What happens when the new girl in town sets her sights on the player?

River Atlas Alston is NOT the man for Elizabeth Dempsey. She’s searching for love, and he’s a player who’ll never settle down. Too bad he’s doing a darn good job of showing her how wonderful the two of us could be together in the meantime.

Meet Not is out now! Read the first chapter below!  

Chapter 1

Hard – difficult, complex, or – if you’re lucky – stiff

“Holy hippie cow!”

My mouth gapes open as I survey the bar. Did a hippie puke in here? Wait. No. Puke makes it sound bad, and it isn’t bad. It’s freaking cool.

The walls are covered in peace signs, daisies, and musical posters from folk singers. None of the chairs in the place match. And, to top it off, there are colored lights on the walls and ceiling giving the place a purplish haze. I can’t imagine how out of this world it would be to end up drunk here with those lights, but I’m willing to give it a try.

Aspen hip checks me. “Awesome, isn’t it?”


Cassandra snorts next to me. “Weird is more like it.”

I refuse to get annoyed. I will not bicker with my sister today, but, man, she gets on my last nerve. Since we moved to Colorado a year ago, all she does is complain. I want to tell her to go back to Saint Louis if she’s not happy, but I don’t since I’d miss her grumpy butt. I must be a glutton for punishment.

Gabrielle clears her throat. “Should we sit down?”

I frown at how my baby sister practically whispers the question. Don’t get me wrong. She’s always been shy, but she turned into a meek, scared woman over a year ago and I don’t know why. I’m kind of afraid to learn what happened since I’m pretty sure it’s going to be heartbreaking.

“Oh, hey, Forest,” Aspen greets, and I turn to meet the man.

My eyes bug out of my head when I realize he isn’t wearing any pants. No underwear either. Nope, he’s completely bottomless. He is wearing a top and shoes, though, which confuses me.

Cassandra elbows me. “Don’t stare.”

“I’m trying not to, but it’s hard. Really hard.”

“It’s not hard,” Forest says as he glances down at himself, and I realize what I said.

I slap a hand over my mouth as I’m finally able to drag my eyes away from the man’s private parts. “Sorry.”

Cassandra giggles. “She’s the queen of saying awkward shit.”

“It’s not nice to call someone awkward,” Aspen scolds.  

Cassandra shrugs. She doesn’t apologize for her behavior – ever.

“And you, Forest,” Aspen waves toward his nether regions, “put on some pants.”

“Do I have to?” He pouts. He sticks out his bottom lip and everything.

I giggle at the sight of the gray-haired elderly man wearing no pants pouting like a two-year-old.

“Do it or I’ll tell Lilac.”

Mentioning my brother’s girlfriend does it. He pulls in his lip and marches off.

“Lilac isn’t coming tonight,” Gabrielle points out.

Aspen shrugs. “What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” She motions us toward a booth. “Come on. Let’s get our drink on.”

“Whoo-hoo!” Cassandra throws her arms in the air and shouts. The woman should never be encouraged. She doesn’t understand what the word moderation means.

I start to follow them, but I’m stopped when an arm circles my waist, and someone leans close to whisper in my ear.

“Hey, babe. I can’t wait to find out if the carpet matches the drapes.”

I groan. Typical. It’s always the same when you have red hair. Men think it’s hilarious to make jokes about whether the color is natural or not. Why in the world would I fake having a curly mop of ginger colored hair?

I grab the man’s hand and twist his wrist until he’s forced to let me go. When I turn around to confront him, he blanches.

“Shit. Sorry. I thought you were someone else.”

I wish I could say I lash out at him for being a jerk, but I don’t. Why not? Because I’m staring at an honest-to-goodness fashion model. Well, not an actual fashion model since we’re in the small town of Winter Falls, Colorado, but he could totally be a model if he wanted to be.

He’s tall. Since I’m five-seven and have to tilt my head way back to look at him, I’m guessing he’s over six-foot. And, judging by the way his t-shirt strains to contain his muscles, he’s hiding a spectacular body underneath his clothes.

His body may be hot, but his face is absolutely gorgeous. He has a short beard trimmed to perfection, which hits all my sexy man buttons since I’m a beautician and have seen way too many unruly beards in my life. You don’t want to know some of the stuff I’ve found in a man’s beard. Gross. To complete the picture, he has bright green eyes and a slightly lopsided smile.

His beard and hair are auburn. I never thought I’d find someone with red hair attractive, but this man breaks all my rules. Hell, he fed me some atrocious pick-up line two seconds ago and it did nothing to stop me from drooling over him.  

