Dirty Ginger, an all new emotional small town standalone romance from USA Today bestselling author Stacey Kennedy is available now!
Everyone at Three Chicks Brewery knows that Amelia Carter has the magic touch when it comes to creating the perfect beer. Her ales have customers singing her praises and begging for more. Unfortunately, when it comes to love, the only magic she seems to have is the cursed kind. After being left at the altar by her ex-fiancé, Amelia gives up on the idea of happily-ever-after to focus on making the Carter family brewery a national success.
Beckett Stone finally started to believe in happily-ever-after the day Amelia’s worthless ex bailed on their wedding, finally giving Beckett another chance with his high school sweetheart— the only woman he’s ever loved. Unfortunately, Amelia’s broken heart is just one of the obstacles Beckett needs to overcome if he wants to win her for good. He knows he’s not the man Amelia deserves, particularly with his money-pit of a house, a 1975 truck that barely runs, an alcoholic father, and a universe that seems to have a twisted sense of humor when it comes to giving Beckett a break.
But when pressure mounts to make the Three Chicks Brewery’s top beer, Foxy Diva, into a huge success, Amelia starts to fall apart, and Beckett swoops in with his gentle reassurances and hard work ethic. While the last thing Amelia wants is fall in love again, she can’t deny that her heart beats a little faster whenever she sees Beckett walk through the door. Soon, every warm caress and soft whisper of understanding becomes a balm to both of them. As Beckett makes his intentions clear, Amelia must decide if she can overcome her shattered heart and believe in the magic of true love again.
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After Amelia arrived back home, the lingering tension of meeting Luka followed her. She skipped the house and went straight for the brewery, needing to figure out a plan on getting it back into shape. With every step she took, she kept waiting for her heart to squeeze tight, missing Luka, to feel more broken, raw, anything, but she only felt glad to keep Beckett from facing jail time. And something about that kept rubbing her wrong. She’d spent nearly three years with Luka, why wasn’t she trying to understand why he ended things so cruelly? Why didn’t she want an explanation from him? Why wasn’t she ready to let him have it and to feel the pain he’d put her through? She amounted this to getting over the worst of her heartbreak in the tropics. But there was this little part of her heart that told her there was a good chance that Luka should have been in her rearview mirror for a long time, and maybe the reason she couldn’t hate him for what he’d done was because, beyond the embarrassment and the sadness that the life she dreamed up was over, maybe the life she thought she had with Luka wasn’t real to begin with.
When she reached for the first tank, she noted the pungent smell in the brewery had improved greatly with the barn doors left open for most of the morning. The dust begrudgingly hadn’t improved. First thing first, the tanks needed cleaning.
She only got one step into the barn, when from behind her, Beckett snapped, “What did you do?”
Whirling around, she found Beckett’s face tight and muscles straining. The one bad thing about small towns was word got around fast, and obviously, he’d learned about her meeting Luka today. Trying to play dumb to avoid the conversation she didn’t want to have, she turned back to her work. “I’m about to clean my tanks,” she said.
His voice tightened. “That is not the answer to my question, and you know it.”
She refused to look back, hearing the anger in his low voice, and not wanting to see it on his face. “I did what had to be done,” she told him. To keep her hands busy, she reached for a cloth and began dusting along the stairs that led up to the top of the tank.
“That payment was mine to make, Amelia, not yours,” he said, his voice barely controlled. “If you had asked me, I would have told you that I rejected his offer to pay him because I don’t want the prick to fix his nose. He should wear that shame for the rest of his life.”
She’d never missed pina coladas on the beach more than she did right now. With a heavy sigh, she turned to face Beckett, spotting the vein in the middle of his head bulging like it would burst any second. Of course, she had expected him to show up, but she wasn’t expecting his anger. But it didn’t matter, she wanted this behind her. For good. “What is bothering you the most here, Beckett: that I paid to fix your problem or that Luka will get his nose fixed?”
Beckett arched an eyebrow. “Do I need to pick one? Can’t both piss me off equally?”
A laugh nearly escaped her, but nothing about any of this was funny. She knew all too well that fate was not in her hands. The death of her parents taught her that. But she didn’t need to sit by and let fate decide everything without fighting back either. “What did you expect me to do?” she countered, glaring at him. “Let you go to jail for me?”
To anyone else, he’d look intimidating with his legs planted wide and his nostrils flaring, but she heard the warmth in his voice behind the tightness as he said, “I expect for you to come and talk to me about it, instead of giving that bastard your money.”
Yeah, well, she could play the intimidating part too. She flatted her lips, placing her hands on her hips. “You never would have agreed to pay him if I’d asked you.”
“You’re damn right I wouldn’t have,” he growled, his face reddening.
Heat flushed through her body as she ground her teeth, turning away from him. God, he’d always been a hard wall that she’d beat her head against. But she realized in this moment that her arguments were so different with Beckett than they were with Luka. Luka got upset when she wouldn’t change something about herself for him. Beckett only ever got upset when he felt she was treated wrongly. Her stomach roiled in awareness that she’d forgotten what it was like to have someone support her. “Well, it’s done and over and now we can all put this behind us and move on.”
