Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
On the rebound from the tumult of his bisexual lifestyle, notoriously sexy rock guitarist Trey Mills falls for sizzling new female guitar sensation Reagan Elliot and is swept into the hot, heady romance he never dreamed possible.
She Can’t Get Enough of His Body
Ecstatic to be on tour learning the ropes with Trey’s band, The Sinners, Reagan finds she craves Trey as much as she craves being in the spotlight.
They Both Need More…
When Reagan’s ex, Ethan Connor, enters the scene, Trey’s secret desires come back to haunt him, and pleasure and passion are taken to a whole new level of dangerous desire.
Why do you want to read this book?
I love reading Olivia Cunning’s work! The books that I’ve read of her’s are ultra hot and this one is no exception. A must read!
Excerpt: (R rated)
(from Olivia Cunning’s website)
The pretty, young nurse who had woken him with smelling salts stood just outside the delivery room door. When he walked past her, she perked up and grabbed his arm. She’d been waiting for him. Too easy.
“Hey,” she said breathlessly. “Hey, um, Trey, right?”
He offered her a crooked grin and she flushed, before lowering her wide blue eyes to his chest. He watched her, noting the submission in her stance, the way she swayed toward him slightly. The way her thumb stroked his bare arm just above his elbow.
“Um…” she pressed onward. “I was just about to take a break and wondered if you’d like to go grab a cup of coffee with me.”
Trey’s heart rate kicked up a notch. He turned and took her firmly by both wrists, pressing her back against the wall, their bodies separated by mere inches. He bent his head so his breath would caress her ear as he spoke to her in a low voice. “You don’t want coffee.”
Her pulse raced out of control beneath his fingertips. “I don’t?”
“No, but I know what you do want.”
“What’s that?” Her dark blue eyes flicked upward to meet his. She’d already surrendered and he rarely turned down a good time.
“A hard, slow fuck against the wall.”
“Here?” she whispered, her eyes wide.
He didn’t dare laugh. That would have broken his spell over her. “In that supply closet.” He nodded down the hall.
He held her gaze in challenge, daring her to deny him. She tore her gaze from his and peeked around his body for witnesses before grabbing a handful of his shirt, racing down the hall, unlocking the supply closet, and dragging him inside. The instant the door closed, she wrapped both arms around his neck and plastered her mouth to his. He let her kiss him. Let her touch the hoop piercing his eyebrow and the ones in his ear. He’d show her the one in his nipple, but she was still a little skittish and he knew if he took the upper hand too quickly, she’d balk and either leave or pretend he’d taken advantage of her.
“You’re so sexy,” she murmured against his lips. “Why are you so sexy? I shouldn’t be doing this.”
By this, he assumed she meant unfastening his belt, tugging at his t-shirt, rubbing her firm breasts into his chest, biting his lip.
“I don’t want you to think I normally do this kind of thing,” she said, her hand slipping into his silk boxers to toy with his hardening cock.
He did this kind of thing almost daily, but he wouldn’t make the mistake of telling her that.
“Take off your pants,” he whispered.
When she obeyed, he knew she was in this until the end. Which he estimated would be approximately fifteen minutes in the future.
“Are you really in a rock band?” she asked.
Trey chuckled. Couldn’t help it. Did she seriously not know who he was? It had been a while since a woman had jumped him without knowing he was notorious for this kind of thing. “Yeah, I’m really in a rock band. And I play an actual instrument.”
He grinned. “How did you guess?”
The excitement in her eyes led him to believe she wasn’t half-naked in a supply closet at work because she wanted famous-guitarist Trey. She was pantsless and submissive because she wanted bad-boy Trey. He was all about giving her exactly what she wanted. The walls were concealed behind floor-to-ceiling shelves, so he pressed her back up against the door and trapped her arms on either side of her head. She gasped when he lowered his head to kiss her neck. He nibbled, suckled and licked the pulse point under her jaw until she began to fight his hold with impatience.
“You’re driving me insane,” she said. “Do you have a condom?”
“Are you in a hurry?” he murmured.
“Kinda. My fifteen minute break is almost over.”
“You’re going to be late.” He nipped her earlobe and released her wrist. Trey’s left hand moved down her body and gave her breast a gentle squeeze before moving between her legs. She clung to his hair and then fingered the tiny hoops in his ear, his eyebrow again.
“Do you like piercings?” he whispered. “I have a couple more.”
“Where?” she whispered.
“I didn’t wear the one in my tongue. Didn’t realize I’d have a sweet pussy to lick this early in the morning.”
She moaned in torment. When Trey’s fingers found her clit, she cried out. Damn she was swollen. And wet. And eager. He liked eager. The chase meant nothing to him. He just liked to fuck. Kissing her neck, he stroked her clit rhythmically.
“There’s another in my nipple,” he whispered.
Her hand moved to his chest. She found the ridge of his jewelry under his T-shirt and then she slid her hand up under his clothes to finger it.
“Pull it,” he encouraged. “It makes my balls throb.”
“Do you like that?”
“Try it and see.”
She tugged and he shuddered. “Oh,” she gasped when his hard cock leaped against her thigh.
“Come for me.” He rubbed her clit faster in wide circles until she shuddered hard with orgasm. Her gasping breaths in his ear made him want to join her in bliss. He lifted his head to look at her then. “Where do you want it?”
Dazed, she gazed up at him. “Where do I want what?”
“I have more than one choice?”
He slid a finger inside her slippery pussy and she jerked. “There’s here.” A second finger probed her ass and her eyes widened. “Back here.” He licked her lip and then the ridge of her teeth. “In here.” He slid his hand up from her wrist to intertwine their fingers. “Your capable hands.” He lowered his head to whisper in her ear while he palmed her full breasts with both hands. “Or you can hold me between these. If you’re really kinky…”
“What do you want?” she asked breathlessly.
“No preference.” Which wasn’t exactly true. Seeing the startled look on her face when he’d probed her ass made him crave some backdoor action, but that probably wasn’t the best choice for her if she had to go back to work.
“Regular,” she whispered.
Regular? Since when was anything he did regular? He stifled a laugh, trying to be sensitive to her feelings. “I assume by regular you mean vaginal sex.”
He found a condom in the back pocket of his jeans and tore it open with his teeth. She watched him as if amazed, but didn’t say a word as he applied it.
“Tell me what you want,” he pressed. He had already decided she needed the added psychological stimulation to get off. Demands and directions. Whatever she liked was fine by him. He was game. “I want you to say it.”
She grabbed his hair in both fists and said, “A slow, hard fuck against the wall, just like you said.”
“Where do you want me?”
She shuddered as if the very thought had her near orgasm. “Inside.”
Her hands tightened in his hair and the last shred of her resistance crumbled. “My cunt. Fuck it hard, Trey.”
He lifted her off the floor, pressing her against the door for leverage, and then directed his cock inside her. He loved losing himself in mindless fucking. No worries. No heartache. Just pleasure. He gave her what she wanted, possessing her with hard, deep, slow strokes, but she gave him what he needed to. A temporary reprieve from his turbulent thoughts and his perpetually broken heart. Trey concentrated solely on sensation. He felt no emotional connection as he thrust into her. Never did. Hadn’t since Brian had made love to him back in high school and he’d tossed his heart at the guy’s feet. Twelve years of sex without love. Twelve years of love without sex. And now that Trey had given up on Brian ever loving him or making love to him, he just felt hallow. Empty. Desolate. He doubted anything could fill the empty chasm inside. Certainly not some pretty nurse he’d just met and was fucking in a supply closet. He didn’t even know her name. Didn’t care to.
When she came, he followed her over the edge, his release bringing him that state of tranquility he craved. He wished it lasted longer than thirty seconds. And didn’t have to be followed by a whole lot of awkwardness. He pulled out and removed the expended condom, tossing it in a convenient garbage can on the janitor’s cart and then refastened his jeans and belt. He let her find her panties and scrub pants. Waited until she was dressed before he looked at her. Not that he didn’t want to watch the hot stranger he’d just fucked slide her panties up her legs. He just knew that if he did, she’d start seeing things that weren’t there. Feelings. With feelings came attachment. With attachment came complications. That was the last thing Trey ever wanted.
“I…” she said breathlessly.
“You don’t have to say anything,” he said. He pinned her with the look that got him almost anything he wanted. He’d perfected it as a child, modified it as a man, used it unabashedly. She flushed and leaned against the door for support.
“Sometimes a beautiful woman just needs a hard, slow fuck against a wall with a perfect stranger. I understand.”
She gazed at him, looking more dazed than a pothead at a Grateful Dead concert. “Yeah… Perfect.”
“I’ll leave first. I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble.”
He waited for her to collect enough sense to move out of the way of the door. One hand on the doorknob, Trey took her chin between his thumb and forefinger and kissed her trembling lips. “That is the best sex I’ve ever had against a door in a hospital supply closet.”
“You’re an amazing woman.”
“Will you call me?” she gushed.
He shook his head slightly. “I want to keep my memory of this moment untainted. Let’s not complicate it. Let it be what it’s meant to be. Pleasure for the sake of pleasure.”
Her face twitched with disappointment, but she nodded.
He gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead and then let himself into the corridor. He strode towards the bank of elevators at the end of the hall.
Hot nurse a fuzzy memory already, Trey dug his cell phone out of his pocket and called his brother.
“What’s up?” Dare answered.
“Brian and Myrna had a boy.” Trey smiled at the thought of holding Brian’s perfect son for the first time. “They named him Malcolm Trey.”
Dare sniggered. “What the fuck are they thinking? Poor kid.”
“Yeah, but I’m busy.”
Trey grinned. “Busy, huh? What’s her name? I’ll help you entertain her.”
“Not that kind of busy. Remember that stupid contest our publicist came up with: Guitarist for a Year with Exodus End? Today we’re auditioning studio musicians to identify the winner. We do need find someone to take over for Max on rhythm guitar, but this is fuckin’ stupid.” Max was the lead singer of Dare’s band, Exodus End. Max had also played rhythm guitar until recently. “We hoped he’d his carpel tunnel surgery would get us out of this mess, but the surgery fucked up his hand even more. He can’t stand the pain of playing and he’s been advised not to move his wrist for several weeks.”
“That should make jerking off a challenge,” Trey said.
“As if Max needs to jerk off.”
