excerpt

Your First Look at an Entrancing, Heartbreaking Novel of World War II

Told from the present-day perspective of a British antiques dealer who specializes in helping families sell the contents of estates, The Light Over London transports readers to World War II London through forgotten treasures. Please enjoy this early look at this entrancing, heartbreaking novel, reminiscent of Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls.

In Which Our Heroine Decides She Loathes Our Hero (Probably)

I've always loved enemies-to-lovers books. They're the types of stories where the hero and heroine say, "I hate you, I hate you, dammit why can't I stop thinking about you?!" and I can't get enough. I love it all from the banter to the tension to the satisfaction of finally seeing the heroine and heroine grow as they change their minds about one another and admit they're falling in love. The Taste of Temptation is one of those books, and today I'm happy to share with you another early excerpt ahead of the book's February 5th release date!

Let's jump right in and find out what why our heroine hates our hero so much.

CAROLINE’S EVERY NERVE tingled with excitement as the curtain fell, the first act ending to thunderous applause. Despite her initial interest in the play, she’d hardly heard the actors’ words. Her whole focus had been on the man sitting a few rows behind her.

She could practically feel his gaze bearing down on her, and it took everything she had not to squirm in her seat at the thought of him memorizing every inch of her bare shoulders. Madeline had twisted her hair up off of her neck and pinned it high, as was the fashion in London that season, and she wore only a simple strand of pearls for adornment.

She toyed with the necklace, a gift from her father in happier times, and quietly followed Michael and Elsie out to the lobby. As she walked, her eyes darted around, searching for the gentleman who’d sat in her seat. When she finally spotted him standing with two glasses of wine, she couldn’t suppress her smile.

He inclined his head as he handed Elsie and her a glass each. “A bit of refreshment, as promised.”

“In the confusion before the performance, I was unable to effect an introduction,” said Elsie, taking up a glass. “I’m Elsie Burkett and this is my husband, Michael Burkett. His sister, Miss Caroline Burkett, has just joined us from London.”

“London’s loss is Edinburgh’s gain,” said the man.

“Thank you, sir,” she said, dipping a little curtsy.

“My name is Jonathan Moray.”

“Not Mr. Moray of the Lothian Herald-Times?” Michael cut in before Caroline could speak.

Champagne nearly slopped onto her gloves as she reeled back. He was a newspaperman? No.

“And the New Town Tattler,” said the man with a sip of champagne so casual one would have thought he hardly noticed that the air between them had soured.

Already her initial rush of attraction had been replaced by a far more powerful emotion: disgust. It was a black, flinty anger, hardened from the white-hot rage she’d harbored against all the people who’d turned her life into nothing but a circus. The cruel ones lobbed accusations at her, conveniently forgetting that Julian had been the one who acted dishonorably. The kinder ones had described her as pitiful, weak, and broken until she began to wonder for a time if it was true.

And then there were the dreadful names. One newspaper had called her the Jilted Juliet. Another had dubbed her the Forgotten Fiancée.

She was none of those things. Instead, she was a woman who was tired of cowering. She was going to fight for her peace, and if Moray did not leave her alone he would be the first man to feel the fierceness of her finely honed fury.

“Mr. Moray,” she said, drawing herself up to her full, if diminutive, height. “Is the New Town Tattler the kind of paper I suspect it is?”

“Caroline,” Michael warned. But her brother knew nothing of her life in London these past two years. He didn’t have the right to censure her.

“I’m happy to answer the lady’s questions,” said Moray. “What do you suspect my paper to be?”

“A gossip rag.”

His mouth twisted. “The New Town Tattler is a society paper that reports on social news pertinent to the people of this city, if that’s what you mean.”

“And what of London?” she asked archly.

“From time to time, when a story merits it. Enough of Scottish society spends some part of the season in London.”

“Then you’re aware of who I am.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Yes,” he said.

“And you’ll understand why I have no interest in forming an acquaintance with you.” She picked up her skirts, ready to turn and flounce off triumphantly.

“Running away?” asked Mr. Moray, freezing her where she stood. “I’d hoped for more spirit from you.”

She dropped her skirts and held his gaze. If he thought she could be bullied with jabs and jests, he was about to be sorely disappointed. No one survived twenty-six years living under her mother’s roof without developing a skin as thick as an elephant’s hide.

“The only thing you need to know about me, Mr. Moray, is that I don’t run,” she said.

 

You can preorder The Taste of Temptation now to make sure you get it sent to your eReader as soon as it's available on February 5th! Just click on your favorite retailer link.

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Notorious Woman + Stubborn Newspaperman = Irresistible Temptation [Excerpt]

I’m celebrating my birthday today—my first in my new home! I love birthdays because, to me, they’ve always been about three things:

  • Family, friends and loved ones
  • New beginnings
  • Doing something completely indulgent just for you

Perhaps it’s fitting then that to celebrate my birthday I’ve decided I want to give my readers—my literary loved ones—a present. It’s a celebration of a new beginning—a brand-new book—and is something completely indulgent, just for you.

I’m sharing one of my favorite excerpts from my upcoming book, The Taste of Temptation. It’s a Scotland-set historical enemies-to-lovers romance and it’s about...well, here’s what you need to know:

  • Caroline Burkett sued her ex-fiancé for jilting her to marry an American heiress. The newspapers covered every aspect of the lawsuit, making Caroline one of the most notorious women in England. Now's she's fled London for Edinburgh to find a husband. Robert Trevlan, the only son of a prominent banking family, seems her most likely option.
  • Jonathan Moray is the owner of a respectable broadsheet and a less-than-respectable gossip rag. He stirred up a world of trouble for Caroline by reporting on her arrival in Edinburgh.
  • Caroline hates Moray with the fire of a thousand suns. Or at least that's what she tells herself...

You can preorder The Taste of Temptation now to make sure you get it sent to your eReader as soon as it's available on February 5th! Just click on your favorite retailer link.

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And without further ado, enjoy!

MORAY MADE IT over the wall of 63 Cumberland Street’s backyard with little trouble, but as he stood in the damp grass gazing up at the black drainpipe that snaked up the wall of the Burkett house a greater challenge presented itself. It was insane to even think about climbing it, but as Caroline had so sternly pointed out earlier that evening, she was never alone. Except when she was sleeping. This was the only way to ensure that they would neither be caught nor interrupted.

It was also the one most likely to land him—and her—in a heap of trouble.

As he pondered the situation, he realized one of four things could happen.

One: He could successfully make it into Caroline’s bedroom without waking the household, give her his message, and leave, all without kissing her or being detected, thus preserving her virginity, which he was trying his best not to think about at the moment.

Two: He’d be detected by one of the other residents or a well-intentioned neighbor, at best landing him in jail, at worst spelling the beginning of his life as a married man, because surely her brother would force the marriage to cover up the scandal.

Three: He could fall and seriously injure himself.

Four: He could fall and kill himself.

He didn’t like options two, three, or four, but despite his misgivings he had to make the climb. What Eva had dug up about Trevlan was too important for Caroline not to hear, and he hadn’t been lying when he’d told her that it was a matter of some delicacy. It wouldn’t do for anyone else to overhear their conversation.

“You’re a numpty, eedjit bampot with less brains than a house fly,” he muttered as he gave the metal one last tug to make sure it would hold his weight, sent up a prayer to whatever god looked after idiotic newspapermen, and began to climb.

Even when he’d been young and nimble he hadn’t pulled stunts like this, spending all of his time learning his craft and squirreling away every penny he could as he clawed his way up the ladder from apprentice to printer and then owner and editor. And here he was, thirty-five and getting ready to scale a wall to steal a few uninterrupted, unchaperoned moments with a woman. And he wasn’t even going to let himself enjoy them.

The fourth finger of his right glove caught on a craggy corner of one of the stone blocks making up the wall as he began his climb and ripped. Damn. He’d incur Jesper’s wrath when the valet went through his clothes in the morning and found the thin, supple leather destroyed. Never mind that the wall was doing a fair job of ripping up his now-exposed skin.

Somewhere between the second and third floors, Moray realized he didn’t exactly have a plan for figuring out where Caroline’s bedroom might be in the house. He might’ve deployed his network of informants to coax the information from one of the Burketts’ members of staff but that would have taken too long. By the time they’d reported back it could have already been too late. According to the Tattler’s informants, it was only a matter of time before Trevlan proposed to her.

He looked up the dark building to the one window on the third floor that glowed with the soft light of a lamp. That was the room to avoid. While it might be Caroline’s, it could also be where the master or mistress of the house slept, and he knew for a fact he wouldn’t be welcome in either of their boudoirs.

With his attention fixed on the windows above him, he stepped without looking for his foothold and his shoe slipped.

Fuck!

He swallowed down a shout as his feet scrambled wildly against the side of the building. His hands clamped harder around the iron pipe that was the only thing holding him up.

He was not going the way of option four. Not today.

Adrenaline roared through his veins as the window a few feet above him shot open. His head snapped up just as Caroline stuck hers out into the dark night. Bloody hell, he hadn’t been ready for the sight of her, hair loose around her shoulders and catching the light of the waxing moon.

“Are you mad?” she whispered louder than he would’ve dared. “What are you doing?”

“I just thought I’d get a little exercise.”

She stared at him as though he’d grown another head.

“I’m climbing up to see you,” he said, becoming acutely aware that a couple of his fingers were stinging rather badly from his scaling. “May I come in?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course not.” She reached for the latch to pull the window closed again.

“Wait, wait, wait!”

She paused.

“I don’t think I can get down without breaking something,” he admitted.