“Elizabeth! Aren’t you coming?” Cassandra shouts, and the spell is broken.

“See ya around, Green Eyes.” I wave and rush off before I decide to break my rule about one-night stands.

“I can’t believe we lived in White Bridge for a year and never discovered Winter Falls,” Cassandra says as I sit down.

We recently ‘discovered’ the small town when our brother, Beckett, fell in love with Lilac who grew up here. Lilac is actually Aspen’s sister. She has four sisters in total. I feel sorry for her. I have three, one of whom, Olivia, doesn’t deign to be considered part of our family, and it’s more than enough. I don’t know what I’d do with another sibling to handle.

“I’m jealous you live here,” Cassandra tells Gabrielle.

For once, I agree with Cassandra. Winter Falls is the bomb. I’d love to live here. The town is full of quirky people. I refer to exhibit number one – a pantless man walking into a bar. I don’t think most people would notice my tendency to spout sexual innuendos at the most inopportune of times here.

Gabrielle tucks her chin into her chest and allows her blonde hair to form a curtain in front of her face. Sigh. She never used to hide from us. I need to get over my fear of learning what happened to her.

“Where’s Aspen?” I ask instead.

I search the area and spot her sitting on her fiancé’s lap. She and Lyric are staring at each other like they’re alone, but they’re not. Lyric’s brother, Phoenix, a goat farmer we met at a pagan festival a while back – told you this town is cool – is there along with Green Eyes.

Of course, Green Eyes isn’t alone. He’s surrounded by women. Judging by the grin on his face, he’s loving it. Ah, he’s a player. I should have known. Anyone as sexy and handsome as he is isn’t going to be attracted to me, aka Ms. Awkward.

Phoenix glances over and his gaze catches on Gabrielle. Hmm… Intriguing. Is the goat farmer interested in my baby sister? I know she has a major crush on him. She can’t hide from me. It’s cute she thinks she can.

Aspen jumps to her feet and grabs Phoenix’s hand before she drags him across the room toward us. Interesting. Is Aspen playing matchmaker? I’m all for it. I scoot out of the booth where I was sitting next to Gabrielle to make room for Phoenix.

Aspen shoves him into the booth next to my shy sister, and I cover my face to hide my smile. This is going to be fun.

“Hi, Phoenix,” Gabrielle murmurs, and Phoenix’s eyes flare. It appears someone’s crush isn’t unrequited. Awesome.

“I’m Cassandra. Gabrielle’s big sister.” Cassandra narrows her eyes on Phoenix. “And gatekeeper.”

Before I can correct her, Gabrielle huffs as her cheeks darken. “You are no one’s gatekeeper,” she mumbles in a soft voice.

“Yeah,” I agree. “You can’t guard the gate when you’re always sneaking out of it.” I wave to Phoenix. “I’m Elizabeth by the way.”

“I’m River,” Green Eyes says and winks at me. “I’m the favorite son.”

I should have guessed he’s related to Lyric and Phoenix since they all have the same tall, rugged appearance.

Lyric shoves him. “You wish.”

“We should get some margaritas.”

No sooner are the words out of Aspen’s mouth than the bartender is setting a pitcher of strawberry margaritas down on the table.

“It’s been a bit boring around here. Have at it.”

Aspen giggles. “I guess he forgot about how you and your brothers enjoy skinny dipping in the falls.”

Cassandra whips out her phone. “When does this happen? I need to make a note in my calendar.”

I knock the phone out of her hands. “You are not going to play peeping Tom.”

“Don’t worry. I won’t be playing. It’ll be real.” Her eyes sweep over the men, and she licks her lips.

“No one sees my fiancé naked except me,” Aspen declares.

“No worries. He has two scrumptious brothers I can feast my eyes on.”

She’s not wrong. Phoenix isn’t as gorgeous as Green Eyes…er… River, but he’s awful easy on the eyes, nonetheless.

“What else do you do for fun around here in this Podunk town?”

At Cassandra’s question, the music screeches to a halt, and quiet descends on the bar. “I believe Ms. Cassandra of the big city of Saint Louis has thrown down,” Forest announces from the small stage.

“Holy crappolo, do you have listening devices planted all over the bar?” Cassandra claps and squeals. “Awesome. How does this throw down work?”

She doesn’t wait for an answer before jumping to her feet and lifting her arms in the air. “I accept your challenge.”

River stands. “I’m in.” He smirks.

Cassandra rushes off, and River chases her. I frown as I watch them leave.

Typical. Cassandra always steals the men I’m interested in. She’s been doing it since the second my boobs appeared when I was thirteen. Why would River be any different?

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