True. The man could have any woman he wanted.
“Hey,” Dare said, “you should come try out. We can make it seem like you entered the contest.”
“You know I can’t do that. I’d never leave Sinners. Not even for you.” Trey stepped on the elevator and made his way down to the lobby. The well-built guy in the elevator smiled at him and let his eyes drift down Trey’s body with appreciation. Trey had to admit he was tempted by the open invitation, but he had a powerful need to hang out with his big brother. Dare understood him. Trey needed that at the moment. More than he needed more meaningless, but amazing, sex with yet another attractive stranger.
“You can help us decide then,” Dare said, drawing Trey’s attention from the way elevator-guy was gnawing on his lips and making Trey want to kiss him. “We’ve narrowed it down to five guitarists based on their demos, but there’s no way to know how many times they redid them before sending them in. They’ll all be playing live for us in about an hour. They can’t fake that.”
Trey stepped off the elevator, winking at Open-Invitation before wandering toward the exit to find a cab.
“Okay, sure. Sounds like fun.” Trey’s phone beeped. “I’ll be there in a few. I’ve got another call.”
Trey disconnected and checked his phone’s screen. Mark? Shit. He considered ignoring him, but knew Mark would just keep calling and calling until Trey finally talked to him. The guy could not take a hint. Might as well get this over with.
“Hey,” Trey answered.
“Are you in town?” Mark asked.
“I’m on tour. You know that.”
“The Sinners News Blog said you flew in to LA this morning because Brian’s wife was in labor.”
Trey wasn’t sure how the owners of that blog knew what was going on with Sinners so quickly. Sometimes they knew more about Sinners’ goings on than Trey knew and he was living it. He guessed he couldn’t deny that he was in town. “Yeah, they had a little boy. Adorable little shit.”
“Yeah, that’s what the site said. 7 pounds 9 ounces. 21 inches. Named him Malcolm Trey. Are you still at the hospital? I could stop by.”
Stalker alert! “Mark, we’ve been through this. I’m not interested in a relationship with you.” Men! They could be such a pain in the ass. Especially if they didn’t know what they were doing back there. Trey had slept with Mark more than once. They’d met in Portland over a year ago and after relieving him of his anal and oral virginity, Trey had taken him to get a tattoo. The guy had moved to Los Angeles a few months later. Trey suspected it was because of him as Mark was relentless in his pursuit. Trey had no problem fucking him, but when Mark had started trying to forge a commitment, Trey was finished with him. The guy could not take a hint. Or blatant rejections. Or flashing neon signs that read: Go the fuck away.
“Who said anything about a relationship? I just wanted to congratulate Brian,” Mark said.
“Do whatever you want. I’ve already left the hospital.”
“Oh.” Mark hesitated. “Are you hungry? I could take you out for breakf—”
“No, I’ve got plans.”
“What kind of plans? Are you seeing someone else?” The jealousy in Mark’s voice was so fucking annoying Trey considered hanging up on him. But then Mark would just call back and blame a bad connection or some stupid shit.
“Yeah,” Trey lied. “I am seeing someone. I’m seriously dating a woman right now.”
“Bullshit,” Mark said.
“It’s not bullshit. I’ve sworn off men for the rest of my life.” When the lie had formed, Trey hadn’t meant it, but now that he’d said it, he decided it was the best idea he’d ever had. Women he could deal with. Men either broke his heart or complicated his life. Exhibit A was upstairs bonding with his son. Exhibit B was on the phone. Exhibits C through triple X were scattered across the US and Canada waiting for Sinners to pass through their area again.
“Whatever, Trey. Come over to my place tonight and I’ll make you dinner. Suck your cock.”
Mark was a decent cook. And he did suck good cock. He was also exceedingly easy on the eyes and had a spectacularly tight ass, but the guy needed to move on. Trey had tried to hook him up with a few different men, but Mark was too hung up on Trey to consider anyone else.
“Can’t or won’t?” he challenged.
“Don’t want to, how’s that?”
Mark sighed loudly. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Mark, what do I have to do to convince you that it’s over between us?”
“I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Shit. Trey was going to have to get his number changed. Again. He honestly didn’t understand why some people couldn’t take a hint. He didn’t want to be in a relationship. Why was that concept so difficult for his sex partners to grasp?
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Margot manages a failing resort on a private tropical island. When the owners demand she turn the business around or they will sell the island, her boyfriend, Jake, suggests contacting a magazine for swingers that runs vacation tours. Nichole, who owns the magazine flies down and makes a proposal for saving all their jobs. But for Margot, it is a two-edged sword. Her sex life with Jake is already faltering due to her insecurities, and the same fears might mean she gets left out of the new plan. Jake convinces her to try new sexual freedoms that might save her job and their relationship. With the help of Jake and some new friends, Margot learns what really constitutes respect, and how to unleash her passion while earning even more of it.
Why do you need to read this book?
It is a cute, ultra hot spicy read
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Publisher: Elora’s Cave
Release: Apr 27, 2012
Source: I purchased a copy of this book to read and review
Blurb: Every spring, Kate risks her life chasing violent storms. Tired of watching her take unnecessary chances, two of her closest friends offer a different thrill. Devoted lovers Snyder and Tripp don’t just share a passion for nature’s fury; they long to have the fearless woman between them.Though reluctant, Kate finds the proposition is too irresistible to refuse. Her acceptance leads to an explosive night of no-holds-barred sex for the threesome. However, when morning dawns, she realizes this type of unusual relationship isn’t one she belongs in.Despite her best efforts to keep the men at arm’s length, Kate is soon facing down the storm of the century with Snyder and Tripp by her side. When Mother Nature intrudes, the trio discovers shelter in each other’s arms. With the hurricane raging outside and passion raging inside, everything is at stake.
* * *
Chasing Sin is an unusual erotic menage. It involves a gay couple that falls in love with a straight woman. Kate studies storms and teaches storms, and as a result is a ferocious storm chaser. She is without fear as she races over county roads to capture data needed in her research. Her two sidekicks, Snyder and Tripp are increasingly concerned about her fearless behaviour. After one particularly heart wrenching close call, the truth ends up coming out. Kate is reluctant at first, but the chemistry explodes between the three of them resulting in an ultra hot night for the three of them.
The next morning, Kate takes off and the boys are lost without their friend and lover.
I found this story to be fast moving and intense. The sex is hot between the three of them and the interaction firey! Ms Brookes has created a great story line that rocks along and great characters that make a believable storyline that is an enjoyable read!
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Distinguished Service by Tori Carrington
Subject: U.S. Marine Mace Harrison
Current Status: On his last leave of absence
Mission: A Secret Undercover Operation…as a Bogus Boyfriend!
Obstacle: This business arrangement is turning a little too pleasurable…
Mace Harrison is a decorated Marine. In his country’s eyes, he’s a hero. But in six months his last tour ends, and Mace’s next step is unclear. Then he meets graphics designer and diner waitress Geneva Davis, and an immediate friendship turns into…well, a business deal. The terms? They feign a relationship to keep her ex-boyfriend off her back, and matchmaking pals off his.
It’s uncomplicated. It’s convenient. And as far as Geneva is concerned, uniformed dudes are entirely resistible—or so she’d always thought. But Mace is wickedly, mouthwateringly hot. And now she’s in a heap of trouble, because this soldier is veryready, willing and able to serve…to her complete satisfaction!
Why do you need to read this book?
Mace Harrison is one of the coolest characters I’ve read in a Blaze book in quite a while. A great, fast read!
(taken from the Harlequin Website)
Lazarus Security was exactly the type of well-oiled engine he could see himself willing to get his hands dirty with.
Mace Harrison squinted into the watery early November sunlight where he stood near the back of the training center strategically located behind the building. Everything at the company was top of the line, including personnel. Situated on several acres just outside Colorado Springs, Lazarus was an extraordinary operation that in a short time was already gaining notable momentum within the private security industry. It was one of the reasons why he was there.
The other was Lazarus partner Darius Folsom.
He nodded at his old friend now.
How far did they go back? Fifteen years, at least. To the first time Mace’s parents had shipped him and his older brother Marcus off to live with his paternal grandfather for the summer? Their military family had moved to yet another house in yet another city and he’d been young enough to need supervision, and old enough to cause trouble because he’d hated moving. And then there was his need to escape the shadow his brother cast that threatened to suffocate him. Dari and his family had lived around the block from his grandfather and he and Mace had become fast friends.
They’d enlisted in the Marines at around the same time—by that point Mace choosing to live at his grandfather’s house, which offered him greater independence—but they hadn’t been stationed together until the past year.
Darius Folsom had recently completed his second tour, but Mace still had a six-month stretch ahead of him. He was back home for a brief week break, investigating job opportunities, Lazarus at the top of the list.
Of course, it was also possible he’d take on that counter-terrorism desk job he’d been offered in Washington, D.C.
And he was purposely ignoring the fact that he was also there to accept an award he didn’t deserve and didn’t want.
The Navy Cross…
A small bit of metal that might as well be the size of a Humvee as far as he was concerned.
Of course, some brave men and women went their entire lives without receiving such an honor.
He supposed he should feel guilty for not wanting it. But considering everything…well, many had made the ultimate sacrifice and received nothing more than a military burial.
How would his brother feel about the medal? He imagined Marcus would give him one of his trademark smirks and slap him hard on the back. “Still running after me, little bro? Think you’ll catch up? You might want to pick up the pace.”
Of course, Mace could only guess at what he’d say. Because Marcus wasn’t there. Not anymore.
But Mace still felt shadow hands choking him from behind, a sensation that was even stronger when he was within a hundred miles of his parents.
A time like now.
“So what do you think?” Dari said hesitantly, after having given him the nickel tour of Lazarus Security, apparently having noticed the darkening of his expression.
“Impressive,” Mace said, shaking off his thoughts although he knew better than to try to rid himself of the shadow; that would be there forever. “Very impressive.”
Darius’s grin was his response.
“Good job, old pal.” Mace squeezed his shoulder. “This is really something. You can tell you’ve put a lot of work into it.”
“Thanks.” it still amazed him that Dari drew such words close to heart. Oh, not from anyone. The big, tough Marine wasn’t easily flattered. But when it came to his friends… Amazing. “Don’t let the success go to your head,” he teased now.
