Chapter Release Blitz: ☆#WILDCHILD☆ by @MollyOKwrites

Perfect for readers of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Rachel Gibson, this sizzling romance tells the story of a sexy small-town mayor and a notorious “bad girl,” who discover that home really is where the heart is.

Monica Appleby is a woman with a reputation. Once she was America’s teenage “Wild Child,” with her own reality TV show. Now she’s a successful author coming home to Bishop, Arkansas, to pen the juicy follow-up to her tell-all autobiography. Problem is, the hottest man in town wants her gone. Mayor Jackson Davies is trying to convince a cookie giant to move its headquarters to his crumbling community, and Monica’s presence is just too . . . unwholesome for business. But the desire in his eyes sends a very different message: Stay, at least for a while.

Jackson needs this cookie deal to go through. His town is dying and this may be its last shot. Monica is a distraction proving too sweet, too inviting—and completely beyond his control. With every kiss he can taste her loneliness, her regrets, and her longing. Soon their uncontrollable attraction is causing all kinds of drama. But when two lost hearts take a surprise detour onto the bumpy road of unexpected love, it can only lead someplace wonderful.

“Molly O’Keefe is a unique, not-to-be-missed voice in romantic fiction.”—New York Times bestselling author Susan Andersen

NEVER BEEN KISSED, the next installment in the Boys of Bishop series, will be released July 1st, 2014.

