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Desires Uncovered (Ardor Creek #3)

Desires Uncovered (Ardor Creek #3)

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Main Tropes

  • Fake Engagement
  • Reverse Age Gap
  • Later in Life Characters
  • Steamy Small Town Romance


USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Hefner writing as Ayla Asher

It was supposed to be a casual affair...

Dr. Teresa Roe moved from the bustling city to small-town Pennsylvania, hoping the slower pace would help her focus on finding a partner and building a family. Unfortunately, life had other plans, and Teresa finds herself single in her mid-forties, unable to have the children she craves. Determined to focus on the positives, she builds her thriving therapy practice and joins a hook-up app looking for a fun, no-strings-attached affair.

Mark Lancaster has no time to date or cultivate a relationship, so meeting women on hook-up apps is perfect for his busy schedule. When he meets Teresa, he can't believe his fortune at finding someone so smart, sexy, and funny. In fact, his casual affair with her quickly becomes the highlight of his hectic life.

When Mark decides to run for County District Attorney, his opponent quickly reveals their relationship, spinning their affair as nefarious and creating a scandal that almost derails the campaign. Thankfully, Teresa agrees to enter into a fake engagement, saving him from ruin. But the road to victory isn't easy, and as they grow closer, the relationship they both swear is casual begins to grow into something real...

Can two fiercely independent souls find true love amidst scandal?

