he raised it to the top of my head and tousled my hair before he gave me another close look, turned and walked away.
Shit, Deke comforted me then tousled my hair like I was his little sister.
I didn’t like that.
But it was kind and it was sweet and it came from Deke.
So as was becoming my lot, I’d take it.