Dari laughed. “Don’t worry. This is a joint endeavor and i had very little to do with the start-up. I was too busy overseas getting my ass shot and saved by someone we both know.”
Mace grimaced as he glanced at his friend’s leg. “You’d have made it out on your own.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
What went unsaid was that several of their team hadn’t made it out.
And it was that incident that not only still gave Mace—and very likely Dari—nightmares, it was what had ultimately earned him that damn medal he’d be accepting at some sort of bigwig event that Saturday.
He wondered if it wasn’t too late to hop onto the first transport out. He’d take full-on assault from enemy forces over what he was facing in days.
“That’s how you earned it,” Dari said.
“i was just doing my job.”
“No, Mace, you always do more than your job.”
“You’d have done the same.”
“Would I have? I’d like to think I would. But I don’t know. While I would have ultimately done what was needed, I would have likely hesitated that split second to assess the situation before diving in. You.. ” Dari fell silent, undoubtedly reflecting on that late afternoon in the mountains of Waziristan when they’d been lied to by villagers and surrounded by enemy forces the instant they were outside town. “You charged straight in, to hell with the consequences.”
“Some would say that’s stupid.”
Dari squinted at him. “If you had hesitated, a leg wound would have been the least of my worries. And you’d have returned home to attend a very different event.”
Mace didn’t even want to consider that possibility. Not then, not now.
“What’s done is done,” he said. “I’d prefer it if everyone looked forward rather than back.”
Dari half-smiled. “Yeah.” He nodded. “Yeah.”
Mace shifted his weight from one foot to the other, wishing the subject done.
“Come on,” Dari said, seeming to pick up on his mindset. “Let’s go into town and grab some grub. I’ve got a favor to ask. Oh, and I hope you don’t mind, I told Megan we’d meet up with her at The Barracks afterward for a drink.”
Mace nearly sighed audibly in relief. “Fine with me.” He’d known Dari’s wife since she was little more than the reason his friend bought acne cream when the occasional zit popped up on his face. He’d only been in town for a few days and he’d enjoy the chance to catch up with her, find out what both of them had been up to outside their working at Lazarus together.
“She’ll be alone, right?” he asked, a thought occurring to him.
His friend had never been any good at lying. “Hell, Dari, I’m not in town for that long. I’d like to spend some time with my friends before heading back.”
“Surely there’s a little room for some friendly company.”
“No. There isn’t.”
“Aw. She’s a real sweetheart. I promise you’ll like her.”
That was the problem, he thought.
He didn’t want to like anyone. Not right now. Not without knowing where he was going to land in six months, if, in fact, he landed at all.
Not after what had happened the last time he’d tried to make a long-distance relationship work.
“Sorry,” Dari said. “I know you asked me not to do it. And I really haven’t. It’s Megan’s idea. I know how you feel about people knowing your business, so while I made your feelings on the matter known to Meg, I didn’t tell her why you felt that way. Without that.”
Without that, she couldn’t understand why he was adamant about not dating while on this leave.
“You’ll understand if I pass on that drink then,” he said.
Dari looked disappointed, but finally he nodded.
They walked back to the main structure, passing armed recruits making their way out to the state-of-the-art shooting range along the way. He shared his friend’s disappointment. He truly would have enjoyed having a beer with him and Megan tonight. But to be placed next to a woman hoping to be swept off her feet, one who looked at him with big doe eyes, who promised forever and then moved on to someone else while he was overseas.
And that meant a long night stretched out in front of him with nothing to do but stare at his motel room walls.
He could go over to see his grandfather again, but he’d gotten into hot water with the nursing home attendants for having stayed past regular visiting hours once already. He didn’t want to risk having his visitation privileges revoked.
Mace grinned even as he shook his head. The old man had one foot in the grave and still somehow managed to chase around anything female like a spry twenty-year-old.
Well, okay, maybe a spry twenty-year-old with a walker.
He remembered their last conversation. “Give me something, kid,” Dwayne Harrison had requested that morning. “Good-looking stud like you? Them skirts gotta be falling all over you. Surely you could send some sweet stuff my way.”
Mace had merely smiled.
Oh, he planned to date again. Hopefully soon. Once he was able to get rid of the bad taste Janine had left in his mouth.
Of course, he could always go over and visit his parents. They’d settled back in his father’s hometown five years or so ago when his dad finally retired.
Still, somehow, he didn’t look at their house as home.
And the shadow hands tightened at the thought.
Dari cleared his throat. “I don’t think I’ve had a chance to say it yet, but…well, I was sorry to hear about Janine. You deserve better than what she did to you.”
Mace turned his head so quickly to stare at Dari, his neck cracked. It wasn’t like his friend to mention something so personal in such a casual setting. At least, not without downing a few beers first.
“What?” Dari asked.
Of course, his friend couldn’t know that Mace had no sooner switched his cell phone on after his flight than he’d received a voice mail from the woman in question. He’d stopped dead in the middle of the airport terminal, staring at the notification. He hadn’t heard from her in nearly eight months. What could she possibly want now?
He’d found out soon enough. Her words still reverberated through his mind.
“Welcome home, Mace. I know I’m probably the last person you expected to hear from, but… Well, I just wanted to say I’m sorry…again. And to tell you I’d love to see you while you’re in town. Call me…please.”
Curiously, hearing her voice hadn’t moved him in the least. But her apology and her request to see him again had elicited a very specific response: Hell no.
He opened the door and stepped aside so his friend could precede him inside. “Something tells me you’re getting a bit soft around the middle.”
Dari rubbed a rock-hard six-pack.
“Not that middle.”
They chuckled and walked back to Dari’s office in the front of the building.
While Mace could make light of his relationship woes when the situation called for it, there was nothing but heaviness in his heart at the memory of Janine’s betrayal.
“So, rocky’s Diner after I close up shop here.”
He nodded. “Rocky’s Diner. Meet you there in an hour.”
They shook hands and gave each other a bro hug. Then Mace headed out to the parking lot where his rental car waited, trying not to think about Janine…or the phone call he’d gotten from her that morning.
Geneva Davis took three meat loaves out of the industrial oven, swiping the back of one of the oven mitts across her brow after placing the last on the stainless-steel counter. Two of the kitchen staff had called in sick this afternoon, leaving her and one of the other waitresses to pick up the slack at Rocky’s Diner. Monday’s Meat Loaf Mania was one of their busiest nights when all staff was present. Handling it with two people short was going to make the evening hell on earth.
Trudy Grant, the mercurial owner who was a combination of Betty White witty cuteness and Bea Arthur brashness, hung up the phone on the wall near the door. “Cindy just called in.” She shook her head. “This damn flu is going to put me out of business.”
Make that three people short.
Of course, Trudy’s proclamation was an exaggeration; something or other was going to put her out of business at least three times a day. Still, somehow she’d managed to keep the diner’s heart beating for the past twenty years when she’d bought the previous owner out.
Tiffany, the other waitress, breezed by with warm pies to stock the counter displays in the other room. “Cindy ain’t sick. Cindy has a blind date tonight.”
Geneva shared a smile with Mel, the main cook, but didn’t say anything as she slid off the mitts and gave the large pot of homemade mashed potatoes a stir. As expected, Trudy went off like a bomb, filling the kitchen with inventive curse words. Everyone moved around her, giving her the wide berth she required. They all knew the steam would dissipate and Trudy would be operating on full throttle again soon without risk of being scalded.
Geneva moved around Mel, where he tossed burgers, to turn off the alarm for the French fries. She took the basket out of the oil and hung it on the rungs above to drain.
“Oh, and Gen?” Tiffany poked her head back inside the kitchen. “Your Baby Daddy Dustin just took up residence in his usual place at the counter,”
Geneva stood perfectly still for a moment, staring un-seeingly at the golden potatoes, battling back a sudden surge of nausea.
She glanced at where Mel had leaned in to quietly ask the question.
“Yeah. Fine.” She smiled. “Thanks.”
She removed her hand from where it lay against her stomach, a spot she often found it resting lately, and then tipped the fries out onto two plates and salted them.
Lately, it was getting harder and harder to face Dustin. She didn’t know how to explain in a way that would register with him that just because she was pregnant, it didn’t mean they were a couple. And that she didn’t expect anything more from him but to be a good dad. But he seemed determined to make something out of nothing. And his unwanted attention was eroding what had once been a great friendship.
A friendship that had accidentally become more for five whole minutes a little over two months ago.
It wasn’t that the sex had been bad…
Okay, maybe it had been.
But that wasn’t the reason she didn’t want to be anything more than a joint parent with him. They were friends—period.
And the one-nighter had happened on the day she’d buried her mother in the ground and her sadness in a bottle of tequila.
“I remember my wife couldn’t even keep crackers down during her first try,” Mel said, putting two cheeseburgers onto buns and then handing the plates to her.
“Thankfully I haven’t been sick once.” She smiled as she dressed both burgers and then balanced all four plates on her arms. “I only feel like I’m going to be.”
Trudy gathered her wits. “With my luck, your first time will be all over one of the tables. A full one.”
“Knock wood,” Geneva said, edging through the swinging doors to deliver the burgers to Table 6, passing Tiffany as she went.
“Trade you Table 7 for 3,” the too-pretty nineteen-year-old said.
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
His Kind of Trouble by Samantha Hunter
Berringer Bodyguards File #3
Name: Chance Berringer
Trademarks: Chance by name…chance by nature!
Biggest weakness: Adventure and beautiful women—especially when combined in one caliente cook!
Danger is bodyguard Chance Berringer’s first, last and middle name. Protecting celebrity chef Ana Perez—a hot little firecracker with a mouth to match—for two weeks in Mexico is more vacation than job. Just keep his eyes on her, and his hands off. How hard can it be?
Ana doesn’t want a babysitter during the holidays. Even if Chance’s muscled hotness (complete with wicked grin) makes him a mouthwatering dish…. But when the heat starts sizzling in the bedroom—and beyond—will this hot tamale cause more trouble than Chance can handle?
(taken from Harlequin’s website)
It was the day after Christmas, and Ana Perez had worked through the holiday. Something that had happened two years in a row since she’d started hosting her reality show,If You Can’t Take the Heat…
She’d been taping for the next season every day, nonstop, and while the group of chef-wannabe contestants for this season were the best they’d ever had, that came with its own problems. Soon they would start their short midwinter hiatus before the taping of the finale. She was alone on the set, reviewing her notes concerning the contestants’ progress so far.