“You should’ve thought of that before you went climbing up a house like Scotland’s answer to Casanova.”

Despite the circumstances, he couldn’t help his grin. “Your faith that my exploits are Casanovaian is encouraging, Miss Burkett.”

In the moonlight he could see her roll her eyes, but he could also tell from the tug at her lips that she was fighting hard not to smile.

“May I please come in? This drainpipe and I are becoming altogether too acquainted,” he said. “You’ll be saving me from almost certain death.”

“You’re not that high up.”

“I could still die.”

She sighed and pushed the window open wider. “I cannot believe I’m agreeing to this.”

Neither could he.

You can preorder The Taste of Temptation now to make sure you get it sent to your eReader as soon as it's available on February 5th! Just click on your favorite retailer link.

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Get a Sneak Peek of The Look of Love

I'm thrilled to be launching a new historical romance series, The Matchmaker of Edinburgh, this fall! The Look of Love comes out on October 9, but I'm giving my readers an early look at the first chapter of this friends-to-lovers, marriage of convenience romance! You can click here or on the book's cover to download the first two chapters of The Look of Love for free and start this book early readers are calling "one that fans of historical romances will devour."

Your First Look at a New Sports Romance

As much as I love writing historical romance, you need to spice things up from time to time. That’s why, in just a couple weeks, I’m giving you a taste of a sexy, fast-paced new sports romance series published under a brand-new name—because what lady doesn’t need a second, not-so-secret identity?

My new Julia Blake book, Changing the Play, is the first book in the Game Changer series, and it comes out on August 21. It’s a second chance romance between Rachel, an agent at the top of her game, and Nick, the sports reporter trying to wheedle a story out of her biggest new client. Things are extra sticky because Nick also is Rachel’s high school crush who never paid her any attention—or so she thinks.

You can preorder Changing the Play now to make sure you’re in the game the day the book hits stores.

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To give you a little taste of what you can expect, here’s the first chapter.

Chapter One

Rachel Pollard huffed out a breath and wished desperately for a shot of whiskey in her coffee. She’d been up all night reviewing an endorsement contract for Katerina Baranova, and now the spoiled tennis player and her equally loathsome father were tying up her office line with even more demands. Not a fun way to end a workday.

“Why does Serena get to design her own dresses?” Katerina whined, her Russian accent softened by years of training at an exclusive Palm Beach tennis academy.

Because Serena Williams revolutionized the women’s game, and you only cracked the quarterfinals of your first Grand Slam last month.

“Katerina should be focusing on her forehand,” barked Yuri. “Not dresses. Not shoes. Not visors.”

His daughter sniffed. “I’m interested in more than just hitting a ball around a grass court.”

“If you’d learn to respect the grass, you wouldn’t have lost in the second round of Wimbledon last year,” Yuri said.

Rachel pressed two fingers to the bridge of her nose and pinched. Hard. She had neither the time nor the desire to get dragged into the middle of another Baranova brawl. What she did have was a hot date with a bottle of cabernet, a scalding bath, and three contracts on her iPad. Not exactly an evening of romance, but the contracts had to be read, and doing the work at home trumped late nights in her midtown Manhattan office any day.

“Look,” she interrupted, “your contract very clearly states that you’ll be given a selection of clothing at the beginning of each season. For now, all you can do is keep winning, Katerina. Wins mean more leverage when it comes time to renegotiate with the sponsors.”

“See,” said Yuri. “Miss Pollard tells you to win. You do what Miss Pollard tells you.”

Rachel was so happy to hear a Baranova agree with her that she didn’t even point out that she went by Ms. and not Miss. Not that Yuri cared. He was more focused on grooming his daughter to be the next Maria Sharapova than he was on pleasantries. Typical nightmare tennis dad.

Five minutes later, Rachel dropped her desk phone unceremoniously into its cradle and slouched in her chair. A glance at the gold watch she always wore on her left wrist told her that Katerina and Yuri had sucked up twenty-four minutes. Much too long. It was time to start weighing whether the troublesome tennis player was worth the investment—Grand Slam appearances or not.

Most of Rachel’s clients weren’t a problem because most treated her with the same reverence a fifth grader holds for a strict but beloved teacher. In her business, reputation was key, and over the years she’d become known for finding raw, untested young athletes and grooming them into stars.

Working with her came with some caveats, of course. She operated under strict rules. You work out. You practice. You don’t fuck up. If you don’t fall in line, you get dropped.

You do not want my cell phone to ring at three in the morning because you’ve done something stupid, she told each of them. Most—if not all—followed that rule.

Rachel unplugged her iPad and slid it into her purse along with a file of loose papers. She blindly felt for the unforgiving black pumps she’d kicked off under her desk hours ago and wiggled her feet into them before gathering up her coat.

“Night, Nathan,” she called to her assistant as she passed his desk. But then she stopped. “You’re going home, aren’t you?”

The tall, skinny young man with spiked brown hair blinked a couple of times before shaking his head. “Sorry, yeah. I’m just finishing up the edits to this press release.”

“It can wait. Go home.”

He mumbled something that sounded like a yes, but the way he bent his head over the keyboard told her odds were slim he’d actually follow her instructions. She couldn’t fault Nathan’s work ethic. She’d been the same way when she was an assistant—hopeful and hungry for her break.

Halfway down the hall, the door to Emma Robbins’s office was still open. Rachel stuck her head in and found her friend on the phone, pacing the room in stocking feet.

Emma smiled when she spotted her but held up a finger. “I’ll send you all the details ASAP. I’ve got to go. Call me first thing tomorrow, and don’t even think of talking, texting, or tweeting anything. To anyone.”

She raised her eyebrows when Emma ended the call and let out a long sigh.

“What’s going on?” Rachel asked.

Her friend flopped down in her leather desk chair and tucked her platinum blonde hair behind her ear. “Someone leaked to the press about Dante not being happy with his contract. Now this reporter from the Seattle Times is threatening to publish some bullshit story. I’m working up a press release saying—”

“Dante Helms loves Seattle and wants nothing more than to help bring another Super Bowl win to the city,” she finished for Emma.

“Exactly.”

“And the truth?”

“Dante wants to get back to Chicago so badly, he’ll burn rubber on I-90 doing it.”

“Looks like you’ve got a long night ahead of you. Are we still on for the Nets game on Wednesday?”

Emma nodded. “Wouldn’t miss it. I need to get out of this office.”

She laughed. “Don’t we all? See you tomorrow.”

In front of an office a few feet down the hall, Rachel’s other friend, Louise, was poring over something on her computer.

“Hi there,” Rachel said, stopping in front of Louise’s desk.

The younger woman slid her glasses off, rubbed one of her eyes, and froze. “Dammit. I forgot about my mascara.”

Rachel did a quick check of Louise’s makeup. “You’re good.”

Louise sighed. “That just means I rubbed it all off earlier.”

“Is Brad making you stay late again?” she asked.

“I’m doing his expenses, but I promised myself I’d break free at eight no matter what.”

A few years younger than Rachel and Emma, Louise had the misfortune of working for “Brad the Bad.” The agent had installed her in an assistant’s chair four years ago and had been coasting on Louise’s hard work ever since.

“You’ve left after me every night for the past three weeks. I wish you’d let me talk to him,” Rachel pleaded.

Louise shot her a tight smile. “It’s just a busy time.”

“Too busy to catch the game Wednesday?” she asked.

Louise’s shoulders slumped. “Probably, but I’ll let you know if it changes.”

She said her goodbyes but made a mental note to talk to Emma. They had to figure out a way to get Louise off the assistant’s desk and building a client list of her own. She deserved it.

Rachel should have been able to make the forty steps from Louise’s desk to the elevators with no interruptions, and she would’ve been home free if her cell phone hadn’t rung just as she stopped in front of the stainless steel doors.

The number was blocked. She was tempted to let it go to voice mail, but it was her job to be reachable, day or night. Sometimes, she thought as she swiped to answer, being available 24/7 sucked.

“This is Rachel Pollard.” She pushed the elevator’s down button with one red-polished nail.

There was a long pause on the other end of the phone. She repeated her greeting—her voice clipped and short this time as she tapped her foot.

No response.

But just as she was about to hang up, a man’s deep voice broke the silence, “Rachel, it’s been a long time.”

She frowned. “I’m sorry, I don’t know who this is.”

“It’s Nick.”

“I know a lot of Nicks.” She glanced at the elevator display. The closest car was fourteen floors away.

The man cleared his throat. “Nick Ruben. We went to high school together.”

The ball of her foot hit the floor with a sharp click and stayed there. Nick Ruben. Oh, she knew exactly who he was. The two-sport star of Prescott High School. The golden boy. She’d spent most of their sophomore and junior years wondering if he’d ever notice her, and all of senior year forcing herself to get over her crush. And now, he was calling.

“How can I help you, Nick?” she asked, putting on that little edge of professional ice she used when speaking to reporters, because while she’d grown up to become one of the most in-demand young agents in sports management, she knew Nick had become a journalist. One, it would seem, who couldn’t ignore her any longer.

“I was feeling nostalgic, so I thought I’d call and see how you’re doing.” His voice might be sweet as honey, but it wasn’t thick enough to coat the bullshit that lay under the small talk. She didn’t have the time or inclination to wheedle out why he’d called. He’d have to come out and ask for whatever interview with whichever of her clients he wanted, just like anyone else.

And that’s when Nick would learn that she was the gatekeeper, and the gatekeeper didn’t do favors.