“Don’t kid yourself, Amelia. Nothing is behind us,” he said slowly and coldly, flicking her gaze to him. His look was all knowing. “You can’t simply brush this under a rug and hope it all goes away.”
“Why not?” she asked, throwing up in hands in frustration. “Why can’t I pay Luka off and end this entire shitshow? What is the harm in that?”
Beckett’s expression softened. A smidgen. “The harm is that you caved when you shouldn’t have.”
Her chest heaved, breathing become rough and rapid. “I caved to protect you.”
A gust of wind swept up dirt up around him as he crossed his arms, his brows knotting. “I didn’t ask you to do that. If I had wanted to pay the asshole off, I would have fucking paid him.”
“Yeah, right.” She snorted. “You have too much pride for that.”
“This has nothing to do with pride,” he snapped, reaching into his back pocket. “This was my problem. Not yours.” He offered her a check. “I won’t pay him, but I will pay you. Take it.”
“No,” she said, firmly. “My problem, not yours.”
His eyes slowly narrowed into slits. “Amelia.”
Her gut began to boil. She’d had about enough of men today. She tossed the cloth down on the stairs and closed the distance between them, getting into his space. “I get you’re pissed, really I do, but can’t you just say thank you and be done with it?”
A laughter with an edge escaped him. “Do tell me what I should be thanking you for.”
She was pushing him. She knew it. She also wasn’t about to back down. “For making this all go away. For ensuring that you wouldn’t get jail time. For protecting you like you protected me when your fist hit Luka’s face.”
A pause. His gaze flared. “I will never thank you for that.”
She stared him down, and he glared right back for many, many seconds. Years they’d been together, and from those years, she knew that he wouldn’t give, not when it came to protecting someone he cared about. The silence drudged on until she threw her hands up. “Honestly, Beckett, you’ll have to explain this to me. Why are you so mad?”
Intensity simmered on his face as he closed the distance between them, bringing the hard wall of his chest nearly against hers. She felt the heat emanating off him and was shocked when her nipples puckered in response to him being this close. Tingles raced through her all the way to the tips of her toes as he said, tightly, “I’m mad about all of it. I’m mad that you left for college, and I was too much of a fucking mess to go with you. I’m mad that you met that fucker, and he got his damn claws into you. I’m mad that instead of you being blissfully happy, I watched your heart shatter before my eyes.” His chin dipped, bringing his mouth near inches from hers, his warm breath brushing across her face. “I’m mad that instead of that prick suffering, he has your fucking money to fix his stupid face. And I’m mad that I have no way to stop any of it.”
The world narrowed on him with each and every meaningful word that passed his mouth. The affection, the protection, the sheer helplessness, all affected her in a way she never anticipated feeling again. She became tangled in the safe energy he projected. The familiarly of having him close. She took in his simmering eyes with so much emotion in them she could barely breathe. The heat of his body, the strength of him, so close to her. His sculpted lips drew her in, closer and closer, until her hands fisted his T-shirt and her mouth met his.
Beckett stiffened. He did not return the kiss.
At the coldness against her mouth, she gasped and broke away, horror making her blood run cold. “Oh my God, Beckett, I’m so sorry.”
Only silence greeted her. Was he shaking?
His eyebrow slowly arched. “Did you do that to shut me up or because you wanted to kiss me?”
Heat crept over her face. “I don’t know why I did that.” She swallowed deeply, and then began rambling, “No that’s not true. I was just thinking how nice it felt to have someone protecting me and caring about me… and it seemed familiar and safe… and your mouth looked good…”
More silence descended. Until all the shock on Beckett’s face was swept away to reveal raw, unadulterated lust, an expression she hadn’t seen from him for a very long time. It occurred to her then she missed being looked at like that – with fierce hunger. Like no other woman compared to her. Like he didn’t care what hell he had to walk through to reach her, he’d do it time and time again. Like he was just the reckless kid that wanted something and didn’t care what the consequences cost him.
She wanted to be that person she was back then with him. The one who didn’t know what heartbreak felt like. The one who laughed often and believed anything was possible. She swallowed again, swearing her heart was beating loud enough for both of them to hear.
Then a gasp ripped from her throat as he grabbed the front of her shirt and yanked her against the hard planes of his body. He did what she didn’t do. He finished the kiss.
A moment later, her back hit the beer tank, and Beckett wasted no time devouring her neck with his hot kisses. She pushed off his cowboy hat to run her hands through his hair, feeling her sane mind unravel at his passion. Her mind shut off and only her body was thinking now. Beckett’s touch was imprinted on her skin, reminding her of teenage freedom and wild affection.
“Ew, my eyes,” Maisie screamed.
Amelia broke away from Beckett with a loud gasp, snapping her eyes open, finding her sisters standing in the barn’s open double doors. Maisie was blinking rapidly, and Clara’s back was ramrod straight. Amelia stared at them for a second before they both turned and walked away.