Unlike the shows where players were voted off or eliminated by failing a task, on If You Can’t Take the Heat. the decision about who won was always Ana’s. That had been written into her contract; that had been a deal breaker. She wasn’t about to have her name associated with any chef recommendation that wasn’t from her directly, so winners could not be selected by chance or by personality wars. The tide was turning, however. The studio executives were being more intrusive in the show’s format, and in her life. Sometimes the producers wanted her to do stupid things—like a staged food fight on one show. Ana won a lot of those battles, but not all of them. It seemed as if the more famous she became, the less control she had over her life.
Every meeting was deteriorating into a fight. Recently, they were debating taking control of the final decision away from her.
Luckily, Ana was a fighter. No way was she giving that up.
There was a lot of pressure on her, not just from the studio but from the audience and from the contestants. Not everyone agreed with her choices; some were almost pathological in letting her know what they thought, if her email or the show’s blog were any evidence.
The recent harassment she had been experiencing was also the price of success. Ana didn’t pull punches or take it easy on her contestants, though she was rarely genuinely angry with them. Her tough treatment of them was in part for ratings—viewers liked the conflict—and also because she was a perfectionist who demanded the best of them.
Ana couldn’t be a best friend to the people she was judging—better that they were afraid of her or didn’t like her than have them feel hurt or betrayed when she didn’t choose them to win. She’d made that mistake the first season with someone who had mistaken their friendship for an automatic win. Ana took a deep breath, shaking the memory off. It was wearying, sometimes, to say the least.
If nothing else, every person on the show would benefit simply from the exposure of being here. Most got good job offers afterward, even when they didn’t win. For the ones who showed real promise, she sometimes connected them with someone who might further their training, behind the scenes. For Ana, it meant a big paycheck to help people back home in Mexico, and security for her and her family.
That was important enough to put up with all the rest, she reminded herself.
Shifting her attention back to the files on her lap, she reached for the glass of wine she’d poured before sitting. It had been the pairing for the smoky mole she’d had contestants working on for the past two days. Viewers saw only the final taping of the show, but Ana worked with contestants in the kitchens every day, all week long, teaching. Preparing.
Making mole was an art in the small town on the Yucatan where she had lived until she turned twenty and came to the United States to attend cooking school, eight years before. The complex cooking project had allowed her to educate people about her home country and their traditions, as well.
Bailey Knowles was the front-runner in her mind so far, a young woman from the Bronx who had no formal training and an uncanny ability to match tastes, textures and combinations in extraordinary ways. But she also had no classical culinary background and no interest in accumulating one.
Still, Ana felt that training was an important companion to natural talent and couldn’t help but hesitate at selecting Bailey as her winner for the season.
James Benois was next in line, an older contestant in his forties, making a comeback after being laid off from his corporate job two years before. He had a culinary education that he had let lapse in the eighteen years since he’d earned the degree, choosing to make a steady paycheck with a technology firm. Still, his story resonated with viewers and with Ana. He was good, solid and dependable, though not extremely creative. That could change as he loosened up a little. He was too anxious to please, perhaps too laid-back to run his own kitchen. Kitchens were busy, difficult, stressful places to work—a head chef had a lot of responsibility—and James had to be able to show he could stand up to the worst of it. Still, his easygoing manner was calming, and Ana found the contrast a positive one.
There were four more, all having their own pluses and minuses, some exceptional in a particular way but less so in others.
She stared down at Lionel Jenkins’s photo. She didn’t have many notes on Lionel. She knew his type and she didn’t like him on principle. From a wealthy Philadelphia family, Lionel was an excellent chef with perfect references and education. He could handle himself in the kitchen—she’d give him that—and he was very handsome, which was a big score with female viewers.
Too bad he was also a total jerk. He cared about nothing but money and ambition, and while he could have walked into a lot of high-level chef positions, or probably have even started his own restaurant with his family’s money, he’d pulled strings to end up on the show. He was using them for the free promotion, a stepping stone in his career. He’d as much as told her so, which was why he was resistant to her criticism.
Granted, that attitude would probably be a benefit when he ran his own kitchen—many chefs had egos bigger than their hats—but Ana wanted her winner to care about more than money. Ambition was important, but so was some demonstrable caring about food, community, the craft…all of it.
Rubbing her eyes, she took a breath and closed the files. At least they were done with the taping, and now she only had to review all of the shows, interview her contestants one more time and make her decision. But for right now, she was ready to go home.
Her heart swelled at the thought. She loved New York and the winter, which she had never known as a child in Mexico. But it wasn’t home.
Soon, she reassured herself. Two weeks of heaven, where things were lovely, warm and welcoming. Where she could be herself among friends and family, with no stalkers or studio executives scrutinizing her every move.
She missed having her own small cooking show, where she had happily instructed others to make authentic Mexican dishes. When she had started doing it in college—Ana’s Kitchen—they’d had one camcorder and had held the show in the dorm kitchen, uploading it to the internet.
It took off, becoming one of the most highly rated cooking shows online. She’d then been offered a real cable TV show for the Cuisine Channel and, ultimately, the reality TV gig, If You Can’t Stand the Heat… And here she was. The show had been on for only two years, but it felt like ten.
With a tired sigh, she packed everything up to head back to her dressing room and call it a night. A glance at her watch told her that it was actually close to being the next day.
She hadn’t realized it was so late. Ana had meetings in the morning—they were foisting some protective detail on her because of the harassment issue—and she was supposed to come in and meet whoever was assigned to protect her over the hiatus.
She had no intention of agreeing; she planned to leave all of this behind her. Whoever was bothering her would probably lose interest in her over the break. Things like this flared up from time to time; it was part of the business. She received all kinds of crazy letters; if she took all of it seriously, she’d have no time to cook.
Walking down the dimly lit hall of the soundstage, she dismissed the thought. She entered her dressing room and closed the door behind her. Turning, she found a man sitting on the sofa. Immediately, her fingers fumbled for the doorknob as she dropped her files, and panic rose tightly in her throat.
“Ana,” he said, and she spun to face him.
He wasn’t what she expected, to be sure.
A tall, broad, huge man with dark blond hair—and incredibly clear green eyes—looked at her with curiosity more than anything else.
Her phone. She fell to her knees, looking for her phone among the papers, and gasped in relief when she had it, pounding out security’s number, her eyes on the intruder.
He didn’t seem concerned.
“This is Ana. I’m in my dressing room. There’s a man here. He’s broken in. Please come now,” she said urgently, not taking her eyes off the guy, but then she realized she was talking to a recording.
Her stomach dropped. Where was the night guard?
The green-eyed hulk blinked at her, then smiled.
“You’re Ana Perez,” he said calmly, taking a seat in the chair across the room, crossing long legs as if he had nothing to worry about.
Her eyes searched desperately for something to defend herself with, landing on a little red box on the wall.
As she dived for it, he stood, putting his hand out.
“Ana, no,” he said, but it was too late.
She pulled the fire alarm and let it ring.
“I am. And you’re about to be arrested,” she said. “No way am I letting you out of here, no matter what you do to hurt me.”
He sighed and shook his head.
“Ana, I’m not going to hurt you. Quite the opposite. But security won’t be here anytime soon. The fire department will, but not security.”
“And why’s that?” she asked, fearing he had done something horrible to Ben, their night guard. Ben had lost his wife the year before, was near retirement and was celebrating the arrival of his first grandchild. Ana chatted with him every night before she left. He was a sweet, good man.
“What did you do to Ben? If you hurt one hair on that man’s head, I’ll—” she threatened as she took a step forward, then stopped. She had no idea what she would do.
The man reached into his pocket, pulled out a small black phone. “Your security guy left his phone on the front desk when he went to the men’s room,” the man said laconically. “The studio definitely needs to beef up the night watch. It was easy as kittens to get in here. I could have been anyone. Someone who does want to hurt you.”
She blinked. “What do you mean?”
He walked toward her and put out his hand, and she had another chance to appreciate the solid mass of muscle that allowed him to move with a dangerous kind of masculine grace. Cocky, self-assured, powerful and not at all worried about being caught. Certainly not afraid of her.
She was dismayed to hear a panicked squeak emit from between her lips.
As if he was dealing with a frightened animal, he bent down to her level.
“Ana, my name is Chance Berringer. I’m your bodyguard,” he said, holding out his hand just as she heard the sound of heavy footsteps landing outside the door.
Chance stood at the end of the hall near Ana’s dressing room, watching her sign autographs for some of the firemen who gathered around. The least she could do, she said, after dragging them out for a false emergency. One guy suggested filming their show at the firehouse one week, feeding all the guys, and Ana seemed to seriously consider it.
The men were rapt. Chance didn’t blame them. She was even more striking than in her picture.
Petite—not more than five foot two, tops—Ana Perez packed every inch of her small frame with succulent curves and intriguing angles that he enjoyed studying as she worked the crowd.
Too bad she’s a client, he thought with a sigh. Hands off. Chance liked women—lots of women, all women, in all shapes and sizes and colors—and he never experienced a shortage of female company. But clients were always off-limits when they were on a job.
Well, unless you counted how all of his brothers had met their wives and current significant others, he thought with a smirk. All of the women had been principals, or clients needing protection, when they’d met.
Not that Chance was looking for a wife. Women were wonderful and he loved them, but he had no intention of ever putting anyone through the experience his friend Logan had just suffered. That had affected him more than he liked.
Chance had never actually seen such a serious injury up close; Logan had almost died. So much violence done to the human body as his friend lost control and plummeted down the icy ridges of the mountain they had been skiing, landing in a patch of trees. It had been one of the few things that had ever truly frightened Chance. Luckily, Logan hadn’t hit any of the big pines or he would have died on the spot.
Chance had stayed with him through the helicopter ride out and had listened to Logan’s earnest, painful request for what to tell his wife, Jillian, if he didn’t make it. Chance had to call her and had picked her up at the airport, had taken her to the hospital.
Jill was one of the exceptions. A former Olympic athlete herself, she understood competition, drive and the need for adventure. She not only understood but encouraged Logan’s need to do the things he did, whether it was extreme skiing or any of the other potentially life-threatening adventures he enjoyed.
Sometimes she even went with him.