Mashing the elevator’s down button again, she said, “Nick Ruben. Reporter and sometimes anchor of New York Sports Network’s Sports Desk. You got a job in Kansas right after college covering the Royals for the Associated Press. Then you made the move to TV in Kansas City. After that you headed to one of Seattle’s local stations, and two years later you landed in Chicago. Your work was good enough that NYSN snatched you up to cover the Devils out of their Newark bureau. Since getting there, you’ve worked your way into a general assignment and fill-in anchor position. You’ve been in the tristate area for the last three years, here in New York City for the last two. You won a Murrow Award for your reporting on sub-concussive hits on high school football players in 2014. You also occasionally land in the gossip columns. Page Six in particular seems to like reporting on your dating life.

“I’m not big on nostalgia, Nick. Consider us caught up.”

When he didn’t respond immediately, she was certain she’d scared him off. She talked fast and took no prisoners—not everyone’s favorite set of qualities and ones that didn’t jive with most men’s first impression of her. All they saw were a pair of legs and a lot of red wavy hair standing quietly behind some of sports’ biggest stars during press conferences. Most men weren’t prepared for her to steamroll them.

Instead of sputtering, Nick began to laugh, the rich tone filling her phone’s speaker, and all at once her stomach clenched. How many hours had they spent just feet apart from each other in their high school baseball team’s dugout? In those days, she’d just wanted a sign that he saw her as something more than the gangly manager who took down game stats. A long time ago, she would’ve paid anything to elicit that kind of laugh from him.

“Sounds like you’ve been following my career pretty closely,” he said.

The elevator doors opened and Rachel stepped inside, her grip on the phone just a little bit tighter. “It’s my job to keep an eye on the talent at all of the major broadcast outlets. You’re no exception.”

You’re not special. I’ve been watching your career because this is what makes me so good at my job.

“So tell me, Nick,” she said, forcing the chill back into her voice, “what can I do for you?”

* * *

Nick stared at his cubicle wall, unsure of his next move, which was annoying as hell. He always knew what to do—even when someone turned him down, there was always another angle to get what he wanted—but somehow Rachel Pollard had managed to put him on his ass in two minutes flat. Just like she had in high school.

He caught his producer’s eye as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He should’ve have taken the call privately, but Mindy had insisted on being there. She was as invested in getting this interview as he was, but now she hovered over him like a mother hen, knocking him off his game.

Or maybe you’ve just never had game when it came to Rachel.

No. He had too much riding on this call to start thinking like that.

He took a deep breath. Time to turn on the charm and try again. “Like I said, can’t old high school friends—”

“The most you ever said to me in high school was ‘Can I get my game stats?’ or ‘Hand me that water bottle,’” Rachel interjected.

He frowned. That wasn’t true. Was it?

He remembered her, skinny as a string bean with her long red-brown hair pulled back in a ponytail and stuffed through the loop of an Arizona Diamondbacks ball cap. Quiet and closed off, she was always around, standing just a little apart. Unapproachable.

In the fall, she was never far from the football field, watching practice armed with a pad of paper, constantly taking notes on plays and strategy. The football coaches mostly tolerated her—probably because having her hanging around the bleachers didn’t really hurt anyone.

Each spring, she’d ride at the front of the baseball bus, crunching stat lines and talking tactics with Coach Callahan. The man used to brag about her knack for defensive positioning and her encyclopedic knowledge of pitchers—and how it was a damn shame none of the boys on the team ever developed a head for “that kind of advanced strategy.”

But while Coach Callahan treated her like a protégé, Nick’s teammates were ruthless, breaking her down in the locker room, where she couldn’t defend herself. They said she was weird. They dismissed her because they figured she must be crushing on someone. And then they’d try to guess who she had the hots for. As a wide receiver and a pitcher who saw a lot of game time in both of his sports, his name came up a lot. The mentions had made the back of his neck burn red because, deep down, Nick had liked her.

He hadn’t gone after her like he had Melanie Crawford, who he’d talked into kissing him in an empty hallway at Winter Formal sophomore year. Rachel wasn’t the cheerleader that he, the jock, was supposed to chase. She was the quiet girl, and somehow that made her seem cool, distant, and unattainable. He’d been so sure she’d turn those deep blue eyes on him and shut him down.

And now here he was, trying to stave off another kind of rejection a decade and a half later.

“Look, I apologize for being an idiot teenager,” he said, switching tactics and swallowing his pride. “Most teenage boys are idiots.”

“They are.” She hesitated. “An apology is a start.”

For the first time since she’d picked up, he heard something underneath the ice—the faintest hint of a smile. It wasn’t much, but Nick knew from a lifetime of experience that the moment he could make someone smile, he was in. Now all he had to do was get Rachel in front of him for five minutes, long enough to convince her to grant him the interview he needed.

Taking a calculated risk, he asked, “Meet me for a drink?”

Mindy shot him a horrified look, so he fixed his gaze on the dozens of press passes hanging on his cubicle wall.

“Like I told you, I’m not big on nostalgia,” Rachel said. “Look, I’m kind of busy right now . . .”

Damn. He’d miscalculated. She was going to hang up, and he was going to have to call back and beg.

Quickly he said, “Last time I was back home Coach Callahan asked about you. You’re right, I do have a favor to ask, but I also want to be able to tell him how you’re doing next time I see him.”

There was a slight beat—a gap in her armor—but he wasn’t expecting the warmth in her voice when she asked, “Did he really?”

“He got on my case about not having met up with you, since we live in the same city. He still thinks you could teach me a thing or two.”

That got a laugh out of her. “I’m not so sure about that.”

She had a good laugh—full and throaty. It made all of the bullshit worries about sucking up his pride and calling her fall away. Suddenly, hearing her laugh again seemed very, very important.

“Is that false modesty from Rachel Pollard?” he asked.

“It’s knowing a lost cause when I see one. You never really listened to your coaches. You just kind of did your own thing.”

He couldn’t help the urge to test the elbow he’d injured in college. Too many pitches in his freshman season and a natural weakness in a tiny tendon had landed him on the surgeon’s table. Even after months of physical therapy, his pitching arm had never been the same.

“Guilty as charged,” he said. “So what do you say? Meet me for a drink.”

“I’ve got a lot going on tonight,” she said, starting to hedge.

He took another gamble. “No you don’t.”

“How do you know?” she scoffed.

He grinned. “Because you thought about it for a split second. You were weighing whether meeting with me was really worth your time. My guess is you’re bringing work home. Maybe you have some plans to see your boyfriend—”

“I don’t have a boyfriend.”

His grin spread into a full-on, shit-eating smile as he stored that little bit of information away. Not that he’d ever pursue Rachel. Chasing after an agent with her client list would be as stupid as running headfirst into a wall over and over again, never mind that it would land him straight in his news director’s office as soon as word got out that he’d made a play for a high-profile woman who could also become an important source.

“The fact that the boyfriend is the thing you’re correcting me on just proves I’m right,” he said. “You’ve got a free night.”

“A better man would have let that go.”

“Good thing I’m not a better man,” he said, swiveling around and raising an eyebrow at Mindy. His producer rolled her eyes.

“Come get a drink with me,” he continued. “Unless you’re scared.”

That laugh filled his phone’s speaker again. “You haven’t scared me since I saw you wipe out into a bench of Coconino High School players.”

Automatically his hand went to his chin to rub the thin, pale scar he’d gotten that night.

“You know Artemis in Columbus Circle?” he asked.

“Sure.”

“I’m going to be there in twenty minutes.” Without another word, he hung up the phone and put it facedown on his desk.

“Well, that was either the most brilliant or the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen you do,” said Mindy. “And I’ve seen you do a lot of stupid things.”

“No you haven’t,” he said as he stood to put on his suit jacket.

“I’ve wing-womaned all over Manhattan for you. That means I’ve seen you karaoke ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ with some blonde you were trying to talk into bed. You still owe me for that one, by the way. Your singing voice is even worse when you’re drunk.”

He remembered the night in question. Mostly.

“That was two years ago. Let it go,” he said.

Mindy smirked. “Never.”

“I’ll bet you twenty bucks that I get Rachel to agree to grant this interview by the end of the night,” he said, smoothing his lapels against his chest.

Mindy folded her arms. “Right. Because she sounded so willing to walk down memory lane with you. Are you sure she’s even going to show?”

His phone buzzed, and he glanced at the screen. It was one of his college friends asking for fantasy basketball advice.

“Got a hot date?”

He looked up and caught Mindy’s smirk.

“None of your business,” he said.

“Who is it this time?” she asked. “A hedge fund analyst? A lawyer? A publicist? Or do I have to wait until you two wind up in the tabloids to find out?”

He shot her a dirty look and put his phone away.

“Why do you think Rachel’s not going to show?” he asked.

“From right here it sounded like you were bombing pretty hard. Even if she comes, there’s no way she agrees to work with us.”

“So take the bet.”

Mindy adjusted her black-framed glasses in that way that reminded him of librarians and elementary school teachers. Only none of the teachers who’d taught him paired them with leather leggings, long slouchy sweaters, knee-high boots, and piles of wood bracelets.

“Fine,” she finally said, sticking out her hand to shake. “Twenty says you can’t convince her to let us do the interview.”

He clapped his hand on hers and squeezed. “That twenty will buy a couple of sweet-tasting victory beers.” Just barely, damn New York prices.

Nick glanced at his watch. It’d take him ten minutes to walk to the bar, which would give him another ten to settle in, order a drink, and wait. Every man had his game, and part of Nick’s was making sure that he was never the last one to show up to a meeting—whether it was a date or a drink with a source. He wanted to pick the location, the time, the mood. He wanted the other party on their toes, just a little flustered at finding him halfway through a drink.

