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Let It Ride...

LET IT RIDE
Harlequin Blaze
Writing as Jillian Burns
ISBN: 0373794703
Release Date: May 1, 2009

Used to living life at full throttle, Captain Cole Jackson is eager to prove he still has what it takes. War injuries have permanently grounded him from ever flying fighter jets again and he needs a new challenge.

When he sets his sights on a beautiful but remote Keno girl his buddies bet him he can’t bed her in a week. But as soon as he's bedded her he realizes he's made a tactical error. The haunting beauty has secrets that rock his world and make him want to be her personal warrior.

Vegas Keno girl, Jordan Brenner, has been cursed with the kind of beauty that makes men notice her bra size and not her I.Q.

The grounded flyboy is no exception. But Jordan questions her resolve to be cautious when the hunky Air Force captain launches an intense campaign of seduction. One reckless night she gives in. Then she discovers their extraordinary night of passion was only about winning a bet.

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Inspiration:

Captain Cole Jackson
Captain Cole Jackson

Jordan Brenner
Jordan Brenner

Reviews:

"Let It Ride has so much conflict and emotion packed in, that it really did a number on me, leaving me exhausted in a good way by the time I turned the final page. Just in the first few chapters alone, there is enough to build an entire novel around, and still more is added as we go along. From Cole’s PTSD to Jordan’s worries about her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s, emotion is high. I have to say, I got a little teary-eyed at Jordan’s graduation. There is a moment there that is especially poignant, showing us how deep their feelings run, even before they realize it themselves.

With Let it Ride, Jillian Burns has written a wonderfully steamy, fast paced story that will keep you turning pages until the very end. What woman doesn’t like an incredibly sexy man in uniform brought to his knees with the power of love? My only hope is that we have a very short wait until we get stories about Cole’s cronies, McCabe, Hughes, and Grady" -- © Kelley A. Hartsell, June 2009. All rights reserved.

Excerpt:

“Target sighted. Three o’clock.” Captain Cole Jackson nodded toward the amazingly hot blonde across the casino. “The Keno girl with the mile long legs and the big-”

“Her?” Cole’s buddy, McCabe, snorted as he fed another five dollar bill into his slot machine. “Good luck.”

“Why? What’s wrong with her?” She was the sexiest thing he’d ever laid eyes on. And after thirty years of living on the wild side, that was saying a lot. When Cole had spotted her a moment ago the past months of hell had momentarily faded. Doing her was all the rest and recreation he’d need.

“You’re in Vegas, buddy,” McCabe insisted. “You could have a different woman every night. Make up for lost time.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll start with her.” Cole and his buddies had met at The Grand to raise a little hell and celebrate his discharge from the hospital. Medical leave until further notice and a city full of beautiful women. If he couldn’t be in the cockpit, this would do.

He stared at the Keno girl as she moved around the casino, stopping at blackjack and roulette tables. He'd always been a sucker for blondes, and this one had his babe meter clocking in the stratosphere. Her lips alone sent his fantasies to places that could get him court-marshaled. His gaze roamed lower to her skimpy red uniform. Damn, what it didn't cover might burn his eyes to the sockets.

“You couldn’t even get to two g’s with that one, much less complete a roll. Trust me,” McCabe said.

Ahh, understanding for Cole clicked like an engine turning over. He turned on his stool to face his buddy. “She turned you down.”

“Him and every other guy on base,” Alex chimed in from her stool next to McCabe, a satisfied smirk on her face. Their buddy since basic training, Alexandria Hughes was the kind of chick who’d slug the first guy who tried to treat her like a female.

McCabe scowled at her, and then looked back at Cole. “I’m telling you, that Keno girl’s got a rep at Nellis as Ms. Crash and Bur—” McCabe broke off.

There was a second of awkward silence before Cole jumped in. “She hasn’t seen my maneuvers yet.”

“You’re full of it, man.” McCabe swiveled on his stool to face Cole. “You nail her before my leave is up, and I’ll give up women for a month.” He took a swig of beer.

Sonofa—McCabe had just challenged him. A rush of adrenalin coursed through Cole the way it had when he and McCabe and Grady and Hughes had all trained together, pushing the limits of their F-16’s--and their commanders. If this Keno girl was hard to get, all the better. He didn’t want some pity fuck. He was ready for something to make him feel alive again, and prove he still had what it took.

And she was it.