But Chance still remembered how her legs had weakened, how she’d started to sink, as if her life had fallen out from under her when they had been let in to see Logan for the first time after surgery. Chance had done what he needed to, helping her stay strong for Logan, but it hadn’t been easy.
It had shaken him to the core. He knew his family worried about him, and that was hard enough. It was the kind of thing that could get in your head, hold you back, make you hesitate. That was what could kill you.
Chance didn’t want to ever hold back, and if he thought he could cause anyone the kind of pain that Jillian had suffered, he would have to quit living his adventurous lifestyle. And then, well, what would be the point?
Better to keep things loose. A woman in his bed but not in his life was what he often said.
Logan was going to be okay. He might never be able to extreme ski again, but he’d recover. He’d live to be with Jillian. Chance never told her what Logan had said on the plane. It hadn’t been necessary, but it was in his head for good.
Now Chance needed to do something to stabilize that place inside him that had tilted off its axis. The accident had happened to Logan, not to him, right? He was fine. He was on a job doing work he loved. By the sound of it, the threat was local, and once they were in Mexico, it was likely that he would largely be on a babysitting vacation. Given the principal and the location, he wasn’t complaining.
But they weren’t there yet.
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
The Risk-Taker by Kira Sinclair
Subject: Totally buff ranger Gage Harper
Current Status: Walking wounded—both physically and mentally
Mission: Finally get the girl he could never have
Obstacle: She may just be the biggest risk he’s ever taken
All returned POW Gage Harper wants to do is forget, even if he has to let some gym rat beat him to a pulp to do it. He certainly doesn’t want to tell the tale of his heroism to the tabloids. Especially since he’s no hero…. But one journalist is determined to get the inside scoop—and she’s the only girl Gage has never been able to resist.
Hope Rawlings never took Gage’s romantic advances seriously growing up. After all, she was just his buddy, and a guy like Gage could have any girl he wanted. But now she needs his story to get her dream job in the city. And she’s willing to do anything to get it.
Why do you need to read this book?
I loved the character of Gage! Returned, damaged POW, finds the right woman to heal him.
(taken from the Harlequin Website)
A heavy fist connected with his jaw. Gage Harper’s head snapped backward and the crowd, pressed tight against the raised platform, roared.
All Gage heard was the rush of adrenaline as it poured through his body. It drowned out the words that had been haunting him all night. “In a war that brings mostly sad news, tonight there is a brighter story to tell.” Someone should tell the solemn man who delivered that statement to the world that bright and war should never be used in the same sentence.
But Gage wasn’t going to be the one to do it.
Instead, he squared his feet beneath him and countered the blow he’d received with several of his own. Head, gut, kidneys. This wasn’t the sort of place that worried about rules. The backwoods fighting ring was exactly what he needed to distract him from the memories he didn’t want.
Micah’s flag-draped casket being loaded into the transport for home. A hard-eyed insurgent yelling into his face before ripping both of his thumbnails out with pliers. The screams of his friends as they endured torture.
Torture he could have prevented if he hadn’t screwed up.
Yeah, this was a great use of a Thursday night even if he’d had to drive an hour out of Sweetheart, South Carolina, to find it. The blessed numbness would be worth every fist to the face.
Grounding his weight onto his left leg, Gage lashed out with a roundhouse kick. Channeling all the frustration, rage and guilt built up inside him, he put more power behind it than he’d meant to, aiming straight for the guy’s gut. He was finding it difficult to hold back after months of fighting for his life. Those kind of hard-won instincts were a bitch to get rid of. Luckily the other guy blocked.
Scenes he thought he’d dealt with flashed across his mind. Gunfire. Smoke-filled hallways. A dark, dirty cell with barely enough room to lie down. Tanner, a fellow Ranger, bloody and broken before they’d even been thrown into that room, moaning in pain. Needles. Knives. Pliers.
But he didn’t break. He hadn’t told them a damn thing.
Gage ground his teeth and pushed the memories away. Nothing could change what had happened to Tanner.
Or bring Micah back. The man he’d met in jump school was gone. Killed when his gun misfired while cleaning it. That, more than anything, was what bothered him about his friend’s death. He knew Micah. Had trained with the man. Micah could disassemble, clean and reassemble his weapon in his sleep. They all could.
Dying in battle, that he could have dealt with. They’d all signed up for that possibility. But not some freak accident.
That anger, grief and skepticism were what sent him out into the scorching desert looking for the same kind of fight he’d found tonight. Something to silence the racing thoughts and numb the pain he didn’t want to deal with. He’d gotten a distraction, all right. And several good men had been pulled straight into hell with him.
He never should have watched the national news story his mama had saved. The latest in a long line of shouldn’ts.
Who knew she could operate the DVR? When he left for basic training twelve years ago she could barely get a DVD to play. He’d been looking for something mindless, like old football games or episodes of CSI. Instead, he’d found hours of news stories detailing his capture and high-profile rescue from Taliban insurgents.
The worst had been the leaked propaganda videos. The close-up shots of his own dirt- and blood-streaked face as they’d forced him to deliver their messages to the U.S. government. He could still taste the bitter words, hated himself for saying them even if he’d done it to save Tanner from more torture he wasn’t strong enough to survive.
He’d wanted to turn them off. Should have. But couldn’t. What those slick news anchors with their perfect white teeth hadn’t said was that what happened was entirely his fault.
His thumbs began to throb where his missing nails should have been. Gage clenched his fists tighter, asking for more. He relished the pain. The reminder. His injuries were nothing compared to Tanner’s. If he hadn’t let grief and a mindless need for a distraction blind him to the warning signs…
If he hadn’t taken unnecessary risks and pushed them all straight into a trap, his buddy wouldn’t be lying in a hospital bed looking at months of rehab, learning to live without a limb and the possibility that his military career was over.
The guy in front of him, clearly some gym rat trying to show off the muscles he’d honed in air-conditioned luxury, twisted on his heel and threw out a leg aimed straight for Gage’s head. He easily blocked the kick, letting the other guy’s foot glance off a shoulder.
He could wipe the floor with this guy. It had taken Gage less than ninety seconds to pick up on his weaknesses, and if they’d been in the middle of the desert instead of a crude ring made from worn padding, plywood and rope, he wouldn’t have hesitated. But he wasn’t there to defend his life or a set of ideals he wasn’t even sure he believed anymore.
He was just there to forget. And the quickest way to that was to let this guy beat the crap out of him so he could concentrate on something other than pointless regrets and decisions he couldn’t take back. Besides, he didn’t need the prize money these guys were after. Better to let some struggling father win the pot so he could buy something nice for his family.
Gage’s lip split. Blood splattered across the floor. His head wrenched sideways and something in the audience caught his eye. The familiar flash of green-gold eyes and dark blond hair he hadn’t seen in twelve years.
Well, unless you counted dreams. And he didn’t.
Hope Rawlings. His belly tightened, a sensation that had nothing to do with the repeated blows he’d taken.
Gage twisted, skillfully maneuvering his opponent so he could scour the faces surrounding them. But whatever he’d seen was gone.
Or maybe he was imagining things. Was it crazy that he would think of her now that he was back?
Given their history, yes, it probably was. Although, while he was reviewing regrets.
In that single moment of distraction the force of Gym Rat’s fist exploded across Gage’s left cheekbone. The pain reverberated through his entire face. The crunch of bone on bone burst in his ears.
“Shit.” He spat out with a mouthful of blood. Well, the guy had gotten his attention again. With a sigh, Gage resigned himself to a good tongue-lashing when his mama saw him at breakfast in the morning. And decided there was no way he was letting this guy win. The next guy could take the purse.
Hope Rawlings watched Gage get the crap beat out of him. For fun. She tried to stay dispassionate about it. After all, it wasn’t a new occurrence for him. Well, this underground, full-contact fighting for money was—maybe she could turn this into an expose on men shedding their suits in an attempt to connect with their inner caveman—but not his penchant for finding trouble.
If they awarded medals for that… Instead, he had the Bronze Star, Prisoner of War Medal and Purple Heart. Just the thought of what he’d gone through to get those made her chest ache. And her head swell to the point of explosion. She fought against the urge to climb into that ring, snatch him by the ear and drag his ass out. Hadn’t he given them all enough heart palpitations recently?
But that wasn’t her place. Not anymore.
Years ago she would have been right beside him, turning blue in the face as she unsuccessfully attempted to talk him out of whatever dangerous scheme he’d hatched. They’d been friends since Gage stole her sippy cup and hit her over the head with it. They were neighbors. Their parents were best friends. They were best friends. Or had been. Once.
He’d been home for a couple days and was already jonesing for a hit of adrenaline. It had taken a long time for Hope to learn that she’d end up the only one hurt by hitting her head against that brick wall. Gage did what he wanted and always had. Screw anyone who stood in his way or challenged him.
That didn’t make watching the smackdown any easier. Especially knowing the physical hell he’d just been through. When, exactly, would he finally say uncle? When would he have enough?
Although watching Gage was far from a hardship. They might have been friends, but she wasn’t blind. Even as a teenager he’d been gorgeous, and knew it. Girls, attracted by the pretty face and edge of danger, had thrown themselves at him. She’d been right there beside him, dismissed by the ones who bothered to notice she was even there.
The familiar spurt of jealousy came out of nowhere. Hope pushed it down. She hadn’t liked the reaction then and she definitely didn’t like it now.
Wearing nothing but a pair of gym shorts, everything he had was on display. War might have left him with scars—visible and unseen—but it had definitely honed his body into something beautiful. The way he moved should have been a sin, all smooth grace and deadly calculation.
The guy he was fighting was an idiot if he couldn’t see the way Gage sized him up. His stomach muscles bunched as he went on the attack. Shoulders and biceps strained. He maneuvered the other guy into a corner, limiting his opponent’s range of motion. His thighs and calves flexed with every step.
Hope tried not to notice, but it was hard to tear her gaze away.
Gage was vibrant. Alive. Electric. Just being close to him always left her with the same warm buzz, like a contact high. And yet, it scared the hell out of her, too. He attacked everything so hard—life, love, danger, war. That kind of intensity was intimidating and draining for anyone standing in the fallout zone.
Dammit, when would this match end?
She wasn’t here to ogle him or reminisce. She was here to interview him. He’d been avoiding her ever since he got home two days ago. Hope tried not to take it per-sonally—he was avoiding everyone. But it still hurt.