“I’m looking forward to taking your money, Ruben,” Mindy shouted after him as he walked out.

Never going to happen, he thought as he made his way out of the newsroom. There was no way he was going to let Mindy or himself down.

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Google Play | Books-A-Million

The Governess Was Wild Is Out Now!

Readers, The Governess Was Wild, the third and final book in my Governess series is out at ebook retailers now! Here's a quick look at the book: The Governess was Wild

Amazon | Amazon UK | iBooks | Kobo | B&N | Google Play

When Lady Margaret Rawson is caught trying to elope with the thoroughly unsuitable James Lawrence, Lord and Lady Rawson decide it’s time to send their daughter away from the temptations of London. The job of delivering the headstrong girl to the family’s isolated Yorkshire estate naturally falls to her governess, Jane Ephram. It should be an easy task, but with the wild Lady Margaret, nothing ever goes according to plan. To make matters worse, Lord Rawson has made it clear that if anything happens to his daughter along the way, Jane will be dismissed without a letter of reference. When Jane finds Lady Margaret’s inn room empty and the charming Lord Nicholas Hollings’s horse missing one morning, she must embark on an adventure of her own with the devilishly handsome baron. Will Jane and Nicholas find Lady Margaret, the scheming Mr. Lawrence, and the missing horse, or will they discover something else entirely?

For more about how the Governess series came to be, go here. To see who I'd cast as characters in my book, head over to XOXO After Dark for a GIF-filled look.

And to listen to a podcast where I talk all about governesses and why I decided to write the books, check out the XOXO After Dark Cast.

A Sneak Peek of The Wedding Week

The Wedding Week CoverI've had a couple of historical posts recently, so I wanted to change it up this week because I've got a big contemporary release coming out in just eight days (hey, my motto's "Sexy in every century" for a reason).

Today I'm sharing the first chapter of my book The Wedding Week (which first appeared as a novella in One Week in Hawaii). It's a sexy, fun contemporary romance set in beautiful Hawaii. In it you'll meet Annie Kalani, a no nonsense wedding planner, and the man who makes her want to break all the rules, Chris Benson.

If you like what you read, you can preorder The Wedding Week for $2.99:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Ov3VvP Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1WAO7zr iBooks: http://apple.co/1NvcnAf Kobo: http://bit.ly/24TSVkY B&N: http://bit.ly/1TQWsZi Smashwords: http://bit.ly/1WAOiKY

And without further ado...

Chapter One

Don’t panic.

Annie Kalani wedged her iPhone between her shoulder and her ear as she readjusted the tower of boutonniere boxes under her left arm. “How does a bridesmaid lose an earring in a three-room suite? It must be there somewhere.”

Her assistant Jemma’s voice came thin and high through the phone’s speaker. “She may have snuck a cigarette behind my back while I was coordinating the big reveal.”

Annie stopped dead in her tracks. “What?”

“I know, I know. There are so many people in this bridal suite, she just got out.”

She closed her eyes for a brief second and sent up a prayer to the wedding gods. It was the Friday evening before Memorial Day—the official kickoff of Wedding Week at the Kuhio Resort & Spa, and the start of the busiest three months of her year. Stapling a surly bridesmaid to a caterer’s chair was not how she wanted to ring in the season, but she would do it if she needed to.

“Was she wearing her dress while she was smoking?” she asked, keeping her voice as calm as she could. Couples paid a premium to have her orchestrate their big day. If she panicked, they panicked, so she never panicked. Visibly.

Jemma let out a little huff of relief. “She had a bathrobe on, thankfully.”

“At least we won’t have to Febreze the dress. Just her. There’s some dry shampoo that deodorizes in the kit. Get Johnny to give her a once-over with that, and then swap out her earrings for the pearl studs. They should be in a tiny Ziploc in the front pocket of the kit.”

“Johnny’s almost packed up,” Jemma fretted. The temperamental hairstylist was the best in Oahu, and he knew it. Experience told Annie that love and a little ego stroking was the best way to get him to do what she wanted.

“If he gives you a problem, send him my way,” she said, mashing the elevator’s up button with her pale pink, manicured finger. “And it wouldn’t hurt to mention that we have the booking for Jessica McCreedy’s wedding next May. The budget is unlimited.”

“I’ll let him know.” She could hear the grin in Jemma’s voice.

They said goodbye just as the elevator’s door slid open. With the boxes wedged against the wall, Annie let the phone slide down her arm, catching it in her hand to end the call. Alone in the quiet, she breathed deeply. One mini crisis a wedding. That was all she would tolerate, and the future Mr. and Mrs. Mark Liu just had theirs.

Wedding Week was all about putting out fires as fast as they sprang up. Celebrations at the Kuhio had two-a-day bookings for weddings Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, a fiftieth wedding anniversary dinner Wednesday, a Thursday rehearsal dinner, and five events the following weekend. Things would go wrong—they always did—but Annie would be there to fix them. The groom was late? No problem. The father of the bride got drunk? It’s handled. The flowers didn’t show up? On top of it. Being a planner was like juggling fourteen flaming torches while standing en pointe, and she loved it.

The elevator dinged, and she was out in the hall—boxes and all—in seconds flat. Things were running a few minutes behind schedule, but the buffer time she had built in should take care of that, so long as they didn’t slip any further.

At least the groom hadn’t presented any problems. Yet.

As she approached the groom’s suite, the door opened, and Josh, the wedding photographer, walked out while tucking a lens into his camera bag.

“You’re moving fast, Kalani,” he said with a jerk of his chin at the boxes in her hands. “Boutonnieres?”

“Late boutonnieres. I know we all run on island time, but remind me to kill the florist next time I see him.”

Josh laughed as he ran a hand over his shaved head. “You can’t do that. He’s the only florist you like. Besides, the groom’s good to go.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “Really? He didn’t seem like the type to be ready on time.”

Josh grinned as he passed her. “Got you.”

With a sigh, she shifted the boxes back under her arm so she could knock. The door swung open to reveal a groomsman—this one called Dan—with a drink in hand. “Hello, wedding planner!”

She gave him a once-over and nudged through the door. “Your tie is undone.”

He looked down and tugged at one of the bow tie’s ends. “We were just trying to figure it out on YouTube. Gary’s got his done, but everyone else is struggling.”

She lifted the boxes. “Let me put these down. Then I’ll help.”

Dan led her over to a sideboard that also served as a bar. She eyed the levels on the decanter of scotch she’d checked on that morning. About half gone. Calculate that across half a dozen groomsmen plus the man of the hour and it wasn’t too bad. She’d certainly seen more sauced bridal parties on both ends of the gender spectrum before.

She glanced around the richly appointed room. Two groomsmen she’d met at the rehearsal sat on a plush, pale blue couch in front of a Dodgers game. Gary shook his head as he tried to show Dan and Andrew how to take one bold step into manhood and tie a real bow tie. And one man stood with his back to all of them, on his phone. That must be Chris, the late groomsman. She had a dossier on all of the wedding party, but what was on paper often didn’t tell her the whole story. Like the fact that Chris, a Los Angeles chef, hadn’t been able to get away from his restaurant until the morning of the wedding. That meant Annie had spent a good part of the early hours of setup tracking his flight, praying there would be no delays. Now that he was here, all she cared about was that the man was dressed and on time for the actual ceremony.

She would deal with him when he got off the phone. For now, she had tie-struggling groomsmen to put out of their misery.

A movement at the edge of her field of vision caught Annie’s attention. She turned on her nude three-inch high heels and found herself staring at a naked groom.

Well, not naked—wrapped in a towel—but that meant he was wearing a lot less tux than he was supposed to be.

She raised an eyebrow. “Mark, you aren’t dressed.” Before the wedding day, she tried her best to be accommodating, understanding. On the day? Not so much. Her job was to make sure Mark Liu and Karen Curen got to the gauze-covered bamboo pergola that would serve as their altar and said, “I do.” To do that, Mark needed to be clothed. Now. No excuses. No exceptions.

“I was a little late getting in the shower,” he said as he sheepishly ran a hand through his wet hair. Hair that should be pomaded and swept into a perfect, sixties-esque side part, per Karen’s instructions. Time for Mark to learn how to use a hair dryer.

Eric, Investment Banker Groomsman, had detached himself from the Dodgers game long enough to pour a couple of tumblers of Macallan 18. Ice cubes clinked in the glass that he started to hand to the groom.

“Oh no.” She surged forward to intercept the scotch. “Dress now. Drink later. You get married in twenty-six minutes.”

With her free hand squarely on Mark’s shoulder, she pushed him toward the bedroom. “Don’t forget the shirt studs.”

The groom dutifully trudged into the bedroom, sending only a brief, wistful glance at the baseball, booze, and bro time waiting for him in the living room.

When she turned back, she found Frat Boy Dan eyeing her and the glass of scotch in her hand. “Are you going to drink that?”

She could sense the slight edge in his voice. A bossy woman intruding on Man Time. No, not just a woman. A wedding planner, the kind of woman who made her living thinking about lace versus satin. Runners or full tablecloths. Venetian hour or plated desserts. She was the enemy, an intruder, and sometimes groomsmen gave her a hard time. What Dan didn’t know was that her job demanded that she be able to put him in place with ruthless efficiency, all while wearing a pastel, flowered Karen Millen sheath dress and a smile.

For now, however, she’d start with a friendlier approach. “I would like this scotch more than you know,” she said, putting the glass down, “but someone’s got to drive these stilettos. Now, why don’t I help you guys with your bow ties?”

Five minutes later, five groomsmen’s bow ties were in perfect order. The sixth was still pacing back in forth in front of the massive windows looking out over the water to Diamond Head.

