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Excerpt: Enthrall Me

Book 4: Underbelly Chronicles

Wyland would have been happy to laze in bed for a few more hours, but Tia had other plans. “Come on,” she said, dragging him into the garage. “If we hurry, we might make it to the animal barns before they close for the night.” Tia wanted to go to the Minnesota State Fair, and she wanted to drive. “Come on, live dangerously. My car's already scratched.”

He'd considered her untreated car windows, and the angle of the setting sun. Live dangerously, indeed. He couldn't remember the last time he'd traveled in the daylight with nothing to protect him but VampScreen and his wits. With Val's comments about his gonads still ringing in his ears, he folded himself into her passenger seat.

She was a good driver, confident behind the wheel, but once at the Fair, she'd stopped in front of a parking space that was too small for the car. He pointed down the row, to an opening that could easily accommodate a small RV. “There's a good spot.” One that wouldn't scrape the car's paint even more, or put his hips in a bloody vice when he tried to get out.

“This one's closer to the entrance.”

“By a hundred feet.” Given the miles they'd cover on foot tonight, the additional distance seemed negligible.

After a fair amount of back and forth, and some colorful curses, she finally wedged the car into the space. If more than a foot separated his door from the Suburban parked next to them, he'd eat his shoe.

Tia eyed the sky. “We'll have to hurry if we want to visit the animal barns.”

“I can smell them from here.” The ripe scents of manure, hay, and animals wafted through the air.

“You're a doctor, I'm sure you've smelled worse.” Tia grabbed her purse from the back seat. “Come on.”

He slowly opened the car door, pivoted on the seat, and planted his feet on the pavement. Sucking in his stomach, he stood, then squirmed through the stingy space without unmanning himself. When he took his first step, he slipped, barely catching himself on the door jamb.

Melted ice cream.

“Are you okay?” Tia circled around to his side of the car and peered down at the melted mess. She bit back a giggle. “Oops.”

“Is that…bacon? In the ice cream?”

“Probably.” She leaned down. “Yep.”

“That is absolutely disgusting.”

She shrugged. “It's the State Fair. If it's not on a stick, there's probably bacon involved.”

Side-stepping to the front of the car, he used the patch of grass to scrape the gooey mess off his shoe.

“Ready?”

“As I'll ever be.”

The sun was setting, and the sky was a hazy grayish-orange. As they paid at the gate, streetlights came on, illuminating paved streets carrying throngs of foot traffic. The bright lights of the Midway glowed in the distance, and across the fairgrounds, a band played at the Grandstand.

Tia sidled close, so their hips bumped together when they walked. Her arm suddenly curved around his waist, her hand sneaking into his back pocket. “Come on, you're supposed to reciprocate.” Amusement danced in her eyes. “This is how lovers walk at the fair.”

“Far be it from me not to conform to appropriate social norms.” He slipped his hand into her pocket. Resilient flesh shifted beneath the soft denim as she walked. “I see the appeal.”

“Right?” She gave his butt a squeeze. “One of the best things about coming to the fair is people-watching.” A silent laugh shook her body. “I imagine we're amusing more than a few people right now.”

He raised an inquiring brow.

“Look at us. You look like Gatsby minus his croquet mallet, and I look—”

“Delicious.” Her denim shorts exposed a scandalous amount of skin, the frayed hems riding high on her thighs. The heavy purse she'd slung across her body pulled the neckline of her gauzy white shirt askew, exposing a bright purple bra strap. Her beat-up brown cowboy boots looked like they might have been worn to muck out a stall or two.

When a cow mooed from inside a nearby barn, she glanced at the sky again and sighed. “We probably only have time to visit one animal barn. How about the Petting Zoo?”

“Lead the way.”

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