“She got a fiancé? Boyfriend?” Cole would make sure the playing field was level.

McCabe shrugged. “She was seeing someone--civilian--a while back, but the word is she hasn’t used that excuse in a while.”

“Girlfriend?”

“God, what a waste that would be.” McCabe stared wistfully at her, his slot machine forgotten.

Cole couldn’t agree more. If he’d ever dreamed of the perfect woman to roll around in the sheets with, she was it. Long, shapely thighs to cradle his hips and-his gaze went back to her chest—the kind of rack usually only seen in Hugh Hefner’s mansion. He shifted on his stool, his comfortable Levis suddenly restricting. You were in the hospital too long, Jackson. But thank God the crash hadn’t damaged anything vital to this mission. “All right. You got yourself a bet.”

“What?” McCabe’s gaze swung back to Cole.

“You said you’d give up--”

“I know what the hell I said.”

“And she shot you down, right?”

“I prefer to think of it as a failure to pass the pre-flight check. It must be the uniform.” With his Brad Pitt looks and charm to spare, McCabe was the certified chick magnet of the group. He’d been known to bed two and three women in the same night. Occasionally at the same time.

“She got a rule against Air Force men?” Cole directed his question to Alex. He wanted some high-level intel on his subject. Of course, he wasn’t in uniform tonight...

“I don’t know,” Alex answered, her arms crossed over a wrinkled desert camo shirt. “And even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.”

“Jesus, Hughes, you ain’t gonna go all girly on us now, are you?” McCabe grinned at Hughes, but she didn’t return his smile. She stood and finished her Corona in one long gulp, then set it down with a thunk. “Poor McCabe. Thirty days without a woman.” She leaned in close. “You won’t last.”

His face screwed up in confusion, McCabe watched Alex stalk off. “What crawled up her ass?”

Cole shrugged. Air corp. or Keno girl, females tended to stick together. Hughes was probably disgusted with him for making the bet. But this Keno girl had a rare kind of beauty that could make a guy forget everything that sucked about his life. Even without the bet, he’d go for her. And after months of surgeries and physical therapy, this challenge put him back into play.

It sure as hell beat sitting around the Vet hospital listening to some shrink talk about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. So, he had a few night sweats and bad dreams. What the hell did they expect? Life as he knew it was over. All he’d ever wanted to do was fly jets, and get into the space program. But that wasn’t going to happen now. One minute he’d been breaking the sound barrier over Iraqi air space, the next his right wing had been blown off. He’d barely managed to hit the eject button.

“So, what do I get if you lose?” McCabe crossed his arms over his chest.

“You get to save your right hand a lot of muscle strain the next thirty days.”

“And you risk nothing? Screw that.”

“Screw what?” Grady appeared next to them with his perpetually grim expression. His hulking dark presence tended to scare small children and dogs.

McCabe explained the challenge, and Grady cut his gaze to the Keno girl. His eyes widened and he whistled under his breath. “Oh, yeah. Ms. Cra--” He cleared his throat. “I’m in. How about that bottle of whiskey Jackson’s uncle left him?”

“Damn it, Grady, you’ve been after my scotch since we were cadets and you don’t even drink. It’s fifty-year-old Cragammore. You know how much it’s worth?”

“You want to back out?” McCabe taunted.

“Fuck you, McCabe.” He could get this girl. He just needed to learn everything about her. “So, if I win, does Grady turn celibate too?”

“Hey, I nev--” Grady began.

“Hell no,” McCabe cut in. “He’s already got the worst temper in Nevada. What he needs is to relax. Learn Yoga. Get a massage. There’s an old lady on the strip, does that herbal, aromatherapy shit. I’d give a lot to see him get smeared with sweet-smelling oil and chant new age mumbo-jumbo.”

Cole grunted at the image. “Hell, I’d bet the whiskey to see that.”

“I want that scotch. You’re on.” Grady stuck out his right hand to seal the deal and Cole shook it, his insides churning with the dare.

“Here she comes,” Grady warned.

A fruity scent teased Cole’s nostrils. Dammit, she’d approached him on his deaf side.

He spun on the stool to find the Keno girl standing next to him, his eyes level with the pale, soft flesh spilling out of her red sequined tank top. He imagined palming those tits, rubbing his thumbs over the nipples. His body, long denied, roared into four g’s, but he called on years of discipline to stand and lift his gaze to her engaging smile and-–God, her eyes were such a deep blue they were almost purple.