Annie planted her hands on her hips, ready to order Late to the Party Chris to grab his tie and get in line, when the man hung up his call. He turned a pair of intense, soulful eyes on her, and he lifted a hand to scrape over the faint trace of a beard. “Are you going to tie me up too?”

The innuendo flowed through her, thick and sweet as golden honey that came to pool between her legs. Oh, this was bad. This was very, very bad.

He was a handsome man in a rugged sort of way. He wore his tux well, but something about him told her that this man was more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt—broken in and comfortable. Pair that with his short black hair and the loose, confident way he stood with his left hand thrust in his pocket, and he was all sorts of gorgeous.

He was looking at her expectantly, his head cocked, and Annie realized that she was checking out his lean body rather than answering his question. She cleared her throat. “Do you need help?”

His grin was a little lopsided as he set his phone down on a table and picked up either end of his bow tie. Slowly he wove them together, manipulating the black silk into a perfect knot. His fingers would be elegant if it wasn’t for the white slashes of healed scars that were visible even from where she stood. An image flashed through her head—those fingers playing over the smooth skin of her breasts—and a fierce blush exploded over the back of her neck, rushing to her cheeks.

“How did I do?” Chris asked, tugging at the tie to straighten it before letting his hands fall to his side.

He was flirting with her. It wasn’t exactly uncommon behavior for a groomsman, especially when you threw alcohol into the mix, but this was different. This time, Annie wanted to flirt back.

No. You have rules.

“You look fine,” she said, pushing away the throb of arousal that rolled through her. “Are you planning on stowing that cell phone for the ceremony?”

He glanced at the phone on the table. “Will you take it away from me if I say no?”

Her eyes narrowed, her expression frosty where his was teasing. “If I need to. Confiscating technology is part of the job.”

“Then I guess I’ll turn it off.” He swept the phone up as he walked by her, hesitating only to whisper, “But it would have been more fun if you took it from me.”

Heat shot through her, and she glanced around to see if anyone had just witnessed that exchange. All of the men were fixated on the Dodgers game.

She blew out a long, steady breath. This Chris guy was just messing with her—his own version of a test the way that Dan had challenged her about the Macallan. Nothing more.

Behind her, the bedroom door flew open, and Mark burst out dressed in everything but his tuxedo jacket. “How do I look?” he asked, a mile-wide grin plastered on his face.

“Like a man who’s about to lock himself to a ball and chain,” said Eric with a laugh.

Annie allowed herself the tiniest of eye rolls. “Okay, Mark, time to walk down to the ceremony. This wedding gets going in twenty minutes.”

The groom nodded. “My jacket’s in the bedroom. Hold on.”

He turned back and… Rip!

Everyone froze as the rending of fabric echoed through the room. All of the color drained from Mark’s face. His hand flew to his shoulder, and he pulled at his shirt. “Shitshitshit. Karen’s going to kill me.”

Annie strode across the room, gripped Mark’s shoulder, and spun him around. A three-inch rip gaped at the back of his fine cotton tuxedo shirt.

Fuck.

“How bad is it?” asked the panicking groom as he tried to twist to look.

“Do you have a backup?” she demanded.

His lips pressed into a thin line. “Karen doesn’t like it. It doesn’t fit as well.”

Of course it didn’t. She looked at her watch. Nineteen minutes to ceremony. “Take it off.”

The groom and his party all stared at her.

“I have a sewing kit in here,” she explained, fighting to keep the exasperation from her voice. “Take the shirt off, and I’ll sew it back together. But someone’s going to need to iron the backup just in case.”

Mark started to unbutton the torn shirt as she looked around the room at more blank faces. “Not a single one of you can iron?” she asked.

Gary, the New York lawyer, shrugged. “Camilla won’t let me near the iron after I burned a hole in my brand new Brooks Brothers shirt a couple years ago.”

“I can do it.”

Chris stepped forward and unbuttoned his tuxedo jacket, letting it slide down his arms. She was one hundred percent positive that if she peeled his shirt off him she’d find strong, wiry muscle underneath there. Muscle she might have let herself indulge in thinking about if it wasn’t for the clumsiest groom in Hawaii.

“Good,” she said with a sharp nod. At least one of them could fend for themselves. Her mother always said that a real man was one who could cook, clean, and keep a house. A man who was the opposite of her father—often drunk, sometimes incarcerated, and rarely present.

She took Mark’s torn shirt, but not before fixing the other groomsmen with a hard stare. “You will each take a boutonniere. Then you will go to the ceremony location. You will stay at the ceremony location. No detours. No stalling. No more drinks until after the wedding vows are exchanged. Is that clear?”

The men murmured their agreement and shuffled out of the hotel room. She half expected them to hold hands, pairing off into field trip buddies like little kids.

She moved to her kit, a suitcase she’d planted in the room that morning. “Mark, how much have you had to drink today?”

“I had a scotch a couple hours ago,” he said shakily. “I was too amped up for anything else.”

“Good. Pour yourself another—a small one—and watch the game. I’ll be done with this in a moment.”

The groom shot her a grateful look and scuttled over to the couch.

She pointed at Chris. “You come with me.”

She moved fast, ripping the dry-cleaning bag off the backup shirt that hung in the closet and sliding it from its hanger. When she turned back, Chris had the ironing board out and was in the bathroom filling the iron’s water chamber.

They worked in silence for a couple of moments, her repairing the shirt with tiny stitches and him moving methodically to iron the backup crisp and smooth.

“You’re good at that,” she said, tipping her head in his direction.

His crooked smile slid over his face again. “Courtesy of my first job. I did all the grunt work at my stepfather’s restaurant. If I was late or broke a dish, I got stuck ironing napkins. He wanted sharp corners, the same way every single time.”

“Is spending all that time in the restaurant what made you want to be a chef?” She didn’t know why she asked it. After tonight, she wasn’t going to see this guy again, but he was helping her. Asking felt right.

“Mark mentioned that I’m a chef?” he asked, flipping the shirt so he could do the second front panel.

“I have a file on all members of the wedding party.”

His eyes widened. “That’s not sinister at all.”

She shrugged. “During one of the first weddings I ever planned, I didn’t realize that one of the bridesmaids had an ex-husband and an ex-boyfriend in the wedding party. The men started brawling during ‘The Cha Cha Slide.’”

He barked a laugh—a sound as rich as chocolate and just as sinful. “You’re kidding?”

The beginnings of a smile tugged at her lips. “The bridesmaid wound up sobbing into my lap in the bathroom. That’s why I try to find out as much about you guys as I can beforehand.”

“So what else do you know about me?” he asked. The question should have been casual, but the low rumble of his voice made it sound like a promise of so much more.

She squeezed her thighs tight. She was at work. That meant no lusting after guests.

“I know enough about you,” was all she said.

“That’s a cop-out.”

“I’m like the CIA. If I told you what’s in the dossier, I’d have to kill you.”

He put the iron down. “And what’s the CIA’s policy on dancing with a guest? Hypothetically speaking, of course.”

Annie nearly jabbed herself in the thumb with the needle. There was no way she was going to dance with this man. She wouldn’t survive the feeling of his body pressed up against hers no matter how much she wanted it.

“Generally the CIA frowns on such activities,” she said stiffly.

“Generally?” The look he sent her might have scorched the panties off her if she hadn’t held herself back. Because she needed to hold back. She could never let herself slip. No matter how much she wanted to.

“Exceptions are made if the man asking is a widower over the age of seventy-five.”

“You’re a tough sell.”

She concentrated on the shirt in her hands. “I’m not looking to buy.”

Oh, but she wanted to. He smelled like he’d just gotten out of the shower, with a hint of salt and masculine spice underneath the soap. Her whole body hummed with awareness, and she couldn’t help but want to know what it would be like to have those full lips on her skin. She had rules, yes, but this man was ice cream on a diet. TV on a school night.

Trouble.

This was getting out of hand. She wasn’t a bridesmaid cliché looking for a wedding fling with one of the groomsmen. She was one of the most in-demand wedding planners in Hawaii, but a long time ago, she’d realized that she needed to be smarter, sharper, better than everyone else. She didn’t have the connections that some planners had. She didn’t have the bred-in taste or knowledge of etiquette of the ones who had old Hawaiian society roots. Instead, she had hard work, grit, and determination. That was how she’d made it this far, and it was how she was going to stay at the top of her game. Men like Chris? They weren’t in her plan. She would not throw herself at a man just because he had some scruff and scars and talked a good game.

After putting in the last stitch on Mark’s shirt, she tied the thread off and snipped it. Barely a seam. “Not too bad.”

Chris turned off the iron and rounded the board. “Let’s see.”

Before she could hand the shirt over, he ran his finger over the thin seam of stitches, pressing the fabric into her open palm. She fought a shiver as he said, “Looks good to me. I think you’ve saved Mark from passing out from stress.”

She scooted along the bed and pushed up to standing a few feet from Chris. “Time to get the groom dressed. Again.”

Chris laughed. “Are you going to use that schoolteacher voice on him?”

“What do you mean?” she asked with a frown.

He closed the gap between them until she had to tilt her chin up to look into those deep blue eyes of his. “You marched those men out of here like they were five. You get shit done, Annie Kalani. I like that.”

Then he took that slow, delicious smile of his and walked straight out of the room.

Again, if you like what you read, you can preorder The Wedding Week:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Ov3VvP Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1WAO7zr iBooks: http://apple.co/1NvcnAf Kobo: http://bit.ly/24TSVkY B&N: http://bit.ly/1TQWsZi Smashwords: http://bit.ly/1WAOiKY

Another Sneak Peek of One Week in Hawaii!

