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Hallie Bennett

Lumberjacks of High Ridge Series E-Book Bundle

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 2000+ 5-Star Reviews

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Who could ever love a beast?

Binge all 3 books in the Lumberjacks of High Ridge series!

Every story features a steamy romance between a plus-size heroine & a dirty-talking hero.

  • Kept by the Beast (Beauty & the Beast, Dual Virgins. Forced Proximity)
  • Claimed by the Woodsman (Reverse Age Gap, Surprise Pregnancy)
  • Found by the Loner (Grumpy/Sunshine, Opposites Attract, Hurt/Comfort)

Read Sample

From Kept by the Beast

CHAPTER ONE

POPPY

Cool, fall air sifts through my hair after rolling the car window down for the drive home. Earlier, I decided to take a break from being a hermit in my apartment and drove thirty minutes to the cute mountain town of High Ridge for some shopping. Rife with unique shops and picturesque views, the small town evokes Hallmark-esque vibes, and more than once, I considered how nice it’d be to live here.

City life isn’t terrible ﹘ full of fun events and opportunities to meet people. Which is why I moved to Everton in the first place, except I never followed through with actually partaking in those events. Striking up conversations with strangers is extremely difficult for me, and the few friends I have aren’t very social either ﹘ uninterested in attending anything.

If I’m not taking advantage of city living, I might as well enjoy beautiful views in a smaller town.

Images of my idyllic life in High Ridge float through my mind until a bang shakes the car, scaring me to death, while I quickly pull over to the side of the road as the vehicle’s speed declines. Dense forest surrounds me, and the pretty seasonal colors I admired on my way here no longer hold their appeal. Instead, they signal my unfortunate luck of being stranded in the middle of nowhere.

I decided against taking the major highway because I wanted to meander through country roads, but now I’m regretting that decision. Shifting to park, quiet settles over me as a wave of anxiety rushes forward. What do I do now?

Cars have never been my thing, and I’ve been blessed with a trouble-free record. Until now. Regret for never purchasing a Triple A membership assaults me.

Damn my procrastination.

Stupid.

Squeezing the steering wheel tightly, I consider my options which, admittedly, are slim. Hermits aren’t known for their large circles of friends, right? Not for the first time, I lament my lack of social skills.

Stop having a pity party and think. Try calling Tory.

Out of a short list of friends, she’s the one I’m closest to. Scrolling to her contact information, the phone rings a few times before she answers with a breezy greeting. Suddenly, my throat closes in embarrassment and an intense aversion to asking for help. It feels like I’m intruding on her life with a problem I should have been able to prevent ﹘ paying for Triple A ﹘ or figure out on my own.

“Hello?”

Exhaling harshly, I choke the words out, attempting a cheerful tone. “Hey! Sorry to bother you, but my car just died on the side of the road back from High Ridge. Is there any way you could come and possibly jump my car?”

“That sucks! You don’t have roadside assistance? My parents pay for mine, and it’s been a lifesaver. Especially with the car I have now. I don’t think it’ll be a good idea to try to jump yours. It could fry mine or yours or both. Maybe you can try someone else?”

Jumbled emotions flutter in my stomach. Envy that she has parents who offer to pay for such a car service. Humiliation at being turned down, knowing she was my best bet for help. And worry about what to do next.

But I don’t let Tory know anything’s wrong. Forcing a laugh, I brush it off. “No worries; I’ll figure something out. Thanks, though!”

Hanging up, desperation and panic ratchet higher as the only other people I feel a modicum of comfort requesting help from can’t come to my aid. Jessica’s out of town and Nadine doesn’t have jumper cables. A thought of suggesting she buy cables, so I can reimburse her later enters my head, but I dismiss it. She’d already be doing me a favor driving out here; I can’t expect her to stop by the store, too.

Tears overflow down my cheeks, I hate how alone and pathetic I am.

Who doesn’t have at least one person they can call when they need help? How could I be so dumb and not have a contingency plan for this sort of thing?

Resting my head on the back of the seat, orange sunlight blinds me as the sun starts to set. Better hurry and call an auto shop before they close. It’s Friday and nearing five pm; I can’t sit here frozen ﹘ no matter how helpless I feel.

Thankfully, my phone has service as I search auto body shops. At least that’s one good thing. But before I can contact a shop, the phone vibrates and a blue screen appears.

Oh, no.

This happens every once in a while when it decides to randomly restart but gets stuck on one screen. There’s no way for me to get around it. I have to wait for it to die because charging the phone from zero usually brings it back to life. Too bad I’ve been charging it in my car all day in case of an emergency. Joke’s on me because here I am in a legitimate crisis without a working phone.

Groaning in anguish, a headache pounds behind my eyes from the tears and stress overloading my body. All I wanted was a relaxing day out ﹘ something I never do because I talk myself out of going places if I’ll be alone. Instead, circumstances remind me how lonely, foolish, and pathetic I am.