Even up close she was flawless. Her lips moved but she spoke so softly he couldn’t hear her above the rumble and ringing of the slots. He angled his head and leaned closer as he pulled out his wallet.

“—buy a Keno card?” Her voice matched her appearance. Voluptuous and feminine.

“I’ll take two.” He slipped out a twenty and placed it on her tray.

She handed him the cards and he tossed them on his stool as she dug in her fanny pack for change.

“Keep it.” He covered her hand to stop her from making change. Damn, it was like ice. “You’re freezing.” He curved his fingers around her palm and enclosed her hand with both of his. Soft. Dainty. And cold.

Her eyes widened, but she pasted on a bright smile as she eased from his grasp. “Thank you.” She turned to McCabe and her smile faltered a bit. “Did you want a card, Major?”

“I think my friend here,” he slapped Cole on the back, “has it covered. He turned to Grady, “you up for some poker?”

Grady nodded and they took their beers and headed deeper into the casino.

The Keno girl’s gaze shot back to Cole. “You’re a friend of Major McCabe’s?” There was a distinct edge to her voice. What the hell had McCabe done? Or did she have a grudge against all military personnel? Had some airman done her wrong?

He shook his head. “Not if you don’t want me to be.”

Her smile dropped and she raised a brow. “Don’t lose a friend on my account.” She turned to leave, but Cole side-stepped to block her retreat. “Captain Cole Jackson, U.S. Air Force. And you are?”

She stared over his shoulder a moment, her lips a tight line. Bringing those gorgeous eyes up to his, she put her free hand on her hip. “Jordan Brenner. Mother of five. Looking for a man who can support me and all my kids.” Her expression said, Now will you leave me alone?

If she had five kids he’d stand on this slot machine and quack like a duck. “Five, huh? What are their names?”

Without missing a beat, she rattled off, “Anna, Billy, Charlie, David and...” She faltered, glanced down at the commercial grade carpet, then back up at Cole. “Fred!” She smiled triumphantly.

Cole chuckled, unable to keep from returning her mischievous grin. Smiling pulled the scarred flesh on the right side of his face. “Not Eddie? Or Estelle? Or Eugene?”

A hum bubbled up from inside her, and musical laughter erupted, but was stifled just as quickly. Something inside Cole stilled. Why would she stop such a wonderful sound?

“All right. You caught me. I couldn’t think of an ‘E’ name.” She shifted her tray of Keno cards to her other hip and her smile faded.

So did his.

“Aren’t you going to fill those out?” She nodded toward the Keno cards on his stool. “They’ll be starting another game soon.”

He glanced back and scooped them from the stool. “I’ve never played Keno before. Maybe you could show me?”

Wariness returned to her eyes, but she stepped closer, leaning in to point to his cards as she explained. He inhaled the scent of her fruity shampoo and closed his eyes. Damn.

“You can pick up to ten numbers on each card. The computer randomly chooses numbers between one and eighty and you win based on how many you matched.” She began rattling off the odds of certain numbers being chosen like a calculus professor.

“You really know your stuff.”

Her lips tightened and her eyes narrowed. “For a blonde? Anyone with half a brain can figure odds if they work here long enough.”

So, she had a chip on her shoulder about being labeled a bimbo. He wanted to ask her how long she’d been a Keno girl. She couldn’t be much older than twenty-five. But he couldn’t open fire on her tonight. He’d do a little recon first.

“Just because you’re a beautiful blonde doesn’t mean you can’t be a genius too. Look at Jayne Mansfield or Sharon Stone. Both have I.Q. levels close to Einstein.”

She stared at him, her face inscrutable. But something flickered briefly in her eyes and hit him right in the gut. As he stared back, the air between them vibrated like he’d just started up the jets of his Raptor.

But he didn’t want to come on too strong, so he broke eye contact, severing the connection. “I’ll let you get back to work.”

She stepped away and fidgeted. “Yes. Enjoy the casino, Captain.”

Cole watched her leave, enthralled with the way her perfect little butt moved beneath the micro-shorts. A shockwave of lust roared through his blood straight to his dick and he tightened his jaw. Christ, he needed to get control.

He’d made first contact. This time tomorrow, he’d have an intelligence report to aid him. Getting her into bed within a week? The bet had him revved up. But this Keno girl might be all the challenge he needed.

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