One Week in HawaiiLast Wednesday I gave you an exclusive look at One Week in Hawaii and introduced you to Annie and Chris. If you need to catch up, you can click here because today we're picking up right where we left off.  

Annie strode across the room, gripped Mark’s shoulder, and spun him around. A three-inch rip gaped at the back of his fine cotton tuxedo shirt.

Fuck.

“How bad is it?” asked the panicking groom as he tried to twist to look.

“Do you have a backup?” she demanded.

His lips pressed into a thin line. “Karen doesn’t like it. It doesn’t fit as well.”

Of course it didn’t. She looked at her watch. Nineteen minutes to ceremony. “Take it off.”

The groom and his party all stared at her.

“I have a sewing kit in here,” she explained, fighting to keep the exasperation from her voice. “Take the shirt off, and I’ll sew it back together. But someone’s going to need to iron the backup just in case.”

Mark started to unbutton the torn shirt as she looked around the room at more blank faces. “Not a single one of you can iron?” she asked.

Gary, the New York lawyer, shrugged. “Camilla won’t let me near the iron after I burned a hole in my brand new Brooks Brothers shirt a couple years ago.”

“I can do it.”

Chris stepped forward and unbuttoned his tuxedo jacket, letting it slide down his arms. She was one hundred percent positive that if she peeled his shirt off him she’d find strong, wiry muscle underneath there. Muscle she might have let herself indulge in thinking about if it wasn’t for the clumsiest groom in Hawaii.

“Good,” she said with a sharp nod. At least one of them could fend for themselves. Her mother always said that a real man was one who could cook, clean, and keep a house. A man who was the opposite of her father—often drunk, sometimes incarcerated, and rarely present.

She took Mark’s torn shirt, but not before fixing the other groomsmen with a hard stare. “You will each take a boutonniere. Then you will go to the ceremony location. You will stay at the ceremony location. No detours. No stalling. No more drinks until after the wedding vows are exchanged. Is that clear?”

The men murmured their agreement and shuffled out of the hotel room. She half expected them to hold hands, pairing off into field trip buddies like little kids.

She moved to her kit, a suitcase she’d planted in the room that morning. “Mark, how much have you had to drink today?”

“I had a scotch a couple hours ago,” he said shakily. “I was too amped up for anything else.”

“Good. Pour yourself another—a small one—and watch the game. I’ll be done with this in a moment.”

The groom shot her a grateful look and scuttled over to the couch.

She pointed at Chris. “You come with me.”

She moved fast, ripping the dry-cleaning bag off the backup shirt that hung in the closet and sliding it from its hanger. When she turned back, Chris had the ironing board out and was in the bathroom filling the iron’s water chamber.

They worked in silence for a couple of moments, her repairing the shirt with tiny stitches and him moving methodically to iron the backup crisp and smooth.

“You’re good at that,” she said, tipping her head in his direction.

His crooked smile slid over his face again. “Courtesy of my first job. I did all the grunt work at my stepfather’s restaurant. If I was late or broke a dish, I got stuck ironing napkins. He wanted sharp corners, the same way every single time.”

“Is spending all that time in the restaurant what made you want to be a chef?” She didn’t know why she asked it. After tonight, she wasn’t going to see this guy again, but he was helping her. Asking felt right.

“Mark mentioned that I’m a chef?” he asked, flipping the shirt so he could do the second front panel.

“I have a file on all members of the wedding party.”

His eyes widened. “That’s not sinister at all.”

She shrugged. “During one of the first weddings I ever planned, I didn’t realize that one of the bridesmaids had an ex-husband and an ex-boyfriend in the wedding party. The men started brawling during ‘The Cha Cha Slide.’”

He barked a laugh—a sound as rich as chocolate and just as sinful. “You’re kidding?”

The beginnings of a smile tugged at her lips. “The bridesmaid wound up sobbing into my lap in the bathroom. That’s why I try to find out as much about you guys as I can beforehand.”

“So what else do you know about me?” he asked. The question should have been casual, but the low rumble of his voice made it sound like a promise of so much more.

She squeezed her thighs tight. She was at work. That meant no lusting after guests.

“I know enough about you,” was all she said.

“That’s a cop-out.”

“I’m like the CIA. If I told you what’s in the dossier, I’d have to kill you.”

He put the iron down. “And what’s the CIA’s policy on dancing with a guest? Hypothetically speaking, of course.”

Annie nearly jabbed herself in the thumb with the needle. There was no way she was going to dance with this man. She wouldn’t survive the feeling of his body pressed up against hers no matter how much she wanted it.

“Generally the CIA frowns on such activities,” she said stiffly.

“Generally?” The look he sent her might have scorched the panties off her if she hadn’t held herself back. Because she needed to hold back. She could never let herself slip. No matter how much she wanted to.

“Exceptions are made if the man asking is a widower over the age of seventy-five.”

“You’re a tough sell.”

She concentrated on the shirt in her hands. “I’m not looking to buy.”

Oh, but she wanted to. He smelled like he’d just gotten out of the shower, with a hint of salt and masculine spice underneath the soap. Her whole body hummed with awareness, and she couldn’t help but want to know what it would be like to have those full lips on her skin. She had rules, yes, but this man was ice cream on a diet. TV on a school night.

Trouble.

This was getting out of hand. She wasn’t a bridesmaid cliché looking for a wedding fling with one of the groomsmen. She was one of the most in-demand wedding planners in Hawaii, but a long time ago, she’d realized that she needed to be smarter, sharper, better than everyone else. She didn’t have the connections that some planners had. She didn’t have the bred-in taste or knowledge of etiquette of the ones who had old Hawaiian society roots. Instead, she had hard work, grit, and determination. That was how she’d made it this far, and it was how she was going to stay at the top of her game. Men like Chris? They weren’t in her plan. She would not throw herself at a man just because he had some scruff and scars and talked a good game.

After putting in the last stitch on Mark’s shirt, she tied the thread off and snipped it. Barely a seam. “Not too bad.”

Chris turned off the iron and rounded the board. “Let’s see.”

Before she could hand the shirt over, he ran his finger over the thin seam of stitches, pressing the fabric into her open palm. She fought a shiver as he said, “Looks good to me. I think you’ve saved Mark from passing out from stress.”

She scooted along the bed and pushed up to standing a few feet from Chris. “Time to get the groom dressed. Again.”

Chris laughed. “Are you going to use that schoolteacher voice on him?”

“What do you mean?” she asked with a frown.

He closed the gap between them until she had to tilt her chin up to look into those deep blue eyes of his. “You marched those men out of here like they were five. You get shit done, Annie Kalani. I like that.”

Then he took that slow, delicious smile of his and walked straight out of the room.

 

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Sneak Peek of One Week in Hawaii!

One Week in HawaiiRelease day is almost here for my anthology One Week in Hawaii, but I just couldn't wait for May 19th to share Annie and Chris's story with everyone! Today I'm giving you part one of a two-part excerpt from my novella "The Wedding Week".   

Annie Kalani wedged her iPhone between her shoulder and her ear as she readjusted the tower of boutonniere boxes under her left arm. “How does a bridesmaid lose an earring in a three-room suite? It must be there somewhere.”

Her assistant Jemma’s voice came thin and high through the phone’s speaker. “She may have snuck a cigarette behind my back while I was coordinating the big reveal.”

Annie stopped dead in her tracks. “What?”

“I know, I know. There are so many people in this bridal suite, she just got out.”

She closed her eyes for a brief second and sent up a prayer to the wedding gods. It was the Friday evening before Memorial Day—the official kickoff of Wedding Week at the Kuhio Resort & Spa, and the start of the busiest three months of her year. Stapling a surly bridesmaid to a caterer’s chair was not how she wanted to ring in the season, but she would do it if she needed to.

“Was she wearing her dress while she was smoking?” she asked, keeping her voice as calm as she could. Couples paid a premium to have her orchestrate their big day. If she panicked, they panicked, so she never panicked. Visibly.

Jemma let out a little huff of relief. “She had a bathrobe on, thankfully.”

“At least we won’t have to Febreze the dress. Just her. There’s some dry shampoo that deodorizes in the kit. Get Johnny to give her a once-over with that, and then swap out her earrings for the pearl studs. They should be in a tiny Ziploc in the front pocket of the kit.”

“Johnny’s almost packed up,” Jemma fretted. The temperamental hairstylist was the best in Oahu, and he knew it. Experience told Annie that love and a little ego stroking was the best way to get him to do what she wanted.

“If he gives you a problem, send him my way,” she said, mashing the elevator’s up button with her pale pink, manicured finger. “And it wouldn’t hurt to mention that we have the booking for Jessica McCreedy’s wedding next May. The budget is unlimited.”

“I’ll let him know.” She could hear the grin in Jemma’s voice.

They said goodbye just as the elevator’s door slid open. With the boxes wedged against the wall, Annie let the phone slide down her arm, catching it in her hand to end the call. Alone in the quiet, she breathed deeply. One mini crisis a wedding. That was all she would tolerate, and the future Mr. and Mrs. Mark Liu just had theirs.

Wedding Week was all about putting out fires as fast as they sprang up. Celebrations at the Kuhio had two-a-day bookings for weddings Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, a fiftieth wedding anniversary dinner Wednesday, a Thursday rehearsal dinner, and five events the following weekend. Things would go wrong—they always did—but Annie would be there to fix them. The groom was late? No problem. The father of the bride got drunk? It’s handled. The flowers didn’t show up? On top of it. Being a planner was like juggling fourteen flaming torches while standing en pointe, and she loved it.