Although, considering the things they’d both said the last time they’d spoken…she wasn’t surprised. If it wasn’t for the phone call she’d received three days ago she might have been avoiding him, as well. But she couldn’t.
Gage Harper was her ticket out of Sweetheart.
“You want a permanent position with us, Ms. Raw-lings?” Mr. Rebman had asked. He was the managing editor for the Atlanta Courier, a gruff man who’d only spoken to her once before for about sixty seconds—the length of time it took him to say her experience managing the Sweetheart Sentinel for her father did not make her a journalist. He was a real winner, but the man had the power to grant her every wish.
She’d practically tripped over her own tongue answering, “Yes, sir.”
“I understand that Gage Harper is from your hometown.”
And immediately Hope’s stomach had seethed with sickness.
Somehow she’d found herself answering, “Yes.” At least she hadn’t told the man that they’d grown up together.
“He’s refusing all interview offers. If you can get me an exclusive, I’ll consider finding a place for you here.”
Hope frowned as Gage landed another punch. So here she was, in the middle of backwoods South Carolina on a Thursday night, stalking Gage.
That sick feeling was back in the pit of her stomach.
With a sigh, Hope melted into the back of the crowd. In her four-inch heels—out of place amid the roughed-up cowboy boots—she could still see the ring just fine. Enough to know Gage had stopped playing cat and mouse and was finally going in for the kill. His opponent, a guy who never stood a chance, dropped to the floor with a groan and stayed there.
Gage bounced on his heels away from the guy, staying alert for any sign of deceit. As the nice man who’d spilled beer on her jeans had explained, there weren’t any rules so dirty fighting was more than allowed. But the guy stayed down. Some in the crowd cheered and some booed.
An older guy who looked to be in charge jumped into the ring. He announced Gage as the winner, using his loud voice instead of a PA system to combat the crowd. Hope got the impression this was a traveling circus and that kind of equipment would have been a little too expensive to abandon if the cops showed up.
The guy at the door, probably a recent graduate from a halfway house, only let her in after she told him she was with one of the fighters and pointed out Gage. Even then, the way he’d eyed her with skepticism made her uncomfortable.
The crowd shifted. Someone called out demanding another fight. And with a smile and a nod of his head, the guy in charge waved the next fighter into the ring with Gage. Apparently, this wasn’t the kind of place that worked off brackets. No winner-against-winner here, Gage was going again.
Hope groaned and closed her eyes, but she couldn’t keep them that way for long. Not with the sound of flesh on flesh ringing in her ears again. Her overactive imagination was far worse than watching the beating. She cracked one eyelid.
Like before, Gage played with the guy for a few minutes, sizing him up. He took a few shots and gave a few back. It was clear, at least to her, that Gage had his opponent’s number. So it surprised her when he left himself wide open for an uppercut beneath the chin. His back hit the floor with a resounding crack.
A man close to her groaned. He passed a handful of bills across to another guy wearing a gleeful grin. Gage didn’t move. The crowd was thick enough that she couldn’t tell if he was unconscious or just stunned.
Her heart fluttered uncomfortably in her chest, an echo of the panic she’d felt when news of his capture had come into the newsroom just a couple weeks before.
Here she’d thought his rescue would cure her of the unwanted reaction. Apparently not.
Hope fought against the mass of people, trying to get closer to the side of the ring. The breath she hadn’t realized she was holding leaked slowly from her parted lips when he finally started to stir. His hands spread wide on the floor and he pushed upward. His head hung between those straining shoulders, as if it were too heavy for him to hold up.
Her gaze searched him for signs of serious injury. She jostled the handful of men standing between her and the ring. She yelled, demanding they let her through, and slapped at the ones who didn’t listen.
Gage finally picked up his head. His gaze connected with hers through the flimsy barrier of ropes. The same punch she always felt hit her, as if she’d been the one taking shots to the solar plexus. But just like always, she ignored it.
Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. His right eye was already swelling and bruising. Hope’s hands curled around the edge of the ring floor. The sharp pain of a splinter pierced her left palm.
His golden-brown eyes flared with recognition and something warmer before narrowing down to indecipherable slits. He frowned and asked gruffly, “What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you.”
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
All the Right Moves by Jo Leigh
Subject: Captain John “Devil” Devlin
Mission: Tempt his target…and seduce her!
They don’t call air force captain John Devlin the “Devil” for nothing. He lives for high-risk maneuvers, both in the cockpit and in the bedroom! Now stalled at a career crossroads, John has less than two weeks to decide whether he should reenlist or shed the uniform. But then the devil meets his match in a fiery little bartender….
A flyboy—even a wickedly hot one!—is the last thing Cassie O’Brien needs. Between the bar and grad school, she is stretched to her limit. Yet the scorch and sizzle between them proves to be too much temptation, and Cassie gives in to sweet, sweet sin. But when she sleeps with this devil, she’ll get more than she ever bargained for….
The Few. The Proud. The Sexy as Hell.
Why do you need to read this book?
Look at the cover….nuff said
(taken from Harlequin’s website)
With the temperature hovering near a hundred, John Devlin climbed out of his new Corvette into the unrelenting Vegas heat, locked the car and pocketed his keys. The June sun was so brutal he considered parking closer to the market, but he dismissed the idea in a heartbeat. That was the trouble with owning an expensive sports car. You avoided dings even if it meant walking half a mile. Worth it, though, for the honey of a silver Corvette.
Any inconvenience was an acceptable trade-off because John was all about speed. In the air or on the ground, it didn’t matter, damn it. That had a much better ring than having a midlife crisis at thirty-three.
He crossed the asphalt and slipped off his Wayfarers just as the store’s automatic doors opened. Man, he did not like grocery shopping. Good thing he only had to do it twice a month, and only when he wasn’t deployed.
His grocery list rarely varied so he headed straight for the liquor aisle, grabbed a bottle of Lagavulin scotch, then moved on to the middle rows where he picked up a box of crackers and a loaf of bread. The blonde—he was pretty sure her name was Megan—behind the deli counter spotted him and smiled.
“Hey, Captain Devlin.” She had to be in high school, or barely out, but she gave him a once-over like a pro. Girls grew up fast these days. “A pound of turkey, sliced thin?”
“You know me so well.”
Her practiced smile said not well enough, which he ignored by studying the cheese selection. One time he’d stopped in wearing his flight suit and it had been Captain Devlin ever since. Nice to be anonymous sometimes, though being stationed at a base the size of Nellis, it wasn’t easy. He might as well have stopped at the commissary.
“You want a half pound of sliced Muenster, too?” she asked, her voice close.
He looked up to find her leaning with one hand against the glass case and checking out the front of his jeans. Jesus. “Yeah, Muenster. Thanks. I’ll be back for it.”
Not sure his mayo was still good, he headed down the condiment aisle, snagging a jar of green olives along the way. The Cold Beer sign caught his attention. He was officially on leave so why not? He managed to grab a six-pack without dropping everything. Barely. But he still had stuff to pick up. Sighing, he gave in and went in search of a basket. He found one near the express register and piled in his groceries.
The thought of returning to the deli counter was not a pleasant one. At the back of the store he stopped for a quart of cream and checked to see if Megan had set his order on the counter. Looking bored she stood at the meat slicer, pushing the blade back and forth, probably still working on his turkey. However, a well-dressed middle-aged woman studying the food in the glass made it safer to approach. She tapped her foot, gave him a cool glance, then looked at her watch.
If she wasn’t a military wife, he’d eat his boot. Coolly elegant even if the thermometer hit 120. They didn’t ruffle easily, could be ready to move halfway across the world on a moment’s notice and manage to throw a dinner party the night after they arrived. But get in their way? He’d never met a more determined bunch than air force wives needing to get a move on.
He ended up checking his own watch, although he couldn’t blame the woman. It felt weird being in a grocery store in the middle of the day. He was used to his routine, even if the routine was completely contingent on a dozen factors he had no control over. Still, for every flight there was mission planning, prebriefing, flying time, sortie, debriefing, qweep—all the soul-sucking paperwork—and ground ops. Never a dull moment, as they say.
Given that his time was his own for the next ten days, there was only one thing on his agenda. He had a decision to make. One that would impact the rest of his life.
“Here you go, Captain Devlin.” Megan was smiling, leaning into the case and holding out his order. Her lips were red. They hadn’t been earlier. “Anything else?”
“That’ll do it. Thanks.” John nodded at the older woman, who’d slid him a curious look. “Ma’am,” he said, dropping the packages into his basket and turning to leave.
“See you in a couple of weeks,” Megan called after him.
He lifted a hand without looking back.
In two weeks it could be a whole new ball game for him. He might be receiving new orders to test the latest in the F-35 series ofjets, an assignment he’d wanted his entire career, or he could be shopping for a civilian wardrobe and learning everything there was to know about the Gulfstream 650. The worst of it was he didn’t know which fork he’d be taking. Not even a hint. His dependable decisiveness had gone AWOL. For maybe the first time in his life, he didn’t know what the hell he wanted to do.
He paid for his groceries, anxious to get behind the wheel of the ‘Vette, not so anxious to be at the mercy of the desert heat. But when he stepped outside and heard the familiar roar of a Raptor overhead, there was nothing to do but stop, slip on his sunglasses and look up at the sky.
The Raptor was a thing of beauty, ascending into the clear blue heavens. Even after studying four years at the Air Force Academy and nearly eleven of active service he still got a rush watching a bird slicing through the sky. These days it was the most excitement he experienced on the ground.
Sitting in a cockpit was a different story. Strapped in and moving fast over the world he always felt alive and focused. It was when he came back to earth that things had gotten confusing. Something was…off. If he didn’t know better, he’d say that being a pilot wasn’t the endall, beall of his life. But of course it was. Everything he did, in or out of uniform, was preparation to take the controls. Everything.
He watched the contrail begin to dissipate, then moved toward his car. As soon as he pulled out of the parking lot he had the urge to press the accelerator, but that would have to wait. Too much traffic, and it would be slow going all the way to his condo near the Strip.
