It’ll take a special man to teach her to live again.
Benfri “Ben” Riggs has come home to Flatthead Falls, Missouri to heal. After her husband’s murder, secrets behind the peaceful, successful life she thought they’d shared emerge to leave her deep in debt, infertile, and afraid for her life. Teaching chemistry in her old hometown is her shout of independence, even though she wants to crawl under her bed in fear when the terrorizing phone calls begin.
Mark Dougstat works the land, makes things grow, and isn’t ashamed of the occasional mess his shoes cause. Busy making his farm pay enough to support his niece and nephew, he hasn’t found the time or inclination to make the time, to find a good woman. Ben Riggs’s humor and compassion change that fast.
But they’re going to have a battle on their hands. Ben’s stalker won’t quit. What is between Ben and Mark grows and they push forward in their relationship, learning more secrets along the way. Before they can settle into life together, the stalker will strike again. Blood will be shed and lives changed forever in the blink of an eye. Can they trust each other enough to get them through?
No chickens were harmed in the writing of this book.
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When Ben came to a fork in the path, she took a long moment to decide her next direction. Finally, she took a side path and was thrilled when it narrowed slightly and ended at a fountain. Unfortunately, the sweet trickling of water didn’t meet her ears as it should have. She stopped short when a denim-covered butt under one of the electrical panels caught her eye. It was a little naughty, but as she quietly ogled, she couldn’t help but think it was familiar.
The left pocket was torn, allowing a bit of white from beneath to show. The shoes were nondescript, but very white. So familiar, but she couldn’t put her finger on who it was until she saw the baseball cap lying beside him with a few tools. Feeling freer than she had in months, she grinned.
“Wow, the scenery around here sure has improved since the last time I visited.”
He jerked hard and when the blunted sound of his head connecting with the metal box rang out she winced even as she bit back a giggle. She stepped into the landscape and offered Mark Dougstat a hand when he shimmied out, his palm pressed to his forehead.
“Are you okay?” she asked, checking for blood in case he’d really hurt himself.
He peeked from beneath his hand, and pink tinged his cheeks. “Um, yeah, I’m fine. Just rung my bell a little.”
“I bet.” She bit her cheek to stop her inappropriate laughter. She felt giddy, though, at being so bold and carefree with a man. “I should have given you a little more warning. Sorry about that.”
“No problem,” he said and stood up without taking her hand. A small red abrasion showed on his forehead, but other than the scrape he looked fine.
More than fine, Ben thought, looking him up and down as he reached to the ground for his hat. Mark Dougstat was a handsome man. Older than her usual type, if she even had one anymore. She didn’t even want to think about her lack of dating skills. Instead she smiled again and just let herself enjoy Mark smiling back at her.
“So, you volunteer for the school board and here too? What don’t you do, Mr. Dougstat?”
He flushed again, like he was embarrassed by the praise, which Ben found all the more endearing.
“I help out with maintenance here, along with a few of the other men from my church. The nursing home had to cut one of the maintenance positions because of cost this year, so we’re stepping in when we can,” he explained.
He was too good to be true, Ben thought as he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and dusted his hands off. Or maybe it had just been too long since she’d been around a man who wasn’t scum. She worried the latter was true, but at the moment that past didn’t matter.
“And what are you doing here, Ms. Riggs?” Mark asked, his tone playful. “Doing a little catching up?”
“I tried to. One of my aunt’s friends lives here, but Mable is snoozing so I’ll be back Thursday.” She tried not fidget under his gaze.
She felt his focus solely on her, and that wasn’t something she was accustomed to. Even in class when everyone was supposed to be paying attention, she knew they didn’t. Mark’s gaze didn’t waver, and she felt like she was the only one in his world.
“That’s nice.” He nodded. “It’s great that you’re jumping right back into Flathead Falls.”
“Yeah, I think so,” she replied.
“I suppose you walked again?” he asked, maintaining eye contact even as he gathered up the tools and plastic covered manual beside him.
“I sure did. I thought I might as well make the most of this Indian summer we’re having.”
He nodded again, and she loved how expressive he was. With Mark, she didn’t have to look deeper because she didn’t think there was a next layer on him; he was just a genuinely caring, playful man. Simple in the best way.
“I’m through here for now. Can I give you a ride home?” he asked.
“Are you sure I wouldn’t be out of your way?” she replied, watching his eyes light up at the slight flirt in her voice. It was so nice to tease.
“Darlin’ the city is twenty blocks total.” His voice was all smooth southern drawl and sexy. A shiver ran up her spine as he winked. “And nothing is out of the way when it comes to helping a pretty woman.”