The elevator dinged, and she was out in the hall—boxes and all—in seconds flat. Things were running a few minutes behind schedule, but the buffer time she had built in should take care of that, so long as they didn’t slip any further.

At least the groom hadn’t presented any problems. Yet.

As she approached the groom’s suite, the door opened, and Josh, the wedding photographer, walked out while tucking a lens into his camera bag.

“You’re moving fast, Kalani,” he said with a jerk of his chin at the boxes in her hands. “Boutonnieres?”

“Late boutonnieres. I know we all run on island time, but remind me to kill the florist next time I see him.”

Josh laughed as he ran a hand over his shaved head. “You can’t do that. He’s the only florist you like. Besides, the groom’s good to go.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “Really? He didn’t seem like the type to be ready on time.”

Josh grinned as he passed her. “Got you.”

With a sigh, she shifted the boxes back under her arm so she could knock. The door swung open to reveal a groomsman—this one called Dan—with a drink in hand. “Hello, wedding planner!”

She gave him a once-over and nudged through the door. “Your tie is undone.”

He looked down and tugged at one of the bow tie’s ends. “We were just trying to figure it out on YouTube. Gary’s got his done, but everyone else is struggling.”

She lifted the boxes. “Let me put these down. Then I’ll help.”

Dan led her over to a sideboard that also served as a bar. She eyed the levels on the decanter of scotch she’d checked on that morning. About half gone. Calculate that across half a dozen groomsmen plus the man of the hour and it wasn’t too bad. She’d certainly seen more sauced bridal parties on both ends of the gender spectrum before.

She glanced around the richly appointed room. Two groomsmen she’d met at the rehearsal sat on a plush, pale blue couch in front of a Dodgers game. Gary shook his head as he tried to show Dan and Andrew how to take one bold step into manhood and tie a real bow tie. And one man stood with his back to all of them, on his phone. That must be Chris, the late groomsman. She had a dossier on all of the wedding party, but what was on paper often didn’t tell her the whole story. Like the fact that Chris, a Los Angeles chef, hadn’t been able to get away from his restaurant until the morning of the wedding. That meant Annie had spent a good part of the early hours of setup tracking his flight, praying there would be no delays. Now that he was here, all she cared about was that the man was dressed and on time for the actual ceremony.

She would deal with him when he got off the phone. For now, she had tie-struggling groomsmen to put out of their misery.

A movement at the edge of her field of vision caught Annie’s attention. She turned on her nude three-inch high heels and found herself staring at a naked groom.

Well, not naked—wrapped in a towel—but that meant he was wearing a lot less tux than he was supposed to be.

She raised an eyebrow. “Mark, you aren’t dressed.” Before the wedding day, she tried her best to be accommodating, understanding. On the day? Not so much. Her job was to make sure Mark Liu and Karen Curen got to the gauze-covered bamboo pergola that would serve as their altar and said, “I do.” To do that, Mark needed to be clothed. Now. No excuses. No exceptions.

“I was a little late getting in the shower,” he said as he sheepishly ran a hand through his wet hair. Hair that should be pomaded and swept into a perfect, sixties-esque side part, per Karen’s instructions. Time for Mark to learn how to use a hair dryer.

Eric, Investment Banker Groomsman, had detached himself from the Dodgers game long enough to pour a couple of tumblers of Macallan 18. Ice cubes clinked in the glass that he started to hand to the groom.

“Oh no.” She surged forward to intercept the scotch. “Dress now. Drink later. You get married in twenty-six minutes.”

With her free hand squarely on Mark’s shoulder, she pushed him toward the bedroom. “Don’t forget the shirt studs.”

The groom dutifully trudged into the bedroom, sending only a brief, wistful glance at the baseball, booze, and bro time waiting for him in the living room.

When she turned back, she found Frat Boy Dan eyeing her and the glass of scotch in her hand. “Are you going to drink that?”

She could sense the slight edge in his voice. A bossy woman intruding on Man Time. No, not just a woman. A wedding planner, the kind of woman who made her living thinking about lace versus satin. Runners or full tablecloths. Venetian hour or plated desserts. She was the enemy, an intruder, and sometimes groomsmen gave her a hard time. What Dan didn’t know was that her job demanded that she be able to put him in place with ruthless efficiency, all while wearing a pastel, flowered Karen Millen sheath dress and a smile.

For now, however, she’d start with a friendlier approach. “I would like this scotch more than you know,” she said, putting the glass down, “but someone’s got to drive these stilettos. Now, why don’t I help you guys with your bow ties?”

Five minutes later, five groomsmen’s bow ties were in perfect order. The sixth was still pacing back in forth in front of the massive windows looking out over the water to Diamond Head.

Annie planted her hands on her hips, ready to order Late to the Party Chris to grab his tie and get in line, when the man hung up his call. He turned a pair of intense, soulful eyes on her, and he lifted a hand to scrape over the faint trace of a beard. “Are you going to tie me up too?”

The innuendo flowed through her, thick and sweet as golden honey that came to pool between her legs. Oh, this was bad. This was very, very bad.

He was a handsome man in a rugged sort of way. He wore his tux well, but something about him told her that this man was more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt—broken in and comfortable. Pair that with his short black hair and the loose, confident way he stood with his left hand thrust in his pocket, and he was all sorts of gorgeous.

He was looking at her expectantly, his head cocked, and Annie realized that she was checking out his lean body rather than answering his question. She cleared her throat. “Do you need help?”

His grin was a little lopsided as he set his phone down on a table and picked up either end of his bow tie. Slowly he wove them together, manipulating the black silk into a perfect knot. His fingers would be elegant if it wasn’t for the white slashes of healed scars that were visible even from where she stood. An image flashed through her head—those fingers playing over the smooth skin of her breasts—and a fierce blush exploded over the back of her neck, rushing to her cheeks.

“How did I do?” Chris asked, tugging at the tie to straighten it before letting his hands fall to his side.

He was flirting with her. It wasn’t exactly uncommon behavior for a groomsman, especially when you threw alcohol into the mix, but this was different. This time, Annie wanted to flirt back.

No. You have rules.

“You look fine,” she said, pushing away the throb of arousal that rolled through her. “Are you planning on stowing that cell phone for the ceremony?”

He glanced at the phone on the table. “Will you take it away from me if I say no?”

Her eyes narrowed, her expression frosty where his was teasing. “If I need to. Confiscating technology is part of the job.”

“Then I guess I’ll turn it off.” He swept the phone up as he walked by her, hesitating only to whisper, “But it would have been more fun if you took it from me.”

Heat shot through her, and she glanced around to see if anyone had just witnessed that exchange. All of the men were fixated on the Dodgers game.

She blew out a long, steady breath. This Chris guy was just messing with her—his own version of a test the way that Dan had challenged her about the Macallan. Nothing more.

Behind her, the bedroom door flew open, and Mark burst out dressed in everything but his tuxedo jacket. “How do I look?” he asked, a mile-wide grin plastered on his face.

“Like a man who’s about to lock himself to a ball and chain,” said Eric with a laugh.

Annie allowed herself the tiniest of eye rolls. “Okay, Mark, time to walk down to the ceremony. This wedding gets going in twenty minutes.”

The groom nodded. “My jacket’s in the bedroom. Hold on.”

He turned back and… Rip!

 

Can't wait for more? Part two is coming out next Wednesday so keep an eye out! One Week in Hawaii is available for preorder on Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo now. You can also get more exclusive content like this by signing up for my newsletter: http://bit.ly/1DcijTk

Hot for Friday: Book Boyfriends Cafe

Hey there, blog hoppers! Today I'm participating in the Book Boyfriends Cafe Hot for Fridays. This week they've asked us to share a swoon worthy line from our hero. I'm road testing a little sneak peek of my upcoming book One Week in Hawaii and introducing you to Chris and Annie. He's a hot, young chef from LA who is a guest at the wedding that she's planned. And it turns out both of them have a taste for moonlight beaches, classic movies, and champagne. 

 

Chris wasn’t ready when Annie said, “No one’s ever brought me champagne before.”

He stared at her. How was that even possible? “Then I’m glad I’m the first.”

“It’s part of being a wedding planner,” she gave him that small smile again, as though the admission were an apology. “We’re usually the ones coordinating the big gestures.”

“Well, tonight you get champagne.” He pulled the glasses out of his pockets and handed them to her. “Do you mind?”

She took them from him with a raised eyebrow. “Not at all.”

He set about peeling the foil off the champagne’s cage.

“Does this make you William Holden?” she asked after a moment’s silence.

His hand stilled. “William Holden winds up with glass in his ass. I’m Humphrey Bogart.”

“You know Sabrina?” she asked, a little incredulous as he stuffed the cage into his pocket and eased the cork out of the bottle. It sighed—one of the best sounds in the world.

“I know Bogey. A man’s man.” He poured out her glass with a flourish before moving on to the other one. “Besides, there’s a whole culinary school b-story in Sabrina. It’s practically required watching.”

When he glanced up at her, she was smiling. A real smile that lit up her whole face. “You could just admit you love the movie.”

He laughed, clinking the edge of his glass against hers. “Or I could just admit I love the movie.”

 

If you liked this little preview of Chris and Annie, sign up for my newsletter. That way I can let you know as soon as the book (and its sexy cover) are up for preorder and sale. And don't forget to check out Book Boyfriends Cafe for all of the swoon worthy heroes you can handle!

Exclusive Excerpt from "Seduction in the Snow" (Part 2)

My upcoming anthology One Week in Wyoming releases tomorrow! To celebrate, I'm giving my blog readers an exclusive look at my novella "Seduction in the Snow." On Friday you met Lydia, my heroine. Today, take some time with Evan. Enjoy!