After an irritating twenty minutes of crawling behind a truck to his high-rise, John got his groceries put away in record time. Considered, then rejected, having a scotch while he checked email on his iPhone. The place smelled lemony, his cue that the housekeeper had been by. Couldn’t tell by the looks of things. He wasn’t home much. He didn’t get a lot of junk mail or magazines or papers. Mostly because all his mail went directly to his sister in Seattle. She paid his bills out of a joint checking account, which was a real lifesaver when he was overseas.
He flipped on the flat-screen TV hanging on the wall. The remote in one hand and his phone in the other, he moved to the massive glass window with a view of the Strip. At night it was very cool with all the lights and flash. This afternoon the brown tinges of smog hanging over the valley just depressed him.
With his focus on his phone screen, he aimed the remote at the TV behind him and flipped to ESPN. He had an email from Lauren, instructing him to deduct the cable bill she’d just paid, and letting him know his two nephews were nagging for a call or visit. That one was tough. He wasn’t anxious to talk to the family right now. He’d rather they didn’t know he was on leave or be reminded he was up for reenlistment.
They’d be appalled he was even considering ending his military career. Especially his father. John didn’t want to think about having that kind of discussion with the colonel. The old man would probably have a heart attack. But then his father had been damn lucky. During his thirty years of service he’d never lost a close buddy….
Hell, this wasn’t about Danny’s death. Or Sam being grounded, his career as an active duty F-16 pilot ripped away because of something beyond his control.
If the restlessness driving John crazy had anything to do with either of his friends, he’d admit it. No problem. He wasn’t trying to be the strong silent type. It was not knowing what was wrong that had him tied in knots. For all he knew, he’d wake up in a couple of months and everything would be A-OK. Trouble was, he didn’t have a couple of months. He needed to commit or get off the pot before this new downsized air force decided it could live without his services. Or before Tony Wagner, one of the richest men in America, got impatient and rescinded his offer to make John his private pilot.
He looked toward McCarran Airport and saw a commercial jet taking off. Leave at home was always disconcerting. Not going to the base made him feel vaguely anxious. No doubt he’d end up stopping by at some point. He’d see the guys over the next ten days. A few of his buddies were meeting for dinner and then club-hopping tomorrow night and then there was the party at Shane’s house coming up.
What to do now was the problem. He didn’t feel like TV or drinking alone or doing much of anything. Except driving. He hadn’t given the Corvette a good run yet. Slipping his phone into his pocket, he turned off the TV, then grabbed his keys from the kitchen counter.
He’d head out to the desert and find a nice long stretch of road. And hope he avoided a speeding ticket.
“I need another pitcher. Oh, and two frosted mugs.”
Cassie O’Brien looked up from the textbook she had stashed by the plate of cut-up limes, and squinted at Lisa, then toward the pool tables at the back of the bar. “Who’s asking for fresh mugs?”
“Pete and Lou.” The waitress made a face. “Sorry. You need me to wash glasses?”
Cassie sighed. “No, but I wouldn’t mind you turning down the volume,” she said, glancing up at the speaker hanging from the wall between the Grateful Dead and Sugarland Express posters.
Good thing she didn’t have a gun hidden under the bar or she’d be tempted to shoot the damn jukebox. She didn’t exactly hate country music, and she didn’t even mind when the tunes got loud. But it was hell trying to study with all that racket.
“Your brother needs to hire another person for times like this.” Lisa eyed the psychology textbook as she dragged a chair under the speaker, then climbed up on it. “You should find someone willing to work odd shifts. He doesn’t know what’s going on around here half the time anyway.”
It wasn’t so much Lisa’s snippy tone but how she’d referred to Tom that tipped off Cassie that the lovebirds had had another fight. There was no doubt it was Tommy’s fault. She loved her brother. She did. But ever since he’d come back from Iraq he’d been tough to deal with, and unfortunately, Lisa suffered the brunt of his slippery moods. Cassie understood his bitterness, everyone did. But Lisa had stuck by him through months of rehab, filling in when Cassie couldn’t. Lisa loved Tommy, but the big dope was so caught up in his past he couldn’t see what was staring him in the face now.
Cassie was going to have a long-overdue talk with him. But first she had to seriously crack the books and take her three final exams. Not just take them, ace the suckers. The job market was too tight for an average grad student to expect to land anything decent. And dear God, she didn’t want to be a bartender her whole life. Or even by the time she hit thirty in two very short years.
In a week exams would be over and she would be able to breathe again.
At least until her final two classes started in September. Once she finished, then just maybe she’d find a real job before she was eligible to collect social security.
“Is that good?” Lisa asked, one hand hovering near the speaker’s volume control, the other flattened to the wall to steady the wobbly chair.
“Perfect.” Cassie wiped her hands on the towel hanging over her shoulder and held the chair until Lisa climbed down. “Thank you. Here’s your pitcher and fresh mugs.” She pushed the tray toward Lisa, blew at the annoying loose curl that had escaped her pony-tail and leaned over the bar so she could be heard in the back. “Everyone hang on to your mugs. The dishwasher is broken.”
“I’ll come wash your glasses, you sweet thing.” It was Spider. “Wouldn’t want your pretty little hands to get shriveled up.”
Cassie and Lisa both shook their heads at the raucous laughter coming from his fellow pool players, most of them veteran bikers like Spider. She let him get away with more than most because he was old enough to be her father. In fact he’d ridden with her parents and the Diablo Outlaws for a few years when she was a toddler.
“I imagine you have your own shrinkage to worry about,” she shot back, exchanging grins with Lisa, who picked up her tray and headed for the back.
A chorus of “whoas” couldn’t drown out Spider’s laugh. He was a scary-looking dude with a long shaggy beard and a dozen fading tats trailing up his beefy arms and the side of his neck. But inside he was a teddy bear. She’d heard he hadn’t always been like that. He’d mellowed with age and a short prison sentence, and she was just fine with not knowing the details.
She looked around the room, recognizing every customer but one. That was how it usually worked at the Gold Strike, ever since Tommy bought the place and she’d started bartending here two years ago. A few unfamiliar strays came in throughout the week, some stayed and became regulars, the rest she never saw again.
What she liked best was the diverse mix of military vets, aging bikers, university students and staff from the nearby hospital who frequented the bar. They were a friendly lot, though they didn’t all know each other by name. Occasionally a few airmen from Nel-lis stopped in, and if it happened that college women were hanging around that day, she was likely to see the same guys again.
But the Gold Strike wasn’t close enough to the base to attract many active servicemen. At one time the place had been a hard-core biker bar on the outskirts of Las Vegas. When the growing popularity of the city meant residential and business areas kept spreading farther and farther out, the bikers finally said adios. Turned out to be a good deal for Tommy.
“Hey, Cassie.” Pete came from the back and slid onto a stool, leaned forward, swept back a stubborn lock of brown hair and stared at her with serious dark eyes. She knew he was twenty-one but he seemed so young she wanted to card him every time he walked in. “Help me out with something,” he said in a low, nervous voice while casting a cautious look toward the pool tables.
“If I can.” She braced her elbows on the bar and leaned over so no one else could hear. “What’s up?”
“I’m making dinner for this girl. I’ve only been out with her once so I wanna impress her.” He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his thin neck. But his voice creaked from dry mouth and he kept sweeping stealthy looks toward the back. “I wanna buy wine, but I don’t know what kind or how much I gotta spend.”
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel!
Northern Rebel by Jennifer LaBrecque: A new sizzling Uniformly Hot story
Locate the explosive. Defuse or safely detonate it. It’s a job that takes cojones, and one wrong move could land marine demolitions expert Lars Reinhardt in the hurt locker…or in the morgue. But it takes a leave in Good Riddance, Alaska, for Lars to meet his greatest—and prickliest—challenge yet. And he’ll need more than charm to disarm this stunning nurse….
Delphi Reynolds has declared that emotionally unavailable dudes are the new no-no. And while she’s tempted to let Lars light her libido’s fuse, he’s off-limits—no matter how sexy, charming or freakin’ gorgeous he is! But Lars lives for a challenge, and he wants Delphi for the week. And once they ignite, it’ll set off a fiery chain reaction that could blow them both away….
Reader favorite Daring in the Dark: What’s a guy to do when he’s in love with his best friend’s girl? Not much…until a blackout allows him—and his girl—to see the light….
Why do you need to read this book?
I loved the characters in the book and the location that they were set in. I’ve read several books set in Good Riddance, AK and loved them!
by Jennifer LaBrecque
( Taken from Harlequin’s website)
Delphi Reynolds slung her purse over her shoulder and headed down the hall of the now-silent medical office. She was ready to get home, pull off her nursing “scrubs” and put her feet up. It had been one hectic day.
Dr. DeWitt Zellers stepped into the open door of his office, a ready smile on his face. Delphi had been thrilled when she’d secured a position with the senior Dr. Zellers straight out of nursing school. He had a well-deserved reputation as one of the South’s finest surgeons. A year ago, his son DeWitt had taken over the practice when his father retired. DeWitt Zellers was charming, paid his employees well and was highly regarded, both personally and professionally, much as his father had been. In the past year Delphi and De-Witt had chatted often. The young doctor was more than personable.
While she was always aware that she worked for him, they’d become friends. He’d consulted with her on his anniversary present for his wife and invited Delphi to his daughter’s third birthday party. Likewise he’d given her advice on dating and men. Delphi liked and trusted him. DeWitt was sort of like the big brother she’d never had.
“You got a minute before you head out?” he said.
“Come on in.” He waved her into his office, closing the door behind her. Everyone else had left for the day but they’d gotten into the habit of chatting after hours, usually just a quick few minutes. However, today he looked fairly intense. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”
He rounded his desk and sank into his Moroccan-leather chair.
DeWitt had gone with her suggestion on Macy’s anniversary gift a couple of months ago. His wife was short with dark hair. She carried some extra weight and had thick, heavy features but you couldn’t beat her devotion to her husband. The romantic side of Delphi loved the fact that the handsome doctor was so enamored with his rather plain wife. Delphi liked Macy well enough, but they didn’t have a common lifestyle. Macy was a socialite. Delphi was a worker bee. But Macy had loved the piece of jewelry Delphi had suggested so maybe there were a few similarities after all.
DeWitt’s office was well-appointed functionality. His diplomas, accreditations and accolades, all tastefully framed and matted, nearly filled the wall above his credenza. Along with his medical journals, an assortment of beautifully framed photos shared the credenza: him receiving his diploma, flanked by his mother and a beaming Macy; and DeWitt, Macy and their daughter, Chesney, on the beach, a smiling trio surrounded by sea grass and sand.