About the author
Even before she understood what all the thrusting meant, Stephanie Beck loved reading romance. When the stories didn’t end the way she wanted, writing her own was the perfect solution. From ridiculous humor to erotica, Stephanie loves being transported within a story. When she’s not elbow deep in words, her husband and three children command her attention. After they are sleeping she knits or bakes cookies…or squeezes in more writing.
Also by Stephanie Beck
Poppy’s Place Series
F*** Like Bunnies Series
Midnight at Ripley Inn
Interview with Holly Hewson
HH: Stephanie, thank you so much for talking with us at TRS. Your featured book is Teaching Ms. Riggs. What can you tell us about this amazing story?
SB: Thanks for having me! I always love visiting TRS. Teaching Ms. Riggs holds a very special place in my heart. The original story was written fifteen years ago while I was still in high school when one my favorite teachers was dating a farmer. She was all in love and adorable. Anyway, from there sprang Ben and Mark. Ben is a high school chemistry teacher, home to lick her wounds after a devastating marriage leaves her unsure of what relationships are supposed to be, and who she is supposed to be. Mark, on the other hand, has his roots firmly planted in the Kansas soil. He knows what he wants, just hasn’t found it yet, and with his sister’s two children living with him, he hasn’t had time to go looking either. The two might not be in the best of places for a relationship, but the chemistry between them is undeniable.
HH: What do you like best about Ben and why will readers identify with her?
SB: Ben reminds me of my favorite science and chemistry teacher back in the day. She was practical, kind, and really saw the potential and challenges kids faced. In Teaching Ms. Riggs, Ben is the same way. She has this amazing well of patience, but is very real in her flaws and challenges. In one scene Ben debates with herself over the necessity of ice cream. I’m pretty sure many have done the same, and when Ben chose to get the double brownie ice cream, she totally won my heart.
HH: What do you like best about the Mark and why will readers love him?
SB: Mark has so many of the best qualities I grew up around in a farming community. He’s honest and hardworking–not afraid to get dirty and accepts that life isn’t perfect, but thinks it sure is pretty great. He’s a man who knows himself, has learned from his failures, and is doing his best without excuses. I think those things give him a realness all readers look for.
HH: What makes this story different from any of your other works?
SB: Veronica makes this story so much different. She’s a true villain. I don’t often write the big bad guy, but Ben and Mark’s lives are completely shaken up by this obsessive and evil presence.
HH: What else do you have in store for lucky readers?
SB: My 2014 release schedule just keeps getting busier! I have a sexy and sweet ménage coming out at Christmas from Ellora’s Cave. Decadent Publishing put out a fun call for fairytales, and I’m thrilled to have a fun space cowboy story as part of the group. A few of my popular series will have their final books out this year (Justice Fraternity Chronicles and F*** Like Bunnies both finish this year). It’s a good time to be reading!
HH: What goals have you set for yourself this year?
SB: I’m always careful with goals, because I tend to get a little obsessive, but this year I’m looking at building my inspirational writing brand more. I love the sexy and hot stuff–so much fun–but there’s more for me out there. Since I’ll have several releases out, I’m hoping to squeeze the time to work more on my side projects.
HH: What appearances will you make this year – online or in person?
SB: I will be in Minneapolis this fall at the Midwestern Book Lovers Unite convention, and I’m hoping to do a few signings over the summer. Online I’ll be running around as I usually do, visiting blogs, posting reviews, and sharing whatever craft projects I rustle up over the summer.
HH: What do you do when you aren’t writing?
SB: I have the best family and friends a girl could ask for, so when I’m not writing, I’m finding a way to have fun with the people who matter so much to me. We swim a lot, go for walks, enjoy being outside if it’s warm, and when my friends and I can, we get together to celebrate just about anything. I love my writing world–my fellow authors and readers are some of the most wonderful people around. I’m very thankful to have both sides of my world so full of loving people.
HH: What are you reading?
SB: “Bear Meets Girl” by Shelly Laurenston. I read her books over and over and over. Her shifters rock my world.
HH: Where can readers find you online?
SB: I’m all over! For current book lists and planned appearances, my website www.stephaniebeck.net is the place to visit. Day to day details can be found on Facebook, www.facebook.com/StephanieBeckAuthor or Twitter www.twitter.com/StephBeck123. My latest favorite place is Pinterest. I love making boards for my characters www.pinterest.com/StephBeckpins. I love to hear about what people are reading and enjoying.
Thanks for having me! Let me know if you need anything else.