Price of a Kiss

By: Linda Kage

PROLOGUE





Mason Lowe was fixing his mother’s push mower so he could cut the grass when Mrs. Garrison came to collect the rent.

“Woo hoo.” Her sharp, nasally call grated against his ears before she tapped on the privacy fence separating his backyard from hers. Metal hinges whined when the gate swung open. “Anyone home?”

“It’s just me.” He squinted into the midday glare as he glanced up. Wrench firmly gripped in his palm, he swiped the back of his forearm over his brow to wipe away dripping sweat.

“Oh! Mason.” Pressing a hand to her exposed cleavage, his mother’s landlady stumbled to a halt in her ridiculously high heels and blinked long, fake lashes. “I didn’t see you there.”

Hoping maybe if he looked busy enough that the forty-something woman would catch the hint and leave him alone, he remained crouched behind the upside-down mower, where he’d been sharpening the blade. “Need something?”

“Um...” She bit her lip and gathered her hair with one hand to hold it off her neck as she used her other to fan herself. The sparkles in her red fingernail polish flashed in the sunlight.

She boldly checked him over, her greedy gaze consuming him. Skeeved by the inspection, he squirmed on the inside, itching to reach for the T-shirt he’d stripped off half an hour ago and flung to the side.

Glancing around the yard as if she were playing lookout for a felon robbing a bank, she asked, “Where’s your mother?”

Returning his attention to his task, Mason used the wrench to twist the blade into place. “She’s taking my sister to another doctor’s appointment,” he lied, his muscles straining as he gritted his teeth.

Mom and Sarah were actually at the grocery store, but reminding Mrs. Garrison about his sister’s circumstances might score their family a little sympathy and buy them some extra time to scrounge up more cash, because he was certain Mom was behind on rent again.

“Hmm. And how is the poor, sweet child?” Mrs. Garrison murmured distractedly, her attention on his hands as he worked.

Suspecting she cared nothing about Sarah’s welfare, he tossed his dark bangs out of his eyes and sent her a look. “Still has cerebral palsy.” He twisted a little rougher than he had before, securing the bolt tight.

“My, my.” The landlady drifted closer. “You sure have grown up right. Just look at all those muscles you have now.” Her shadow passed in front of him just before she set a hand on his shoulder, her long nails digging into his slick skin.

Startled by the contact, he lurched back and snapped his gaze up.

She gave a husky, amused chuckle. “No need to be so jumpy, dear.” Her nails loosened their grip, only to skim an inch down his chest in a blatant caress of appreciation. “I don’t bite.” Belying her words, she flashed a smile full of orthodontically perfected, white teeth. They looked as if they wanted to take a great big chunk out of his raw flesh.

Mason gulped. The gleam in her gaze had him turning cold all over, even in the hundred-degree heat. Like a panther spotting its prey, she wanted to pounce. On him.

He didn’t have to be experienced at sex—and he wasn’t—to know what she wanted. She’d probably seen him from her second-story window, wearing nothing but his ragged shorts, and had dolled herself up with the sole intention of coming over to play.

He felt a little ill. Not because he actually wanted to hang on to his virginity. He didn’t. In fact, if the opportunity had ever arisen before, he would’ve lost it years ago.

It wasn’t even because she was ugly. The woman might have a fake tan, fake breasts, and a little reconstructive surgery done to her face—certainly to her lips and eyebrows—but she wasn’t a dog by any stretch of the imagination. She had big boobs, a tight ass, and shapely long legs, which, okay, yeah, they looked nice in those super-tight, super-short jean shorts.

And it wasn’t because she was married, because she wasn’t that either. He wasn’t sure why everyone called her Mrs. Garrison. He was pretty sure there’d never been a Mr. Garrison in the picture.

No, it all had to do with her age. Cougars just didn’t do it for him, and her digits had to multiply his own by two. At least.

Mrs. Robinson—er, Garrison—must’ve been thinking about the numbers thing too because she arched an interested brow and asked, “How old are you now, Mason?”

“Eighteen.” He glanced away, cursing himself even as he admitted the truth. Damn, why hadn’t he lied about that too? Seventeen suddenly seemed so much…safer.

But he had a sneaking suspicion she already knew exactly how old he was.

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