Intro Into Chapter 1

Dr. Teresa Roe sat at the bar of the newly built hotel in Battle Falls, Pennsylvania. She loved the town, which resided in rural Pennsylvania between Ardor Creek and Nestwood Township. In her youth, Teresa enjoyed living in Philadelphia with its fast pace and deep-seated culture and history. Once she’d received her various degrees and practiced psychology in the city for several years, she felt an urge to slow down. Not too much, but enough that she could begin to focus on other things. Most importantly, she wanted to have a family.
She’d settled in the small town about a half-hour drive north of Scranton over ten years ago. Armed with her experience and the confidence she’d always possessed, she opened her therapy practice and never looked back. Teresa immensely enjoyed helping people in upper Lackawanna County and had built a thriving career.
Her social life on the other hand? Well, it had crashed and burned so many times, she wondered if she’d somehow pissed off the universe. Whatever bad karma she’d built up in previous lifetimes must’ve been intense because she’d tumbled down the chasm of being extremely unlucky in love and, unfortunately, hadn’t been able to figure out how to return to the light.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. At this point, she’d most likely dated every man within a fifty-mile radius.
“Like it did you any good,” she mumbled, looking over the bar menu.
“Sorry, sweetie, I missed that,” the chipper bartender said, white teeth flashing under her green eyes. “What can I get for you?”
“Oh, I was just talking to myself,” Teresa said, waving her hand. “How’s the cabernet? And, by that, I mean, how long has it been open?”
The bartender laughed and turned to squint at the half-full bottle sitting on the liquor shelf. “Probably a week, and that’s being conservative. I’ll open a new one for you if you want a glass.”
“I’d love that. Thank you. Sorry to be a pest.”
“I get it,” she said, holding up her hands. “My name’s Sara and I can put it on your room if you like.”
“Oh, yes, that would be great. I’m in two twenty-five.”
Sara nodded and trailed away as Teresa suppressed a sigh. If someone had asked her years ago whether she’d be sitting in a staid hotel bar about to embark on what was a new—and quite daunting—experience, she would’ve laughed. Never in a million years could she have dreamed she’d end up using a hook-up app. Life, it seemed, had other plans.
She’d tried the dating apps. The ones where men took you to dinner and you tried to get to know them on a personal level. She’d never enjoyed the experiences and had certainly never clicked with any of the men once they met in person. Several had seemed angry they paid for dinner and she didn’t sleep with them in return. Is this what it had come to? One dinner and you were expected to give up the cookie?
“No fucking way,” she uttered, smiling at Sara as she delivered the wine.
“Just you tonight?” Sara asked.
Biting her lip, Teresa shook her head. “I’m meeting someone.”
“First date?”
“Um, not really. First…uh, encounter, I guess you could say. We’ll see how it goes.”
“Well, I wish you luck. I’ll let you know if I’m getting any creepy vibes. You pick up on this stuff when you’re a bartender.”
Chuckling, Teresa nodded. “Thanks. I need all the help I can get.”
Settling in with her wine, Teresa checked in with her body. The nerves were present, but not overwhelming. As a therapist, she’d done a lot of self-reflection on the decision she’d ultimately made and understood how to process it. She was comfortable in her sexuality and felt it imperative she still explored that part of herself, even though it was now strictly for pleasure.
Lowering her hand to her abdomen, she caressed the part of herself that was broken and beyond repair. For someone who’d wanted children, the loss was devastating. Feeling the tears well, she let them fester for a moment because suppressing emotion wasn’t healthy. But wallowing in it wouldn’t change anything and it was important she learn to live with her body’s limitations. To focus with gratitude on everything she had instead of the one crushing deficiency. Years of social work had shown her that life came with harrowing challenges in all shapes and forms. This was her challenge and she was determined to forge ahead with strength and positivity.
A brisk wind blew in from the sliding doors several feet away at the hotel entrance. Gazing over, Teresa saw a tall man enter and run his fingers through thick, wavy brown hair, dislodging several snowflakes. Glancing up, his eyes locked with hers and he flashed a gorgeous grin.
Teresa’s heart slammed in her chest as the strikingly handsome man approached. After removing his scarf, he extended his hand. “Rachel?”
Smiling, she shook, internally laughing at the fake name she’d set up on the app’s profile. “Yes. You must be Michael?”
“That’s me,” he said, nodding toward the seat beside her. “Mind if I slide in?”
“Not at all.”
“What can I get you, sir?” Sara asked, appearing behind the bar.
“I’m having a freshly opened cabernet if you like,” Teresa said, pointing to her glass.
“Hmmm…” he said, picking up the laminated bar menu. “I think I’m in the mood for a beer. I’ll have a Heineken.”
“Sure thing,” Sara said, reaching into the nearby cooler and returning with the chilled bottle. Popping off the cap, she set it on the coaster. “If you all need anything just holler. I’m doing my chemistry homework at the other end of the bar.”
Once they were alone, Teresa lifted her glass. “To new experiences.”
Chuckling, he clinked his bottle against her wine. “So I guess this is your first time meeting someone from Pure.”
Wrinkling her nose, she nodded and took a sip. “I tried dating apps and the experiences were major failures. Finally, I decided a hook-up app was what I needed and Pure seemed like the easiest one to navigate.”
“It’s pretty easy.”
“I’m guessing this isn’t your first time?” she asked, arching a brow.
“I’ve met a few women through the app before, although not for a while now. Life has been busy. But I experienced a pretty awesome wedding over Thanksgiving dinner a few weeks ago and it made me long for some companionship, I guess.”
“I love weddings,” she said wistfully. “Was it someone in your family?”
He shook his head. “Two friends I’ve known since elementary school. They’ve been in love forever but it never worked out. Somehow, after decades, they finally figured it out. It was really nice to see.”
“How romantic. They finally got their happy ending.”
“Yep.” Deep brown eyes roved over her. “Sorry to hear the dating apps didn’t work out. I never tried any of those. There aren’t enough hours in the day to date and have a career—in my life, at least. I don’t know how people do it.”
Teresa chewed her lip, dying to ask what he did for a living but knowing anything personal was off-limits. “Me neither. Seems tough. But if you want something badly enough, I guess you find a way.”
“Guess so.” Lifting the bottle to his lips, Teresa noticed the tanned skin of his forearm under a smattering of tiny brown hairs. Swallowing thickly, she imagined his long fingers trailing over her breasts. She hadn’t had sex in almost four years, which was understandable with everything she’d been through with her infertility treatments. God, but she was ready to feel alive. To remind herself that even though some parts were broken, she was still a full-fledged woman, capable of experiencing desire and pleasure.

 Can two fiercely independent souls find true love amidst scandal?

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