Is walking my only option? I don’t remember seeing much civilization behind me, but what else is there? Check under the hood?

I don’t know much about cars, but maybe it’ll be something obvious like a cap popped off or low coolant. Filling the bottle up with the blue liquid isn’t beyond my limited skills. It’s literally the only thing I can do besides airing up my tires when the lights show low tire pressure.

Glancing around the driver’s seat, I try to remember how to even pop the hood when a button with a car and opened hood catches my eye. The button causes a loud click as the top jumps up. Hustling towards the front of the vehicle, my hand skims underneath the warm metal until my fingers meet the latch that lets me raise the hood above my head. I prop it up and scan the collection of black parts, praying a problem jumps out at me.

No such luck.

Head hanging in dejection, an engine rumbles ahead when a dark blue truck slowly approaches to park behind the car. My heart rate skyrockets as a large man hops down from the truck cab, and past murder documentaries I’ve binged rear their ugly heads.

“You need some help?” The stranger’s gruff voice jerks me to attention, a trembling hand covering my heart as if to slow its chaotic beating. A thick beard covers the lower part of his face while auburn waves shaggily fall to brush his shoulders.

Do I say yes? No? I’m stranded, and he’s the first person to appear since my car trouble started. How likely is it that he’s a serial killer versus a good Samaritan?

“Uh, yes, thank you. I’m not sure what’s wrong.” He edges around the grey fender, and I hurry out of his way, keeping a short distance between us. Up close, his hulking form is even more obvious and intimidating.

Tall with broad shoulders, his barrel chest tapers down to thighs thick as tree trunks. For once in my life, I actually feel petite compared to him, and at a size twenty in jeans, I’m not a small woman.

“Let’s take a look. I’m Asa, by the way.”

“Poppy.” 

He tinkers with a couple of caps and lines before clucking his tongue and stepping back. “Nothing stands out as obviously wrong, though I’m no expert. Let me try to give you a jump; we’ll see if it starts. Unfortunately, all the local car shops are probably closed by now. Is there someone you can call to pick you up?”

No, because I’m pathetic.

Tears threaten to spill over again, and I quickly swipe at them, turning to the side in the hope that he doesn’t see them. Words stutter from my throat. “I’ll probably try getting an Uber.”

If I ever get my phone to work.

“We don’t have a lot of Ubers around here… Hey, are you okay?” A gentle hand cups my shoulder, guiding me to face him, but I keep my face averted until another hand lifts my chin. Embarrassment heats my cheeks as he witnesses my breakdown.

“I’m fine.” An annoying warble clings to my voice, betraying the lie. “What if it starts with the jump? It should be okay to drive to Everton, right? It’s not that far of a trip.”

“I wouldn’t risk it; you’re stranded here because something’s wrong. It wouldn’t be safe for you if it happens again on a busy highway.” His head gives a negative shake as my shoulders sag. Concern over stranger danger becomes consumed by worry. What am I going to do?

“I’m sure it’ll be fine. Maybe this incident was a fluke. A jump would be much appreciated, then I’ll be on my way.” Maybe I’ll get lucky and make it home without any more trouble. Or at least be close enough that Tory might rescue me from the side of a different road. At this point, screw the car. I’d accept a ride home where I can hide in my bed, avoiding responsibility until tomorrow.

Asa’s jaw clenches in disapproval at my decision, but it’s not like he has much choice. Unless he plans on leaving me here.

“Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll jump your car and hope it starts, then I’ll follow you home to ensure you arrive safely.”

“You can’t do that! That’ll be an hour out of your way.” Way too much to ask of a good Samaritan. “Trust me, I’ll be fine, and if not, maybe a state trooper will stop to help next time. Either way, it’s not your problem to solve, though I appreciate the offer.” My stomach’s already tangled in knots; I don’t need to heap on more stress and embarrassment by letting this man go so far out of his way to help.

“No deal. You want the jump; you let me make sure you get home safely.”

“And if I don’t agree, you’ll leave me stranded here? How’s that much better?”

“If you don’t agree, I’m hauling you home with me. Your choice.”

My previous fear roars to the forefront, but this time it drags along a curious companion: excitement. Arousal is just heightened senses, right? From fear or attraction, my body suddenly comes to life in an unexpected way.

Are you serious right now?

Despite him being a stranger, a part of me would love nothing more than to trust he’s a good man and put myself in his hands ﹘ to let him takeover. But I can’t allow myself the fantasy. It’s not right or safe.

And really, it’s a vague statement. Haul you home with me. He could mean until I find someone to pick me up. Or to stash me in his basement. Or to stretch me out on his bed for a good, long fucking.

The possibilities are endless.

And this mountain air and crisis have officially demolished any common sense you have.

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