Chapter 1

Six months
ago
Jackson
Davies knew better. He really did. There were friends you could do free hard
labor for, and there were friends you couldn’t.
Sean Baxter
was decidedly a friend you couldn’t. And yet Jackson managed to be shocked when
Sean sat down to watch TV while Jackson was still sanding drywall.
“You’ve got
to be joking!” Jackson threw down the sandpaper. He was covered in dirt and
grime and sweat. He itched. Everywhere. Agreeing to help Sean renovate his
family’s old dive bar, The Pour House, had seemed like a good idea four months
ago—a little physical labor, some laughs with friends.
But so far
Jackson and Brody, Sean’s brother, were doing all the work.
Why are you surprised? It’s grade
school all over again.
“I just
want to see this clip on America Today.”
Sean’s face
mask was pushed up into his red hair, revealing a clean circle of skin around
his lips. No doubt Jackson and Brody looked equally ridiculous. Jackson needed
to shower before heading to City Hall. “Monica Appleby is going to be on. You
know, that writer—”
“You know,
I’ve actually got work to do. Real work.”
Jackson took off his tool belt. Behind him, Brody kept scraping away at the
mahogany bar he was refurbishing. Brody was in town for a week between jobs and
he’d committed to slave carpenter labor for that time.
Jackson
couldn’t help the man.
“I’m sure
Bishop will do just fi ne without you on a Friday morning.”
“I’m mayor,
Sean. I can’t just take the whole morning off.” And the truth was, working out
here at The Pour House was easier than going into City Hall today and almost
every other day.
Bishop,
Arkansas, was dying. Slowly, from a financial wound Jackson didn’t know how to
fix. And Jackson took a lot of pride in being able to fix anything.
At least
sanding walls made him feel like he was doing something.
“I’m out,”
Jackson said. “I’ve got a meeting with the city council, and . . .”
“Shhhhh,
there she is!” Sean turned the volume up, and even Brody was forced to stop his
relentless work and watch the screen.
Monica
Appleby sat on the couch in the America Today
green room. The reality-star-turned-author was everywhere these days. And every time Jackson caught a glimpse of her on a magazine cover or
TV show, he thought the same thing:
that girl is trouble.
Her
black-haired, purple-eyed beauty was diamond bright but lined in smoke and sin.
Something about Monica managed to put a spotlight on every single wrong and
dirty thing he’d abstained from in the last seven years. Expensive bourbon,
cheap tequila, beautiful women whose names he didn’t want to know, steak dinners,
the Las Vegas strip, unpaid parking tickets—all of it.
She was the
human and stunningly gorgeous personification of everything he wanted and
couldn’t have.
It hurt to
look at her.
“Remember her?” Sean asked. “From when we were kids?”
A terrified six-year-old, clinging
to her battered mother’s legs.
“Of course I remember her,” Jackson said. That girl’s brief nightmarish
stay in Bishop was a low point, for him and for the town. It had turned them
all into voyeurs, decent people with better things to do than lining up outside
the police station for a glimpse of Monica and Simone Appleby and all their
pain.
“I loved that show she was on with her mom,” Sean sighed.
Jackson did not want to get into the reality-television horror show that
Monica and Simone Appleby had inflicted upon the world, years ago. Monica had
been a nightmare teenager, and Simone’s inability to control her had made for
hugely popular though short-lived television.
Simone had her own show now, by all accounts equally bad.
“I gotta go,” Jackson said.
“See you later?” Brody asked, his black hair held back with a bandana. He
looked badass, as much as his brother looked like a leprechaun with drywall
dust in his hair.
“I’ve got to pick up Gwen after school. She’s got an interview down at
Ole Miss.”
“I can’t believe your sister is old enough to go to college,” Brody said.
She wasn’t. But she was smart enough. And he was just desperate enough to
let her go.
“Can you guys cut the chatter?” Sean asked. “I’m trying to listen here.”
“We’ll talk with Monica Appleby right after we discuss one CEO’s effort
to bring industry back to small-town America,” said Jessica Walsh, the America Today host.
“Oh, Jessica, I always knew you were a tease,” Sean said, and he grabbed
the remote to turn down the volume.
“Don’t,” Jackson said. Industry and small-town America were kind of his
current obsessions. “Leave it.”
Riveted, Jackson stepped closer to the TV, as a handsome man with sharp
blue eyes and shaggy blond hair that made him look like a cross between a
surfer and a movie star filled the screen. His teeth were like pearls. Little
white Chiclets.
“Dean Jennings, CEO of Maybream Crackers, makers of Crispity Crackers and
Maybream Crème cookies, is moving his factory from South America back to the United
States,” Jessica said, managing to make crackers sound sexy.
“Those cookies are gross,” Sean said.
“I like them,” Brody answered.
“You would.”
Jackson grabbed the remote and cranked up the volume.
“But that’s not all,” Jessica said, working her long blond hair like a
stripper dancing around a pole. “He wants to bring his factory back to
small-town America. Can you tell us about that decision, Dean?”
“Maybream was started in a small factory outside of New York. Twenty
years ago we moved it down to South America.” Dean’s earnest-salesman charm
played well on the screen—Jessica could barely keep her eyes off the man. “But
all across America right now there are factories lying empty and American
workers are without jobs. And I just realized . . . I couldn’t stand by and
watch American industry vanish, not when I could do something about it. Now,
I’m a small company and I can’t change the economy, but I realized I could
change one small town by bringing the Maybream Cracker headquarters and factory
back to America.”
“This is all really exciting,” Jessica said. “But I
think the most
exciting, and frankly, PR savvy, part about it is that you are teaming up with
us, America Today .” Jessica smiled into
the camera. “And you, our viewers, get to choose the lucky town.”
“It is exciting
and I don’t know about savvy, but I thought it would be fun.” Dean made it
sound like saving a small town was a trip to the seashore.
“Tell us
how it works.” Jessica leaned forward across the desk, hanging, it seemed, on
Dean’s every word. Or perhaps just hypnotized by his teeth.
“The