His office portrayed professional success and familial devotion. One glance at that wall said it all—Dr. DeWitt Zellers was a great guy.
Delphi stood behind one of the “guest” chairs opposite his desk. It had been an incredibly busy day and she was ready to go home and relax. DeWitt, however, didn’t seem to be in any hurry. He sat, his fingers templed in front of his mouth. It was the look he always had when he’d figured out something important or made a decision. She couldn’t exactly put her finger on it, but something had been sort of “off” about DeWitt lately. Maybe he was just stressed out. She hadn’t pressed him because sooner or later he’d tell her if he wanted to. However, she was sensing a weird vibe from him now.
He rose, rounded his desk and stood behind her, close behind her, as in she could feel his breath against her neck. It was a little creepy. Laughing uncomfortably, Delphi stepped to the right, since the chair blocked her way forward and he blocked her from behind. She turned, laughing again with a mixture of surprise and a little nervousness. “What’s up?”
He closed the distance she’d put between them. “Delphi, this is driving me crazy. We just can’t fight it any longer.”
She was totally lost. Were they still talking about a present for Macy? What was driving him crazy?
He leaned in closer. His breath smelled like the hot dogs Barb had ran out to the corner deli to grab at lunch, and breath mints. It wasn’t a good combination. “There’s no need to play coy. I know how you feel about me and I feel the same about you.” He reached for her and she sidestepped him.
Holy hell. He was…acting nuts. “DeWitt…Dr. Zellers….” Pulling in his professional title seemed a really good idea right now. “We’re friends—”
“We both know it’s so much more than that—”
What? “No, it’s not.”
“Baby, there’s no need to keep hiding it. God, I’m going crazy wanting you, thinking about you.”
“But Macy…Chesney….” He definitely needed to be reminded of his wife and child right now because he obviously wasn’t thinking clearly.
He caught Delphi’s hand in his. “I can’t leave her. Her father has too much influence. He wouldn’t ruin my career but he could—and would—do some damage.” Delphi tried shaking off his hand but he had quite a grip going. A seed of panic bloomed in her chest. “Besides, Macy would screw me out of everything and ream me on child support for the next fifteen years. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be together.” The sly glimmer in his eyes was as disconcerting as his words. “I’ve found this great condo between the office and my house. I could set you up there. The title would be in your name, but I’d cover the payment….”
She finally regained her voice. “You want to set me up as your mistress?”
“I know it’s not the same as being married, but it would be just for a few years, until I’m more firmly established and Chesney’s a little older.”
He thought her outrage was because he wouldn’t marry her? “You already have a wife.”
“That’s what I’m saying. We can work around it.”
It? “You’re so missing the point.”
“I know the condo isn’t as big as where Macy and I live.” He’d taken on a supercilious tone, much as if he was the mighty physician trying to explain a complicated illness to a simpleton. “But it’s bigger and much nicer than where you are now—”
He reached over onto his desk and handed her a color brochure. “I think you’ll like it. Gated. Great location. A sound investment.”
Stupefied, she took the brochure and glanced at the property while he prattled on about them buying furniture together. It was definitely nicer than where she was now.
“I know.” Before she could stop him, he had pulled her to him and was kissing her frantically, plunging his tongue into her mouth.
After a moment of shocked paralysis, she used all of her strength to shove him away. “Stop!”
Her hands were shaking. Her trusted employer and friend had turned into someone she didn’t know…and didn’t want to know.
As he reached for her again, she darted around the second guest chair, putting it between them. “Delphi?
He looked wounded and confused, as if she’d slapped him in the face.
“DeWitt, I thought we were friends. Why would you even think I was interested in anything more?”
“Delphi, we don’t have to play this game. You don’t have to be coy.” Impatience threaded his voice.
There was that word again—coy. “I’m being honest. Outside of work, we’re friends. Nothing more. You’re married^
“I told you, baby, Macy won’t be a problem. You’ll see.”
He just wasn’t getting it. “The only thing I see is that you’re not the man I thought you were.”
He shrugged. “What’s the big deal?” An arrogant smugness settled on his face. “All powerful men have a mistress—it’s part of the personality of leaders, men of importance. Macy knows she’s lucky to have me.”
He was serious. Delphi felt physically sick to her stomach. It was one thing if that was how he saw the world, but that he’d think she would feel the same way…
He and his idea were repugnant.
She wanted to tell him that was the most ignorant, obnoxious thing she’d ever heard come out of a man’s mouth. He was, however, her employer. She chose her words carefully. “DeWitt, I’m not interested in you that way. And even if I were, I’d still never act on it because you’re married and that means something to me.”
“Do you understand what I’m offering you?”
“It has become crystal clear. And I hope it’s crystal clear how I feel about your offer.” She moved toward the door, her heart thunking hard in her chest.
“Sleep on it.”
“I don’t have to sleep on it.” She opened the door.
“You’re making a mistake.”
She was so upset she ignored the not-so-veiled threat in his words. “The only mistake I’ve made was thinking you were someone else. I feel sorry for Macy. She deserves better than you.”
She closed the door behind her, quickly and quietly exiting the office suite.
Delphi walked through the employee entrance the next morning, greeted by the familiar scent of antiseptic.
Despite exhaustion, she was resolved. She’d hardly slept, if at all. She’d tossed and turned, looking at it from every angle. Had she inadvertently led him on? Had she misconstrued their conversation yesterday? Regardless, there was still only one course of action. She would quietly give her two-months’ notice. Given the nursing shortage, she should be able to easily find another job in that time frame and it would give the practice some time to replace her, as well, without disrupting the flow of the office. She’d keep what had happened between the two of them quiet, even though at one point she’d considered telling Macy about it. In the end, she’d decided it was better to keep it to herself.
If Macy ever came to Delphi and asked her about anything, Delphi wouldn’t lie, but she wouldn’t approach Macy Zeller either.
She hadn’t finished putting her purse away when Debbie, the receptionist, put her head around the door. “Doc wants you in his office. He said for you to come as soon as you got in.”
She thought she’d made it clear last night where she stood. But it was just as well. She’d tender her resignation verbally and give it to him in writing tomorrow. While being friends was no longer an option, she didn’t want to leave on a sour note. She’d end things amicably and they’d each go on as if that unfortunate kiss and proposition had never happened.
She gave a cursory knock and opened his office door. Delphi drew up short, slowly closing the door behind her, her mind racing. Macy stood beside De-Witt, who was seated behind his desk.
Her stomach clenched. “Good morning.”
“Have a seat, Delphi,” DeWitt said, his stern tone remonstrative.
She would’ve liked to have refused, but her legs were shaking so much, sitting was probably a good idea. She sat.
“This is very difficult to do,” he said again in that austere tone underlaid by a weary patience, “but you’ve really left me no choice. Here are your separation papers. You’ll be escorted from the premises.”
“You’re firing me? I’ve left you no choice…?” Forget protecting Macy. “You came on to me. I was going to offer my resignation this morning anyway. I can’t work with you.”
“You said she’d try to turn it around,” Macy said, placing her hand on DeWitt’s shoulder. He placed his hand over hers. The devoted, loving husband. “Your ploy isn’t going to work, Delphi. DeWitt told me everything last night. I feel sorry for you, we both do, but we simply can’t let you get away with this.”
“What is it that I’m trying to get away with?” Her mouth was so dry she could barely get the words out.
“When he refused to leave me for you, you demanded he buy you your own place…” She wielded the condo brochure like a prosecutor presenting evidence to the jury. “…or you’d come to me with some lies to try to break us up. You’re sick, Delphi. You need help. But you’ve picked the wrong couple to extort. You won’t break up our family.”
It was like being in the middle of a nightmare and not being able to wake up. She couldn’t quite believe what she was hearing.
“Macy, I’ve known you both for seven years. Do you really think I’d do this?”
Delphi saw it, for just a moment, the bleakness in the other woman’s eyes. If Delphi wasn’t the bad guy, then it had to be her husband. And if it was her husband… “DeWitt wouldn’t lie to me.”
Macy couldn’t see the small smirk that curved her husband’s mouth. Delphi eyed the other woman with compassion. “You have to believe what you have to believe.”
DeWitt picked up his phone and hit a button. “Debbie, if you’ll call security to my office. They need to oversee Ms. Reynolds collecting her personal effects and escort her from the building.”
Welcome to Sugarbeat’s Books – The Home of the Romance Novel
Welcome also to Steamy Saturday!
This is the day of the week where we talk about a book that is on the steamier side of romance. Today’s selection is by one of my favorite authors, Rhonda Nelson. She keeps producing books for Harlequin’s Blaze line which I’m very fond of!. I enjoyed this book, and I hope that you pick up a copy and enjoy it as well.
Publisher: Harlequin Blaze
Release: December 2012
Source: I purchased a copy of this book to read and review
Ranger Security Employee Files
Employee #13: “The Protector”
Name: Judd Anderson
Trademark characteristics: Tall, dark and deliciously handsome, this former sniper has wicked aim.
Weaknesses: Saving girls who are trying to save the world.
Joining his twin at Ranger Security is Judd Anderson’s first step toward a new life. But when he’s assigned to protect a key witness in a murder case, the last thing he expects is a rather sexy Christmas angel to land in his lap….
Humanitarian Noelle Montgomery dedicates herself to helping others, so having someone take care of her is completely different. And now that she’s in hiding with her hot bodyguard, Noelle is finding her niceness taking a decidedly naughtier turn.
But when the line between protection and seduction is crossed, Judd is compromised. Will he be able to save Noelle…in time for Christmas?
For those of you who follow this blog, you will realize that not only do I get a subscription to Blaze every month, but I’m quite addicted to these little red books! One of the best books in December’s set was His First Noelle – another book in the Ranger Security set of books. I’ve enjoyed following this group of men as they increase in number! Judd Anderson is the newest recruit at Ranger Security, following his twin brother into the group. His first assignment is to protect Noelle Montgomery, who is the key witness in a murder case.
This is a great little book that combines humor with a scorching hot read. The connection between the twins was entertaining as well! I appreciate the various bits and pieces that come up about the group of characters that populate Ranger security, and being reminded of past stories.
This is a great little read, well worth picking up!
His First Noelle is available on Amazon