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"Seduction in the Snow"

- Part 2 -

Evan hated spreadsheets on a good day. Now, trapped in a flying tin can next to a woman with kissable lips who oozed sex, they officially topped his "Things That Suck" list.

He pushed his glasses up and squinted hard at his computer. He would conquer this inventory list. He would deal with his bursting inbox. He would not think about the way that this Lydia woman’s boots climbed up strong, lean legs, or how they would look wrapped around his waist. He wouldn't imagine plunging into her warmth and losing himself…

Fuck.

He didn’t even know her last name—she hadn’t bothered to tell him—but when the two of them touched, his pulse kicked up and his cock swelled. Just from touching her hand. Suddenly he was back in a high school nightmare, awkward and uncertain of what to do around a pretty girl.

What the hell is wrong with me?

He wasn’t seventeen anymore. He was a decent-looking guy with a great job. He could talk to a woman without his mouth going dry. He’d even picked up women before.

Okay. One or two, but who was counting?

I’ve got this if I want it. I just have a lot of work to do.

Of course, the first email he’d gotten when he pulled up his inbox was a note from his partner, Kyle, asking him why the hell he was checking email on vacation. He couldn’t help but grin. Before he left, they’d bickered about whether he’d log some hours in Wyoming. Even though Kyle made him promise to disconnect, Evan couldn’t help feeling guilty for dumping the entire operation on him. Broken Ridge Winery was growing fast, and both of them were stretched to their max trying to keep up with everything.

The problem was that emails and spreadsheets just didn’t hold his interest with Lydia sitting next to him. She was more striking than pretty, with a long, oval face, wide eyes, a strong nose, and a generous mouth. Her mahogany hair fell in loose waves around her face and down her back. He wanted to bury his nose in it and breathe her in.

He nearly groaned at the wave of longing that crashed into him. He itched to see if her olive skin was as soft as it looked. Those bright, clear eyes made his heart pound every time he caught her glancing over. But it was her legs that were the main problem. She sat with them crossed, her iPad leaning on her knee. Every once in a while she’d shift and re-cross them, sending all of his hardwiring sparking in his head.

She was giving him enough green lights to floor it, but he couldn’t. Between work and his ski vacation with the guys, he had zero time for anything else. Getting involved with a woman on a trip was not part of the plan. Besides, soon she would walk down the plane’s gangway and out of his life. It was better that way.

But Evan’s decision didn’t make it any easier to keep his imagination PG, and by the time they touched down he was desperate to put some distance between him and this beautiful stranger. The fasten seatbelt sign dinged off, and the cabin filled with the sound of dozens of buckles unsnapping. He packed his laptop away and hauled himself up to reach for the overhead bin. Then, even though he knew it would cost him a sliver of his sanity, he asked Lydia, “Can I help you get your bag down?”

She eased into a tight spot next to him in the aisle. Her breasts brushed his arm, and the floral scent of her perfume drifted up to him. He breathed deep and hoped that he could restrain the urge to grab her by the waist, bend her backwards, and find out exactly what that wide mouth tasted like.

“Thank you,” she said in the husky voice of a black-and-white movie star—more Bacall than Monroe.

He maneuvered her bag out of the overhead and set it down between them. Then she turned those soulful brown eyes on him and stole every word from his tongue. All he could do was grunt as the people in the rows ahead of them began to shuffle off the plane. He scrambled for something to say—anything that wouldn’t make him sound like a sixteen-year-old with a crush.

Nothing.

When Lydia pulled her purse higher on her shoulder, she stuck out her other hand for him to shake. “Maybe I’ll see you around, Evan Sullivan.”

Something about the way her eyes sparkled told him she was testing him—teasing, even. He gripped her hand and fought the urge to prove he could play this game, too. It was just the weight of his laptop in the bag hanging off his shoulder that anchored him to reality. He had just five days in Wyoming.

Really? That’s what’s stopping you?

But before he could do anything else, Lydia turned up the aisle.

 

Thanks for reading! If you liked what you read, One Week in Wyoming is available for exclusive preorder on iBooks for $0.99 and will release wherever ebooks are available tomorrow. You can check out more from all of the authors in the anthology at our series website.

Exclusive Excerpt from "Seduction in the Snow" (Part 1)

My upcoming anthology One Week in Wyoming releases in less than a week! To celebrate, I'm giving my blog readers an exclusive look at my novella "Seduction in the Snow." Today you'll get to meet our heroine Lydia. On Monday, it's all Evan.

If you like what you read, One Week in Wyoming is available for exclusive preorder on iBooks for $0.99 and will release wherever ebooks are available on September 9th. You can check out more from all of the authors in the anthology at our series website.

Enjoy!

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"Seduction in the Snow"

- Part 1 -

“I think this is me.” A voice to the right of Lydia interrupted her reading time, and she clicked her iPad off with a sigh.

She’d planted her purse on the aisle seat next to her in hopes that it would stay empty on the flight to Wyoming. No such luck. Now she’d have to wage a silent, passive-aggressive war with a stranger for the shared armrest. Mentally grumbling, she glanced up.

Oh.

Tall, sandy-haired, and handsome filled the aisle. The man glanced down at the printed-out boarding pass in his hand. “This is row ten, right?”

The low rumble of his voice turned her insides liquid. She’d fight over an armrest with him any day.

“Sorry about that. Let me get this out of the way for you.” She juggled her purse to clear his seat.

One corner of the man’s mouth quirked up—for real this time. “I’m always hoping for an empty aisle, too.”

She smiled back. “Sorry to disappoint you.”

“I’m not disappointed.”

He heaved his suitcase up and shoved it into the overhead compartment. As he moved to snap the bin closed, his eyes raked over her so fast she might not have caught it. Except she did.

Good.

He didn’t look so bad himself. He wore a thin knit sweater with the sleeves pushed carelessly to his elbows to expose a pair of strong, lean forearms. A pair of thick black glasses perched on a nose that looked like it might have been broken once, and a three-day beard covered his chin with just enough scruff to give him a rugged sort of look without edging into hipster territory. This stranger was catnip, and he’d be sitting just inches from her for the three-hour flight from San Francisco to Jackson Hole.

He let his beaten-up brown leather messenger bag slide off of his shoulder and onto the empty seat. A lock of hair fell over his forehead as his head dipped when he pulled a laptop free. It took everything Lydia had not to reach out and twine a finger around that curl.

When the man finally maneuvered into his seat, he set his laptop on his knees but didn’t open it. Instead, his head fell back with a sigh. He looked like he could use some serious loosening up. She’d be happy to help with that.

The plane’s PA system crackled, and a flight attendant welcomed them in cheerful tones, pulling Lydia’s thoughts back to her vacation. Soon she would be at Dabai Lodge with Joan and the rest of her writing group. Joan’s husband, Bruce, had invited his college friends for some skiing at the same time, but she couldn’t care less about throwing herself down a mountain with a pair of two-by-fours strapped to her feet. All she wanted was some spa time, a few good meals with friends, and a week of relaxation. That was just the sort of well-earned wind-down she needed after a few punishing months on deadline.

It would be an added bonus if the lodge had a good-looking, unattached man staying there too. Someone like the guy sitting next to her—all long legs and big, rough hands who’d let her wrap herself around him and really enjoy her vacation.

I should be so lucky.

Once they hit the runway, the plane sped up, the nose pitched skyward, and suddenly they were airborne. She sank back into her seat, silently thanked whatever genius convinced the FAA to let readers keep their devices on through takeoff, and turned her attention to her tablet.

“Do you mind if I turn the light on?”

She looked up and found a pair of icy blue eyes fixed on her. Even through his exhaustion she caught a hint of soft, sweet warmth in her seatmate’s expression.

“I didn’t know if it would cause glare on your iPad,” the man explained.

She shook her head. “It should be fine. Thank you for asking. I’m Lydia, by the way.”

She stuck out her hand. The man glanced down at it and hesitated. I won’t bite, she wanted to purr, but the poor guy already looked like he was torn between crushing her lips with his and bolting. Then something like determination crept into his expression. He took her hand.

The moment they touched, heat swept straight down to her toes and back again. She imagined his broad hands stroking over her bare skin, palms exploring, fingers teasing. Her whole body hummed for him, and the intensity with which he stared at her nearly knocked her backwards.

“I’m Evan Sullivan,” he said, his tone low and thick.

She wanted that voice wrapping around her as he whispered every little thing he’d do to make her come. It spoke of dark rooms and slow, sensual sex fueled by need. She throbbed wet and ready for him.

“Evan. It’s so nice to meet you.”

Her body screamed at her to unbuckle her seatbelt and climb into his lap, but the two no-nonsense flight attendants nearby didn’t look like they’d tolerate the idea. Still, maybe she and Evan could arrange to meet in Jackson—a little vacation fling. It was all she ever wanted from a guy, something fun with no strings attached. Flings were easier than relationships. Less messy.

Before she could decide whether to act on the idea, Evan dropped her hand. “Sorry to be rude. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t disappointed, but she nodded. “Of course. I don’t want to keep you from your work.”

Picking up her tablet again, she leaned on the armrest next to the window. Evan kept his attention so carefully locked on his computer that she wondered for a moment whether she’d imagined that the attraction went both ways. The quick pulse of a little, bitable vein at the base of his neck made her think no. Then he let out a shaky breath, and she knew he’d felt the connection too.

With a little smile, she dove back into her book.

 

Thanks for reading! Look out for another exclusive excerpt on Monday!