application to nominate a town is available online, and my staff and I will
look through every entry,” Dean said. “We will pick six that best match what we
need in a factory and community. Once we have our six semifinalists, America Today will travel with me to take
a good, hard look at those towns.”
“That’s
an interesting aspect of this contest,” Jessica said. “What are you looking for
in a community?”
“Well,”
Dean sighed. “Since we’ll be moving our headquarters and staff, we need a place
where people would want to raise a family. Someplace wholesome but forward-thinking,
with opportunities for kids and parents. With a factory.”
Oh, God,
it was like the man was singing Jackson love songs!
“That guy
wouldn’t know wholesome if it bit him in the ass,” Sean muttered.
Jackson
shot a scowl over his shoulder.
“What?”
Sean cried. “The guy’s a sleazeball—anyone can tell.”
Behind
him, Brody was nodding.
Jackson
dismissed them both, because his heart was about to burst.
We’re wholesome, we’re
forward-thinking.
And best
of all, Bishop had a factory: an okra-processing plant that had been closed for
five years. It just sat there, empty, on the south side of town. A reminder of
what this town used to be. A graveyard to nearly one hundred lost jobs.
Jackson
had been trying for three years as mayor to bring in new business, new industry
that would keep this town afloat—but he’d never dreamed of getting the factory
open again.
“After I
narrow down my choices from six to three and make sure the top three have
factories that can be retrofitted for Maybream Crackers,” Dean said, “I’m going
to let America vote which town wins. And together we will change that town’s
future.”
“Deadline
for applications is the end of the month,” Jessica pointed out. “So if you know
a town that you think would be a good fi t for Maybream Crackers, check out our
website.” A website address scrolled along the bottom of the screen.
“Give me
a pencil,” Jackson said, holding out his hand toward his friends. “Now. Now
before it’s gone.”
“Christ,
man,” Sean said, slapping a small oblong carpenter’s pencil into his hand. “You
can google that shit, you know.”
Jackson
scrawled the information on the wall he’d just been sanding. It would be
painted over, but that didn’t stop Sean from moaning as if Jackson were
defacing the Taj Mahal.
“Dean,”
Jessica continued, “thanks so much for coming in today and partnering with us
on this great project. I hope more American companies take note and bring their
factories back to U.S. soil.”
“Me too,
Jessica. Thanks for having me.” One last movie-star smile and Dean Jennings was
gone.
The show
cut to commercial, and Jackson turned down the volume before facing his
friends.
Their
wary expressions bounced right off his ebullient mood.
“Did you hear that? It’s like he was talking about Bishop!” He punched
the air in victory. It felt so good, so right, that he did it again. There
hadn’t been a whole lot of reasons for fist-pumping these days. “This is it!” he
cried. “This is exactly what Bishop needs.”
“A TV show?”
“Someone to reopen the factory. Bring back jobs. New jobs. For Bishop!”
Jackson was light-headed with relief and excitement. “Oh my God, can you
believe that? It’s perfect.”
“It’s a long shot,” said Brody.
“I believe in long shots,” Jackson said. “I am the king of long shots.”
Not entirely true, but he was riding a wave here.
Sean, who made being a cynic his life’s work, frowned.
Now Jackson’s good mood was dented.
“Just because you don’t like the guy after a clip on television—”
“Guys who look like that can’t be trusted. It’s a fact. They get
everything they want,” Sean said.
“Bishop is dying, Sean. Dying. We need this.”
“But a TV show?” Sean asked. “And letting America vote? That shit is
always rigged.”
“You want people coming into The Pour House?” Jackson asked. “Not just
the regulars, but new business? Young people? Hot girls?”
“Hot girls would be nice.”
“You want your kids—”
“I don’t have kids.”
“But you will someday, and you’re not going to want to bus them to school
an hour away, are you? If we don’t change our tax base, we lose the schools.
That’s it. A chance like this might not come again. The town is in a bad way,
Sean. A third of our population has left—”
“You don’t have to tell me.” Sean held up his hands in surrender, but he
didn’t lose that scowl.
“Then what’s your problem?”
If Jackson were the punching kind, he would have punched
Sean Baxter years ago. In kindergarten, maybe. And probably another hundred
times since. For that face alone. Always the doubting Thomas. Always the fly in
the soup.
“Remember when we played baseball in high school?” Jackson
shot a “can’t you help me here, he’s your brother?” look at Brody, who only
went back to sanding.
“Of course I remember, Sean. We had the worst record
in the state.”
“We sucked. It’s true. But you know what I remember about
you?” Sean asked.
“I can’t even imagine.”
Sean leaned over the bar, through sunlight and a
snowstorm of dust in the air, catching Jackson in the crosshairs of his light
blue eyes.
“You swung for the fences, every time. Even when a
base hit would have sufficed, you went after that ball like it had insulted
your mother. Like the fate of the world rested on you knocking the leather off
that damn thing.”
“That’s why I led the team in home runs.”
“And strikeouts.”
True.
“What’s your point, Sean?”
“I thought you were nuts when you decided to run for
mayor, but I supported you. But this show . . . this idea . . . It feels like
you’re swinging for the fences.” Jackson stepped forward and poked his old
friend in the chest. “That’s exactly
what I’m doing, Sean. And
I’m doing it right now.”
He glanced at the wall and memorized the website he’d
scrawled there.
The whole texture of his day had changed. He had to get
on that application process, and quick. He wasn’t even sure who had keys to the
factory. Shelby Monroe’s mother
used to run it; maybe she had the keys. He grabbed his wallet from the windowsill
where he’d left it and walked
out of the bar into the bright Arkansas
morning.
As mayor
of Bishop, population 4,200, he’d been working hard to fix what was wrong with
the community, all so that he could leave it.

And this show might just be
his tick

Molly O’Keefe is the RITA Award winning author of over 25 books and
novellas. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband, two kids and the
largest heap of dirty laundry in North America.

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